Shadow Early Education Minister provides additional insight into ECEC policy intent ahead of Federal Election 2022

Shadow Early Education Minister provides additional insight into ECEC policy intent ahead of Federal Election 2022

by Jason Roberts

May 20, 2022

Ahead of tomorrow’s Federal Election Amanda Rishworth MP, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education sat down with the team from search and compare platform KindiCare for an in-depth interview on a wide range of matters focusing on early childhood education and care (ECEC). 

 

This piece includes extracts of the interview focused on areas of direct relevance to professionals working in the ECEC space and matters which are likely to become policy should the Albanese-led Labor government be elected. 

 

Addressing educator workforce shortages a key priority

 

Amidst a very tight educator workforce environment Ms Rishworth was clear that the worker shortage is at the top of her ‘to-do’ list as flow-on effects from the skills shortage (such as growing waitlists, capped licence place capacity and families unable to get the days they need) become increasingly apparent. 

 

Ms Rishworth told KindiCare that should her party win Government, it will “sit down to really look at the National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy that has been gathering dust in the Minister’s office since October.”

 

“The sector put a lot of work into that plan. It is sitting there as a framework but nothing has been budgeted to implement it. We need to identify the programs that are needed and can be implemented quickly,” she added, describing the strategy as having “been neglected for a significant time.” 

 

She committed to sitting down with the ECEC sector and State and Territory governments to look at the workforce plan in detail. 

 

The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) releasedShaping Our Future,” a new ten year strategy to ensure a sustainable, high quality children’s education and care workforce in October 2021. 

 

As yet no tangible action has been taken by the sitting Government to action the recommendations within it. 

 

Productivity Commission review intention still stands – transparency to be the focus

 

In its Cheaper Childcare Plan the ALP has said it will ask the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to design a price regulation mechanism and will engage the Productivity Commission (PC) to conduct a review of the sector with the aim of implementing a universal 90 per cent subsidy for all families.

 

Although Ms Rishworth did not expand on how the price mechanism might work she did allude to the reasoning behind the ALP’s commitment to the PC review. 

 

“We would like the Productivity Commission to work on how we deliver our policy; what are the barriers, the costs, the benefits,” she said.

 

“As we move from what is predominantly a private cost to a more public cost we need to make sure that money goes to families and children and educators. That is our long-term priority.”

 

“We need some transparency around where those costs are.”

 

Her comments come against a backdrop of decades of above inflation ECEC price increases and a ballooning in the commitment of taxpayers funds in the form of the Child Care Subsidy to support families with affordability challenges. 

 

A reset of attitude towards ECEC central to Ms Rishworth’s mission

 

Ms Rishworth observed that during the pandemic the Federal Government came to the rescue of the ECEC sector with free childcare but not before, as the KindiCare team highlighted, it had suffered “a near death experience.”

 

“When I raised some of the issues about what would happen during the pandemic (with the Minister at the time) he was very dismissive,” Ms Rishworth told KindiCare.

 

“The attitude has been, we pay the subsidy and that’s it. They are not interested in anything else. There needs to be clear ownership of early childhood education and it has to be about more than the subsidy.” 

 

Ms Rishworth’s comments are consistent with previous speeches from both herself and Mr Albanese who each championed a “Whole of Government” approach to ECEC as a means of breaking down the silos of information and accountability that have, in their view, hampered the development and flourishing of the sector. 

 

You can read broader details of the interview with KindiCare here.

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