Childcare group blast draconian regulation

Karen Sweeney
Simon Birmingham (C) says changes to child care subsidies will pay dividends for families

The childcare sector is choking under a raft of "draconian" regulations that have forced some providers to shut their doors, an inquiry has been told.

Family Day Care Australia chief executive Andrew Patterson says the sector has been the subject to a raft of regulatory reforms over the last three years.

They've supported some of the changes, but others have had negative impacts on providers and the communities they serve, Mr Patterson told parliament's red tape committee in Brisbane on Tuesday.

"Although we've supported proportionate reform, we've certainly had to advocate against cases where excessively complex, restrictive, draconian or arbitrary applications of regulations emerge and have had undue impact on legitimate providers," he said.

Some family day care operators have closed while others, confused by changing regulations, have been sanctioned for non-compliance.

Chang Lim, head of the Australian Childcare Alliance, pointed out the national law governing childcare is 165 pages long and the regulations are 177 pages, but the guide for centres is 616 pages.

But Education Minister Simon Birmingham says the government has implemented changes to regulations that will reduce red tape.

He says they've reduced requirements so there's no more mandating minimum hours or days a week providers must operate, which has allowed centres like Good Start Early Learning - Australia's largest childcare provider - to offer shorter sessions.

"These changes are delivering dividends that will benefit Australian families," he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, new changes due to come in from July 2 change a current multi-step test for childcare subsidies to a single-step test.

The test links fortnightly parent hours of study, work or volunteering - averaged over three months - to the number of hours subsidised.

More than 800,000 families have registered for the new system, but up to 350,000 are yet to do so.

Parents still have three weeks to sign up, plus a three-month transition period, but Senator Birmingham expects many will wait until the last minute so they can better estimate their income for the next financial year.

He also conceded some might have faced difficulties transitioning to the new system and urged parents to call helplines for assistance.