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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9164

Child Care

Mr COULTON (ParkesThe Nationals Chief Whip) (15:05): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Education. Will the minister inform the House of the recent Department of Education data on childcare usage in Australia? What action is the government taking to address the concerns that exist in the childcare sector and among parents?

Ms LEY (FarrerAssistant Minister for Education) (15:06): It is a pleasure to take a question from my friend, neighbour and colleague the member for Parkes, representing, like me, rural New South Wales. I visited Lake Cargelligo in his electorate recently when we opened a centre that used innovative streams of funding from the Commonwealth and the state, a dual sector licence, to look after both the preschool and the long day care needs of the children in this small rural town. We in the coalition, because we represent every corner of Australia, understand the different child-care needs in rural and regional Australia much better than Labor ever did. So whether you are from outback WA like the new member for Durack, from outback Queensland like the new member for Capricornia, or from rural villages in western Victoria like the new member for Corangamite, we absolutely have it covered.

But the problems in the cities are just as bad as the problems in the country. Last week, I was in Western Sydney and it was a day when data from the Department of Education revealed the pressures on child care all across the country, because, although the average hours of use are going down, the demand continues to rise. That indicates severe pressure operating within the system. It is, indeed, a national problem.

Why is this? It is because Labor sat on their hands for six years while the problem developed and did absolutely nothing. Last week, we saw the shadow minister's sensitivity in this area, and I suspect that that stems from her shame at the policies that did not come out when she operated under the incompetent administration that she did.

So what do you do? What do you have left when you have tried your hardest? A desperate scare campaign—and that is what we have seen since the change in government. We have had the Leader of the Opposition misquoting data from the Early Childhood Australia reports; they actually had to put out a release correcting him. We have had both the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister popping up in every state, telling severe untruths about the state of our childcare policy. It is a scare campaign. It is misleading parents. It is misleading the community. It is completely untrue—such as saying that our childcare benefits have been cut when in fact the childcare benefit for every family in every childcare centre went up on 1 July and was always going to go up under our policy. What we saw from Labor was that simply adding dollars does not work.

So what are we doing? We have the Productivity Commission inquiry underway. We have new policy settings coming down in the New Year. We have got $12½ million going back into occasional care. We are already working with the states and territories to fix up the red-tape and compliance overburden left to us by Labor. People can have confidence that this government, that represents every corner of Australia, will get it right, in every corner of Australia.

Mr Abbott: Madam Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.