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Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Page: 13921


Ms LAMB (Longman) (15:48): It is about time for a fair go for Australian kids. That's what it's time for. They've been ignored and neglected by this government for far too long. This is a government that sides with the top end of town far too often. Clearly, there just aren't enough CEO toddlers in this country for them.

I know just how important the first few years of a child's life are for their development. I've seen it firsthand. I'm a mum of four boys. I've watched them grow and develop from birth into curious and inquisitive toddlers. They devoured knowledge and information at a truly incredible rate. In fact, you could probably compare it to their appetite for food. Any parent of young boys knows their appetite for food. Well, they consume knowledge and information at exactly the same rate. But, of course, their learning continued through their schooling right through to where they are today: bright young men—four men I'm very proud of. But it was really during their toddler years that I saw this huge burst in personal development. That's the reason they're called the formative years after all, isn't it?

This is why the Liberals' devastating cuts to early childhood education defy any reasoning at all. Around 350,000 four-year-olds across Australia took their first big step into early learning this year, but, because the Liberals have refused to extend preschool funding for four-year-olds beyond this school year, it may be their last year that they get the opportunity to access preschool or kindergarten. This cut equates to regular Aussie families losing out on over $1,200 of funding per child per year. I know that, for many battlers and working families in my community, this will just be devastating. This will mean that their children will miss out on an early childhood education; I ask you: where do you find an extra $1,200 a year in your family's budget? Where do you find that so your child gets an early childhood education?

I've worked in the early childhood education sector before. I know how kids and families benefit from this funding. But you really have to ask: what sort of government invests in banks instead of brains? What sort of government invests there instead of investing in the brains of our children? What sort of government develops partnerships with travel agencies instead of teachers? What sort of government does that? But you also have got to ask: what sort of government values the egotistical, arrogant, argumentative behaviour that we have seen demonstrated in this House instead of investing in and valuing early childhood education of our children, the social and economic future of our country? What sort of government makes those decisions about where they invest, where they value, where they develop partnerships? They have just got this all wrong.

Early childhood education is important. It's vital. It's so we ensure our kids—kids like mine, kids like yours, kids all over this country—have access to a great education from an early age. Labor is determined to provide this not only for every four-year-old in Australia but for every three-year-old. The sooner we get an early childhood education to these kids, the better off their start will be in life and the better off they will be. We've announced a national preschool and kindy program which will deliver the biggest ever investment in early education, expanding access to 15 hours a week of quality early learning for every three-year-old. And we'll also work with the states and territories and the sector itself to deliver 90 per cent enrolment of three-year-olds by 2023. This is a huge announcement.

While the Liberals are neglecting early learning in Australia, we are investing in it. While they neglect, we invest. This is really long-term forward thinking that we haven't seen displayed by this Liberal government, but it's something that Australians will get if a Shorten Labor government wins the next election. We know the educational, social, health and economic benefits of early learning. We know how powerful a weapon it is in the fight against inequality when you get a great start in life, when you get a great education from your early years.