With a state election shortly after our last federal election, a number of parliamentary inquiries and some massive campaigns over the last 12 months, it’s safe to say that myself and my team have been working hard!
By Senator Rachel Siewert
With a state election shortly after our last federal election, a number of parliamentary inquiries and some massive campaigns over the last 12 months, it's safe to say that myself and my team have been working hard!
The Fight for equality
It's been another year of fighting for some of Australia's most vulnerable people. Centrelink issues continue to be at the forefront of the constituency work that my office does, and I have continued to raise them in Parliament. In February, myself and Labor secured a Senate inquiry (which I chaired) into the Government's failing Centrelink automated debt recovery system, and I am continuing to work to have the recommendations of that inquiry acted on.
The fight against income management has ramped up with the extension of the Cashless Welfare Card trials around the country. The Government has sought to identify new trial sites nation wide, despite the evidence very clearly showing that income management doesn't work. We've maintained the campaign, working alongside community groups around the country, to keep pressure on the Government and Labor to scrap the cashless welfare card. It has now been 10 years since the NT intervention and we continue to campaign for an end to the basics card.
At the same time, we've been looking extensively at Universal Basic Income trials and measures around the world. It's clear that we desperately need to overhaul our social security systems here in Australia. I'll continue to develop this work with the party and my colleagues over the next few months.
Uluru statement from the heart
There have been some massive moments lately for our First peoples - 20th Anniversary of the Bringing them Home report, 25th Anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and 50th of referendum. Most recently, elders and leaders from around the country met at Uluru to produce the Uluru Statement from The Heart and move forward on constitutional reform. The statement outlines the need for a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' voice to be enshrined in the constitution, and pursues treaty and truth telling. The Greens have expressed our support for the statement and will continue to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to implement the statement.
We also continued our work to reduce incarceration rates via justice targets, reduce the rates of out-of-home care and highlight the possibility of another 'stolen' generation of Indigenous children, won the support of the Senate to fund the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples for the next three years and kept the pressure on the Government to #ChangeTheDate of Australia Day.
Getting the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) right remains a priority for me. The Greens robustly supported a fully funded NDIS. I still have serious concerns about getting the NDIS right as there continues to be many concerns and we have been campaignig for improvements. I'm particularly concerned about people with psychosocial disabilities, getting access to the NDIS but also to ensure that those that aren't eligible for the NDIS can still access mental health services. I have been part of the NDIS joint standing committee inquiry into this matter. I've been working extensively with stakeholders at a state and federal level, and those that will be accessing this service, to ensure that we address the issues they are raising.
I'm continuing to campaign for a Royal Commission into the violence and abuse of people with disability as per the recommendations of the Inquiry into this issue.
I'm very concerned about the on-going attempts to kick people off the Disability Support Pension and have been following this through estimates.
It has been another busy 12 months in terms of Senate Inquiries. As Parliament resumed post federal election, I moved to restart the inquiries looking into infinite detention of people with cognitive impairment, the aged care sector work force and Lyme-like diseases in Australia. The 2017 year started with a bang over the Centrelink Robo-Debt scandal, which led to a parliamentary inquiry into the issue. We also helped initiate an inquiry into the failing Community Development Program (CDP) and will hold hearings shortly.
The state election
And last, but not least, Western Australia had a state election in March this year. We had record breaking numbers of volunteers, teams and doorknockers come out to successfully re-elect Robin Chapple in the Mining and Pastoral Region, and elect Alison Xamon to North Metropolitan, Tim Clifford to East Metropolitan and Diane Evers to the South West region.
Given the size of WA, we managed to knock on 27,000 doors from Derby at the top of WA, right through to Albany at the very bottom of the South-West.
It was an interesting campaign to say the least, with the Liberal Government doing grubby preference deals with One Nation, which, alongside other key issues, ultimately led to their demise. We won the long standing fight against the Roe8 development, but sadly lost Lynn MacLaren in the South Metropolitan region who was a champion on the issue.