Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Matters of Public Importance
Australia's economic recovery from COVID depends on working families being able to return to the workforce. Our government is committed to increasing workforce participation, particularly among women. In order to do that, we need a strong and resilient economy that works for families. That is why the Morrison government is committed to affordable and accessible child care before, during and after the COVID pandemic. The Morrison government system of childcare funding is targeted and means-tested. This is designed to help those who need it the most. Many Australian families can work the hours they want and need.
In 2018 the government introduced a suite of reforms to the childcare sector that have slashed out-of-pocket expenses. That's what the taxpayer needs and wants. This was one of the most significant reforms to the early education and care system in 40 years, and I'm proud to be a part of a government that actually delivers on this important sector. ABS CPI data shows that the cost to families remains 3.2 per cent lower than under the previous childcare package. I'm proud that, under this government's childcare measures, female workforce participation has increased from 58.7 per cent in September 2013 to 61.5 per cent in January 2020—before COVID hit. This was critical for families and, in particular, for female economic empowerment.
The government supports a targeted approach to child care. This means those families who earn the least receive the highest level of subsidy. On top of this, we provide additional support for those who are doing it particularly tough. A subsidy of 95 per cent is available for families who are transitioning to work. A subsidy of 120 per cent is already available for families who are experiencing financial hardship. In most cases, this means free child care.
In the 2020-21 budget, the government will pay a record $9.2 billion in childcare subsidy payments—a record amount of funding to an incredibly important sector. This will grow to $10.7 billion in coming years. Around one million Australian families who are balancing work and parental responsibilities are benefiting from this package. This is a government that cares. This was on the back of a $1.9 billion Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package to support the viability of the sector during the COVID pandemic. This was so important to a million Australian families who received fee-free child care, and it meant that the sector could keep open, with 99 per cent of current services staying open during a period when families wanted confidence. They wanted confidence that they'd have the same carers they'd had, throughout the pandemic. I know, as a mother, that it's so important for your child to have certainty and continuity of childcare workers. So it was a great outcome that was delivered by the Morrison government.
Labor's assertions this afternoon have been misleading. We can't trust Labor to tell the truth on fees, and therefore we can't trust Labor on childcare and early childhood policy. It's high time that we had a look at the facts. Let's take the example of a single parent who wants to work more hours. Say they work part time and earn $30,000 a year. They would receive a subsidy, under our plan, of 85 per cent of the cost of child care. With average fees for centre based day care at $10.40 an hour, that single parent would pay just $1.56 per hour for care. The taxpayer would pay the rest. If they wanted to take on more shifts and double their income to $60,000 per year, they would still pay $1.56 per hour, and the taxpayer would still pay the rest. When my children were small, there wasn't this opportunity for women who were trying to enter the workforce. I think there are many women who are grateful for that support.
Let's take another example, of a family earning a combined income of $110,000 a year. They would receive a 71.5 per cent subsidy to the cost of care. With average fees, again, of around $10.40 an hour, that family would pay $2.96 per hour for care, and the taxpayer would pay the rest. A family with a combined income of $110,000, where one parent works full time and the other works three days a week, with two children in child care for those three days, would receive $27,000 in childcare subsidies over 12 months. This is a significant amount of subsidy to help women get back into the workforce. If the second parent took on a fifth day of work, to earn another $10,000 a year, they would receive $41,000. (Time expired)