Interview: Today Show Channel 9 Sydney

  • Assistant Minister for Education


SUBJECT: Costs of childcare

LISA WILKINSON: Yeah for so many families it is a real struggle and Assistant Minister for Education Sussan Ley joins us now. Good morning to you Assistant Minister.

SUSSAN LEY: Good morning Lisa.

LISA WILKINSON: Now we saw there that so many parents are contemplating whether it's even worth their while going back to work. What do you plan to do about what you've referred to yourself as the skyrocketing costs of childcare?

SUSSAN LEY: Well we've hit the ground running getting rid of red tape in childcare which is actually pushing up the cost. So that's happening now but the Productivity Commission they've got their skates on. They'll be reporting in October. They'll be having hearings around the country before then. We've had almost a thousand submissions and they're going to come up with good ideas, new policy settings for the next generation. Because we don't live in the world we used to live in when all these policies were set. We're in a twenty four seven outside the nine to five working week economy.

LISA WILKINSON: Yeah you mentioned there the Productivity Commission. It's looking at whether childcare subsidies should be means tested. Won't that just put more pressure on parents?

SUSSAN LEY: Look it's looking at the whole picture. It's looking at the provision of childcare for shift workers. It's looking at how government funds, what parents contribute, what the sector provides; it's looking at absolutely everything. And that's what it needs to do. A holistic look for the next twenty years. Because you know listening to Bianca's story, I've been a working mum, I know how tough it is and I feel for her. But with my economic policy hat on I'm thinking there's this productivity, there's this participation from these women that would actually increase our total economic output and we're missing out on it.

I meet women who are trained as accountants but just work as bookkeepers because they can't get the childcare they need, the hours they want, that suits their work and family balance. And you know we are determined to fix that and we do have a plan.

LISA WILKINSON: It's great that you're looking at it over the long term, over the next twenty years, but there are so many parents who are in this crisis right now. They're on waiting lists at childcare centres across the country. What is your solution to this lack of availability right now?

SUSSAN LEY: Get rid of red tape so we push the cost down. But look when the Productivity Commission reports we will have new ideas to go to the next budget. That's the 2015 budget. And we need to do this properly. We need to have a look at the whole system. So we can't wave a magic wand, I understand that.

But we need to bring the pressure off and I've already made some decisions with my state and territory colleagues that mean that educators that do wonderful work with the children are not locked away in the office doing paperwork. They're out on the floor playing and making sure that they give the children the attention they deserve.

So red tape has been a huge factor in this. And the people who provide childcare are finding that because parents can't afford it it's not a good business proposition for them. So in these areas we're seeing places being withdrawn and we don't have new centres being built. And that's also a problem because you've got these waiting lists for two years. So we've got to fix this system and we do have a plan to do that.

LISA WILKINSON: What is your plan in terms of nannies because there's been a lot of talk about the government possibly funding them? The trouble is they're not regulated under any early childhood education and care legislation.

SUSSAN LEY: Look the PC is looking at nannies or in-home care or au pairs, all of that. We need to address the fact that shift workers can't find childcare. The police and the nurses were one of the first groups to put in a submission to our PC. And look my belief is we need to find a way to bring in-home care under the existing system.

So this government is not going to fund nannies to unstack your dishwasher. But if it's about providing quality childcare as you would receive in a long day-care centre in your home then that's something I know the PC is looking at. Because if you've got two children, piling them into the car, doing the long commute to work and school, parents are saying it's just so much better for us and for the children if the educator comes into our home. And you know that makes sense.

LISA WILKINSON: Well Assistant Minister Sussan Ley we know that Australian families are crying out for help here so the sooner you can find some solutions there'll be much happier families across the country. We thank you very much for your time this morning.

SUSSAN LEY: Thank you.

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