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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6067

Ms KATE ELLIS (AdelaideMinister for Employment Participation and Childcare and Minister for the Status of Women) (10:23): I thank all members for their contribution to this debate today on the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Child Care Financial Viability) Bill 2011. If ever you wanted an example of opposition for opposition's sake, then we have heard it today in the comments from those members opposite. I want to take a moment to remind people of what this legislation is about. This legislation is about cleaning up the mess that they let be created in Australian child care. I have to admit that I am shocked that I have to remind those opposite of the impact of the ABC Learning collapse. Let us recall that when ABC Learning collapsed 100,000 Australian families and 16,000 workers were at risk of being left out in the cold—100,000 Australian families who did not know if their care arrangements would be there for them the next day and 16,000 Australian workers who did not know whether they would have a job to go to the next day. This would have been a catastrophe, and we know this, if not for the government's quick and decisive action. We stepped in and we stabilised the sector, keeping ABC Learning's doors open for families while future arrangements were made. Because of this 90 per cent of these centres continue to operate for Australian families today. But, going further, our government is determined to make sure that this never ever happens again. We are deliberately taking a more hands-on role in monitoring the stability of the childcare sector so that such a collapse cannot happen again.

I remind those opposite that the ABC Learning experience happened only because the former coalition government let it virtually expand unhindered and unchecked. They sat back and were quite prepared to let the childcare market rip. The members opposite might be well placed to read the regulation impact statement when it comes to this bill or to talk to some of the services who will be impacted by this measure. We know that this does not represent a huge burden on large long-day-care providers. Many already collect and prepare financial information like this. The majority of large long-day-care providers consulted in the development of these measures indicated that they could address the requirements by using existing financial systems and resources. The difference is that we will now have an early warning system so that the government knows where the problems might lie so that we can instigate an audit where we have serious concerns about financial liability so we can protect the care arrangements and indeed the jobs of all of those relying on our childcare services.

So this will establish an early warning system so that the Australian government can anticipate and respond to a potential collapse of a major childcare provider like ABC Learning. We are taking these steps here today because parents need to have trust, when they drop their child off in the morning, that their child is in quality child care. Importantly, they also need to know that when they drop their child off at care someone will be there to meet them each and every day. The coalition clearly does not support this commitment but we remain committed to ensuring this for Australian families and indeed for the sector so it can remain strong and stable. I commend this bill to the House.

Question negatived.

Original question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.