Australia’s “next great social policy reform”
Federal Labor’s plan to fund two years of early learning has won a new friend, with former NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli describing it as “a great step in the right direction.” Piccoli, who was once deputy leader of the state Nationals, offered the appraisal at the National Press Club on Thursday as he threw his weight behind a campaign calling on the government to match Labor’s commitment.
“The provision of free early childhood education and care for three- and four-year-olds for at least two days a week is the next great social policy reform in Australia,” he declared, likening it to needs-based school funding and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The campaign, launched by providers of early learning and care services, is designed to pressure the Coalition in marginal seats in the lead-up to the federal election.
At present, the federal government subsidises fifteen hours a week of preschool for four-year-olds through a deal with the states and territories called the Universal Access National Partnership. But it has still not committed any funding for 2020, preventing preschools from signing long-term leases and contracts or preparing their budgets. Meanwhile, it shows no sign of following Labor’s lead and extending the subsidy to three-year-olds.