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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 125

Mrs Mirabella asked the Minister for Defence, in writing, on 24 November 2008:

(1)   In how many ABC Learning Centres around the country are places reserved for children of Defence Force personnel.

(2)   How many children of Defence Force personnel now attend ABC Learning Centres.

(3)   How many long day care centres are owned by his department but managed by ABC Corporate Care.

(4)   How many self-managed ABC Corporate Care centres reserve places for children of Defence Force personnel.

(5)   Has his department been consulted about the Government’s $22 million assistance package for ABC Learning Centres.

(6)   Is there a clause or provision in the contract between his department and ABC Corporate Care that allows for the former to void its contract with the latter in the event that the company goes into administration; if so, (a) what is the nature of this clause or provision, (b) has his department made inquiries about the possibility of another childcare provider taking over the department’s contract, and (c) is there a childcare provider that would have the capability to take over the contract at short notice.

(7)   What contingency plans has his department developed for the care of children of Defence Force personnel affected by the closure of ABC Corporate Care centres after 31 December 2008.

Mr Fitzgibbon (Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)   21 centres are managed by ABC Learning Centres, however, Defence also has priority of access for Defence personnel in an additional 20 expansion centres. The places in the expansion centres are subject to demand and availability.

(2)   This information is not available to the Department of Defence. However, as at September 2008 there were 985 Defence children (children of either ADF personnel or Defence civilians) enrolled at Defence child care centres nationally. There were a further 468 Defence children enrolled at ABC expansion centres that offer priority of access to Defence families.

(3)   19 centres. There are also two centres that are leased by Defence and managed by ABC Corporate Care.

(4)   20. As previously noted, the places are subject to demand and availability.

(5)   Defence has been working closely with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) Child Care Task Force, the lead Australian Government agency on this matter, and the Receiver.

(6) (a)   to (c) Defence has a clause in the ABC contract to terminate the contract at any point with ‘step in rights’, at Defence’s discretion. Defence continues to work closely with the DEEWR task force and the Receiver. Defence has received proposals from the Receiver and needs to complete a review process before taking any action. Defence is researching all of its options throughout this collaborative process.

(7)   No Defence centres, either owned, leased or expansion centres, will close. Nevertheless, Defence has established a task force to examine the future of the Defence Child Care Program and to ensure that high quality child care remains available to all Defence families. Defence plans to resolve this issue by 31 March 2009, in line with the Government’s extension of its support funding.