Supporting the New Childcare Package

21 Jun 2018 speech

Ms FLINT (Boothby) (11:05): I am delighted to have the opportunity today to ask some questions of the minister, because I know how hard he's working in his portfolio areas and how much he cares about making sure every single Australian gets the assistance that they need, when they're in need, or has access to childcare services that are going to help so many Australians get back into the workforce, stay in the workforce and study, if they want to, as well. In fact, I know how hard the entire Turnbull government is working to ensure that Australian families keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets, unlike those opposite who, unfortunately, would like to take more money from them.

We know that cost-of-living pressures are putting strain on many Australian households, and this is particularly true when it comes to the issue of childcare costs. That's why our new childcare package is so important: it will deliver more support for more families. We are injecting an extra $2.5 billion into the childcare and early learning system. This is a significant investment. Under our plan, we will scrap the annual rebate cap for most families, increase the hourly cap rate and reduce the 15 per cent withholding rate introduced by the Labor Party in 2011 to just five per cent. We are providing the greatest subsidy and financial support to lower-income families who need it most. To put it simply, we are providing real relief for families who have been struggling with the cost
of child care for too long.

It's estimated that nearly one million Australian families will benefit from the changes. In South Australia, around 80 per cent of families will benefit from the Turnbull government's reforms. In my electorate of Boothby, more than 6,250 families are set to benefit from the changes. We're encouraging parents who want to get into the workforce for the first time, parents who want to work more, parents who want to study and parents who want to volunteer and give back to the community to do so. An estimated 230,000 Australians will increase their workforce participation because of our reforms. We recognise how busy working families are and how precious their time is, so we have set up a simple transition process from the current system to the new system. By 1 July, families need to answer four quick and easy steps to confirm their information via myGov or the Centrelink app or by telephone.

Unlike those opposite, who have been engaging in a scare campaign that can only serve to disadvantage families, I've been out and about in my community in my electorate of Boothby, spreading the message about our new childcare package. I have been letting families know that, if they are currently receiving childcare assistance, they need to confirm their details and provide any new information in order to be assessed for the new childcare subsidy before 1 July. Many families in my electorate of Boothby will be hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year better off under our reforms, but they must make the switch. Already, we know that many families have signed up to receive the benefits of these reforms. That's the feedback I and my colleagues on this side of the House are getting from parents and from childcare providers.

Clearly, families can see the benefits of our childcare and early learning reforms. I recently visited Goodstart Early Learning Centre in Aberfoyle Park with the Assistant Minister for Children and Families, Dr David Gillespie, where staff and parents told me that they were really pleased with how the transition to the new package is going. Goodstart Early Learning at Aberfoyle Park is an absolutely amazing facility for preschool children, and I was excited to show the minister the recent renovations that they have done, particularly to their outdoor play area, which is absolutely amazing!

There are several sandpits, teepees, a garden, a vegetable patch, lots of interactive play equipment for the children and also a lot of astroturf. They have so much green space; it is just amazing. The centre are working to move away from plastic toys and aiming to give their children a more wholesome play experience while doing things like educating them about how to grow plants and vegetables. I commend Rachelle and the dedicated staff at Goodstart Early Learning Aberfoyle Park for their passion, dedication and good-natured patience with visiting members of parliament.

While visiting, I learnt also that they are helping families to optimise their subsidy under the new arrangements by offering more flexible sessions to parents. Our message to families is very clear: please sign up today. You need to do so by 1 July. The new childcare package makes things simpler, easier and more flexible and, most importantly, puts money back into the pockets of hardworking Australians. Minister, can you please provide the House with an update on the transition of families to the new childcare system.