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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6682

Mr JOHN COBB (10:31 AM) —When it comes to education I guess we have heard it all from the government: trade training centres, an apparent education revolution, an end to double drop-offs, laptops for every student and 260 new childcare centres. The problem is the Labor Party and the Minister for Education delivered so very little. But whilst the Labor Party have been focusing on other things, their failures have been affecting real people in the community. One such a real person is Tracie Arkley-Smith, who has a son who attends Gumnut House in Lithgow, which will soon be part of my electorate of Calare. Gumnut House is facing closure, and Tracie Arkley-Smith is facing life without child care, all because of another mistake under Labor’s watch.

Gumnut House has recently been told it was overpaid by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and will now have to pay back $800 per week. It simply cannot do that. The company has lost its rural grant because there is now more than one childcare facility in Lithgow. The staff at Gumnut House are paying the price of a department’s failure under Julia Gillard’s watch. Tracie Arkley-Smith will struggle because the minister’s department got it wrong. Ms Arkley-Smith’s small business and her three employees will suffer because of this failure. Their families will suffer, other students’ families will suffer and the community will suffer because Labor could not get it right.

This government has spent its way into trouble and is now scrounging to get back any scrap of economic credibility it had. Instead of demanding back the billions it wasted on the BER, Labor has gone after a small business in Lithgow. Why can the government afford $38 million for advertising but not $38,000 for Gumnut House, or at least allow a longer period of time than just 51 weeks for this money to be paid back? Child care is a necessity for families in regional Australia and should be a priority for this government. I call on Julia Gillard to fix this mess. She has the power to do so, and the company’s future is in her hands.