936 ABC Hobart Mornings with Leon Compton

  • Assistant Minister for Education

SUBJECT/S: Draft Productivity Commission report

LEON COMPTON:  Gee, I remember our next guest when she was just newly elected to the Federal seat of Farrer, when I was working in [indistinct] in commercial radio, just getting my start as she was getting hers in politics. Now, of course, she’s risen to the level of minister and is in Tasmania at the moment; having a look into a community inquiry into the Productivity Commission report into childcare, childcare rebates, and the issues around childcare that are in Australia. We’re told it’s increasingly unaffordable; we also know Tasmania’s a little unique. It uses – it has the lowest growth in childcare of anywhere in the country.

Federal Minister responsible for Childcare is Sussan Ley. Good morning to you, Ms Ley.

SUSSAN LEY:         Good morning, Leon. Lovely to speak with you.

LEON COMPTON: And nice to talk to you as well. You came to Tasmania after not initially planning to come here; what’s made you get on a plane?

SUSSAN LEY:         My colleagues; Andrew Nikolic, Brett Whiteley, and Eric Hutchinson, across the north of Tasmania - of course, they are newly elected Liberal members, have said very strongly that they want the views of Tasmanians represented to the Productivity Commission as it makes its final recommendations leading up to its final report in October.

So the PC itself is not able to travel everywhere in Australia, but I’ve said that we’ll convene this forum. We’ll collect every word that’s spoken and all views will be carefully transmitted back, so that we reflect in the final outcome what Tasmanians think.

LEON COMPTON:  We’ve just pulled you out of one of those meetings. Who’s talking to you today?

SUSSAN LEY:         Look, I haven’t started my meetings yet. But we – just a range of people who provide childcare, who receive childcare, or who are concerned as family members. So what I always find when I come to Tassie – and you’re right, it’s different from many of the mainland states. We have a lot of family daycare, which is important. It’s out of hours care. We’ve got high youth unemployment; and I always think there’s a pathway there for someone leaving school, who is looking for work, and interested in early learning and early education. It’s a field for them to enter.

So I think we can do a little bit more when it comes to the training and the on-the-job training in the centres and in people’s homes. That’s something that I’ll have front and centre when I talk to Tasmanians later on today.

LEON COMPTON:  The draft Productivity Commission report recommended a range of changes to the way childcare is administered. What would the most significant of those be for Tasmania, given that we tend to be from lower-income backgrounds at times when we raise children?

SUSSAN LEY:         Well the Productivity Commission has recognised that the childcare settings we’ve got work for a nine to five working week; not the 24/7 economy in which we all seem to live. So we’ve got to be able to provide more round-the-clock childcare. And Tasmania, the hospitality industry features quite prominently; and that’s late-night shifts and weekends.

Have we got enough childcare to meet the need at the right price? Probably not. What the PC is saying is, let’s look at in-home care – or as some people call it, nannies. But I don’t use the word nannies, because it always sounds as if it’s something only wealthy people can afford...

LEON COMPTON:  They are something only wealthy people could afford, Minister.

SUSSAN LEY:         Well, look, if you’ve got two or three children and you’re packing them up in the car and taking them to childcare and commuting to work and doing it all on the way home again; many people are not doing that at all. They’re not – they’re saying it’s too difficult. What about having somebody in my home? It has to be under the current formal regulated system; and who knows what the Government may provide in terms of subsidies?

We haven’t got to the point of working out what policy response we’ll have. But these are ideas that we need to talk about. We need to talk about shaking up the system so it works for everybody, because at the moment I meet mothers who say I can’t afford to go back to work, but I can’t afford to stay at home either. I can’t afford to find – I can’t find the childcare I need. I’m building my working life around the childcare that’s available, when in fact, it should be the other way around. We’ve got lots of problems.

LEON COMPTON:  [Talks over] So – and – so these are the two issues, for the most part, that people say they want. They want more available childcare, and they want it to cost less. Is anything proposed by the Productivity Commission going to deliver that for Tasmanian families?

SUSSAN LEY:         They’ve actually come up with a new cost model. And one of the things they’ve asked people to tell them is what they think of it. So, it’s quite complex, and it involves special allocations for rural, regional, and disadvantaged children and communities; which I totally support. And it’s a sliding scale of subsidies depending on your income. But what’s good about this is they’re asking people to feed back to them what they think about the cost models. So they haven’t just said this is how we think it should look.

And one of – you know, what I want to find from Tasmanian families is what they think about what the Productivity Commission has proposed, and where they think the gaps are.

LEON COMPTON:  Appreciate you talking with us this morning. The conversations are about to get underway and happening throughout the day. Thanks for your time.

SUSSAN LEY:         Thank you very much, Leon.

LEON COMPTON:  Sussan Ley, the Federal Minister responsible for Childcare.


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