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Thursday, 25 November 1993
Page: 3659

Senator HERRON —Why has the Minister for Family Services, in her child-care guidelines, chosen to ignore the attitudes and values of parents and families and given priority to the ideology of a few trendy child-care professionals?

Senator Collins —Have you read them?

Senator HERRON —Yes.

Senator Collins —Shame! The way you've distorted them and beat them up is a disgrace. I have three young kids and I reckon they're great.

The PRESIDENT —Order, Senator Collins! The question was asked of Senator Crowley.

Senator CROWLEY —I said it yesterday, I have said it many times before, including on the radio, and I am happy to say it again: they are not my guidelines. I am ignoring nothing. Those guidelines were written by the child-care industry, which is represented by private and public child-care centres and parents. I can only say again and again that those child-care guidelines were written by the industry.

  It was also suggested today that there has been no consultation with the child-care industry. This program has formally been in consultation with the child-care industry, which involves centres and parents, since the beginning of 1992. But the process was proceeding well before that. The representatives of the child-care industry defined these guidelines, wrote those words, made these conclusions, and they are extensively understood by the child-care centres.

  I have also told the Senate—I am happy to tell it again—that the guidelines accreditation process was pilot tested in a large number of centres, which reported only very high acceptance and appreciation of the process. Those centres, parents and staff were involved in it.

  The campaign of misinformation by the opposition is making people fearful and anxious about this process. As I have said again and again, those guidelines were designed and written by the industry and accepted by government. Where they have been tested in the community and with parents, they have acknowledged their appreciation of them. It is just drawing a spurious red herring to suggest that I have ignored parents' wishes. They are the parents' and the child-care providers' words; they are not the government's words.

  It is also important to understand that centres will be provided with these guidelines; indeed, most of them now have them. They can sit down and work through them. No-one—no police force or bureaucrats—will investigate them. The centres will assess themselves.

  Unless the opposition is determined to be thick about this issue then it should understand the process.

Senator Collins —They are not thick; they are just malicious.

Senator CROWLEY —The guidelines are designed by the industry and they will be assessed and evaluated by the centres themselves. How much more clearly can I put it? The centres will have the guidelines which they will evaluate themselves. The difficulty the opposition is having with this issue may be because, as my colleagues say, they are not thick but they are determined to misunderstand it. The centres wrote the guidelines. The centres will assess them themselves. I believe the opposition would do much better in this debate if it waited for the judgment of the parents and centres themselves.

Senator HERRON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In my question I referred to the parents and the family. I ask the minister how she defines `the family'?

Senator CROWLEY —That question was asked to distract entirely from the discussion about child care. As Senator Herron properly knows, that is also a matter which is being debated in the legislation which is currently before the Senate. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the legislation which is currently in committee.

  As Senator Herron knows, the commonly understood meaning of child care and the family is,—

Senator Ian Macdonald —Define it.

Senator CROWLEY —This is an amazing response from the opposition. It does not want to know what is in the guidelines. It does not want to know that the purpose of the guidelines is to assure parents of the quality of child care and to know that parents will be happy—

Senator Herron —Mr President, I am trying to raise a point of order.

The PRESIDENT —Maybe I did not hear the point of order because of the constant interjections from both sides. I ask that they cease.

Senator Herron —Mr President, I seek your help. Would you explain the question to Senator Crowley because she does not seem to understand it.

The PRESIDENT —This is another spurious point of order that should not and will not be allowed.