Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Matters of Public Importance
Our childcare system has been working well for over a million families, and we have supported and kept the whole industry afloat and still standing after the COVID crisis. In fact, we put in an extra $900 million of special COVID related support to get it through the crisis. It's an interesting fact that demand for child care has gone up during COVID from pre-COVID levels. Attendance levels were up to 112 per cent of pre-COVID levels by November, and that includes Victoria. I can tell you why: it's because people are working from home. It's hard to be working in your home workplace when you're looking after children. I suspect that that's why it has gone up. We have kept the system afloat. It could have crumbled because everyone would have lost income, but we supported them and they got their due entitlements. The other side is making out that they're the only ones that have insight into child care. What a load of hogwash! They talk as though members on this side haven't had children at child care. Just about every member of the coalition has had children through the childcare system—even me and you, Deputy Speaker Llew O'Brien, and all the members here. For goodness sake! They get a bit sanctimonious sometimes, I think.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and workforce participation by women has gone up with this plan. It is up to 61½ per cent from 58 per cent. They talk about sending the plan off to the Productivity Commission. The current system was the result of a 16-month Productivity Commission analysis of the system, and that's why it is working. It was well considered and well executed. There are out-of-pocket costs, but the people who get the most assistance are those who need the most assistance. People who work more get more assistance. There is a tapered rate, but it's well over $200,000. Looking at some of the figures, it's really quite a fair system. If you're earning $30,000, you get an 85 per cent subsidy; if you're working and your income is $60,000, the subsidy goes to 78 per cent; if you're earning a combined income of $110,000, it goes to 71 per cent. But there are special situations. People coming out of unemployment get more, and people in social situations that are less than optimal can get a subsidy greater than 100 per cent. People like grandparents who are caring for children can get assistance through this system. It is a fair and reasonable system.
Now, the other side is talking about a 90 per cent subsidy. Looking at some of those figures, their own childcare calculator shows that a family on $356,000 with a child in child care five days a week would benefit 10 times more than the policy would give to a family with the same childcare arrangements earning $72,000. How fair is that? Doesn't that go against every principle of the Labor Party? Child care, early learning and nurturing children are really important issues. We support it. The whole nation supports it. But those opposite have just got a blank cheque and people with too high an income—people think what we've instituted is a reasonable means-testing process.
We need to be prudent in where we give our support. Those that need the most support and those that are working the most get the most subsidies. That is entirely reasonable, and it is sustainable. Parents still have to have some responsibility for their children, but we know that some parents don't have that capability. We're not all equal, but I cannot accept the proviso that people earning up to half a million dollars are going to get this huge subsidy. For goodness sake! We have just spent billions and billions of dollars supporting the Australian economy through COVID. We're trying to get things going, and they want to subsidise people who earn half a million dollars! That is unreasonable. You have to do a taper. You have to take some responsibility for your own children when you have the benefit of that high an income.