Senate debates

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Early Childhood Educators' Day

3:31 pm

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services (Senator Watt) to questions without notice asked today.

I take note of Minister Watt's response to my questions on the pay and conditions of early learning workers. The minister was talking very big, the rhetoric was very big, but where is the action to address the low pay and the really difficult conditions that early childhood educators are subjected to? There is none. Today, on Early Childhood Educators' Day, thousands of early childhood educators have walked out of centres. Right now, they are gathering on the parliament's front lawns, to give a message to the government and to all parliamentarians to say that enough is enough. And the Greens are right with early childhood educators, as they shut down the sector today. We give them our full solidarity, but we give them more than that.

They can be assured that we will be fighting for better pay for them, for better conditions and for free and universal early childhood learning and care. Parliament needs to hear these calls for an immediate pay rise. Early childhood educators, who are now predominantly women, have been taken for granted for far too long, and they've also said, enough. They are burning out and they are leaving the sector in droves. Literally every week I meet some of these educators who are telling me that they are working more and more from 6 am to very late at night. These are not conditions that educators or any workers should be subjected to, and educators do deserve professional pay that reflects the skill and the responsibility of the work that they do every single day.

We know that early childhood education and care is an essential service, and it should be treated as such. It is critical for children in the early years of their development, and it should be well funded, it should be universal, and it should be fee-free. We know it benefits children, it benefits women, it benefits families, it benefits society, it benefits community, and yet the can has been kicked down the road. The Greens are calling on the government to bring legislation to lift wages and to improve conditions of educators and deal with the critical workforce shortage in early learning and care. These steps, hand in-hand with the Greens plan for free early learning and care for all, are absolutely vital to building a better future. So when will this government come to its senses and dump the $244 billion in stage 3 tax cuts, commit to essential public services like free and universal early learning and care, like giving early childhood educators and workers an immediate pay rise that they so deserve? We need to make sure that educators have the best pay and conditions, and we need action on this right now.

3:34 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm also responding to Minister Watt, and I thank the minister for his response and follow up. But I do want to also add that the previous government, who actually invented this new Aboriginality for sovereign people, created some heartache and pain for many families. We had an Aboriginal man who was deported, who died after waiting six years as an Aboriginal man in another country for this government to allow him back into the country. He died waiting, and he came back in a body bag as a result. That family are still picking up the pieces. The number of children that this gentleman had are still reeling in the grief of not only not seeing their dad for six years but then having their dad coming home in a body bag.

So this is an urgent plea to the government to fix this problem, this decision that the ex-government made which was clearly discriminatory. We had a situation where we had the government or the parliament making decisions on who's Aboriginal and who's not in this country, which is going into very, very dangerous territory. It's not up to any government to decide who is Aboriginal and who is not in this country.

Question agreed to.