Education and Care Services National Law Amendment Bill 2017


I rise to speak on the amendments to the Education and Care Services National Law, and I confirm from the outset that the Greens will be supporting the bill.

As we have heard, the amendments contained in this bill aim to improve regulation of service providers, reduce unnecessary administrative burden on service providers and enhance enforcement of the national law. A substantial amount of analysis, consultation and negotiation has gone into developing this bill, which implements recommendations from the 2014 review of the national partnership agreement on the national quality agenda for early childhood education and care.

The Greens recognise the critical importance of universal access to high-quality, affordable child care, and we strongly support efforts to continually professionalise and increase access to child care. A substantial number of amendments within the bill are aimed at improving regulation and quality of the family day care system. This component of child care is one that has grown substantially over the last 10 years in a number of areas.

In principle the Greens are supportive of day care operated by and within communities. It has an important role to play in connecting families within communities, providing a home-like environment that supports children's development, enabling parents to work where they want or need to, providing access to day care at a reasonable price and providing career opportunities to groups of workers that may find entry into the workplace challenging otherwise.

In particular family day care continues to provide strong career options to migrant women with a huge amount of experience in caring for and educating children. Migrant woman often face substantial barriers to entering the workforce, and these barriers often act as impediments to integration with their communities more generally. So solid career paths that meet a general need within our communities and provide opportunities for families to connect with others in their communities are hugely important. Family day care provides these kinds of opportunities on a daily basis. Clearly, though, standards of care and safety must be protected and adequately regulated, as they are within our educational institutions and other childcare organisations.

Rapid growth of an industry often presents challenges from a regulatory perspective, and this has certainly been the case in the context of family day care in Victoria, as the government will attest to. This bill will address a number of challenges identified as part of the 2014 review of the national partnership agreement on the national quality agenda for early childhood education and care. This bill will tighten restrictions around the locations and venues where the care can be provided. It will also ensure that regulators receive timely information about changes to key staff and responsibilities. It will remove the supervisor certification scheme. This change aims to reduce the administrative burden on education and care services while ensuring that standards are maintained, and it does this by delegating this responsibility to service providers.

These changes will also ensure that approved education and care services must meet the highest national quality standards in order to apply for an 'excellent' rating. Parents place a great deal of store in educational ratings, and these standards need to be both rigorous and consistent. These amendments are part of an ongoing effort to ensure consistent and high-quality education and care across all Australian jurisdictions.

The changes will not address other persistent challenges facing the family day care sector, including fraudulent operation of services and the availability of federal funding for new services in areas that are already well serviced by existing services. We note that the Victorian government has been taking action on fraudulent operation and called on the federal government late last year to undertake a review of the sector to address this and related issues. We would be fully supportive of such an action.

Notwithstanding this and acknowledging the purpose and scope of this bill in amending the national law to implement the recommendations of the 2014 national partnership agreement review, I commend this bill to the house.