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Friday, March 17, 2006

Mal Brough: Cabinet's Latest Mistake

I expressed reservations when I heard of Mal Brough's elevation to Kay Patterson's old job in the recent reshuffle. The Community Services portfolio has been expanded to take in Aboriginal Affairs (in which Brough has done absolutely nothing to distinguish himself so far - he has been entirely silent, for example, on the recent discussion surrounding the expansion of distribution of unsniffable Opal petrol throughout isolated Indigenous communities, while Tony Abbott blunders along suggesting that parents solve the problem by `taking the petrol away' from their petrol sniffing children. Good solution, Tone).

But the idea that Brough could really be so out of touch with his new portfolio as to suggest, in response to Labor's childcare policy - released yesterday - that freeing up new childcare places could lead to `a glut of places' is, quite literally, roll around on the floor, tears in your eyes laughable. It truly is.

Here in the inner city, many young mothers will tell you of having to put their child's name down on waiting lists for childcare either at birth, or even as soon as they become pregnant. The shortage of places is something even Brough's predecessor, Kay Patterson acknowledged in a bizarre plan to use unused commercial and industrial buildings in outerlying areas for childcare centres. The protests of Jackie Kelly and more recently, the pleas of a committee of backbenchers to scrap or rejig the 30% childcare rebate show that firstly, that childcare is one of the real sleeping giants in the electorate; and secondly, that if Brough wants to be taken seriously, he's really going to have to get his act together - especially on plan as commonsense as the one presented by Labor on an issue with such potential impact on Howard's Battlers.

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