While the infection rate in Australia seems to be largely under control the Government has set about taking further measures that will deepen the suffering of the working people.
In the transition to the return to work, the government subsidy of childcare instigated as part of the COVID-19 pandemic Emergency Relief Package is to end on 12th July. The Jobkeeper wage subsidy to “childcare services” will also end on 20th July. This breaks the earlier pledge announced in early April to keep subsidies for childcare in place for 6 months.
While in operation the system has been fraught with funding problems, with some providers not meeting the test for payments, and those that did being ineligible to claim for casual and visa holder workers. The Coalition government had promised that Jobkeeper and free early childhood education would run until September.
The government is abandoning the early crisis consensus that healthy social relationships needed to be maintained during the emergency, and is returning to its ideological stance of anti-worker, pro-capital policies that privilege reactionary attitudes to gender, race and class. This latest retraction of funds will hit women especially hard.
That early childhood education should be seen as a profit-making endeavour rather than a social priority is shameful. The industry’s workforce is 97% female and among the lowest paid workers in Australia. Workers in the sector are highly skilled and play a vital role in the early years of children. To call them “childcare” workers as the government does undervalues the important role they play in society. These workers are not only undervalued for the important work and their professional skills; they are also underpaid.
A child’s early education should not be based on a family’s ability to pay for it, this simply means that the inequities of capitalism will reproduce themselves. The free early childhood education, a measure that would be expected of a socialist government, greatly benefited many women, enabling many of them to remain at work or to work at home.
The abolition of free early childhood education is a regressive measure and will not only bring hardship to workers in this sector it will punish those who have contributed to beating the pandemic. The Communist Party of Australia advocates for social provision before profit, for childcare based on children’s education and development, for families being given the best opportunities to create meaningful, stable lives for themselves. The Communist party calls for the retention of free early childhood education.
The re-introduction of fees, without warning and in contradiction of previous policy, puts “childcare” out of the reach of families struggling economically during a time of recession. It will prevent many women (the primary carers of children) from returning or remaining in the workforce and will result in the closure of centres.
This cut must also be put into the context of the current winding back of other social provisions introduced to mitigate against the worse aspects of the lockdown. With the interests of business and reducing the likely budget deficit foremost in mind, the government has begun relaxing restrictions introduced to control the pandemic. The Communist Party advocates for a society that empowers women, that gives them same opportunities as men, that recognises their essential role in building of a new world for all.
The Communist Party of Australia demands a more comprehensive set of measures to reverse the growing poverty in the community including an extension in both coverage and time of JobKeeper and JobkSeeker, and free early child education. Workers will not pay for the crisis.