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United Voice's Helen Gibbons on ABC News 24 Weekend Breakfast - Transcript

Children's Services

Sunday, 10 May, 2015
ABC News 24 Weekend Breakfast


SUBJECT/S: families package, childcare, funding, activity test, means testing, workforce participation, Senate

WEEKEND BREAKFAST: The Government will release its long awaited reforms to childcare today. Some details have been released to News Limited papers and here is what they have. Parents who have a combined income of up to $165,000, will receive more subsidies. Most will receive around $30 per week extra, some up to $50.

The rebate will be paid directly to childcare centres but there will be a cap on daily fees. The Government will only pay subsidies on fees of up to $110 per day. That will rise to $127 in 2017.

The childcare cap will be abolished for families earning under $185,000. Over that it will be capped to a maximum of $10,000 in rebates per year for each child.

Parents who stay at home will lose subsidies all together or have them reduced.  And the scheme will be phased in between now and 2017 but there are no details about how it will be introduced.

We should point out we have made calls to the Minister Scott Morrison's office to confirm the details that have appeared in today's papers. We are still waiting to hear back. We will let you know as soon as we make some contact there. He is expected to step up some time today to release some of the details of that package.

Helen Gibbons is the assistant National Secretary for United Voice which represents early childhood workers. She joins us to talk through these points in the studio now. Thank you for joining us.

Good morning.

We are waiting for absolute confirmation but we are anticipating this childcare reform package will involve quite a lot of change in the name of simplifying in some respects of the system but also to make childcare more sustainable for the future. In terms of what you have been able to glean, how are you seeing the Government’s handling of this?

HELEN GIBBONS:  I think this really looks like, at first blush, a happy Mother's Day and happy Father's Day for Australian families. This looks like a significant injection of extra funds into the early childhood sector.

It's something that has been needed for some time and United Voice members welcome the focus on early childhood services.

WEEKEND BREAKFAST:  The Government is making the point childcare is not welfare but emphasising if you are going to get these subsidies and benefits, you need to be working.

HELEN GIBBONS: There does seem to be a focus on a return to work or workforce participation in these reforms. I think it's something that the community understands and expects but I think it's also important, and our educators are focused on the children that enter those services and what they need and what the families need.

WEEKEND BREAKFAST: Is there a concern that the transition to work that is being encouraged with these sorts of changes is being facilitated adequately as well?

HELEN GIBBONS: It's hard to understand all of the details of the package yet. We have seen bits come out over the last few days.

It looks like it's going to be a package and process that will encourage parents to be able to utilise childcare services and encourage them to return to work. I think we have got a long way to go to understand all of the details of this reform.

WEEKEND BREAKFAST: Let's unpack one item here as reported. Do you have any concerns about the issue of the stay at home parents on $65,000 or above?

HELEN GIBBONS: They won't get the childcare subsidy. Of course, that could have implications for people for whatever reason who choose not to enter the workforce, on their children perhaps not participating in early childhood programs?

United Voice members have been working hard to understand the activity test this Government is trying to put forward. The other stakeholders and other services in the early childhood space are concerned about this as well. Children access childcare for all sorts of reasons. Families need childcare for all sorts of reasons.

We would be concerned about a black and white answer to what is often a very shades of grey situation.

We will be working harder to understand what the Government is proposing. If there is work to be done to tweak it and make it better we will be working with the Government to make it good.

WEEKEND BREAKFAST: Of course all of this hinges on legislation, if this is in fact what the Government will be announcing today, is subject to legislation passing through Parliament. Labor has indicated it has reservations about these new reforms. What do you say to those politicians who are perhaps hesitant to go forward with what has been proposed?

HELEN GIBBONS: We think this looks like it's a good reform process. We feel like it's a good injection of funds into the early childhood sector and we stand with stakeholders and parents to say we welcome this package.

We would hate to see this tarnished by being used as a political football and being used in the Senate to tie it to controversial savings measures.

We call on this Government to stand by its reform process and make sure it works and gets through the Senate and call on all Senators to make sure this funding reaches the children it needs to reach.

WEEKEND BREAKFAST:  There is a potential for that happening, as you outlined, in that this looks like it will be tied to cuts to the Family Tax Benefit. Labor's Jenny Macklin says they will block that if the cuts go ahead?

HELEN GIBBONS: We would be concerned about any blocking of this reform process. This is long overdue. We expect this money and process to support children…

WEEKEND BREAKFAST: Even if it means a cut to the Family Tax Benefit?

HELEN GIBBONS: However, we would not want to see this tarnished being tied to controversial or unfortunate savings. It needs to get through the Senate. Families need something to rely on.

WEEKEND BREAKFAST: Is there a concern we are looking at these policies and the payments actually being frozen until 2017? Is that too long for parents to have to wait?

HELEN GIBBONS: We are concerned it's not until 2017. This is big. There are a lot of things that need to be put in place to make this work. We would love to see it happen tomorrow, at a much quicker pace but we are pleased it is happening.

WEEKEND BREAKFAST: Helen Gibbons from United Voice, thanks very much. Thank you.

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