Despite the parliamentary winter recess, plenty of action – in youth affairs, climate action, opposing electronic gambling, workers’ safety, animal welfare, etc.
By Hon. Alison Xamon, MLC, Member for North Metropolitan Region
The last couple of months saw a much needed winter recess from Parliament. The break gave me and my staff some time to catch up on meetings with constituents and stakeholders and gear up for a very busy parliamentary sitting schedule that will take us to the end of the year. Indeed, when Parliament resumed in August we went straight into a three week sitting.
Each year over the winter recess the YMCA Youth Parliament convenes at Parliament House. Sitting Members of Parliament are also invited to attend, and I was pleased to be able to Chair one of their sessions and host a morning tea. Without fail I am impressed by each student’s preparation and their commitment to making the most of the experience. These young leaders give me much hope for the future.
Sadly the lack of action by Governments, State and Federal, to tackle the climate emergency remains ever present, and my office has made a submission to the EPA regarding the Greenhouse Gas Emissions technical guidance and the Environmental Factor Guideline on Greenhouse Gas Emissions. As you no doubt remember, the Government promised industry that they would not support any EPA recommendations based on these guidelines when they were first released in March this year. I was outraged at the time and remain furious that these guidelines are being so delayed while our planet burns.
I fully anticipate that the public response (as opposed to polluting industries) will be that the guidelines should be as tough as possible and implemented as quickly as possible. We know that we have reached a climate change crisis point and at the moment, the EPA is the only environmental body in WA with the statutory independence to act in the absence of Federal Government regulation.
In the first few weeks back at Parliament one of the more contentious bills up for debate was the legislation that will enable the government to sell the TAB. For the first time in WA this bill paves the way for electronic gambling to be accessible right across the state by allowing TABs to offer simulated horse racing through the gaming platform know as Trackside. Western Australians have been justifiably proud of the fact that WA has been the only state not to have electronic gaming outside of the casino and so it is deeply disappointing that the bipartisan approach we have held for years in opposing this type of electronic gambling has been shattered. Despite my best efforts, and despite enormous support from the community and financial counselling sectors, my attempts to have Trackside removed from the scope of the sale were voted down.
During this sitting I also brought my bill seeking to make industrial manslaughter a crime forward for debate. This was particularly pertinent following some shockingly low penalties issued following the death of young workers. I will continue to call for industrial manslaughter laws and note with interest the McGowan Government changing their tune and finally saying they will introduce similar laws. If you would like to join me in the campaign to keep our workers safe go to greens.org.au/wa/campaigns/safe-sites to sign up.
Keeping with the workers’ safety theme I raised in Parliament my concerns about the alarming rise in the number of cases of silicosis occurring across Australia. The enormity of the problem was brought to light in Queensland last year where a screening program has so far uncovered 98 cases of silicosis. WorkSafe has subsequently initiated an inspection program here in WA and not before time given recent news that five cases of silicosis have been confirmed in WA over the past year. We do not need another asbestos crisis on our hands.
Meanwhile, despite the dire need for action I was very disappointed to learn through parliamentary questions that the Minister for Corrective Services has made no progress whatsoever on plans to relocate girls and younger children from the maximum security Banksia Hill Detention Centre into more appropriate accommodation. This is more than two years after first announcing these intentions. It is appalling that in the first three months of this year nine children under the age of 13 were held in Banksia Hill. Children, and particularly younger children, have very different needs from adult offenders. Locking them in the completely inappropriate Banksia Hill facility costs $967 a day and is so unsuccessful that 54% return to detention within two years and 82% within five years.
As the spokesperson for Animal Welfare I asked the Government questions about the South western snake-necked turtles who've come under increasing threat of localised extinction from foxes and cars in the Bibra Lake area. I wanted to see what the Government was doing to ensure the turtles’ survival and what actions it was taking to tackle ongoing threats to the fauna in Perth’s wetlands. The Minister advised that ongoing monitoring is in place, control programs for the foxes have been scheduled, and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, City of Cockburn and Murdoch University are currently installing and evaluating protective cages for nesting turtles. I‘ll be keeping a close eye on this going forward to ensure these measures are effective.
Live animal exports continue to be a key focus of mine and I have joined with the RSPCA and the Australian Veterinary Association calling for the ban on the live sheep trade to be extended. In March this year the Federal Government made a decision to prohibit the trade for the months of June, July and August in recognition of the intolerable stress suffered by these animals over the Northern Hemisphere summer. Recently, the shipping ban has been extended to include the first three weeks of September in recognition of the ongoing high temperatures. While on the face of it this is a good thing, the five year mortality rate for sheep per voyage shows that mortality rates in October are almost the same as in June. It simply does not make sense to continue to allow Australian sheep to be exported during October. The Greens, of course, have opposed live export for many decades and continue to do so, however until this occurs it is imperative that animal welfare is prioritised throughout all phases of the life cycle of production animals.
I was also delighted to attend the opening of Anchor Point Youth Futures new centre in Joondalup over the break. Anchor Point is a new purpose-designed facility where disengaged young people are supported with an appropriate alternative to high school; offering students a flexible, youth friendly environment where they can complete their education while getting extra one-on-one support. There is not nearly enough support for young people in our community and facilities like these are vital. That same week I attended the Midland Learning Academy which is the only Government funded facility providing education for students who have disengaged from regular schooling, often due to mental health issues. These services form part of the work I have been focussing on within education, namely students who are at educational risk.
Also on the electorate front I have been following up with the Minister for Planning about the lack of sportsgrounds in the Western Suburbs. Youth and Women’s participation in social sport is growing rapidly. With this increase and the anticipated infill increase, we can see that the current fully subscribed sporting grounds in the Western Suburbs will not be able to keep up. My recent letter to the Minister articulated my concerns that the planned provision of sports-fields did not address the ongoing issues in the context of urban infill. Provision of active and passive green recreation space is essential to ensuring that infill is welcomed, rather than met with open hostility.
Header photo: Alison with participants at the YMCA Youth Parliament.