Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

Families funding cuts

I rise tonight to talk about families. I welcome Prime Minister Abbott's changing rhetoric across the past two weeks around families. It is heart-warming to know that those of us on this side of the House who have been speaking endlessly about the unfair measures in the unfair budget—unfair for families, for women, and for education—may have been heard. And I hope, in time, that it is proven that we have been heeded.I welcome Minister Morrison's understanding, in his response to the Productivity Commission report this week, that families are hurting. But Mr Deputy Speaker, let us be serious: before the PC report, this government got busy—they got very busy with cuts. Those actions speak volumes, across Australia and in our communities. There were $5.5 billion worth of cuts to family payments; $1 billion in cuts to child care; $400 million in cuts to out-of-school hours care; and $157 million was cut from family day care, which—those who have calculated it suggest—translates to a $35-a-week increase in the cost of family day care. Support for parents to study and go back to work is gone, under the budget, and $300 million set aside to support low-paid educators has also been cut. These cuts are working their way through the system, while we hear about the Productivity Commission report. According to the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, this government's budget means that a single-income family on $65,000 with two children aged between eight and 14 would lose over $6,000 per year by 2016. The busyness of this government around these cuts is still a broad concern as these cuts work their way through the system. I believe the government is right to change the rhetoric—and now we have to see that followed by action. The people I represent deserve that.

The people of Lalor deserve it; the families in Lalor deserve a fair go. There are 60,000 families in my electorate—hardworking, middle-to-low income families where $65,000 per annum is a common household income. Lalor is one of the five electorates in Australia that has more than 10½ thousand families utilising child care. Over 9½ thousand families received some form of childcare benefit. I represent these hardworking, middle-to-low income families, and so I feel I need to respond to the change of rhetoric this week with the hope that it will be followed by a change of action.

I listened carefully today to Minister Morrison's response to a question in question time, and I heard him say a few things. I heard him say that the goal is that childcare be 'affordable and quality … that will support families to stay in work and to get back to work to give their children the best possible start in life'. I noted that he used the word 'quality', and I was pleased to hear him use the word quality. But he went on to couch it in some other terms:

This is not an industry development scheme. It is not a transfer payment scheme. It is not a training levy. It is not there to support wage claims. It is there to support families and their children, to help them get in work and stay in work and afford quality child care …

And it took me back—back to the Price Waterhouse Coopers report that came down in 2014. That report was around putting a value on early childhood education and care in Australia. You only have to read the executive summary of that document: I went to the front page, and it talks about the benefits of early childhood education and care: a $6-billion benefit to the GDP in increased female work participation. And I heard the minister acknowledge that today. But there are two other things the report talks about. One is the $10.3 billion benefit to GDP for the quality education and care program, and the other is a $13.3 billion value around the increased participation of vulnerable children—and that is really important in my electorate. So I am looking forward to the government changing its actions. But before we start finding the answers—the real solutions—no pun intended—to the questions around childcare into the future, we need to undo those cuts. We need to make sure families are living today.


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