Minister Rishworth interview on 6PR Mornings with Gary Adshead


Topics: Strengthening inclusion in early childhood education and care, NDIS, online gambling, affordable housing, the Voice.

GARY ADSHEAD, HOST: Joining me now is the Federal Social Services Minister, Amanda Rishworth. Thanks very much for coming in.


GARY ADSHEAD: Welcome to Western Australia.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Thank you. I love coming to Western Australia.

GARY ADSHEAD: The sun is out.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It’s beautiful, spring is in the air.

GARY ADSHEAD: It surely is. Now just tell us, you are making an announcement of course, today. It's in relation to early childhood education intervention, particularly around kids that have disability issues, it's about picking them up early. How does it work?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Today we're launching a whole lot of resources that are available for early educators to help them intervene and support children and families that might be showing some developmental delay. They might not have a diagnosis of disability but we know that many early educators pick some signs up, but don't necessarily know what to do then. And so what these resources are all about is how to have a conversation with the family, how to connect families in with other supports and importantly, it makes sure that early childhood settings like kindys and childcare centres are actually more inclusive for kids that might have that developmental delay.

GARY ADSHEAD: And what sort of developmental issues are you talking about here? Because you're right, it's vital that you can pick it up early and somehow work through it, before it's picked up later and then it becomes a massive issue. What sort of things are we talking about?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Absolutely. So it's things like educators might just notice a delay of a child's gross motor skills or their fine motor skills or they might not be just necessarily socialising in the same way. So these are often really early signs that educators can see. I speak to a lot of early educators, they can see that, but then what to do with that information, how to get that extra support, how to have those conversations with the families are really, really important. Because exactly, as you say, we know that there are programs out there, including the program running here in Western Australia, the Inklings program, that shows if you pick it up early enough any of these delays and put the right environment around the child, you actually get much, much better outcomes.

GARY ADSHEAD: Right. So, it's resourcing the people in early childhood, basically, is it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: That’s right, yes.

GARY ADSHEAD: What can they…what sort of resources do they get offered? And does it come under NDIS which, of course is under all sorts of funding constraints at the moment?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It's separate to the NDIS. It's really important that we recognise not all children and adults with a disability access the NDIS. It's a really important system for some people, but we also need to have systems outside the NDIS and this is actually outside the NDIS, it’s part of Australia's Disability Strategy.  And what educators and centres will get is a whole lot of resources, support, connections that support them to have those conversations of what to look out for, what to do. We know they are already on the front line. We know they are already working with children. They have a huge amount of knowledge, but they do need that extra support to get children to have those conversations with families but also get children some support. This program will also support educators include children on the NDIS, so if children are on the NDIS, sometimes I have heard that families don't feel they can be properly included into childcare centres. So this will also help include those children into childcare centres, also helping them access the other funding that's out there. 

GARY ADSHEAD: What do you say, on the NDIS, obviously, I know we have an NDIS Minister in Bill Shorten, of course, but this notion that it's the Department that you run, the Social Services Department that is blocking some information out of an FOI on how much money can be saved on NDIS. Because I think the crucial thing at the moment, we all know because the Minister keeps telling us, that NDIS is becoming very expensive and we’ve got to save money. Does the public have a right to know how you're going to go about doing that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, Minister Shorten has been doing a lot of work particularly in making sure that the money that gets spent goes to the participants. That's what his reforms have been all about. So for example, he has set up a fraud taskforce to actually look at situations where the NDIS money is not getting there and also, of course, making sure that families aren't gouged for example. They have been areas that he's been very focused on, because ultimately with the NDIS, what we want is the money that's going into the system getting to the people that really need it. But when it comes to the FOI you're talking about, my understanding is that was about supporting National Cabinet's deliberations, and so, National Cabinet has to make decisions and look at how they are best working together on the NDIS because it is a joint state and Commonwealth program. So my understanding is that it was part of the National Cabinet decisions and all of National Cabinet's deliberations are confidential.

GARY ADSHEAD: All right, but it did seem to give the National Cabinet an idea how to actually deal with the funding issues that we're going to see as we try to sort of keep the increases to 8 per cent. Does the public have a right to know at some point how NDIS cuts are going to happen?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well I reject the point that there will be NDIS cuts…

GARY ADSHEAD: [interrupts]…savings…

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think it's very important to recognise it's getting the scheme in the right spot, delivering to people that need it, but there is the NDIS Review. I mean, there's been a lot of consultation. There’s been a lot of discussion, that the Review will help inform governments around how to meet that 8 per cent growth target. I mean, that's what we're talking about, a target around the growth of the scheme and making sure it's sustainable. And so the NDIS Review will be doing a lot of work, along with other work done by departments, Minister Shorten etc to help chart that pathway.

GARY ADSHEAD: Speaking of reviews, I think it was in June, the Government received a report into online gambling. Obviously, there's a lot of concerns around that. Are you able to give us an idea as to what you're prepared to do? If you talk about, for example, the advertising stuff. I mean, I know Kate Chaney over here has been hard on the fact that the proliferation of ads saturating television bulletins and so on. Are you prepared to cut back on that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I'd say that the House of Representatives inquiry was very comprehensive. There was something like 31 recommendations and so we're working through those recommendations. We are taking it very seriously. Since coming into the portfolio, I've taken this issue very seriously. We've implemented everything through the lens of harm minimisation. So how do we reduce harm? We've introduced activity statements that people get in their inbox once a month showing how much they've actually lost. We've introduced new taglines, we’re banning credit cards because you shouldn't be gambling with money you don't have and also, we've just brought in last week BetStop, which is the national exclusion register. What the inquiry does is really chart some of the other options on the table.

GARY ADSHEAD: Is advertising part of it, because it is normalising it, isn't it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well we are considering advertising along with all the other elements of the inquiry including what a national strategy looks like or could look like. So there's a range of different recommendations that we're taking very seriously. But ultimately, I think our record shows that we've spent the last, just over a year, taking a range of actions to minimise harm for people that are exposed to online wagering.

GARY ADSHEAD: Can I just get your feedback on, I think the most serious thing confronting the Federal Government and State Government here in WA and around the country,  the lack of housing affordability, social housing. Do you have a sense of how Australia got this so wrong to fall so way behind as we have, even during a pandemic where we were stopping people coming into the country? We've just seemed to have hit a crisis right now and no one saw it coming.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There’s no doubt when you talk to people on the ground finding affordable housing, or housing at all, is a really, really big challenge. So in terms of how we got there, a lot of commentators will have a lot of ideas. I think the key thing that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Housing have been talking about is getting a coordinated approach across the country, and really looking at supply. I mean, supply is really critical here. And that's why you've seen a lot of the initiatives that have been made at National Cabinet has been around supply, but you need to draw it across the spectrum. So whether it's investment in social housing, affordable housing, our agreement with the states and territories on the Home Equity Access Scheme, which I know West Australia has its own scheme there. All of these elements are really important, but they need to be tackled in a really holistic way. So I think coordination and a lot of political will and a lot of drive is what's going to put us on the right direction.

GARY ADSHEAD: Is it responsible though to have the migration rate as it is right now. Given that people in this country can't find a place to live?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, the migration system really is a demand driven system, done on a variety of visas, and I know that Minister O'Neill is doing a lot of work in making sure that's fit for purpose. But ultimately, as you said, there has been some challenges over the years and one of those challenges is that we have less people per dwelling now. So there's a lot of factors that are feeding into this. We've just got to make sure that we are all working together and that's what happened at National Cabinet between the Premiers and the Prime Minister, a real resolve to work together to try and address this issue.

GARY ADSHEAD: Just finally, the Voice of course. It's taking up a lot of the conversation in the nation right now. But South Australia, it seems will be the place where the date is announced. I mean, you're from South Australia, what do you make of that? I mean, obviously, it could have been done here today, I suppose, here in WA, but is that part of the whole WA is a lost cause sort of thinking?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: [The date] that's a matter for the Prime Minister. But I'm sure when the Prime Minister is ready, he'll announce the date. But I don't think any state and territory is a lost cause. I reject that thinking completely. I think what we've got is a proposition and people will get to make their mind up. For me, I've been out talking with people and, you know, there's people that feel very strongly for yes, there's people that feel strongly for no, and a lot of people are just starting to engage in the conversation. They have a saying in politics that when you're sick of hearing it, a lot of people are only just hearing it, because getting messages out is hard. So I think once the referendum campaign starts, I guess we'd call it a campaign, I think there'll be a lot of people starting to pay attention and starting to really work out where they're going to vote. And I think that's where I'd encourage everyone to get as much information as possible.

GARY ADSHEAD: You know him better than me, the Prime Minister I mean, he gets very emotional when this discussion comes up. What would it look like if this fails for him?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think the question about what would this look like if it fails is a question for the country and how we see ourselves. I have a very strong view. I think that we are a mature enough country to recognise that First Nations people were here before us, that that needs to be recognised in our Constitution, and that we need to listen to First Nations people and they've asked the way they would like to be recognised is through a voice to Parliament. Now, for us, for a yes vote,  that just demonstrates that, I think, to the rest of the world, that we are reconciling with our past and that we're listening to First Nations people and I think that's a really strong position. So that's what I'm hoping that a yes vote will do. It's not, of course, just about how the world sees us. It's also about how we get real practical change for First Nations people on the ground. I think we all recognise that what we've been doing now hasn't worked, and that we need to do things differently and better. So I think these things that I do believe the Prime Minister and all of our Labor Cabinet and Governments are really passionate about changing and that's what this referendum is all about.

GARY ADSHEAD: Minister, really appreciate you coming in. Thanks very much. Enjoy your stay in WA.