House debates

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Statements by Members

Child Care

10:18 am

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

The reintroduction of child-care fees across the country is holding back our nation's COVID recovery. A recent report from the NAB found that small and medium enterprises, SMEs, make up 99 per cent of all Australian businesses by number, employing two-thirds of all workers and producing half of all output. To put that into perspective, should each of these SMEs employ one additional person, our current unemployment crisis would be resolved. To add to those stats, nearly 40 per cent of small businesses are owned by women. As we should all be acutely aware, women continue to bear the brunt of unpaid work, particularly caring for children. For many small businesses, the only reason they could keep their heads above water in the height of the pandemic was due to free child care. As SMEs get used to the new normal of recession and uncertainty around whether or not COVID will strike again, the last thing they need is the resumption of child-care fees.

For so many Australians, there has never been a tougher time to be in business. For those running childcare centres, many operating as small businesses, the loss of JobKeeper payments for staff back in July was trebled by the removal of free child care. That's without mentioning the farce that were the hoops that childcare providers had to jump through to get government funding in the first place. I had one centre in my electorate who was told that they had to close because the facility they were located in had a play centre that couldn't be cleaned properly. They were then told that they wouldn't be eligible for payments because they chose to close. They didn't; they had to because of COVID. Then, to rub salt in the wound, they were told if they wanted to stay open they should've relocated their entire facility—for an undisclosed amount of time and for an unknown number of children, again, because of COVID.

The reintroduction of childcare fees has resulted in the withdrawal of many children from care, which means less income for the centres and job losses for the educators who work there. This spiral leads to many working parents—mostly mothers—with no choice but to reduce hours or give up work in order to look after their children, regardless of their desire to continue working. This is detrimental to women running small businesses, women working to support their families and those looking to further their careers. All in all this is bad for our community and it's certainly bad for our economy. The small business ombudsman, Kate Carnell, told the Press Club just a few weeks ago that child care is an essential service for small business, just as it is for countless Australian families. This federal Liberal government are making it harder for Australians to get back to work. The Grattan Institute has identified that increasing female workforce participation is one of the biggest economic opportunities for government, and cheaper child care would be the catalyst for delivering that. They say that this could have a multibillion dollar impact on our GDP. So why won't the government just get on with making child care more affordable? It's child's play, really.