Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 2 June 2003
Page: 15688

Mr BYRNE (9:09 PM) —I rise tonight to talk about an issue of concern in my electorate—child care. It is an absolute necessity for many Australians families, particularly those living within my electorate of Holt. In 2001, there were 38,115 children aged between zero and 11 within the city of Casey, a council district within my electorate. Many of the parents of these children work. They have to work to pay bills, to pay mortgages and to pay for petrol. Because they work, their children need child care and, as they grow older, before and after school care. Yet the Howard government has provided no assistance for new child-care centres in huge growth corridors like those in my electorate. Mr Costello's 2003 budget was an opportunity, particularly in my electorate, for the Howard government to provide real, tangible help to these families. The government has failed. It has failed to take this opportunity. It has failed to provide any extra child-care places for the third year in a row.

Without extra funding for child care, the parents in my electorate will be forced to stay at home. It is a forced decision that a majority of families simply cannot afford. The majority of families cannot afford to have one parent at home full time for five years. By the time a child is in its second year, some 57 per cent of mothers are working. By the time the child has turned three, roughly 68 per cent of mothers are back in the work force. Child care is not an indulgence or a luxury. It is a necessity, without which ordinary Australians and the Australian economy would be worse off.

One of my constituents, Jennifer Tranter, felt so strongly about this issue that she contacted my office to reinforce how important child care was to her family. Jennifer and her partner have two children: Hannah, aged four, and Blake, aged 18 months. Both Jennifer and her husband work full time. Jennifer said:

If I couldn't send my kids to day care, I would not be able to go to work. With only my partner's income to live on, we would in a worst-case scenario end up losing our house. Day-care is just so important to us.

Though other nations have begun to recognise the importance of child care and to act to increase investment in child development and care, this government has done the reverse. It has refused to acknowledge the increased community demand for child care and does not recognise that many mothers need to return to work after the birth of a child. I quote Jennifer Tranter again:

I don't know anyone who stays at home to look after their kids. People just can't afford to. I know many couples who are in the situation where one partner works days whilst the other works nights just so they can have the Australian dream of owning a house and give their kids a good future.

The Howard government has elected to provide incentives for mothers who stay at home whilst ignoring many of these families and women who want to return to work. The abandonment of child care has resulted in national shortages—shortages which are starkly evident in my electorate of Holt. This is illustrated in an article entitled `Child care “in crisis”' in the Berwick News written by Jodie Welsh, whom I think the member for Dunkley would know reasonably well. The article states:

Some Casey parents may be forced to leave their primary school-aged children at home alone because of an alleged shortage in before and after school care places across the municipality.

According to at least a dozen local parents, who were earlier this week struggling to find care for their school-aged children after a centre in Narre Warren changed ownership, the municipality is facing—

in her words—

a “crisis” in terms of placements available.

Local parent Leanne Cartledge contacted my office to express her concern at the lack of placements available for children attending the local school—Berwick Primary School. Leanne's daughter, Kirralee, was once able to attend a child-care centre which provided before and after school care to Berwick Primary School students. This centre was recently taken over by a corporate child-care chain, and Kirralee's parents were informed it would no longer offer before and after school care. Leanne and her husband, Steven, have tried in vain to find an after school placement for their daughter.

Although Berwick primary does have a before and after school program, demand for the service, particularly in this growth corridor, is so great that the school cannot possibly accommodate the number of children seeking placements. Some families have been on the waiting list for this service since July last year. In recognition of this demand, the school is currently awaiting approval of its application for a further 30 places for the after school program. Yet Leanne has informed me that even if this application is successful the school may not receive an adequate number of places to meet the enormous demand the program receives. She states:

The school have informed me that they have applied for extra places but may not receive the full 30.

Leanne has canvassed every option in vain. None of the City of Casey child-care centres have any after school placement spots. She decided to try and transfer to another school, only to find that that school had waiting lists. She contacted Nanny Services, only to be told that demand for nannies in the area is so high that it outstrips demand. This lack of child-care places in this area is unacceptable. (Time expired)