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Monday, 1 June 1998
Page: 4254

Mrs CROSIO (1:27 PM) —If there are two regions in Sydney suffering the most from the Howard government's child-care cuts it is the Greater Fairfield area covered by my electorate and the Greater Penrith area covered by the electorate of the Member for Lindsay (Miss Jackie Kelly), who has just moved this motion. She knows it and I know it. The working parents in our electorates certainly know it. Both Penrith and Fairfield City Councils know it. Child-care providers in the area—both private and public—know it. The local and metropolitan press know it. And the Senate Community Affairs References Committee on child-care funding—especially after having one of their hearings in the member for Lindsay's own electorate—also knows it. And yet the member for Lindsay's motion ignores the crisis affecting child care in her electorate. Instead she has concocted some fantasy about how the working parents of her electorate never had it so good.

The member for Lindsay has a responsibility; she has a duty to represent her constituents without fear or favour. She has a duty to reveal the true crisis in child care in her electorate. Instead she comes in here and attempts to hide the facts with half truths and outright misinformation. It is an indictment of the member for Lindsay's commitment to her constituents that the member for Chifley (Mr Price) and I have to do her job for her. Anyone reading this motion who was familiar with the reality facing community based child care in western Sydney would be filled with disgust and anger that a representative of that region could so betray her constituency as she is doing now.

The member for Lindsay says the working parents of Penrith and its surrounds have got a better deal out of child care thanks to the Howard government. If that is the case, perhaps the member for Lindsay can explain why there have been 767 reductions in the use—or withdrawals—from Penrith City Council's long day care centres since the Howard government's cuts to operational subsidies. Perhaps the member for Lindsay can explain why, since July 1997, 181 working families have totally withdrawn from using Penrith City Council's long day care centres; why more than double the level of withdrawals were from lower income families—parents earning less than $27,000 per annum; why child-care fees at the Penrith City Council's long day care centres have gone up from an average of around $150 per child per week to between $170 and $180; why 47 per cent of those withdrawing from, or reducing their child's hours in, care changed from centre based care to care at home; why 64 of those families in the Penrith area will be using unregulated care by families or friends or taking children to their place of work; why 47 women, whom she is supposed to represent in Lindsay, have reduced their number of working days so that their need for child care and associated costs could be reduced; and why 27 extra women have now ceased work altogether in the member for Lindsay's electorate.

The member for Lindsay has, in this House, knowing full well the parlous state of child care in her electorate, brought this motion forward. In not defending these people, and by putting up this spurious motion which not only attempts to hide the truth but misrepresents what is actually happening, she has seriously betrayed her duty and her constituents.

Here was I thinking that forcing low income parents to pay an extra $25 per child per week to keep their kids in care was a bad thing when actually, according to the member for Lindsay, it is something they should be glad about. How silly of me! Here was I thinking that cutting services at community based centres, such as hot food, nappies, toys, et cetera, was a bad thing when, according to the member for Lindsay, it is an all-round better deal. Of course! According to the member for Lindsay, it is good news that the children of low and middle income families can now only be attended to by casual staff because of the funding cutbacks resulting in inconsistency of care and the disruption of the children's routines leading to unsettled behaviour. What was I thinking? That this was not really good for the children?

The real story of child care in the member for Lindsay's electorate is contained in a quote from the Penrith City Council's submission on child care to the Senate committee inquiry. It reads in part:

Quality of care is being threatened in our area as cuts to service provision are made in an attempt to ensure the continued viability of centres. The viability of centres is being jeopardised through the loss of operational funding and the resulting loss of utilisation caused by the increase in fees.

Council is concerned about the issue of affordability, since the withdrawal of operational funding has caused a substantial increase in fees and is preventing equity of access to long day care centres for families from all income brackets. Investigations—

by Penrith City Council—

are indicating that in particular many lower and middle-income families can no longer afford to use centre based long day care.

That is the real story of what is happening in the member for Lindsay's electorate, not the fantasy that this motion and she purports to present.

The member for Lindsay in putting this motion forward is, I believe, naive, dumb or just plain indifferent to the child-care problems in her electorate. Either way she has sold out working parents living in her community. I for one will make damn sure that they hear about it. Just for the honourable member for Lindsay's information, I wonder why she does not go to speak to a mother in South Penrith who has said, `I have changed now to part-time work from full-time work because of the funding cuts; I can't afford child care.' Consider the hardship of that mother in the Blue Mountains—(Time expired)