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What will we tell our children?

Speeches in Parliament
Richard Di Natale 10 Jul 2014

Greens Senator, Dr Richard Di Natale gave a speech in response to the repeal of Australia's price on pollution.

Given what we know about the threat of climate change, Richard asks the rest of the Senate what they intend to tell their children and grandchildren about their vote at this critical moment.

Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (15:34): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by Senator Di Natale today relating to the 2014-15 Budget.
I could stand here today and talk about the fact that this is a government that has campaigned on the issue of broken promises and, indeed, within a few short months has broken fundamental commitments that it made to the Australian community to not cut health care, to ensure that pensioners are looked after, and around the funding of our schools. It is that sort of deceit and duplicity that gives all of us in this chamber a bad name. It is that sort of deceit and duplicity that means politicians are no longer trusted members of the community. If I am being absolutely honest, broken promises are not the issue that I am most aggrieved about. Indeed, if the coalition were to break a promise on tackling climate change and getting serious about it, I would welcome it. If they were to break their promise about getting a fair return for the minerals that belong to each and every one of us through a decent mining tax, I would welcome it.

It is not just the broken promises that are at issue here, but the fundamental assault on the foundations of Australian society. This is an egalitarian nation founded on the spirit of the fair go. Australia is a country that says, 'No matter how rich or poor you are, we're going to look after you.' Australia is a country that says, 'If you were unlucky enough to be born with a chronic disease through no fault of your own, we're going to look after you.' Australia is a country that says, 'If you have worked hard all of your life and contributed to Australian society, we are going to look after you. It is for that assault that I reserve my most stinging criticism.

When you look at what this government is proposing to do to the young people of Australia, you see a group of privileged, older white men who have benefited from a free education, who have benefited from universal health care and who have been the beneficiaries of a generous social safety net, saying: 'We had it good, but stuff you. You're not going to. We are going to ensure that our prosperity will be had off your shoulders.' That is what I am most aggrieved about. How is it that a young person who finds themselves unemployed is ineligible for six months to get support? What on earth are they supposed to do? How do they feed themselves? How do they pay their rent? How do they pay for transport? How do they clothe themselves? I simply do not get it.

I understand that there is a narrow, brutal, ideological world view out there, but it is a world view that affects the lives of young people right across the country. Over 700,000 people will be affected by the changes to Newstart. What happens to a young kid who lives in my home town of Geelong—where in some parts we are talking about youth unemployment of almost 20 per cent—who has been looking for a job, who is struggling and who now does not have access to any social support to ensure that they can pay their rent and feed themselves? It is disgraceful. What about the young person who is unemployed now, a young woman who needs to go and see the doctor to get her oral contraceptive, get her asthma medication or have a blood test? There is now a co-payment for the doctor's visit, a co-payment to see the pathologist, a co-payment for each of those medicines and no access to social support. What is that person supposed to do in that setting?

You see, this government has issued a blueprint for a dog-eat-dog society. It talks about lifters and leaners, but what it needs to be thinking about is whether we are a country that is committed to the fair go—whether in fact we want to be a country that is cruel or compassionate, a country that is cruel or caring. That is what is in question here, and the Greens will fight to our last breath to ensure that we look after those people.

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