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News - World Headlines

Australia: Fears that Extra Government Funding to Raise Quality of Childcare Will Ultimately Be Gobbled Up In Fee Increases to Parents

Australia faces some policy dilemmas - increasing government funding to childcare to improve quality is welcomed but there are fears funding may be gobbled up by improvements in staffing, etc., and parents will have to pay more.


Canberra, June 2012 - Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she will act on ideas from a childcare forum within the "next few months".

Ms Gillard met childcare providers and unions in Sydney recently the next stage in reform of the sector.

"What is clear from today's meeting is if we are going to make further headway ... we all need to be working together," she told reporters.

"I do want to see us get to some new answers in the next few months.

"I don't want a situation where parents are concerned the assistance the government is providing will ultimately be gobbled up in fee increases."

Ms Gillard said there were three key concerns: quality assurance, rising fees and low wages for childcare workers.

"We all want to make childcare more affordable for the future. We want to keep our focus on quality and staff turnover," she said.

Ms Gillard said she was not going to get into a "rule-in rule-out game" of what action the government would take.

She acknowledged that women across Australia had to wrestle with the choice to go back to work after having children.

"There's never going to be a one-size-fits-all model here," she said.

The summit discussed how to increase wages of early childhood teachers to retain staff in the sector.

"We do want childcare workers to be valued," Ms Gillard said, adding she wanted to see a sector where people could imagine working for a long period of time and where kids had continuity of care.

Speaking after the meeting in Sydney, assistant national secretary of the childcare union United Voice Sue Lines said the sector's funding model needed an overhaul.

Low wages needed to be addressed if the childcare crisis was to be fixed, she said.

Increased transparency around childcare benefits was also needed, she said.

But she rejected calls by opposition leader Tony Abbott for a Productivity Commission report, saying it would take years.

"Solutions are needed now," she told reporters.

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