Thursday, 27 February 2020
Questions without Notice
I thank Senator Bragg for his question and his obvious interest in this very important part of public policy. The Morrison government is absolutely committed to supporting all Australian families, particularly when they have young families themselves. The latest CPI data confirmed that Australian families continue to pay less out-of-pocket expenses under the Morrison government's new childcare package. The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that, on average, out-of-pocket costs have actually reduced by 4.2 per cent and they're lower than they were before the introduction of the childcare subsidy in July 2018. This comes off the back of record funding to help Australian families manage the cost of child care. This year alone, we've committed $8.6 billion towards the cost of child care and that will increase to $10 billion over time. At the moment, there are more than 1.3 million Australian children who are benefiting from the subsidy that has been provided by this government through the childcare subsidy.
There are a number of mechanisms in our policy that ensure downward pressure continues to be put on childcare fees, including the hourly rate and parent co-payments. Eighty-seven per cent of centre based day care services are charged at or below the hourly cap. Last year the Morrison government delivered legislation updates that reduced red tape which made it easier for families to access childcare and made it easier for them to maintain their subsidy. In fact, just this week we've introduced legislation to further streamline access for vulnerable and disadvantaged children—and this includes those children who are living in foster care—to make sure that they get the support that they deserve as well.
In addition to the childcare subsidy, families and services in regional and remote Australia can also benefit from the Community Child Care Fund. This fund is part of the childcare safety net, and it provides services with a different operating capacity so that we can meet the challenges faced in rural and regional areas, particularly around financial and business support. This is particularly in the case where there are limited services available in these areas, and sometimes there may be no childcare services. So funding totalling $328 million over the next five years has been made available for around 980 services. Seventy per cent of that money has been allocated to 480 services that are in rural and regional Australia. We're also investing $12 million a year in the Connected Beginnings Program, which supports Indigenous children aged zero to five and their families in 15 additional communities.
To make sure that we continue to support our bushfire affected areas as they go through recovery—we understand that drought, bushfires and floods have a significant impact on families—we've allocated an additional $5 million through the community childcare fund special circumstances program for services in those communities that have been directly affected by bushfires. Services may seek funds for a range of activities. It might be to establish a temporary centre or premises where children can go if their existing one has been damaged or destroyed, temporarily meeting operational costs and addressing the issues of health and safety requirements.
The Minister for Education also recently delivered a new set of rules that enables charities that wish to support volunteer firefighters with the cost of child care to do so. Families in bushfire affected areas will also be exempt from the activity test for the childcare debt going into the future so that we can continue to support— (Time expired)