Interview with Neil MitchellJanuary 21, 2009
Labor Axes Optional Free Computer Filter Program and Moves Towards a Compulsory RegimeJanuary 23, 2009
The future of the local Ashburton and Prahran ABC Centres could be jeopardised by the Federal Government’s refusal to ensure licensing issues are addressed, Member for Higgins, Mr Peter Costello said today.
“Our local centres are two of 249 around the country that are being managed by Receivers and being kept operational with federal funding until 31 March 2009. Hopefully they will then be transferred to new owners who can continue to deliver this vital service for our local families,” Mr Costello said.
“However the deadlines set by the Receivers will mean that it’s unlikely there will be time for the State authorities to issue new licenses to allow the Centres to remain open.”
Mr Costello said the Coalition had called on Minister Julia Gillard to show leadership and seek an agreement with the States for interim licensing arrangements to ensure continuity of services.
“Minister Gillard’s response has been to say that licensing is a State responsibility. This is the blame game at its very worst! The various State Government authorities have different regulations for the granting of licenses, and most involved waiting periods of a minimum of 8 to 12 weeks.”
“Over $50 million in taxpayer funding has been spent to keep these 249 Centres operational and now they could falter at the last hurdle. This would be a cruel blow to the families at the Ashburton and Prahran Centres,” Mr Costello said.
“With the new Receivers of the ABC2 Group calling for final formal bids on 25 February 2009, and sales having to be concluded less than 6 weeks later on the 31 March 2009, we face a situation where new operators could have to wait weeks or even months for their licence.”
“I understand that the State authorities are mindful of the need for swift processing of applications. But the questions remain – Will centres be forced to close for a period? Will families be left in the lurch? And why isn’t the Federal Minister doing something to ensure a smooth transition?”
The Coalition calls on the Government to come clean and let the industry and the public know exactly how the process for expressions of interest will be managed over the coming months and to provide clarity on licensing to ensure continuity of local childcare services.