Will parents be better off under Labor or Liberal?

There’s a federal election looming and you know what that means: months of witnessing endless campaigning, posturing and political silliness while each candidate pushes their own agenda forward.

With this in mind, we’re attempting to cut through the spin and present the facts on some of the parenting issues that matter most to you so you have the information you need to vote with your head in the next election.

Paid parental leave

What Labor is offering:

  • Four months or 18 weeks Parental Pay at the national minimum wage, currently around $600 per week.
  • Available to any woman earning up to $150,000 annually.
  • Does not include superannuation contributions.
  • Income is taxed at standard income tax rates.
  • As an alternative, you can choose the Baby Bonus, which pays you $5,000 (first child) or $3,000 (second and subsequent children) in untaxed payments. The sum will be paid in instalments made every fortnight for 26 weeks.
  • In total, this scheme pays around $11,000 in pre-tax dollars to each recipient.
  • This scheme is funded by the federal government.

What the voters are saying: “The Labor scheme is ideal because the government can afford it, businesses don’t get taxed, and it’s an even playing field. It’s fair to all mums. For instance, if I was to take maternity leave under the opposition’s proposed scheme, I would get six months’ leave at my wage of $50,000. My boss would get much more — I’ve got no idea how much she earns, but it’s lot more than me! But we are both doing the same thing, which is taking time out of the workforce to have a baby, so I think we should get the same entitlement.” — Kylie M, 29, West End (Queensland)

What the Coalition is offering:

  • Six months or 26 weeks paid parental leave at your full previous wage, capped at an annual salary of $150,000. So, if you earned $80,000 per year before going on maternity leave, you would be entitled to $40,000 for six months.
  • Available to any working woman, capped at $150,000 annual wage.
  • If the recipient’s previous income is lower than the minimum wage, they will be paid the minimum wage ($15,600 for six months).
  • The scheme includes superannuation contributions.
  • Income is taxed at standard income tax rates.
  • In total, this scheme pays between $15,600 and $75,000 (including superannuation) in pre-tax dollars to each recipient.
  • This scheme is set to be funded by a 1.5 per cent levy imposed on companies with taxable incomes in excess of $5 million. It would be offset by a 1.5 per cent cut in the company tax rate.
  • According to the Liberal Party, this levy will affect approximately 3,370 out of 770,000 Australian companies.
What the voters are saying: “I earn $150,000 a year and I have had three children. Under the Liberal Party’s proposed scheme, I would’ve been entitled to $225,000 in parental leave payments. That would have been amazing! However, I do believe that paying almost a quarter of a million dollars to someone in my position is perhaps not in the best interests of our country. Those funds could be better redeployed into child care, schools, education, health care…” — Emma S, 38, Bondi Junction (New South Wales)

Child care

What Labor is offering:

  • The Gillard Government has promised to continue the Child Care Rebate (CCR) of up to $7,500 per child per year, covering up to 50 per cent of any out-of-pocket expenses associated with child care.
  • The Child Care Benefit (CCB), available to low income earners, will also continue, providing rebates of up to 50 hours of care per week at $3.90 per hour, or $195 per week.
  • Last year Labor established the Schoolkids Bonus, which grants parents $410 per primary school child and $720 per high school child per year to help cover costs.
  • For parents raising children with significant disabilities — including sight and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or Fragile X syndrome — the Labor government will provide up to $12,000 until the child is seven years old.
  • Child care quality is also a major focus after Labor introduced the National Quality Framework in 2012. Part of this involved creating a set of new rules to better the quality of care in the sector, including new ratios of educators to children, with one educator to four children (under 24 months), one educator to five children (24 months to 36 months) and one educator to 11 children (36 months+).

Also: The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was introduced by Labor in 2012 and supported by both parties. The NDIS will not only benefit women living with disabilities, but also many carers. Funding legislation is expected to be announced at the May 2013 budget.

What the voters are saying: “I’ll be voting Labor. I’m proud to have a female prime minister who has implemented a number of positive changes, such as the Paid Parental Leave Scheme and the Child Care Rebate. I also feel like Labor has proven its stance on providing for and protecting a more equal Australia, and has weathered the global economic turmoil effectively.” — Poppy T, 30, Blaxland (New South Wales)

What the Coalition is offering:

  • The Coalition’s child care plans include a Productivity Commission into child care and reworking the National Quality Framework.
  • Other Coalition child care policies, outlined in the party’s 2010 plan for child care, include having the CCR paid weekly to day care centres so families face fewer out-of-pocket expenses.
  • The Coalition is also considering extending the CCR to include in-home carers such as nannies; currently, only children cared for at approved, registered carers such as Family Day Care homes and long care centres are eligible for CCR or CCB.
What the voters are saying: “I’m a woman in my late 20s and these issues are forefront in my mind as I begin to think about starting a family. At the moment, I’m leaning towards Liberal; every mother is eligible for their parental leave scheme, and there is a cap on benefits set at $150K. It seems like a step in the right direction.” — Laura K, 32, Port Melbourne (Victoria)

More politics

The 2013 federal election: What you need to know
Who is Julia Gillard? Meet our first female prime minister


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