Monday, 14 July 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Before the election, the Prime Minister promised cost-of-living relief for families. No matter what chaotic deals are being cobbled together today by the Prime Minister, is it not true that his budget will still cost Australian families $6,000 a year?
My question is to the Assistant Minister for Education. I refer the minister to the report in The Courier Mail that states that the budget for childcare payments supporting low-income earners blew out by almost $30 million a year due to rorting. What action is the government taking to ensure that taxpayers' money is going to those who need it most?
I thank the member for Brisbane for her question. I look forward to going to her electorate during the winter recess to visit several childcare centres and service providers. I know of her keen interest in this subject. I can confirm that several weeks ago I initiated an increase in the active compliance of the Commonwealth Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance program, known to us in this place as JET. This is part of a broader approach by this government to stepping up childcare compliance, making it much stronger, and implementing tighter program guidelines after years of slipping standards and inaction under the previous Labor government.
Under Labor, in each of two consecutive years the budget for JET blew out by almost $30 million—and they did absolutely nothing about it. Without the action we have taken, the budget for JET was forecast to blow out a further $240 million over the next four years. It has been clear for some time now that the program has been subject to exploitation by a small but expanding network of family day care services and parents engaging in sharp practices. It is only a small proportion, but unfortunately the dollars were very large. These sharp practices include services charging excessive fees and claiming for hours of care not delivered, parents claiming more child care than they need to complete their study or training commitments, and parents continuing to claim JET despite no longer participating in, or having completed, their study or training. This program is not there to be abused by dodgy services looking to make an easy buck or parents using more care than they need to complete their commitments—just because taxpayers are footing the bill. It is just not on. As I said, we are going to increase active compliance checks.
The core issue here, however, is that Labor were well aware of these sharp practices and did absolutely nothing about it. They threw it in the too-hard basket. They sat on their hands while the rorting grew and the budget blow-outs ballooned. You would think it was quite a simple concept: here is the budget, the year progresses and then the money runs out—what do you do? I tell you what Labor did: they just topped it up. They just found more money on the national credit card, topped up the budget and kept spending. You would think that sensible economic managers would ask: 'What is actually going on here? What is going on with this program? Are people not spending the money properly? Are there things we need to look into?' But they did not do that. Instead, when the money ran out, they just topped it up. What else would you expect from a Labor government? I was there on the opposition benches when Kevin Rudd came into office and the government had net assets of $45 billion—and I was there on the opposition front bench when Kevin Rudd left office and the government had net debt of $162 billion. (Time expired)