Flat White

Free childcare: it sounds great, but your kids will pay for it from their taxes later

1 June 2020

6:11 PM

1 June 2020

6:11 PM

There is not one Australian industry sector that wouldn’t want a $60 billion handout. Not one. 

But the free childcare for all kids plea from former South Australian Labor premier Jay Weatherill — strangely settled now in the West — is a bit rich. 

A bit rich because saying the current system in place during COVID-19 should be extended indefinitely, conveniently forgets one thing: Who will actually end up paying for it? 

You know the answer.  

The taxpayer will foot the bill every single time. 

Childcare is always an emotive issue, with parents battling mixed feelings and a myriad of arguments both for and against. 

Put simply, if a family chooses to have one parent work and the other stay home to look after their children, not only does that family reduce its earning capacity; they also watch their taxes subsidise other couples who have decided to both go to work and put their children into childcare. 

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report last year told anyone with children what they already knew. 

It concluded that for every $1 spent on early childhood education, it returned $2 of benefits to the economy. 

What did they expect to find? That education is harmful?  

Weatherill’s letter to Canberra warns that if free childcare is ended early, “it would deliver negative impacts on three fronts.” 

This includes more women would be forced out of the workforce because they, “cannot afford childcare fees”, reducing children’s learning outcomes and forcing centres to close, resulting in job losses. 

It hasn’t taken coronavirus for all this to be realised. 

Childcare fees have always been high, often leaving many people wondering how people actually afford them, regardless of the availability of rebates.  

Hence the reason why many women end up giving up their careers and by the time the children reach fulltime schooling, five years or more have slipped by. 

Many women simply find the toxic combination of grappling with changes in the workplace, coupled with a potential loss of confidence from having been ‘out of the workplace for so long’ and the realisation that outsourcing everything from dropoff to pick up as well as activities after school, is all just too hard. 

What the report and subsequent discussions haven’t highlighted is when are childcare centres who charge above and beyond the standard fees going to drop their fees so more people can afford to send their children there if they so choose to? 

recent survey by parent advocacy group The Parenthood — founded with the involvement of victims of the bloodshed from Rudd/Gillard/Rudd-era ministerial offices — has found that one-third of parents would reduce the days their children attended childcare if the Government ended its free support. 

This utopic idea by community groups who are urging the Prime Minister to indefinitely continue this fee-free childcare for thousands of Australian families is actually costing the government around $131 million a week. 

I would have thought 100 per cent of parents would have immediately realised that there was no way this “temporary” program could have continued indefinitely. 

And this is the crux of it all. T’is a brave person who giveth and then taketh away but at the end of the day, the $60 billion saved from the JobKeeper program is a blessing to Australian taxpayers.  

It is not a $60 billion windfall no matter what anyone says. 

It is money that would have had to have been borrowed as part of Australia’s largest ever $130 billion economic wage subsidy program. 

The fact that $60 billion now doesn’t need to be borrowed and used is absolutely brilliant. 

Absolutely brilliant because ironically no parent would want their child currently in childcare at the moment having to pay back $60 billion for the rest of their lives, now would they? 

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