Australian Greens Education Spokesperson and Senator for NSW, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, has launched the Greens' ambitious plan to make childcare fee-free for most families, abolish the activity test and guarantee all three and four year olds access to 24 hours of early childhood education a week. The Greens will also provide an extra $200m in capital grants to community and government run centres in areas of highest need as well as supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander run centres. The plan has been costed at $20.4b over four years by the Parliamentary Budget Office and is the biggest investment in early childhood education to date. In addition, the Greens are also committed to developing a workforce strategy with the early learning sector and unions to achieve professional pay and better working conditions for workers.
Senator Faruqi said:
“We know the current system doesn’t work for most families with young children. Families are working hard, sometimes putting a whole income towards just paying for childcare. Under our plan, four out of five families will be able to access fee free childcare if and when they need it.
“The reality is that the lack of affordable child care affects women disproportionately. Often, women have to give up work and career opportunities because childcare is too expensive or not available.
“The two major parties treat childcare as a workforce participation measure, not the essential service it is. We know that affordable, quality and accessible child care benefits everyone.
“The activity test has negatively impacted access to childcare for families on lower incomes. By ditching the test completely, we will ensure people who need access to child care are able to do so without any barriers.
“Under the Greens plan for universal early education, all three and four year old children will be able to attend to pre-school for up to 24 hours a week.
“Our current system penalises primary carers, who are overwhelmingly women and is a source of significant financial stress.
“Australia’s current public funding of early childhood education and care is one of the lowest in the OECD. We can pay for universal childcare and early education by removing tax breaks that favour the highest income earners.
“I know firsthand the value of affordable childcare. When I came to Australia, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my higher education without access to affordable childcare. No one should be denied opportunities due to not being able to pay for child care.
“The Greens strongly support early childcare educators across the country and their rights to fair pay. It is well past time for the people who educate and care for children to have decent pay and conditions. We will institute a strategy for professional pay and conditions,” she concluded.