Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (21:48): When I introduced this bill last month, I said that it was good for children, good for families and good for the economy; that it supports the development of our youngest Australians in those crucial early years; that it provides more choice to parents—in particular, women—in choosing to re-enter the workforce or to work more hours; that it unlocks the equivalent of up to 37,000 full-time workers for our economy in the first year alone, a boost to productivity and participation that benefits two generations at the same time; that it makes early education and care cheaper for more than a million Australian families and that it does what we promised at the last election.
It struck a chord with Australians right across the country and won widespread support.
Here is what the Parenthood said about it:
This bill has the economic benefits but also helps improve female financial independence and security, including in relation to superannuation.
Big providers like Goodstart have described it as ‘groundbreaking’.
The Early Learning & Care Council of Australia have said:
‘These reforms mean that high quality early learning becomes more attainable for more children right across Australia.’
And the business community backs it too. The Business Council of Australia has said:
Increasing the workforce participation of women is one of our nation’s biggest economic and social opportunities.
The provision of an affordable and accessible and quality child care system is fundamental to that goal.
Here in this place, the Member for Wentworth has said that no other bill gives her greater joy to see in front of the parliament today.
The Member for Mackellar said:
Not only is this sensible economic policy; it will also provide our children with the best possible start in life.
The member for Warringah described it as ‘an investment in our future as a nation’.
Seeing so many members speak in support of this bill over the course of the last few days just underlines the importance of what we are doing here.
The Liberals and the Nationals, of course, have opposed this relentlessly since we announced this two years ago, and it’s obvious from everything they have said in this debate that they still don’t get it.
None of them said they supported it.
None of them said anything positive about it at all.
The best they’ve got is that they said they won’t oppose it.
It’s obvious—and it’s been repeated by the Shadow Minister again—that they are voting for this through gritted teeth.
So why are they voting for it?
Well, maybe it’s the fact that only 30 per cent of Australian women voted for them at the last election in May.
That might explain it.
They know that, if they vote against this now, that will happen to them again, because Australian families want this bill.
Providers want it. Business wants it. The economy needs it.
I wholeheartedly commend this bill to the House.