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Parties fail to address childcare -

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EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: A work and family policy group has criticised both major parties for failing to address Australia's growing demand for affordable child care. While there has been plenty of debate about paid parental leave during the election campaign - the Work and Family Policy Round table says the major parties are dodging the childcare debate because it costs more to fund than parental leave. John Stewart reports Candice Talberg was the producer.

JOHN STEWART, REPORTER: It's a busy rush home after a long day at work for Jo Stintiford and her husband Tim with two children under the age of 4.

Jo and Tim both work full time. Their two children are in child care four days a week.

The centre is subsidised by Sydney's Manly Council but like many child care centres throughout Australia fees are on the rise.

JO STINTIFORD, MOTHER: It's going up by 30 per cent so basically that $700 a week is going up to $924 a week which equates to for the two children four days a week about $36,000 out of pocket per year and that's more than private school fees, I think.

JOHN STEWART: Even after receiving the Federal Government's rebate, more than half of Jo Stintiford's wage is spent on child care fees.

Manly Council says improving the quality of child care comes with a cost.

KATHRYN FAYLE, MANLY COUNCIL: It costs a lot to pay staff the quality that we have to provide a service in very good facilities for their children and we have to realise that Manly Council's only a small council of 40,000 residents. It cannot keep subsidising child care into the future as it has done historically.

JOHN STEWART: The work and family policy round table represents social researchers from 18 Australian universities from across the country. The group has produced a report comparing the major parties' work and family policies. The Coalition gets a tick for its 6 month paid parental leave scheme.

"The Coalition's Paid Parental Leave scheme is superior to Labor's existing scheme... however its funding requirements are large and some details of its implementation are unclear."

Labor has promised 300 million to boost the wages of child care workers and 450 million for out of school care. The report finds:

"Labor's policy on childcare is superior to the Coalition's, but more is needed to address significant childcare challenges."

BARBARA POCOCK, WORK AND FAMILY POLICY ROUNDTABLE: The work and family policy round table has had a good look at the international evidence and the policies that are on offer. We think improving paid parental leave is a positive step and the Coalition's in front of Labor on it. But on child care, which is so important, we have more on the table from the Labor Party and similarly in relation to flexibility at work.

JOHN STEWART: The work and family report also says that improving paid parental leave without making child care more affordable may do little for families in the longer term.

BARBARA POCOCK: Paid parental leave is important and we've come a long way in the last two years from where we were before when many women had no support at all, when they had a new baby. But it's more than paid parental leave. A balanced policy approach really has to give weight to child care which is a long term question that affects the well being of children, of parents and is a very important shape of productivity and participation in paid work.

JOHN STEWART: The Coalition has promised a Productivity Commission Inquiry into child care. But social researchers say that both major parties are shying away from tackling the increasing costs.

DR CHRIS PEERS, MONASH UNIVERSITY: The call for the Productivity Commission inquiry sounds as if they're just hedging their bets and pushing the issue away into the too hard basket because they know that the prospect of either raising taxes or trying to raise the costs in any other way would simply be unpalatable.

The Greens today unveiled a $2 billion child care policy designed to boost payments to families by $1,400 per year.

SARAH HANSON-YOUNG, GREENS SENATOR: Helping over 800,000 families who at the moment are struggling to pay their child care fees but desperately want to see good quality care for their children.

Jo Stintiford says that if child care costs continue to rise she may be forced to stay at home.

JO STINTIFORD: For someone like me who is working full time, and I do want to work full time for a lot of reasons, with the costs in child care right now currently and with the increase in our own child care fees it's making me reassess whether it is worth working full time.

JOHN STEWART: A question facing many Australian families.