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Thursday, 30 September 1999
Page: 9271


Senator KNOWLES (3:10 PM) —On 1 September this year Senator Evans gave another speech in which he stated the myths he has repeated today. It is just unbelievable that he can get up here month after month—it is not even a month; it is the same month—and repeat the same myths that he did on 1 September this year. To come in here and claim that funding has been reduced, that child-care places are fewer, that places are less affordable and that there is more unregulated child care is just unbelievably wrong. How can someone get it so badly wrong? But he does not want to listen. On 1 September he stormed out of the chamber. He is now going to storm out of the chamber. Is it any wonder he does not learn anything!

As I said on 1 September, the government's commitment to child care is demonstrated by the spending of $3 billion on child care in the last three years. That represents 20 per cent more than in Labor's last three years in office. But what is Senator Evans doing? He is standing over there with his back to the chamber and his ears firmly shut yet again. He does not want to know. He will never learn. The fact of the matter is that, with the allocation of around $5.3 billion over four years to 2002-03—including $600 million in additional funding over three years from 2001-02 and 2002-03 with the introduction of the child-care benefit—expenditure is expect ed to reach $1.5 billion annually by 2002-03. Yet Senator Evans consistently comes in here and does not reflect the facts as they are.

Only in August this year Minister Newman was forced to repudiate the allegations that Senator Evans had not only been making in this chamber but which he also peddled outside to the media, who, of course, in their typical style, repeated them very faithfully. But there has been more money for child care in each of the last four budgets than in Labor's last year of office. The government assistance that has been provided to families has in fact reduced the cost of child care for families. A low income family paying average fees for two children in full-time care would receive over $12,000 a year in taxpayer funded assistance. That covers about 75 per cent of their child-care costs. For a middle income family, the taxpayer funded assistance is around $10,000 or about 60 per cent of their child-care costs.

Since 1996—in other words, since Labor lost office—there have been 130,500 extra child-care places. If Senator Evans ever wanted to listen, he would find out the facts as opposed to what he maintains religiously has been reduced. So, as I say, there is an extra 130,500 child-care places since this government came to office. The disreputable way in which the Labor Party ran the child-care policy whereby they simply opened up child-care centres in areas of electoral need—in other words, where they had marginal seats that they needed to win as opposed to real areas of need—was just absolutely and utterly unbelievable.

Yet we had a question today, of which I could not believe the breathtaking stupidity, in which Senator Forshaw said, `How dare people go and invest in child-care centres! How dare they!' Yet, what he does not know and does not want to know is that most people—in fact, 70 per cent of people—have always gone to private centres, not the community based centres. If someone else wants to take a risk and open a child-care centre with their own money as opposed to taxpayers' money, can anyone tell me the problem with that, because they are not going to open in an area where child care is not going to be viable? They are risking their own money, not the taxpayers' money. But of course old trade unionists and Labor people like Senator Forshaw and Senator Evans would not understand that sort of risk. They also would not understand the way in which areas of need are paramount. (Time expired)