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Thursday, 25 November 1999
Page: 12750


Mrs ELSON —As we stand on the brink of a new millennium, I believe the most important thing we can do as a government and nation is to commit ourselves to building stronger ties within our local communities. I am a very firm believer that the biggest advances of the 21st century will not be in technology but will be a re-assessment of how we live together and how we build better communities.

The Howard government's commitment to mutual obligation is a very positive step in that direction. It has already built an enormous amount of goodwill in the community. Slowly but surely, the anger and resentment towards some welfare recipients that was allowed to grow and fester under Labor is disappearing. That anger has been replaced with a very genuine respect and support for job seekers, who are making a wonderful contribution to the nation through our Work for the Dole program. Mutual obligation is based on the premise that people who are relying on government for support ought to be expected to be giving something back in return.

There is another very important aspect to mutual obligation—that is, extending the principle to the corporate world. Corporations and companies that make increasingly huge profits from the Australian community ought to be expected to contribute something back to the wellbeing of this community. That is the basis of the Prime Minister's social coalition. It is practical, it is decent and it makes commonsense.

I want to restate my strong support for an effective social coalition. I have had an extremely positive response from local residents in my area on this issue. I think that if the mainstream media in Australia were to concentrate on our bread and butter issues and put aside their very obvious personal vendetta against the Prime Minister Australia would be better served. If they were to join the Prime Minister's push for a social coalition to help us engage the business community to work closely with social welfare groups, enormous good would be achieved. It could then leave a very important tangible and positive change for future generations. We could build a nation where there is support for those who need it most and it is not just someone else's problem or simply a matter of a monetary hand-out from the government but something we all have an interest in. When all Australians feel they have a stake in each other's wellbeing, then we will truly build stronger communities and we can begin to break the cycle of isolation and disenchantment that I know many Australians feel. They ought to be our prime goal for the new century. The business world, particularly the large corporations and banks which each year are achieving record profits, have a very major role to play.

Today I join with many of my constituents in asking corporate Australia to make a more significant social contribution to the new century. Whether the journos are prepared to admit it or not, a strong social coalition is what the Australian community wants. I am very proud to be part of a government that is working towards that very honourable and important role.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl) —Order! In accordance with standing order 275A, the time for members' statements has concluded.