ACT News


Canberra families hang out for childcare change as lobby groups slam delays

Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed he will dump his proposed expanded paid parental-leave scheme on Monday - the one he took to two elections. And instead the government will "consult" again on the childcare reforms recommended by the Productivity Commission.

Canberra parents say they welcome any move towards a simpler system and fairer childcare, but other childcare lobby groups say the move is just further delaying change to a system causing angst to families across Australia.

Mr Abbott's speech did not fill in the blanks but simply confirmed that the plan had been dumped and newly installed Social Services Minister Scott Morrison would be consulting further on potential changes.

These possible alterations include introducing a daily cap on rebates, rather than paying half of what the centre charges; paying the rebate directly to centre operators; and introducing work tests so only working women could access the rebate.

Canberra public servant Leah Mathews's four-year old son Lucas started preschool on Monday and is currently on maternity leave with her other child - six-month-old Richie.

She said she is extremely grateful for receiving more than the standard 18 weeks of minimum-wage parental leave thanks to her work, and said her other friends on the basic scheme got stressed. 


"My friends say they had to go back [to work] earlier than they had hoped. The girls sound stressed and are trying to figure out how to feed the baby. At 18 weeks the baby is still pretty attached, regardless of how you feed them," Ms Mathews said.

Ms Mathews said she was hanging out for a change to the rebate cap. 

"The childcare rebate is definitely required, to allow us to afford childcare fees of over $100 per child per day. With Richie staring at daycare in the next few months, an increase to the $7500-per-child cap would be greatly appreciated . 

"The cost of childcare creeps up every year and it's the fact that it hasn't changed," she said.

United Voice national secretary David O'Byrne, who represents childcare workers, said Mr Abbott's speech on Monday left families and early childhood educators in the dark.

"What we saw today was not really an announcement, it was a plan to have a plan to have a plan," he said.

"Unfortunately educators, families and the childcare sector across the country are still left in limbo and still have very little detail about when, where and how that paid parental leave money will be paid to support early childhood education and care."

Similarly, executive director of parental lobby group The Parenthood, Jo Briskey, was disappointed more details were not available but hopeful the change would deliver more funding to childcare. 

"We remain optimistic the Prime Minister is going to deliver a significant change to funding to ensure high-quality early learning and childcare is more affordable and accessible for families," she said.

"What we've heard from our parents is the barrier to get back to work is not necessarily the leave mums are able to access, it's their ability to find the childcare they need when they return to work."

Endota Spa owner Diane Garewal said her business would struggle to fork out extra money for parental leave.

Ms Garewal, who has one therapist on maternity leave until next month, would rather see money directed to childcare. 

"If I had to pay there's no way I'd be in business. I just couldn't afford it," she said.