Community meetings in Scullin electorate speech in Parliament

During the autumn recess of the parliament, I have been holding street corner meetings in the suburbs of Thomastown and Lalor in the Scullin electorate. I have done so to make sure that I am accountable to my constituents for the work that I have been doing, but, more importantly, to make sure that I am listening to the concerns in the community and can respond to them when I am in this place. I have been struck by how keen people have been to engage on a broad range of issues, all of them important, ranging from the national to the very local.Three key themes emerged from these street corner meetings: concerns about trust in this government; a deep concern for jobs; and anger at the last budget and its impact on our communities.

Last night's budget of course demonstrated a government without a plan for jobs, except for two—those of the Prime Minister and his present Treasurer, Joe Hockey. People in Scullin are facing significant challenges on the jobs front, challenges which even this budget anticipates will become more severe rather than less. Unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, has been consistently higher in Melbourne's north than the national average. It is unacceptably high, and this represents a tragic waste.

I acknowledge there are some measures in the budget which would go some way to addressing aspects of this jobs crisis. This is of course an admission of failure on the part of the government, and it is also too little, too late. The impact of the punitive measures in the last budget has already been felt, and it seems almost to add insult to injury that the government seems to have resuscitated the valuable and vital Youth Connections program with its proposed Transition to Work program for youth.

This is in a context of so many opportunities for jobs creation in the Scullin electorate. We saw this recently with the launch of the Food and Beverage Growth Plan—Melbourne's North, which I attended with state minister Lily D'Ambrosio; the member for McEwen; and other Labor MPs from the north. This report is compelling reading for anyone serious about growing jobs in food manufacturing in Melbourne's north, an area neglected by the policy agenda of this government. This is a vital issue given the collapse of the auto-manufacturing industry—goaded away by this government.

I attended a similar launch in the CBD last year, targeted at Victorian MPs, which no state Liberal MP attended—a telling absence, one which reflected the Liberal Party's lack of interest in jobs in Melbourne's north, which the people of Melbourne's north and Victoria punished them for at the state election. I thank the hundreds of constituents who have taken the time to raise their concerns with me. I commit to them to stand up for these concerns in this place and in the community and to always stand against this government, which is heedless of these concerns.

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