Anika Wells MP on 4BC with Neil Breen
4BC BREAKFAST WITH NEIL BREEN
THURSDAY, AUGUST 5 2021
SUBJECTS: Childcare amendment for Brisbane lockdown, virtual parliament, Ekka cancellation
NEIL BREEN, HOST: I’ve heard from a lot of parents working from home during the lockdown in South East Queensland about childcare, and still being charged for childcare, despite keeping their kids at home. Under lockdown restrictions only children of essential workers and vulnerable children can attend childcare and school. Other children must stay home. Childcare centres still charge parents. Some are also recording lockdown days as absentees. Children are only allowed 42 absent days per financial year. As I said I’ve got a lot of…I’m familiar with how childcare works. I’ve been through the whole system with three children in the last….well my oldest daughter’s 17. Joining me on the line is the Member for Lilley in Brisbane’s north Anika Wells. Good morning to you Anika.
ANIKA WELLS, MEMBER FOR LILLEY: Good morning Neil
BREEN: So you’ve picked up on this issue. What can be done about it?
WELLS: Yeah so we actually debated it in the House of Reps last night. And I, along with my Labor colleagues moved an amendment to waive the gap fees for when parents are in lockdown. Because at the moment, there’s Federal legislation that means the provider has to levy that gap fee. They’ve waived it for the New South Wales lockdown. But we’re saying you should just waive it for any lockdown altogether. It’s just not decent to ask parents to do the right thing and keep their kids at home but expect them to pay for the privilege.
BREEN: Yeah so when you’re talking about the gap fee, like a lot of people…it’s means tested, will get the gap and all that sort of stuff. Others won’t. I suppose the general issue is that they’re being charged at all. It’s kind of like, you know…
WELLS: Yeah, when I said waive the gap fee…
BREEN: …they’ve got to take a hit. The childcare centres aren’t taking a hit.
WELLS: And it’s such a complex system isn’t it Neil.
WELLS: Like you remember from your time. It’s such a complex system to grapple with. You need the same amount of hours you dedicate to your normal job, trying to sift through childcare in Australia. But when I’m talking about the gap fee, that’s the fee that parents pay every day. And the average daily fee in Brisbane is 125 bucks. And the average monthly mortgage payment, if you break it down by day in Brisbane, is $63. So you’re actually paying twice as much per day for childcare as you are for your mortgage in Brisbane at the moment.
BREEN: Yeah. It’s tough, it’s tough. Childcare hurts and it hurts bigtime. It’s one the reasons we have a gap in wages between men and women in Australia.
BREEN: We’re heading off into a different tangent. So you didn’t go to Canberra for parliament this week? How are you doing it? Are you doing it remotely or something?
WELLS: Yeah they call it virtual parliament. They’ve got, you know because of security obviously it’s set up in our electorate offices. They have us go into our electorate offices and you know, I spoke in favour of that amendment in the House last night. But we aren’t able to vote. And I think it’s part of what we should be having an ongoing debate about how we get more caregivers, more people with real lived experiences in the NDIS and the aged care system into parliament. Because parliament is where we make the decisions about those policies. But at the moment, it’s very hard to get to Canberra twenty weeks a year. And it’s very hard to sort of drop everything and flee to Canberra to avoid a lockdown. Which is kind of what they asked us to do on Saturday. And I didn’t want to flee my community for lockdown. So I’m here. But I reckon we should keep the debate going about how we use virtual parliament to get more people with really good life experience into parliament to contribute.
BREEN: Yeah, I think it’s a great idea. Ok you’re a Brisbane MP. A big fan of the Ekka. And we know the Ekka’s off right. So the strawberry sundaes are run by a charity called The Common Good. And they’ve been hit hard and they’ve been left with all this stock. And you’ve taken up the cause to try and help them. What can we do to help them?
WELLS: I know all of your listeners would be fans of the strawberry sundae at the Ekka. That’s what The Common Good…it’s their major fundraiser for the year. The Common Good supports The Prince Charles Hospital which is in my electorate. They’re about $500,000 down now because they can’t sell sundaes at the Ekka this year.
WELLS: $500,000 Neil.
WELLS: $500,000 down. It’s their major fundraiser for the year. And you’ll remember, you know when we had that ridiculous strawberry needle crisis back in you know, 2017.
WELLS: These people are the ones that set up that strawberry sundae van in King George Square to raise money for the strawberry farmers. So they were really there for people when people needed them. And I think we should pitch in now. So at the moment I’ve been talking to Michael Hornby, he’s their Director. An incredible, dynamic bloke. At the moment the best thing we can do is just ask people if you want to contribute, to donate on their website, which is thecommongood.org.au/donate. But at the moment we’re just trying to work out what to do with all the ice cream Neil. And whether we can arrange for takeaway packs for when lockdown lifts, or what we do. So I guess - if you have any bright ideas please call my office so we can try and help these guys out!
BREEN: Exactly right, exactly right. Before I let you go, I just want to go back to the amendment that you put up, with regards to the fees. What’s the next stage and how can you get the fees waived?
WELLS: Well at the moment, honestly Neil, we have to change the government. Because the Morrison Government doesn’t get it. I don’t think they have that many people with kids in early childcare. They certainly don’t, they don’t match the kind of commitments that my side of the House has made about fixing childcare policy in this country. The other problem is at the moment, the more money you tip in it seems like the higher fees go. So we’ve got to put a price regulation in. Probably the ACCC, is what we’ve suggested. To make sure that when you know taxpayers give more money to the sector it goes to the right places rather than having soaring fees. So we’ve got a multi-pronged plan about this. I can’t talk about it enough. If anyone wants to talk to me about it, call me at the office! But at the moment, the Morrison government isn’t matching those kinds of practical measures. They voted against them in the House. They’re due to vote against them today at the third reading. So we’re just going to have to change the government if we want to change the policy.
BREEN: Let’s see. We’ll see what happens there, thanks Anika Wells, the member for Lilley
WELLS: Such a pleasure Neil. Thanks for having me.