Ongoing concerns about climate change, mental health care, fine default and animal welfare, and other issues such as VAD, whistleblowers, schools, etc
By Hon. Alison Xamon, MLC for North Metropolitan
Climate change has, rightly, dominated the narrative both inside and outside of Parliament, since sitting resumed after the winter recess, I passionately share the community’s outrage at the lack of meaningful action from Government; and have attended several demonstrations recently, including the School Strike for Climate Change Action, and Extinction Rebellion rallies.
The release of the coastal erosion hotspots report highlighted the urgent need to tackle climate change. A number of areas in my Electorate are under direct threat including Port Beach; Floreat Beach; Mettams Pool; Watermans Bay; the Quinns Beach and the Two Rocks northern coast. The Marmion Marine Club sea wall could also be negatively affected. The report focused on public infrastructure and private property, but coastal risk hazard mapping has shown the likely loss of substantial stretches of Bush Forever sites in the North Metro Region, from Hillarys Boat Harbour to the northern edges of the metropolitan area. We must tackle climate change as one of the key underlying factors for the potentially devastating increase in coastal erosion.
In the chamber, I again voiced my concerns for the environmental impact of the Ocean Reef Marina project, as part of debate on the Reserves (Marmion Marine Park) Bill 2019. The development will see the loss of nearly 20% of the marine park’s inshore reef. This is a worry, particularly with the challenges already facing the marine park in the face of anticipated sea level rise as a consequence of climate change.
Despite all of this, a motion from the Greens calling on the Government to declare a climate emergency fell on deaf ears. This is disappointing, but not surprising, given the WA Government’s lack of interest in implementing a solid plan.
A significant Bill that was passed was the Bill which enables the sale of the TAB. As part of this debate I raised the significant concerns of both the Greens and the community sector that the Bill enables the introduction of electronic gaming, a form of pokies, into our pubs and regional areas for the first time in WA. This is a serious breach of the long standing bi-partisan agreement not to go down the fraught path of the eastern states. There is now a community campaign calling for an immediate halt and I will continue to raise the issue in the parliament.
As part of my work in Mental Health, I renewed my call for the expansion of Mental Health-Police co-response teams to the regions; pressed the Government on its progress in negotiations with the Morrison Government for $14.8 million for youth forensic mental health beds; clarified the Government’s position on the National Statement of Principles relating to Persons Unfit to Plead or Not Guilty by Reason of Cognitive or Mental Health Impairment, and revealed the true spend on health and mental health services at Banksia Hill Detention Centre.
The death of a young woman in prison in Geraldton in September highlighted my concerns for the lack of mental health care and rehabilitation in the state’s prison system. Long-term mental health understaffing continues, with the number of psychologists employed in the prison system lower in 2018 than it was three years earlier. I have raised the issue on many occasions; as has the Coroner, and the Inspector of Custodial Services – and yet the WA Government continues to fail to invest in this area.
There was some good news in Corrective Services, as the Auditor General introduced legislation to reform the state’s laws surrounding fine default. My questions in Parliament revealed 433 people were imprisoned in WA in 2018-19 for fine default, spending an average of five days locked up; 210 were unemployed; 112 were women and 156 were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The case of Ms Dhu is a stark reminder of the potentially tragic consequences of failing to provide alternative to prison for vulnerable people who are unable to pay fine debts. As I stressed when I co-hosted a forum along with Social Reinvestment WA at Parliament recently, there are far more cost sensible, cost effective and humane ways to deal with fine default.
On another issue of utmost importance, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill has now passed the Legislative Assembly and is (at the time of writing) being debated in the Legislative Council. I have had many calls to my office indicating opinions on the bill. VAD is an issue of great sensitivity and, as debate progresses, I will consider each amendment put forward with great care.
Lots has been happening in my Animal Welfare portfolio. I have been assisting greyhound campaigners in their efforts to legally allow these gentle dogs to be in the community unmuzzled, through the tabling of further signatures for a petition. The Government is currently undertaking a review of the Dog Act, with their report is due in the coming weeks. I have so enjoyed meeting many beautiful greyhounds (and their committed owners and foster parents) and was pleased to co-host a gathering of greyhounds and their owners with Senator Mahreen Faruqi calling for greyhound racing to be banned.
I have consistently been speaking out about my concerns over Murdoch University’s decision to pursue Professor Gerd Schroder-Turk, rather than addressing his valid concerns around the University’s performance. Whistle-blowers need far better protection and we need further reform to our state laws.
In terms of North Metro schooling, I have reminded the Parliament about the desperate need to future proof the availability of secondary education in the western suburbs and retain the City Beach High School site; I also questioned the Government about the use of unfit-for-purpose blue-white LED streetlights, and reiterated concerns about the de-funding of the Herdsman Lake Wildlife Centre.
Header photo: Social Reinvestment Fine Default Forum