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Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Page: 13984

Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (16:12): Today, I welcome Labor's incredible announcement of the biggest ever investment into early childhood education that this nation has ever seen. The preschool years are absolutely critical in giving children the best start in life. Under Labor's new two-year National Preschool and Kindy Program, around 700,000 Australian children aged three and four will get access to a universal 15 hours of child care.

Labor initiated universal access for preschool for four-year-olds, and it has been a great success. If elected, Labor will extend it to include three-year-olds. In my electorate of Newcastle, this will mean that around 2,000 three-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours a week of quality early childhood education. With 90 per cent of a child's development occurring in the first five years, investment in these critical years pays dividends throughout a person's entire life. This is great news for children, who will get the best start in life to ensure they reach their full potential. It's good news for families, who'll get relief from the ever-mounting costs of child care. And it's great news to be having a smarter, more engaged cohort of younger Australians as we stake our place in the global knowledge economy. This was borne out by a recent EU study which showed that every dollar spent on early childhood education for three-year-olds returns $4 to the economy.

While Labor is extending preschool from the current program for four-year-olds to include three-year-olds, the Morrison government won't even guarantee the funding for four-year-olds beyond this school year now. But this should be of no surprise. The Liberals just don't get the importance of education; they never have. They see education as a line item in the budget, ripe for slashing, rather than an investment in our national prosperity. They've cut billions from schools. They've cut billions from universities and TAFEs. And now they won't even guarantee preschool funding.

Labor has been able to fund this important investment in universal education by making tough savings choices. In doing this, we have unapologetically prioritised investment in health and education over tax breaks that largely benefit high-income earners. Countries across the world are starting to realise the importance of early childhood investment, but we are currently lagging behind the rest of the world. Indeed, the United Kingdom, China, New Zealand, France and Ireland have all expanded their early childhood education programs to include three-year-olds. It's time we caught up. Australian kids deserve better. Australian families deserve better. And indeed our country deserves nothing less.