Sunday, April 02, 2006

Has global warming disrupted the traditional news cycle?

Yes, it’s just a stupid headline: climate change obviously has had (and will continue to have) many micro-flow-ons, but I don’t think that changes in newsroom “weather” is one of them.

How to explain the commercial child-care news-story barometer (or story arc, if you prefer TV serial writers’ lingo) of the last few days remains a scientific unfathomable, then.

Talk about wild oscillations. On Wednesday, this headline certainly caught my eye: Scrap rebate, say child-care operators. Yep, that’s commercial child-care operators (inter alia) seemingly volunteering to have their generous taxpayer subsidies pared back. Or not – buried in the story is the difference (news to me, anyway) between child-care “benefits” – subsidies paid direct to centres – and child-care rebates – subsidies given to parents (retrospectively) via the tax system. What the commercial (*and* non-profit) child-care industry/“industry” is really calling for then, is for parental rebates to be redirected to become centre-recipient “benefits”.

Sounds/ed logical enough - four days ago, at least. Getting a rebate paid via the tax system takes about one year, on average, while centre subsidies/“benefits” get paid on a real time, rolling basis. And it’s the same taxpayer money that’s going out either way – it’s not as if the industry sneakily has its hand out for a *net* funding increase.

As I said, that was Wednesday. Yesterday brought the calm – or false mini-storm – before the (real) storm, in the guise of this story highlighting how a relatively high percentage of commercially-operated child-care centre workers would not send their children to such centres. The guts of the story came from a report from the Australia Institute, a tiresome, boomer-centric dumb-tank, headed by the cretinous Clive Hamilton. What the Australia Institute missed – and so what creepy, hyper-capitalist commercial operator ABC Learning was able to exploit in rebuttal – was that the same survey also showed (paradoxical, one might think) high staff retention rates (if not among commercial operators generally, then certainly within the biggest commercial player, ABC Learning). Oops! Although there may be a logical explanation here: hard-bitten, highly-casualised (same URL) ABC Learning employees (i) know that they’ve reached the end of the line, career-wise, and (ii) can’t afford to have children. In other words, they’re fairly typical GenX fuck-ups, in having more internalised rage than a Gaza teenager. But don’t worry parents, we GenX fuck-ups would never take our rage out on children directly: if our own heads and bodies are absolutely full, full full, then you can and must allow for the resultant spill-over to go onto the employer – aka low-level workplace sabotage.

Anyway, today ‘s commercial child-care news-story rendered yesterday’s Clive-said/Eddy-said face-off redundant. Yep, it turns out that child-care “benefits” – the subsidies paid direct to centres – are a fraudsters paradise, with implicated centres (no of which are named) taking taxpayers for a $100m+ annual ride.

Nice one. It will be interesting to see if this story generates much tabloid/shock-jock rage in coming days. I predict not; after all a lone “dole-bludger” on $10k a year is a much worse imposition on taxpayers than some coldly-fraudulent crims skimming off a lazy hundred-mill. The latter do look after our children, after all. *And* they generously went into bat on behalf of battler parents/taxpayers, re converting slow rebates to fast “benefits”, as recently as Wednesday. So what if they’re gilding the lily a little?

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