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Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Page: 4540

Mr TURNOUR (9:14 PM) —I rise to support the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Child Care Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2008. The Rudd government has brought down a responsible budget that delivers on all our election commitments, eases cost-of-living pressures on working families and on those doing it tough and invests to secure the long-term prosperity of our nation. At the centre of our budget are measures to put downward pressure on inflation and interest rates. The Rudd budget delivered a $22 billion budget surplus. We need to remember that interest rates have risen 12 times since 2001 and that it is critical that we tackle the 16-year high in inflation left to us by the Howard government by reining in government spending and being fiscally responsible. The budget plans for the long-term prosperity of the nation by establishing three funds worth $40 billion to tackle the infrastructure, skills and health bottlenecks left to us by the former Howard government. Crucially, the budget provides relief for working families through a $55 billion package of measures. This bill is a very important part of that $55 billion families budget package aimed at easing the cost-of-living pressures being experienced by many families, particularly families in my electorate.

This, like all of our election commitments, is being delivered in full by the Rudd government. It will help working families meet the costs of child care by increasing the rate of the childcare tax rebate from 30 to 50 per cent of out-of-pocket costs—up to $7,500 per child per income year—and paying it quarterly rather than annually. All families who currently receive the childcare benefit and the childcare tax rebate will be better off as a result of the changes being implemented.

I doorknocked many houses in the election campaign and had many families raise concerns with me about the increasing cost of child care and the pressures it was placing on their family budgets. I remember knocking on the door of a young family with two kids in Brinsmead, a suburb of Cairns, and the mother talking to me about the costs of child care. Both she and her husband worked, and she had gone back to work after initially caring full time for her two children. They had a mortgage and were feeling the financial strain from not only rising costs of living but rising interest rates and they needed two incomes to make ends meet. She worked in an administrative role in the construction industry. It had not been easy to find places for her children in child care, and the increasing costs of child care were making her reconsider whether it was worth while to keep working, as so much of the money she made went to pay for child care for her two children. She wanted to keep working but the costs were becoming prohibitive.

This measure was welcomed by her as an election commitment, and she will welcome the fact that we are delivering on this, like all of our election commitments. I know that this measure will enable her to keep doing what she wants to do, and that is to remain in the workforce and help pay the bills for her family. There are many families like this in my electorate and all across the country that will benefit directly from this budget measure and our plans to tackle inflation and put downward pressure on interest rates. This budget and these measures deliver, particularly for those working families doing it tough and suffering under rising interest rates and cost-of-living pressures left to us by the Howard government.

These changes are part of a significant new $2.4 billion investment over the next five years on integrated early-childhood initiatives that will provide high-quality services for young children and help build a productive, modern economy for Australia’s future. This measure is supported by our commitment to develop rigorous new quality standards and a quality rating system to raise the quality of services and drive continuous improvement in the sector and by our commitment to support the establishment of up to 260 additional early-learning and childcare centres to increase the supply of quality child care.

I welcome the fact that two of these new early-learning and childcare centres have been earmarked for my electorate of Leichhardt. One of these will be located in Weipa, a mining town on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula. Weipa has a critical shortage of childcare places, with over 100 people on the waiting list for the town’s only centre. The local community established the Weipa Community Child Care Group in 2007 to plan for a new centre. This group consists of senior representatives from Rio Tinto Alcan, a major mining company; the Weipa Community Care Association; the Weipa Town Authority; the local chamber of commerce; Queensland Health; Education Queensland; Weipa Family Day Care; Weipa’s creche and kindergarten centre; state government representatives; and federal government representatives, currently from the Indigenous coordination centre. The group welcomed the Rudd government’s commitment to build a new childcare centre in Weipa and has developed a childcare strategy paper to provide input into the planning of the new centre. I look forward to continuing to work with the Weipa Community Child Care Group and with the parliamentary secretary in the chamber this evening, the Hon. Maxine McKew, in the delivery of this election commitment.

This bill, like other budget measures, delivers for working families and those in the community doing it tough. I am proud to be part of a government that is listening and responding to the needs of the community. We have delivered a responsible budget that tackles the 16-year high in inflation left to us by the Howard government and puts downward pressure on inflation and interest rates. This is a budget that delivers for working families, easing cost-of-living pressures though measures like those in this bill to increase the rate of childcare tax rebate from 30 to 50 per cent of out-of-pocket costs—up to $7,500 per child per income year—and paying it quarterly rather than annually, while investing in the long term to secure the nation’s prosperity into the future. I commend the bill to the House.