When we think of a fun night out, we think of pokies. They’re entertaining, exciting and oft times rewarding. But rarely do the ideas of pokies and childcare occur in the same thought wave, unless we’re looking for a babysitter to watch the young ones while we cruise the local pokies clubs on a Friday night. Thanks to a new proposal by lobbyists, that could change very soon.
According to the front page of the Sun Herald, the Productivity Commission is looking at the possibility of giving Australian pokies clubs a tax break for presenting low-cost childcare services. Go ahead, read that line one more time; it wasn’t a typo. Anthony Ball, Executive Director for Clubs Australia, is lobbying for the commission to allow pokies clubs to open childcare centers in exchange for a tax break on gambling revenue.
A “credible solution”, Ball called it, arguing that, “Not-for-profit clubs are well positioned to deliver affordable access to childcare. The industry’s extensive community networks, sizeable facilities, geographic footprint and capital expenditure programs ensures that clubs can help fill service gaps where demand is most acute,” explained the director.
New South Wales MP and representative of Greens, John Kaye, views the subject in an severally contrasted light. “What an appalling message to send to children,” said Kaye, “have them holed up during the day in what are essentially gambling dens.” The Greens MP scorned the proposal, calling it an “outrageous” idea.
NSW Clubs commissioned a report which stated that approximately 1,300 pokies clubs would expand their current business portfolio to offer childcare services as their “primary purpose”, so long as they could claim the social service as a tax exemption.
A spokesperson for the NSW Education Department looked more sensibly upon the issue, saying that all applications would be reviewed, “irrespective of their ownership or organization type”. The primary focus would instead be on the services provided. The facility must, first and foremost, meet the eligibility standards of child health, safety and wellbeing.
Another realistic observation was presented by the NSW Council of Social Services, which feared many of the current not-for-profit childcare facilities in the area would be forced out of business. The group warned the Baird government that an abundance of clubs offering childcare well below the average cost would have a severe impact on the economic stance of existing non-profit providers, who would no longer be able to afford to pay their staff. A number of organizations, including Goodstart Early Learning, KU Children’s Services, The Local Government Association, Montessori, SND Children’s Services and Uniting Care all chimed in with their comparable opposition to the proposal.
This issue is sure to draw a great deal of debate among the community. On the one hand, combining gambling activities with children’s welfare just seems like a ludicrous idea, no matter how you spin it. On the other hand, it could be looked upon as a boon by parents who find it difficult to find an affordable childcare solution close to home. Ridiculous or not, Australian pokies and childcare services could be the merger of the future in New South Wales.