Jan 6, 2021








SUBJECTS: Labor’s cheaper child care policy; importance of child care; COVID-19 vaccine program; Australia’s relationship with China; investigation into origins of COVID-19.


MATT THISTLETHWAITE, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES & MEMBER FOR KINGSFORD SMITH: Morning, everyone. Firstly, I’d like to thank Venice and all of the wonderful early child educators, and of course, the wonderful kids for showing us around their centre here at Wonderschool in Chifley today. As a father of four kids who’ve recently all just graduated from child care, I can tell you that the work that early childhood educators do is amazing in providing that intellectual and social development for our kids. But their work is also important because they provide the opportunity for parents to have jobs, to go to work. And that is what Labor is all about, promoting jobs and making sure that our child care system works for parents. The current system is broken. It discourages parents from being able to earn the income that they need to support their families, to pay their mortgage, to clothe and feed their kids and importantly, to continue their careers. And that’s why I’m very proud to be part of the Labor team that has developed this positive policy to ensure that the child care system works for families in Australia and promotes productivity. And when I phoned around our electorate in the wake of the announcement that Anthony made around child care for his Budget Reply, I was overwhelmed by the positive response from people in our community saying thank you for listening, thank you for listening the challenges that we have in raising kids and supporting our family. And I’m very proud that Anthony’s been able to join me here in Kingsford Smith today. And I’ll hand over to him to say a few words.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Matt. And I want to join with Matt in thanking the wonderful early childhood educators here at this centre in Chifley, and also the kids who’ve welcomed us into what is an important place of learning for them. And we’ve seen that in practice here this morning. Labor’s cheaper child care plan is about economic reform. It’s about assisting children, but also helping families, but importantly, helping our national economy to grow. Because we know that at the moment, the child care system simply isn’t working for families. And it’s a hand brake on our economy. We know that every dollar invested will produce a double of that, at least, in a return to our national economy. And we know that we need to deal with increased workforce participation as one of the three Ps in which you get economic growth. You can get economic growth through participation in the workforce, through population growth or through productivity.


This plan will deliver on all three. It will assist 97 per cent of families by removing the cap on the child care subsidy, by lifting it to 90 per cent and improving the taper rates so that more families can benefit from the child care subsidy. This is good for working families because at the moment, the disincentive which is there for a woman, a working mother, and it’s largely women who are affected by this, to work a fourth or a fifth day, that often costs them money to do so. In a couple of weeks’ time, many families will breathe a sigh of relief when their youngest child reaches the age whereby they go to kindy, they go to school. And at that stage, the Government, everyone accepts that the support is necessary. It is just something that we do when a child reaches around five years of age. Why is it that in the early years we don’t regard it as much of a priority? The fact that so many families will say, ‘Now we’re better off because we don’t have any children in child care’ shows there is a problem with the system. The problem with the system is it’s not working as smoothly as it should. It’s not assisting women to fully participate in the workforce. It is providing a hand brake on productivity in our economy. And importantly, for children themselves, we know that 90 per cent of human brain development occurs in the first five years. And therefore, investing in those early years should be an absolute priority of Government.


Now, when it comes to costs in the coming year, this year, child care costs are expected to increase by 5.3 per cent. That is at a time when the inflation rate is negligible. A 5.3 per cent increase in costs shows that the system that was designed by Scott Morrison is simply not working for working families. We need to do better. That’s why we put the child care policy at the centre of my first Budget Reply. And that’s why we’ve been visiting child care centres and early learning centres throughout the country to promote this policy, which would make a major difference to economic reform. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: We’ve heard from the Federal Government today that the vaccine program looks like it will be shifted to early March rather than late March. Is that soon enough in your view?


ALBANESE: Well, they said that was impossible a couple of days ago. So, this shows once again a Government that follows, doesn’t lead. The fact is that once the TGA approves the vaccine, it should be available and should be rolled out. It’s a very simple principle that Labor has put forward. No one in the Labor Party has argued for any curtailing of the proper processes undertaken by the TGA. What we’ve said is though, if you have confidence in those processes, then once it’s approved, it should be rolled out.


JOURNALIST: And are you satisfied that with that change in roll out the corners are going to cut?


ALBANESE: Once the TGA approves a vaccine, then that gives the tick. And it should be rolled out at that time. And that time should be precisely when the approval is given. If it’s approved in January, the rollout should commence in January. The fact is, Scott Morrison said that we’re at the head of the queue. The fact is, we’re way behind the rest of the world when it comes to rolling out a vaccine. And the fact that the Government has shifted its position in the last few days as a result of Labor raising these issues, I’m quite proud that we’ll continue to be constructive, we will continue to put forward ideas in the national interest. And if the Government adopts them, then good. They should be listening to what we’re saying rather than playing their usual games that Scott Morrison is the expert on, of verballing the Opposition and then opposing things that no one is advocating. No one’s advocating short-circuiting the TGA processes. What we’re saying is, once approval is given, rollout should happen.


JOURNALIST: What did you make of China blocking entry to two WHO investigators into the country?


ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that it’s unacceptable. Not just Australia, but the whole world needs this investigation to happen. And it should happen openly and transparently. And that should be facilitated by China. And other countries as well should all cooperate fully with the investigation. That’s in the world’s interest.


JOURNALIST: And you’re confident that Australia was right in joining those calls for that investigation into COVID-19?


ALBANESE: Well, there was always going to be an investigation into COVID-19. That should be allowed to be conducted freely, openly and in a transparent manner. Thanks very much.