House debates

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Matters of Public Importance

Child Care

3:51 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education and Training) Share this | Hansard source

It's great to have the member for Bowman campaign against the stage 3 tax cuts. It's very brave of him in the Liberal Party. I thank the member for Kingston for her MPI:

The government's childcare system failing to support Australian families to work the hours they want and need.

I've been in parliament for a long time with the member for Kingston and the member for Grey, but the member for Kingston seems to have taken, over that time, her investment in children very personally. I know that she has put a lot into this policy. It's great, because the member for Kingston understands the great productivity gains that come—the low hanging fruit in the Australian economy—that will flow by the Liberal government implementing Labor Party policy.

I know what those opposite think of child care. We know that childcare fees have increased by 36 per cent on their watch. We know that Australian families are paying, on average, almost $4,000 a year for child care. Let's look at how we compare to other countries. If we look at the OECD countries, the average contribution there is about 18 per cent, and you can almost double that in Australia to 37 per cent. We know that we are paying too much. We know that there are institutional hurdles stopping people with parental responsibilities, primarily women, but males as well, from getting into the workplace. We know that fees are predicted to go up next year. At Senate estimates we heard the department predict a 5.3 per cent hike next year, outstripping CPI.

We know child care is expensive. My children are beyond child care now, but I remember the costs well. In my household, obviously, we could afford it, but we still felt what it was like. Having both parents in the workforce is good for the economy, but all those skills are wasted on the Thursday and Friday—those two days of the week where the person would be effectively be working for free. We know the current arrangements lock many people out of the workforce, particularly women. And we know, statistically, women have done it tough during the pandemic. Women who are overwhelmingly employed as permanent, part-time or casuals employees, particularly in the accommodation and hospitality sectors, were the ones first hit when the pandemic swept across Australia. Women were the ones that hit the unemployment queues first. We know 320,000 women stopped working or were no longer looking for work in the first part of this year. Some have gone back to work—I do acknowledge that—but 92,000 women have exited the labour force since March and not gone back. It's either too hard or they've given up. We have a female unemployment rate of seven per cent, and, if they're seeking full-time work, it's eight per cent. The female underemployment rate is 12 per cent. We know there is a problem. If there were more women sitting around the cabinet table, Prime Minister Morrison would understand that as well. He would hear from those who've had a lived experience.

Ms Price interjecting

I take that interjection from the minister at the table. We've certainly had more female prime ministers than the Liberal Party and we've certainly had more female deputies than the Liberal Party, so we understand what the lived experience is.

We listen to the experts. We know the economists are saying there is low-hanging fruit there and, by implementing this policy, we will actually benefit the Australian economy. Don't listen to me. I'm going to tell you about a particular left-leaning group called the International Monetary Fund. It's not exactly the 'Toorak Tree-Hugging Club'. The International Monetary Fund recommended that investing in childcare measures should be a priority measure for Australia. We know that there'll be economic benefits, and we know that there'll be social benefits. We know that, under Labor, 97 per cent of families who use child care will be better off.

We know that the Prime Minister—who, when he was Minister Morrison, invented this current Liberal Party policy—won't back away. He's such a proud and arrogant person that he won't take advice. He won't listen to the Productivity Commission. Instead, Labor has a policy which will benefit most Australians and which will increase the childcare subsidy rates and taper them for every family earning less than $530,000. That is a wonderful policy.


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