Transcript by The Hon Scott Morrison MP

Question without Notice


MINISTER MORRISON: I thank the member for Gilmore for her very important question on something that I know concerns many families all around this country. For many families, the choice to go back to work is a choice, and it is a choice that families make in consideration of their own circumstances. They may choose to have one parent stay at home, and that choice comes at a great cost to those families and they make that earnestly. Other families are in a position to choose to go back to work. But there are many families in this country where the choice for them to go back to work is a necessity. It is an absolute necessity and it is a necessity because, for them, to remain on two incomes gives their family the opportunity to get ahead. It gives their family the opportunity to provide for a better life for their family, to allow their children to have a good start. This is incredibly important.

This government and previous governments have spent a large amount of money to ensure that we can help people make these choices and they do not get caught in the childcare catch-22, where all they might do is go back to work simply to pay the childcare expenses. We want to help them get out of that, and this government is spending $31 billion over four years. That is twice the amount those opposite were spending in the first four years. It is important that we continue to make this investment in these families so they can make these choices, so they can get ahead.

But we have to be honest about how we are spending this money and whether we are targeting it in the best way we possibly can to help these families get in a position where they can make these decisions for their families. We need to address the affordability issues, and it is true that under the previous government costs for child care did rise by over 50 per cent. That is true and it continues to rise at around seven per cent a year. We need to ensure that we are not feeding those price increases with inflationary policies in the way we deliver payments to families.

We also need to ensure that we do not just continue to shovel money at this problem in a way that does not deliver the outcome. The previous government increased the rebate from 30 to 50 per cent but at the same time it did not help more women in those situations, who are having families, go back to work when they needed to go back to work.

These are the honest issues we need to address. The previous government said they were going to build 260 centres, or thereabouts, and they built 30. But we need to have an honest assessment about how the $6.6 billion we are spending is addressing the very real issues. So this government is going to do that through the package we are working on now–

KATE ELLIS: Can we see it?

MINISTER MORRISON: and I invite the opposition to be part of that debate and to be part of that process. We have a Productivity Commission report which will soon be released which will provide the opportunity for us to engage on this issue. I have indeed written to the shadow minister in this area just today about these issues and I look forward to her response. But these are the things we need to address in this portfolio to help families make the choices that help them get ahead and deal with the very serious issues that they are facing.