Strong families are the foundation of a healthy society.  But for decades governments have been introducing policies that undermine the family, whether it is by taking over more and more of the parents’ role (everything from free school lunches to relationship and sex education), undermining parental authority (the prime example being the “anti-smacking” law, opposed by 88% of voters in a referendum, but introduced and maintained by both Labour and National governments), perpetuating the systems that provide financial incentives for couples to split up (instead of encouraging and supporting parents to stay together), or separating children from their parents as early and for as long as possible.

Although other policies contribute to this, the push for preschool children to be cared for by strangers in state-sanctioned institutions rather than by parents really took off in 2007, when Helen Clark’s Labour government introduced funding for 20 hours per week of "free" early childhood education from the age of 3.  Parent-led services such as Playcentre were notably excluded.  At the time, the National Party promised to replace this with tax rebates for all types of childcare, but in the end, nothing came of that, and Labour's 20 hours of free ECE continued through three terms of National under John Key.  Come the election year 2023, National has resurrected the childcare tax rebates as “Familyboost”, but this time they are proposed in addition to “20 hours free”, rather than replacing it.  At this stage of the election campaign, this is National’s most notable policy proposal - and in spite of the catchy brand name, it is deeply anti-family.

Not to be outdone by National, the headline item in yesterday’s budget announcement from Labour is the extension of “20 hours free childcare” to 2-year-olds.  Perhaps we should applaud them for being honest for once - calling it childcare, rather than keeping up the pretense that this is about “education”.

There are two crucial problems here. The first is, nothing is free, and the approaches of both establishment parties mean that if your family chooses to have one parent stay home to look after young children, your taxes are used to subsidise childcare for other families where both parents go out and earn money.  The prevalence of dual-income families contributes to our high house prices, making it ever more difficult for any family to survive on a single income.  

This sort of deliberately harmful wealth redistribution is evil, but the second problem with these policies is even worse.  Parents are the most invested in their children's lives. Children thrive when their parents spend time with them. Everyone knows this.  Polling by Curia showed three-quarters of New Zealanders believe it is “better for children when one of the parents can stay home as a full-time parent”.  Most respondents would have interpreted this question to mean children in school, so we can assume the numbers would be even higher if the question related to preschoolers.  59 percent of respondents also agreed that since Government subsidises ECE it should also subsidise a parent who stays at home to care for a young child.  So why are the ruling parties so obsessed with using our taxes to promote the opposite of what we all know is best for children?

The first 1000 days of life are crucial in brain development, says neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis,  “the more love and positive interaction you experience in your first 1000 days of life, the more developed your brain will be. This will ultimately impact all of your child’s life-long outcomes”.  Because of this, we believe that the best outcome is for children to be in their family environment during these early years, where they have the safe loving environment that only parents can provide. 

Other experts have expressed alarm at the number of young children already spending very long hours in childcare and the potential long-term consequences for their mental and physical health.  Prior to covid, 8000 two-year-olds spent between 30 and 42 hours per week in childcare.  Although the overall proportion of children in ECE has reduced by 10% since the beginning of covid, most of the decrease has been for 3 and 4-year-olds.  It is worrying that the National and Labour plan further subsidies to increase attendance by 2-year-olds.  Is this because they want both parents working, contributing to the economy?  Or do these parties really just want to ensure children are brought up and indoctrinated by the State, protecting them from the values of their parents?  As it is, many NZ families do not want to put their children into childcare but feel forced to because there is no support for them to stay at home to raise their children.

Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t end there, as the state school system is also failing and becoming so ideologically harmful that homeschooling is becoming almost a necessity - as evidenced by skyrocketing numbers of homeschooling children - but sadly this is not an option for many families who now cannot survive on a single income.

New Conservative says children should be brought up by mums and dads, not the State.  Full-time parenting should be a child’s right.  The government spends billions of dollars every year subsidising childcare, to the detriment of children, and both Labour and National are proposing to increase this.  NC says that instead of government subsidising childcare, families should be supported and allowed to choose how best to spend this money. If both parents need to work then they can spend it on childcare, but if the same amount of money will allow one parent to stay home then children and society will be much better off.

New Conservative will also increase financial support for homeschooling, in line with our longstanding policy.