Bill Shorten reconfirms Universal Access guarantee and efforts to equalise pay in Budget reply

by Jason Roberts

April 05

Bill Shorten, Leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), reconfirmed his party’s commitment to funding for Universal Access to preschool and kindergarten for three and four year olds for 600 hours a year in his 2019 Budget reply speech.

 

“We will guarantee Universal Access to preschool or kinder for every three and four year old in Australia for 15 hours a week, 40 weeks a year” he said before adding “Two years of preschool is global best practice and it’s only just good enough for our children.”

 

The reconfirmation comes in the wake of an underwhelming outcome for the ECEC sector in the Morrison Government’s 2019/20 Federal Budget handed down on Tuesday 2 April in which an extension of the National Partnership on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education was given for one more year and no signalling on extending funding to three year old funding was provided.

 

The ALP first announced their National Preschool and Kindy Program plans in October 2018.

 

At the time, the announcement was dubbed “the biggest investment in early childhood in our nation’s history” , with the plan highlighting a commitment to guarantee kindy and preschool funding indefinitely, and broaden the reach of the program to include three year olds.

 

As part of the program, the ALP also committed to a $100 million facilitation fund to support the roll out of the package.

 

In addition, to Mr Shorten’s commitment to Universal Access he noted that his Government, if elected, would focus on addressing the long standing issue of educators wages, noting in particular that his government would launch a “new push for better pay in women dominated industries (sic.) like early education.”

Although little detail is available as to how the ALP will achieve this objective, it is consistent with their previous position on wage equity and will no doubt be well received by peak bodies and unions within the ECEC sector that have advocated consistently for a “quality, well remunerated and professionally recognised early years workforce” and for equal pay.   

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