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Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Page: 1195

Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (19:44): My condolences to Senator Pratt and other people in the Western Australian labour movement. I speak tonight to the people of this country who feel despair about the state of politics in Australia and who can see little or no hope for the next three years. My message to those people is: do not let the nihilism and short-sightedness of the current parliament win. I acknowledge that's not a simple task because, for many decades now, we've been taught to think of ourselves not as members of society and not as the results of nature and evolution but as consumers, as property owners, as shareholders and as slaves in service to the economy when actually the economy should serve us and nature.

The result of this is a loss of commons, those public things we all treasure. They have been systematically run down. From our beautiful environment being trashed to public health and public education being left to wither and to wages going backwards while corporate profits soar, these are all symptoms of the same disease. That disease is called neoliberalism, laissez faire capitalism or, as many are now accurately describing it, late-stage disaster capitalism.

Instead of fixing the fundamental problems, there are too many in this place who are happy to break us down and set us against each other. They want to blame migrants for homelessness, they want to blame First Nations people for the effects of colonialism, they want to blame the unemployed for an economy that's not delivering enough meaningful work to anywhere near enough people, they want to blame refugees for the conflicts they are fleeing and they want us to believe that the problems of the downtrodden are the fault of the downtrodden, not the fault of those walking all over their backs. We can't simply wait for three years and hope for a better outcome at the next election. We have to come together, we have to mobilise and we have to fight for the things that we believe in.

I want people to know a terrible secret about this place: most members of this parliament are terrified of the public. They rely on the public being disengaged from the political process to succeed, but in that secret lies a great weapon for the public to fight back and to fight back against the erosion of the social contract that underpins so much of what we value as a people and a community. The great news is that people are fighting back. For every act of bastardry in this place, there are thousands of acts of compassion and solidarity that make life better and more bearable for others. That might be something small, like just helping a neighbour out with something they need, or it might be something really big, like going to a rally to defend our climate on behalf of our children and grandchildren or even joining the Greens campaign for this parliament to declare a climate emergency.

Every single day, the people of Australia are showing decency, and they are showing, in fact, a fair bit more decency than this parliament often shows. It is on those people, the people who we're supposed to represent in this place, that our future depends. They will eventually win. They will eventually overcome the greed and toxicity of this place, and they will demand better from all of us.