Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Labor backflip on free preschool

 A report in today’s Sydney Morning Herald has revealed that the Labor Party have backflipped on their promise to guarantee families access to a free year at preschool.

“This $500 million promise to take over a State and Territory Government area of responsibility has not even lasted six months. Labor Party leader, Mark Latham has repeatedly said that access to preschool would be a priority for a Labor Government.

“A report in the Sydney Morning Herald on 2 February 2004 said that:

ALP members agreed at the 11th hour at their conference to withdraw amendments that would have provided funding for 10 hours free child care a week for all children below pre-school age and guaranteed access to a free year at preschool.

The acting chairwoman of the NSW Labor Women’s Forum, Cassandra Wilkinson, agreed to withdraw her amendments after the party’s deputy leader, Jenny Macklin, and the spokeswoman on children, Jacinta Collins, promised they would address child care and early childhood education in the election policy.

Ms Wilkinson now believes the final policy could even exceed her proposals, which were aimed at helping Australians better balance work and family, and fostering early childhood development.

“There was an assurance that the things that would be in would include the sorts of things we’re concerned about. The reality is that we low-balled what Jenny thought were reasonable commitments.”

“Well, Cassandra Wilkinson must be choking on her cornflakes this morning. Quite clearly
Jenny Macklin and Senator Jacinta Collins have led her down the garden path. Labor are now saying that Labor would only fund long day care centres that offer preschool education.

“Surely Senator Collins realises that the vast majority of Australian Government funded child care centres are already providing early childhood development programs. In fact, in New South Wales it is mandatory to their licensing requirements to have a preschool component and early childhood trained teachers.

“So what is new in what Senator Collins is proposing? All she has done is insult the long day care sector by implying that they do not have adequate educational programs for children in their care.

“I have been saying for some time now that the State Governments have to face up to their responsibilities and fund preschool appropriately. The majority of States do this. However, New South Wales has walked away from it and their preschools are suffering,” Mr Anthony said.

(States performance on preschool from the Productivity Commission Report on Government Services 2004 is attached.)

 The denominator — the population of preschool aged children — is defined as persons aged 4 years in all States and Territories.

  1. Data for 1998-99 were for the calendar year ending 1998. There is some double counting of children in jurisdictions (except Victoria, SA, Tasmania and the ACT) because some children moved in and out of the preschool system throughout the year and, as a result, the number of children reported in preschool exceeds the number of children in the target population. There is no double counting for Victoria, SA, Tasmania and the ACT because a snapshot is used for each year’s data collection (so children appear in only one preschool centre in one year at the time of the snapshot).
  2. NSW used a revised method of calculating the number of children receiving child care and preschool services. This new method of calculation will provide clear trend data for each age group for child care and preschool. The data include estimates based on the rate of survey return for each year. NSW data are not comparable with data for other States and Territories.
  3. Victorian data include some children attending preschool services conducted in a centre-based long day care centre.
  4. WA data exclude children attending non-government preschools. Due to WA’s alteration of entry age from 5 years to 4 years, 2001-02 and 2002-03 data are not comparable to previous years.


  1. For children aged 0–12 years.
  2. Includes administration expenditure, other expenditure on service provision, financial support to families and net capital expenditure on child care and preschool services.
  3. The drop in WA expenditure for 2001-02 was in response to the changes in the school entry age and the associated move to full time schooling for pre-year 1 children.