Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Cheaper Child Care) Bill 2022 – Consideration of Senate Message

Mr CLARE (BlaxlandMinister for Education) (09:20):

I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

Today is a great day for more than a million Australian families. It’s a great day for children, it’s a great day for their parents, it’s a great day for Australian businesses, it’s a great day for our economy—it’s a great day for our country. This was one of the biggest and most important commitments that we made at the last election to the Australian people, an almost $5 billion investment in our children’s future, and it will cut the cost of early education and care for more than one million Australian families. That’s real help with the cost of living. For the average Australian family, on a combined income of about $120,000, it will cut the cost of early education and care by about $1,700 a year. That’s real help.

But this is also real economic reform, because when you cut the cost of early education and care it makes it easier for parents, in particular for mothers, to return to paid work, to work more days and to work more hours, and that means more skilled workers back in the workforce—according to Treasury, the equivalent of up to 37,000 full-time workers back in the economy. Most importantly of all this helps our children. More time in early education and care makes sure that our children are ready to start school. So this is the trifecta: it’s good for our children, it’s good for parents and it’s good for the economy.

But this legislation is just the start. The next step is the ACCC inquiry into the cost of early education and care. That kicks off in January, and we’ll get their interim report in June. Next year we’ll also kick off a big and broad review of early education and care. That work will be done by the Productivity Commission, and that’s important work. That will help us chart a course for the next wave of reforms, a long-term plan for early childhood education and care. As the Prime Minister said in this debate only a couple of weeks ago:

Just as universal Medicare guarantees every Australian the right to quality and affordable healthcare, just as universal superannuation ensures every Australian can know dignity and security in their retirement, we want universal child care to guarantee every Australian family the support they need and every Australian child the opportunity that they deserve.

I want to thank all of those who have helped us to make this day happen: first, to the Minister for Social Services, who shaped this policy in opposition; to the Minister for Early Childhood Education, Anne Aly, my friend, who helped us to bring this legislation to the parliament; to Senator Anthony Chisolm, the Assistant Minister for Education, who guided this legislation through the Senate; and to the Prime Minister, who has championed this from the very start—thank you. I also want to thank all of my colleagues, who campaigned for this right across the country through the campaign. It’s your work and it’s your effort that have helped to make this day a reality.

I also want to thank the officials in the Department of Education, who worked tirelessly to prepare this bill, people who’ve done a hell of a lot of work and often are not recognised: Brenton Philp, Tristan Reed and Michele Arcaro, amongst many others who helped craft this legislation and have it ready for the parliament to consider. And to everybody who works in early education and care—the educators, the staff, the teachers, the administrators—and everybody who has given this legislation their support, thank you. There aren’t many jobs in this country that are more important than the work that you do, and we thank you for it.

I also want to thank all members of the crossbench, who have been critical in this debate and have offered their support: the members for Wentworth, Kooyong, Goldstein, Mackellar, Mayo, North Sydney, Warringah and many others. Thank you for your strong words of support for these critical reforms. I also want to thank Senator Pocock, whose work on this issue in the Senate has helped to make this a better bill. I’m glad that, despite two years of relentless opposition, the opposition has decided to finally support this legislation as well.

This is the best kind of economic reform. It’s one that benefits two generations at once, that has at its heart a better start in life for our children, that gives parents more choice, that provides more access to early education for the youngest Indigenous Australians, that boosts our economy—all at the same time, all in the same bill. I am proud to see it become law today.