Speeches

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE; Economy (1)

October 17, 2019

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (16:10): I'd like to start by just acknowledging the people that I have the honour of representing. I have an electorate I'm very proud of. It's very colourful. As a matter of fact, it's the most multicultural electorate in the whole of Australia. With that diversity comes colour and vibrancy and many other things that we in my community should be very proud of, and I think we do it very well—we are, as many have referred to my area in the south-west of Sydney, the most successful example of multiculturalism in the country. I think that does actually distinguish us in many aspects.

Apart from that, there are a couple of things I'm not real proud of. One is that we have significant pockets of less than privileged people living out there in Fowler. In other words, we have pockets of disadvantage.

In Fowler, I receive not exactly the majority, but, per capita, a high degree of all the immigrants coming to this country, particularly refugees. My electorate actually embraces that. We work with that. I know that the people who come to this country bring their aims and aspirations with them. What they want is a better life for themselves and their families. And you know what? They want to work. They come here to work because they know that working is the great enabler. But what we don't have in Western Sydney at the moment are the jobs. We don't have the employment opportunities.

My area used to be categorised as being a hub of light manufacturing for blue-collar workers. A lot of that manufacturing has already gone. In fact, the most significant group of blue-collar workers my area has are those aged 55 and over who have been made redundant and are not able to find another job. It's no fault of theirs that industries have restructured. And, by the way, they're living on about $40 a day. I listened to the last speaker, Andrew Laming; he would have us believe that this is some form of transitional aspect. Well, I've got to say: people aged 55 and over in that predicament know that they're not exactly going to transition into the digital economy, so it becomes their lifestyle.

There's another aspect of my community that I'll talk about—and I know that homelessness has been mentioned in this debate. The University of New South Wales conducted some research on homelessness and they found that my electorate of Fowler came up No. 1 in terms of rental stress. So it's not just about being able to afford a home. The private and public rental markets are so stretched at the moment that in my electorate people commit more than a third of all the income they get—and I'm talking here about welfare payments—to paying for their rental accommodation.

So when those in the government come in here and try to demean the issue of poverty, in Anti-Poverty Week, I say this. We have all been very fortunate here. There are 151 of us all up who have the privilege of representing our communities. We need to be here to make a difference for the better, for the people we represent. If you'd listened in this debate to those on the other side, you'd think they don't have anything to do about poverty or homelessness in their electorate. I'd say: go home and have a look, because you'll find pockets of disadvantage in every one of your communities. Being in the privileged positions that we are in, part of what we should be bringing to bear in this debate is what we can do, as a collective—I know they don't like that term!—to make life better for people.

We should do that not just electorate by electorate but generally, whether as to how we address poverty or how we make sure that kids don't go without. One in six kids is living in poverty in this country. We often talk in here about what we do for young people. Well, if we've got a situation where one in six of them is living in conditions of poverty, this is a drawback on our society.

We are a wealthy country. We should be moving to ensure that our wealth actually ensures the wellbeing of all of our people, not just a privileged few. I think on a week like this week, it being Anti-Poverty Week, we should be doing whatever we can, collectively, to alleviate poverty. One of the places where we should start is Newstart itself. The idea that we can have people living on $40 a day who can actually go out and clothe themselves and find a job is absolutely ridiculous. We need to be reasonable, we need to be realistic and we need to act now.

WE'LL PUT PEOPLE FIRST