Federal Parliament - Child care

October 21, 2020

Dr ALYWe all know that there can be no more important task than that of raising children. I don't think we'll get any argument about that point from anybody here in this House. We all know that those early years in a child's life are the most formative and are the foundation for a child's brain and emotional development. But let's be very clear: those who choose a career in early childhood education and child care don't do it because they want to help women get into the workforce. That's not front of mind when they graduate with their university degree or start their first job in a childcare centre. We talk about women's workforce participation and the contribution to the economy here, but they do it because of their love for children. They do it because of their dedication to their work. I personally am forever and eternally grateful to those who looked after my children so that I could return to work.

But, on women's workforce participation, the Government have let women down. It's that simple. There is nothing in their Budget to help women participate in the economic reconstruction of our nation. Yet women have been the hardest hit by COVID, and we know that women bear the brunt of child care. Under this third-term Liberal Government, childcare fees have gone up 35 per cent. They have no plan to reform a childcare system that has some of the highest childcare costs in the world right here in this country. Under this Government's childcare system—the one that was designed by the Prime Minister—for a family with two children in child care and a primary earner making $100,000 a year the gain to disposable income for the secondary earner, who is usually the woman in the partnership, in working more than three days a week is zero. In other words, under this Government's plan, there is no incentive for a woman who is a secondary income earner in a family to return to work more than three days a week, because her salary, her contribution to the family budget, gets eaten up by child care.

Today in The West Australian, Lanai Scarr, who is The West Australian's federal political editor, writes about the Labor day-care plan. She writes, 'The ALP day-care plan works for parents.' She should know. She's a mother of four children. I don't think there is anybody in this press gallery who is more qualified and has more knowledge about child care and the childcare sector than Lanai Scarr. In this article, she clearly outlines the benefits that our childcare sector reform brings to families.

A few weeks ago I spoke to Matt and Sandra, who live in Landsdale in my electorate. Sandra is about to give birth to their second child. Matt and Sandra are seriously considering whether it's worthwhile for Sandra to go back to work after she gives birth, with two children in child care. Matt's a good bloke. He really wants to support his wife to ensure that she doesn't have career interruption, to ensure that she achieves her dreams within her chosen field and to ensure that she can go back to work not just for the benefit of the family budget but for her own fulfilment as well. I understand the kinds of decisions they're having to make, because I had to make those decisions too. I know families all around Australia are making those decisions every day about the value of putting one or two children into child care when they are getting zero return because the secondary income—which is usually the wife's income—is going entirely to child care.

Only Labor has a vision and a plan to enact the real and necessary reform of our childcare system. This government is happy to sit back and tell women that they should be grateful that they're able to drive on a road. That's what this government wants. We say we want more for women. We want women to participate in the economy as they wish, and we will deliver the reform to be able to let them do that.