One could be forgiven for not knowing who Lucy Wicks is – even her electorate had never heard of her before she was parachuted into the seat of Robertson in a captain’s pick by Tony Abbott, bypassing the pre-selection process, much to the chagrin of the local Liberal Party membership:
“NSW State Executive of the Liberal Party have endorsed Lucy Wicks as the Candidate for Robertson. No preselection was held and the executive of the Robertson Federal Electorate Conference was not notified, only told that this was under consideration today. Nominations for Robertson have been open for 5 months, Lucy Wicks being a member of that State Executive that delayed nominations”.
The comments from local Liberals were scathing, as the above link testifies. A poster with the aptly-named persona of Back Room Deals summed up the sentiment thus:
“Lucy Wicks lives in Warringah, Tony Abbott’s electorate . . . hmm. Wicks nominated on Thursday and was rushed through NRC. Then the vote went to State Executive on Friday. The problem is that our leadership has shown no integrity in this issue. To fix the problem in Dobell, a problem of their own making, they take away the democratic rights of Robertson branch members. We will not stand for these tactics, there are 10 branches in Robertson . . . 10 branches with hundreds of unpaid foot soldiers who will walk away, let Head Office pay for the lot come the Election”.
Lucy then called in the big guns, hosting a morning tea at which Bronwyn Bishop spoke. This was the reaction from someone who attended that function:
“Lucy Wicks was totally uninspiring and seemed like an impressionable kid that didn’t have a brain between her ears. The helpers there all seemed like young Liberals that were nice, but really, did nothing to add any degree of credibility at all. Dressed like they came off a refugee boat. Doesn’t some-one give them a dress code at all? As for Bronwyn, she was the main star and Lucy apart from telling us she worked in a factory in the Central Coast really had nothing to say. And it showed. Bronwyn did all the talking and Lucy shut up which is just as well I think”.
Even though there was a 0.1 per cent swing against the Liberal Party, there was an even larger swing against the Labor sitting member, Deborah O’Neill, who in my mind was a hard-working MP who ably represented her constituents. 21.8 per cent of the vote went to the minor parties and Independents. Hardly a resounding victory for the Coalition.
So it was with interest that I watched Lucy ask her first question in Parliament:
“My question is to the Assistant Minister for Education. I remind the minister that childcare groups and parents in my electorate of Robertson have told me of the burden that the previous government childcare rules and regulations placed on costs for centres and parents. Will the minister tell the House how the Government plans to fix the red-tape mess and reduce costs?”
Up bounced Christopher Pyne’s sidekick, Sussan Ley, who seems to have learned her oratory skills from her Minister, to tell us that axing the carbon tax and cutting red tape would fix all the woes of the childcare system. Her proof of this was a couple of anecdotal stories about turning the lights off for an hour and eating individual cupcakes.
Perhaps Ms Ley is unaware of what her colleague in the NSW State Parliament is doing:
Community preschools across the state could be sent broke under changes to state-government funding for three-year-olds as daily fees nearly double for parents of the younger children.
The sector is warning many community centres will be forced to close under a new model that slashes funds for the age group in a bid to get more four- and five-year-olds into classes before they start kindergarten.
In what has been slammed as a further blow to the chronically underfunded sector in NSW, the Community Child Care Co-Operative claims one in three centres could be forced out of business if parents switch their children from preschool to cheaper long day care.
The report, by UNSW professor Deborah Brennan, said the state government would need to “substantially increase” investment in early education to meet its commitments as community preschools had been underfunded for “decades” compared to those in other states.
Ms Ley also failed to mention that the Coalition have cut $300 million from the Early Years Quality Fund:
A $300 million funding boost aimed at improving the wages of 30,000 childcare workers looks increasingly likely to be axed as the federal government continues to sit on the Labor-approved initiative.
The money was to be spent in 1100 childcare centres to bolster the meagre $19-an-hour wages of certificate III childcare workers by $3 an hour and early-childhood teachers by $6 an hour. The starting wage for a university-educated early childhood teacher is $42,000 a year.
The government wrote to childcare centres who had accepted the funding soon after winning office, revoking the conditional funding offers and advising it was reviewing the $300 million Early Years Quality Fund (EYQF).
Ms Ley did not specify what “red tape” would be removed, and when Graeme Perrett asked “What—you’re going to have free-range kids in the childcare centres!”, he was promptly ejected by our fearless arbiter, Bronwyn Bishop.
The National Quality Standard for Education and Care Services can be found in Schedule One which appears at the end of the Regulations.
Having glanced through them, I am not sure which of these guidelines could be dumped, and how that would improve the quality of the service. But then again, quality of education isn’t a goal of this government.
So it is with a great deal of trepidation that I reiterate the question asked by Lucy Who and could we please have some detail to your answer rather than “axe the tax and cut red tape” slogans.
“Will the minister tell the House how the government plans to fix the red-tape mess and reduce costs?”
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