26 Feb | '2024

I really don’t think there has been a government as full of itself as this Albanese Labor government. They love big, sweeping statements. They tell mistruths and they claim credit for simply everything. Like the member for Robertson today, I want to talk about two of these claims. The first is that their government are making a fairer education system from early childhood education right through to university. Sure, that might be so if you live in a metro area. But I’ve been travelling the country and speaking with families in regional and rural areas. As my colleagues here in the chamber—the member for Braddon and the member for Grey—can attest, rural and remote communities basically are not getting what they need. There is nothing fair about how this government is treating those communities. Does the member opposite think that it’s fair that the rural community of Kingston SE are still waiting for the $1.8 million that Labor promised them before the 2022 federal election for their early learning centre? Does he think that’s fair? Does the member think that it’s fair that in Tumby Bay there is no access to ECE for families and many mothers cannot even return to work? Does the member think that it’s fair that families in the electorate of Casey are waiting years before they can get their children into early learning, with 15 children for every place? Does the member think that it’s fair that in the great electorates of Mallee and Grey there are childcare deserts as far as the eye can see and yet this government is doing nothing for those communities—nothing for those communities in Grey, nothing for those communities in Braddon and nothing for those communities in Casey, just to name a few? I’m sure that, if the member for Robertson took a look at his own backyard, his own electorate, he’d find that there are families struggling to access care and those families are languishing on long waitlists. They simply can’t go back to work. Members opposite, tell me exactly what is fair about that.

Why is it that this government always leaves the regions behind? Why do they do that? I’ve sat at roundtables with parents in tears. They’re concerned about the rising cost of living under this government and they can’t return to work, because there are no childcare centres in their area or, if there are, they’re a 40-kilometre trek away and they’re stuck on a waiting list. I’ve spoken to firefighters, nurses and teachers who cannot go back to work amidst staffing shortages, because there’s nowhere for their children to go under this government. How is that fair?

Finally, when these children make it to school, they’re developmentally behind their peers because, due to where they live, they haven’t had the same level of access. This government has the gall to stand here and talk about how families are better off under them. Go to the regions and say that. Visit Tumby Bay. Visit Ardrossan. Visit the South Australian regions that are missing out and tell those families that it’s fair.

You say a family that has access to a place is one of the lucky ones, and yet, on 1 July 2023, those families watched their increased subsidy be eaten away by higher fees from their provider. But the government says that’s not true. They say that families are better off. I’ve spoken to many who simply aren’t. They are families who watched their fees increase by 15 to 20 per cent and couldn’t do anything about it, because there were no other places available for their children in nearby centres. Even data from The Parenthood shows that 90 per cent of parents watched their fees increase on 1 July, and this government has done nothing about it. They threw billions of taxpayer dollars into the inflation dumpster fire and then they walked away. They simply set it and forgot it.

Out-of-pocket costs are already creeping back up 3.5 per cent, according to the December quarter CPI, and fees will continue to increase because centres also need to pay for the rising costs of electricity, the rising costs of gas, the rising costs of groceries and all other items that continue to rise because of the reckless spending of this Labor government—a government that can’t protect the borders, a government that can’t protect our community, a government that has let the economy spiral out of control because they don’t understand that, the more you spend, the higher inflation soars.

It’s clear the Albanese government has no idea what they’re doing. They’re falling over themselves, trying to cover all their mistakes, which are quite a list for only 18 months in government, saying that there’s nothing to see here. Australian families deserve better than this reckless Labor government.

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