NEW ENGLAND NEWSLETTER FOR OCTOBER 2016
DISGUSTING WEBSITE AIMED AT CHILDREN
I was alerted to a Federal government-funded website that was directing students to inappropriate websites under the guise of student wellbeing. The re-launched Student Wellbeing Hub, which was so-named to avoid confusion with the Safe Schools Coalition, is supposed to offer support and guidance for parents, students and educators to ensure children feel safe and supported at schools. However, third-party links on the website directed people to inappropriate material and I raised this with Minister Birmingham and Departmental officials at Senate estimates. The Minister ordered the offending links be removed and has asked the Department to carry out a review of the information on the website.
A well-known Australian expression is “don’t hold your breath”, and I certainly won’t be when it comes to the proposed Yamba to Moree rail freight link. For years we have been hearing this $6 billion project will take the pressure off Sydney and Brisbane ports, but Infrastructure Australia says it hasn’t heard from the proponents for 18 months. Infrastructure Australia has previously cast doubt on the project’s viability and said the port would be too small. Just dredging the port at Yamba would invoke a maze of State and Federal environmental hurdles, not to mention possible native title claims and the huge construction task.
Legislation has been passed that will assist around 500,000 wage earners to stay in the 32.5% tax bracket for longer. The middle income tax bracket has been increased from $80,000 to $87.000 providing tax relief of up to $315 per year. Individuals will get every dollar of their personal income tax relief backdated to 1 July 2016 and will already have started to receive the benefits with the lower tax rates applying from 1 October 2016.
MULTIPLE VOTING AT THE ELECTION
At Senate Estimates the Australian Electoral Commission confirmed it had written to just over 18,000 people nationwide who had their name crossed off more than once at the recent Federal election. The AEC pointed out some of these could have been administrative errors, or a person may not necessarily have voted multiple times even though their name was crossed off more than once, but it has written to all 18,000 seeking a response. The AEC also confirmed that prior to this year’s election it had written to just over 4,000 people whose names had been crossed off more than once at the 2013 and 2010 Federal elections to remind them of their obligations under the Electoral Act.
Congratulations to Jake Cracknell from Inverell’s Macintyre High School who has won a Silver medal at the WorldSkills competition in the section of Vocational Education and Training in Schools Primary Industries.
Written and authorised by Senator John Williams, 144 Byron Street, Inverell 2360.
It may surprise you to hear that Armidale has around 200 homeless people. We generally think of homeless people as those who sleep on the streets and in parks but the Census regards those who tend to move between friends, described as couch-surfing, as also homeless. The Rotary Club of Armidale Central, with the assistance of Grant McCarroll Ford and IGA, has established a van that will provide meals at the Christian Outreach Hall on Tuesday nights and the Uniting Church Hall on Friday nights. Volunteers are needed to help with this project.
BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION LOSING FAVOUR
A poll conducted by Galaxy Research reveals there is lessening public support for a Royal Commission into the banking sector. Whilst there has been widespread support for several months, the survey found that the majority of people did not understand what was involved in a Royal Commission. They did not understand it cannot impose fines on banks or force banks to pay compensation and the government of the day is not bound to accept any of the recommendations. Most people I talk to, while still critical of banking practices, agree that some form of Tribunal that would have the power to get the parties together and make a binding decision on compensation is more preferable. There is a will from government and the financial industry for such a body to be established although its exact powers are still being considered.
Considering the problems with the technology and the subsequent publicity, Australians have embraced this year’s Census. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported a response rate of 96%, of which 58% or 4.9 million forms were lodged online. This was short of the 65% target but there is no doubt the collapse of the website and ensuing problems contributed to this. 10,000 “refusals to complete” are currently being assessed – the ABS acknowledges that in some cases there are mitigating circumstances such as ill-health or confusion over the delivery of the form.
PAID PARENTAL LEAVE
Legislation has been introduced into Parliament to ensure a fairer Paid Parental Leave scheme. At the moment mothers can receive the government scheme of 18 weeks of payments at the national minimum wage rate of $672 per week or a total of $12,106. They can effectively ‘double-dip’ by also accessing their employer scheme as well if one is offered. Under the legislation an employee who benefits from an employer-sponsored PPL cannot access the taxpayer-funded scheme, but where the employer scheme is for less than 18 weeks, the balance can be provided to the employee through the government scheme. If a person, for example someone in part-time work, accesses an employer scheme but it is less than the minimum wage and may also be less than 18 weeks, the government will supplement the person's employer paid parental leave to the level of the national minimum wage for that period, as well as then pay a further amount of PPL up to a total of 18 weeks.
Parliament resumes for a one week sitting from the 7th of November, and the final two weeks of sittings for the year will commence on the 21st of November.
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