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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 545

Pensions and Benefits

Mr BUCHHOLZ (Wright) (14:59): My question is to the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services. Will the minister advise the House on how making the childcare system more affordable, flexible and accessible for hardworking Australian families will create jobs and relieve cost pressures? And what are the alternative approaches to this?

Ms O'DWYER (HigginsMinister for Revenue and Financial Services) (15:00): I thank the member for Wright for his question. I know of his very strong interest in this area.

He understands that a lack of access to affordable child care can be a real barrier for mothers and fathers returning to the workforce, for them increasing their work hours and for them, in fact, reskilling by going back to university or undergoing further training. By providing access to more affordable child care, the Turnbull government is giving Australian families real choices about their future.

Under the previous Labor government, they actually commissioned a taxation review by former Treasury secretary Ken Henry. In it in 2009 he said:

Access to high-quality and affordable child care can be an important factor in a parent's decision to remain in or return to the workforce. … Assistance with child care costs recognises that child care is a cost of employment and thereby reduces the disincentives to participate that are created by the tax and transfer system.

He went on to say:

Access to quality child care also plays a role in early childhood development, particularly of children from families experiencing, or at risk of, social exclusion.

We could not agree more.

That is why this government is making childcare reforms that are in fact a very important economic reform. These reforms are going to deliver relief to around a million Australian families in their out-of-pocket childcare cost pressures. They are going to help relieve their household budgets and they are going to give those children an opportunity to benefit from early education. This is critical, because of those children aged under five around 40 per cent use childcare facilities.

So under our changes, a working family that is earning around $60,000 a year will end up paying $15 per child per day for child care. These reforms are going to see us abolish a multiplicity of payments and replace them instead with one single new childcare subsidy that is targeted to provide the greatest assistance to those who are in the most need.

Now, I am asked by the member whether there are any alternatives. I suppose that does depend on your definition of what an alternative is. Those opposite went to the election promising that they would keep the status quo. Then after the election, they went to the National Press Club and they said that they were going to embark upon a big national conversation. And more recently they have said that they are just going to scrap it all and start again.

What they cannot walk away from, though, is their perfect record when they were in government of increasing the cost of child care to Australian families. (Time expired)