Memo from Mayo 26 March 2021
Welcome to my latest Memo from Mayo. It has been a sobering fortnight with more allegations of misconduct in Parliament and growing public frustration about the lack of action by the Government to address poor workplace culture in this place. One positive step the Government could take is to amend the Sex Discrimination Act and I will continue my advocacy to make sure the loophole that exempts MPs and judges from sexual harassment laws is closed. In meantime, other legislative work has been done in the Parliament and I have certainly been busy in the community. I hope you enjoy reading about my work.
Rebekha Sharkie stepped out with Members of Parliament from all sides of politics to support the women's #March4Justice on the lawns outside the Australian Parliament last week.
"It is the responsibility of every elected member to listen to the voices of the thousands who have gathered around the nation to say enough is enough when it comes to gender discrimination and safety for women from sexual assault," Rebekha said.
You can read more on Rebekha's website here.
You can watch a short video of the event on YouTube here.
Fix the Sex Discrimination Bill
Prior to the March4Justice, Rebekha supported a Private Members' Bill introduced by the Member for Warringah Zali Steggall to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to ensure sexual harassment is illegal in all circumstances.
Under the current law, MPs, judges and other statutory appointees are not clearly protected from, or liable for sexual harassment in their workplace. The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Prohibiting All Sexual Harassment) Bill seeks to amend that.
After new allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the Parliament were aired on Monday night, Zali and Rebekha moved to suspend standing orders to debate and vote on the Private Member's Bill.
The Government and the new crossbench member, Craig Kelly MP, stood alone in their opposing debate on the bill.
"The Government had the chance to send a message to the Australian people that it would no longer tolerate gender abusive behaviour in this Parliament and was prepared to act immediately by closing the loophole that exempts MPs and Judges from sexual harassment laws. But no, our attempt to stop the usual business of parliament to urgently amend the Sex Discrimination Act was defeated," Rebekha said.
You can watch Rebekha's speech on YouTube here.
You can read her speech here.
You can read more on her website here.
COVID Vaccination Bulk-billed
Price-gouging GP clinics seeking additional consult fees from pensioners - or anyone seeking lifesaving COVID-19 vaccinations - are breaking the rules of the national roll-out program, the Government has told Rebekha.
Responding to Rebekha during Question Time yesterday, Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australians must to be bulk-billed for their vaccinations and any assessment consultation requested by doctors for new clients to ensure patient safety.
Rebekha raised the issue after several pensioners from her electorate reported being charged between $70 and $90 for “vaccine suitability assessments” because they were new patients at the designated vaccine clinic in their area.
Friends for Climate Action
Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie and her Co-Chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of Climate Action hosted a forum showcasing the opportunities involved in driving down Australia’s transport emissions.
“Transport is the third-largest source of emissions behind electricity and the latest Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas inventory has shown that transport emissions are rebounding quickly as COVID-19 restrictions ease,” Rebekha said.
You can read more on her website here.
And you can watch some of the forum on YouTube here.
The next event hosted by the Friends Group will feature guest speaker Mikayla Schwarz, an expert in blue carbon and seagrass.
Rebekha spoke about blue carbon and recent research on seaweed feed supplements to reduce methane production during her allocated Grievance Debate speech in Parliament this week. You can read her speech in full here.
Industrial Relations Legislation
Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie does not support the position taken by her Centre Alliance colleague Senator Stirling Griff on the Government's controversial industrial relations legislation package that passed through the Senate last week.
The Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 was pulled apart schedule by schedule in the Senate and the vast majority of the legislation was voted down.
You can read her statement here.
JobSeeker and JobKeeper Deadline
The Federal Government's coronavirus financial support programs for businesses and job seekers end on 28 March.
"Our community, like many around the nation, are bracing for fallout from the end to the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement and end of the business-saving wage subsidy JobKeeper," Rebekha said.
"We are in for a difficult landing. I am concerned that the Government’s insistence on forcing the end of JobKeeper at the same time as removing the Coronavirus supplement is going to cause a real contraction in our economy.
"The Government has made its position clear. But this is also a Government that has shown it can react quickly if the situation changes.
"If the economic situation deteriorates, the Government needs to act so we do not undo all the good work and the $70 billion spent on JobKeeper.
You can read Rebekha's speech on JobSeeker here.
New Aged Care Act
Rebekha spoke about funding for aged care and the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission during budget appropriations debate in the parliament this week.
"We cannot wait another five years for a new Aged Care Act," Rebekha said.
"The Government has allocated $452.2 million to its initial response to the Royal Commission.
"At less than three per cent of the total annual budget for aged care, this must be just the beginning. This initial investment must be followed by decisive action now, significant investment in the May budget, and sound commitment over the long term."
Supporting Craft Distillers
Rebekha has called on the Federal Government to support local craft and boutique distillers by addressing the punishingly high taxes on gin, whiskey and other liquors.
Distillers say the tax regimen hurts their competitiveness and ability to create jobs.
Rebekha met with the Treasurer and spoke on a motion in parliament that called for a cut in the excise tax rate on spirits, a freeze on indexed tax hikes for three years, and an increase in an excise refund scheme for small distillers in line with what is available to small winemakers.
"Given the impact of COVID-19 on our hospitality industry, it makes practical sense to support our local craft distillers," Rebekha said.
"At present, the Government is taxing the lifeblood out of this industry."
You can also read more on Rebekha's website here.
Private Health Hike
Rebekha has called on the Government to instigate an in-depth inquiry into the viability of Australia's private health insurance sector.
"It's that time of year when Australians receive that letter from their health fund telling them their private insurance premiums are going up—again," Rebekha said.
"The disincentive to sign on rises with every fee hike. This is a crisis in our community. We need to have in-depth changes to make health insurance and the whole system more affordable, sustainable and equitable for all Australians."
Independent Umpire for Environment
Rebekha has backed a Private Member’s Bill introduced by the Independent Member for Clark Andrew Wilkie to bring in an independent umpire to administer Australia’s federal environmental law, the EPBC Act.
The Commonwealth Environment Protection Authority Bill 2021 will ensure that all administrative decision-making powers under our national environmental legislation are given to an independent EPA, arms-length from the Department and free from political interference. The EPA will be an ‘independent cop on the beat’ and will also undertake monitoring and compliance activities.
"The EPBC Act is the cornerstone of our environmental law, and we need an independent umpire to enforce effective standards when we get them," Rebekha said.
You can read more on Rebekha's website at here.
You can watch Rebekha at the Press Conference here.
Spending in the Regions
Every single time the Government spends money, they should be detailing to the Australian community exactly how that money will support regional Australia and its impact on regional Australia. Today I supported my colleague Helen Haines MP and her Charter of Budget Honesty Amendment (Rural and Regional Australia Statements) Bill 2021.
You can read more about the legislation here.
You can read Rebekha's speech in full here.
You can watch the speech on YouTube here.
Grants Newsletter for March
Rebekha has published her Grants Newsletter for March.
The office will be facilitating expressions of interest for the latest round of Volunteer Grants offered by the Federal Government. Groups can apply for between $1000 and $5000 to cover background screening checks of volunteers, training, fuel costs and eligible items. To be an eligible item, items must be portable, tangible and bought to benefit the volunteers (i.e. permanent fixtures are not classed as eligible items).
If you belong to a club or community group and would like to receive regular updates on available grants, please email email@example.com.
Country Shows Are Back
Nothing says life is starting to return to a new COVID normal in South Australia than the return of our country shows!
Last week Rebekha attended the Mount Pleasant Show and this Saturday, March 27, she will have a stall at the Mount Barker Show.
Later in the year, Rebekha will be holding stalls at the Yankalilla, Strathalbyn, Port Elliot, Kingscote, Callington and Uraidla Shows as well as the Willunga Almond Blossom Festival and fairs at Meadows and at Houghton.
Mobile Electorate Offices
Following on from the successful Mobile Electorate Office sessions held across the electorate in 2020, Rebekha is conducting more opportunities for face-to-face meetings in the community in 2021.
The next set of meetings is taking place on Monday, April 12, at Rebekha's Victor Harbor Office for South Coast residents. Appointments are limited and bookings are essential so call 8398 5566 for more information.
Rebekha is also hosting a drop-in sausage sizzle at lunchtime. Due to COVID-19 event management plan restrictions, numbers are also limited and registration is essential. Registration can be done online here.
Rebekha and her team will be on Kangaroo Island on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 13 and 14.
If you live on the Island and require assistance with a Federal matter, including aged care or a Centrelink or NDIS inquiry, please call the office on 8398 5566 or register your interest online here to book a face-to-face meeting. Bookings are essential.
The Big Issue
Rebekha took part in The Big Issue's 'Big Parliamentary Shift 2021' this sitting period, packing magazines in support of women experiencing homelessness, marginalisation and disadvantage.
"While packing I spoke with Keli who has worked for The Big Issue’s Women’s Subscription Enterprise for 10 years," Rebekha said.
"Keli shared her story with me and it was inspiring to hear how the enterprise has built up her confidence. It's a great program and I always try to catch a copy of The Big Issue when I'm down in Adelaide."
You can watch part of the event on YouTube here.