House debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Matters of Public Importance

Child Care

3:42 pm

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party, Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education) Share this | Hansard source

The cold hard truth of this matter is that this coalition government saved the childcare sector in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. That's what happened. We saved the childcare sector. Make no mistake about it, that's what happened over the last few months.

When the COVID pandemic hit in those very dark days of March the childcare sector was crying out for help. Parents were crying out for help. They would've been calling our electorate offices. They were calling mine and saying, 'We need you to come and help.' Emergency service workers were at risk of having to stay at home to look after kids. Frontline health workers, teachers, everyone was saying, 'We need help,' and the government answered the call. That's what the coalition government did. We answered the call with $900 million of additional funding during the COVID-19 crisis—which still hasn't totally left us. Nine-hundred million dollars was what it took to keep the childcare sector going. We made sure that those frontline health workers didn't have to stay home, that they were there and available for the community when the community needed them through some of the darkest days that this country has seen in its entire history. We were there and we enabled 99 per cent of 13,400 services to remain open and viable. That, given the circumstances, is an incredible achievement. In terms of country Australia, $391 million was provided to 3,334 services in regional and remote areas.

In the budget that's just been handed down, there's a record $9.2 billion in funding for child care. So the childcare sector has been saved and there is record funding for child care in this budget. We recently announced additional support for Victoria's regional childcare sector, with around 700 services sharing in an estimated $55.8 million from the early childhood education and care recovery payment. We know that the federal government wasn't responsible for what's happened down in Victoria. We still don't know who was. At the inquiry, we saw the conga line of bureaucrats and politicians saying, 'We don't know what happened.' That was Victoria. It reminded me of talking to a teenage child: 'What happened?' 'Don't know.' 'Who was responsible?' 'Don't know.' We should send the teenagers down to Victoria to sort it out. They would have done a better job running hotel quarantine than the Victorians did. But we've been there for them. We have saved the sector across Australia, but we've also saved the sector in Victoria.

Under this government, low- and middle-income earners can get up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs rebated, so we've delivered for low- and middle-income earners. Out-of-pocket expenses and costs for the vast majority of families are less than $5 per hour per child. We have also reduced out-of-pocket costs by 3.2 per cent from July 2018 to March 2020. So this policy is working. This policy has reduced costs for families and this policy, which the coalition government has implemented, is responsible for saving the whole sector from destruction.

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