Wednesday, 23 June 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Youth, Senator Reynolds. I refer to reports that in yesterday's joint party room, chaired by newly re-elevated Deputy Prime Minister Joyce, coalition Senators Canavan and Rennick and MPs Mr Christensen and Mr Young spoke in opposition to the government's own childcare policy proposal, with Senator Canavan making clear he would vote against this legislation. How many coalition members oppose the government's childcare policy?
I sincerely thank Senator Urquhart for that question, allowing me the opportunity to talk about our policy on child care—and of course I would never comment on deliberations within the party room—
Yes, a point of order on direct relevance: the minister's refusal to be directly relevant is apparent in that first response.
Senator Seselja interjecting—
Thank you—would you like her to speak, or do you want to give—
On the point of order—and you can tell there's a camera in the chamber today!—the question from Senator Urquhart clearly went to matters that include the content of the government's childcare policy, and Senator Reynolds is entirely within orders to be responding in ways that address the content and the approach of those policies that Senator Urquhart was asking about.
If I could rule on the point of order: Senator Wong, you reminded the minister of the conclusion of the question. The earlier part of the question asked the minister about reports regarding a party room discussion that, in my view, did go to the content of policy. I'm not in a position to ever rule on whether a minister's been directly relevant in eight seconds, in my view. So, I'll call the minister to continue. But to be directly relevant, in my view, the minister can go to the content of policy that may or may not have been, or was reported to have been, discussed in a coalition party room meeting, or to the second part of the question, which you mentioned. It was quite broad in that sense.
As I said, I will certainly not be talking about the confidential deliberations of our party room. But I'm delighted to talk about the outcomes of that party room and the legislation that we bring into this chamber. Let me share with you some of the things we've been doing since we've been in government. We're spending 77 per cent more than Labor did in government on child care—a record $10.3 billion this year, including $9 billion to subsidise the fees set by childcare services. Today over 280,000 Australian children are in child care. And—wonderfully—women's workforce participation reached a record high of 61.8 per cent in March this year, up from 58.7 per cent. We overhauled the childcare system in 2018 to introduce one subsidy. The hourly fee cap we introduced is working to keep downward pressure on fees, with 87.5 per cent of services charging under that hourly cap rate in centre based day care.
But we on this side of the chamber know what really matters to parents, and that is their out-of-pocket costs. We have kept our out-of-pocket costs low—
Opposition senators interjecting—
still almost $1 an hour cheaper, on average, than before we introduced the package in 2018—down from $4.87 to $3.93 per hour. And in this budget we are providing an additional $1.7 billion to further help Australian families who have more than one child aged five or under—those years that we know are the toughest for working families to look after their children— (Time expired)
It is reported that one male MP angered some female members by suggesting that working women who use child care are 'outsourcing parenting'. How many male coalition members think women are 'outsourcing parenting'?
It's on direct relevance. The minister's clumsiness is demonstrating what she's doing. She saying, 'I'm going to ignore that question; it gives me an opportunity to talk about our policy.'
I make the point again that, unlike the other place, I don't call ministers to order from the chair myself; I wait for a point of order to be raised. This question was about reports about a claimed statement, and then it was asked how many male members of the coalition supported that statement. It was the use of a reported phrase that is pejorative in nature. I'm going to give the minister some latitude. However, I will say that I do not think this is as broad as the previous question and allow the opportunity to provide an explanation of policy that was reported to be presented to the party room. I call the minister to continue.
Again, I reiterate my thanks to Senator Urquhart for this question. It's something which is at the heart and passion of both parties in the coalition. As we saw demonstrated in the party room yesterday, we did have a robust debate on an important policy issue to Australian families, and that is what Australians expect. That is what marks the difference between this side and that side of the chamber. Let me tell you what we did discuss in relation to the legislation that is coming before the parliament. This is to provide an additional $1.7 billion to further help Australian families with more than one child aged five and under, the years that are the toughest for both parents to stay in the workforce. We discussed that, by increasing the subsidy for families with a second or third child aged five and under— (Time expired)
It has been reported that Senator Hughes responded to the revolt by saying: 'Thank you, boys, for telling us how to best raise our children. Not all of us want to sit at home with our three-month-old watching Bluey.' Why are coalition members criticising women who work and trying to tell women how to raise their children?
Can I say that I think we all love Bluey on this side of the chamber. It's a great Aussie classic. Again, I congratulate Senator Hughes and everybody else who participates in the debate on this side because we discuss the issues that count to Australian families. As I started to say, by increasing the subsidy for families, 250,000 Australian families will be better off, on average, by $2,260 per year. That is exactly what we discussed in the party room yesterday. We also discussed the issue where, under this plan, a family on $110,000 with two children in full-time care would be $120 better off per week. That is what this side of politics is all about. It is about providing choice and control for Australian families and for women to stay connected with the workforce.