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Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Page: 663


Mr THISTLETHWAITE (Kingsford Smith) (15:35): This is a party that said one thing during the election campaign, but, since it has been elected, is now walking away from many of the commitments it made to the Australian people. It is slowly sneaking and crab-walking away from those commitments that it made in the very, very important policy area of early childhood development. It is sneaking away from that commitment not to means test the childcare rebate and to give a guarantee to Australian families—a simple guarantee, a few words—that parents will not be worse off when it comes to childcare costs as a result of the implementation of any policies that derive from this childcare review.

Households in Australia, they budget from week to week. In my electorate, the costs of housing are astronomical. After the mortgage is paid or after the rent is paid, there is not much left. Families rely on the support that the former Labor government gave them when it came to child care. Decent, hardworking Australians rely on the reforms and the support that Labor introduced to make child care more affordable and accessible to more people. The proof of that is that, for the first time in Australia, under a Labor government, the number of children in child care hit one million. That was a resounding demonstration that we got it right when it came to making child care more affordable and accessible and improving the standards and quality of the services being delivered throughout the country.

The government are saying that they will review the system. I do not have a problem with a review. There is nothing wrong with a review. But the issue here is that the government will not guarantee to hardworking, decent Australian families who currently receive support through the childcare rebate and other measures that those supports will not be cut. The government will not give that simple guarantee to those families, who are extremely worried, who budget from week to week and who rely on the childcare support that is given by the government. The government will not give a simple guarantee that those families will not be worse off as a result of any policies implemented through this review. I had a number of phone calls during the election campaign from constituents who were extremely worried about child care and the affordability of child care and wanted a guarantee from the Labor Party that we would not be tinkering with the childcare rebate. Of course, we were able to give that guarantee.

The shadow minister has quite eloquently outlined the concerns in this area. Those opposite are promising to expand the reach of child care, but the pool of money dedicated to ensuring that that expansion occurs is not going to grow. So, through some form of magic, there is going to be this delivery of extra services that is not going to cost the Australian taxpayer any more! We all wait to see how they are going to deliver that. That is why families are concerned and worried.

Labor in government made child care more affordable, through increasing the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. Before Labor came into government, the childcare rebate was set at 30 per cent. Thirty per cent was available, up to a total of $4,354, and it was paid on an annual basis, so families had to struggle through with those childcare costs until they got to the end of the financial year and were finally relieved with a payment from the government. Labor saw this as an unworkable system, so what did we do? We listened to the concerns of parents and we reformed the system. We increased the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent and increased the maximum from $4,354 to $7,500 per child. We made child care more affordable and, in doing so, we made it more accessible. And we not only paid it annually; we paid it on a fortnightly basis, so we made it much more accessible to families.

In terms of availability, we instituted grants to help local governments deliver more childcare places in local communities. We improved standards by delivering the National Quality Framework, to improve the education that our kids receive in early child care. There is a wealth of research and information which now clearly demonstrates that, the earlier a child is placed in structured training and structured education, the better their long-term welfare will be. Labor delivered on that commitment to families to structure child care. (Time expired)