Government keeps spinning tall tales on Cashless Debit Card despite failure to prove it works

The Greens say the Government should abandon the Cashless Debit Card not continue to throw money at the failed punitive program.

“The $30 million “Job Ready Package” intended for the Cashless Debit Card Trial sites must be invested in supportive measures, for all people in regional, rural and remote areas that need support and training.

“According to a budget leak some portion of the “Job Ready Package” money will be allocated to assisting with helping people get tax file numbers, driver’s licences or other documentation, this should be happening right now in all areas.

“It’s frankly ridiculous that Employment Providers who are being paid billions in Government money are not already providing this essential and very basic support.

“Helping people address key barriers like poverty or assistance with administration or access to the internet has been recommended extensively by people in the Jobactive program and by experts for years.

“Now we finally have some tacit acknowledgement that we need to help people address what is stopping them finding work rather than just punishing them or telling them to “get a job”.

“It’s appalling that Government Senators keep spinning out their tired lines on how good the Cashless Debit Card is. It’s absolute rubbish and it needs to be called out.

“This Government has been unable to provide ANY compelling evidence that the card has had a positive outcome or achieved any of its supposed aims.

“The Government has spent billions pushing this punitive scheme, and millions on flawed evaluations trying to prove that this approach works and to justify their punitive approach.

“Government Senators claim they know what communities want when First Nations organisations have been extremely clear that this card is contrary to the Closing the Gap objectives of self-determination and free, prior informed consent.

“The card doesn’t work. It’s racist, discriminatory and punitive. If there was a genuine will to assist people with the barriers they face we would see investments in wrap around services that are delivered by the community and abandonment of the card.

“This card causes loss of dignity, shame and stigmatisation, this is what people have said when asked in the Government’s evaluations.”

MRNA Vaccines Should Be Made in Australia

An Albanese Labor Government will make it the first priority of Labor’s National Reconstruction Fund to deliver mRNA vaccine and RNA medicine manufacturing capacity right here in Australia, creating jobs and a new high-tech manufacturing industry.

The Morrison Government has had over a year to invest in this capability and they haven’t, once again leaving Australia missing out on new jobs and manufacturing opportunities.

We currently do not have capacity to manufacture state of the art mRNA vaccines and RNA medicines like the Pfizer vaccine in Australia and this not only undermines our ability to tackle the COVID-19 crisis over the longer term, but it means we miss out on a new global industry estimated to be worth $5.5 billion in just three years’ time.

That is why the first task of Labor’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund will be to explore partnerships with key industry players, states and investors to deliver the latest mRNA vaccine and medicine manufacturing technology to our shores to grow jobs, boost our recovery and safeguard our health and security.

Labor’s plan is about more than just a COVID-19 vaccination, it is about creating the advanced manufacturing industries that will power good new jobs and a stronger economy and provide an ongoing sovereign capability for decades to come.

mRNA vaccines and RNA medicine is state of the art technology, and with Labor’s priority to manufacture this science here, we will have more promising, effective medications like flu vaccines, high blood pressure medications, statins and cancer treatments and vaccines.

We don’t want to be caught off guard like this again. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us we need to be a country which makes things, and the state of the art sovereign vaccine capability should be top of the list.

Under Labor, Australia won’t be left behind. Under Scott Morrison, we already have been.

Labor has a plan for reconstruction that will rebuild Australia’s manufacturing base, create good jobs and safeguard our health and prosperity.

Botany Cranes Case

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has been successful in another prosecution of unlawful conduct in the building and construction industry.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) and several of its NSW officials have been penalised more than $1 million for coercing and unlawfully picketing a Sydney-based crane company, Botany Cranes, in January 2019.

The officials admitted to the conduct that was aimed at coercing Botany Cranes to sign-up to a CFMMEU enterprise agreement and reinstate a CFMMEU delegate.

The Morrison Government re-established the independent ABCC on 2 December 2016, to ensure building and construction sites are fair, efficient and productive. This is the second highest penalty since the agency was re-established.

As noted in the Court ruling: “The [CFMMEU] is a serial recidivist in such contravening behaviours…its history of contraventions of industrial law is appalling. That history reflects an embedded culture throughout the organisation of conscious and often, as here, flagrant breaches of the law.”

“…Its conduct, through its three senior officials in this proceeding, displayed utter contempt for the rule of law… Its conduct here demonstrates that the culture of the Union, and its senior officials, is simply “might is right” or “Union – power”. That conduct has no place in our society…

To date, more than $25.7 million in penalties have been awarded in cases brought by the ABCC and its predecessor agencies, with more than $13.7 million in penalties awarded since the ABCC was re-established in December 2016. The CFMMEU and its officials account for the majority of these penalties, at nearly $12.4 million.

Despite profligate law-breaking by unions and tens of millions of dollars in fines, Anthony Albanese and the Labor party want to abolish the organisation holding unions to account.

By proposing to dismantle the independent organisation charged with ensuring promoting and enforcing compliance with workplace laws, Labor is sending a clear message that unions like the CFMMEU need fewer checks and balances, not more.

It is clear Labor is on the side of union officials and not the workers, who will ultimately have to foot the bill for these significant fines.

The building and construction industry that employs 1.1 million people should be able to get on with the job without disruptions and delays caused by coercion and unlawful pickets.

Cancer funding boost and development of Australian Cancer Plan

The Australian Government is investing an additional $6.7 million to support and improve outcomes for all Australians affected by cancer.

In 2020, an estimated 150,000 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Australia, with around 50,000 Australians tragically passing away.

As part of this investment;

  • $4.7 million to support strengthening supportive and primary cancer care and genomic cancer clinical trials in Australia; national leadership in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer control, and the development of an Optimal Care Pathway for Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs).
  • $2 million to investigate children’s brain cancer, breast cancer, melanoma and lymphoma, and other important areas of cancer research through Cancer Australia’s Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme (PdCCRS)

The funding will be delivered in partnership with Cancer Australia, who today is convening a Ministerial Roundtable at Parliament House as part of the first step in the development of a visionary ten-year Australian Cancer Plan.

The Australian Cancer Plan will set out the key national priorities and action areas over the next 10 years to improve outcomes for Australian’s affected by cancer. It will also cover prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and palliative care, while providing for the unique needs of specific cancer types and populations.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt said, investing in cancer research and support and the establishment of an Australian Cancer Plan demonstrated the Government’s commitment improving cancer outcomes.

“While Australia is a world leader in cancer control and we have made great strides in improving cancer mortality and survival rates, cancer still has significant impacts on individuals, families, communities and the health system,” said Minister Hunt.

“We must continue to take action to address the multifaceted challenge of tackling cancer and in particular the disparities in outcomes among cancer types and many population groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

CEO of Cancer Australia, Professor Dorothy Keefe thanked the Minister for the opportunity to develop an innovative Australian Cancer Plan in consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, and to establish a framework for shared responsibility for implementation.

“The heart of modern medicine should be patient centred care that focuses on equity of outcome”, said Professor Keefe.

“The Plan will build on current achievements, investments, capabilities and current evidence, but with a focus on the future of patient centred and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander focussed cancer care. It will harness emerging evidence, technologies and innovations to improve outcomes and benefit all Australians affected by cancer.”

Cancer Australia will develop the Australian Cancer Plan in consultation with key stakeholders within two years.

As world looks to George Floyd verdict, at home, no justice for Black deaths in custody

Thirty years since the final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Australia has yet to reckon with its history and the reality that Black Lives Matter.

George Floyd couldn’t breathe – and across the world, his death sparked a renewed conversation around racial injustice, justice systems and police reform.

Yet right here in this country, 474+ First Nations families have lost a loved one in custody in the thirty years since the Royal Commission handed down its findings – deaths for which not a single person or institution has been held to account.

As recently as last month, we learned that Townsville police used a similar lethal choking hold method as used on George Floyd, when arresting a First Nations man who died in 2018.

“Today’s verdict is a small step towards accountability for George Floyd’s family and loved ones. But the families who have lost a loved one in custody in this country are still being denied justice. No-one is being held to account,” Australian Greens Senator for First Nations people Lidia Thorpe said today.

“The Black Lives Matter movement in the United States sparked real change. It’s well past time for this country to have that same painful conversation – to face the reality of what these deeply racist systems are doing to Aboriginal people. After all, we are the most incarcerated people on earth.

“Enough is enough. Enough to police violence. Enough to the over-incarceration of our people, and our children. We’ve suffered enough at the hands of these colonial authorities.

“No justice, no peace. We can end Blak deaths in custody – and end the constant grief, the pain, and the trauma. This Government needs to show some leadership and implement the full recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody as a priority,” Senator Thorpe added.

Jobs boost from new emissions reduction projects

New investments in clean hydrogen and carbon capture technologies are set to create around 2,500 jobs, support Australian industry and manufacturing into the future and further drive down Australia’s emissions.

The Morrison Government’s 2021-22 Budget will invest a further $539.2 million in new clean hydrogen, carbon capture, use and storage (CCS/CCUS) projects that will support Australian industry, create jobs, help cut emissions and drive investment.

  • $275.5 million to accelerate the development of four additional clean hydrogen hubs in regional Australia and implement a clean hydrogen certification scheme.
  • $263.7 million to support the development of CCS/CCUS projects and hubs.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the world was changing rapidly and Australia will need to be competitive in a new energy economy to support the jobs of Australians, especially in our heavy industries and regional areas that depend on affordable and reliable energy.

“It is essential we position Australia to succeed by investing now in the technologies that will support our industries into the future, with lower emissions energy that can support Australian jobs,” the Prime Minister said.

“There is a strong appetite from business for the new emissions reduction technologies that they know will be needed to run their operations and keep employing Australians and grow jobs for the future.

“World-leading projects like these are about cutting emissions and creating jobs.

“We want to make clean energy more affordable and reliable, while looking for ways our investments can get more people into work.

“We cannot pretend the world is not changing. If we do, we run the risk of stranding jobs in this country, especially in regional areas.

“Australia can and will continue to meet and beat our emissions reduction commitments, while protecting and growing jobs, by commercialising low emissions technologies like hydrogen and CCS/CCUS, that can support our industries and critical economic sectors. And when we commercialise those technologies, they also create new jobs.

“Low emissions industries mean more jobs directly for workers, but also cheaper energy means lower costs to businesses that they can reinvest in hiring more people.

“Our technology-first approach will see Australia achieve its emissions reduction goals while continuing to grow our export industries and also supporting our trading partners’ efforts to decarbonise.”

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said the Government was backing practical, technological solutions to reduce emissions, not big new taxes.

“We are backing technology to meet our 2030 target and get to net zero,” Minister Taylor said.

“The Government’s investment will reduce technical and commercial barriers to deploying these technologies. It will encourage new large-scale investment from the private sector, creating jobs and supporting Australia’s economic recovery, particularly in regional areas.

“It’s a tangible example of our commitment to being a low emissions technology leader and reducing emissions through technology not taxes, or imposing costs on households, businesses or the economy.

“Australia’s potential to supply our trading partners with low cost, clean energy and permanently and safely store emissions underground has our trading partners, including Japan, South Korea and Singapore excited.”

The Government is actively pursuing opportunities to collaborate on low emissions technologies with Germany, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Australia’s Technology Investment Roadmap is a plan to create jobs, cut energy costs and reduce emissions.

The Roadmap will guide $18 billion of Government investment over the next 10 years and drive at least $70 billion of total new investment in low emissions technologies in Australia by 2030. Our plan will support 130,000 jobs by 2030 and avoid in the order of 250 million tonnes of emissions by 2040.

Investing in low emissions technologies will contribute to Australia’s continued success in meeting and beating our emissions reduction targets. Australia beat its 2020 target by 459 million tonnes and we are on track to meet and beat our 26-28 per cent 2030 Paris target.

DISABLED AUSTRALIANS ONCE AGAIN FORGOTTEN IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19

The Australian Greens have called on the Morrison Government to urgently prioritise disabled people, and disability support workers, in the national vaccine roll out after it was revealed that just 6.5% of this cohort have received their first dose.

Australian Greens Disability spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John said:

“This is absolutely shameful. It’s clear that the Morrison government has once again forgotten to include disabled people, and the people who support us, in their pandemic response.

“Last year, the disability Royal Commission heard that the Morrison government hadn’t included disabled people in their emergency response plan for COVID-19.

“Now, we learn that a decision has been made to exclude disabled people, and our support workers, from receiving priority vaccinations despite placing us in phase 1a of the vaccine rollout!

“It is abundantly clear that the Morrison government do not care about the safety of disabled people; they treated us like second class citizens throughout their response to the pandemic and they’re doing it again in their bungled vaccine rollout.

Australian Greens Health spokesperson Senator Rachel Siewert said:

“This Government has failed disabled people and their families and is once again denying them basic care and consideration.

“Less than 100 of the more than 6,000 disability institutions across Australia, a home and a workplace to more than 25,000 disabled people and their support workers, have obtained shipments of either vaccine amounting to less than 1,500 individuals receiving their first dose.

“Disabled people and carers were denied the COVID supplement back in March 2020 when many people’s costs were significantly increased due to quarantine, lock down and COVID restrictions and now they are being failed in the vaccine rollout.

“The Government needs to make it an urgent priority to vaccinate disabled people and support workers now.”

RFDS a key part of protecting bush communities from COVID-19

Australia’s iconic aeromedical organisation, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) continues to play a vital role in protecting regional communities in the fight against COVID-19.

The RFDS has provided retrievals, evacuations, swab transfers and fly-in GP respiratory clinic testing, protecting the lives of people living and working in the most remote corners of the country from the outset of this pandemic.

Speaking during a visit to the RFDS respiratory clinic at Broken Hill airport where the vaccine rollout is underway, Federal Regional Health Minister and Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton said the involvement of the RFDS had helped to ensure that people in rural areas had the same level of protection as Australians in more populated areas.

“Regional and remote Australia has been one of the safest places to be through the pandemic. This is particularly important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have a higher risk of contracting and developing serious illness from COVID-19,” Minister Coulton said.

“The challenge of an effective COVID-19 response in a country as demographically dispersed and sparsely populated as ours is a formidable one.”

“I am proud to say that we have implemented one of the most successful responses to COVID-19 worldwide.”

Minister Coulton said the RFDS has played a key part in keeping remote communities safe through the pandemic.

“It is an essential component of the Australian Government’s commitment to provide the best possible protection for all Australians, regardless of where they live,” he said.

“The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine into rural and remote communities is a vital part of the Government’s vaccine strategy to ensure everyone is protected. Our engagement with the RFDS and other rural health stakeholders will be critical to achieving this in 2021.”

Federation Executive Director of the RFDS, Frank Quinlan, said the organisation was pleased to work with the Australian Government and national health partners on the national COVID-19 response.

“Rural and remote Australia has been protected to date from COVID-19 outbreaks, and we are determined for this success story to be continued,” Mr Quinlan said.

OUR VETERANS DESERVE BETTER: GREENS

Today’s announcement of a Royal Commission into Veteran and Serving Defence Personnel Suicides is not only a huge win for the community, who have been calling for greater support and for government to address the mental health crisis that is facing our veterans, but also a relief to the families who have been searching for answers.

Australian Greens Veterans spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John said that it had been a hard slog to get to this point and that a lot more work needed to be done to ensure that the terms of reference for the Royal Commission met the needs of the community.

“Anybody who has spoken with a family that has been touched by suicide will know the pain that they feel and the desperate, urgent need for answers they all share about why so many of our veterans are being driven to take these actions,” Steele-John said.

“Understandably there are still many in to the community who are suspicious of today’s announcement as they have been cast aside and ignored by the Morrison government for so long.

“It is incumbent on the Morrison government to earn the trust of the veteran community and not simply assume that they now have it.

“We know from a report into Veteran suicides, released last year, that our veteran community is in crisis. Ex-serving men are 21% more likely to die by suicide and ex-serving women were more than twice as likely to die by suicide than the rest of the community.

“We must do better by the people who have served, and continue to serve, in our defence forces. We continue to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on new weapons yet we ignore the long lasting trauma and impact that war has on the people who have served in our name.

“I would like to acknowledge the strength and commitment of advocates around the country, like Julie-Ann Finney, and my Senate colleague, Jacqui Lambie, for her dedication to this cause.

“This is a win for you, for your family and for every single Australian who has sadly lost a family member or a friend to suicide.”

Royal Commission into Veteran Suicide Welcomed by Labor

It is about time the Morrison Government has finally come around to the idea of a Royal Commission into veteran suicide.

Veterans, their families and Labor have been calling for this since 2019.

Since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, we have lost more veterans to suicide than soldiers killed in combat, while more than 18 defence personnel and veterans have taken their own lives this year alone.

While we are disappointed this has taken so long, Labor now stands ready to work with the Government in a bipartisan way to ensure this Royal Commission is vested with all the powers and resources it needs.

The Government needs to consult widely and wisely on processes, timelines and Terms of Reference.

The Commissioner, or Commissioners, appointed must be of the right standing andbe independent from the Australian Defence Force in order to ensure trust and confidence in this process.

In particular, we are concerned that the Government has said it wants to have a “standing Royal Commission” in tandem with a Royal Commission to look at this issue in an ongoing way.

Many veterans and families do not support the Government’s proposed National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, and the legislation is stalled in the Senate.

Labor, along with many in the veteran community, has said it is open to a permanent body to tackle this issue, but only if this is a recommendation coming out of an independent Royal Commission, which must happen first.

The work of Julie-Ann Finney and Karen Bird, and the other brave mothers and families of veterans must also be acknowledged. They have campaigned tirelessly for a Royal Commission, despite the personal grief and pain they have experienced.

Many parents of veterans who have tragically taken their own lives have said a Royal Commission will allow them an opportunity to have their say and be heard, while providing a powerful voice for their children.

Today’s announcement is a crucial step forward on this journey.