A childcare package for mothers? Sadly not.
A childcare package that was really for mothers would have some mechanisms in it to increase the supply of childcare. In all the talk about new childcare cards and a single simplified rebate, did you hear anything that would make childcare more available? Even the nanny trial is only a two year trial of 4000 nannies. A childcare package for mothers would have helped the bulging at the seams out of school hours care system.
A childcare package for mothers would not crudely try and bribe mothers to return to work by linking the hours of childcare one can access to the hours one works. If you work under 8 hours a fortnight you won’t get funded care unless your family earns less than $65,000 per annum. If you work 1-2 days a fortnight you can access around 3 days of care etc. Only when you work over 49 hours a fortnight can you access the same amount of care as you can now.
A childcare package for mothers would make childcare significantly more affordable. The government claims that basing the subsidy on a benchmark price for childcare, as opposed to what childcare actually costs will put a downwards pressure on fees, that it will work to keep childcare more affordable. It may, but at this stage it’s important to note that this is theory only. Their modelling says that those with “family incomes of between $65,000 and $170,000 will be around $30 a week better off. Those on higher incomes will, on average, continue to receive the same level of support.” Even if it works it is not a significant change to affordability.
A childcare package for mothers would give relief to mothers now. The new subsidies don’t come in until July 2017. Many families currently struggling with childcare bills will have passed the childcare stage by then.
Mother’s Day Release
And what was it about releasing it on Mother’s Day? Only a government bereft of women at the top could have thought that one was a good idea.
A government with a few more women in Cabinet might have had the benefit of advice along the lines of “maybe not a good idea boys. We might get the headlines about Mother’s Day gifts but we’ll also give the impression that we think childcare is a mother’s responsibility, and you know, that’s just so 1950s.”
But the government didn’t get that advice. They also didn’t get the advice that making a simultaneous announcement about removing access to paid parental leave for parents that receive this is an employee benefit would be rated arch hypocrisy given that until just a few months ago paid parental leave was the PM’s signature policy.
The government also missed out on the really crucial advice that trying to bribe mothers to work more hours in order to be able to access more funded childcare was a dumb idea. Women make the decision on how much they want to work based on what is best for their families. For most of us it is a juggling act where we balance a million issues of job availability, career outlook, impact on our children and need for money. Calling a childcare package Jobs for Families also shows how out of touch the government really is with women, especially women who are mothers.
Because you know what mothers absolutely want most? What we want most is what is best not for us, but for our children. And that is access to high quality early education and care that ensures our children are still learning while we are working in paid jobs. And that was not remotely part of what the government delivered.
But announcing it on Mother’s Day was a novel way of trying to get policy approval though, wasn’t it? Were Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott hoping that being served breakfast in bed by beaming offspring would lead happy mothers to give a thumbs up to the long awaited package?
Social Service’s Minister Scott Morrison has been busy using childcare as the issue that would renovate him in the public’s eyes from scary Immigration minister to potential PM material. And Tony Abbott? If he hoped that splashing a bit of cash on childcare would drown the memories of his government’s disastrous first budget, he may need a rethink.
All this package will do is confirm in many voter’s eyes that this Government is not up to the hard task of developing credible public policy that can get through the Senate, much less position Australia for a productive and prosperous future.
But then this policy is probably all we can expect when it was crafted by two men who despite having children, were not directly responsibility for raising them or sourcing the childcare. Yesterday Mr Abbott thanked his wife Margaret. He said “For much of our married life (she) has been pretty much a sole carer while I went off chasing my own dreams”.
His lack of knowledge, experience and responsibility for raising children shows clearly in the policies he has crafted for those of us who do.