There was always a real risk that ditching the commitment to achieving a budget surplus this year (don’t you just love the language – we have had to write down tax revenues having ramped them to completely unachievable levels – do they really think we will fall for this?) would create an enviroment in which rent-seekers would be let loose to rob the taxpayer of even more money.
And so it is with the claim for the government to pay an additional $1.4 billion per year (and increasing) to subsidise higher wages for child care workers.
The ‘reforms’ that the government has instituted in respect of child care have basically been a disaster.
- There is little evidence to support the new mandated staff-to-child ratios and the requirement for higher qualifications;
- There is now no effective choice, with home-based carers being driven out of business by the ludicrous regulatory burden;
- The red tape burden is excessive;
- It is not profitable to care for babies (under 2 years) and many centres are vacating this space;
- There is absolutely no evidence that the massive increase in government outlays on childcare has been associated with an increase in the labour force participation of women of child-bearing age – in fact, it has stalled.
- In effect, taxpayers are paying much more to get the same.
- There have been high rates of labour turnover in childcare centres for decades and yet the industry has soldiered on. The idea that there is a crisis now is simply not true.
- This is just a case of the government’s union mates trying to cash in while they can.
- In the meantime, the centres want the subisidies paid to them rather than the parents because parents are often slow to pay up and they can pull their child out at any stage.
- Kate Ellis is a very unimpressive minister who is clearly out of her depth on this relatively simple issue.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, faces further pressure to take the budget into deficit, with a group of MPs saying a $1.4 billion injection into childcare to improve workers’ wages is vastly overdue.
The MPs say the government has required the industry to hire more staff with better qualifications but has failed to help by boosting wages, resulting in a crisis in the industry.
”The workers are leaving in droves,” West Australian MP Melissa Parke said. ”Childcare workers earn $18 an hour, $10 less an hour than the average wage. A lot of people are saying they can earn more money elsewhere. They are required to have diplomas and do courses and yet they aren’t paid properly and are leaving.”
Ms Parke is one of the conveners of an internal Labor Party group formed 18 months ago to push within the Labor caucus for support for better wages for childcare workers.Parke will meet Ms Gillard, and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, when Parliament returns next week to ask for the money for pay increases to be included in the budget.
Since Mr Swan announced late last year he would not be delivering a surplus, MPs have become increasingly outspoken about items they want in the budget.
Tasmanian senator Lisa Singh said the wage increase needed to be included in the budget and not left as a possible election sweetener later in the year.
”If you want to raise the standards [of the industry] surely part of that is paying people accordingly,” Senator Singh said. ”We’re not following it through with adequate wages.”
The industry broadly supports the government’s push to improve qualifications and introduce higher ratios of staff to children but is struggling.
Sue Lines, the assistant national secretary of United Voice, the child care workers’ union, said it was ”stunningly obvious” that childcare workers needed to be paid more.