It’s hard to believe that only 20 days have passed since I last wrote to you. It’s even harder to believe that in a week I’ll be heading back to Canberra for the next sitting period. How time flies when you’re having fun!
Kooyong is proving to be just as busy as Canberra. I’ve spent the last three weeks meeting constituents to hear their ideas and concerns, visiting local schools and aged care homes, welcoming new Australians at citizenship ceremonies, collaborating with state MPs and local councils, and meeting with community organisations and advocacy groups on issues like housing, Australia’s COVID strategy, ending violence against women, workforce shortages, disability support, aged care, and battery storage technologies (to name a few).
In this newsletter, I’ll update you on some of the work I’ve been doing as your MP and share a few opportunities to volunteer, contribute or socialise with the Kooyong community. Read on!
On 19.8.22 I attended the first national Electric Vehicle Summit in Canberra, along with a host of people from industry and government, including Robyn Denholm (chair of Tesla), Jane Hunter (CEO and COO of Tritium, a major Australian EV charging station manufacturer), and Mike Cannon-Brookes (co-founder of Atlassian and more recently founder of Boundless). A consistent theme throughout the day was how much the landscape for sustainable transport options has changed with the new government’s commitment to action on climate change.
The day started with a breakfast at which EU Ambassador Michael Pulch called for our government to stop subsiding internal combustion engine cars via the Luxury Car Tax Discount- at which point I was very happy to be able to report to the room that I’d submitted a proposal to the Treasurer on that very issue earlier in the week. (The proposal submitted to Mr Chalmers was for an update in the definition of ‘fuel efficient’ vehicles which would decrease subsidies to ICE vehicles, make EVs more price-competitive, and put $450 million back into the country’s tax coffers over the next 3 years. We’re awaiting his response). We also heard from Minister Bowen who announced that the government will soon call for submissions on the development of Fuel Efficiency Standards. As you’ll remember, we called for these before the federal election and in a recent op-ed in the AFR (Electric cars: How the government can unlock the market; they’re vital to increasing the supply of EVs to this country).
Other take-home messages from the summit were the ongoing challenges of the limited range and number of EVS on sale in this country, concerns around affordability and the importance of reliable infrastructural support. It was great to take part on a panel discussing affordability of electrified transport options and the benefits of distributed energy resources such as EV batteries. The summit was a marker of things to come- constructive and positive dialogue between industry and government about our transition to a clean, green future.
The government is holding a Jobs and Skills Summit at the end of next week with a view to improving industrial relations and addressing pressing matters such as workforce shortages and the inadequacies of wages across many industries, particularly those in caring professions such as early childhood educators and aged care workers.
My colleagues on the House of Representatives crossbench and the Senate crossbench were allotted a limited number of seats at the Summit; not all can attend so we’re working together on proposals and contributions to the White Paper to be prepared after the Summit.
You might recall that during the second sitting week of this parliament I met with a delegation of extraordinary young people who’d sought asylum in Australia and then been detained in offshore detention for many years. I was particularly struck by how their lives are so disrupted by being forced to re-apply for bridging visas every six months, losing their ability to work during the renewal process and therefore often unable to secure or retain jobs. Right now, there are around 60,000 people living in our communities, almost all of whom have sought asylum in Australia after travelling here by plane, and are waiting for their asylum claims to be processed. These people are living on a range of bridging visas with either no working rights or intermittent working rights. Allowing these people the ongoing right to work will not only support the businesses, industries and customers crying out for more workers but will also provide greater security and stability to properly rebuild their lives.
Whether I’m able to progress this initiative at the Jobs and Skills Summit or if this work is ongoing, I am hopeful that we can make it happen.
One of the best parts of being a local MP is helping Kooyong constituents who’ve been struggling with or let down by the systems meant to make their lives easier. A significant proportion are from members of the community who need help with Centrelink, with housing, with accessing support services, with immigration and other complex government systems. Many have been struggling with these issues for months or even years.
Since my last newsletter one month ago, the Electorate Office team has opened more than 800 case files, each of which represents a person in our community who’s contacted us for assistance and the work we’ve done to help them.
You might have heard through the media (or have first-hand experience) of the unprecedented backlog of passport applications, visa applications and immigration issues that the Department of Home Affairs is facing. The team in the electorate office has been spending much of every day assisting members of our community with frustrating, confusing and often very urgent immigration issues.
Now that we’ve established a team of champions in the Electorate Office, we’re able to start bringing volunteers into the office to assist with this important, sometimes challenging but always worthwhile work. The process of bringing in volunteers will scale over time as we build capacity and experience.
If you’re interested in volunteering regularly in the electorate office, please fill in this expression of interest form so we can get in touch.
We are also looking to hire someone to work in the office full-time to help with managing our busy electoral and parliamentary schedules and engagements. If you’re an admin whiz with a positive attitude and would like to join the team (or know someone who fits the bill), further details can be found here. Applications for this role will close next week, don't delay in sending an application.
Many of you continue to generously give your time to the community of Kooyong. This month, I met with a group of volunteers who reported the results of a comprehensive consultation process many of you contributed to after the recent Federal election. This information will guide us in the coming weeks and months as we plan, design and launch ongoing community engagement projects.
Already, small groups of volunteers are putting together plans for community consultation groups on various policy areas, in-person events like Politics in the Pub/Park, community Town Halls, and coordinating a roster of volunteers to travel to Canberra during sitting weeks to help in the parliamentary office. More to come on this and more – stay tuned.
It was lovely to see some of you at morning tea in the office this week. We’re hoping to see many more of you at morning teas and other events in the months to come.
Tree planting with Mon
Our wonderful supporters Lisa Barlow and Simon Taylor have generously invited a group of Kooyong volunteers to their ambitious environmental project, the Widgewah Animal Sanctuary and Carbon Farm.
Please join me for a day trip to Avenel on Saturday 10 September where Lisa and Simon will welcome us to their farm. We will have the opportunity to plant native trees to protect biodiversity on land which had previously been cleared for grazing. In addition to capturing carbon emissions, the trees we will plant together will help restore habitat for the critically-endangered Southern Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby and other native wildlife.
Places are limited, so if you are interested in signing up for this special day please register here.
Media media media
I suspect many of you caught the Independents Day episode on Four Corners last week, which documented the two months after I was elected as your new member as I was finding my feet and wrapping my head around the task ahead. The good people at Four Corners followed me around for what felt like an age, capturing the highs and lows of that period like a fly on the wall. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to seeing so much of myself on the little screen, but the episode is a raw and honest glimpse at my life in the last few months, so you might enjoy catching it on iView.
I’ve also had the opportunity to speak to people around the country via their televisions or radios (or, likely, their mobile phones) about my policy proposals to accelerate the uptake of affordable electric vehicles, concerns about the former government’s planned stage 3 tax cuts for high income earners, and to push for greater transparency measures so that future prime ministers can’t secretly subvert the structures of ministerial government as we’ve recently seen with Mr Morrison.
Run, Kooyong, Run!
This Sunday I’ll be running in the De Castella Family Fun Run from Burke Hall (Nolan Avenue Kew). This community fun run raises valuable funds for mental health research and the Indigenous Marathon Foundation. I’ve completed the course many times but have never enjoyed the last hill up to Burke Hill- this could be the year... it’s not too late to register and join me on the Kooyong Monsters team
Following the run, you can come and have a chat with me – I'll be in one of the marquees on the oval.
Warning; anyone showing any talent may be roped into showing off Kooyong’s finest in the Connor’s Run in Goldstein on September 11!
Expressions of interest have opened for the Australian Government’s call for Volunteer Grants 2022/23.
Grants of between $1,000 - $5,000 are available to support volunteers in their role within community organisations. The intended outcome of these grants is to strengthen community functioning by increasing volunteer participation.
We are also putting together an advisory committee and taking EOIs for those interested – further details can be found here
Thanks to all of you for your continued support. I’ll be back in touch in a few weeks time to fill you in on the next parliamentary sitting period.
My very best wishes,