Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (12:06): In my part of Western Sydney, where families have to travel considerable distances for employment and need to balance family responsibilities with work and the cost of raising a family, there are obviously a number of things that are top-of-mind for me. Not the least of them is the cost of child care and how it impacts on families within the Chifley electorate.
The Turnbull government—the then Abbott government—went to the election promising more affordable child care, but the government’s own figures show a massive increase in the cost of child care for millions of families across the country since 2013, and a lot of those families are in the electorate I represent. The Liberals’ own policy documents, released in September 2013, promised:
The Coalition will help ensure child care is more accessible, affordable and flexible for Australian parents.
They campaigned on this within the Chifley electorate. Instead, families have been hit with risking out-of-pocket costs and a disorganised and confused approach to improving childcare affordability.
This government is set to go a full term without doing a single thing to help families with the cost of child care, and this is simply not good enough. Local families in the Chifley electorate are facing massive cuts to child care after the Turnbull government again voted to cut family tax benefits. The government have voted to cut family tax benefit supplements for thousands of local families and family tax benefit B payments for local single parents. These cuts will hurt nearly 19,000 families in Chifley who rely on family payments to help meet their costs of living, including child care. When you break those numbers down, that is roughly $726 per child in family tax benefit A and $354 per family in family tax benefit B. A single-parent family in Chifley with a couple of kids in secondary school would stand to lose around $5,000 per year because of the Turnbull government’s plan to cut family tax benefits and the schoolkids bonus. Low- and middle-income families with two kids in secondary school will be around $2,600 per year worse off because of cuts to the schoolkids bonus and family tax benefit supplements. These are big numbers to people in the Chifley electorate and they will hurt many young families who are struggling to make ends meet.
On top of this, data from the latest Australian Early Development Census reveals that 20 per cent of Australian children are vulnerable in at least one part of their development when they reach school—rising to one in three children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Significantly, this report found a widening gap, in all areas of development, between the most disadvantaged and least disadvantaged areas of Australia.
This government consistently dodge the fact that their childcare package will slash access to early education for Australia’s most vulnerable children. Even under the so-called safety net, a disadvantaged child will lose half their access to early education, a dangerous move that could push vulnerable children even further behind. The coalition has even trashed Labor’s needs based Gonski reforms, ripping out $30 billion from education over the next decade, with $270 million ripped out over 10 years from the Chifley electorate alone. So they are cutting early education for disadvantaged children, slashing school funding and making it harder to access child care. They talk about wanting to start the next wave of innovation in Australia, but they take away investment in education needed to skill up our next generation.
And on top of this they have taken away the disability loading for students with a disability. Last week a scheduled meeting of education ministers was cancelled at the last minute to spare the government embarrassment over its broken promises to students with disability, remembering that the government promised to fully implement the Gonski disability loading from 2015. Then they said, in 2016, that they will go a whole term without taking any action whatsoever. These have an impact on the most vulnerable, and the government should stand condemned for it.
Again, I stand here on behalf of families in my area who are very concerned, who are trying to make ends meet. They want to make sure they have access to affordable child care and also to help vulnerable children who need special and increased assistance. And yet this government, despite promising that they would do it, again fail to help those families in need. Quite frankly, I want to stand up for families in my area and say, ‘This isn’t good enough.’