Wednesday, 23 November 2022
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023; Consideration in Detail
Louise Miller-Frost (Boothby, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source
I rise to speak on some of the many ways in which the Social Services portfolio is supporting Australian families and communities in the 2022-23 budget. This budget delivers on the Albanese Labor government's election commitments. In short, we are doing what we told the Australian people we would do. The government has moved swiftly and with great energy to address issues that affect just about every Australian family in some way, and I will talk about some of those ways today. The government is working to tackle gender inequality—namely, by improving our paid parental leave scheme and investing in early childhood education and development.
We are modernising Australia's paid parental leave scheme, making it easier for families to use it in ways that work for their family. To do this, we are investing $531.6 million over four years to progressively expand the scheme, by adding two weeks a year to provide a total of 26 weeks by 1 July 2025, and we are introducing gender neutral claiming to allow either parent to claim first. We are increasing the flexibility of the scheme, so the entire entitlement can be taken in blocks as small as one day at a time with periods of work and within two years of the date of birth or adoption. To support families and incentivise both parents to access the scheme, it will reserve a dedicated use-it-or-lose-it portion for each parent. The Women's Economic Equality Taskforce, chaired by Sam Mostyn AO, will assist in the finalisation of the changes to the scheme to ensure that the final model supports women's economic participation and gender equality. Taken together, these measures will deliver great flexibility for families and support both parents to spend more time with their newborn children.
The Albanese Labor government is also investing in early childhood education and development to ensure that every Australian child can reach their full potential. Our investments are designed to target children and families for support during what the evidence shows us are the most crucial years of their development. We have committed $4.2 million to develop a whole-of-Commonwealth early years strategy to set out our vision for Australia's children. This investment will support a comprehensive engagement and consultation strategy, including a national summit and research into what is important for our children to thrive.
I was delighted to join Ministers Rishworth and Aly and my friend the member for Adelaide last Friday to announce the date for the National Early Years Summit, scheduled to take place in Parliament House on 17 February next year. The Early Years Strategy will focus on the Commonwealth's role in early childhood and on creating a more integrated and coordinated approach to early childhood development. It will also seek to increase accountability for the wellbeing, education, health and development of children.
Playgroups and toy libraries provide accessible and affordable spaces, resources and opportunities for children to play together and for parents and carers to seek social and parenting support, and this government understands that. When my triplet sons were born 23 years ago tomorrow—happy birthday to them—I was in a rural area. I know the importance of being able to access the local toy library and local playgroups for my own personal socialisation but also for their socialisation. These universal services are also a key entry point for vulnerable families. They improve the early development and wellbeing of children and parent-child relationships and increase feelings of belonging and connection in families with their communities.
That's why this budget provides $12.4 million over four years to increase support for playgroups and toy libraries across Australia. The measure will support increased access to community and volunteer run playgroups with a focus on regional and remote locations where known gaps exist. It will also support culturally and linguistically diverse families and children with disability or development concerns. It will also support the development of new intergenerational playgroups which provide an opportunity for isolated older Australians in residential and other settings to engage in positive community interactions. So my question for the minister is: what other measures are in place through the 2022-23 budget to support Australian families and Australian children?