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Senator CHRIS EVANS
Content WindowCommunity Affairs References Committee - 22/04/98 - Child care funding
MR Kirby —I represent the private child care centre operators in Penrith. Thank you for your introduction. We, from the outset, have agreed with the comment relating to courtesy and respect, members of the committee. We have no desire to set up a war between private centres and council centres. I addressed Penrith Council on Monday night and I emphasised that. In many cases, the staff at council centres are our colleagues and, in all cases, children at both centres, private and council, are our future. We do not have a problem with any of those groups.
We do, however, wish to focus our argument against Penrith Council's desire to reinstate the operational subsidy for Penrith Council-run centres. There is a plethora of emotion in this room. We have placards, we have media, we have representatives of state, federal, and local government. We all feel hotly. We have all been affected by government cuts. We do not want, however, to set up a war. We do want to deal with the facts, and my role this morning is to deal with the facts for us, to deal with the facts for the committee, and even facts for the media.
There is a huge oversupply of child care centres in Penrith. There are at least 27 private centres and 16 or 17 council centres. All together that is at least 42 centres—that is a lot. Demand is down, and we are all feeling the pinch. The government cuts have affected us across the board.
We have learned to adjust to the changes—you mentioned adjusting to the changes. We have tried to adjust to the changes. We feel, however, that the administration of the council centres—not the staff, the parents, or the children but the administration that comes from council—is not adjusting to change. We feel it would be grossly unfair if council centres received the $40,000 per centre, at least, back if other centres did not. A simple question is: how is it then that the private centres—as an example, not as an enemy—can run a business profitably, provide a cheaper service in most cases, and provide a better quality service, according to the parents of Penrith? Seventy per cent of the parents in Penrith go to private child care centres. That is not a war statement, that is a fact.
Why is it that council centres cannot run as cheaply as private centres? Why is it that council administration, not the Penrith Council centres themselves, are costing money to Penrith ratepayers to the tune of close to $900,000 a year? Penrith Council is in a deficit. They are losing money for Penrith ratepayers. Members of the committee, I ask you, is there a better way of doing it than just giving money back to a system which has not been able to provide a cheaper, better quality service already? I would like to emphasise that point. Is it sensible to reinstate the operational subsidy to a system that has not been able to provide a cheaper, better service, as evidenced by Penrith parents and by the average price per day?
We see, in a strange way, a ray of hope in the fact that operational subsidies have been cut. It is almost a level playing field. Demand is down. The cuts have affected everybody. Therefore, we say, it would be grossly unfair if Penrith Council centres received that operational subsidy back.
CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Kirby, for that contribution. I would remind all persons in the public forum that the program for today's proceedings is 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.—albeit we started a bit late—for the community forum, and 11 a.m. to 12 noon, for a providers and child care centres panel. The community forum is intended mainly for parents to come and express their views to the Senate committee. The views of providers in child care operations we will be particularly interested to hear those views between 11 a.m. and midday, so please bear that in mind. We will proceed, thank you.
Glenys Gaddie —I am a parent and my children attend the Kids Activity Centre at Mount Druitt. I am also on the board of directors. Personally, I have been affected terribly by the decision of the government. Last year I had to take my kids out of before and after school care because of long day care. My long day care cost increased by $15 a week. Because I am also a single parent my level at out of hours school care also increased by $25 a week. I was affected by $40 a week. I could no longer carry that cost. I had to reduce my hours at work. I am lucky I am in a company where I can do that at the moment. I have also been told I might have to go back to full-time work. I cannot afford to go back to before and after school hours care. It means my kids will be sitting at home by themselves, and I cannot do that either. I have just had to give up the opportunity of promotion because I cannot allow my children to sit at home by themselves.
We had 12 people at a meeting last night regarding the fee relief that they are claiming back. At least five of those 12 people will get nothing back on fee relief. As a single parent, I am hoping I will get something back. My children now go to vacation care because that is the only thing I can afford. I am greatly affected by what the government is doing. All of our parents are affected. Our fees will be doubling, as of the 27th, from $50 a week to $100 a week. People who are receiving no fee relief have had their fees doubled by $50 a week per child. Anyone with a mortgage—it does not matter what income they are on—has their money tied up with mortgages and family commitments. How can they afford $50 a week per child? It's incredible!
How can the government allow families to be in so much debt just to put their children in care so they can keep working? What is it coming down to? Mothers have to give up their work, mothers have to reduce their hours. I have worked for the last 20 years. I have paid taxes for the last 20 years. Unfortunately I am now a single parent. It is not by choice, it
was a situation that I had no choice in. I am now, because I have had to reduce my hours, relying on benefits from the government which I have never had to do before. I hate being in this position, and I am sure every other parent in my position hates it also.
If I was working full-time the burden on the government would be less because I would not need as many benefits from the government. But I also need help with my child care, and every other parent in our centre feels the same way. With parents on two incomes, whether they exceed the limit or they are close to the limit—we have one parent who receives 2.9 per cent fee relief, which is less than $3 out of $100. Now, how do they survive? With three children in care it is extended to $150 a week more than what they were paying. The parents cannot survive this. Our centre cannot survive this. We have lost 12 families so far this year in anticipation of what is going to happen. That is not how many families will leave after the 27th.
A lot of them still have not got their letters back from Centrelink, and the letters they have received back from Centrelink do not make any sense. In their letters they are told to go back to the child care provider and the child care provider would then give them another registration form to fill in. Our centre does not have any registration forms. We cannot even set up our computer systems because we have not got the packages to set them up. This is Wednesday. We have less than a week before this new system starts. How do we set up our computers? We do not have the packages to set them up.
We have been told that our parents must sign in and sign out because the child care providers cannot be relied on to give the correct information back to the government. That means that parents who would normally drop their children off and watch their children walk into the centre will now have to leave home early, get their children out of bed early, get to the centre early, come in and queue up to sign their children in. We drop our kids off at netball, swimming, et cetera. What happens then if the parents are not there to sign them out of the centre?
CHAIR —Thank you, Ms Gaddie.
Neil Reece —I am a parent from the Kids Activity Centre at Mount Druitt also. I am also the chairman of the parents management committee at the centre, so I have a very good idea of what is happening here. There are a couple of issues I would like to raise. One of the facts is that we are not getting much information back from Centrelink. We are constantly told, `Just contact Centrelink, everything will be all right.' Our parents are contacting Centrelink and being told differently. The bottom line is that Centrelink are not sure of their facts; they are not sure of what they are changing next Monday.
Another thing which does not seem to have been taken into consideration is that we have a centre that runs five transport vehicles. We service 24 different schools. All our parents, including myself, enjoy this wonderful service. We are quite happy to pay a little extra for it, too, quite frankly. The bottom line is that with these changes and the increases that are coming we have lost parents already and we have had more who are indicating they will be forced to withdraw their children from care, and we still have to maintain the same number of buses.
Another big problem seems to be this new sessional arrangement. It seems to be causing a lot of parents to need to withdraw from a morning session. They can make their budget work with increased fees by removing the child from care for maybe a morning or an afternoon session. That is something that I will probably look at myself. My wages exclude me from claiming any rebates. I am not a rich man, I still live week to week fairly much. I do not see that, because I have worked hard for years to climb up various ladders and get a good position at work and have a reasonable income, I now deserve to be slugged an extra $50 a week. That is the feeling with a lot of our parents.
I am very happy to see lower income people get a little extra assistance. What I am not particularly pleased about is under the new system I may qualify to get $2 or $3 a week back. Quite frankly it is a waste of time; I will not claim it. I won't waste my time doing the paperwork because I could simply earn more money in that time. So I do not see this helping me at all. I see it as slugging me for an extra $50 a week to have something as simple as care for my children and peace of mind while I am at work each and every day.
When I do not have that peace of mind I am not as productive at work. I believe that this country does need to be productive, and the government wants us to be productive, yet how can a parent be productive who is nervous, unsure, and frustrated by various government departments not knowing the answers to what they keep on claiming they do know the answers to? They are simply going to earn less, work less, be less productive. That is about all I have to say for now.
CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Reece.
Rose Van Eck —I am a mother of three, and my youngest daughter Tara is still in care at the Kids Activity Centre. I consider myself one of the luckier ones where I have only one child in care. Last year I worked hard and I fought for a pay rise and ended up with between $20 and $25 a week on top of what my normal pay was. With that, I lost my family payment of $48 a fortnight, and now I am under threat of an extra $50 a week in child care. So I will be paying $50 extra a week, as well as the $25 a week I lost in family payment. My income is $75 less a week than my pay rise of $20.
I feel quite strongly about this, not just for myself but for all parents. We choose to, or have to, work to give our kids a better life. We choose to do that rather than rely on governments for benefits. My choice is now whether I can afford the extra $50 a week. Do I leave my daughter at home in the morning to go to school by herself, as I do not have a choice whether I can start early or late? I have my hours. With that I feel I am going back 20 years where kids were left at home alone, or they were left with people that were not qualified. What are we going back to? That is the big thing that so many people are saying.
What do we do? Do we give up work, go on to benefits, and cost the government more money? Do we leave our kids at home? The choice is not really there. We will not leave our kids at home, so in the end we are all going to cost everybody more money. That is really all I have to say. Thank you.
—Thank you, Ms Van Eck.
Jo Pepper —I am a concerned parent, taxpayer, and also a university student. I work full-time and travel takes me four hours a day—two hours to travel to the eastern suburbs and two hours back. My husband works at 6 o'clock in the morning. Fortunately, the Kids Activity Centre opens at 5.30, so my six-year-old is dropped off there. My dilemma is: what do I do? Do I finish university because I cannot afford that, because my extra $50 has got to come from somewhere?. My HECS has already risen. Or do I stop working after 13 years? I am actually the higher wage earner. It is my wage that pays the mortgage and the bills. So what do I do?
Our family is still in New Zealand and England. We have no-one to fall back on except the Kids Activity Centre. To my daughter, who is six, they are her extended family. They teach her social skills, they teach her pottery, everything. Now what happens? Do I leave uni, do I leave work? Is the government going to allow me to go and learn how to do pottery so I can have my child at home and teach her that, along with needlework? They are just not things that the government would be able to give to me. They are extended family and, being an only child, she is able to socialise properly. She is able to communicate with her peers, not only at school but in a playground area. That is all I have to say. Thank you.
CHAIR —Thank you.
Debbi Thorne —I am a parent, and I am really nervous. I have one child in long day care and I have one child in after school care. I work full-time. I actually went back to work for two days a week. We worked out, based on the stay-at-home allowance that the parents get versus what I would actually bring home for working two days a week, that it was actually costing me $10 more to go to work than to stay home. But we figured that for my mental health, for the children to see that it is okay for both parents to work, for dad to help around the house and all that sort of thing—because I have two sons—we decided that it was a really good idea. So I went to work, and I absolutely love what I do, and I am very good at what I do.
The opportunity came up for me to work full-time. Bang, there was a day care problem. I found a day care centre in the local area, and that took me so long to give up my child to the day care centre—I had to find a lot of trust and everything. So I did all that, not a problem, everybody is going along fine. My six-year-old is in after school care and all of a sudden we have problems with after school care fees. We are probably luckier, as the extra three days' work came as an opportunity, and the money is there for me to pay for good child care. So I did research a few centres, both private and council, until I was happy with the one I chose. The money was not really a consideration in the first place.
Now I look at what I was paying a year ago to what I am paying now. It has more than doubled. So there is something going on in the system where the fees just keep increasing and increasing. We actually pay $26 a month more for child care than we do for our mortgage, which just does not make sense to me. Regarding the valid point that the lady in front of me made about the social skills, the youngest of my two was very hyperactive but the centre has managed to show him lots of social skills.
I think people have got to stop looking at the idea that we feel child care centres are just baby-sitters to get our kids out of the way. We do understand how important they are to our
children. It is important for us to work because education is getting more expensive. As the lady down the front was saying about the HECS and uni, if we want our kids to have a good future we have got to have money there to pay the fees. I just feel that it has got to come from somewhere, and it is always coming from the working parent. I pay my taxes, I pay my Medicare, and I pay my money to the centre. It would take me out of the work force.
You may feel it is only one person coming out of your dollar equation, but hundreds and thousands of women are going to have to come out of the work force, so where is the tax money going that you are taking away from the tax? The Medicare system is already failing and it needs our contribution as well. You are taking all of that out—my money out of the local community, so my local grocery man and fruit man, and butcher and so on are not going to have my money.
CHAIR —Thank you, Ms Thorne.
Ann Heffernan —I am here in two roles. I am the director of a private centre in Penrith, but I am not going to speak about that. I am also a parent, and I have a preschooler and I chose to send her to a private centre, and the cut in the operational subsidies made absolutely no difference to the fees at all. I have been paying the same fees. It has not gone up. So maybe the people who are having trouble might need to look at some of the private centres to see what their fees are, because I know in the Penrith area the private centres are not as expensive as the council centres. Thank you.
CHAIR —Thank you for that.
Tracy Redman —I own a private centre in the Penrith area and I am going to say pretty much what Ann did. We appreciate that the operational subsidies have been cut, but what people do not seem to understand or what they do not care about is that they have been cut to the council centres; we in the private sector have never received those operational subsidies. Consequently it has not made any difference to us; our fees are still the same. I think we have had one increase in the last two years, so the loss of the operational subsidy really has not affected us at all.
The people in the community are not aware of that. We are seeing a constant media focus on the people having to leave their jobs, the fee increases and so on. What we would like everyone to know is that there is a choice. We did not lose the operational subsidies; we never received them. It has not made any difference to us. We can offer the same sort of care, the same quality care, but we can offer it at an affordable price.
At the moment we are being affected, as I said, not because of the cuts but because of the media. In any paper you open you will see articles about the child care fee increases. What we have found has happened is that everyone is looking at the paper and saying, `Yes, it is terrible, we heard this morning about how much the fees have gone up for some of the people whose children go to the council centres.' We just have to make everyone aware that that is not the case everywhere. Shop around and see what is out there. We are offering the same hours, the same service, the same quality. We have the same resources. We have the same resources as far as sups workers, the training, and we have the same qualifications. We are all operating using the same regulations.
I guess the bottom line is that it is the media, I feel, that are misleading the public. We need to get across that the private centres are operating and have been operating for years and years. I have had my centre now for nine years. I know there are people here from the Penrith area that have been going a lot longer than that. Even when the subsidies were in effect we were very competitive. Now that the subsidies have been cut we know that the council centres have had to put their price up. That really is another issue. That is something for them to really look at and work out. We are still running. We still have to make a profit. We need to take home a bit of money at the end of the day.
So how about we try and get across to the media that there are choices? The council centres are not the only ones offering that service. We can do it, too, but we have to let people know that we have not been affected by these cuts. I would especially say to the people that have spoken, your fees have obviously gone up. That is the general case. Have a bit of a shop around and see what you can find in the private sector. Thank you.
CHAIR —Thank you, Mrs Redman. Before further speakers offer their views, I would just remind all persons in the gallery of my earlier comments that the program for this session is intended for parents to express their views. There is another session between 11 a.m. and midday for providers to express their views. We are particularly interested, in this session, on the views of parents. I would ask future contributors to abide by those rules. Thank you. We will proceed.
Norah McGuire —I am not a provider, I am an older woman and a grandparent. I am from the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association and I have also been asked to represent the Older Womens Network of Australia. This issue is not just about younger parents. It is about grandparents, because what has happened in the past is that quite often grandparents have looked after the children for their sons and daughters when they were working. However, what is happening now is that they are losing the choice of whether to do it or not—in some cases they are being forced to do it. It is not that we do not love our grandchildren, because I can assure you we do. It is for many other reasons.
One of the reasons that some give is that they have already raised their children. Another is that physically it is very hard on them. I think one of the main things that has to be thought about is that retired, older people have worked. They have come to this stage in their lives where they have made plans and they want to do things, and in some cases they actually have to scrap those plans because they now have to take over the role of child carers for their sons and daughters. It can cause tensions within the family.
I know of one family where it is already causing tension because the grandmother is looking after the son's son, and now the daughter needs some help with the child care for her two children—she can no longer afford to pay the fees—and the mother does not know what to do. She cannot look after the three children. Young children are very active, and some of us are not so active—although I must admit some are—but it is hard to keep up with young children. Keeping up with three she sees as impossible, which would mean that she would not give good quality care to her grandchildren, and she does not want to do that. But how does she decide who she helps? That is her problem.
We have heard from grandparents who have even been asked to leave their work. A 63-year-old woman was asked by her daughter to finish work, because she can get the pension and look after the children. She does not want to. She wants to work as long as she can. Why shouldn't she? Once more there is tension in the family. We have talked to many older people about this, particularly older women. Of course, quite often it is seen as the women's role anyway, so that impacts heavily on older women. They say, `We like to help our children, we like to give occasional care, but full-time care is just beyond us.'
If you think about full-time care, it is not a seven- or eight-hour day, it is a nine or 10-hour day. Child care is not just from 9 o'clock to 5 o'clock when the parents are at work—it is before and it is after. What is happening is that older people, when their working life is over, when they are looking forward to enjoying the rest of their lives, are now having to give up for their family again that time, and to take on what can prove to be quite a stressful and, in some cases, physically impossible job.
So we believe that we should not just focus on parents. I know they are the most important part of this equation after the children. However, these changes are going to affect whole families; they are going to affect communities. There are people who will have to give up work. If there is less money coming into the house they will spend less and therefore the business community will be impacted on. But, in particular, I am here to say that what is happening is proving to be very unfair for grandparents. We want to have the choice of whether or not we look after our grandchildren. We do not want to be forced to. I know that there are people who will hate the use of that word `force', because I remember being pulled up by a young man on a television program about that. I asked him did he have grandchildren, and he said, `No.' So I said, `Well, how do you know what it means to have to look after children when it's very hard to say no to your son?'
CHAIR —Thank you, Mrs McGuire.
Aaron Cauchi —I am a member of a family and I would like to share my family's experience. My grandmother has to look after six of her grandchildren every day after working shift work. My grandmother has to wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning to go to work at 4 o'clock. Then she works from 4 o'clock to 8 o'clock and goes around to my aunty's house and looks after her two children. Then in the afternoon, at 3 o'clock she has to go to the school and pick up two of the other grandchildren, and then my sister and myself go back to my aunty's house at 4 o'clock.
This means that my grandmother is waking up at 3 o'clock in the morning so that she can go to work, then go and look after six of her 11 grandchildren. Then she looks after these children till 6 o'clock when my mother gets home. Then she is obligated to talk to my mother and my aunty or otherwise one of them will feel left out. She gets home at about 7 o'clock. She sleeps from 8 o'clock after making dinner and having something to eat, and then has to wake up at 3 o'clock the next morning. So she is surviving on about six or seven hours sleep as well as in effect working at two jobs.
This has all come about because my cousins used to be in child care but now the family simply cannot afford to pay for the child care. If we look at recent statistics, they say that it costs on average $700,000 to raise a child in Australia. If we add 15 per cent on to this for
the GST, it is going to make it virtually impossible for a lot of people to raise their families. So that is all I have to say.
CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Cauchi.
Debbi Thorne —I just wanted to respond to something that was said earlier, even though it was said in the wrong time frame. They were saying that the solution is that we should just search around and look for other day care centres. My children are not motor vehicles. I am not looking for a mechanic. It took me a long time to find somebody I trusted. I actually have a mother-in-law who takes care of my son one day a week—it just gives our pocket a bit of a break. At this stage, that is fine. In school holiday times when I then have my other son, she cannot handle the two children together, so I have to rely on people or try and take holidays. Schools have 13 weeks a year off. I get four. It just does not fit in. But I would just like to say that I personally feel it does take a lot to find the right child care centre. My centre apparently is going from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. That really helps. I know a lot of people that work full-time. How on earth can I fit my hours in, 8 o'clock until 4 o'clock? I have got my travel to and from work, and it is just not going to work. And now, after spending all this time researching centres—and I really researched them—I now have to go and do it all again, and I have three months in which to do it, and it is not long enough. If we do have too many day care centres, then there has to be a better system than just continually raising the fees until people shut down or people give up work. There has to be a better way.
If everybody whose job it is to make the decisions can get together and look at it. It is like any business: if you have too many centres, bring them down, or whatever you need to do, but still make them workable. Do not change the hours to ridiculous hours. Non-working parents will benefit from the hours of 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.—not a problem. But I am not concerned about non-working parents. Non-working parents have more choices than I have. They have bigger subsidies than I have and they have more hours in which to look after their own children than I have. So I just think that people who make the decisions should get together and think about us, not think about the money or anything like that, or the votes, or whatever it is all about.
CHAIR —Thank you, Mrs Thorne. For those members of the community who have entered the proceedings a little bit later, this is a community forum. We are particularly interested in the views of parents.
Donna Field —I have a child in a council long day care centre. I did look around at private centres in the area where I live and, to be truthful, I was not really happy with what I saw. I found that when I went to the council long day care centres that their nutrition policy was much better. Maybe yours is really good, too, but the ones in my area were not. I found that the staff there were very well-qualified and they took care of my child very well. This is my last baby and I planned to be with her for the whole five years before she went to school, but because of an accident my husband had I needed to return to work when she was only five months old. So having to put her in child care at that age was not really nice for me.
When she first went in there, there were a number of staff. Since this cut to funding has come into it they have had to drop staff levels. When they drop the staff levels, yes, the
quality has dropped slightly. It has not dropped enough to cause me to pull her out, because I know the other staff there do care for her. They may not have needed that extra staff all the time before, but I found that it was an extra safety thing. When they are out in the yard and there are 20 to 40 children out there that they have to care for, having an extra staff member made it safer. They had someone more to comfort them when someone had an accident, besides all the social skills that she is taught, the pre-writing and all the other things they teach her ready for school. I did not just want to throw her into a day care centre with the council because it was cheaper or anything; I just found that it was a better centre. That was all.
CHAIR —Thank you, Mrs Field.
Joan Stone —I am Joan Stone. I have a preschool `A Country Cottage' at Penrith. I also have 12 after school care centres in the Hills area. I feel that we miss the point sometimes a little bit. What has happened I think is social change. When I went through school and got married, we lived in an era where we could stay home for the first five years of our child's life before they went to school. But unfortunately with the economic changes that have come, and I think our social outlook has changed, we do not want to live with our parents when we are first married. We want to then get a home. We also had an education. We did not want to stay at home all the time.
So therefore I think we have to plan our lives a little better if we do want children. We can either care for them ourselves or we can get into a position where we can afford their after school care, their preschool care, or whatever, or we do not ask for all the niceties of life. We do not ask for the big home and the automatic this and the automatic that. We then are more contented, like our parents were, perhaps, with something a little less. But I think that it has just become part of social economics now that that is exactly what we require out of life, and what we wish to have.
So we have got to look in retrospect at why all these things are happening. We cannot expect grandma to look after our children because we want to go and get the latest washing machine or we want to go and get the latest automatic garage door to drive into. I think also we have all got to reflect on ourselves, on what we are wanting out of life as well, and I think that is very sad that it has got to that, but I think it is just change. We live in the era of that.
On the point of the government subsidy being dropped, with my 12 after school care centres that I have built up over the last 10 years, I have never had government subsidy. My fees have been about the same as the council centres, the community centres, and I have still managed to make a small profit, and I am still able to do all of the things that all of the other centres do as well, and I have never had that government subsidy. I feel that perhaps we should look at our wages, we should look at our staffing. We finely tune everything to our staffing. Fortunately we have been able to get an enterprise agreement through. As with the hospitality industry, we do not know sometimes how many children are going to turn up each day, so therefore we staff it at 8.30 each morning, but we have the benefit of the enterprise agreement and we now can employ casual staff.
—Thank you, Mrs Stone.
Jackie Deveril —I am a mother and a grandmother, and I am here today representing the hundreds of parents who are at work, because this inquiry is not at a convenient time for them. Their children are in care. Now, apart from that being quite an insult to have an inquiry that concerns them and they are not able to be here, I would like to say that I do not know much about private care centres. I know about our centre. I know that our centre is a very effective centre. We have always had a business plan. We cater for every conceivable need within our community. We open at 5.30 in the morning and we close at 6.30 at night, and we know that without this subsidy that our service has to double its fees. By doubling our fees we then lose parents, and we also have parents who will not be assisted with Childcare Assistance.
We have parents who might have one child and they now pay $50 a week, and they will then have to pay $100 a week. This government said that no parent would be disadvantaged by these changes. I am sorry, that is a lie. Rethink. Sit down with Services, talk to Services. There definitely is a win-win way to go. This is not it. Thank you.
CHAIR —Thank you, Mrs Deveril. This community forum session has now ended. I thank all of the participants for coming along and making their contributions this morning. If there are any parents who were unable to attend who wish to make a contribution, we are quite happy to receive their contributions in writing and consider them in our deliberations in due course.