Labor leaders were in Yass this week to announce their plan to kickstart the nation’s economy with childcare as the keystone.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese along with Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain and Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development Amanda Rishworth spoke at Goodstart Early Learning in Yass on Monday the 26th of October and announced their plans for the future.

The three Labor representatives started their visit to Goodstart by enjoying some light-hearted fun with the children, getting to know them and joining in with some playtime. One of the children (William) explained his dinosaurs and how his favourite was the T-Rex, while another child, Sophie, showed them how to play with blocks. They then moved onto the press conference outlining their new policies in reply to the Coalitions budget.

If elected, the Albanese led Labor Government will introduce the Working Family Childcare Boost which the opposition claims will cut childcare fees and put money in more people’s pockets. The plan is to scrap the current childcare subsidy cap, which is set at $10,560 per year and often sees women, in particular, losing money from working an extra day each week.

They also plan to lift the maximum subsidy rate from 85% to 90%, increase the rates and taper them for every family earning less than $530,00 per annum. This will come as a huge benefit for working families in Australia as the childcare fees are some of the highest in the world.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ranked Australia 26 out of their 32 member countries for childcare costs and estimated in 2019 that 18% of family incomes was spent on early education and childcare.

“Working mothers should be able to afford childcare for their kids. It’s as simple as that,” said Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

“Childcare has a huge place in our families’ lives. For me, I had three kids, all of whom went to long daycare whilst I was working. And this policy means so much to me, and people my age because we are utilising these centres on a daily basis,” said MP Kristy McBain.

William and Federal Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain in a dinosaur battle at Goodstart Early Learning Centre

Mr Albanese stated that too many working mums could not work a fourth or fifth day during the week because it costs too much to do so. The cost of childcare with the subsidy and how it interacts with the tax system makes staying home those extra days to take care of children more financially viable.

Working the fourth or fifth day can sometimes be just to cover the costs of sending your child to care on those days, which is not worth it economically but is essential for those parents holding a fulltime position.

Labor projects that these changes would save 97% of families on the subsidy system around $600 – $2,900 a year. Labor believes there is a current disincentive for working mothers to increase their hours or work full time due to the Coalition’s system in place at the moment. Under the current government childcare fees have risen 35% since 2013 and on average families are paying $3800 more each year.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March, over 200,000 people have lost their jobs, and 110,000 women have left the workforce. At the peak of the pandemic, over 1 million women were not in work.

KPMG and the Gratten institute both predicted that increased productivity or working mothers would increase the annual GDP more than $7.5 billion.

While KPMG also estimated that the number of hours the new childcare policy would create for mothers to work would equate to around 30,000-40,000 full-time jobs per year which would help with the growing unemployment due to the pandemic.

“The overwhelming evidence is clear: more women in the labour force is good for the economy, and quality early education is better for our kids,” said Shadow Minister Rishworth.

This childcare reform comes in response to what Labor believes is a broken system, with more than 100,000 families unable to afford childcare, preventing many mothers from returning to work or taking on full-time positions after giving birth.

“Women are the key to kickstarting our economy again. In the worst recession in a hundred years, we have to make sure women aren’t forced to choose between their family and their jobs,” said Mr Albanese.

The ACCC will look at the current funding, fees, profits and salaries in the childcare model, and see how they relate to each other and how to decrease childcare costs for Australian families. 

The Labor childcare policy is designed to grow the economy and studies have shown it will pay for itself. The goal is to reform and recover from the effects of COVID-19 by looking at the problem and creating new policies, not just returning to the way things were pre COVID.

The other policy Mr Albanese briefly touched on during the conference was Future Made. This policy looks at manufacturing, the national energy grid, building a railway and improving apprenticeships and training. It is all designed to create infrastructure and jobs to kickstart the economy beside their new childcare policy going into the future.

Ryan Betts