Friday, April 21, 2023

Sending little kids to childcare is not good for them

Judith Sloan mentions a number of considerations below but fails to mention that most children in childcare have much higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol -- compared with their levels at home. Chidcare is DEMONSTRABLY bad for chidren. You can see it at the physical level. Organizational childcare stresses and worries the little kids. They feel afraid, not secure. It destroys their confidence in their environment. And it sometimes has lasting bad effects. See, for instance:

Children develop best in a loving home. It has to be a really bad home for childcare centers to be beneficial

I have a confession to make: I never sent my children to childcare. They did go to kinder/preschool when there were four for a few days each week during the school term, but that was it. Sorry, kids.

Actually, I’m not sorry. While I was at work, they were happy at home being looked after by the same loving nanny we were lucky to have. Even to this day, I’m not convinced of the benefits of centre-based childcare, particularly for very young children.

I get it; a lot of parents have no choice but to place their kids in childcare centres for financial reasons. It’s only by going down this path that the generous taxpayer-funded subsidies are available. Notwithstanding the restricted hours these centres operate, they do provide potentially more reliable care than (expensive) nannies or relatives during the core working hours.

I also get why many parents want to believe that centre-based childcare, including the incorporated preschool programs, offers their children a range of benefits such as socialising with other children and play-based learning (whatever that is). Less mention is made of the frequent bouts of infectious diseases that children pick up at these centres and the rapid-fire phone calls from management to collect the children within five minutes.

It has got to the point where parents are brainwashed into believing that it is their civic duty to plonk their very young child in a childcare centre as soon as possible after birth and return to the workforce in order to boost the economy and pay taxes. Throw in a bit of self-actualisation and is there really any choice?

Mind you, the busybody feminists whose aim in life is to have every woman working full-time, pre- and post-partum, remain frustrated that so many young mother apparently are happy to work part-time while their children are young.

To be sure, many more women with children now participate in the workforce than was once the case. In 1991, just under 60 per cent of women with children under the age of 15 worked; by 2020, this proportion had climbed to nearly 75 per cent. But the majority of mothers with young children (4 and under) opt to work part-time.

These same activist feminists, who have generally had dream runs in the workforce ending in cushy corporate board positions, argue that it is the way that childcare fee subsidies work that explains the dominance of part-time work among new mothers. Those extra days of work are simply not worth it. It doesn’t occur to these campaigners that most mothers actually prefer to spend as much time as possible with their babies and toddlers because this is good for the children and for them.

This relentless advocacy has all the hallmarks of the old Soviet model of child-rearing. Women were forced to leave their very young children (cared for by women workers) in order to undertake full-time jobs to support the communist state. The idea that mothers would be given any choice was of course anathema to the autocratic rulers – they must be made to work for the state.

The early model of the kibbutz in Israel also involved communal child-rearing in which some women would be assigned the role of looking after all the children while the other women undertook the various other tasks at hand. In some instances, parents wouldn’t see their children all week. Unsurprisingly, this feature of the kibbutz ultimately didn’t survive as parents expressed their desire to be fully involved in bringing up their own children.

So let’s go back to current day Australia and examine the articles of faith to which the Labor party (and to some extent, the Liberal party) adhere. They are: centre-based childcare is good; it must be heavily subsidised by taxpayers, with the most generous assistance being directed to those on the lowest incomes; renaming it early childhood education and asserting that it is beneficial for children, both in the present and the future, provides the basis for even more generous subsidisation, even ‘free’ childcare.

In Labor’s case, you can throw in the potential for the unionisation of childcare workers and the scope for generous pay rises based on either arbitration or enterprise bargaining. Let’s face it, there’s no hope of getting nannies into the union and mothers staying at home are no good either.

One of the most astonishing aspects of the debate about childcare and the role of government is the relative absence of research on the impact on the children. There is a very old study – the Perry study from the US – that is often quoted to support the benefits of structured, free-of-charge childcare. But the numbers in the study were tiny and the parents selected for the study came from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds. (Some of the fathers were in jail.)

It is hardly surprising that those children who attended childcare compared with the control group did better on a number of measures, including behaviour, progress at school, staying out of jail and the like. But there was never any scope to generalise the findings because they were mainly driven by the socioeconomic backgrounds of the treatment and control groups.

A more recent study and quoted by Rod Liddle in this magazine relates to childcare in Quebec. The provincial government decided many years ago to provide close-to-free childcare; the rest of Canada did not follow suit. According to Liddle, ‘studies showed a significant development decrease in Quebec children relative to those in the rest of Canada’. He quotes some alarming figure in relation to ‘social competence, external problems and adult-child conflict.’

Perhaps the most worrying finding is that the negative effects of childcare appear to be long-lived. ‘By age 15, extensive hours before age four-and-a-half [in childcare] predicted problem behaviours… even after controlling for daycare quality, socioeconomic background and parenting quality.’

In the case of Australia, we are only too aware of declining school student performance over the past decade and a half, coinciding with a period of rising participation in centre-based childcare. Of course, this correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation but it’s not a great start for the advocates of further government subsidisation of childcare.

A final word of warning: when you read about the benefits of early childhood education in Australia, a lot of conflating goes on. Centre-based childcare for very young children is not early childhood education and a few days per week of preschool for three- and four-year-olds is not full-time childcare.

Keep these differences in mind when assessing the self-interested demands being made by the various lobbyists. ?


Govt to spend $150 million on reef water quality woes

Farm and other runoff affects only close-in reefs. The Barrier reef is not affected

The federal government will spend $150 million on a program to boost water quality on the Great Barrier Reef after a UN mission said the site should be listed as in danger.

The program will repair land in catchments that are dumping large amounts of fine sediment into rivers discharging water to the reef, smothering coral, killing seagrass and increasing pollution loads.

It’s part of a $1.2 billion spend on reef health previously announced by the Albanese government, which has promised to fight an in-danger listing for the site.

The recommendation to list the reef as a World Heritage site in danger came late last year. It was based on what UN experts saw when they visited Australia about a year ago, when the Morrison government was still in power.

The UN report took Australia to task for not doing enough to tackle the key threats of climate change, poor water quality and harmful fishing activities.

In announcing the program on Thursday, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the $150 million would fund work including fencing, revegetation, grazing management of cattle, and structural works to stabilise gullies and riverbanks.

“Sediment can coat seagrass beds, it can kill off seagrass, it can affect the health and even be responsible for the loss of animals and plants that make our reef special,” Ms Plibersek told reporters in Townsville.

“By dealing with sediment we are of course restoring the riverbanks and creek banks that’s good for the land, and we are protecting the reef from one of the greatest threats identified for the future of the reef.”

She said catchments along Queensland’s coastline will be targeted, with funding allocated pending the complexity of each individual matter.

Traditional owners and Indigenous groups will help identify priority projects.

“What we’d like to see is land care organisations, traditional owner groups and others come forward with proposals that will make a significant difference to the quality of the water flowing into the reef,” Ms Plibersek added.

The program will be carried out in collaboration with the Queensland government, which is spending $75 million on its own water quality program.

Special envoy to the Great Barrier Reef, Sentator Nita Green, said the funding is pivotal in rectifying inaction over the last decade.

“We are taking the divisiveness and the debate out of this conversation…to make sure that we can invest in our land holders, in our farmers and our traditional owners to make such a big difference to the Great Barrier Reef for generations to come.”

In its report last year, the UN mission said Australia’s efforts were not sufficient to protect the reef’s outstanding universal values.

It found management frameworks, strategies and plans had not been fully implemented, particularly in relation to water quality and fishing.


Beetaloo Basin cattle company loses Supreme Court bid to stop fracking exploration

A gas company will be able to continue exploration in the Beetaloo Basin after a cattle company's appeal to stop the activity was dismissed by the Northern Territory Supreme Court.

Rallen Australia, owned by the Langenhoven-Ravazotti family, had sought to overturn a February 2022 NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision that allowed Tamboran Resources' subsidiary Sweetpea Petroleum to come onto Tanumbirini Station to explore for gas.

Justice Peter Barr dismissed all eight grounds of appeal that Rallen's lawyers had argued.

The case was seen as a precedent for legal interactions between pastoralists and gas companies because it was the first to test mandatory land access laws introduced in the NT in 2021.

Tamboran chief executive and managing director Joel Riddle said in a statement that he was "pleased with the NT Supreme Court's ruling" and was looking forward "to working closely with all our stakeholders in progressing the development of the Beetaloo Basin in a safe and responsible manner".

"As the first challenge of the NT government's changes to the legislation and regulations permitting access for exploration purposes, the decision sets an important precedent for future operations across the Beetaloo Basin," he said.

"We are pleased to lead the way by securing this important precedent and ensure that the benefits of the decision will extend to many stakeholders."

Rallen has fiercely opposed any gas exploration on its properties and director Pierre Langenhoven previously declared the pastoral and gas industry "cannot coexist".

Mr Langenhoven said Rallen would "consider this decision and our appeal options" for the Supreme Court decision.

"We are disappointed in the decision, as the land access agreement provides minimum protections to pastoralists and puts all the risk and all the cost onto the pastoralist," he said in a statement.

"This sadly sets a precedent for poor quality and punitive agreements moving forward."

Since then, Mr Langenhoven said he felt like he had "lost control" of the part of Tanumbirini within Sweetpea's permit area. "I cannot protect the station and my cattle from the impacts of fracking, all I can do is monitor and seek compensation after the damage is done," he said.

Rallen Australia will receive a minimum of $15,000 compensation per gas well drilled on the property as a part of its land access agreement with Sweetpea.


Electric dreams still have long way to run

The government’s electric vehicle and lower emissions strategy confirms a golden rule of the net-zero transition that unfailingly hits the poor and favours the rich.

That rule is to make existing technologies more expensive to make the ones favoured by advocates appear reasonable by comparison. This is true for electricity, where increasingly the cost is being hidden in consolidated revenue through cascading subsidy payments both to producers and, increasingly, end users.

The dream of a world in which motorists get about in electric-powered cars confirms the trend.

Ideally, a single price on greenhouse gas emissions would remove the need for ad hoc policies. But in the absence of this we are left with state, local and federal schemes, some of which equate to a carbon price of thousands of dollars per tonne.

Electric vehicle schemes are at the top of the tree in terms of cost per tonne but nowhere near enough to satisfy the green groups who think more should be done to promote their use.

The government’s latest policy is in addition to generous tax breaks and exemptions. Chris Bowen has set a target for six outcomes: a greater choice of EVs, a reduction in transport emissions, more charging stations, an increase in domestic manufacturing and recycling with the ultimate goal to make it cheaper for people to run their vehicles.

For this to happen, however, existing technologies will inevitably become more expensive, to compensate.

The plan to introduce a fuel efficiency standard follows what is happening in other parts of the world. The US has just introduced a scheme calibrated ultimately to make EVs the only reasonable choice to make on financial grounds.

The EPA is using its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate vehicle emissions with the aim of making EVs account for about two-thirds of car sales in 2032, up from 6 per cent last year.

The EPA justifies its intervention, which will increase costs, because of subsidies that are available under President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

There are no details yet on where the government’s new policy will land but EV lobby groups are telling Bowen to go hard.

Attempts to tighten emission laws have a troubled history in Australia. This is because car makers will be forced to increase the cost of the cars people want to buy to subsidise the ones they presently can’t afford or don’t want to drive. The emissions target is for the overall fleet sold so, in effect, internal combustion car buyers will be forced to subsidise those who want to drive EVs.

The hope is that car makers will make more less expensive EV models available. But much of the cost of EVs is in the battery, which are getting more expensive.

Environmentally, charging an EV today still requires plenty of coal-fired power.

There is no doubt the driving world is changing. The big selling point for emissions standards is that without new rules Australia risks becoming a dumping ground for less efficient models the rest of the world won’t take. Everybody wants to breathe fresh air.

But it is all part of a transport vehicle transition with an as yet unknown destination. Europe has pulled back from an outright ban on internal combustion engines in favour of low-emissions fuels. The US is under pressure to do the same. The best that can be said is an emissions standard leaves the door open for new technologies.

This is a journey that still has a long way yet to run.




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