LETTERS News Weekly
, June 7, 2014
Both sides of politics are badly mistaken in believing that mothers with young children should be in the paid workforce, while their children are raised by paid strangers in institutionalised child-care.
Late last year, the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, asked the Productivity Commission (PC) to collect evidence here and overseas to show how institutionalised child-care, rather than home-care, would be of greater benefit to both the economy and to children’s development.
The PC has already received over 1,000 submissions and comments, and will give its final report in October.
One of the best submissions was from a Sydney-based group of about 25 mothers, ranging in age to the mid-40s, and all having tertiary degrees and having a combined total of about 75 children. Their submission showed how short-sighted and narrow it is to judge productivity solely in material terms.
The essential task in generating and forming future workers and taxpayers, whom we so badly need in times of below-replacement levels of fertility, and with the increasing number of unsocialised children, can only be solved by enabling stay-at-home mothers to have larger and better-formed families.
These mothers create far more human capital than the immediate smaller material gains foregone.
A healthy society should give a generous homemaker’s allowance to these unwaged stay-at-home mothers with children, rather than subsidise the childcare industry which is already showing diminishing returns from its increasing costs.
Unpaid work in Australia has been estimated to be worth around 40 per cent of GDP. We applaud childcare workers, nannies, and carers of those in genuine need, but to label unwaged stay-at-home mothers as “unemployed” is a derogatory insult by those ideologues of the left and the right who think that productivity should come at the expense of the family.
When I joined the Prime Minister’s Department under Robert Menzies in 1964, we were told that under the Liberals the states would disappear in 20 years and under Labor in 10.
Gough Whitlam sought to do this with a vengeance when he offered to buy the Westmead Hospital from New South Wales, and intended to follow this with the purchase of other government-owned hospitals in other states.
John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were going along the same track, so Tony Abbott’s offer to give all health and education back to the states is eminently sensible.
The Abbott government should be congratulated for seeking to make the states more fiscally responsible.
Under the Australian constitution, health and education are state responsibilities. Their return to the states is nothing but an exercise in the principle of subsidiarity.
All that needs to be done is to determine a way for the states to fund their activities. There are at least three ways to achieve this:
1) The states could agree to increase the goods and services tax (GST).
2) The GST could be levied by the states, as is done in the United States. (In this case each state could devise its own spread and level of taxation).
3) As recommended in the report of the Commission of Audit, the states could levy their own income tax and let it continue to be collected by the Australian Tax Office.
John R. Barich,