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Monday, 19 November 2012
Page: 8978


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:11): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Human Services (Senator Kim Carr) to a question without notice asked by Senator Nash today relating to child care.

There is no doubt that the answers that were given today by Senator Carr to the questions on child care were nothing short of embarrassing. Here we have a minister who is supposed to be across these issues and who is supposed to understand these issues but who could do nothing more than bluff and bluster and refer to his briefing notes in some vain attempt to try and cobble together some sort of response to the Senate questions. It is simply not good enough. I think that families in this nation, particularly in regional areas, want to know that the ministers in this government are competent. They certainly did not get that today from this minister, Senator Kim Carr. It is really and truly an embarrassment for the government to have a minister that is so inept and so unable to properly answer questions of this nature which are vitally important to families right around the country.

The government is trying to say that it is improving child care for families. Nothing could be further from the truth. Time and time again, we see the failure of this Labor government to properly implement policy that is going to improve the situation for families with regard to child care. We have now seen Goodstart, Australia's largest childcare provider, saying that there is going to be an extra $2,000 in childcare costs as a result of Labor's policies. So here we have a policy under Julia Gillard with regard to child care that is going to increase costs for families by $2,000. For that in any way to be seen as any kind of policy success is just completely ridiculous. I do not know that the government is actually spending much time out there talking to families. I do not know that it is actually spending any time in these childcare centres. I am sure, to give credit where credit is due, the minister might possibly be but I certainly doubt that the minister representing is, and I doubt many of his colleagues are either—because, if they were, they would understand the very real concerns that are held out in these areas, particularly in regional areas, when it comes to child care.

We have seen the Goodstart Early Learning childcare provider, the largest childcare provider in Australia, estimating in its annual report that fully implementing Labor's national quality framework will see fees for long day care rise by about 20 per cent. So we are looking at over 60,000 families having around a $2,000 hit. It has actually cited it as a 'burden which would be unaffordable for many parents'. What is this government doing? As the government, it is supposed to be making it easier for families. It is supposed to be making child care more affordable. It is supposed to be making it easier for families to get on with the business of trying to juggle work and family, which I know my colleagues on this side of the chamber actually understand.

Senator Kroger: We do!

Senator NASH: Thank you very much, Senator Kroger, and I will take that interjection. Yes, we do; we absolutely understand and the contrast between us in the coalition, those on this side of the chamber, and those on the other side, in the Labor government, is absolutely stark. The government walks the walk and talks the talk but does not deliver for families, and it is ongoing and I think the people out there right across Australia have simply had enough. This is on top of a 20 per cent increase in childcare costs since the Prime Minister came to office. We have seen the childcare rebate slashed from $8,179 to $7½ thousand. We have seen the baby bonus slashed, making it more expensive for a family to have more than one child. We have seen Labor's broken promise to build 260 new childcare centres. The list goes on and on.

How Senator Carr can sit on the other side of this chamber and try to claim that they are doing a good job is simply ridiculous. We are seeing further pressure on household budgets under the Labor government and further pressure from the rising cost of living. What we are seeing is a Prime Minister who is starting to seem as if she has a problem with Australian mothers. We hear this talk about Tony Abbott having a problem with women, but I think the Prime Minister has more of a problem with mothers. The Prime Minister broke Kevin Rudd's promise to deliver 260 new childcare centres across the nation. Her changes to Medicare have doubled the cost of IVF treatment, resulting in 1,200 babies not being conceived. Within a few short weeks the Prime Minister will boot single mothers onto the dole. It was under Prime Minister Julia Gillard that the government attempted to stop Defence personnel getting free trips home to visit their mothers at Christmas and most recently the Prime Minister has slashed the baby bonus for second and subsequent children. I would say that this is a Prime Minister that has a real problem in developing proper policy for the betterment of the Australian people, and families right across this nation understand that.