Jennifer Westacott interview with Natalie Barr and Matt Doran, Sunrise

26 April 2021

Event: Jennifer Westacott interview with Natalie Barr and Matt Doran, Sunrise

Speakers: Natalie Barr, host; Matt Doran, host; Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia

Date: 26 April 2021

Topics: child care and paid parental leave reform

Matt Doran, host: Today, the Business Council of Australia will release a blueprint, which it says will leave families better off and give a $5 million boost to the economy each and every year.

Natalie Barr, host: For more, we're joined by chief executive at the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott good morning to you. What reforms are you calling for and how will they work in practice?

Jennifer Westacott, Business Council chief executive: So, what would happen is that the childcare system would have these changes: First of all, the subsidy would be more generous for low-income earners. Secondly, the way the subsidy declines as you get extra hours of work would be slower so that there aren't these big cliffs that create a disincentive for people to work. And thirdly, we’re proposing raising the cap so that more families get access to child care. On paid parental leave, we're saying go from 20 weeks to 26 weeks, and most importantly, make it easier for both carers to share in the caring of their children. So this is about growing the economy by $5 billion. It's about making it easier for women to work, and it's about making it easier for families to work and have their kids.

Matt: The reforms become very attractive if $5 billion a year is able to be achieved. Why is it so important that these reforms are adopted, I guess, as a package and not in isolation?

Jennifer: Well, because it does work as a package exactly right, Matt. You know, we need to make sure that there are incentives for women to re-enter the workforce, stay working, get promoted, and we need to make sure it's easier for both carers to look after their kids. But we really need this at this time because we're going to have a long period of lower population growth. So we need to make sure that we're giving people in this country an opportunity to get back into work, to work the hours they want and I think to be honest, to reflect how modern families work, where more and more people want to share in the caring of their children.

Natalie: Jennifer, women have been calling out, screaming for these sort of changes for years. And now the government by its own admission has said, it's got a problem with women. It's got a prime minister for women. Is this strange timing?

Jennifer: I think you do this because of the economic and fairness reasons, not for the political reasons. The urgency about this is really about the 90,000 people last year that did not work because they couldn't afford the childcare. That's 90,000 people that we're not actually getting into the workforce. We know that women have been underrepresented. We know that we don't have enough women in leadership positions. This is a structural problem. Why? Because they take many, many years out to look after their kids and we know that most families now want to share in the caring of their children. So these are practical, sensible changes that we're proposing that are going to be good for families, but they're also going to be good for the economy.

Matt: And politics have to reflect those changes to the culture too. Thank you very much to Jennifer Westacott.



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