Federal Opposition Leader’s Budget in Reply welcomed by ECEC sector
Key advocates and peak bodies within the early childhood education and care sector, including the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA), the United Workers Union (UWU), Early Childhood Australia (ECA), the Early Learning Education and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) and Goodstart Early Learning have responded favourably to yesterday evening’s Budget in Reply speech made by Federal Opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, who pledged to investigate the merits of a 90 per cent subsidy for all Australian Families should Labor win the next election.
“This pandemic has pulled the curtain back on the critical role our sector plays in supporting our economy and allowing all working parents – emergency and healthcare workers amongst them – to return to the workforce and contribute to the recovery and growth of our economy,” ACA President Paul Mondo said.
“We strongly support an increase in government funding for those families who need it. In a time of high unemployment, affordability shouldn’t be a barrier for families who have the opportunity to work and therefore need additional days at their early learning service.”
Speaking on behalf of the early childhood workforce it represents, UWU commended the Labor Government “for recognising that fixing affordability for families is only half of the problem in early childhood education,” and committing to review early childhood wages, saying “we know the system is broken for educator wages, who remain insultingly low paid.”
“Any parent who has been required to home-school their toddlers this year will tell you that early childhood educators are worth their weight in gold” UWU spokesperson Helen Gibbons said.
“The future of early childhood education must include a plan about how we finally ensure they are paid what they deserve.”
Mr Albanese’s speech, ECA said, represents “the start of a new, much needed conversation on early childhood education and care (ECEC) reform in Australia”, sentiments reinforced by Goodstart, who said the proposal was “great news for the Australian economy” which would have the flow on effect of boosting workforce participation and reducing cost barriers for families wishing to access early learning.
ECA CEO, Samantha Page, said the centrepiece of the Labor commitment, to increase the child care subsidy (CCS) to 90 per cent for all Australian families, along with the promise to remove the annual $10,560 CCS cap, was welcomed, and “would be an excellent start to a suite of urgent systems reforms required to ensure we can deliver high quality, affordable and accessible early childhood education for all Australian families.”
The Budget in Reply, Ms Page continued, addresses economic recovery, whilst at the same time addressing long-term social reform, which benefits children and families, and allows more women to work.
“Women are an untapped resource when it comes to revitalising the economy.”
“Even when women can find work, they are overrepresented in casualised and low-paid jobs and face numerous barriers to equal employment opportunities. Most women need to know they have stable childcare before they can look for work or seek to increase their paid hours. Labor’s commitment to act swiftly to support women returning to work by improving affordability and access to early childhood education is good news for all Australians.”
The depth of Mr Albanese’s response was appreciated by Elizabeth Death, ELACCA CEO, who said his reply was reflective of “the foundational role of early learning in building strong educational outcomes for young Australians.”
The Federal Opposition’s proposal to raise the rate of the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) is a very welcome contribution to the political debate on how to make early learning and care more affordable and effective, she added.
Citing the research released last month by both KPMG and the Grattan Institute, which modeled reforms similar to those proposed by Labor, Goodstart CEO Julia Davison said Labor’s proposal recognised that investing in early learning and child care was proven to be one of the most effective investments that governments can make, with a projected economic boost to the economy of between $5-$11 billion through increased productivity.
These benefits, Ms Davison continued, are in addition to the long term economic benefits gained by better preparing children for learning and later life, as demonstrated by Nobel Prize winning economist, James Heckman.
Mr Albanese’s proposal, she said, represents not only good economics, but also good social policy.
“We would encourage the Federal Government to match Labor’s commitment so that cost is no longer a barrier for children to access early learning, or for their parents to return to work,” she said in closing.