HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 6 DECEMBER 2018
Lionel Murphy put it best when he said, 'Mr Neal is entitled to be an agitator,' in support of the notion that our civil society is richer when we encourage people to dissent, to complain, to speak out, on issues where they have a different view.
In our schools we frequently have student representative councils and debating competitions. Here in the parliament we have the Parliament and Civics Education Rebate program, PACER, which even today is bringing to this building school students to engage in the process of parliament. It is bringing students to our national capital so they can better understand our civil society. When I was at school, I protested in Martin Place against education changes being made by Terry Metherell, an experience from which I learned a great deal, not just about education but about the process of making a difference, as students do when they join peaceful protests against laws with which they disagree.
So it was surprising to hear the Prime Minister say, 'We do not support our schools being turned into parliaments,' when in fact that is what a government program does in many schools, to allow students to learn about civics.
The Prime Minister has said, 'What we want is more learning in schools and less activism,' but it's a false dichotomy because, through activism, students get to learn.
It was a pleasure, when we had the Climate to Parliament program, for me to go outside and meet with Luca, Sullivan and Gemma, who were concerned about unchecked climate change and its impact on the planet, who were concerned that Australia's emissions are going up rather than down.
During that very same week I also hosted in my office Zahra Moinkhah, as part of the Jasiri Girls Takeover Parliament program. The Girls Takeover Parliament program was supported by 31 members of parliament. It's an innovation which pairs young women and girls with parliamentarians to ensure their voices are heard. Ninety-five per cent of the young women and girls who participate in the Girls Takeover Parliament program say afterwards that they would like to be politicians, and that is a great thing. We on this side of the House are a whisker away from having half of our party room being women. It's an important initiative, and it is something which has come through quotas and grassroots efforts. I hope Girls Takeover Parliament will do more.
I also pay particular tribute to Patrick Gorman, the new member for Perth, and Senator Sue Lines for their initiative to rename the House of Representatives and the Senate alcoves after Edith Lyons and Dorothy Tangney—again, activism brought to parliament in the great Australian tradition.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.