Minister Howarth’s Homelessness Gaffe Shows He Is Completely Out of Touch

Australian Greens Senator and Housing Spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, has called the Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Servicer, Luke Howarth MP, completely out of touch for his comments around putting a ‘positive spin’ to homelessness and housing stress.

Senator Faruqi said:

“Minister Howarth is completely out of touch if he thinks there is any way to positively spin the number of people who are homeless. What an incredibly insensitive gaffe.

“The fact that this Minister thinks that the housing crisis only affects a small number of people is very worrying. What about the more than 118,000 people who are homeless, the 189,000 people on public housing waiting lists or the more than a million Australians in housing stress.

“Instead of trying to spin the homeslessness problem, the Federal Government must show leadership in tackling the housing crisis by making an unprecedented investment in social and community housing.

“The Greens have a plan to build 500,000 new public and community homes through a Federal Housing Trust. Everyone has the right to a safe, secure and permanent home.

“Crisis accommodation is important but isn’t a long term solution. We need to build more affordable housing to ensure everyone has a roof over their head,” she concluded.

Money for Murray-Darling must be frozen

The Greens have called for an immediate freeze on money for Murray-Darling water projects until the Auditor-General can review payments and water recovery.

“Last night’s Four Corners shows the rorting of taxpayer funds for the benefit of big business is not a thing of the past – it’s still happening. And it continues to harm rather than fix our most important river system,” Greens water spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

“Two years ago Four Corners rocked the country when they shone a light on the scandalous use of taxpayer funds in the Murray-Darling. Since then, nothing has been fixed and big business continues to brazenly rort the system for their own benefit.

“Most of the $13 billion allocated for the plan has been spent and where is the water? The Auditor-General must be brought in to investigate immediately. We urgently need to get more water to the river, business-as-usual will only leave it high and dry.

“Despite continuing scandals and disasters in the Basin, the government continues to sit on its hands. They must take urgent action, stop the rorts and hold those responsible to account.

“Years ago, Barnaby Joyce bragged he was more interested in looking after his big irrigator mates than the River. Last night we saw that is exactly what he and his National Party mates have been doing.

“Basin communities, family farmers and Australian taxpayers deserve answers. The only way to get them is with a federal Royal Commission.”

Students in Distress: New Reports Shows Majority of Students are Impacted by Housing and Food Insecurity

Australian Greens Senator and Spokesperson for Education, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, has responded to today’s release of the 2018 Higher Education Accommodation and Financial Stress Survey that shows high levels of student financial and psychological distress.

The survey found:

  • Nearly two-thirds of international and domestic students (64%) work while they study and domestic students worked an average of 17 hours per week during the semester.
  • Around half (53%) of students reported high to very high levels of psychological distress, which is significantly higher than the population prevalence of psychological distress, where 13% of adults experience high or very high levels of psychological distress.
  • Three-quarters of students with a job (78%) reported that the number of hours they worked had an impact on at least one area of study.
  • More than half of students (55%) reported that financial stress impacted at least one area of study.
  • Around one quarter (26%) of all students in the sample reported that issues concerning being able to afford safe and secure accommodation impacted at least one area of study.
  • A quarter of students (26%) are experience food insecurity and 15% reported experiencing hunger or not eating because there wasn’t enough money for food since enrolling in their current course.

Senator Faruqi said:

“These statistics demonstrate the Government has abandoned students to face a high cost of living and extreme stress on their own. Instead of focussing on studying, students are too often struggling to get by.

“As former academic, I have seen first hand the sacrifices that students make to study, including taking on second or even third jobs while they study. Students should be able to focus on learning, not on where their next meal is coming from.

“We know that rural and regional students that study in expensive major cities particularly face a huge burden in finding affordable housing that allows them the security of a roof over their heads while they study.

“We should all be concerned that more than half of students say that their studies are impacted by financial stress and a quarter experience food insecurity.

“It’s outrageous that students regularly go without food and other necessities while they study. They shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice their studies to work nearly twenty hours a week just to make ends meet.

“TAFE and uni should be free for all. We should urgently increase student payments like Youth Allowance by at least $75 a week and properly fund mental health services to give students the support they deserve,” she concluded.

SA leading the way on single-use plastics

The Greens have praised the South Australian Liberal government for continuing the state’s leadership on the environment with a ban on single-use plastics. They will continue to work toward a ban on single-use plastics at a national level with a Bill to be introduced to the Senate.

“South Australians are proud of their environmental credentials. We’ve led the way on renewables, and now the Marshall government is listening to the people and moving beyond single-use plastics,” SA Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

“It’s well past time to act on this issue. With the extinction crisis looming, we know reducing pollution is an important step.

“For too long single-use plastics have been unregulated, choking our waterways, oceans, and beaches.

“This is real leadership. I will be writing to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to encourage him to follow the lead of South Australians.

“We will continue to work toward a nation-wide ban on single-use plastics with plans to bring legislation to the Senate in the coming months.”

Australian Greens announce new shadow ministries for the real opposition

The Australian Greens have today announced updated portfolios, as decided at Monday’s meeting of the Australian Greens Party Room.

“Someone needs to stand up against Scott Morrison’s regime of failed trickle-down economics, or we’ll end up living in a dog eat dog society like Trump’s America,” Opposition Leader Senator Di Natale said.

“Sadly, the other parties have bought into the Prime Minister’s reckless plan, and Labor’s nowhere to be seen. Yesterday shows that the Government’s benches aren’t nearly big enough for the number of politicians trying to enact his agenda.

“Scott Morrison’s selfish vision for our country is not the Australia I know, and it’s not the Australia the Greens will accept.

“That’s why I’m proud to announce the roles held by the Australian Greens team, who will be offering fearless and real opposition to Scott Morrison’s selfish vision for Australia.”

NEW SHADOW MINISTRIES OF THE REAL OPPOSITION

RICHARD DI NATALE – Opposition Leader
Shadow Minister for Health
Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism
Shadow Minister for Foreign Policy
Climate Change & Energy Spokesperson (Senate)

LARISSA WATERS – Co-Deputy Opposition Leader
Shadow Minister for Democracy
Shadow Minister for Mining & Resources
Shadow Minister for Women
Shadow Minister for Tourism
Shadow Minister for Gambling

ADAM BANDT – Co-Deputy Opposition Leader
Shadow Minister for Climate Change & Energy
Shadow Minister for Employment & Workplace Relations
Shadow Minister for Science, Research & Innovation
Shadow Minister for Public Sector

MEHREEN FARUQI – Senator for NSW
Shadow Minister for Education
Shadow Minister for Local Government Housing
Shadow Minister for Industry
Shadow Minister for Animal Welfare
Shadow Minister for Gun Control
Shadow Minister for International Development
Employment & Workplace Relations Spokesperson (Senate)

SARAH HANSON-YOUNG – Senator for SA
Shadow Minister for Environment & Biodiversity
Shadow Minister for Water & Murray Darling Basin
Shadow Minister for Arts, Media & Communications
Shadow Minister for Nuclear Issues

NICK MCKIM – Senator for TAS
Shadow Minister for Justice
Shadow Minister for Immigration & Citizenship
Shadow Minister for Digital Rights & Information Technology

JANET RICE – Senator for VIC
Shadow Minister for Transport & Infrastructure
Shadow Minister for Forests
Shadow Minister for LGBTIQ
Shadow Minister for Agriculture & Rural Affairs
Shadow Minister for Sport
Shadow Minister for Science, Research &  Innovation (Senate)

RACHEL SIEWERT – Senator for WA
Shadow Minister for Family & Community Services Ageing
Shadow Minister for First Nations Peoples’ Issues
Shadow Minister for Mental Health

JORDON STEELE-JOHN – Senator for WA
Shadow Minister for Disability Rights & Services
Shadow Minister for Trade
Shadow Minister for Youth
Shadow Minister for Peace, Disarmament & Veterans’ Affairs

PETER WHISH-WILSON – Senator for TAS
Shadow Treasurer
Shadow Minister for Finance
Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs Waste & Recycling Healthy Oceans
Shadow Minister for Small Business

Greens the real opposition as tax cuts pass

Leader of the Australian Greens Senator Richard Di Natale has condemned today’s bipartisan destruction of our progressive taxation system, declaring that the Greens are the only party acting as a real opposition.

“What a dark day this has proven to be. Centre Alliance seem to be Morrison puppets, Jacqui Lambie has sold out Tasmanian battlers for cents on the dollar, and Anthony Albanese’s Labor folded at the first sign of pressure,” Opposition Leader Richard Di Natale said.

“Scott Morrison’s hard-right government is cruel and the crossbench have been conned, but we’d held hopes that the Labor Party would have held true to 100 years of support for progressive taxation.

“By voting for $158 Billion in revenue cuts that will hurt people doing it tough and line the pockets of millionaires, Anthony Albanese has abandoned the mantle of Opposition Leader. Today was the first test of his leadership, and he comprehensively failed.

“The Greens will never support a hit to the tax system that strips money from our schools and hospitals and hands it to the wealthy. We need to be supporting people through raising Newstart, properly funding our schools and hospitals, and creating jobs through infrastructure projects that build our community.

“It’s clear now that the Greens are the real opposition to Scott Morrison’s cruel agenda.

“What’s the value of the Labor party if they are simply are a paler version of the Morrison government? Labor needs to work with the Greens to take on this cruel government and campaign with us to reduce inequality and take action on climate change.

“Voters will be asking themselves today: ‘What is the point of the Labor Party?’

Greens Senator introduces bill to ban live export

Australian Greens Senator and Animal Welfare Spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, has today introduced a bill to ban live export. The Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2019 will ban the export of livestock, including sheep and cattle for slaughter.

Senator Faruqi said:

“Live export cannot be made safe for sheep, cattle or any animal. It is a business model built on cruelty and is simply incompatible with animal welfare.

“The Greens have long argued that we should ban all live export for slaughter and introducing this bill is part of the campaign to make that a reality.

“We make no apologies for standing up for the welfare of animals. We need a phased ban with a structural adjustment assistance fund which can transition the industry to the chilled meat trade.

“The Government and the industry think our outrage will die down and we will become silent about the abomination and cruelty of live exports. The people of Australia have been steadfast in their compassion for animals and their welfare and we won’t stop until the live export industry is consigned to the dustbin of history,” she concluded.

Delivering on Budget measures

Key Government measures coming into effect on 1 July 2019 will help Australian families with the cost of living by forging ahead with low and middle income tax relief, safeguarding superannuation savings, and ensuring multinationals pay their fair share of tax.

These measures are part of the Government’s plan for a stronger economy and securing a better future for all Australians.

Tax relief

The Government passed its Personal Income Tax Plan announced in the 2018-19 budget last year, ensuring that Australians pay lower taxes. Low and middle income earners will receive a benefit when they lodge returns from 1 July 2019, with millions more to benefit over the next decade. Under the already legislated part of the plan, the low and middle income tax offset will provide tax relief of up to $530 every year from 2018-19 to 2021-22. It is projected that the offset will assist more than 10 million Australians with around 4.5 million people receiving the full $530 benefit for 2018-19.

In the 2019-20 Budget, the Government announced additional tax relief to ensure that hard-working Australians are rewarded for their effort. Legislating the additional tax relief is our first priority when Parliament resumes this week and will see the offset increase from $530 to $1,080.

Superannuation changes

The Protecting Your Superannuation package will safeguard Australians’ superannuation savings from excessive fees, unnecessary insurance and the costs of inadvertently holding multiple superannuation accounts.

New legislation starting on 1 July caps certain fees on balances less than $6,000 and bans exit fees, so members can switch funds, if they choose to, without penalty.

It also makes insurance opt-in for inactive accounts, and empowers the Australian Taxation Office to automatically consolidate inactive low-balance accounts with people’s currently active accounts.

Ensuring big business and multinationals pay their fair share of tax

From 1 July, a package of new measures to protect the integrity of Australia’s corporate tax system will tighten the rules on stapled structures and similar arrangements to ensure foreign investors pay their fair share. A special rate will continue to be available for affordable housing, disability housing, and student accommodation to encourage investment in this housing.

As announced in the 2019-20 Budget, the Government will provide $1 billion over four years from 2019-20 to the Australian Taxation Office to extend the operation of the Tax Avoidance Taskforce for four years, with a focus on Multinationals. This is estimated to raise a further $4.6 billion in tax liabilities over the next four years.

From 1 July 2019, the Government will also provide $42.1 million over four years to the ATO to increase activities to recover unpaid tax and superannuation liabilities, including from large corporate entities and high wealth individuals.

Improving access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme

From 1 July, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will be fully available in Victoria, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The NDIS is already accessible in New South Wales and South Australia.

This continued rollout of services means more people with a permanent and significant disability will be able to access the support they need.

Increasing the Medicare rebate

The Government is increasing the patient rebate for further general practitioner (GP) items on the Medicare Benefits Schedule from 1 July. Specialist procedures, allied health services, other GP services, such as mental health and after hours services, will also be indexed from 1 July 2019.

Improving the quality of aged care

A new single set of Aged Care Quality Standards will start from 1 July to ensure aged care providers are clearly accountable for consumers’ safety and quality of care.

From 1 July, the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program is mandatory for all Commonwealth subsidised residential aged care services. Providers must collect and provide quality indicator data to the Department of Health against the following quality indicators: pressure injuries; use of physical restraint; and unplanned weight loss.

Additional Identified Skills Shortage (AISS) apprenticeship payment

The Government will provide $156.3 million over four years from 1 July to introduce an Additional Identified Skills Shortage Payment that will encourage up to 80,000 new apprentices to enter occupations facing skill shortages over the next five years.

Default Market Offer

From 1 July, Australian families will get a better deal on standing electricity offers in New South Wales, South Australia and South East Queensland.

Under the Default Market Offer (DMO), set by the Australian Energy Regulator, standing offer prices will be capped. This will act as a price safety net, ensuring that consumers who do not shop around are not paying excessive prices for electricity. Depending on the region, the AEMC has found that an average residential consumer on the median standing offer can save up to $760 by switching to the best market offer.

The DMO will also act as a common reference point for all electricity offers. This will put an end to confusing and misleading discounting practices, making it easier for consumers to compare electricity offers and identify the best deal.

Stronger action against terror content

Major social media companies will take further steps to stop the publication of violent terror content in response to the Morrison Government’s social media taskforce to keep Australians safe online.

The commitments from the Australian Taskforce to Combat Terrorist and Extreme Violent Material Online the Government set up following the Christchurch terrorist attacks will see tighter monitoring and controls on live streaming and a simulation exercise to further test social media companies’ capabilities.

The action comes following the G20 Summit and world leaders’ strong message to technology companies to take action to prevent the exploitation of the internet for terrorism and violent extremism.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his priority was to keep Australians safe.

“Social media companies need to step up and recognise their responsibilities to ensure their platforms are not being weaponised by violent terrorists and extremists,” the Prime Minister said.

“We’re doing everything we can with new laws and tighter controls at home and with our international partners to stop social media platforms being abused.

“Social media companies are on notice. If they don’t deliver on their commitments, we will move to legislate and do so quickly.

“To keep all Australians safe we must prevent the use of online platforms by extremists, like what was filmed and shared in Christchurch.”

The Taskforce was formed following a Summit on March 26 convened by the Prime Minister, with members from Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter, along with Telstra, Vodafone, TPG and Optus.

The report identifies nine areas of agreement, including prevention; detection and removal; transparency; deterrence; and capacity building.

These areas build on and extend the commitments already made by industry and Government following the attacks, including to;

  • Develop and report to Government on technical measures to proactively stop terrorist and extreme violent material from being disseminated on their platforms;
  • Identify, fast-track and report to Government on appropriate checks on live-streaming to reduce the risk of users spreading terrorist and extreme violent material online;
  • Implement visible and intuitive user reporting mechanisms and introduce accelerated review for live-streamed content flagged as terrorist or extreme violent material;
  • Improve transparency of the platforms’ ongoing efforts to combat terrorist and extreme violent material on their platforms through regular public reporting at least twice yearly;
  • Ensure that account management practices and policies can be enforced against those who exploit platforms to disseminate terrorist and extreme violent content;
  • In consultation with other members, work to strengthen the work of the industry-led Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), including the creation of an online toolbox for smaller online services to access support to effectively prevent, detect and respond to online terrorist and extreme violent and actively make these solutions accessible to smaller online services;
  • Run a ‘testing event’ in 2019-20 managed by the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee that simulates a scenario to gauge the capability of the industry and government.

This action also advances the principles and actions stipulated in the Christchurch Call to Action, which was developed by the New Zealand Government and has the support of some 18 countries, including Australia, as well as the major digital platforms.

Australian internet service providers (ISPs) have also committed to continue to work with Government on effective content blocking arrangements on terrorist content

Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said the members of the Taskforce worked collaboratively over the last three months to deliver this report to Government.

“We are grateful for the spirit of cooperation and goodwill displayed by industry and commend them for reaching a consensus on actions,” Minister Fletcher said.

“This work is only part of the Government’s broader online safety agenda.

“This Government has placed Australia at the forefront of international efforts to keep our citizens safe online.

“In 2015, we established the world’s first Children’s eSafety Commissioner and legislated a take-down regime for cyber-bullying material targeted at Australian children. In 2017, the Government expanded the eSafety Commissioner’s remit to include all Australians, and introduced a civil penalty regime for image-based abuse.

“Since then, the Government has provided additional funding for programs to support online safety for vulnerable Australians, teachers and carers of children under five, and for non-government operators providing online safety and training projects, bringing our investment in eSafety to over $100 million over the next four years.

“We have committed to introducing a new fit-for-purpose Online Safety Act, and will strengthen the penalties for online harassment and abuse,” Minister Fletcher said.

“We will also work with states and territories to develop a nationally consistent approach to combatting criminal cyber-bullying and online harassment.”

HELP loan repayment threshold changes will hurt low income workers

Australian Greens Senator and Education Spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, has said that today’s changes to study and training loan repayment thresholds will negatively affect low income workers.

From July 1, 2019, the new minimum HELP repayment threshold will be $45,881, down from $51,957 in 2018-19.

Senator Faruqi said:

“The Liberal-National Government’s attacks on low income workers continue with the threshold for repaying student loans dropping significantly. That means more people will start repaying loans just when they are starting out in their career and need money the most. That’s completely unacceptable.

“This is a mean-spirited Government intent on squeezing young people who are already struggling with low wages and the high cost of living.

“We need to rethink the whole system of student debt. No one should graduate with a decade of debt ahead of them. Australians have seen the benefits of free education, and we can have them again,” she concluded.