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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 6 June 2006) . . Page.. 1758 ..

Teddy Bears Child Care Centre

DR FOSKEY: My question is to the minister for education. The minister will be aware that the impending eviction of the Teddy Bears Child Care Centre from its current premises in the Emergency Services Authority in Curtin has led to broad-based community debate on shortages of quality childcare in some parts of Canberra. Although the minister has announced that consideration will be given to co-locating childcare services in government schools, he said that it would apply only to community childcare providers. That leaves Teddy Bears’ children and parents with the same problem as they were facing a year ago. Minister, what is it about small locally owned childcare businesses that makes them ineligible as market rent paying tenants in a sympathetic school?

MR BARR: I think that, as a fundamental principle, we should not be using school facilities that are currently being used for profit-making enterprises. I am on the record as supporting the strengthening of early childhood provision across the territory. I think that there is a strong demand from parents for a single drop-off point, such that it would be a wise government that would consider such options. I have, in looking into the provision of education in the future, said I am open to the prospect of looking at some provision of early childhood services, be they playgroups, a range of out-of-school services and the provision of services that are not strictly education within an education facility.

It is an ongoing process, Dr Foskey, something that we will look at in the months and years ahead. I am not rushing to any particular decision. Whilst it would seem to be a neat, quick fix, I do not think that you make long-term policy decisions based on the need for quick fixes. My understanding is that Teddy Bears has a lease where it is currently until September-October 2007, so there is not a screaming hurry at this point for me to change education policy around the particular school that you are talking about. My view overall is that we can examine these options, but I am not going to have government policy across the territory dictated by the needs of one childcare centre.

DR FOSKEY: Does the ACT government have a prohibition on any commercial operation working in ACT government schools? Wouldn’t greater flexibility for schools and communities lead to some more positive community outcomes?

MR BARR: I do not believe that there is an absolute prohibition, but I think that in examining this issue, Dr Foskey, I am sure that you would be aware that there would be other private childcare providers who would equally see a need and a desire to further their business by knocking on my door to get access to a whole range of school properties. I do not believe, as I say, that it is appropriate to make a broad-bush policy for the entire school system based on the needs of one particular childcare centre. It would be entirely appropriate for every other private childcare provider in the territory to seek to access any particular school that was made available for those purposes. My view is that we need to take a detailed look at that. My preference, obviously, is for community-based operations, and not-for-profit operations in particular, to have precedence in our schools should we pursue this policy option.

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