NATIONAL: Productivity Commission inquiry into child care
The Australian government has announced the establishment of a Productivity Commission Inquiry into Child Care and Early Childhood Learning, tasked with assessing how the current child care system can be made more flexible, affordable and accessible. 
The Report is expected by October 2014. The issues paper which has been released points to an investigation of the contribution that affordable access to childcare could have on female workforce participation; consideration of the types of care required; consideration of the needs of vulnerable families and geographical isolated families; specific international models of care; and recommendations as to funding requirements; amongst other issues. 
While this Commission Inquiry is a positive step towards prioritising early childhood care and education as recommended by the CRC, the government must ensure that the principles of overall child development and parental capacity strengthening are also taken into account during the implementation of the inquiry ’s findings.
NATIONAL: Closing the Gap on early childhood education for Indigenous children
In early 2013, the government released its report Closing the Gap: Prime Minister’s Report which revealed that there are now more Indigenous children than ever before who have access to preschool or kindergarten programs under the ‘Closing the Gap’ policy. 
The government has also stated that according to current data, the policy target of 95% of Indigenous four-year-olds living in remote communities having access to early childhood education will be met in 2013. 
A new target of 90% of all Indigenous children having access to a quality early childhood education program has now been set, a policy target which has been welcomed by child rights groups such as the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (“SNAICC”). 
This is consistent with the CRC’s recommendation that early childhood education beprioritised and available to all Australian children.
However, groups such as SNAICC have also pointed out the need to ensure funding is adequate to achieve such targets and that a definition of ‘early childhood education’ needs to reflect the need for Indigenous children to access culturally appropriate services for an adequate period. 
NATIONAL: Funding for Universal Access to Early Childhood Education initiative
In April 2013 the Council of Australian Governments (“COAG”) endorsed a new National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education.
Under this Agreement, the federal government pledged an additional $655 million over 18 months to the states and territories to support universal access to early education for young children.  The aim of this funding is to provide all children with the opportunity to access a quality early childhood education program, delivered by a degree qualified early childhood teacher, for 600 hours a year, in the year before full-time schooling. 
However, this funding does not provide any payments directly to families and it remains the family’s choice as to whether their child will attend preschool. Therefore, concerns have been raised that disadvantaged families may not benefit from this funding in choosing not send their children to preschool, given that it is likely there will still be some cost involved. 
Furthermore, this funding is primarily directed at children aged between 4 and 5 years in the year before compulsory primary schooling commences. Therefore, this development does not sufficiently address the recommendations of the CRC that the standards of early childhood education and care be raised for all children under the age of 4 years .
NATIONAL: Aboriginal communities to benefit from HIPPY rollout
In July 2013 the government announced its intention to focus the next roll out of the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (“HIPPY”) program to Indigenous communities, enabling parents to follow a set curriculum to prepare their child for schooling.
The government has committed $55.7 million in order to expand the program to reach remote Aboriginal communities based on positive evidence after its pilot program. 
The HIPPY program allows parents to gain confidence in their own parenting capabilities, which satisfies the CRC’s recommendations that early childhood care and education strengthens parental capacity.
Developments requiring attention
NATIONAL: Partial improvements in child care affordability
A recent report on child care in Australia showed a partial improvement in child care affordability for families in recent years. Since 2005, out of pocket costs of child care for families have decreased across all income levels,  while rates of children accessing approved child care has increased by 30% in the past 8 years.  As a result of the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate schemes, the Australian government is meeting approximately 70% of average long day childcare costs for a family earning $70,000 per year.  As found in a WA study, the Federal government provides more than $280 million in child care fee assistance to WA families each year, having increased the Child Care rebate from 30% to 50% of costs across the state. 
However, parents and industry groups continue to find that childcare remains unaffordable for many families and there are often large waiting lists in larger cities.  The Child Care Rebate is subject to maximum rebates during the financial year and some private child care centres charge up to $130 a day in high demand areas. This means that many parents are unable to send their children to early childhood education centres and those children are unable to access early learning with qualified professionals.
The CRC has recommended that the government consider the provision of free or affordable child care for all children in order to improve quality and coverage of early childhood care and education. Advocates such as Dr Elizabeth Hall, co-convener of the Work and Family Policy Roundtable, have called for “revolutionary policymaking” in order to address the issue.  Toby Hall of Mission Australia has affirmed this view, finding that better access for children to education and care in low income areas will promote “learning and development” as well as productivity. 
NATIONAL: Varied adherence among providers to the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care
Although the government’s adoption of the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care (“the Framework”) was a positive development in the field and supported by the CRC, there are some outstanding issues relating to the Framework which must be addressed by the government.
While the numbers of childcare and education centres and providers registering under the Framework is continuing to increase, as of June 2013, only 19% of the 13,284 childcare and education services across Australia had received a final quality rating under the Framework’s assessment standards.  Furthermore, of those services who have been rated in that time, only 56% were currently meeting or exceeding the recommended Standards.  This high number of centres not meeting the standards provided by the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care is an issue which the government must redress in order to meet the CRC’s expectations.
NATIONAL: Early Years Quality Fund aims to retain childcare professionals, but fails independent report
In 2013 the previous Australian government established the Early Years Quality Fund, a legislative initiative designated $300 million over two years to highly trained child care professionals to encourage industry retention and attract more persons to the field. 
This initiative was designed to maintain affordability of early child hood education while ensuring quality outcomes for children.
However, a recent independent review undertaken by PriceWaterhouseCoopers has found that the Fund was insufficient in achieving its aims and inequitable across the sector. 
Assistant Minister for Education Sussan Ley has described the Fund as “a deeply flawed and inequitable policy” used to boost union membership by the outgoing Labor government. 
It is important that highly trained, qualified staff are recruited to, supported and retained in the early childhood education sector in order to safeguard the rights of children to and education and to meet the recommendations of the CRC. In the case that this Fund is inadequate in achieving those aims, the government must implement new policy to do so.