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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2914


Senator GICHUHI (South Australia) (14:43): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. Would the minister advise the Senate how the Turnbull government's plan for a stronger economy is guaranteeing essential services by helping Australian families to access education and childcare services?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:44): I thank Senator Gichuhi for her question and her strong and passionate interest in the wellbeing of Australian families and children. The benefits of continuing to deliver a stronger economy are not just those that Senator Cormann's already outlined today about bringing the budget back to balance and to surplus and to provide tax relief to Australian families but also those benefits flow into support for essential services that are so important to Australian families. In this regard, the Turnbull government is pleased that, from July this year, our new childcare subsidy system will come into effect and, in doing so, we will be delivering a policy that provides an additional $2½ billion worth of investment in supporting Australian families to access more affordable childcare services that enable them to work the hours and days that suit their family's circumstances.

Our reforms will benefit around one million Australian families. And, in doing so, projections estimate that around 230,000 Australians will choose to either participate in the workforce for the first time or increase their participation in the workforce. That is a critical achievement because it builds on the fact that, under our government, we already have female workforce participation in Australia at its highest ever level. Of course, providing better, more effective, more affordable childcare support can only build on those achievements to date, hence the reality that we expect to see enhanced participation. People will choose to participate more because, for around 85 per cent of Australian families, our reforms will eliminate the current cap they face in relation to the childcare subsidy they receive during the course of the year. But it's not just in relation to the childcare subsidy that we're providing additional support; we also in this budget announced a further extension of support for access to quality preschool services, continuing to guarantee universal access to preschool for Australian four-year-olds.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Gichuhi, a further supplementary question.

Senator GICHUHI (South Australia) (14:46): Will the minister inform the Senate about how the budget delivers more support to help students and families in rural and regional Australia access quality education?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:46): The coalition government of the Liberal and National parties realises that rural and regional Australians need extra assistance when it comes to the quality of their education and attaining the same levels of achievement as all Australians. The evidence is very clear that there are gaps and deficits in that regard. That's why we've undertaken comprehensive work to look at how we can boost educational attainment across rural and regional Australia, and we're investing out of this year's budget an additional $96 million to particularly target and support regional education.

Our investment will add new sub-bachelor courses, enabling pathways into university for many young Australians through a $28 million funding boost. We will also be funding an additional 185 commencing Commonwealth-supported places in our Regional Study Hubs, providing access to university services in towns where it's never existed before and relaxing the parental income test to provide greater support and access to youth allowance to students from rural and regional backgrounds to allow them to continue their study.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Gichuhi, a final supplementary question.

Senator GICHUHI (South Australia) (14:47): Will the minister also outline the benefits of the Turnbull government's fully funded and guaranteed investment in school education?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:48): By having a strong economy that's delivering a stronger budget bottom line, we're able to deliver fully funded investment in Australian schools that over the next 10 years sees an additional $24½ billion support for Australian schools—around $1 billion growth, year on year, into the future. And most important, of course, is: what happens with that money? It equates to growth on average per student of about 4.3 per cent each year for those 10 years—growth above inflation forecasts, above wages forecast—allowing for additional investment in the types of resourcing of teachers and programs rolled out in schools in specialised attention for individual students.

We, of course, are working in tandem with the states and territories to deliver on the reforms recommended by the recent Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools that focuses very much on how we ensure every student gets the basics of literacy and numeracy in the early years but are then extended to their full capability throughout their education to give them the best chance to succeed in further study or work.