Press conference - Deregulation in child care

Transcript
  • Assistant Minister for Education

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
Press Conference — TELEPHONE
SATURDAY 5 JULY 2014
DEREGULATION IN CHILDCARE 

QUESTION
Minister, would some form of deregulation help to ease the affordability crisis?
 

SUSSAN LEY
Well, certainly the Government’s existing deregulation agenda should apply to the red tape in childcare. But not deregulating the quality system that we’ve all worked so hard for over the years. But I can understand the Senator’s frustration, what he’s expressed, is what I hear across the country in childcare centres every single day. Too much red tape, too much regulation, missing out on the most important thing which is the educator and the child on the floor of the centre and the care and early education that parents want and that society needs.

QUESTION
So what does that mean practically? What kind of red tape is frustrating people?

SUSSAN LEY
Well, of course. I meet directors who spend all their time in the office filling out forms that believe it or not have to be kept for 21 years and they’re not there on the floor of their centres. Course when you’ve got to pay all that extra admin staff, it adds to costs. In fact the report said that the average 75-place centre faces increased costs solely due to administration of $140,000 a year. Now, we know that that’s pushing up prices and we know that for some parents that’s barely affordable and we know that it’s hard for them to make the choice to go back to work. They miss out and the economy misses out. So, it’s absolutely vital we get this right. We are absolutely vital we get this right. We are – we’re doing it. I’ve met twice with my state and territory ministerial colleagues. We’ve got the agenda on the right and happening; lots of things already and when the Productivity Commission report’s in draft form in a couple of weeks, it will point to the way ahead.

QUESTION
If we went purely with the Senator’s suggestions, would it put children at risk as childcare providers have warned today?

SUSSAN LEY
We do need a safe, secure and suitable environment for children and that has to have a quality assurance stamp if you like and we do have that. So, I’m proud of the system in Australia. I’m proud of the work that the sector does and I know that parents can have confidence that their children are cared for and learning inside this very high quality system. But the Senator is expecting a frustration that I hear every day and I understand that frustration. And what we want to do is work with the settings that are in place to make sure that all of the money that goes into this from governments and from parents, is aimed at the high quality early learning and care and not at the filling in of forms, the providing of information to regulation authorities and all of this peripheral stuff which takes up so much time and costs so much.

QUESTION
Now, he believes there are restrictions in place for people who have their children cared for by other parents in other homes. Is that an area that you could look at?

SUSSAN LEY
Well, children are cared for by parents in homes at the moment and family day-care and sometimes they’re cared for in the child’s own home under existing in-home care. There’s not enough flexible care; we’ve got a nation that has many shift workers. We’ve got people that don’t operate anymore inside of 9 to 5, five-day working week. We’ve got a 24/7 economy so what our Productivity Commission inquiry is doing is working out the policy that will work for the future and it’s our responsibility as a government to bring that in. Because when I talk to parents and I hear the frustration at a time of their life when they’re paying off a mortgage, when their children are small, where they’re doing that long commute to work, the existing system is not working for the. So, we are committed to improving the system and we’re well on the way to doing exactly that.

QUESTION
But there are no legal restrictions at the moment for people to pay other parents to essentially have like a backyard operation?

SUSSAN LEY
Well, what this comes down to is the government’s childcare benefit in rebate. So parents are free to make arrangements and they do all the time. I mean they have nannies and au pairs and informal arrangements with family members or neighbours and some of that’s good and some of that maybe isn’t so good. But we’re not a government that tells parents what to do. We’re a government that allows parents to make choices but where we put childcare benefit and rebate into the mix, then we say that it needs to be the system of quality assured childcare that is working in this country at the moment.

QUESTION
And just finally, Minister, you’re still receiving submissions I think until Tuesday on that framework consultation, how soon do you think you might have something to say?

SUSSAN LEY
Look, that’s in the view of the National Quality Framework which is built into the system. It’s been done by every state and territory and it’s about making the system achievable because what Labor did was set the policy settings and then walk away. Completely it would seem disinterested in the fact that under them the cost then went up 53 per cent and the out of pocket cost went up 40 per cent in the last few – four years. So, Labor said, here it is, and walked away from it. What we’re saying by having  this review is – is it achievable, is it deliverable and I believe it is but it may need some us and we are addressing the red tape and regulation that is preventing it from being those things. So, that review’s happening and it will report towards the end of the year about the same time as the Productivity Commission releases its final report. So, it’s a busy few months for us and I will continue to consult with parents, with educators in the sector, with directors and I’ve been to Tasmania, Melbourne, Brisbane and all over just in the last couple of weeks. It’s important that I continue to hear from people about how they experience this system, as the families if you like, as the grass-roots.

QUESTION
And just for final clarification, we – what – Senator Leyonhjelm is proposing which is almost all [indistinct] and complete deregulation – that isn’t on the cards?

SUSSAN LEY
It is not on the cards. While I understand the Senator’s frustration, the quality framework that we have in place will remain but we, the Government, will improve it.

QUESTION
Many thanks, Minister Ley.

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