The federal coalition government has been labelled "clueless" on childcare affordability solutions and challenged to rule out means-testing rebates during a political blame game over rising fees.
Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley has seized on a new report that shows childcare fees for long day care ballooned by almost 50 per cent, or $70 a week, over the six years the previous Labor government was in office.
But opposition childcare spokeswoman Kate Ellis says those figures don't take into account the government subsidies to families.
The Department of Education's latest childcare summary says the average hourly fee for long day care increased by seven per cent from the June quarter 2012 to June 2013.
However, the report says if childcare rebates are taken into account the out-of-pocket costs were reduced to about nine per cent of families' disposable incomes across all pay brackets.
Ms Ley said there was extra demand in the June quarter on family day care, in-home care and occasional care, which adds weight to the Productivity Commission inquiry into childcare flexibility due to report back in October.
"This is a sign that parents are searching for more flexible alternatives to the traditional nine-to-five child care model of last century," she said.
The PC inquiry is the first major review of the sector since the 1990s, and fulfils a coalition election promise.
Ms Ley anticipates there could be a budget announcement with new legislation in 2015.
"This is not about adding more money, it's about making better use of the substantial amount of money allocated to childcare by state and federal governments," she told reporters in Albury.
Some childcare centre directors are locked in their offices all day doing paperwork and complying with red tape rather than educating children, Ms Ley said.
Ms Ellis said the coalition government was "clueless" when it came to childcare solutions.
"The current government... (has) forced up the price of childcare by cutting subsidies to childcare workers wages," Ms Ellis told reporters in Adelaide.
There were also huge childcare fee hikes under the Howard government, Ms Ellis said.
She challenged the federal government to rule out whacking a means test on the child care rebate.
Ms Ellis said the commission inquiry was about coming up with a way to fund nannies without putting up extra cash.