Question Without Notice – Child Care

Dr FREELANDER (Macarthur) (14:29): My question is to the Minister for Education. What is the Albanese Labor government doing to reform the childcare system it inherited, whilst also providing cost-of-living relief for families?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (14:29): I thank my friend the member for Macarthur for his question. There is some good news: the Senate is on the cusp of voting for our cheaper childcare legislation. They could vote on it as early as tonight. As you know, Mr Speaker, this was one of the biggest and most important commitments that we made at the last election. It is almost a $5 billion investment. To put that in perspective, that is about as much as the former government spent on submarines, and they didn’t deliver as much as a periscope!

This will deliver something real. This will cut the cost of early education and care for more than one million Australian families. That’s real cost-of-living help. For a family on a combined income of 120 grand, it will cut the cost by about $1,700 a year. That will really help. But not just that: this is real economic reform. If you cut the cost of early education and care, it makes it easier for parents to go back to work. In particular, for mothers to go back to more paid work and work more hours or work more days, and that means more skilled workers back in the workforce. And, definitely most importantly of all, it helps our children. More time in early education and care means you are better prepared for school. So it’s the trifecta: it’s good for children, it’s good for parents and it’s good for our economy. That’s why Australians voted for it, and that’s why we are delivering it, even in the face of full-blown opposition over the last two years—continuing to this day—from the Leader of the National Party—

Mr Littleproud interjecting—

Mr CLARE: who we can hear interjecting here today.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the Nationals is on a warning.

Mr CLARE: Over the course of the debate in the House and the Senate, not one person opposite said one thing positive about this legislation—except for my old friend, the member for New England, who, unfortunately, seems to have disappeared. But the member for New England, the former leader of the National Party, said this was ‘manifestly good’. I don’t agree with Barnaby on everything, but he is right there. This is manifestly good.

And this is just the start. Next there is the ACCC inquiry into the cost of early education and care. That will kick off in January, with an interim report to us in June. Next year will also kick off a big and broad review of early education and care done by the Productivity Commission. This is important work to set us up for the future. Just as universal Medicare gives Australians the health care they need and deserve, just as universal super helps to make sure that we cannot retire with the security that Australians deserve, this will help us to build a universal early education system that will give every Australian child the opportunity that they deserve.