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Transcript of doorstop interview: Adelaide: 17 November 2013: Government's Childcare Review; Cuts to childcare assistance

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SUBJECT/S: Government’s Childcare Review; Cuts to childcare assistance

SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD, KATE ELLIS: Today we’ve seen the Abbott Government announce the terms of their inquiry into childcare. The only promise that Tony Abbott has made today is that there will be no more money for childcare. Now, the hundreds of thousands of Australian families who rely upon childcare assistance are right to be concerned about the terms of this inquiry. We all know that the only way that you can fund new programs with no additional funding is to cut existing programs and assistance. Without extra money, funding nannies or au pairs or extending the hours of operation can only be done by cutting the assistance that low and middle income Australian families rely upon.

Today, I call upon Prime Minister Tony Abbott to guarantee that no Australian family will be worse off as a result of this childcare inquiry. We have already seen the Productivity Commission make recommendations about means testing childcare, and the Minister has refused to rule that out. Now, we have seen time and time again Liberal governments commissioning reviews just in the lead up to announcing deep cuts. Australian families cannot afford to have their childcare assistance cut.

Under the terms of the Labor Government we in fact tripled expenditure in childcare. Tony Abbott’s announcement today- that there is no new money for childcare is very, very bad news for the families who rely upon affordable and quality childcare.

Now, we’ve already seen this Government move to cut the wages of childcare workers. What Australian families need are real solutions, are real funding and real investments, and a commitment to quality childcare. That is a commitment that this government lacks. Again, there is absolutely no reason why Tony Abbott should not guarantee that no family will be worse off as a result of this review if he is not using it as an excuse for cuts.

JOURNALIST: What would means testing childcare do for Australian workers?

ELLIS: Well, I don’t believe that any Australian family should have their childcare assistance cut. We know that it is often women who make the decision to stay at home if they cannot find affordable childcare. So any cuts to any families have an overwhelmingly negative impact on Australian women and their participation in the workforce.

JOURNALIST: It’s currently 50 per cent that you get back. Do you fear that he might drop that rate?

ELLIS: Again, I call on the Prime Minister to guarantee that no family will have their assistance cut. What we want to see is that we are moving to build on the reforms that we’ve made in the childcare system; not that we are going to make it harder for Australian families, many of whom are already struggling with the cost of living.

JOURNALIST: You’re asking Tony Abbott to guarantee that there will be no cuts but the Productivity Commission is yet to hand back any findings. What are you afraid of them finding?

ELLIS: Well, we already know that they are looking at a whole range of new programs: at increasing funding, at potential tax deductibility, at funding nannies for Australian families. What I am afraid of is that these new programs, as there will not be additional funding, will only come at the expense of the existing childcare assistance that hundreds of thousands of Australian families rely upon. There is no way that you can fund new programs without cutting the existing assistance on which Australian families rely so much.

JOURNALIST: Do you agree the system needs to be overhauled? That we need it to look at considering, you know, the changes in family dynamics and so forth?

ELLIS: Look I’m really happy for us to look at new ways that we can run the Australian childcare system if it comes with a guarantee that no Australian family will face cuts. The Prime Minister cannot, and will not, give that guarantee because we know that that is the very intent of this inquiry

JOURNALIST: Do you see merit in freezing the Early Years Quality Fund in a way to actually getting that money to those nannies and au pairs?

ELLIS: Look I, like many Australian families, saw the Coalition’s election commitment. They committed, just days before the election, that they would honour

the commitments that were given under the Early Years Quality Fund. I’m calling on them to not break that promise, to keep that commitment, and to look at ways that we can increase the wages of the early childhood workforce who do such an amazing job.