Rising Inequality and Division in Australia


Peter Khalil: I would like to highlight the need for this government to address rising inequality and division in Australia. Across a range of policy areas—Medicare, education, jobs and economic fairness—this government is failing Australia and failing my constituents in my seat of Wills. Right across the nation they are failing the people of Australia at a time when these areas are really crying out for attention.

While this government is preoccupied with its divisive agenda of cutting the social safety net, removing protections from hate speech and cosying up to the big end of town with a $50 billion tax cut for big business, they have taken their eye off the critical matter of Australian jobs. They have no plan to reverse the slide in full-time work which has seen 112,000 full-time jobs lost since the start of this year. They have no plan to help the 1.1 million Australians who are underemployed to get more hours at work. They have no plan to close the pay and participation gaps for Australian women, which have been stubbornly high for far too long. And they certainly have no plan for the 600 workers at the Ford factory in Broadmeadows or the 750 workers at Hazelwood who have lost their jobs in the past month alone, or the thousands of other Australians around the country who are now wondering whether their jobs—their livelihoods—will go the same way. This is a government that deals in division instead of dedicating itself to the task of growing more good jobs for the Australians who need them.

While there are many winners in our globalised world, there are also many people who have lost out. Thousands of workers have lost or are about to lose their manufacturing jobs. Many live in my electorate of Wills. And not all of these workers, after 20 years or more in a Holden or a Ford plant, can become baristas or start-up tech gurus in our so-called exciting innovation society that the Prime Minister is so fond of talking about. I say to these people that we on this side, the Labor Party, and the labour movement, are doing the hard yards, thinking hard and developing policies that, upon winning government, we will implement—policies that actually retrain and retool workers, provide vocational education, establish job creation programs and provide support to families that are struggling. Even though this government has abandoned them, I say to these people who feel disconnected, who feel lost, who feel angry: don’t give yourselves up to the haters. Keep faith in us, the Labor Party, because we will ensure that there will be better days ahead.

In the suburb of Glenroy in my electorate of Wills, 34 per cent of children are considered highly vulnerable on at least one index measure provided by the Australian Early Development Census. This census measures physical health, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills. The Victorian average for vulnerable children is only 20 per cent. These statistics make it startlingly clear that investment in both health care and education is desperately needed in suburbs like Glenroy, which has a rapidly swelling population. That is why we on this side, Labor, are so committed to projects that will work for people in those local communities. The Glenroy Community Hub, for example, which we, Labor, have committed funds to, would include, amongst other things, an integrated children’s centre—including maternal and child health services—a kindergarten, child care and facilities for the operation of a community health practice. We have committed money to that project because we believe that this will help the people in those communities.

Despite promising to invest in early childhood education, this government has actually delivered nothing that will assist families to ensure that their children get more access to early education, and now families will not see a cent of new investment in child care until mid-2018—if ever. Labor took to the last election policies that would help ensure that our children are equipped with the skills they need to get ahead in our modern economy. Investment in education is proven to be good for our economy, good for advancing equality and good for reducing inequality. That is why we are committed to it. In contrast, this Prime Minister has torn up the commitment on schools funding he took to the last election, and we have a government intent on undermining our entire education system.

I have also spoken extensively in this place about my passion for multiculturalism and in defence of Australia’s vibrant multicultural model, a model that works because we embrace diversity. This model works because we can be proud to be Australian and proud of our cultural heritage. Yet we have a government here which promotes divisiveness. They are attacking section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, trying to undermine the protection that exists there, to stoke division and undermine one of the key pillars of our multicultural society. We will not let them do this.