Liberal Senator Gerard Rennick has sparked outrage by invoking Dorothy from the Wizard Of Oz to insist the best place for children is at home, not childcare.
The Queensland Senator and former stay-at-home dad has called for children to remain in the family home with a parent until they are three years old.
But his speech has sparked fury online, where he has been attacked as “a dinosaur” and “a scarecrow”.
“At the end of the day, if you can keep a child at home and if you can keep a parent at home, you’re going to halve the congestion on the roads, you’re going to halve the pollution and you’re going to increase the quality of life for young children and their parents,’’ he told parliament.
“That is a choice. What we would like to do is to provide a choice. Dorothy didn’t tap her shoes together and say, ‘There’s no place like childcare.’ She said, ‘There’s no place like home.’”
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Drawing on his own experience as a stay-at-home parent, he said children yearned for their mum or dad, not a childcare worker, criticising Tasmanian Senator Catryna Bilyk.
“I find it quite odd that Senator Bilyk stood there and said, ‘Don’t you tell me about childcare,’’’ he said.
“Well, I’m sorry, but I stayed home and raised my children for four years, and that was a conscious choice, because I realise how important it is for children to spend time with their parents when they are young. There is no greater bond.
“Yes, ideally it would be great if a parent could stay home and raise their children in the early years between zero and three, because, as I said in my maiden speech, there is no greater bond than that of a child and a parent.
“That is the choice of the parent. That is not a choice of the government, and that’s the difference between the people on this side of the chamber and the people on that side: They want the government to step into the classroom, the family home, the bedroom and tell everyone how to live their personal lives.”
Mr Rennick said as a Western democracy, Australia should respect individual rights and individual freedoms.
“What I love about Labor is that they always make out that they care about the children, but this isn’t about the children – this is about Labor increasing their union membership,’’ he said.
“You never hear Labor talk about raising the pension, because they don’t want the pension to replace superannuation. That is all about looking after their rivers of gold in the superannuation fund. The only part of the union movement that’s actually growing is the childcare industry, and that’s why you’re pushing it.
“I guarantee you, when people grow up, they don’t pick up the phone and call their childcare guardian from when they were at childcare 20 years ago. They talk to mum and dad. This party will always stand up for the rights of the family and will always try and encourage a bond between the child and the parent.”
Labor’s childcare spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth tweeted a clip of his comments on Thursday, noting: “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Labor MP Rob Mitchell replied: “It seems the scarecrow has been reincarnated.”