LAURA JAYES, HOST:  Joining me is the Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen. Chris Bowen, good to see you this morning.  First let me ask you about this education...
 
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Good to be with you Laura.
 
JAYES: ...announcement this morning, now Bill Shorten no doubt is going to outline all of the details in a speech later today, we're talking about $1.75 billion, a benefit to 700,000 children, extending this subsidy to three year olds, why are you spending close to $2 billion on this?
 
BOWEN: This is an important investment in Australia's future, Laura.  Yes it's a big amount, but we know, we know for a fact that investment in early childhood pays off right throughout that child's life, pays off for the society, pays off for the government, pays off for the individual.  And we know that we need to invest in Australia's children. 
 
We're falling behind.  We're currently 22 out of 30 in the OECD for early childhood investment, we're actually going backwards, and other countries, other countries are going down the road of two years of preschool.  New Zealand, United Kingdom, China, Ireland.  We're falling behind.  And importantly Laura, a lot of your viewers might not be aware, the previous Labor Government instituted preschool for four year olds, the Morrison Government is cancelling it.  It ends next year.  Now we think that's just plain wrong, so we are committing to keeping it going, and further, it's now time to build on that commitment and extend it to three year olds. 
 
So I call on the Morrison Government at the very least...
 
JAYES: Is that right though, is that right though Shadow Treasurer?  Is that right?  Are they cancelling it...
 
BOWEN: Yes, yes it is.  Absolutely.
 
JAYES: I mean the Government has extended this program four times in the past, what's to say it won't now?
 
BOWEN: Well the last statement of Government policy we had was from Minister Simon Birmingham, who was the relevant Minister, who said he wouldn't be extending it, the Government wouldn't be extending it. 
 
Now if they change their mind, that's great.  I mean they'll get a big tick from us.  We'll welcome that very strongly.  But Australia's preschools and Australia's parents deserve the certainty to know that this program will be locked in.  And we will lock it in, and indeed as I said Laura, it's time to extend it.  It's time to give three year olds access to preschool. 
 
We're currently running about 57 per cent of Australia's three year olds going to preschools.  The average in the developed world is 78 per cent.  We're about 20 points behind the developed world, and that has a real cost for us, not next year, not the year after, but over the next decade in terms of early childhood development.  We know that kids do so much better at school, we know that through the PISA results, we know that through all the studies, if they've had access to preschool for two years at three and four. 
 
A Shorten Labor Government will deliver it, and I hope that the Morrison Government can catch up with us, and at least lock in the four year old preschool commitment.
 
JAYES:  Is this available to all children or will there be a means test?
 
BOWEN:  No it's universal access, Laura, we do think that every Australian child deserves access to preschool, and it's an important commitment.  We want to lift, we want to see every Australian child, three year old and four year old, going to preschool.  We think whether you live in regional Australia or the inner city, we want the same investment in your future.
 
JAYES: Just on the cost of the plan, $1.75 billion over the forward estimates.  Now at the moment it costs $440 million a year for four year olds at preschool, so is that right?  So this funding, this extra spend today, only looks at four year olds, or does that include three year olds as well?
 
BOWEN: Well, about a $1 billion of that comes from the four year old expense, so keeping that going, locking it in for the future.  And the rest of that comes from extending to three year olds, also some improvements to quality accreditation etc., also we know that we need more early childhood educators, so we'll make 10,000 places available through TAFE.  I mean this is a holistic package.  Amanda Rishworth's done a lot of work on this.  It's been through our Shadow Cabinet, our Expenditure Review Committee several times, we've put it through its paces, and it stacks up as good policy, an important investment in the future, an important investment in economic growth.  I mean we want Australians being more productive, and that means investing in their entire education.  I mean we've already got a package for schools, we've already got a package for TAFE, we've already got a package for universities. 
 
Today, we're finalising, if you like, the entire human capital offering by saying a Shorten Labor Government will invest heavily in early childhood.  Yes it's a big investment, it's a big amount of money, of course it is.  But it's a necessary investment, and as I said Laura, we're falling behind.  Other countries are doing it.  And if New Zealand can afford it, if Ireland can afford it, if United Kingdom can afford it, if China can afford it, so can Australia.
 
JAYES: But I'm just looking at your numbers here, because Budget Paper Two, page 91 if you want to go back and reference it later, it shows the cost per year at the moment for this four year olds in early childhood, in preschool, the subsidy costs around $440 million per year so the $1.75m figure seems out a little bit if you want to get 3 year old’s into that.
 
BOWEN: Well Laura, it’s all been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. Of course our commitment is a forward estimates commitment. That’s a forward estimates costing your referring to on our behalf. I think you might have referred to the budget papers which would be in different forward estimates of course.
 
Look, it’s all been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office independently of us. It’s been worked through very closely. It’s been carefully calibrated. All the details are in the policy documents that will be announced today by Bill Shorten and Amanda Rishworth. A very important speech by Bill today. I mean, we’re not being distracted by the internal machinations of the Liberal Party, we’re getting on outlining our alternative plans for the country.
 
JAYES: Okay. There’s huge participation issues in getting 4 year olds to go to pre-school anyway. What are you doing in that space to try and encourage, particularly disadvantaged children, getting them to pre-school.
 
BOWEN: Well that’s the big payoff from what we’re talking about. I talked about universal access, and that’s important. But the big payoff is getting disadvantaged kids to go to pre-school. Kids who otherwise wouldn’t. That’s where they really lift their educational outcomes, whether it be indigenous kids in remote areas of Australia. Kids in disadvantaged families in regional Australia. All the evidence shows that if we can get those kids to pre-school it actually lifts their educational attainment in year 4, and year 5, through high school, and increases their chances of getting further qualifications.
 
Now, sure there’s a challenge with implementing that. But we’ve shown in the 4 year olds package that the previous Labor Government put in place it can be done. With the right investment, right commitment, it can be done. We lifted 4 year old participation right up. As I said, we’ve got to lift 3 year old participation. It’s currently around 57%. We’ve got to lift that right up by many points, to get it right up much closer to 100% to get the economic payback for the country. We want to see the investment for the individuals, it’s important for the families, but it’s also important for the future of Australia.
 
JAYES: Just on the GST. Will Labor support the legislation when it goes back before the parliament in two weeks? And I know you want to see this guarantee, like the other states and territories do, that no state will be worse off. What does that look like in legislation?
 
BOWEN: Well Laura a couple of points. We’re glad the Morrison government has followed us and said they will legislate. Remember Bill Shorten said this weeks ago, that this should have legislation. Scott Morrison arrogantly dismissed that and said it wasn’t necessary. Now all of a sudden they say we should have legislation and it’s our job to vote for it. Well it was our idea to start with. Point one.
 
Point two, on Monday I pointed out that, or Tuesday, I pointed out that it would be better if there was a guarantee for the other states and territories in the legislation.
 
JAYES: What does that guarantee look like?
 
BOWEN: Well, let me make this point and I will answer your question Laura. Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg got themselves in a lather about my statements.
 
Yesterday every state and territory Treasurer agreed with me.  Every single one. From Tasmania to Western Australia. They all unanimously backed our position.
 
It takes a lot to unite the Treasurers of Tasmania and Western Australia when it comes to GST distribution, but Josh Frydenberg managed it. Now in terms of your question about what it will look like, we’re obviously working through that. The Victorian government has proposed an amendment. I’m having a look at that. We’ll work with the drafters, I’ll consider the potential drafting options and I’ll make a recommendation to the Caucus.
 
JAYES: But if this was your idea, what does a guarantee in legislation look like? Surely you’ve got an idea?
 
BOWEN: Well, as I just said Laura, there are drafts out there. We’ll make sure we get this right. I’ll make a recommendation to the Caucus. The legislation was released a couple of days ago. Scott Morrison said he sent it to us when he hadn’t. That was wrong. We didn’t have it. He said publicly in the media that Labor’s got it. That was just not right. We got it subsequently. We’ll work through that, methodically as we always do. I’ll make a recommendation to the Caucus.
 
That recommendation to the Caucus will reflect the fact that I want to see the legislation passed but it will also reflect the fact that I want to see the legislation improved. We’ll engage in discussions with the senate cross bench. And these things have some way to go.
 
JAYES: Chris Bowen, thank you. Budget papers 2, page 91 if you want to go back and reference it. Thanks so much for your time this morning.
 
BOWEN: And forward estimates in Labor’s announcement today are fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, have a read.
 
JAYES: We’ll speak soon. Thanks

ENDS
 
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