Television Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Sarah Abo – Today Show- Monday 2 October 2023





SUBJECTS: AI in the classroom; ACCC report into child care costs; Cost of living pressures

SARAH ABO: Alright, well, price caps and naming and shaming providers that charge too much are among the options being considered to rein in runaway child care costs.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Let’s bring in Education Minister Jason Clare now. Jason, good morning to you. Just so you know, it’s not an easy morning for me. All the Queensland teams lost over the weekend, and I don’t know how I feel about actually being at work today.

SARAH ABO: Oh Karlos.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: You need a bit of therapy, mate?

STEFANOVIC: No, I do need some therapy. And then also the RBA lifting rates, potentially savings are gone. Feels like the wheels are falling off everything.

CLARE: Maybe we need a Chinook helicopter to fly over you, mate and then you can feel a bit better.

ABO: No, we don’t need – that’s the last thing we need. No more.

STEFANOVIC: It really gets me going.

ABO: It’ll work.

STEFANOVIC: Alright, let’s talk education. We don’t yet know the full extent of the damage AI could do. I think South Australia in particular have been doing a fair bit in that process. But where do you stand on it? I mean, are we still a little bit nervous about it?

CLARE: This is not going away. This is like the calculator or the internet. We’ve got to learn how to use it. Private schools are using it now. Kids are using it right across the country. They’re using it to do their homework. The key thing is how you use it. We want to make sure that you don’t use it to get marks you don’t deserve. We’ve also got to protect the privacy of children as well. Make sure that if you type something into ChatGPT that it doesn’t spit back an ad to you on TikTok.

ABO: Well, how do you do all of that, though? Because it’s advancing at a great rate, perhaps not one that you can keep up with.

CLARE: We’re playing catch up, to be honest here. We’re playing catch up. This was all launched in November last year. Education Ministers are meeting on Thursday to have a look at what are the rules of the game. What are the rules that we should put in place to make sure that it’s used properly, and that you protect the privacy of kids. For example, you saw that story the other day about Milo, the dog that teaches you how to do maths. If you’ve got a product like that in primary school, teaching kids how to do maths, let’s make sure that they don’t sell that information onto a third company, a third provider that can then use your information to sell you something else.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah. And then the parameters are such that if you go too early and there’s too much information when you’re doing it on the run, it’s hard to get that back.

CLARE: I agree with that, but we’re playing catch up right now. Back in the day, when we were little, people used to knock on the door selling you Encyclopaedia Britannica, right? And then the internet blew that away. This is a version of the internet that sort of smashes it all together and does the homework for you. And if we don’t get it right and it’s misused, then that’s not good. But if some students have got it and others don’t, then that’s not fair as well. So, there’s a lot of work to do.

STEFANOVIC: It’s hard to legislate, put legislation around it, though, isn’t it?

CLARE: No, but what you can do is you can say if a school has a contract with a provider to use something in the classroom, then the rules are, the conditions are that you can’t sell that information to someone else.

ABO: And that’s going to be ironclad? I mean, you can’t guarantee it won’t happen.

CLARE: That’s what’s got to happen, right. 

Who wants to see their children using technology and then having it misused. So, this is one of the things we’ll talk about on Thursday.

STEFANOVIC: Despite your best efforts, the ACCC has revealed Australians pay more for child care than anywhere else in the world. That hasn’t quite panned out the way you thought it would.

CLARE: What this report shows is that basically, prices exploded between 2018 and 2022. This explains why we were talking about this during the election, why this was such a red hot issue. Prices in Australia went up by double the amount of the rest of the OECD. The child care changes we made in July, they’re having an impact. They’ve cut the cost of child care, on average, by about 14 per cent. So, if you’re on a combined income of, say, 120 grand with one child three days a week, then that cuts your cost by about 2000 bucks a year. So, that’s good. But this report, Karl, says there’s a lot more we got to do, including potentially naming and shaming some of those operators that charge excessive fees.

ABO: It’s that report. But it’s also such a difficult time for families at the moment. So, those cuts, I mean, that’s simply not enough. A lot of people still cannot afford, particularly in regional areas, to send their kids to child care.

CLARE: Apart from the mortgage or the rent, this is the biggest bill that a lot of families pay. And so, cutting the cost for more than a million families is a good thing. But what this report says is there’s reforms we’ve got to make as well, that the child care cap doesn’t really work. Four years ago, you had one in ten centres charging above it. Now it’s one in five. That you need to name and shame the operators that jack up fees excessively. And it also suggests that we should be looking at things like direct price control.

STEFANOVIC: Have you got the economy at the moment? Because I think there’s a great deal of nervousness, jokes aside at the start, the RBA meeting another rate rise and all of our savings have basically gone. Another rate rise is going to put serious pressure on Australian households.

CLARE: Australian families are doing it tough right now. Anybody with a mortgage is doing it tough. Anybody that goes to the supermarket knows that as well. The good news, mate, is that over the course of the last year, we’ve seen inflation tracking down. We’re also seeing wages now going up for the first time in a long time. Unemployment is low as well. Unemployment with a three in it is better than anyone expected.

STEFANOVIC: Then we’ve got petrol prices [indistinct]

CLARE: All of that. Yeah, and I didn’t mention that, but that’s a fair point as well. I’m not saying people aren’t doing it tough, they are. But some of those big indicators are starting to head in the right direction.

STEFANOVIC: Look at you and your cool shoes today.

CLARE: I didn’t even clean them, mate.

STEFANOVIC: Look at this guy.

ABO: They look a bit too clean. We need to stomp on them a few times. 

STEFANOVIC: You can go on. Go on you stomp on Jason’s shoes.

CLARE: Hang on, Hang on, Hang on. Look up, mate, look up, look up.

STEFANOVIC: I can’t help it mate. I feel like the crocodile sound’s coming.

ABO: Look out.

CLARE: And there wasn’t even a love bite joke there.

ABO: I know! We’ll save it for next time.

STEFANOVIC: A love bite. I like it.