Page 303 - Week 01 - Thursday, 12 February 2015

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of that child. We know that the early years are so critical and so important, and that we need to invest in those early years—and no educator or research would dispute that. It is well known that the national quality framework is the right framework for our children, to begin their lives and set them on a path to be good learners, and to have opportunities throughout their lives.

There continues to be a demand for university qualified teachers. Again we support that workforce through funding of the early childhood degree scholarship program that provides $6,000 over four years towards study-related expenses. The first 25 places of the degree scholarship program were offered last year and 25 more places will be offered each year, with the 2015 places opening in May and June this year. As well as improving educator skills and knowledge and gaining a formal early childhood qualification, it is also likely to lead to improved employment outcomes and career paths for educators.

This government absolutely understands the needs of Canberra families. We provide all that we can in the area of early childhood education and care. We have provided the bricks and mortar. We have provided support to families. We have provided support to the workforce. We understand the importance of this, and we understand the needs of Canberra families.

MR WALL (Brindabella) (4.19): I rise to speak briefly on the MPI, to put on the record my experiences and the experiences that a number of friends have shared with me in recent times, as we have all endeavoured to enter our children into day care or early childhood education.

I will begin by making the obvious reference to the title of today’s MPI—“the importance of renewal of early childhood education”. It seems that there is an absolute eagerness to use that new buzzword “renewal” in everything that we talk about here. Yet one thing that has been lacking today is a discussion about what actual renewal is occurring within the childhood education sector.

Yes, there are improvements. Yes, the quality of care in this city is great. I think what the minister said about being in touch with the expectations of Canberra families when it comes to the quality of care is well and truly accurate. In large part the range and variety of centres available in the ACT go a long way to meeting the needs of Canberra families. But where those members opposite are completely out of touch on what Canberra families expect is on the cost of living impact. Having the dearest and most expensive long day care service in the country based here in the territory highlights that they are substantially out of touch with what Canberra families expect.

The latest Productivity Commission report reveals that in the ACT the average cost per week per long day care is $463 per child per week. Just to give my personal experience of it, members opposite mentioned the opening of the new childcare centre in Macarthur. I must say that, as a Macarthur resident who needs day care, it is a great convenience. But at that centre, until this week, the cost has been $483 a week, and as of Monday it is going up to $485 a week. So it is well above even what the ACT average is, and it is well above what the national average is.

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