Major parties reject the need for parliamentary standards

Despite the conduct of politicians having declined year on year and public confidence in democracy bottoming out, both major parties have rejected the need for binding, independently enforced parliamentary standards proposed by the Greens.

Responding to today’s bipartisan recommendation of the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee to oppose the Greens Parliamentary Standards Bill introduced in October 2019, Greens Leader in the Senate and spokesperson on democracy, Senator Larissa Waters said:

“With scandal after scandal and regular poor behaviour, the public generally thinks politicians are all corrupt, in it for themselves, and behave like pork chops in parliament.

“With parliamentary sittings due to resume shortly, sadly we clearly need stronger, independently enforced standards that apply to all parliamentarians and their senior staff to act with integrity, avoid conflicts of interest, and use resources in the public interest.

“In recommending this bill not be passed, the major parties have failed the test of whether they want to set an example for the public and help to end corruption and restore public trust in democracy, rather than act like spoilt toddlers.

“Alarming levels of disrespect had been allowed to flourish in parliament, from corruption and selfish opportunism to appalling behaviour that would not be tolerated in any other workplace.

“Pauline Hanson wearing a burqa in the Australian senate as part of a political stunt, Fraser Anning talking about the ‘final solution’ in his maiden speech, James McGrath threatening to leak my address on national television last year – all show how desperately needed parliamentary standards are.

“The existing Ministerial Standards are weak, opaque, and enforced completely at the Prime Minister’s discretion – it’s not good enough. Those standards have not deterred the litany of questionable behaviour by Ministers, both in and out of the chamber.

“Parliamentarians have a duty to serve and to represent, and should set a good example – if people in such positions of leadership can be openly sexist, homophobic, and corrupt, what kind of license does that give the rest of the country?” Senator Waters concluded.

Additional Information

The report, including the Greens dissenting remarks, is available here: https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query%3DId%3A%22publications%2Ftabledpapers%2Fabcd6bf1-160f-4476-89d2-50ec04e594ec%22

The Greens bill requires all politicians to respect others, to avoid conflicts of interest, to act with integrity, and to ensure that power and public resources are always used in the public interest.

It would establish a new independent enforcement agent with teeth, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, who can investigate breaches of the code of conduct and take action when politicians’ behaviour fails to meet public expectations.

For serious allegations, the new Public Standards Commissioner could refer the matter to the Greens proposed National Integrity Commission for a more comprehensive investigation.

The bill also sets out a process to review and strengthen existing standards for lobbying, post-parliamentary employment, political donations, and campaign financing.

In their additional remarks, the ALP did again voice its support for a federal ICAC; the Greens’ bill for a federal ICAC passed the Senate with Labor’s support almost a year ago.

Australian youth offering hope during hard times

Today we recognise and celebrate the contribution of young people across Australia as part of International Youth Day.

Established by the United Nations, International Youth Day offers a chance to raise awareness of the need to ensure the engagement and participation of youth at every level.

Minister for Youth and Sport, Richard Colbeck, said while the COVID-19 pandemic is putting a lot of demands on young people, they are rising to the challenge.

“Australian youth face significant challenges in this unprecedented period,” Minister Colbeck said. “But across every State and Territory, there are shining examples of young people offering hope in hard times.

“Of course, 2020 has been a difficult year for everybody – none more so than for young people trying to navigate through their education or early careers.”

Minister Colbeck said around Australia, a range of projects are providing support and showcasing the important role young people are playing across the community.

  • In Tasmania, the West Tamar Youth Advisory Council has been supported to transfer its activities online due to COVID-19.  The Council is determined to continue engaging in the community and has been holding online interviews to continue to give young people a voice. The online content also includes sessions covering study tips and information as well as virtual cooking classes;
  • In Far North Queensland, Deadly Inspiring Youth Doing Good (DIYDG), an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth led volunteer group, aims to empower young people through workshops, training, storytelling and advocacy opportunities; and
  • In Victoria the University of Melbourne Pathways to Politics Program for Women aims to increase female participation in politics by equipping young women with the skills and knowledge to succeed in running for elected office, and to thrive as political leaders.

Nationally, the Country to Canberra project is empowering rural teenage girls to reach their leadership potential, running programs that provide education, leadership and mentorship opportunities.

Minister Colbeck said the Morrison Government also recently launched a $1 million program to help all young Australians reach their full potential, providing Youth Advocacy Support Grants to organisations advocating on behalf of young people, especially those from disadvantaged or marginalised backgrounds.

“Projects like these give a voice to our young people,” Minister Colbeck said.

“They help keep young Australians connected in a physically-distant world and they remind the community just how important it is for young people to actively participate in and contribute to our society.”

Additionally, The Morrison Government is delivering unparalleled support for young Australians through the vital JobKeeper program, providing education and new opportunities through the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees package and JobTrainer and helping young people realise the dream of owning their own home and more young tradies to stay in work through HomeBuilder.

Minister Colbeck said work continues on the completion of the 2020 Australian Youth Development Index — a one-stop shop for information related to the most significant issues young Australians face.

“Good public policy hinges on solid evidence-based research and current statistics,” Minister Colbeck said. “It will be a valuable resource.”

SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE

Today I was pleased to announce at a special Caucus meeting that I have appointed Senator Jenny McAllister to the role of Shadow Assistant Minister for Communities and the Prevention of Family Violence.

In this role Jenny will support the excellent ongoing work of Linda Burney MP who is a champion for vulnerable Australians as Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services.

The creation of this new role reflects the importance of social services to Labor and the community. This portfolio will play a crucial role in tackling economic and social disadvantage, and family and domestic violence.

Jenny has been a strong advocate for women and for Australians facing financial hardship.

I am confident Jenny will perform this role with the compassion, integrity and dedication she has brought to her continuing roles as Shadow Cabinet Secretary and Shadow Assistant Minister to the Labor Leader in the Senate.

Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean

The Australian Government recognises the extraordinary service, dedication and sacrifice of Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean and the Prime Minister has written to the Governor-General requesting he seek the approval of Her Majesty The Queen to posthumously award a Victoria Cross for Australia.

Our view and policy has always been that consideration of the awarding of a retrospective Victoria Cross would only occur in light of compelling new evidence or if there was evidence of significant maladministration.

There was a clear conflict of advice between the 2013 Inquiry into Unresolved Recognition for Past Acts of Naval and Military Gallantry and Valour (the Valour Inquiry) and the 2019 review of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeal Tribunal as to whether the case of Teddy Sheean met those standards.

There were further differences of opinion in the interpretation of what was contained in those reports. This conflict prevented a clear recommendation from being made and needed to be resolved before proceeding further. That’s why the Prime Minister commissioned an expert panel to provide further advice on the subject.

The panel has identified maladministration in the consideration of Teddy Sheean’s actions, as well as compelling new evidence that his previously awarded Mention in Dispatches should be replaced with a Victoria Cross.

Overturning a decision relating to a Victoria Cross nearly 80 years later requires compelling reasons. The panel has articulated those reasons clearly.

This is an exceptional case for an exceptional Australian.

The panel found that:

  • Teddy Sheean was done a substantial injustice in consideration of his actions in the original decision-making period of 1942-45, constituting maladministration;
  • On the basis of all the evidence now available, higher recognition for Teddy Sheean is supported;
  • Teddy Sheean’s courageous sacrifice of his life to save his shipmates meets the eligibility criteria for a Victoria Cross for Australia; and
  • the highest level of recognition should be accorded in this exceptional case.

This report is also testament to the dedication of Teddy’s family and friends, as well as Tasmanian Veterans’ Affairs Minister Guy Barnett and Member for Braddon and ex-serviceman Gavin Pearce to ensure that Teddy received the recognition he deserved. The frustration they have felt at times should not be underestimated but it is the Government’s duty to uphold the highest evidentiary standards for the awarding of a Victoria Cross. We are pleased this process has provided an avenue for their efforts to be validated and rewarded.

The Government thanks the expert panel for their detailed work in preparing their report and recommendations, particularly the efforts of panel’s chair Dr Brendan Nelson AO.

The panel’s report can be found at Historic Victoria Cross Report of the Expert Panel

NSW’S FIRST HYDROGEN PROJECT GETS GREEN TICK

The NSW Government has approved the development of the State’s first hydrogen gas facility at Horsley Park, paving the way for more clean energy, more jobs and an $18 million boost to the local economy.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the project will be the largest renewable gas trial in the country and could provide green gas to power Sydney’s homes and businesses in as little as five years if the trial is rolled out.

“The $18 million Western Sydney Green Gas Project will be a prototype for future green hydrogen projects,” Mr Stokes said.

“Hydrogen can revolutionise the fuel and gas industry, creating opportunities for low emissions technologies and jobs.”

The project will operate as a trial over five years to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of power-to-gas technology.

Energy Minister Matt Kean said the flagship project, delivered by Jemena and partially funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, will inform the State’s transition to an economically and environmentally sustainable energy supply into the future.

“This will help to position NSW as a nation-leader in green gas supply and storage projects as we transition to a low carbon gas network,” Mr Kean said.

“It will also help us reach our ambitious aspiration of injecting 10 per cent hydrogen into our gas network by 2030.”

The project involves converting tap water and grid electricity from renewable sources into hydrogen gas. The hydrogen gas is then injected into the gas distribution network to supply homes, power buses and generate electricity.

Construction will commence in the next 3 months, with the facility due to be completed by early next year.

The Western Sydney Green Gas project is the latest to be determined through the NSW Government’s Planning System Acceleration Program that is keeping people in jobs and the economy moving during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the program has created opportunities for 41,000 new jobs, injected $18.2 million into the NSW economy and delivered 400 hectares of open space, parks and land for environmental conservation.

DEFENCE JOBS TAKE OFF IN THE SHOALHAVEN

The Shoalhaven will benefit from a pipeline of Defence-related activity including up to 48 new jobs servicing the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet of MH-60R maritime helicopters.

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, Member for the South Coast, Shelley Hancock and Member for Kiama, Gareth Ward today visited defence industry sites and businesses in the region, including Sikorsky’s purpose-built helicopter facility in Nowra.

The Lockheed Martin Australia company has been awarded a $276 million five-year contract to maintain the Navy’s 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, based with the Fleet Air Arm at HMAS Albatross.

The contract includes, repairs, depot level maintenance and logistics support for the Navy’s next-generation helicopters, equipped for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, search and rescue, logistics, personnel transport and medical evacuation. It will also create opportunities to re-skill some workers from the civil aerospace sector affected by the COVID-19 downturn.

“It’s fantastic to see how important Defence projects can benefit local communities, providing employment, training and other opportunities while also playing a vital role in sustaining Australia’s Defence capability,” Mr Ayres said.

“NSW has a highly skilled labour market, a deep and complex industrial base, world class research institutions and a geographically significant position on the Australian east coast and is well positioned for future Defence investment,” Mr Ayres said.

The new employees will join 140 already working at the site, including three apprentices from the recent Shoalhaven STEMship Program – a NSW Government funded initiative designed to support defence industry workforce development.

Mr Ward said the region’s growing Defence capability was an asset for NSW and Australia.

“I’m proud of the great effort and commitment our local workforce has shown helping secure key defence contracts. They’re doing a great job providing security to their families and communities, and the nation as a whole,” Mr Ward said.

Mrs Hancock said the NSW Government was committed to ensuring the region continued to grow its defence industry.

“The NSW Government is working with Defence prime contractors, to grow key defence industry regions and precincts, create skilled jobs and generate economic growth as the State economy recovers from COVID-19,” Mrs Hancock said.

“Projects like the $276 million Sikorsky sustainment contract will create skilled employment opportunities in the Shoalhaven region for local people, together with an opportunity for local SMEs to enter the global supply chain.”

Mr Ayres Mr Ward and Mrs Hancock also visited nearby Mellori Solutions to open its new Electronic Warfare Testing and Evaluation Laboratory, and toured co-located Global Defence Solutions (GDS) headquarters to inspect its deployable force infrastructure platforms, due for export to the New Zealand Defence Force.

The STEMship Program was launched at GDS-Mellori in 2019 and the companies currently employ 29 workers, with potential to create an additional 20 local jobs over the next two years.

$200 MILLION WYONG HOSPITAL REACHES HIGH POINT

A new, state-of-the-art hospital on the Central Coast is one step closer to completion with the six-storey clinical services building reaching its highest point.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the $200 million Wyong Hospital redevelopment would provide first-class healthcare services to the Central Coast.

“The $200 million Wyong Hospital Redevelopment will not only significantly increase health service capacity for the local community, it is also boosting employment for the region,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“This redevelopment has created more than 800 construction jobs, with more than 650 of these workers living locally.”

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the redeveloped hospital would have 60 additional inpatient beds.

“The NSW Government is continuing to invest in public hospitals across the state, with more than 30 per cent of the almost $2.7 billion allocated for health capital works in 2019-2020 going to regional and rural areas,” Mr Hazzard said.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast and Member for Terrigal Adam Crouch said between 2016 and 2041 an additional 95,250 people are expected to call the Central Coast home.

“This $200 million transformation of Wyong Hospital will cater for our community’s health care needs now and into the future. It builds on the hundreds of millions of dollars the NSW Government is investing in roads, schools and community infrastructure across the Coast,” Mr Crouch said.

The new clinical services building will include:

  • A new emergency department;
  • A new intensive care unit;
  • A new psychiatric emergency care centre;
  • A new ambulatory paediatric unit;
  • A new and expanded medical imaging department;
  • A new and 28-bed medical assessment unit; and
  • Additional 60 inpatient beds with future expansion space.

The redevelopment also includes a refurbishment of the existing hospital to provide more operating theatre capacity, an expanded medical day unit and an expanded transit lounge.

The new building will be complete in mid-to-late 2021 and the refurbishment will be finished in early 2022.

Image released as arson investigation continues – Wallsend

Police have released a CCTV image as they continue to investigate several suspected arson attacks at a Wallsend property earlier this year.

Detectives attached to Newcastle City Police District have commenced an investigation in relation to three separate arson attacks at a home on Metcalfe Street, Wallsend, on Wednesday 24 June, Saturday 18 and Thursday 30 July 2020.

During the incidents, minor damage was received to the front and side of the home, a carport area and a vehicle.

An elderly woman was inside the home at the time of all three incidents, but she was uninjured.

As investigators continue their inquiries, police have released an image of a man who may be able to assist with their inquiries.

He’s described as being of Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander in appearance, between 170cm-180cm tall, with a solid build and facial hair.

Anyone with information which could assist detectives is urged to contact Newcastle Police Station or to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Man charged and woman fined following separate breaches of Public Health Orders

Police charged a man in Northern NSW and fined a woman in the Central West yesterday over alleged non-compliance with COVID-19 Public Health Orders.

Just before midday yesterday (Monday 10 August 2020), officers from Tweed/Byron Police District were called to a hotel on Wharf Street, Tweed Heads, after reports a man was refusing to leave.

Police were told the man was refused entry after he refused to sign-in or provide identification to comply with COVID-19 requirements but entered the establishment regardless, before allegedly intimidating and threatening the manager.

On arrival, police located the 38-year-old man – and his associates – in the carpark and requested their details, before the man became aggressive and abusive towards the officers.

A second man, aged 29, also became aggressive and was swearing at police, while the rest of the group walked away.

After the older man again refused to provide details and continued to act in an aggressive manner, he was arrested, and while he was being placed in a caged truck, the younger man was continuing to swear at police.

The younger man was issued an infringement for offensive language and given a move-on direction, while the older man was taken to Tweed Heads Police Station.

He was charged with intimidate police officer in execution of duty without actual bodily harm, stalk/intimidate intend fear physical etc harm, excluded person fail to leave premises when required, use offensive language in/near public place/school and not comply with noticed direction re s 7/8/9 – COVID-19.

The Banora Point man was refused bail to appear at Tweed Heads Local Court today (Tuesday 11 August 2020).

In a separate and unrelated incident, officers from Central West Police District became aware of reports a woman at Lake Cargelligo, who had recently entered NSW from Victoria, was failing to comply with the conditions of her entry permit on Sunday evening (9 August 2020).

An investigation commenced and officers spoke with the 34-year-old woman yesterday morning (Monday 10 August 2020), and directed her to comply with the conditions of her permit, which includes self-isolation at an address at Murrin Bridge.

Following further inquiries, police attended the designated address at Murrin Bridge again this morning (Tuesday 11 August 2020), and spoke with the woman before she was issued with a $1000 Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN) for breaching the Public Health Order on Sunday.

Anyone who has information regarding individuals or businesses in contravention of a COVID-19-related ministerial direction is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.

 

COVID-19 update: Action taken against two licensees, three issued PINs on NSW border

A licensee has been charged after allegedly failing to implement a COVID-19 Safety Plan, despite being warned and the business previously being issued with a $5000 Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN).

About 11.40am last Friday (7 August 2020) officers from Richmond Police District attended a licensed premise on the Bruxner Highway, west of Casino, to conduct a COVID-19 compliance check.

They spoke to the licensee, a 65-year-old man, who informed them he did not have a COVID-19 Safety Plan, as he was going to complete one the day before but his printer wasn’t working.

The premises was issued with a $5000 PIN for fail to comply with noticed direction, and the licensee was provided with further advice as to how to comply with the current health restrictions.

About 10.45am yesterday (Tuesday 11 August 2020) officers again attended the premises to ensure the correct practices had been put in place, however, when they arrived, the licensee was still unable to produce a COVID-19 Safety Plan.

This morning (Wednesday 12 August 2020) police returned to the premises and issued the man with a Court Attendance Notice for not comply with noticed direction.

He is due to appear at Casino Local Court on Thursday 8 October 2020.

In a separate incident, the licensee of a hotel at Tuncurry was issued with a $1000 PIN following an investigation into alleged breaches of COVID-19 Public Health Orders over the weekend.

On Saturday 8 August 2020, officers from Manning Great Lakes Police District were conducting proactive patrols when they attended the premises on Manning Street and identified a number of potential breaches.

Of note, a 21st birthday gathering was underway, which inquiries revealed had been booked for 10 people, however, numerous others were in attendance.

Further, social distancing was not being adhered to, in particular in the pub’s gaming area.

Following further inquiries, the licensee was issued with a $1000 PIN for fail to comply with noticed direction yesterday (11 August 2020).

Investigations remain underway into the planned birthday party.

Three PINs were also issued to individuals in separate incidents yesterday (Tuesday 11 August 2020):

  • A 23-year-old man was issued a $1000 PIN by officers from Murray River Police District after attempting to enter NSW for the third time without a valid permit.
  • A 65-year-old man was issued a $1000 PIN by officers from Barrier Police District after continuing through the Buronga border checkpoint despite being denied entry due to not having a valid permit.
  • A 58-year-old man was issued a $1000 PIN by officers from Murray River Police District after entering NSW without a valid permit. The man was stopped on the Hume Highway at Woomargama for the purposes of a Random Breath Test yesterday (Tuesday 11 August 2020). When spoken to by officers, he produced a Victorian licence and an invalid NSW border entry permit. He was issued a $1000 PIN, directed to leave NSW and escorted back to the Victorian border.

Anyone who has information regarding individuals or businesses in contravention of a COVID-19-related ministerial direction is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.