Richard spoke up in defence of young Australians who have been slugged by cuts to Newstart.
Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (16:55): I will start by doing something you rarely hear in this place: I was wrong. I was absolutely wrong—probably as wrong as you can be in this business. When Tony Abbott was in opposition he was a ruthless opportunist. He was a self-confessed weather vane on climate change.
Senator Bernardi: Mr Acting Deputy President, on a point of order: Mr Abbott should be referred to as either the Prime Minister or Mr Abbott.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Di Natale, you might wish to describe the Prime Minister by his official title.
Senator DI NATALE: Mr Abbott was a ruthless opportunist in opposition. He was the weather vane on climate change. He was all things to all people. You were left with the impression that if the coalition were elected they would be a directionless government, they would be plotters and they would do a bit of tinkering around the edges, but I was wrong. It is a government that does have a very clear agenda. There is no question about that.
They are pursuing their agenda with an ideological clarity that has not been seen for years. It is an agenda that says the market is the end itself rather than a tool for improving society. It is an agenda that says there is no role for government. It is an agenda that says we would rather have large corporations than democratically elected governments run the country. It is an agenda that flies in the face of reason and logic. It is an agenda that is cruel, brutal and heartless, and it is an agenda that no-one voted for. So much for election mandates.
Up until this government was elected, we believed that we were a country where, if you were down on your luck, we would look after you. If you could not find a job and you were a young kid, we would look after you. If you were a young person in work and the business went under, we would look after you. That is gone. Instead, what we are seeing from this government is an attack on young people. It says: 'If you're unemployed, it's your fault. You're a bludger. You're lazy. You're obviously boozing and fagging. You should get off your bum. You should work harder.' Reality has an anti-coalition bias, because its world view does not accord with the world out there. There is a simple problem: there are just not enough jobs for young people. That is what underemployment and unemployment mean. There are more people than there are jobs.
It is only a group of older privileged white men who have benefited from a free education, free health care, a generous social-safety net, who think it is okay to force people to leave their homes, to ensure that they leave their families, to move somewhere where they cannot have a roof over their head and where there is no guarantee of work. This is a government with no plan. No, they do have a plan—it is a plan to hand over the keys to the big end of town and to move towards a brutal dog-eat-dog world where we condemn young people to poverty.