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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1327 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

workers are part of the formation of young Canberrans, young Australians, young human beings.

It is important that we get it right. It is tremendous that all here are in favour of the motion, and I look forward to seeing the terms of reference and the outcomes of the review.

MS GALLAGHER (4.04): It has always amazed me that our child-care workers-who, I would argue, perform one of the most important jobs in our community-still have to struggle for fair wage justice and appropriate recognition for the valuable work they perform.

Today Minister Corbell has announced a significant inquiry into the ACT child-care industry. This inquiry will look into problems which have been evident in the industry for some time-issues such as staff, work force planning, demand, training, qualifications and wages. These are not new issues but they are ones that have not been looked into before.

I would like to focus on the issue of wages for child-care workers. I know it has been touched on by other speakers, but it is an important issue. A trained, qualified child-care level 4, someone who has been to TAFE and completed the diploma course in child care, earns about $548 per week. After they spend two years in the industry working in a centre, this wage increases by about only $18.50. Workers at the lower levels or on junior rates can earn as little as $5.53 per hour.

In the ACT 98 per cent of child-care staff are women. So I agree with the comments of Ms Tucker and Ms Dundas on that. Again, a female dominated industry is one of the most poorly paid.

The relevant conditions and wage rates are found in the Child Care Industry Award 1998. After following the federal government's industrial relations agenda very closely over the past six years, I know that any belief that they would seek to address poor wages in child-care sectors would be sadly misguided. Rather, the child-care award, like all other awards, has been stripped back to the 13 allowable matters.

The federal government has argued for workplace agreements in child-care centres, and this has been encouraged as a solution in the Child Care Beyond 2000 report which was put together by the Commonwealth Child Care Advisory Council.

I would argue that enterprise agreements are not the solution to the current difficulties faced by child-care services. In the child-care industry, an industry where wages are dependent on fees from parents, enterprise agreements and the ability of child-care centres to negotiate enterprise agreements with unions and staff become an equity issue. Any wages paid above award have to be funded by increasing costs to parents.

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