I hope everyone enjoyed the festive break and we all look forward to a positive 2017.
NEW BRIDGE NEAR TENTERFIELD
Member for New England Barnaby Joyce has officially opened the new bridge over Bookookoorara Creek 34k north of Tenterfield on the Mount Lindesay Road. The new two-lane, concrete bridge replaces a single-lane timber bridge built more than 70 years ago.
NEW NATIONALS FEDERAL DIRECTOR
Ben Hindmarsh has been appointed Federal Director of the Nationals replacing Scott Mitchell. Ben most recently was Chief of Staff to the Hon Darren Chester, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and also held a senior position in the office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Scott steps down after five years at the helm.
REGIONAL DENTISTRY SCHOLARSHIP
Applications are now open for the NSW Regional Dentistry Scholarship that I sponsor. During my time in the Senate I contribute $4,800 annually to a first year dentistry student who was educated in a regional area and is committed to returning to a regional area to practice. If you know of someone who plans to start a dentistry course this year please direct them to www.ruralhealth.org.au/nsw-rds and applications close on the 20th of February.Since 2010 recipients have been Olivia Jom from Albury; Jessica Powell, Tamworth; Alayne White, Cowra; Amelia Judson, Bogan Gate; Jarrod Brice, Euston; Matthew McGreal, Orange; and Leazelle Graham, Wellington. In 2016 I was also able to support Melissa Stevens from Dubbo through a cash prize I won in a raffle.
REVIEWING THE LAST ELECTION
The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Matters has tabled an Interim Report on the conduct of the 2016 Federal election. Everyone will remember the disgraceful “Mediscare” campaign mounted by Labor and the unions yet the authorising party did not identify itself. Most people were left with the impression the message came from a Commonwealth entity. The Federal Police did not pursue a criminal prosecution because it says there is no law against impersonating or purporting to act on behalf of a Commonwealth entity. However it is an offence to impersonate a Commonwealth official. Clearly this is an anomaly that needs to be addressed. The Committee is going to report further on this aspect next year.
PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION STUDY
The Productivity Commission is commencing a study on the impact of the transition on regional economies following the mining boom. The study will help to determine how well different regions are adapting to the transition and the factors which influence their capacity to adapt to changes in economic circumstances, and to identify those regions most at risk of failing to adjust. Public consultation will be undertaken as part of the study and the Government encourages all interested parties to participate. The initial report will be given to the Government in April 2017 and a final report within 12 months.
There is a lot of misinformation about changes to the pension and by now those affected will have received a letter outlining the changes. 90% of pensioners will actually be better off or have no change to their pension. Those who have lost their pension entitlement as a result of the asset test changes will receive a Health Care Card, and those over age pension age will be issued with a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card without having to meet the usual income test requirements. If you are unsure of the new rules please contact my office or the Department of Human Services.
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