All primary school children would have access to swimming lessons under a future Labor government, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has announced in response to a spate of summer drownings.
There have been 65 drowning deaths in Australian waterways since the start of December.
Mr Shorten has committed $46 million over the next four years to ensure all Australian kids receive school-based swimming lessons.
"Aussies love swimming, but too many young people are growing up without learning sufficient water safety skills to keep them safe," he said on Sunday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he also wanted to prevent drownings and ensure every Australian child learns to swim.
"Even over this summer once again we have the devastating and tragic loss of more young lives who got access to swimming pools and other swimming places and lost their lives. It is absolutely dreadful," he said.
"State and territory governments run these programs comprehensively for everybody right around the country."
Mr Morrison said he would look at providing more Commonwealth cash as part of the budget process.
"But I'll tell you what I'm not going to do, I'm not going to dress up bailing out a Labor state government that can't run their budget as some sort of lifesaving program," he said.
The prime minister hit out at the Queensland Labor state government, arguing they had to be dragged "kicking and screaming" into offering swimming lessons.
About one in five Australian kids leave primary school unable to swim 50 metres.
Mr Shorten said access to school-based swimming lessons was inconsistent and often dependent on location, types of school and whether parents could afford private lessons.
"This is unfair and unsafe. We don't want children to miss out," he said.
From the 2020 school year, Labor would fund extra swimming lessons for schools that need it, catch-up lessons for kids who require them, and more support towards the cost of transport and pool entry fees.
The program will also provide additional support to children with disabilities to ensure they can participate.
Mr Shorten has promised to work with schools, the states and territories, local councils, swim schools and lifesaving clubs to ensure the nationally consistent program is delivered.
"Swimming lessons aren't just something parents should have to organise on weekends or during the holidays. It's a critical part of growing up safe in Australia, so it should be part of the school term," he said.
Australian Associated Press