Bill Shorten’s Budget reply speech has good news for families. Picture: iStock
Bill Shorten’s Budget reply speech has good news for families. Picture: iStock

Bill Shorten’s big pledge to families

BILL Shorten says schools will be a centrepoint of Labor's strategy to improve the lives of Australian families if he is elected Prime Minister in May.

The Opposition Leader reinforced the stark contrast between Labor and the Coalition on families and said their everyday lives would be better under a Shorten government.

He said every dollar that had been cut from schools under the Coalition would be replaced by Labor in government and would be a top priority.

Bill Shorten says schools will be a centrepoint of Labor’s strategy to improve the lives of Australian families if he is elected Prime Minister in May. Picture: Kym Smith
Bill Shorten says schools will be a centrepoint of Labor’s strategy to improve the lives of Australian families if he is elected Prime Minister in May. Picture: Kym Smith

"Tonight the first commitment I can give Australians and one of the most important - if we win the next election, we will put back every single dollar that the Liberals have cut from public schools," Mr Shorten said from the floor of the House of Representatives as he delivered his Budget reply.

He spoke of his own mother, Ann, and her experience as a schoolteacher.

"She taught me that you can measure a nation's values by how much it values education," Mr Shorten said.

"I want every child in Australia to get the one-on-one attention they need to thrive."

Mr Shorten also highlighted the importance of early childhood education the stark contrast between his and the Coalition's preschool plans.

"Two years of preschool is global best practice," Mr Shorten said.

"If you vote Labor, we will guarantee universal access to preschool or kinder for every three year old and every four year old in Australia.

"When it comes to our children's education, we should never settle for less than the best."

Labor have guaranteed universal access to preschool or kinder for every three and four year old in Australia should they win the federal election. Picture: Supplied
Labor have guaranteed universal access to preschool or kinder for every three and four year old in Australia should they win the federal election. Picture: Supplied

In Tuesday's budget Treasurer Josh Frydenberg outraged the early childhood sector by once again only providing an extension of funding to four-year-old preschool for a year.

Labor has a $1.75 billion National Preschools and Kindy program that not only provides continuous funding for four-year-old preschool but also extends it to three-year-olds.

"Last year China enrolled 46 million three year olds in preschool programs," Mr Shorten said.

"Australia is falling behind in the early years - and that affects our kids right through primary school.

On Tuesday, Mr Frydenberg said the Coalition would fund 15-hours of universal access to preschool to 2020 to the tune of $453 million.

But the funding was the continuation of a piecemeal approach to the sector, which is exactly what experts did not want and provided Labor an easy win with parents on early childhood education.

Mr Shorten's budget reply last night also included a commitment to women and followed Labor's release of a Women's Budget Statement in Parliament House yesterday.

"This is what you get from a political party that walks the walk on equality for women - in our policies and here in the parliament," Mr Shorten said in his speech.

Labor's Women's Budget Statement also highlighted measures for women and families including the closing of tax loopholes and unfair tax concessions, placing the Office for Women at the centre of a new program of gender responsive policymaking and paying the superannuation guarantee on Paid Parental Leave and Dad and Partner Pay payments from 1 July 2020.

"After six years of cuts and chaos, this (Coalition) Budget is filled with the same inaction on issues that matter for women. There's nothing the Liberals can say in the next six weeks to fix what they haven't done in the last six years," the 46-page document said.

"After six years sliding down global gender equality rankings, visionary change is needed. The Morrison Government isn't going to deliver it."

Australia was the first country in the world to produce a Women's Budget Statement under the Hawke Labor Government in 1984.

The idea was to be transparent about how the decisions made in the Budget impact Australian women but the Coalition government stopped producing such a document under Tony Abbott in 2014.

 

lanai.scarr@news.com.au

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