Childcare needs ‘bold, ambitious’ reforms to give kids best start

The Productivity Commission will soon start examining reform options in its wide-ranging investigation into the sector, which will also look at barriers to access, learning outcomes and how it contributes to economic growth and productivity.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during a visit to Manuka Childcare Centre in Canberra.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during a visit to Manuka Childcare Centre in Canberra.Credit:Rhett Wyman

Launching the review, Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Education Minister Jason Clare said reforms to the sector would follow the tradition of Labor’s introduction of universal Medicare and universal superannuation.

“The government is committed to identifying solutions that will 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 current policy settings.


“If it was just left, it would mean increased fees for parents, it would mean more workers leaving the sector and fewer workers coming into the sector, and it would mean collapse of the sector,” she said.

“So we have to look at some form of reform. What that looks like, that’s what I’m relying on the Productivity Commission to come up with.”

Research by UNICEF found Australia ranked 32nd out of 38 OECD countries on child wellbeing. The latest figures from the Australian early childhood development census – show one in five children (22 per cent) were developmentally vulnerable.

Breeze said a lack of equal access to early childhood education and care was a critical factor in those results, largely affected by the cost of care.

About nine million Australians (about 35 per cent of the population) live in so-called childcare deserts, according to research from Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute. Those deserts are areas where there are more than three children for every 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 centres.

“If you live in a thin market or child care desert – where there is next to no access to early learning – this extra subsidy will not help,” she said.

“We call 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 Centre for Policy Development’s early childhood development initiative, said the terms of reference for the Productivity Commission review signalled the government was willing to look at overhauling the way the sector is run and funded.

“As important as increasing that subsidy rate was, this to me sets the frame for a very fundamental recognition that the market isn’t working as effectively as we’d like.”

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