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Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Page: 5244

Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (18:33): I thank the parliamentary secretary for her answer. I appreciate that you are now here, Senator Collins. Senator Farrell admirably tried to answer questions in your place and I am sure that the answers he gave us were entirely consistent with those that you would have given us if you had been here.

Senator Collins, you raised the issue of families being prepared to pay a little more. Just to enlighten you, some of the discussion we had a little earlier was about the fact that if the government had not mismanaged the economy so badly it would not have to use child care as a cash cow to fund the National Quality Framework. I noted in your contribution that you were espousing the funding that was going towards the National Quality Framework. Interestingly, according to the government's own budget website, the $59.4 million you referred to for budget based funded early childhood services is not for new services; the funding is to help them meet the national quality standards that you are talking about. I just wanted to clarify this because it certainly seemed that it was like an extra bucket of funding that was going to be raining down from the sky.

Senator Jacinta Collins interjecting

Senator NASH: By way of assistance, I note we had a discussion with the minister earlier around what consultation had taken place with the sector and also with families in the community. The minister was asked a couple of times about that. Unfortunately he was unable to provide the Senate with an answer about the consultation that had taken place but he did, from his point of view, try to assure the Senate that indeed this was a policy that had been taken to the election, that before the election people were very clear that this was a government policy and that they were well aware of that before the election. 'Before the election,' I think he said, 'we consulted with the Australian people,' through the information that was available to them before the election, 'on this particular piece of legislation.' Perhaps though it might be useful for the chamber, given the government's election policies, that I quote into the Hansard that it said 'it will reintroduce the indexation of the childcare rebate to help eligible families meet their childcare costs and the childcare rebate covers 50 per cent of out-of-pocket childcare expenses for approved child care' up to the annual cap of $7,500. That is from the government's own election document prior to 2010. My understanding of that would be there was no indication at all to the broader community that that was actually going to be a change to the current policy—going back to Senator Farrell's comments earlier that people were well informed—and also it would seem that at that point in 2010 there was not an annual cap of $7,500, and indeed that is only going to come in if this legislation passes.