Honour fallen Anzacs by supporting our veterans

By Julie Owens

27 April 2021

Anzac Day in 2020 was very different for all of us.

The ceremonies and marches were cancelled, but people in Parramatta still found ways to pay our respects under COVID restrictions.

I joined people around Australia reflecting on the sacrifices made by our veterans and those who continue to serve by holding my own dawn service on my balcony as part of Light up the Dawn.

While we lit candles in socially distanced safety, defence personnel worked tirelessly to support the pandemic response.

Their efforts contact tracing, in quarantine and at state border checkpoints helped stop the spread and make community commemorations possible this year.

On Sunday I was honoured to be part of services held by the City of Parramatta RSL Sub-branch, Granville RSL Sub-branch and the Consortium of Tamil Associations NSW in Wentworthville.

This is important – but our support for veterans shouldn’t start and finish with symbolic recognition on Anzac Day.

Since the start of the Afghan war, we have lost many more veterans to suicide than soldiers killed in combat.

Veterans have been telling us for years now that we need a Royal Commission into this unending tragedy. The Morrison Government resisted their calls – proposing a National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, despite veterans’ concerns that it would not have the independence, scope or resources of a Royal Commission – before finally calling a Royal Commission last week.

Labor is disappointed this has taken so long, but we are ready to work with the Government to make sure this Royal Commission has the strong and broad powers and Terms of Reference that it needs.

Unfortunately, early reports indicate that it will not cover the role of departments like Defence and Veterans' Affairs, previous reviews and inquiries like the 2019 Productivity Commission report, veteran homelessness, or the impact of anti-malarial drug trials on veterans' mental health.

The Morrison Government needs to do better – and the first step is to consult widely on how the Royal Commission should be run. This means listening to the voices of the veterans’ community and the families of veterans who have tragically died by suicide and can no longer speak for themselves.

One of the best ways to honour the service of our fallen diggers is to look after our living service men and women and their families through a strong veteran support system. Listening to the voices of veterans and their families through this Royal Commission is a crucial step towards building one.

If you need to talk to someone, Lifeline provides 24/7 crisis support on 13 11 14 or at lifeline.org.au

Rising child care costs are hurting working families

By Julie Owens

13 April 2021

Australian families pay some of the highest child care costs in the world. And the cost of child care keeps going up.

Since the Liberal Government was elected in 2013, child care fees have gone up by 35%. According to the Government’s own estimates, fees will increase on average 4.1% each year for the next four years.

Over the same period, wage growth has slowed to a crawl, and wages are only expected to rise 1% this year.

This means child care is increasingly unaffordable for working families in Parramatta – one local mum told me recently that her child care fees were higher than her mortgage repayments!

In many cases, parents who want to work full time are forced to work part time because the cost of child care would see them actually lose money for working extra days.

This isn’t just hurting local families – it’s hurting the economy.

Research from the Grattan Institute and KPMG has highlighted the ways our child care system dampens productivity, and the Government’s own Budget papers point to the drag on the economy caused by lower workforce participation rates and a declining population.

But there’s a silver lining in all of this. If we fix our broken child care system, we can boost our economic recovery so everyone benefits – whether they use child care or not.

Labor has a plan to make child care more affordable by scrapping the annual cap on the child care subsidy, which often sees parents – usually mothers – lose money if they take on extra days at work.

We also plan to lift the maximum child care subsidy rate to 90% and increase child care subsidy rates for every family with a combined household income less than $530,000.

Under a Labor Government, 97% of families with children in child care will be better off. Research from KPMG and the Grattan Institute estimates that similar reforms could generate GDP growth of between $4 billion and $11 billion every year.

Parramatta parents should be free to choose between staying home and quality child care – not penalised by higher child care fees when they take on extra hours or days at work.

Nationally, more than 100,000 families are locked out of our child care system because they simply can’t afford it. Our policy will open the door to child care for these families and make it more affordable for virtually all families with children in child care now.

If you’ve got children in child care – or you’ve been locked out by rising fees – click here to find out how much you could save under this policy.

And if child care reform matters to you, or you need help navigating the complex child care system, please get in touch with my office.

The Government has been silent on this issue, despite predicting a rapid rise in child care costs – so it’s critical that voices in our community are heard.