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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 4333

Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery) (1:39 PM) —I thank the senators for their comments. I also note the opposition’s support for the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Child Care Budget Measures) Bill 2010 and thank them for it. I will make a number of points in response to some of the concerns, particularly from Senator Hanson-Young and Senator Fielding. Our government has a clear record on early childhood education, on child care and on supporting Australian families. I do not think there is any doubt that we have prioritised affordable and high-quality child care for Australian families and their children and we remain committed to this. Evidence of this commitment is clear in our investment of $17.1 billion in early childhood education and child care over the next four years. That is $10 billion more than was provided in the last four years of the Howard government.

In July 2008 we delivered on our election commitment to increase the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent of parents’ out-of-pocket expenses, something that senators failed to mention today. This extra support goes directly to parents to help them with the cost of child care. We also met our election commitment to lift the maximum families could claim from $4,354, as it was under the previous government, to $7,500 per child per year, a substantial increase of $3,146 a year, or some 72 per cent. Last year 670,000 Australian families benefited from the significant reforms, enabling them to claim back half of their out-of-pocket childcare costs up to $15,000 a year for each child in care. Further, as a result of these changes, ABS statistics also show that childcare costs to parents fell by over 20 per cent. Under the previous government families were also forced to wait until the end of each year to access their childcare rebate payment, something that we all remember. This put pressure on family budgets throughout the year, something that the Rudd government acted on. We promised it; we changed it, going to quarterly payments giving parents assistance closer to the time they incurred their childcare costs.

In addition to the childcare rebate, we also provided $8.4 billion over four years for low- and middle-income earners through the childcare benefit. This means we cover more than half of childcare costs for these families. In total, we will provide $14.4 billion over four years for parents through childcare benefit and childcare rebate. This is $8 billion more than the Howard government provided in childcare fees assistance in their last years. This is a commitment to childcare quality, to reducing costs and to helping Australian families. That is what the Gillard government stands for, and it is something we are proud of.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.