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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3764


Ms TEMPLEMAN (Macquarie) (10:00): I've been visiting childcare centres in my electorate, from Blaxland to Blackheath and across the Hawkesbury, including Pitt Town preschool; Richmond preschool, which had its 41st birthday last month; and Greenhills in South Windsor. I've met with Euroka preschool in Blaxland, where parents have petitioned to see an increase in wages for their children's early educators. Early childhood educators are some of the lowest paid professionals in the country, receiving as low as $21 an hour. Parents know that the people they entrust their kids to deserve more.

One of the many things missing from the budget was funding for early childhood education. There was no new funding for universal access to early childhood education in this budget. The changes to the childcare subsidy that start in July are also causing serious concern, with one in four families worse off. One of the consequences being raised with me by parents is that two-parent families where one parent works and the other stays at home have been overlooked by the government's changes to child care. These are families whose combined family income falls between the $66,000 and $171,000 bracket. The new activity test means that a stay-at-home parent with a child younger than four will have to work or study a minimum of eight hours each week to access any subsidised hours. If you don't meet those requirements, your care isn't subsidised. When you're a mum or a dad who's the primary carer for a couple of small children, you may not also be working outside the home. In fact, I seem to remember not being able to manage to make it out of pyjamas some days when I was looking after two small children.

Long day care centres tell me the loss of subsidy is already leading to parents indicating they'll have to reduce or cut entirely their child's days of care, when we know the educational benefits good-quality child care provides. Parents and centres tell me they're confused and anxious about how they're going to be affected. Childcare centres will now be required to log the exact hours of when children enter and leave care—a deluge of paperwork. Parents will need to report changes to their work—a nightmare for casual workers. Parents and directors tell me information that clearly outlines the changes and the impacts on families hasn't reached those who need it most. The myGov site is difficult for many families to navigate, and parents report that Centrelink can't provide answers until after 2 July.

Child care is not simply, as this government believes, about babysitting so that parents can work. Everything we know about child development tells us the early education we do with children under the age of five, before they go to school, is vital; it's an investment in their future education and prospects. If children miss out on a preschool education because of this package, that is a fail for our newest generation and a fail for this government.