Greens announce $5.8b dental policy

$5.8 billion would be invested in providing Medicare-funded dental care in a policy announced today by Leader of the Australian Greens Dr Richard Di Natale and Greens candidate for Macnamara Steph Hodgins-May.

“Your health shouldn’t be determined by your postcode or bank balance,” said Dr Di Natale, a former GP and public health specialist.

“Untreated dental disease can dramatically impact on a person’s health and quality of life, and it is the most vulnerable people in our community who are impacted the most. The Greens will invest $5.8 billion to provide Medicare-funded dental care to all young people, aged pensioners, full benefit recipients and concession card holders.

“Millions of Australians have delayed visiting the dentist because of high out of pocket costs, which is why the Greens have long been champions of Medicare-funded dental care. In 2012 the Greens secured Medicare-funded dental care for 3.4 million children and now we commit to build on that foundation.

“The Coalition has never supported Medicare but if the Labor party really support affordable universal healthcare Bill Shorten should commit to working with the Greens to bring dental into Medicare,” Di Natale said.

Hodgins-May said the out of pocket costs of dental treatment undermined Australia’s health system.

“I’m proud to live in a country with universal healthcare but the cost of seeing a dentist is a huge gap,” said Hodgins-May.

“There is no reason why your mouth should be treated differently to the rest of your body. Going to the dentist should be just like going to the GP and that’s exactly what the Greens will deliver.”

The policy initiative document can be found here.

Critical incident investigation launched over man’s death – Glendale

Police have launched a critical incident investigation following the shooting death of a man in the Lake Macquarie region today.

As part of inquiries into the death of a 27-year-old woman, officers from Lake Macquarie Police District attended a home in Vena Street, Glendale, just before 9am (Thursday 14 March 2019).

When officers confronted a 21-year-old man at the property, he allegedly threatened them with a knife before he was shot by police.

The man died at the scene.

A Critical Incident Team will now investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident, including the discharge of a police firearm.

Inquiries are continuing.

Thousands expected at several large-scale events at Newcastle this weekend

Police are urging people in the Newcastle area to celebrate safely and responsibly this weekend, with several large-scale events, including three music festivals taking place across the region.

Two music festivals will take place on Saturday 16 March 2019 – ‘The Drop’ Festival at King Edward Park and ‘Live at the Foreshore’ at the Newcastle Foreshore. While ‘Up-Down’ Festival will also take place at the Newcastle Foreshore on Sunday 17 March 2019.

A high-visibility police operation will be in place at each of these festivals including officers from Newcastle City Police District, with assistance from specialist units including the Dog Unit, Licencing Police, and Police Transport Command.

These events fall on the same weekend as three big sporting events in Newcastle – the Newcastle Knights will play their first game of the 2019 NRL season against the Cronulla Sharks at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday 15 March 2019. While the Newcastle Jets will play in the F3 Derby against the Central Coast Mariners at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday 16 March 2019, and thousands are in town for the finals weekend of Surfest at Merewether Beach (Friday 15 March – Sunday 17 March 2019).

Newcastle City Police District Superintendent, Brett Greentree, says officers will maintain a strong presence at these events, targeting anti-social behaviour and criminal activity.

“Thousands of people are expected to attend all these events across three busy days in Newcastle, and police from both general duties and specialist units will be patrolling the venues, targeting anti-social behaviour, and the supply and possession of illegal drugs,”

“It’s great to see Newcastle as a busy spot for sporting and music events, but we want people to enjoy these events safely. We’re regularly reminded of the negative effects alcohol and drugs can have on people’s health and behaviour, we will be targeting those intent on bringing any illegal substance into the events.” Superintendent Greentree said.

Anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or who feels unwell, is urged to seek professional medical attention.

“The weather is forecast to be wet all weekend, so revellers are encouraged to look after one another, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water – not alcohol, and keep safe and dry in the weather conditions.” Superintendent Greentree said.

Anyone attending these events is asked to utilise public transport and plan your trip ahead of time. Visit www.transport.nsw.info for the latest timetable and ticketing information for trains, buses, ferries, light rail and taxi ranks.

Missing girl – Waratah, near Newcastle

Police are appealing for public assistance to locate a girl missing from Waratah.

Maddison Sawka Finn, aged 13, was last seen by family members in Newcastle on Tuesday 5 March 2019.

She was reported missing to officers from Newcastle City Police District on Tuesday 12 March 2019.

Concerns are held for her welfare due to her age.

Maddison is described as being of Caucasian appearance, 170cm tall, of a slim build, with long black hair and a mole above her left eyebrow.

It’s believed she may be in the Newcastle, Raymond Terrace or Taree areas.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Maddison is urged to come forward.

SCHOOL’S IN FOR 2300 MORE PRESCHOOLERS

Families across NSW will have more choice than ever before when it comes to enrolling their children in preschool, with the NSW Liberals & Nationals announcing an extra 2300 places for the State’s littlest learners.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian today said an additional $20 million will be invested into new and existing community preschools to allow them to build, renovate or extend their facilities to cater for increasing enrolments across the State.

“We know what a difference a quality early childhood education has on our children, which is why we are investing even more to make our preschools more affordable and more accessible than ever before,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“This investment, only possible due to the strong economic management of the NSW Liberals & Nationals, means preschools can dream bigger and more children will have the best possible start as they transition to school.”

The additional 2300 preschool places will be prioritised in areas of high demand and will bring the total number of new preschool places committed by the NSW Liberals & Nationals since 2011 to more than 8500.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said young families in regional communities will significantly benefit from today’s announcement.

“Only the Liberals & Nationals in Government can deliver the infrastructure and investment that our regional communities need and deserve,” Mr Barilaro said.

Today’s announcement comes after NSW last year became the first jurisdiction in Australia to subsidise preschool education for three-year-olds, saving families more than $1600 over two years of preschool.

Minister for Early Childhood Education Sarah Mitchell said the announcement was another example of why only the Liberals & Nationals can be trusted to deliver high quality, accessible and affordable opportunities for the State’s youngest students.

“Labor’s chronic underinvestment in early childhood education meant when they were in Government, only 56 per cent of four-year-olds were enrolled in a preschool program,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Since the Liberals & Nationals were elected, this figure has soared to more than 83 per cent,” Ms Mitchell said.

Ms Mitchell also said that since the NSW Government introduced its Start Strong program in 2016, average daily fees in community preschools have decreased by 25 per cent and participation rates have increased by 40 per cent.

“In the 2018-19 Budget alone, the NSW Government invested $474 million in Early Childhood Education, more than double the budget when Labor was last in office,” Ms Mitchell said.

The Liberals & Nationals have made significant progress in the early childhood sector in NSW, with key achievements including:

  • Almost $200 million to extend Start Strong subsidies to all three year olds in community preschools;
  • $62 million for capital works funding to accommodate for increasing enrolments;
  • $30 million in funding to enhance participation and education outcomes for children with disability and additional learning needs;
  • $16 million to better prepare children for preschool and promote the importance of early childhood education to parents across the State;
  • $6 million to ensure that our NSW early childhood educators are equipped to teach our children in our rapidly changing world;
  • $5 million to intensively engage services to help lift their performance and quality rating;
  • More than $5 million to support preschools in drought-affected areas; and
  • More than $4.5 million to support the early childhood workforce through scholarship programs.

MORE SUPPORT FOR MENTAL HEALTH HELPLINES

Mental health support services during a crisis will be easier to access for adults and children across NSW, thanks to the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro and Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies today announced more than $23 million to expand capacity at Lifeline and Kids Helpline.

More than $5 million of this will support Kids Helpline to answer an extra 18,400 calls per year, and $6 million will enable Lifeline to introduce their Crisis SMS Service trial into NSW for the first time.

“Helplines are often the first point of contact in times of crisis, which is why we need to make services more accessible so people get the support they need, when they need it most,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“This commitment is yet another critical step forward in our journey towards zero suicides in NSW.”

Mr Barilaro said the funding will go a long way to help families, especially kids, living in rural and remote areas.

“The truth is that young people in the regions are 50 per cent more likely to commit suicide, youth unemployment is 20 per cent higher, and they are more likely to use harmful drugs which can destroy families,” Mr Barilaro said.

“The tyranny of distance often means a long commute to receive mental health services, and so it makes sense for this government to invest in helplines to provide support for people no matter where they live.”

Mrs Davies said the way people are seeking support services is changing.

“We particularly want to ensure young people are able to reach help in a way that suits them – which is why this investment supports phone, text, and online counselling services,” Mrs Davies said.

Lifeline Australia acting CEO Thili Perera said the funding would increase the number of people that Lifeline can reach by allowing them to offer help in new ways, like SMS and web-based messaging.

“This helps to ensure that those who are reluctant to call a helpline, can still receive the support they need. The Lifeline text trial provides an alternative way for people to access our support quickly. Put simply, this funding will help Lifeline save more lives,” Ms Perera said.

Kids Helpline CEO Tracy Adams welcomed the funding announcement.

“The funding means we can open a new contact centre in NSW with 12 staff, allowing us to take an extra 18,400 contacts from young people needing support every year,” Ms Adams said.

Today’s announcement brings the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government total funding commitment to Lifeline to $36 million since 2011.

The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government have also committed to providing two dedicated mental health experts in every public high school to ensure students have access to vital mental health and wellbeing support as part of an $88 million investment to address bullying, anxiety, stress and other mental health concerns amongst young people.

If you or someone you know needs crisis support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.  For mental health services in your local area phone the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511.

BIG COST SAVINGS FOR NSW SMALL BUSINESSES

NSW small businesses will save thousands of dollars under a NSW Liberals & Nationals Government, with the introduction of a raft of cost saving measures including cheaper insurance premiums, payroll tax cuts and access to the Energy Switch program.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet today announced the Liberals & Nationals business booster package, which will ensure NSW remains the leading economic and employment powerhouse of Australia.

“Small business is the backbone of NSW, employing more than a million people, and helping to shape the future of the state we all love,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“The Liberals & Nationals know how important it is to ensure businesses can thrive and grow, so that they can employ more people.

“That’s why we are reducing costs, cutting tax, and slashing red tape – unlike Labor, who see NSW businesses as a cash cow.”

Key measures to assist businesses under the Liberals & Nationals include:

  • $300 million in workers compensation insurance premium discounts over three years for 280,000 employers, delivering an average discount of 8 per cent, and maximum of 12.5 per cent, for employers with the safest workplaces.
  • Ensuring 760,000 small business can utilise the NSW Government’s popular Energy Switch program and potentially save thousands off their bill.
  • Continuing to slash payroll tax brackets progressively up to $1 million in 2021/22, with up to 38,000 businesses saving up to $8175 off their tax bill.
  • Giving small businesses and tradies a head start in procurement by requiring NSW Government agencies to consider small business suppliers for everything they buy.
  • Continuing to cut red tape and enhance the “Easy to do Business” program through work being undertaken by the NSW Productivity Commissioner.

Minister for Small Business John Barilaro said the latest small business numbers from the ABS show NSW is once again leading the nation with the highest number of small businesses added in the last year; a rise of almost 30,000.

“The Liberals and Nationals have a proven track record in supporting business growth across NSW, and small business is helping drive jobs growth and new opportunities in our state”, Mr Barilaro said.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the package of measures was a real win-win for both business and employees and would create thousands of jobs for NSW.

“The Liberals & Nationals understand that a vibrant business community means more jobs, increased opportunity and the chance for people to build a better future for themselves and their family,” Mr Perrottet said.

“These measures have very real consequences which could be the difference between a business hiring another employee or not.
“Our payroll tax cuts will benefit up to 38,000 businesses, while Labor are not only refusing to cut tax but planning to stop major infrastructure projects like the F6 extension and South-West Metro, costing thousands of jobs and stalling the NSW economy.”

The workers compensation premium discount rewards employers for making their workplace safer. Savings will vary from employer to employer depending on size, industry and safety record.

As an example, a medium sized employer in the childcare industry with a fair safety record and an Average Performance Premium (APP) of $50,000 would receive a discount of $1250 each year for the next three years.

Parking discounts driving-up app’s use

Record numbers of drivers are using the City’s EasyPark mobile phone app to take advantage of 25 per cent discounts on hourly rates.

Pay-by-phone transactions shot up 80 per cent from December to January (15,000-27,000) and a further 30 per cent from February to March (27,000-35,000), proving Novocastrians are willing to embrace smart city technology.

From when the discount was introduced on 1 January to 1 March, 62,000 transactions were made via the mobile phone application – more than double the 30,000 for the two months from November to December.
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Transactions had been increasing at a steady average of 20 per cent a month between March 2018, when EasyPark was introduced, and December.

Nearing the halfway mark of the six-month trial of the discount, Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the numbers showed the incentive was clearly working.

“Drivers are embracing this easy, convenient and cost-effective parking payment mechanism which is keeping more money in their pockets while preparing them for Australian-first technology that will soon guide drivers to vacant parking spaces,” the Lord Mayor said.

From July, users of the EasyPark app will be able to log in and view the availability of parking spaces across the City.

The app will have the ability to point out to drivers the most likely place to find a park, based on sophisticated parking algorithms.

Cr Nelmes said the City would review the 25 per cent discount in time for the 2019-20 budget.

The EasyPark app can be downloaded via the Apple app store by typing EasyPark or at Google Play for Android users. Just look for the logo of a white ‘e’ set in a pink square. Motorists can also call EasyPark on 1300 734 070 for assistance with the app.

NSW Labor supports #VOTEMUSIC campaign

Labor has backed the alliance of music industry groups who today launched their campaign to protect live music in NSW with a #votemusic message to voters before the March 23 election.

Music industry social media pages today have changed their profile pictures to post images of static and white noise, in support of the #votemusic campaign.

John Graham, Shadow Minister for Music said: “Labor supports the #votemusic campaign.

“This campaign is a glimpse of the future of the NSW music scene – static and white noise. To save music in NSW we need to change the government.

“To #votemusic, vote Labor, preference every square, and put the Liberals’ and Nationals’ last.”

The campaign is being organised by the Australian Festival Association along with Live Performance Australia, APRA AMCOS, Live Music Office, Music NSW, ARIA and PPCA. Today the NSW Labor page joined in the campaign.

Labor has announced that in government it would scrap the existing festival regulation and immediately consult with the Australian Festivals Association and relevant government agencies about the future of the licensing regime.

Labor has announced $4million support for festivals in NSW, and its support for a streamlined licensing and multi-year approvals for festivals with a good track record.

This is a part of Labor’s $35 million package to support the music sector, which includes $11.5 million of direct funding for artists and the industry, $3 million to keep venues open, $10 million to create a home for music in NSW, and a plan to rebuild the touring circuit across suburban and regional NSW.

The contemporary music and festival sector for NSW, generates $325 million in revenue for the NSW economy with 6 million attendees every year.

Labor’s unprecedented school building program: 204 schools to be built and upgraded

A Daley Labor Government, if elected this month, will embark on an unprecedented $7.4 billion school building program.

Labor is committed to building and upgrading 204 schools right across NSW as part of the largest investment in public schools in NSW history.

NSW Labor Leader, Michael Daley, said it is part of Labor’s investment into our schools that will put our children’s future before Sydney stadiums.

Mr Daley made the announcement at Dalmeny Public School in Prestons today, which is burdened with more than 20 demountables. Mr Daley was accompanied by Shadow Minister for Education, Jihad Dib and Labor candidate for Holsworthy, Charishma Kaliyanda.

“Labor can afford this record investment into our public schools because we will not proceed with the Liberals and Nationals’ $2.2 billion Sydney stadium splurge.

“Labor will make sure school infrastructure keeps up with the booming school-aged population,” Mr Daley said.

By 2036, it is estimated there will be one million students enrolled in NSW public schools, an increase of 200,000 students compared to today. Already, 636 NSW schools are at or above 100 per cent capacity.

It comes on top of Labor’s commitment to replace 1,000 ageing demountables and to ensure that every new school built has childcare or before-and-after school care facilities.

Mr Dib, said: “The Liberals and Nationals failed in their promise to build 12 new schools a year.

“Instead they’ve squandered $14 billion on budget blowouts and are spending $2.2 billion on stadiums that could be better spent on schools.”

Currently, there are 4,640 demountable classrooms in NSW schools and the Liberals and Nationals have recently purchased 520 more rather than investing in bricks and mortar classrooms.

Yesterday, Mr Daley announced Labor’s plan to hire an additional 5,065 teachers to keep up with demand and provide the best opportunities for our children.

Ms Kaliyanda, said: “Labor has fought for and will deliver excellent public services like schools and hospitals.”

This further builds on Labor’s previous education commitments, including to:

  • Inject $2.7 billion to deliver 100 per cent of the standard level of funding for every student
  • Make TAFE free for courses in skill shortage areas
  • Ensure every child can learn a second language
  • Allocate $5,000 to P&Cs
  • Give free glasses to disadvantaged school kids
  • Air condition every school in NSW