“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.”
The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Minister for Social Services (Lib) (Hansard, 23 February)
“As our policy work continues Labor have outlined the principles by which we will judge both the government and our own policies moving forward. We are committed to the following principles. Principle No. 1 is that any child care package must be based on the dual policy pillars of increasing workforce participation and promoting the best interests of Australian children. It is incredibly important in this debate that, whilst there is a lot of focus on workforce participation—as well there should be—we do not lose sight of those who do not have a voice in this debate, and that is Australian children.
Principle No. 2 is that reform must address affordability issues and the out-of-pocket costs of Australian families, not just limit government costs…
It is important that we focus on the realities of the burden that is being placed on the family budget. We know that those opposite have not released the same transparent information that we regularly put out on out-of-pocket costs and the rate of disposable income that parents were spending on their child care fees. With proposals from the Productivity Commission which are based around a benchmark price, not necessarily the actual price that Australian parents are paying, we think it is incredibly important that we remain focused on affordability.”
The Hon Kate Ellis MP, Shadow Minister for Education and Early Childhood (ALP) (Hansard, 26 February)
“The quality debate around child care I think has been had, the systems are now in place. That’s not an issue that I think requires further remonstration. I think it’s something that we need to accept. Yes, it’s come at a cost and if we think it hasn’t we’re kidding ourselves. We have representatives of the early childhood sector here today, professionals working in child care centres. They know that. It’s come at extra cost but the quality is important. Parents want quality but they also want affordability and I think that’s the task we now have to address – affordability for parents who want to stay in work and go back to work.”
The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Minister for Social Services (Lib) (Speech to the National Press Club, 25 February)
“If we are going to embed lasting and genuine reform and investment in early childhood education and care, the fundamentals of the system must have bipartisan support.
In particular we call on all sides of the political spectrum to consider how further investment will be funded to improve access to quality early childhood education for children and families.
The economic and social benefits of investment in early childhood development will not accrue until decades down the track so it’s important that short-term politics and savings measures don’t get in the way of lasting reforms.
The benchmark price proposed by the Commission is too low and places a cap on workforce participation and access to early learning for children.”
Samantha Page, CEO Early Childhood Australia (Release, 25 February)
“The Productivity Commission have put out a good report, working from almost a budget neutral position—$200 million in additional expenditure. I would say to members opposite—and members on this side: if we are to seize that opportunity, if we are to have this affordable, effective system, we have to be able to fund it. Let’s work together—and that means the Labor Party putting funding options on the table—so that we can fund this world-class system. That is the challenge we all face, and I hope we are up to it.”
Wyatt Roy MP, Member for Longman (LNP) (Hansard, 25 February)
“I also wish to talk about the growing notion of the importance of early learning. It is very important to us in particular, as Labor people, because of the social justice angle to this. We know that young Australians who areentering early learning are about twice as likely to develop developmental delays when they come from a low-income household versus a high-income household. We also know that early learning is the key to trying to address these disadvantages. So some of the work of the academics in these areas suggests that just one dollar that we spend on a child in early learning is worth the equivalent of $7 of spending later in life. So this is a really important way for us to ensure that we have equal opportunity for Australians. I know, again, that this is something that we share—in a general sense, perhaps—with those on the other side of the House.”
Clare O’Neill MP, Member for Hotham (ALP) (Hansard, 25 February)