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Australians want free childcare and short work weeks after coronavirus pandemic

Australians have called on the government not to rewind policies they introduced to assist families during the coronavirus crisis. 

Sally Rugg, the executive director of Change.org, shared her ‘wishlist’ for the future of Australia which included free childcare, reduced working hours and an increase to welfare payments.

Some of the suggestions are changes the government has temporarily imposed to ease the financial burden if the pandemic. 

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made clear the current subsidies and handouts are not sustainable long-term, and he plans to have the country operating as usual by September.

His priority will be getting all employees who lost their jobs, more than a million, back to work as soon as possible. 

Daily Mail Australia takes a closer look at some of the policies some are suggesting should be in place in a post-coronavirus Australia. 

Poll

Should childcare stay free following the coronavirus pandemic?

Free childcare 

Parents have been petitioning for free childcare to remain a government policy beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 2, in the early days of the crisis, the government waived all childcare fees in an attempt to keep parents at work.

It was sold as a rescue package, designed to keep centres afloat as parents withdrew their children in droves. 

Of more than 1,000 families benefiting from the current free services, more than 50 per cent said they would support continued subsidised fees into the future, a report commissioned by The Conversation concluded.

A further 25 per cent said they would be neutral. 

Mother-of-one Fiona Ivits told The Guardian: ‘It’s going to be a bit of a wrench to go back to the system as it was… now that we’ve seen free childcare.’ 

On April 2, in the early days of the crisis, the government waived all childcare fees in an attempt to keep parents at work

The government has, so far, refused to discuss extending the childcare package, which costs an estimated $1.6billion, beyond June 28.

Early Childhood Australia’s CEO Sam Page said the scheme had reignited the debate about childcare why it isn’t free for all families. 

‘By giving free childcare to families, that has really opened the debate on why isn’t childcare free all the time,’ she told news.com.au.

She suggested the government continue to offer parents at least two days a week of free childcare.  

Education Minister Dan Tehan is expected to make a decision within the next few weeks about the extension of the free childcare scheme. 

Parents have been petitioning for free childcare to remain a government policy beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

Parents have been petitioning for free childcare to remain a government policy beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

Poll

Should Australia implement a four day working week?

Four-day working week

Ms Rugg proposed a four-day working week to boost productivity and work-life balance once the nation returns to a pre-COVID-19 normal.

The suggestion came after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested businesses should consider the option. 

Ms Ardern briefly visited the North Island town of Rotorua this week to speak with local council and tourism operators about the impact of COVID-19.

Ms Ardern said a number of ideas were being ‘bounced around’ to boost domestic travel – including shortening the working week.

‘Some have been saying ”well if they had a bit more flexibility in terms of their travel and their leave they might be able to do that”,’ she said.

‘I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day week. Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees.’  

New Zealand's leader Jacinda Ardern suggested businesses consider shortening the working week to allow for travel

New Zealand’s leader Jacinda Ardern suggested businesses consider shortening the working week to allow for travel  

Ms Ardern said she would ‘really encourage’ employers to think about it if they’re in a position to do so.  

‘To think about if that’s something that would work for your workplace because it certainly would help tourism all around the country,’ she said. 

Ms Ardern also encouraged fellow New Zealanders to ‘think about exploring your backyard’ now that lockdown restrictions have been eased.

That sentiment has been echoed in Australia, too. 

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced residents in the state would be welcome to travel regionally within just two weeks, while other states are also discussing easing restrictions to boost the tourism industry with intrastate travel. 

The New South Wales government on Tuesday confirmed intrastate travel will be allowed from June 1

The New South Wales government on Tuesday confirmed intrastate travel will be allowed from June 1

Poll

Should JobSeeker payments be permanently increased?

Increase JobSeeker payment 

The government doubled the standard JobSeeker payment for the duration of the coronavirus crisis to inject more money into the struggling economy.

But attention soon turned to the months to follow the pandemic. Some say the payment – which equated to about $40 per day – simply isn’t sustainable and must be permanently increased.

Leading the calls for reform is opposition leader Anthony Albanese, who argued the Coalition increased the allowance because it acknowledged it simply wasn’t enough for people to live on.

‘If it wasn’t enough to live on two months ago, when these changes were made, why will it be enough to live on in six months’ time?,’ he said.

The Australian Council for Social Service has also long argued JobSeeker – once known as Newstart – was near impossible for anybody to live on.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has labelled the extra funds an ’emergency response measure’ and vowed to scrap it from September, instead focusing on reopening the economy and getting about one million people back to work. 

Other suggestions include gradually lowering the allowance, or finding a new amount somewhere in between the old and present figures.

The Australian Council for Social Service has also long argued Jobseeker – once known as Newstart – was near impossible for anybody to live on. Pictured: People lining up at Centrelink in Adelaide

The Australian Council for Social Service has also long argued Jobseeker – once known as Newstart – was near impossible for anybody to live on. Pictured: People lining up at Centrelink in Adelaide

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has floated the idea of a four-day working week to help boost tourism in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has floated the idea of a four-day working week to help boost tourism in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

New Zealand entered 'Alert 2' of their coronavirus action plan on Thursday May 14, which allowed Kiwis to slowly return to everyday life. Pictured: People enjoy outside cafe dining at the Maunganui main beach esplanade in Tauranga on Monday

New Zealand entered ‘Alert 2’ of their coronavirus action plan on Thursday May 14, which allowed Kiwis to slowly return to everyday life. Pictured: People enjoy outside cafe dining at the Maunganui main beach esplanade in Tauranga on Monday

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