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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5212

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (16:13): I thank the member for Farrer for her question. One of the things that I think have been most notable in the development of better provision of education and care for young Australians before they enter school has been the absence of strong support from those opposite for the reforms that we have had underway and the investment that we have made. I really think it boggles the mind that the member is standing up and quoting a website to me and talking about anecdotal information that she has received, when I look at the budget and see the most significant ongoing continuing investment in the early childhood and care. I will come to some of those questions in a second, but let us be really clear about it: we have invested record amounts in early childhood care and education, and the government, those that work with the government and members in this Federation Chamber are extremely proud of that significant and ongoing commitment.

Let us look at it. It is about $25.1 billion over the next four years. This makes a direct impact on the lives of families and children. Yes, there is $22.1 billion in direct childcare assistance to parents and that is more than triple the investment. I am very pleased to have my colleague Minister Ellis here with me in the Federation Chamber. I am sure she will be more than willing to take additional questions on this. So there will be $655 million over the next 18 months in the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education and $300 million, which went to the source of the member's question, to deliver a pay rise to early childhood workers through the Early Years Quality Fund. Before I address those issues, I want to put to the member for Farrer, given the seat she represents, that the earlier response I gave to the shadow minister on the importance of the National Plan for School Improvement is particularly apposite for her, given the fact that she has students and schools in regional—

Ms Ley: Deputy Speaker, we are halfway through the answer. This has nothing to do with the Gonski reforms in New South Wales.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Grierson ): Are you making a point of order?

Ms Ley: On a point of order, can the minister please come back to the three areas of my question?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is your time, too, member for Farrer.

Mr GARRETT: I think I have given myself sufficient time to deal with the shadow minister's questions and I make the point that, if she is concerned about the delivery of education in regional Australia, she will support the National Plan for School Improvement. Certainly we think the establishment of the Early Years Quality Fund goes some way towards dealing with some of the challenges facing those who work in the early childhood care and education sector and we certainly do, as you know, expect the Early Years Quality Fund advisory board to take up its responsibilities as identified as this initiative is developed in time. I am happy to answer a couple of those questions on behalf of the government and to make the point that eligibility criteria and assessment criteria will in fact be considered by the advisory board, and that is as it should be. It should not be any other way.

When you refer to the wages schedule, that is yet to be approved but certainly the government has announced that certificate III will get the $3 up. Again, the member asked me a question about the proportion covered. That will depend on the size of the service, the number of educators and the hours worked. But here is a bigger question which ought to be addressed as I respond: will the coalition ever commit itself to continuing the support for early childhood care and education and the national quality framework which has been the hallmark of the most substantial reforms and delivery in early childhood care and education we have seen in this parliament. That is the question you have to answer here. You have shown no commitment whatsoever to these reforms. We hear nothing from you about the sort of commitment you are likely to make but rather a little bit of petty politics around the side, while the substantial important reforms are delivered quite often in partnership with the states which you and your political partners are a part of. We will continue that commitment over time.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you, Minister. I say to members that questioners so far have all been heard in silence. It would be appropriate that the minister is also heard in silence.