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Senator Katherine Zappone

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

I rise to support Senator Paschal Mooney's call for an urgent debate to be arranged with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on childhood, child care, early education, the coherence of all of those issues and also costs. Therefore, I must disagree with my right honourable colleague on this side of the House, Senator Bacik, because we cannot wait and the issue is a matter of urgency. Why do I say so? I am aware that the Minister has established an interdepartmental working group which will report in August. Is there coherence in the sector? Is there a sense of urgency? Is there a reason to believe that there will be political will and armour in the way we invest in early-years care, after-care, and childhood and early education?
We have a document entitled Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, which is the national policy framework for children and young people, and another document, Right from the Start, the report of the expert advisory group on the early years strategy, which was put out in 2013. Recently, I have heard that the Government is about to develop an early years strategy along with a policy framework. As Senator Bacik has said, another interdepartmental group has been established to study the costs for children from birth to aged six years and after-school needs. Where is the cohesion? Do we have a full strategy for all child care, childhood development and early education? Yes, we should look at costs, but in the context of the strategies being developed and how they can cohere. In that regard, I agree with Senator Mooney that we need an urgent debate. We do not need to wait for another report to arrive. I want to know the following. What would such a report have to do with the expert advisory group on the early years strategy? Is a strategy coming? How will it relate to the later report? How does it all relate to the overall policy framework that was published by this Government in terms of better outcomes for children?