Tuesday, 15 October 2019
National Children's Week
Before moving general business notice of motion No. 166, I wish to inform the chamber that Senator Bilyk will also sponsor the motion. At the request of Senators Marielle Smith and Bilyk, I move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that it is National Children's Week from 19 to 27 October 2019;
(b) recognises that:
(i) the first three years of life set critical foundations for learning, development and well-being into adulthood,
(ii) early childhood education and care in Australia is disproportionately funded by private sources, such as parents and families,
(iii) only one in five Australian children attend a public institution for early childhood education and care – well below the OECD average,
(iv) childcare costs are going up for working families, who are already struggling with stagnating wages, a slowing economy and skyrocketing costs of living, and
(v) all Australian children should have access to quality education at the start of life, regardless of where they live; and
(c) calls on the Federal Government to make early childhood education an economic priority, and take steps to provide long-term funding certainty for four-year-old preschool, and extend the program to three-year-olds.
The Morrison government understands the value of early childhood education and care and is investing record funding of $8.6 billion this year, benefitting around one million families. Our childcare reforms have delivered a 7.9 per cent reduction in out-of-pocket costs for families and include a $1.2 billion safety net supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged children. Our government funds the majority of the cost of early education and care in Australia. We've also invested $2.8 billion in preschools since 2014, providing funding every year, including $449½ million in 2020. This has resulted in around 91 per cent of children being enrolled in a preschool program in the year before school. We're continuing our focus on boosting participation for those that need it the most through our preschool attendance strategy program.
The Greens are strong supporters of early childhood education and care. We believe that anyone who wants their child to participate in early education should be able to do so without any barriers, and early childhood educators should be paid a professional wage. We want to extend universal access to early childhood education to 24 hours a week for all three- and four-year-olds and fund the national partnership agreement on an ongoing basis. Let's also further support children and families by making child care free and by abolishing the activity test.