Childcare package headed for Senate tussle



The federal government might have to back down on proposed cuts to parental payments if it wants its much-touted childcare package realised.

The Coalition wants the $3.5 billion package paid for by yet-to-be-legislated 2014 budget savings to family tax benefits, which include cutting family payments to single-income families when children turn six.

Labor and the Greens have vowed against accepting the trade-off, leaving the package at the behest of key Senate crossbenchers.

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However, almost all have indicated they will join the opposition unless the parental payment cuts are not tied to the measures, in which families with household incomes up to $165,000 will be better off by $30 a week.

South Australian independent Nick Xenophon supports the package in principle, but said taking away benefits when children reached six was discriminatory and would have a profound effect on single parents.

Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie said she wouldn’t back any policy that took from one parent and gave to another.

“Any moron knows it costs a lot more to be bringing up a child as they get older,” she said.


Six independent senators say they will not support a key Family Tax Benefit cut. Photo: Shutterstock

Queensland independent Glenn Lazarus said he was deeply disturbed by the government’s attempt to blackmail the Senate.

“This is ridiculous,” he said.

Family First senator Bob Day was open to compromising on changes to family tax benefit payments in the past, but he told AAP now that they were being connected to childcare reforms it was a “different ball game”, arguing single-income families should not pay for dual-income families.

Others did not support the package’s design.

Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm said while he’s backed scaling back family tax benefits in the past, he did not see merit in increasing spending on childcare unless it was deregulated.

Independent John Madigan would not support a package that he said discriminated against stay-at-home parents.

“They shouldn’t have to choose between working and caring,” he said.

The package is also facing dissent from within coalition ranks.

Nationals senator Matt Canavan is concerned the benefits of stay-at-home parenting are not being considered, while Liberal Cory Bernardi believes parents should be encouraged to look after their own kids rather than the alternative.

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said if crossbench senators had other ideas about how to fund the childcare support measures they should speak up.

The government was doing the responsible thing by investing in low to middle-income families without imposing another tax.

“Children don’t get any less expensive when they grow up but they do go to school when they turn six,” he said.


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