The Australian people have returned the Morrison Coalition Government to power for another three years, in a result that few expected.
Many, many words will be written over those three years about that result and what it means for Australia.
At The Framework, our focus is on services that operate under the National Quality Framework. So, we’ll focus our analysis of the result through that context.
The analysis isn’t complicated. Instead of waking up on Sunday to begin thinking about the detail of how the Australian Labor Party planned to implement their ambitious early education reform agenda, the sector now has only question marks.
The Coalition Government has been returned with almost no announced policies at all, let alone an early education and school-age care policy program.
It’s hard to think of a recent election in history where the winner has not had something to say about these issues. 2016 was all about the Jobs for Families Package. The National Quality Framework itself was under threat in 2013. The collapse of ABC and Labor’s increase to the subsidies at the time hung over 2010.
Anyone who claims to predict what the next three years will bring are kidding themselves. The returned Government themselves have not made clear what they intend for the early education sector.
More of the same
We could be in for three years of nothing very much. Content with administering the new Child Care Subsidy, with all its inequities and flaws, the Government will just embed the current system and stare down any opposition to it.
The status quo with universal preschool funding could remain. Three-year-old preschool will be off the agenda, and four-year-old preschool funding will be threatened every year.
Educators certainly won’t be getting a pay rise, and it’s likely they won’t even receive a national Workforce Strategy. No funding for professional development either.
That’s just if the Government decides to take a rest from early education reform over the next three years. Again, we have no policies or announcements to make an informed decision on what could happen if they decide to do something.
The Child Care Subsidy could be tightened, eligibility made harder, access made more difficult for children in families without steady employment.
Accessing the Additional Child Care Subsidy could remain complicated and difficult, or become more so.
Federal funding for universal access to preschool could be cut.
The National Quality Framework could be put under pressure, either through funding or through legislation.
Hard work ahead
Either way, the sector faces a difficult time in ensuring that children’s right to high-quality early education remains on the agenda.
But it’s hard to confidently and successfully argue your case when you only know what a newly-elected Government won’t do, and not what it will do.
The election result on Saturday wasn’t just about Morrison vs. Shorten, or Liberal vs. Labor. For NQF services, it was about clear, positive and costed policies vs. at best, more of the same, and at worse, a huge question mark.
The choice has been made. The sector will now have to work incredibly smartly to deal with a Government that can reasonably claim to have been given a mandate to do whatever they want.