Lack of regional child care a barrier for workers: BHP

Mining giant BHP wants the federal government to boost child care in regional Australia where access is a daily challenge.

Families can wait up to two years for a child-care place in Newman and Port Hedland, in Western Australia, and in Roxby Downs in South Australia, the mining giant said in its budget submission.

In Queensland, an assessment commissioned by BHP identified significant child-care shortages in Moranbah, Dysart, Blackwater and Emerald.

BHP said it has funded access to child care in these communities because its absence creates a barrier to attracting and retaining a workforce.

Aiming for a gender-balanced workforce by 2025, the social investments include educator recruitment, training and converting housing stock into family day care centres.

The federal government last month announced a Productivity Commission review of the early childhood education and care sector, to be headed by international expert Professor Deborah Brennan.

BHP said the commission should examine ways to increase the childcare workforce in regional areas, including more skilled migration, and solve the shortage of suitable facilities in regional areas.

There is potential for federal and state government public/private partnerships with big businesses operating in regional areas to construct or upgrade compliant childcare facilities, BHP said.

Unlocking regional investment is also important for the conglomerate to expand mining and processing, including in costly electricity transmission and transport links.

But with business investment as a share of GDP at near 30-year lows, BHP recommends an investment allowance for large-scale capital projects and new federal project offices to be set up around the country.