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Thursday, 14 November 2013
Page: 359

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (16:30): I would like to begin by reaffirming the following. Our promises for the roads of the 21st century will be kept. We will axe the carbon and mining taxes. We will reduce red tape and increase our nation's competitiveness. We will deliver a white paper on the sustainable development of the north of Australia. We will finally deliver fair indexation to DFRDB and DFRB superannuants. We will address the pain of huge increases in home and body corporate insurance in North Queensland. We will bring competent government to all Australians. I will have more to say on these things in the very near future.

This afternoon in this House, I would like to speak about the youth of North Queensland and, in particular, Townsville. Over the last month, I have attended speech nights for a number of schools. Additionally, I have been able to speak to a great many year 12 students as they approach their end of schooldays and the beginning of the next stage of their lives.

I was also a guest participant in the Townsville Greek festival's Dancing with the Stars. This was organised and run by young members of the Greek community. That I came last had nothing to do with my brilliant Zorba and everything to do with professional jealousy from the judges! But I digress. Last weekend, I was also lucky enough to help out at the drive-through at McDonald's North Shore for McHappy Day, to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House charities.

In North Queensland, we have real challenges with youth unemployment. We face, around Townsville, youth unemployment rates of over 25 per cent. That is one in four young people around Townsville who do not have meaningful employment, training or engagement in higher education. There is always a lot of discussion surrounding youth crime, and it is very right that we discuss it openly. I do not intend to excuse the crimes, nor the criminals involved here. But, where there are young people who have lost their way in the education system, there will always be a sense of hopelessness which may befall them. Where there are families in which there has been generational unemployment, there will be escapes from that harsh reality pursued. Crime is a natural consequence and partner here.

But, when you are talking to the year 12 students at Thuringowa, Kirwan or Northern Beaches state high schools, when you see the joy in the performances of the year 12 students at Town high, when you see the young men and women at Abergowrie, St Margaret Mary's, Ignatius Park and Townsville grammar, you know that the vast majority of young people deserve a go and will pay you back in spades. When you have been in the drive-through with these young people in McDonald's, providing excellent customer service, no matter how busy it is and when you see the professionalism of the young members of the Greek community in running their festival, you know there are young people out there doing the right thing who will secure our country's future and will be ready to provide the leaders we will need to take Australia forward.

As the father of three brilliant and charming children, I want a future in Australia where education is valued and opportunity is sought. I want a future where young adults can have meaningful jobs in all fields. I want to see young people with jobs in construction as well as technology. I want to see a future for Australia's youth where risk-taking is valued and respected. I want to see a future for young people where they own their own small businesses, with banks and financial institutions backing them. I want to see a future for young Australians where resilience is a core ingredient in their make-up.

We are an ageing population. We need to look at what is going to happen next and we need to trust the people who will be charged with our future prosperity. I have, after my three years as the member for Herbert and four years of end-of-school celebrations, confirmed repeatedly my faith in the future generations of Australians. These young men and women are not asking for much. What they require is the same as we received in my younger days.

Let us prosecute the people who do wrong and let us be strong in our condemnation of those who are abusing civil society. But let us not cast a pall over the good work and great attitude of so many of our young Australians. Let us see what they can provide and the strengths that they bring to new enterprises. Let us celebrate what is good in all of us and let us ensure that our country continues to give all of us—no matter our age, our skin colour, our religion or our ethnic background—a deadset fair go.