Local, Independant and Effective

Long-term sustainable childcare needed for rural and regional Australia

Posted March 24, 2017


Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (15:42): I am very pleased to stand here in support of this matter of great public importance. I would like to value-add to the comments of the member for Adelaide. I am not going to go over some of the things she talked about. But in bringing my comments to the House, I want to be a little bit more philosophical. If I could begin by addressing the comments of the member for McPherson to say, Assistant Minister, I so agree with you about how important it is to have access to child care if you are going to get access to work. You were right; cost is a matter, quality is a matter but most importantly availability matters. If you do not have available child care, no amount of cost or quality is going to make it work.

Today I would like to address my comments to the process of public policy. As I said, I do not want to go over what the member for Adelaide has said because I think that stands. But for me, process of good policy involves three levels. We have got have really good process at the beginning, at the up-front in the design and how it works. We have got have really good implementation processes and we have got to have really effective processes to show us that our outcomes are being reached, that the policy is actually doing what you want it to do. In that design process, it is really important to have good engagement and consultation. In the delivery mechanism, it is really important that you have good consultation and engagement. In the review and in checking out how it is going against your outcomes, you have got have good engagement and consultation.

I have a special interest in this particular topic because, for a number of years, I was national president and I am now a lifetime member of Australian Women in Agriculture. While child care is not necessarily a women's issue, I have to say that, in rural and regional Australia, we pick up most of the work. So for a number of years before I was in this wonderful place, I took that role of lobbying, particularly for child care, very seriously. And as part of the Australian Women in Agriculture, through the organisation NAMS and through SNAICC I have been part of working with government on a whole lot of issues to make sure that consultation and engagement around policy worked. In this particular instance, really, the government is letting us all down. But some of those consultation mechanisms that we had, such as the national Regional Women's Advisory Council and the regional women's access council, have all been done away with. So the government does not even have access now to the wisdom of us rural women. Consequently, we get the problem that has been outlined by the member for Adelaide. We have a service delivery model that is not going to engage with rural and regional Australia—and, as the member for Adelaide pointed out, particularly for Aboriginal women, but it is for all of us rural and regional women.

The sad thing is, exactly as the member for McPherson said, that child care is a basic fundamental of productivity gains, and in agriculture we estimate that in excess of $14 billion is contributed by women to agriculture. Ensuring access to quality child care could be the one single thing we do that would increase productivity in Australia, almost beyond any other measure. I say to members of the government: with access to quality child care we could increase productivity, just as the member for McPherson said, by enabling women to really reach their potential in the agricultural businesses. But it is not going to happen. Why? It is because, exactly as the member for Adelaide said, the changes to the model are going to say that rural and regional Australia needs to transition. Now, transition is fine, but in my communities, the smaller ones, there is nothing to transition to. There is no service. So a basic philosophical problem with the design of this program is that, if you do not have a service, if you do not have access, there is nothing to transition to. No amount of subsidy is going to make a difference if you do not have a service. I know that there were problems with the BBF Program, and they needed to be resolved, but they did not need to be done away with.

In closing, I would really like to say that I appreciate the work of the government and the minister in particular, offering some of his Public Service staff to come to Indi and commit to doing the work, post the legislation going through, that will enable us to have a long-term, sustainable, equitable childcare service for rural and regional Australia. I will hold him to that promise.

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