Abbott Government’s plans cut child care accessibility

KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD: From the outset Labor has made clear that the Government needs to provide information on its child care reforms, and answer critical questions for Australian families. Today it has been revealed that there is yet more information that is desperately required. We had previously already learned that up to one in four Australian families using child care could be significantly worse off as a result of the Government's announced reforms. Today we learn that families won't just be hit when it comes to affordability but also in trying to access a place. 

Reports today reveal that the Government is looking to disband important provisions which ensure that vulnerable children and children of working parents have first access to important child care places. Now we know that Australian parents need child care to be more affordable, more accessible and of higher quality. What they do not need is a Government who haven't done their homework and haven't looked at the detail making child care even less accessible and less affordable for Australian families. This is yet another example of a Government who is more interested in smear and their own vendettas than they are in the policy changes which Australians need them to face. Labor is making clear that we need answers to these critical questions about the Australian child care system and we need a Government that is going to put the needs of families first, ahead of their own political imperatives.

JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison says that no changes have been made to the priority access system. He says it has just been outlined in document designed to get feedback. Is it really a cause for concern at this stage?

ELLIS: Well the feedback we are giving very loudly to Scott Morrison today is that he needs to ensure that child care becomes more accessible, and I don't know why they are even flouting provisions that would mean that vulnerable children, and the children of working parents, would find it harder to access a place. This signals a step in the wrong direction and we know that there are too many parents out there, working parents who desperately need places. They need a Government that is going to assist them, not one that will make it harder.

JOURNALIST: What will the impact of cutting or altering that system be?

ELLIS: We know working parents when they can't access a place have to make tough decisions about whether or not they actually return to the workforce. Now, we don't want to see, particularly women's workforce participation go backwards because a Government hasn't done their homework, because they haven't looked at the policy detail and they haven't bothered to answer important questions about significant reforms. What we don't want to see is vulnerable children, who all the evidence suggests have the most to gain from accessing critical early childhood education, fall out of the system because they are just not on the Government's radar. What we have seen is the Government were quick to leap to announcements but they are not interested in the detail and they’re not interested in getting the policy right to assist Australian families.

JOURNALIST: You said the Government hasn't answered vital questions in terms of the finer details. What are those questions?

ELLIS: Well we know, for example, that a large number of Australian families would be worse off under the changes this Government has outlined. We want the Government to be honest about who those families are and how much worse off they would be. Recent research suggests up to a quarter of families using the system would be over $1,800 worse off a year. Now the Government needs to be frank, it needs to provide the detail and it needs to work through these important questions. We know that the child care system is critically important to Australian families. It's also critically important to our economy. We also know that families rely upon a Government being serious, not just making reforms so they can stand up and try and make an announcement, and have no thought about the consequences that it will actually have.

JOURNALIST: Just how urgent would you say this type of detail needs to be?

ELLIS: It's been weeks since the Government stood up and made a grand announcement about a new child care package, but in the weeks that have followed they have not been able to provide critical information about the impacts that that package will have. Australian parents just have some very simple questions. Will child care become more affordable and will child care become more accessible? So far we are seeing reports that the answer to both of those questions is no, to many, many Australian families.

OK, thanks very much.