Monday, 29 April 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s National Preschool and Kindy Program, Labor’s childcare policy, Labor’s plan to increase the pay of our early educators.
JACQUIE MACKAY: Yesterday Labor launched its child care subsidy plan which will mean $4 billion over the next four years to make child care free for families on a low income. Today, the Shadow Minister for Early Education, Amanda Rishworth, is here to talk more specifically about Labor’s plan for preschool for three year olds. Good morning.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Good morning.
MACKAY: So, how much will this cost to provide preschool for three year olds?
RISHWORTH: We have made a commitment to not only put in money for three year olds but also provide permanent funding for four year olds. At the moment, the Government has not promised any funding for four year old kindy and preschool after next year. We have said this is such an important investment so we are going to put in funding both for four year olds, permanently but also three year old kindy. For this region, both in the seat of Capricornia and Flynn that will benefit close to 5,000 children in each. The cost across the country is $1.75 billion but this is the right investment. We are being left behind by the rest of the world when it comes to early education. In China, in the U.K., in France, in every economy that is looking at what their future holds is investing in the early years and the benefits are pretty significant. The economic return – the most conservative economic return – is for every dollar you put into the early years you actually get a $2 return which is a really good return.
MACKAY: Would it be compulsory?
RISHWORTH: No, not compulsory. It is about universal access and trying to get as many children in as possible and we have had a really good enrolment rate. In fact, since Labor first brought in the four year old Universal Access Plan we have seen enrolment rates up in the 90’s. Parents want this and when I talk with parents, they really want access but it needs to be subsidised and supported by the government.
MACKAY: How is Labor paying for that? Plus its $4 billion for child care?
RISHWORTH: We have made some really difficult decisions. We have been putting our policies out there about closing loopholes to the top end of town, with tax cuts to millionaires, and said what we are not going to go ahead with and that does reap dividends and that money needs to be reinvested in communities like Central Queensland. And, that is exactly what we are doing – that is in early education and preschool. Whether it is support for families for cheaper child care, I mean, when I talk to families they are really struggling with the cost of child care and so this is about putting money back in to support those in need. Of course, yesterday we also announced our pensioner dental plan to give support for pensioners to get their teeth fixed.
MACKAY: So there is a shortage though of early childhood educators. How do you get around that problem?
RISHWORTH: That is a really important question and we need to have a workforce strategy and the Government got rid of the workforce strategy when they came to office and we want to reinvigorate that workforce strategy. We have also said that we will allocate 10,000 free TAFE places for early educators because we know that costs can be a barrier to early educators and going into early education. We want to really supercharge that area and not allow costs to be a barrier for those wanting to access early education.
MACKAY: Those DET trained educators though, that is great for the child care system but they are not actually early childhood teachers though?
RISHWORTH: In terms of early childhood teachers, we are uncapping university places to allow more students to get to university. The Government had put barriers up to people accessing the HECS HELP – what is now known as HELP – so they have put in barriers around that. We are going to take those barriers away and allow for the uncapping of places but really it is about having a workforce strategy, it is about making the career attractive to individuals to take up and that is a really important part of the whole policy.
MACKAY: Talking about making this a career that is attractive to people, there is a very high attrition rate for early childhood workers. They say that they have not been paid enough, we have seen a lot of campaigning on this issue in the last few years. What would Labor do to increase salaries for childhood educators plus also those in child care?
RISHWORTH: Absolutely, so is true there is a 37 per cent turn in terms of early educators and that is every year, so that is a really significant number and that is obviously an issue because pay is part of that barrier. Labor committed yesterday to support a 20 per cent increase in early educators salaries over an eight year period and of course we want to work with the sector with educators, with representatives to work on how we deliver that because what we don’t want is that money not getting to educators. Of course the government whilst subsidising child care doesn’t actually run the centres. We want to work with the industry to deliver that pay increase but we think that is really important. Pay equity in terms of women because it is 96 per cent women dominated industry but also really important for the quality of education. If you have 37 per cent turning over ever year that doesn’t give our youngest citizens the continuity, the connection and the education that is so important in those younger years.
MACKAY: It also seems that for people in that industry they don’t feel valued either. It is not just about salary.
RISHWORTH: No, it’s not just about salary and that is where the workforce strategy comes into it. That is why we use the word ‘educator’ instead of ‘child care worker’ because they are educating. The work that they do – and I have spent a lot of time with my own son but also in early education settings – and the work that they do, especially with the quality framework that has now been implemented, they actually design curriculum, they think about the learning outcomes for children in child care settings. It is important, as you said, absolutely recognition but pay is part of it as well.
MACKAY: Thank you indeed for your time this morning and that is the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, Amanda Rishworth in the electorate of Capricornia this morning.