Thursday, 8 October 2020
Questions without Notice
The Minister for Education may wish to add to my answer. What I can tell the member who raised this matter is that the changes that we have made in child care have enabled Australia's workforce participation to rise to record levels. In particular, they enabled Australia's workforce to reach levels of female participation that this country had never seen before. That saw the gender pay gap in this country—under the economic policies of this government, which included the major changes that were made to child care—reduced to its lowest level. It has resulted in 70 per cent of families having out-of-pocket costs of less than $5 an hour per child and nearly a quarter paying less than $2 per hour per child for centre based child care. It resulted in a period of all-time-high workforce participation for women and also in $9 billion being spent each and every year to support the childcare needs of Australian families.
That is the childcare package that this government has pursued, while those opposite have struggled to put a policy together at any election that we have contested over the years that they have been in opposition. They ran a policy that had the end of the double drop. I remember that. They went through myriad positions that never arrived anywhere, while the government got on with the job of ensuring that child care was more accessible, particularly to those on lower incomes. We were the ones who introduced the 85 per cent rebate that abolished the cap on payments and rebates that were received right across the board.
And we made it fairer by targeting low- and middle-income families, not those on higher incomes. It wasn't our policy to introduce free child care right across the board; it was our policy to ensure that this support targeted those who needed it most so we could get them into the workforce, and they went into the workforce. Women went into the workforce. Men went into the workforce. And we have a childcare industry that has been supported, particularly through the most difficult times, for those workers who have needed it most, because they have been working at hospitals and many other places of health care that need the essential work they have been doing, which has meant their children have needed to continue to be supported by that childcare system. I thank all those workers, and I thank those who own those centres, to ensure that these workers could keep on during the period of the COVID crisis.
I note that those opposite have drawn attention to the size of the deficit and the debt in this program. Those opposite say that the government has spent too much, and then they say we've not spent enough. They say that the debt's too high, but then they seek to add to it. It would seem that the opposition, as always, has an each-way bet on every single issue.
Ms Plibersek interjecting—