Three recent Labor Government activities and announcements have shown that the interests of the family are really pretty low on the priority list. Sure, plenty of lip service is being paid to families, but the reality is quite different from the rhetoric.
The first is this weekend’s 2020 Summit to be held at the nation’s capital. Ten groups of experts will discuss important issues of the day. Consider one of the groupings at the Summit, the Strengthening Communities, Supporting Families and Social Inclusion group. Of the 80-plus people taking part in this group, there is not one clear representative from the pro-family movement.
Instead we have all the usual suspects: bureaucrats, feminists and special interest group lobbyists. Thus we have arch feminist and former Labor MP Joan Kirner, and Kathleen Swinbourne, head of the Sole Parent’s Union lobby group, and spokesperson for the Women’s Electoral Lobby. But not one of the many pro-family experts is included.
Indeed, for nearly four decades now a number of important pro-family organisations have operated in Australia, and there are many researchers, analysts, thinkers, and policy experts from these groups that could have made some valuable contributions to this working group. But they instead were all ignored, or censored out.
So much for getting to hear what all Australians really think. Let’s just rope in the usual progressive leftists who can rubber stamp a Labor government agenda. The conference motto, “Thinking Big” should more rightly be changed to “Thinking PC”.
Indeed, consider the background discussion paper to the Family group. In it we find the absolutely standard PC pap: “No family structure is ‘typical’.” It tries to prove this by claiming that “Only 40% of families are ‘traditional’ nuclear families”. The idea is families come in all shapes and sizes, and no one type is any better than another.
Of course four decades of social science research have decidedly put that myth to rest. Family structure very much matters, especially in terms of the well-being of children. And the 40 per cent figure is of course grossly misleading. The truth is, families with two-parents and children still happen to be the norm. It is only by too tightly defining the notion of “nuclear” family that they can get away with such sleight-of-hand remarks.
The truth is, two-parent households with a biological mother and father are the best structure for children. But that will not be the line taken at this Summit it seems. Instead we will hear of the need for “inclusion” and “tolerance”. Expect to see resolutions for same-sex marriage and adoption rights to emerge out of this group.
The second recent indication of how families are faring under the new Government concerns the announcement made yesterday by the Prime Minister that affordable childcare should be available to all children under five by 2020. This uncosted and relatively radical proposal may be good news for some working parents, but it is not good news for small children.
The truth is, the research is again readily available: long periods of separation of toddlers from their parents, especially their mothers, can have a range of negative effects on the children. And many working parents have said they would prefer to be at home with their young children, but cannot because of economic constraints.
Thus we have more and more families with both parents at work, and kids are being left to the care of strangers. Some parents prefer this arrangement, but many would rather have one parent – usually the mother – home during the first few years of the child’s life. But economic pressures are making this more and more difficult.
The obvious solution – which pro-family groups have been arguing for decades – would be to look at why it is that it increasingly takes two incomes to make ends meet. Why can’t this Summit look at various options – including tax-breaks, family unit taxation, child credits, and so on, to ease the pressure on working families?
There are many possible proposals worth looking at. But that would mean dealing with the needs of all families, including single-income families, and families which believe that the interests of children should be put first. But this Summit and these proposals are all about looking after working parents, especially working mums. Nothing wrong with that, but we should not neglect the many other types of parents out there, who do not think dumping kids into institutionalised care is the best thing for them.
But feminism has long claimed that the only good woman is the career woman, and that homemaking and motherhood are basically indications of second class status. So the feminist vision reigns supreme here, and is deeply reflected in these Labor Government initiatives.
Third, and related to this, is yesterday’s announcement by Maxine McKew that she wants schools to remain open during holidays for what she is calling “vacation care”. This is simply more of the same. She wants – yet again – working parents to be able to dump their kids in care so they can spend more time in the workplace. Again, to parents who choose to work this way, and do not mind farming out their kids to strangers, this might be more good news. But to the many parents who think at least one parent should be around to look after the kids – especially at important times like the holidays – this is just another slap in the face.
The whole agenda here – as seen in these three examples – is the feminist agenda. It is not about real choice for all families. It is about the feminist vision to get all women into the paid workplace, and to minimise or downplay homemaking and motherhood.
And it is not just some staid family groups that are concerned about all this. Writing in today’s Australian, social researchers Peter Saunders and Jessica Brown had an incisive article entitled “Rudd’s baby farms not great for kids”. In it they argue that these are really Politically Correct centres, and will have some very real social downsides:
“The new PC centres will destroy social capital (something the Rudd Government claims it wants to strengthen). At the moment, most of these services are already available to parents, but they are scattered rather than concentrated in one place, and they are uncoordinated rather than being organised according to a single centralised formula. People get help from neighbours, family members, community clinics, churches, local play schools, and when they use these local resources it strengthens the social ties that create strong communities. Concentrating services in government centres may be more efficient, but it will erode local relationship networks.”
They also make some of the same points I have just been making. For example, they too warn of the negative outcomes associated with long-term child care of young children:
“The core business of these centres will be long hours child care, but despite what McKew and the Community Child Care Association claim, it isn’t true that this is necessarily good for children. McKew suggests parents’ stress levels can be reduced by long hours care, but she ignores evidence that cortisol (stress hormone) levels among young children spending long periods in institutional care are often disturbingly high, and this is surely what should concern us more. It is true that older children from very disadvantaged backgrounds can benefit from good quality formal care, but this is because the care they get at home is so appalling. Most very young children are better off raised by their parents, and the Government should look seriously at the evidence on this before spending billions of dollars herding them into government institutions.”
I have written elsewhere about the wealth of documentation available concerning lengthy periods in day care for toddlers. Yet all three of the above examples are about one thing: more day care for more young children for longer periods. This is not family-friendly policy. This is really anti-child policy. Yet the Labor government has so been captured by the feminists and the bureaucrats, that it cannot seem to see – or does not want to see – that when we mess with our children, we are messing with the next generation, and the future of our society.
If this Summit is meant to “think big” then that should mean thinking through the long-term social consequences of policies that simply dump kids in the care of strangers, and further separate them from the ones they most need: their own mothers and fathers.
This is really a “think small” Summit and a “think PC” Government. It is talking heaps about families, but its ideas and policies are all about the destruction of families, and ignoring the needs of our children.