Greens call on WA Government to close high risk quarantine hotels

The Greens say that quarantine will be part of managing the pandemic for the foreseeable future and purpose built facilities should be built now.

“The Western Australian Government needs to urgently close the quarantine hotels that have been identified as high risk and improve other areas of its approach to quarantine. These hotels are not fit for purpose and we cannot go any longer using these sub-par facilities that can result in outbreaks.

“Hotels were never made to be medical facilities. While they may have been an emergency solution, we are now over a year into this pandemic and making the same mistakes over and over again.

“Mr McGowan went to the election on a promise of keeping Western Australians safe. At the moment our safety is in jeopardy if we don’t fix hotel quarantine. This is a state and national responsibility.

“There is no doubt that airborne transmission is playing a role in hotel quarantine outbreaks. The Federal Government must urgently update its own guidelines to recommend minimum ventilation and PPE standards that reflect the scientific evidence.

“It’s not good enough after the outbreak in WA last week that we still don’t have updated guidelines. Nor is it sensible to have Covid positive people near other people in quarantine, they shouldn’t be next door, on the same floor and ideally not in the same hotel.

“Under questioning at the Senate Select Committee into COVID-19 last night, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners confirmed that people over 50 years old who have underlying health conditions, including a history of blood clots, can get AstraZeneca. There is a good body of evidence that there are no underlying health conditions that predispose people to the rare side effect of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome.

“The Commonwealth Government must urgently update its messaging and play a role in addressing vaccine hesitancy, particularly amongst those who are hesitant because of discussions about the risks of blood clot.

“Australia clearly needs a no-fault vaccine compensation scheme to help increase vaccine confidence and secure other vaccine deals. Having such a scheme in place will ensure people don’t need to pursue compensation through the legal system in the rare event of adverse side effects.”

Historic PBS listing for Australians with a rare epilepsy condition

In a historic first, Australians living with a rare form of epilepsy will have access to a medicinal cannabis drug, which is being listed on Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for the first time.

From 1 May 2021, Australians living with Dravet syndrome, will have access to Epidyolex® (cannabidiol), a new treatment used in combination with at least two other anti-epileptic medicines on the PBS.

Epidyolex® is only the second medicinal cannabis drug registered for supply in Australia, and the first one to be subsidised by the Australian Government on the PBS.

Dravet syndrome is a rare, genetic epileptic encephalopathy that gives rise to seizures which don’t respond well to the standard medications. The disorder begins in the first year of life in otherwise healthy infants.

About 8 out of 10 people with the syndrome have a gene mutation that causes problems in the way ion channels in the brain work. It is a “new” mutation and is not usually inherited.

Australia’s medicines regulator – the Therapeutic Goods Administration – says that, while there have been very few well-designed clinical trials using medicinal cannabis, the evidence to support its use in the treatment of certain childhood epilepsies is the strongest.

It is estimated that around 116 patients each year will benefit from the listing of Epidyolex®, who might otherwise pay more than $24,000 per year for the treatment. Instead, they will now pay only $41.30 per script or $6.60 if they have a concession card.

We are also expanding the PBS listing of Asacol® (mesalazine) for ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, with a new strength tablet designed to dissolve once it enters the intestines.

Inflammation is a normal way for the immune system to defend the body when it’s fighting off invaders, such as bacteria or viruses. Usually, the inflammation disappears once the invaders are destroyed. With ulcerative colitis, a problem with the immune system causes the inflammation to continue, damaging the walls of the digestive tract.

In 2020, over 650 patients accessed a similar form of mesalazine through the PBS, and will benefit from this additional treatment option. Without PBS subsidy, patients might pay more than $1,400 per course of treatment with this medicine.

Each of these listings has been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Since 2013, the Australian Government has approved over 2,600 new or amended listings on the PBS. This represents an average of around 30 listings or amendments per month – or one each day – at an overall investment by the Government of $13 billion.

The Government’s commitment to ensuring that Australians can access affordable medicines, when they need them, remains rock solid.

More GPs for rural areas increases access for patients in the bush

Increasing numbers of doctors are training to become GPs in regional, rural and remote areas, which will deliver significant benefits to patients and communities in the bush.

The Australian Government’s 2021 Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program selection process has seen the largest number of acceptances – 1,434 doctors – in several years, more than 100 additional doctors than last year’s intake.

Of these, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine is allocated 150 training places, and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is allocated 1,350.

Federal Regional Health Minister, Mark Coulton said almost 700 of these doctors will undertake their training in regional, rural and remote locations across the country.

“The evidence does tell us that if you train in the regions you are likely to stay in the regions and that’s why we are focused on supporting the rural training pipeline,” Minister Coulton said.

“Rural and remote communities want safe and high quality primary healthcare services delivered by well- trained GPs with training in an extended rural skill set.

“Through work which is underway on long-term workforce and training reforms we want to look at opportunities to provide greater supervision and support for doctors and practical ways to build a sustainable and highly trained medical workforce.”

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said the Australian Government is strongly committed to bridging the city-country divide in providing health services to all Australians, by continuing to build the rural medical training pipeline.

“The AGPT Program is a central element in this and this latest intake means more doctors studying, training and working in regional, rural and remote locations,” Minister Hunt said.

Minister Coulton said the Federal Government understood that doctors who study and train in rural locations are more likely to choose to work and live there permanently, enjoying the benefits of a rural lifestyle.

“These high acceptance numbers show the AGPT program is working, with particular benefits for communities who may struggle to attract a GP,” Minister Coulton said.

The AGPT Program is for doctors interested in training to become a GP in Australia. Doctors can be placed anywhere – in cities or regional, rural and remote areas. Most successful applicants in this latest intake have already started training, with the rest to start in the next three months.

Second Deputy National Rural Health Commissioner announced

Queensland Health’s Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Adjunct Professor Shelley Nowlan, took on a new role this week as Deputy National Rural Health Commissioner, which will see her play a key role in the Federal Government’s agenda to increase access to rural health services and address rural workforce shortages.

Federal Rural Health Minister, Mark Coulton, and National Rural Health Commissioner, Prof Ruth Stewart, met with Prof Nowlan today in Brisbane to congratulate her and discuss priorities for the role.

Minister Coulton welcomed Prof Stewart’s engagment of Prof Nowlan, recognising the wealth of experience and expertise Prof Nowlan brings to the position.

“I welcome Shelley Nowlan’s appointment as Deputy Commissioner. A registered nurse with more than 30 years’ experience, Prof Nowlan holds a longstanding interest in the health outcomes of rural and remote Australians.

“Prof Nowlan’s professional qualifications and practical experience will provide real-world knowledge and insight to healthcare challenges in country Australia.”

Professor Ruth Stewart said Prof Nowlan had worked for decades to ensure nurses and midwives met the needs of people living in rural and regional Australia.

“Prof Nowlan’s work in strategic health policy, health reform, innovation, and program evaluation has supported the delivery of nurse and midwifery care in communities across Queensland,” Professor Stewart said.

“I look forward to working with Shelley to develop new and innovative ways to provide health services to people in rural and remote Australia and make it an even better.”

Minister Coulton said the appointment of Deputy Commissioners is part of the Government’s expansion of the Office of the National Rural Health Commissioner to elevate its effectiveness and capacity to engage with rural challenges in a more holistic manner.

“By engaging two Deputy Commissioners to provide expert advice on allied health, nursing, and Indigenous health disciplines and making the National Rural Health Commissioner a permanent office, we are ensuring rural challenges receive the attention and the expertise they deserve.

Prof Nowlan is the second of two Deputy National Rural Health Commissioner to be announced. Associate Professor, Dr Faye McMillan, was announced last month as a Deputy Commissioner. Prof Nowlan is engaged as Deputy Commissioner until 30 June 2022.

Decisions under Australia’s Foreign Arrangements Scheme

Australia’s Foreign Arrangements Scheme has been in operation since 10 December 2020. The Scheme requires states and territories, local governments and Australian public universities to notify the Minister for Foreign Affairs of existing and proposed foreign arrangements. I have so far been notified of over 1,000 arrangements.

States and territories have now completed their initial audit of existing arrangements with foreign national governments.

The more than 1,000 notified so far reflect the richness and breadth of Australia’s international interests and demonstrate the important role played by Australia’s states, territories, universities and local governments in advancing Australia’s interests abroad.

I thank the states and territories for their cooperation and for what is developing as a cooperative approach under the Scheme.

Following review and consideration of arrangements, I can advise that the following four will be cancelled:

  • Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Education and Training (Victoria) and the Technical and Vocational Training Organisation, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Islamic Republic of Iran, signed 25 November 2004.
  • Protocol of Scientific Cooperation between the Ministry of Higher Education in the Syrian Arab Republic and the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Training of Victoria, signed 31 March 1999.
  • Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Victoria and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China on Cooperation within the Framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, signed 8 October 2018.
  • Framework Agreement between the Government of Victoria and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China on Jointly Promoting the Framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, signed on 23 October 2019.

I consider these four arrangements to be inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations in line with the relevant test in Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act 2020.

I have also decided to approve a proposed Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Human Resources Development in Energy and Mineral Resources Sector between the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation of the Government of Western Australia and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of the Republic of Indonesia.

I will continue to consider foreign arrangements notified under the Scheme. I expect the overwhelming majority of them to remain unaffected. I look forward to ongoing collaboration with states, territories, universities and local governments in implementing the Foreign Arrangements Scheme.

City welcomes 150 new citizens with return to face-to-face ceremonies

City of Newcastle embraced the return to face-to-face Australian Citizenship Ceremonies on Wednesday, welcoming 150 new citizens from 39 countries in a COVIDsafe ceremony at the Civic Theatre.

Originating from all corners of the globe, from the United Kingdom and the USA to India and Afghanistan, the City’s newest citizens were the first to make the pledge to Australia in person in Newcastle since the Department of Home Affairs moved to online ceremonies in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lord-Mayor-Nuatali-Nelmes-and-Sahlee-Cook.JPGAmong them was Sahlee Cook, who swapped life in the Philippines for Newcastle’s laidback lifestyle.

After meeting in the Philippines, Sahlee Cook married her now husband Adam, with the couple choosing to settle in his hometown of Newcastle to create a permanent home together.

“Aside from the beautiful beaches, lots of cafes to choose from and different variety of restaurants, what I like most is the people. The people here in Newcastle are nice, helpful, and pretty laid back,” Mrs Cook said.

“I am grateful and beyond happy to finally be an Australian citizen. Australia is such a beautiful and amazing country, so I am honoured to be part of this great nation and to live in Newcastle.”

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, who presided over the citizenship ceremony alongside Master of Ceremonies, Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen, said she had been looking forward to warmly welcoming Australia’s newest citizens in-person once again.

“City of Newcastle has worked closely with the Department of Home Affairs to safely resume face-to-face ceremonies to allow conferees to come together and celebrate one of the most special days in their lives,” Cr Nelmes said.

“As Novocastrians, we are proud to be part of such a culturally diverse, inclusive community and we welcome people of all backgrounds.”

City of Newcastle’s next citizenship ceremony is planned for Wednesday 1 September 2021.

Livestream brings world’s finest authors to Newcastle’s Digital Library

Newcastle book lovers are being given access to one of Australia’s largest literary events thanks to a collaboration between City of Newcastle and the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

The Live and Local program will see a range of festival events livestreamed from Carriageworks in Sydney direct to City of Newcastle’s Digital Library on Friday 30 April and Saturday 1 May 2021.

The 8m-wide Storywall in City of Newcastle's Digital Library.

The free community event provides access to a diverse range of authors not usually available to regional audiences and is being delivered as part of City of Newcastle’s commitment to promoting lifelong learning opportunities and creating social and community connections.

Newcastle residents will be able to join in the real time conversations, debates and discussions with some of the world’s finest authors during the livestream, with the high profile line-up including Richard Flanagan, Kerry O’Brien, Michael Robotham, David Marr, Laura Tingle and Judy Blume.

And while the Newcastle audience will be physically separated from the events by more than 170km, the City’s Digital Library will put them right in the thick of the action thanks to the state-of-the-art technology of the 8m-wide Storywall, which will make audiences feel as though they are in the room with the writers.

Newcastle participants will also have a chance to send questions via SMS direct to the Carriageworks stage during the interactive Q&A sessions.

The Sydney Writers Festival Live and Local project aims to promote interest in books and reading nationally, creating opportunities for audiences to participate in Festival events through digital livestream technology.

The livestream event is also a great chance to explore Newcastle’s newest library and experience the range of technology and library services on offer, including the Grab-and-Go collection featuring more than 30 of the latest book titles released.

The livestream will be on at the Digital Library, located at 12 Stewart Avenue Newcastle West, from 10am to 5pm on Friday 30 April and 1pm to 5pm on Saturday 1 May, with no bookings required.

Log on to https://whatson.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/ to check out the full list of the Sydney Writers Festival livestream events on offer.

FIRE AND RESCUE NSW WELCOMES 208 NEW RECRUITS

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) has welcomed 208 new firefighters to its ranks at a graduation ceremony this morning at the FRNSW Emergency Services Academy in Orchard Hills.

Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott congratulated the new permanent and on-call firefighters and wished them well as they commence their service to the community.

“Becoming a firefighter is no easy feat. FRNSW attracts up to 8000 applications each year, yet of these thousands, only a small number are chosen,” Mr Elliott said.

“These recruits will not only face fires. They are trained to respond to various incidents including medical emergencies, natural disasters, flood rescues and car accidents, environmental and hazardous material emergencies and counter terrorism.

“The recruits will be joining an elite organisation that prides itself on continued training and learning and I am sure that many in the community will feel much safer with these highly-trained recruits now on duty across NSW.”

Fire and Rescue NSW received a record investment of $900 million this financial year to support frontline firefighters in protecting lives, property and to continue being prepared for anything.

FRNSW Commissioner Paul Baxter congratulated the new recruits at today’s ceremony.

“There were 208 dedicated new firefighters standing before us today, each of them from diverse backgrounds but sharing one common goal – to protect the irreplaceable,” he said.

“These recruits have the diverse skills, capabilities and talents required to undertake the varied work that our firefighters do – from educating the community about fire safety and providing emergency medical care to responding to fires, natural disasters and hazmat incidents.

“They’ve been trained to be prepared for anything and I know they will uphold the high standards of integrity, courage and professionalism expected of a FRNSW firefighter.”

The new recruits come from all over NSW and a range of backgrounds, including a former Nepalese firefighter, a former school teacher and an accomplished television production editor.

SHOOSH FOR KIDS THIS WINTER

Poor spectator behaviour at junior sport is set to be addressed, with the Shoosh for Kids Winter Awareness Month kicking off this weekend.

Following a hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19, the campaign is making a strong comeback, with a record 21 sector partners and more than 600 sporting clubs and associations already signed up to take part in the initiaitive.

Minister for Sport Geoff Lee said with larger groups back at community sport it’s essential to keep sideline comments and behaviour positive.

“With a full season to look forward to this winter, the Shoosh for Kids message is more important than ever,” Mr Lee said.

“It’s great to see larger crowds and families back at community sport, and we all have a responsibility to ensure it is a fun, safe environment for children. One of the best ways we can do this is to keep comments positive so that kids want to keep playing and enjoying the benefits that sport offers.”

Founding partner of Shoosh for Kids and NSW Rugby League (NSWRL) CEO David Trodden said the campaign is vital in ensuring kids keep returning to junior sport.
“The NSWRL is proud to have helped launch this campaign six years ago and we’re thrilled the campaign has now broadened across the sport sector,” Mr Trodden said.

“We are very passionate about creating an enjoyable and positive environment to ensure kids want to come back each week, and most of all, have fun playing!”

In addition to new state sporting organisation partners, the network of 65 PCYC clubs across NSW have joined Shoosh for Kids for the first time, expanding the reach of the campaign to more than 70,000 youth that attend clubs and programs.
PCYC NSW CEO Dominic Teakle said the organisation was proud to join forces with the Office of Sport to help address negative spectator behaviour.

“The campaign aligns with one of our fundamental values – Respect – so we’re excited to be on board with this fantastic initiative led by the NSW Government,” Mr Teakle said.

“We know that young people thrive with positive adult role models and the Shoosh for Kids initiative reinforces positive, supportive behaviours in sport”.

Shoosh for Kids Winter Awareness Month will run from 1 to 31 May 2021, with free resources available to clubs and associations that sign up throughout the campaign.

For more information or to sign up, visit: sport.nsw.gov.au/shooshforkids

NEW 24-HOUR ECONOMY LIQUOR REFORMS TAKE EFFECT

The next round of changes to NSW liquor laws comes into effect today to further support Sydney’s nightlife and encourage a vibrant and safe 24-hour economy.

Minister for Digital and Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said the changes would boost jobs, provide the community with more entertainment options, and build on efforts to help revitalise the night-time economy.

“We’ve listened to industry and removed outdated and unnecessary regulations. The new rules give businesses confidence and certainty that we are serious about boosting the 24-hour economy,” Mr Dominello said.

“The economy doesn’t go to sleep at night and neither should our laws. This is about making life easier for businesses, while also prioritising community safety.

“These changes will breathe new life into one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic.”

Liquor reforms that begin today include:

Replacement of the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross licence freeze

  • The freeze on new liquor licences for hotels, registered clubs, nightclubs, and packaged liquor outlets has ended and is replaced with a new evidence-based approach to manage numbers of licensed premises in the precincts and the related risks.
  • The new approach is set out in a ‘Cumulative Impact Assessment’ which is available from the Liquor & Gaming NSW website.

Live music and entertainment changes

  • Liquor licensing decision-makers are required under NSW liquor laws to consider the need to support employment and other opportunities in the live music industry, and arts, tourism, or community and/or cultural sectors when determining licence applications.
  • NSW Councils have the option to take the lead in managing complaints about noise from inside licensed premises in their local area, including entertainment sound.
  • Councils will also have new powers to establish ‘Special Entertainment Precincts’ where they adopt their own plans to encourage and manage live, amplified music.

Changes to small bars

  • Eligible small bar applicants with the necessary planning approvals can be issued with an interim approval to start trading as soon as they lodge their liquor licence application online.

Further information about the 24-hour economy liquor reforms can be found here.