Monday, 25 November 2019
I move opposition amendments (1) to (3) together:
(1) Schedule 1, items 35 to 38, page 10 (line 13) to page 11 (line 4), omit the items.
(2) Schedule 1, items 41 and 42, page 11 (line 17) to page 12 (line 7), omit the items.
(3) Schedule 1, items 50 and 51, page 13 (lines 5 to 18), omit the items.
As I outlined in my contribution to the second reading debate, Labor supports this bill; however, we are concerned about the removal of the 28-day grace period. We do welcome the minister’s foreshadowed amendments, but on the whole we think it would be much simpler to just continue with the 28-day grace period for families to provide their tax file number and bank account details.
The government has claimed that the provision in this bill will simplify the system for families and providers, but unfortunately this is not supported with evidence. The amendments in the substantive bill require bank account details and a tax file number to be provided at the time the claim is made for the CCS and not at any other time. As previously mentioned, currently an individual has 28 days after the CCS claim is submitted to provide these details. When CCS payments are made without that information being provided within the required time frame, it can result in a debt for families.
While the government argues it’s trying to avoid families acquiring this debt, Labor notes that these families are indeed eligible for the childcare subsidy and for early learning and care, but may be unable to access urgent care because they don’t have immediate access to their personal information. This has been substantiated and backed up by an overwhelming concern from the sector about the negative impacts that this change will have on families in particularly difficult circumstances who do not have immediate access to their personal documents. This could be families fleeing domestic violence or natural disasters who do not have time to grab their paperwork as they leave their house, but want their children to keep a routine and keep enjoying the benefits of early education. It could be recently arrived migrant families who haven’t had a chance to get a bank account or tax file number, but who want to get their kids enrolled in an early learning setting.
A number of submissions made the point that this change will actually remove the flexibility that is currently available in the system, and a bill that is designed to reduce complexity in the system could indeed increase complexity in the system. Early Childhood Australia, Goodstart Early Learning, the Australian Childcare Alliance, and the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia have all strongly opposed the removal of the 28-day period, arguing that removing this measure would be detrimental to vulnerable families. The proposed changes may reduce the administrative burden for the Department of Human Services, but they will increase the administrative burden for families and reduce flexibility. This will have a disproportionately negative impact on those families experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage. By removing the 28-day period and blocking families from registering for the CCS without a bank account or TFN details does reduce that immediate access to early learning. We don’t believe that this is warranted or that the government has provided evidence for why this is absolutely necessary. As I said, we understand the government is moving amendments, but we believe that seeking an exemption from the Secretary of the Department of Education adds to the complexity for both centres and families to have to prove why they need the 28-day grace period. It seems a little overcomplicated, and really, when we’re talking about 28 days—we’re not talking about a year, or three months or six months; we’re talking about a mere 28 days—it seems sensible that this grace period should be maintained. Therefore, I moved the amendments circulated in my name.