MPI - Inequality

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (16:07): I have to say that the MPI raised by the Leader of the Opposition is a really pertinent issue to be addressing at the end of this week—rising inequality in our communities and of the potential for division that can come from a society where people are missing out on the opportunities that we have, for many generations, seen as a birthright in Australia.

I was doing some research this week in preparation for a Remembrance Day speech tomorrow in the suburb of Corrimal, at Corrimal RSL, in my area. There was a fabulous story in one of the old newspapers that I found about a Red Cross branch being established in 1914 in the suburb and about how it was actually established. It was through the efforts of local workers, some of them in a manufacturing base there, some miners and some local community people, determining that they were going to do fundraising activities. I think the local soccer club was doing a fancy dress game and raising money that way. Every week, the workers were pitching in a percentage of their wages towards establishing a fund for the Red Cross. At the same time, in that same period in my area, miners union lodgers regularly put forward a contribution out of their wage to establish things such as our local hospitals.

We have a very strong foundation of communities in this country who take responsibility for helping each other. We see that even up to today. I regularly see on my Facebook feed social media fundraising efforts from local people for a local organisation or a local family who is doing it tough. It is great to see how many people go on and give a little bit—whatever they can—using that mechanism. It is the modern version of those very early, turn-of-the-century forms of fundraising 100 years ago. We have a very entrenched, pervasive and valuable culture that says, when people are struggling or having difficulties, we all pull together. That egalitarian spirit has to be reflected in the parliaments that represent those people. That is what people expect. They did it then, and they do it today. They stand up and take action to help each other and to create strength, unity and opportunity for people in their communities. They want governments that do the same.

In the last federal election, we were addressing those very issues across the portfolio areas. It may have been the fact that, for the first time, we were about to face a generation who will not have the retirement security of home ownership. It is a foundation that has given so much stability in Australia for people as they leave the workforce in their older years. It was the combination of a strong pension system, which was then built upon by a sound and effective superannuation system, and the capacity to achieve homeownership that gave us dignity and security in our retirement years. We are now seeing a generation of young people for whom housing affordability and home ownership is looking like it will never be within their reach in their lifetime. Shadow ministers from the Leader of the Opposition down were talking about tackling these growing inequalities. A generation may not, for the first time, be able to give to the next generation better circumstances than they had in their lifetime.

I am glad the member for Lilley is here because he has been a powerful voice for these issues that are playing out in our communities. Our communities know how to look after each other. Whether it is health, whether it is education, whether it is supporting apprenticeships—which I am very passionate about—or whether it is giving opportunities for higher education, communities expect their governments to create circumstances that support them. They do not expect them to be ripping away at the fabric that has created the great egalitarian Australia that we know, we recognise and we are determined to keep. (Time expired)