Child Care Motion

7 Aug | '2023

For the past 12 months the Albanese government has been spruiking its ‘cheaper child care’ policy. They promised that out-of-pocket costs would be lower and fees would not increase. When we asked about lack of access and the overworked and burnt-out educators, they basically shrugged their shoulders and said: ‘Don’t worry. We’ve got a plan.’ Well, it’s a plan that we’re yet to actually see, and 1 July hit like a ticking time bomb for Australian families. My office has been inundated with emails from families who are further out of pocket now than they were before 1 July. Their fees have increased, eating most or all of their subsidy. Sarah in Jamisontown had her fees increased by $18 a day, and Naomi in Rothwell is now paying $45 more a day for her two children.

According to the Parenthood, 90 per cent of families have watched their childcare fees increase in recent weeks. The Prime Minister promised families they would be better off. But what I’ve been hearing is that families are struggling to pay their rent, their mortgage, their bills and their early learning fees. Many families were hoping to have extra money to pay for electricity bills, petrol for their car and other expenses. Instead they’ve been left under further economic stress. The last time Labor was in government fees skyrocketed by 53 per cent in just six years. They’ve already increased by eight per cent in the past nine months alone. And while Labor says fees will go down, it’s pretty clear you can’t trust a thing that comes out of this Prime Minister’s mouth. Labor lied to the Australian people at the last election. They’ve broken promise after promise, and they’ll continue to do so to stay in power.

In the last month I travelled to South Australia, to Victoria and to Tassie, visiting regional and rural communities, many of whom have no access to any care or are stuck on waiting lists as far as the eye can see. I spoke with highly educated, capable women and men who want to return to the workforce as teachers, nurses, GPs and even small-business owners. But there’s no local centre, there’s no local family day care, the closest provider is 40 minutes away, and the waiting list already has 50 families on it.

I’d had high hopes that the government would do something meaningful with the Community Child Care Fund, a program established by the coalition to support regional and rural communities. Yet when the government announced the $19 million grant round earlier this year I scanned the list of eligible communities and was severely disappointed. Many of the communities I’ve been to or heard from were not on that list and therefore were not eligible to apply—communities like Tumby Bay, Cummins, Augusta, Charlton, Biggenden, Wilmington, Ardrossan, and the list goes on. Labor spent $4.7 billion on childcare subsidies, and not $1 of that went to increase access. And none of it’s going to regional, rural or remote communities, who have zero access. Labor have left these communities behind, and it’s disgraceful.

We also warned the government that their policy would put further demand on a sector already under great pressure. I’ve spoken to hundreds of educators who are stressed, burning out, unsure how much longer they can stay in their jobs. They’re working all day on the floor, and then they’ve got after-hours staff meetings, professional development and paperwork up to their eyeballs that they need to complete. They don’t feel respected or valued, but they should be, because they care for and educate our youngest Australians.

When we ask about the plan for workforce, Labor simply rabbit on about their fee-free TAFE and University places. But what they fail to mention is that while Australians may enrol in early learning courses at TAFE at university many of them simply don’t complete those courses and enter the sector. Those free places also won’t support educators who have already completed their education and have been in the sector for many years. While we want to see more Australians at TAFE and university, there’s no real plan to increase the number of educators in the pipeline and help retain them. It’s become very clear that the Albanese government has no idea what it’s doing. They have no plan to increase access, no plan to address rising fees and no plan to fix workforce concerns. With out-of-pocket costs rising yet again under Labor, Australian families deserve to know why they always pay much more under Labor.

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