Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009: Consideration in Detail

Turning first to early learning, I note that there is $2.4 billion in funding over the next five years for early childhood education. In particular, I am interested in the $500-odd million over five years for universal access to preschool, providing every four-year-old in the country with at least 15 hours of preschool, 40 weeks a year. In my electorate of Blaxland, in south-west Sydney, I have contacted all the local primary schools and asked them how many children go to preschool before they attend kindergarten. Their advice is that it is around 50 or 60 per cent. The Parliamentary Library tell me that the national average is in the order of about 85 per cent, so I think that this is a policy which is going to be extremely beneficial for the young children of Blaxland, and I would appreciate the advice of the Deputy Prime Minister on how that will be rolled out and what she believes will be the primary benefit to people in my electorate.

For my second question, I am particularly interested in the $114 million that will be spent over the next four years to establish 38 childcare centres. I point particularly to the six autism-specific centres that will be developed across the nation. I think this is part of the establishment of about 260 childcare centres that will be built on school sites as well as on community land. Again I draw your attention to Western Sydney and the fact that a lot of parents do it tough. The Deputy Prime Minister mentioned inflation in her previous comments, and these are families that do it tougher than most. Rising interest rates-12 increases in a row-have meant that people in my electorate-

So these are families that do it very tough-tougher than most. I have often described it, in this place and in the main chamber, as the mortgage stress capital of Australia. It is also a place where there are a lot of families looking after children with autism.

I am interested in how the decision will be made about where those centres will be. I am very keen to see one of those centres in the region that I represent.

Finally, with the time available, I make the point that the Deputy Prime Minister has made some comments about the old public-private school debate. I believe, like you do, that funding should be based on need, and I am interested in the impact that that would have on my electorate, on the people of Blaxland.’