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Tony Abbott’s childcare review to address the ‘24-7 economy’, but not commit extra funding

/ Nov 19, 2012 14:47PM / Print / ()

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has identified which areas of the childcare sector should be examined during the Coalition's proposed inquiry into the accessibility and affordability of childcare.

Abbott announced his terms of reference for the promised Productivity Commission into childcare flexibility at a Canberra childcare centre this morning, saying his review will address how the system can be updated to meet the modern age of working, and increase Australia's productivity.

"These days we have a 24-7 economy and we need a childcare sector that reflects the economic and the family realities that Australians today face," he told journalists.

He said the proposed terms of reference would consider the current hours parents work or study, the needs of shift workers, accessing care in regional and remote areas, how rebates and subsidiaries are working, and the total out-of-pocket costs associated with childcare.

But while the inquiry will address new funding models, Abbott said he would not increase overall funding from current levels. "What I've said is that we need to operate within the current funding envelope," he said.

Childcare Minister Kate Ellis responded by reiterating her stance that any move to subsidise nannies would hurt low income working families.

She called Abbott's announcement a "thought bubble – undeveloped and with no real idea how to pay for it". 

Last week, Chief Executive Women's Jenny Fagg told a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) leadership event that the Productivity Commission should consider five key areas: the complexity of childcare benefits; the true costs of childcare (including regional differences); the ad hoc childcare demands of school-aged children (school holidays and sick days); the need for flexible childcare that suits shift workers and those working long and irregular hours; and limitations of the FBT Exemption (which provides a benefit to those accessing childcare facilities on site), of which only a fraction of Australians can currently access.

Meanwhile, The Tax Institute's Robert Jeremenko told the CEDA event the tax system could be adjusted to help with the financial considerations a woman makes on returning to work. "Where the tax system can make a real difference is those instances where the decision to stay or leave the workforce is driven by financial factors," he said. "Tax is a big part of this jigsaw puzzle. And one of the areas government can influence."

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