Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 12 February 2015) . . Page.. 301 ..
MS BURCH (Brindabella—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Racing and Gaming and Minister for the Arts) (4.09): I thank Ms Porter for bringing on this very important MPI. I do not think there is an issue that many families in the ACT would consider as important as access to quality early childhood education and care. The most recent ROGS states that in 2013 the ACT had the highest proportion of children enrolled in a preschool program in the year before full-time schooling, at 108 per cent. That is a very high attendance rate indeed.
We also know that in 2013 the proportion of children aged three to five years in the ACT who were from non-English-speaking backgrounds that were enrolled in preschool, again, was the highest in Australia. We have very high female workforce participation. We also have very high numbers—the highest in the country—of children attending preschool.
I will go to some of the comments that Mr Doszpot made. He comes in here with this notion that this government is out of touch with Canberra families. We are very much in tune with the needs of Canberra families when it comes to early education and care. We have doubled the number of long day care places in this city. In my tenure in this portfolio over 3,000 additional places have come online. There are new services, new providers, land being released and more places available for Canberra families to choose from. For example, at Mount Taylor not only did we rebuild that school but we increased the size of their preschool and long day care. We have definitely invested many millions of dollars in the bricks and mortar to make sure that we have supported services. In line with that, we also continue to support Canberra families.
Mr Doszpot commented that I made reference to the fact that the cost of child care is set by the services. That is indeed a fact. The reality is that the ACT government does not go into a service and determine the cost of its provision of care to Canberra families. What levers we do have, though, involve how we support the sector and the system. One would assume that, with more places available, competition and market forces would come into play and that would provide relief in terms of costs and the daily fees. Again, an extra 3,000-plus places under my watch have gone into the system. That is indeed an increase. So I think we have done all that we can.
The other unique profile of long day care provision here in the ACT is that over 70 per cent of our long day care providers are community organisations. These are not-for-profit community organisations that serve our community well not only in early education and care but across other portfolios. So it is somewhat disappointing that Mr Doszpot says that we have the highest cost of care and that he does not understand that we have pulled the levers that we can by providing land and the bricks and mortar to expand services and support the workforce. I refer also to the unique profile of our providers in that they are predominantly community-based organisations. This government is absolutely committed to investing in an early childhood education and care sector that promotes the best possible outcomes for young children in Canberra.
The national quality framework acknowledges the strong evidence that when we have quality trainers with good qualifications—a good workforce—that has a positive