One-Off Energy Payment to Help 3.9 Million Australians With Their Next Energy Bill

More than 3.9 million Australians will receive a one-off Energy Assistance Payment to help with their next energy bill and cost of living expenses.

The payment of $75 for singles and $125 for eligible couples will be exempt from income tax and will be paid automatically before the end of the current financial year, subject to the passage of legislation.

The Government is able to deliver this assistance because our responsible budget management allows us to guarantee the essential services Australians rely on.

It will provide additional support to:

  • 2.4 million Australians receiving the Age Pension;
  • 744,000 recipients of the Disability Support Pension;
  • 280,000 carers receiving the Carer Payment;
  • 242,000 Parenting Payment Single recipients; and
  • 225,000 veterans and their dependants receiving eligible payments from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Guaranteeing essential services is part of our plan for a stronger economy and securing a better future.

A SHORTEN LABOR GOVERNMENT WILL INTRODUCE A DOMESTIC BAN ON ELEPHANT IVORY AND RHINOCEROS HORN

A Shorten Labor Government will work with Australia’s states and territories to implement a domestic ban on Australia’s commercial trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn

While the poaching of elephants and rhinos might not be an issue in Australia – the trade of products containing ivory and rhino horn is. Australia’s domestic market is unregulated and there’s nothing to stop people buying and selling products containing ivory and rhino horn if they manage to get them into the country.

Elephant and rhino populations in Africa and Asia have continued to decline and elephants and rhinos continue to be targeted for their ivory and horn: in the six months during which the inquiry took place (April-October 2018) 10,000 elephants were killed across the African continent, and in South Africa alone, approximately 528 rhinos were killed.

A 2018 Parliamentary Inquiry into the trade in Australia looked at online traders, auction houses and antique dealers in Australia, identifying illegal domestic markets for ivory and rhinoceros horn worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. These markets continue to fuel the poaching crisis of elephants and rhinos in Africa.

While ivory and rhino horn continue to maintain a value in marketplaces around the world, poachers will continue to kill these iconic species.

Australia, as a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species(CITES), prohibits the import, export or possession of ivory and rhino horn “harvested” after 1975, but when such an item finds its way into the country the domestic market is unregulated.

Currently, there is no legal requirement for Australian sellers to provide any evidence at the point of sale demonstrating the legality, provenance or age of items containing elephant ivory or rhinoceros horn. That means post-1975 ivory and rhinoceros horn items can easily be passed off as antique, circumventing Australia’s current laws.

Labor’s commitment is in line with the UK Government’s recent ban of its domestic ivory trade. The United States, China, Hong Kong, France and Taiwan have also all implemented domestic bans.

In the past four years, nearly 36,000 people have written to the Australian Government supporting a domestic ban, while a Galaxy Research Poll conducted last year suggested that 86 per cent of Australians want the trade banned. However, that same poll found that 77 per cent of Australians thought that trading in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn within Australia was already illegal.

Labor will work with states and territories to:

  • Develop model legislation to be adopted across Australia, banning the trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.
  • Ensure there are well-targeted exemptions for museums and cultural institutions, antique musical instruments with small ivory content, portrait miniatures more than 100 years old, and other antiques with minimal ivory and rhino horn content.
  • Develop appropriate penalties and new offences for individuals and companies which circumvent the ban

Today’s commitment supports the bipartisan recommendations from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement’s 2018 inquiry into the trade.

Labor’s implementation of a domestic ban on Australia’s commercial trade in ivory and rhinoceros horn will help the international efforts to save these iconic species for future generations, before it is too late.

LABOR’S PLAN TO CREATE A CLEANER AUSTRALIA

A Shorten Labor Government will make Australia a world leader in tackling plastic use and boosting recycling – investing $290 million to cut waste and handing on a cleaner Australia for the next generation.

Labor will protect our vulnerable wildlife and reduce the amount of waste generated by putting in place a national ban on plastic products like microbeads and single-use plastic bags.

Plastic has a devastating impact on our natural environment – more than a thirds of the world’s sea turtles were found to have plastic waste in their stomachs, and it is estimated around 90 per cent of seabirds eat plastic waste.   Plastic breaks up into smaller pieces over time,  becoming harder to manage and clean up and filtering through to waterways, lakes and oceans.

That’s why Labor will introduce a national ban on lightweight, single use plastic bags and microbeads from 2021. We will consult with states, territories and industry on how best to do this. This will create a consistent approach across the country – following moves of many state and territories to phase out single-use plastic bags, as well as manufacturers phasing out microbeads.

In addition, Labor will also implement a broader Recycling and Waste Strategy, including:

  • The creation of a National Container Deposit Scheme – Labor will work with COAG to ensure states with existing schemes are consistent. These schemes incentivise recycling, and increase the quality of recyclables by separating out materials – making it far cheaper to be able to recycle in Australia. One of the reasons Australia exports so much waste to be recycled overseas is the cost of sorting materials so they can be recycled. States without a scheme will not be forced to participate in the national scheme, but will be invited to join.
  • Establishing a National Waste Commissioner – To work with states and local government and help educate the community on solutions to waste. The Commissioner will also be charged with working with industry on the expansion of schemes for the recycling of products when they are at the end of their use – the Product Stewardship Schemes.  There are existing schemes for TVs, computers and mobile phones – the Commissioner will look at the expansion of these schemes to other products which are currently ending up in landfills at alarming rates – including e-waste, batteries, and whitegoods such as microwaves. The Commissioner will cost $15 million over six years.
  • Investing in the domestic recycling industry – Labor will invest $60 million National Recycling Fund. This will fund projects to encourage recycling, including funding for innovative waste solutions, local government recycling facilities and material processing facilities, and new approaches to tackling food waste. A Labor Government will engage with industry, the research sector and the wider community to integrate waste processing and recycling into a 21st century industrial system, based on Industry 4.0 principles. Already used materials and products will be reprocessed and integrated back into the economy for greater productivity. This shift must take place across the full range of manufacturing industries – steel and aluminium, chemicals, plastics, automotive and electronics. It will require a focus on innovation and development of capabilities, at the industry and the enterprise levels, and the acquisition of new capabilities will in turn create new job opportunities.
  • Tackling marine plastics through $15 million to assist our neighbours clean up the Pacific Ocean –  Recent media notes that there is an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing 80,000 tonnes in the Pacific Ocean. The Australian Marine Conservation Society estimates there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050. As an island continent and developed country Australia has a responsibility within our region to clean up our oceans. This will see Australia play its part in our region by funding international efforts to reduce marine litter through the United Nations Environment Programme, regional and bilateral assistance to Pacific nations, and funding of efforts to clean rivers and waterways in Southeast Asian neighbours, including through ASEAN-led initiatives.
  • Setting targets for government to purchase recycled products – As one of Australia’s largest procurers, there is an opportunity to make the Australian Government a national leader in waste and recycling by prioritising the purchase of recycled products. Labor will also ask the Infrastructure Department to investigate whether recycled products can feasibly be used as road base for infrastructure projects.

Today’s announcement builds on Labor’s plan to clean up Australia’s urban waterways and stop plastics from reaching our oceans through our $200 million Urban Rivers and Corridors program – partnering with community organisations and environmental groups to revitalise the nation’s waterways and make them safe and clean places.

Last year COAG agreed to a set of 2025 targets to reduce plastics – including that 100 per cent of all Australia’s packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier. Labor endorses these targets. The Federal Government has been missing in action – Labor’s plan will provide the national leadership needed to get the country on track to meet our 2025 targets.

Australians want action from government to help reduce waste and build a circular economy. So while many Australians do their duty – they recycle, compost, use keep cups for their morning coffee – we need the government to take a leading role to tackle some of the big, structural problems.

For too long, the federal government has left issues of recycling, plastics and waste to state governments and local governments.  And, while local and state governments have generally moved in a positive direction, plastics and waste are now becoming both a national and international problem.

We will pay for this plan by making multinationals pay their fair share and closing tax loopholes used by the top end of town.

Only Labor is committed to delivering a better deal to the generation.

STEPHANIE GOTLIB

Today we recognise Stephanie Gotlib’s incredible dedication and service to the disability community, as she prepares to step down as the CEO of Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA).

For more than 10 years at CYDA, Stephanie has been a fierce and consistent advocate for children and young people.

She campaigned for the creation of the NDIS – and along with thousands of parents and children across the country, has continued to work just as hard to get the Scheme back on track.

Whether it is fighting against unfair changes to child care, or arguing the case for better funding and support for school students with disability, Stephanie has contributed intelligently, passionately and honestly to the policy debate.

She calls it as she sees it – always putting children and young people with disability first.

Stephanie has changed minds and hearts on the importance of inclusive education and the right of every child to be treated as a learner.

She has also exposed terrible injustices and highlighted to the whole community just how much more Australia needs to do – in our schools and more broadly – in order to be a genuinely inclusive country.

For years, Stephanie has argued for the establishment of a Royal Commission into the abuse, neglect and violence perpetrated against people with a disability.

It is a testament to her persistence and determination – in partnership with others – that this important inquiry is now supported across the Parliament.

Stephanie is a genuine leader who is respected by people across the sector and in government.

Thank you Stephanie. And all the best in your next endeavour, we know you will continue to make a difference.

Greens urge Labor to go further on waste plan

Waste & Recycling spokesperson, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, today welcomed Labor’s new commitment to tackling Australia’s waste crisis but urged them to go further.

“After more than 10 years of gathering dust under successive Labor and Liberal Governments, the Greens welcome Labor’s new commitment to kickstarting parts of the 2009 National Waste Plan.

“Although Labor’s commitment is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough to tackle the waste crisis, and I urge any future Labor government to look at the Greens’ private members bill to ban other single-use plastics, not just plastic bags and microbeads.

“The Greens’ private members bill is closely modelled on ground breaking EU legislation, which has now passed into law.

“The Greens welcome the adoption of our initiative to set up a recycling research fund but urge Labor to make sure this invests heavily in scientific research that better understands the impacts of toxic plastics, as well as research and development on solutions to fix this scourge.

“Relentless pressure over many years from the Greens, environmental NGOs, community groups and individuals around the nation have made this happen, and they should all feel proud about getting Labor onboard with this first step.

“If we are going to solve the national waste crisis much more work needs to be done.

“The Greens have played a critical and constructive role in getting this first outcome and we will be working hard in parliament to make sure Labor goes through with their election initiatives.

“The Greens note Labor’s election initiatives mirror the key recommendations from the 2016 Greens-initiated Senate inquiry, ‘Toxic Tide’.”

Greens celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility by announcing policies aimed at making trans and gender diverse peoples lives easier and safer

The Australian Greens are celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility by announcing a number of policies to make trans and gender diverse peoples lives safer and easier.

“The Greens are celebrating transgender and gender diverse people today and repeating our commitment to fight for full equality for trans and gender diverse people, as well as all LGBTIQ+ people,” said Senator Janet Rice, Australian Greens LGBTIQ+ spokesperson.

“Trans and gender diverse people, indeed all LGBTIQ+ people, should have the right to be free from discrimination, have autonomy over their bodies, and access to holistic and comprehensive health services and secure housing.

“Despite recent progress, there are still multiple barriers preventing transgender and gender diverse people from affirming their identities.”

“They experience higher rates of mental ill-health than the general population, and face discrimination at work, in the healthcare system and in schools.”

“The Greens understand the importance of funding for trans and gender diverse needs to be driven by principles of self determination, bodily autonomy and co-design.”

“We celebrate and acknowledge the contributions that the trans and gender diverse community have made to this country in the face of immense pressure.”

“We will continue to stand with and work with transgender people and their families to ensure Australia is a place where everyone is safe, respected, valued, treated as equals and free from discrimination.”

The Greens’ plan will:

  1. Provide funding for transgender and gender diverse peer support programs

  2. Establish a transgender and gender diverse advisory board to the department of health

  3. Establish  $3m grants funding program for trans-specific mental health programs

  4. Invest in trans-specific health initiatives

  5. Establish a complaints body for medical decisions affecting trans and intersex people

  6. Legislate for all-gender toilets in the workplace.

Three charged after police operation – Speers Point

Three people have been charged after a police operation in the Lake Macquarie region overnight.

The operation began about 10.30pm yesterday (Saturday 30 March 2019), when officers from Lake Macquarie Police District went to speak to a man at a home in Quarry Road, Speers Point.

When the man allegedly refused to leave the building – and made a number of threats – police established a perimeter and began negotiations.

Shortly after 8am today (Sunday 31 March 2019), the 41-year-old man was taken into custody by specialist police.

Two women, aged 40 and 29, were also arrested at the time.

The man was taken to John Hunter Hospital before being taken to Belmont Police Station and charged with detain person with intent to obtain advantage (x2), assault actual bodily harm, steal motor vehicle, take and drive conveyance without consent of owner, drive conveyance without consent of owner, use offensive weapon to prevent lawful detention, and drive whilst disqualified.

The 40-year-old woman was charged with detain person with intent to obtain advantage (x2), steal motor vehicle, and take and drive conveyance without consent of owner.

The 29-year-old woman was charged with larceny.

All three were bail refused to appear at Newcastle Local Court tomorrow (Monday 1 April 2019).

Budget to lock in Western Australia’s big infrastructure build

The 2019–20 Federal Budget will lock in an additional $1.6 billion of our Liberal Nationals Government’s investment into critical road and rail infrastructure across Perth and regional Western Australia, busting congestion and driving stronger growth, while enhancing road safety to ensure people across WA get home sooner and safer.

This builds on the $9.81 billion in our Government’s commitments to West Australian road and rail infrastructure since we came into Government in September 2013, including $4.8 billion over the past two Budgets.

The Liberal Nationals Government will boost investment in congestion-busting urban projects including $207.5 million to fund the removal of three level crossings at Oats Street in Carlisle, Welshpool Road in Welshpool and Mint Street in East Victoria Park while also investing $115 million for the Fremantle Swan River Crossing Traffic Bridge.

Those level crossings are some of the worst across Perth. Removing them will deliver significant amenity, productivity and congestion busting benefits.

The 257-metre Fremantle Traffic Bridge will include both a road bridge with a track rail bridge and improve freight productivity and access to freight gateways across Perth.

The Government is also committing an additional $151.5 million towards the Tonkin Highway Stage 3 extension bringing lifting our contribution to $404 million (or from 50 to 80 percent of the total project costs of $505 million) to ensure this project can get underway in earnest as soon as possible.

We will also provide $10 million towards intersection improvements at Thomas Road and Nicholson Road under the Urban Congestion Fund, which comes on top of our announcement in early March of $96 million towards five congestion-busting projects in Perth.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this year’s Budget also locked in further federal support for crucial infrastructure projects across regional WA, including the Albany Ring Road, the Karratha to Tom Price Road sealing, additional funding towards the completion of the Bunbury Outer Ring Road and other regional road corridor upgrades such as funding towards the Pinjarra Heavy Haulage Deviation.

“The upcoming Budget will continue the Liberal Nationals Government’s firm commitment to ensuring Western Australia gets its fair share of infrastructure funding now and into the future,” the Prime Minister said.

“We are prioritising investment in the major projects needed to better support regional areas, ease congestion in and around Perth and reduce the terrible impact of road trauma by delivering safer roads.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals’ Leader Michael McCormack said the investment from the Liberals and Nationals will make roads safer and boost productivity by investing in freight corridors..

“The Budget will commit $535 million towards key regional road investments across the state under the Government’s Roads of Strategic Importance initiative,” Mr McCormack said.

“This investment is yet another part of the Liberals and Nationals vision to get people home sooner and safer, no matter where they live.

“It will increase efficiency, productivity and improve the supply chain.

“By making the freight system more efficient, local businesses will also have more money to invest in their operations, creating more jobs and providing a vital shot in the arm for WA’s agriculture and mining sectors.”

Minister for Finance and the Public Service and Senator for Western Australia Mathias Cormann said the Budget built on the Government’s strong existing infrastructure investment record in the state.

“The Budget will also include a total of $348.5 million towards three projects on the Tonkin Highway bringing out total commitment to $929 million and a further $122 million for the Bunbury Outer Ring Road, bringing our total commitment to $682 million,” Senator Cormann said.

“These are not just numbers. These are commitments to a better quality of life for our commuters who will be able to spend more time with their families, while also delivering a stronger economy through more efficient freight and transport links and less tragedy on our roads on the back of safer road infrastructure.”

The Australian and Western Australian governments are also continuing to work together to negotiate the Perth City Deal, which will focus on securing the wider benefits of METRONET and to ensure there is a shared long-term vision to effectively address the future growth of Perth.

Funding for key WA infrastructure projects in the upcoming Budget includes:

LEVEL CROSSING REMOVALS

  • Oats Street/Welshpool Road/Mint Street Level Crossing Removal (Federal Government investment: $207.5 million)

ROADS

  • Albany Ring Road (Federal Government investment: $140 million)
  • Fremantle Traffic Bridge (Swan River Crossing) (Federal Government investment: $115 million)
  • Tonkin Highway projects (Stage 3 extension; Great Eastern Highway to Collier Road; Kelvin Road, Hale Road and Welshpool Road East intersection upgrades) (Federal Government investment: $348.5 million of additional funding bringing our overall commitment to those three projects to $929 million)
  • Bunbury Outer Ring Road – Stages 2 and 3 (Federal Government investment: $122 million of additional funding taking our overall commitment to $682 million)

ROADS OF STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE INITIATIVE

  • Western Australian section of the Newman to Katherine Corridor (Federal Government investment: $70 million)
  • Western Australian section of the Alice Springs to Halls Creek Corridor (Federal Government investment: $75 million)
  • Karratha to Tom Price Corridor (Federal Government investment: $248 million)
  • Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network (Federal Government investment: $70 million)
  • Western Australian section of the Port Augusta to Perth (Federal Government investment: $50 million)
  • Pinjarra Heavy Haulage Deviation – Stage 1 (Federal Government investment: $22 million)

URBAN CONGESTION FUND

  • Thomas Road and Nicholson Road in Oakford (Federal Government investment: $10 million)
  • Transforming Freeways – widening and introduction of Intelligent Transport System (ITS) (Kwinana and Mitchell Freeways) (Federal Government investment: $50 million)
  • Lloyd Street Extension (Federal Government investment: $20 million)
  • Abernethy Road Upgrade (Federal Government investment: $13.25 million)
  • Lakelands Station (Federal Government investment: $10 million)
  • Shorehaven Boulevard / Marmion Avenue Intersection Upgrade (Federal Government investment: $2.5 million)
  • More Parking Bays at Mandurah Station (Federal Government investment: $16 million)

MAJOR PROJECT BUSINESS CASE FUND

  • Future Road and Rail Connections for Perth (Federal Government investment: $25 million) – to investigate future road and rail links to support the growth of the transport network in Perth
  • Westport project (Federal Government investment: $10 million) – development of business cases and corridor preservation to support the Westport: Port and Environs Strategy, which is currently being developed by the WA Government.

New Zealand’s National Remembrance Service following Christchurch terrorist attack

I will travel to Christchurch with my wife Jenny to attend New Zealand’s National Remembrance Service for the victims of the 15 March terrorist attack.

The Christchurch attack was the most shocking and horrific of events.

The National Remembrance Service is an opportunity for Australia to stand in unity and solidarity with New Zealand as the global community comes together to honour the victims and their loved ones.

The Governor-General and the Leader of the Opposition will also attend the National Remembrance Service.

On behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian community, our delegation will represent Australia in offering every support we can provide our New Zealand brothers and sisters, and the Muslim community around the world.

Scott Morrison

 

NEWCASTLE YOUTH FORUM: CALL FOR NOMINATIONS

Young Novocastrians under 25 have been invited to nominate to take part in the 2019 Newcastle Youth Forum which will be co-convened next week by Shadow Minister for Young Australians and Youth Affairs, Terri Butler MP.

Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon said she had invited Ms Butler to Newcastle to co-host the forum and give young people a voice in the things that matter to them.

“I was really bolstered by the incredible energy and commitment to change displayed by thousands of young people at the recent Strike for Climate Action. This is one of many issues that young people care passionately about.

However, the rally also demonstrated the acute frustration they are feeling with the political process,” Ms Claydon said.

“Government should be for all Australians, but too many young people have told me that important decisions are being made against their best interests and they feel powerless to do anything about it.”

Ms Claydon said the forum would be held on Friday 5 April in Newcastle.

“I would encourage anyone with great ideas about the things we need to do to make a better community and a better country to get in touch,” Ms Claydon said.

“To nominate to take part, people should call my office on 4926 1555 or email me on Sharon.Claydon.MP@aph.gov.au with your details and a short outline of why you want to attend.”

Ms Claydon said the forum would complement the Newcastle Youth Survey which has been launched at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2019NewcastleYouthSurvey.

“Together, the forum and the Youth Survey will help me to understand the issues that matter to young Novocastrians, so I can better represent everyone’s interests in the Federal Parliament.”