Government Bailouts, as easy as ABC…

Childcare giant ABC Learning Centres cannot guarantee all its centres will remain open in the long term despite pledging there will be no immediate closures. Despite reassurances it is “business as usual” for the chain’s 1100 childcare centres – at least while an initial review is being conducted – concerned parents said they fear being left in limbo.

It seems like a shallow promise. The company has been placed in the hands of receivers and owes creditors hundreds of millions of dollars. The childcare chain owes the big four banks an estimated $762 million. The big banks will be hit hard if the ABC goes under. The Commonwealth Bank said its debt exposure to ABC was around $240 million. ANZ said ABC owed it $182 million, Westpac is owed about $200 million, and NAB has confirmed a $140 million debt exposure.

Add to this, the number of “mum & dad” investors whose shares must now be worthless.

Deputy PM Julia Gillard, has refused to rule in, or rule out a government bailout of the ABC.

Asked whether it was inevitable the Government would have to pump money into the debt-laden company, Ms Gillard said the Federal Government already supported the sector through the child care benefit, which cost $1.9 billion a year, and the $800 million childcare tax rebate.

“We’re working with the banks, who are the creditors, and with the receiver,” she said. “We understand people have got all of their family arrangements, and all of their work arrangements, on the foundation stone of having child care.

An acceptable quality and availablility of childcare has become a modern day necessity in Australia. Many working parents wouldn’t be able to cope without it. However with approx 50%+ of Australian households not consisting of any children, is it the role of government to bail out a private enterprise with taxpayers dollars simply because it has collapsed due to poor management?

UPDATE: Deputy PM Julia Gillard has announced a cash injection of $22m of taxpayers funds to maintain ABC Learnings operations until the end of December.

UPDATE: The receivers McGrathNicol have refused to say whether all 1075 Australian centres would stay open next year. The extent of the financial problems come as a shock to investors and analysts, as the company had previously reassured them its Australian centres were on track and generating cash. Deputy PM Julia Gillard, says as many as 40 per cent of the ABC Learning centres are making a loss.

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79 Responses

  1. …and no-one saw this coming either I suppose?

    …Eddie Groves, CEO, of an international organisation that was structured to make money with no expertise, no background and no qualifications…

    …took on the Victorian State Government child protection agency saying that ABC did not have a duty of care to its clients – children – (after a toddler escaped the confines of a Centre) – it was the responsibility of ABC’s staff – where do you get that sort of legal advice – a Common Law precedent established two hundred years ago and enshrined in all state and Federal legislation…make a profit running a business – your duty of care!

    …the man and his wife were a couple of twits, obviously advised by nincompoops, running a company that provided minimum services at exhorbitant prices, put the nations children at risk and were allowed to run rampant on two continents by two incompetent governments…

    …some of us did see this coming and advised people in the early days what was to come – one couple chose to buy in to ABC and have lost everything – I have had two calls, one saying thanks, the other to say “…you were right, ya old bastard…!”

    Predictable, absobloodylutely!

  2. There seems to be a fair body of opinion saying childcare should not be run on a for-profit basis. I guess that’s how come we end up with this sort of nightmares. Imagine how parents feel, facing the uncertainty of “will the centre still be running tomorrow when we need it?”

    A lot of it comes down to the need for both parents to work outside the home, just so they can afford the home they live in for a few hours per day with their kids, who also spend hours a day outside the home in the care of strangers.

    Maybe put childcare back into the hands of local government, remove the profit motive from the equation so the pay can be good enough to get good staff.

  3. Fast Eddie has certainly left some problems. With a reputed debt of $1.2 billion for 1 200 centres (approximately $1 million a centre), the government hasn’t too many financial or political options. And those that do exist are quite unpalatable.

    It wouldn’t want to take over the centres for a number of reasons. First, what government would choose to sell off the uneconomic centres because closing educational centres is guaranteed to lose votes big-time. Second, child-care workers are very poorly paid. Eddie ensured that. Government would come under enormous pressure to upgrade their skills and increase their wages AND their conditions which would be very expensive.

    Third, the Federal Government doesn’t want to get into the day-to-day running of schools, hospitals and the like, regardless of what Rudd may threaten It simply doesn’t have the organisational or administrative structures or the expertise and it certainly doesn’t have the political will at this time of economic meltdown.

    Yet it must act. Having so many young children with no care is politically unthinkable as is a large number of child-care workers on the streets. I suspect Gillard will not have a ‘plan’ but will simply hope to muddle through in the hope that a private consortium will emerge and buy what will be very cheap property.

    BTW Eddie’s wife is now suing him for $44 million. Just how much money can you hide under the mattress?

    If Eddie doesn’t spend considerable time in the slammer, then there is no justice. I see also that he is driving yet another new prestige car.

  4. NEWS FLASH!

    Julia Gillard throws $22 million at ABC Learning centres to keep them afloat until December…

    http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,27753,24615988-31037,00.html

    Easy as 123…

  5. Gillard is going to bail them out until xmas whilst the government decides what to do next.

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24615988-12377,00.html

    I see a rise in unemployment if these centres close as someone has to look after the kids and the lowest earner in the house will have to sacrifice their job.

  6. Well this certainly is an ungodly mess, but solutions will have to be found – as Nature 5 said all those children suddenly bereft of childcare would be unthinkable.

    I have never been a fan of childcare centres as such, and we have used the home based Family Day Care system for our childcare needs.

    TB, I remember that story about the toddler escaping and how ABC tried to deny all responsibility and it’s attempts to lay the blame on some poor underpaid worker. Even if I did not have Family Day Care, I would have definately steered clear of ABC Learning after that.

    I am against childcare for profit and agree with Caney that childcare should be returned to local Government. I don’t think this is as difficult as Nature 5 thinks though. How hard is it to appoint managers?

    What this does demonstrate is that the private sector is not failsafe.

  7. TracieofFNQ | November 7, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    “What this does demonstrate is that the private sector is not failsafe.”

    Indeed! The whole financial meltdown can be sheeted home to the private sector and its inability to regulate itself. Government regulation is about to be reborn as Europe (and Australia) is demanding even in the face of resistance from the Idiot. Or at least that should be the case, given that governments around the world now either own the banks or a significant share of same.

    It will be interesting to see who Obama appoints to the economic portfolios because big changes are necessary and desirable.

    While I personally have no problems with Local Government having significant involvement in child care, I think mayors like Campbell Newman wouldn’t have a bar of it.

    “The $22 million represents the possible cost of supporting the continued operation of these centres for two months”

    What we haven’t been told is how much of the $22 million will be spent on those who work in the centres and how much will be given to the banks to keep them at bay. My bet is that the lion’s share will go to the banks. It would be good if we had journalists that would ask these questions.

    “Ms Gillard said the Government would use the next two months to decide what to do next …”

    No choice but to ‘muddle’ through but I wonder if Gillard is really aware that child care doesn’t have six weeks holiday at Christmas. Politically it would be nigh on impossible to pull the pin over Christmas.

    I suppose there will be some centres on the market before then. For those who are cashed up there will be some bargains.

  8. I don’t know much about child care centres but……$1.2 billion. Infrastructure in place. Staff in place. A nation crying out for a better functioning childcare system. Hmmmm……. If I were in government, I’d be having a serious look at buying up the whole thing and using it as a vehicle to help fix the childcare industry.

  9. Good posts Nature 5.

    …this is another case of governments just washing their hands of community responsibility in the first place – Labor left to clean up Liberal free market exploitation…

    …this is part of the problem when parents have (want) to chase dollars instead of being carers within society…

    …and getting women into the workforce was really just so much hype pushed covertly by the “robber barons” wanting more and more labor…

    …society has been conned for over two decades – yep labor governments were just as guilty – until the greed spills over and who suffers? The kids and the poor and the taxpayer…

    …how people could have listened to and actually believed “educated morons” like Germaine Greer (and still do!) is beyond me…

  10. Hmmmm…socialising the childcare industry……..maybe not a bad thing.

    When profit is the motive it leads to all sorts of neglected areas.

    TB… I see you still haven’t worked out which side of the political fence you’re on! (LOL)

  11. James of North Melbourne | November 7, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    “If I were in government, I’d be having a serious look at buying up the whole thing ”

    James are you a dreaded ‘socialist’? Or perhaps an Obama type ‘communist’? Everyone knows that the private sector does a much better job than the public sector. It’s one of the great truths of neoliberalism. It’s just plain ‘common sense’.

    Oh! Hang on. That ‘common sense’ is now up for a rethink. Remember Freddie Mac, Fannie May, Lehman Brothers, Northern Rock, Bank of Scotland, and if that’s not sufficient evidence to the contrary, try Iceland – Friedman’s jewel in the crown. LOL.

    It seems we are waking from a deep slumber as to how the world works. And about time. Even Greespan’s ‘world view’ has been revised. Ayn Rand is no longer the flavour of the month.

    Rudd won’t buy the centres because he is not ‘of the left’ (and never was) as is becoming more evident the longer he is in government. And Tom he is not a captive of the unions either.

    But if I was in control, I would buy the centres and sell off some of the real estate and re-establish child care in some local primary schools and at the same time establish Rudd’s one stop shop for child care, medical, dental, social workers and the like.

  12. Eddie Groves ? a name like someone out of a Jim Thompson novel.
    Got to love the banks, Eddie screws ’em for millions and the bastards cry tears when dropping a portion of a % of the Reserve drop to struggling borrowers. Maybe Eddie will end up on an Island in a wheel chair sucking of an oxygen bottle,bring back Amanda,or does she have to travel by sea now, flight trim problems.

  13. Lang Mack:

    “Eddie will end up on an Island in a wheel chair sucking of an oxygen bottle…”

    LOL!! Somewhere off the coast of Majorca, in his white bathrobe sucking on cubans!

  14. 10. LizzyLou | November 7, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I know where I stand on politics you don’t, let me make it clear…

    If its good for Oz then its good for me…however, I have to make a choice at the polling booth and you’ve read some of previous posts – in the past I’ve posted that have voted Labor since I turned 21 – 40 years ago…and will continue to do so…I will also criticise my preferred party when I see fit…easy.

    If you think Labor is an innocent bystander in the free market exploitation of this Nation read some history…its just that the Liberals and particularly John Howard & The Private School Bullies pushed the envelope until it burst – following the Village Idiot, Chaney, Rumsfeldt and Co…

    …FYI if I thought that Turncoat and Co had the interest of Australia at heart I’d vote for him tomorrow (as long as he got rid of anyone in the party surnamed Bishop) 😉

    …and yes I do believe that children’s lives are at risk with the likes of Groves…and any monopoly or near monopoly subsidised by the government using our money is dangerous…

    Lizzy, I just reread your post and mine fan of GG are we… 🙂

  15. ‘in his white bathrobe sucking on cubans!’
    Maybe that’s why his wife wants $40m dollars, or did I miss read that :).

  16. Ohh TB…

    Wasn’t it the ALP that started the mad rush to privatise everything when they sold the Commonwealth Bank? One could say they are only expected to fix what they broke in the first place. (Puts perspex shield in place to deflect missiles).

    Why blame Germaine Greer? Women were needed in the workforce while the men were away fighting WW2. Is it suprising they did not want to return to the kitchen and relinquish their economic freedom.

    These days it is a neccessity for both partners to work (unless one is on a very good wage) if one ever hopes to own a home rather than paying off someone else’s mortgage.

    I agree that the robber barons (not to mention ALP & Lib Govts) are to blame for allowing only modest wage increases for the low or semi skilled, while cost of living has skyrocketed.

    And before anyone says how much wages have increased consider this one example. My mother sent a ‘Little Golden Book’ as a present for youngest child in a choccie parcel. Cost $2.99. When I was a child same book was only 29c.

    I don’t know whether ALL of society was conned. Some of us have resisted rampant privatisation and the rise of corporate greed for a long time now.

    So rather than blame Germaine Greer, maybe the blame more appropriately rests at the feet of Reagan, Thatcher and everyone else who religiously followed their economics.

    But maybe we shouldn’t ‘blame’ anyone, just get on with cleaning up the mess.

  17. Excellent post Nature 5 @ 11.

  18. Just a very quick one as it’s moving weekend. And with apologies to those whose posts I haven’t had time to read, for this reason.

    Something such as child care should never ever have been allowed to become a money-making monopoly. Ohh sighh…where did we go wrong.

    Just a hint. The failed pollie Larry Anthony (son of the famous Doug) joined ABC after he lost to Justine Elliot ’04.

  19. Yes, usually both parents have to work to afford to pay off the outrageously expensive McMansions that they fill to the rafters with imported plastic junk that they don’t really need to compensate for the lives they don’t really have any more.

    At the end of the day they’re too buggered to spend more than a couple of minutes one-on-one with their kids, who themselves are too buggered anyway after a day playing with other kids and gruelling TV watching in the sausage-machine education “centres”, under the detached care of low-paid strangers who aren’t compensated near enough for them to feel like putting their soul into it, because said education “centres” have to make bigger profits every year, and the money’s got to come from somewhere, so the pockets of the low-paid is as good a place as any because they can’t charge the parents extra, because chances are they’re also low-paid slaves being exploited by other avaricious employers.

  20. It will be interesting to see what Gillard will come up with in the interim and due to financial constraints it is a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but who will be Peter???

    Will this lead to somewhat of a demise of this middle class welfare?

    If all this doom and gloom that Swan has been heralding this week is correct I do not see much room to maneuver as far as the surplus is concerned and I believe that the children of this nation should have priority over say…this increase for the FHOG.

    I can accept the one off payments in December but the FHOG is beyond me.

    This will be a test for the government.

  21. Caney @ 19, that is very astute summary of the situation in my (not so) humble opinion..

  22. Scaper,

    The FHOG is beyond me, as is the even more ludicrous “baby bonus”.

    Let’s just encourage teenagers to have offspring they cant afford shall we?

  23. Scaper, I would be inclined to retain the $21,000 incentive for those who buy new dwellings. Seems like a smart and timely action against the housing crisis. Plus, money going into the building industry fans quickly out into many other sectors, making an ideal financial stimulus.

    Still, it’s bloody expensive when the government is running short.

    Pity the Liberals couldn’t have put more aside from the mining boom instead of pissing it against the wall buying votes. They knew (or would have known) that a bust would follow the boom. For all their self-praising talk about “handing over a strong surplus” 20 billion or whatever doesn’t seem like much out of the 400-odd billion that went through their hands during the boom.

  24. Just as well I read my Crikey today with its comments about surfdom which eventually led me to this blog.

    So this is where some of you sorry asses scurried off to when blogocracy closed……. eh !

  25. WALRUS!!

    We’ve been hoping you’d show up!! TB’s here n everything!

    It’s like a big family reunion!!

    🙂

  26. Good to see ya, Walrus. You’ve been missed!

  27. Reb, I agree, it’s a mad, mad world we live in and the whole system is a mess.

    It kind of reminds me of trying to maintain a dilapidated house…a waste of time and resources and it is best to let it fall down and rebuild from a new and stronger foundation…depressing actually.

  28. Scaper,

    Maybe if the childcare centres were ‘socialised’ then the costs to parents would come down (no CEO salaries or shareholder dividentds to pay) and we could scrap the 50% child care rebate.

    Maybe some assistance could still be offered to those truly in need, but it should be means tested to ensure that only those who genuinely need it recieve it.

    Swan is not seriously talking down the economy is he? If so this is completely irresponsible especially after someone (sorry can’t remember who) from the Reserve bank specifically said politicians should NOT do this.

  29. Thanks reb…thank Caney……….!

    I was really missing our little comments each day.

    Off home now. Long day in the office.

    So I’ll crank up the Neil Diamond tonight…hehehehehehehe… and see you all over at the weekend blog hopefully sometime this weekend.

    If not next week for sure.

    I just need to have a look around here and get familiar.

  30. No worries walrus…

    joni is off in the huff listening to neil diamond too!

  31. TracieofFNQ

    “maybe the blame more appropriately rests at the feet of Reagan, Thatcher and everyone else who religiously followed their economics.

    Perhaps not. While Regan, Thatcher and the Labor Party here in Australia implemented ‘neoliberal’ policies one of the the root causes rests those economists from the Chicago School (including Milton Freedman) who developed an economic common sense, based on certain unexamined assumptions re the nature of man, the nature of society and the inter-relationship between the two, that permeated universities and then on to ‘infect’ students who in turn populated government treasury departments.

    Certainly, the political class you refer to actually okayed that ideology but like most politicians they were out of their depth when it came to understanding or even realising the assumptions on which the ideology was based.

    Yes the politicians used the words and became the public face of the neoliberal ideology but they were simply a product of their times. Most of the time politicians are simply good at being politicians. Rarely are they deep thinkers away from their chosen speciality.

    As for cleaning up the mess, again it will be a contest of ideas. The neocons with their neoliberal ideology are not going to give up easily, simply because they have nowhere else to go intellectually. As with all religions, faith is beyond rational debate.

  32. Tracie, I’m not sure it is talking down the economy, more like the reality and I remember a few articles about this crisis blowing a major hole in the budget…I can’t quote the figures because I’m concentrating on other matters but it made me sit up when I saw or read it.

    Caney, I’m not sure this will quite fan out in the economy due to the fact that the developers will pocket most of this and from what I am told by my peers it is still running hot out there.

    I’m copping so many enquiries that I could go big again…if I choose to, so obviously this work will go to someone else.

    I don’t have any answers to this impending child care crisis…But I do believe that if the ABC structure is gone then many will suffer.

  33. Nature 5, despite what I said about forgetting blame for a minute…

    Friedman may have started it, but I do blame everyone who madly grasped it as the greatest thing since sliced bread – probably because ‘it’s American so it must be good’.

    Aren’t Uni’s supposed to be our brains trust, and aren’t we constantly told that if we pay our pollies peanuts we get monkeys.

    Well despite their salaries, retirement funds and all the perks of the job, we still ended up with monkeys.

    As I said not everyone was caught up in the religious fervour, but they were branded as communists and ignored.

    So sorry, but I’m not prepared to let them off the hook that easily.

    Reb: paying teenagers to have babies. Sounds like its straight from the mouths of the rightwing. Let’s just give lower class people nothing, blame them for not being as astute as ourselves and self righteously ignore the fact that for some families it has been a godsend.

    I seem to recall you were against any form of ‘handouts’ related to children or maternity, I may be wrong and if I am I apologise most sincerely.

    Personally I would rather see these payments made (some of which may not be used wisely) rather than deprive those childern who are born to parents whose only crime is being lower class.

    If I have any qualms about these payments it is that they are given to some who clearly are on good incomes.

    This is especially for those who disagree with abortion.

    Don’t mean to be grouchy but I do believer a certain amount of ‘socialism’ not only laudable but essential for heallthy communities.

  34. Tracie:

    “I seem to recall you were against any form of ‘handouts’ related to children or maternity, I may be wrong and if I am I apologise most sincerely.”

    Quite correct. It’s actually more difficult to purchase a pedigree dog than it is for people to have offspring.

    It just doesn’t make sense to me. You can have a kid, and the government will reward you for it, regardless of your emotional or financial capacity to raise that child into adulthood, yet if you want to raise a pedigree dog you usually have to go through a series of interviews and apply for a licence.

    Am I missing something or what???????

  35. G’day IATW, you old fart!

    Went straight to post when I saw yours!

    Nice post underneath sreb, yer dead on!

    Wait till we clbretae Christmas!

    Glad to have ya back!

    They just keep comin’, sreb/joni…

    even getting some ‘flak” from the girls…hehe!

    Now to check, ‘tother posts…

  36. …and TracieNT, wow!

  37. TB, it is just a matter of time before the rest find this site.

    I have been looking for Elise on the blogosphere with no luck.

  38. oops, sorry Tracie FNQ – I knowhoesensitive you lot up there are!

    You want to see how tough we have it in SEQ!

  39. wha—at?

    Interpretation:

    knowhoesensitive (I know how sensitive..)

  40. scaper, gets better’n better!

    The lads have done a fabulous job – still too many post for one day – need to keep it to a maximum of two {or have I missed something} (unless big breaking news). Ya reading this – sreb/jon?

    REB: Noted TB, thanks….

  41. Gotta gig next weekend, must practice! (No smart arse remarks, sreb!)

  42. An earlier comment from me now sounds ridiculous:

    ” I would buy the centres and sell off some of the real estate”

    Turns out that most of the real estate wasn’t actually owned by the company ABC child care, only leased. I have a sneaking suspicion that the owners of the real assets – the real estate – are fast Eddie and his associates in some complex web. No wonder Le Neve is suing for $44 million.

    Another example of how private enterprise, if left unregulated, will simply screw the average punter.

    What the hell was the Board doing? In particular Sallyanne and Larry?

  43. TB, yep…I’ve been told that I have to get off the computer because scapette wants to watch a DVD!

    I think I’ll pour myself a scotch and watch a doco to unwind from a massive week.

  44. “It just doesn’t make sense to me. You can have a kid, and the government will reward you for it, regardless of your emotional or financial capacity to raise that child into adulthood, yet if you want to raise a pedigree dog you usually have to go through a series of interviews and apply for a licence.

    Am I missing something or what???????”

    Is there a better alternative? I can’t think of one that doesn’t include long term social programmes.

    Sure the Government could remove those kids born to those ‘irresponsible’ enough to get themselve in such a position but would the children be better or worse off.

    Even though there are some horrific stories about neglected children, the state hardly has a particularly admirable record in this area either.

    One can always hope that with Government assistance these young mothers/parents (takes two and all that) and others in reciept of these payments can improve their circumstances and eventually become ‘accepted and respected’ members of society.

    Another thing about the demonisation of ‘teenage girls’ that I find unfair is they are left to face the slings and arrows of their ‘obvious betters’ in society, while the horny teenage guys get of scott free.

    This will only erode their self esteem even more, and add to the obstacles they face trying to ‘make good’.

    I would hope to live in a better, more compassionate society than that.

    Again don’t mean to sound off at you personally, I just don’t see how we improve the welfare of the child, by withholding assistance from the parent.

  45. TB @ 36, 38 and 39, S’alright I knew what you meant. Seems things are tough all over, but I think some of us are still OK enough to remain compassionate.

    How did that line go again?

    “I want to live in a society, not exist in an economy”?

  46. Tracie of FNQ:

    “Again don’t mean to sound off at you personally, I just don’t see how we improve the welfare of the child, by withholding assistance from the parent.”

    Fair enough. And I hear waht you’re saying about the ‘demonising of teenage girls”. Maybe I’m guilty of being a bit too judgemental, however I still believe that the baby bonus is fundamentally wrong…

  47. The problem with ABC appears to be symptomatic re the entire economy. Greedy highflyers who award themselves mammoth bonuses while letting their organizations go down the tube.

    Throw megabucks at money-making ventures eg private health, private schools and private childcare while reducing funding to the equivalent public facilities. Minus competition from public facilities, private organizations are free to set their own prices; then just throw in some additional taxpayer money to keep the whole thing rolling on and on and on.

  48. Reb putting teenage girls aside for a moment, please remember that Howard brought in the Baby Bonus to avoid the issue of paid maternity leave.

    Now unless we are going to legislate that lower class (horrible term that maybe economically challenged is better) individuals cannot have children, a responsible society needs to ensure that loss of income due to maternity does not further penalise those who are already struggling.

    Financial problems can put alot of strain on relationships, and unless we want more broken families, more single parents and more children living in poverty we need to do something.

    I think one of the worst ideological hangovers of the Howard era is the unwillingness of those doing well to assist those ‘losers’ of the capitalist system. I always think there but for the grace of God…

  49. Tracie of FNQ:

    “Financial problems can put alot of strain on relationships, and unless we want more broken families, more single parents and more children living in poverty we need to do something.”

    Maybe they shouldn’t have kids in the first place?

    I mean, before we considered buying a dog, we thought how much is this going to cost, and then decided yep, we can afford it.

    Why should it be any different when people are thinking about having children? Why should taxpayers subsidise people that shouldn’t have had kids in the first place?

  50. Reb you may be suprised at how unreliable some contraceptives are.

    The pill is particularly sensitive. The fact remains that unplanned pregnancies do occur.

    So unless we are going to sanction forced abortions/sterilisation of the economically challenged, then an egalitarian society will offer some assistance.

    Not everyone is in a posiion where their employer offers paid maternity leave.

    Or should we just rip out their ovaries and be done with it?

    Remember the pragmatic reason for the well off and childless is this: Someone has to do all the menial jobs such as garbage collecting, street sweeping, working at refuse stations, sewage plants etc. Not to mention manning checkouts in supermarkets and such. Oh and of course domestic and commercial cleaning.

    Obviously the children of those who can afford them have much more to offer society than that. What do you think?

  51. “So unless we are going to sanction forced abortions/sterilisation of the economically challenged, then an egalitarian society will offer some assistance.”

    Fair point. I have no objection to those who are in desparate need, to have access to some form of government assistance.

    However where I live I see teenager mothers sitting smoking in shopping malls while screaming at their kids who are themselves pumped up into a screaming frenzy after dosing up on sugar rich soft drinks.

    It seems they have plenty of money for cigarettes.

    It seems that being a stay at home, welfare bludging, teenage mother is regarded as a “career move” these days.

    What I dislike is the way in which the baby bonus, and other welfare ‘parent’ payments are seen as an attractive lifestyle choice for some people, rather than a last resort.

  52. Reb while I can understand your frustration do you think it is fair to deprive all recipients of the baby bonus because a few do the wrong thing?

    On the soft drinks thing, smoking etc this is where the ‘onging (and expensive) social programs’ are also a benefit. Not many people are actually aware that sugar is a dangerous product.
    Not that you’ll hear anyone is the Australian Govt saying that any time soon.

    Education, education, education.

    BTW the smoking thing may come up on your blog on drug use. I heard or read somewhere (will have to chase up the info) the people with mental health problems are most likely to smoke.

    One thing Howard did dispicably well (aided by A Current Affair and Today Tonight) was create the impression that everyone on welfare (except the deserving middle class and pensioners) was a bludger, cheat, no hoper or all three combined.

  53. Reb: you might notice a few mothers smoking at the local mall (umm, which country are living in, they’ve been smoke free for a decade or so now) while screaming at the kids. Are you going to penalize these children for the unfortunate accident of having been born to the wrong mother..whoops I mean parents. Amazing how seldom the responsibility of the father is mentioned.

    Oh that’s right, the fathers are all hard at work and it’s the mothers who are the wastrels.

    Umm errr. A stay at home mother is a welfare bludger??

    Well I put my hand up. I didn’t go back to work until our youngest started school.

    As a soon to be grandparent (1st grandie :)) I was taken aback about how expensive everything relating to babies is, from the cost of the safety seat, the pram, the clothes (although my mother and I have been knitting lots..even a ball of wool costs over $4.00 these days), cloth nappies, bassinet etc etc. Even though my son is in the Navy, he and partner are struggling to cover costs..much less hospital, birthing costs.

    Even with the Baby Bonus you are never going to make a profit if you decide to have children. Except the love of course.

  54. Sorry that should have read:

    this is where the ‘onging (and expensive) social programs’ I mentioned above are also a benefit

  55. I too have seen these mothers who seem to be able to afford the luxuries at their children’s’ expense…but I’m sure that there are many more mothers that display more of a balanced dedication to their offspring…it’s kind of a rotten apples and barrel thing.

    I remember as far back as the eighties when this career welfare motherhood lifestyle element was obvious and I wonder how the children grew up…I suspect failure but I’m sure there is more success stories that never see the light of day in the media arena.

    We decided to have one child after near ten years of marriage that put us in a position of not much economical sacrifice but this is not always the case and there should be some degree of assistance to these people.

    As far as abortion is concerned…I spent many years dealing with the hypothetical that if my wife got pregnant again, would we keep it or abort.

    I came to the conclusion that abort was not an option and if this did happen then we would have to find the strength within us to deal with the dedication that is warranted to rear another child…money never came into the equation.

  56. Scaper you know I wasn’t serious about the abortion/sterilisation thing?

  57. Of couse not, I was just relating our story to try to expand the discussion.

  58. 47. Min | November 8, 2008 at 9:14 am
    The problem with ABC appears to be symptomatic re the entire economy.

    Agree as usual, Min, but I believe it is also symptomatic of our society too – eg “…who cares – I’ve got mine…you lost…so what…not my peoblem?”

    What was that old phrase? “I’m alright, Jack!”

  59. Scaper you made an excellent point about strength and dedication. It is not always easy bringing up children.

    24hrs a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year. It requires patience, understanding, creativity and can be very exhausting – especially as you get older. Kids have such an inexhaustable energy supply. I often think if we could harness even 1/2 of our kids energy we could cut most of our electricity carbon emissions.

    This is why I mentioned social programmes earlier. Contrary to CA/TT legend people do not choose to be bad parents. Sometimes parental instincts are not as strong in some as in others. Much benefit to struggling families and society as a whole could be derived from long term programmes at different levels – school, pre and post maternity, some solely for mothers, some solely for fathers and/or both combined.

    Not only this, but there needs to be a network in place where struggling parents are given real, ongoing assistance. As far as I am aware nothing like this currently exists in Australia.

    If Rudd is serious about setting Australia up for the future this could be one of his considerations.

    There has been alot of talk about education improvement for children, but if there are problems at home the affect of much of this will be diluted.

    ‘Bad’ parents are often the product of ‘bad’ parenting themselves. The cycle perpetuates itself alot of the time. This is not saying their are exceptions to the rule.

    We need to break the cycle at some point. Education (not indoctrination) and real assistance should be available to struggling parents. Much child abuse and child mortality could be averted in this way.

    Maybe some sort of mentoring programme.

  60. Hello TB. Been there and having done that in the last recession, it’s not such a crook old thing to happen. People start thinking about things rather than the newest gadget..and haven’t there been so many of these worthless pieces of junk in the last decade.

    Last recession, preserves and home gardening became popular and remember ‘progressive dinners’. For the young’uns this is where you visit each other’s homes and each person provides a course (entre, mains, dessert and afters). Back to basics is the key.

  61. Scaper in relation to:

    “Tracie, I’m not sure it is talking down the economy, more like the reality and I remember a few articles about this crisis blowing a major hole in the budget…I can’t quote the figures because I’m concentrating on other matters but it made me sit up when I saw or read it.”

    I know what you mean about the reality thing.

    It is a real quandry for me as I am all for Govt transparency etc however can’t it also be self fullfilling prophecy? The worse we are told things are the more likely we are to panic, spend less, move investments etc?

    For example Stephen Long on Lateline last night:

    STEPHEN LONG, ECONOMICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems not, Leigh. In fact, the global economics team at Merrill Lynch based in London put out this report this week and what they’ve found is that – what they’ve done is that they’ve ranked nations across the world in terms of risk on a number of key economic indicators. Now, guess which country topped the list.

    LEIGH SALES: You tell me.

    STEPHEN LONG: Yes, gold for Australia. The riskiest nation in the world according to Merrill Lynch on the economic indicators they looked at.

    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2008/s2414058.htm

    I was gobsmacked when I heard this my first thought being ‘well that is going to encourage foreign investors to rethink current or potential investments here’.

    (Good on Merrill Lych. Weren’t they one of the banks that had to be bailed out in the US?)

    So while I am all for transparency I can see the reason why the reserve bank member said what he did.

    After all it is not like the Government ever tells us everything. They are more than willing to withhold pertinent facts for reasons of national security. Surely economic stability is considered essential to national security?

  62. Tracee. You of course are spot on. In my volunteer work with children with Asperger’s mostly it’s a matter of helping with learning parenting strategies rather than following the adage: A good slap never did me any harm.

    I think of a particular lovely lady. We started off with a little boy age 3yrs with no sense of discipline who was spanked several times daily. He of course became ‘immune’ to the spanking and the shouting. Solution: get down to eye level and speak calmly. Result: Answer, Yes Mum. It doesn’t always work of course, but it’s nice to have some successes.

    There is of course a lot more to it.

  63. “Tracie, I’m not sure it is talking down the economy, more like the reality and I remember a few articles about this crisis blowing a major hole in the budget…I can’t quote the figures because I’m concentrating on other matters but it made me sit up when I saw or read it.”

    Scaper it is a real quandry for me as I am all for transparency, however I do see the merit in ‘not scaring the horses’.

    Surely with pessimistic talk is the danger of self fulfilling prophecy.

    Stephen Long on Lateline:

    STEPHEN LONG, ECONOMICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems not, Leigh. In fact, the global economics team at Merrill Lynch based in London put out this report this week and what they’ve found is that – what they’ve done is that they’ve ranked nations across the world in terms of risk on a number of key economic indicators. Now, guess which country topped the list.

    LEIGH SALES: You tell me.

    STEPHEN LONG: Yes, gold for Australia. The riskiest nation in the world according to Merrill Lynch on the economic indicators they looked at.

    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2008/s2414058.htm

    Hardly the stuff to inspire confidence in investors both foreign and domestic. What is the bet many are reassessing current or potential investment?

    Anybody following all this will know that things are not pretty. In fact the cracks were beginning when Howard was still PM.

    Negative talk stops consumers spending – those that didn’t already slow down spending significantly even as far as 18 months ago (eg those who were ‘lucky’ enough to be put on an AWA)

    I think maybe some who saw this coming thought the best way to deal with it was to reduce wages so companies would have even more capital. Bad idea IMO, as this further reduces their spending power. Add that to fear of job loss…

  64. Is it possible for someone to check the spam bin? I have twice tried to reply to a comment Scarper made re Swan talking down the economy.

    No swear words or anything, but the comment does not appear.

    Or am I talking to much? (blushes).

  65. Min (60): Yes recessions are a good time for people to get back to basics. The trouble is once the recession ends some go on a spending spree to make up for the period of hardship (whether real or percieved).

    I think Cllive Hamiltons book ‘Affluenza’ should be compulsory reading in either Yr 10, 11 or 12.

    Our society has been conditioned to think that the only real or worthwhile measure of success is material wealth.

    Capitalists resist this of course because they want people to spend, spend, and spend till it hurts. I believe Bush even told Americans it was there ‘patriotic duty’ to consume big or something like that.

    Hmm home preserves, even better if it is your own produce. Much healthier too, especially if you don’t use chemical fertilizers. Unfortunately for many this is not an option as they do no have yards of any size, lliving in apartment buildings.

    The progressive dinners sound like a wonderful idea. So much nicer to have evenings at home with good friends, good music, good wine, than going out.

  66. “Tracie, I’m not sure it is talking down the economy, more like the reality and I remember a few articles about this crisis blowing a major hole in the budget…I can’t quote the figures because I’m concentrating on other matters but it made me sit up when I saw or read it.”

    Scaper it is a real quandry for me as I am all for transparency, however I do see the merit in ‘not scaring the horses’.

    Surely with pessimistic talk is the danger of self fulfilling prophecy.

    Stephen Long on Lateline:

    STEPHEN LONG, ECONOMICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems not, Leigh. In fact, the global economics team at Merrill Lynch based in London put out this report this week and what they’ve found is that – what they’ve done is that they’ve ranked nations across the world in terms of risk on a number of key economic indicators. Now, guess which country topped the list.

    LEIGH SALES: You tell me.

    STEPHEN LONG: Yes, gold for Australia. The riskiest nation in the world according to Merrill Lynch on the economic indicators they looked at.

    Hardly the stuff to inspire confidence in investors both foreign and domestic. What is the bet many are reassessing current or potential investment?

    Anybody following all this will know that things are not pretty. In fact the cracks were beginning when Howard was still PM.

    Negative talk stops consumers spending – those that didn’t already slow down spending significantly even as far as 18 months ago (eg those who were ‘lucky’ enough to be put on an AWA)

    I think maybe some who saw this coming thought the best way to deal with it was to reduce wages so companies would have even more capital. Bad idea IMO, as this further reduces their spending power. Add that to fear of job loss…

  67. Joni/Reb: Please disregard comment #62. I finally worked out how to embed a link in the comment. When I did that rather that putting the link in the text it went through OK.

  68. Tracie…been beering and brunching…I can see where you are coming from but slowly the pendulum is swinging towards the proactive zone.

    I believe the theory of this economic research should be made available…as long as these people are held to account if they are somewhat wayward.

    It may or may not be as dire as the predictions indicate…I’m quietly confident.

    We have the impetus of development in our favour that will bring us out the other side a improved progressive “society.”

    Don’t be concerned with foreign investment…just a matter of riding out the storm.

  69. “Reb you may be suprised at how unreliable some contraceptives are.
    The pill is particularly sensitive. The fact remains that unplanned pregnancies do occur.”

    TracieofFNQ, truer words were never spoken. 4 kids, 3 of whom were conceived while I was taking the pill.

    Re Stephen Long’s Lateline interview and Merril Lynch’s assessment of Australia’s risk rating, I don’t know if I’d place much credence in their expertise in light of their subprime risk assessment. I think they’d be lucky to get a -AAA rating on that record.

    “Merrill Lynch chairman and chief executive Stan O’Neal has retired after the company wrote off $9 billion worth of subprime loans last week. While he’s taking the fall for the biggest quarterly loss in the bank’s history, Mr O’Neal will receive a generous ‘golden parachute’, even by Wall Street standards.” Lateline Business, 31/10/08

    Interestingly enough, Stan O’Neal is/was an investment banker. Makes you think about giving credence to investment bankers’ pronouncements on the economy and how to manage it. LOL

  70. I grew up in Hawthorn Vic and there was only just enough room for a pocket handkerchief size vegie garden. You would be amazed how many tomatoes that tiny plot 5’x1′ produced over 50 years and how many jars of plum jam Mum produced from the tiny tree in the back yard. To add to it Dad grew chokos and pumpkins and trellised them over the wood shed.

    I still have problems having to buy a lemon. Who on earth ever buys lemons when all it takes is a potted plant on a terrace.

    In 6″ pots, I also grow parsley, mint, basil, thyme and of course good old reliable rosemary. Also spring onion..you don’t have to pull them out by the roots as per the supermarkets, just snip off when needed.

  71. Hey Min!

    We did a progresssive dinner for last Mothers Day (you may reacall our three families live in 35, 37,46 same street). The “twist” for us, was that each father designed and cooked a course. The five kids served it all up. Will we do it next year? You bet!

    As for food in the garden The Minister is the expert – I’ll miss some but here goes (26 perches in old measurement – normal suburban block)…cumquats, oranges, lemons, limes, bananas (first crop soon Lady Finger and Dwarf Ducasse – need a licence in Queensland), avocado (dwarf tree), asparagus, potatoes, spring onions, pumpkin, papaw, tomatoes, basil, thyme, parsley (all over the place), spring onions, shallots, tomatos, lettuce, Chinese cabbage – these are all growing right now – all I can remember…

    PS…we just bought a microscope – the g/kids have been very impressed so far, checking out insects and leaves, pollen, crystals (eg salt, sugar etc,) and anything else they can find. Its amazing what you can see at just 400x! Ours has two lights one under (traditional) and one above for 3D objects.

  72. TB. Tell The Minister my congratulations. Are you sure that she’s not 1/2 Italian :)) Hubby is 1/2 Italian.

    What started youngest off was pond water and now she is half way through her PhD in molecular bioscience. Mind you a microscope did put her off eating cheese and drinking non-filtered water. But that’s my Miss Silly Socks.

  73. “Re Stephen Long’s Lateline interview and Merril Lynch’s assessment of Australia’s risk rating, I don’t know if I’d place much credence in their expertise in light of their subprime risk assessment. I think they’d be lucky to get a -AAA rating on that record.”

    Jane I thought it was a bit rich coming from them. In the first comment I sent (which was lost due to bad formatting by me) I mentioned that I thought they were one of the ones who had got us into this mess, and then forgot to include it when I redid the comment.

    I am not convinced we can get out of this unscathed, though I hope we do. I just think when the talk is all negative it does make it harder.

    Golden parachutes for useless executives really get my goat. For workers the mantra is always ‘income should be based on productivity’ . But as has always been on set of rules for some another set for everyone else.

    In work, in law, in llife. Who said there is no class system in Australia.

  74. Min/TB we have a home garden too and grow whatever we can because we prefer to have organic food where we can.

    Not as extensive as your wife TB, but we have heaps of tomatoes of all sizes and colours. We have also had success with chinese veges such as wong bok, and bok choy. Lettuce and silverbeet seems to go well, as do eggplant (a small variety) and capsicum as long as we get it before the bugs, birds and wallabies.

    Haven’t had much success with herbs, our thyme and oregano always seem to struggle, but we can manage the easy ones like parsley and mint.

    We are constantly experimenting because we don’t use any insecticides (including pyrethrum, my other half is determined to use only biological pest controls), or chemical fertilisers. It’s all compost, and manures. So we share alot of it with the wildlife, but we think the payoff is worth it. As well as giving up meat, I am eating most of my vegetables raw so it is nice to have some homegrown.

    Unable to grow everything we would like, especially brocolli and cauliflower, cabbage but we try tropical varieties of these whenever we come across them. Sometimes I think it would be nice to live somewhere slightly cooler as this would increase our range, but then realise the cold would probably kill us.

    Did have chooks for a while as well, but didn’t have the heart to kill them when they got too old. Eventually gave them away and haven’t bothered to replace them.

  75. Tracie of FNQ..re thyme. It’s a plant from the mediterranean and so it’s hot dry summers and cool winters. In your climate I would grow it in a pot and don’t allow it to become saturated during summer, that is put it under shelter during the wettest months. Also, prune after it has flowered.

    And the same for oregano, it needs a well drained soil which gets tricky in FNQ.

    And tomatoes..sigh..one thing that I miss about Melbourne is being able to grow tomatoes. Fruit fly always beats us to it.

  76. 72. Min | November 8, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Dutch through and through, Min, but her parents emigrated from Friesland (North Nederlands farming country) in 1951 (she was a babe in arms) and her parents lived a happy but very “subsistence” existence – not much work/money and dirt roads in Brissy then – still dirt ten years later, when my family turned up!

    Ironically The Minister’s father, Tjalling (Charlie) was a road sweeper!

    I never met him, he died when The Minister was 13…he left her and three siblings with a mother who had a limited grasp of English and limited skills…they did it tough…and it has shaped TM approach to life now…very frugal in many ways…

    She’s baking an apple pie and date slice at the moment with our 6 yo g/daughter and 10 yo g/son happily assisting…we have a pool/snooker comp with our neighbours family (lived behind us for over 25 years) this arvo …next door at daughter’s home…we lost last time…got to rally for the family!

    Oh! and our g/daughter collected ladybirds from the veggie garden this morning and we checked them out on the internet to make sure they were “good” ones not the baddies…good fun all OK, no baddies! Our little ecosystem is working anyway!

  77. Min, thanks for the tips. Both the thyme and the oregano are in raised beds, all of our veges are. The trouble I have found with potted plants up here is they dry out so quickly – practically cook in the pots sometimes!

    But you know trail and error….

    TB, Dutch women seem to be amazing not only at gardening and cooking but also knitting, sewing, crochet, needlework and pretty much all the old crafts that now seem to be falling by the wayside with cheap imported clothes and the rising costs of raw materials (wool, fabric etc).

    I used to date a boy whose parents were Dutch, and his mother was exemplary in all of the above. She could knit a jumper in a couple of days – usually knitting to Deep Purple.

    Their daughter could make an outfit from scratch. She would see something she liked in a store, go home make a pattern and of she went.

    Such women always make me feel so useless.

  78. TracieofFNQ @73. Couldn’t agree more with your comment. What’s the bet that Puffbull will try to use it as a stick to beat the government with?
    I’m sure we won’t come out of this unscathed; I don’t see how it can be otherwise.
    As for those golden parachutes, it makes me so furious that these clowns can walk away unscathed from this disaster they’ve created with their pockets loaded with money and have the unmitigated gall to pass judgement on Australia’s credit rating.
    Even worse is the havoc they’ll wreak on the lives of so many people, but will never have to take responsibility for it. And when the world recovers, there they’ll be ready to do it again.

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