With significant diversions during Federal Parliament last week one of the more contemptible political back flips in recent memory might have escaped your notice.

No more Barbies, honey. Pic: Guy Bailey

Without a blush, Labor - supported by the Greens in the Senate - took $700 a year from 21,000 parents to fund its reform agenda for the childcare industry.

A little explanatory background is needed.

In April this year, the Greens spokeswoman for early childhood education and care, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, expressed what many took to be genuine concern at the prospect of the government chopping back the 50 per cent Childcare Rebate (CCR).

The CCR is available to cover half of any out-of-pocket expenses associated with childcare for parents working, studying or training.

“We would be extremely concerned about any changes to the childcare rebate that would make it harder for families to access affordable (care)”, gushed Ms Hanson-Young.

Labor had used its tenuous Lower House numbers to take the knife to the rebate in November but could not get this measure passed by a guarded Senate.

For those of us working in and with the childcare sector the Greens assertions were good news. We knew then as we do now, the last thing governments should be doing is making it tougher for mums and dads to afford this vital link in the labour force chain.

So among the imponderables last week, what happened? 

The legislation went back to the Senate where, without even a syllable uttered in its defence, the new block of Greens sided with Labor to cut and cap the rebate from $8,179 to $7,500 and freeze this from indexation for the next three years. 

All up, even on this Government’s flaky estimates, roughly five per cent of our nation’s workers will now have to find $81m themselves over the next few years if they wish to maintain their current level of childcare.

They will have to do so under the unknown impost of a carbon tax and on top of increasing prices across every nook of family expenditure, including rising childcare fees.

Dripping with a grim incongruity, the Government’s ill-timed push of its quality assurance reforms - the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care (NQF) - is sparking fee increases around $5 to $20 a day. 

I should note here, the Federal Coalition agrees in setting benchmark industry standards and improving staff qualifications. But we believe this can be achieved in a balanced and consultative manner which will avoid lumbering these dramatic introductory costs onto parents.

Despite this, Childcare Minister Kate Ellis continues to insist the cost of starting up the NQF will be no more a burden to industry or parent than 57 cents a week.

Whatever credibility the Minister may have enjoyed in the early part of her tenure in the job has now completely disappeared. Along with the accuracy of the 57 cents she quotes. The Access Economics data she quotes is over two-years-old.

The Minister knows her numbers are out of date but refuses to acknowledge it.

She also knows, with the NQF approaching, many childcare centres are now planning cuts to child numbers and struggling to find staff suitably qualified within the new rules.

Some estimates put this at a shortfall of 16,000 workers across the industry, an impossible nonsensical training equation to complete which will force some centres to simply close their doors.

But it is the Greens who have really dumped on parents here. Heavy handed childcare reform, as with the carbon tax, is unrealistic policy hitting the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sussan Ley is the Shadow Minister for Childcare and Early Childhood Learning

Most commented

53 comments

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    • TChong says:

      05:58am | 02/09/11

      Glad you pointed out the scandal , there Sus.
      According to your figures, ,the reduction is by $679 pa, or less than 2 dollars a day.
      Shocking!
      81 million divided by 5 % of the nations workers over “next few years” = bugger all.
      Good to see Ms Leys and the Libs committment to childcare, just dont expect them to support these govt subsidised businesses to employ suitably qualified staff.
      Keep the fear alive, Susan.

    • C1 says:

      07:32am | 02/09/11

      I love the way this government and their supporters break these figures down to the lowest level to give the impression that this is but a small impost on most Australians. “It is only ..... cents a day what are you complaining about”.

      Have you heard of the term -death of a thousand cuts. This is only one area where increases are occurring. When you add up the cents, the dollars start rolling in.

    • Economist says:

      08:04am | 02/09/11

      Agree,this column is making a mountain out of a molehill. Firstly who made the rebate 50%? It was Labor. Who saved parents when ABC Childcare went under. It was Labor, arranging with other profit and non-profit childcare organisations to take them over. In fact it is one of the few areas Labor has had any success in.

      As for the subsidy itself, I can’t agree with others who deride it. Of all the middle class welfare available, this is by far best as it increase labour force participation and employment including in the CC industry. The extra cost of improving standards is acceptable. As a parent who has used the system there are a significant number of under qualified individuals involved in looking after our children’s needs in what is arguably the most important years of their development.

    • Matt says:

      08:30am | 02/09/11

      I love the way people like C1 and the author expect the government to pay for raising their kids like it’s not a choice at all…

      The author especially sulks about $700 being ‘taken away’ yet it’s not taken away, it’s just not going to be handed out.  How much do you want to raise your kids anyway?  Isn’t there Family Tax A, B, F, G, lmnop already?  And here you are whingeing that you’re going to be $700 out of pocket when you’re in fact not going to be out of pocket at all, you may just have to live up to your responsiblitlies and choices…

      Perhaps it’s time people including the author, stopped thinking of childcare as a right instead of a service, I for one don’t care that the government is cutting back on the many, many handouts families get just so they can keep up with the Jones’...

    • Markus says:

      09:24am | 02/09/11

      “Of all the middle class welfare available, this is by far best as it increase labour force participation and employment including in the CC industry”
      It is pointless participation, though. By the time the parents/families eligible for CCR claim it for their 2nd and 3rd children, most are receiving more CCR each year than they are paying in tax.

    • Anubis says:

      10:04am | 02/09/11

      For Christ sake - If you want to pump out your own “mini-me’s” you should be prepared to pay for them.  If you can’t then keep your bloody legs closed or use protection.

      This whole attitude of entitlement by the current generation of parents is ridiculous. The Government has to pay us twelve months maternity leave, we want our baby bonus, they have to pay for the education, they have to pay the child care.  Christ people take some responsibility for your own actions.  This is the same generation is busily raising there precious little Jaxyns and Crystels to be feral little grubs who wouldn’t know discipline or boundaries if they belted them up the arse with them.

    • Economist says:

      11:28am | 02/09/11

      @Markus, the comparision you make is a little simplistic. Your forgetting that that 2 income families spend. The multiplier effect is much larger. They pay GST and a myriad of other taxes as well as income tax.l The total subsidy for Childcare both benefit and rebate is around $3billion dollars. Parenting payments and family taxes are over $20 billion. Under your examples if parents timed it they’d get a maximum of 15 years in benefit. Yet by maintaining workforce skills they’d be employable for 50 years. I’d argue it provides a net benefit to the government

      @Anubis, your comment is extreme and just baiting. Firstly the current generation is a product of your generation so any criticism should be level at your moddicoddled generation who had it pretty easy. Secondly, the double income family has benefited you and your ilk by one, increa se the value of your home well beyond what you paid for it. Two younger generations subsidise your lifestyle via pension, penison cards health subsidies etc and the little tikes coming through will continuew to do so. Three education is publicly available for a reason and because of this you can thank past govewrnments for your current standards of living. Four the government provides 18 weeks paid materinity leave at the minimum wage not a year. Five you can’t claim both baby bonus and materinty leave it’s one or the other.  Six your little whinge about grubs is hilarious given that I believe crime rates are falling since your day. Seven, without an increase in workforce participation immigration levels would have to significantly increase. Eight the policy was introduced by the Liberals at 30%, if you want to argue for a reduction, you could justify going back to 30%, but the savings are minimal compared with other middle class welfare payments. Need I go on?

    • Anubis says:

      12:01pm | 02/09/11

      @ Economist - you’re making a few assumptions there Economist.

      I don’t consider my generation to have been mollicoddled. I, as have many of my peers, have had to work, and work damned hard, for what we have achieved. My children have been raised with the understanding that to get anything out of life you have to work for it. The value of housing is ridiculous and that is a result of Government policy and interference in the market (First Home Owners grants, etc). My lifestyle is subsidised by nobody - I am not on a pension and am still a very active working member of society and, when I do retire I will be able to do it comfortably through my own superannuation and the eventual sale of business enterprise (which by the way keep many of your generation employed). Education is a right and, like many others, I am also paying back a HECS debt . The Government should not be paying any maternity leave, that, like any other form of leave, should be a responsibility of the employer not the taxpayer. As for the grubs, have you ever walked through a city, open your eyes and look at the self-entitled grubs, just about every surface smeared with graffiti (because it’s their right to be artists), try walking through a CBD on a Friday and Saturday evening and experience the thieving, brawling little grubs for yourself. As for your point Seven, tell that to the drug addled bogans that gather at Centrelink on a daily basis. Career welfare spongers many of them. Try, as an employer, to instill some work ethics in them, almost impossible. they last a few weeks then go back to welfare so they can sleep in till noon and hang out with their buds at night and roll a few drunks, or burgle an odd house so they can buy the next gadget or gizmo that they are “entitled” to. the Welfare profile in Australia is ridiculously high, but it correlates with the abrogation of personal responsibility that is becoming more prominent in Australia. I reiterate - if you want to pump out brats then be prepared to pay for them, don’t expect the taxpayer to cover your lifestyle choices.

    • glen says:

      01:53pm | 02/09/11

      @ economist,
      The government prop up of ABC was a massive fail. They simply poured our tax dollars into the black hole of a failing company. They effectively subsidised one business over the many thousands of childcare centres owned by other individuals.  Now here they are cutting funding to others. This will effectively continue to push up childcare costs. BTW obviously went to the wrong childcare centre, if you had unqualified staff looking after your children you are not in our centre.

    • Economist says:

      03:13pm | 02/09/11

      @Anubis, yes you are correct, I’ve probably made some misplaced assumptions in response to your generalisations. Sure I agree there are bludgers out there on the dole committing crime with a self righteous attitude that their entitled to government benefits rather than seeing it as a privilege and thankfully Howard introduced workforce participation, but I wouldn’t call the Childcare rebate a contributing factor.

      @Glen. My understanding was the government kept ABC afloat till buyers were found. They didn’t necessarily subsidise it and I don’t think Eddie Groves and his band of ex-LNP board members saw a red cent, but please correct me if I’m wrong. But from a parents point of view the threat of no child care being available was huge, including for the employers of the 10s of thousands of parents whose children attended these centres. It’s hard enough in some areas even getting a place. So I’‘d call it a Labor success.

      I totally agree with your assessment below, with insurance and wage costs the sector isn’t profitable and Eddie’s model proved this. Certainly the new standards will increase costs, but again from a parents point of view quality is important. As for my personal experiences the centre was initally great but then the director left, the new director was rubbish and staff that had been with the centre for 5 or more years left in droves. As you’d know, your staff are the key and all power to you and your choices grin  I’m curious though, and it may be a sought of rhetorical question, do you support the subsidisation of childcare? Do you think it’s important for qualified individuals to provide structure and stimulus to a childs day rather than just a nappy changing service? Ands I’m sure you deal with parents who have an unrealistic view of what’s reasonable.

    • Destry says:

      03:37am | 03/09/11

      @TChong: Many of your Greenie mates bat for the other team and don’t reproduce at all.  Which might explain some things they do.

    • Chris_D says:

      06:30am | 02/09/11

      First I’ve heard about it, but nothing surprises me about the Greens or Labor these days.

    • Bruce says:

      06:05pm | 03/09/11

      Nothing surprises me ! Yep ! They gotta cut money from somewhere to make up for lost money and cock up’s elsewhere !

    • Against the Man says:

      06:36am | 02/09/11

      Not happy with it? Vote out the Labor /Green /Independents aka axis of EVIL.

    • Craig says:

      07:37am | 02/09/11

      I’m a father of three children, two of whom are in childcare 3 days a week, and I think they should get rid of the child care rebate altogether.  I had to call Centrelink last week for some reason (what a painful experience that is).  While on the phone, the lady at the other end told me that I was eligible for a 50% rebate (which I knew nothing about).  She fixed everything up and then a whole load of money ended up in my account two days later.  All this time I had no idea that the government was so generously funding my child care needs.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the money.  It made a healthy dent in the home loan.  But I think it is very, very wrong that taxpayers should pay for my child care needs.  The ALP/Greens should have gone further and gotten rid of this silly middle class welfare.

    • Adam Diver says:

      08:30am | 02/09/11

      What do you earn though Craig, perhaps you should be arguing for indexation, because I can assure you without the rebate, it would be a lot cheaper and easier to simply not work for a large number of people.

    • Craig says:

      09:20am | 02/09/11

      Adam: What I earn is irrelevant.  What is important to myself and my wife is that we both maintain our respective careers by keeping our skills up.

    • balala says:

      11:08am | 02/09/11

      If you think it’s so wrong that taxpayers should pay for your child care needs, it’s very simple - tell Centrelink you don’t want to receive the money.
      You claim “silly middle class welfare” should be “gotten rid of” and yet you gratefully receive the money.
      You’re full of contradictions Craig, I don’t quite know what to believe.

    • Adam Diver says:

      11:34am | 02/09/11

      How much you earn is completely relevant, don’t be so precious. If I have to explain why, I will be dissapointed, but possibly not surprised.

    • Joan Bennett says:

      08:00am | 02/09/11

      Totally agree with Craig.  I don’t understand why I should have to pay for other people’s lifestyle choices.  However, did Craig have to accept the money?

    • Craig says:

      08:45am | 02/09/11

      Sorry to disappoint, Joan.  While I do have a difference of opinion with the legislators on this issue, I am a part of a system that pays taxes, rates and all manner of fees.  The system says I can have that money, so I won’t let my opinion on this issue get in between me and that money.  Sorry.

    • Cat says:

      08:22am | 02/09/11

      oh please - the industry could have addressed staffing issues by agreeing to take a bit out of their massive proffits and paying their damn staff a decent wage - countless fabulous, capable and brilliant staff leave because a crap paying, high responsability job which produces a tonne of out of hours work and often includes bosses who care nothing for quality childcare but just love cutting every damn corner to make a buck isn’t a long term winner for even the most passionate staff member who knows they can get a job at coles or wollies and make more for far less stress and effort.

      How exactly is it nonsensical to want people who are responsible for looking after babies and small children to have some knowledge and training? You obviously wouldn’t have a clue about the job these people do, no doubt you think they just sit and play with kids all day! Sorry but childcare is a skilled job, and quality care demands quality training - not just employing as many teenagers as possible so you can pay them less!
      The qualifications segments of remform are not remotely a hardship, there has been a mass of flexability worked in and nobody will be “clossing their doors” unless they are too stupid to manage a business.

    • Cat says:

      09:10am | 02/09/11

      oh I’ve just noticed who wrote the article - I’ll have to ammend part of my reply to say “you are obviously counting on the fact that most people are ignorant of what exactly is involved in working in the childcare sector to further a ridiculous “scare-tactics-R-us” agenda.”  - way to represent, Sus!

    • Mayday says:

      01:27pm | 02/09/11

      I have a Diploma of Child Studies and earn on average $54,000 per year.
      My shift is 8 hours but I get a full hour for lunch and two twenty minute breaks all paid so I actually work 6 hours and 20 minutes per day. 

      The centre is not for profit and I have worked casual at other centres with the only variation being break times.
      I would not earn anything like this working at Coles et al and would not get anywhere near the job satisfaction.

      There are many centres who employ school leavers and pay junior rates, this is one way the centre can spread its wage costs. 

      I have heard the new regulations are causing centres to reduce places for babies in particular rather than take on extra staff or provide bigger rooms adequate for the extra staff and babies required to make this profitable.

      Long day care centres are not a licence to print money…..those days are over.  Profit is not a four letter word…....loss is and many Not for Profit centres are running at a loss so eventually something will have to give.

    • murray says:

      08:43am | 02/09/11

      Took, or reduced the amount of other people’s money that they were giving away?

    • Max, of Rocky says:

      08:45am | 02/09/11

      So if you have 3 children you are receiving ~ 50% more from government in rebate than a single pensioner receives to live on.

      2 children about the same as the pension.

      Also you and your spouse do not pay income tax now until total income exceeds ~$44k . ( Tax on $22k + and none till $22k on second )

      Any wonder they are reviewing Taxation ?

      I feel the whole system of rebates + taxation + IR + childcare need major review.

    • John says:

      09:07am | 02/09/11

      Brown and his band of hippies are a blight on society. The dickheads are saying Abbott is anti-everything but he’s not anti-economy like the Green mafia.

    • Greeny says:

      10:04am | 02/09/11

      Seeing as just about every newspaper has run a similar segment, I’m assuming you think they’re also ‘dickheads’?  Or is it just the ‘hippies’?

    • John A Neve says:

      02:31pm | 02/09/11

      John,
      Would you like to expand on your post?
      As it stands, I fail to see the relevance to this topic!
      If you cannot, I can only hope yoyufeel a little better after your rant.

    • Andrew says:

      03:03pm | 02/09/11

      Abbotts paid parental leave plan was anti business and higher corporate taxes. Winner all right.

    • Jack says:

      09:12am | 02/09/11

      Oh no, having to pay *slightly* more of your private expenses for your children out of your own income.

      Those of us funding the lifestyles of you and your fat kids just shed a single, lonely tear.

    • Fiddler says:

      09:31am | 02/09/11

      Childcare centres are simply a licence to print money. They make a massive profit and little is passed on in terms of wages. A centre can pay untrained staff around a hundred dollars a day to look after (on ratio) ten kids who’s fees are in the vicinity of seventy dollars a day. I know a number of people who have worked in the industry and management. Almost half the fees end up as profit.

    • Glen says:

      01:39pm | 02/09/11

      Fiddler you are completely full of crap. As someone who has built a small centre and have run it now for 5 years I can tell you the money made is not enough to make it worthwhile.  A centre cannot pay untrained staff, the ratios are not 10 children to one staff member , for babies it is 4 to 1 in queensland. half the fees do not end up as profits at 100 % occupancy the profit is approx 10% of the fees. for centres with vacancies if they are 90% full they are probably only covering costs. Your kind of ill informed opinion should be kept to yourself.

      The costs of childcare will rise as a result of the carbon tax and because of changes to staffing levels. The costs will rise because of changes to minimum qualifications. All of these things will increase the costs of childcare.
      And CAT from above maybe you should put your money where your mouth is and but a centre of your own, you seem to be an expert.

    • gra gra says:

      03:25pm | 02/09/11

      @Glen. I don’t think it is the voice a child-carer to call people names for having an opinion, you bloody hypocrite. I agree with Fiddler as my daughter worked in “child care” where every corner was cut to maximise profit. And your rather transparent use of the carbon tax as a coming evil was childish.  Doesn’t your mantra talk of “massive unemployment” through the carbon tax implementation? Won’t that mean that more families would stay at home and not need child-centres at all? Your numbers are a crock, your management skills are suspect and your political affiliations are obviously a little to the right of John Howard.
      And if you can’t make a go of a complete rip-off you should try something else, something you could succeed in like, say, used cars.

    • Andrew says:

      09:56am | 02/09/11

      Too much bloody welfare! Get rid of it all!

    • meh says:

      10:00am | 02/09/11

      People earning over $150,000 a year don’t need help funding a single child in chilcare.

      My family don’t qualify for the family tax A or B benefits and sometimes we feel like we are being ripped off or it, but we don’t need the middle class welfare.

    • Jay Smith says:

      10:06am | 02/09/11

      Well if the Coalition wasn’t so busy dredging Craig Thompson, then perhaps this would have got more of a look-in instead of blaming the Greens.  This is a cop-out.
      And where is this obligation on the rest of society to pay for other peoples kids?  Isn’t paying taxes for schools and hospitals enough?  But we are told to supplement the incomes of those who have the privilege of getting knocked up and punching out a kid.  Don’t have kids if you cant afford them.

    • Robert says:

      01:35pm | 02/09/11

      I agree entirely. As a single average wage earner I get no deductions bu a couple on the same the same income each as me and with a couple of kids get given money hand over fist.

      They argument is that their kids will be there to support me in my old age but as I’m only 44 I will be expected to fund my own retirement entirely so and taxes these children earn in the future will not be going to support me.

      I’d much rather the money be spent on health, education and infrastructure instead of subsidising the lifestyles of people who don’t need it.

    • Squeeze the Middle says:

      05:23pm | 02/09/11

      Robert. Most people don’t realise that China has a bigger population bulge than the West (What do we all think a Single Child Policy will do to demographics).

      I’ve got a simple question for you. When all those collosal retirement funds of Europe, US, Japan, China, etc etc all shift from accumulate to sell at about the same time: who’s going to buy the ‘assets’?

      Skill and labour are the only things that will turn energy and earth into the machines and sytems that will keep you healthy, warm and safe.

      Government has already subsumed unclaimed super and there is evidence funds have been ‘forced’ into buying certain assets.  Guess where this is all heading? Think you’ll be safe with things like gold.  Check out Part IV of the Banking Act at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ba195972/.

      If democracy survives then government will the last thing to be shut down.

      I’m the same age as you. Stay ahead of the curve my firend.

    • Mickey T says:

      10:33am | 02/09/11

      Australia has turned into a greedy, whinging and selfish nation. Middle class welfare is bullshit…there should be more cuts made. Live within your means you greedy pricks.

    • Nick says:

      11:18am | 02/09/11

      This is nothing. Start getting worried when The Greens promise they will never ever confiscate the inherited family home of a deceased estate.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      11:32am | 02/09/11

      Welfare should be pensions, unemployment and disabled only (and even the there should be restrictions to prevent rorting) None of this middle class welfare bullshit like childcare subsidies, maternity leave, baby bonus, family tax A and B etc. Singles and Childless Couples have always been screwed over with this form of wealth redistribution and Susan Ley cries foul over a some measly cuts? GTFO.

    • GWS says:

      11:43am | 02/09/11

      So the Opposition doesn’t like what the Government has done. Wow. Call the press! We’ve got some news here!

    • Nigel says:

      11:45am | 02/09/11

      I would have missed it because I don’t care.
      I still don’t see why if I choose not to have chilren why my taxes go to those that do. If you have it you should care for it!

    • David says:

      11:53am | 02/09/11

      Ms Ley fails to mention that Labor increased the rebate by 20% in 2008, a massive increase on the Howard Govt. effort.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      12:59pm | 02/09/11

      Then that’s an extra 20% fail on the Labor Government’s behalf

    • Andrew says:

      01:15pm | 02/09/11

      SHHHHHHH dont tell anyone.

    • Andrew says:

      02:39pm | 02/09/11

      Labor Bad, liberal good.

    • TheRealDave says:

      02:10pm | 02/09/11

      So, since every-time the government has increased the Childcare subsidy the Childcare operators go running for the ‘Increase Fees’ button do I now foresee a similar reduction in childcare fees now the government is cutting some of that funding away?

      Should I hold my breath waiting?

      The only people increased childcare subsidies benefit is not the ‘Middle Class Welfare whingers’ but the rich corporates who run the centers. If you think otherwise - you’re an idiot.

    • nikki heat says:

      02:23pm | 02/09/11

      Only Coalition Voters can afford to have children.

    • nikki heat says:

      02:23pm | 02/09/11

      Only Coalition Voters can afford to have children.

    • David says:

      03:18pm | 02/09/11

      Well ‘Shane from Melbourne’ on your arguement you support the Labor action to wind it back and reject Ms Ley’s confected outrage in the article.

    • Squeeze the Middle says:

      04:57pm | 02/09/11

      I’m on the so called “middle class welfare” and proud of it.

      I’m proud of all my tax $ being used to pay for the jobs that help raise and educate the children that will fund our welfare in our frail years.  I’m also proud of all the tax $ used to pay defence staff to look after the welfare of this nation.  And lastly I’m proud of our tax $ that pay the pollies and public servants to look after the welfare of the Australian people. 

      I’m happy to be paying north of 40% tax when I sell my labour for those voucher thingies called $ that I can then exchange for goods & services.  All I ask is that we get good value. Just like the HSU members would hope they get good value.

      So Gillard has cut the benefit.  But has the cost of delivering those $ also gone down.  If not then all we have now is less benefit at the same cost of delivery.

 

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