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1 year ago

SENATE

2kOTeyP

98

98 SENATE Tuesday, 14 February 2017 state in the country, attacks on vulnerable people through the welfare system impact on Tasmanian young people the hardest. Health and education systems skewed to the rich, and serious and ongoing discrimination against LGBTI people and people from racial and religious minorities. Hobart, Launceston and Devonport all suffered their warmest year in known records in 2016. Last year, parts of the precious Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area that had never before seen bushfires burnt, and many of those areas may never recover. And remember, it is wilderness above all other of Tasmania's outstanding attributes that attracts tourists to Tasmania. Of course, much of this wilderness was saved by the Greens and the tens of thousands of Tasmanians and hundreds of thousands of Australians who voted Green and campaigned to protect these precious places, but remember that the tourism sector is Tasmania's biggest employment sector, so when our wilderness is hit it is a jobs issue as well as an environment issue. Our warming climate is an issue in Tasmania now, not the distant future, but in the future it is going to be young Tasmanians who bear the brunt of this government's refusal to act on climate. Instead of embracing the jobs-rich renewable sector, the coalition of course wants to double down on coal, pandering to an industry which has delivered literally millions of dollars of donations into the pocket of the coalition. It is well worth pointing out that Malcolm Turnbull's threat to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation— another great result delivered to Australia by the Greens, I might add—the Prime Minister wants to take money from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and allocate it to coal, and of course Tasmania will not have any chance of all that receiving any of that money because we effectively have no coal industry in the state. The hour is growing late to look after Tasmania's precious forests and oceans for the next generation. They are suffering under climate change right now. Because of low wages, Hobart is now the second-most-unaffordable city in the country, behind Sydney, in which to rent, in relative terms. That is an eye-opener for people. But this government stubbornly refuses to remove the massively unfair loopholes that reward property developers and speculators who may be buying their fifth property or their 50th property—with more taxpayer support than is given to a young Tasmanian couple struggling to save for their first home. More than 21,000 Tasmanians rely on the barely survivable Newstart, with another 3,500 on youth allowance. There are far more young Tasmanian people unemployed than there are jobs available. So what does this country do? It goes to war with Centrelink recipients through the massive, shambolic debt recovery program that has been rolled out and has resulted in stress and trauma for so many Tasmanians. What else do they want to do for welfare recipients? In the omnibus bill—or, as we call it, the 'omnicuts bill'— that is currently before this Senate, one of the measures snuck through is to increase the waiting period for Newstart from its current one-week waiting period to a five-week waiting period. It is all right for the tories to think to themselves that if it was their kids they could just move home for five weeks—another mouth to feed, no skin off their nose. But that is not the case for many Tasmanians, and particularly not for many Tasmanian young people. Mark my words: this government has gone to war with young Tasmanians. It is a disgusting attack, which reminds people that this government begrudges giving the most vulnerable people even a single extra cent. Meanwhile, they are happy for their corporate mates, their major donors and the very rich to pay very little or no tax. Who can forget the debate we have already had in this place this year when the top 20 per cent of income earners in Australia got a tax break delivered to them by the government—and, would you believe it? One Nation—and the other 80 per cent of Australians got nothing. In fact this government wants to claim even less revenue from the most wealthy in our society and leave wide open the tax loopholes that rob our government of untold billions—which are being rorted out of the government by the major fossil fuel companies, including the gas companies—that could actually be invested in making our community a safer and fairer place. This government has a particular contempt for young people who are not white and heterosexual. They want to scrap hate speech protections in the Racial Discrimination Act. Basically, they want to make it easier to be a racist in this country. We only need to look at the filth spouted at Q Society's dinner last week to get a glimpse at what it is that they want people to be able to say in Australia. And every single one of the Liberals' Tasmanian representatives in this place are locked in behind a plebiscite on marriage equality, which was set up by Tony Abbott to delay and frustrate this much-needed human rights reform rather than deliver it. Even after that appalling effort, we have Senator Abetz saying he was going to ignore the will of the people anyway and vote to keep discrimination in marriage. Mercifully, there is a better way than the way the Liberals have conducted themselves. It is not too late to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, to end our unhealthy dependence on coal, and to embrace a jobsrich future, a clean future delivered by renewable energy. We can make the housing market fairer, and make it easier for young people to find stable and rewarding employment. We can get rid of negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount. We can make corporations pay their fair share of tax. We can make the super-rich in CHAMBER

Tuesday, 14 February 2017 SENATE 99 this country pay their fair share of tax, so that we can invest in basic public services, like health and education that are crying out for investment in my home state of Tasmania. Young people, young Tasmanians, deserve a fair go at prosperity and a fair go at opportunity—at least to the level of those of us who sit currently in this place this evening have had. But mark my words: they are not going to get it under a federal Liberal government which has declared war on young Tasmanians. Smith, Ms Kathy Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (21:12): I rise to record and respond to the resignation of the Labor member of parliament for the seat of Gosford, Kathy Smith, a caring and determined advocate for the Central Coast. I first met Kathy Smith when she was chair of Cancer Voices New South Wales, at a time when I was the candidate for Robertson, in 2010. At that time, she was the head of a steering committee for a hard-fought campaign to build a radiotherapy treatment centre on the Central Coast. Kathy had beaten cancer in 1996 and she knew what a valuable asset a radiotherapy centre would be for cancer patients on the Central Coast. At that time cancer patients had to travel to either Sydney or Newcastle for public treatment, or run up large debts for treatment at a private clinic locally. As she explained: I had become aware of an elderly lady who had to travel from Wyong to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital for radiotherapy treatment each day for six weeks. She travelled by bus and train, and what torture that must have been for her. I was living in Hornsby at the time of my diagnosis and I was fortunate enough to be able to afford private radiotherapy treatment only 10 minutes away from home and my place of work. Silly or not, I was left with a feeling of guilt knowing that this much older lady was having to struggle to travel for treatment while I could be driven for mine without any effort on my part. Kathy and the former member for Gosford, Marie Andrews, rallied the community and secured tens of thousands of petitioners to create the political context in which I was able to fight very hard to secure $29 million from the Labor government under Kevin Rudd and $10 million from the state Labor government under Kristina Keneally. With that $39 million investment, the experience of people suffering cancer on the Central Coast was transformed. This cancer centre on the coast is a testament to Kathy Smith's drive and determination to get things done for the community. She is a natural campaigner and a down-to-earth straight talker, and it was these attributes, among others, that won her the seat of Gosford from the Liberals in 2015. Kathy touched on her motivation for the cancer centre campaign—and I think her comments are instructive of her motivation generally—in her maiden speech to the NSW Legislative Assembly. She said: Being a person who always spoke up for the underdog and who took on the battles of those not able to fight for themselves, it was inevitable that I would do something to draw attention to this dreadful situation. And she did. Although she has not been successful in keeping good health and finishing her term, in her service for the community as the member for Gosford, Kathy has continued to take up the fight for the underdog in parliament. She helped expose the dangerous condition of the Hawkesbury River railway bridge, a line that carries 600 train services and 11,000 commuters between Sydney and the coast every day. A report in 2013 discovered one of the bridge's pylons was severely corroded, but repairs had not been made by 2015—a potentially disastrous state of affairs for such a train journey. Kathy's work on that issue alone led to an inquiry by the Office of Transport Safety Investigations, and she forced the government to make repairs. She led the fight against the closure of the Roads and Maritime Services office in Woy Woy by collecting a petition with more than 15,000 signatures and forcing a debate in the New South Wales parliament. The out-of-touch Liberals did not listen; they shut it and the community is all the poorer. Kathy also stopped the proposed increase in train fares, which would have almost doubled fares for seniors by 2018 and would have cost daily commuters from Woy Woy to Tuggerah an extra $386 per year. She fought to keep our public hospitals in public hands, because patients should always come before profit. She campaigned to fix the $12 million maintenance backlog at Gosford schools, with Brisbane Water Secondary College Umina Campus alone requiring $1.1 million worth of repairs and maintenance. She supported the residents of Spencer to bring an end to the illegal landfill that was occurring locally on a large scale. She championed Brisbane Water oyster growers in their continuing efforts to re-establish a viable local industry. She worked with Peat Island and Mooney Mooney residents to save this gateway to the Hawkesbury from over-development, and she campaigned to secure a safer community environment by supporting residents and lobbying for more effective crime prevention and Neighbourhood Watch centres. In fact, despite her recent ill health and leave from parliament, Kathy has fought just as tirelessly and fervently for the community as she always has. Her staff should also be congratulated for maintaining the vital functions of Kathy's electorate office during such a demanding and stressful time. Unfortunately, Kathy's most recent CHAMBER