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Monday, 20 October 2014
Page: 11280

Mr CONROY (Charlton) (11:32): I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises the importance of Government support for child care in order to improve workforce participation and early childhood education;

(2) condemns the Government for its $157 million cut to Family Day Care (FDC) funding by changing the eligibility for the FDC component of the Community Support Program and forcing existing services to re-apply;

(3) notes that:

(a) FDC:

   (i) supports more than 98,000 families and 165,000 children across Australia; and

   (ii) employs more than 25,000 educators, as well as coordination unit staff;

(b) Department of Education figures indicate that over 80 per cent of all FDC services will be denied essential funding due to these cuts; and

(c) these cuts will force FDC services to increase fees, reduce services or close; and

(4) calls on the Government to reverse its cruel and short-sighted decision to cut FDC funding.

Child care is a vital service to over one million Australian families. It is a vital service that enables parents to fulfil their economic potential by returning to work and boosting workforce participation, which is essential to our economic performance. It also increases and improves early childhood education, which numerous studies have demonstrated can have a significant beneficial impact on the educational outcomes for our kids. Unfortunately, child care is a vital service that is under threat by over $1 billion worth of budget cuts by this government. One aspect of these cuts is a $157 million cut to family day care by changing the family day care component of the Community Support Program.

Family day care is an important part of the childcare apparatus in this country. It supports over 98,000 families, helps 165,000 children and employs more than 25,000 educators. This cut places severe pressure on the sector. Coalition speakers after me will argue one of two excuses for their actions. They will either claim that this action was necessary to stop examples of rorting by family day care providers or they will claim that it is not a cut; it is just a change in the eligibility, to better target the service. Neither excuse stacks up. Neither excuse is reasonable or believable. Both are pathetic justifications for a mean-spirited and counterproductive cut.

On the first excuse, about rorting, if there is rorting it needs to be stamped out, but you do not do this by penalising the vast majority of family day care providers, who are doing the right thing. In fact, I would submit that, by reducing the support for the high-quality providers, more space will be opened up for cheap, fly-by-night operators. On the second excuse, about how this is just changing eligibility rather than being a cut, the fact is that, on the Department of Education's own figures, this change will mean that over 80 per cent of services will be denied funding. If it looks like a cut, walks like a cut and smells like a cut, it is a cut—and this budget cut is reflected in the budget papers, which quite clearly identify a $157 million saving to the budget bottom line.

The end result of this is that family day care services will be forced to either increase fees, reduce services or close. The peak industry body for family day care services has estimated that the average impact of this budget cut will be an increase in family day care fees of $35 for a family. Let me repeat that: this cut will mean that the average family will pay $1,500 a year more in family day care. This is $1,500 that the average family can least afford to spend. This will have a massive impact, especially in regional areas, where family day care is more prevalent. I challenge any of the speakers from the other side who purport to represent regional areas to try and defend a cut that attacks regional areas so egregiously.

The impact in my area will be very severe. Lake Macquarie City Council provides a family day care service that is rated as exceeding national quality standards, and it provides this service to 719 families and 900 kids. It operates with 261 full-time equivalent staff, and this is equivalent to nearly seven childcare centres. It supports 90 small businesses, and there are 300 kids on the waiting list. Continuing delivery of this program will be much harder due to these cuts. It is just one of the many local services impacted by this heartless cut. I will continue to fight for the thousand families in my area impacted by this cut. I will continue to fight for affordable child care. I will continue to fight for the best early education for kids. I will continue to fight for the best support for parents to return to work.

We need only contrast this heartless cut with the government's ridiculous Paid Parental Leave scheme. Their Paid Parental Leave scheme will provide $50,000 to wealthy families in North Sydney who have a child whereas over 80 per cent of eligible constituents in my area will receive less than $20,000. Even if this Paid Parental Leave scheme were delivered well, which it will not, the Grattan Institute has found that investment in childcare services is twice as effective as a Paid Parental Leave scheme in terms of improving workforce participation. We should keep in mind that this ridiculous, unequal Paid Parental Leave scheme will cost over $22 billion over the forward estimates, compared to the $154 million cut we are talking about here.

Child care is vital to this country. Child care is about the economic future of our parents, our families and our kids going forward. We need to be supporting it more, not continuing these heartless and mean cuts.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Craig Kelly ): Is the motion seconded?

Ms Hall: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.