Senate debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021


Early Childhood Education

1:30 pm

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Today and every day, I am proud to stand with early childhood educators. Mostly women, they are professional, they are dedicated, they are qualified and they are absolutely essential. These amazing women, and a few men, do their very best to provide quality early education in a system that is in crisis. It's a system that increasingly puts profits over people, a system that cuts corners instead of investing in our children and in our essential early educators, a system that is unaffordable and out of reach for too many families.

Jade works at one of Australia's largest for-profit early learning providers. She tells me that the food budget at her centre is only $1.50 per child per day. That delivers a diet of 'white bread and carbs'. The deck needs sanding, and children have splinters from it. One splinter was so bad the child was taken to hospital. The pay is close to minimum wage, despite the immense responsibility Jade and all educators have for our future generations.

This story is just one of so many in a sector where, today, two-thirds of long day care centres are for-profit. We're not talking about mum-and-dad operations here. Early education has become big business. Today $1.7 billion in revenue is collected by five large companies, three of which are based offshore and pay no tax in Australia. Eighty per cent of that money comes from taxpayers. Providers should be putting every cent of the money that they get from taxpayers and parents into quality early education, into affordable early education. It is a complete disgrace that they are not. Children deserve better, families deserve better and early childhood educators deserve better too.