Local, Independant and Effective

Rural MPs will have to answer on voting down childcare amendments

Posted March 24, 2017

 

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (10:48): I move the amendments circulated in my name:

(1) Schedule 4, page 233 (after line 10), after item 235, insert:

235A After section 232

Insert:

232A Community Child Care Fund—guidelines for funding

(1) The Secretary must, no later than 1 July 2017, publish on the Department's website guidelines outlining the criteria that will be used in determining how funding will be allocated from the Community Child Care Fund.

 

(2) The Minister must table before each House of the Parliament, on the next sitting day of the House after the guidelines are published under subsection (1), a copy of the guidelines.

232B Community Child Care Fund—assessment of likely impact on rural and regional areas

(1) The Secretary must, no later than 1 July 2017:

(a) conduct an assessment of the impact that the replacement of the Budget Based Funded Program with the Community Child Care Fund will have on communities in rural and regional Australia (the rural and regional impact assessment); and

(b) publish a report of the rural and regional impact assessment on the Department's website.

(2) The rural and regional impact assessment must include, for each rural or regional area of each State and Territory of Australia:

(a) a statement of the number of child care places that will be available in the area under the Budget Based Funded Program on 1 July 2017, as compared with the number of child care places that will be available under the Community Child Care Fund on 1 July 2018; and

(b) an estimate of the number of child care services in the area that will cease to operate during the financial year beginning on 1 July 2017 (if any); and

(c) an estimate of the number of child care services that will begin to operate in the area during the financial year beginning on 1 July 2017 (if any); and

(d) an assessment of any other impacts that the replacement of the Budget Based Funded Program with the Community Child Care Fund will have on communities in the area.

(3) The Minister must, by legislative instrument, determine the way in which rural and regional areas in the States and Territories are to be identified for the purposes of carrying out the rural and regional impact assessment.

(4) In conducting the rural and regional impact assessment, the Secretary must consult with community groups representing communities in each rural or regional area of each State or Territory of Australia in relation to which the assessment is conducted.

(5) The Minister must table before each House of the Parliament, on the next sitting day of the House after a report of the rural and regional impact assessment is published under paragraph (1) (b), a copy of the report.

232C 2017 child care reforms—continuing assessment of impact

(1) The Secretary must assess the impact of the 2017 child care reforms on communities in rural and regional Australia on an ongoing basis, and publish those assessments, in accordance with this section.

(2) The assessments must relate to each financial year beginning on and after 1 July 2018.

(3) The assessments must include, for each rural or regional area of each State and Territory of Australia:

(a) a statement of the number of child care places that were available in the area during the relevant financial year; and

(b) an assessment of whether any more child care places were needed in the area during the relevant financial year and, if so, how many and where; and

(c) an estimate of the number of child care services in the area that ceased to operate during the relevant financial year (if any); and

(d) an estimate of the number of child care services that began operating in the area during the relevant financial year (if any); and

(e) an assessment of any other impacts that the 2017 child care reforms have had on communities in the area during the relevant financial year.

(4) The Minister must, by legislative instrument, determine the way in which rural and regional areas in the States and Territories are to be identified for the purposes of carrying out the assessment.

(5) In conducting the assessment, the Secretary must consult with community groups representing communities in each rural or regional area of each State or Territory of Australia in relation to which the assessment is conducted.

(6) The assessment for a financial year must be published on the Department's website within 2 months after the end of the year.

(7) The Minister must table a copy of the assessment for a financial year before each House of the Parliament, on the next sitting day of the House after the assessment is published on the Department's website.

(8) In this section:

2017 child care reforms means:

(a) the child care subsidy; and

(b) the additional child care subsidy; and

(c) the Community Child Care Fund; and

(d) the Inclusion Support Programme.

[greater transparency in 2017 child care reforms]

Minister, it is lovely to see you here. I welcome your comments, and thank you for your assurance. I move these amendments because I think it is really important that we include, in a public and transparent way, some of the agreements that have been reached between myself and the various government representatives. The amendments proposed are intended to hold the government to account—in particular, I am talking about the childcare amendments—and to ensure that we have ongoing support for rural and regional services.

To my colleagues opposite, I would really absolutely request that you have a look at these amendments and that if you are going to vote against them do so in full knowledge about what you would be rejecting. The amendments put a timeline on the publication of guidelines for the Community Child Care Fund to 1 July 2017 to ensure the sector has certainty ahead of transition. They require a regional impact assessment of the replacement of the Budget Based Funding Program—what that will have on communities in rural and regional Australia—by 1 July. They provide for a review of the childcare package as a whole with regard to the impact on communities in rural and regional Australia on an ongoing basis, with the first reporting period to be 1 July 2018 to 1 July 2019.

In the short term, these amendments will ensure service providers have certainty about the government's plans and will keep a spotlight on the implementation of the childcare package. The amendments will shine a light on the impacts of this package in rural and regional communities by requiring the department to complete a rural and regional impact assessment. This assessment should have occurred in the development of the package, but the education department, in consultation with the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, colleagues, did not consider that the package warranted a regional analysis. What a failure!

In the longer term, although these amendments do not change the operation of the new childcare subsidy they do require that the government review the implementation of a childcare package on an ongoing basis. This review would occur after the first year of the operation of the package in 2019 and be in consultation with the community. Consultation means listening, acting, listening, acting and then doing what the community asks. It does not mean listening and then doing what the government wants in the first place. We are really good at consultation in rural and regional Victoria. We know what it means and we know when we do not get it. I have offered my services to work with the government on developing a consultation mechanism that works. I am delighted that—and I really acknowledge—the staff of the department have agreed to come to Indi and work closely with me and my communities on developing that process.

Over time, I really want to work with the government on not only this childcare package but all their legislation to make sure that the government understands that the people of rural and regional Australia often have differing needs to the people who live in the cities. Programs designed as one-size-fits-all often fail to meet our need. In closing, again I call to my colleagues on the other side: really look of these amendments because, in voting against them, your communities will be able to actually ask you, 'Did you understand what you were doing and did you really agree that these amendments were not up to scratch?' I am saying that a huge amount of work has been done with them. They have the best intentions for rural and regional Australia. I am looking forward to having the support of both the Labor Party and my colleagues who represent regional and rural seats in these amendments.

In closing, I thank the minister for his support. I am really looking forward to working with you to develop in the longer term childcare packages that, for me, particularly meet the needs of farming families, in particular farming women. The one thing we can do to increase productivity in Australian agriculture is to provide quality child care to our farming families, making it accessible, affordable and in places that meet their needs. Sadly, I do not think this legislation does it, but you absolutely have my commitment to work together with the government, as I do on every occasion that I possibly can, to design services that meet the needs of rural and regional Australia. I thank the minister and the opposition leader for their support with these amendments.

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