SUBJECTS: Early Childhood Education Matters; Emma Husar; Population of Australia reaching 25 million.

KAY TURNER, CEO OF SDN CHILDREN SERVICES: Welcome everybody to SDN Woolloomooloo. My name is Kay Turner and I'm the CEO of SDN Children Services, and it's lovely to have you here. We're here marking Early Learning Matters Week, highlighting the benefits and the importance of quality early childhood education for all children. At SDN we know a bit about early learning. We've been providing a service in Woolloomooloo since 1905. We started for working mothers, child care for working mothers and we evolved to integrate early childhood education and preschool programs with childcare for children from infancy right through until they transition to school. So we know quite a bit about it and we know that quality early childhood education, not only amplifies children's' skills and talents but sets them up and has benefits right through into adulthood and it makes a long term difference. So ladies and gentlemen what I really want to say to you is early learning really matters and for that reason I'm delighted to welcome Tanya Plibersek and Amanda Rishworth to SDN Woolloomooloo this morning and I'd like to invite Amanda to the microphone. Thank you.
AMANDA RISHWORTH MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Thank you so much Kay for the wonderful tour that you and your educators have provided us today. What's clearly on show at this centre is the passion but also the commitment to the early years for young children in this community. Now of course it is Early Learning Matters Week and we know that the early years count. Indeed, what the research shows is that it particularly counts for disadvantaged children. We know that if early investment is given to our most disadvantaged children they're more likely to finish school, they're more likely to go on and get a good paying job, do further education and indeed own a house. Early learning does matter because the brain develops in that first five years of life so much, so our investment in the early years is incredibly important. Early learning does matter but it doesn't seem to matter to this Liberal Government. The way that they treat early education is really glorified babysitting. We've seen the new childcare package which is being treated exactly like a workplace entitlement, without the emphasis on early education and what we know is that those that will fall through the cracks of the new system are those most likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Those that have parents that struggle to get into work, that have casual or insecure work, may not get the opportunity for as many hours of early education. On top of that, what we've learned yesterday is the Government is refusing to commit to four year old preschool. This program has seen attendance rates rise from 77 per cent in 2008 when Labor introduced this program to 93 per cent. In anyone's estimation this is a success but it is unfortunate that the Liberal Party will not commit to long term funding. So this week, in Early Education Matters Week, the Minister needs to do more than just turn up to centres. He needs to give a commitment to the early years, a commitment to early education and really demonstrate that he believes and the Government believes that early education matters because up until now they haven't done that.

TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Amanda and thank you Kay. It is really a delight to be here at SDN in Woolloomooloo. This is the centre that my two oldest children attended and as a family we still have very fond memories of their times here. My children were really lucky to get a high quality early childhood education like the one offered here at SDN Woolloomooloo. It helped them be school ready, it helped them make friends and develop social skills, it meant that when they started school they had early literacy and numeracy skills, they were able to sit still and listen to the teacher, they were able to take turns and share - all of the skills that children learn in high quality early childhood settings like this. That's why it is so very sad that everything this Government is doing reduces the opportunity for children to get a great start in life, like the one offered by SDN Woolloomooloo. We know for a fact that the Governments' cuts to child care mean that around 1,600 families in the electorate of Sydney will be worse off because of the Governments' cuts to childcare. Those families are not families at the upper income end of the scale as the Government has claimed; in fact the Department of Education has confessed that more than half of families in Sydney who will be disadvantaged by the changes to childcare funding, are in the bottom two income quintiles. So, cuts to childcare will very much effect the poorest kids from the poorest families but many families across the board will be worse off. We also know that the Government is not planning to renew the Preschool National Partnership Agreement beyond 2020, so there will be cuts not just to childcare subsidies for parents, there'll also be cuts to preschool. That means that Australian children will be educationally disadvantaged because this Government can manage to find a $17 billion tax cut for the big banks but it can't manage to properly fund early childhood education and care, preschool, school, TAFE, universities, hospitals, aged care, all of the things that matter to us as a society. What kind of government can manage to find a $17 billion tax cut for the big banks but can’t properly fund our preschools and early childhood centres?
We heard from Malcolm Turnbull last night, this kind of weak refusal to rule out dropping the company tax cuts that he has proposed. So, you know in the end who knows whether Malcolm Turnbull will have the courage of his convictions when it comes to company tax cuts. What we do know about it is that his only plan for Australia. His only plan is to give tax cuts to big banks, but to cut funding to centres like this, preschools, schools, TAFE and universities right around Australia.  Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, when will Labor announce its childcare policies?
PLIBERSEK: Well we have made it clear that Labor has a commitment to early childhood education and care and we will be making more details of our policy available over time, Amanda will want to add to this answer in a moment. What we know from the Government though, is they have put parents through a difficult and disruptive transition that has in fact left thousands of families worse off in the electorate of Sydney alone, and across the nation many, many thousands of families. We also know from the Government that they don't want to continue the investment in preschools. That means that Australian kids will be disadvantaged. Amanda do you want to...
RISHWORTH: Well let’s be clear. These changes that the Government has implemented just over a month ago, we are finding more and more families that are falling through the cracks. We are listening to those families, we are listening to the problems that centres are facing, and we will develop a comprehensive policy that we will take to the next election. Our record on childcare, from Labor's perspective, is an excellent one. We introduced the National Quality Framework that lifted the quality in centres right around the country. We invested in the early years, including the introduction of universal preschool, the same program that Simon Birmingham wants to end. Now the Minister often calls on Labor to announce its policy. It's time that the Government stops focusing on Labor, stops focusing on Bill Shorten and actually looks at its own policy. They need to take the cries from parents right across Australia who have found themselves worse off as a result and actually listen. They have the opportunity to change this. They just will not admit that disadvantaged families are falling through the cracks. So in terms of Labor’s policy, we will be developing a very comprehensive policy. Our record has been clear, we believe in the early years. Early learning matters to Labor and that's why we are here today. 
JOURNALIST: Right on to Emma Husar, is the Labor investigation (inaudible)?
PLIBERSEK: No doubt this has been an extraordinarily difficult time for Emma Husar and she absolutely deserves proper process and natural justice. She deserves to be able to answer the allegations that have been made against her by staff. We also have a responsibility to those staff to properly investigate the claims they have made. We have an independent process underway at the moment. We need to let that independent process reach it's conclusion and we'll deal with the results of that independent investigation when we receive it.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree that the damaging leaks we've seen will compromise the investigation?
PLIBERSEK: I'm not going to get into the ins and outs of the independent investigation. We need to let it take its course, but of course I understand this has been an awful time for Emma Husar and it is very important that she has the opportunity of fully answering any of the allegations that have been made against her. Just as we have a responsibility to provide natural justice to her, we also have a responsibility to full investigate the claims that have been made. That's what we're doing. We've got an independent process underway. We need to let that take its course.
JOURNALIST: And do you believe she has been treated fairly?
PLIBERSEK: Look I'm not going to comment. I'm not going to provide a running commentary when there is an independent investigation underway. We need to let the investigation take its course.
JOURNALIST: Just on population, Australia's population is about to hit 25 million people. As the Member for Sydney do you want to see immigration slow in capital cities?
PLIBERSEK: Look I think it is sensible to have a discussion about how our cities are coping with increases in population. We need to make sure that we have the infrastructure right, that we've got the hard infrastructure like public transport and our roads system that can sustain population growth, but also that we have the social infrastructure - centres like this, schools, hospitals, parks, recreational facilities - we need to make sure that our cities are coping well with population growth so that Australians have a great quality of life. We want people to enjoy living in our cities. We have very different stories across Australia. Cities like Darwin are actually worried about the decline in population, cities like Sydney are, you know, struggling a little bit with the increases in population we've seen. Anybody who's driving through Sydney knows that traffic at 3 o'clock on a Sunday is as bad as traffic at 9 o'clock on a Wednesday. That is something that we need to deal with as a community. So we need to plan for, look at our growth, and plan for that growth to make sure that Australians have the quality of life that we've always been so proud of.
JOURNALIST: And just finally would you support a Senate inquiry into population growth?
PLIBERSEK: Look we don't know what the Government's intention is there. We'll make a response when they've made up their minds what they're doing. Thanks.