FAMILY advocates believe plans to save $4 billion by scrapping family tax benefits shows the Australian government is only interested in “competing” with stay-at-home mothers.
National Civic Council Queensland president and father of five Luke McCormack is against the controversial childcare and welfare omnibus bill, which calls for a complete cull of the Family Tax Benefit end of year supplements – a saving of over $4 billion – to fund childcare reforms.
The bill would also increase childcare rebates from the $7500 subsidy per child.
But for families who choose not to place children in day care, like the McCormacks, the government’s plan to scrap family tax benefits would cause “pain and frustration”.
This is because FTB supplements, in addition to normal fortnightly payments, assists qualifying families who, when lodging a tax return, underestimate their projected incomes.
If the bill passes, Mr McCormack said he would be $4000 worse off than parents who put their children into childcare in order for one parent to re-enter the workforce part-time.
The average family on end-of-year family tax benefits would lose between $1500 and $2000.
Mr McCormack said the federal government was wrong to back the childcare industry instead of mothers.
“This is the most ineffective labour-exchange an Australia government has gotten itself into in recent history,” Mr McCormack said.
“In effect what the government is saying is that rather than leaving the parent free for the care of their child, they are siding with the childcare industry and competing for the mother’s time as a primary carer.
“So a woman with children between the ages of 0 and 4 feels this strong voice of the government saying, ‘We wish you were somewhere else’.
“Our view is you’ve got to trust the parents to be parents, and the government should increase money going directly to parents.”
Wife Carrie McCormack said she did feel government pressure to return to work instead of caring for her own children, a responsibility that she said came with “a large job description”.
Last year Mrs McCormack ran as a candidate for Family First Oxley in the Queensland state election.
She said the decision to run for parliament was based on government coercion to enter the workforce but also an inspiration to “to raise the social platform of families and motherhood”.
“There is financial sacrifice in caring for our Aussie kids,” Mrs McCormack said.
“If we don’t do anything and change policy it will be harder for families to have the number of children they want and care for them as they want.”
While she was not successful in winning her seat, Mrs McCormack does take on paid work that allows her to still be at home with her children.
She also co-ordinates a Catholic mothers group, Mother Effect, and is considering operating an activism branch within the ministry.
“The role and importance of motherhood is founded in the Bible and in Church teaching,” Mrs McCormack said.
“I think that motherhood has come to point of needing to be missionary.
“It’s really an act of providence, you have to rely on God for sustaining your children.”
Mr McCormack said the government was forgetting that taxpayers, like he and his wife, were funding the childcare industry even if they didn’t use it.
“We are basically funding other families to use the day-care industry,” Mr McCormack said.
“This is just a case of wealth transfer.
“A government with guts, and a church that needs to take up the fight, would fight for the choice of the mother of young children so she doesn’t feel coerced into going back to work.”
A committee report into the omnibus bill is due in the coming weeks and will be debated in the senate.
In a statement on International Women’s Day March 8, the St Vincent de Paul Society called on the government to end cuts to women’s income and services, including cuts to family tax benefits.
Vinnies chief executive officer Dr John Falzon said women were being left in “financial vulnerability” under current policy and funding decisions.
“Economic security and violence against women remain two key areas where Australia is lagging in terms of gender equality, and current policy settings are only deepening the inequality experienced especially by single mothers, older women, and those on low incomes,” Dr Falzon said.
“Policies across a range of areas – superannuation, cuts to income support and family tax benefit, cuts to homelessness services and legal assistance – are increasing the financial vulnerability of women.
“We recognise that gender inequality is the root cause of violence against women; that it directly contributes to women’s financial insecurity and poverty; and that it is the basis for older women’s homelessness.”