Thursday, 5 December 2019
Matters of Public Importance
It sounds like I have to break a bit of news here, which is that the debate this afternoon is actually about the government's plan for the future, not a wild, wandering romp on various obsessions of members on the other side of the House. It really has got to a point where it's a bit weird. Why are you so obsessed with us? Why can you not defend your own record? We have given you an hour to talk to us and inform us of your plans for the future, and you have just taken an hour to talk about us. When I was reflecting on your plans for the future, it made me think of all the schoolkids who were here today and who had to witness the most outrageous desecration of our democracy, the breaching of decades of convention and the trashing of all civility and protocols. They had to witness that. Our littlest citizens, who come here to educate themselves about the tenets of our Australian democracy, faced all that instead. You should all be absolutely ashamed of yourselves.
When they get to the part of their tour of the parliamentary building where they recreate the conventions of the parliament, some of these nine-year-olds will sit on the government side of the House and some will sit on the opposition side of the House. They'll say, 'Let the parliament convene.' The nine-year-old Leader of the House will stand and say, 'I move that the member no longer be heard,' and then he will sit down. Then the nine-year-old opposition leader will stand and start to speak, and the Leader of the House will stand again and say, 'I move that the motion be put.' Instead of practising their democracy and learning the art of parliamentary debate, they will have about four minutes to cover everything. That is the new standard that those opposite have set. Again, I think you should all be highly embarrassed. Our littlest citizens deserve an awful lot better than you lot.
This government will not tolerate freedom of speech and the freedom to protest, and now it will not even tolerate debate in the parliament. The member before me, the member for Berowra, talked about how we are wasting our time on things like procedure, upholding conventions or seeking—God help us!—to debate in the parliament. How tedious, how tiresome, to have to deal with 74 other elected representatives who each come here to represent 105,000 of their constituents! Why did you all run for parliament—through you, Deputy Speaker; I'm sorry. Why did you choose to leave your families and spend 20 hours a day campaigning for the right to come into this chamber and move that the motion be put? Don't you have anything brighter, anything bolder, any bigger plans to offer the country? This is your one shot to create a brighter future, and this is what you are doing with it. How embarrassing! How dare you short-change our littlest citizens watching on like this!
I rise today to speak about the lethargy of this government in their failure to address the significant policy challenges awaiting our coming generations. Economic growth has now been slow for a decade, Australia's population is ageing, climate change looms and the burden of these changes fall mainly on the young. Young people face real concerns about housing affordability, stagnating wealth and income inequality. Under these neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation and austerity—such as they are; there is not very much, if we are being honest—this is a government that now takes better care of banks than of people. People have lost their jobs, their benefits and much of the safety net that used to make those losses less frightening.
People see a future for their kids that looks even more foreboding than their precarious present. Millennials are earning about 20 per cent less than their parents did at the same age. Younger Australians are much less likely to own a home than their parents were at the same age. The wealth of households aged under 35 has barely moved since 2004. That is 15 years. Youth unemployment is around double the national average. In my home state of Queensland it is now as high as 25 per cent. Yet today in question time we heard 90 minutes of smug congratulations from backbencher to frontbencher about what a great job all these people are doing. How embarrassing! You should be ashamed of yourselves that you continue to parade about like emperors without their clothes, pretending that everything is fine, when your own constituents are screaming out to you, asking for help.
We on this side of the House will not stand for it. We will hold you to account, because at the end of the day it costs Australian taxpayers $800 million for the parliament to operate—$800 million each year for this parliament to convene and to run and to debate and to pass laws to make this country better. What value are Australian taxpayers getting from your governance? Nothing, Absolutely nothing. What have the 74 electorates in this country who elected members to parliament who are not Liberal coalition members of government got out of you lot? Nothing. (Time expired)