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Thursday, 16 June 2005
Page: 84


Senator HUMPHRIES (2:47 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women’s Issues, Senator Patterson. Will the minister inform the Senate of the government’s achievements in child care and how the Howard government’s strong economic management is providing further opportunities for Australian families? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies?


Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women’s Issues) —I thank Senator Humphries for his question. The Howard government has done more than any other government to support parents in accessing affordable, quality child care. In this year’s budget the government announced an additional 84,300 outside school hours care places and they will be made available over the next four years. This announcement represents more places than Labor funded in total in its last year of government. I am pleased to announce that this weekend the first 15,000 of these new places will be advertised. This will allow new and existing services to tender for these places. This is a far cry from Labor’s commitment in the last election of a further 8,000 places.

So on one weekend, next Saturday, the Australian government will advertise for almost twice as many outside school hours places as Labor would have provided in three years. In their election commitment they had 8,000 outside school hours places in three years and we are advertising 15,000 this weekend alone. No wonder the then shadow minister called Labor’s policy ‘just a drop in the ocean’. The 2005-06 budget contained additional funding of $266 million to meet the demands for child care. Over and above the 84,300 outside school hours places, there are a further 2,500 family day care places and 1,000 in-home care places, and we will provide 52,000 low-income families with additional assistance with the cost of child care. These measures will support parents moving from welfare to work over the next four years. They will also meet projected demand over the next four years. These extra places and the further support for families are significant dividends that have been made available by the strong economic management of the Howard government. The measures will support the work first approach of the innovative welfare reform package and show our government’s commitment to Australia’s parents and children.

More families now get help with their child-care costs than ever before. The Howard government have spent, and continue to spend, more on child care than any Labor government ever did. The government expect to spend around $8 billion over this year and the next three years to support child care. The government’s ongoing commitment will be significantly boosted with the additional assistance of $1.1 billion in the 2007-08 financial year for the child-care tax rebate and grandparent carers measures, as announced in the election campaign. The innovative approach that we have taken, particularly with grandparents, will help those who have primary care of their grandchildren to access affordable child care. We have committed more than $70 million to that package.

Since the Howard government introduced the child care benefit in 2000, more families than ever before have been assisted with the affordability of child care. Child-care benefit now assists over 690,000 families, with an average of over $2,000 a year. Our record speaks for itself and, as I said, thanks to our government’s strong economic management, a record number of parents are now receiving assistance to access a record number of child-care places.