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Family First gets in first on kids' costs

Hello. Family First is on the ball, and today leads the pack on new policies to ease the costs of bearing and raising children. If only FF would come to its senses and preference other minor parties before either of the majors, there would exciting times ahead in the Senate election. It's a no brainer, in my opinion - getting another minor over the line if their candidate doesn't get up in a State means minor parties - including Family First's Senator Steve Fielding, who is not up for re-election this time, is dealt into play. through jointly holding the balance of power.

If only FF and the Greens could get over their antipathy on abortion and gays! They'd rule each other out on these policies anyway, and both Rudd and Howard are conservatives on such matters so what's the worry?

The way the system works now, progressive parties preference Labor before conservative parties like FF, and the conservative small parties preference the Coalition before the progressive minors. The only winner is the big parties!! As I argue in the book, all minor players can surely agree on the need to clean up our democracy, and to put alternative views in play. Parties like the Greens and Family First have more in common than not, anyway - including WorkChoices, the need to regulate big business and climate change (where they're both conservative).  How about it!

I explore this matter in the last chapter of the Not Happy, John! Mark 2, out early next month. 

Here are FF's new policies on child care and a baby bonus, released today. Let's see what the big two come up with.


The focus of this election should be helping families, which is why Family First is today calling for a new annual Childcare Payment of $4000 a year to be given to ALL families with children under five.

Australian parents should decide how best to care for their children and the new $4000 a year Childcare Payment will let them choose the childcare they want.

The Childcare Payment will replace the Childcare Tax Rebate – which has been a mess and dogged by problems. Further, the Tax Rebate only goes to families which can afford exorbitant childcare fees, and many cannot.

"Instead of a tax rebate, the new Childcare Payment will be paid fortnightly to families over a six-month period, which is much easier," Senator Fielding said.

"This means families will get, for six months of every year, fortnightly payments of $308, until their children turn five.

"And the best thing is that families can spend the Childcare Payment on the childcare that suits them."

Family First wants to fix and improve the Childcare Tax Rebate by:

• Increasing it to $4000 a year, for every year until children turn five;

• Giving it to ALL families, not just those who can afford exorbitant childcare fees, and;

• Making it a fortnightly payment over six months, meaning families would receive $308 every fortnight for the six-month period.

"Most Australians believe children under five are better off with a full-time parent looking after them," Senator Fielding said.

"The simple reality is that parents are the best carers for pre-schoolers and the $4000 Childcare Payment will help parents enormously.

"Some working parents will be able to work a few hours less a week and spend more precious time with their kids. Some families will opt for institutional childcare if that suits their needs but many others would prefer to pay a grandparent, friend or neighbour to look after their kids in their own home."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports an estimated 22,000 grandparents in Australia care for grandchildren full time.

Senator Fielding said the Childcare Tax Rebate had been a mess and had to go.

"Parents using 'approved care', who are trying to claim the rebate, hit bureaucratic roadblocks and are annoyed by having to deal with two Government departments," he said. "Some families have had to wait up to two years."

Currently, the average Childcare Tax Rebate is $813 a year and only about 193,000 families receive it, which costs a total of $157 million. The maximum families can receive is $4000 a year.

The benefits of Family First's Childcare Payment for families are:

• No waiting until end-of-year tax time – the Childcare Payment will be paid automatically and fortnightly over six months ($308 every fortnight);

• Every family receives the payment – not just those who can afford exorbitant childcare fees, and;

• It is not prescriptive – families can decide for themselves the type of childcare that best suits their needs.

There are almost one million Australian families with a child aged under five. Giving them all the Childcare Payment would cost about $4 billion a year, which excludes savings from abolishing the Childcare Tax Rebate.

"Of course that is a lot of money, but it makes sense to give taxpayers money back to Australian families which are struggling to make ends meet and have the hardest job of all, raising children," Senator Fielding said.

"Childcare is a huge issue in Australia and we need to do all we can to support Australian families caring for children, particularly when their children are young."



The focus of this election should be helping families, and Family First is today calling for families which have a third or subsequent child to be rewarded with a $10,000 Bumper Baby Bonus.

"Australia is not having enough children, and that's a serious issue for our future given our rapidly ageing population," Family First leader Steve Fielding said.

"The simple reality is Australia needs more children, and offering a $10,000 Bumper Baby Bonus will encourage families with two children to consider having a third. So many of these families would like more children, but decide against it because of financial pressures. They deserve special help.

"If the Government is serious about helping families to have 'one for mum, one for dad and one for the country', they should offer extra financial support."

About 24 per cent of births in Australia are third and subsequent births. This means 62,000 babies would attract the $10,000 Bumper Baby Bonus. An increase to $10,000 for this group this financial year would cost $440 million, which is affordable and makes sense.

Family First's $10,000 Bumper Baby Bonus would be paid fortnightly over six months, meaning families would receive $769 every fortnight.

Australia's birth rate has risen slightly over the last two years and could be due, in part, to the baby bonus. Last year, almost 266,000 babies were born, the second highest ever. But our fertility rate of 1.8 births per woman is still well below replacement level of 2.1 (in New Zealand it is 2.01 and the United States 2.05).

The Prime Minister has hailed the "marvellous success" of the baby bonus policy and the Treasurer has said further lifting our fertility rate is an important goal.

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Margo Kingston

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