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Wednesday, 4 December 1985
Page: 2896

Senator ZAKHAROV —Is the Minister for Community Services aware that the head of the child care studies course at the Prahran College of Technical and Further Education in Victoria wrote to all applicants for this course on 21 November advising them that intakes into the course may need to be drastically cut for 1986? The letter claims that this action is necessary because of the reduction in the level of subsidies which centres will receive as a result of the recent amendments to the Child Care Act. Is the Minister concerned about this situation?

Senator GRIMES —Yes. Senator Zakharov understates the situation when she suggests that I might be disturbed about this occurence. What in fact has happened is that Ms Bissland, who is the head of the child care studies department at Prahran College, has written to all potential young students who are applying for places in the child care studies course in her department advising that the number of people acceptable for that course in 1986 may need to be drastically reduced because of the Government's changes to child care funding.

I believe it is an appalling state of affairs when the head of a department, funded by Commonwealth and State governments, takes this attitude and writes this sort of letter for party political purposes to young people who are wishing to increase their opportunities of obtaining work in an area in which there are indeed increased opportunities for work.

Ms Bissland's claim that there will be a reduced need for trained staff in child care centres is absolutely false. It is of considerable concern to me that she should make such a statement.

Senator Peter Baume —It is a sense of deja vu.

Senator GRIMES —It is a sense of deja vu, indeed, and those of us on both sides of the place have heard this sort of rubbish from people in Victoria such as Ms Bissland. I wish to point out that this is false. Centres in Victoria and elsewhere will still be required to employ qualified staff to maintain quality care, first of all to meet licensing requirements-I hope Victoria will soon have licensing requirements, like the other States-and, secondly, because they will not receive Commonwealth funding unless they do provide qualified staff.

Ms Bissland claims in her letter that the reduction in the level of operational assistance will mean that centres can no longer afford to employ qualified staff. Ms Bissland deliberately ignores the fact that whilst there is a reduction in the operational subsidy, there is in fact an increase in the fee relief subsidy and there will be an increase in the amount of fees received from parents, and centres will in fact receive the same amount of funds.

Senator Chipp —What political party does she belong to?

Senator GRIMES —I do not know what political ties Ms Bissland has. I am not very interested in that. What I am concerned about is that young people who are seeking to improve their capacity to get a job, to improve their qualifications, are being dissuaded from doing so by individuals such as this.

I will be raising the matter with the Minister for Education in Victoria, Mr Cathie. In the meantime I can only say to the Prahran TAFE that if it does not wish to conduct this course I am sure Mr Cathie, and perhaps even my colleague Senator Ryan, will be willing to transfer the funds it gets to conduct this course to another institution which will. If heads of departments in TAFE colleges are going to play party political games like this, they do not deserve the funding that they receive and in future I will make every effort to make sure that they do not get it.