Page 2548 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 9 August 2016

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The families of Canberra are waking up. The electors of Molonglo have already woken up to the trickeries of ministers Barr and Rattenbury. They know that building light rail comes at a cost, and education is just one of those areas that are paying the price—along with neglected trees, dangerous footpaths and long hospital waiting lists. Falling down schools and overcrowded, hot classrooms should not be the cost of a tram.

In October there is a choice, a very clear choice. We want to invest in education. We want to ensure that our schools are safe and pleasant places to be and that teachers feel appreciated, respected and supported to try new ways. We want parents to feel they are an important link with and to their child’s schooling. Above all, we want to ensure that all schools in the ACT are for all students, able to offer an education that parents want for their children.

MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (8.36): I will speak very briefly today about child care, which plays such an important role for children in our community. It lays the foundations for development and learning and provides key opportunities for children’s development and social engagement. I know that affordability remains a concern for many parents as childcare costs come on top of other cost of living pressures for everyday Canberra families. I am looking forward to seeing the outcome of the education and care services annual compliance audit which is listed as an accountability indicator in this year’s education budget statement.

I would also like to refer briefly to a Canberra Times article of 6 May, where it was reported that local operators fear there may now be too many childcare places in at least some areas of the ACT. That article from the Canberra Times reported that the Fyshwick Early Childhood Centre, run by Community Services #1, formerly known as Southside Community Services, was to close at the end of June this year. A letter emailed to parents said the centre could not be maintained in its current financial position. Community Services #1 chief executive, Amanda Tobler, said that the closure was due to a gradual fall in numbers that could not be sustained.

This raises the issue of whether it is feasible or a good idea for the ACT government to consider supply and demand for new childcare centres when assessing development applications. It is quite a vexed question, I understand, because the Planning and Land Authority does not look at economic demand when assessing a development proposal for new childcare centres. It is something that, increasingly, existing childcare centres talk to me about. I understand there is not a simple answer.

It is perhaps worth looking at whether there should be a more strategic approach to development proposals for new childcare centres. Many childcare centre operators tell me that new centres are being proposed in areas where there are already a number of vacancies. However, it is a balance between the business opportunities that are afforded by child care, because it is generally approached as a business, versus some kind of interference in the system, which is not necessarily a good thing at all. It is something that I think we should all keep a watching brief on.

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