Media Release by The Hon John Cobb MP

Labor’s Childcare Policy on the Run – Formal School for Toddlers?

Labor’s comments today that they want formal education to be a compulsory part of childcare with even Family Day Care carers needing to be tertiary qualified teachers, is uncosted policy on the run,’ Acting Families Minister John Cobb said today.

‘Child care principally provides safe, quality, loving care,’ Mr Cobb said.

‘There are quality requirements for childcare and all approved services provide early development activities, but what Labor is saying today appears to be a reversion to their old academic agenda of insisting that the only appropriate form of care is one size fits all, bricks and mortar, institutionalised schooling for toddlers and babies.

‘This is the same agenda that looks down on parents who choose to stay at home because it suggests they are providing substandard, unqualified care for their children.

‘Describing current child carers as babysitters because they are not tertiary qualified is an insult. Most carers do a fantastic job and should be respected – not insulted.

‘Requiring formal four year degrees for carers would massively increase costs for parents. Even with subsidies, parents would have to incur higher, ongoing fees which would push formal childcare out of the reach of lower and middle income earners.

‘Labor need to explain how they would provide enough degree bearing teachers to compel this one size fits all education model on all forms of care and how it will be paid for.’

Mr Cobb said that when it comes to pre-school and childcare, Labor’s record in Government does not match its rhetoric. As The Australian newspaper points out, the States are primarily responsible for providing pre-school education.

‘In criticising the standard of pre-school education, Jenny Macklin is reflecting on the failure of Labor in office at State level,’ Mr Cobb said, ‘But those same Labor Governments won’t agree to provide a compulsory pre-school year for four year olds.

‘The first step in getting better early childhood programs is for the States to do a better job at pre-school, wherever they deliver it. For example, the New South Wales Labor Government, in my home State underfunds its pre-schools by $90 million a year.

‘We can’t even get agreement between States – all of them Labor – on the more fundamental issue of a common school curriculum. So it’s a joke to believe Jenny Macklin can now compel a uniform curriculum for pre-school education, shift it to child care providers – even if they could deliver all the teachers and pay for it.

‘Even within childcare, as opposed to pre-school, a number of States still don’t enforce the National Standards for Care they signed up to 10 years ago.’

The Federal Howard Coalition Government has doubled the funding for childcare to a massive $10 billion over four years. It has doubled places from Labor’s mere 300,000 to 600,000. The OECD has recently reported that Australia provides the highest subsidies for parent’s childcare choices of comparable countries.

‘The bottom line is that this policy on the run fails the sniff test. Its not consistent with what Labor does when it gets into office and it would increase costs for parents who use formal care,’ Mr Cobb said