Early Childhood Australia has recently received further responses to its ECA federal election e-card, which outlines a five-point Election Agenda:
- Climate change and sustainability
- Indigenous young children and families
- Parenting support
- Investment in early childhood
- Children's rights
The responses from leader of the Australian Democrats, Lyn Allison, and leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd, are included below.
[NB. The Liberal Party has been contacted, but no response has yet been received.]
Democrats respond to ECA's Election Agenda
Early Childhood Australia has received a response to its federal election e-card from leader of the Democrats, Lyn Allison:
19 October 2007
Thank you for your email regarding children's issues. The Australian Democrats agree that children are our most important asset and their interests are core to our work in the Senate, and in our platforms for the coming election.
[The Australian Democrats] website is the best place to see all our material on the subjects you have identifiedâ€”please see our action plans on the protection of children and on early childhood development.
Leader, Australian Democrats
Senator for Victoria
PS: You may also be interested to know that in the last sitting week of September the Democrats won support from the major parties for a royal commission into the sexual assault and abuse of children throughout Australia, as follows:
Senator BARTLETT (Queensland) (10.02 a.m.)â€”by leaveâ€”I move the motion as amended:
That the Senate:
(a) notes the damaging long-term effects to Australian society caused by the sexual assault and abuse of children and young people;
(b) recognises the importance of following up expressions of concern with genuine action to assist survivors of sexual assault and to bring perpetrators to justice;
(i) recent concerns expressed about an alleged pack rape of a 14-year old girl in the John Oxley Youth Detention Centre in Queensland in 1988, and urges any person with information about this alleged crime to immediately furnish that information to police for full and proper investigation to ensure the alleged victim receives justice, and
(ii) the many petitions tabled in the Senate, expressing the support of many Australians for a royal commission into the sexual assault and abuse of children in Australia and the ongoing cover-ups of many of these matters; and
(d) expresses support for the longstanding call for a comprehensive royal commission into the sexual assault and abuse of children throughout Australia, especially in institutions.
Question agreed to.
Kevin Rudd responds to ECA's Election Agenda
Early Childhood Australia has received a response to its federal election e-card from leader of the Labor Party, Kevin Rudd:
24 October 2007
Thank you for your email titled 'Put your hand up for children'. This is Labor's response to your questions.
1. Climate change and sustainability–creating a safe and secure future for every child.
Labor believes climate change is the most serious environmental challenge facing the world today.
Dangerous climate change can be avoided if governments, communities and businesses work together, and that national leadership is needed to map the path for Australia towards a sustainable, carbon-constrained economy and society.
A Rudd Labor Government's comprehensive practical approach to dealing with climate change includes:
Introduce an effective emissions trading scheme by 2010 that makes clean energy sources more economically competitive:
- Offer rebates for rooftop solar power panels;
- Offer low-interest loans of up to $10,000 for homeowners to purchase measures including rooftop solar power panels and solar hot water systems;
- Establish the $50 million Australian Solar Institute;
- Provide $50 million to develop geothermal â€˜hot rocks' energy; and
- Establish a $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund to encourage the manufacture of low emission vehicles in Australia.
2. Indigenous young children and families–delivering culturally safe children's services which build capacity into the future for Indigenous Australians.
Labor recognises the gravity and extent of substance and alcohol abuse, family violence, child abuse, and sexual assault in some Indigenous communities. Labor will provide ongoing support to community initiatives to ensure strong interventions are put in place that break the cycles of abuse, rehabilitate individuals and families and strengthen social norms.
Labor believes early childhood intervention is one of the best means of providing a pathway out of disadvantage for many Indigenous children.
Healthy lives begin with a healthy start, and on the 40th anniversary of the 1967 referendum in May, I have committed Labor to close the 17-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians over the next generation. This gap remains as one of the starkest indicators of inequality in our society. Our commitment begins with the generation of Indigenous children being born now. Focusing on the critical years from birth to eight, the first stage of Labor's plan to close the gap has three component parts:
- Child and Maternal Health services;
- Early Development and parenting support; and
- Literacy and numeracy in the early years.
We have proposed a total investment of $260 million over four years to form the basis of a serious, long term commitment to Indigenous children's health and early development.
Much more needs to be done to improve participation and retention of Indigenous children in education at all levels. This must involve:
- focusing on literacy and numeracy in Indigenous education;
- working with communities to lift school attendance rates;
- involving Indigenous families in schools and decision making processes;
- employing more Indigenous teachers and other education workers;
- encouraging greater participation by Indigenous children in pre-schooling; and
- providing culturally appropriate and relevant learning experiences, including Indigenous languages.
A key part of Federal Labor's Education Revolution, is to provide all Australian four year olds with 15 hours of preschool education a week, through fun, play-based activities, delivered by a qualified teacher. This will be a $450 million investment when fully rolled out across Australia.
High quality preschool has been recognised by many involved with Indigenous children's development as especially beneficial. International studies show the value of high quality early interventions in helping to overcome disadvantage. Making sure this commitment reaches Indigenous children across Australia will be a challenge, but our children's development is too important to let these difficulties stand in our way.
Indigenous communities–urban, regional and remote–will be priority areas for the expansion of early childhood services, particularly in regard to Labor's commitment to universal access for four year olds to early learning programs.
Preventative and proactive measures focused on early childhood development and family strengthening are most effective in reducing the over-representation of Indigenous children in the child protection system. Labor strongly supports the principle that where a child has to be removed that every effort is made to place that child with relatives, kin or another Indigenous family. The paramount priority of child placement is the safety and well-being of the child.
3. Parenting support–a commitment to paid parental leave for all parents and flexible, family-friendly work environments.
Labor recognises that when families have babies, there is a complex nexus between the arrangements they negotiate with their employer and support they receive from the government. We believe that governments have a role to play in bridging this divide so that parents are able to focus on their top priority – looking after their new born baby.
In government, Labor will repeal Mr Howard's unfair and extreme Work Choices laws and deliver a new industrial relations system which helps Australians balance work and family life.
A Rudd Labor Government will ensure that both parents will have the right to separate periods of up to 12 months of unpaid leave associated with the birth of a baby. Where families prefer one parent to take a longer period of leave, that parent will be entitled to request up to an additional 12 months of unpaid parental leave from their employer.
Parents will also have the right request flexible work arrangements until their child reaches school age. Labor believes that parents require financial support at the time of the birth of a new baby, especially in order to allow mothers to spend more time with new born children.
There have been long arguments about whether this support is best delivered as maternity leave payment for working women or a universal payment to all new mothers; whether the payment should be a lump sum or fortnightly income replacement.
If elected, a Labor Government will ask the Productivity Commission to examine the effectiveness of different models to improve support for parents in the labour force with new born children, their likely impact on work and family preferences and workforce participation more generally. The inquiry would also investigate the cost effectiveness of different models, their likely impact on business and interaction with the social security system. Labor would publicly release the findings of this report.
Labor will not support a system that imposes additional financial burdens or administrative complexity on small businesses or in any way discourages to the employment of women. It is important that any further reform in this area not lead to the marginalisation of mothers in the workforce.
Paid Maternity Leave on its own will not solve the dilemma of work/life balance for pressured families. A fair industrial relations system, affordable, accessible and high quality child care are also important in helping working families with the pressures they face.
4. Investment in early childhood–a long-term strategy for early childhood services which reflects the evidence about what's necessary to deliver quality outcomes for children.
Labor believes that all Australian children deserve the best start in life.
A long term vision and leadership is required for the early childhood system in Australia. Federal Labor wants young children's early years to be a national priority, with the focus on integrating high quality child care with learning and development opportunities.
Investing in the early years of a child's life delivers strong long-term benefits for children. A Rudd Labor Government will put learning and development at the centre of Australia's approach to early childhood care and education. We will enshrine in law a right of universal access to early learning programs for all four year olds. This learning would be provided in all forms of early childhood care and education settings.
A Rudd Labor Government will invest $450 million to give all Australian four year olds 15 hours of preschool education–delivered through fun, play-based activities–a week, delivered by a qualified teacher.
Labor believes that children's services must centre on the needs of all children and the value of each child.
Labor is committed to supporting families in the different choices they make about how to balance making an income sufficient for their needs and aspirations, with caring for children:
- Labor's first concern is to ensure that children grow up in a caring, stable and safe environment.
- Labor is committed to providing high quality, affordable and accessible formal childcare, and supporting families who choose to care for their children at home.
- Labor is committed to ensuring that funding of quality childcare supports choice for families in the type of service they can access.
Labor believes the Commonwealth government should play an active role in early childhood care and education through planning and funding to ensure that:
- the supply of places matches demand, including demand for places for babies and children at risk, for children with disabilities, and in outside-school-hours and vacation care services;
- emerging needs for childcare places are met, in line with changes in the way families balance their working and family lives.
Recognising the contribution early childhood education and care services make to children's development, parent support and early identification of children at risk, a Rudd Labor Government will develop an integrated national system of local networks linking services such as preschool, childcare, playgroups, maternal and children's health, early intervention and parental education.
Labor believes all children should have some prior-to-school learning; that price must not be a barrier; and that early learning is one of the best ways to reduce social disadvantage in Australia.
Labor will continue to support and expand early childhood care and education for children with special needs and children at risk.
5. Children's rights–a commitment to establishing an Office of the Commissioner for Children.
Labor believes that all areas of government must reflect the intrinsic value of children and young people in their policies and programs.
Federal Labor is committed to developing and implementing a National Child Protection Framework. We understand that abuse and neglect affects children right across Australia, in urban, regional and remote areas, and from all backgrounds.
While State Governments are at the front line of child protection, Labor believes that leadership from the Commonwealth would be welcome in this area. The whole community has a shared responsibility for child protection, with all levels of Government and all sections of the community need to play a role. National action is required because we see the number of Australian children who have been the subject of a notification or report has increased dramatically in the past decade.
A National Child Protection Framework will encompass better integration and coordination of primary universal services for all children, complementing secondary intensive family services for children being neglected, backed up by tertiary interventions and placements of children being harmed. Key to the Framework would be improving cross-jurisdictional child protection standards and data collection.
Federal Labor supports nationally consistent working with children checks.
Thank you for writing to me with these questions and I hope this clarifies Labor's position on these matters.
Federal Labor Leader
Member for Griffith