Youth Off The Streets statement 25/10/18

25 October 2018

DR CHALMERS (Rankin) (10:00): Youth Off The Streets does outstanding work in my local community, and right around the country, helping vulnerable young people turn their lives around. The young people that Father Chris Riley's charity helps have to overcome tremendous challenges, whether it be personal trauma or neglect or physical, psychological and emotional abuse the likes of which many in this place couldn't fathom. I want to acknowledge the work in my community, in Logan City, of Beny Bol and his team, a team that I spend a lot of time with and I have a lot of regard for.

And given the charity's outstanding contribution, a funding announcement from the education minister on Tuesday afternoon should have been a cause for celebration. But what the minister's media release failed to mention was that it was his own government that had jeopardised the charity's future in the first place. As the Daily Telegraph had exposed that morning, the Liberals wanted to slash the charity's funding by $1.3 million a year. And worse than that, if you can believe it, they ordered the charity to repay $630,000 it had already received, money that had already been provisioned towards helping disadvantaged kids, including, importantly in our area, for a new school.

Now this has to be, in a competitive field, one of the most despicable acts of this arrogant and out-of-touch government, even by its own abysmal standards. Of course we welcome the government's backflip, but those opposite shouldn't pretend it was anything but that: a humiliating backflip in the face of overwhelming community outrage. They didn't back down because what they had announced and proposed was wrong. They backed down because it was on the front of the Daily Telegraph.

With a number of my colleagues from the Labor side, I joined Father Riley and some of his school principals and his team from Youth Off The Streets, and we met with the shadow education minister, the member for Sydney. What really came through in that meeting was the devastating impact that the cuts proposed by the Liberal Party would have on the important work that Youth Off The Streets does. And I think any objective assessment of that work and the impact of that cut is that it would have been devastating for that charity and especially, and most importantly, for the vulnerable people that Youth Off The Streets helps.

The cruel cut and the badly motivated backflip that followed really do go to the heart of the twisted priorities of this out-of-touch government. If you're at the top end of town, you get showered with largesse, you get handed generous tax breaks. But if you're a charity trying to help the most vulnerable kids in our community, you get a kick in the guts. That's the difference between this side and that side: we will always support vulnerable people right around the country.