Adjournment - Fisher Schools Debating Competition

On 11 June 2018, Mr Wallace, the member for Fisher, held the inaugural Fisher Schools Debating Competition at Kawana Waters State College in the fabulous electorate of Fisher, on Queensland's beautiful Sunshine Coast. It's important to me as a senator, as I know it is for Mr Wallace, to encourage our young people to engage in Australia's political system and to get a good understanding of civics and the role of government. It's crucial that we demonstrate to our leaders of tomorrow that an understanding of the political landscape in Australia, both now and in years past, will set them up for success in the future. Complementing this are skills that can be developed through participating in good old-fashioned debate.

I strongly believe that it is vital that all of our young people, at some stage during their school journeys, are encouraged to participate in debating. The skills of public speaking, critical reasoning and the ability to construct and execute an argument are transferrable to many areas of life. It also demonstrates the importance of a fundamental Australian value: freedom of speech. School debating is how we develop the resilience to hear ideas that challenge us and, rather than claiming that we should never be confronted or challenged, to instead have the strength and confidence to counterargue. Freedom of speech makes us strong, not mere snowflakes. It certainly developed that confidence in me when I was a school student.

The member for Fisher took great pleasure in hosting the first of what he hopes will be many Fisher debating competitions this year. I'm told it was a tremendous event, with numerous local schools competing and vying for the opportunity to be the best debating school in the electorate of Fisher and to be able, as their prize, to prepare a speech to be read out in this parliament. I am delighted to announce to this Senate that Chancellor State College won the competition. The following speech was written by Mia Seefeld, Lucy Gillespie and Kate Frankish, who join us in the gallery today, along with their teacher, Ms Amanda Watson. I acknowledge each of them now.

There are some great ideas in this speech. While I don't endorse all of the ideas that are put forward in it, I welcome the debate and I wholly admire the heartfelt passion with which they have written something so special to be delivered today. It goes like this:

Dear future,

You may not know it yet but we have plans for you. We want to make a difference and have an impact. We want to pave our own path and colour it in our favourite shades. We also want to have a say. Every time our parents go to vote, we go with them. We take the flyers shoved in our face, we read the policies, we consider our options but then we just feel frustration. We feel frustrated because everyone is voting on issues that impact on us. And yet we are silenced. University fees, education, the future of housing affordability, medical care, infrastructure, the environment and many other areas of interest and importance. Why does someone else get to have a say in our life, why are they allowed to thrust their hand into the clay of our future that is just beginning to take shape? Why can't we remove their hand until we are 18, when we are classified as an adult? Why does my age define my maturity?

We know many adults who couldn't hold a flame to the political understanding we have at 16 years of age and yet someone who has never or will never be linked to the path we are travelling gets to shape the policies influencing this path? How do we justify that approach? Voting is just one of the ways we should get to have a say. There needs to be more opportunities for us and all other young people to stand out and speak up.

There is nothing more empowering than delivering a jaw dropping speech on issues which put a fire in our belly. But then the spotlight shifts, and we take our seat, once more leaving our inspiring words and plans to shape our world lingering in the air. Without a hand to catch these sparks, they soon fizzle out. Opportunities like public speaking and debating are vital as they give young people a voice. Competitions run by parliamentary members, thank you so much Andrew Wallace MP, are even more crucial as young people can be heard by someone who can put their ideas into action. But there is no point to giving us a voice if only the confident and outgoing speak. Our peers, many who won't get up in front of a room full of people, deserve their say too. Voting will give young people the option to express their views.

So dear future, despite all the negativity that surrounds our generation, we plan on making a difference in this world but first we need a chance. Dear future, we are ready for you, but are you ready for us?

Sincerely,

Mia, Lucy and Kate

I think we have in Chancellor State College some outstanding debaters, some outstanding leaders, and three very impressive students, who I know will have made the very most of their opportunity to have the ear of their federal member during their visit to Parliament House today.