Thursday, April 17, 2008

2020 Vision

Kevin Rudd’s big suggestion for discussion at the 2020 summit is the establishment of Parent and Child Centres to provide one-stop-shop facilities for parents of young children. The Centres would deliver every aspect of child care and welfare, from maternal and child health services through to long day care and preschool. The Prime Minister claims that such an arrangement would save money and reduce duplication of services.

However, the Prime Minister also had to admit that the proposal is both uncosted and unfunded. He proposes that the centres be up and running by the target date of 2020, but the reality is that he would have to survive at least four more elections to see it through. Although that’s not impossible, it has led some to speculate on just how concrete the proposal really is.

It also remains to be seen whether it really would save money and provide a better service to parents. Despite the scattered nature of current services, is there really any great benefit in co-locating such things as post-natal health and welfare with preschools? In fact, the creation of such super-centres might create facilities of unwieldy size. Bigger isn’t always better.

The other factor is the question of how government and private enterprise would combine to manage these centres. Daycare for example might be run by private operators, but maternal and child health units are run by state health departments. Or is this a move to privatize those aspects of the operation?

The 2020 summit is supposed to be an opportunity to openly discuss and debate the issues that are of great significance to the future of the nation. I wonder though if it’s possible that the whole thing is turning a giant distraction from more pressing matters.

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