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Tuesday, 17 September 1996
Page: 4459


Mr BOB BALDWIN(8.28 p.m.) —At the outset, let me congratulate the member for Cunningham (Mr Martin) for his commitment to sport. Whilst I may not have agreed with some of the content of his speech, it is easy to see his passion and commitment when he talks about sport.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Treasurer (Mr Costello) for a budget that was not easy to achieve. It is a budget which has finally acted in a financially responsible manner and a budget that has been directed not just to the vocal minorities but, indeed, towards the silent majorities—in other words, to the long-term forgotten Australians. This is a budget which will work for the long-term betterment of all Australians.

This is a budget which also addresses the problems facing our youth—problems that can no longer be ignored. Tonight I am proud to see the gallery full of young people from Clarencetown Public School, because the future of our nation is obviously dependent on the quality and care that we provide to the young people that we have in Australia.

Youth suicide is a subject that is very sad, one which I think touches us all. At some point in time, maybe a little distant, we will all know of someone who has experienced the tragedy of youth suicide, or any suicide, in their family or in their greater family group. With youth suicide doubling in the last 10 years in a nation that has an estimated 3,000 suicides per year in the 15- to 24-year-old age group—much more than the road toll figure—it is a very sad indictment of Australian society that it continues to allow this to happen. But what have they done? To be honest, nothing that amounts to much. They simply do not care. They have never cared.

I take this time to bring to the attention of the House a man who has had the courage to stand up and commit his life to mix and mingle with and, more importantly, not just hear but listen to these young people—Father John of the Commonstrength Foundation in Newcastle. He is an outstanding member of the society and a tireless worker in helping the youth of Australia. You may turn around at this point and ask what we have done to help prevent youth suicide. We have invested $19.1 million in the prevention of this sad indictment on society.

Last month I had the opportunity to meet with some of the youth in my local area of Port Stephens at a meeting of PEERS—prevention, encouragement, education, resource support—at the Port Stephens Council Chambers. Due credit goes to Janelle Pearce, the youth development officer at Port Stephens Council, for organising this night of poetry of youth for the children, and indeed to the workers of the PEERS program, Jenny Megson and Brett Harris.

They were working with some of the young kids that I had met—Whitey, Geordie, Wazza, Laura Porter, Sarah Manton and Cassandra Hockey. I listened to their poetry and tried to understand their problems. The difference between us and a lot of people from the other side is that we at least give the commitment to try to understand.

I would like to take some time to read some of the poetry. Whilst it may not be in the same vein as Wordsworth or others, I think that the message is a lot clearer. Geordie's poem, relating to street kids, has the title `Everything Sux!' It says:

Life sux, it's a drag when you are lonely and sad,

I want to be happy and glad but it makes me mad,

when Life stuffs me around I feel like a cloud weighed down and when it twists my tears drizzle down to the ground.

Whitey's poem titled `Death!' reads:

Death is a thing we all go through,

one day it's going to happen to me or you.

Nobody knows when they're going to go,

So live your life and go with the flow.

I don't care when I'm gonna die,

because I might be drunk or really high.

Maybe I'll get hit by a car or shot in the head,

but it doesn't matter because I'll be dead.

This is very, very sad. Sarah's poem, named `My Feelings Personally', reads:

I would like to run as far as I can

I need to get away

but no-body understands

I'm not happy

but I once was

they think I'm still little

they don't understand I've grown up

I'm sad

I'm a misery

I've been like this

for a while

I can't run

I can't run as far away

I can't understand

why they treat me this way.

One of Sarah's poems, titled `Life', has been published in a book by PEERS called Crying out . The poem reads:

My life is a big tear

trying and trying to hear

listening to everyday life

of every single human being.

We might say that there

is nobody that knows

how empty you feel.

But there just might be,

Hopefully!!!

We hope they have learnt

to handle and cope.

Well, maybe it's just

a phase teenage

people go through,

and no matter what,

everybody survives.

We hope.

If our society took some time to listen to what the young people are saying and learned to listen to their language, to their message, we might start to understand the problems that they are experiencing.

It would be true to say that today there are a lot more pressures in life and expectations placed upon young people. It was easier for me and my colleague the member for Bradfield (Dr Nelson), sitting beside me, to set goals when we were going through school because there were opportunities at the end, opportunities that have been denied to our children.

As I was reading through the book Crying out, I turned to the foreword, and in it was a quote from my colleague the member for Lowe (Mr Zammit). He said:

This worthwhile project in a book of poetry published by PEERS . . . is outstanding.

We need to sit and listen to these people. There is another side to this story which shows a bit of hope and a bit of enlightenment. In my role as a local member, I have been invited along to Girl Guide ceremonies. One of the things that I witnessed in those ceremonies, in particular on 6 June at East Maitland, was Emma Hunt and Kyla Douglas achieve the Baden-Powell awards. On 5 September, Marie Ann Healy, Sarah Morallis, Kylie Saxton and Janet Peters also achieved their Baden-Powell awards.

They are not easy awards to achieve. They require commitment and dedication not just from the participants but also from the parents to ensure that the biggest quality that is required is maintained—it is not just talent; it is stickability. Their parents indeed are to be congratulated.

Today we have led our youth to have a reliance on others and outside influences, such as electronic forms of media, for stimulation. In my research from getting around the electorate, I found a letter which I found quite encouraging. It puts the other side of the argument. It was an open letter to teenagers from a Children's Court magistrate. It says:

Always we hear the plaintive cry of teenagers: "What can we do? Where can we go?"

The answer is, go home. Wash the windows, paint the woodwork, rake the leaves, mow the lawn, scrub some floors, repair the sink, wash the car, learn to cook, build a boat, get a job, visit the sick and elderly, assist the poor, study your lessons, clean your room and when you are finished—and not tired—read a book.

Your parents DO NOT owe you entertainment. Your town DOES NOT owe you recreation facilities. The world DOES NOT owe you a living. You OWE the world something. You OWE it your time and energy and your talent, so that no-one will be at war, or in poverty, or sick, or lonely again.

In plain simple words, GROW UP, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world, develop a backbone not a wishbone, start acting like a man or a woman.

What you are God gave you. What you become you gave God. Australia needs your help for survival. You are important and you are needed. It is too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something some day.

Some day is now and somebody is you. You be extraordinary, or we die.

Whilst some may interpret that as being a bit over the top, it has a very strong message. There has to be balance between the two. It is not as simple as taking one side of the argument or the other. The trick is remembering that we must work together. We must remember that we are part of a family unit and that we stand for family values, but neither should we place at risk any child no matter how small the risk. What price will we pay until we hear the cries in the dark, the sullen messages from these children? What will we do until this message is heard? Also, when will they listen to the words of wisdom? It is, after all, a two-way street.

One of the big questions is: how exactly do we fix this problem? One part of the solution is creating jobs, creating hope, creating opportunity. People, in particular young people, need to feel as though they belong as a part of the society, as valued members of that society. Just yesterday, and indeed last night in this House, I outlined the launch of Hunter Beyond 2000, a tourism project which seeks to put the Hunter firmly on the map of tourism not only for its wineries but also for all the gems it possesses.

Yesterday, and as I said last night, that project has the support of the former minister from the opposition benches, David Simmons. He is working as part of a team. Teamwork is about achieving goals. As a team, they are not just chasing the domestic market; they are chasing the overseas market using the export market development grant that our government has had the foresight to expand to the tourism industry to make it easier to sell tourism offshore. Bringing in overseas dollars will not just reduce our budget deficit but will beat the domestic dollar some 10 to one for job creation in Australia. We need to support them so they can support us in job creation.

I will refer to another area about which we have heard much debate today—and I am glad to see the member for Burke (Mr O'Keefe) is across the chamber. One of the industries in my electorate that does employ a lot of people is the timber industry. I must raise the point that I am also very concerned about the New South Wales state Labor government. It is about to hand down its decision on the future of forestry in New South Wales and it has a propensity to follow in the footsteps of its federal counterparts.

The former member for Page, who was not so representative of his electorate of Page, who now graces the steps of state parliament as the member for Clarence, has had a Pauline conversion on the road to Macquarie Street. The man who sat back quietly and accepted the forestry assessment practice of 15 per cent, of locking up all the forests, has indeed changed his stripes. Now all of a sudden he believes in the timber industry. In the papers at least, he is standing up for the fight. But the fight is not in the papers; the fight is in the party room. I wish him well because we need to overturn it.

Today we have heard from the member for Fremantle (Dr Lawrence) and the member for Burke with their views on the timber industry. They may not agree with me, but they are very narrow-minded views without question. No wonder they lost the bush vote. Have they ever been to the bush? That is a question I posed today as I was interjecting—and I do apologise to the House for being rather rude in my interjections, but the bush is something I feel very passionate about, in particular the timber industry.

Have they ever considered what they will do to country towns like Gloucester, Dungog, Stroud or Bulahdelah, which are in my electorate? Have they considered that it is not only the timber industry that is affected but also the butchers, the bakers, the real estate agents, the child-care centres, indeed the whole town? As we start to take away jobs, what goes next? The answer is the very fabric of society: the family unit, pride and respect.

When I was on the campaign trail, I went to a mill and there was a worker there working his heart out covered in tannin, sawdust and whatever it was, but he was enjoying himself. What was he enjoying? He was enjoying the fact that he was making a contribution, the fact that he was working for a living. At the end of the week, he felt glad to take home his pay. That pay was just over $400 a week. I said to this chap, `How many kids have you got?' He said, `Mate, I've got four.' I said, `Are you paying off a mort gage?' He said, `Yep.' And I said, `How are you doing it?' He said, `I am doing it tough, but I'm a proud Australian. I'm proud to work.' To me, that man is 100 feet tall.

The bottom line is that those opposite do not care. They have never cared about the bush and, to be honest with you, the greatest reflection of that was in the polls at the last election. Some 31 seats in regional and rural Australia belong to my colleagues here on this side, the Liberal Party. My other colleagues in the National Party hold 18 seats in regional and rural Australia.

Boys and girls from Clarencetown Public School, up in the gallery, you do not have to be Einstein to work out that that leaves about one or maybe two seats in regional and rural Australia, and they sit in that little block over there. They sit over there because they do not understand, because they do not listen and, more importantly, because they do not care what happens to regional and rural Australia. They feign these approaches about policy decisions which they say are for the good of the bush but, let me tell you, they let them down.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. G.H. Adams) —I remind the honourable member that he speaks through the chair when addressing the chamber.


Mr BOB BALDWIN —My apologies, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will address my remarks through the chair. Mr Deputy Speaker, today is a day from which we need to go forward, not backward. As I have said, one way we can resolve this problem is by putting people back into jobs. If those opposite wanted to earn redemption from the people in the bush, if they wanted to earn the respect of the people in the cities, they would support our industrial relations bill.

It is our industrial relations bill that will help put people back into jobs. To put it simply: if you cared, you would support our industrial relations legislation. If you wanted to see people back in jobs, if you wanted to see families relieved of stress, if you wanted to see personal pride restored across Australia, you would support our industrial relations bill—so that it too can contribute to reducing our deficit, enabling us to perhaps spend even more money on preventing youth suicide.

Those opposite will not support our legislation—and they will not support it because, in essence, they have shown themselves to be a destructive opposition. They are an opposition that obfuscates the issues; an opposition that likes to keep Australia on its knees—just as they have done for the past 13 years. This former government promised hopes, but shattered dreams. This former government promised prosperity, but increased poverty. This former government promised direction but, sadly, very sadly, lost the way. You can redeem yourselves now and, together, we can work to get this country going again to give all Australians a future.