Speech in Parliament on Turnbull's War On The Young

4.33pm | August 14, 2017

This government is at war with the young, from cuts to education funding through to a deliberate attempt to sabotage any meaningful action on climate change. This government shows every time that the only thing it cares about less than young people's present is their future. The only time that this government shows an interest in young people's futures is when it cries crocodile tears over the deficit to justify cuts to services.

The latest HILDA statistics show the toll that this war on the young has had on young Australians' economic prospects. We know that housing is one of the primary drivers of wealth, but young people are being locked out of the housing market. For many young people, the dream of home ownership is just that, a dream. From 2002 to 2014, home ownership for 25- to 29-year-olds dropped by a third. Professor Wilkins from the Melbourne Institute—the one the government likes to talk about—has said that one of the more concerning trends is a growing wealth divide by age group. It is very much connected to what is going on in the housing market. And what has the government proposed to do about it? Absolutely nothing.

It isn't just a question of wealth; it has other implications. Young people are being denied the freedoms and life experiences that their parents and their grandparents had. The number of men and women aged 22 to 25 who live with their parents is up: for men by 43 per cent and for women by 27 per cent, since 2001. These are not positive trends in our national life. Young people are earning less, and it is part of the reason that they're staying at home. Young people are paying more than ever before for their education, yet graduates are less likely to find work when they leave university, and they will be paid less if they do. Real earnings for bachelor-degree graduates declined 16 per cent between 2006 and 2014. Young people who obtain non-university qualifications when they finish school do even worse and young people who do not gain qualifications after school do worst of all.

I say to Senator Duniam, respectfully, as he waxes lyrical about aspiration and encouraging people to put just a little more away to build something for their future: fine sentiment from government senators is not enough. It is not enough to address the material impacts that policy decisions made by government are having on the young Australians that I know, because the truth is that none of these things are beyond the government's control. All of these things are being made worse by the government's inaction. All of them are being made worse by the government's punitive approach to people who may not be doing quite so well as them, who might not be so comfortable as them and the people that live around them in the leafy suburbs that they represent.

What have the government offered on wages? They've offered penalty rate cuts to young people, and they stood again and again against Labor's efforts to restore penalty rates to where they were previously. And who is affected? It is young people, who are far more likely to be working in casual roles and working irregular hours. What have they offered to the young unemployed? They have offered the PaTH internships, a completely inadequate and deficient response. Young people need real jobs with fair conditions, not faux internships with unfair wages.

What have they offered on wealth? They have refused to act on negative gearing and refused to act on capital gains tax, despite every expert in the country telling them it would make a difference. Their super for housing proposal, unbelievably, asks young people to literally mortgage their retirement in order to fund a home. For decades, part of our economic compact has been that each generation can hope to do better than the one that came before it. As the HILDA data demonstrates, young people's wealth and income are sliding, and they may be forgiven for thinking that the government have forgotten about them. I will say this: Labor hasn't. When this shambles opposite us finally comes to an end, young people's future will be a priority, not just a rhetorical debating point.