Canberra’s got women on the agenda, now for childcare
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But more interestingly, we now have a situation where both major parties are falling over themselves to promote their pro-women credentials, and 'women's issues' are dominating the political agenda. This has never occurred before. Voting women have never assumed such a powerful place in Australian politics.
Let's not waste this historical opportunity by getting caught up in all the finger-pointing about misogyny and sexism. Yes, it's important, but there other important issues that directly impact women's lives that need to receive as much if not more attention. Let's not lose sight of policy amidst all the politics.
Many working women are struggling with the rising cost of living, especially childcare costs, as well as balancing work with other aspects of their lives. And at a time when Australia's workplace productivity is relatively low, the best way to incentive more mothers to work (and therefore pay more tax) is by making childcare affordable and accessible. Many women want to and need to work more, but when childcare is expensive and/or not available during non-traditional work hours, it's simply not worth returning to work.
It's time to have a serious conversation in this country about extending the childcare rebate to regulated nannies and in-home carers, or indeed making childcare tax deductible. Childcare is an expense directly related to employment. It is immoral for governments on the one hand to strongly encourage women to have more children to future-proof society, and on the other hand effectively punish those women by failing to reform an outdated childcare system.
Let's dispense with the nonsense class-war rhetoric about nannies: they are relied upon just as frequently by shift-workers (such as nurses) as by wealthier professionals. Nannies provide vital care for very little children who may not be ready to attend childcare centres, and nannies are available after 6pm when most childcare centres close. The childcare rebate system shouldn't discriminate against parents based on their mode of childcare provider. Regulating nannies would also reign in a cash economy and generate even more taxation revenue for the government.
Women voters have a captive audience in Canberra. The next federal election is poised to be fought and won of issues of importance for women, such as childcare. Let's demand the political parties listen and offer policies that make a real difference for Australian women.