Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth, Minister Arbib. Is the minister aware of recent independent modelling commissioned by Childcare Queensland which has estimated that the annual increase in childcare costs for parents with just one child in care could be in excess of $3,000 each year due to the government’s so-called reforms?
I can inform Senator Payne that I was actually not aware of that. I have not seen that report. I am not the minister for child care but I am happy to represent her in this chamber. I am extremely happy to talk about her quality reform agenda. This was started by the then Parliamentary Secretary for Early Childhood Education and Childcare, Maxine McKew. She started the process of reform with consultation right across—
The government has an ambitious reform agenda and it is focused on improving the affordability, access and quality of early education and care in Australia. That is something which I think every senator in this chamber should support. We have backed this agenda with $16 billion in funding for early childhood education and child care over the next four years. That is more than $1 billion a year more than the previous government.
In relation to affordability, we have delivered on our election commitment to pay half of the out-of-pocket childcare costs of Australian families by increasing the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. This has dramatically improved affordability, with recent ABS statistics showing childcare costs for parents have fallen by almost 20 per cent over the past year. This is in stark contrast to the 13 per cent increase in the last year of the Howard government.
Raising the quality of early childhood education and care is the next critical step in delivering on our reform agenda. There has been a great deal of misinformation put forward about the agenda, but we have worked cooperatively with the sector—(Time expired)
As I have said, we have increased the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, which is going to help countless working families who rely on child care.
Just remember, Senator Abetz, that, under your government, the funding was not there. There was a 13 per cent cost increase in the last year of the Howard government. We will continue with this agenda because it is critical to learning in secondary and tertiary education that you get early child care right. It is also important that children in families where there is risk of neglect and abuse have access to the highest quality possible child care—absolutely imperative. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is it correct that Labor promised at the last election to slash parents’ childcare costs? Will the minister now admit to thousands of parents that this is another broken promise in the long litany of broken Labor promises? Will the minister also admit that childcare costs will rise?
I think this is the third time I have actually explained it, but, again, we are committed to increasing the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. We have done that; we have kept our commitment—and families across the country are benefiting. In terms of the forward agenda, our ‘quality’ agenda: we are holding public consultations right now—
Consultations have been, and are being, held right across the country—2,000 people have attended, 400 written submissions have been received and online surveys have been completed by over 1,000 parents. We released these options, and will continue to look at all the options. I can inform parents that no decision has yet been made in relation to the final position of the government. We will continue to work with the sector, we will continue to work with childcare providers and we will continue to work with community organisations to make sure we get the balance right and that our children are put first.