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Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Page: 11523


Ms NEAL (3:21 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. Will the minister inform the House of the latest developments in ABC Learning childcare centres?


Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for Robertson for her question on this important topic in which I am sure all members of the House are interested. Can I inform members of the House that this afternoon the receiver of ABC Learning Ltd, Mr Chris Honey, of McGrathNicol, wrote to ABC parents and staff confirming that a majority of the group’s childcare centres will continue operating in 2009. This is obviously a welcome development for thousands of parents and ABC Learning staff who have been waiting for news.

In a statement made to the media just a short time ago the receiver has identified that 656 ABC Learning centres will continue to be open and trade as normal in 2009. This represents almost two-thirds of all ABC centres, which provide care for around 80,000 Australian children, or more than 70 per cent of children in ABC Learning centres. The receiver says he sees a positive future for ABC Learning, and I am sure that news is a relief to parents and to staff—particularly those employed in these centres.

It is a big step forward that the receiver has been able to provide certainty for so many parents and employees less than a month after ABC Learning went into receivership. The receiver has said that this afternoon a full list of ABC Learning centres and their status will be available on ABC Learning’s website, which is www.childcare.com.au. When posted the list will also be accessible from the Australian government’s website, which is www.mychild.gov.au. That is the website that we have been using to inform people of ABC Learning developments, each and every step of the way. So parents and employees who have used it can go back to the website to find these further details.

The Rudd government understands how important it is for families and ABC Learning employees to be kept informed of developments in these uncertain times. That is why we will continue to be as open as possible about the information regarding this situation. Can I confirm that our childcare industry taskforce has been there every step of the way, working through this complex process, and will continue to work closely with the receiver to ensure continuity of care at ABC Learning centres. Can I also say that ABC Learning’s receiver McGrathNicol has notified that 656 will remain open in 2009 and of the other centres he expects a proportion will also stay open. But the receiver needs more time to examine the centres in detail so that a correct decision can be made on their future.

The receiver has written to parents and staff at those centres to emphasise that this does not mean that their centre will necessarily be closed. It simply means that more time is needed to look at possible improvement initiatives at these centres. The government and the receiver are conscious that for staff and parents using those centres this will cause a further period of uncertainty. Can I say to those staff and the parents who use those centres that the receiver has indicated that he expects to make a further announcement in respect of these centres in a week’s time. This will mean that in a week’s time parents at all ABC Learning centres will know what is happening in 2009, and people who use 656 of the centres will have the assurance today that their centre is going to continue.

I reaffirm that for all centres the government’s arrangement with the receiver continues to be in place, and all centres will remain open until 31 December this year.