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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3122

Mr Les McMahon (SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 8 September 1977:

(1)   Are pre-schools in New South Wales poised to increase fees by more than 200 per cent because of the Government's inadequate funding for pre-schools.

(2)   If so, will pre-schools in the inner city area of Sydney face fee rises from $5 to about $17 a week from 12 September 1977 onwards which will force most inner city children away from the pre-schools, because their parents just cannot afford to pay the fees.

(3)   Will the likely result of these fee rises be either the replacement of inner city children by children of wealthier parents or the closure of many of the pre-schools.

(4)   Is the Minister pursuing a course which will mean that pre-schools will once again become restricted to those who can afford them rather than being made available to those who need them; if not, what is the Minister prepared to do about the situation.

Mr Hunt - The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1)   to (4) As from 1 January 1977, recurrent assistance to pre-schools has been paid in the form of block grants to the States.

The conditions attached to the block grants are that funding can be differentially provided between centres to ensure access to services for children from low income families and children in special need and that the States are required to distribute the funds even-handedly between Community and State sponsored pre-schools.

The block grant makes a contribution towards the recurrent costs of pre-school services and for 1977-78 the Commonwealth has provided the States with funds which will maintain a contribution equal to that which was provided in 1976-77. In addition, the Commonwealth makes general funds available which the States can allocate according to their own priorities. Through its tax sharing legislation, the Federal Government has provided the States and local government authorities with predictable and reasonable shares of national revenues and freedom to order their own priorities.

The total funds available to New South Wales for expenditure in 1976-77 was S8.67m. The funds available for New South Wales from the 1977-78 Budget together with the advance for 1977-78 that has already been paid total $8.80m.

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