Press Conference, Kirrawee, Sydney
MINISTER MORRISON: It’s wonderful to be here today in the Shire, in my home electorate, but also to be joined by my colleagues Craig Kelly and David Coleman from neighbouring electorates. Sylvanvale more broadly but particularly the child care centre here is very special to all of us and we are joined today by Pauline Stanley who is the Chief Executive of Sylvanvale and has responsibility, not only for the facility we’re in today but facilities more broadly on this site which are supporting families right across Sydney but particularly here in Southern Sydney.
This is also a very special place for us all, particularly Craig and I, because some years ago Craig and I teamed up with Rob McClelland, the former Member from across the river, to raise some money to support the Sylvanvale Foundation, particularly around this child care centre here. What happens in this child care centre here is very special. Craig and I had plenty of time to talk about it paddling up and down the Port Hacking River some years ago. What happens here is we have children from different backgrounds coming together, some who have no disabilities, others who have disabilities and what it is doing is it is removing the difference amongst young kids. They don’t see a difference and it’s been wonderful to meet Charlie this morning and his mates and the way they all get in together and it is really breaking down from the youngest of all ages and what we want to do as a government is ensure that there are more facilities like this around the country where mainstream child care facilities, which this is, have the capacity to be able to take more children with special needs in particular.
Today what we’re doing is we’re announcing another part of our Jobs for Families Package. A week or so ago I was out in Western Sydney where we announced the Nannies Trial Programme which will start at the beginning of next year. This is the second tranche in that Jobs for Families Programme and it is focused very specifically on supporting vulnerable families and families with disadvantages of all different types and sorts. You may be a disadvantaged family because you live in a rural or remote area which doesn’t have access to the sort of services that are provided mainstream for families in cities and in metropolitan areas like we see here today in the Sutherland Shire. You may have a disadvantage because you may be under particular economic or financial strain; that may be temporary, it may be more long term. You may have children who have disabilities, they may be intellectual disabilities or any other form of physical disability and you find it hard to get access to services in your area. Additionally, you may be in an area where it is just too expensive to access child care which is often in the centre of cities, where there are also many disadvantaged families trying to access child care services.
The Productivity Commission report was very critical of the way in which services and funding for families who are vulnerable or disadvantaged were able to access child care services. We listened very carefully to that advice. Families who are vulnerable or have children with disabilities or remote and regional areas deserve to have the same choices that all families have and the funding we’re announcing today is to ensure that they will have those choices like all other families.
Today we’re announcing that we are rationalising the existing services which are a range of different measures and we’re setting up a Child Care Safety Net and $327 million-odd in specific additional funding will be going in to form this Child Care Safety Net. It will have three core components. There will be an additional Child Care Subsidy which will top up the mainstream Child Care Subsidy to ensure that families that need additional support, because of the additional costs that are associated with helping their children, will be able to get that support. On top of that, that will also go to families who may have significant income constraints, whether temporary or permanent.
We’re also announcing today the establishment of the Community Child Care Fund. It is true that around the country there are areas where the provision of child care services is just not economically viable. That has often been the case and what we’ve learnt through the Productivity Commission exercise is the supply, oversupply, undersupply of services is patchy all around the country but it is important that where services are not viable that we can get those services in place. So we will be providing additional subsidies, direct to service providers, in identified areas that satisfy the test of receiving that additional support to ensure that those services can be delivered in those areas. That will include capital co-payments of up to $500,000 to support service provision in those areas and to ensure that facilities are properly equipped.
The third area of the child care safety net is the Inclusion Support Programme. Now this builds on an existing programme that the centre here specifically benefits from but we will be increasing the funding for that Inclusion Support Programme to ensure that more mainstream child care centres are able to take children who have disabilities and that will ensure that they will get subsidies over and above those that come from the mainstream subsidy and the additional Child Care Subsidy. In addition to that, the programme has professionals who will be able to come and work alongside mainstream child care centres who may not have the depth of experience, that they certainly have here at the one we’re visiting today, but there are many centres that need that extra support to understand well, how can we make our services more accessible to families with disabilities – to children with disabilities? So I’ll be increasing the support for that program. It doesn’t mean that Craig and I Pauline, won’t get in a kayak and paddle up Port Hacking River to continue to raise money for Sylvanvale, I’m sure we’ll do that again. This will ensure that we can get support not only to the centre here but all around the country.
Finally I’d also stress this, within the mainstream Child Care Subsidy itself we’ll be providing an additional just over $500 million and that will ensure for budget-based programmes, for example, I won’t go into the details; those in the sector will know what I’m talking about, about the budget-based services – that is all being rolled into this new Child Care Safety Net and there will be additional funding there and for transition to work and the special child care benefit that currently exists will be ensuring there is additional funding of just over $500 million that will be available in the mainstream Child Care Subsidy to continue and expand the work that those existing programmes are currently doing.
So all up it is a figure well north of $800 million that we’re putting in, in addition over the budget and forward estimates that will form this Child Care Safety Net and ensure that vulnerable and disadvantaged families will get the child care support they need so they get the same choices as families that all other families need to have so they can be in work, so they can stay in work, so they can get in work but their children also will get the benefit of the wonderful education and support that you see here on display today. Pauline, would you like to say a few words. It’s great to have you here with us today.
PAULINE STANLEY: Thank you. Look I’d just like to say on behalf of families with children with disabilities, they are the same as every other family; they are looking for the right place for their child. Segregation starts very young if they can’t get into a child care centre so the inclusion and the flexibility that the funding will bring to those families will really make a difference in their lifelong disability and they’re living with a lifelong disability. So I really welcome this opportunity so thank you very much Scott.
MINISTER MORRISON: Thanks Pauline, it’s great to have you here with us again with us today. Are there any questions on the package? We will take those first then we will move on to other things if you would like to discuss other things.
QUESTION: Are you holding families to ransom by making the extra funding contingent on last year’s cuts to family payments passing the Senate?
MINISTER MORRISON: No, that’s not how I would put it at all. What we are doing is we want to invest more in child care to support families to have choices to stay in work, to be in work, to get in work. We want to make sure that those families have those choices not just in the mainstream but families who have disabilities with their children and more generally are vulnerable. If you want to run a proper Budget, if you want to invest more then you have got to have savings. We have had savings in the Senate now since last year and the entire Jobs for Families Package, the increased investment we want to put in place there requires the savings elsewhere in the Social Services portfolio under the Family Tax Benefit to make sure we can better spend the welfare dollars that we have available. Now we don’t want to slug taxpayers more. We want to use the money that taxpayers have given us, better, more targeted, to support the families like those who would benefit from the centre here and all around the country. We want to make sure that they get that additional support and it’s important to do that that we get the savings in place to keep the Budget in balance and keep the choices for families.
QUESTION: There has been a six per cent increase in the number of children receiving child protection services and three quarters of those are repeat clients. Is that something of particular concern?
MINISTER MORRISON: This is of great concern I think to everyone in the community, and particularly to everyone in the Government. The programmes that we are announcing today include funding to support children at risk in those circumstances and there are no means tests on that support. When you have a child at risk that’s the most important thing and there are no other tests that apply other than that child is at risk and needs the support of these types of programmes. There is existing funding that deals with this to a degree today. These programmes, through the Child Care Safety Net we are announcing today will further extend that support. That means that as far as the Child Care Support Programme is concerned it will be doing more lifting to support children at risk in those absolutely deplorable conditions and circumstances.
JOURNALIST: Why are you playing a more prominent role in the lead-up to this Budget than the Treasurer is?
MINISTER MORRISON: I’m doing my job and the Treasurer is doing his job. Right now the focus is on releasing packages on the Jobs for Families package and our Fairer Access to a Sustainable Pension package and they’re portfolio responsibilities of mine so while I’m out here announcing these today, the Treasurer is hard at work putting the final touches on the Budget which is where he needs to be. We’re a team. We all play our part in the team and it’s my job today, and my pleasure, to be able to come and announce the additional funding we’re going to be giving to vulnerable and disadvantaged families through child care. But these decisions to do this are team decisions; the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, myself and the other ministers across their various portfolios. So we’re a strong team that is going to deliver a very strong and fair Budget that will deal with the challenges that we have as a country and help us transition to our next phase of what will be great growth and prosperity.
JOURNALIST: Given your involvement in this Budget, you’re heavy involvement will you take personal responsibility if it doesn’t go well with voters?
MINISTER MORRISON: I’m responsible for this Budget as much as every single other minister, every single government member, here with Craig and David today. This is our government’s Budget, and it’s a Budget we believe in. It’s a Budget that’s about fairness. It is a Budget that is about helping families get in work and stay in work. It’s about helping young people get in work and stay in work. It’s about helping older Australians as they age to be able to support themselves and continue to contribute. Older Australians should not be 65 and not out when it comes to how they are dealing with their own retirement and we want to encourage Australians to save for their retirement and we want to encourage all older Australians to continue to play the constructive and positive role they have over their entire lives. So I think this is a positive Budget for all of those reasons and that’s what you’ll see next week and you’re particularly seeing it here today with what we want to do with the most disadvantaged families in the country.
JOURNALIST: There are reports the debt will balloon to half a trillion dollars in this Budget, is that true? And if so, why is this going to be such a soft Budget on savings?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well I’ll leave the financial figures to the Treasurer because they’re his responsibility and these are the things he’s dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on as we move into next week’s Budget, together with the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann. In the last Budget we were able to halve the projection of the debt that we inherited from Labor and that was an excellent first start when it came to the Budget reparations that we put in place last year. This Budget we will take that further, and the next Budget after that we’ll take it further. Every Budget we will be marching towards a surplus and every Budget we’ll be marching closer to the day we will be reducing debt for this country. The alternative is a Labor party who wants to tax and spend; tax and spend, and that’s not the approach that we believe is important. Bill Shorten has only had two ideas this year, both of them are taxes and none of them involve savings. I mean they’re blocking $5 billion of their own savings that they put up before they lost office, so when it comes to thought bubbles, Bill Shorten can’t manage the bubble, let alone the thought.
JOURNALIST: You ruled out changes to superannuation this term, what about next term?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well I’ll leave those matters to the Treasurer. The point I was making yesterday was simply this; that there is a difference between the way that the Government and the Opposition is approaching this issue of retirement incomes. We believe the pension is there as a welfare safety net. The pension is not a prize. The pension is a payment that supports people who need it. Superannuation is there for people who have been saving over their lifetime to provide for their retirement. We don’t think that people who have done that should be punished with higher taxes, Bill Shorten does, and so does Chris Bowen and I think that’s a stark difference between the Government and the Opposition on these issues. There are no other- any other questions on the package?
Well Pauline, thank you so much for having us here today, it’s wonderful to be back and it’s great to see how the centre has gone ahead in leaps and bounds and seeing all the kids together and there are further details on the package obviously will be available on the website. Thank you very much and great to have Craig and David here with us today, I know that these measures will have a lot of impact on their electorates and similar electorates all around the country. This centre here particularly reaches, at Sylvanvale, well beyond the bounds of the Shire and it’s great to see such a successful and leading edge service right here in my own community and well done Pauline and the whole team, it’s great to be with you. Thank you.