LABOR’S Shadow Minister for Human Services Linda Burney has called the Federal Government’s family benefit activity test unfair.
Ms Burney recently visited the Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Centre with Labor candidate for the seat of Gilmore Fiona Phillips.
During the visit concerns were raised about the activity test and its implications for disadvantaged children.
Ms Burney said the issues were around family tax benefits and the activity test that is required by Centrelink.
“It (the activity test) is unfair,” Ms Burney said.
“The implications for people who are particularly disadvantaged means those people may not be able to qualify for the family tax benefit which means get less access to long day care.
“What kids from very disadvantaged backgrounds need is the access and not have the access restricted.”
Ms Burney said the system was unfair and meant children got less access to long day care services.
Federal member of Gilmore Ann Sudmalis said the system was now in fact fairer than before.
“Our reforms will make early learning and child care more affordable for many of the families using the Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Centre so more children will be able to get more access to the service,” Mrs Sudmalis said.
“I know there is some concern about meeting the activity test, but since the activity can include both volunteering and study as well as paid work, then this allows a creative organisation like Cullunghutti to work with TAFE or other organisations and tie some of their current in-house workshops to training or for preparation in certificate courses.
“In effect there could be a double bonus in formally recognising the parenting sessions they give as well as using the time spent by parents helping out as volunteers in the centre to promote "community" up-bringing of the children, which is a very special action that already happens at Cullunghutti, now it can be more formally recognised.”
A detail response from Mrs Sudmalis appears below.
Mrs Phillips said the visit was a chance to show the shadow minister Cullunghutti and see the services it provides.
Mrs Phillips said the shadow minister also heard some local concerns.
“I guess there is some issues in terms of what the government has done in terms of funding that will impact Cullunghutti,” she said.
Cullunghutti visit was joyous
The Shadow Minister for Human Services said her her experience at Cullunghutti was beautiful.
“What was really beautiful was you had two of the kids that go to school here come out and do the acknowledgment of country and raise the flag,” Ms Burney said.
Ms Burney said Cullunghutti was a happy and positive place.
“It was really a joyous occasion,” she said.
“The place is astounding - and just so positive, so creative and so good for the broader community.
“It’s also so good for the Aboriginal community and Aboriginal children in not only getting them ready with all the skills they need to be successful and confident students in school but also reinforcing their culture and Aboriginality.”
Mrs Phillips said gradually the barriers faced by indigenous people were breaking down.
“I think there has been huge steps to improve things but there is still a long way to go, Mrs Phillips said.
“There are so many positive programs now out there and one of those program was mentioned here at Cullunghutti which I was not aware of but it was fabulous.”
Mrs Burney agreed that enormous steps had been taken in the right direction - particularly in the establishment of places like Cullunghutti.
“There are still enormous challenges that is very true in terms of equal outcomes and we are still a long way from equity of outcomes,” Ms Burney said
Ms Burney said Cullunghutti is place where equity of outcomes can be progressed.
“The children that go to school here will start kindergarten with all the skills - pre-reading and pre-writing - socialisation skills that the other children have,” Ms Burney said.
“It means they will also have engendered in them a love of learning and an understanding of routine.”
The Shadow Minister said there was commitment within the Labor Party to achieve outcomes that are equal for Aboriginal people.
Meanwhile, on another issue like high rate of indigenous incarceration Ms Burney said the reasons for the high rate were many and there was not one easy answer.
She said poverty racism history intergenerational trauma were some of the reasons.
Federal Member for Gilmore issues detailed response
“Some of our local child care centres have been charging a full day for a child, that is 12 hours of care when in fact the child is actually only attending for six-eight hours,” the Federal Member for Gilmore said
“This has meant that the government supported number of days in the current fee structure will be exhausted in just two days, rather than using the actual number of hours attending which would result in three days attendance.
“The reason for us making these changes is to actually support the children's needs rather than the financial management model being used by some child care centres.
“When you consider this aspect of the proposed changes, it's clear that we are working for the child's best interest.
“In many cases, very wealthy families were receiving significant support from the government when their need was not as great as our local families, so we are rebuilding the broken early learning and child care and investing an additional $2.5 billion into the system.
“Importantly we are actually abolishing the annual $7,600 Child Care Rebate cap for families using child care who earn less than $185,000. This will make sure these parents aren’t limited by a cap on the amount of child care they can access, which in our Gilmore community, especially the Indigenous families is a very welcome change.
“We’re also increasing the subsidy rate from 72 per cent to 85 per cent for the more than 370,000 families earning less than around $65,000 a year.
“Our reforms give hard working lower income families an 85 per cent subsidy, which tapers down to 20 per cent for higher income families.
“There are no subsidies under our reforms for those on family incomes of $350,000 or more, which frankly, I see as a major plus and it was savings made in this aspect that were applied to the budget for making sure every child in Australia aged four years received 15 hours a week paid for by the government for Pre-school, an essential precursor for primary education.
“Linda Burney and the Labor Party are misleading and trying to scare families to distract from the fact that Labor either cannot or chooses not to understand the complete needs of early child care.
“This is clearly shown by their last election thought bubbles that would have seen taxpayers foot the bill for an extra $176 million in subsidies for families earning more than $250,000. Now that really is unfair!
“The Labor Party has no plan to make early learning and childcare more affordable and accessible for Gilmore and Linda Burney should apologise to the families at Cullunghutti for misleading them.”