The real surprise isn’t that the federal government’s attempts to reform childcare have been thwarted. It’s that members of the government seem surprised that’s the case.
Earlier this week ministers implied that funding for the NDIS and the planned childcare reforms would be at risk if the senate failed to pass its omnibus of savings.
The trouble is, many of these savings measures amount to welfare cuts affecting family tax benefits, paid parental leave and unemployment payments, that have been opposed by a number of cross-benchers for some time.
The lack of cross bench support (not to mention public sentiment) for the specific savings measures ought not surprise anyone who has been paying attention.
And yet that is where we are.
The independent Senator Nick Xenophon is being framed as the grinch, despite his longstanding and recorded opposition to these measures.
The minister for education, Simon Birmingham is today flagging departmental data that shows more than 3,600 families have hit the $7,500 child care assistance cap in the first two weeks of 2017.
“Thousands of families are starting the new year having already run out of assistance for meeting the cost of early childhood education and care and by the end of June we estimate around 94,000 families will hit the rebate cap,” Birmingham said in a statement.
“Our fully funded reforms will give relief to around 129,000 families by abolishing the $7,500 rebate cap for the vast majority of families and increasing it to $10,000 for higher income families earning $185,000 or more each year. We’ll give families relief from the out-of-pocket child care cost pressures they face, end the stress of reaching a funding cliff mid-year and empower parents to make decisions about when or how much to work that best suit their family circumstances.”
The financial burden households carry due to childcare is a problem that has been well documented and it’s relieving to hear the government recognise this. But it would be inaccurate to say the attempts at reform thus far reflect this as a genuine priority.
Early on Wednesday on Radio National Fran Kelly raised this exact issue.
“If the Government really wants to fix it, why doesn’t it – why has it tied it to the passage of the whole omnibus savings bill? Because I have to say this child care wasn’t mentioned much by the Federal Government in the last election campaign. How much of a priority is it for your government?”
Childcare reform is desperately overdue. If this reform is a priority why is it being tied to measures that have long been opposed? Surely, the government was aware its omnibus bill would be an uphill battle to pass. It is hard to escape the conclusion that childcare reform isn’t a priority.