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Monday, 29 November 1999
Page: 10919

Senator FERRIS (3:29 PM) —We have had the usual cacophony which follows question time in here, seeking to frighten the most vulnerable in the community: the young, the old, the handicapped and the disabled. It does not matter who they are, if they cannot speak for themselves for one reason or another, the principle seems to be to come in here and see whether you can put the frights into them—to just bend a few rules. It is a clear and cruel attempt to stir up the members of this community who are least able speak for themselves.

We had the run of errors from `Error Evans', and I will not go through them all because they are all well known. But I thought that one of the most interesting things he said today—and it is not often that I find his comments interesting—was his admitting that much of what we have done has resulted from policy changes that we have brought about as a result of budget cutbacks. Nobody knows better than Senator Evans why we had some budget cutbacks. But, if he has had a short-term memory problem, he only need go and have a word with his leader, the Leader of the Opposition, and he will be reminded of the Beazley black hole, the $10 billion that we had to deal with when we came into this parliament. Senator Evans himself has just admitted that that is why there were budget cutbacks. So let us never forget why they occurred. Then we had another series of Forshaw falsehoods and, again, I will not go through those.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Would you please refer to honourable senators by their names.

Senator FERRIS —Senator Forshaw falsehoods. I am sorry, Madam Deputy President. He was critical of Minister Newman's interest in her portfolio but, at the same time, he himself admitted to the size of that portfolio. Representing Minister Newman, as I do, in my home state of South Australia, nobody knows more than I just how hard she works. In fact, members of the opposition may be interested to know that I will represent Minister Newman this Friday at a function relating to the Year of the Disabled.

We then went on to Senator McLucas with her mirrors and a selection of press clippings about this and that from here and there, the Age and others being cited. Talk about mirrors: the whole contribution this afternoon has been a smoke and mirrors job, slip-sliding statistics all over the place.

So, in the couple of minutes that I have left, let us just get a few key facts down on child care because we on this side of the chamber are sick and tired of these falsehoods, whoever they are coming from, about child care. The spending of $3 billion on child care in the last three years is 20 per cent more than Labor spent on it in its last three years in office—20 per cent more. We have increased the range of child-care options. Just this past weekend, a member of my extended family was around at my house telling me that for the first time she has had a choice of three child-care centres within walking distance of her home. For the first time ever, she has real choice in child care.

We have allocated around $5.3 billion over four years going up into 2002-2003, including $600 million in additional funding over three years from 2001 to 2002 and then on to 2003 with the introduction, Senator McLucas, of the child-care benefit. Our expenditure—and I would like members of the opposition who are left in the chamber to note this down so that we do not have any more nonsense, falsehoods and errors—is expected to reach $1.5 billion annually by 2002-03. If that is not the most obvious example of increased funding to child care, I do not know what is.

I was certainly around in the years when it was pretty hard for people going to work to find acceptable, affordable and safe child care for their children. I for one am very pleased to hear members of my extended family talking about the opportunities and choice that now exist in child care for their family.

The claims of an increase of 20 per cent in child-care fees since 1995 are, again, a cruel exaggeration which impacts on those members of the community who are not able to speak up for themselves. Members of the opposition know that that is simply based on a very small and much more expensive sector of the community. Labor for some reason continues to highlight changes in the community sector of child care as if they represent the entire child-care sector. (Time expired)

Question resolved in the affirmative.