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Monday, 5 March 2001
Page: 24914

Mrs DRAPER (2:22 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Community Services. Minister, would you inform the House of the success of the government's child-care policies for Australian families, particularly within my electorate of Makin?

Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Community Services) —I would like to thank the member for Makin. I know she has a very keen interest not only in child care but also in family values. I am delighted to inform the House that the child-care policies that the coalition government has introduced have meant that child care is far more affordable today and there is far higher usage than there ever has been. A leading Sydney paper we all know, the Sunday Telegraph, published an article yesterday headlined `100,000 more join child care'. This is good news for all families and of course particularly those children who can now get into funded Commonwealth programs. Why is that? It is because there has been a significant increase in child-care benefit. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. In the first four years of the coalition government, $4 billion was spent on child care, which was a 30 per cent increase on the previous four years when the ALP was in government. In the next four years we are planning to spend $5.6 billion. What we have done, of course, is to make child care easier to access by reducing the complexity of the system that was put into place by the Labor Party. The best thing is that we have seen that long day care is up 22 per cent. Now 367,000 children are in long day care. In family day care there has been an increase of 14 per cent, 95,000 children, and outside school hours there is an increase of 16 per cent, or 124,000. This means that not only is child care becoming more affordable but also there is greater utilisation, particularly for all those many private child care centres and family day care centres right throughout this country. Further good news is that at the next indexation point for child-care benefit we will be increasing it by 5.8 per cent, and that means that there will be a $7 increase to those receiving the maximum benefit, going from $122 to $129.

You have to ask yourself: what is Labor's policy? We know they are policy lazy, that they do not have a policy on child care. The only policy they had was the lowest common denominator, which was scare tactics. The Leader of the Opposition claimed on 24 June in a doorstop interview that the GST would massively increase the cost of child care. He was wrong on that. The Leader of the Opposition claimed on 1 August last year that people are now paying more for child care. He was wrong on that as well. What we are seeing is a far greater utilisation and child care being more affordable. That is because this government is listening and acting. Not only are we building stronger communities but we are building stronger families through our sensible child-care policies.