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Monday, 15 March 2010
Page: 2463

Mr CLARE (Parliamentary Secretary for Employment) (6:38 PM) —I thank the members for Murray, Blair, Werriwa and Moreton for their contributions to this debate. The Rudd government is committed to improving the quality of childcare services. The Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Child Care) Bill 2010 introduces business continuity payments to ensure the sustainability of childcare services. These payments will provide a vital cash flow to help maintain services to families when a childcare service cannot meet its usual reporting obligations in times of local emergency. The bill tightens provisions to protect families from the disruption caused by services closing. Services that decide to cease operating will be required to provide at least 42 days notice that they are ceasing to operate rather than the current requirement of at least 30 days. This will give families more time to make alternative arrangements.

The legislation confirms the legislative authority to recover overadvances of child care benefit that were made to some services before they transitioned from a ‘payment in advance’ system to the current ‘payment in arrears’ system. We are making it clear that there is an appropriation power to provide for any payments to services resulting from a service’s final acquittal when transitioning to the Child Care Management System. We are taking steps to streamline the way in which services are required to provide families with information on fees and child care benefit entitlement. Childcare services have welcomed this proposal.

We are also providing for the decision to suspend a service’s child care benefit approval to be discretionary in circumstances where a service has been issued with 10 infringement notices in a 12-month period. We can then consider the impact on families of this action and whether other more appropriate measures can be taken to improve the service’s compliance. The Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Child Care) Bill 2010 will make a practical difference to strengthen the administration of child care and provide a strong foundation for high-quality childcare services for Australian families. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.