Speech by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Opening the 2004 Childcare Queensland Annual Conference

Location: Crowne Plaza, Surfers Paradise

Karl Kraus, President, Childcare Queensland
Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you Karl (Kraus) for your introduction.

I’m honoured to be here this morning to open the 2004 Childcare Queensland conference

It is good to see so many of you here, I see many familiar faces

Karl you are to be congratulated on the impressive list of speakers and seminars you have planned.

In a way, this is the first for everyone here today.

As the conference brochure says, this event is the first of it’s kindbecause it follows the formation of your new representative body, Childcare Queensland.

This mirrors what happened at the national level, with an amalgamation between the “Feds” and “Confeds” that established Childcare Associations Australia, headed up by Gwynn Bridge.

And isn’t it about time this has happened.

When I first became the Minister and the various groups would be at my door – I have to confess to being slightly confused by the feds and the confeds.

I even remember one Queensland Child Care conference I opened – at the end of my speech I officially opened the Opposition’s associations conference.

Thankfully there will be no more of that confusion.

Anyway I think it is fair to say we have all come a long way since then.

Your new organisation, Childcare Queensland, will no doubt have a strong ‘voice’.

Given that you provide quality care for over 60 000 children in the State, I can assure you that, we in Government, will be listening to what you have to say.

As well I know the Queensland office of my department values the very productive relationship they have with Childcare Queensland.

It is a two-way street because, through your organisation we, in government, can get important information out to providers.

And Childcare Queensland gives us feedback and advice about what’s happening and what’s needed out there on the ground.

I’ve met with Gwynn Bridge, your Federal President, now on many occasions.

I have to say she is a very determined and effective advocate for private child care providers across the country.

At our last meeting, Gwynn stressed the issues of greatest concern to members of CAA.

These included issues around the payment for the Special Needs Subsidy Scheme, workforce issues, planning issues and issues surrounding wage rises and licensing changes.

I am acutely aware of the importance of these issues to your industry and let me assure you work is being done and policies developed to address these issues.

I’ve never believed that the Government has a monopoly on developing and delivering child care policies and programs.

You have my assurance that I will continue to maintain this Government’s strong record on consultation.

This includes consultation with other levels of government, the community and business sectors, peak bodies such as Childcare Associations Australia, with parents and with child care service providers, themselves.

It is only through a joint effort like this, that we can hope to achieve your conference theme of ‘Building Brighter Futures’ for families, their children and the child care industry.

In looking to a brighter future, the good news for the industry ischild care continues to grow.

Let’s look at some of the latest figures.

Between 1984 and 2002, the proportion of children using formal care doubled (from 12 to 25 per cent). This figure is now about 30 per cent of all Australian children.

By September 2003, over 760,000 children were in some form of Australian Government approved child care services.

We expect the 2004 Child Care Census – taken in March – to show this growth is continuing.

Record levels of Australian Government funding have encouraged growth and the number of child care places has increased from 306,500 in 1996 to around 530,000 in December 2003.

Over 540,000 families currently get Child Care Benefit to help with the costs of care.

Following are some specific Queensland statistics:

  • 2002-2003 – Over four hundred million dollars came in through CCB
  • Between 1996 and 2002 – the number of families with children in child care increased by 40% to 138,308
  • The number of children in child care increased by 43% to 182,538.
  • The number of services has increased from 1996 to 2003 – 23 per cent in the community sector, 11 per cent in the private sector.
  • And places of increased from 1996 to 2003 – 32% in the community sector, 21% in the private sector and 17% in the FDC sector.

Incredible figures and again this is just in Queensland.

With the increase in the payment from 5 July, the amount families can get has gone up by more than 15 per cent since CCB started in 2000, when the maximum weekly amount of Child Care Benefit for one child in full-time care was $122.00 a week.

From 5 July this will be $140.50 a week.

Add to this the new child care places and measures announced in the Budget and I must say yours does not look like an industry in decline, as the ACTU claimed recently.

But we do have some major challenges ahead not just for your industry but for all Australians.

Most of you would have heard about the Treasurer’s Intergenerational Report.

The reality is that over the next forty years the number of Australians of working age will grow slightly.

The number of Australians over 65 will more than double.

We have to work to address this fundamental shift in our society.

You all would have heard the Prime Minister talk about the “Barbecue Stopper” – the tricky balance between work and family for Australian Families.

You may say – how does this affect me?

Well if we don’t increase our fertility rates, then we will have a decreasing work force and have less taxpayers to support our aging population.

That is the upshot.

This all has a direct impact on you.

Your businesses depend on children, you depend on a strong workforce.

The Australian Government through the recent Budget is addressing these two important issues, increasing our fertility rates and helping families balance their work and family issues.

As the first ever Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I am very proud of this budget, especially the $19.2 billion dollars package of measures called ‘More Help for Families’.

The package will deliver the largest amount of assistance ever put in place by an Australian Government.

The Government has been able to deliver this through strong, sound economic management. If you get the economic fundamentals right – you can give some back and we have chosen to give extra to families.

“More Help for families” delivers just that – more help to meet the costs of raising children.

There is the new maternity payment, without qualification, for every mother on the birth of a child – $3,000 for each new born child from July 2004 – increasing to $5,000 in July 2008.

Families eligible for Family Tax Benefit will receive a one-off payment of $600 per child this month, and a further payment of $600 per child each year when they do their FTB and CCB reconciliation.

Now, this is great news for families and child care providers – because many families may choose to use this additional money to put toward their child care fees.

More good news for child care in the Budget included the 30,000 extra Outside School Hours Care places to go to new and existing services to meet the current verified demand.

Allocation of these places will start on 1 July.

The Budget also includes an increase of 1500 Family Day Care places.

This boost to child care comes on top of the extra 10,000 Outside School Hours Care places, 2,500 Family Day Care places and additional assistance to playgroups announced in December last year.

Nationally, the new places also mean that, since 1996, the number of child care places in child care centres, family day care and outside school hours care has grown by 266,000—an increase of 85 per cent.

Two other Budget announcements relate to what was the Child Care Broadbandnow renamed the Child Care Support Program.

The Budget included an extra $16.3 million to establish up to 13 new, flexible child care services and will help children with additional needs access mainstream child caresuch as children with disabilities, Indigenous children and children from different cultures.

This funding will also help rural and remote families access high quality, affordable child carein many cases for the first time.

Taking all the Budget measures together, they represent a commitment of $251 million more for child care over the next five years.

These extra funding for the Support Program forms an early and partial response to the review of the Broadband.

Now, I know you are all patiently waiting for me to announce all of the outcomes of the review.

Unfortunately, your conference is being held 5 days early so, I’m sorryyou’re just going to have to wait.

However, I am pretty sure Gwynn will be in Canberra next week for the launch and she will be able to fill you all in on the detail after that time.

But I can tell you the new Child Care Support Program will:-

  • Be much more transparent, less ad hoc.
  • Focus on the needs of children and families,
  • Ensure equity in access to quality, affordable child care, and
  • Provide a new funding basis with stronger links between the funding of services and outcomes for children and families.

Many of you would be aware that before Easter the Prime Minister announced the second phase of the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy with funding of three hundred and sixty five million dollars.

I will talk about that Strategy shortly but part of that strategy was the announcement of more than $125 million for “Choice and Flexibility in Child Care”.

This initiative expands the In-home Care Program for families with no other child care options.

Whenever I talk about this initiative I think of Jocelyn Newman and how forward thinking she was in getting this initiative up and running.

We know that in-home care is a very successful way of providing child care services to families that have no other child care options, including families:

  • in rural and remote Australia;
  • working non-standard hours, like police, firefighters, ambulance, nurses, doctors, and security personnel;
  • with multiple children under school age; and
  • where either the parent or child has a chronic or terminal illness.

Secondly, the Choice and Flexibility in Child Care initiative will pay for a Long Day Care Incentive Scheme to create more long day care centres in rural and urban fringe areas of identified high unmet demand, each with places for young children under the age of three.

As you know, over the past four years we have extended the Quality Assurance System to Family Day Care and Outside School Hours Care services.

I’m pleased the sector has responded positively to this process.

I have now been Minister responsible for the Commonwealth Child Care Program for five years.

It has been an exciting, sometimes difficult, but on the whole rewarding five years.

I haven’t forgotten the “teething” problems of the new CCB.

What a nightmare that was.

I want to thank all of you for your assistance and patience at that time.

But we got through that – with a lot of good will, a lot of hard work by your representatives, my Department and Centrelink.

I have been able to achieve more money than ever going to into child care and also a huge increase in extra child care places in and out of the budget!

But I know there are some challenges ahead for the industry.

As I said previously unfortunately, your conference is just a little early as I will be announcing next week to the Child Care Reference Group the outcome of the Broadband Redevelopment.

I believe this is the appropriate group to announce this to.

They were instrumental in helping my department get through the teething problems of the introduction of CCB and they have been a very effective consultative body.

Let me assure you I will continue to work with you to address the issues that concern you, like planning issues, like workforce issues and wages issues, but I also need your help.

Through your association and the industry as a whole I want to work with you to ensure that all child care providers are doing the right thing.

The child care industry, as never before, is coming under increasing scrutiny.

It is incumbent upon you as an industry to ensure your members and indeed the whole industry are doing the right thing, particularly with regard to your charging practices and the quality of care you provide.

You do not want to leave yourselves open to criticism that you are not putting children and families first.

Particularly when you have stakeholders like the ACTU head, Sharon Burrows attacking private service providers, with comments like privates are “abhorrent and despicable” and corporate providers “evil”.

And you are not helped with the alternative government who have yet to put up any comprehensive plan for the child care industry – some suggestions, but also some quick retractions.

Perhaps you will get some more detail today.

I hope you get a guarantee that the Labor Party will at least continue the current level of support for child care, especially to the private sector.

I am not trying to run down the Labor Party, but we are coming up to an election and families and service providers need to know what a Labor Government would do.

Before I finish I would like to touch on the recent announcement by the Prime Minister with regard to the National Agenda for Early Childhood and also the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy.

In the years to come, I believe, both will have positive and lasting effects on the well-being of Australian children, their families and their communities.

Anyone working in the field of early childhood, I think, would agree with this.

And like you, I want to do what I can to give every Australian child the best start in life.

As part of this commitment, I am well down the track, now, in developing the National Agenda for Early Childhood.

It’s a long-term initiative, which started with nation-wide public consultationsinvolving experts in early childhood, community organisations, professionals working with children, and with parents, themselves.

Thank you to those of you who contributed to the consultations.

We now have four, concrete, priority areas for action under the Agenda

  • healthy young families;
  • early learning and care;
  • supporting families and parents; and
  • child-friendly communities.

As you know responsibility for children’s issues – in areas like child care, pre-schools, public health and education cut across the different levels of government.

And, at the moment, I’m working with State and Territory Governments to see what can be done to work more effectively together in these areas.

I’m putting a lot of effort into this work, because I strongly believe that working in collaboration and cooperation with the States is the key to ‘building a brighter future’ for Australian children.

It has to involve both levels of government.

In my view it is essential that the Agenda is a high-level and agreed framework on early childhood development for the whole of Australia.

It’s about pooling resources and knowledge, setting up more coordinated services, and filling the service gaps.

And it has to make a powerful statement about the value of young children in Australia and raise public awareness and support for the needs of young children, their families and for those who work with them.

The Agenda is not a funding program, as such, but at a practical level the Budget included a major extension to the Government’s Stronger Families and Communities Strategy, with a focus on the early years of children’s lives.

In the first, four-year phase of the Strategy, more than $220 million went to around 660 family and community strengthening projects across the country.

With an extra $365 million over four years, the second and refocused phase demonstrates the Government’s strong commitment to early childhood.

Indeed, it draws heavily on the evidence collected as part of the National Agenda for Early Childhood development process.

The Strategy money will go on four major ‘streams’. These are:

$110 million for ‘Communities for Children’which will target up to 35 disadvantaged communities and offer up to $4 million for non-government organisations to undertake early childhood initiatives.
over $70 million for ‘Early ChildhoodInvest to Grow’to support existing, successful early childhood programs and to develop resources for parents, professionals, governments and community organisations that influence childhood development.
$60 million for ‘Local Answers’ to give communities the power to develop their own solutions and help them help themselves by supporting locally-based projects.

The fourth stream I have already talked about $125 million for ‘Choice and Flexibility in Child Care’.

I’m pleased that Professor Frank Oberklaid is speaking shortly.

Frank has been instrumental in helping me with the Agenda and the Strategy.

He makes very good sense.

He will be talking to you about the evidence base around the Agenda and he will be challenging you to get involved in the strategy and challenging you to link up with the other services.

I urge all of you to look at this Strategy.

Get involved in your local communities – you can make difference.

I am proud to be involved in this unprecedented commitment to early childhood.

Our approach is not about the government telling families how to live their lives or what’s best for their children.

It is about recognising that it is people working on the groundlike many of you here todaywho often come up with the best ways to solve local problems. This is something governments can never hope to emulate.

I believe the Commonwealth Child Care Program, the National Agenda and the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy are vital and effective ways of assisting not only the children of today, but also the children of tomorrow.

The rewards will be reaped well into the future.

As many of you would have heard me say before “you can tell a lot about a society’s soul by the way it treats its children”.

I didn’t say that – Nelson Mandela did and how true it is.

It gives me great pleasure now to declare Childcare Queensland’s 2004 Annual Conference open.I hope you have a very productive and stimulating two days.

Thank you. ENDS