Rachel Siewert’s April Update

Working with an expanded state MLC team to create a more sustainable, caring and inclusive Western Australia.

By Senator Rachel Siewert
Monday, May 8, 2017

What a whirlwind journey for the WA Greens these last few months! A great state campaign has seen us double our representation in the WA state Upper House, with the re-election of Robin Chapple, and the election of Alison Xamon, Tim Clifford and Diane Evers.

 My thoughts are with Lynn MacLaren, who after a hard-fought campaign unfortunately lost her seat. We thank Lynn for her work on key areas in the state, particularly her efforts to stop Roe 8. I look forward to seeing Lynn flourish on her next journey. 

 Congratulations to the new MLC-elects, and thank you to the many volunteers who helped to achieve this excellent outcome. I am looking forward to working with this expanded team to create a more sustainable, caring and inclusive Western Australia.

 We’ve had some wins the last few months. I am proud that $15 million has been secured for Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) after years of advocating for longevity and more funding. The $15 million was secured as part of the $100 million the Australian Greens secured for Landcare when achieving outcomes on the Backpacker Tax. IPAs and Indigenous rangers contribute to the conservation of our important cultural and natural areas and help protect vast areas of our wonderful country. At the end of 2015, there were 70 declared IPAs, totalling about 63 million hectares. This is a great outcome and I look forward to seeing this extended rollout.

 With the help of Labor, we also secured a senate inquiry into the Centrelink robo-debt recovery system, which has been causing distress to so many people including jobseekers, pensioners, families, young people and carers who have received a computer generated letter saying they are owing a debt to Centrelink. Due to the broken and clunky rollout of the robo-debt system, many people are receiving notices of debts they do not owe and are either going through the difficult dispute process or are unwittingly paying back money they do not owe. The Senate inquiry has already gathered evidence in Canberra, Adelaide and Melbourne and major issues are emerging. Overwhelmingly, people giving evidence to the inquiry feel bullied by the Government rather than supported, they talk of emotional stress and fear. The social safety net is called ‘safety net’ for a reason. It should be safe.

 We also had the most recent Closing the Gap report from the Prime Minister that showed we continue to go backwards rather than forwards when it comes to reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage. In the lead up to the report I wrote to the Prime Minister, urging him to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander leaders who are desperately calling for Justice Targets to help reduce Aboriginal incarceration rates. Although Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion continues to oppose the targets, the Prime Minister has left the door open and may consider them in the future, which is a step in the right direction. We need targets as a marker to work towards for reducing incarceration rates; this has been said time and time again, and I hope the Government listens.

The Government also finally responded to the recommendations made by the Community Affairs References Committee into addressing the abuse, violence and neglect of people with disability in institutional and residential settings. The response from the Government was a year and a half late and they rejected nearly all recommendations, including calls for a Royal Commission into this issue. A Royal Commission as called for by disability advocates is necessary if we are to truly reveal the abuse happening across the country to people with disability; it needs to be urgently implemented. I will continue to campaign for a Royal Commission alongside people with disability and their families and carers.

 I am certain as the new state Greens MPs settle into their offices that they will hit the ground running and look forward to seeing them hard at work and accomplishing amazing things. We are already a quarter of the way through 2017 – I am sure the remainder of the year will be jam-packed including a visit from Richard soon and our workshop on Universal Basic Income!