Press Conference with Prime Minister Albanese and Assistant Minister Ged Kearney – Melbourne – Friday 30 June 2023

ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA

JASON CLARE MP
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION

GED KEARNEY MP
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE
MEMBER FOR COOPER

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP
MELBOURNE
FRIDAY, 30 JUNE 2023

SUBJECTS: Cheaper Childcare from July 1; Cost of living; Gladys Berejiklian.

GED KEARNEY, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Well good morning everybody. Thank you for coming to my wonderful electorate of Cooper. We are here at the Merri Community Childcare and Kindergarten Centre right in the heart of Cooper because as of July, for every Australian family, early childhood subsidies, our new cheaper childcare policy, kicks in. This is an amazing policy, it will really change lives. It’s a game changer. I know for the people of Cooper it means that 6200 families will access cheaper childcare. In Victoria 300,000 families will access cheaper childcare, this amazing policy that will make life so much better. We know that the cost of childcare is one of the big ticket budget items for families right now. It will mean that more mums will be able to get back to work without the worry of having to spend a great deal of money on childcare. I know personally, the effects of this. It will be amazing for my own daughters who have children. I have, as a grandma, been minding my daughter’s children one day a week just so they can get by. They are teachers, they work full time. And that extra day was just one day too much for them and we’ve struggled by as a village to support them minding those kids that extra day. So I know that this is going to make a huge difference for all Australians. It’s incredibly exciting. And how proud of my to have the Prime Minister here today, and the Minister for Education. It really is wonderful to have you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much, Ged. And I thank the educators, the parents, and most of all the children for the very warm welcome that we’ve had here today in Thornbury. This is a great policy. It was the centrepiece of my first budget reply, because I understood that working families were doing it tough, that the rising costs of childcare were eating into family budgets. But I also understood that this is an economic reform. This is not welfare. This is about boosting productivity. It’s about boosting women’s workforce participation and it will assist over the long term in boosting population as well. They’re the three P’s of economic growth: productivity, participation, population. This policy is good for all three. But it’s also good for our youngest Australians. We know that over 90 per cent of human brain development occurs in the first five years. So why is it that so many parents say to you ‘once little Johnny, or little Belle turned five and went to school, we were so much better off’? We need to change the way that early learning is seen in this country. We are way behind the advanced economies of Northern Europe in taking a different approach, in understanding the importance of this policy for our economy. But it will help as well. 1.2 million Australian families. 300,000 here in Victoria will benefit from this policy. And no one will be worse off, but 96 per cent of families will be better off as a result of this policy. I’m very proud that it begins in July, making a difference to working families, making a positive difference to our economy, as well as assisting our youngest Australians. This was something we took to the election. My government has been going through our commitments and ticking them off one by on, because we’re a government that’s orderly, that puts in place proper policies with appropriate funding at the right time to make a difference, to give Australians that better future that we promised.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Our cheaper childcare laws start from tomorrow. That’s great news for more than a million families right across the country. They know that childcare is expensive. It’s gone up by 49 per cent in the last 10 years. And apart from the mortgage or the rent, it’s the biggest bill that a lot of families pay every single month. So what we’re doing here is important and it’ll make a big difference for a lot of families. If you’re a family on a combined income of say 120 grand, then you’ll save about 1700 bucks a year. That’s real money that will make a real difference. To put it another way, Goodstart, the biggest childcare provider in the country, have said that at the moment, the average family that they help is paying about 40 bucks a day in out of pocket costs. From next month, that’ll go down to 27 bucks. So that is going to make a real difference. More money in the pockets for mums and dads. But as the Prime Minister says, by making it cheaper, it also makes it easier to go back to work and work more paid hours if you want to. So it’s good for parents, but it’s also good for businesses who are screaming out for skilled workers, this gets skilled workers back to work. And most important of all, it’s good for our children. This isn’t babysitting. This is early education. And every day, every moment in early education better prepares our children for school and for life. So this is the trifecta: good for children, good for parents, good for our country. And it’s just the start. At the same time that we’re rolling this out, we’ve also got the ACCC on the job looking at what further reforms we have to have to make to make sure that we’re focused on the price pressures that parents pay. And as well as doing that, we’ve also got the Productivity Commission giving us advice about how we make the whole system more affordable and more accessible to set early education up for the next decade and beyond.

JOURNALIST: How do families actually benefit from childcare subsidy? We know that many early learning centres are raising their fees as they grapple with rising costs. How do you see that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the example that Jason gave isn’t a theoretical or a hypothetical one. It’s real, making a difference of $40 a day down to $27 a day. That is making a substantial difference to those family budgets for the largest provider in the country. And wherever there is any attempt to exploit the fact that we are doing more for families, the ACCC has a watching brief on that.

JOURNALIST: There’s also concerns that policies like this one, it’s not just the monetary side of things, it’s the supply and demand. So do you think that needs to be done to encourage more people to become childhood educators and retain those people?

PRIME MINISTER: We certainly do. And I’ll ask Jason to add to this. We are having a whole study into the care economy. We need to have more skilled workers in early learning, in aged care, in disability care, as we go forward into the future. And we need to make sure that these workers are valued. And that’s why we introduce changes which will see a lifting, over a period of time, of the wages and conditions in the in this sector. During the pandemic, we valued care workers and we need to do more than just say thanks, we need to value them in the wages and conditions that they earn. But we also need to give them the respect that they deserve. These people aren’t child minders. This morning, those very young children who could read words at such a very young age, it’s fantastic. They learn not just education skills, but they learned social interaction as well, how to work with each other, how to cooperate, that engagement. We’re social beings, and here at this centre, but others as well, I’ve been to right around the country that’s what we’re seeing that.

CLARE: Thanks, Prime Minister. You’re dead right. We need more people becoming early educators. And over the course of our first 12 months in office, we’re seeing tens of thousands. More people are working in this sector than there were a year ago. There’s also more children in early education than there was a year ago, about 50,000 more, and more centres opening, about 370 centres opening. But we need more people to become early educators. There aren’t many jobs more important than the work our early educators do. In the first five years of a child’s life, that’s when everything happens. The first five years of a child’s life are almost everything; everything you see, every book you read, every smile, every meal, every person you meet shapes the person that you become. And so in addition to the extra people that are already working In the sector, there’s 128,000 people in the pipeline either at university or taking advantage of our fee-free TAFE places, so that we get more people working in this sector. And the matter before the Fair Work Commission, in addition to what has already happened by lifting the minimum wage and lifting award rates, is an important part of encouraging more people to come and work in this incredibly important part of the economy.

JOURNALIST: Is migration a key to getting in more workers?

CLARE: Look, it’s part of it. It’s part of it. I think something like around about one or 2000 people over the last 12 months have come from other parts of the world to come and work in early education. But as I said, we’ve got tens of thousands more people working in the sector today than we did when we won the election. They’re all Aussies that have gone to TAFE, gone to university, got the skills they need and are changing lives here in places like this.

PRIME MINISTER: Can I just make this point as well. This is an example of, because we signalled this very early on, three years ago, people have been anticipating this change since we were elected in May of last year. You’re already seeing as a result of that, more early learning centres being opened, more people training and getting the skills that they need, including through fee-free TAFE, to work in the sector. But you’re also seeing a significant rise in the workforce participation of women. That is helping them, obviously, by increased wages, and then right through the life cycle. Increased retirement incomes at the end will be a benefit. But it’s also benefiting our economy, by people being able to work things out, see where these changes were coming in from July, which we flagged so clearly in May of 2022.

JOURNALIST: Now, this obviously comes into effect in the new financial year. So does some changes that will affect households. Will the government commit to supporting groups who have missed out on its current cost of living schemes?

PRIME MINISTER: What happens from July is – not only do they continue to benefit from our fee-free TAFE, these childcare changes come into place from July making an enormous difference as well – our energy price relief plan kicks in as well. That’s a $3 billion plan, together with state and territory governments. That energy price relief plan was opposed by the Coalition in Canberra. They voted against $3 billion of assistance being given. In addition to that, if you’re a small business, the changes that we’ve made to give an incentive for investment, the instant asset write off changes come in on July 1 as well. So whether you’re an individual, a family, or a small business, substantial changes kick in in July, because we understand the cost of living pressures which are there. But in addition to that, what we’re doing is having measures that take pressure off cost of living whilst not putting pressure on inflation. And just this week you’ve seen inflation heading in the right direction. The last fortnight you have had figures that show lower inflation, record jobs growth, and an increased and higher surplus than we forecast in May. Three figures that show our sensible economic management, also making a difference to families.

JOURNALIST: I know the government is waiting on the ACCC childcare inquiry report to be handed down, do you think that there are price changes that need to be made in this area?

CLARE: So we’ll release their interim report shortly, probably around September or so. They’ll give us a consultation paper to release which will include some draft recommendations as well. Then we’ll get their final report at the end of the year. There are already price caps in place for the childcare subsidy, which are designed to encourage centres to offer services to parents below that. But we want to see whether there’s further action that’s needed there as well. So this is going to be an important report. They’re watching what’s happening right now to see whether the centre’s are playing by the rules or not. Whether they’re lifting prices in accordance with inflation or not. And if they don’t, then they stand ready to act and give us the recommendations we need to make sure parents get value for money here. This is essential. This isn’t a nice to have any more. When you’ve got mum and dad both working childcare is essential. And parents know that. They know how expensive it is too. And I just want to pay credit to the boss. This is happening today and starting tomorrow because of you. You made this not just the centrepiece of the campaign but the first big policy that you announced as Opposition Leader. You get it. You understand it. You know how important this is to parents right across the country. And this is starting to happen from tomorrow because of you. So thank you very much.

JOURNALIST: Just on another issue. Do you think Gladys Berejiklian’s corrupt?

PRIME MINISTER: That’s a matter that’s being dealt with in New South Wales. And I note that it could be the subject of further legal responses as well. I make this point as well, something else is beginning in July is the National Anti Corruption Commission, another of our commitments that we’re delivering on. Remember during those ten wasted years of the former government: they got elected in 2013 and they brought down a budget that cut everything. And then they stopped governing. Then they stopped governing and just focused on themselves. What my government’s been doing is focusing on the people who voted for us and the people who didn’t as well. How do we make a difference to every Australian? Through cheaper childcare, by making a difference in working conditions as well with the industrial relations changes that we’ve put in place, by making a difference in the way that we engage in the world as well, repairing the damaged relationships that we inherited. But importantly as well, creating space to do what we want to do on the economy, on social policy and environmental policy, by having a responsible budget. We’ve turned a $78 billion forecast deficit in 2022 into a surplus that will be in excess of $4.2 billion. In one year. That’s enabling us to put these things in place. But at the same time, we’re doing things like delivering a National Anti Corruption Commission to restore faith in politics in Australia. That’s a good thing. It’s part of us ticking off the list of everything that we promised and delivering it.

ENDS

IERAN GILBERT: Let’s get some more budget reaction, I’m joined by the Trade Spokesman for Labor now, Jason Clare. It looks like a Labor Budget in many respects, that’s the assessment.

CLARE: It’s like a bucket of prawns in the sun. Like most Liberal Budgets we’ve seen over the last few years when it first comes out it seems pretty good and then over the next few days it starts to smell. Like all Liberal Budgets you see here, if you’re well off – if you’re a millionaire – you get a tax cut, but if you’re an average Australian you’re going to pay more tax. A millionaire will end up getting a tax cut of over 16 grand a year, but for people on average incomes – someone on 65 grand a year – they’re going to have to pay an extra 300 odd bucks a year. That’s not a Labor Budget, that’s a Liberal Budget through and through.

GILBERT: But if you say an extra $300, but without the deficit levy those on $500,000 will be paying $12,000 additional for their deficit levy, sorry $2,500 therefore that’s progressive like our tax system.

CLARE: The deficit is ten times what they predicted it would be four years ago and they’re taking the deficit levy off. That’s just crazy, that doesn’t make any sense at all. How can it be with the deficit ten times higher than they predicted that they’re going to take that off, give millionaires a massive tax cut and yet slug poorer working people. All the politicians here at Parliament House, they get a tax cut but the people that they represent are going to have to pay more tax.

GILBERT: Sure, but when you say it hits poorer people, lower income earners, it is progressive like our system isn’t it? In the sense that the more you earn the more you pay as part of the levy, which was put in place initially to fund the NDIS, that first half a per cent increase by your former PM, Julia Gillard.

CLARE: We’ve made the point it’s a big decision to make here about whether you’re going to increase the cost of living for Australians right across the board. There are other choices the Government could make here by the way. Instead of increasing the Medicare levy, one option would be to dump their cuts for multinational companies taxes that they pay. Instead of a $50 billion tax cut for Australian companies, what they want to do is slug average Australians.

GILBERT: Labor did the same thing four years ago. So it’s a tough one to argue.

CLARE: Yes we did, but what we didn’t do is take a levy off millionaires, which is what they’re doing here today.

GILBERT: In terms of the banks, that’s going to go down pretty well that bank levy isn’t it? Not with the banks, they’re already talking about – apparently talk around the place that they might move very quickly to raise the mortgage rate. If they did they’d be even more on the nose than they are now, but this move inoculates the Government from the call for a Royal Commission.

CLARE: I don’t think that’s right. You ask most Aussies they’ll still want a Royal Commission. Asking the banks to pay more is not going to solve the problems that a Royal Commission will. All those people that have been ripped off by the banks won’t be happy that the banks are paying more, they want their problems fixed. That’s what a Royal Commission will do.

GILBERT: But this levy, you’ve backed it very quickly I don’t think I can remember a measure of this size being backed so quickly by an opposition. It was ticked, Bowen was out there very quick ‘yeah, we’ll back that’.

CLARE: We’re very happy to see action taken there, but as Bill Shorten said this morning to you, while they’re going to slug the banks with a tax here, they’re also going to give them a tax cut with their changes to corporate taxation. So don’t be fooled by this, what they take with one hand they give with the other. It’s no excuse for trying to give up on a Royal Commission. And this is an attempt by Malcolm Turnbull to try to encourage Australians to think a Royal Commission’s not necessary. You bet it is.

GILBERT: It sounds like – I’ve asked a few guests this morning including the Prime Minister and Mr Bowen – that does look like a super profits tax to me. A permanent one. No-one wants to call it that, but that’s what it is isn’t it?

CLARE: We’re backing it. What’s happening here is the Government’s been dragged kicking and screaming towards what Labor’s been calling for on banks, on education, on health, but they’re still not doing anywhere near enough. They’re still cutting schools, they’re still making university students pay more, they’re still not unfreezing the Medicare changes quick enough and they’re doing bugger all on housing affordability. It’s an attempt Kieran – let’s be pretty clear about it – it’s an attempt to try to get rid of those Tony Abbott nasties, but the big problem Malcolm Turnbull’s got here is it doesn’t get rid of his biggest problem and that’s Tony Abbott.

ENDS