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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 3489


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (12:00 PM) —I would like to briefly take this moment to also commend Senator Crossin on the work that she has put into this issue over a very lengthy period of time. Sitting up in my office just now, I was pleased to hear her go through the very long history that has been involved in establishing this centre. Indeed, I look forward now to the possibility of using it for my grandchild rather than for my own children. That is how long this history has been. Senator Crossin did not go into the full details about the difficulty of accessing child care in Canberra. Senator Stott Despoja has covered some of the breastfeeding issues, but there is a far broader range of issues about accessing child care and services relevant for members and senators with children that relates to the nature of our work, the amount of time we spend away from home and the hours which we work. Some of those issues have been accommodated for public servants working for organisations such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but there had never really been any effort in the past to deal with those issues as they relate to members and senators.

Senator Crossin and Senator Stott Despoja, I am sure, would reinforce the point that as politicians we are not looking for any special treatment or any additional funding to meet our own personal costs in relation to childcare arrangements. But we do need services that will be accessible, given the nature of our work. The very first point made to me about accessing child care when I came here—I was pregnant with my son James, who is now 12—was that there was indeed a centre at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. My first inquiry at that centre was met with, firstly, ‘We’re full,’ and, secondly, ‘We only take full-time places.’ By ‘full-time places’, they meant paying for a childcare place that you used 50 weeks of the year. We are not here 50 weeks of the year, and the arrangements just would not suit. I look forward to some of those flexibilities being incorporated in our new centre. As Senator Crossin indicated, it will only be available for children up to the age of 18 months. But from experience I have discovered that, by the time your child is around that 18-month stage, there are often many more reasons why you make arrangements back home to better suit their needs. Certainly we will need arrangements to accommodate our needs beyond the 18-month stage. It may be a bit less critical that the facility actually be in Parliament House itself, but I look forward to joining other senators in the campaign to improve services for children over 18 months of age as well.

Question agreed to.