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Cabinet approves an ID system for childcare centres.



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PM

 

Friday 2 June 2006

Cabinet approves an ID system for childcare centres

 

 

MARK COLVIN: Childcare groups are sceptical about a Federal Government proposal for an identificati on system to track parents who use childcare services.  

 

Federal Cabinet today approved the proposal which would see parents and carers use either a card, or a personal identification number to pick up their children from childcare. 

 

The Federal Government says the proposal is designed to monitor parents picking up their children and to stop unscrupulous centres claiming government allowances for places that aren't being used. 

 

This report from Daniel Hoare.  

 

DANIEL HOARE: The Prime Minister was closely guarding his back-flip on the Snowy Hydro sale this morning when he fronted up for an interview on Southern Cross Radio.  

 

But that didn't stop John Howard from trumpeting a fresh Cabinet decision to introduce a new scheme, which would require parents and carers to be issued with either a card or a PIN to track their use of childcare centres.  

 

JOHN HOWARD: It's another one of these damned if you do, damned if you don't situations. People thump the table and say why should I wait a year to get my tax rebate on my child-care expenses?  

 

Answer: until we know how much you're entitled to claim in relation to the rebate, we can't give it to you.  

 

A further question: well why can't you calculate it more quickly?  

 

Answer: if we had the details recorded as the childcare centre was used by the child, we could calculate it more quickly. 

 

DANIEL HOARE: Prime Minister John Howard says the use of a PIN or ID card wouldn't be a form of Big Brother-style monitoring of those who use the childcare system.  

 

JOHN HOWARD: I'm not sure that people quite see it as Big Brother.  

 

I mean, if you want to take a purist Big Brother approach, well, you don't have cards for anything. You don't have your photograph on your car license. I mean, all of us in every State of Australia now have got their photographs on their driver's licenses. So, I don't myself wear the Big Brother argument. 

 

DANIEL HOARE: The Federal Government says the proposal is designed to help prevent bogus operators exploiting government allowances for the childcare system.  

 

Childcare groups are sceptical about the proposal, saying some elements might be unworkable.  

 

Anne Clark is the president of the Childcare Associations of Australia.  

 

ANNE CLARK: Some of the concerns we've got about it, we think it could be a complex program to operate. There could be increased cost to services.  

 

You're going to find that some services don't have access to computers and broadband and the technologies that are required so that'll be an additional cost.  

 

There's also a concern that we might lose the quality interactions we have with parents at the drop off and pick up time when you're talking to parents as they're signing in and out.  

 

DANIEL HOARE: Opposition Childcare spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek also has concerns about the financial ramifications of the scheme and not just on childcare operators, but on the taxpayer. 

 

Tanya Plibersek says the costs of implementing the proposal could end up significantly higher than the Federal Government's estimated $50 million.  

 

TANYA PLIBERSEK: If you're looking at the healthcare smartcard that they're talking about, they're looking at spending $1.1 billion on a health care smart card and experts will tell you that it's actually going to cost more than that, that it could cost three times as much as that. So, certainly any childcare smart card wouldn't be possible for $50 million. 

 

DANIEL HOARE: Opposition Childcare Spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says that using a card under the proposed scheme would be an unnecessary burden on parents.  

 

TANYA PLIBERSEK: I don't think the Government's made a case that this is going to deal with any of the problems that they say it will deal with.  

 

DANIEL HOARE: Do you have any objection to, say, the provision of a PIN number? 

 

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well, a PIN number may be an improvement but you're still talking about electronic technology to read it so, it's still inconvenient and expensive for childcare providers, and the Government hasn't made a strong case about the levels of fraud in the system.  

 

I mean, I'm happy to accept that it does happen on occasion, but you can't go out and spend a billion dollars to solve a problem that costs the Commonwealth less than that every year, particularly when there might be more efficient ways of doing that. 

 

MARK COLVIN: Opposition Childcare Spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek ending that report from Daniel Hoare. And if you think that 'PIN number is a tautology', I think you're right, don't write in.