A Better Future under Labor
ADDRESS IN REPLY - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
We still have a few first speeches to go in the class of 2022, but I know I speak for all members here who have perhaps been here for some time when I say it is difficult to rise to your feet to follow the class of 2022—such wonderful speeches, inspiring all of us and reminding all of us of those first moments in the chamber, and reminding us of our responsibilities to our communities. It is with great joy that I rise to make my contribution to the address-in-reply with that memory, that reminder, so fixed in my mind.
I represent the people of Lalor, in Melbourne's outer west—an electorate centred around the old country town of Werribee that has grown into a thriving city of 300,000 people called Wyndham. I'm really pleased to stand here, after three terms in this place representing the people of Lalor, as a member of an Albanese government. I say that, in this first 100 days of government, to reflect and to think about what has already been achieved, and to reflect a little about the journey we were on during the worst parts of COVID—the long winter lockdowns of the two years. As a collective, the members now sitting on this side of the chamber put their heads together, their minds together and their skills together and listened to their communities, listened to Australians and did some deep thinking about what an opportunity it was for us to reset the way we think about our country and the way to move forward.
We learnt many things in the first two years of the pandemic. We learnt what it really is to be essential. We learnt that the most essential workers in our community are not those who are paid the most; in fact, in many cases they are those who are paid the least. And together we set our minds, from opposition, to doing something about that. It is with great pride I note that, in the first hundred days since the election, the Albanese Labor government has already changed lives and taken action to address the pay rates of our most essential workers— those in aged care, child care, health, education and transport—who were on the front line during the pandemic and took the most risks.
I'm reminded of the times I've been here and talked of the aged-care centre that I can see from the car park in my electoral office. I watched aged-care workers change their clothes at the boot of their car so as not to take contaminated clothes home to their families. I heard from people whose children were coming home from shifts in retail—at Macca's, for example—who were, similarly, putting their clothes into a garbage bag at the back door before entering their home so as not to contaminate others they lived with. So it is with great pride that I stand here, as a member of the Albanese Labor government, knowing that we have taken action already—that we wrote to the Fair Work Commission and told them we supported a pay rise for the lowest-paid workers in this country, and that the Fair Work Commission, respecting that, delivered it in their outcome. It's a small thing, a dollar an hour, but symbolically it's a huge thing, and it inspires and reminds us on this side of the House that the work is not finished, hence the Jobs and Skills Summit.
I held a jobs and skills summit with my friend Sam Rae, the member for Hawke, across Melbourne's outer west a little over a week ago. We brought 40 critical people together in the room, and I know how much they appreciated the opportunity to tell us what life was like and give us their ideas about a better future. Of course wage stagnation was part of what they told us about. They also told us, for instance, that if you live in Melton there is no TAFE to attend in the region. It's a real reminder for us that our work's not just about announcing TAFE places—as good as that is and as welcome as it is in my community and across Melbourne's outer west —but about looking at the fine detail, suburb by suburb, region by region and community by community, and asking: Where do we need the support? Where are the gaps? It's about ensuring that every community gets the support and opportunities they need.
I want to thank the member for Logan, the Treasurer, for his timely article last week, which reminded us that, although the unemployment rate has a three at the front of it, in electorates like mine and electorates like his that is not a reflection of reality. It is patchy, and we have work to do in various communities across this country, Monday, 5 September 2022 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 791 CHAMBER including in regional Australia, to make sure not just that we support the vulnerable and get wage increases but that we create appropriate opportunities for every single person we represent in this place.
So it is with great pride that I stand here, as the member for Lalor, to recommit, on the back of listening to the wonderful speeches from the class of 2022 across the chamber, to fighting to ensure that everyone in my community and communities like mine across this country gets their share of opportunity; that everyone is given the kind of support they need. That's what we need to take this country forward and to build a better Australia.
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July 31, 2023