Thursday, 1 August 2019
Matters of Public Importance
I'm pleased to speak on this matter of public importance today. This government is failing to represent all Australians. There are so many different groups of Australians who know that the government is not governing in their interests it was hard to choose some to focus on in five minutes. But I decided to choose three groups of Australians which highlight this government's shortcomings very plainly.
Firstly, in my short time as shadow assistant minister for aged care, I have seen and heard many examples of how this government has forgotten older Australians. Our aged-care system and older Australians are being left behind by the government, which is intent on cutting services and making it increasingly difficult for them to access the assistance they need. Take, for example, this government's failure on home care packages. We know that 129,000 older Australians are languishing on waiting lists for home care packages. That's nearly 130,000 older Australians who can't get the care they require at home. Instead, they have to rely on friends and family, who have to juggle their work rosters and are stressed trying to make sure their loved older ones get the care they need.
Shockingly, 30,000 Australians died or were forced into an aged-care home last year while waiting for their packages. I ask: did these people die experiencing what the Prime Minister disgracefully calls 'unfunded empathy'? They died waiting. I think their families would have something to say about that and would definitely query if this government is governing in their interests. It is a government that applauds mismanagement of the economy and has the nerve who say that aged-care services are flourishing under its watch. Well, I say the evidence is damning and it is clear. This government is failing to represent the interests of older Australians.
Secondly, I'd like to highlight this government's failure to represent the interests of young people, too many of whom are stuck on the too-low payment of Newstart and simply cannot find work. The youth unemployment rate in Australia currently sits at 12 per cent, more than double the national average. You might ask yourself how this could be. This government has told us that all is well, that our economy is on the right track. Then how could we have such a high rate of youth unemployment, which sits around the 15 per cent to 20 per cent mark in regional Victoria and at an appalling 25 per cent in some parts of the country? The reason is that this government does not listen to young people when they say that they need skills training and that industry needs to be properly resourced and it doesn't listen when the sector tells them they can't continue to sustain funding cuts.
This government has gutted the skills training sector, cutting $3 billion from vocational education, presiding over a drop of 150,000 apprenticeships, and it has caused the closure of TAFE campuses right around the country. How can young people get a job when the government is cutting the funding that provides the skills training and services they require? If, as the Prime Minister tells us, the best form of welfare is a job, how can they get a job when he continues to turn his back on them and when he continues to allow providers to gouge the system and take advantage of young people who just want a chance. I urge the government to do what it is tasked with—to listen and to actually govern.
Finally, I will turn to the government's favourite target, union members. Before going on to lead the union movement in Australia, I had been a union member nearly my whole working life. Let me tell you this: I have never seen a coalition government represent the interests of union members and working people. Those opposite like to tout the line, 'If you have a go, you get a go.' I'm telling you now: union members around this country are doing just that. They have a go. They get out to work, they build our cities, they care for our parents and they serve this country every single day, and their unions give back to them. They fight for safe and fair working conditions, they fight against this government's policy of wage stagnation and they stand up for workers when things aren't fair.
This is in stark contrast to the government's treatment of our unions and our union members. The government led debate this week on the ensuring integrity bill, a bill that is not about integrity but does a lot to weaken the voices of working people in this country and seeks to target their ability to organise. This government's answer to the problems of working people in this country is to give itself more say in who runs a union than the union's own members. It seeks to give itself the powers to deregister a union and take away working people's rights to organise and fight for fairer conditions. I say that enough is enough. It's clear this government is failing to represent working people and young people, and it certainly isn't representing older Australians.