Senate debates

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Early Childhood Educators, Oil Exploration

3:27 pm

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment (Minister Birmingham) to questions without notice asked today.

Today is early childhood educators' day but I don't think it's that happy a day for the educators. The United Workers Union representing early childhood educators came to parliament today to meet with the education minister and deliver a petition signed by more than 30,000 people. The petition calls for the federal government to provide a wage guarantee to workers in early childhood education and care through COVID-19. The union says that the employment guarantee provided by the government doesn't prevent part-time staff and casuals from facing drastic cuts in hours. The vast majority of the sector is part time or casual. There is no safety net. The government must commit to a wage guarantee for our critical early childhood educators and carers.

Just this week, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, identified an overhaul of early learning as a key priority for supporting Australian women and for gender equality. Recent research from the ANU Menzies Centre for Health Governance and the Grattan Institute has also revealed the huge social and economic benefits of public investment to slash the cost of early learning, particularly for women. But, after a brief reprieve with free childcare, most families are now back to paying expensive fees in the middle of a pandemic and a recession, when people are doing it incredibly tough.

The government is dragging its heels and refusing to commit to making our childcare system universally accessible. What we need is free early learning for every child and every family. What we need is proper funding so that educators can be fairly compensated for the essential work that they do. I urge this government to make sure that early childhood education is universally accessible to every single family and that it is fee-free.

3:30 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] I rise to take note of the answer by Senator Birmingham today to a question without notice on offshore drilling. Australia truly is a nation girt by sea. Most of our people, most of our populations, live on or near our coastlines. Australians love our beaches, we love our coastlines, and they are such an important part of our culture. And Australians know that this government is out of touch if it continues to push ahead with risky offshore oil and gas drilling.

I asked Senator Birmingham why the member for Mackellar, Mr Falinski, moved a motion in the House last week opposing offshore oil and gas drilling off the Central Coast of New South Wales. The reason that Mr Falinski opposed the PP11 licence renewal and the reason he moved that motion is that thousands of people in his electorate are rising up and getting in touch with him and saying: 'This is just madness. In a time of a climate emergency, why are you risking our oceans? Why are you releasing new acreage? Why are you letting a few profit-driven interests put our lifestyle at risk? We don't want to see seismic testing off our coastline. We don't want to see oil and gas drilling. We don't want to see controversial, divisive, industrial development when we go to the beach.' And it's not just off the Central Coast of New South Wales. We saw tens of thousands of people right around the country before the last election turn out to paddle-outs at oceans and beaches around this country to say no to new drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

I also asked Senator Birmingham about the fishing industry. Well, he might think that I'm exaggerating when I tell him that the fishing industry in this country is up in arms about new acreage being issued for seismic testing and for oil and gas drilling. Let me tell you what we discovered at the last hearing in our Senate inquiry into risky seismic testing. We heard that Tasmanian commercial fishermen were so desperate to stop this oil and gas drilling and this seismic testing in their productive fishery that they were prepared to blockade seismic boats. They were prepared to put their own fishing boats and their own bodies on the line. Senator Birmingham, that sounds pretty desperate to me. We've had submissions from your home state from the tuna fishery, we've had submissions from the Western Australian fishing industry and we've heard evidence from the Victorian fishing industry already that they do not want to see more seismic testing in their fisheries. They're not happy with the process. They're not happy this is going ahead. You will be in for a rude shock if you don't listen to the Australian people on this most critical of issues.

Question agreed to.