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Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Page: 9639

Child Care

Senator LINDGREN (Queensland) (14:39): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham. Will the minister update the Senate on how the government is delivering fairer childcare support for families?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:39): I thank Senator Lindgren for her question and her very strong interest in and commitment to effective childcare policies and effective early learning support for children and families. Today, the Turnbull government introduced into the House of Representatives the new childcare reform legislation. Our Jobs for Families package is about making Australia's childcare system simpler and fairer for the 1.2 million families who access child care in Australia. We want to ensure that we get the best possible outcome from the $40 billion that we will invest in supporting child care and early learning over the next four years. We want to make sure that we get the best outcome for taxpayers. But, most importantly, we want to make sure that we get the best outcome for the families who rely upon child care and for the children who attend childcare services, because they are our No. 1 priority.

We are committing some $3.2 billion in additional funding to our childcare reforms. This is funding that will help to ensure we can deliver a simpler system of child care—simpler, because we are taking more than three different payment structures and arrangements and converting them into one new child care subsidy, and fairer, because at the heart of our new child care subsidy is the premise that the more a family works the greater the hours of subsidised care they are entitled to and the less a family earns the greater the rate of subsidy they are entitled to. I would have thought that those opposite would welcome the very premise that the more you work the greater the hours of child care you can get and the less you earn the greater support you are provided with. That is what this government is committed to. It is committed to complete fairness in our childcare system, with a strong safety net in place to ensure early learning opportunities for preschool children, for children in lower income families, for children who are at risk and for children whose grandparents are the primary carer. It is committed to strong safety nets and strong and fair policies that ensure those who most rely on child care get the most support. (Time expired)

Senator LINDGREN (Queensland) (14:42): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, how will the Jobs for Families package help make child care more affordable for working parents?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:42): I am very pleased to inform Senator Lindgren and other senators that, for Australian families earning between $65,000 and $170,000, when the new childcare subsidy is put in place, they will be around $30 a week better off when paying their child care. That is around $1,500 per annum that those families who are working and who are reliant upon child care will save on their childcare bills. But, importantly, our activity test is a light-touch activity test for child care. It is not just those families in work who benefit. Families who are studying will benefit. Parents who are engaged in volunteering activities will benefit. Those who are looking for work will benefit. There are a range of activities that can meet the activity test to ensure that families who need to access child care are able to access it. But, importantly, under our fair reforms, the less somebody earns the greater the support they will get from the Turnbull government.

Government senators interjecting

Senator Williams interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right! That is you too, Senator Williams.

Senator LINDGREN (Queensland) (14:43): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Minister, how is the government funding this childcare package?

Senator Cameron: By an increase to the GST.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron!

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:43): The Turnbull government recognises that if you are going to implement new policies they have to be paid for. Some of those opposite seem to say they acknowledge that—I know that Ms Macklin acknowledges the childcare package must be paid for somehow. But, unlike those opposite, we actually have a plan and proposals for how our new childcare arrangements will be paid for. So, importantly, we have detailed how they will be paid for. But, equally importantly, they are paid for by fair means that ensure those working families are net beneficiaries. I invite those opposite to look at the family tax benefit changes in conjunction with the childcare subsidy changes. You can look at the case of a single mum earning $68,000 per year, working four days a week with a three-year-old in long day care. Under our reforms, in net terms, she will be some $2,845 better off per annum.

Senator Lines interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Lines!

Senator BIRMINGHAM: These are real benefits for real families who are really there, relying upon childcare support into the future. (Time expired)