Minister Rishworth interview on ABC Radio National Breakfast with Patricia Karvelas


Topics: International Day of People with Disability, $13.8 million funding for children with disability, Industrial Relations, Paid Parental Leave, The Voice

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Some of you might live with or will know someone who lives with a disability. The issue of care for people with a disability has been in the spotlight over the last few months after it was revealed just how quickly the cost of the scheme is growing, despite many saying they don't have enough support Tomorrow is the United Nations Day of Persons with a Disability and Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth joins me this morning. Minister, welcome back to Breakfast.


PATRICIA KARVELAS: You're announcing funding for young children with a newly diagnosed disability or emerging developmental concerns. What sort of support will you provide?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What this will do is we'll be actually providing social and emotional support for children with disability and their families, because we know that families need that extra support. So things like playgroups, other gatherings in which parents can get advice and support is really, important. Supported playgroups so and other activities to ensure that kids are best prepared for school. So these are the types of things that will be run from this funding. It is money that should be seen as a complement to the NDIS We know there are a lot of children and also older people living with disability that don't qualify for the NDIS. So we need to make sure that there are supports and services in place for those people as well.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: So give me a scenario where this would be used and what you would get? If I had a child that was newly diagnosed with, let's say, is on the autism spectrum, what would I be able to do and receive as a result of this?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This funding is providing money to a number of different organisations to put on activities to support parents. So a supported playgroup, for example, where people with expertise in autism might come along and support those parents in a supported playgroup arrangement. It might provide other information or activities that support parents that ensure the activities are inclusive. So these are the types of things that a lot of people and parents out there want to have and want to be included in, because of course they need the emotional and wellbeing support as well.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: There's been concern that some participants on the NDIS particularly children, should be receiving care through the education system with specialist teachers and aides in schools rather than from the NDIS. That's something Bill Shorten is working on. Will this funding help address that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This funding is for zero to eight year olds. So this funding is about preparing them for school. But I have to say, when it comes to Australia’s Disability Strategy – which is broader than the NDIS – we do need our service systems, our education systems, our health systems being inclusive and supporting the needs of children that live with disability. This is not the sole responsibility of the NDIS. We need to get all our service systems actually meeting the needs of children living with disability, and so this money is part of that. But there is a lot more that needs to be done within our service systems, with the states and territories along with the Commonwealth to deliver that.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I want to talk about a couple of other issues in your portfolio. This week you began the process of legislating to extend Paid Parental Leave. There are still calls on the Government to add superannuation payments to Paid Parental Leave. Are you considering that? Is that something that will be done in this term of the Labor Government?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I'd say the announcements we made in the Budget to extend the Paid Parental Leave scheme to 26-weeks was the largest expansion of the Paid Parental Leave scheme that we've seen since the Labor Government put the scheme in place. So this has been a really significant advancement. We are working with the Women's Economic Equality Taskforce to look at how those extra weeks are shared between parents because that's really important. But the other parts of our legislation do a range of other things – they become gender neutral. So rather than the birth parent, which is obviously birth mother being the one that can claim, it is whoever is doing the care can claim it. So there are some other significant reforms in this piece of legislation moving forward. Obviously, superannuation is an issue that gets regularly discussed, but this is a significant reform in and of itself.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: It is, but super is the sort of big question because we know that women have a massive issue when it comes to retirement. And obviously during this time when you're off looking after newborn babies, it's when you don't accumulate it. Under this scheme, is that something that you're committed to looking at in this term of parliament?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We've set up the Women's Economic Equality Taskforce to look at a range of different issues. But I have to say this Government has acted incredibly quickly. Extending to 26-weeks with a shared reserve component for each parent was one of the biggest calls at the Jobs and Skills Summit in terms of women's economic participation and ensuring that women do get a fair go. Our Government acted in our first Budget to do this. So I think it showed us being very responsive and it is a really significant improvement along with the other improvements around making the system more modern. So we'll continue to work on a range of different issues that supports women's economic participation. But along with our childcare changes and our Paid Parental Leave, we have really put women's economic participation front and centre of this Government as a priority.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: The Industrial Relations Bill has passed as well and that is a significant moment for your Government. No doubt a lot of the argument that has been framed around getting this passed is that it will help women feminised industries, that that's been the language the Government's used to justify these this bill. How quickly will women in those feminised industries get a pay rise?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Obviously, putting gender equity in the industry in the objectives of the Fair Work Act is a critical component to ensure that those in feminised industries can fight for pay increases. Without this, what we've seen is women in feminised industries – particularly in early childhood education – being told they had to go off and find a male comparator, an industry that was male dominated, that was similar to early childhood education. They couldn't find one, so they couldn't fight for a pay increase. By this legislation passing it starts the process of enabling particularly low paid feminised areas to actually go use the Fair Work Commission to get a pay increase. That's also what the multi-employer bargaining is about as well. It's about enabling businesses, particularly small businesses, that might want to bargain together to support their workforce, to get a pay increase. So there are processes in place, Fair Work processes. But without these changes, we wouldn't even be at the starting line to get wages moving again.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Just finally, the Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says there is building bewilderment at the lack of detail on the Voice to Parliament. Will your Government provide that detail so that the Opposition – well the Liberal part of the Opposition, now that the Nationals say they'll oppose it – can make a determination in the New Year on whether they'll support it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think this is disingenuous by the Opposition Leader. There is firstly plenty of detail of what a model would look like. And to be fair…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: [Interrupts] To be fair, I mean, I spoke to Ken Wyatt. But to be fair, while there's detail in reports, the Government hasn't told us this is the one we're going to back and this is what it's going to look like.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What we are putting forward is a very simple proposition in terms of constitutional change. Do First Nations people deserve to have a Voice in the issues that affect them? That's a pretty simple proposition. And it was something that our First Nations people asked for. Getting into this debate about ‘is there not enough detail’, I believe is a disingenuous position by the Leader of the Opposition to create doubt and uncertainty. And Ken Wyatt himself has put out that there is a lot of detail about how this would work. We're starting to see this being implemented, for example, South Australia is moving forward in how a Voice will be implemented in South Australia. So there is significant detail out there.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: The question is will the Government, the Albanese Government, tell us which of that significant detail it would back to give an answer to Peter Dutton's questions so that he can resolve whether he supports it or not?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think this is a disingenuous position by the Leader of the Opposition. The proposition put before us is that the Parliament would decide the structure of the Voice. But indeed…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: [Interrupts] Right. Let me just tackle this one, even if it's disingenuous by your assessment. Clearly, if you don't provide that detail, the Opposition Leader will say we don't have the detail we can't back it. Doesn't that put potential bipartisanship at risk without providing it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There is a lot of detail out there on how a Voice would operate. But I think, Patricia, it comes back to a simple proposition. Do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people deserve to have a say, deserve to give advice on the issues that affect them. This isn't a third chamber of the Parliament. This is an opportunity and it is working already, well it is being proposed in states and territories where it will give advice to the Parliament on issues that affect them. And I honestly think it is a relatively simple proposition and it is disappointing I think that the Opposition Leader has not been able to come to a positon. His party is clearly divided on this but he needs to be a leader when it comes to this and listen to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Amanda Rishworth, thank you so much for your time this morning.