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Speech: Matters of Public Importance - Turnbull Government

The Turnbull government's relentless negativity and inability to focus on the issues that Australians care about has not come about because of the dysfunction of the last three days; it has been a hallmark throughout their time in government. No matter who takes the helm of the Liberal-National government, their policies will continue to wreak havoc on the Australian people. Their destructive agenda is one of a government that works for the big end of town at the expense of its people and the environment. It is a government that was in here just a few hours ago desperately trying to cut deals and appease big business with corporate tax cuts, and then the Prime Minister backtracked, focused entirely on trying to stay in power, but not until he had tried every tactic to pass his absurd handout to his corporate mates, which would have left millions of Australians worse off.

In a rich country like ours many are forced to live in poverty while the government puts the largest corporations and their profits before people. This is quite unbelievable. It is shameful that the government is out there indulging in political theatre while millions are barely making ends meet. The Australian Council of Social Service estimates that over 13 per cent of all Australians are living below the internationally accepted poverty line. That's a staggering 2.9 million people. We have a homelessness crisis in our country. Homelessness has jumped 14 per cent just in the five years between 2011 and 2016. Over 100,000 people have no permanent home right now. The Turnbull government should be focusing on what successive governments have failed to commit to—building more social housing and more affordable homes—but there is no serious political will to help those who need it most, those who don't have a roof over their heads and those who are standing at the brink of poverty.

A hundred per cent of my home state, New South Wales, is covered by drought. Farmers, regional Australians, our environment and our native animals all suffer while the Liberal Party indulges those who refuse to even accept that climate change is happening. They haven't delivered for regional Australia or, in fact, anywhere else in Australia. It is the narrow self-interest and the desperate desire to stay in power that has led to a system which fails, time and again, to find solutions to real problems and create policy that responds to the needs of people. Mr Turnbull and his colleagues haven't quite grasped that governments are there to serve the people, not themselves. Our challenges are many, and there is nothing more fundamentally important than facing these head-on and restoring public trust.

As we stand here 120 children are locked up on Nauru. Some of them have completely lost hope of ever leaving that tiny island in the Pacific and having a normal life. Make no mistake: these children have been imprisoned by the Australian government with the full support of the Labor Party. A 12-year-old boy has been on a hunger strike for over two weeks. Let that sink in for a moment. The children on Nauru are not referred to by their names; they have numbers instead. Some of them were born on Nauru and have never known a life outside the barbed wire of the island prison the Australian government has established for them. They are living in terrible conditions, in mouldy tents, with no access to proper medical care. There have been reports of suicide attempts by children on Nauru. This is something we would never accept for our own children, so why do we accept it for these children who are most in need? The community outside of this chamber and the hallways of Parliament House doesn't care about political theatre; it cares about the issues that matter, the issues that are life-changing, and where we can do so much better.

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