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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 86


Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (10:54): In the week after the Liberal Party decided to change the Prime Minister, I held my eighth annual Youth Leaders Roundtable. The timing could not have been better. We had students from 11 schools join me in Dapto. The schools in attendance included the Albion Park High School, the Corpus Christi school, Calderwood Christian School, Dapto High, Illawarra Sports High, Kanahooka High, Lake Illawarra High, Oak Flats High, St Joseph's Catholic school, St Paul's International school and Warilla High.

During the course of the day, I heard from students about their hopes and aspirations. I asked them to raise with me the issues they'd like to see their federal representatives talking about and acting upon. If there was a take-out message from the day, it was that leaders like us should stop talking about young people and start listening to them. They talked passionately and impressively about issues concerning climate change and the environment, sustainable energy generation, freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and they had a very mature debate about the impact of social media technology on these essential freedoms. They were deeply concerned about education funding and cuts to education funding by state and federal governments. They were concerned about employment opportunities, penalty rates and job security. They raised a lot of issues about LGBTIQ students and issues concerning bullying and understanding. They had a very mature debate around section 44 of the Constitution and parliamentarians and made some recommendations on that issue, which I hope to get to, and about the impact of inequality. They want government to stop thinking short term when it comes to the environment and climate change, as it will be the next generation—their generation—that has to deal with our inaction if, indeed, that's what it is.

The students gave some examples about the impact of government cuts to school funding. One salient example is that curriculums have been changed, and they're required to learn the new curriculum, but the schools can't afford the textbooks to teach the new curriculum. They suggested that an answer to section 44 of the Constitution would be that there be in-depth background checks before any individual is elected. They believe that parliamentarians need to have more regular and formal consultations with their constituencies. They want the government to act and stop the casualisation of the workforce. There were many, many other examples of great initiatives that we could take to meet their needs. I'll continue to hold these roundtables. I now seek leave to table a list of the participants.

Leave granted.