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Tuesday, 5 November 1996
Page: 6537


Mr ALLAN MORRIS(6.16 p.m.) —On this child-care measure, like on all the other budget measures, we have heard government members opposite saying that this will somehow improve the system. On this one in particular we have a great gap between the rhetoric and the reality. Firstly, I want to go through some of the rhetoric of government speakers to date. I will pick out a couple.

The member for Bowman (Mrs West) said in her speech to the House on 31 of last month that she was pleased to repudiate the claims. She also stated:

Never have I witnessed a greater embellishment of the facts. The level of scaremongering being whipped up in my local community is reminiscent of the farcical arguments raised over the nursing home entry contributions.

She says that there are no fewer than six child-care centres in a two-kilometre radius. She then states:

It is for this reason, and not for those claimed by some, that centres will close.

In other words, there are too many of them. This is the rhetoric—we are scaremongering and there are too many centres. The member for Canning (Mrs Johnston) said:

. . . we have ensured that child-care assistance is equitable and goes to those families who are in greatest need.

. . . . . . . . .

The removal of the operational subsidy from the community based child-care centres redresses the imbalance in government subsidies and removes a significant inequity for families . . .

Again more rhetoric. The member for Parkes (Mr Cobb), who has a far-flung electorate, said:

I am disappointed with the opposition's tactic of scaring parents by saying that fees will rise by gross amounts.

Those opposite also talk about centres closing. The odd centre has always closed from time to time. This is what government members are putting forward: the system will be improved; there is no real problem; it is not going to do any harm; and we on this side are scaremongering and not being genuine.

Now for some of the reality. I would like to read today a letter from the Maitland Child Care Centre Inc. because their member currently is not here. He has been overseas for a week or two and he cannot do it. He is a member of the government. I am sure that, if he were here, he would read this letter himself to talk about the reality in Maitland. The covering note to me from Anne Hurn, the centre's director, states:

From recent discussions with our centre's auditor our centre will be retrenching 2 staff to help cope with the loss of operational subsidy. For our management to retrench these people we are looking at a pay out figure for 2 staff of $39,874 . . . I can't see how our centre will remain open.

The letter to Mr Baldwin, which was forwarded to me for my use, states:

I am writing to inform you of the impact that the withdrawal of Operational Subsidy will have on our Centre.

Our Centre has been operating for 13 years. We were the first long day care service in Maitland and are housed in what were servants quarters and a horse stable. We have renovated our buildings in recent years to make them more user friendly and to comply with State Regulations and the Federal Accreditation Scheme. We have created a "homely" atmosphere which many of our users say is what attracts them to our Centre.

Our Centre has a staff of 10. Eight staff are trained and one is a trainee. We also have a cleaner and clerical assistant.

We offer a quality preschool education program for the 3-5 yr olds and we take 28 children in this age group. Our Nursery (0-3 yr olds) devise a developmentally appropriate program on a daily basis for 12 children aged 0-3 years old.

Currently our fees are $27.00 for a child in Preschool/day, $28.00/day for a child in our Nursery. For this fee children have linen and morning tea provided and drinks throughout the day. Our Centre does not provide meals because of the kitchen in our Centre—not commercial.

Our Centre is managed by parent users. Our Centre has their A.G.M. each February so we have 5 weeks from the start of our year to coerce, entice 8 new members to our Committee. We usually just have enough parents to fill the positions. I pose the question:

How many small businesses do you know that ask their unqualified clients to meet `monthly' for no money and make decisions eg: hire and fire staff, devise policies and procedures, know five different Employment Awards and do the wages and budget?

The brave people that take on this role are dedicated parents that care about their child's care and education, not owners of the centres that want $$s in their pockets at the end of the year. We fundraise endlessly throughout the year to give our children "extras" eg: new carpet, more choice in toys, inservice for staff.

With the loss of our $37,000 subsidy things would change dramatically.

Our qualified staff will be replaced by untrained staff, our fees will rise from $28.00/day to $32.00 in January `97, $36.00 in June/July, our enrolments will drop as many parents can not afford the increase, and our Centre may even be forced to close.

Your Government says that by withdrawing the subsidy it makes things equitable for both private and community based long day care centres. In what ways are we equal?

*   Private centres are run by owners not parent users.

*   Private centres operate to make a profit, community centres break even.

*   Private centres in Maitland don't offer care for 0-3 year olds.

*   Private centres don't offer food like many long day care centres do.

If we are to be "equal"

*   Fund us to attract trained financial advisers on our Committee.

*   Fund us to provide care for children aged 0 to 3 years.

*   Fund us to have a cook and supply nutritious meals.

Then we will be equal.

Come and visit our Centre and see for yourself. We welcome visitors—best time 9 am to 12 noon, 5 days/week, 48 wks/yr.

We hope that you take up our invitation and visit our centre. I hope that your Government consider the impact the abolition of Operational Subsidy will have on Community Long Day Care Centres.

That is a very moving letter. It is not dramatic. It is not sensationalised. It is not scaremongering. It does not exaggerate. It does not overdo things. It basically lays out to a member of parliament, to a member of the government, what is happening in that centre.

We are all getting letters like that from people all through our electorates, but not once have we heard a government member bring forward what is coming to their offices. Not once have we heard any of them own up to the damage, harm and pain they are causing and the uncertainty they are engendering. The dishonesty of this legislation and of those opposite who are pushing it, like lemmings, over a cliff is appalling.

It is unfortunate the member whose electorate covers Maitland is not here because I am sure he would have read the letter into the Hansard himself. In his absence, I have done that task for him. One does not need any more arguments. It was all there. The tragedy is that this government is adamant that it will persist with the legislation when it really should be looking at other ways of saving money, if that is its objective. I join with my colleagues in opposing what is a quite nasty and unwarranted amendment to the act.