Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007
Parliamentary Record 12
Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT
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DEBATES Wednesday 14 February 2007 3833 democratically and we can then have a proper debate on this matter. The way that you carry on about childcare and John Howard look, the federal election is a long time away. Concentrate on what you will do for the Northern Territory and for Territory children. Childcare is important, and we all know that. In fact, my wife was the manager of the Alice Springs Childcare Centre for many years. We have been in the industry and we understand it. Minister, it is time you stopped grandstanding, bring on the debate properly, and tell Territorians what you are going to do. At least give the CLP credit for introducing a program that you currently support. Mrs BRAHAM (Braitling): Madam Speaker, childcare is a vexed question for me. The sad part about it is that many parents have to put children in to childcare because they have no other option; they need to pay the bills and the mortgage. It is part of society today that more and more young children - and they seem to be getting younger and younger when they go into childcare - are being brought up by carers rather than parents. I say to the Territory government: if you can give more incentives to make sure that parents stay at home to mind their children until they are at least preschool age, that would be a good thing. I am probably going to be howled down by all those career women saying: Hang on, we want to have the choice of going to work. That is fine, and childcare places do a great job, but I sometimes see very young children being put into very structured situations in childcare. I can cite a place where I saw little two-year-olds: they all eat at the same time, they have to pick up their plate and take them to be washed at the same time, they almost have to go to the toilet at the same time. These are little kids. These are kids that should not be structured in that way. They should be able to have a little freedom in the way they grow up. It worries me that we have a society that encourages parents to put their children into childcare. In saying all that and getting that off my chest and beating my chest over it I have to admit I did stay at home for 10 years to bring up my kids - anything you can do to relieve the cost burden on parents and provide more places for childcare is a necessity in the society we have today. Ms LAWRIE (Family and Community Services): Madam Speaker, I note that the member for Greatorex referred to childcare as an industry. That is clearly where we stand at odds. Childcare is not an industry; it is an essential service for families. If you treat it as an industry, you are not paying due care to the nurturing of children in childcare arrangements - whether it is centre-based care or family day care. If you treat it as an industry, you will get down to the economic drivers and, fundamentally, the care of the children will be compromised. That is where I am completely at odds with the Coalition. You stick your head in the sand and say: It is an industry and we can have our hands off that responsibility as a government. It is a federal government responsibility. They absolutely need to step up to it. Families are struggling. The CLP falls in line with its Canberra masters and says: It is an industry and it is all good. We do not have to do anything about it. There are places in the Territory where private providers will not open a centre. We need a choice between private centres, community-based centres and supported family day care. WorkChoices Legislation Long Service Leave Mr HENDERSON (Public Employment): Madam Speaker, today I inform the parliament of legal advice I have received from the Solicitor-General of the Northern Territory. It is now beyond doubt that Canberras WorkChoices legislation has taken away the right of Territory workers to long service leave. The Solicitor-General said: There is no doubt that the Commonwealth intended that where long service leave was the subject of an AWA, for example having been traded off for a standard hourly rate increase, then the statutory rights provided for in state or territory legislation would be overridden. Previously, the Northern Territory Long Service Leave Act entitled all workers to a statutory minimum entitlement of 13 weeks paid leave after 10 continuous years of employment. Generally, if an employee ceased to be employed after seven years continuous service, that worker had a right to be paid an accrued long service leave rate of 1.3 weeks for every year of service. In the past, that entitlement could not be taken away by an employment contract. We now know that Canberras WorkChoices legislation means that an AWA that provides for no long service leave at all will override the Northern Territory Long Service Leave Act. This situation arises because the Commonwealths Workplace Relations Act gives primacy to a workplace agreement over inconsistent territory legislation.