Minister Rishworth interviewed on ABC News Breakfast

Topics: Women’s workforce participation, Jobs and Skills Summit, Childcare reform, Stage three tax cuts 

LISA MILLAR, HOST:    With the Jobs and Skills Summit being held this week, there are growing calls for childcare to be at the top of the agenda. Unions and advocacy groups want the Federal Government to bring forward childcare subsidies to encourage women to return to work full time and fill key shortages, the Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth joins us now from Canberra. Minister good morning, welcome to News Breakfast. 

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES:    Good morning,  great to be with you. 

LISA MILLAR:    What's the hold up in bringing forward these subsidies by six months?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:    This is a one of the many issues about women's workforce participation that will be explored at the Jobs Summit. This is I know an issue that Minister Clare and Minister Aly are working very hard on to make sure that we get the settings right. We as an opposition and as a Government have recognised the impact that the cost of childcare is actually having on workforce participation. So we've made a clear commitment around that and I know those two Ministers will continue to work through that. But it's not the end of the story. Of course, at the Jobs and Skills Summit we'll be looking at a whole range of areas to look at driving the reduction in the gender pay gap which is still too large at 14 per cent and also look at ways that we can boost participation for women potentially locked out of the labour market altogether.

LISA MILLAR:   Do you accept the argument from many economists that by bringing in the childcare subsidy earlier you're actually moving to help improve the economy because the payback comes pretty quick? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH:    Our Government has always recognised the positive impact that supporting families with childcare actually does. We were the only party at the last election to go with a substantive childcare policy. So it is one of the really important measures that I know that Minister Clare is working very hard on along with Minister Aly and our Government is working hard on but we want to, through the Jobs Summit, look across the board at all areas that can drive down the gender pay gap. And of course make sure that we are delivering a boost to women's workforce participation as we go through.

LISA MILLAR:    Childcare though is the number one thing and leading into the election Labor was very much focused on 90 per cent subsidised child care. What's the timeline on seeing that as a bigger and broader reality?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:    As I said, that's something that Minister Clare and Minister Aly are working on. Of course we promised a Productivity Commission review, which is the process will go through. But this is a priority of the Government. It was a priority in the election and it continues to be a priority of the Government. Along with looking at all the other measures that we can do to boost women's workforce participation.

LISA MILLAR:    If it's a priority, then why not bring it forward to January? Would you like to see it brought forward? That's what the ACTU was wanting.

AMANDA RISHWORTH:    We'll be exploring a lot of things during the Jobs and Skills Summit. A lot of things about boosting women's workforce participation. We've got 50 per cent of women participants as part of that Jobs and Skills Summit. We'll be looking at training, we'll be looking at options through the care economy. We'll be looking right across the board, including of course, our childcare settings to make sure they're delivering on workforce participation.

LISA MILLAR:    We talk a lot about women's pay, childcare, and yet here we're looking at the stage three tax cuts which are going to fundamentally improve the incomes of richer men. Are you comfortable with that? Are you comfortable with those stage three tax cuts going through?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:    Let's be really clear about the stage three tax cuts - they are already legislated. And of course, they don't actually come into play until the first of July 2024. That's two years away. So our focus is on the here and now we're bringing people together through the Jobs and Skills Summit. We're getting on with delivering what we promised in the election. And a whole range of areas including in my area, whether that be improving the concession card eligibility for pensioners, whether it is making sure that we deliver the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children. We are delivering across the board, across portfolios and on what we said we would do.

LISA MILLAR:    But Minister the stage three tax cuts are front and centre right at the moment in the debate. Are you comfortable with what that would mean for women's income, women's eligibility for jobs, and the impact that it would have?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:    What my focus through the Jobs and Skills Summit is to look at what is a complex issue of boosting women's workforce participation. It is about training. It is about removing barriers to actually entering the workforce and to remaining in the workforce. It is about those low paid sectors like aged care where we've put in a submission to the Fair Work Commission around our aged care workers. So look, we will be looking at these issues right across the board. Those tax cuts are not due to even come in for two years. Our focus is right here, right now as we move forward. It’s on what we can do to actually boost workforce participation which is a particular emphasis in my stream in the job Summit.

LISA MILLAR:    Minister, great to have you on the program. Have a good day.