Having a child is stressful enough – and in order to win over the votes of Australian parents in the upcoming federal election, both sides of politics have plans to ease the burden on parents.
The Liberal-National Coalition is largely sticking to their guns, having already overhauled the childcare payments system into a new ‘childcare subsidy’ in June last year.
While the current government have a number of other initiatives up their sleeves if they’re re-elected, Labor has a number of larger-scale announcements for both parents as well as childcare workers.
Here’s what both parties have in store for parents:
If Labor wins the election…
...Nearly a million families will pay up to $2,100 less a year for childcare, 3-year-olds will be let into preschool, and ParentsNext would be overhauled.
Labor’s childcare policy is a major pillar of their election campaign: the opposition party is planning to spend $4 billion designed to relieve parents from the burden of childcare costs.
Every household earning up to $174,000, 887,000 families in total, will see up to $2,100 slashed off their annual childcare bill – and that’s per child.
For families earning no more than $69,000, Labor will increase the subsidy rate from 85 per cent to 100 per cent up to the hourly fee cap ($11.77 an hour for long daycare), making childcare close to free for some parents.
Families earning between $69,000 and $100,000 won’t miss out, either: they’ll receive a subsidy rate between 85 per cent up to the hourly fee cap, and families who earn between $100,000 and $174,000 will get a rate between 60 per cent and 85 per cent.
Parents will be eligible for the subsidy as long as they meet the activity test, meaning they have to be either working, looking for work, volunteering, doing unpaid work for a family business, studying, training, or self-employed.
Labor is also promising to commit $1.75 billion to allow three-year-olds to access preschool.
The initiative, designed to address inequality faced by children of low-income families that may not have the same educational opportunities as other families, means the subsidy for 15 hours of preschool a week – currently available to four-year-olds – will be extended to three-year-olds, according to The Guardian.
The plan will cost $1.8 billion in the first four years and $8.6 billion across the next ten years, according to SMH.
Labor is also planning to overhaul the controversial ParentsNext program – which a Senate inquiry found “should not continue in its current form” – that inappropriately suspended payments to vulnerable parents.
Responding to calls for the program to be scrapped, jobs minister Kelly O’Dwyer said in mid-April that her department was in the process of “simplify[ing] reporting arrangements”, The Guardian reported.
...Childcare workers will also get a pay rise of 20 per cent over 8 years.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten intends to use taxpayer funds to raise the wages of up to 100,000 early childhood educators by 20 per cent across the next 8 years, representing average total wages growth of $11,300 at the end of the 8 years.
According to childcare workers’ union United Voice, 96 per cent of childcare workers are women and among Australia’s lowest-paid workers, with some earning as little as $22 an hour.
The first four years will cost $537 million, with the cost to grow as the policy rolls out over the subsequent years.
Labor has said the plan will cost $9.9 billion over the next decade, according to SMH, but has offered no guarantees that the subsidy will continue after the 8 years is up.
If the subsidy is not perpetuated, employers will be suddenly left paying 20 per cent more in wages.
Modelling has found the average childcare worker would get an extra $1,760 in 2021-22, or an extra $34 a week, but that childcare workers would not see a pay bump for at least two years, as reported in the SMH.
The same modelling also found Labor’s policy will cost the budget $1.6 billion a year once it’s fully implemented.
If you’re a dodgy childcare or early education provider, however, a Labor government will be cracking down on you: you’ll be banned from giving any freebies that incentivise people to enrol into your child care centre, or risk your license to receive the Child Care Subsidy be revoked.
If the Liberal-National Coalition wins the election...
...Parents will get support with pre- and post-natal depression, stepping back into work, and domestic violence.
The current government is promising a $36 million package to tackle pre- and post-natal depression.
New parents would undergo the ‘Mums, Dads and Bubs’ check – available in 10 different languages – before they leave the maternity ward for home, and the new check would be integrated into other standard health check-ups all new families go through, said minister for women Kelly O’Dwyer.
Women who have hit pause on their career to look after their family will also get a little assistance with a $75 million ‘Mid-Career Checkpoint’ initiative.
If re-elected, the government would provide up to 40,000 women ‘checkpoint session’ that would involve meeting with a professional to assess their needs or be provided with advice to step up their career.
For partners experiencing violence at home from their partner, the current government is pledging $328 million into combatting this, as announced in April’s federal budget.
The money will be split as follows: $68.3 million into prevention strategies; $78.4 million for safe spaces for victims; and $82.2 million to improve services that keep women and children safe.
The national hotline 1800RESPECT will also get a $64 million boost, with an additional $35 million to be channeled into support and prevention strategies for Indigenous communities.
The budget has also outlined $26 million for a new Perinatal Mental Health and Wellbeing Program which provides support to parents affected by perinatal mental illness or grieving over a lost child.
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Federal Election 2019 – The key issues:
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