SUNDAY, 5 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s childcare package
JEREMY FERNANDEZ: Andrew Leigh, thank you for joining us on the program. Labor's set to announce today a lifting of the childcare rebate cap. Tell me, what is the thinking behind this?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER & SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMPETITION: It's really important that we have a childcare system which provides quality child care to every child and also ensures affordability. Because we know that one of the main things which holds Australia back – particularly around female workforce participation – is child care.
Labor’s announced today an increase in the childcare benefit, which will benefit more than 800,000 Australian families and also a lift in the childcare rebate threshold from $7500 to $10000, which will benefit over 100,000 Australian families. So, nearly a million Australian families benefiting from a package which will take effect from the 1st of January next year, not two years down the track like the Coalition’s childcare package.
FERNANDEZ: So just this week your leader – Bill Shorten – explained his change to policy on company tax saying that a tax cut would be unaffordable in the current climate. It was the same reasoning for Labor backtracking on the Schoolkids Bonus. So, how do you explain spending on this with those same concerns about affordability?
LEIGH: Our childcare package is within the same funding envelope as the Government's. Over recent years we've backed around $9 billion in savings in family benefits and social security. That’s three times the value of this package. We believe it’s really important in order to boost Australia's economic productivity that we have a childcare system that’s great for kids and also boosts workforce participation.
FERNANDEZ: How immediate do you expect the effect of this to be?
LEIGH: Families would see the benefits of this coming from the 1st of January next year. That means you get immediate workforce participation benefits. Malcolm Turnbull's company tax cut won't be benefiting people until the 2030s on his own modelling. Ours is a package which will benefit families immediately from 2017 and have that economic payoff coming straight away.
But, let’s not forget, too, that this is also about kids. One of my favourite ways of thinking about child-rearing is children are the messages we send to a future we'll never see. It's really important that we maintain quality in child care, as well as the accessibility.
FERNANDEZ: Where is the funding going to come from? We understand that you’re re-directing government funding that's already in the Budget. Who else is going to pay?
LEIGH: That's right. This is a package which falls within the same funding envelope as the Government’s. There's no difference between the two major political parties with the funding envelope, but Labor's plan will help nearly a million Australian families and it will start quicker than the Government's plan.
FERNANDEZ: But my question is: Where will the money come from?
LEIGH: It will be supported by savings that we've made over recent years. We've had to make some tough decisions, supporting savings made in ways that we wouldn't have crafted them, but we recognise that it's important to make some of these choices. Ours is a good package, a package which will boost workforce participation and ensure quality childcare for nearly a million Australian families.
FERNANDEZ: This announcement coincides with ABC analysis of figures from the Education Department this week showing that child care is a big factor in marginal seats. Is this what this is about? You're pitching to voters in those marginal seats that could decide whether you take Government or Opposition again?
LEIGH: This is about helping families. For low and middle-income families, some will benefit by up to $31 a week. It's really important we take that pressure off. That we make sure that for families where both parents want to work that they're not sitting there saying it's not worth both parents working because of the cost of child care. We know that Australia lags behind countries like Canada in women's workforce participation. We can do better than that. It's not just Australian women who will benefit from that. All of our workplaces benefit from an economy in which people aren't held back from their full economic participation.
FERNANDEZ: Andrew Leigh, thank you for joining us.
LEIGH: It’s a pleasure.