Won’t somebody please think of the children?!

Won’t somebody please think of the children?!

Now, if there is one issue that I feel strongly about in this election, it is about the way the Howard government have, over the course of 8 years, created a regressive, conservative country that makes it damn hard to be a woman. Okay, to be fair he hasn’t made it difficult for all women, as long as they fit into John Howard’s idea of what a woman does. That is, if I sit at home, dependent on my husband, without any desire to find myself, find a job, or get an education, I am pretty much alright under this government. However, I am none of those things. I am a young woman, with an Arts degree, who wants to work full time and also wants to have a family. And I think, for the most part, I do it pretty darn well given the obstacles that have been placed in front of me. I also have more than just a passing interest in family policy, and have researched a few papers on the subject, so I guess its no surprise that I do feel strongly about the issue.

And here’s why.

If I decide to stay at home and be dependent on my husband, I get a payment of approximately $250 a fortnight. I also get heavily subsidised childcare, to the point where I only really need to pay about $8 a day ($40 a week). Now, that’s not so bad, and I believe that all families should get some assistance, however, wait till you see this.

If I go out and work part time, earning only $10,000 a year, my daycare costs double and I lose the $250 a fortnight. This means that we are actually worse off if I work anything but full time. Same goes for a job earning $20,000 a year working part time, except my daycare costs are now $35 a day. Now, if I work full time, earning $40,000 a year, we are considered “rich” by the government and I get to pay the full amount of daycare costs, which equals approximately $180 per week. Add to the problem that you only get the opportunity for full time daycare at the beginning of the year due to a major shortage of places, and voila! I end up out of work and I need to pay full fees for my daughter to attend daycare. Even if I am at home looking for work, because otherwise we lose our place and I am without care when I start a new job. Now, if you consider that we are paying less for rent than we do for daycare, you can see why I might be a little bit ticked off.

So, because I work because I want to and not because I have to, I fork out the $180 a week for a daycare place. So, if you consider that I only earn about $550 a week, being an entry level pleb (when the hell will THAT end?! I want more money!), when you consider the cost of daycare, parking, lunches, the opportunity cost of leisure time as well as the forfeiture of the $250 a week I get for staying at home, you can imagine why I am a bit resentful at barely breaking even.

To top it off, for three years in a row the Family “Assistance” Office have told us that we have a debt. Now, given that I don’t even receive payments because they just keep garnishing it to pay off last years debts (that I don’t even know how I accumulated — I always give them accurate information), and given that I didn’t even claim childcare for the 5 months we were in Esperance, you can imagine why, yes, I might be pissed off.

As a family we are in a position of not being able to get daycare places, and when we can, we pay a fortune for them. Like I said, I don’t mind because the centre my daughter goes to is fabulous, but geez…

So, for this election I have sat in hope, dying to hear Mr Latham tell me that he is going to ease my squeeze and make it easier for me to work. And then today, I read this:

NEWS.com.au | Latham’s $1.6bn free childcare plan (September 27, 2004)

Looks promising, doesn’t it?


Normally I would not get in a resentful rant about people having it better than me, but I can’t help but wonder how this improves the system for those mothers that work in any way? All it is going to do is encourage those stay-at-home mothers who wouldn’t ordinarily put their children in daycare to put their kids into care, and to give those who already have heavily subsidised care some breathing room. The extra places he has offered to fund would barely even cover the new demand from the stay-at-homes. It in no way addresses the real issue of affordability of daycare for full time workers, nor the availability of care. The single mums and stay-at-home mums are still the only people benefiting from these policies.

Sure, i’ll get a free day, but all it will do is put upward pressure on the price of the other four days. And yet again, the full timers will subsidise those who have the luxury of staying home with their children. But heck, i’ll keep doing it, despite my disappointment in the ALP’s policies, because I am committed to being a working parent. Mark Latham is a politician who is very hit and miss, and this one is most certainly a miss.

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