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Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Page: 671


Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (16:11): I welcome the opportunity to speak on this matter of public importance. The premise of this MPI is, I have to say, quite absurd. It is the latest in a line of quite desperate actions that the opposition is trying to beat up. Today is the fifth day that this parliament has sat and every single day we have had some grand, confected outrage from the members opposite. You would think they would be grateful that we are getting on with the job of governing and fixing up the mess that they left behind. But no, every day it is a new scare, a new attempt to spook the Australian public. It is not working.

The latest is to tell Australian parents: your childcare is at risk. What nonsense. What a load of rubbish. Nothing could be further from the truth. I point out that this comes from the party that foisted a huge raft of reforms in the guise of the national quality framework on the childcare industry without proper consultation. This comes from the party that said that the NQF would impact on fees to parents by no more extra 57c per week, even when evidence was given that the changes were sparking fee increases of around $5-$20 a day.

I have a number of childcare centres in my electorate of MacPherson on the Gold Coast and I recently received an email from a very concerned constituent in my electorate. They were talking about the rising cost of fees for childcare. They went through and provided quite a lot of detail in their email to me, some of which I will read out to you today: 'When a childcare centre is initially built, it is designed around regulations which prescribe class sizes for each age group; limits on class numbers; the number of toilets, basins et cetera for each child and each age group; and teacher-pupil ratios for each age group. As such, childcare centres are best described as having been specifically built around these prescribed ratios and size requirements. The new regulations brought in by the Labor government altered each of the above ratios and limits, which severely impacted on the childcare centres' capacity. For example, a childcare centre that was once licensed for 74 children will only be able to be licensed for say 60 children.'—due to the changes I have just indicated—'The impacts of this reduced capability are: for owner operated centres, the owner of this facility still needs to derive the same income in order to cover the mortgage repayments. But with fewer attendees, fees have to increase. For operator leased centres, the operator that rents the facility from a landlord still needs to pay the landlord the same rent. But with fewer attendees, they will necessarily have to increase fees. Parents with kids in childcare will get higher fees.' So communities are quite concerned about what the costs of child care are going to be as a result of the policy implementations of the former government.

We in the coalition government have positive plans in relation to child care. We have asked the Productivity Commission to conduct the first public examination of Australia's child care and early childhood learning system in almost 20 years. Unlike when Labor came to office and forced the NQF on the childcare industry, the inquiry process will include extensive public hearings and the Productivity Commission will invite submissions from both industry and parents.

I really cannot understand why a comprehensive review by an independent body like the Productivity Commission has resulted in such absolute hysteria from Labor MPs—including the former minister, the member for Adelaide, who really should know much better. The member for Adelaide would have done much better to listen to the industry, when it warned that Labor's NQF, with its 300 pages of new rules and 1,000 pages of explanatory notes, would only add significantly to the costs of child care. She should have thought more about the impact on family budgets of her own government's costly reforms. I can assure her and all Australian families that the coalition is committed to making the childcare market more flexible, accessible and affordable. That is what the Productivity Commission inquiry is all about. Labor should be supporting our approach, not irresponsibly trying to whip up hysteria with frivolous MPIs like this one.

The SPEAKER: The discussion has concluded, one hour having passed.