TRANSCRIPT – Australia Today with Steve Price

TRANSCRIPT – Australia Today with Steve Price
Monday 7 March 2022

Subjects: Flood mitigation, Child Care Subsidies


STEVE PRICE: Amanda Stoker is the Assistant Minister for Women and Assistant Attorney-General. The Queensland Senator joins us on the line. Thanks for your time, as usual.

AMANDA STOKER: Good morning, lovely to be with you.

STEVE PRICE: How are we going to deal with this issue of places that are constantly flooded? There seems to be this ongoing debate about whether we should be looking at relocating people. That's not practical, is it?

AMANDA STOKER: Look, I think, as with anything, the answer will be a mix depending on the nature of particular places. If you're dealing with an area that can be better protected using infrastructure investment, well then that's a good option to pursue. If that's not something that's viable, then either looking at ways to adapt those homes to be suitable for that environment –whether by lifting them or by, you know, using the space wisely – or in extreme circumstances, moving to a different place might have to be on the table. But it's going to depend on the environment, where we're looking at case-by-case.

STEVE PRICE: Talking to Peter Gleeson from Sky, and I spoke to Hedley Thomas from The Australian last week; the handling of Wivenhoe Dam – and this is in your state, outside Brisbane –appears to be driven by some manual that says that they can't release water until there's water laying on the ground, according to Hedley. That seems absolutely ridiculous. Surely that manual needs to be changed, because that dam needed to be emptied. We're told they can't even let water out of it even if the Bureau of Meteorology is saying you're going to have a major rain event in two days' time.

AMANDA STOKER: Look, I'd suggest, Steve, that the problem goes beyond just that manual. That manual is the manifestation of Queensland Labor's refusal to confront the issue of building dams in this state. The reason why Wivenhoe is operating on a water storage basis rather than the flood mitigation basis upon which it was built, is because this state has been an utter failure in the desperate need to build dams. Now, federally we've backed dams. Even our state LNP team have backed the building of dams right across this state – in fact, it was the signature policy we took to an election. But this state government refuses to do that investment; because they don't have water storage in other viable, suitable places, they're using Wivenhoe for storage. That's why it's not able to do what it needs to do-

STEVE PRICE: What's their problem with dams?

AMANDA STOKER: Well, they're beholden to the Greens, Steve. The Labor Party in Queensland, and indeed across this state, are constantly chasing the religiously extreme views of the political Greens. And they loathe dams; they don't want to see them. They refuse to acknowledge that there needs to be a sensible balance between the need for infrastructure development, for communities to grow, alongside sensible measures in place to ensure the environment isn't degraded. They see it in an either-or kind of view of the world, when much more practical heads know it's possible to build dams whilst looking after the environment. And when you do so, you avert environmental disasters like we've seen in southeast Queensland over the last week or two.

STEVE PRICE: In your role as Assistant Minister for Women, can you explain the childcare subsidy increases that, I think, kick in from today?

AMANDA STOKER: Yeah, this is really big news, Steve. From today, 57,000 Queensland families will have cheaper childcare. Now, this applies for families who, like mine, have more than one child. And when you've got a couple of kids under the age of five, the cost of childcare really does rack up. Those families will get an additional benefit of up to $370 a week, and the- I'd suggest, as somebody who knows how hard it is to administer a household. There's no need to apply for it, there's no need to fill out any paperwork. It's automatically delivered through the existing Child Care Subsidy scheme. So when you put that next to the fact that we've lifted the cap on the amount of child care subsidy a family can get help with, we did that last December, it shows a really meaningful understanding of how hard it is to do work and young kids. And a commitment, importantly, to keeping women's skills fresh, so that they can keep earning Super, get back into the workforce when they need to, and of course, that's being proven with the record women's workforce participation that we're achieving right now.

STEVE PRICE: When you say that it is automatic and it'll just flow through, does that mean at the end of a tax year? Or does it flow through now?

AMANDA STOKER: It'll flow through right now. So you don't have to wait to the end of the tax year, you don't have to contact Services Australia or go onto myGov – although there will be an accounting for it on your myGov statement, so you'll be able to see the difference. But it'll be kicking in as of today, as of this very week, and there's no need to do any paperwork to make it happen.

STEVE PRICE: And is it means-tested?

AMANDA STOKER: Well, in the same way that Child Care Subsidy ordinarily has a means test, that still applies. What that means is that families that, you know, have less get more help. They can get up to 95 per cent of their childcare covered as a consequence of this. And that's a really, really big incentive to get those on lower incomes working more so that they can improve those circumstances as best as possible. But it has a huge impact on what I would call regular, middle of the road, working middle-class families who are so often crunched between the desire to get back to work and, you know, keep progressing in one's work, as against the fact that childcare can, once you've got a couple of kids, become so expensive that you sort of go, is it worth it? We're making sure that it is worth it.

STEVE PRICE: It's a big change, as you say. Always a pleasure to catch up with you. Thanks a lot, have a good day.

AMANDA STOKER: Thanks for having me on the show. You have a good one.

STEVE PRICE: Senator Amanda Stoker, Assistant Minister for Women, Assistant Attorney General.