NEW ENGLAND NEWSLETTER FOR AUGUST 2016
Legislation to save the Budget more than $6 billion has been introduced into the House of Representatives. In total the government is seeking to legislate $40 billion in savings in coming months. Our gross debt is increasing by $6 billion a month or $1.4 billion per week in 2016-17. The interest payments on our debt will total $16 billion this year. If the Parliament does not pass the Budget savings Treasury estimates the nation’s gross debt would exceed $1 trillion in a decade. Some of the savings measures include –
$1- A new minimum repayment threshold for all Higher Education Loan Programme debts from 1 July 2018;
$1- Extending the pause on indexing the income thresholds for the Medicare levy surcharge and private health insurance rebate for a further three years;
$1- Abolition of the National Health Performance Authority;
$1- Replacement of the Child Dental Benefits Schedule with the Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme;
$1- Interest to be charged on the debts of former recipients of social welfare payments who refuse to enter repayment arrangements, and remove the six year limitation on debt recovery;
$1- Carbon tax compensation will not be available to new welfare recipients.
Controlling our spiraling debt is the biggest challenge facing our country.
BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION
From the moment Labor called for a Royal Commission into the financial sector most of us knew it was purely in response to the Royal Commission into the Trade Union movement which has uncovered some appalling activities. On the 24th of June last year Labor had the chance to support a Greens motion in the Senate which called for a Royal Commission but voted against it. When Parliament resumed after the election Labor moved a motion in the House of Representatives which was defeated, but in the Senate I offered to support the motion if the terms of reference were widened to include scrutiny of Industry Super Funds. These Funds indirectly finance Labor and the Greens, so naturally they didn’t want the spotlight on that practice. When I attempted to move my amendment Labor and the Greens denied me leave, which means I couldn’t continue. As I said at the time, if there is to be a Royal Commission it has to be a lot broader than just looking at the banks because there is a lot of white collar crime going under the radar.
LIFE INSURANCE INQUIRY
Once the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services is re-established I will be lodging Terms of Reference for an inquiry into the life insurance industry where there is a cloud hanging over some of its treatment of clients.
BUNDARRA POST OFFICE CLOSURE
It is sad to see small towns lose services but every effort has been made to keep the Bundarra Post Office open. Illness has meant the licensee could not continue and Australia Post sought expressions of interest from local people who may have been able to take over but this ultimately proved unsuccessful. Australia Post has arranged with Bundarra General Store to offer a limited postal service.
Written and authorized by Senator John Williams, 144 Byron Street Inverell.
With the resumption of Parliament I have returned as Nationals Whip in the Senate where I work closely with the Chief Government Whip to ensure our Senators are abreast of legislation and proceedings.
For such an accepted practice I was amazed at the huge amount of misinformation and scaremongering that took place before Census night. It didn’t seem to matter what the ABS or Minister Michael McCormack said – social media and talkback were awash with conspiracy theories about what would happen to stored information. Whilst the system did collapse on Census night, this was caused by hacking attempts. You can probably understand now why we are a long way off from online voting. At the time of preparing this newsletter two-thirds of Australians have completed the form. A reminder that you have until September 23 to return your completed census form.
FUNDING FOR VETERANS
Tamworth RSL Sub-branch has been awarded $21,654 and Legacy Club of Tamworth $26,000 in the latest round of Building Excellence in Support and Training grants. The funds will be used for advocacy and welfare work.
ROADS TO RECOVERY
New England councils have received a combined $1.88 million in the latest round of Roads to Recovery funding. Gwydir Shire Council has received $803,390, Inverell Shire $506,863, Upper Hunter Shire $260,888, Tamworth Regional $251,166 and Uralla Shire Council $62,184. The Australian Government will distribute $3.2 billion to councils nationwide between 2014–15 and 2018–19.
THE DANGERS OF MOBILITY SCOOTERS
Some of you may know of the accident involving my wife and a mobility scooter. She stepped out of her office onto the footpath and was struck by the scooter which is estimated to have been travelling at least 10 kilometres per hour. She was flung into the air and landed heavily on her left hip, necessitating an urgent operation to replace the hip. Since then I have questioned the rules and regulations surrounding the use of mobility scooters amongst pedestrians on footpaths, and quite simply there are not many. If a scooter is restricted to 10kph or less, it is classed as a pedestrian, yet at 10kph it is travelling at twice the walking pace of pedestrians. I am not advocating for a ban on these machines because I know and appreciate the independence it gives elderly and disabled people, and the majority are very responsible. But since my wife’s accident became public, many people have contacted my office with similar stories, including one person who was run down and suffered severe fractures and bruising. I have written to the NSW Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay asking that he consider tighter regulations for their use including further speed restrictions and competency testing.
NATIONAL BROADBAND NETWORK The National Broadband Network rollout has hit another major milestone and is now available to more than 3 million homes and businesses across Australia. The rollout is on track to be available to 5.4 million premises by June 2017 and over 9 million premises by June 2018.
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