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Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Page: 667

Ms HENDERSON (Corangamite) (15:51): I am very pleased to address this matter of public importance today. I am the mother of a seven-year-old child. Like so many mothers and fathers across our nation, I have struggled with both accessing child care and with the cost of child care. I had to work and I was lucky to find a childcare centre that was close to home and that gave my son the wonderful care and attention he needed. It was not easy, however, and I know so many mothers and fathers across this nation know this feeling. I used to drive from work to the child care centre at a quarter to six or 10 to six every night with that absolute sick feeling in my stomach: would I make it before six o'clock; would I get in the doors in time; would I incur a charge of one dollar per minute because I was late; would I inconvenience the child care worker who had to stay back?

This is a drive that thousands of mothers and fathers make every day with that same level of anxiety. Then, at a time when small children should be having their dinner, going to bed, I, like so many other mothers would be struggling to get home, unpacking the shopping, feeding my son and getting him to bed at a reasonable time.

For parents with two or more children this daily struggle is even more difficult. For many families the cost of having two or more children in child care is just prohibitive. For two children, it can be well in excess of $200 a day, subject to childcare assistance.

Across Australia nearly 120,000 parents say they just cannot access employment because they cannot find suitable child care. This is not just an issue of access but one of affordability and flexibility. We, unlike members opposite, understand that many parents do not live and work in a Monday-to-Friday nine-to-five world. We do not live in a Dolly Parton world. This is a system that is not working and that is why a Productivity Commission is so important. Unlike members opposite, we recognise that families are seeking greater choice, greater flexibility and greater affordability.

Let us consider Labor's record when it comes to child care. It is not a good one. Labor has no credibility on child care. We all remember the promise to end the double drop-off. The plan was to build 260 child care and early education centres. The only drop-off we saw was that 222 centres were dropped off the list. Only 38, as we heard, were ever built. We all remember the promise to make child care more affordable. Under Labor, hourly fees in long day care centres rose by 44.2 per cent between 2007 and 2012. We all remember the promise to make child care more accessible, yet Labor cut $12.6 million in funding for occasional care—a cut that hit rural and regional areas particularly hard.

We are very proud of our Productivity Commission inquiry. There is one major difference between what Labor did over the last six years and what we are doing now: we do not think we know best. We are asking parents—mothers, fathers, grandparents—and everyone involved in the childcare sector to give us their views. I would encourage the community working in child care—mothers and fathers—to put forward their ideas. I say to the people in my electorate, from Belmont to Waurn Ponds, from Ocean Grove to Colac: you have a say.

I also want to address briefly a deceptive comment made by the member for Kingsford Smith. I reiterate, as has been reiterated today and yesterday in this parliament: we have no plans to means test the childcare rebate. The continuing statements to the contrary are a deception and we make that very, very clear. I was very pleased, however, to hear from the member for Kingsford Smith that 'we don't have any problem with the review'. Well, to members opposite, why have you not conducted a review? We are very proud of the review that we are conducting. We are listening to the parents of Australia and we are very proud to do so.