Question Without Notice, House of Representatives
Mr MORRISON (Cook–Minister for Social Services) (14:48):
I thank the member for Bonner for his question. I congratulate the member for Bonner and his wife, Fang, and his son, Zachary, on the arrival of their baby, Micah, just two weeks ago. Congratulations to the member for Bonner.
I commend also the Productivity Commission on the report that was released last week. I also want to thank all of those who participated. There were some 2,000 various contributions to that commission inquiry. The inquiry, which was an election commitment of this government, has been delivered upon, and it provides a very useful contribution to the debate in charting the way forward on how we are going to deal with the issues that are confronting Australian families when it comes to child care.
The report is a very timely reminder of what we are trying to achieve. What is actually the goal in spending $7 billion of taxpayers’ money to ensure that we are getting a result that is worthy of that level of investment? It is simply this: it is affordable and quality child care that will support families to stay in work and to get back to work to give their children the best possible start in life. That is what we are trying to achieve, and we need to be doing better than we are now when it comes to the expenditure of $7 billion.
We know that, under the previous government, childcare fees rose by over 50 per cent. It is important that we address the issues, as the Productivity Commission report has highlighted, which can address that particular challenge, among many others. But we also need to remember that these payments are to support families and their children. This is not an industry development scheme. It is not a transfer payment scheme. It is not a training levy. It is not there to support wage claims. It is there to support families and their children to help them get in work and stay in work and afford quality child care that helps them with the kitchen table discussion that they have: ‘How do we go forward now? How do we give our family the best possible start?’
The report calls for a simpler system. It calls for a more targeted system, particularly for middle- to lower income families, because that is where the commission has identified the area where we can have the biggest influence on that kitchen table conversation on the economics of child care and the affordability of child care. It recommends ways to keep downward pressure on the rising costs of child care by establishing a benchmark price that ensures that in the future we do not have an inflationary payment that beats up the price of child care and ensures that the taxpayer is paying for real child care, not for Zumba classes, as we have seen under the current system. It comes at a cost of some $200 million. If all of us would like to see more invested in this area then it must be funded.
I thank the opposition for taking up the invitation to meet this week to talk about how we can work together on this. When we were in opposition, we worked together on the NDIS and aged-care reforms, and we can work together on this. I look forward to the contribution.