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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6593

Mr BRADBURY (2:53 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth and Minister for Sport. Will the minister outline to the House government initiatives to assist Australian families with the costs of child care?

Ms KATE ELLIS (Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth and Minister for Sport) —I thank the member for Lindsay for his question and also for his passionate advocacy for affordable, accessible childcare solutions for his community. This government has a very clear record of supporting Australian families to manage their budgets, particularly when it comes to the costs associated with early childhood education and with child care. This is perhaps most clearly demonstrated by the $17.1 billion investment in early childhood education and child care over the next four years from this government. To put this in context this $17.1 billion in investment is around $10 billion more than that offered by the previous government in their last four years.

We, of course, have delivered on our election commitment to increase the childcare rebate from 30 to 50 per cent of parents’ out-of-pocket expenses, with this extra support going directly to parents to help them with the cost of living. We also met our election commitment to increase the maximum that families could claim from $4,354, as it was under the previous government, to $7,500 per child per year, under this government, a substantial increase of some $3,146 a year or 72 per cent.

Last year, 670,000 Australian families benefited from these significant reforms, which enabled them to claim up to half of their out-of-pocket childcare costs, up to $15,000 per year per child. We also know that, as a result of the childcare rebate increase, a family earning $80,000 with one child in full-time care receives some $2,239 more in childcare rebate under this government than they would have under the previous government.

As a result of these changes ABS statistics also show us that childcare costs to parents fell by some 20 per cent. In 2004, the out-of-pocket costs for a family with an income of $55,000 a year with one child in long day care was 13 per cent of their disposable income. This has significantly declined to seven per cent by 2009. For a family with an annual income of $115,000 per year the amount of the family budget spent on child care has declined from 11 per cent to seven per cent over that same period.

In addition to the childcare rebate, we are also providing $8.4 billion in childcare benefit over four years to low- and middle-income earners across Australia, which means that the Australian government will cover around 80 per cent of the costs of child care for these families. We absolutely know that it can be really tough for family budgets and it can be tough to provide childcare solutions for those families. That is why, in total, we will provide $14.4 billion over four years for parents through the childcare rebate and through the childcare benefit. This is $8 billion more than the Howard government provided in childcare fee assistance in their last years.

We have shown time and time again that we recognise the importance of child care and early childhood education. We are committed to affordable and high-quality child care. Unlike those opposite we are absolutely prepared to put our money where our mouth is and deliver for Australian families.