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Nick Xenophon is not supporting childcare cuts. Photo: Bev Lacey
Nick Xenophon is not supporting childcare cuts. Photo: Bev Lacey

Nick Xenophon Team to vote against childcare bill

The Turnbull government has failed to win over four crossbench senators for its plan to tie an overhaul of childcare fee subsidies to welfare payment cuts.

The Nick Xenophon Team, which has three of the nine crossbench votes the government needs, is not happy that about $3 billion in savings will be quarantined for spending on the national disability insurance scheme (NDIS).

“As a negotiating tactic, this is as subtle as a sledgehammer,” senator Xenophon said on Tuesday 14 February 2017.

Linking the welfare cuts to NDIS funding was “robbing Peter to pay Paul, in terms of trying to pit one group of disadvantaged Australians [against] another group of Australians in desperately need for help with disability support services”, he said.

The senator would rather see an increase in the Medicare levy to cover additional NDIS funding, arguing it would be more equitable.

Xenophon said his team supported the childcare changes but didn’t back scrapping family tax benefit supplements and limiting paid parental leave to pay for them. He wants the government to go back to the drawing board.

Tasmanian independent senator Jacqui Lambie won’t be backing the government either.

“I can tell you what they can go and do with their omnibus, they can stick it where it fits,” she said. “This is very cheeky about rolling all [the measures] because they’re never going to get it through.”

Later, Xenophon said there was always a different package that could be crafted.

“For instance, billions of dollars are wasted in defence,” he said.

Social services minister Christian Porter intends on having more discussions with Xenophon about finding other savings measures. But he warned the list of savings in his portfolio was not endless.

“The main issue here is finding a way to fund a very serious $1.6 billion investment in child care, which parents and families and mums are screaming out for,” Porter said. “We can’t do that from borrowing more money, we have to find savings to fund that expenditure.”

Porter insisted “no-one is threatening the NDIS” and the government was committed to funding the program even though it hadn’t been properly funded by Labor.

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