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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 637

Child Care

Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:50): My question is for the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. Will the minister inform the Senate what the government is doing to support working parents through its Jobs for Families Child Care Package?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:50): I thank Senator Paterson for his question and his concern for hardworking families in Victoria and indeed all around Australia on the support they receive to be able to go to work, juggle the family bills and, particularly, meet their child care expenses. The Turnbull government's comprehensive reforms of Australia's child care system will help the most hardworking Australian families to meet their bills. They will ensure that around one million Australian families benefit from comprehensive reforms restructuring child care services which will empower families to choose the days they work and the hours they work to suit their personal circumstances and, in doing so, to be able to do so without fearing about falling off a cliff in terms of their child care support.

Our estimates are that around 230,000 Australian families will increase their participation in the paid workforce because our child care changes will make the system fairer and more flexible for those who need it most. In particular, we will end the cliff that many families fall off midyear in terms of the child care support they receive. Around this time of year, many Australian families start to find they run out of subsidy under the $7½ thousand cap. Our changes for families earning less than $185,000 per annum will see that cap abolished completely. That will help around 90,000 families who hit that cap at present and of course empower many more to be able to choose to work more hours.

We will better target support to those on the lowest incomes so that families earning less than $65,000 a year will see the weight of subsidy paid for child care going up from 72 per cent to 85 per cent—

Senator Cameron: You're full of rubbish!

Senator BIRMINGHAM: something I would have thought Senator Cameron and the Labor Party, who pretend to care about low-income families, might actually support—that they might support the fact that we want to give more help to those hardworking Australian families who are earning the least but working the longest hours.

Senator Jacinta Collins interjecting

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Yet there they are opposing these reforms. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Paterson, a supplementary question.

Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:52): Can the minister explain to the Senate the benefits from the Turnbull government's reforms to the childcare system?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:53): Thanks, Senator Paterson. And to help Senator Collins, let me give the Senate a couple of examples. Let's take a single-parent family earning $50,000 a year, with one child in long day care for three days a week. That family, that single parent, will be around $2½ thousand a year better off net of the family tax benefit changes, net of the entire package. A hardworking family earning around $80,000, with both parents working and two children in long day care for three days a week, will be around $3,000 better off in net terms. Yet the Labor Party sits there and says that they will oppose, they will vote against, reforms that in totality will ensure that those hardworking Australian families who are juggling work and family responsibilities are going to be denied additional support because of the Labor Party's votes. But thankfully, hopefully, those on the crossbench will be more considerate, will help us to deliver for those hardworking families. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Paterson, a final supplementary question.

Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:54): Can the minister advise the Senate of any alternative policies?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:54): At the last election those opposite went along saying that they had no changes, no policies, no suggestions. They were going to put another tweak to the child care rebate cap, just lift that a little bit. Of course, the last time the Labor Party did that we saw that completely gobbled up through price rises in the child care sector. What we instead are proposing is to put in place an effective rate cap that will constrain future price rises and ensure that the additional support we give to hardworking Australian families will actually benefit those families, not simply flush through taxpayers hands and straight into the hands of child care operators instead.

Labor have now talked—at the National Press Club the shadow minister spoke—of starting a national consultation about child care reform. Well, the coalition government has already done that. We had a comprehensive Productivity Commission inquiry that recommended the exact type of approach we are adopting. We have undertaken the regulatory impact statements. We have had multiple Senate inquiries. As Goodstart Early Learning has said, now is the time to act; now is the time to get these reforms passed and implemented. (Time expired)