Senate debates

Monday, 26 September 2022


Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022; Second Reading

9:25 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | Hansard source

We are all sent—particularly in this chamber, because none of us are here with a majority vote—to represent the voiceless. I am very, very proud to sit in a parliament—and I have been here a little while—that has 11 Indigenous MPs from across all political spectrums, from all sides of politics and from both chambers who have been duly elected not because they are Indigenous but because Australians from all walks of life have selected them to be here because of their capacity and their merit. It doesn't matter whether I'm talking about Labor Party senators or our own Senators Nampijinpa Price and Liddle here on our side of the chamber. The one thing that I do reflect on from when they all arrived and they were making their maiden speeches was that it didn't matter where they sat politically—all of them came to this place to make a practical impact on the future prosperity and the future aspirations of Indigenous Australians.

Economic empowerment and making sure that your kids are clothed and they're fed and they get to school is the absolute bedrock in ensuring a future full of their potential. Every parent aspires to their child reaching their potential, but if you don't have those frameworks, bedrocks and foundations in place as a family—and there are a whole lot of families that don't have those foundations in place—then your kids really don't have much of a chance to succeed. They really don't, Senator Rice.

So you can come in here and talk all the platitudes you like. You can espouse symbolism from Monday to Sunday. It's not me; it's Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I'm a former schoolteacher. I could tell which kids who, coming into my classrooms, had had their breakfast, had their uniforms—those who were able and ready to sit down and learn because things were okay at home, and those who weren't.

I call on the government, honestly, to stop playing to your citycentric voters and listen, in particular, to the woman of Indigenous and remote communities who are saying: 'Stop. The Northern Territory has made a decision to end the ban on alcohol in our communities. They've lifted that. The sunset's occurred. It's coming back. We're having alcohol in our communities like we haven't seen it before.' Simultaneously, the Labor government is choosing to rid these families, and these women in particular, of a powerful mechanism to keep control of the economies in their families and to make sure that they've got something, other than their own will and physical presence, to stop people from taking the money for other purposes so they can actually say: 'You know what, brother? Our kids are going to school. I'm buying food this week. It's not me; it's the government. They're making me take care of my children.'

Do you know what? You can't put it all on the women of Indigenous communities to stand up continually, night after night, day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. We stand here with a list of Closing the Gap statements year after year, and I've been here long enough to have heard a lot of them. It's an indictment on you, on us and on state governments around this country. We finally have a policy mechanism that empowers women and families to have an alternative option, and you come to power—


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