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Child Care Legislation Amendment Bill 1998
Date Introduced: 4 March 1998
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Health and Family Services
Commencement:Deferral of the implementation of
the Child Care Payments Act 1997 is to take effect on the
day on which this Act receives Royal Assent. The remaining
provisions commence on a date to be proclaimed. For items 4-12 of
Schedule 1 dealing with several initiatives which had been included
in the Child Care Payments Act 1997, this date is expected
to be 27 April 1998.
This Bill defers the implementation of the Child Care
Payments Act 1997 including the introduction of changed
payment procedures for child care. The Bill implements other
decisions included in the Child Care Payments Act 1997
through amendments to the Child Care Act 1972 and the
Childcare Rebate Act 1993
For a history of the Commonwealth Government's involvement in
child care and an analysis of the provisions of the Child Care
Payments Act 1997 the reader is referred to Bills Digest
No. 21 1997-98, Child Care Payments Bill 1997.
The Child Care Payments Act 1997 made a number of
changes to the administration of child care which were due to come
into effect on 27 April 1998. These included:
- Child Care Assistance to be paid directly to parents rather
than to providers;
- payment of the Child Care Rebate and Child Care Assistance to
be made by Centrelink, the new Commonwealth Service Delivery
- the placing of a limit of 7000 places a year on the number of
new private child care places eligible for Child Care Assistance in
1998 and 1999;
- the placing of a limit of 20 hours a week on access to Child
Care Assistance for purposes not related to work, study or
- the introduction of immunisation as a requirement for
eligibility for Child Care Assistance and the Child Care Rebate;
- the introduction of new confidentiality requirements to protect
personal and other child care information.
On 23 January 1998 the Minister for Family Services, Hon Warwick
Smith MP, announced that the Government had decided not to go ahead
with the proposed changes to the way in which child care payments
were to be made.(1) The changes would have seen payments of Child
Care Assistance being made directly to parents rather than to
providers, with parents keeping records of their use of child care.
In addition, parents would have had responsibility to notify
Centrelink of any changes to their circumstances or to their use of
child care provider.
According to press reports, child care operators have been
concerned about the possible changes to their income which the
proposed new system might bring, and they wished to retain the
existing payment procedures.(2)
In his press release, the Minister stated that '[p]ayments will
continue to be made directly to child care services, with services
continuing to calculate parents' child care entitlements'.(3) Mr
Smith explained that payments of Child Care Assistance will
continue to be made by the Department of Health and Family
Services, and payment of the Child Care Rebate will continue to be
paid by Medicare. He anticipated that Centrelink will take over the
payment of Child Care Assistance later in 1998 with no change to
the current payment procedures.
Both in his press release, and in his Second Reading Speech on 4
March 1998, the Minister referred to the introduction in 1999 of a
child care card or "smartcard" technology which might enable both
Child Care Assistance and the Child Care Rebate to be paid by
Centrelink. In an answer to a question on notice in the Senate, the
Minister for Social Security, Senator the Hon. Jocelyn Newman, said
on 4 March 1998 (the same day as this Bill was introduced)
The Department of Social Security and Centrelink are together
investigating opportunities for improved service delivery through
the use of new technology including the potential for using
smartcard technology. However, no decision to adopt such technology
has been made either by the Department or Centrelink.(4)
While deferring changes to the way in which Child Care
Assistance is paid, the Government is seeking to implement, through
this Bill, the other initiatives which were included in the
Child Care Payments Act 1997. Three of these decisions -
the cap of 20 hours for non-work related child care, the limit of
7000 new long day care places in 1998 and 1999, and the
immunisation requirement - were taken in the context of the 1997-98
Budget. The confidentiality provisions were recommended by the Law
Reform Commission in its review of child care legislation.(5)
Amendments to the Child Care Act 1972
Items 4-6 deal with the limit which is to be
placed on the number of new places approved in 1998 and 1999. This
limit is to be introduced through new arrangements for planning
approvals. Item 4 lists the things that the
operator of an eligible child care service must do in order to
maintain his or her approval. These provisions are the same as
those contained in the Child Care Payments Act 1997 and
include at (b) and (c) the requirement that operators must hold an
allocation of places and must not exceed that allocation.
Item 5 has the effect of extending the
Minister's powers to make guidelines to include the allocation of
child care places. This will allow the implementation of the
1997-98 Budget decision to limit new child care places to 7000 a
year in 1998 and 1999. The effect of Item 6 is to
make it clear that the limit of 7000 places per annum does not
apply after 31 December 1999.
Item 6 also adds three new sections to the
Child Care Act 1972 (the Principal Act).
Proposed section 4E deals with
penalties for breaching any conditions of approval.
Proposed section 4F sets out the
procedure which the Secretary must follow before imposing a
sanction, and proposed section 4G
makes decisions to implement conditions or sanctions appealable to
the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Items 7-10 deal with the limit of 20 hours'
child care for non-work related purposes. The wording of these
items reflect that of the Child Care Payments Act
Item 12 inserts a proposed section
12G in the Principal Act which specifies the immunisation
requirements for payment of Child Care Assistance. These
requirements and exemptions are the same as those set out in the
Child Care Payments Act 1997. For further information on
the immunisation requirement, the reader is referred to pages 10
and 11 of Bills Digest No. 21 1997-98, Child Care Payments
The amendments contained in Items 4-12 come
into effect on a day to be fixed by Proclamation. According to the
Explanatory Memorandum this is expected to be 27 April 1998.(6)
The effect of Item 13 is to introduce
confidentiality provisions into the Child Care Act 1972.
The proposed sections 12J to 12V
are identical to the confidentiality provisions in sections 230 to
242 of the Child Care Payments Act 1997 and make
unauthorised access to or use of the protected information an
offence punishable by imprisonment of up to 2 years.
Item 14 and 15 put in place
powers which will allow the transfer of payment of Child Care
Assistance from the Department of Health and Family Services to
Centrelink. Item 15 also allows the Secretary to
delegate power to the operator of a child care centre who will have
to verify a child's immunisation status.
The amendments in Items 13-15 will come into
effect on a day to be fixed by Proclamation.
Amendments to the Child Care
Payments Act 1997
The effect of Items 16 and 17 is to defer the
implementation of the Child Care Payments Act 1997 for up
to two years. These amendments come into effect on the day this Act
receives Royal Assent.
Amendments to the Child Care Payments (Consequential
Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 1997
Items 18 - 24 are a series of technical
amendments required as a result of this Bill.
Amendments to the Childcare Rebate Act 1993
Items 25 and 26 insert a requirement that
children are immunised in order to receive the Child Care Rebate.
The provision in Item 26 is modelled on section 81
of the Child Care Payments Act 1997.
- Administration arrangements for child care payments,
Hon Warwick Smith MP, Minister for Family Services, Media
release, WS3/98, 23 January 1998.
- 'Child-care reform delay', Australian Financial
Review, 24 January 1998, 7, 'Child-care chaos predicted',
The Age, 2 February 1998, 4.
- Administrative arrangements for child care payments,
- Senate, Debates, 4 March 1998, 306.
- Law Reform Commission, Child care for kids: review of
legislation administered by Department of Human Services and
Health, (Report No. 70 Interim), Law Reform Commission,
Sydney, 1994, 140.
- Explanatory Memorandum, Child Care Legislation
Amendment Bill 1998, 1.
Bills Digest Service
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Commonwealth of Australia 1998
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