Thursday, 04 April 2019
The matter of public importance today is the government’s failure to provide a plan for Australia’s future. We have had six years of cuts and chaos. We have had three Prime Ministers, two Deputy Prime Ministers and no plan—no plan delivered, no plan for the future, just cuts, cuts, cuts. It is absolutely disappointing that we in this place have had six wasted years when there are hospitals and schools that are facing further cuts. We’ve had a range of different programs. They attempted to cut the pension. They attempted to cut a whole range of different services that we had to spend our time here stopping. And, of course, when it comes to families, we’ve had so many cuts and disappointments as a result of this government.
We hear the government talking about franking credits a lot. In fact, the member for Goldstein is here. He loves to talk about franking credits. What we don’t hear about is Australia’s future and the plans they have for families. We don’t hear much from this government about families, and it’s no wonder, because, when we look at the early years, this government has abandoned families. They have let families down, and this continues in the budget in front of us today.
There are many failures, including that one in four families are worse off as a result of the childcare changes. It is a system that has made providers become debt collectors. They now have to wear costs if families are found not to have the right amount of entitlement to child care. Not only do they have to wear costs; they have to recover that money on behalf of the Commonwealth.
They’ve made it harder for regional and remote early learning services to stay open. It is very interesting that the National Party stood by while the budget based funded services that were in their electorates were demolished by this government. It has been a very disappointing time, especially given what we’re seeing for the future of Australia’s preschoolers. There was an opportunity for the government to actually commit to Australian preschool, to recognise that the two years before school are really important and to invest in them. Labor has been very clear about its plans. We plan to give two years of before-school funding—universal access to both three- and four-year-olds—when it comes to preschool.
This is a very, very important measure that is supported universally by experts across this area and is actually being implemented right around the world. Labor has a clear plan, and there was an opportunity for the government to fund preschool in this budget. If they didn’t want to support our three-year-olds’ preschool, they could at least have supported permanent funding for four-year-olds. But they failed to do that. They provided a one-year extension for preschools and nothing in the forward estimates, and they’ve cloaked it with excuses about participation rates. Well, we’ve heard from the Department of Education in Queensland, which said the Commonwealth never tried to seriously address participation rates. They’ve been using this for the last three years as an excuse as to why they couldn’t provide permanent funding, but they’ve done nothing about it. It is just a ploy, because they’ve never been committed to funding universal access to preschool, and that is clear to see in the budget.
But, of course, this has an impact in the real world. There’s news for the coalition here. It provides families with uncertainty about access to early education. It provides uncertainty for centres. It provides uncertainty for those educators and teachers wanting a career. Year-by-year funding is not the way to run a system. But it is not surprising from this government, which has been completely chaotic, completely obsessed by itself, completely uninterested in the Australian people and Australian families and more ambitious for itself than it is for the rest of Australia. So there is going to be a clear decision—