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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Page: 9493


Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (09:54): I rise to present a petition which was found to be in order by the House of Representatives Petitions Committee. There are more than 1,000 signatures on this petition, which deals with community concerns with the federal government’s decision to withdraw funding from the Occasional Childcare Services Program, more commonly known throughout Victoria as Take a Break.

The Take a Break program is critically important to mums and dads and their children in my electorate. Under this government’s decision to take $12.6 million away from the Take a Break program, we are left with many towns such as Swifts Creek, Paynesville, Gormandale, Cann River, Heyfield, towns which are quite small, that face the prospect of having no occasional childcare service whatsoever after December this year. I have spoken before on this issue and raised my concerns, but if the government is not prepared to listen to me perhaps they will listen to these 1,000 Gippslanders who are basically saying they want a fair go. It should not be so hard for regional communities to get a fair go out of this government. I hope someone is actually listening.

The concerns have been raised by the Victorian Neighbourhood House Association’s Angela Savage, who is the executive officer. Ms Savage has written to me and other members explaining the potential risks if this funding is not restored by the Gillard government. The risk is that at least 142 childcare workers stand to lose their jobs and over 220 community organisations which received government funding in the past would not be able to offer occasional childcare services in the future.

I acknowledge from the outset that this program has been funded previously with a mix of state and federal government funding. The federal government used to provide 70 per cent of the funding and the state government 30 per cent of the funding. In Victoria we are seeing Victorian state MPs taking the opportunity to harangue their Victorian coalition government and demand that they provide the services in the future. The Victorian government has been prepared to stump up their 30 per cent of funding. What they are demanding though is that the federal government restore the 70 per cent that they used to provide.

It stuns me, quite frankly, to have a government which is prepared to spend more than $12 million on climate change advertising propaganda but cannot find $12 million to help the children in regional communities receive some occasional childcare and to also provide support for their parents who often require a bit of respite or also require the opportunity to undertake some part-time work. It is a staggering decision from the government. It just shows how out of touch some of the Labor members in this place are. They are prepared to spend $12 million on propaganda but not $12 million on occasional childcare services. I think it is hypocritical of state Labor MPs to be haranguing the state government in Victoria and then not also coming to the Commonwealth minister and demanding that she reinstate that funding.

In presenting this petition I just hope that finally someone in government is actually listening to the people of Australia. It should not be this hard for the people of regional communities like those in Gippsland to get a fair go from this government.

The petition read as follows—

TO THE HONOURABLE THE SPEAKER AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

This petition of citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House the withdrawal of funding for occasional childcare services by the Gillard Government in the 2010/11 Federal Budget.

Of particular concern to the undersigned are the potential impacts on remote communities where 'Take a Break' childcare services available through Neighbourhood Houses and community centres may cease as a result of this decision.

In many rural and regional communities childcare services operated through Neighbourhood Houses are the only childcare option available and play a vital role in supporting volunteering, workforce and social participation.

We therefore ask the House to support a reinstatement of occasional childcare funding by the Federal Government to enable rural and regional communities to access quality childcare services.

from 1121 citizens

Petition received.