MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (8.49): I rise to speak to this line item today with respect to early childhood education, and specifically child care. I spoke in this place just last week in response to Ms Berry's matter of public importance on this topic. We spoke about affordable, available and quality child care. These aspects of child care affect everyone, and everything our families do—whether or not a mother can return to work, where they can work, what hours they can commit to, and worrying about whether their child is in a quality centre under good care. Importantly, it affects the cost of living for our families and affects our economy as a whole.
According to the 2011 census, 45 per cent of women now in the workforce who have young children returned to work before their youngest child turned one. In Canberra, for those families whose mothers or fathers return to work, it is not unusual to find childcare costs in excess of $100 per day per child. While we know that the federal policy in this area has a huge impact on our territory, it is still a big responsibility of our government to help our families in these situations.
We know we have some of the highest childcare costs in the country. Some people who put their children on the waiting list when they first become pregnant find, when their child is 12 or 18 months old and the mother needs to return to work, they still do not have a childcare place for their child to go to. So there is an issue with cost and there is an issue with supply in the ACT, and that is something the government needs to address.
Additionally, it is interesting that the Productivity Commission's draft report last month stated:
Despite benefits for working families and children, New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory do not fund ... universal access preschool programs in long day care settings.
It then goes on to say that the ACT only provides this universal access preschool service as part of the school system. I quote the draft report's comments:
This reduces options for working families, results in some children missing out on the high-quality UA-preschool service that is delivered elsewhere, and their parents are facing higher out-of-pocket expenses.
In the estimates report recommendation 81 states:
The Committee recommends that the ACT Government undertake an analysis of unmet need for child and family services in the ACT.
Hopefully, they may think about child care as part of that. Whilst you can see there are some differences, it is an important aspect of child and family services.
The government have told us today that they will not table a report on that; instead we will hear about the human services blueprint fixing it all. As I said earlier when I spoke on community services, despite what Ms Burch might think, I really do hope that the human services blueprint is successful in making all aspects of community services delivery better. However, we cannot rely solely on this. We do not want to find ourselves in the same situation all over again a few years from now, and having a blueprint is not the only way to fix things. There were certainly some large community sector organisations that were not, or chose not to be, involved in the development of the blueprint.
This budget does not appear to be doing anything to improve affordability and access to child care in the ACT. I am disappointed that for perhaps another year, families may be left hanging out to dry by this government.
I encourage the minister to read some of the submissions that people have made to the Productivity Commission and that are included in the draft report, especially those from people in the ACT.
We cannot keep doing the same things and expect to get a different result. We need to consciously make those changes. We need the government to start aiming to decrease the cost of living for our families, rather than continually being happy to put our families under cost-of-living pressures. Child care is an area that has a direct impact on women's participation in the workforce and it is an area that needs to be addressed as a matter of priority. This has not happened in this budget.