Monday, November 10, 2008

~ the sweet death knell of ABC Learning

The monstrous entity that is ABC Learning seems at last to be on the skids.

Readers of this blog may recall a couple of posts dedicated to the corporation and its venal progenitor Eddy Groves, and I feel obliged to wind things up with some sort of eulogy

My opinion was, and remains, that something as delicate as early child care should not be run for profit. As I understand it, a publicly listed company must by law attend to the needs of its shareholders before all others – yet the others in this case are very young children in the most formative periods of their lives.

Eddy Groves lived the high life, feeding off this teratological outgrowth of the free market system. He owned basketball teams, luxury sports cars, before, in September, he was at last removed from his position as head of the failing company amid reports of ‘dishonesty’. To my mind, he deserves rotten tomatoes and the stock. A ghastly parasite that would happily fatten itself on our very young ...

ABC’s fall into receivership gives our ostensibly socialist government an opportunity to shift early child care out of the private sector. Sadly, I've heard Julia Gillard say that ‘we are not in the business’ of child care - yet perhaps actions speak louder than words as the Federal Government – albeit of necessity – is providing grants to keep the centres running. We have a government run education system, do we not? What is so strange about extending its boundaries?

Somewhere along the way, it may be discovered that providing good child care at a reasonable price is difficult enough without skimming off the top. Always there will remain the question: should this dollar go to the shareholders or to the children? I caught a news-bite yesterday saying that 40% of the individual ABC centres were unprofitable. It’s curious, as financial overextension has generally been given as the prime reason for the corporation’s downfall. Who knows? Probably, along with the company itself, the structures that generated the appearance of adequate childcare - and they must have been complex – are themselves collapsing. In time, perhaps the receivers will learn the true costs of proper child care ...

Just woolgathering here, I’d like to make clear.

If parents choose a centre run by a company like ABC over a not-for-profit community or council-run centre, they are buying discount child care. The investors expect to be paid off. The skim money has to be found somewhere. That is why, for instance, staff are paid a minimum. In order to restrict expenditure, I am told, ABC centres buy their toys and general supplies from designated providers with whom the company has formed an agreement. One would assume that cost would weigh more heavily than quality in these relationships.

As the company crumbled, I read many articles and analyses. Pundits from the business desk treated it as they would any other company, in those terms. It could have been mining, IT, retail or pharmaceuticals. Where are we as a society, if we include childcare in that lot? Happily, amongst it all, I did hear one commentator question, in general terms, the worth and the morality of corporatised early child care. The Greens have suggested ‘that the government use the opportunity ... to lift child-care standards by running centres itself and turning others over to the community sector.” Right on.

Consider: as our children grow, we have the choice of sending them to private or public schools. If we choose private, it is almost always because we expect a superior grade of education. Imagine taking an ordinary old state school – like Pinewood Primary, where Polly goes – and running it for profit

I was going to suggest, with gladness, that this will be the last we hear of the monster Eddie Groves – but, once the forensic accountants have been through his books, we may yet be treated with the spectacle of his punishment.

~ eddie groves' evil empire
~ an exercise in physiognomy
~ more pernicious mischief from eddie 'the milkman' groves

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Ann O'Dyne said...

it may be that negative karma did him in.

It costs a lot per day per child, and I believe non-attendance due to illness still must be paid for.

It is a very emotional thing to leave a tiny person in the care of strangers, yet our current grasping society needs the Primary Caregiver parent to earn an income instead of devoting their day to raising a child who will not be a future drain-on-the-community.

Eddy looks a nasty piece of work though, as does his wife.
Bad karma man.

Sam Sejavka said...

yes, you do have to pay if your child does not attend. this used to rile me until i came to understand how hard it is to keep these centres going.

Groves is in a divorce settlement dispute with his wife. She's demanding, I think, AUD 63 million.

I read yesterday that Groves, reputedly, was given a golden handshake of AUD 800,000

cheers AOD

Ann O'Dyne said...

... "how hard it is to keep these centres going" ... while skimming off $800,000 golden handshakes?
and $63 million divorce settlements ?.... quite.

if they got so rich from it then they were charging too much, Comrad.

Sam Sejavka said...

The upside of all this is the sudden nationwide debate over the future of early childcare. At last, people are asking if profit-taking is ethical.

Diplomatic Julia Gillard was on telly this morning, making it clear that there was no necessary difference between the two models' standards of care. But, if they're both charging the same, and one is taking a profit ...
cheers Ann