Education and Training Reform Amendment (Early Childhood Employment Power) Bill 2024 – Second Reading Debate

Juliana ADDISON (Wendouree) (18:53): I want to acknowledge the member for Sandringham for sharing the time with me, and I will just make a contribution until the close of business tonight before we move to the adjournment. So thank you very much, member for Sandringham.

Importantly, I want to state on the record that I am a huge fan of early childhood education and child care because of the many benefits that it delivers not only for Victoria’s littlest ones but also their families, particularly their working parents. Our daughters attended Lake Gardens Children’s Centre in my electorate of Wendouree, and Mike and I are so grateful for the care that they put into our girls, helping them build their life skills, their independence and their confidence. So I would really like to thank Lake Gardens in my electorate for the great work they do.

Importantly, being able to access quality child care allowed me to return to work after both of our girls were born. I was working at the time at Ballarat Clarendon College at the boarding house, and I had a 7 o’clock start. I had to get the boarders out of bed, and that meant that I had the girls at child care at 6:30 in the morning.

My teaching role then often required me to be at school meetings out of hours and coaching sports teams, and the fact that the childcare centre was open until 6 meant that I could do my job, that I could contribute to the family and that we could pay the mortgage. That is why child care is so important to me. It was the spread of hours at a trusted childcare centre close to home that made all the difference to my family. It kept us financially afloat. The mortgage got paid and there was even some money left over for a few non-essentials – not many, but a couple. I want this for parents across the 50 communities where our government is delivering these much-needed early learning centres, 17 of which are in regional Victoria, and plenty of them are not in Labor-held seats, just to respond to the accusation made by the member for Sandringham.

I am so pleased to contribute to the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Early Childhood Employment Powers) Bill 2024, which sets up the legislative basis for the 50 government owned and operated early learning centres that we will be delivering across the next four years. Yes, it will be four years to ensure that we have time to address the workforce demands – the issues that have been raised by the member for Euroa, the member for South-West Coast and now the member for Sandringham. Yes, we do have a plan and, yes, we do have a solution, because we are going to make sure that we have the 11,000 new early childhood teachers and educators to deliver Best Start, Best Life. We are investing almost $370 million. How did you miss this? How did the opposition miss this, through the Chair?

It is $370 million to attract high-quality teachers and educators to the sector and to support the upskilling of existing professionals. We are going to offer opportunities to people to become teachers and educators through supportive programs as a part of our early childhood tertiary partnership program. We are offering free TAFE places. We are offering early childhood scholarships. We are offering financial support of up to $7000 for current educators to go from the certificate III to the diploma. We are offering employment incentives and relocation support to bring people to these rural and regional areas where we have had members of the Nationals talk about how hard it is to attract people.

That is why we are going to give people incentives – move to regional Victoria, move to rural Victoria, look after our littlest ones. Whilst on the other side they seem to have missed the point, we have a plan. We are investing in the plan. We have $370 million to develop our plan, and we are getting on with it.

I really just want to make a quick comment about the member for Kew’s contribution, because I really did listen. I was really interested in what they had to say. I even sought clarification and I said, ‘You’re not opposing it but are you supporting it?’ She said, ‘No.’ On the Hansard, she said, ‘No, we are not supporting this.’ It is certainly not the case with their reasoned amendment. So let me be really clear: the Liberals and the Nationals are not supporting us getting on with the job of delivering 50 childcare centres, early learning centres –

Bridget Vallence: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, I do not think that this is an opportunity to attack the opposition, because actually I think the member is incorrectly reflecting our position on this bill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. The member to continue.

Juliana ADDISON: Why is this the case? Why is it that the lead speaker for the Liberal Party made this statement? It is because of neoliberal ideology and not wanting to distort the free market. I promise you I am not making this up. Which market do you say? It is the childcare market, that important free, captains of industry market, the childcare market.

What we say is that we believe there is a place for government to provide services. We believe in the public sector. We believe in employees who work in the public sector. That is why we are intervening – because there are demand issues that are not being met by the free market. I can only come to the conclusion that the member for Kew is not on the side of Victorian families but she is on the side of corporations, whereas we know where we stand.

We know where our bread is buttered – it is with Victorian families, families in regional and rural Victoria and in our growing outer suburbs. We believe that their sons and daughters deserve quality child care, and that is why we are establishing the 50 government owned and operated early learning centres – because there is demand, demand not being met by the public providers.

I must admit that when I had the two children – two girls under two – I was not being kept awake by free market economics, I was worried about how I was going to get to work the next morning with very little sleep. What I want to do is say that we are on the side of these people. That is why we commend this bill to the house. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute. I know where we stand – we stand with Victorian families.

Business interrupted under sessional orders.


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