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Thursday, 19 June 2008
Page: 2845

Senator FAULKNER (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (12:17 PM) —in reply—I rise to close the debate on this very important Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Child Care Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2008. Let me commence my closing remarks by congratulating Senator Collins on her second first speech in the chamber. It is a pleasure, of course, to have her back and a pleasure to be here in the chamber when she delivered her second first speech.

This bill is an important step in the Australian government’s comprehensive plan to deliver affordable, high-quality and accessible early learning and child care. This plan is part of the Australian government’s commitment to create an education revolution and improve social inclusion. Our policies are aimed at creating a more prosperous and equitable society. This is a long-term goal of course that cannot be achieved overnight.

Australia faces significant challenges to improve the productivity and participation of our working population. To this end, the government is making an investment in child care that will make it easier for parents to return to work after the birth of a child. The childcare tax rebate assists not only those parents who were returning directly to work but also those who are participating in study or training that will help them return to work with a higher skill level. The new childcare measures will assist people who want to work to get back into the workforce. They will boost the economy and put money back in the pockets of working families. This government’s package of childcare measures is an innovative and responsible investment in child care.

In fact, this bill will increase the childcare tax rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent of out-of-pocket costs, increasing the maximum payment from $4,354 to $7,505 per child per year. The payment will be made quarterly instead of annually. It will relieve families of financial pressure by providing them with assistance with their childcare costs closer to the time of the childcare expenses. The removal of the minimum rate of childcare benefit will ensure that payments are fair and equitable across different income levels. This change will ensure that assistance is provided where it is most needed. It is a part of the Rudd Labor government’s commitment to responsible economic management.

A number of other amendments are included in this bill that will improve the effectiveness of the current compliance framework and enhance the operation of the childcare management system. We are starting by making child care more accessible for working families. Young people represent the nation’s future prosperity and international competitiveness. It is vital that these measures be put in place as the first stepping stones on the pathway to securing the prosperity that all Australians deserve. I would say in conclusion that I appreciate the contribution of all senators who spoke in this debate. I commend the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Child Care Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2008 to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.