House debates

Monday, 14 July 2014

Constituency Statements


10:50 am

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business) Share this | | Hansard source

The Abbott government has introduced a lot of legislation since the budget that makes it harder and harder for families to support themselves and raise their children, perhaps none more so than the bill which has the sole purpose of reducing the real value of the childcare benefit, which 5,070 families in Parramatta rely on. Of the electorates with the highest number of families receiving the childcare benefit, eight out of the top 10 are in Western Sydney—with over 45,000 families in Western Sydney relying on the childcare benefit to make ends meet.

The childcare benefit is a means-tested payment to low- and middle-income families to assist with the cost of child care. The Department of Education has admitted that 500,000 low- and middle-income families will be worse off because of this cut, a cut which will directly hit families earning as little as $42,000 a year. It directly hits those families who can least afford it, including many parents who would otherwise be forced to leave the workforce.

Since the election the government has announced over $1 billion in cuts to child care, this one being the latest. This is an unprecedented attack: no previous government has moved to cut the childcare benefit, a benefit which helps those most in need care for their children. Many parents are worried that they will not be able to find a place for their child, let alone afford the costs of child care. Without the assistance that the childcare benefit provides, many of these parents will not be able to return to work or will have to reduce their working hours.

But that is not the only blow to low-income families trying to cover the costs of child care. The Abbott government's budget has also axed $157 million from the Community Support Program, which provides funding to assist family day-care operators with administration and quality control. Funding cuts to the Community Support Program will mean that local family day-care providers will be forced to close their doors to children needing day care. Local family day-care provider Christian Community Aid Family Day Care say that funding cuts could mean that their service will close and that families will no longer have access to affordable, flexible, quality day care. Janice Francis of Christian Community Aid Day Care said that the closure of a service like hers would mean that 1,700 childcare places will be lost in our community and no affordable day-care options would be there for more than 500 families. They have been providing child care for 37 years. Closing up would mean places gone, experience gone and almost 90 jobs lost. While they are determined to keep their doors open, they understand the challenges they face and they know that the funding cuts will have serious cost impacts on families, particularly those families least able to afford it.

I urge the government to reconsider these savage cuts to child care. Childcare assistance is now a basic part of the family budget and anything that weakens it or reduces its real value makes it harder and harder for families to do what we all need them to do and raise their children well.