Memo from Mayo 22 May 2020
Welcome to my latest edition of the Memo from Mayo.
Like many in our community, my work life has changed considerably thanks to the COVID-19 restrictions but the workload itself hasn't changed. In fact, my office has been incredibly busy assisting members of our community navigate the new rules and regulations and the government assistance packages. Parliament did sit this month, briefly, and I head to Canberra for two weeks in June before the usual parliamentary winter break and the return to a full schedule of sitting weeks for the remainder of 2020. South Australia has done remarkably well to smash the infection curve of COVID-19 but I am mindful that we must not become complacent. To that end, I will be encouraging phone meetings and video conferencing where possible. This month I hosted a webinar with NBN and I hope to hold more "street corner meeting-style" webinars in our community in the coming months. Feedback on the platforms you would prefer would be appreciated. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy reading about my work over the past month.
Photo: Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie and Warrawong Wildlife Sanctury operator David Cobbold during a visit to the Mylor tourist attraction last year. Warrawong Sanctuary is receiving funding to purchase two-way radios.
Rebekha has welcomed this week’s announcement of nearly $64,000 in funding for Mayo volunteers announced during National Volunteer Week.
"This week we celebrate the significant contribution of volunteers and what better way to recognise their work than to announce the successful recipients of the 2019/2020 Round of Volunteer Grants,” Rebekha said.
“This round allocates funding to 38 community groups including CFS brigades, sporting clubs, community associations, a cancer support group and a wildlife sanctuary."
You can read the full list of recipients in Rebekha's press release here:
Rebekha and her Crossbench colleague Dr Helen Haines MP have called on the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Select Committee to investigate the extra impact the pandemic is having on fire-affected communities.
The MPs represent bushfire-affected regions and have written to Committee Chair Senator Katy Gallagher asking the Senate Committee to hold special public hearings on the Government response in communities hit hardest by the 2019/2020 fires.
The hearings would call on witnesses from State and Federal departments and agencies, including the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, plus other groups and community representatives who can give a detailed picture of the delivery of relief and recovery efforts and the impact the COVID-19 restrictions and support packages have had on bushfire communities.
“The COVID-19 restrictions, while absolutely necessary from a public health perspective, have delivered a double economic and psychological blow to communities in my electorate and other bushfire-affected areas and all of this has occurred in a matter of months,” Rebekha said.
You can read the letter in Rebekha's press release here.
Get rid of the pokies
Rebekha has joined her Centre Alliance colleague Senator Stirling Griff in calling on governments to provide compensation to venues to keep poker machines switched off indefinitely, while ensuring hospitality jobs are not lost.
In the last sitting of Parliament Senator Stirling Griff put forward a motion calling on the Government to introduce legislation to ban the use of credit cards to pay for online bets and a moratorium on gambling advertising during the pandemic crisis.
You can read the motion and Senator Griff's speech here:
“Centre Alliance has always been about harm minimisation when it comes to pokies and gambling," Rebekha said.
"I recognise that many venues have invested significant money to have poker machines. You cannot make that investment worth nothing, which is why I would encourage the State Government to show the same fortitude it showed combating COVID-19 by using this one in a lifetime opportunity to tackle problem gambling and introduce a poker machine buyback scheme.
"This scheme should be used for retaining and supporting staff. The State Government should also be providing grants to assist venues transition from pokies to hospitality.
"There are many venues walking away from pokies in favour of a business model that offers good food and a family-friendly environment.
"Visitors don’t come up to the Hills to play the pokies. They come up here for the wood fires, cosy ambience and quality food and beverages. People come for an experience and we have so much to offer in our region.”
Article below supplied courtesy of the Mount Barker Courier.
$9M for Mayo Roads
Today's announcement of more than $9 million in Commonwealth funding for council roads and infrastructure is a much-needed boost for Mayo, according to Rebekha.
"Mayo had a significant backlog of infrastructure needs before I became the Federal Member. Since being elected I have spent a considerable amount of time advocating on behalf of our councils for more funding for local roads, including the restoration of Supplementary Road Funding, so these extra allocations are extremely welcome," Rebekha said.
“Given the economic hits our community has taken with the bushfires and now the COVID-19 restrictions, putting money into shovel-ready projects in our local communities with an emphasis on local material procurement will boost employment and business confidence."
The list of funding allocations can be accessed in Rebekha's media release here.
Payday lending reforms
Rebekha has called on the Federal Government to stop "dragging the chain" on payday lending reforms and to back up moves by the SA Government to protect vulnerable people from unscrupulous loan shark practices.
"I welcome reports this month that South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman has asked Consumer and Business Services to review laws pertaining to using payday loans and consumer leases affecting SA businesses and consumers," Rebekha said.
"I share the Attorney-General's frustration that successive Federal Governments have dragged their heels about implementing their own legislation drafted in 2017 on this issue based on the recommendation of their own review released in 2016.
"People in vulnerable financial circumstances are being targeted during this pandemic and deserve protection."
You can read about Rebekha's work on this issue in her media release here.
Rebekha hosted a webinar on the NBN this week with NBN Local Manager Jill Bottrall.
Entitled 'Making the NBN Work for You' the webinar provided a briefing about the NBN locally and nationally along with tips and tricks for maximising the use of the NBN during the pandemic.
If you missed the webinar, you can access the presentation slides here.
"NBN is a bit of a lottery in Mayo. We have every technology from Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) and Fibre to the Node (FTTN) fixed line to wireless towers and individual experiences vary," Rebekha said.
"I am advised that 99 per cent of the electorate is ready to connect and the overall uptake of various NBN technologies is just over 60 per cent.
"More than 47,000 premises have signed up for fixed line NBN out of a potential 66,000 eligible premises.
"Around 6,000 premises have connected to fixed wireless out of about 14,000 eligible premises.
"Of the 62 fixed wireless towers scheduled to be built in Mayo, 58 of them are live.
"The fixed wireless towers at Lobethal, Clarendon, Chandlers Hill and Upper Sturt are scheduled to be finished in the coming months.
"Just over 5,630 premises have been allocated satellite. This represents more than five per cent of premises in Mayo which is much higher than the national average of three per cent on satellite."
NOTE: NBN is still investigating potential sites to build a wireless tower to service the outskirts of Mylor. More recent negotiations with landholders have been abandonded due to localised community opposition. NBN is now looking elsewhere for a location and an update is expected in the coming weeks. In the meantime, some 490 premises in the Mylor wireless footprint can access satellite NBN and switch over to wireless at no charge if a tower site can eventually be negotiated.
Murray under the microscope
Rebekha was recently visited by Fletcher who was representing his Stirling East Primary School Year 6/7 class.
Fletcher wanted to formally present the book his class created reflecting on their research on the Murray Darling Basin.
"Late last year I visited the class so they could present some of the work they had done over three terms," Rebekha said.
"These students have completed a huge volume of work. They would know more about the Murray and the problems this system is experiencing than many South Australians.
"When Federal Parliament returns to a more normal post-COVID-19 timetable I plan to formally table this book in the parliament."
In this video Rebekha talks to Fletcher about the book.
In this video Rebekha answers some of the questions Fletcher and his classmates have about the Murray and what they are hoping to do next.
Making Soup With Love
Photo: Rebekha with Dave Keir from the Quarter Mile Cafe Takeaway Mount Barker.
A small businessman in Mount Barker has been using his cooking skills to help the community following the Cudlee Creek Bushfire and now the COVID-19 crisis.
Dave Keir from the Quarter Mile Cafe Takeaway Mount Barker has made more than 500 litres of soup to give away to vulnerable families.
Rebekha recently visited the cafe and spoke to Dave. You can watch her interview here.
Adapting in a Crisis
Photo: Rebekha with Sylvia Cseh from Walls That Talk
Rebekha was recently approached by Sylvia Cseh from Walls That Talk, a familly business based in Mount Barker that (like many businesses in our community) have had to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions.
"Usually this business makes custom wallpaper and decals for public facilities and corporate offices," Rebekha said.
"Demand for their product has dropped dramatically. But now they make a range of professional looking social distancing stickers for floors, counters and furniture.
"You can see these stickers locally in health clinics, pizza stores and even in our electorate office here in Mayo. If you'd like to explore their range head to decalstore.com.au or you can call them on 0430 373 581."
You can watch Rebekha's interview with Sylvia here.
Support for Small Business
The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia is offering grants to Australian small businesses adversely affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
"These grants are made possible by Salesforce. Grants will be offered as a ‘one off’ payment of $10,000 (including GST) to 67 businesses across Australia," Rebekha said.
Applications open on Monday 25 May and will close on Monday 1 June 2020. More details here.
'Still Here' is a searchable directory South Australians can use to find shops or eateries trying to trade during COVID-19 restrictions.
"I found out about this website during a recent Cudlee Creek Bushfire Local Recovery Committee meeting," Rebekha said.
"You simply enter your chosen postcode to see which local businesses are listed. I'm advised that the site is a work in progress and growing each week so if you know of a small business owner currently trading, please encourage them to visit the site and add their details."
Details regarding the current business restrictions in South Australia can be accessed here.
Short courses to upskill
The Federal Government is providing $7M to subsidise 1,015 places in short online courses covering teaching, agriculture, health, science, engineering, clinical psychology, information technology (IT) and languages.
The courses will be offered by 18 higher education providers and the cost to students will range from $1,250 to $2,500.
Students will still be able to defer payment through HECS-HELP.
“The Undergraduate Certificate has been developed in response to community and industry need as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and I welcome the Government's announcement," Rebekha said.
“These short courses will support Australians who have lost their jobs or are looking to retrain in national priority areas."
More information can be found here.