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Labor's first budget was tipped to be a ‘bread and butter’ budget by Jim Chalmers. The ‘essentials only’, in efforts to repair the bottom line, while supporting families with the rising cost of living.
But are families really supported in the face of record energy prices, rising interest rates, the prospect of job instability and inflation? The answer is no.
The budget makes some great first strides, but it simply doesn’t go far enough.
Its new subsidies, aimed to support 96% of families, do not kick in until July 2023. Families are doing it tough today. Interest rates, inflation, energy prices, need I say more? Not to mention the impact this has on women who often stall their return to work until affordable childcare can be secured.
A key issue with these policies is that the bar is set so low on change that any improvement seems reason to celebrate. Australia’s childcare system is broken. Families need more affordable access to care, and we also need more childcare workers, with better pay, recognition and support.
Families will not be better supported until both sides of the system are catered for. You cannot have one without the other.
Our childcare centres today are at the point of crisis, not being able to fill positions with potential staff who find more money and less responsibility in packing shelves than becoming an early childhood educator.
Cheaper childcare will be of no use when families cannot get placements. There will be no increase to the female workforce participation rate, nor an increase in the number of men who opt to balance the scales and become a stay-at-home Dad, thanks to the gender pay gap.
These two elements need to be considered in unison with where the change bar really should be: we need to work towards a system where, eventually, childcare over the age of one is free.