Not many people thought that New Year’s 2020 would usher in the year we had. And who thought we would have Groundhog Day in 2021? After all the heavy lifting the community did since the word COVID became part of our daily vernacular, it feels a lot like we are back to square one.

In my job, I get to see the power of a community when the going gets tough. I also get to see the collective frustration when we see our very way of life slip away from us.

Time and again people from all walks of life have accepted that we must all put our shoulder to the wheel and change the way we do things. We put the masks on, we stay at home, we’ve followed the advice of health professionals. We know that stopping the spread of COVID is vital.

But there was always a compact between government and the people that the sacrifices we make must be repaid. And they haven’t been.

The promise of a vaccine as our way out of this COVID malaise seems to be slipping away.

For a long time, I’ve seen a whole generation of Australians graduating from school and university with less hope of securing their place in Australia as adults. We feel like we are living in a more uncertain world, despite being more connected than ever before.

COVID-19 has robbed that generation, and others of even more.

Insecure work has been exposed as a cancer on our community. The most basic right of having a secure job is becoming even further out of the reach of everyday Australians and a fair share of the profits is slipping dangerously away from working people, falling into the pockets of large companies and the rich.

If you ask an average 20 year-old if they feel like they’ve got a bright future on the other side of COVID, there is more than a sense of trepidation.

Unlike the response of strong national Governments during the crises of the past, we don’t see a commitment to the Australian people that we’ll come out the other side of this crisis stronger from our current Federal Government.

The Labor Government’s social compact with the Australian people after the Second World War saw two decades of economic growth and a laser-like focus on full employment and the society-wide benefits that flow from that.

The Government response to the Global Financial Crisis in 2007-2008 showed us that modern Labor governments have all the zeal of those of the past. That looking after the community and making sure we came out the other side stronger was what counted in the end.

What we’ve seen from our present-day Prime Minister has been devastating for our nation. A total lack of leadership in securing both our nation’s response to the pandemic and our nation’s future after COVID.

2020 should have been a catalyst for our nation to be presented with change. With a new way of doing things. Not returning to business as usual with rising inequality, growing numbers of people in insecure work and less hope of a bright future for young Australians or a secure retirement for working Australians.

People who are involved in the labour movement and the Labor Party are not there for personal gain. We push for reform, we fight for change to ensure that our fellow Australians have a better and more fulfilling life.

If those of us in public life don’t fight for ordinary working people to have a more secure future, then we don’t deserve the positions we hold.

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