Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Matters of Public Importance
Early Childhood Education: Preschool Funding
You can see how important this MPI is by seeing all the people who have come to hear this final speech on this very important matter, and I thank the Labor Party for turning up. We want to put on the record the fact that the other side has been operating with a big lie about cuts to education funding. School funding during this government, since we've been given the responsibility, has gone up by 41 per cent per capita since 2013. Our childcare package has just added another $2½ billion to it. In childcare, the people that need the most help get the most help and the people that are working harder also get, pro rata, more help. You don't have millionaires getting childcare subsidies. It's focused on the families who are doing it toughest and are working the most and on the children that need the most help. We are delivering for 15 hours a week of universal childcare. The budget records demonstrate over the last three years we've increased, and the government and the department are still negotiating with the states for further increases.
Now, the best way to get more children to benefit is not to throw more money at it; it's to improve attendance rates. These figures don't lie. In some states, up to 40 per cent of the children don't even get to preschool. We are a top-up funder of preschool. The states run preschools; the federal government doesn't run preschools. We have got to get the states to stump up to their responsibility. We are not an ATM for lazy states that don't administer the areas that they're responsible for.
We all know that childcare and early learning are critical to the development of children's brains. This side has many people that have been parents, too, and many people that have been in education. I spent two years of my whole life in early childhood development and child health. I know probably better than half the pontificators about how important it is. But the figures they are using to justify doing preschool for three-year-olds are based on countries in northern Europe, where kids don't start school until they're six or seven. So when some countries are talking about preschool, they mean what we mean by the first year at school or in childcare. That's why there is this confusion about where the benefit is.
We have delivered $2½ billion extra into childcare, as well as extra funding into universal access to preschool. We understand that. We do care, we do deliver and we have not cut funding. What the other side is arguing, for those up there that don't appreciate it, is that their hypothetical increases—which they had no way of funding and which were pie-in-the-sky figures—were bigger than the actual 41 per cent increase. So what they're arguing is quite a semantic argument. A 'cut', to me, means less next year than there is this year. But there is 41 per cent more going into government schools around the states and territories of this nation than there was in 2013. That is a massive increase. It's the same in childcare and the same in the universal access to a year of preschool.
The other side always tries to claim the moral high ground, but we know how to actually deliver the money. We have brought our budget into no longer being in deficit. We're going to be in a balanced budget situation. We've grown the economy. We've got more people in employment and fewer people depending on government support and welfare. That is one of the other big wins for parents—that they have their pride, they have employment, and they have the ability to work hard and get ahead because we're giving them tax cuts as well.
So we're delivering for families. We're delivering for children. I won't take it from the other side that we have cut anything. We have actually increased far more than any other government, whether it's in education, whether it's in health or whether it's in defence, and we've cut taxes. We have grown the economy, we've delivered in spades for the families of Australia and for Australia's future citizens, our children, our most precious asset.