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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 1049

Child Care

Dr GILLESPIE (Lyne) (14:32): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Education. Will the minister explain how the government's recently announced Productivity Commission inquiry into child care will improve availability and affordability of services in my electorate of Lyne and others across regional Australia?

Ms LEY (FarrerAssistant Minister for Education) (14:33): Thank you, and welcome to the member for Lyne, a great loss to specialist services in regional Australia but a fabulous addition to this place. Prime Minister, I think I recollect a certain Pollie Pedal where you, I, and the member for Lyne struggled in the freezing rain across the Barrington Tops. The dedication shown on that occasion is the dedication that the member for Lyne brings on behalf of his constituents to this place. Wasting no time, he was in my office this morning banging the table about an early intervention centre for the people of Taree, something that he cares passionately about—Taree being an area of disadvantage in his electorate. One of the great things about new parliaments is that we get to welcome on this side of the House members from rural and regional Australia.

Once again I get to look at members of the Labor Party who have never risked a dollar of their own money in rural and regional Australia. The problem that we saw written large over childcare policy in the Labor Party was that one size always had to fit everything. There were no regional members to say, 'Things are a little bit different in my small country town, in my mobile childcare centre, in my small occasional childcare centre. In my community preschool with a hardworking volunteer board, things are a bit different.' Oh, no, the dead hand of regulation landed on everyone indiscriminately, and nowhere do we see that more than in rural and regional Australia. We know people in rural and regional Australia generally have less money than people in the city and they have to be careful about their expenses. But they desperately need flexible child care and they need it at a price they can afford.

But everybody is coming on board with our Productivity Commission inquiry. People are lining up to talk about it. The Kalgoorlie Minerand another great new regional member, the member for O'Connor, is here—talked about the importance of child care for regional communities, and the mayor said that it cannot be understated that paying too much for child care

Ms Plibersek: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I hesitate to do this, Madam Speaker, but this is simply not relevant to the question that the minister was asked.

The SPEAKER: What is the point of order?

Ms PLIBERSEK: It is a point on relevance. She should be directly relevant to the question asked. I would have thought she would know how to be directly relevant to a question she wrote.

The SPEAKER: I call the honourable assistant minister. There is no point of order.

Ms LEY: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I just want to refer to Kalgoorlie, a city that I went to during the election campaign.

Opposition members interjecting

Ms LEY: Madam Speaker, the question was about rural and regional Australia and, by the way, Kalgoorlie is in rural and regional Australia. The mayor of Kalgoorlie says that if you inhibit the ability of parents to obtain child care you inhibit the ability of the city to grow. On this side of the House, we desperately want rural and regional Australia to grow. I look forward to you coming on board with our Productivity Commission inquiry.