NEW ENGLAND NEWSLETTER FOR SEPTEMBER 2015
It is a fact of life that politics is a tough business. It is also a fact of life that despite statements to the contrary politcians do take notice of polls as a barometer of what the community thinks. The decision to replace the Prime Minister was done with an eye on the next election. I stress that the Nationals have no say in the leadership of the Liberal Party and ultimately who is Prime Minister but we did take the opportunity to seek an agreement with Prime Minister Turnbull on certain issues that are important to us. Seven Nationals Members and Senators will serve as Ministers or Assistant Ministers and it is pleasing to see the Ministry of Rural Health under the guidance of Senator Fiona Nash. As for former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, I always found him a very decent, loyal man who was a good friend of the Nationals. He achieved some good outcomes such as scrapping the carbon tax and stopping the boats but no doubt would like to re-visit some of the decisions he and his colleagues made.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FUNDING
Domestic violence just seems to be getting worse. As I write this I read that 63 women have lost their lives to domestic violence incidents this year in Australia, and there would be countless thousands of others who have survived their injuries but live in fear. And we must not forget that men are also victims of aggressive partners, and children have to live through all this. The $100 million Commonwealth package will be used across a number of strategies, but the key one is education. $5 million will be used to develop a website with resources for teachers, parents and students on respectful relationships education. I am from the old school where a man was always taught to respect a woman, but sadly that is not so evident today.
When Labor changed the rules on how long bank accounts and insurance policies remained untouched before the government took the money, I sought an assurance from our Shadow Minister at the time that we would change the rule back. For 100 years the law had been that bank accounts and life insurance policies could remain dormant for seven years before they were transferred to government coffers. For example in the 2011-12 financial year when the seven year rule still existed, 20,000 bank accounts and $70 million were transferred to the government, but by cutting the timeframe to three years Labor was able to get its hands on 156,000 accounts holding $550 million the following year. People can still claim their money back but it is a long and stressful process. Our legislation restored the timeframe to seven years and childrens’ accounts and foreign currency accounts will be untouched when the changes come into force at the end of the year.
RECOVERING MONEY FROM OVERSEAS
Legislation has been introduced to claw back money from students who were funded through their University days and at some stage have moved overseas. Until now those overseas have been under no obligation to repay their HELP (HECS) debt and this costs Australia between $40 and $45 million a year. Until now students in Australia paid 4% of their income towards their debt once they reached the $54,126 threshold. The proposed reform would set a new minimum repayment income threshold of $50,638 in 2016-17 and the new minimum repayment would be 2% per year. It is expected to improve Australia’s balance sheet by more than $150 million over the next 10 years.
Written and authorised by Senator John Williams, 144 Byron Street, Inverell 2360
SUPPORT FOR THE TRUCKIES
We come from opposite ends of the political divide but I have joined with Labor Senator Glenn Sterle in calling on a fair go for the trucking companies in regards to them being paid. We have been shown documentation where a large business has told the trucking company it would not be paying for 90 or 120 days – in other words asking for up to four months credit. Yet the trucking company has to pay its bills on time such as wages, maintenance, fuel and finance payments. We wrote to the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal asking that it enforce a 30 days payment term and the Fair Work Commission has indicated it is currently taking submissions on its Draft Contractor Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 and may consider investigating this further. If we are not happy with progress we may consider terms of reference for a Senate inquiry.
CHINA- AUSTRALIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
It is difficult to understand why Labor and the unions are opposed to ChAFTA. The unions’ claim that it will allow unlicensed, unqualified Chinese workers to come in is absolute rubbish and exposes this as purely a political campaign.
AUSTRALIA POST FINANCES
Australia Post continues to suffer huge losses in its letters division. It has just announced a 2014-15 loss after tax of $222 million ($352 million before tax) compared with a profit of $116.2 million in the previous financial year. Losses in the mail division grew to $381 million as people and businesses send less letters and switch to digital alternatives. More than half the revenue is coming from the parcels business and the CEO Ahmed Fahour says Australia Post will become more “e-commerce centric”. Approval is being sought for a rise in the price of stamps to $1 although this will not affect concession card holders and Christmas card stamps. As a result of the Senate inquiry Australia Post has pledged $125 million in annualised payments over the past two years to support the sustainability of our Licensed Post Offices and Community Postal Agencies. In another positive move a working group has been established under the chairmanship of former Victorian Liberal Senator Helen Kroger to support the implementation of the letters regulatory reform and other issues. It will act as a conduit between stakeholders and the organization.
NANNY PILOT PROGRAMME
As part of its $40 billion child care package, the government is investing $246 million in a two year pilot programme and is seeking families to participate. The trial is aimed at those who work shift work and irregular hours such as police, nurses, emergency workers and even farmers and who find it difficult to access conventional child care. The Jobs for Families child care package will encourage an estimated 240,000 families to increase their involvement in paid work, including almost 38,000 jobless families. Families are eligible for the Nanny Pilot programme if both parents (or in the case of a sole parent, the sole parent) work, train or study at least eight hours a fortnight, and at least one parent is an Australian citizen or permanent resident. Applications close on the 30th of October at www.dss.gov.au/nannypilot and the trial starts on January 1st. I encourage eligible families to apply
INLAND RAIL FACTS
· $10 billion price tag
· One interstate train on the Inland Network will take 110 B-double trucks off the road
· The project will create up to 16,000 direct jobs during a 10-year construction period and a regular 600 jobs once operational.
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