Memo from Mayo August 8

8 Aug 2019

Welcome to my latest edition of Memo from Mayo.

I'm back in the electorate after an action-packed fortnight in Federal Parliament where I introduced seven Private Members' Bills, made 24 speeches, spoke at the inaugural Friends of the ABC Press Freedom Lecture and co-ordinated a press conference with Crossbench MPs and Senators and the Australia Institute on the importance of establishing a National Integrity Commission (also known as a Federal Independent Commissioner Against Corruption).

National Integrity Commission

PHOTO BELOW: Member for Indi Helen Haines, left, Member for Warringah Zali Steggall, Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie MP, Member for Melbourne Adam Bandt and the Member for Clark Andrew Wilkie were the only Lower House MPs to vote for the establishment of a parliamentary investigation into criminal and government corruption allegations levelled against Crown Casino. Rebekha's speech on the motion can be read here.

It was a bit lonely sitting with my Crossbench colleagues last week as our attempt to set up a Joint Select Committee to investigate the recent allegations against Crown Casino (including money laundering and fast-tracking of visas for Chinese high rollers) was defeated.

The Government's referral of the matter to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity is not enough. This agency does not have the powers to investigate the breadth of the Crown Casino allegations, including any potential misconduct by Ministers and Former Ministers.

Every day I see more reasons for a National Integrity Commission with real teeth, which was why the very next day I stood with my colleagues Senators Stirling Griff and Rex Patrick, Crossbench members and retired Judge David Harper from the Australia Institute's National Integrity Committee to call for a National Integrity Commission.

You can read our joint press release here and SBS journalist Brett Mason has kindly shared his coverage of the press conference here.

My motion calling for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission is available here.

Defending Free Speech

PHOTO BELOW: A year ago, I became the first member of parliament to receive the Defenders Badge from ABC Friends National. It was presented to me by Sue Pinnock, the ABC Friends South Australia spokesperson (PICTURED CENTRE) in recognition of my support for our public broadcaster and for my advocacy for restoring the $334 million which has been cut from the ABC since 2014.

Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are fundamental to a healthy democracy.

Centre Alliance is of the opinion that the time has come for our nation to bring in a constitutional backstop to protect our free press and the right of all Australians to speak freely, which is why we have introduced a Private Member's Bill into the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Centre Alliance are also public supporters of our public broadcaster, which is why I was proud to be one of the keynote speakers at the inaugural ABC Friends Press Freedom Lecture.

Joining me were my co-convenors of the Parliamentary Friends of the ABC, Andrew Wilkie MP, the Independent Member for Clark & Dr Mike Freelander MP, the Labor Member for Macarthur.

I was also pleased to have the opportunity to talk about the need to increase funding for the ABC, particularly in regional Australia. The Government has recently introduced a Bill to mandate more coverage in rural and remote Australia, but they are not talking about extra funding to make that happen.

You can read my speech here.

Private Members' Bills

Besides constitutional recognition of press freedom, I introduced six other Private Member's Bills, including:

The Constitution Alteration (Water Resources) Bill 2019 which mirrors legislation tabled in the Senate this month by Centre Alliance. You can read my press release here.

The Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2019

The Banking Amendment (Rural Finance Reform) Bill 2019, which has been referred to the House Standing Committee on Economics

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Heritage Listing for the Bight) Bill 2019

The Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratio Disclosure) Bill 2019

And the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Amendment (Worker Screening Database) Bill 2019.

Repealing Medevac legislation

Centre Alliance is completely opposed to repealing the medevac legislation.

These laws remain a medical solution to a medical problem for ONLY those people on Manus and Nauru. The laws put medical professionals at the centre of decision-making but with an appropriate veto power for the Minister. These laws are working. The Minister has only chosen to use his power of veto on a few occasions.

The medevac laws have passed the Lower House but the Senate has referred the legislation to their Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for consideration.

The reporting date is 18 October this year.

Regardless of the committee’s recommendations my Centre Alliance Senators will be opposing the repealing of these laws because these laws are working.

You can read my speech in parliament here. A Youtube clip is also available and I also provided an opinion piece for 10 Daily.

Veteran mental health

PHOTO BELOW: Macclesfield RSL President Dennis Oldenhove, left, and Vice-President Mark Stewart-Jones show Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester and Rebekha the ANZAC Memorial Gardens during the Minister's visit in January. The gardens have been established by the RSL sub-branch as a place of peace and contemplation for veterans.

Centre Alliance plans to improve veterans' access to psychological and psychiatric services by amending the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Bill 2019.

This includes making sure the Department of Veterans' Affairs rate of rebate is sufficient to entice psychologists and psychiatrists to provide services to the veteran community and veterans.

This is an important and necessary change. The DVA rate has fallen well below a rate that is sustainable for psychologists and psychiatrists to continue to provide services to the veteran community.

You can read my press release here.

Aldinga Washpool

Closer to home, I recently wrote to the State Environment Minister, David Speirs, to ask him to consider community requests to consolidate the 'Aldinga Washpool' sites into the Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park.

You can read my press release here and you can watch my speech in Federal Parliament here.

Three grant rounds now open

The Federal Government has launched three different grant programs for on-ground environmental projects, community building projects and small-scale projects for local schools.

The Stronger Communities Program and the Communities Environment Program provide $150,000 to each electorate in Australia to share among local groups.

Eligible groups can apply for grants between $2,500 and $20,000 from the Federal Government. Community groups applying for Stronger Communities Program grants are expected to match the project funds with their own finances or in-kind support.

The Local Schools Community Fund provides up to $200,000 for an electorate with eligible schools able to apply for grants for projects of between $1,000 and $20,000.

Only schools can lodge applications under this fund so pass on the word to your local school governing council. More information is available here or feel free to call the electorate office on 8398 5566.

Applications are now open for Round 5 of the Stronger Communities Program, more information is available here.

Applications open on August 12 for the Communities Environment Program, and more information is available here.

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