Wednesday, 17 March 2021
Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Early Childhood Education and Care Coronavirus Response and Other Measures) Bill 2021; Second Reading
Before I address the substance of this bill, I'll address the comments by the member for Kingsford Smith, because you'd have to live in a bizarro fantasy land to accept the proposition that he has put forward. The member for Kingsford Smith said that every single proposal put forward by the Australian Labor Party is good. It can do wonderful things, there are no extra costs involved, everybody is getting paid more and getting better benefits and better outcomes, but it's not going to cost anybody more. The Labor Party's approach to child care in this country has the same perennial delusional impact. But what they've done is constantly increase obligations and regulations and costs for the sector. Make no mistake, most of it doesn't actually improve productivity or outcomes in the childcare sector. Truthfully, it barely even improves outcomes for the kids. But it does make it harder for young couples and single parents to access child care at an affordable price.
The Labor Party have never actually been interested in outcomes. Everything they focus on is inputs, with no interest in what you get as a result of what you put into a system. It's the same attitude they take to education and health care. We hear them every time complain, 'There isn't enough money.' They say, 'How much money do we tip into the system?' They never say, 'How do we improve outcomes so that kids get better educated'—not interested in that—or 'so that people on waiting lists get seen'—not interested in that—or 'so that people get higher standards of health care'—not interested in that. The same is true with aged care—not interested in how people age with dignity. No matter what the issue is, their answer is always 'What is the input?' not 'What is the outcome?' This is the absurdity and the lack of logic that sits at the heart of their policy approach. Of course we have to talk about inputs as part of an honest conversation about how we provide the sustainable public services that people need. No-one would argue with that. But it should be matched against performance and outcomes.
We see the dishonest conversation the Labor Party are having at the moment, where they're obsessed with increasing super contributions, even though the actual research shows that Australians already have enough retirement savings to live a dignified life in retirement at the international benchmark of 70 per cent of your final salary. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Australians have more than 91 per cent. So what Labor are actually trying to do is take more today to subsidise inheritances. They actually don't understand—or don't seem to understand, if they read the Callaghan review—that the system they're engineering is designed to benefit the rich.
Let's face it, their interest actually isn't even to benefit the rich. Their interest is in benefiting their constituency of organised capital through industry fund movement, where they want large capital to be at the heart of decision-making—where big business, big capital, big unions and, when they're in charge, big government come together to conspire against the people. Ultimately, these debates are about power, and what the Labor Party want to do is empower themselves, because they have always seen the success of this nation through themselves, not through the aspirations, the goals, the achievements and the dreams realised of the Australian people. It's got them into trouble a lot of times in the past. What they want to do is keep destroying sectors, step by step, including child care, so that they can realise their ambition to control and manipulate it.
We on this side of the chamber take the exact opposite approach. Everything we stand for is about how we empower Australians to live out the fullness of their lives, not just in their working lives, so they have dignity in retirement—which is why we won't hit them with a giant new retiree tax, like the Labor Party, who, before the last election, misled the public and said it wouldn't hit low-income earners. They had to come back into this chamber and outside this chamber, including the Leader of the Opposition, and accept that, yes, in fact, they were going to push people, physically push them, below the poverty line. Now, with child care, we have a similar challenge, where their solution to the problem is to make child care more unaffordable for Australians. That is not our approach. Our approach is to try and get costs down. We've implemented reforms already that have done so, but, yes, costs continue to creep up—partly because of demand, partly because of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, partly as a consequence of things like rising wages and regulatory standards as they've been implemented.
But what we want to ensure is that every working parent out there who needs and relies on child care at this challenging or difficult time can get access to services. We've seen this approach continuously by this government, because we've been prudent in the good times but also built up a buffer so we can support Australians in the difficult times such as we've had over the past 12 months, providing temporary support and assistance so that we can remove the barriers for those who need it.We've done it in areas like telehealth, to make sure that people can access healthcare services, to the benefit of the patient and the doctor. And, because some people are still facing challenges, we've recently announced extensions to that service, that critically important service. This legislation fits as part of that conversation—continuing to provide business continuity payments required by the childcare sector when they need it.
We don't want that to be a permanent state of affairs. We hear the members of the Labor Party on the other side of this chamber complaining at the moment about the decision of the federal government not to continue to support JobKeeper. They ignore the facts that it has now been running for nearly nine months and, in addition to that, the longer you keep it going and you have firms and jobs that don't require it, the bigger the gap it creates and the more restructure and adjustment there is, and more people will find themselves out of work. The Labor Party would rather public policy and jobs be based on falsehoods and false foundations rather than sustainable futures. The approach we're taking with this legislation is to say that there are temporary measures that we need to implement. We need to provide discretion to the government to take action when there are temporary emergencies and disasters, to support the services when they need us and when they need taxpayer support, because they've got to support working parents across the country.
So we've looked at what we need to do to make sure that we can support child care, so that the parents of this country that need assistance to go to their jobs, their families or their work in the challenges of raising children amongst their lives can get support, and the Morrison government has their back.There'll be further reforms in this space, but this is an important one, as part of making sure that those Australians who face challenges get the help they need now, including in the childcare sector, including the providers—so they can keep supporting Australian children and Australian parents when they need it.