SKY NEWS REGIONAL - Local Government, Disaster Ready, Child Care

SKY NEWS REGIONAL - Local Government, Disaster Ready, Child Care Main Image

24 November 2022


SUBJECTS: Meeting of local government ministers, Disaster Ready Fund, childcare costs, parliamentary agenda.

JAYNIE SEALE, HOST: Well, it’s been a big week in politics. To talk about it all, joining us live is Kristy McBain, our Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories. How are you this morning, Minister?

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Very well, thank you.

SEALE: All right. And a few big days to come. Let’s start off with tomorrow, in fact, because you’re going to be holding the first Albanese Government local meeting bringing together state ministers. Tell us about it.

MCBAIN: Yeah, the first meeting of local government ministers is taking place tomorrow. Really important, it’s a sector that is obviously being inundated over the last three years especially in regards to disaster recovery. And we know there’s over 130 local government areas currently impacted by flooding disaster. And with the numerous issues that now face them in terms of financial sustainability, disaster response and recovery, housing affordability, we thought it was timely to get local government ministers together across the country to talk about some of those challenges and start putting forward some more solutions. And we’ll be meeting not only as ministers but also with the President of the Australian Local Government Association.

SEALE: All right. Well, we look forward to hearing more, because there’s certainly plenty on the agenda, as you mentioned. Yesterday the Disaster Ready Bill had passed through Parliament. Tell us what happened there and are you satisfied with the outcome?

MCBAIN: Absolutely. We know local communities right across this country are telling us that they need to be better prepared for the next natural disaster. We should really give credence to the lived experience of communities who are telling us that come the next time there is a disaster, they want to be better prepared. They want more resilient infrastructure; they want more resilient communities. So, this Disaster Ready Fund will invest a billion dollars over five years into those mitigation and resilience projects. Things like flood levees, evacuation centres, firebreaks, putting together resilient town planning so that communities can come together and know what the plan is come the next natural disaster.

We know that people like the Productivity Commission have been calling for more investment in mitigation and resilience measures. We know that if we do it upfront, we save about $11 on the recovery side of things. So, what the community is asking for is now what they’re getting, because the Albanese government is prioritising what they’re telling us, which is dealing with those mitigation and resilience issues.

SEALE: Another Bill that passed was the Cheaper Childcare. That passed the Senate yesterday. That was a big one as well. Plenty of information on the media – in the media yesterday about it and the Federal Government’s Bill. A range of affordability, accessibility and transparency measures were the main focus.

MCBAIN: Yeah, really important. Over the last eight years childcare costs have risen by 41 per cent. The previous government didn’t have a plan to deal with that, and what we took to the election was the Cheaper Childcare Bill. So, this Bill will result in over 1. 2 million families getting a reduction in costs. Those on an $80,000 combined income will be saving over a thousand dollars a year. Those on $120,000 will be saving about $1,700 a year. So that immediate cost of living relief will now be available to Australian families.

But the most important thing, I think, is that it’s going to release skilled workers back into our workforce. We know from a lot of women that we have spoken to – and primarily women have been the primary caregivers – that they want to be able to work a fourth and a fifth day without being penalised. And sometimes doing that meant that all of that pay went on childcare costs. So now we can actually get more people back into the workforce. It’s a good productivity measure, but it’s also good for families. And, most importantly, it's good for children. We know that 90 per cent of brain development happens in the first five years. And it's fantastic that the sector is being prioritised.

We know – we hear from a lot of families that childcare and early childhood education is one of the biggest costs for them. So, this is actually dealing with that, allowing families to keep more money in their own pockets.

SEALE: All right, yes, plenty on the agenda. And what’s on for today in Parliament?

MCBAIN: Look, today in Parliament there’ll be some more debate, I assume, on the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill. Looking forward to having that passed by the end of the year. And we know that at the last election there was a lot of discussion about integrity and about a corruption commission. We said that we would get the bill passed by the end of the year, and that’s what we are on track to do. The Secure Work, Higher Wages Bill is before the Parliament. It’s with the Senate at this point in time. Really hoping we can get that passed by the end of the year.

It’s really important that we can all focus as a government on getting those low wages moving, getting people that pay rise that they need. Over the last 10 years of the previous government, it was a deliberate design feature of their economic policy to keep wages low, and we know that it just hasn’t kept up with the cost of living. There hasn’t been a real wage increase in the last 10 years, and we know we need to get that moving. So, this Bill is really important to the Australian working community who say we need more money to deal with the cost-of-living measures. So really looking forward to that Bill coming back to the House to be passed.

SEALE: All right. Well it’s great to see you. Thank you so much for your time. Kristy McBain, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories.