22 JULY 2014
MARIUS BENSON: Kate Ellis, the Productivity Commission has proposed quite sweeping changes to child care: a single system replacing a multiple system, and a means-tested system. What’s your assessment of the overall thrust of those recommendations?
KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD: We certainly look forward to studying the detail of this comprehensive report, but what we are adamant about is that this review must not be used as an alibi by Tony Abbott for yet more cuts to child care. We know that at the time the Productivity Commission are recommending that he divert money from his Paid Parental Leave scheme to adequately fund child care, this Government still have legislation before the Parliament to introduce yet more changes as part of their billion dollars in cuts.
BENSON: Well the child care recommendation from the Productivity Commission - the Commission itself says that would require more money, so it’s hardly a recipe for cuts, is it?
ELLIS: Well exactly. It doesn’t make any sense for the Prime Minister to be commissioning a review to look at ways to make child care more affordable at the same time that he is persisting in up to a billion dollars in cuts to subsidies. Right now before the Parliament, we actually have legislation for the sole purpose of cutting the Child Care Benefit, which goes to low-income Australian families. The first step, in determining the response to this report, should be to drop that measure immediately.
BENSON: You say you want to look at the details, but just looking at the general recommendations in this Productivity Draft Report: means-testing, is that the way to go?
ELLIS: I think that we need to make sure that we have a very careful look at analysis around these proposals and the impact that that’s likely to have on workforce participation. There have long been discussions about means-testing child care payments, there’ve been arguments on either side. We didn’t do it in government and this Government promised the Australian people in Opposition that they wouldn’t do it after the last election. So I think that we need to proceed with great caution.
BENSON: That sounds like a ‘no you don’t want means testing’?
ELLIS: Well as anyone would expect, we will study the details of this over 900 page report, we will go through analysis and we will engage in discussions with the sector. I don’t think anyone wants people ruling-in or ruling-out, on face value, what we all want is the best possible child care system for Australia. But I know that means that Tony Abbott has to actually stop cutting before we can even look at how we can improve the system.
BENSON: What about including nannies under child care, or paying subside for nannies, does that make sense?
ELLIS: The only guarantee that this Government have given when it comes to child care is that there will not be an additional dollar invested into the sector. So what that means is that any of the recommendations around new programs, new services, funding things like nannies, can only come from cutting existing child care support for Australian families. And I think that many families who struggling with the cost of living would find that deeply disturbing.
BENSON: The Productivity Commission says that if there is more money needed perhaps some can be found by taking money, diverting money, from the Paid Parental Leave scheme, that is the Prime Minister’s signature scheme. You’re very critical of that, obviously you’d support that Productivity Commission view?
ELLIS: I’m not surprised to see that the Productivity Commission are adding to the now army of critics to this unfair and over the top Paid Parental Leave scheme. Everybody else can see that this policy is a dud, and it’s time that the Prime Minister admits it as such.
BENSON: The other proposal from the Productivity Commission is, in broad terms, to simplify the present system, do you believe the present system is broke and needs fixing ?
ELLIS: I certainly think that we should always be looking ways that we can simplify, that we can improve the system. On face value, some of the recommendation from the Productivity Commission look quite interesting, some look a bit unusual, but I note that some of them look like they would lead to system that is more complex and has less transparency. So I think we all need to make sure that we study carefully the detail of these recommendations, and that over the coming months we engage in ongoing discussion, consultation and debate.
BENSON: Kate Ellis, thank you very much.
ELLIS: Thanks Marius.