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Thursday, 21 June 2018
Page: 3613

Child Care


Senator HUME (Victoria) (14:30): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. Will the minister update the Senate on the progress under the Turnbull government's family day care enforcement action?


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:30): I thank Senator Hume for her question and her passionate advocacy for working Australian families to ensure that they get the best possible deal in terms of support for childcare services. An important part of maintaining and managing an effective childcare system is to ensure that you look after taxpayer dollars and ensure that funds go to those families in need and also to those services who are doing the right thing. The Turnbull government takes compliance around childcare matters extraordinarily seriously. That's why we announced a six-month blitz. I'm delighted to update the Senate that that six-month blitz has paid dividends. The Turnbull government has taken compliance action and enforcement action against 151 services across Australia in the family day care sector. We're ensuring, as a result, that this will stop about $1 billion in subsidies going out the door.

This is part of what has been a zero-tolerance approach by this government. We've ensured that regulation is more effective and enforcement is more frequent. In fact, on enforcement, over the last year we have carried out around 4,500 compliance checks across the country. That is compared with the year before we came to office, which had just 500 compliance checks being undertaken. As a result, over our period of time in office, we estimate we have stopped the loss of more than $2.4 billion in taxpayer dollars that would otherwise have been rorted by individuals doing the wrong thing in the family day care sector.

Twenty-eight individuals have been charged and a number have been convicted. We continue to make sure this enforcement action isn't just about getting people out of the system; we are also making an example, where possible, to ensure that others don't follow suit. It does stand in stark contrast to the previous Labor government. Mr President, do you know how many services were suspended or cancelled under the previous Labor government? Zero. No wonder we had such a clean-up job to do, but I'm pleased that that clean-up job is going effectively and we are better looking after taxpayer dollars.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hume, a supplementary question?



Senator HUME (Victoria) (14:32): I thank the minister for his answer. That is encouraging news indeed. Can the minister explain how this enforcement action is cleaning up the system so that we can guarantee the essential services that Australians deserve, like the new childcare package that the coalition is introducing from 2 July?


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:32): You can guarantee essential services, like better childcare subsidies, in the future by having a stronger economy—as the coalition does and as the Turnbull government has done—and by ensuring that you're careful with every taxpayer dollar. That is the approach of the Liberal and National parties. Our approach is to respect every taxpayer dollar and to ensure that we have a stronger economy. That is allowing us to deliver reforms that are going to help around one million Australian families to be better off. Because we've managed to improve the budget position through a stronger economy, we are able to invest an extra $2.5 billion in the new childcare system to help working families. We're able to ensure that 85 per cent of families will no longer have to worry about hitting a cap in relation to the childcare rebate. That is because the cap has been abolished for those families, ensuring that they can choose to work the hours and days that best suit them. We expect that we will see 230,000 choose to increase their workforce participation. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hume, a final supplementary question?



Senator HUME (Victoria) (14:33): Can the minister explain what families need to do in order to benefit from the Turnbull government's new childcare package?


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:33): Already more than 900,000 Australian families have gone online and updated their details. The overwhelming feedback is that this has been a simple and straightforward process. We are pleased that so many families have made the step and with the progress to date. We encourage anybody else eligible to make sure that, before 2 July, they go online, visit their myGov account and provide the additional information to make sure they get every cent they are entitled to. It is well worth the 10 minutes online. Our analysis to date shows many families will be $1,300 a year per child better off because of the Turnbull government's additional childcare relief. We know that good governments help those working families. That's what we're doing with our childcare relief. That's what we're doing with our tax relief. That's what we can do, because we're delivering a stronger economy. That's what we can do, because we manage every taxpayer's dollars carefully. That's what we can do, because of jobs growth. That, of course, is why we can give better support to more families. (Time expired)