An early childhood guarantee enshrined in law could bring childcare costs to $10 per day and increase paid parental leave to 52 weeks within 10 years, advocates say. The Minderoo Foundation is leading the push for national legislation that would make all children and families entitled to universal access to maternal health services and three days a week of low-cost quality early education for the two years before school. Thrive by Five campaign manager Jay Weatherill said Australia could aim to follow the Canadian model where families would pay $10 per day for childcare. "It's a rare public policy that ticks so many boxes at the same time," Mr Weatherill said. "The three things that are most spoken about cost of living, workforce shortages, and productivity. This ticks each of those boxes." The proposed bill would establish a joint statutory body between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments that would be responsible for delivering the measures. Mr Weatherill said currently the responsibility for early childhood development fell across various portfolios and includes the tax and transfer system, parental leave, preschool, childcare centres and child protection. "Once you've put this in place, once you set this standard, you set up this body, you have the vision, even we acknowledge that it'll take 10 years at least to build out the system," he said. "We imagine that there will be agreements reached between the Commonwealth and the various state and territory restrictions to roll this agenda out over the period and obviously ACT has made a start, so that it's a great place from which to build." The ACT has forged ahead with plans to introduce one day per week free preschool for three-year-olds and legislating to recognise the importance of early education in the two years before school and the qualifications of early childhood teachers. A survey by advocacy body The Parenthood found 85 per cent of families believed that they needed two incomes to keep pace with the cost of living. Six in 10 parents said they or their partner would work different hours if childcare wasn't so expensive. READ MORE: The Parenthood chief executive Jessica Rudd said the current early education and care system had been cobbled together over generations to meet the needs of the few, rather than the many. "We've got to start thinking about early childhood education and care and those early years as an essential service," Ms Rudd said. "So that calls for in, our view, a legislated child based entitlement that actually sets children up for a life of learning and supports families through those early years so that they can participate in the workforce and get the support that they need." Ms Rudd said one fifth of children were starting school with a developmental vulnerability. "What that tells us is that these children really need that early intervention that early recognition of what is going on and what support that they require to really set them up properly for for their school life." She said Australia's paid parental leave scheme, which will reach 26 weeks by 2026, was still far behind the other OECD countries. "52 weeks would bring us into line with the rest of the OECD. It should be flexibly shared between parents. We want dads to be taking much more paid parental leave than they're taking at the moment." Mr Weatherill said changing the early childhood development system would require a significant investment but it would provide more short, medium and long-term benefits that outweigh the costs. "There's all the costs you avoid if you're not having to intervene later to fix up problems that would have been so much easier to fix earlier. So for all those reasons it should be seen as an investment. Sure there's a short term cost, but massive long term returns." We've made it a whole lot easier for you to have your say. Our new comment platform requires only one log-in to access articles and to join the discussion on The Canberra Times website. Find out how to register so you can enjoy civil, friendly and engaging discussions. See our moderation policy here.