Interview with Ian Henschke, ABC 891
- Minister for Employment Participation
- Minister for Child Care
IAN HENSCHKE:Well, good morning, Kate Ellis. Yesterday we heard that we could be seeing fees rise by between thirteen and twenty-five dollars per child as of January the first next year, which is going to be a big impost on working families. You say it's not going to be as high as that. Why?
KATE ELLIS:Well, good morning, Ian. Basically just to explain what we're actually doing here, we realise that there are more Australian children using childcare services than ever before in our history. We know that there are more childcare centres operating than ever before.
And so what the Government's is doing is we know that parents want peace of mind when they drop their children off in the morning to know that they're going to be well cared for and well supervised during the day. So the Australian Government and every State and Territory Government agreed on a set of new standards which would be in place for every centre across the country.
What this means is that the level of staff to child ratio would be improved but also the training of the childcare workers would be improved as well. We think that this is a good move but it's not one that we took lightly.
IAN HENSCHKE:And so, Kate Ellis, we went through this yesterday with the childcare industry and so we know that there's obviously going to be a lot of improvement in that area in terms of qualifications and ratios. But the issue that the industry raised was that you're working on a report which said that it would only cost a small amount per child. They're saying no, when we bring it in, it's going to cost between $13 and $25 per child.
So what will you do to assist families to meet that extra cost which - it could be $10 000 dollars a year - well, it will be $20 000 a year at the top end for people who have two children in childcare next year, an extra $20 000 a year.
KATE ELLIS:Well, first of all, I think we need to get the facts on the table. This decision wasn't taken lightly and we undertook extensive independent modelling as to the cost and we've been upfront about that, that there would be an increase as a result of these measures but we think that that increase is affordable in light of…
IAN HENSCHKE:Can you say what that…
KATE ELLIS:(inaudible) I can.
IAN HENSCHKE:Can you say what the increase - what the increase you are saying is - it will be then?
KATE ELLIS:What we've seen is that the average increase will be some 57 cents per week this year and that will rise to $8.67 per week in 2014-15. So these are over time that these are gradual improvements that will come into place. Now these are average increases which Access Economics has undertaken extensive modelling, but that modelling has then been assessed, not just by the Commonwealth Government but by every State and Territory Government before they signed up to - to these measures.
IAN HENSCHKE:Well, I can - I can assure you the industry yesterday said that if you've got one carer per five children next year and you've got one per ten this year, then you've got twice the number of people looking it at that level. So that's a doubling of the labour costs and then also these people actually have to have higher qualifications.
So it does seem that your figure of 57 cents per child or even $8 per child is a long way short of their figure of between thirteen and twenty-five. So wouldn't the industry who work in the area have got their numbers right as well?
KATE ELLIS:Well, the industry were actually part of the extensive consultations. Now, what we want to do is ensure that there is a high quality across the board. Now, obviously that will cost more for the centres which at the moment don't have adequate supervision and don't train their staff. Obviously in a national average, it will cost them more, that's true.
But what we are saying is that we have confidence in what the average increase will be and that we're seeing real life examples. We're getting a lot of scare campaigns flying around out there. We have real life examples of childcare centres which are operating today at these standards with the same fees as the services around them who aren't at it.
So what we're not going to stand for is operators who are more interested in protecting their profit margins than ensuring quality. We're going to make sure that every centre, whether it's privately operated, whether it's a community centre, is at a high quality standard and I think that's something that Australian families welcome.
IAN HENSCHKE:Well, I'm sure Australian families welcome that but even on your own figures of $8.64 per week per child, if you average that out over a year, you're looking at about $500 a year for - per child and if you have two children, that's still a $1000 a year. How will you assist families to cope with a $1000 a year extra costs for childcare?
KATE ELLIS:Well, the first thing I'd say is that is for one child who attends full-time care of fifty hours per week.
IAN HENSCHKE:A lot do.
KATE ELLIS:Well, we know that that is far above what the average do but we do know that, of course, cost of living is always a struggle and $8.67 per week does make a difference to the family budget. That's why we're so proud that we're now providing over double the level of childcare assistance of the previous government Australia's government…
IAN HENSCHKE:So you just said $8.67 per week. Your figure was $8.67 per day, wasn't it?
KATE ELLIS:$8.67 per week.
IAN HENSCHKE:That's all you say it's going to cost?
KATE ELLIS:That is the average of the cost increases, yes.
IAN HENSCHKE:Alright. Well, I suppose we'll just have to wait until January the first and see what happens across the industry then because there's obviously a big difference.
IAN HENSCHKE:Their figures are three times at the top end and around double what your figures are.
KATE ELLIS:Well, those are the figures of some private operators are putting out there. We've also seen the largest chain of childcare centres across Australia have done their own modelling which coincides with the independent modelling we're putting out there. So there are some figures which we think are ridiculous and are untrue which are being circulated at the moment.
But the Government is committed to these reforms and is committed to giving Australian children the best start in life.
IAN HENSCHKE:Well, thanks for your time this morning, Kate Ellis. Before you go, you're the member for Adelaide. Now, the Premier, Mike Rann's outlined his plan to revitalise the riverbank precinct in Adelaide. Will you seek financial support from Federal Government for this as well?
KATE ELLIS:Well, look, I always work very closely with the State Government and indeed with the Adelaide City Council about making sure that we get the best for our city centre. Now, obviously we're operating within our budget restraints but I will always sit down and listen to them and take their proposals to my colleagues, keeping in mind that our priority is returning the budget to surplus, we'll do everything we can for Adelaide as well.
IAN HENSCHKE:Now, the Adelaide Oval will have its first game of AFL football at the end of this season. There's still no news on the financial support for the Adelaide Oval redevelopment. Is there any news you can tell us on that?
KATE ELLIS:Well, that - I am very excited about football at Adelaide Oval. I'm not sure that I'll be there cheering on Port but that's - I think this is something that we're very supportive of. We want to see that it's done right and that the local community and their concerns are taken on board but also, as we've made clear, we will always sit down with the State Government but we've made clear what our priority is.
I think Australians know the budget pressures that we've gone through as a result of the natural disasters earlier this year. Our priority is keeping our promise to return the budget to surplus.
IAN HENSCHKE:We spoke to the Western Australian sports minister earlier in the week about the stadium that's being built over there and he said that - I understood he was going to be getting money from the Federal Government for that project for a brand new stadium there. Are you saying that you'd fund that but not fund the Adelaide one?
KATE ELLIS:[laughs] Well, I think our finance minister will be very pleased to know that I'm not going to comment on what we will or won't fund. Everything will go through the normal budget processes but of course, I am very supportive of the Adelaide Oval upgrade and we'll do what we can.
IAN HENSCHKE:Thanks for your time this morning, Kate Ellis.
KATE ELLIS:Thank you very much, Ian.