House debates

Thursday, 4 February 2021


Child Care, Workplace Relations

4:40 pm

Photo of Joanne RyanJoanne Ryan (Lalor, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight, as the member for Lalor, representing a community that has the highest number of families using early education and child care and out-of-school-hours care—the highest number in the country. That's not a surprise. We're a growth area where affordable housing attracts young families, either as a place to make their first purchase or as a place where rents are affordable. They get work, hopefully in our community or close by, and settle in to raise their families. Child care and the cost of quality child care and early education is a cost-of-living issue for the locals that I represent in this place, and I'm really pleased to say, as a member of the Labor team, those on this side of the House, that we have a policy that can change the lives of the people with young children in my electorate. That's because we have a policy driven by making child care more affordable and ensuring its quality.

We know today that we have report from the Productivity Commission that tells us, alarmingly, that the number of parents who say they're not working mainly due to the cost of child care in this country has skyrocketed. It has risen by 23 per cent. Ninety-one thousand parents say they are not taking employment because of the cost of child care. The member for Kingston, as announced by the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, on budget reply night, has an answer to this. Our policy will ensure families are able to go to work. It will ensure mums in my community are not penalised for taking a fourth day of work if they're already working. It will ensure 97,000 parents are able to access child care more cheaply.

This is an incredibly important issue. I would encourage those in my community to go to Labor's website, plug in the figures and see for themselves the difference that our policy could make to their cost of living. It will give them a sense of wellbeing about their capacity either to afford the house they so desperately want to purchase or to pay the mortgage on the house they have purchased in our community. I want to thank the member for Kingston for her work in this area.

Of course, there's another way that families could afford early education and child care more readily, and that would be if wages hadn't been suppressed in this country for the past eight years. As the costs keep going up, there's only one answer, which is either that something happens to drive down costs or wages increase so people can afford those costs. Under this government, as its own ministers have said in the past, keeping wages low has been part of its economic plan. Now that hardworking Australians have got us through the pandemic, the Prime Minister has shown what the Liberals have always worked towards, and that is a pay cut. We dealt with this in question time today, and there was a lot of dodging and weaving and there wasn't a lot of answering of questions. But we know that, unhappy with just a wages freeze for eight years, they now want workers' pay packets to go backwards.

I can't say how disappointing this is. Every day we have watched essential workers get up and go to work and put their health and their family's health on the line to get us through a pandemic. Every day we have watched this. What's the reward? The reward is that this government, ideologically driven, wants to see their pay packets cut. There is no avoiding this. It is an absolute truth.

We know that this government has been shirking its responsibilities. We know they don't want to take responsibility for what happened in aged care. We know they don't want to take responsibility for quarantine. We know they didn't want to take responsibility for pandemic preparedness. But will they take responsibility for what they're planning now, for what is in this legislation? What we need from this government, what we need from this Prime Minister, is less smirk and more work and putting Australian people first. Australians will have an Albanese Labor government that will look after them. (Time expired)