Our Children or The Productivity Commission’s Children?

The Productivity Commission’s recenly released discussion paper “A national quality framework for early childhood education and care” (available here) has no problems with conscience or consequence, and makes no bones about favouring the nation rather than what might be good for families and children.

They first admit the following in their introduction: “The Early Childhood Development Sub-group recognises that the family is the most important factor in children’s lives and development. Supporting families is, therefore, central to ensuring longer term outcomes for children.” (p. 7). So far so good.

This is why Early Childhood Australia has advocated for statutory government supported paid maternity, paternity or parental leave in line with what is already happening in other OECD nations except here and in America (www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/pdf/submissions/paid_parental_leave.pdf). Early Childhood Australia, the national voice for early childhood, believe that maternity leave would create “time and space” for the evolving of stable, nurturing, high quality early relationships necessary to ensure children’s “short and long term wellbeing” (p. 1). They believe that a minimum of 12 months maternity leave should be adopted, due to the “irrefutable evidence that healthy development of newborns, infants and the young child, including of the brain’s architecture, depends on the quality and reliablility of a young child’s relationships” (p. 2).

But what the Productivity Commission’s discussion paper suggests instead, after it has acknowledged the importance of family in the young life of the child is the following: “To increase Australia’s productivity and global competitiveness parents with young children should be able to participate in the workforce, education and training. As a result, a significant proportion of children will be spending some time in formal or informal care from birth. It is essential that this care is of high quality.”

So what does Early Childhood Australia have to say about the availability of quality care for Australian preschoolers? They agree that high quality care is possible, but there is significant concern that “the likelihood of consistent and reliable relationships being available in current childcare environments is not high”. This is due to high staff turnover in childcare services and inability of services to attract the highly qualified staff who would “mitigate against the development the (sic) trusting and secure relationships so essential for all young children but particularly for children under twelve months” (p 3).

The Productivity Commisson think they can generate this high quality staff, which is unlikely, but they have failed to address high staff turnover. If you feel as strongly as I about the selling out of our children’s rights in order to fulfill the Productivity Commission’s policy of “increased productivity and global competitiveness” (p 7), here is the schedule for the public discussion forums.