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Tuesday, 21 August 2018
Page: 8022

Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (16:06): I rise today to speak about the parlous state of support for early childhood education and specifically for the Universal Access to Early Childhood Education program under this Commonwealth government. As you would be aware, Madam Deputy Speaker Wicks, kindy is so important for four-year-olds. It's so important that four-year-olds have access to great-quality early education, and yet this government—it has been revealed in Early Learning Matters Week—has a $440 million cut in store for kindergarten programs in this country once the agreement ends in 2020. In fact, it was made clear by this government that it has only extended the funding for kindergartens to the end of 2019. It's now been made clear that the agreement itself is expiring at the end of June 2020. The budget papers themselves make clear this $440 million cut to kindy programs.

I visited a number of kindies in my electorate recently, including at West End, Bulimba, Carina, Cannon Hill and a range of other places. I was on the kindy committee at Cannon Hill kindy only a few years ago, when my daughter was a kindy kid, and my husband was then, two years later, on the committee as well. We saw firsthand the importance that kindy has in kids' lives. We saw firsthand the significance of this amazing program. It is really important, as you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that kids be prepared for school. As you'd expect from the time frames I gave you earlier, my kids are now at school. My little one is in grade 1, and my older child is in grade 3. They were so well prepared for school because of the amazing education that they got as four-year-olds at the Lady Gowrie down at Cannon Hill. I want every other child to have the same opportunity that my kids had to get a wonderful early start in life through amazing educators at a kindy program, whether that's at a community kindy, long day care or some other form of the kindy program, like eKindy. eKindy came to visit me recently—they might have visited you too—to talk about the work that they do to provide kindy programs for kids in rural and remote areas.

Labor really understands the importance of kindy, and that's why, when we were last in government, we put together the universal access agreement. Since that agreement was signed, there has been a marked increase in the proportion of Australian kids who are enrolling in preschool and kindy—it's called preschool in some states and kindy in others. We've actually seen that head up north of 93 per cent of enrolments for Australian kids into the kindy program. That is a great achievement, which is why it was so disappointing, on the first day of Early Learning Matters Week, to see the confirmation in The Australian Financial Review that the government will be cutting their funding to the universal access program. The Liberals had signalled their intention in the May budget, which only provided for funding for next year, as I said. I keep thinking they're going to extend it by five years. We now know there is no intention to fund the universal access program beyond the end of 2020.