Mr FITZGIBBON (Hunter) (10:06): The incidence of Ice addiction in our communities is frightening. While ice addiction may not have passed alcohol problems in number, it appears the drug causes in people responses we have not seen before.
The proliferation of ice will not be arrested through public meetings. More often than not, those turning to drugs are facing some form of depression, abuse or marginalisation. A response to the ice scourge must be greater resources—that is, more money for our police and more money for those who support those with mental health problems or those with addictions.
More broadly, there is no better response to marginalisation than to put a person in a job. Sadly, Australia now has an unemployment rate higher than that experienced during the global financial crisis, and that is particularly true in my own region, the Hunter Valley. Not only has the Abbott government allowed the jobless rate to rise; it has been cutting funding to the many not-for-profit organisations that offer support and counselling to those with problems. The Prime Minister's strategy must change. If it does not change, the epidemic will grow worse and the unemployment rate will grow worse.
On a happier note, I want to acknowledge three high achievers in the Hunter electorate. Kurri Kurri's Dolly Marriott celebrated her 100th birthday in Cessnock's Mountain View Lodge on Tuesday. It is a great achievement, and we wish her the very best in achieving her stated goal of reaching 105.
Nineteen-year-old Jordan Fallon became the youngest Rotary Club president in Australia when he was recently inducted to be the leader of the Kurri Kurri club. It is a big achievement for a young man already achieving on many other fronts.
Kurri Kurri High School's Ryan Porter has been given a vocational education and training award in recognition of his outstanding achievement in his electrotechnology course at Cessnock TAFE. I wish him all the very best in his future career.
Jordan and Ryan are reminders of how dangerous and wrong it is to stereotype our youth. Some face challenges, yes, but it has always been thus. Some run off the rails, yes, but it has always been the case. But many more—indeed, the overwhelming majority—are doing things that we could not have imagined when we were their age. We should encourage them while offering a hand up to those who need and deserve it.