Liberal MP Craig Kelly was met with outrage and criticism in parliament this morning when he linked rising power costs, renewable energy and apartment living for the number of children drowning in Australia.
Kelly rose to speak on a motion moved by colleague John McVeigh, the member for Groom, about drownings in Australia. Kelly said "policies being put in by governments, both state and federal", were increasing power costs and therefore increasing the cost of swimming lessons.
The member for Hughes spoke about a swimming centre in his Sydney electorate, the owners of which had complained about the rising costs of power -- which they need to filter and heat the pool water -- and claimed their business would be $100,000 worse off under previous power policies.
"I hate to harp on this", Kelly said, before adding that "I don't want to make this issue on drownings about other partisan issues" and that "if we raise the cost of electricity in this country, the burden is paid by those centres that pay the electricity bills and it's higher costs for swimming lessons".
"We cannot ignore that fact in this parliament that there are policies being put in by governments, both state and federal, that are increasing the costs of electricity, and by doing so, we increase the cost of kids' swimming lessons."
Policies such as renewable energy and reducing emissions from coal-fired power stations have been blamed by some conservative politicians for putting upward pressure on power prices.
Kelly raised the idea of power subsidies for swimming centres, as well as a compulsory program for school children to get swimming lessons. He cited the Royal Life Saving drowning report for 2016, which stated 280 people drowned in Australian waterways in the 2015-16 year. More than 80 percent of drowning victims were male, with 23 percent of all drowning deaths occurring at beaches, 21 percent in rivers or creeks, and 19 percent in oceans and harbours.
The number of young people drowning in 2015-16 were actually mostly below the 10-year average, with drownings in the 0-4, 5-9, 15-17 and 18-24 age groups below the average. Only the 10-14 age bracket was above the average.
Kelly had earlier said housing policies could be to blame for child drownings.
"The issue I see going forward is if we look at our housing policies in our cities, we're having more and more children growing up in high-rise apartments where they're unlikely to have a backyard swimming pool where they can learn to live," he said.
"I think of my experience growing up in Peakhurst, just a middle class suburb in the south of Sydney, many of our neighbours had the simple backyard swimming pool... we got in as kids and we learned to swim. That opportunity will be denied to thousands and thousands of young kids because of the change of housing policy in this nation where more and more children will be growing up in high rise apartments."
Steve Georganas, the Labor MP for Hindmarsh, was next to speak. He said it was a "disgrace" and he was "disappointed" that Kelly had "decided to bring politics into such a motion".