Simon Birmingham: Thanks so much for coming. It’s wonderful to be here at one of the many outstanding Goodstart Early Learning child care centres around the country. Goodstart do an incredible job as Australia’s largest provider of child care and quality early childhood education services, and I’ve really been pleased and buoyed by the way they’ve worked with us on implementation of our child care reforms, but also as a service they’ve responded to it by offering greater flexibility to many of their parents around Australia. Of course, there are many good reasons as to why the Turnbull Government’s huge improvements to child care subsidies and services are going to benefit Australian families. The increase in the rate of the subsidy for so many families will make a huge difference to their hip pocket. The application of an efficient benchmark price will help keep a lid on fee growth into the future. But perhaps one of the most important reasons and benefits from our reforms is getting rid of the cap on the Child Care Rebate that afflicts so many Australian families at present. New data shows that by the start of June this financial year, more than 63,000 Australian families had exhausted the Child Care Rebate limit. That means they were no longer getting any government support for their child care fees, in many cases. Which means for those families, child care costs had become a huge burden. And by the end of June, we expect that to be closer to 100,000 Australian families who had run out of available child care support.
Now, it’s not just those families. There are people who know this is potentially the case, and so they choose in advance to work fewer days, and in working fewer days, they keep their children out of the child care system. The Turnbull Government’s reforms are going to fix that. They're going to ensure that for all Australian families earning less than around $187,000 per annum, they will have an uncapped limit to the new child care subsidy that is purely based on the amount of time they work and how much they earn. That’s a much fairer, better system, and for those earning more than $187,000 we are increasing that cap from around $7500 up to $10,000. So these are huge improvements that are going to benefit around 1 million Australian families according to analysis that will be to the tune of about $1300 per child, per annum in assistance. We’re thrilled that more than 960,000 Australian families have already registered and updated their details to receive the new child care subsidy, and for the handful who are remaining, if you haven’t done so yet, please visit myGov, please visit education.gov.au/childcare and make sure you get it done by next Monday, 2 July. There’s a whole new world with a much better, fairer child care subsidy is just around the corner to help Australian families. And it’s a special delight to have the Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, here with us this morning, because of course a big thing about this is the lift it will provide to workforce participation and opportunities to help so many working families.
Kelly O’Dwyer: Well thanks so much, Simon, and not only as Minister for Women but as a working mum myself, I understand the importance of having good quality child care. I’ve got a three-year-old and a one-year-old and I know how critical it is to have affordable and flexible child care available not only to my family, but to all those families out there who are managing that juggle of work and family. And the changes and reforms that the Turnbull Government have made will make it so much easier for families to be able to have access to that affordable child care. It’s critical to back in Australian families and that is exactly what we are doing with these reforms. But we are also making it easier, particularly for women who have often borne the brunt of child care responsibilities, to be able to increase their participation in the workforce, or in fact, get back into the workforce as a result of these changes being targeted on helping people to be able to just that. But it’s also great being here at a child care centre. It’s a child care centre like so many others right across the country. We know that child care centres right across the country in many cases are small or medium-sized, or even family businesses. But there is a real threat to those small, medium and family-sized businesses, and that is Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten wants to increase the taxes on small, medium and family-sized businesses. He doesn’t seem to understand that these sorts of businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. Ninety-seven per cent of all business in this country is small business, and Bill Shorten has declared war on them. He doesn’t seem to understand that if you increase their taxes, you're going to make it even harder for them to go about their business, to invest in their business and to employ people. Millions of Australians are employed by small and medium-sized family enterprises, and we want to make sure that we continue to back those people. So Bill Shorten hasn’t just attacked small, medium-sized and family businesses, he’s attacked millions of Australians as well by wanting to increase the taxes that they pay, $70 billion. It’s yet another shifty move by a shifty leader of the opposition, and many Australians now are much more awake to it. Even his own side, even the people in his own caucus are questioning this ‘captain wacky’ call that he has made this week, this attack on small, medium and family sized businesses. It will crush those businesses, it will crush the people that they employ, and it is yet another example as to why Labor can’t be trusted.
Question: On child care, so what happens to the families that haven’t switched over to the new system in time?
Simon Birmingham: We’ve got in place a clear safety net, so for the first three months of the new financial year, families who may not have updated their details or made the switch will be able to claim back payments in terms of their new child care subsidy. But I do urge anybody who’s not made the switch yet or updated their details, go online, it’s a simple process and for most it’s only taking about 10 minutes to do. And of course, doing so can ensure your family gets every cent they're entitled to, which for many families is estimated to be around $1300 extra in child care assistance per annum. That’s a huge difference to the family budget. It’s a huge difference to addressing cost of living pressures, and it’s a huge incentive or support for people who want to choose to work more hours, work more days if that’s what their family circumstances support them in doing. So, this really is about ensuring that people get the assistance that they need, and simply visiting myGov or education.gov.au/childcare people can get those details updated.
Question: The mother of an Iranian asylum seeker who took his own life on Nauru two weeks ago has written an open letter to the government, calling for her son to be able to be buried anywhere but on Nauru or in Iran. His body is being kept in cold storage on Nauru. What’s your response to her? Should she be allowed to bury her son here in Australia? I know Peter Dutton has spoken out against single acts of compassion, but what would you say to her?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I haven’t seen the letter to be referred to. It’s important in all of these cases to understand all of the different facts and also consider ultimately the importance as well of the border protection policies that have ensured that lives have been saved, drownings at sea have stopped and that ultimately we have secure borders in Australia.
Question: That’s your message to her as well?
Simon Birmingham: Look, I feel very much for anybody who faces personal family tragedy, but having not looked at the circumstances, aside from expressing condolences and sympathies, I’d want to take a closer look at any circumstances.
Question: And just on company tax, will the Government do what it’s been saying and put the legislation to a vote today in the Senate?
Kelly O’Dwyer: Well look, I’m not the manager of government business in the Senate, but certainly we’ll continue to prosecute our case to lower company taxes right across the board. But particularly, we find it extraordinary that Bill Shorten has announced this week an attack on small, medium and family-size businesses. Those with a turnover of between $10 million and $50 million. That could be a child care centre, a car dealer, a mechanic, it could be a builder. It can be many of the small businesses that you interact with every day and that employ millions of Australians. We still don’t know what Bill Shorten’s going to do with those businesses between $2 million and $10 million in terms of their turnover. We hear that he wants to punish them as well, which will mean he wants to punish basically all business in this country, to have higher taxes on these businesses. And that’s in addition to the new tax slug, the new tax hike he wants on all Australians as well, with $70 billion worth of increased taxes on those Australians.
So, Bill Shorten is all about high taxes, high taxes on business, small and medium-size and family businesses; high taxes on individual Australians who are working hard to try and get ahead. Two hundred billion dollars’ worth of taxes and let’s not forget the mega retiree tax, which is around about $55 billion worth and will slug those people who can least afford it.
Question: If you can’t get that policy through in this sitting week, do you want to- or if it comes up today and it fails in the Senate, do you want to see it taken to the next election?
Kelly O’Dwyer: Well, let’s see what’s going to happen in the Senate today. I wouldn’t- you know, as a House of Reps member, dare to predict what might happen in the Senate today, but like you I’ll be watching very closely.
Question: Do you think it should be put to a vote? Everyone from the Prime Minister to the Treasurer has said that this week they will put it to the test. Will they? Should they?
Simon Birmingham: And as the manager of government business in the Senate, I can say that both the Government’s foreign interference reforms and the company tax reforms are on the Senate notice paper in order of business for today. I would urge all senators to recognise the importance of passing both of these fundamentally important pieces of legislation, pieces of legislation that can ensure a safer more secure Australia and a stronger economy into the future. And the message there is very clear – we can get all of this business done in the Senate today if people like Bill Shorten stop playing games, stop thinking that populism or politics should trump the approach that the Turnbull Government takes, which is about backing a stronger economy, job creation, ensuring Australia is competitive. They’re the types of things that ought to weigh on the Labor leader’s mind rather than just how much tax he can suck out of hardworking Australian families and businesses.
Question: How close are you to clinching crossbench support in the Senate?
Simon Birmingham: Well, we continue to talk to crossbenches as we always do.
Question: And just on energy, should the Government consider new coal power to appease dissenters in terms of the NEG policy?
Simon Birmingham: The Government is pursuing its policy, which is to deliver the National Energy Guarantee, which is a technology-neutral approach. It doesn’t offer subsidies to any form of energy generation. It seeks to make sure that we have a level playing field in energy generation that prioritises reliability, drives prices down, and meets our emissions obligations.
Question: Yesterday the [indistinct] voted on, with Senator Hanson, on a motion to build a new coal-fired power station, though Tony Abbott is still threatening to cross the floor and the Nationals are putting some kind of conditions of theirs to the PM himself. How do you unite the party and when there is so much dissent around your own energy [indistinct]?
Simon Birmingham: I suggest you look at the wording of that motion. The motion was talking about facilitation of the new energy generation capacity in Australia. It spoke of coal, but the National Energy Guarantee, just as easily as the Government statement to the Senate made clear, facilitate investment in a range of other solar, pumped hydro, or other projects across Australia, all of which would only occur under the NEG because they improve reliability, did so in a manner that helped drive prices down and ensure that overall we meet our emissions reduction targets.
Question: How would you characterise the contributions made by Tony Abbott to this debate?
Simon Birmingham: Look, I’m not going to run commentary on other matters. It’s policy that matters and in policy terms, the NEG is a policy that will deliver for Australia in terms of certainty for industry to invest in the energy generation we need without playing favourites, without picking winners, but ensuring that within an energy mix that is best for Australia in terms of reliability, keeping prices as low as possible and meeting our emissions obligations.