NSW Treasurer Matt Kean has said the NSW state government is prepared to invest in affordable early childhood education and care if the federal government does not.
Kean, who spoke at the NSW Women of the Year awards on Wednesday morning, called on the federal government to take the lead on childcare, which is considered a federal issue.
“I believe the time has come for universal, affordable childcare right across our country,” Kean said in his speech. “Universal, affordable and accessible childcare is no silver bullet but it is a necessary step if we are to address the structural barriers that women face right across our country.”
“This is a national issue and with the federal budget just weeks away, Canberra should lead,” Kean said. “But if Canberra does not, this is too important an issue to leave to the policy graveyard of state-federal relations. It impacts too many people; it is too important for the economic security and opportunities of women across this state.”
Kean said investing in childcare is investing in Australia’s economic and social infrastructure, and its significant return on investment should be considered.
Kean’s comments put pressure on the Morrison government, just ahead of the federal budget which is due to be handed down on March 29.
Under the current early childhood education and care system, many women across Australia face a disincentive to work more hours and days because the costs of childcare often outweigh take-home pay.
Last budget, the federal government committed to some reform, due to begin in July this year, that will help about 270,000 families. The policies will remove the annual cap of $10,560 on childcare payment for families with incomes over $180,000, and will also boost the subsidy for second and subsequent children in care, by up to 30 percentage points.
But many groups are calling on the federal government to go much further – to invest in free, accessible and quality early childhood education and care for all children.
The federal opposition has announced a policy that would scrap the $10,560 child care subsidy cap which often sees women losing money from an extra day’s work, lift the maximum child care subsidy rate to 90 per cent and increase child care subsidy rates and taper them for every family earning less than $530,000.
The move from Matt Kean comes just after the NSW government announced the establishment of a landmark review and a women’s economic expert panel, headed up by Chief Executive Women president Sam Mostyn.
The panel will focus on how best to support women to enter, re-enter and stay in the workforce, how to improve salary and superannuation outcomes for women, and how it can best improve access to and affordability of childcare.
Members of the review panel include: CEO of the Muslim Women Association Maha Abdo OAM, partner at EY Port Jackson Partners Blair Comley, CEO of The Infrastructure Collaborative and The Exchange Jillian Kilby, Co-Chair of the Council on Early Childhood Development Leslie Loble, and writer and teacher Daisy Turnbull.