CANBERRA, May 15 - The Opposition has pledged $41 million so all primary schools can offer swimming lessons.

The current "patchwork" approach to water safety meant many children reached high school without basic swimming skills, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

"From the beaches to the rivers to the backyard swimming pools, Australian kids love the water," he told reporters at the Kingscliff Surf Life Saving Club in northern NSW on Sunday.

"Each year we see too many tragedies, especially amongst our young ones."

In 2014-15 about one in eight of all drowning deaths were children under the age of 14.

Shorten said it was really important all children learnt to be confident around water.

Labor would work with the states and territories, private schools, swim schools and lifesaving clubs to make sure all students get swimming lessons.

Kingscliff is located in the Labor held seat of Richmond which is being targeted by the Greens.

Labor MP Justine Elliot's hold on the seat has been loosened after a redistribution of boundaries reduced her margin from three per cent to 1.6 per cent.