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Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Page: 9206

Child Care

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:25): My question is to Senator Birmingham, the Minister for Education and Training. Will the minister please update the Senate on implementation of the government's new childcare package, particularly in relation to parental rights?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:25): I thank Senator Reynolds for her question today and, indeed, for her commitment to ensuring that Australian families receive the best possible deal for their childcare support—the best possible deal that encourages them and assists them to work the hours that suit, to do so in a manner where they receive support for their childcare fees commensurate with their income and earnings as a family, and to do so at the lowest cost to both themselves and the Australian taxpayer. Indeed, all of those things are what the Turnbull government's sweeping childcare reforms accomplish.

Our reforms will ensure that a new model for childcare payments takes effect in Australia next year—a new model that delivers the greatest level of support to those Australians who work the hardest and who work the longest hours but who earn the least amount of money. We will increase the rate of subsidy across low- and middle-income-earning Australians. Those Australians will see, often, thousands upon thousands of dollars of benefits in increased support for their childcare fees throughout the course of the year. Those Australians will see, as well, abolition of the $7,500 childcare rebate cap that constrains the working hours and working decisions of so many Australian families. It will liberate Australian families to be able to decide to work the hours that best suit them and their needs and to know that childcare costs will not be an impediment to doing so.

Families can indeed now access clearer information about the Turnbull government's reforms to see how they will benefit and to be able to plan for next year. They should visit the estimator tool we've made available on the website. Indeed, they will also be provided with more transparent information when our childcare rules come into effect. They will be able to see clearly not just what they have been billed for but the childcare attendance hours they have used, making the whole system more transparent as well as more affordable for hardworking Australians.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Reynolds, supplementary question.

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:27): I thank the minister for his answer. Could the minister also advise the Senate: what other provisions of the childcare package are being confirmed and detailed in the minister's rules currently before the Senate?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:27): The childcare reforms aren't just about childcare; they're also about ensuring continued support for quality early childhood education. The minister's rules that have been tabled to give effect to the operation of our new childcare system ensure continued support for Australian families who access preschool services through the childcare system. Parents with a child in the year before formal school, usually four years of age, who access preschool for 15 hours in long day care will not need to meet the activity test that we have put in place. They will have a clear exemption enabling them to access childcare subsidies to support the quality early education of their children in a preschool setting via long day care services. This is, importantly, in addition to our continued funding and support for the universal access agreement, providing preschool services for all children across Australia and making sure they can access quality early childhood education.

The PRESIDENT: Final supplementary question, Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:28): Can the minister also advise the Senate what families will most benefit from the government's new childcare package?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:28): Nearly one million Australian families will benefit—many, of course, in Senator Reynolds's home state of Western Australia, but also families right across Australia. To take one microcosm of Australia—the electorate of Bennelong, for example—some 6,000 hardworking Australian families will benefit in the electorate of Bennelong. Yet Mr Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, who loves to spend time in Bennelong at present, voted against these reforms. He voted against reforms that will benefit 6,000 hardworking families in the electorate of Bennelong—6,000 families who, in many cases, will receive thousands of dollars extra in support for their childcare fees, who may well choose to work more hours because the government's supporting them to make that choice and who will access quality early childhood education. They're the people the Labor Party have said no to. They're the people the Turnbull government is helping.