In Demand Workers Right Now
In Demand Workers Right Now

‘Dear taxpayer, why you should pay for my childcare’

The real family Federal Budget I would like to see tonight is one where childcare is announced as fully deductible so the biggest chunk of everyone's tax goes towards parents.

We can't rely on immigration, on hold for the foreseeable future, to pump up our economy, keep our population growing, and keep our generational pyramid from becoming too top-heavy.

But we can rely on families - and working families in particular. But working families, too, will have to rely on the rest of us for support.

Skeptics and economic ­rationalists may decry it as "middle class welfare", but supporting families is the right thing to do, not just now, but into the future.

That's because with the pandemic, a lot of factors have all converged at once. And a lot of lazy ways of doing things - including importing people to keep the economy ticking over - no longer work.

Child carers are the most in-demand workers right now in the midst of the coronavirus. Picture: Toby Zerna
Child carers are the most in-demand workers right now in the midst of the coronavirus. Picture: Toby Zerna

The universal truth of this pandemic is that the traditional nine to five, office-bound work arrangement is bordering on obsolete.

Likewise, what we also know is that to stimulate our COVID economy, we need to get people back into ­viable employment.

So make it easier for us parents. The economy needs more babies.

Pay for the entire amount of childcare we use. Family daycare, nannies, au pairs, before and after school care, holiday care and so on.

Remove that financial ball and chain from our ankles and eradicate forever the sinking realisation among mums and dads that it is a cheaper option to ditch a career than effectively pay to work because childcare fees swallow the lot.

This is not about whether childlessness is a choice, which is the bitter path this argument often travels down.

There are those who don't want to have children and those who do but cannot. Both scenarios are to be respected and the latter in particular is a tragedy for many Aussies.

Tresurer Josh Frydenberg looking over the 2020 budget. Picture: Adam Taylor
Tresurer Josh Frydenberg looking over the 2020 budget. Picture: Adam Taylor

 

This is about the strength of our workforce. Protecting families is the whole point of government policy.

It is not about "making people in wheelchairs pay for other people's running shoes", a skewed defence offered up by Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm a few years ago.

Welfare cheats we are not - parents trying to make it work is what we are. We need policies that are supportive of families and fully tax deductible childcare is the key one.

Sure, it has lurked previously in many budget arenas.

And yes it will be costly.

But after the horrendous journey of 2020, aren't we beyond the playground-level argument of why should I have to pay for other ­people's kids?

Full write-off childcare is the very definition of us all being in this ­together.

There is still this lingering sentiment that if you are a working parent you should therefore pay childcare and only be entitled to claim a fraction of the cost.

If you need a computer for work it is tax deductible - why not childcare? It is a legitimate working ­expense.

I get why governments are anxious about backlash for being too pro-family (really, can there be such a thing in modern ­society?) and hammering the 'singletons".

 

Today`s Federal Budget should contain breaks and bonuses for families who have been doing it tough.
Today`s Federal Budget should contain breaks and bonuses for families who have been doing it tough.

 

Back in the John Howard-Peter Costello era, the then PM and treasurer were accused of strutting into the nation's bedrooms with their family payment and tax concession schemes, dubbed "middle class welfare" via the baby bonus.

Along with the pair's final big-spending 2007 budget which bestowed generous tax concessions - in areas such as superannuation - and transferred income to families, it was subsequently ridiculed as "middle class welfare".

But that's unfair. Because unless we encourage families, we will wind up with a whole new set of problems - not the least of which is a younger generation that finds it harder to set down roots.

That's problematic for them, ­because an endlessly extended ­adolescence is not the key to a fulfilling life.

And it's bad for the government as well, because if young voters don't feel like they have a real stake in a place and the future, they will not vote for a conservative party - after all, what will they be voting to ­conserve?

So I will be watching the Federal Budget with interest tonight to see what is in it for us - the "bludger" mums and dads.


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