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Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Page: 13918


Dr MIKE KELLY (Eden-Monaro) (15:39): Wasn't that amazing? We had an education minister who exhausted his knowledge of education in 7½ minutes and then abandoned the subject! That was incredible. And, of course, what did we switch to? We switched to profits and his share portfolio. He is more interested in his share portfolio than he is in the education of the three- and four-year-olds of this country.

I'm proud and pleased to be able to speak in support of the member for Kingston, our excellent shadow minister, who knows this subject right at the coalface. She is a mother. She has built on a tradition of great Labor policy. In fact, she's one of the too few women in this parliament. Those women reside on this side of the House and are not much reflected on the other side of the House. That's why the Labor Party understands these issues; it's because of the proportion of women we have in our caucus room. If those opposite had more women over there, maybe they would understand these things. If they visited preschools, maybe they would understand these things.

It was really a pleasure to be at a preschool this morning with the shadow minister and the shadow Treasurer. This is all about the funding. This is all about a national response to the urgent issue of boosting education. That proud tradition that I mentioned goes back to, as the shadow minister mentioned, the universal access to early childhood education program, which kicked off in 2009. We've had, from 2009 to 2019, a great track record of how well this program is working. There are no ifs, buts or maybes about whether it should continue to get funding. We should know that now. Those parents and those people working in the sector need that certainty now. We were out there this morning. They were saying, 'What's going to go on? What's going to go on for the 350,000 of these four-year-old kids nationwide, the 102,000 in New South Wales and the 2,047 in Eden-Monaro?' They want to know. They have already faced big challenges in getting places and getting into places. They said they are 200 places short in Queanbeyan at the moment. When we were in government, we were putting resources into getting those places—such as 50 new places in Queanbeyan—but it wasn't the only thing that we were doing there.

I was very pleased to be, in April 2011, at the KU Queanbeyan South Early Learning Centre in Karabar with the then Minister Peter Garrett. We were opening a wonderful new early childhood education facility, providing kids with a natural learning environment that is based on sustainable principles and to facilitate really excellent learning outcomes. That facility was one of the ones that was chosen by our Commonwealth government at the time and funded to design, construct and operate that new centre under our early learning and care initiative. We were putting real skin in the game to improve that early learning issue.

Why is that important? We know so much more now about the importance of early childhood learning. This is a critical issue. It's how we build the country of the future. If you want good innovators, good start-ups and the new economies of the future, it all starts at right at this pointy end of the education system, where we are building synapses, where we are building cognitive development and where we are building creativity and imagination. It starts from here. Studies and expertise have shown that learning outcomes are improved by investing in this. Via the shadow minister's great policy initiative today, which will extend this program to three-year-olds, we will make sure that they get the best start in life.

Tanya Latter and the crew at the Campbell Street Children's Centre understand that. We understand too that there are more than 3,700 three- and four-year-olds kids in Eden-Monaro who will benefit from this. I know that those parents are screaming out for this because they don't know whether or not they are going to have to pay higher fees for keeping their kids at these facilities or just keep them at home next year. This is really important for Eden-Monaro and important for the country.

I will say as well that what we are seeing is part of a Labor strategy across the education sphere. We have seen cuts to education by this government. They have done the strategy of taking four wheels off the car and then putting one back on and pretending that they have raised education funding. We know that the funding that is being applied now is less than the funding that would have flown under Labor's education program and with the full Gonski scheme. Those opposite have cut the funding that would have flowed to our schools and the funding that was delivering great outcomes, like the national schools partnership to my schools in Bega and Eden. The bottom line is that Australians know, with a moral certainty, that it's only a Labor government that will commit to and deliver a future for our kids. (Time expired)