Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007

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Parliamentary Record 12


Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Wednesday 14 February 2007 3832 the communities, it will bring better outcomes for people living in the bush. I appreciate the contribution from the member for Nelson. You talked about Mr John Waldmanns project. I went out to visit; it is a great opportunity. What we are trying to do is to create the competition for people to come to us with different designs, including materials and, hopefully, it will give rise to cost-effective housing and, most importantly, a manufacturing base - maybe somewhere out in the regions - which will provide real employment and training opportunities for people in the regions who so lack it. Childcare Provision Ms LAWRIE (Family and Community Services): Madam Speaker, childcare is an issue right across Australia, and the Northern Territory is no exception. I advise the House of some good news for Territory families contained in the Report on Government Service Provision 2007. The report confirms the Northern Territory has the lowest average childcare fees in Australia. In fact, Territory fees are $19 a week cheaper than the Australian average. That is because the Martin government is the only state or territory government that provides a childcare subsidy. We directly reduce the cost of childcare for families. I recently met with a group of childcare providers and we talked about the dilemma they face in setting fees. They see the impact of fee increases on the families that use their childcare centres. They made it very clear that it was the inadequacy of the Howard governments Childcare Benefits Scheme that impacted on fees. They talked about how, under the Howard governments arrangements, when the fees that families have to pay go up, the value of childcare benefits reduces - an absurd situation. The Howard government has responsibility for providing affordable and accessible childcare, and they are failing to do this. The Howard Coalition is normally a pretty tight bunch. They pretty much always fall in line behind John Howard, whether it be interest rate rises, denial of climate change or the war in Iraq, they rarely dare to speak out, which is why you know that its childcare policies are so bad, because the Coalition has resorted to a public brawl on it. As Bronwyn Bishop says of John Howards approach to childcare: Australian women wont be fooled. They can be mistreated, but they are not fools. The most astounding thing is that the Howard government has now decided that their approach is to tell Territory families who cannot get childcare that they are wrong, that there is apparently no shortage. They claimed there were over 1000 childcare vacancies in the Northern Territory. All these claims confirm that they have no idea of what is actually happening. You only have to walk five minutes from here down to the Mitchell Street Childcare Centre where they have 200 families waiting for a place and a 12-month waiting list. The director of that centre, Louise de Bomford, said she was absolutely mortified by the comments from the Commonwealth, and that is not just in Darwin. There are more than 2000 families on waiting lists in the Northern Territory. Lists are high in Alice Springs, Katherine and Nhulunbuy. There is hope though, because there is now a new Commonwealth Minister for Community Services, Senator Nigel Scullion, our very own Senator from the Territory. Surely, he must know that the current approach is not working here. He must know that the model of treating childcare as a business rather than an essential service just does not work in the Territory, especially in our regional areas. He should immediately work to reverse the Commonwealths policy of refusing to fund the establishment of childcare centres in regional areas. We will give the new minister time to get across his portfolios, but we will be suggesting that he immediately turn his attention, and the attention of his Cabinet, to this important issue. The Martin government has made a priority of keeping childcare affordable for Territory families. The Howard government needs to stop denying the childcare crisis and to act to create more childcare places that are more affordable for our families. Dr LIM (Greatorex): Madam Speaker, those are the words of a media release from the Minister for Family and Childrens Services, obviously. This minister is one who is very quick to slag the former Country Liberal Party government for whatever ails this government. Do you know what? Childcare subsidy was something that the Country Liberal Party introduced, and funded it generously. It is good that this government continued the program. The minister obviously has her facts wrong. Katherine, in fact, has a private childcare centre operating very successfully, just recently opened. Minister, get your facts correct, otherwise your media release will be wrong. This is a government that says they are going to make the process more democratic, more open and more transparent. Bring on the debate properly. Do not get up here and sprout off for five minutes on a media release and expect the opposition to respond as effectively as we possibly can. We can, but I tell you, do it