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Wednesday, 4 August 2021
Page: 7463

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (19:26): I rise to support this much welcomed announcement of an additional $1.7 billion in this year's budget to assist hardworking Australian families with the cost of child care. Some families are currently paying more in childcare fees every month than their mortgage repayments, and that's across all types of services. In day care, average fees have risen from $6.60 per hour in 2011 to $10 per hour in March last year, and that's above CPI increases yearly. In 2019, Australia had one of the highest net childcare costs in the OECD. A family with two children in child care, with one parent on an average wage and one just below, will pay around 17 per cent of their net household income on childcare costs alone. When the government introduced the new system of childcare subsidy in July 2018, there was much hope that more parents would be able to return to work with more affordable childcare options available to them. However, in the first year of these changes, one in three families were reporting that they were still paying the same amount in childcare costs, while one in three families were paying higher costs. Some childcare providers chose to increase their charges to above the hourly rate funded by the government, and unfortunately in regional electorates, such as my electorate of Mayo, much higher increases were seen.

One of the main objectives of the new childcare subsidy scheme was to increase workforce participation. However, a year on from the scheme being introduced, 77 per cent of parents surveyed said that the changes to the childcare system had made no impact on the number of hours worked or studied. Currently, the government covers up to 85 per cent of childcare costs for some families but only if they earn less than $69,000 and only 50 per cent is covered when families earn more than a combined income of $175,000. The highest childcare costs tend to be borne by families with multiple children, resulting in a significant barrier for parents. It's just not worth working. Under the proposed changes, for second and subsequent children five and under, the childcare subsidy received by families will increase by 30 percentage points to a maximum of 95 per cent, which will hopefully benefit around 250,000 Australian families. Under these changes, a family on $110,000 with two children in full-time care would be $120 better off a week. Imagine the difference that could make to a family's weekly budget.

I recently spoke in this place on the high cost of child care in my community and highlighted the need for the removal of the subsidy cap. This will be critical. I've seen examples of some parents paying more for child care than they actually earn after hitting the childcare cap. I asked for this serious issue to be addressed and I'm grateful that the government was listening and has removed this cap altogether. It would be remiss of me not to give a speech on child care without raising the cost of child care on families in Australia. Many families find that the cost of the second parent returning to work and the significant drop in the childcare subsidy mean it's just not worth going to work. This really impacts women in particular. It makes women feel undervalued and it has far-reaching impacts on the work and the economy.

I have some concerns and I will end with this. I have some concerns that the date for this is not until July 2022—

Debate interrupted.