Childcare

1. Access to childcare

1.1. Policy: Subsidise 95% of the cost of childcare up to a benchmark of $11.55/hr. Remove all means testing of childcare.

1.2. Discussion: The Science Party believes that the provision of childcare can help redress inequality. In particular, carers (who tend to be women) spend substantial time outside of the workforce raising children. The out of pocket expenses of childcare makes the existing childcare benefit scheme inaccessible for people who have lower salaries. Ensuring that affordable, accessible childcare is available to all will help address issues of income disparity and representation in senior roles by allowing women to return to their careers earlier. The Science Party believes that early childhood education is extremely important for learning and participation, and that all children should have the opportunity to attend preschool.

Our scheme substantially reduces the out of pocket costs of childcare. This will increase access to childcare, particularly for those on lower incomes. The Science Party sees this as an important investment in both the education of Australian children and in the workforce by allowing parents to return to work when they choose. This will ensure primary carers are given additional time in the workforce to advance their careers and hence assist in redressing some elements of income disparity.

Table: Childcare costs and out of pocket expenses ($) under
the government's and the Science Party's proposals

Childcare costs per
10-hour day
Childcare costs per
50-hour week
Out of pocket expenses per child per 50-hour week
Current system Science Party proposal
70 350 71 18
80 400 96 20
90 350 121 23
100 400 146 25
110 450 171 28
120 500 196 30
130 550 221 73
140 600 246 123
150 650 271 173
160 700 296 223
170 750 321 273
180 800 346 323
190 850 371 373

 

Removal of means testing of childcare will simplify the system, while not greatly increasing the cost of the system, as very few people earn enough to activate the full means testing exclusion. The Science Party remains opposed to means testing of government benefits in cases where means testing increases the effective marginal tax rates of individuals to the point where taking on additional work provides close to no financial advantage to the individual.

The Science Party’s policy is somewhat similar to the proposal put forward by Social Services Minister Scott Morrison in May 2015, however, we believe that more stringent means testing and work activity testing will make the scheme difficult to administer and will make accessing childcare more difficult for parents who are sporadically employed. Employment reporting should occur through Centrelink, either through lodging pay slips that indicate ongoing permanent employment or automated through the existing systems that manage earnings declarations for the purposes of Newstart and other allowances. A more detailed discussion of the projected outcomes of this scheme in terms of return on investment and workplace equality is here.

 

2. Childcare standards

2.1. Policy: Ensure all children have access to a combination of high-level training and appropriate conditions for early childhood educators.

2.2. Discussion: Current national standards stipulate minimum contact hours with trained childhood educators, educator:child ratios, and formal training for educators. The Science Party does not believe that childcare minimum standards need to raised. Rather, the Science Party believes that allowing all parents to access childcare is the highest priority. We believe that all children in childcare should receive some element of formal education, however increasing minimum standards will increase costs. For parents who wish to send their children to more educationally focused child care, the option to pay for this level of education is still available to them.