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Thursday, 16 December 1993
Page: 4322

Mr O'CONNOR (11.54 p.m.) —In 1992 the Kennett Liberal government was elected to power in Victoria and proceeded with one of the most vicious assaults on the living standards of ordinary working people that my state has ever seen. No more deeply was that assault felt than in the Geelong region and my electorate of Corio in particular, which has a high concentration of low income earners and pensioners.

  Four housewives, in their anger and frustration at this assault on their families' living standards, walked off the street to seek advice from those who understood the political process on ways ordinary working men and women might oppose these inequitable policies. Their discussions with family and neighbours unearthed real fear for their future under this mindless, heartless and uncaring state government. They decided to hold a public meeting of concerned women in Geelong. At that meeting, attended by over 100 women in Geelong, an organisation was born called Housewives United.

  It was the first tentative step into the public arena by those four woman who had never entered that zone before. They had little experience of organising or chairing public meetings, or the resources to sustain any further activity. All they had was a burning desire to protect their families from the rather rotten policies of this conservative state government. Housewives United grew rapidly in Geelong and, as other communities in regional and urban Victoria reeled from the jackboot assault by Kennett on their liberty and living standards, they turned to Housewives United and those four women for support and, indeed, hope.

  The organisation grew in other communities and today has a membership of over 3,000 people. It has now become, with a new name, People United. It is an extraordinary tale of courage, commitment and dedication by working people to one another. But, for the four women concerned, it has been a personally liberating experience. They have learnt that politics is not what it seems to be from the outside; they have learnt new skills; they have met other inspiring working women and men; and they have refused to cower or be intimidated by this repressive government. They have grown personally stronger in their own lives with the passage of the days.

  I tell this story in the House tonight as we move towards that rather spiritually inspiring time of the year so that the story of People United will give heart and hope to all working people in my electorate and throughout the state of Victoria.

  There will be no stone left unturned, no sacrifice too great, no skill left unexploited and no resource left unused in the quest by working people in Geelong and in Victoria to rid the state of this political cancer that is consuming the heart of this great state—namely, the Victorian conservative government. The prosperity of Victoria will return to the state, despite Jeff Kennett and the policies of his government. The work of concerned organisations such as People United will continue until we have a government again in Spring Street that can demonstrate some compassion for working families in the state of Victoria.