Labor commits to new “whole of government” Early Years Strategy in first major pre election speech
Amanda Rishworth MP, the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, has committed to a new “whole of government” Early Years Strategy as part of her first major pre-election speech ahead of a campaign which is expected to see early childhood education and care (ECEC) be a central campaign focus for the major political parties.
Speaking at the McKell Institute Ms Rishworth noted that “There is no doubt that early learning and care policy has grown in prominence since the beginning of the COVID pandemic” before confirming that in her view ECEC was “an essential service” and that the “community could not operate without it.”
“When Labor started looking for economic policies for our post-COVID recovery, early learning and care ticked every box,” she said, “there weren’t any other policies that could deliver such a sustainable boost to workforce participation, cost of living relief, as well as real social and educational benefits for children.”
These conclusions in part informed Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s Budget Reply address in October 2020 in which he outlined his vision for ECEC and some core policies that his party would take to the election and remains a core driver of Labor ECEC policy.
Whole of government ECEC strategy to address “silos” across departments
The key additional policy outlined in Ms Rishworth’s speech was a new approach to programs and funding that would see changes made to the current multi department contribution to ECEC service delivery.
“One of the problems we face is that current programs and funding for early childhood development are spread across a number of departments – Education, Social Services, Health, and the National Indigenous Australians Agency,” Ms Rishworth said.
“They all operate as silos, guard their own patch, and focus on the objectives of their own programs. I want this to end. We need all the departments pulling in the same direction and working for the same goals.”
The new strategy would seek to deliver the following key outcomes:
- To ensure Commonwealth programs and funding are best targeted to achieve the double dividend of educating and caring for children, and supporting families.
- To examine the range of programs delivered across the Commonwealth Government that directly impact on early childhood development.
- To consider the latest available evidence and literature from Australia and around the world on interventions and programs that are driving better outcomes for children.
- To develop plans to eliminate or reduce program and funding silos across a number of departments, better integrate and coordinate functions and activities across government, and targeted outcomes to deliver better outcomes for young Australians and their families.
- To develop a programme of action which will set out the policies, initiatives and plans to help achieve the vision and outcomes.
The development of the strategy, and the secretariat support, will be led by a steering committee, with senior representatives from the relevant line departments, as well as Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Ms Rishworth provided no additional details on implementation timing or funding commitments for the initiative.
Additional Labor policy measures also highlighted in speech
As well as introducing the Early Years Strategy Ms Rishworth also repeated a key policy pledge made by Mr Albanese in his Budget Reply Address , restating Labor’s commitment, should they win the election, to instruct the Productivity Commission to investigate a 90 per cent fee subsidy for all Australian parents and guardians accessing ECEC services.
Mr Albanese has since released a separate statement that builds on Ms Rishworth’s speech and includes a reiteration of the key policies that Labor will bring to the upcoming election campaign.
To read Ms Rishworth’s speech at the McKell Institute please click here.
*This article has been updated to reflect the media release from Mr Albanese.