Canberra Report: Investment in early childhood

Labor announced last week that, if in government, it will introduce a new two year National Preschool and Kindy Program - the biggest ever investment in early childhood education in Australia.

It's a plan that's good for children in the Hunter electorate, good for parents, and good for the economy. From 2021, every three year old in the Hunter electorate will be able to access 15 hours of subsidised early childhood education, so they can get the best start to learning.

Labor will also extend the current arrangement for four year olds accessing preschool programs, creating a quality, two-year program that boosts development in the most important years of a child's development, an investment of an additional $1.75 billion into early education.

Ninety per cent of a child's brain development occurs in the first five years of life.

An investment in early education is one of the smartest investments our country can make. Labor's universal access to preschool scheme for four-year-olds has laid the groundwork for this announcement. Since the first agreement was signed by Labor in 2008, preschool enrolment for four-year-olds has increased from 77 per cent to between 93-97 per cent.

But more needs to be done. Our global competitors have recognised the value of a two-year early childhood education program, and it's time Australia gets on board, before we fall further behind. The United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, Ireland and China have all expanded their early childhood education programs to include three year olds.

Currently, Scott Morrison has failed to extend preschool funding for four year olds beyond next school year -after his child care changes cut early education from some of Australia's most vulnerable children, including preschool children in the Hunter electorate.

The Liberals see education as a cost - that's why they've cut $14 billion from public schools and left preschool funding in limbo. Labor sees it as an investment in our collective future.

Labor will work in partnership with the states and territories to deliver this important reform, including in setting enrolment and attendance targets, particularly for Indigenous and vulnerable children.

We've made tough and overdue decisions to rein in unfair tax concessions that predominantly benefit the wealthy - including negative gearing reform and dividend imputation reform - so we can fund the priorities that will make a fairer and more successful nation.

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