Press conference - NATSEM, Child Care fees, Labor’s legacy, PC Inquiry

  • Assistant Minister for Education

SUSSAN LEY: This NATSEM Report highlights what we have been saying in the Coalition, both in Opposition and in Government for a couple of years now, so I’m not surprised at all. And when you consider child care costs went up 53 per cent under Labor and out of pocket costs went up 40 per cent for families in the last four years the situation is unsustainable, which is exactly why we’ve tasked the Productivity Commission to investigate a newer, better, more sustainable way for parents and families. And look they release their first report, their draft report, next month.

QUESTION: But at the moment why would low income earners even bother to go back to work?

SUSSAN LEY: Look I meet women all the time who have done the sums and they are facing a terrible struggle – maintain their place in the workforce, stay at home with children, juggle child care between long day care, grandma one day, a partner or a shift worker another day. It’s not fair for families to have to live within a system that is as unsustainable as the one that Labor has left us with. And what we want to do is fix it and that’s what we’ve started to do, so with our draft PC report coming down next month that’s a very important step on building a better system for the future.

QUESTION: Otherwise do you think participation rates will be affected, women might just stay out of the workforce.

SUSSAN LEY: For us this is very much about participation. We don’t want to lose women’s participation in the workforce in Australia today. The value that they add, the sheer productivity that women bring to every single job that they’re in - Australia is missing out. The Grattan Institute’s come up with figures that show the billions of dollars that the economy’s missing out just by not having women participate. So look, there’s a macro-economic picture that’s all about productivity and I’m very focussed on that.

But I’m also focussed on the family picture on what it’s like for women struggling and juggling and somehow at the end of the week just not bringing it all together, through no fault of their own, but because a Labor Government after six years in power has pushed child care costs up by 53 per cent.

QUESTION: What sort of changes do you expect to see then if the previous government didn’t act?

SUSSAN  LEY: Well the Productivity Commission has taken submissions – a record number in fact – from all over Australia and there are lots of ideas there. So I don’t want to pre-empt what they suggest but I do want to say that the system will change. And that once we’ve had the draft report and the final report in October we will be in a position early next year to bring new policy ideas before the Australian Parliament and start to give parents the relief from a system that is stretching and breaking at the seams, particularly in terms of cost.

QUESTION: Is the system in crisis?

SUSSAN LEY: I see a system, depending on where I am in the country and I’ve visited hundreds of child care centres and spoken to almost every single community and every single state at one time or other, an in parts there is crisis and struggle and desperation when you talk to mums who just don’t know what to do with the work-family balance and what we want to do is bring some relief to families at a time when they’re stressing with mortgage repayments, with young children, with two parents building a life together and just not being able to cope with the child care problem. So we’ve taken this on, Labor left us a Band-Aid mess, a situation just cobbled together with a bit of help here, an extra subsidy here, but nothing sustainable, nothing lasting, nothing real in terms of relief for families. We’ve taken that on and we’re well on the way to building a better system for the future.

QUESTION: Can you give us any details of what you’re doing at the moment?

SUSSAN LEY: Well let’s see what the Productivity Commission is coming down with. I haven’t sat on my hands, I’ve had two meetings with my state and territory counterparts during which we’ve started to ease the pressure of regulation and red tape. Because in the system now there’s too much burdensome red tape and that’s been acknowledged, so we’ve start bringing that back and helping families as far as that goes, and that’s an important first step, and the PC reports in July with its draft report and we’ll certainly see the next steps then.

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