Australia Post investigation should review enormous executive salaries and bonuses

Greens Spokesperson for Communications Senator Sarah Hanson Young responded to the Morrison Government’s terms of reference for an investigation into Australia Post:

“This investigation is supposed to establish whether this publicly-owned essential service is acting in the best interests of its shareholder – the Australian taxpayer – and yet the enormous pay packets and bonuses pocketed by executives don’t get a mention in the terms of reference.

“No one working in the public service should be taking home multi-million-dollar salaries and paid bonuses.

“It’s not just the Cartier watches that are the problem, it’s Australia Post becoming a quasi-private, quasi-public organisation that is now out of step with community expectations.

“It’s time to wind back the clock and ensure Australia’s postal service is a truly public organisation acting in the best interests of taxpayers, not millionaire executives.

“The Greens will re-introduce our bill to cap executive salaries and end performance-based pay at Australia Post and across the public service.

“Time’s up for those seeking a luxury lifestyle on the public purse whether its executives at Australia Post or ASIC, and the Parliament needs to do its job and rein them in.”

Greens Statement On Kashmir

The Australian Greens stand with the Kashmiri community on 27 October as they commemorate Black Day. Kashmir is a disputed territory and it is now over a year since the Indian Government revoked its special status and further eroded Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.

Kashmir remains in lockdown and access to high speed internet is still blocked by the Indian Government. The Indian Government must restore basic human rights in Kashmir, including freedom of speech. The Indian Government must withdraw its troops, end the restrictions placed on political leaders, end arbitrary detentions and disappearances, and allow humanitarian organisations full access to resume their work. The decision to forcefully reduce the autonomy of Kashmiris must be revoked immediately and the campaign to systemically silence and oppress Kashmiris must end.

The Greens have been and will continue to urge the Australian Government to call on the Indian Government to respect the human rights of the people in Kashmir and their right to self-determination. The human rights crisis in Kashmir should not be ignored.

Steps to Victoria’s reopening

The Commonwealth Government welcomes the announcement by the Victorian Premier to ease restrictions from 11.59pm on Tuesday.

Victorians have worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get to this point. We thank them for their patience and perseverance.

Today’s announcement is a reflection of the dedication and effort of Victorians – taking the next step to reopen Victorian society and the state’s economy.

After a long winter, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Victorians.

As we said yesterday – Victorians have made great progress in reducing the rate of COVID-19 infections from the second wave outbreak in Victoria.

The new National Framework to reopen by Christmas is a clear and transparent, three step national plan which provides the Australian community and businesses with a way forward where Australians can live and work in a COVID Normal Australia, ensuring that we maintain strong health protections and minimise job losses and mental health impacts.

Under the new ‘National Framework’ released last week, Victoria is now moving towards Step 1 – an important step on the pathway to COVID Normal.

Australia has been a world leader in fighting the virus to save lives and to save livelihoods and with today’s announcement, we look forward to Victoria continuing to make progress on the path to reopening and joining the rest of the country at Steps 2 and 3 in the national plan.

It will be important for the Victorian Government to provide even more clarity to Victorians in the coming days and where restrictions do not have a health basis that they are removed quickly.

We congratulate Victorians – this was the announcement that they were expecting and one they have worked hard to achieve.

It is important for Victoria to safely open and stay safely open.

The Prime Minister and Premiers Berejiklian, Marshall and Andrews will continue to take advice regarding hard border restrictions.

The Commonwealth Government will continue to support Victoria through this crisis.

New round of Commonwealth VET scholarships open for young Australians

Young Australians who live in 10 selected regions experiencing high youth unemployment can now apply for a Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications scholarship.

Round 3 of the Commonwealth Scholarships Program for Young Australians is open in select regions, offering up to $5,000 a year to undertake an approved course of study.

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, said the scholarships offered a life-changing opportunity to study a VET qualification and complete an internship.

“We know that our youth have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” Minister Cash said.

“The Morrison Government is committed to ensuring young Australians can upskill and reskill to secure a job.”

Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships, the Hon Steve Irons MP, said these scholarships are about improving skills to connect young people in areas of high youth unemployment to training pathways and real jobs.

“We want to support young Australians to enter the vocational education and training sector which will help to create strong pathways to jobs in areas of skills needs and real outcomes,” Assistant Minister Irons said.

“Scholarship winners will receive industry-based workplace learning and gain qualifications in growth industries.”

The Commonwealth Scholarships Program for Young Australians is part of the Australian Government’s $585 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package.

It will award around 400 young Australians from 10 regional locations with high youth unemployment up to $5,000 a year to study a qualification and an additional $3,000 to complete an internship.

Applications are sought from people who are not in full-time work, who are aged 15 to 24 years or people who have left the Australian Defence Force in the past two years.

Scholarships will target occupations identified in projected growth industries and occupations identified as in-demand in 10 regional locations:

State Region
New South Wales Grafton
Gosford
Northern Territory Alice Springs
Queensland Maryborough
Townsville
South Australia Port Pirie
Tasmania Burnie
Victoria Shepparton
Western Australia Wanneroo
Armadale

For more information and eligibility requirements please visit: https://www.employment.gov.au/commonwealth-scholarships-program-young-australians

$28 million to support jobs and protect Queensland’s environment

From turtle protection and feral pig control in Cape York, to cleaning up beaches across the Fitzroy region, the Morrison Government has announced up to $28 million in funding to support regional jobs and empower reef communities to protect Queensland’s coastal environment.

Funding will be provided under the Reef Trust to support six new on ground projects that help protect our iconic species and improve the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystems.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said that these initiatives will be delivered by people who understand their region and have a proven track record of achieving environmental results.

“The projects are being led by six Reef based Natural Resource Management (NRM) groups through the National Landcare Program Regional Land Partnerships Program, ensuring local knowledge and practical outcomes that help protect on shore environments and the Great Barrier Reef,” Minister Ley said.

“In the Burnett Mary area, sea rangers will work with local communities to protect marine turtles by relocating nests, using cages to deter predators and helping to prevent shoreline erosion to improve water quality.

“Across the coastlines of the Mackay-Whitsundays, invasive pests will be controlled and native vegetation will be restored to protect seabirds and shorebirds. Important beach habitats for marine turtles will also be rejuvenated.

“In Cape York, the community will be supported to monitor turtle nesting sites on priority beaches, install egg protection cages, and control weeds and feral pigs to reduce threats to native species.

“The Wet Tropics region will focus on healthy wetlands and fishways, removing weeds and blockages to ensure fish can have a smooth journey from river to the sea.

“Groups in the Burdekin will install fish ladders in important waterways to help reconnect species like barramundi to the freshwater systems they desperately need to complete their life cycle.

“The Fitzroy region will manage numerous activities including a clean-up of marine debris along the coast, improving regional fire management in the lead up to summer, and controlling feral pigs and foxes.”

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef Warren Entsch said that this important work will help improve awareness and volunteer engagement in Landcare activities and strengthen partnerships with local communities and Traditional Owners.

“This is about working with people and backing local communities and the result will be cleaner beaches, thriving habitats, healthier coastal ecosystems and species, and a more resilient Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Entsch said.

“Work is already underway with people from local communities getting out and about to safely protect Queensland’s coastlines despite the challenges of COVID-19.”

The new investment complements many others made by the Australian Government to support regions and the environment such as the $443.3 million Reef Trust Partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the $100 million Environment Restoration Fund and the $1 billion investment under phase two of the National Landcare Program.

City Taskforce Update 23 October

The City Taskforce, a collaboration of 17 leading organisations and employers, chaired by Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes of the City of Newcastle, held its eighth meeting today via Zoom. The Taskforce was formed to develop a collaborative approach to the City’s response to COVID-19, from crisis to recovery and beyond. City leaders focused their discussion on innovation-led economic recovery to ensure new jobs and growth for the region, which is at the centre of the latest Newcastle Response. The Taskforce heard case studies on tech scale-ups Portt and GreenBe, both of which are based in Newcastle, as well as Industry Response Program grant recipient Matt Field of Field Frequency, whose live music initiative Music People is supporting the recovery of the local arts and entertainment industry. Being the Taskforce’s penultimate meeting, members discussed the continuation of work streams through the City of Newcastle’s Strategy and Innovation Committee, chaired by Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen, following the final City Taskforce meeting on 4 December 2020.

COVID-19 case update – Hunter New England Local Health District

With further easing of restrictions this week, Hunter New England Health’s Executive Director Partnerships, Innovation and Research, Jane Gray, briefed the Taskforce on the latest COVID-19 case statistics for the region. To date, there have been 300 local cases since the pandemic began and four deaths. There are currently no cases in hospital or in Intensive Care Units within the Hunter New England Local Health District. Recent sewage testing has not detected any active virus being excreted. However, calls to the NSW Poisons Information Centre concerning hand sanitiser exposure incidents have increased 2.2-fold from January to June when compared with the same period in 2019.

Economic outlook and the impact on local jobs

Around 37,000 jobs have been lost since February across the Hunter Region, representing an 11% fall. However, the three-month moving average shows a marginal change in employment, with 378 jobs lost. Young people – in particular, the 25-34-year-old cohort – have felt these job losses most profoundly, with the Hunter’s youth unemployment rate rising to 20.7% in September. Across the country, about 500,000 people under the age of 35 lost their job in the early stages of the pandemic, with around 300,000 still out of work in September. Hospitality remains one of the worst affected industries, with a higher proportion of young people employed in this sector.

While the Federal Budget included extended JobKeeper arrangements until March and partly addressed disproportionate job losses to youth through JobMaker and support for apprentices, the efficacy of other measures to stimulate economic recovery, such as tax cuts, will not be known for some time, particularly with the increases in personal saving rates. The lowest-paid occupations have seen the greatest decline in employment, while employment in the highest-paid occupations has increased.

Pioneering innovation-led economic recovery

The innovation economy plays a critical and fundamental role in ensuring economic recovery and sustainable growth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. City of Newcastle engaged widely with start-ups, scale-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the University of Newcastle to develop The Newcastle Response – Innovation Economy.

Taskforce members endorsed policy asks of the State and Federal Governments to invest in innovation-led economic activity, including:

  • Co-funding the University of Newcastle’s new Regional Transformation Hub within the Hunter STEMM Precinct
  • Supporting the development of a Newcastle Innovation Precinct that aligns with the strategic vision of the Sydney Innovation and Technology Precinct
  • Prioritising smart infrastructure investment in Newcastle as a technology testbed and living laboratory
  • Increasing tax concessions for investing in innovation to incentivise entrepreneurship and angel investment to fuel job creation.

Newcastle is Australia’s largest and most mature innovation ecosystem outside of a capital city, where industry, start-ups, local government and the education sector collaborate to validate innovative solutions to global problems.

Case studies: Portt and GreenBe

The Taskforce heard case studies on tech scale-ups Portt and GreenBe to illustrate some of the advantages and barriers to innovation in Newcastle.

Citizen engagement platform GreenBe designed the software layer for the City of Newcastle’s Lean in Newy app, which hosts one of the City’s COVID-19 response measures. Lean in Newy connects our community spirit to the places where it’s needed most and rewards participants with incentives at local businesses. Founded in Sydney, GreenBe also has a Newcastle office, which has not only retained all of its employees during the pandemic, but prioritises investment in and the upskilling of local talent to remain competitive with capital cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. CEO David Catalovski was supportive of putting Newcastle on the map as an innovation hub.

Portt is an intelligent strategic sourcing, contract and supplier management platform, with an office and a staff of 10 in Newcastle, as well as Sydney and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Co-CEO and Founder, Andre Pinkowski, outlined some of the resourcing and supply chain challenges that often came with operating from a regional centre, but backed the need to build on the momentum that existed in Newcastle. Portt is also embedding the Taskforce’s Greater Newcastle Youth Employment Charter objectives within its policies to prioritise skills development and early career opportunities for young people.

Industry Response Program update: Music People

Taskforce members received an update from one of the City of Newcastle’s Industry Response Program grant recipients, Matt Field of Field Frequency, whose live music initiative Music People received a share of a $500,000 funding pool. The fortnightly gigs, which showcase Newcastle’s diversity of musical talent, are live-streamed to a network of social media platforms to allow home-grown talent to be discovered. From 17 November, the shows will be open to a live audience at the Civic Theatre as well as online every other Tuesday night through to the end of summer.

Beyond 2020: The Strategy and Innovation Committee

With the final City Taskforce meeting to be held on 4 December 2020, the City of Newcastle’s Strategy and Innovation Committee, chaired by Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen, will continue the important work of the Taskforce’s work streams to guide the City’s COVID-19 recovery. Membership is open to all Taskforce members, several of which already sit on the committee.

The final City Taskforce meeting will also workshop the City of Newcastle’s forthcoming Economic Development Strategy, which will incorporate the work that has already been achieved by the Taskforce.

Find out more about the City Taskforce – Industry Representation.

Kilgour Prize 2020 People’s Choice awarded

Joshua McPherson has won the KILGOUR PRIZE 2020 People’s Choice Award for the second year running with a painting titled Portrait of Meg.

This year McPherson won – from a total pool of more than 1,600 votes collected since the KILGOUR PRIZE 2020 exhibition opened Saturday 1 August. McPherson has won $5,000 in recognition of the popularity of his work.

“When Meg arrived for the first session I was inspired by her youthful slightly “edgy, grunge” look contrasted with her beautiful Indian jewellery passed down from her mother,” artist Joshua McPherson said.

“I sought to capture a young woman of today but still respectful of her family tradition and heritage.”

Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton said McPherson excels in portraiture that provokes an emotive response in his viewers.

“McPherson’s skill as a painter is captured in the beautiful composition and vulnerable expression of his sitter,” she said.

McPherson has exhibited internationally in Italy, London and the United States. He has also been selected as a finalist in other national portrait prizes such as the Archibald Prize and the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize.

The Sydney-based artist will receive $5,000, generously funded by the bequest of artist Jack Noel Kilgour. The KILGOUR PRIZE 2020 exhibition will remain on display at the Gallery until 15 November 2020.

Anonymous comments collected during the voting process included:

“Of all the works, Portrait of Meg moves me the most. There is a simple complexity, a depth of emotion, a subtlety of light and shade, a beautifully softened sharpness. And those haunting eyes…they draw you in even as they withdraw into their own earnest, private contemplation.”

“It’s very evocative and insightful representation of the complexity of youth culture.”

“The subject is very relatable and reminds me of myself and every other teenage girl struggling with identity and self-awareness.”

“Culturally-diverse, beautifully composed, reflecting the promise and uncertainty of youth.”

Artist statement, Joshua McPherson:

I first met Meg when she modelled for my weekly portrait class.  My students and I immediately found her to be a breath of fresh air. Such a great attitude to life at a time when she was experiencing significant change and complexities in her life. I knew immediately I would like to have her pose privately for a portrait.

When Meg arrived for the first session I was inspired by her youthful slightly “edgy, grunge” look contrasted with her beautiful Indian jewellery passed down from her mother. I found the juxtaposition between her attire quite fascinating and intriguing.

I sought to capture a young woman of today but still respectful of her family tradition and heritage. This was Meg’s first time posing in a private studio and I feel that the portrait captures her initial slight coyness but a willingness to embrace herself in the portrait painting process.

KILGOUR PRIZE 2020 FINALISTS

An Sheng, Andrew Bennett, Anh Nguyen, Ben Ryan, Brittany Jones, Bronni Krieger, Corinna Howell, Craig Handley, Dagmar Cyrulla, Daniel Butterworth, Elizabeth Austin, Erik Krebs-Schade, Esther Erlich, Greg Creek, Jacqueline Hennessy, Jordan Richardson, Joshua McPherson, Kenneth Lambert, Kerry McInnis, Kylie Melinda Smith, Lileana Colarelli, Lori Pensini, Lynn Savery, Melissa Ritchie, Michael Bell, Oliver Shepherd, Peter Gardiner, Tony Costa, Tracy Dods, Wendy Sharpe.

PLANNING FUNDS FOR REDEVELOPMENT OF GRAFTON HOSPITAL GETS GREEN LIGHT

The NSW Government has today honoured its commitment to residents of the Clarence Valley by announcing funds to progress planning for the redevelopment of Grafton Base Hospital during this term of Government.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro joined Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis outside the hospital in Grafton to announce planning for the hospital can now get underway.

“Accessible quality health care is essential when living in rural and regional NSW and today’s announcement means we can commence planning work for Grafton Base Hospital, as promised to the people of the Clarence Valley,” Mr Barilaro said.

Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the future redevelopment of Grafton Base Hospital will support the health needs and wellbeing of the communities and the healthcare workforce across the Clarence Valley for years to come.

“The future redevelopment will expand a range of clinical services to support timely healthcare, ensuring Grafton Base Hospital can cater for the future health needs of the community and surrounds,” Mr Hazzard said.

“Detailed planning and consultation with clinicians and the community will ensure we get it right for the redeveloped Grafton Hospital.”

Clarence Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis said he is thrilled to have the Deputy Premier and Leader of the Nationals in Grafton to deliver this news because planning work means the community is a big step closer to improved health services.

“Not only do we need to get the infrastructure and facilities right, we also need to look at the future range of health services and health workforce to best serve the residents of the Clarence Valley,” Mr Gulaptis said.

The NSW Government has invested more than $10 billion to build, upgrade and redevelop hospitals and health facilities across the state since 2011. A further $10.1 billion has been committed from 2020 to continue current projects, and start the upgrade or building of a further 29 hospitals and health facilities across the State.

These investments ensure local communities can continue to receive the best possible healthcare closer to home.  It also supports the local economy, including: opportunities for local businesses to be involved employment opportunities for skilled trades and related professionals

NSW HITS THREE MILLION TESTS AS COMMUNITY URGED TO REMAIN VIGILANT

As the state marks three million COVID-19 tests since January, the NSW Government is calling on the community to continue to work together to fight the deadly virus.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said reaching three million tests was a major milestone in the State’s fight against COVID-19.

“I want to thank everyone in NSW who has come forward to be tested – three million COVID-19 tests is an incredible result,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“As we ease restrictions, it is critical that we maintain our high rates of testing which has been central to our success in limiting the spread of the virus and keeping NSW open.”

Health Minister Brad Hazzard warned that while recent easing of restrictions is very welcome, it comes with risks and it is critical everyone keeps getting tested.

“This is a stealthy virus and if we give it an inch, it will take a mile and undo a lot of good work,” Mr Hazzard said.

“The community response to COVID-19 has been fantastic and I thank the people of NSW for their efforts and sacrifices during the past nine months, which have put us in a position where we have been able to ease restrictions.

“We hope to be able to continue to ease restrictions in the weeks and months ahead, but this depends on us being successful in minimising community transmission.”

As at 8pm on 26 October 2020, 3,000,641 COVID-19 tests had been performed on 2,247,101 people in NSW. Of those people tested, 63.7 per cent had a single test and 36.3 per cent had more than one test, with 1.16 per cent having more than five tests.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said it was critical that people continue to come forward for testing and practice COVID-safe behaviours when out and about and catching up with family and friends.

“When we have high numbers of people continuing to get tested, that allows us to detect cases in the community earlier and prevent onward transmission,” Dr Chant said.

“Get tested at the first sign of even the mildest of symptoms, wash your hands regularly, physically distance and wear a mask when using public transport and in places where you can’t physically distance.

“We have been able to get the recent clusters under control with the support of the community, but their emergence shows that the risk of a resurgence of cases in NSW remains very real.”

Restrictions eased recently by the NSW Government include:

  • 30 people can now gather outdoors in public spaces (previously the rule was 20 people). It remains a maximum of 20 people in households;
  • There can be 30 customers per booking, and 30 customers per table, at hospitality venues (previously the rule was a maximum of 10 customers);
  • Corporate functions of up to 300 people can now be held at any appropriate premises, including at restaurants, subject to a COVID safety plan (previously it was just function centres);
  • Religious gatherings/places of worship (excluding weddings and funerals) can have up to 300 people, subject to a COVID-19 safety plan; and
  • Gyms are now only required to have a COVID-19 safety marshal if there are more than 20 people in the gym at one time.

Additionally, from 1 December 2020, the number of people who can attend weddings will be increased to 300 people subject to the four square metre rule indoors and two square metre rule outdoors. This will allow people to make plans and book venues knowing the capacity ahead of time.

There are more than 300 COVID-19 testing locations across NSW. To find your nearest clinic visit https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/how-to-protect-yourself-and-others/clinics or contact your GP. Most people receive their results within 24 hours.

STRICT NEW LAWS TO REGULATE SHORT-TERM RENTALS

Short-term rental accommodation hosts, guests, letting agents and online booking platform operators will soon be subject to strict new laws with a mandatory Code of Conduct for the industry to begin in December.

Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson said the new Code, which was released today, includes clear guidance and obligations for hosts and guests centred on minimum standards of good behaviour.

Also included are formal avenues for complaints and dispute resolution and the ability for NSW Fair Trading to ban problematic hosts or anti-social guests from booking short-term rentals for five years.

“The popularity of short-term rentals has exploded in recent years and is now a $30 billion a year industry,” Mr Anderson said.

“While the sector has gone from strength to strength, what has been missing is a clear set of rules to protect the rights of both hosts, guests and neighbours and which put mutual respect front and centre.

“The NSW Government is introducing these laws as part of our broad reform of the sector. Together, they will ensure the minority of participants who are giving the sector a bad name are removed and the short-term rental sector is improved for hosts, guests and communities.”

Mr Anderson said a key feature of the new laws was the establishment of an exclusion register, which will introduce a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy for unruly guests.

“We have all heard the horror stories of hosts doing the wrong thing or the house guests from hell behaving disgracefully in holiday rentals,” Mr Anderson said.

“If you are going to carry on like that in someone else’s house or neighbourhood, be warned – under these new rules you will be banned, and for a very long time.

“The standards are enforceable, with powers available to NSW Fair Trading Commissioner to take disciplinary action, including penalties and exclusion from the industry for repeat offenders.”

All participants, including booking platforms, will be required to comply with the Code and with directions and requests from the Commissioner.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is also developing a government-run premises register and state environmental planning policy for short-term rental accommodation which will round out the reforms to this sector and launch in 2021.

The Code of Conduct, which can be viewed here, will come into force on 18 December 2020.

For additional information, please visit the Fair Trading website.