No more band-aids: Greens hit back at Vic measures while Labor says more to be done
Both the Australian Greens Party and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) have issued responses to yesterday’s announcement of support measures for Victorian ECEC services by Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan, with the ALP concerned about gap fees and job security, and the Greens calling for permanent funding and an extension of JobKeeper.
Dr Mehreen Faruqi, education spokesperson for the Greens, said the support package is “unnecessarily complicated and austere” calling instead for the government to guarantee free childcare permanently and extend JobKeeper for all early learning workers.
“This package doesn’t work for families, who may still have to pay gap fees. It doesn’t work for educators, who don’t have a wage guarantee. And it doesn’t work for centres, who won’t get the funding they need” she said, adding that “the time is up for impromptu band-aids and ad-hoc fixes.”
Dr Faruqi said the early learning system is “completely broken” and in need of an overhaul, which should ultimately result in early learning being made permanently free.
“We would not be in this situation if early childhood education were properly funded and fee-free to begin with,” she said.
“This saga of stop-gap payments and packages through COVID-19 can be resolved through investing in early education, making it fee-free for families, and considering it an essential service with a properly compensated workforce. This is good for families, good for women, good for children and for our society and economy,” Dr Faruqi continued, paying special tribute to those working in the sector.
“I want to particularly acknowledge early childhood education and care (ECEC) workers. They have been on the frontline and they should be commended for what they continue to do,” she said.
Support welcome but more to be done
Speaking on behalf of the ALP, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development, Amanda Rishworth, said the party “welcomes any extra support for the Victorian early education sector” expressing disappointment that a plan was not already in place for the ECEC sector in anticipation of further lockdown measures.
“The rushed measures announced for providers today are incredibly complex, and we are concerned services will be left deeply confused about how this package will ensure their viability,” Ms Rishworth said.
She expressed concern for providers, who she said “have been working overtime during this pandemic to provide education and care for children. Now on top of that, they must try and understand these new complex arrangements before childcare lockdown measures come into place.”
Ms Rishworth said the ALP was concerned by Mr Tehan’s statement that the Government cannot compel services to waive gap fees, should families be directed to no longer attend early education during the lockdown period.
“This is not good enough. It is incumbent on the Morrison Government to ensure families are not financially burdened for a service they are not able to receive,” she said.
On the issue of security of employment for early educators, the ALP said “confusion and concern” remain, describing the employment guarantee as “very light on detail”.
“The Minister has many questions to answer – including whether it guarantees casuals will keep their jobs, and whether it guarantees pre-pandemic hours and income levels for educators,” Ms Rishworth said.
To understand more about the impact of the support measures issued yesterday, please see here.