A year of important campaigns: Rachel Siewert

I’ve spent the past year working on some very important campaigns, from Newstart to the cashless welfare card and many more.

By Senator Rachel Siewert  

What a year it has been! The election, initially expected late 2018, dragged out to May 18th 2019 – so there was a lot of time spent preparing and supporting the election effort. 

I was very disappointed, as I know many others were, to see the Coalition returned to power. But I’m very pleased and proud that our Greens Senate team and Adam in Melbourne were successful in gaining re-election. 

I feel privileged to have been able to continue work this past year in the portfolio areas of First Nations Issues; Ageing, Family and Community Services; and Mental Health, as well as my work as Whip of the Australian Greens and Chair and Deputy Chair respectively of the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs -Reference and Legislation Committees. 

There was very little parliament in the first half of 2019, with a government determined to avoid scrutiny and then an election. Despite this, I continued to pursue key issues and campaigns, keep pressure on the government to ensure better outcomes, and helped to defeat damaging legislation. 

Protecting and improving our social safety net has been a key focus in the past year – like opposing punitive discriminatory programs including the cashless welfare card, parentsnext, robodebt and the Community Development Program; drug testing of income support recipients; advocating for additional resources for aged care and mental health; and continuing the campaign for a raise in Newstart – which is finally getting the traction and attention it deserves. 

The Newstart campaign has been building for a number of years, and it is great to see the momentum growing. I was very proud to introduce my Newstart Bill (Ending the Poverty Trap) at the beginning of the new parliament.

I finished out the 45th parliament as Chair for the Community Affairs References Committee and was re-elected to the position by the Committee for the 46th Parliament. Some of the key inquiries in the past year include the Effectiveness of the Aged Care Quality Assessment and accreditation framework for protecting residents from abuse and poor practices, and ensuring proper clinical and medical care standards are maintained and practiced, as well as Parentsnext: including its trial and subsequent broader rollout and the Accessibility and quality of mental health services in rural and remote Australia. There are significant ongoing inquiries into adequacy of Newstart, Centrelink compliance, and the cashless debit card expansion. 

I have also been lucky enough to see lots of our wonderful state in supporting regional election campaigns, which saw me everywhere from Broome to Albany to Kalgoorlie. These were great opportunities to connect with members, engage the community and meet with regional organisations on issues affecting them.