Proposal for $10 a day childcare, increased parental leave

Parents could pay as little as $10 per day for childcare and receive up to 52 weeks of paid parental leave under a new draft law that will seek to make childcare free for low-income families.

Early childhood advocates will launch a bill for consultation into parliament on Wednesday alongside independent MP Zoe Daniel.

Under the proposal, three days per week of early learning would be guaranteed for all children aged five and under, capped at $10 per day, and free for low-income families.

Ms Daniel said the new policy could be “transformative” to lift rates of women’s workforce participation and reduce cost-of-living pressures facing Australian households.

“It’s the bold, visionary reform that we so seldom see in Australia and in that sense it’s an enormous opportunity. The exciting and transformative benefits far outweigh the costs,” she told NCA NewsWire.

According to recent data from the Productivity Commission, out-of-pocket child care costs have risen substantially for families living in every state and territory in Australia.

Victorians currently pay the highest daycare bill in the country, with the average cost of 50 hours of centre-based care at $626 a week.

The government increased its childcare subsidy for families earning under $530,000 last July, however, according to a report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission last year, fees rose by nearly double the rate of wages and inflation between 2018 to 2022.

Thrive by Five’s Jay Weatherill said too many Australian children were not able to attend childcare and preschool because their parents cannot afford it.

“Many families say the cost of early learning is akin to that of a second mortgage. Others are turned away from their local childcare centre or preschool because the waitlist is astronomically long,” he said.

“We would never stand for that happening with primary or secondary education – early years education should be no different.”

Parenthood CEO Georgie Dent said the recent announcement to include superannuation in paid parental leave next year and expand entitlements to 26 weeks by July 2026 marked “good progress”.

But she said there was still a long way to go to reduce financial hurdles for Australian parents.

“We hear time and time again from parents – particularly from those living regionally and remotely, or those from lower-income households – that it either didn’t make sense financially to progress their careers once they had children or that it was simply impossible due to care being inaccessible,” Ms Dent said.

“Whether it’s the high cost, the years-long waitlist, or the fact that there are simply no services in their area – too many parents and children miss out.”

Early childcare advocates say the new Bill will be up for public consultation and will be seeking bipartisan support from MPs.

It also proposes for the creation of a national Early Childhood Development Commission to work with state and federal governments to implement the reforms over 10 years.

The policy is in line with recommendations from the government’s Women Equality Taskforce, which called to immediately establish universal childcare and extend the paid parental leave scheme to 52 weeks to ensure women aren’t burdened financially after having children.

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