27 February 2015

Speech in Parliament: Delivering on child care

Child care is a major issue for the people of Corangamite which is why I have invited Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison, to visit our region.

Today I can confirm Minister Morrison will visit Corangamite on 20 March 2015 as part of a series of listening forums, seeking the views of the community on the make-up of an upcoming families’ package with a focus on child care.

As a strong, local voice for the people of Corangamite, I am working hard to ensure the needs of local residents are at the forefront of the government’s considerations.

In Parliament this week, I spoke about our government’s plans to make Australia’s child care system more flexible, affordable and accessible. See a transcript of my speech and a link to the video below.

There is a lot of love in this chamber, and it is great to be part of this debate.

I would like to start off my contribution by congratulating both the Member for Adelaide and the Member for Higgins, who are both pregnant with their first child and due to give birth very soon.

They are about to face the challenge that so many working women face; how to stay in the workforce while caring for children, how to manage work commitments and also be a great mum. It is a juggle.

I also acknowledge the wonderful work of the Member for Hotham, who has got a young son. I have been chatting to her about how she manages, and she is doing a terrific job under very difficult circumstances.

I do share with my parliamentary colleagues today in welcoming the tone of this debate and I want to particularly congratulate the Minister for Social Services on his speech yesterday, on his approach today in the House.

And I also won’t be responding to some of the criticisms, because I just feel that in this debate we need to focus on the positives.

There has been much said in the Productivity Commission report that is incredibly positive, and I have to say, Mr Deputy Speaker, that, as the mother of nine-year-old Jeremy, I too, like the Member for Hotham, have tried every sort of child care—long day care, au pairs, nannies, family, friends, after-school care.

It is very, very challenging, and I really do welcome the increased focus on flexibility.

I think that is perhaps one area where the previous government did not have enough focus because in this modern-day age we do not live in a nine-to-five world.

Particularly for parents with more than one child in long day care, it is incredibly expensive.

We need to make sure we give families the best option.

I want to make some comments in relation to universal access. I welcome our support of universal access and also the national quality framework.

With the former minister, we had a wonderful visit to Colac. We met with Kathy Thomson from the Millville Child Care Centre, and she emphasised how important this was to her.

I can tell you I was disappointed to hear of the criticisms of the former minister, the Assistant Minister for Education, because Sussan Ley has done an incredible job in initiating this Productivity Commission report and in recognising what modern families want and need.

She has listened, and we as a government recognise how important quality care is.

So, I also welcome, Madam Speaker, the focus on targeting those who need child care the most, and we do that with a great deal of compassion.

We understand that we need to focus on low and middle-income families, the families that perhaps have fallen through the cracks.

Under the Labor Party the cost of child care went up by some 50 per cent, and it did not help families get back to work.

We recognise that for low and middle-income earners it is so incredibly important to give them every opportunity to work because for so many families it is necessary.

It is vital to give their families every opportunity to give their children a great future.

We know, of course, in some respects that we are lagging behind other OECD nations when it comes to women in the workforce, particularly women with children under the age of five.

But we also recognise that for sole parents it is also very challenging.

I have a truncated time today—of course, Madam Speaker, I realise that. I very much welcome our government’s support and the emphasis on affordable, quality and accessible child care.

I welcome the very positive nature of this debate and I look forward to working with the minister and members on both sides to deliver a great solution for our $7 billion that we’re spending each year.

27 February 2015