House debates

Wednesday, 2 December 2020


Richmond Electorate: 2020

7:40 pm

Photo of Justine ElliotJustine Elliot (Richmond, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to firstly acknowledge the strong community spirit of locals in my electorate of Richmond as 2020 has been a very tough year for so many people in our region with the COVID-19 crisis, the job losses and the overall economic situation we're now in. Yet, through all these challenges, we've seen incredible generosity from locals, with so many of them reaching out to help each other. That's what makes the New South Wales North Coast such a great place to live. The commitment of locals to one another, to their families and to their community is truly inspirational.

For our local businesses there have been so many challenges this year, and it's great to see many of our retail, tourism and hospitality businesses opening up their doors again. I will indeed keep continuing to call for more targeted assistance for our vital small businesses in our regions. They are the backbone of our local economy.

I'd also like to thank our incredible healthcare workers, our aged-care workers and our disability care workers. You've been at the frontline working so hard to protect everyone. We're very, very appreciative of all you've done supporting some of the most vulnerable members in our community.

I'd also like to acknowledge and thank our police and emergency service workers for continuing to protect us all in these very, very difficult times. Thanks also to the charities, support services, community groups and our wonderful RSLs as well. I know you've all found ways to adapt and support your members throughout this crisis. Can I also acknowledge and thank those working in our local supermarkets, who did a remarkable job in extremely trying circumstances, especially at the start of the pandemic when there was so much widespread concern.

It's also been a very challenging year for our teachers, students and parents who all work so hard to make homeschooling possible. I know it's been very difficult, but your ability to adapt has, indeed, been inspiring as well. And I want to recognise all those HSC students—the class of 2020—who've now finished their exams after a very difficult year. You should be very proud of everything you've achieved.

When the pandemic first hit, one of the greatest concerns was for the seniors in our community, so I started the Community Care Calls. My team and I called over 12,000 seniors in the Richmond electorate. We were checking in and offering support to them. What was great to see was that so many local seniors had amazing support, either from their family members, their neighbours or the wider community. And of course many of those seniors were actually out there providing support to others. The strength, resilience and generosity of spirit exemplified by our senior Australians again is an inspiration to us all.

The economic situation that we're currently in greatly concerns many in my community. We need to do whatever can be done to keep local people in local jobs and support our local economies, and we still need the government to do much more. We need a proper jobs plan for the future for the regions, for the recovery, tailored towards the rebuilding. That focus must be on protecting jobs and keeping our businesses viable into the future. Indeed, it was Labor that called for the wage subsidies, and we did that because we knew how vitally important they'd be. The government finally agreed, but, still, so many were left behind, particularly those such as casuals when JobKeeper was announced. And, for areas like mine that rely on tourism, retail and hospitality, many of those casuals missed out.

We're very fortunate on the North Coast to have an incredibly diverse and vibrant arts and entertainment sector, but many of those workers were left behind. The government did finally respond to Labor's calls for industry-specific support, but it's not enough. They still need more support in that vital area. I'll continue to call for more support for Southern Cross University in my region too, for specific assistance to ensure they remain viable and to provide tertiary opportunities for our young people.

When we look at any indicator, we see the impacts in the regions are massive. Indeed, we had some of the highest percentages of JobKeeper originally. We also had record numbers on youth allowance and JobSeeker, and we've repeatedly said that that rate of JobSeeker must be raised. Our regional economies need more support tailored to the needs of our area—a specific jobs plan, increased infrastructure investment, and greater education and training opportunities for our young people. The fact is that our regions matter, and this Liberal-National government must not leave our regions behind.

My community has shown remarkable resilience over the last year, and I'll always continue to fight for them. Our community came together and supported one another, and I acknowledge and thank them for their commitment. They are incredible and inspirational.