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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2117

Child Care

Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (14:46): My question is the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. Will the minister advise the Senate on how the government's childcare assistance package will support parents who choose to work or to work more?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:46): I thank Senator Edwards for his very important question about workforce participation, and particularly workforce participation that provides the greatest incentive and support for women to enter the workforce. Subject to the passage of savings measures, our government is committed to seeing a $40 billion investment in a better childcare system, a childcare system that will be supported by $3 billion of additional support. Most importantly, our reforms will make sure that childcare subsidy arrangements in future provide the greatest level of support and the greatest hours of access to childcare to the families who are working the hardest, and the greatest value of support, the greatest dollars of support, to families who are earning the least.

It is an incredibly progressive reform to child care, which targets those hardworking Australian families who need the support the most. Our estimates are that almost one million Australian families stand to benefit from the government's proposed childcare changes. On average, working families earning between $65,000 and $170,000 will be around $1,500 a year better off. This is about providing the support to help people to get into the workforce, to return to work, to increase their hours of work—especially mothers who may have taken time off for childbirth and to look after children in their early years. We are simplifying the system and, importantly, we are removing the childcare rebate cap that currently imposes a limit on the amount of work that many families choose to engage in. So, for the bulk of families under our reforms, no longer will the $7,500 cap be in place. They will be able to work as long and as hard as they choose to.

Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (14:49): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Have there been any studies into how the package will benefit workforce participation?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:49): Yes, there have been. The research is clear; our childcare reforms will lift workforce participation. These are the types of reforms that, I am sure, grandmothers in the gallery today wish existed when they were raising their children, because these are reforms that make it easier to participate in the workforce.

The estimates are that more than 230,000 families will increase their involvement in paid employment as a result of this. Goodstart, the nation's largest childcare provider, commissioned a PwC study which found that 29,000 additional full-time equivalent jobs would be generated as a result of these reforms. That sent those opposite quiet, Mr President. PwC for Goodstart estimated that that contribution to GDP would be $7.6 billion in 2050. This is a massive help to working families and to the Australian economy. (Time expired)

Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (14:50): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any alternatives to the government's approach?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:50): This government has gone through a comprehensive process to develop the biggest reforms to childcare to support workforce participation in families the nation has ever seen. Those opposite seem just to carp from the sidelines, because I hear and see absolutely no alternative from them when it comes to child care. They have said they support additional investment, but they seem to want it to come out of money that is already allocated. That is typical of the Labor Party; they do not understand you can only spend the money once. But, indeed, everything has to be paid for and everything has to be budgeted for. This is a carefully crafted reform package. Those opposite, when in government, put in place childcare reforms that drove up the cost to families and drove up the cost to the taxpayer. Our reforms are constructed in a careful way to best support families while trying to keep a lid on the inflationary cost of child care, so those families can maximise their income and their workforce participation. (Time expired)