MS LAWDER(Brindabella) (5.15): I would like to take my second 10 minutes, Madam Deputy Speaker. It gives me enormous pleasure to speak on this important line item in the budget, child care, partly in response to comments made by those opposite last night but mostly to reiterate the importance of this topic without resorting to invective, personal attack and the obvious, though clumsy, attempt at class warfare we saw last night.
However, the spray, especially from Ms Berry last night, was far too entertaining, in a fictional, made-up sort of way on the spur of the moment, to let pass without having another word on the topic. What we heard last night was some sort of bizarre, muddled, and clearly, may I say, fallacious recollection by Ms Berry of my MPI speech last week in relation to—as I said at the time, as I said last night, and as I say again now—an important topic for Canberra families: affordable, available, quality child care.
I am not sure if Ms Berry last week during her own MPI was asleep, had selective hearing, or perhaps did not have her glasses on, but she clearly did not comprehend what I said. I repeat now for the record—
Ms Berry interjecting—
Mr Hanson: Madam Deputy Speaker—
MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER: Mr Hanson.
Mr Hanson: I may have misheard, but I do believe I heard Ms Berry say, "She's a cow." I stand to be corrected. If that is the case, I would ask that she withdraw.
Ms Berry: I withdraw.
MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you, Ms Berry. Ms Lawder.
MS LAWDER: Thank you for proving my point. I repeat now, for the record, some of what I said last week during the MPI. I encourage her to read theHansardrather than rely on her own patently inadequate recollection. I quote:
I, too, see that there is a strong importance of investing in quality childcare and early education in the ACT, but I would also like to add to the discussion today that along with quality, the cost and availability of childcare is also a serious matter of importance to Canberra families.
... childcare operators warned that paying the rebate directly to parents rather than centres would have an inflationary effect, and this is exactly what has happened.
It is at a tipping point where people say it is not worth going back to work. While the value of high-quality early learning has got enormous potential for long-term productivity, the cost is making it unsustainable for some who need it most.
The quality of the system must be maintained to give all children a fighting chance of doing well at school, but the cost must be monitored to ensure parents earning low ... incomes do not decide to give up work because childcare is too expensive.
So Ms Berry's ham-fisted attempt to categorise my statements last week as pitting some upper class of the rich and powerful against some sort of victims here is clearly, I repeat, fallacious.
If one attempts to hoist someone on their own petard—sorry, perhaps that is too complex a saying for some of those opposite. If one attempts to damn someone with their own words, it might help if you actually use their own words, not make them up to suit yourself as you go along.
To end Ms Berry's confusion, I reiterate that if you cannot afford something, there is no point talking about the quality of it. It might be the most fabulous, best-quality child care in the world, but if it is unaffordable no-one can use it except the wealthy. That was the whole point of my analogy, which obviously was lost on those opposite. In future, I will try to keep it a bit simpler for their benefit.
For example, there are also those who are unable to tell the difference between "salacious" and "fallacious", perhaps also "audacious", "capacious", "crustaceous", "flirtatious" or "rapacious", or a whole heap of other "acious" words. I understand that for some in the chamber opposite, technology is not their area of expertise, so they possibly will not use an online dictionary—it might be too difficult for them. So I did bring down an old-fashioned printed one here. I am happy to share that, if anyone needs it in addition to the one at the front of the room.
But unfortunately it does not help with pronunciation, such as Ms Burch taking the best part of the year to get my name correct, despite my taking every opportunity to tell her in person or by email on the occasions where she said it incorrectly. But I digress.
Ms Burch: Enjoying it, though.
MS LAWDER: I am enjoying myself immensely, thank you. But an interjection: I apologise for responding across the chamber, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Last night the intent was to again categorise me as some sort of champion of the rich. However, as some others of those opposite have so kindly pointed out on a few occasions, this could hardly be further from the truth. I personally find it reasonably tiresome to keep referring to my previous work in homelessness and disability. However, I would proudly shout that from the rooftops rather than admit I work for a union, for example. We can all see how well that is working out with reports we have all read in the media about corruption charges, misuse of members' money, the royal commission. So those opposite can hardly take the moral high ground here.
Ms Berry: Point of order.
MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER: Ms Berry, you have a point of order.
Ms Berry: Yes, I do. Ms Lawder is making an implication that, through my work as a unionist, I may be corrupt.
MS LAWDER: On the point of order, Madam Speaker.
MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER: On the point of order.
MS LAWDER: I do not believe that was the implication—that Ms Berry was corrupt. My point was to say that I would prefer to work in homelessness or disability. Again, perhaps it was a little too complex. I am happy to take your ruling.
MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Lawder. Could you just withdraw the reference to the—
Ms Burch: Point of order. After that, Ms Lawder went to that job and made reference to Ms Berry's employment in a union—and said how did that work out for her, given the corruption.
MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you, Ms Burch. Don't keep all talking at once, please. I was about to make a ruling before you hopped up, Ms Burch. On the point of order, Ms Lawder, I require you to withdraw the reference to corruption, please.
MS LAWDER: I withdraw.
MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you very much.
MS LAWDER: To continue, as Sir Robert Menzies said, we have the rich and powerful, and there is the mass of unskilled people. Government does have a role in providing them with security and improving their conditions, although this is more the job of their own trades unions. And most importantly, there are the forgotten people, the middle class, many of whom live in my electorate, and I would have thought many in Ms Berry's electorate too, those who want and need to work and for whom child care is a pressing concern, especially women.
What we have here is a tired old government who are out of ideas. To cover their tracks, what they say is that the opposition have not come up with any policies about child care. This is where they bluster and use personal attacks to fill up this empty space left by their own lack of effective policies.
Well, I have some news for those opposite. This is your job. You are the government. Get on with it. It is not the opposition's fault that child care is becoming unaffordable for Canberra families. How about if the government stopped making the cost of living so high and life difficult for people, if they got on with fixing the problems?
Think of it as a simple join the dots picture. See if you can make it all work out so that you understand how the constant rise in fees and charges, in rates and in the cost of living contribute towards making life unaffordable. We, the opposition, are here to hold you to account and make sure your spending is transparent to the public. Quite frankly, putting $1.3 billion in the budget without explaining how you will spend it is not transparent.
I repeat one more time, in the hope that it will break through the little self-imposed cone of silence over there: we need affordable, available, quality child care. That is what is at issue here, not some clumsy trumped-up class war reference—affordable, available, quality child care. If those opposite take issue with that—that I said last week, that I said last night, as I have said again today—they are clearly out of touch with Canberra families.