Rex with Ryan, Orrorroo's newest citizen, on Australia Day 2021.
BACK TO PARLIAMENT
It’s hard to believe we're already in March. In January I was out and about in SA's regions, including Orrorroo for Australia Day, and Parliament resumed in February. Here's a quick recap of what I've been up to.
AGED CARE REFORM LONG OVERDUE
The Aged Care Royal Commission report has been handed down and sadly the Government's response was inadequate.
It’s a damning report that must be answered properly, not with a measly $452 million announcement from the Government when the problem needs multi-billion dollar solution.
The Commissioners made 148 recommendations which need to be seriously considered. The Government must get on and fix what is a very broken system.
The Senate recently passed a Bill in relation to an Aged Care Serious Incident Response Scheme to implement an incident management system for assaults/abuse and unexplained absences from the facility. The bill was good law, and I put forward amendments to further improve the care quality in aged care facilities.
I asked the Senate to compel aged care facilities to disclose staff to resident/patient ratios, with a breakdown on how many staff were registered nurses, enrolled nurses, personal care attendants, allied health staff etc. This is important information and should be available to people considering a facility for themselves, or for a relative. Liberals, Labor and One Nation voted against this.
I also asked the Senate to compel aged care facilities to install ‘OPT IN’ CCTV into the bedrooms of aged care facilities. If a resident, or someone with power-of-attorney, chose to opt in then video would be sent to an external facility manned by aged care professionals (e.g. nurses) to watch for falls to alert staff to and to deter abuse that sadly occurs in some care facilities. Sadly, the Liberals, Labor, One Nation and Centre Alliance voted against this too.
With the Royal Commission report now public, I expect the whole Parliament to work together to implement these recommendations to make sure all residents of Australia’s aged care homes receive the best care.
UYGHUR CAMPAIGN GAINS MOMENTUM
The Senate will shortly hold hearings into my bill to ban the import of goods made from Uyghur slave labour in China. A report will be tabled on the 12th May. I will ask the Senate to vote for my bill on 23rd August. We’ll then see which of our Federal political parties are prepared to take a stand against genocide.
I was recently joined by Queensland MP Bob Katter to support South Australia's Uyghurs in drawing attention to the well documented abuse of hundreds of thousands of Uyghur people in Xinjiang.
If you haven't already, add your name to the petition that I will present to the Senate. You can also watch a productive discussion I had with Australian Jewish Association about my bill by clicking here.
NATIONALS A THREAT TO AUSTRALIAN WATER SECURITY
A new report from the Productivity Commission has once again highlighted why the Nationals can't be trusted with the Water portfolio.
The report sounds the alarm on the serious problems the nation will need to deal with to secure our water supply over the coming decades. Sadly the Nationals are too self-interested and beholden to big irrigators to act responsibly in the national interest when it comes to Australia’s precious water resources. Prime Minister Scott Morrison knows this but is only interested in avoiding trouble with his political partners.
We’ve seen how much damage has been done to the Murray-Darling River under the stewardship of the Nationals, SA can’t afford to allow them to continue to mismanage water policy for the nation in our changing climate and the increased community demands and population.
When it comes to water policy, the Nationals are the political equivalent of European Carp. One way or another they need to be flushed out of our vital waterways.
In February I also questioned interim Inspector-General of Water Compliance for the Murray-Darling Basin and former NSW National Troy Grant and reminded him of statements he’d made in 2012 suggesting recovering 2100 gigalitres from irrigators would deliver the same results as the 2750 GL target mandated by the Murray Darling Basin Plan. You can read the transcript here.
It was all too much for his fellow Nationals on the committee who really got upset when I suggested the National Party didn’t care about water compliance. Click here to see video National Senator Perin Davey losing the plot and attacking South Australians for no good reason. She should apologise and own up to her party’s significant failures on the Murray-Darling.
Water security is a national security issue that requires strong leadership. I will continue to fight to protect SA's water security.
PEOPLE POWER SAVES THE WHYALLA BEACH CAFÉ
The start of 2021 was difficult for the Whyalla community, with the Council shutting down the town's beach café.
Together the community and I rallied to stop the closure, with more than 1600 people signing my petition and sending a very clear message to the Mayor to reverse this decision. While they ignored the community at first, the Council eventually reversed its decision and agreed to bring back a café to the foreshore.
While this is a good thing, I remain concerned about the serious secrecy issues around the decision to close the café in the first place.
I requested information from the Whyalla Council under Freedom of Information laws. The first lot of documents have been provided to me and can be read or downloaded here. The Council has withheld a number of 'confidential' documents relating to the café closure which I am taking up with the Ombudsman.
A number of people, including myself, expressed concern about the secrecy associated with the decision. Hopefully the Council now understands important community decisions should not be made in secret. Openness, transparency and engagement with the community is essential in a democracy.
FIGHT FOR THE BIGHT WIN
In what is shaping up as another win in the fight to stop drilling in the Great Australian Bight, the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA) has declined a ‘variation in work program’ application for Bight Petroleum’s exploration permits, EPP41 and 42, located near Port Lincoln and Kangaroo Island.
This will have significant implications in any future attempts to renew their lease.
This comes after I took NOPTA to task in March 2020 about their continuous cycle of successive approvals for work variations and lease extensions for Great Australian Bight tenements which created great uncertainty for SA’s fishing and tourism industries, halting investment and growth in these key sectors.
NOPTA’s refusal to vary the work program on the leases means that the company will have to complete a whole range of work activities prior to July 2021 - seismic surveys and the drilling of an exploration well - or default on their lease agreements. Completion of the necessary work would, on the face of it, be impossible.
This is an important win in the battle to preserve the pristine ocean off our coast and the tourism and fishing industries that depend on it.
PARLIAMENT MUST HOLD TAX DODGERS ACCOUNTABLE
In the first Parliamentary week of 2021, I continued my campaign to name and shame leaders of companies that have generated significant profits and paid no corporate tax.
Yancoal, a company majority owned by the Chinese State, is Australia’s largest pure-coal producer and operates coal mines in QLD, NSW and WA.
Between 2013-14 and 2018-19 the company generated $16.6 billion in revenue but remarkably paid no corporate tax (and is unlikely to for some time). I’m sure this makes your blood boil too.
To make matters worse, recent reports by the Centre for Public Integrity showed that, over the past 20 years, Yancoal has shelled out over $2 million in political donations. That's right - no corporate income tax paid, but there’s plenty of money available to donate to political parties.
You can read my full speech to the Senate here.