It’s been a momentous fortnight in Australian politics. I thought I‘d check in to bring you up to date with what we’ve been up to in Kooyong and Canberra.
As I wrote in the last newsletter, the Parliamentary sitting schedule was rearranged significantly because of the 10 days of national mourning for Queen Elizabeth.
During that time I took the opportunity to prepare a submission to the Environment Minister about the government’s revised Safeguard Mechanism. The Safeguard Mechanism is a complex but really important issue; it’s the legislation intended to restrict the emissions of Australia’s biggest polluters. Properly implemented, it will play a crucial part in helping Australia meet its emissions reduction targets of 43% by 2030 (relative to 2005 levels) and net zero by 2050. Australia has had a Safeguard Mechanism in place since 2016, but it’s not been appropriately enforced, and it has - thus far - failed to reduce industrial emissions. The new government is looking for suggestions regarding how the Safeguard mechanism should operate going forward. With the help of a number of expert and peak bodies- including the Australia Institute, ACF, the Climate Council, CANA and our very own Lighter Footprints, I put together a detailed submission I hope will be a valuable contribution to this important discussion. You can read my full submission here.
Last week I also had meetings with state government officials about level crossings, community groups about the North-East link, refugee representatives about their visa situations, and a number of constituents about personal issues. I met with the electoral grants committee to start sorting through applications for our Community Grants program, and went out for a Boroondara tree planting to mark the Queen’s Jubilee, visited a disability housing project to learn more about accommodation options for NDIS participants, visited the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria to hear about the Victorian treaty, attended a Chinese Cultural performance and a wonderful concert by the Melbourne Cloud Concert Symphony Orchestra.
Late last week I returned to Canberra to attend the National Memorial Service for Queen Elizabeth II, and on Friday spoke in the House of Representatives to convey the condolences of the people of Kooyong to the new King and his family.
I spent the weekend preparing for a week in Parliament and running around Canberra getting furniture for the apartment- a highlight being a set of outdoor furniture sourced free on Gumtree, which turned out to have previously belonged to a VERY senior member of the previous government. Our BBQs will have extra piquancy knowing who else has sat around that table...
This week was short but hectic. There was a tsunami of legislation coming at us and with our limited number of staff, it was really challenging to deal with. But we managed to cover the important bills, and we teamed up with other crossbenchers for briefings and advocacy.
Some highlights of the three days in parliament include:
I seconded and spoke on the Member for Goldstein’s motion regarding the need for a Royal Commission on media diversity. This is such an important issue in this country - the increasing concentration of media ownership is having a negative impact on the tenor and depth of our political debate and the courage of governments to act on important issues such as climate change and the COVID 19 pandemic. You can watch my full speech on YouTube here.
I met with Minister Butler on Tuesday about my concerns regarding the government’s management of the COVID pandemic. I remain concerned about the number of COVID cases in the community, our ongoing dismantling of supports and community protections for people affected by COVID, and the lack of clarity regarding our readiness for the possible emergence of new variants. Last week, I called for a national summit on this, and received support from a number of national peak bodies, including the AMA. I was very disappointed that the government decided on Friday to discontinue mandatory isolation periods and most pandemic leave support after October 14; I know that this decision sits poorly with many older Australians and with people affected by immune compromise, chronic illness and physical disability. I’ll continue to advocate on this really important issue.
Wednesday saw the introduction in the House of the Albanese government’s proposed legislation for a National Anti-Corruption Commission. Our need for federal government action on integrity and transparency in government was one of the most important issues of the recent federal election. Since May, I’ve been working with Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, and other members of the crossbench, on the details of this NACC. It was so exciting and fulfilling to see this legislation presented so early in this term of government. It needs work – there’s a bit to be done on the questions of public hearings, whistleblower protection, protection of the press and investigation of third parties. I’ll be working with expert groups like the Centre for Public Integrity and Transparency International, and have also been very grateful for the expert advice of a number of Kooyong community members, on this really important legislation, which we’ll hopefully be debating and voting on before the end of the year.
Other issues I have been hearing about from the community and more widely, thinking about and advocating on in Canberra and Kooyong, include:
Legislation on superannuation, tax reform, the aged care and childcare sectors, high speed rail, offshore electricity generation, the ozone layer, emergency relief funds, counter-terrorism, the cashless debit card – all on the table this week in Parliament.
The Government’s recent cancellation of the NPS MedicineWise program, an important support for GPs which has helped with health literacy, decreased over-prescription and improved the quality of medical care; I spoke about this in Parliament,
NDIS assessments, difficulties finding therapists, delays with AAT reviews and delays with finding appropriate accommodation for NDIS participants; these were discussed in the NIDS Committee’s meeting and I’m still working on a Private Member’s Bill on these issues.
Preparing for the October budget - and understanding what Kooyong would like to see in that.
We’re still in the process of setting up special advisory committees on important issues: the first cabs off the rank are on the NDIS and Integrity in Government. We are looking for Kooyong constituents who have expertise or lived experience of the NDIS or of law, transparency and integrity who would like to give advice on legislation and policy.
If you’d like to be part of those interest groups, please fill out an expression of interest via this link and we will be back in touch with next steps: Special Advisory Committee expression of interest form.
We’re continuing to bring in more volunteers to support our important constituent work. Thank you to Hudson, Pippa, Carolyn, Christine, Tony, Li, Jane and Libby who have been helping out in the office, and to Pippa and Carolyn who have each spent time with us in Canberra. Carolyn, Christine and Pippa are developing a program where volunteers come to Canberra for sitting weeks – stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.
The next few months are going to be really busy, with 4 sitting weeks between now and Christmas, and much to do in the electorate. I’ll be getting out and about as much as possible and hope to hear from you regarding what matters to you, and how I can help.
Crucially, I am hoping to hear from as many people as possible in Kooyong via an electorate-wide survey.
If you haven’t taken the survey already, please do so. And if you can share the digital version of the survey with your community networks, workplaces and social groups to help get as many responses as possible, the link is here: Kooyong Electorate Survey
I look forward to seeing you all on the streets of Kooyong - until then, stay well.
P.S. I found myself listed amongst Australia’s 10 most powerful people in 2022. Not bad considering that this time last year I hadn't even considered a career in politics.