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Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Page: 6077

Education Funding

Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (14:48): My question is to the Minister for Employment Participation and Minister for Early Childhood and Childcare. Has the government delivered fairer and more affordable child care for families and higher quality early childhood education?

Mr Hockey interjecting

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Minister for Early Childhood has the call, the member for North Sydney does not! The Manager of Opposition Business is on very, very thin ice.

Ms KATE ELLIS (AdelaideMinister for Employment Participation and Minister for Early Childhood and Childcare) (14:48): I thank the member for Corangamite for his question and his commitment in this area. He knows that our government have taken real action to help modern families with childcare needs and to make sure that our kids do not get left behind because we are a government that knows that we need a quality early childhood education and care sector if we are to build a stronger, smarter and fairer Australia. That is why we are incredibly proud of tripling the funding to the sector. We are proud of increasing the childcare rebate from 30 to 50 per cent and we are proud of improving the affordability of care for Australian families. But it is also why we have worked so hard to lift the quality of care.

We on this side of the House know that things have changed. We know that we can no longer view this sector as a simple babysitting service. This is about critical early childhood education and care. It is about investing in our children's future. We all now know that over 90 per cent of brain development occurs in the first five years of a child's life. All of the research clearly shows that what happens in these years is critical to their future educational attainments and social and health outcomes. That is why we have worked to successfully negotiate agreement with every state and territory government of every different political persuasion to work together to lift the quality of care for Australian early childhood education and care. We have done this with the new child-to-staff ratios. We have done this with higher qualification standards so that we can be sure that children get the care, expertise and attention they deserve.

We are the party that believes that education is the way we transform people's lives and ensure they have greater opportunities than the parents and the grandparents that came before them. We have invested over $25 billion in this sector going forward to see better outcomes for children's learning, to see a commitment to quality education, and to, of course, support parents' workforce participation. A Labor government would never risk leaving children behind by returning to the underinvestment that we saw under the coalition government. We know that families are deeply concerned that the opposition today will not commit to the current levels of investment in quality early education and care. We know that they are all over the place, flip-flopping about their commitment to these quality reforms, because it turns out that they do not actually care very much about education.

Only Labor has plans to build a stronger, smarter and fairer Australia. Early childhood education and care is a key foundation of a stronger and fairer nation, and only Labor can be relied upon to invest in the sector and to save it from the devastating cuts that those opposite have in mind.