Memo from Mayo 2 March 2021

2 Mar 2021
Memo Mayo parliament 2021 new website

Welcome to my latest Memo from Mayo. We have finished the February sitting weeks and it has been a roller coaster for Federal politics. Like most of Australia, I was shocked and saddened by the sexual assault allegations raised by a former Liberal staff member. Together with my fellow Crossbench MPs, we wrote to the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition to call for an independent, external review of the complaints procedures in Parliament. We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement of an independent review into the workplaces of Parliamentarians and their staff and we will be advocating to ensure positive change.

In other news, Centre Alliance has welcomed the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. Centre Alliance has also refused to support the Government's proposed changes to environmental laws until they legislate effective national standards and install a genuinely independent umpire; and I have given a speech advising that Centre Alliance cannot support industrial relations reforms unless the Government pulls its legislation apart and deals with the sections separately.

I hope you enjoy reading about my work in the Parliament and the electorate.

CA Backs New Aged Care Act

Centre Alliance has welcomed the Aged Care Royal Commission’s focus on senior-centred care in its final report as well its recommendations for greater transparency, tougher oversight and improved training and registration of carers.

“The final report is comprehensive, and its recommendations are far reaching. The administrative mechanisms needed to deliver the solutions will need to be worked through but Centre Alliance welcomes the report’s demands for a complete rewrite of the Aged Care Act and an aged care system that is transparent and accountable for taxpayer funding so it delivers the actual care people need,” said Rebekha Sharkie, Federal Member for Mayo and Centre Alliance’s Aged Care Spokesperson.

You can read Centre Alliance's statement in full here.

CA Draws Line in Sand Over EPBC Reforms

Centre Alliance has drawn a line in the sand over the Government’s proposed changes to federal environmental laws, saying they will not support attempts to streamline approval processes until effective national environmental standards are legislated and an independent commissioner has been established.

Centre Alliance’s Environment Spokeswoman, Rebekha Sharkie MP, and Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff joined other Crossbench Senators, Jacqui Lambie and Rex Patrick, in setting out their position in writing yesterday to the Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

“We’ve told the Minister that the changes proposed by the Government’s Streamlining Environmental Approvals Bill and the upcoming Standards and Assurance Bill, and other amendments, have to be considered holistically,” Senator Stirling Griff said.

“The Senate shouldn’t be debating the streamlining approvals legislation until the Government has strong and effective national environmental standards in place and they have created a genuinely independent Environmental Assurance Commissioner.”

Rebekha said: "I do welcome the fact that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Standards and Assurance) Bill 2021 has been referred to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 1 June 2021. This will allow environmental and industry stakeholders industry stakeholders, state and territory ministers and other interested parties to make submissions about national standards and an independent umpire.”

You can read more in Rebekha's press release here.

You can find out more about the Senate Committee inquiry here.

$50 JobSeeker Rise Fails Unemployed Australians

Rebekha, Centre Alliance’s Social Services Spokesperson, has renewed her call for an independent body to review government payments, saying the Federal Government's recent announcement of a $50 per fortnight rise in the base rate of JobSeeker will fail Australians looking for work.

“A permanent increase was necessary but this falls far short of what is needed to keep a roof over the heads and food on the table for Australians receiving government payments, and there is no explanation of how the Federal Government came up with this figure," Rebekha said.

"For a very long time the sector and business groups had been calling for at least a $75 a week increase. Before COVID-19 hit our shores, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) said $95 a week was the ‘absolute minimum’ people without work needed.

"That's why we need an Independent Social Security Commission whose job it would be to set payments to keep up with the cost of living and changes in Australia’s economic circumstances."

Legislation to bring in the $50 a fortnight increase to the permanent rate was introduced to the House of Representatives on 25 February but is yet to be debated.

You can read more in Rebekha's press release here.

Fair Work Amendment Bill

During the last week of Parliament Rebekha spoke on the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia's Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020.

"As with all omnibus bills, there are good and bad elements. Centre Alliance is of the view that the Government should pull apart this bill in the House of Representatives," Rebekha said.

"If the Government is not willing to approach the bill in this way, I simply cannot support it and I will need to leave it to the Senate to hopefully ensure that those provisions for the protection of workers continue, particularly around the area of wage theft.

"The best thing the Government can do, I think, is pause this bill, go back to the table, sit down with unions and sit down with employer groups. Let's actually get a bill that does the right thing for workers and small businesses."

The bill is yet to be debated in the Senate. You can read Rebekha's speech in full here.

Diggers Denied National Medal

Hundreds of army personnel who lent a helping hand to Adelaide Hills residents affected by the Cudlee Creek bushfire last year are ineligible for medals designed to recognise their service because of a 'bureaucratic oversight', the Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has claimed.

“Someone in an office somewhere without a clear picture of what happened when the fire broke out in the Hills on 20 December 2019, and its aftermath, has drawn up a set of eligibility criteria for the Australian Defence Force’s National Emergency Medal that has made it almost impossible for reservists and regular army personnel to get recognised,” Rebekha said.

“Meanwhile, the vast majority of those who did any service to help the bushfire-affected community on Kangaroo Island are eligible, creating an untenable situation where we have servicemen and women feeling unappreciated and some refusing to accept the medal because their colleagues won’t be recognised.

“The ridiculous thing is this can just be fixed with some common-sense and the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen, so I have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to ask him to intervene."

You can read more in Rebekha's press release here.

Crossbench MPs Welcome Parliament Workplace Review

Lower House Crossbench MPs have welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement of an independent review into the workplaces of Parliamentarians and their staff “at arm’s length of Government”.

The PM announced the review in a letter to MPs late last week.

It follows allegations of serious sexual assault in Parliament House in 2019 which prompted the Crossbench to call for an urgent, independent, external review.

All the Crossbench MPs wrote to the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition.

You can read more in Rebekha's press release here.

Digital Platform Code

Federal Parliament has passed legislation that will require digital platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay media outlets and publishers to link their content in news feeds or search results.

Centre Alliance supported the mandatory code of conduct which aims to govern commercial dealings between the global digital giants and news media companies.

Rebekha spoke on the Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 during the February sitting weeks, telling the House of Representatives that the genesis of the legislation could be traced back to negotiations by the Nick Xenophon Team during the 2017 media reforms.

"NXT negotiated for the ACCC to conduct an inquiry into the impact of the new digital environment on media. My colleague Senator Stirling Griff undertook extensive work on the terms of reference for this inquiry. We believed that Google and Facebook needed to pay a fair price for unique content that was not their own," Rebekha said.

You can read Rebekha's speech in full here and watch on YouTube.

You can read Senator Stirling Griff's speech here.

Carbon Emissions Reporting

For the second year in succession, Rebekha has seconded a Private Members’ Bill from Independent MP Andrew Wilkie to amend the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act to ensure transparency and accountability in the way the Australian Government reports carbon emissions.

"If it ever gets passed by the Parliament, it will amend the reporting requirements of greenhouse gas emissions to include scope 3 emissions (which are indirect greenhouse gas emissions arising as a consequence of the activities of a facility); and require the Minister to table Australia's national greenhouse gas inventory estimates in Parliament every three months," Rebekha said.

"It might also be nice not to have our emissions report released on the eve of an AFL Grand Final or just before Christmas. Last year the Bill was referred to a Standing Committee for an inquiry. Sadly, the committee did NOT recommend passing the legislation. We will see what happens this time."

You can watch an excerpt from Rebekha's speech on YouTube here.

Mylor NBN Tower Plan

NBN Co has lodged a development application with the Adelaide Hills Council to construct a fixed wireless facility for the community living on the outskirts of Mylor.

The Category 3 development application seeks to build a 45m high monopole at Lot 10 Crossing Road, on the northern section of a parcel of cleared SA Water land. The Adelaide Hills Council is undertaking the statutory public notification.

"This fixed wireless facility is a project I strongly advocated for with both NBN Co and the Federal Government after NBN Co abandoned plans for a tower in late 2019 when site negotiations with a local landowner fell through," Rebekha said.

"NBN Co’s initial response was to allocate satellite technology to some 495 affected premises on the outskirts of the Mylor township, which has fixed line Fibre To The Node NBN. This was an announcement that led to a significant number of community complaints being made to my office."

NBN Co has sent letters to residents in the Mylor area. Anyone wishing to make a formal representation should contact the Adelaide Hills Council before 12 March 2021. For more information call the Council on 8408 0400.

You can watch Rebekha speak about the project on YouTube here.

Raise Your Glass to Langhorne Creek

We are so fortunate to have more than half a dozen wine regions in Mayo. Langhorne Creek is one of them. This fertile flood plain is the second-largest wine region in South Australia (in size), and it has a long history.

Rebekha recently attended two events in the region - the opening of the new cellar door at Bremerton Wines and the opening of the Barrel Room at Lake Breeze Wines.

"Langhorne Creek is well worth a visit, and it was a privilege to sing their praises in Parliament," Rebekha said.

You can watch Rebekha's speech on YouTube here.

Agricultural Town of the Year Finalists

Woodside in the Adelaide Hills and Parndana on Kangaroo Island were recently named among the five finalists in the SA Government's Agricultural Town of the Year Award.

The winner, Pinnaroo in the Murray Mallee, was announced in late February.

Rebekha recently spoke in Federal Parliament about the awards and the two towns of Woodside and Parndana.

"Both townships have emerged from the Black Summer fires with renewed strength," Rebekha said.

You can read Rebekha's speech here or watch it on YouTube.

Rally As One

Tennis legend John Alexander, now the Federal Member for Bennelong, dropped into Rebekha's Parliamentary office last week with a special gift for the community of Mount Torrens, South Australia.

John kindly donated a bottle of parliamentary wine, personally signed, and some Wimbledon memorabilia, for the fundraising activities being conducted at the Rally As One event in Mount Torrens on Sunday, February 21.

Supported by Tennis SA, there was plenty of tennis fun, a range of activities and market stalls. All monies raised will be donated to bushfire-affected residents in the Adelaide Hills.

You can watch Rebekha's video with John on YouTube.

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