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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 6993

Child Care

Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (15:04): My question is to the—

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Order, the member for Goldstein! The Leader of the Opposition by now should know that when the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker is on her feet silence should ensue.

Mr CHEESEMAN: My question is to the Minister for Employment Participation, Early Childhood and Child Care. How is the government helping Australian families to access affordable, high-quality child care?

Ms KATE ELLIS (AdelaideMinister for Employment Participation and Minister for Early Childhood and Childcare) (15:05): I thank the member for Corangamite for his question. He knows that we are incredibly proud of our record of reform when it comes to ensuring that child care is more affordable, more accessible and of higher quality under this government. As the Prime Minister has recently made very clear, we are always working towards the next steps to assist Australian parents just a little bit more as they juggle their work and family commitments.

Some of those opposite want to talk a bit at the moment about increasing childcare fees. That is fine, but they are only telling part of the story, because the truth is that you cannot talk to the Australian public about increasing childcare fees without also talking to them about the government's subsidies, which have increased even more. So if we want to have a look at childcare fees, let us do it based on the facts. The facts are that this government increased the childcare rebate from 30 per cent, as it was under them, to 50 per cent under our government. The facts are that, whilst they were happy in government to have the cap on that childcare rebate at $4,354 per family, we increased it to $7,500 per family per year.

We know that this has had a huge impact on childcare affordability. In fact, as a result of our increased investment, analysis shows that a family that was paying 13 per cent of their disposable income on their childcare fees in 2004 is now paying 7.5 per cent of that income under our government now. Of course, we are not saying that it is not already an additional burden on families to pay their childcare fees, but what we are saying is that we have a record of putting triple the investment in the hands of Australian families, because we know how important childcare affordability is.

As well as affordability, we know that parents want peace of mind when they drop their children off in the morning so they can be confident that they are being well cared for, and that means having the highest quality services possible. We in Australia now have more kids in care than ever before, attending child care for a greater number of hours. We also have an abundance of research which shows how critical these early years are and that 90 per cent of brain development occurs in these early years. So we believe that we need to get it right, and that is why we have worked with every state and territory government of all political persuasions to lift the quality of care and ensure that Australian children have the best qualified staff and the best attention and supervision going forward.

Those opposite can peddle their half-truths. They can tell the public half of the situation. But, in contrast, we are getting on with the job of making real investments to ease families' cost-of-living pressures and are getting on with the job of making real reforms to give Australian children the best quality childcare services possible.

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