Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Labor’s child care promise to cost $3 billion

Labor Party’s policy to provide free child care to all children under the age of five years and take over the preschool system is economically irresponsible and poorly targeted, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony, said today.

“Conservative estimations of the cost of this policy is $3 billion.

“In the area of child care, currently only 30 per cent of all children under five years of age use Commonwealth funded child care. Our Child Care Benefit payment to assist families cost the Commonwealth $1.5 billion last financial year.

“If we were to provide 10 hours free to all children under four years, this proposal alone would cost an additional $2.4 billion. The States and Territory Governments spend almost $600 million on the preschool system aimed at five year old children.

“This figure does not even include the cost of providing additional services and child care places that would be demanded. The Labor Party talk about unmet demand now – imagine the cost to taxpayers of providing all these new places.

“The suggestion that the Australian Government should provide free preschool when the State and Territory Governments do this already is bizarre.

“There is no doubt that some States do it better than others. Latest figures from the Productivity Commission show that the New South Wales Government for example has been continually running down their preschool system.

“Preschool is a State Government responsibility and should remain so to ensure young children make a smooth transition to the State Government primary education system.

“Labor’s child care policy is in stark contrast to the Coalition Government’s. We are committed to providing financial assistance that is targeted at low and middle income families through our Child Care Benefit payment.

“We do not believe that wealthy families should receive the same Government assistance as families who are not as well off. Labor clearly disagrees with us on this point.

“Reports today indicate that Labor Party Deputy Leader, Jenny Macklin, has made some significant back room commitments in this area. She needs to fess up and tell us what she has promised the unions,” Mr Anthony said.