Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals making it harder for young people

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (16:49): The young people of today have every right to be angry. They should be angry that they have a federal government and a Prime Minister who are completely out of touch with their lives and unconcerned about the challenges that they are facing. My generation, our generation, should not be saying to the generation following us, 'You will not be better off than your parents.' We must not accept a passing-on of a lower standard of living to the next generation.

Young people today are facing the combined impact of many issues. Indeed, just in this adjournment debate, my colleague the member for Makin was talking about the impact on young people of penalty rate changes and my colleague the member for Kingsford-Smith was talking about the impact on young people of housing affordability. This generation of young people enter their adulthood with debt from university and TAFE study, and this government wants to introduce $100,000 degrees. It wants to make that debt burden even more significant. This generation of young people faces rising rents and decreasing housing affordability, with many convinced that they will never own their own home. They have seen attacks by this government on their income support. Their work is often irregular and unreliable. They rely on wages from casual, part-time and contract work without the security that full-time employment provides. They now see stagnant wage growth and attacks on penalty rates—which are often the only thing that allows them to meet their costs of living. And all this government does is continue to blame those young people.

It has offered helpful solutions to the housing affordability crisis such as the minister responsible for addressing housing affordability telling young people to just 'get a high-paying job', much like when Joe Hockey told them to 'get a good job that pays good money'. The Deputy Prime Minister told them just to move to the country. Even our Prime Minister told them to get parents who can afford to 'shell out' to help their kids with the deposit for a home. This far-from-good advice is not limited to housing either. The member for Gilmore, my colleague Ann Sudmalis, this week told young people that the cut to penalty rates was 'a gift'. It is unhelpful and, indeed, downright hurtful. All of these statements come from a very out-of-touch government.

Issues of intergenerational unfairness and how we tackle them are of increasing concern and importance to me personally but also to the party that I am a member of, the Labor Party. At the last election, Labor announced a raft of policies to tackle intergenerational unfairness. These include a national TAFE funding guarantee, a commitment to taking serious action to tackle climate change rather than leave the burden to the generations that follow us, protecting penalty rates and ensuring that access to health care remains universal. These are all issues that matter to the next generation. Inequality is at a 75-year high, wages growth is at record lows and underemployment is at record highs. More and more young people are subjected to irregular, insecure work, forced to take what they can get. Only recently in the Illawarra we have seen, through the work of the South Coast Labour Council, the exposing of an extensive degree of exploitation of young people in the workforce. So they do not just face the issue of losing penalty rates; they are not even being paid the amount that they should be paid. These things are happening to the people to whom we should be ensuring we leave a better standard of life. Surely, that has to be one of the most significant things that we can do in this place.

Young people have every right to say to each and every one of us in this place, 'What are you doing to give us the benefits that your parents gave you when they worked to ensure that you were a generation who had improved life chances?' I was the first in my family to go to university. Will this generation say to us, 'What were you thinking when you stood by and watched our standard of living deteriorate and you left us a legacy worse than that left to you?' (Time expired)

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