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Tuesday, 23 October 2018
Page: 10847

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (18:31): Labor believes in a fairer Australia for this generation and for the next. The foundation for that is a stronger economy, most importantly in the future as well as now. Our nation faces a number of challenges for the future that quite frankly I don't believe this coalition government can meet. Over the weekend, the voters in Wentworth sent the Morrison government a clear and undeniable message. Yet watching the government over the last few days I don't think they heard it. The changing world is filled with both challenges and opportunities, yet we have a government that is afraid of the present and terrified of the future. In the time allowed today, I hope to cover just some of the actions that our next generation in my electorate are calling for.

In my electorate of Parramatta, people are concerned about the inaction of this government on climate change and what it will mean for future generations. A fair go for future generations, for our children and our grandchildren, requires that this generation act on climate change. The recent IPCC report is alarming. It outlines how much we have to do to hold the warming to 1.5 and that is net zero emissions by 2050. It shows 1.5 degrees centigrade is enough to unleash climate mayhem, and the pathways to avoiding an even hotter world require a swift and complete transformation, not just of the global economy but of society too. We have around 10 years to make a difference, yet the current government will not act on climate change and for that reason alone they have to go.

We cannot waste another four years; it's not fair to those who will come after us. Yet this government has been responsible for tearing down policies designed to make the necessary changes to our economy. Let's be frank, large numbers of those on the government benches do not believe the science. The Morrison government cannot do what is necessary; they will not. They can't even begin to make the necessary changes, and for that reason they have to go.

We also know that we have to act on species protections. Species extinctions on land and water are appallingly high. We are seeing a dramatic loss of insects. Australia has one of the highest extinction rates in the world. Yet we have a government that together with the state Liberal counterparts has seen increases in land clearing, extraordinary loss of koala habitat in the Sydney basin, an inexplicable decision to hand half a billion dollars to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation without tender or grant process and, as many people in my electorate know well, the winding back of protection for our marine parks in what is the largest removal of areas from conservation in history. The changes allow commercial fishing in 80 per cent of the marine park areas. There is no fairness in this. It is a lack of concern for the environment that we leave our children, our grandchildren and their grandchildren. This government quite frankly has to go.

They are not preparing our nation for the future ahead, even in areas that are well understood. They have deliberately destroyed our capacity to compete in the digital world by destroying the NBN. When the Labor government designed the NBN, we designed something to meet our needs in decades to come. The fibre network can handle incredible speeds and can be upgraded for very small expense to very rapid speeds.

Other places in the world, including New Zealand, Singapore and many of our neighbours to the north, are already delivering gigabit services. The fibre network would have been capable of that upgrade. But make no mistake about this: the copper parts of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government's broadband are at the limit of their capacity. They cannot get faster on copper. They are done. The physics is in. It cannot do gigabit speeds. We are calling on the government to go fibre to the kerb for the bits that haven't been rolled out yet—so, between now and the next election—but we expect by the next election that the rollout will be complete and we will be stuck with something that cost this country billions of dollars, was out-of-date before it was built and cannot do what this nation needs it to do.

It isn't just about households or businesses; it's about the ecosystem that encourages the innovation and design of products that we can then sell to the world. You need a certain market size to drive innovation in the games industry, in start-ups, in the delivery of health and education and the internet of things, and this nation has been denied that opportunity by this government. You name it, the rest of the world is moving on it, and we are stuck without the infrastructure that is basic in today's world, let alone the next decade or the next 50 years. Even though everybody, except the government, seems to know that it is a disaster, they still persist with their second-rate rollout.

For their lack of vision then and now, they have to go. For their complete lack of understanding of the changing face of work, they have to go. We are facing a loss of jobs that we now take for granted. We already have a workforce that is underemployed, both in the number of hours worked and, in my electorate, in the work they do relative to their skill level. We are looking at a future workforce that has to retrain—move from sector to sector—that will need creative and strategic skills as well as new knowledge areas. We know the gig economy is coming, and for many people who work in that economy there is no training on the job. You arrive fully skilled.

In fairness to all children, we have to invest in education. It is an essential for the future world. Yet, what have we got from this dreadful government? We got $14 billion cut from schools. We got the defunding of universities. We got the decimation of TAFE. We got no funding in the budget for preschool for four-year-olds—zero dollars in the budget. We got no commitment at all to fund preschool for three-year-olds—again, something that is starting to happen around the world as other countries understand that education from zero to five forms the basis of future prosperity. Again, for their lack of vision, for their lack of fairness, for their willingness to leave children behind, they have to go. For their lack of understanding that the quality of education for children born today will be one of the main determinants of whether they prosper as individuals but also whether this country prospers, they have to go. And for their complete disregard for our capacity to innovate, for the cuts in funding to science, research and innovation by 7.7 per cent, they have to go. This is a government that is frightened of the present and terrified of the future. This is a government incapable of accepting indisputable evidence before it, let alone asking the questions that need to be asked if this country is going to prosper for the next generation, and the one after that.

Mr Deputy Speaker, have you ever noticed in Australia that, under conservative governments in particular, we tend to get rid of things just as they become valuable? Rather than investing in our future, they either passively watch or actively participate as sectors with future competitive advantage fade away. We watched food processing shrink dramatically in the Howard years. Now we find that clean, green Australian food has a rapidly growing market, but we got rid of ours just a little bit too early. It is the same with car manufacturing. As supply chains fragment around the world, in 10 years time it wouldn't have been the main car manufacturer that was the source of our competitive advantage but the components manufacturers that were specialising and feeding the global fragmented supply chains. It just went a little bit early. As our neighbours to the north are discovering, they need high-quality vocational education. We had one of the best TAFE systems in the world and the government has managed to do incredible damage to it. And they are doing it now to data.

In the next decade, data will become incredibly valuable. People talk about it as the oil that will drive the economy. Rather than ensuring that we have open data, what's the government doing? They're segmenting our data and selling it off to anyone who wants to buy it, whether it's the privatising of the processing of visas through the immigration department or the privatising of the cancer register. You name it, this government is setting about selling off the stuff that will underpin this nation's prosperity, just before it becomes valuable—and I would say, too, before they actually know what it's worth. One could say the same about regulation. We have some very good regulation in Australia. It's copied around the world. Our building codes are copied across the Middle East. You find building codes being copied to the north. We are actually good at it. It is a saleable exportable commodity. This government does everything it can do every day to weaken it.

We also privatise things just when we should use them less. We privatise the electricity grid just when we need to use less electricity, not more. We privatise rubbish collection when actually we should be reducing our waste. We privatise roads when in the next 10 years we'll have fewer cars. We privatise hospitals when actually we should have fewer people in them. We have a government that doesn't understand the issues that we face and the ways that we have to go about improving our capacity and our prosperity.

Perhaps most importantly at this time we have a government that is also destroying our capacity to think. It is dramatically cutting the public sector. At the moment it's the smallest it has been in 12 years, which means we have lost incredible corporate memory. One of the by-products of doing your job in the tax office is this extraordinary understanding of the way things work. We are effectively outsourcing our capacity to think and are weakening it along the way.

There are a whole range of other things I could mention—the rising cost of living, the epidemic in obesity and mental illness, and housing becoming unaffordable—but I just want to say in conclusion that we have a government with its head in the sand and a government that has had its finger on the pause button for five years. In fairness to future Australians and in fairness to those kids who are now three, five and 10 years old, we must act on the challenges that this country faces and we must do it now. The future of this country depends on it.