Childcare needs “bold, ambitious” reforms to give children the best start

The Productivity Commission will shortly begin examining reform options in its wide-ranging inquiry into the sector, which will also look at barriers to entry, learning outcomes and their contribution to economic growth and productivity.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visits Manuka Childcare Center in Canberra.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visits Manuka Childcare Center in Canberra.Credit:Rhett Wyman

At the beginning of the review, Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Education Secretary Jason Clare said the sector’s reforms would follow Labor’s tradition of introducing universal Medicare and universal pensions.

“The government is committed to finding solutions that chart the course for universal, affordable early childhood education and care,” they said at the time.

Aly said there was “no way” the early childhood education sector could continue under the current policy framework.


“Leaving it as is would mean higher fees for parents, it would mean more workers leaving the sector and fewer workers coming into the sector, and it would mean the collapse of the sector,” she said.

“So we have to look at some form of reform. I’m counting on the Productivity Commission to see what that looks like.”

UNICEF research shows that Australia ranks 32nd out of 38 OECD countries for child welfare. The latest Australian census figures on early childhood development – show that one in five children (22 per cent) was at risk of development.

Breeze said a lack of equal access to early childhood education and care is a critical factor in these outcomes, which is largely influenced by the cost of care.

According to a study by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, around nine million Australians (about 35 percent of the population) live in so-called children’s deserts. These deserts are areas where there are more than three children per early childhood education place.


Opposition early childhood education spokeswoman Angie Bell said the government’s $4.7 billion early childhood education package will not help more families get places in centers.

“If you live in a thin market or a childcare desert — where there’s almost no access to early childhood education — that extra subsidy isn’t going to help,” she said.

“We are calling on the government to do more to ensure all families have access to early childhood education, not just those living in our major cities.”

Professor Leslie Loble, co-chair of the Center for Policy Development’s Early Childhood Development Initiative, said the terms of reference for the Productivity Commission’s review signaled that the government was ready to consider an overhaul of the way the sector is managed and funded becomes.

“As important as increasing that subsidy rate was, to me it sets the framework for a very fundamental realization that the market is not working as effectively as we would like.”

Break through the noise of federal politics with news, perspective and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up for our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here. Childcare needs “bold, ambitious” reforms to give children the best start

Callan Tansill

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