Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (16:03): On one hand I am surprised at this MPI motion today but on the other hand I am not. I’ve been here a while and I remember what it’s like in opposition and how hard it is to score a point when things are going well for the government. That was the case for my side of politics in 2008, when the Rudd government was first elected. They had a surplus budget they had inherited, they had $80 billion in the bank and they had an unemployment rate of less than five per cent. But, of course, history shows it wasn’t long before we had something to complain about, because it all went pear shaped under that regime. Then, as an opposition, we had plenty of points to pick up. You can see how difficult it is for the opposition to have a go at the government. Today when we heard the unemployment figures had fallen to 5.1 per cent, you would have thought that somebody had stolen their lunch. Over there, they were like a mob of year 4s and someone had nicked their lunch; they were so bloody miserable. For goodness sake, if you’re here for the good of Australia, you should be absolutely rejoicing in the 5.1 per cent unemployment rate after the worst economic shock in a hundred years. They should have been overjoyed. But they looked like they’d lost their lunch. It was a really tough day for them!
So here we are talking about child care. I’ve heard four speakers—in fact, I heard you twice, Member for Kingston, because you spoke for 10 minutes yourself and you spoke for 10 minutes while the minister answered. So you’ve had 20 minutes on this program. There have been four speakers on this MPI from that side. That is more than double the complaints about child care that I’ve had come into my office in the last 12 months. I kid you not. Talk about trying to make an issue out of nothing. How weak is this opposition? For goodness sake, celebrate the good things we’re doing in child care. We are doing good things.
I heard the member for Gilmore say that the cost of child care had risen by 37 per cent under this government. I don’t actually know if that figure’s right, but I’ll take it at face value—37 per cent. We’ve been in government for eight years. In fact, it rose by 53 per cent in the six years that the Labor Party were in government. This is the trouble when you start speaking in front of people who have got a bit of a history in this place; we’ve also got a bit of a memory. So how on earth can you be complaining about that outcome? The rates for child care on an hourly basis have fallen by close to a dollar over the last three years. That is a fantastic outcome. As for expenditure on child care, when Labor were last in power, it was $5.8 billion per annum. This year it’s $10.3 billion per annum, a 77 per cent increase.
As I said, I am surprised that the member for Kingston brought this motion forward, but they are quite desperate in opposition. It’s worth noting, too, that, in that time, the award for those educators working in the childcare system has risen by 36 per cent. Their wages have risen by 36 per cent. That’s a pretty good outcome. That is a very good outcome. And we need to pay these educators well—these people who care for our children. Perhaps we need to even pay them better. But it’s certainly a very good position that we’re in, and much, much better than what we inherited.
In the budget we just announced that we’re going to better target more assistance for those people with more children. If you’ve got more than one child in day care, we’re actually going to reward you at a higher level, up to 95 per cent. That’s really a pretty astonishing outcome, isn’t it—95 per cent of your childcare costs picked up? We’ve got to know, when we bring children into the world, that we do have some responsibility for them. I think five per cent’s not an unfair ask.
Opposition members interjecting—
Mr RAMSEY: Well, it is only for the second one. And I think that that’s what we on this side of the House have got right. We understand that’s when the pressure comes on. That’s when you need to put your shoulder to the wheel. So I back the current policies. I think we’re doing a pretty good job. (Time expired)