House debates

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Constituency Statements

Child Care

10:10 am

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Chisholm, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Today I rise to speak about an issue of growing concern in my electorate and call upon the state government to do their bit in this space. I speak of the issue of universal access to child care, and issue on which the federal government is incredibly proud of the initiatives that we have put into place. Some $955 million has been given to the states and territories over five years to achieve universal access to early childhood education. This will ensure that all children have accessible, affordable, quality early childhood education in the year prior to entering formal schooling.

It has been demonstrated time and time again through every education survey across the country and indeed across the world that getting that important year prior to school in an educational setting, in a kindergarten setting, will set you up for life. As we know, education does not begin when you go to school or university; education begins the day you are born and travels through with you to the day you die. You are constantly learning. That first year before you begin school is vital, and that is why, as a federal government, we sat down with states and territories and said, 'Let's introduce 15 hours for that year before people start school.' Money was given to the states and territories and a significant lead time to ensure that universal access was set up.

Now the state government in Victoria is stepping away from these concerns and saying that it is not enough, that they do not have time, and that they are not prepared to do it. This will put in jeopardy a wonderful initiative for all children and for all of our communities. We are blessed in Victoria to have some of the highest rates of kindergarten enrolment. We have access to both three- and four-year-old kinder. I know there are concerns about it, but that is why the time lines were introduced—so that these issues could be measured out.

Some $210 million is going to Victoria alone to deal with this issue. They came to the table via COAG and said they were prepared to engage in this process. They accepted the issue and were doing it. Now they are saying that there is not enough money. They also talked about the occasional care and Take a Break in our neighbourhood houses. Wendy Lovell, the state minister, is not being honest about the money given by the federal government. She has been given $210 million towards a process. Yes, money was taken out by the federal government, but it was a small proportion. A much larger proportion was given to the state government. They should be honest about that in their discussions with individuals. This is a state government failure to operate in this wonderful space of occasional care in neighbourhood houses. (Time expired)