Don’t be fooled: the childcare pie is no magic pudding
Those who claim centre-based care is no longer a relevant childcare solution for busy working families need to be mindful of a few facts.
We now have more Australian children in approved childcare services than at any time in our nation’s history. We have, in fact, seen a massive 36 per cent increase in the number of approved childcare services since Labor came to Government. That includes over 500 new centres opening in the last year alone.
And of course with our increase of the childcare rebate from 30 to 50 per cent of parents’ out-of-pocket costs and an increase in the cap from $4354 - as it was under the Howard Government - to $7500 per child per year, childcare affordability has markedly improved.
In fact a family earning $75,000 with one child in full-time care spent 13 per cent of their disposable income on childcare in 2004 but thanks to our increased investments, that figure has fallen to just 7 per cent in 2011.
That is not to say that we don’t need to provide a range of flexible options for parents, so that they can decide what’s best for their family. Of course we do. And I’m proud that our Government is supporting a range of options.
The childcare benefit and rebate subsidy can be used to fund a range of childcare options including long day care, family day care, vacation care, out-of-school-hours care and in-home care.
We also provide assistance for families who use in-home care services, in specific circumstances, such as when a child has a disability, or the family lives in a particularly remote part of the country, or the parents are shift workers and can’t use mainstream care.
I’m proud that last year I was able to announce an expansion of the number of in-home care places that our Government supports – as a result, this year we will see a 17 per cent increase in availability of Government funded in-home care. This is because we know that different families and different circumstances require different solutions and our Government is already acting to deliver them.
I am proud to be part of a Government that is delivering real action on childcare. We are improving affordability, increasing accessibility and flexibility, and importantly, ensuring that the care on offer is of higher quality.
Now Tony Abbott wants to introduce nanny subsidies too.
So what’s wrong with that, you ask?
I think that people should absolutely be free to hire a nanny if that is their wish but the question is whether taxpayers should fund them and from where?
The idea of taxpayer funding for nannies isn’t new. It’s been raised time and time again, including by a parliamentary committee in 2006 that I was a member of (and offered a dissenting report).
Then - and in fact every time it has been raised previously - it’s been ruled out for being too expensive, too hard to regulate and too hard to separate the work of nannies around the house (cleaning, doing the groceries, cooking meals) from actual childcare and ensure that childcare subsidies weren’t in fact being directed to other services.
At the very time that we are raising the quality of approved childcare with increased training and qualifications, professionalisation of the sector and a new accreditation body and ratings system - the Opposition are talking about funding nannies which are currently entirely unregulated with no official oversight checks or balances.
Sure, they could introduce such regulations - but are taxpayers going to pay for that too? It would be expensive and would also push up the price of nannies further.
Which brings us to the billion dollar question, where is the money coming from?
There is also something very different to the debate this time around because Tony Abbott has said there would be no new funding to pay for it. Instead his nanny subsidies would come from “the existing funding envelope”.
Now there are only two items in this envelope. Only two items that could be cut to fund this new expense - the Child Care Benefit payment, which approximately 654,000 lower income Australian families rely on to assist them with their childcare costs and the non-means-tested Child Care Rebate, which Labor has proudly increased and is now supporting 782,000 Australian families.
No matter what the Productivity Commission comes back with this all comes down to a very simple equation.
You can’t use the same pot of money to fund something new, without cutting what already exists.
A Government can commission as many reviews and inquiries as they please but ultimately they have to make decisions, they have to develop policies and they have to govern.
We’ve brought impressive and historic reform to the childcare sector.
The only way that Tony Abbott could fund his nanny subsidies would be to undo that good work and rip back the existing childcare assistance, which families rely upon.
We’ve fought hard to deliver historic levels of assistance to help families with their childcare cost, I’m not going to stand by and let the Opposition casually rip it back off them.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…