Page 413 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 12 February 2013
MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (4.46): Thank you for bringing forward this matter of public importance today, Mr Assistant Speaker Doszpot.
The Productivity Commission report is a useful resource as it contains data across a wide range of government services which can help inform policy responses and investment decisions. I congratulate the government on its strong performance and nation-leading services in many areas.
I would like to further highlight those areas where the government’s work is making a difference and where we are planning to do more.
In early childhood, the government has identified the need for more childcare places and placed considerable emphasis on early childhood education, investing heavily in child care and preschools. The results speak for themselves. The proportion of children aged 0 to five years in the ACT attending Australian government approved childcare services in 2012, at 44.9 per cent, was the highest in Australia. The proportion of children aged three to five years in the ACT in 2011-12 who were from non-English-speaking backgrounds and enrolled in preschool—that is, ACT government funded or provided—was the highest in Australia. Childcare places have doubled in the last decade thanks to this government’s consistent investment in building more childcare centres and upgrading existing ones and a targeted land release program to support the construction of new centres by the private sector. The number of centres has grown from 102 to 127 over just a few short years.
In response to costs for child care in the ACT, it is worth remembering that the ACT is unique in being a city-state. In other jurisdictions, the high childcare costs in cities are evened out by lower costs of child care in regional and rural areas. The ACT does not have this effect as we have only city costs, which are naturally higher than rural.
Costs are not set by government; they are set by service providers, and significant variation occurs due to differences across jurisdictions in factors such as licensing requirements, award wages, charging practices and rental costs. By all means look at the data to compare across jurisdictions, but you need to think about all potential contributing factors before drawing conclusions. The Australian government childcare rebate enables families to recoup up to 50 per cent of their out-of-pocket costs.
The report on government services does not show yet the benefits of the initiatives in early childhood that continue in the ACT. The Franklin Early Childhood School is a new $30.1 million state-of-the-art facility. Franklin is the latest addition to a highly successful early childhood school model introduced in 2009 offering both schooling and child care to young children from birth to year 2. It will cater for around 300 students from preschool to year 2 and offers a 120-place childcare centre.
Students are also enjoying stage 1 of the $48.1 million Neville Bonner Primary School. When stage 2 is completed, the enrolment capacity of the north Gungahlin region will increase to 818 student places.
But it does not end there. We are upgrading existing ACT government facilities currently leased to community childcare providers to enable centres to provide up to