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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 290

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia—Minister for Education and Training) (14:06): I thank Senator McKenzie for her question, and for highlighting the fact, in doing so, that the government has today introduced into the House of Representatives the most comprehensive reforms to Australia's childcare system in many years, reforms that will help and make better off around one million Australian families.

Senator Kim Carr: How many worse off?

Senator Jacinta Collins: He doesn't like to talk about that. It's a bunch of blokes talking about mums.

The PRESIDENT: On my left!

Senator BIRMINGHAM: These reforms will make childcare services and early education services more accessible, more affordable and better managed, and provide a far better foundation for the future in that regard. They are estimated to encourage around 230,000 Australian families to be able to work more, to engage in the workforce. Just this morning, as the Prime Minister, Minister Porter and I, with Senator Seselja, visited a local childcare service, chatting to the parents there they demonstrated to us and said to us that these are the types of changes that will make it easier to decide to return to work. They will make it simpler to determine the number of hours in which they work. Those changes will occur because, of course, for the vast majority of parents we will be removing the child care rebate cap and they will no longer fall off that cliff part-way through the year, but instead will be able to have continuous year-round support to access quality early-learning and childcare services.

Equally, our new hourly rate caps will put downward pressure on future price increases, providing more certainty and stability for taxpayers and parents in the future. Importantly, we are improving and increasing the level of subsidy for the lowest-income Australians. In the future, low-income Australian families will see the level of subsidy grow from around 72 per cent to around 85 per cent. This package of reforms is coupled with a $1 billion safety net to make sure that children in the most vulnerable circumstances are still guaranteed access to at least two sessions of care and early learning a week, to make sure they get those developmental opportunities. (Time expired)