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Thursday, 27 June 2013
Page: 7279

Early Childhood Education and Care

Mr GEORGANAS (HindmarshSecond Deputy Speaker) (14:47): My question is to the Minister for Early Childhood and Childcare. How is the government investing in high-quality child care and early childhood learning for families?

Ms KATE ELLIS (AdelaideMinister for Employment Participation and Minister for Early Childhood and Childcare) (14:47): I thank the member for Hindmarsh for his question. Members may be aware that earlier this week we saw a really appalling attack on our early childhood workforce when conservative commentator Judith Sloan, in a blog, labelled our childcare workers as 'dimwits' and said that they came from 'second-rate' universities, and then defended those comments on national television.

I want to make it very clear right here that we know that our workforce is made up of passionate, dedicated and qualified early childhood educators. They are early childhood educators to whom we owe much. We know that all of the research shows that these professionals are, in fact, shaping the lives of our children in their critical early years—and they must be recognised, they must be valued and they must be rewarded for that hard work that they do.

Earlier this week this House voted on the question: do we support more early childhood professionals earning more in return for the hard work that they do? I am incredibly proud that this side of the House voted a resounding yes to that question. We know that there are already many educators who are earning above award rates through their centres' enterprise agreements, and we support that. But what we want to do through the $300 million Early Years Quality Fund is ensure that we support more long-day care services to be able to pay their staff more and to keep child care affordable for the parents who are using that centre. This obviously benefits the staff but it also benefits those children—and it benefits the parents knowing that they are dropping their children off with staff members with whom they have ongoing relationships, trusts and bonds. This is another part of the positive plan that we have for modern Australia. It builds on the very real reforms that we have made in this sector and across the childcare industry.

We know that there are two camps when it comes to early childhood education and care. There are those who hold offensive, outdated views and label our workers as a babysitting service, and there is Labor—Labor who has tripled funding to the sector; Labor who has increased affordability of child care; Labor who has lifted the quality of care; and Labor who is making sure that more educators earn more money. We cannot risk turning back the clock on this sector. We are proud of the very real reforms that we have put in place for the benefit of children and parents right across Australia.

Mr Abbott: Speaker, on indulgence, could I just say that I support moves to improve the professionalism of our childcare sector; after all—

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.