A broken promise everyone should welcome
Yep, everyone should have access to childcare. It should be affordable, accessible, high-quality. But there’s a limit to what society should pay.
People are outraged that the Federal Government has decided not to build more than 200 childcare centres. Yeah, they broke an election promise. They did it because they need to claw back a whole lot of cash for a bunch of other stuff – health reform and such.
They say they also worked out that there are already too many childcare centres. According to their statistics, there are thousands upon thousands of spare places. If that’s right, then they shouldn’t spend precious taxpayer dollars on more places.
If it is all about helping people get back in the workforce, about facilitating childbirth to boost the population, about giving freedom and choice to parents, then put the money into maternity/paternity/parental leave.
Force workplaces to be more flexible. Get a broadband network that allows remote work (without adding a censorship filter).
Bump up the quality so it’s not a matter of the same old disadvantaged areas getting the same old inferior treatment.
There’s all sorts of things they can do, but they should leave it to market forces to sort out the childcare side of things. As a journalist, it makes the stomach clench to pay any sort of compliment to politicians, but in this particular case I think they did the right thing.
It’s a waste to soak the market.
Childcare places are an easy vote-grabber. Cancelling places – even unneeded ones - is a tough decision. Rudd knew it was going to be unpopular, that’s why he sent a junior minister out to make the announcement.
But it was the right move.
Child care is not perfect. Sure, there may be more than enough places, but they’re in the wrong spots or they’re set up for the wrong ages. There are empty spots for two-year-olds in the boondocks, and no spots for babies near where the majority of people actually work.
The private operators can sort that out. It’s supply and demand.
Don’t spend my money overstocking the nation with childcare centres. Don’t play the easy political card.
There may be a lack of quality care. There may be a lack of baby care. There may be a lack of care in some places. So there should be a reshuffle.
But it’s refreshing, for once, to see common sense override the emotional drawcard of treating “working families” as a sacred cow.
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