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Wednesday, 14 October 2015
Page: 7635

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:53): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training. Will the minister update the Senate on how the government is delivering flexibility for parents who need child care that meets their non-standard working hours?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:53): I thank Senator Seselja for that question. I know that he is a man with a great interest in support for families in the ACT and with a great personal commitment to families as well. This government is very proud of the fact that we are delivering the largest investment in early learning and child care that Australia has ever seen. A $40 billion package has been developed by this government—an additional $3.5 billion over previous estimates—to support child care and early learning opportunities for Australian children and families, helping more Australian families to be able to juggle and balance work and family difficulties and giving people the maximum opportunity to get back into the workforce, especially Australian women.

Our new childcare package is simpler, it is more affordable, it is more flexible and it is more accessible for the 1.2 million Australian families who access child care. Importantly, a significant part of the Jobs for Families package is the $246 million nanny pilot program which will commence operation next year. This is about offering a new, more flexible opportunity for Australian families who cannot access traditional childcare opportunities. It is about ensuring that families who live in remote and rural Australia or who may work shifts and are unable to access the hours of child care have the same opportunity as those families who access traditional childcare means. This two-year pilot will provide families an opportunity to access child care that meets their personal and specific family circumstances, and I trust and hope it will inform government decisions in the future and ensure that all future childcare arrangements are flexible for Australian families.

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:55): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister inform the Senate how the government will ensure the wellbeing of children who participate in the pilot?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:56): Children will of course be looked after by professionals who have appropriate qualifications in terms of first aid and police checks and who will be selected by service providers that the government is procuring. I particularly encourage parents to consider applying for participation in the nanny pilot. Until the 30th of this month, people can access information via the government's websites and hotlines about how they can apply to participate in this two-year pilot that will give them flexibility.

A couple of weeks ago I visited the Paramedics Australasia conference and heard firsthand how the nanny pilot program is helping people in that type of shift-working industry to have the opportunity to access support in those circumstances that meets the needs of those families who are, of course, providing such valuable services to Australians in their times of need.

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:57): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Could the minister further advise the Senate how parents and service providers can apply to be involved?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:57): Parents and service providers will have the opportunity to access this service by applying, and I encourage them to either visit the DSS website or phone the hotline number—1800249873—where they can get their questions answered and be helped through the application process. Our aspiration is to help support thousands of Australian families through this pilot and to make sure that, in future, governments will be able to structure childcare arrangements to meet the needs of all of Australia's working families, to provide all Australians with support when they want to get back into the workforce and to be able to have access to child care.

This is a generous program. Whether it is a nanny or a 'manny'—as they say in other instances—the opportunity is there for families to be able to get assistance that I am sure thousands will benefit from. I do encourage them to access that service and to apply in this first round of the new pilot.