Government implosion over PM’s PPL signature policy


HOST: The Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Kate Ellis joins us now from Adelaide. Kate Ellis, your reaction, essentially the Prime Minister a back down on his paid parental peave scheme. But surely a win as far as child care is concerned?

KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD: Well we certainly hope so. It remains to be seen what the Government's intentions are with child care. I mean, if the Prime Minister is serious today about giving greater support to child care, he could do one simple thing and that is say that he will reverse the billion dollars in cuts that his Government have already announced just to the child care sector.

But on the paid parental leave scheme, well certainly I think it's a good thing that the Prime Minister has belatedly acknowledged what the rest of Australia has known for years and that is that this paid parental leave scheme is an unaffordable dud.

HOST: We didn't get detail today from the Prime Minister but of course flagging changes. Do you think that was the right thing to do, to give mothers and the general public assurance that there will be changes but we just don't know what exactly yet?

ELLIS: I think we are waiting eagerly to see the details. The Prime Minister and the Government have had the Productivity Commission's inquiry into child care; they have had the final report for several weeks now. We want that to be released. We think that Australia deserves to have a discussion about our child care sector. But also I mean the Prime Minister can, he doesn't have to release all the details today, but he can confirm he is acknowledging his Government got it wrong and they are putting back the billion dollars in cuts to child care.

It's one example of how absurd this situation is. This morning we read that the Prime Minister is looking to potentially divert more funds to child care and particularly Family Day Care. This is the very same Government that have just announced $157 million in cuts to Family Day Care. They are making it up as they go along. I think today's announcements really just show how much strife this Prime Minister is in with his own colleagues, that he is scrambling with anything to try and get his backbenchers' support.

HOST: Kate Ellis, should you have control of the Government's purse strings, how would you direct that money into child care? Specifically where would it go?

ELLIS: First of all we would obviously want to support those sectors which have been hit hard by the Government. We have seen Out of School Hours Care has been really hit hard by cuts from the Government. The Family Day Care sector has been hit by big cuts, and many Family Day Carers are now questioning whether they can continue in the sector. So there is no question that we need reform in the child care sector.

We need to undo the damage that this Government has already done and we need to make sure we work with parents. I would say the first step is let's release the Productivity Commission's inquiry and have a genuine debate about those findings and make sure that we are looking for real solutions, not just political solutions for a Prime Minister that is in all sorts of strife internally, and (is) trying to cover for his Treasurer's disastrous Budget mess.

HOST: Kate Ellis, the Government potentially opening up another avenue for child care workers with word that there could be rebates for nannies?

ELLIS: Well, again, we don't know. I suspect the Government don't even know what it is that they're thinking. Again, if they are serious about helping working families, the first thing that they will do is reverse their child care cuts, and they can also look at dropping their GP Tax while they are at it, and a number of other attacks on families. We will have a look at those details.

What we do know though is what we've said all along: the moment that this Government announced their Productivity Commission inquiry, they were kidding themselves and kidding the Australian people by claiming they would make child care more affordable, more accessible, more flexible, available through nannies and of great quality without providing any additional funding. Anyone knows that was never going to work. So the question now is will they provide more additional funding than the billion dollars they have already cut out?

HOST: Do you acknowledge though that a rebate for nannies would be good policy?

ELLIS: Look, I think there are many unanswered questions. Obviously you would need to look at how a Government can regulate care within the home. At the moment there is no national system to regulate nannies. The other thing is we have been moving to recognise that there is a reason why these early childhood services are funded out of the education budget - and that is because there is a focus on quality, and there is a focus on the best interests of the child, and recognising how important those first five years of a child's life are. We certainly wouldn't want to see the reforms that have been made to quality care go backwards in any way. We need to make sure that we are focusing on qualified staff, in regulated environments, who are giving our children the very best start in life. That's the reason they are being supported through the Government's education Budget.

HOST: Shadow Minister for Early Childhood, Kate Ellis in Adelaide, thank you for joining us.

ELLIS: Thank you.