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First Childcare Inquiry hearing reveals Govt missed opportunity to transform sector

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the first day of evidence in the Senate Inquiry into childcare she established has revealed a sector still reeling from the corporate collapse of ABC Learning eight months ago, and missed opportunities for the Federal Government to have driven a childcare transformation.

Hearings for the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee’s Inquiry into the provision of childcare began today in Brisbane, with more scheduled to take place in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide over the next fortnight.

“It is evident from just this first morning of the Inquiry’s hearings that there are significant concerns that still need to be resolved in Australian childcare,” said Senator Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson for Childcare and Early Childhood Education.

“What we’ve been hearing today is that the Federal Government ignored the warning signs that things were not right with ABC Learning before its collapse,” said Senator Hanson-Young.

“The childcare sector is still waiting for a resolution to the ongoing turmoil, and for mechanisms to be put in place to make sure that this kind of crisis doesn’t occur again.

“720 ABC Learning centres are still in receivership, waiting to be sold – and the Government must guarantee that an ABC Learning lookalike cannot come along and put the sector in the same jeopardy again.”

Senator Hanson-Young said the Federal Government had the power to transform the Australian childcare sector, but was yet to seize the opportunity presented by the ABC Learning collapse.

“The Federal Government could place its hands on the levers and take charge of achieving positive policy outcomes in childcare, but it is yet to do so,” she said.

“Childcare funding comes from the Federal Government through the Child Care Rebate and Benefit, yet the Government has little to do with the planning and oversight of responsibilities for childcare.

“The Government should be taking charge and delivering the necessary policy outcomes for good quality, accessible and affordable childcare that puts the care of children and the needs of parents and workers above lining the pockets of shareholders.

“While the collapse of ABC Learning caused undue turbulence and distress throughout Australian childcare, the exit of this huge player in the sector presents the perfect opportunity for the Federal Government to transform it into world-class care and education for the youngest Australians.”

Senator Hanson-Young said questions remain over how childcare and early childhood education was allowed to become – and still remains in parts - a profit-driven industry.

“Focussing on the bottom line at the expense of the needs of children, parents and workers in childcare would not be accepted in the primary or secondary school sector,” she said.

“Why should childcare and early childhood education be treated any differently?”

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