In times of hardship, I always try to look for a silver lining. So, at the height of the COVID crisis last year, I was optimistic that the pandemic could offer a rare and much-needed opportunity for the nation to take stock and set a new vision for our future – one that offered a more equitable, compassionate and healthy way of life. 

Rather than going back to so called ‘normal’, why aren’t we looking forward to becoming a more hopeful, self-reliant and re-invigorated Australia?

The role of government, especially in times of crisis, is to set a vision. This requires smart, critical and compassionate thinking. But I don’t see much of that clever thinking at the moment. One of my constituents asked: ‘Why do we have to be the dumb country?’ Regardless of whether we need a big Australia or a sustainable Australia, we definitely need to be a smart Australia.

Take, for example, our reliance on migrants to do a lot of the work that people born in Australia are resistant to, such as roles in aged care. Now is the time for Australia to build skills and capacity across sectors such as aged care that have been heavily reliant on unskilled or semi-skilled migrants for the past 10-15 years. Surely the COVID-crisis taught us that these frontline workers are our most valuable and important asset?

We need to provide appropriate remuneration to attract and retain workers who are valued, and know they are valued. They are given the responsibility of looking after treasured family members, and we should acknowledge their valuable service with decent wages and conditions.

That’s just as I see it.