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Tuesday, 3 December 1985
Page: 2777

Senator MORRIS —Has the Minister for Community Services seen the report in today's Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial that a children's services campaign meeting at the Collingwood Town Hall asked public service unions to ban work on processing funding changes and also encouraged child care centres to defy any government request to provide budget estimates for such centres? Does the Minister believe that these groups will succeed in frustrating the changes to child care funding?

Senator GRIMES —I did see the article in the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial, surprisingly.

Senator Lewis —Oh, did you?

Senator GRIMES —I would not have missed it for a minute. The answer to the final question is no, I do not think this group will be able to prevent either the Government or the child care sponsors from providing the services which will be funded by the Federal Government. In fact, a large number of public servants-all good unionists, I am sure-worked on the restructuring of the funding and the fee relief system which is to be introduced now that the legislation is through. They are committed to a fairer and more equitable system, and I am sure they accept that the changes that were made had to be made. They are confident that the changes that are made will be easy to administer and that they will enable us to expand the number of child care places, as we have in the last three years, so that we have greater access than the 7 1/2 per cent coverage we have of children under five now.

I am concerned that this meeting was addressed by and called by children's services development officers from Victoria who are funded by the Federal Government and have been for many years. One of their functions is to provide encouragement and assistance for the development of children's services in Victoria. If they are going to take action to counter government policy, if they are going to take action contrary to the spirit and the letter of their employment, and in fact contrary to the terms of their employment, if we have a group like this paid for by the Commonwealth Government which is frustrating the service that the Commonwealth wishes to conduct, I think it will be a reprehensible situation. They will bear a heavy responsibility in those circumstances for disrupting parents' and children's aspirations. I am sure that neither this Government nor any government in those circumstances would allow this to continue to happen.

We will increase child care places by 20,000 in the next 2 1/2 years. We have policies in place to do that. We will build those places and fund them in a more fair and equitable way, and I am afraid that small self-interest groups will not prevent us from doing so.