Question Time: Early Childhood Education

Ms SPENDER (Wentworth) (14:15): My question is for the Minister for Education. One of the biggest cost-of-living pressures facing families in Wentworth is early childhood education. In my pop-up office last week, several mums told me that childcare costs were affecting their decision to work or even have a second child. Last year’s increase in the Child Care Subsidy were welcome, but families are still struggling, even those who are relatively well paid. Childcare centres have told me that bureaucracy is adding complexity and costs to their centres. What will the government do to make early childhood education more affordable and less bureaucratic for childcare workers?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (14:16): I’d also like to recognise in the gallery Georgina Long and Richard Scolyer, both Australians of the Year, as well as Matthew Brown, the chief executive officer of the Melanoma Institute. They are great Australians and people who I’m privileged to call friends.

To the member for Wentworth, just like universal Medicare is a national asset and our universal superannuation system is a national asset, we want to build a universal early education and care system that can be a national asset for this country.

You asked about affordability. Come Monday, it will be one year since our cheaper child care laws came into effect and they have cut the cost of child care for more than a million Australian families. To give you an example, a family on, say, $120,000 a year combined income with one child in care three days a week, has paid over the last year $2,000 less in childcare bills than they otherwise would have had to pay because of the cheaper child care laws that we’ve put in place. In addition to that, I can tell you that come Monday that same family will get a tax cut of about $2,000 as well. That’s real cost-of-living relief.

What I can also tell you is this: since we came to government, there are more children in child care—60,000 more; here are more child care centres—700 more; and there are more childcare workers and educators—30,000 more. But we need more and we need to do more. That’s why the Treasurer announced in the budget a provision for pay increases for childcare workers.

I can advise the member that we will shortly receive the work of Professor Deborah Brennan from the University of New South Wales and the Productivity Commission to help us to take the next step to chart a course to develop a truly universal early education and care system.