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Monday, 1 June 1998
Page: 4257

Dr SOUTHCOTT (1:42 PM) —There is one response to the speeches we have heard from the Labor Party this afternoon, and that is `low interest rates'. The impact of low interest rates on families is—

Mr Price —Every speech you make you talk about interest rates.

Dr SOUTHCOTT —You have to think back to when the Labor Party was last in government. Small business rates were at 20 per cent and mortgage rates were at 17 per cent. You have to look at what that added to the average family mortgage and took out of the take home income. The member for Chifley (Mr Price) has repeated some of the untruths spread by Labor, such as the notion that women are opting out of the work force due to the changes in child care. That is untrue.

Mr Price —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I am not in the habit of stating untruths to the House, and I ask the honourable member to withdraw that comment.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl) —No, I will not require him to withdraw.

Dr SOUTHCOTT —The member for Chifley was incorrect in what he said. In fact, work participation rates for women are higher in 1998 than they were in 1996 when the Labor Party left office. Looking at one of the specific changes in child care—the operating subsidy for the community based long day centres—this subsidy was introduced in 1971. It was introduced because it was recognised that the community based centres were looking after more infants, under-2s and children with special needs. In fact, a recent survey showed that, when you looked at the private centres and the community based centres, there was no difference in those three groups. And yet, across Australia, the community based centres—which were getting a $20 a day subsidy—were, on average, only $4 cheaper than the private centres. Private centres make up 70 per cent of the child-care centres in Australia, and they were not receiving this operating subsidy.

The Labor Party on this issue are a bit like the successive British governments that kept someone watching the English Channel right up until 1948—a post that had originally been created for Napoleon. They are like the government that continues to spend money when the rationale for it is no longer around. It is wrong to say that there is any difference in quality between the community based centres and the private centres. They are all subject to quality care and accreditation. It is wrong to suggest that we have in any way cut child-care funding. Child-care funding has been increased by 18 per cent since the Labor government's last years in office. In the area of out of school hours care, child-care assistance is now available to 50,000 low and middle income families across Australia.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! It being 1.45 p.m., the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 101. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting. The honourable member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.