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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 102


Mr WALLACE (Fisher) (19:35): On 11 June 2018 I held the inaugural Fisher Schools Debating Competition at Kawana Waters State College in my fabulous electorate of Fisher. It's important to me, in my role as the federal member, to encourage our young people to engage in Australia's political system and get a good understanding of civics and the role of government. It's crucial that we demonstrate to our leaders of tomorrow that an understanding of the political landscape in Australia both now and in years past will set them up for success in the future.

Complementing this are skills that can be developed through participating in a good old-fashioned debate. I strongly believe that it's vital that all of our young people, at some stage during their school journey, are encouraged to participate in debating. The skills of public speaking and critical reasoning and the ability to construct and prosecute an argument are transferrable to many areas of life. It was therefore a great pleasure for me to host the first of what I hope will be many Fisher debating competitions in the years to come.

It was a tremendous event with numerous local schools competing and vying for the opportunity to be the best debating school in the electorate of Fisher and to prepare a speech for me to be read in the House of Representatives. I'm very pleased to announce to the House that Chancellor State College—who you would remember came and spoke to you in our last week of sitting, Mr Speaker—won the competition, and the following speech was written by Mia Seefeld, Lucy Gillespie and Kate Frankish, who visited parliament in the last sitting week with their teacher, Ms Amanda Watson.

Whilst I don't necessarily endorse a number of the propositions put forward in the speech, I welcome the debate and the heartfelt passion with which it was written. It goes like this:

Dear future,

You may not know it yet but we have plans for you. We want to make a difference and have an impact. We want to pave our own path and colour it in our favourite shades. We also want to have a say. Every time our parents go to vote, we go with them. We take the flyers shoved in our face, we read the policies, we consider our options but then we just feel frustration. We feel frustrated because everyone is voting on issues that impact on us. And yet we are silenced. University fees, education, the future of housing affordability, medical care, infrastructure, the environment and many other areas of interest and importance. Why does someone else get to have a say in our life, why are they allowed to thrust their hand into the clay of our future that is just beginning to take shape? Why can't we remove their hand until we are 18, when we are classified as an adult? Why does my age define my maturity?

We know many adults who couldn't hold a flame to the political understanding we have at 16 years of age and yet someone who has never or will never be linked to the path we are travelling gets to shape the policies influencing this path? How do we justify that approach? Voting is just one of the ways we should get to have a say. There needs to be more opportunities for us and all other young people to stand out and speak up.

There is nothing more empowering than delivering a jaw dropping speech on issues which put a fire in our belly. But then the spotlight shifts, and we take our seat, once more leaving our inspiring words and plans to shape our world lingering in the air. Without a hand to catch these sparks, they soon fizzle out. Opportunities like public speaking and debating are vital as they give young people a voice. Competitions run by parliamentary members—thank you so much, Andrew Wallace MP—are even more crucial as young people can be heard by someone who can put their ideas into action. But there is no point to giving us a voice if only the confident and outgoing speak. Our peers, many who won't get up in front of a room full of people, deserve their say too. Voting will give young people the option to express their views.

So dear future, despite all the negativity that surrounds our generation, we plan on making a difference in this world but first we need a chance. Dear future, we are ready for you, but are you ready for us?