SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER
Minister for Finance
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Women
Date: Wednesday, 21 September 2022
GREG JENNETT, HOST: Finance Minister Katy Gallagher joins us now from Parliament House. Welcome Senator. I might get to all the things in your portfolio in just a moment, but just on this emerging news concerning the AFL - and the Hawthorn football club in particular - I appreciate it's for the AFL, but wondering on the details that you have observed, whether, because the wellbeing of First Nations people is involved here, might this be something that a body like the Voice to Parliament could embrace and pay attention to once formed?
SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER: Morning, Greg, and thanks for having me on. I have only just seen some of those early reports coming in about that story at Hawthorn. I would say, you know, it's deeply shocking and obviously clearly distressing for people that have been involved in that and provided evidence in that report. It's currently with the AFL. And you know, I think everyone would be hopeful that their investigations happen quickly and there's some outcomes that flow from that. I think it sends a message again about how much work there is still to do around having inclusive environments across the community but particularly in sport. I think, in relation to the Voice, I don't want to say what the Voice would be charged with looking at. In many ways the whole idea of the Voice is that it determines, you know, priorities and advice back to the Parliament. But I would imagine that, you know, issues around inclusivity, racism, culture, are matters that could be seen as part of its role.
JENNETT: Yeah, that's some way off isn’t it. Why don't I bring you back to matters strictly in your portfolio now? The ACCC, the consumer watchdog, is I think a $400 million a year organisation. Why does it need an extra $11 million to confirm something we already know, and that is that child care is too expensive in this country?
GALLAGHER: We're asking a lot of the ACCC at the moment. They've got their eyes on many different parts of the economy. In terms of our investment in early childhood education and care, which will be flowing through soon, $5 billion, we want a better understanding of some of the drivers of cost increases in child care and making sure some of our investments are actually doing what we want them to do, which is making child care more affordable for families and allowing more women, well, it's predominantly women, to work extra hours if they want to, and not be disincentivised by the childcare system as it operates now. Having more scrutiny and better transparency about some of the drivers of cost increases would be very useful, not only for parents, but also for government, when we look at how we make investments in early childhood education and care.
JENNETT: Before some of that data comes back, you could start to lay down some policy markers for yourselves, couldn’t you? Price controls, is that something you’d be prepared to consider in that sector?
GALLAGHER: I don't want to get ahead of the work the ACCC will do and all the work that the minister is doing either. Nut obviously we are going to have a pretty intense look at childcare costs. Especially because we know it's such a big impact on household budgets. If you have one child, two or three, it's a massive cost. We want to make sure the money we're investing and the money that parents are investing is actually working and child care is as affordable as we can make it. And understanding some of the drivers of those cost increases is really important. So this is - there will be no doubt from the work the ACCC does, outcomes which government will consider at the right time. But our priority at the moment is to make that investment, to make child care cheaper. And to give people, families, options about the hours they work, particularly if they want to work more hours.
JENNETT: What if the review comes back and says pumping public money into that sector actually inflates prices and recommended that you didn't go ahead or delayed or scaled back some of the $5 billion injection that comes next July. What would you do with a recommendation like that?
GALLAGHER: Well I think that's a hypothetical situation. The government's making those investments as we said we committed to those. They will flow from 1 July. We do believe there's a role for government in making those investments. Look at the investments we make in education. You know, governments fund education for children really above the age of four in different states. It varies a bit. But it's appropriate that government makes investment in early education and care. We know it's those critical years. So, I don't envisage a scenario that says that money isn't worthwhile. We think it is. There's a lot of evidence to support that. But understanding a little bit more, having greater transparency and greater understanding of some of the reasons why prices increase is really important in any further policy decisions.
JENNETT: That's coming up next year. As a cabinet minister, I assume you're across the details and planning for the commemoration service for the Queen tomorrow in Parliament House. There are some complaints about the arrangements that would physically exclude the public from what I imagine is the great hall. What lies behind that decision?
GALLAGHER: Greg, I'm sorry, I haven't been involved in the planning for the memorial service to any great degree. I've been locked in an ERC room with the Treasurer and a few others working through the Budget. But I think you know, I have been in Parliament House in the last couple of weeks, there's been a range of ceremonies where the public are able to come in, sign condolence books, Government House has been open, the proclamation of the King – there was people from general public at that event. And at the wreath laying as well. So I think from my perspective, from what I've seen, there's been opportunities for the public to be involved. But I can imagine that this memorial service there are some constraints on it, including those who attend the service and those, you know, those challenges have just had to be weighed up by the people who are organising it to make sure that, you know, people who need to be there are there and there's enough room for people. But I certainly feel as a Canberran there has been a number of opportunities for the general public to come forward and share in this very historic occasion.
JENNETT: Understood. And appreciate that you have other responsibilities at present. Katy Gallagher, thanks so much for joining us.
Pat Cronan 0432 758 224 | Gallagher.Media@finance.gov.au