darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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November 11, 2008

The Federal Government’s decision to provide a $22 million package to underwrite ABC childcare centres has provided a funding guarantee until Christmas – but there is no indication regarding the future of 11 centres across Gippsland.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said the collapse of ABC Learning was a major concern for local families and the issue had been raised this week in Federal Parliament.

“Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has guaranteed that the centres in Gippsland will operate at least until Christmas, but we are still waiting to see a full contingency plan from the government” Mr Chester said.

 “The $22 million package is effectively underwriting up to 400 unprofitable centres across Australia but there has been no announcement as to which centres are profitable and which ones have contributed to the company’s perilous financial situation.

“The appointment of a receiver and the Federal Government funding commitment will allow the existing centres to continue business as usual but there are many unanswered questions about the future of the 1000 ABC centres across Australia.”

Mr Chester said the past week has been particularly stressful for local families, along with the staff at the ABC childcare centres.

“Local ABC staff were initially worried that they did not have a job.  Now they are guaranteed employment until Christmas, but there is no security beyond Christmas,” Mr Chester said.

“Of great concern, are their fears that they will lose entitlements such as annual leave, sick leave and long service leave.

“One staff member has advised me she has worked at the same childcare centre for nine years and now she fears she has no security and will lose nine years worth of benefits.”

Mr Chester has written to the Minister seeking information as to how staff entitlements will be protected.   But he said the government couldn’t be expected to prop up a failing business in the longer term.

“I don’t believe it is the role of government to bail out every business that fails but when it comes to child care, it is a unique situation,” Mr Chester said.

“Providing safe and quality care for young children is a critical need and many families depend on the centres remaining open while parents participate in the paid workforce.

“It is vital that Gippsland families continue to have access to affordable childcare in the future and I will be working with all levels of government to make sure that happens.”

Anyone with questions regarding the future of ABC centres can access the website: www.mychild.gov.au

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