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Wednesday, 8 December 1993
Page: 4142

Senator HARRADINE (1.18 p.m.) —The time for this debate is rapidly coming to a close. I wish to make a very short contribution under those circumstances. I do so because I claim to know a little bit about children and the needs of children. I have never been consulted about these sorts of things and, more importantly, my wife has never been consulted about them. I should think she knows a great deal about the care and nurturing of children.

  I note the comments of Senator Ferguson. I have a couple of grown-up daughters who are working in the child-care industry. I also have grandchildren who attend child-care centres. I have taken the opportunity of discussing these guidelines and the quality improvement and accreditation system handbook principles with a number of people, including those whom I have mentioned, but the guidelines do not attract any support at all.

  I am not criticising or questioning for one moment the genuineness or goodwill of the people who have drafted these principles. I am not questioning the integrity of the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley). I simply think the guidelines are foolish and, worse than that, I think they will impact adversely on the poor; they will prejudice the poor. Bureaucratic costs will necessarily be passed on to the child-care centres. These will be passed on to the poor benighted parents, many of whom are struggling because of the policies of this government. Many families are now unable to make ends meet on one income. Therefore, they do not have a true freedom of choice to do what Senator Ferguson was saying many desire to do, which is to have one of the parents in the home, nurturing and caring for the children full time.

  Survey after survey has shown that many persons are forced out into the paid work force when their desire is to predominantly involve themselves in the full-time care and nurturing of their children in their own homes. This has been denied to them by the actions of this government and successive governments. Of course, this is not the time to argue that case. These regulations are just another example of the costs being passed on to those families who need the services of child-care centres. That factor needs to be considered.

  The other factor that has been canvassed by quite a number of honourable senators is the need to distinguish between the desire to have top quality child-care institutions and the introduction of compulsory patterns of child care, tying them to the child-care rebate. Once we go along the latter track, we open the way for the bureaucratic control of the children of this country and we take away the rights of parents. That approach has been met by an absolute barrage of condemnation. That is why these principles that are contained in the document that is before us have met with such opposition. The very suggestion that the state will involve itself in the control of the children of Australian parents has met with a justifiably angry reaction by those parents.

  I congratulate the opposition, including Senator Herron, on moving this motion. I believe it is time that the government took a step back and reconsidered what it is doing in this area, reconsidered the principles that are contained in this document and reconsidered the tying of accreditation of child-care centres with the payment of rebates to parents. The government should distinguish between those things, but it has not. It has chosen to do it in a different way.

  I know there are quite a number of members of the government who do not agree with the tying of accreditation to the payment of the child-care rebate. I hope that those people raise very strongly with the minister their objections and voice the objections of the many hundreds of thousands of parents throughout Australia who will be very upset about this. I support the motion that has been moved by Senator Herron.