SUNDAY, 26 OCTOBER 2014
KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD: The question that many Australians will be asking today is: ‘is there anything that Tony Abbott didn’t lie about before the last election in order to form Government?’ We’ve heard broken promise, after broken promise.
Before the election the Prime Minister was very happy to rule out means-testing the Child Care Rebate. Australians went to polls with headlines like “Libs promise not to means-test childcare rebate”. Yet today, we see not only will they not rule it out, but it is most likely on the table. This adds to over a billion dollars that has already been cut from our child care sector in just over a year.
Whilst the Government specifically campaigned that they would make child care more affordable, all they have done is cut a billion dollars from existing programs, and they’re now looking at ways that they will make child care less affordable for Australian families.
There is one very simple question for the Abbott Government today: will they rule out any proposals that will make child care less affordable for Australian families? That is the test that they set for themselves before the last election, that is the test that we will hold them to, and that is the test that they must answer here today. We know that Australians want more affordable, more accessible and more flexible Child Care. But they’ve also had enough of a Government which is saying one thing and doing quite the opposite.
This Government have done nothing to make child care more affordable, and now we know that for tens of thousands of Australian families they will have to weigh up – is it worth returning to the workforce? Because this Government is looking to further cut their child care assistance.
JOURNALIST: Could it be justified for families earning over $150,000 a year?
ELLIS: Obviously we will look at any policy proposals that the Productivity Commission puts forward, and judge them on their merits. But we will also judge the Abbott Government on their word. They very, very simply ruled out means testing the child care rebate before the election. Now they either have to front up and admit that they lied, or they have to explain to the Australian public what’s changed since then.
JOURNALIST: There would be lots of families who could easily afford it, or could easily be cut out by the means test those over $150,000?
ELLIS: The issue is that we’re expecting the Productivity Commission will put a range of proposals before the Government, and before the Australian public. But the judge here was Tony Abbott’s himself. Tony Abbott went out of his way to write to every child care centre in the country before the last election promising more affordable child care. Tony Abbott and his Government went out of their way to promise to the Australian people that they would not means test the Child Care Rebate. What we have here is yet another lie, yet another broken promise on the scrap heap of broken promises which this Government has already left behind them. And the Australian public is entitled to say that this is just another occasion where Tony Abbott has directly lied.
JOURNALIST: Would there be a threshold that you would accept?
ELLIS: Well it’s a really complicated issue looking at child care and means-testing. We know that it can have a significant impact on particularly women’s workforce participation. But as we said, we are prepared to look at the Productivity Commission proposals. What we are not prepared to do is turn a blind eye to a Government that lied to the Australian public, and just keeps lying now.
JOURNALIST: Families earning more that $150,000 though, do you think they should get the same benefits as those on much lower incomes?
ELLIS: Look what we’ve since previously when people have looked at this, is that often it is the case in modern Australia that women continue be the overwhelming majority of second income earners. That means if you place a blanket means test on a family income it is often women who will not return to the workforce. So all of these issues have to be looked at very very carefully. We will look and see what the Productivity Commission has proposed in the days and weeks that follow. But what we do know is that Tony Abbott was prepared to make a statement in black and white just over a year ago that he is not prepared to repeat now that he is the Prime Minister of this country. The Australian public are sick and tired of finding out that what they were told, the assurances they were given weren’t nothing more than pre-election lies. We’ve had enough of it.
JOURNALIST: How much worse off will a low-income family be?
ELLIS: Well, what we do know is that there is modeling which is saying that families on as little as $40,000 per annum could be significantly worse off under the proposals we’ve seen in the draft report. What we want the Government to say is that no Australian family will be worse off. We want them to repeat their pre-election promise that they will make child care more affordable for Australian families, not that they would make child care less affordable by just continuing to cut the assistance that families rely upon.
JOURNALIST: And a high-income family?
ELLIS: Well again, we will need to look at the final report when it comes through. But what we’ve seen in modeling in the last couple of weeks has shown that families on all different income levels can be substantially worse off if the Government adopts proposals to limit child care assistance to families whilst doing absolutely nothing to limit child care fees.
JOURNALIST: Are you confident that child care will be more affordable and flexible following the review?
ELLIS: Well the Government set out on this review saying that they would do it to make child care more affordable, more accessible and more flexible. Since that time they’ve cut a billion dollars from child care assistance to families. They have cut the one program that was in place to create more child care places in areas of high need, and of course they have cut funding to up to 80% of family day care services which provide greater flexibility. What we want is for this outcome to make child care more affordable, more accessible and more flexible. But from now we’ve seen nothing from the Government to suggest that’s going to be the case.