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What about child care for under 5s?



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Tanya Plibersek MP Shadow Minister for Work and Family Shadow Minister for Childcare and Youth Shadow Minister for Women

16 January 2006

WHAT ABOUT CHILD CARE FOR UNDER 5s?

In their scrabble to bury the truths that Jackie Kelly MP has spoken about the dysfunctions in the child care system, senior ministers are avoiding the biggest problem - care for under 5s.

The greatest child care shortages - and the highest fees - are for children under school age.

Yet the Treasurer is only willing to canvass more places for after school care - despite the Government’s assertion at the last budget that there are enough after school care places to meet future demand.

The Treasurer knows very little about child care, and his ignorance is showing.

If a mother with a child under 5 cannot find long day care or family day care at a suitable location, they cannot work. Increasing after school care places isn’t going to fix this problem.

The Government sees child care as a cost for families to bear - Labor believes it’s a crucial investment for Government to make.

The shortage of affordable child care is a drag on our economy.

The Treasurer’s arguments against extra child care expenditure ignore a key fact - targeted investment in child care leads to economic growth, through increased participation in the labour force.

The Howard Government spent all last year arguing how important it was for the economy that sole parents be forced to work at least 15 hours a week - but is content to ignore the thousands of mums who want to work but cannot because there is not enough care for their young children.

There are 4 major reforms needed to increase the amount of affordable, high-quality care for under 5s in Australia:

• Start collecting data on shortages (currently the government does not assess unmet demand at all);

• Direct investment in long day care places - government assistance in establishing centres in areas of chronic shortages, including inner city and low-income areas;

• Remove the disincentives for employer investment in child care, by extending the categories of employer expenditure on child care that are fringe benefit tax exempt (currently FBT must be paid by employers on all child care assistance to employees, unless the employer operates the whole child care centre); and

• Increase the Child Care Benefit.

There is enough money in Federal Government coffers for the Federal Government to invest more in services for children, as well as to give tax relief.

Child care is a wise investment that reaps economic benefits for all - every Australian taxpayer will benefit from an increased workforce and the economic growth that flows, not just parents of young children.

For more information please contact Mary Wood on 0438 983 908

16 January 2006