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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12234

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (20:19): If there is one aspect of both the Rudd government and the Gillard government that I am particularly proud of it is the wonderful changes, reforms and contributions that the government that I have been part of has made to child care. They have revolutionised the way child care operates in this country. They have made it more affordable—they have put it within range of all families so that it is not just something for those who can afford it. It means that children from all backgrounds are now able to have the same opportunities. It is not a have and have-not approach to child care; it is a very inclusive approach. And I am very, very proud to be a member of the government that has brought this to fruition.

The Minister for Employment Participation and Childcare announced last week—and I heard the previous member denigrating the announcement that she made—that more than 1½ thousand new occasional and in-home care places would be provided in Australia for Australian families. The number of new allocations represents a rise in support for government funded occasional-care places of 35 per cent—that is quite significant—and a market increase of around 17 per cent across the home-care sector.

The government understands that centre based care may not be suitable for all Australian families. Not everybody wants their child to be cared for in a centre. We are about giving people choices; we are not about dictating the kind of care a person should have. By putting in place funding for services within the home, we are also giving people the choice that they need. Occasional-care services support Australian families by providing some flexibility. Parents have the opportunity to place their children in those centres or within in-home care.

The neighbourhood model occasional-care program was changed in the last budget but, at the same time, as I have just pointed out, we announced some additional places last week. But it is very important for this parliament to note: the Australian government has never had a direct funding relationship with services in receipt of funding under this program, as funding was provided directly to the states and territories. What the member is asking is something that is not the responsibility of the Australian government. Once that money was given directly to the state and territory governments to fund occasional care they then administered their own programs. I come from New South Wales, and for the last two years this program has been fully supported by the New South Wales state government. I think that the member has brought this motion to the House tonight to try and make political mileage out of an issue that really does affect some families. But there are still options out there: a number of long-day-care centres have taken up the occasional-care role.

The government is totally committed to ensuring that Australian children have the best start in life. It has underpinned, by a record investment of $20 billion, early child care education over the next four years. That represents more than a doubling of the investment made by the Howard government in their last four years of office. That speaks for itself. This government is committed to child care. This government is committed to ensuring that each and every child has the opportunity to have good quality care, and I think that the member should be honest with this parliament and portray the picture as it is. (Time expired)