SUBJECTS: Affordable early childhood education and care
ALICIA PAYNE: Good morning. My name is Alicia Payne, and I’m the Federal Member for Canberra. And it’s my great pleasure this morning to be here at the Northside Community Services Civic Early Childhood Centre. Thank you to the team for welcoming us this morning. I’m really pleased to be here with our Minister for Education Jason Clare, Minister for Early Childhood Education Anne Aly, and Assistant Minister for Education Anthony Chisholm to talk about the wonderful news that last night our childcare policy passed the Senate. And this is fantastic news for families around Australia who will be able to have more affordable access to early childhood education and care.
This is great news for the youngest Australians who will have access to the fantastic benefits of early childhood education and care and for families who will find it easier to access this and return to work or increase their work, which too many have been prevented from doing because of the costs of childcare. This is particularly excellent news for families in Canberra because we have some of the highest childcare costs in the country.
I’m really pleased now to hand over to Jason to talk about that. Thanks.
JASON CLARE: Thanks, Alicia, and thanks to the Civic Early Childhood Centre team for letting us come here today to celebrate what is really fantastic news. This is good news for children, it’s good news for parents – and it’s really good news for children – and it’s great news for the whole country. Last night, the Senate passed our early education legislation, our cheaper childcare legislation, and today a little after 9 o’clock we will pass the legislation through its last stages in the House of Representatives.
The Australian people voted for this, and we’re delivering it. This was one of the biggest and most important commitments that we made in the election to the Australian people, and today we deliver it through the Australian Parliament. It will cut the cost of childcare for more than a million Australian families. That’s a great thing. It will provide real cost of living relief.
For the average Aussie family on about 120 grand, if you’ve got a child in care three days a week it will cut the cost by about $1,700 a year. So that will help. But this is also real economic reform, because if you cut the cost of early education and care, it makes it easier for parents to return to paid work and, in particular, mums. It makes it easier to be able to return to work or to work more hours or to work more days. And that means more skilled workers back in the workforce at a time when businesses are screaming out for more skilled workers.
And perhaps most importantly of all – definitely most importantly of all – this is great for children. Because what we know, what the team here at the centre know, what these little guys know, is that the more time you spend here, the more time you spend in early education and care, the better prepared you are for school, the better prepared you are for life. My cousin who works in this sector tells me the first five years of your life are everything. And what we’re doing here will make a really big difference. So, this is the trifecta – it’s great for children, it’s great for parents and it’s great for our economy.
I’ll hand over to Anne to say a few words, and then over to Senator Chisholm to say a few words, then happy to take some questions.
ANNE ALY: Good morning, everyone. Sorry, I was a bit distracted by all the wonderful children here this morning. Thank you so much for having us here. Indeed, last night the early childhood education, the more affordable early childhood education reforms passed the Senate. And I’m proud to be part of a Government that delivers on affordability for early childhood education for families, like the families of the children that you see here today. In fact, 1.2 million families right across Australia are going to benefit from the reforms that we passed through the Senate last night.
And as Jason mentioned, these are important economic reforms. You know, for primary caregivers, who are primarily women, the cost of early childhood education has often been prohibitive. This means that women can take on extra hours at work if they so wish. They can progress their careers and don’t have to take long pauses in their careers that has detrimental impacts on them later in life, later in their careers. Or they can go back to study if they wish themselves. And they can contribute to the household income. That means that we’re delivering through more affordable early childhood education. We’re delivering on easing some of those cost-of-living pressures that many families across Australia are feeling today.
So as Jason mentioned, this is also important reform for the children that you see here. We know that early childhood education makes a difference. Education in itself can be transformative. I know; I’ve lived that. But early childhood education has a particularly powerful impact and a particularly powerful opportunity to transform children’s lives.
So, I look forward to seeing and visiting more and more early childhood learning centres just like this to recognise the important work that our early childhood educators do right across the country and to watching children like the children that we’re seeing here grow and flourish in such wonderful, quality early childhood learning centres.
I’ll pass on to Anthony Chisholm.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Thanks, Anne. And it’s good to be here with you, Jason, and in Alicia’s patch as well. I think this legislation really sums up what the Government is about – it’s economic reform, it’s good for children, it provides cost of living relief, it eases some of those skills shortages that so many places around the country confront. And I spend much time in regional Australia and regional Queensland, and so many of those communities are struggling to find workers. So, this will unleash people who will be able to get back into the workforce and help fix those skills shortages that we confront as well.
It’s great to be part of a Government that delivers on its promises but implements legislation that is easing the cost of living, good for children and good for the long-term benefit of all of Australia. And I really thank the Senate for their support in getting this legislation through last night.
And I’ll hand back to Jason.
CLARE: Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Thrive by Five is calling for the Government to restore funding to Indigenous-led centres. Where is the government on that right now?
CLARE: One of the key elements that we added to this Bill was to ensure that all Indigenous children have access to 36 hours a fortnight of early education and care. And we did that because the data that’s come out in the last few months shows that the developmental readiness of Indigenous children to start school is going backwards, that it’s getting worse.
The data shows us that about 54 per cent of young Australians, four-year-olds, are ready to start school, but only 34 per cent of Indigenous children. Now that was 35 per cent four years ago. So, it’s getting worse, not better. The gap is getting bigger; it’s not closing. So that measure in this Bill is an important first step in helping us to close that gap, to make sure that more Indigenous children are ready to start school.
But that’s just the start. This legislation is just the start. On top of this we’ve got an ACCC inquiry that’s going to kick off in January, designed to focus on price. And then next year a Productivity Commission inquiry, which is a big and broad inquiry, to help us look at all of these issues – equality to equity to make sure that we can build a universal system, but make sure that all Australian children, whether they’re black or white, get the early education that they deserve.
JOURNALIST: Could you outline how exactly that Productivity Commission would help these children and these early childhood workers?
CLARE: Well, we’ll set out the terms of reference and the team that will run that inquiry next year. That is a big and broad inquiry. The Prime Minister has made the point a number of times that, just like we’ve got universal Medicare that helps to make sure that all Australians get that healthcare system that they need and deserve, just like we’ve got universal super to make sure that people can retire with the security that they deserve, we need a universal early education system that gives all children the early education that they deserve.
Just a quick shout-out to the Socceroos. There was a time when we never made the World Cup. I remember as a kid playing soccer, you’d watch the World Cup, and you’d never see the Aussies there. We’re there. That’s a fantastic thing. I was glued to the telly this morning watching the boys. They’re kicking the soccer ball around here as well. I know we went down to the French 4-1, but they’re the world champions. You’d expect them to be playing as fantastically as they did. But the Aussies played really well. And good luck to the boys for the next few games. I know there’s going to be a lot of Australians who are sad today. There’ll be a bit of pain au chocalat, I suspect – sorry, that’s a shocker – but I just wanted to say, Go the Socceroos. Fantastic job. And I hope that we win the next couple of games. Cheers. Thanks very much.