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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12230

Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (19:47): I rise today to speak on the motion by the member for Farrer, not only as a member of parliament but also as a father of two children who are under four years of age. Child care and early education is something I am deeply concerned with, particularly given my two sons, Isaac and Noah, are accessing these forms of care.

In my electorate there are countless families in the same situation who are deeply conscious of all things to do with early childhood education and child care. This government has been putting in place some very substantial reforms to ensure that every child in Australia is provided with opportunities to develop the sorts of skills that will best suit their needs prior to going to primary school and to provide the opportunity for both parents to participate in the workplace. The reforms that the Gillard Labor government has been putting in place in this area will lead to confident, smart kids who will substantially contribute to the direction of this nation.

Of course, we do need to reflect on the sad history of the Liberal Party in this particular area, where for many years they believed that the role of Mum was to remain in the kitchen or looking after the kids. Labor has had a very proud history of putting in place reform that enables both men and women to participate in the economy and to participate in the workplace. We have put in place record investment—some $20 billion—in early childhood education and care, and we will be doing that over the next four years.

I think it is worth making the note that the work we will put in over the next four years more than doubles the effort of the Howard government in their last four years of office. We are putting a lot of additional money and attention into this area to ensure that all children have an opportunity. I think this particular motion is somewhat wayward in that it fails to recognise the very substantial contribution that the Commonwealth has been making and will continue to make under this government in this particular area. The previous funding arrangements that were put in place—some $273.7 million investment to support the introduction of the new National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care—I think were very substantial contributions that this parliament and this government have made.

I particularly want to take the opportunity to point out the consequences of the election of the Baillieu government at the last state election. That, of course, was the axing of the Take a Break childcare program in Victoria.

Mr Broadbent: No, they put the money on the table.

Mr CHEESEMAN: I thank the member for McMillan, but the reality is that we had been working with state and territory governments to put in place additional funding. This was an area that was and should be the responsibility of the Victorian government, and they have announced that they will be axing this program from 1 January next year. That will hurt an enormous number of facilities and entities within my electorate providing this program, particularly the Anglesea and District Community House, the Apollo Bay Children's Centre, the Deans Marsh Community Cottage, the Forrest Preschool, the Haddon and District Community House, the Inverlea Occasional Care, the Lorne Figtree Community House, the Meredith Community Centre, the Rokewood Occasional Care Facility, the Torquay Children's Services Hub and the Winchelsea Community House in Winchelsea.

These facilities and the services that have historically been delivered from these areas have made a very substantial contribution to those communities, and it is an absolute shame that the Baillieu government has axed this important funding. On the one hand, federal Labor—the Gillard government—is putting record investment into this space. On the other hand, the Baillieu government is taking money out of these services. Over the next four years the Commonwealth government will be providing some $9.2 billion and around $7.2 billion in the childcare rebate area. The Commonwealth government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, have directed a lot more funding into these areas and we have a very proud history of doing this. We want to give every young person under the age of four every opportunity in life and we are putting real money into this space to ensure that that can happen, but we are also doing it in a way that makes sense and that is based on the successful negotiations that we undertook, by and large, at the COAG early childhood roundtable.

This government is also putting in $399 million through child care benefit; $291 million though the childcare rebate, which pays for 50 per cent of out-of-pocket costs for families; $21.3 million for childcare services and support; $16.95 million for children's and family centres; and $17.4 million in new early learning and care centres. We will continue to invest in this important policy area. We have put in a lot more money in the first four years of the Gillard government than the Howard government did in their last four years. We have a proud history in this space and we will continue to contribute in every way that we can to ensure that working families have every opportunity to educate and care for their children.