Think of the children — and parents — and grandparents

Naomi Madsen writes: Re. “Grandparents’ lament: childcare is mass elder abuse” (yesterday). While I appreciate the sentiments of this article by Everald Compton with regard to the lack of flexibility of choices for childcare in Australia, I am curious as to where the statistics quoted have been sourced.  The most recent ABS survey on childcare I can find dates from 2010, and it seems to me a rather different picture is presented, eg:

“Care provided by grandparents was the most common type of informal care and was used by 19% of children.”

As for the notion of grandparents becoming “slaves five days a week”, the ABS report also highlights that the average weekly hours of childcare provided by grandparents is less than 10 hours per week. This is not to suggest that some grandparents aren’t being asked to pick up more than those hours, but it seems to be an overly inflammatory representation of the “facts”. I refer Compton also to this excellent paper by Bridget Jenkins at University of Western Sydney, which reviews the available literature on grandparent care and highlights the stable trend towards fewer hours of grandparent care since 1999.

Attributing the issue of 40% of children in grandparent care to the “unsurprising” fact that 66% of women are in employment seems to suggest Compton believes child-rearing to be the exclusive domain of women. Perhaps Compton would be surprised to note that men are perfectly capable of shouldering the burden of child-rearing, yet he has no issue with the unsurprising fact that 79% of men are in employment (OECD Economic Survey, 2012). He may be surprised to learn that 17% of lone parent families are headed up by men (ABS, 2011).

Ah, but won’t somebody please think of the children? Compton’s assertion that “sociologists” say a child doesn’t mature as quickly in grandparent care as does one in formal childcare invites, firstly, referencing of this information and, secondly, definition of terms.  Unnamed sociologists may very well say that a child doesn’t mature as quickly, but that all depends on your (and the sociologists’) definition of “maturity” — is it about social interactions with peers, is it about actual educational outcomes such as literacy and numeracy?

Look, I actually agree with Compton’s recommendations that there is an urgent need for more investment, not less, in early childhood care and education options for parents. But he’s beating up on the wrong demographic by suggesting that wealthy women “unnecessarily” benefit from paid parental leave and, therefore, it should be scrapped with the money re-invested into early childhood care and education. This argument goes against the wealth of research that suggests that paid maternity leave “will result in significant improvements in children’s long term cognitive, physical and emotional health” (Centre for Work & Life, UniSA, p. 12). So, is it so unreasonable to suggest we need investment in both paid parental leave (available to both parents after the birth of a child) *and* better early childhood care and education which will benefit all Australian families — grandparents, parents and children — alike?

The insidious truth about the IPA

William Fettes writes: Re. “Keane: why Tim Wilson is a good (if ironic) pick for the HRC” (Wednesday). It is one thing to criticise the shrillest cries of outrage as disproportionate, it is another thing to argue this is a good or innocuous appointment. Bernard Keane writes as if the IPA were merely an imperfect proponent of human rights, when the reality is more insidious. The IPA is arguably the premiere rent-seeking lobby group in Australia, and it already enjoys oversized influence in public discourse, no thanks to permanent media platforms at the ABC and Fairfax which have no coherent explanation.

Though it’s true that the IPA has defended human rights, on occasion, this alignment is mostly incidental to its core function of providing opaque PR and lobbying services for big business. If there are any genuine values animating its corpus of work they originate in a narrow and atomistic conception of self, a moral belief in the priority of property rights, and a dogmatic certainty that all failures of social organisation are an epiphenomenon of “big government”.

A Christmas carol

Tony Ziemek writes:

Christmas is coming and the Fin is getting thin,
Please put a penny in the Fairfax tin!

The Oz just gets more rabid,
And now Hendo’s safe within …

The Tele isn’t trusted,
Was it something that they did?

Boom! The ABC is in the trenches,
And Rupert mans the guns,
But Abbott’s cycling with the Frenchies, Flaunting Lycra’d buns.

Hark the Herald’s angels sing:
Glory to… well, not much really.

Peter Fray

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