Senator Catryna Bilyk eBulletin #50
Wednesday, 29 August 2018
The five-week Winter Recess has been a busy time for me—attending events throughout Tasmania, participating in local and interstate Senate inquiry hearings on stillbirth research and education, contract cleaners, industrial deaths, the mental health of first responders and the health and safety of workers in the offshore petroleum industry, travelling to the North West Coast several times to support my colleague Justine Keay’s campaign, as well as meeting with many community groups and constituents.
The sitting fortnight of Parliament that followed has turned out to be one of the strangest I have experienced.
The Abbott/Turnbull… Morrison Government?
In my ten years as a Senator I have seen some fairly strange things, but last week’s events were downright bizarre. We had the spectacle of a leadership tussle between Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton ultimately to end up with Scott Morrison as Prime Minister, and Josh Frydenberg as deputy Liberal leader.
It is a sign of the Liberals’ sheer desperation that they would turn to the architect of a $17 billion tax cut for the big banks, a $28,000 tax cut for millionaires and the man who described the banking Royal Commission as a ‘populist whinge’ to be the Prime Minister.
I highlighted the dysfunction that was gripping the Government, and how it was hurting the interests of everyday Australians, in a Matter of Public Importance speech before Scott Morrison had emerged as a candidate.
Unlike the Liberals, Labor is united and 100% focused on the Australian people—not ourselves. The chaos, dysfunction and division in the Government will no doubt continue, and the only way to end it is a Federal election.
NEG goes down in flames
The constantly shifting policy on the National Energy Guarantee has been a farce from the beginning. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has had more positions than a yoga instructor on emissions targets—first he said legislated targets were non-negotiable, then he announced the targets would be set by regulation, then he dropped the targets entirely, and finally he withdrew the legislation.
Labor was ready to negotiate in good faith with the Government on the NEG. The problem Malcolm Turnbull had wasn’t getting the legislation through Parliament—he just wasn’t prepared to get it through with Labor’s support while members of his own Government sat on the other side of the chamber. It was just another example of Mr Turnbull putting his own interests before those of the Australian people.
I spoke about what a farce the process was in this taking note speech.
The Government’s ever-weakening position, on emissions reduction, comes on the back of their almost half a billion dollar grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation without a tender—a deal for Malcolm Turnbull’s mates that looks dodgier by the day. It is incredible that an organisation which takes 18 years to raise $58 million in private funding takes just 18 minutes with Malcolm Turnbull to get almost half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money.
Labor wins Braddon
It has been great having Justine Keay back in Parliament these last two weeks as part of the Tasmanian Labor team, giving the people of Braddon the caring, compassionate and hardworking representative they deserve. Congratulations to Justine on her re-election as the Federal Labor Member for Braddon with a swing to her, and thanks to all who supported her.
There were several factors that led to Labor’s victory in this by-election:
- A great candidate—as Member for Braddon, Justine has always worked hard, listened to the electorate and gained a reputation as someone who understands and acts on the concerns of her constituents.
- A strong grass roots campaign—while we will always be outspent by the Liberals and their mates in big business, Labor’s campaigning strength is in our people power. Hundreds of volunteers knocked on doors and made phone calls leading to thousands of conversations about Labor’s positive plans.
- The right values—Labor prioritised battlers over big business. While the Liberals wanted to give the big banks a $17 billion tax cut, we were proposing to fund schools and hospitals and to restore the penalty rates that helps some of the most disadvantaged workers in Braddon to pay the rent and put food on the table for their families. Braddon voters sent a clear a message to the Government that they don’t want their big business tax cut.
Following the 28 July by-elections I’m also pleased to see Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson returned to Parliament, and I welcome Patrick Gorman as a new member of the Federal Labor caucus.
Supporting Justine’s campaign.
Walk4BrainCancer Tasmania 2018
I am very pleased to announce that the 5th annual Walk4BrainCancer Tasmania will be held Sunday, 4 November 2018 at Dru Point Bicentennial Park in Margate.
This inspirational two kilometre walk along the banks of North West Bay has so far raised in excess of $120,000 for Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, contributing to the millions Walk4BrainCancer has raised nationally.
Cure Brain Cancer Foundation has used these funds for several activities. They are playing a key role in the global GBM AGILE adaptive clinical trials, and they have also pledged $20 million towards the Australian Government’s $100 million Australian Brain Cancer Mission, which aims to lift brain cancer’s five-year survival from 20% to 50% within a decade.
To join the walk, you can register and start raising funds online here, or you can register in person on the day. If you can’t make it then please consider sponsoring me. Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.
Walk4BrainCancer 2017 attracted over 300 participants and raised more than $37,000 for Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.
Lost opportunity to restore territory rights
A two-day-long debate on the Restoring Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill 2015 concluded with the Senate voting 36-34 to defeat the bill on the second reading.
While I was previously opposed to assisted dying, spending two weeks at the bedside of a dying friend has had a profound effect on me and has helped to reshape my views on this difficult issue. I still believe any proposal for assisted dying should be approach with extreme caution, with careful consideration given to safeguards against people seeking assistance because of coercion, depression or the feeling of being a burden.
As I explained in my speech on the bill, regardless of my views on assisted dying the fundamental issue at hand is one of territory rights. State parliaments have the power to make laws for euthanasia and assisted dying, and denying the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory the same power treats Territorians as second-class citizens.
I will continue to campaign for investment in quality palliative care, and in education to raise awareness of the importance of making advance care plans and discussing end-of-life care wishes with loved ones.
Labor fights to retain Antarctic Division in Kingston
Last week, I and Senator Carol Brown moved a motion which passed the Senate calling on the Government to commit to keeping the headquarters of the Australian Antarctic Division. Concerns have been raised by members of the Kingborough community after hearing about a plan to relocate the AAD to a new Antarctic Precinct at Macquarie Point.
As I explained in this adjournment speech, with around 300 staff the AAD is a major employer in the area, so it would be a considerable economic blow to Kingston if its headquarters were moved to Hobart.
The Liberals, unfortunately, cannot seem to get their story straight on the future of the AAD. Senator Eric Abetz told the Senate that the Government is committed to the AAD remaining in Kingston whereas the then Environment Minister, Josh Frydenberg, two days later told The Mercury that no decision had been made on the move.
Safe Rates for truckies
One of the most disastrous cuts made by the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government was their scrapping of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. The RSRT was an independent authority that set pay and conditions to ensure safety for road transport drivers. While the Tribunal was in place it achieved a 50% decline in fatal heavy truck crashes.
I, and my Labor colleagues, stand shoulder to shoulder with the Transport Workers Union in calling for the reinstatement of a mechanism for setting Safe Rates. It is unacceptable that truck drivers are 13 times as likely to die on the job as other workers, and it is time for the Government to take action.
I also spoke in the Senate on the issue of the lack of suitable rest stops for truck-drivers throughout Tasmania. The State and Federal Liberals have failed to provide for this important safety feature despite all the work that has been done on the Midland Highway. You can read this speech here.
I met with TWU members in Launceston. The Safe Rates campaign is currently a key focus for the Union.
Pledging my support for Safe Rates.
Malcolm Turnbull’s broadband tax
I spoke on the second reading of the bills to introduce a new $84-a-year tax on non-NBN broadband providers to prop up the Government’s failed National Broadband Network.
As I explained in the speech, the tax would not have been necessary if Labor’s fibre-to-the-premises network had been built, but because no-one is buying the Government’s dud copper NBN they have decided to tax non-NBN broadband consumers to help fill the revenue gap.
Equal Pay for early childhood educators
The Labor Party has pledged to stand with early childhood educators in support of their campaign for equal pay. Early childhood education is a female-dominated industry whose workers are paid around 30% less than similar male-dominated industries.
I am particularly pleased to support this campaign. As a former early childhood educator and former Australian Services Union delegate and official I have campaigned to improve the pay and conditions of early childhood educators for over 30 years.
If you want to sign up to United Voice’s campaign you can do so online here.
Also, on the topic of early learning, the second half of this adjournment speech called on the Government to reverse their $440 million cut to funding for universal access to preschool and kindergarten.
Signing the pledge—again! (left) and standing with Ross Hart MP, Brian Mitchell MP and Hobart-based early childhood educator, Trish Foster.
The ABC Showcase came to Parliament again last week. This is a great event to demonstrate to parliamentarians the huge variety of programming that the ABC has to offer.
Australians love their ABC, and I hear from many of my local constituents how upset they are that the Government has cut $366 million from the ABC since 2014.
Labor understands the importance of having independent public broadcasting and a Shorten Government will restore the $84 million cut from the ABC in the last budget. Sign here if you want to stand with Labor on defending the ABC and SBS against the Government’s attacks.
It was great to see some of ABC’s classic characters at the ABC Showcase in Parliament.
||Labor’s Disability Abuse Royal Commission Petition
15 months ago, 163 organisations including Anglicare, Amnesty International Australia and St Vincent de Paul Society called for a Royal Commission into violence and abuse of people with disability.
Now data has been released showing a 30% increase in complaints to the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline for January to June 2018 compared with the previous six-month period (July to December 2017).
The Turnbull Government continues to bury its head in the sand instead of addressing this shocking problem. Sign Labor’s petition to add your voice for the call for a Royal Commission into the violence and abuse of people with disability.
||Tasmanian Community Fund open for applications
Grant Round 37 of the Tasmanian Community Fund is now open.
Applications for small grants (up to $20,000) will close at 5.00pm on 12 September 2018 and applications for medium grants ($20,001 to $90,000) will close at 5pm on 26 September.
Stage 1 applications for large infrastructure grants ($100,000 to $300,000) already closed on 22 August 2018.
For further information or to apply for a grant visit the Tasmanian Community Fund website.
||Discounts & Concessions
The Tasmanian Government’s Concessions Guide for 2018-19 is now available. You can download a copy or search for concessions online at www.concessions.tas.gov.au.
Hard copies of the guide are available on request from my office.
||Tax myths busted!
It’s tax time again and the Australian Taxation Office is running a media campaign to educate taxpayers on what they can and can’t claim.
For example, there is no ‘standard deduction’ of $150 for laundry, 5,000km for car expenses or $300 for work expenses.
Even if you engage the services of a tax agent, you are still responsible for the claims you make on your tax return.
If you are unsure about a claim, seek advice from the ATO.
Visit the ATO website to see a list of the top 10 tax myths.