Thursday, 12 August 2021
Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Child Care Subsidy) Bill 2021; Second Reading
I thank all senators for the contribution they've made to the debate on the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Child Care Subsidy) Bill 2021. The fact is that our record $10 billion investment in child care since we came into office is 77 per cent higher than it was under the previous, Labor, government. There are over 280,000 more children in child care today, and women's workforce participation reached a record high of 61.8 per cent in March 2021, up from 58.7 per cent when Labor was last in office. This policy will make a difference for many, many Australian families. By removing barriers for second-income earners, especially women who want to return to work or to work an extra day, the Treasury estimates that around 40,000 mums and dads will get to work that extra day. This alone translates into a $1.5 billion boost to our economy each and every year.
Increasing the subsidy for families that have a second or third child aged five years or under means that 250,000 Australian families will be better off by, on average, $2,260 per year. As an example, an average family today that has two children in care and an income of $110,000 a year will be better off by $120 a week. That's $120 a week back in the pockets of hardworking Australian families. Our design of this policy is purposeful. We've targeted our support for families who need it the most: when they have two or more children in care and out-of-pocket costs to their family budget are at their highest. We're also removing the annual cap that is in place for families earning over $190,000, so there is no cap on subsidies. Our childcare system is designed to work for Australian families.
On this side we support families' choice. Our childcare system is fair for those who use it and fair for those who don't. We stand by the principles of our childcare system. Our system provides more support for those on lower incomes. Families earning over $350,000 don't receive any taxpayer funded childcare subsidy. An activity test means you need to be working, studying or training in order to access the subsidy, and an hourly fee cap keeps downward pressure on fees. Around 87.5 per cent of services are charged under the hourly rate cap.
Our policies have kept out-of-pocket costs low, with the out-of-pocket cost for a family almost $1 an hour cheaper, on average, than before we introduced our package in 2018. Our changes are an investment in Australian families and in our economy. Our plan is supporting parents, especially mums, to return to work or work more hours if they choose to. That's why Jennifer Westacott of the Business Council of Australia says:
This is good for mums and dads, good for businesses and good for the economy.
We are proud of our record of delivering for all Australian families, and I commend this bill to the Senate.
I would like to move the second reading amendment on sheet 1383, which Senator Faruqi did remotely. I understand that I need to do that given that I am appearing in person. I would also like to move the second reading amendment in my own name on sheet 1384.
Senator Waters, we already have a second reading amendment from Senator Pratt. That's the question before the chair at the moment. So we will deal with that and then deal with the amendments that you will be moving on behalf of Senator Faruqi and yourself, if that's alright.
On behalf of Senator Faruqi, I move the amendment on sheet 1383 in Senator Faruqi's name, relating to the fact that child care should be free:
At the end of the motion, add ", but the Senate notes that:
(a) childcare is an essential public service that should be free and universally accessible for all children; and
(b) workers and educators in the childcare sector deserve higher wages and better conditions to reflect the value of their enormous contribution to our community".
I now move the second reading amendment standing in my name, on sheet 1384, which pertains to the fact that we are in a climate crisis and our kids need us to deal with that properly:
At the end of the motion, add ", and the Senate calls on the Government to acknowledge that:
(a) it has a duty of care to avoid the harmful impacts of climate change on Australia's children; and
(b) in light of the latest IPCC report, supporting new and expanded coal, oil and gas projects is negligent dereliction of that duty".