Memo from Mayo 5 December 2019

5 Dec 2019

Welcome to the latest edition of my Memo from Mayo.

The last two parliamentary sitting weeks of 2019 have been incredibly busy for Centre Alliance. We have introduced a number of Private Members' Bills and some of our legislation has been referred to Parliamentary Committees for inquiries. Unfortunately, despite our steadfast support, the Medevac laws were repealed and we are bracing ourselves for a battle to ensure water continues to flow for the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin. Please read on to learn about some of my work in the parliament and the community.

Fight for the Murray

Photo: Dredges at the Murray Mouth.

Centre Alliance notes with disappointment statements being made by the New South Wales Deputy Premier threatening to pull out of the basin plan unless a number of demands are met. These demands include NSW not contributing to 450GL of water recover efforts, the lifting of the barrages, the inclusion of transmission losses as water returned to the environment and not progressing the water sharing plans until after the drought is broken.

Centre Alliance supports the SA Government’s characterisation of the NSW’s demands as “irrational” and anticipates the SA Water Minister will resist any attempts to advance them.

Centre Alliance will use its position in the Senate to support the SA Government to ensure the upstream states meet their obligations under the basin plan.

You can read the full statement by Rebekha and her colleague Senator Rex Patrick here.

Political donation reform

Photo: Rebekha introduces her Private Member's Bill to the Parliament.

Rebekha Sharkie has introduced a Private Member’s Bill that seeks to place all political donations of $1,000 or more on the public record.

The Centre Alliance MP’s Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Lowering the Donation Disclosure Threshold) Bill 2019, if adopted, would set the donation disclosure threshold at $1,000 with no indexation. The current disclosure threshold is $13,800 and the law allows for indexation.

“This legislation would complement another Private Member’s Bill I introduced back in September to make political parties and campaigners disclose donations in real-time, within five business days rather than the current notification deadline of 18-months,” Rebekha said.

You can find out more about the Bill here.

Rebekha also released a media statement about the Liberal Party's submission on her real-time reporting Bill.

Statement on the Medevac repeal

Centre Alliance is disappointed by Senator Lambie's deal with the Government to repeal the Medevac laws.

Senator Stirling Griff holds the Immigration portfolio for Centre Alliance.

You can read his full statement on behalf of Centre Alliance here and his speech in the Parliament here.

Have your say on robocall Bill

A Centre Alliance Bill aimed at tightening the rules around political robocalls and unwanted charity calls is now open for public comment.

The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Unsolicited Communications) Bill 2019 was introduced in the Senate last week and has now been referred to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for an inquiry.

Stakeholders and interested members of the public have until 21 February 2020 to lodge submissions before a final report is expected to be tabled in mid-April 2020.

You can read more here.

Rural Finance Reform

An inquiry into a Private Member’s Bill to reform the rural finance sector, introduced by Rebekha Sharkie in July, is now open for public submissions.

The Banking Amendment (Rural Finance Reform) Bill 2019 was referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics with the first public hearing held this week.

“My Private Member’s Bill is the same legislation I introduced in the 45th Parliament and aims to protect small farm properties valued at under $5 million from ‘arbitrary and draconian’ lending practices,” said Rebekha, Centre Alliance’s Spokesperson for Agriculture.

You can read Rebekha's press release here.

NDIS Age Discrimination

Anders Halvorsen Chair of ParaQuad, left; Rebekha; Member for Warringah Zali Steggall; petition writers Chris and Bobbie English and supporters at this week's press conference.

Two petitions calling on the Federal Government to eliminate age discrimination of older people with a disability were tabled in Federal Parliament on International Day for People with a Disability, with the support of Rebekha.

The written petition was signed by 14,020 people and the electronic petition collected 5,426 signatures and both called for legislative change so older people who acquire a disability after the age of 65 can access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Under the current system, if you are aged over 65 and have not had access to the NDIS previously, you cannot access the scheme even if you are involved in an accident.

“The NDIS was established to address the inequitable, underfunded and fragmented disability care system,” Rebekha said.

“But we need to be wary of setting up a system that so openly discriminates against those who acquire a disability after they reach retirement age.

“If this Government believes Australians are fit and able enough to work long after the age of 65, then the Government should acknowledge that Australians over the age of 65 should have the same access to resources if they acquire a disability later in life.”

You can read more about the petitions here and you can listen to Rebekha speak at the press conference here.

Connectivity solutions

Photo: NBN Co has 10 Road Muster Trucks for deployment to emergency situations to provide satellite internet for communities and emergency services. One visited Canberra last week for a presentation.

A motion congratulating NBN Co on the introduction of the Sky Muster Plus satellite service was lodged in Parliament last week.

Rebekha used the opportunity to speak about the NBN "lottery" in Mayo and the internet and mobile connectivity problems faced by some communities and the upgraded 4G solution negotiated by Centre Alliance for Cherry Gardens.

You can read her full speech here.

Pressure on Payday loan Protections

The pressure is mounting on the Federal Government to bring in urgent protections for vulnerable Australians using payday loans and consumer leases.

This week Centre Alliance introduced a Private Member’s Bill on payday lending in the Senate, co-sponsored by Labor.

The legislation mirrors the National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Small Amount Credit Contract and Consumer Lease Reforms) Bill 2019 introduced into the House of Representatives by the Federal Member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie, in September.

You can read more about the legislation here.

Country to Canberra

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie with Sienna Putland from KI who took part in the Country to Canberra 2019 Leadership Program

Kangaroo Island teenager Sienna Putland is aiming to tackle gender inequality one island at a time after taking part in the Country to Canberra 2019 Leadership Competition.

The 15-year-old from Parndana met Rebekha in Parliament House last week and told the Member for Mayo she was keen to put the skills she had learned into practice.

“I’m hoping to tell my whole school about what I have learned and how I can help address the gender gap across the Island and Australia,” Sienna said.

“I’m also hoping to set up a discussion group so we can talk about gender equality on the Island."

You can read more here.

Rebekha also caught up with students from (KICE) Kangaroo Island Community Education in Parliament House this week during their visit to Canberra. See photograph below.

BBRF drop-in session

Round 4 of the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) is now open and Rebekha is hosting a drop-in session for community groups seeking advice or direction with their grant applications.

The drop-in session is being held at the Community Meeting Room of the Alexandrina Council’s Goolwa office on Thursday, December 12, 1-3pm.

Applications for both streams of the BBRF close on Thursday, December 19, and the Government has given a clear indication that Round 4 will have a strong focus on supporting communities in drought-affected areas.

To date, Alexandrina Council and Kangaroo Island Council are eligible local government areas under the Federal Government’s Drought Communities Program.

The Community Investments Stream of the BBRF supports local communities in drought-affected areas with grants of between $5,000 and $10 million.

The Infrastructure Projects Stream of the BBRF supports projects which involve construction, upgrade or extension of infrastructure in a drought-affected area with grants of between $20,000 to $10 million.

For more information about the BBRF click here and for more information about the drop-in session call the electorate office on 8398 5566.

Future Drought Fund

From July next year, the Future Drought Fund will begin allocating $100 million per annum to Australian farmers and farming communities to help build resilience in the agricultural sector.

"You can have a say about the framework that delivers this money but submissions close next Friday, December 13," Rebekha said.

Please head to the following link for details:

Grant writing workshops

Photo: Rebekha is pictured at a previous grant writing workshop with guest speaker and Tailem Bend Community Centre Co-ordinator Tammy Shepherd.

Rebekha is hosting a series of grant writing workshops at Port Elliot, Stirling and McLaren Vale in late January 2020.

The workshops will feature guest presenters from different sectors including community services, sports and recreation and veterans' affairs.

“These events are about building the grant writing capacity in our community so we can source the funds we need for projects,” Rebekha said.

Positions are limited so please RSVP here.

National Growth Areas Alliance

Rebekha met with Mount Barker Mayor Ann Ferguson (pictured) and Playford Council Mayor Glenn Docherty at a National Growth Areas Alliance (NGAA) presentation in Parliament House this week.

The NGAA represents Councils who grapple every day with the challenges and opportunities of rapid and sustained population growth.

The presentation was hosted by the Parliamentary Friends for Better Cities.

The event showcased outcomes of the inaugural NGAA Symposium, where Councils from across Australia’s growth areas presented their latest research and innovative practice to plan, design and build communities of the future.

The programs included Mount Barker Council's "Where We Build, What We Build" initiative to build resilience in community infrastructure.

Cheers to Mayo wine regions

Rebekha caught up with Don Totino and Christophe Forel of Haselgrove Wines at McLaren Vale at the 2019 Australian Export Awards. Haselgrove Wines were finalists.

South Australia punches above its weight when it comes to Australia's wine export market.

Exports generate over $2 billion in revenue for South Australia and this year the state contributed almost 750,000 tonnes of wine-grape crush, the equivalent of almost one-third of the national crush.

Rebekha used a speaking opportunity in the Parliament this week to highlight the results of the 2019 Saint Martin Adelaide Hills Wine Show, held at Bird in Hand winery last week, where Murdoch Hill at Oakbank took out top honours in multiple categories.

She also mentioned Geoff Hardy Wines and Don Totino and Christophe Forel of Haselgrove Wines at McLaren Vale who were finalists in the 2019 Australian Export Awards held in Canberra this week.

Rebekha used the speech to highlight the potential risk to the Mayo wine industry from the biosecurity hazard Phylloxera and the potential approval of a gold mine near Woodside.

You can watch her speech here.

Asbestos awareness

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick, left, Lesley Shears and Catherine Wegener from the Asbestos Victims Association and Rebekha catch up in a Parliament House courtyard.

Catherine Wegener (a Goolwa resident) and Lesley Shears from the Asbestos Victims Association travelled to Canberra last week for Asbestos Awareness Week.

They were invited by Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick so he could share the story of Catherine's husband, Rex Wegener, who died in 2017 at the age of 75 of Mesothelioma.

Rex Wegener was a carpenter who worked with asbestos when he built houses. Rex died of Mesothelioma because he went to work.

You can listen to Rex's speech here.

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