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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 890


Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (21:03): Young people in my home state of Tasmania are being absolutely shafted. There is no other way to put it. This government is waging a generational war against young Tasmanians. They have been saddled with the disastrous legacy of 30 years of failed trickle-down economics and corrupt crony capitalism. This has entrenched intergenerational poverty and disadvantage for many families. Of course it is their children who so often have borne the brunt of this through things like substandard nutrition, substandard education and substandard opportunity.

Here are just a few of the things that this Federal Liberal government is bequeathing to young Tasmanians. A climate warming out of control. An unstable jobs landscape, with significant decreases in full-time employment, particularly recently, partially offset by increases in part-time employment. An unaffordable housing market that is basically impossible to enter for many young Tasmanians. A welfare system that punishes and dehumanises vulnerable people, and because of Tasmania's status as having the highest percentage of welfare recipients of any state in the country, attacks on vulnerable people through the welfare system impact on Tasmanian young people the hardest. Health and education systems skewed to the rich, and serious and ongoing discrimination against LGBTI people and people from racial and religious minorities.

Hobart, Launceston and Devonport all suffered their warmest year in known records in 2016. Last year, parts of the precious Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area that had never before seen bushfires burnt, and many of those areas may never recover. And remember, it is wilderness above all other of Tasmania's outstanding attributes that attracts tourists to Tasmania. Of course, much of this wilderness was saved by the Greens and the tens of thousands of Tasmanians and hundreds of thousands of Australians who voted Green and campaigned to protect these precious places, but remember that the tourism sector is Tasmania's biggest employment sector, so when our wilderness is hit it is a jobs issue as well as an environment issue. Our warming climate is an issue in Tasmania now, not the distant future, but in the future it is going to be young Tasmanians who bear the brunt of this government's refusal to act on climate.

Instead of embracing the jobs-rich renewable sector, the coalition of course wants to double down on coal, pandering to an industry which has delivered literally millions of dollars of donations into the pocket of the coalition. It is well worth pointing out that Malcolm Turnbull's threat to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation—another great result delivered to Australia by the Greens, I might add—the Prime Minister wants to take money from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and allocate it to coal, and of course Tasmania will not have any chance of all that receiving any of that money because we effectively have no coal industry in the state. The hour is growing late to look after Tasmania's precious forests and oceans for the next generation. They are suffering under climate change right now.

Because of low wages, Hobart is now the second-most-unaffordable city in the country, behind Sydney, in which to rent, in relative terms. That is an eye-opener for people. But this government stubbornly refuses to remove the massively unfair loopholes that reward property developers and speculators who may be buying their fifth property or their 50th property—with more taxpayer support than is given to a young Tasmanian couple struggling to save for their first home. More than 21,000 Tasmanians rely on the barely survivable Newstart, with another 3,500 on youth allowance. There are far more young Tasmanian people unemployed than there are jobs available. So what does this country do? It goes to war with Centrelink recipients through the massive, shambolic debt recovery program that has been rolled out and has resulted in stress and trauma for so many Tasmanians.

What else do they want to do for welfare recipients? In the omnibus bill—or, as we call it, the 'omnicuts bill'—that is currently before this Senate, one of the measures snuck through is to increase the waiting period for Newstart from its current one-week waiting period to a five-week waiting period. It is all right for the tories to think to themselves that if it was their kids they could just move home for five weeks—another mouth to feed, no skin off their nose. But that is not the case for many Tasmanians, and particularly not for many Tasmanian young people. Mark my words: this government has gone to war with young Tasmanians.

It is a disgusting attack, which reminds people that this government begrudges giving the most vulnerable people even a single extra cent. Meanwhile, they are happy for their corporate mates, their major donors and the very rich to pay very little or no tax. Who can forget the debate we have already had in this place this year when the top 20 per cent of income earners in Australia got a tax break delivered to them by the government—and, would you believe it? One Nation—and the other 80 per cent of Australians got nothing. In fact this government wants to claim even less revenue from the most wealthy in our society and leave wide open the tax loopholes that rob our government of untold billions—which are being rorted out of the government by the major fossil fuel companies, including the gas companies—that could actually be invested in making our community a safer and fairer place.

This government has a particular contempt for young people who are not white and heterosexual. They want to scrap hate speech protections in the Racial Discrimination Act. Basically, they want to make it easier to be a racist in this country. We only need to look at the filth spouted at Q Society's dinner last week to get a glimpse at what it is that they want people to be able to say in Australia. And every single one of the Liberals' Tasmanian representatives in this place are locked in behind a plebiscite on marriage equality, which was set up by Tony Abbott to delay and frustrate this much-needed human rights reform rather than deliver it. Even after that appalling effort, we have Senator Abetz saying he was going to ignore the will of the people anyway and vote to keep discrimination in marriage.

Mercifully, there is a better way than the way the Liberals have conducted themselves. It is not too late to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, to end our unhealthy dependence on coal, and to embrace a jobs-rich future, a clean future delivered by renewable energy. We can make the housing market fairer, and make it easier for young people to find stable and rewarding employment. We can get rid of negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount. We can make corporations pay their fair share of tax. We can make the super-rich in this country pay their fair share of tax, so that we can invest in basic public services, like health and education that are crying out for investment in my home state of Tasmania.

Young people, young Tasmanians, deserve a fair go at prosperity and a fair go at opportunity—at least to the level of those of us who sit currently in this place this evening have had. But mark my words: they are not going to get it under a federal Liberal government which has declared war on young Tasmanians.