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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29421

Mr DANBY (9:45 AM) —Today I would like to again raise the issue of private child-care centres, specifically ABC child-care centres. ABC, the chair of which is former Liberal candidate Sallyanne Atkinson, has around 300 centres in Australia, including one in south Melbourne, in my electorate. Last week the BRW showed that the owner of ABC child-care centres, Mr Eddie Groves, is now worth $175 million, up $70 million from last year.

In the last sitting week I gave a speech on ABC child care. One of Eddie Groves's employees wrote to me, thanking me for raising the issue. She wrote:

I am ... currently studying my Certificate 3 and earning $12.08 [per hour] on traineeship ... I love my job, the children give me great pleasure and I always give that little bit extra but really I just don't think I can afford to stay in the industry much longer ... At ABC [we] do all the cleaning in the centre and are expected to tidy the outside areas as well. I believe that if a job includes several roles ie cleaning and childcare then maybe the award wage should reflect this. If ABC had to pay cleaners in each of its centres, it would cost them hundreds of dollars, instead the childcare workers have to perform the role of cleaners to save Eddie more money. Staff are also required to play music at certain times of the day, which is not supplied by ABC and only gets played if staff bring in their own music.

I am sure the standard of care at ABC, especially given the devoted work of child-care workers, is generally good, but I would like to congratulate Mr Groves for moving up to 131 on the BRW rich list. ABC centres refuse to hire sufficient cleaners, refuse to pay staff a decent wage and require staff to bring in their own music to play to children. I would suggest that child-care workers who would like to improve the situation should contact the child-care section of the LHMU. Mr Groves donated $10,000 to the Queensland Liberal Party in 2002-03. Last week the Treasurer visited one of his centres in Queensland. Did the Treasurer know that the owner was a significant contributor to the Liberal Party when he decided to visit the centre? Was this the reason he chose this particular centre?

In my electorate, in Glen Eira, parents have expressed concern that the Liberal controlled council is considering withdrawing from child-care services and allowing private operators to move in. Fees have increased significantly in Glen Eira this year, from $48 to $53 a day, and in July they will increase to around $62 a day. The withdrawal of councils like Glen Eira from child care is a total disgrace and an abrogation of their responsibility to serve the residents of my area. It is only since the recent council elections that the Glen Eira council has been thinking of withdrawing from child care. The fact that parents and their children have to go on Channel 10 and make protests to keep the Glen Eira child-care centre open is a total disgrace. I urge the councillors of the City of Glen Eira to focus on their main concerns and serve the people of Glen Eira. (Time expired)