We have just now seen One Nation and the Nick Xenophon political party line up with the government to cut in half the access to child care for some of the country’s most vulnerable children. We have just seen the Nick Xenophon political party slash in half care to vulnerable children overnight. We have seen the Nick Xenophon political party, One Nation and the government line up and say to those low-income families: ‘It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether you struggle or whether you live in an area where there is massive unemployment, where you have been retrenched, where Holden has closed its doors, where Hazelwood Power Station has had to close or a rural or regional area where there just isn’t job security. It doesn’t matter about that. Because you don’t have two people working your kids don’t deserve proper access to child care.’
Families have just been kicked in the guts tonight. They have lost 12 hours of care just like that, despite everything the experts have said and despite the promises that have previously been made. . I do not think that the member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie, is going to be particularly happy when she has to go back to her electorate and explain that she was not able to keep her promise of protecting two days of child care for South Australian children. I do not think that families in Queensland, particularly those in rural and regional areas, are going to be particularly happy to hear that Pauline Hanson and One Nation have just kicked them in the guts. Their children, apparently, do not matter. Unless, as a child, your parents are both working, apparently your access to child care does not matter. You are not as valuable to this government; you are not as valuable to One Nation and you are not as valuable to the Nick Xenophon political party unless both your parents are working. Why are those children being punished? Because there is a deal that has been done here tonight.
Yesterday, they cut and slashed the family tax benefit payments and took money directly out of the pockets of families, and now, tonight, they have taken at least a day off families being able to send their kids to child care and early childhood education. It is appalling the way this government is getting these reforms through tonight by putting vulnerable children and low-income families in the dust bin. Those kids do not matter, apparently. They are not as valuable to the government, because both parents are not working or are not able to find work. It is an appalling situation to see the most vulnerable kids being hung out to dry by this government, the Xenophon political party and One Nation. They had an opportunity to fix this tonight; instead, they have rolled over, squibbed the opportunity and sunk the boot into low-income families right across the country.
We could redeem some of this in the next amendment, which would at least lift the income threshold for the safety net to $100,000 per annum per household. That would at least mean that for some families who are struggling to keep both parents in work, struggling to ensure that work is stable, and who are earning under $100,000, which, if you have kids in child care, is not an awful lot of money, because childcare fees continue to rise, this is an opportunity to at least broaden that safety net in terms of the income threshold. Kids are still going to be left in the lurch because the government and the crossbenchers have just voted to cut their access in terms of two days down to one, but at least lifting the income threshold from $65,000 up to $100,000 would ensure that a family on $75,000 a year or those on $80,000, $90,000 or up to $100,000 a year can still at least put their kids into child care with some support to pay those high childcare fees.
I appeal to the crossbench. You have just sent a pretty nasty message to families right across this country that if children come from a low-income family and if both their parents are not working then those children are worthless. You have just sent that message. You have just kicked those poor kids from vulnerable families. How about at least dealing with the income threshold level and lift it to $100,000 so that we do not see even more families left in the lurch, left out in the cold and told basically that they are not worthy to this government because they do meet the government’s activity test? We have heard a lot about productivity from this government in relation to this bill. How about we hear something about the value of caring and educating our nation’s children? How about we hear a little bit about understanding what it is like to have two kids or one kid in child care and a baby at home and struggling to pay the bills on one income?
Most people in this country, regardless of where they live, want to be productive members of our community, but we have a massive unemployment rate in this country. And whose fault is that? The government has done nothing to deal with unemployment in Australia. Unemployment continues to rise. The only answer the government has to that is, ‘Let’s give $50 billion worth of tax cuts to big corporations.’ Somehow that is magically going to trickle down. Everyone knows that is bollocks. Meanwhile, here you are making it tougher and even harder for some of the lowest income families in the country, those who cannot manage to get into the workforce, to give their kids the best start in life.
Corporations can get $50 billion in taxpayer-funded tax cuts but families who have kids in child care are going to have a hard time affording the care their children need. It is money to big businesses, money to tax cuts for big businesses and less money for parents who are doing their absolute hardest to give their children the best start in life. There is money for tax cuts to big businesses and less money for parents who are doing their absolute hardest to give their children the best start in life.
This government has its priorities totally backwards. Do not give me any of this bollocks about the fact that you cannot afford a proper safety net to look after children in child care and cannot fund proper access to early childhood education. You are spending $50 billion on tax cuts. Do not come into this place and pretend that you do not have enough money to support parents who are trying to do their best.
I present the requested amendments, and I urge the Senate to support them. I seek leave to move the requests together.
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Chamber Senate on 23/03/2017 Item BILLS – Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Jobs for Families Child Care Package) Bill 2016 – In Committee Speaker :Hanson-Young, Sen Sarah