Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 10 November 2008
Page: 10273

Ms OWENS (2:44 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. What is the Australian government doing to get the policy settings for child care right, and what legacy challenges is the government currently confronting?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for Parramatta for her question and for her deep interest in child care. When the Rudd government was elected less than 12 months ago, we inherited a childcare system in which the former government had let the market rip. In 1999 the former government had uncapped the number of childcare places available. Meeting growing demand by uncapping places was not an error. What was an error was doing that without a plan for quality, without a plan for workforce, without a plan to bring child care to areas that needed it and without a plan that regulated or dealt with this market in any way. Indeed, what the former government did was to let the market rip and take their eyes off the road and their hands off the steering wheel, and then, as it all went towards an inevitable crash, they prepared to blame state and territory governments. Whenever asked, Liberal Party ministers would say in relation to child care that this was all about state and territory governments. To take just one example, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in 2006, said:

… State Governments have primary responsibility for regulating and managing pre-school and childcare delivery throughout Australia.

Opposition members interjecting—

Ms GILLARD —‘A statement of fact’, one of the Liberal members says. So their attitude remains unchanged: let the market rip and then take absolutely no responsibility for the consequences. This is a typical Liberal Party response—reckless and out of touch. Since we were elected late last year we have, step by step and piece by piece, acted to ensure that this is a system that has a quality plan, that has a workforce plan and that has an expansion of supply. Each and every step of the way, the Rudd Labor government has acted to deal with the problems in this system left by the former government. So, for example, with our plan for quality we are streamlining quality and licensing requirements, and there will be rigorous new national quality standards and a rating system for child care—

Opposition members interjecting—

Ms GILLARD —something, I presume from the interjections, that the Liberal Party is opposed to. We have entered into a $126 million plan for workforce development. This will include removing TAFE fees for those who want to be childcare workers and creating an additional 1,500 university places for those who want to be early learning educators. And we have a plan for childcare infrastructure, bringing up to 260 new centres around the country, and a plan for an early learning years framework so that, no matter what setting children are cared for in, they have the benefit of an early education program. Each and every day, I and the parliamentary secretary responsible in the area, the member for Bennelong, have worked step by step on these measures, which were desperately needed in this industry and neglected by the Liberal Party when in government. What seems even more amazing to me than the attitude of the Liberal Party when in government is the fact that it has learnt absolutely nothing in opposition. Can I refer the House to an extraordinary transcript this morning from the member for Indi, the shadow minister now responsible for this area—an extraordinary transcript, very interesting reading—where she is asked—

Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on the matter of relevance. I did not hear anything in the question that related to quotes relating to this side of the House. The minister started with that attack. I let her go that far, but she is back at it again now, and it is up to you to bring her back to the question.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! If there was a reflection on another member, I could not hear it above all the interjections. I will listen carefully to the way in which the Deputy Prime Minister uses her material, which I hope will be relevant to the question.

Ms GILLARD —It is certainly relevant to the question and the question of child care, and I thank the member for O’Connor for his interjection—his point of order. I presume the member for Indi is grateful as well, because he is one member of the House who makes her look good. On the question of the transcript this morning, the member for Indi, when asked about the opposition’s plans for child care, was asked, ‘What should the government do?’ She said, ‘Firstly, the government should outline its contingency plan.’ The journalist said, ‘No, what do you suggest the government should do?’ to see if she had any plans. Then the member for Indi said, ‘Well, that’s up to Ms Gillard to tell us how she’s going to respond.’ Then the journalist said to the member for Indi, ‘You would have thought about the issues; what do you think should be done?’ and she said ‘Well, Ms Gillard needs to come up with a sustainable model,’ and the journalist said in frustration, ‘No, no, I am not asking about Ms Gillard’s opinion,’ in yet another desperate attempt to elicit from the member for Indi something that might look like a Liberal policy for child care. Then, extraordinarily, having been pressed and pressed again for a policy on child care, the member for Indi said in respect of me that I should have acted 12 months ago on this. The member for Indi might like to remember the Liberal Party was in government 12 months ago. Maybe they should have acted on it, yes, but she can hardly say that that is something for the current government.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Deputy Prime Minister will bring her answer to a conclusion.

Ms GILLARD —Then, finally, like all Liberal Party members when asked on child care—because they have no policies, no plans and no ideas—what does she actually do? She actually says that this is all about state governments that regulate child care. The Liberal Party learns nothing, stands for nothing—

The SPEAKER —Order! The Deputy Prime Minister has concluded.

Ms GILLARD —and, each and every day since the receiver was appointed, has dithered about its policy response because it does not know anything about child care.

Mr Hockey interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for North Sydney will resume his seat. The Deputy Prime Minister will resume her seat.