Michelle Lensink

Education And Early Childhood Services (Registration And Standards) Bill

This speech is regarding the Education And Early Childhood Services (Registration And Standards) Bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Yes, that is correct. It was in an earlier version of one of the Lensink amendments. It arises, I understand, from amendments that were moved and accepted in the other place by my colleague the member for Unley, Mr David Pisoni. So, we support the amendment.

Amendment carried; clause as amended passed.

Clauses 13 to 15 passed.

New clauses 15A to 15C.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Just by way of explanation to the committee, there have been three sets of amendments in my name. The first set sought to pursue three policy areas, one being a general delay in a number of provisions for a two-year period. Those are not included in version 3.

The other two points were to include the minister's commitments which were made to Childcare SA; those being that firstly she agreed when she met with them on 4 November that the class ratios for toddlers—that is, children aged from 24 to 36 months—would be 1:8 until 2020 and thereafter would revert to the default which is 1:5; also to clarify the issue of ratios where staff go on breaks; and also that staff who are working towards particular qualifications would be considered as participating towards those qualifications. Those final issues that I have discussed (not the general two-year delay) are what we have sought to have included. I would like to thank the government for allowing a delay in debate from the previous sitting week. I think it has probably been useful for all honourable members in this place.

One of the issues that I think has been of contention with the sector—it is always very difficult when you are dealing with a sector that does not come with a unified voice—was whether the consultation was adequate, and I would have to say that there varying views from various parts of the sector, probably reflecting the areas from which they come.

I would like to thank the people who have come to see me personally; I understand they would have sought to have meetings with other honourable members as well. They have all been very, very passionate advocates for their particular position, and some have advocated that we not pursue these amendments.

I thank those who have emailed me—and I apologise to those to whom I have not replied—have asked that we not pursue the two-year timeframe, so they will be pleased that we are not. There have been a number of different stakeholders, whether they be Childcare SA (who I think initially raised the issues in the media), Early Childhood Australia, a number of directors who largely represent the community sector, and United Voice.
The second set of amendments had some technical corrections, so 1 and 2 have been dropped in favour of the third set, which is before us. I have spoken about the minister's commitment, and I would just like to read into the record what the minister said on the Sonya Feldhoff program on 4 November when she said:

I'm told that a lot of the pressure will be felt by the sector in the 2 to 3 year old age group. Our current ratio there is one to 10, and the proposed ratio is one to five...nobody argues about the 1 to 10 being an unacceptable level, and in fact nobody argues in principle really about the fact that we need to do as much as we can to improve the quality of care...what I've done this morning is I met with these representatives and what I offered in acknowledgement of their concerns was to push out that ratio. Instead of having it complied with by January 2016 we'll aim for a ratio of one to eight by 2016 and we'll push out that ratio to one to five by 2020.

I think it is fair to say that there are probably professional differences in the sector. It is something that I was familiar with while dealing with aged care; there are some tensions—I think that is probably the polite way to put it—between the private providers and some of the not-for-profit or community areas, and I think the concern of costs still remains with certain providers.

A good friend of mine who has a three year old and a four year old who are frequently in child care was raving to me on the weekend about the cost of child care, so I think I think that some childcare operators who say that the cost of child care is no longer an issue for parents need to be introduced to my friend.

I would also like to table some information that was provided by one of the private childcare providers from Childcare SA in relation to their costs which their sector faces which are probably not faced by the other sectors. So, I asked them to provide that to us so that we could have an idea of the differential. I will not name the childcare centre, because it may be commercially confidential, but he says:

Hi Michelle With respect to your question regarding costs which may not be bourne by Community Centres I detail below these costs...as an example:

Payroll Tax per annum $12,350

Land Tax per annum $9,932

Council rates per annum $7,056

Water rates per annum $3,374 (not sure if Community Centres pay this)

Rent per annum $101,156 (we recently bought the property but previously paid rent to a landlord as many centres do)

Total $133,868

Also, Community Centres receive capital grants from government, [and] are eligible for grants from Councils etc for which the private sector cannot participate. Other organisations such as banks etc often have a lower fee structure for not for profit organisations. Keep in mind that despite these additional costs for the non-government private Centres our fees are similar to those charged by Community Centres—sometimes lower, sometimes higher, often the same.

So, I think it is worth giving that part of the sector the benefit of the doubt. I do not think it is in the interests of anybody for childcare centres to close based on cost. I do not think it is in the interest of any families to not be able to continue to avail themselves of child care because they are pushed beyond that tipping point, which is one of the things that I fear.

While that may be dismissed by some parts of the sector, I am very, very well aware of the bias—I think that is fair to say—that occurs among some sectors. Certainly, the ABC childcare issue, with that service going broke, has put a bad slant on the private sector, but I think there are a lot of very good providers. I would like to name in particular Barb Langford, who runs a number of Montessori centres, which are certainly not cheap to operate. She does an exemplary job. I think we should make room for all players within the sector and allow parents a choice.

I therefore commend these amendments to the chamber. I move:

New Division, page 29, after line 17—

Insert: Division 2—Modifications

15A—Interpretation

A term or phrase used in this Division and that is defined in the Education and Care Services National Law (South Australia) or the national regulations has the same meaning as in that Law or those regulations, or in the relevant provision of that Law or those regulations (as the case requires).

15B—General provision

The Education and Care Services National Law (South Australia) and the national regulations made under that Law are modified to the extent necessary to ensure consistency with this Division.

15C—Modifications

(1) When calculating the educator to child ratio at a centre-based service, any time (not exceeding 15 minutes) during which a particular educator is present on the premises of the service will be taken to be time spent by the educator working directly with children at the service or time in attendance at the service (as the case requires and whether or not the educator is replaced during such time).

(2) A requirement under the Education and Care Services National Law (South Australia) or the national regulations that a particular educator hold an approved diploma level education and care qualification will, in relation to any meal break (not exceeding 1 hour) taken by the educator, be taken to be satisfied if the educator is replaced during the meal break by an educator who holds—

(a) an approved certificate III level education and care qualification; or (b) any other qualification approved by the Minister for the purposes of this subsection.

Note— See regulation 126.

(3) A provision in the national regulations (being a specific provision applying to South Australia) setting out educator to child ratios for children over 24 months and less than 36 months of age at a centre-based service applies in place of regulation 123(1)(b) until 31 December 2019.

Note— See regulation 326.

(4) A requirement under a provision in the national regulations (being a specific provision applying to South Australia) that a person hold a particular acceptable tertiary qualification in children's services or early childhood education will be taken to be satisfied if the person is actively working towards such a qualification.

Note— See regulation 328.

Regulation 10 of the national regulations sets out what it means to be actively working towards a qualification.

 

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