By FIONA SUGDEN
The Abbott government has finally reached a fork in the road on their new “signature” paid parental leave scheme.
They can either take the super highway of turning a mistake into a win for families by dropping the scheme and redirecting the $5 billion to boost our childcare system.
Or they can struggle down the bumpy, dusty, unpredictable, bush-bashing dirt track and try to crash their PPL legislation through the Parliament to what will end in a sure defeat.
From every mistake lies an opportunity.
It is politics 101. It’s an old truth that it’s never the mistake that gets you into real trouble – it’s how you handle the aftermath.
That is why political strategists always search for the glimmer of hope in every shit sandwich. How can I turn this into a win? How can I transform this train wreck into a poll bounce? Mistakes happen. It is the clean up that counts.
It has never been more important for the federal government to put more money into childcare with the Productivity Commission undertaking a massive review of the early learning system right now.
They have been directed by the Government to only make recommendations within the current funding envelope. It is critical for you to know at this point that the entire budget for childcare per year is currently only $1 billion more than the entire cost of the Abbott Government PPL scheme per year.
With such a limited scope to make recommendations it is really no surprise that the first draft from the PC recommends cuts to the quality of care for our kids in childcare centres and cuts to the child care rebate for parents.
For example, they’ve suggested lowering the qualification levels of educators that look after children under the age of three. This is contrary to the evidence from neurologists and child health experts that the most critical time for brain development for a human being is between the ages of zero to five.
We should not be reducing the qualification levels of the people that are educating our children to save money.
Further, the PC suggests averaging out the ratios of the number of educators to children required over the working week. This would mean safe and adequate ratios would be in place in centres at SOME times of the day not ALL times of the day. But how do you know when a child will become sick, or choke, or try to propel themselves out of a high chair? That can happen at any time of day because kids are unpredictable.
Reducing child to educator ratios also means ours kids would get less one on one attention. The ratios that are currently legislated ensure child safety and quality of care is paramount. Parents do not want to see them reduced to save money.