FiveAA – Labor’s Working Family Child Care Boost

Friday, 09 October 2020

DAVID PENBERTHY, HOST: So Amanda we were saying before this gives Labor probably a much needed point of difference in the political battle against the federal government. What was the thinking behind the policy?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well I think as we look at who’ve been hurt the most in the COVID pandemic it’s been women. So when you look at what economists are saying about how we get women and men are back to work, what we’ve really got to do is support them to do that and one of the big costs for many families is child care. We didn’t want the cost of child care to be a barrier for families to go back to work.

So that was our thinking, particularly women are those that don’t get back to work immediately, that have been affected, that sometimes don’t take up the hours that are offered. We didn’t want to have the cost of child care being a barrier to that and so that was the thinking behind our policy.

WILL GOODINGS, HOST: But do families earning $500,000 a year need assistance?

RISHWORTH: The most amount of assistance overall still goes to low income families, but what we’ve got to look at is this is a participation measure. It’s about women’s participation and the second wage earner’s participation in the workforce. The evidence shows that for many second wage earners, particularly women, they actually have to pay to go to work on the fourth or fifth day. So they actually lose money by going back to it. Now that’s not good for women, it’s not good for families, but it’s also not good for business and that’s why we have a lot of economists, a lot of businesses, calling for this reform. Because it’s not just good for families, this type of reform has been modelled and it grows our GDP by between four and seven billion dollars, so it’s good for the economy as well.

PENBERTHY: Did Labor look at the proposals out of Western Australia from Twiggy Forrest and former Premier Jay Weatherill working there and interestingly being supported by some former senior Liberal MPs, including the former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, to actually have like a full-blown guaranteed universal child care system similar to Medicare where you’ve effectively got free child care, albeit something that could be funded through some kind of levy.

RISHWORTH: We have looked at a number of proposals out there, there’s certainly the proposal by the Thrive by Five organisation but also KPMG and the Grattan Institute have put some proposals out there as well. So certainly we look at those to see how we could develop this, and they were important in our thinking. But of course what we want to do is we’re looking at a boost for the first three years and then asking the Productivity Commission to look at how we transition to a 90 per cent subsidy for all families.

GOODINGS: So what’s the cost differential between your plan and universal child care?

RISHWORTH: Well we have to get the Productivity Commission to look at that, but our plan in the first three years covers an increase in support to 97 per cent of families.

PENBERTHY: Good stuff Amanda Rishworth the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education. Thank you for joining us this morning.


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