Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

ACTU, ACOSS mislead on child care

¬†Claims by the unions, welfare groups and community child care representatives that the child care sector is ‘in danger of collapse’ could not be further from the truth, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony, said today.

“The ACTU, ACOSS and community child care representatives have manufactured a politically driven stunt on the eve of the Federal Budget. Their claims verge on the hysterical and are geared to get their picture in the paper rather than represent the best interests of their members.

“These groups clearly have no understanding of the Australian Government’s role in funding child care. The vast majority of our $8 billion funding will go towards subsidising families for their child care costs through the Child Care Benefit payment. The Government has no role in setting or paying the wages of child care workers.

“Don’t just take it from me. The Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services, Wayne Swan agrees. On Network Ten’s Meet the Press on 7 March 2004 he said that child care workers wages was an “industrial matter”.

“I have been saying for some time now that child care workers deserve better remuneration and recognition of the valuable role they play in caring for children and to address the difficulties in recruitment and retention of qualified staff in the industry.

“However, it is the role of the various State and Australian Industrial Relations Commissions to make decisions on pay and conditions. Child care providers, whether they be community based, private or corporately owned, also have a responsibility to ensure their workers are remunerated appropriately.

“I also strongly dispute their claims regarding child care fees. The Department of Family and Community Services recent census of child care services shows that average Long Day Care fees have increased by less than one per cent in real terms since 1999.

“A family earning $30,000 a year with one child in 50 hours centre-based Long Day Care will pay average child care fees of around $194 per week. They will receive $137 per week from the Government in Child Care Benefit. This leaves a gap fee of $57.

“Child care fees are an investment in children’s well-being and the financial and career aspirations of parents. Parents may also need to acknowledge that high quality care comes at a certain cost.

“Through record levels of Australian Government funding, the number of child care places has increased from 306,500 in 1996 to around 530,000 in December 2003. This does not look like an industry in decline to me,” Mr Anthony said.