Asking questions in Estimates, the end of state-owned coal-fired power, amending archaic bicycle regulations, saving wetlands – and much more
By Hon Brad Pettitt, MLC, Member for South Metropolitan
June was a very big month for our team! We had our last sitting week of Parliament before winter recess and a huge week of State Budget Estimates. Here's what we've been up to:
As a member of the Standing Committee on Estimates and Financial Operations, I spent pretty much the entire week of 20-24 June in hearings questioning various State Government Departments and Ministers on what taxpayer money will be spent on in the next financial year ‒ and what it won't. As I said in my budget-reply speech: the truth about a government’s aspirations isn’t found in its media statements ‒ it's found in the budget. Not all Government Departments come before the Estimates Committee every year, but there were some notable hearings this year.
The Department of Justice was the very first agency to have a hearing, and I took that opportunity to question the State Government on the treatment of children at Banksia Hill Detention Centre. Banksia is not a rehabilitative or therapeutic place and often only worsens the trauma these kids have already experienced, which is why we need to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 in WA and invest in early intervention programs. I also asked the Department of Justice about the status of aircon installation at Roebourne Prison and, when I was told there was no budget allocation, urged the State Government to install aircon before we have another record-breaking summer.
The Department of Transport was before the committee on Tuesday and I had a heap of questions for them on decarbonising our transport system and improving cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. I specifically asked about the lack of a plan to transition Transperth's bus fleet to 100% electric, questioned the State Government on the continued purchase of diesel buses despite e-buses being a proven technology, and encouraged the Department of Transport to do more consultation with active transport groups to make our communities more livable.
Another notable Estimates hearing was with the Department of Communities, where I focused mainly on funding for housing and homelessness. A glaring gap in this year's budget is the lack of funding for short-term crisis accommodation, which gives people experiencing homelessness a place to live while they wait on the public housing waitlist. I also asked questions about funding for the Local Government Partnership Fund for Homelessness, which is an important initiative that was announced nearly a year ago and still hasn't been rolled out. There are local governments in urgent need of funding to address homelessness that have been waiting far too long for an outcome on this partnership fund.
There are several clips from the Estimates hearings published on my Facebook and Instagram pages and I will continue to post more over the coming weeks.
Some movement on climate action in WA
The WA Government finally announced that all state-owned coal-fired power plants in WA will shut by 2030. This is a welcome step, but ditching coal is only the tip of the iceberg in a state like WA that relies so heavily on gas. The best part of this announcement was the commitment to invest $3.8 billion in new green power infrastructure in the SWIS, which is precisely what the Greens and I have been repeatedly calling for in recent years.
In addition to this announcement, the State Government committed to reducing their own emissions by 80% by 2030. Again, any action to cut emissions is very welcome, but we need a whole-of-economy legislated target to halve emissions by 2030. Given that the State Government's own emissions account for just 9% of WA's total annual emissions, a government-only target just won't cut it.
Wins this month
As the only Green MP in WA Parliament, it can sometimes be a bit of a hard slog trying to fight for our communities. Excitingly, we had two great wins this month.
After working for almost a year with cycling groups and community stakeholders, our office successfully got the Minister for Transport to agree to amend archaic bicycle regulations that made any bike more than 66cm wide unlawful. The regulation, which it seems like hardly anyone knew existed, was preventing disabled people from using their NDIS funding to purchase e-tricycles for mobility. It's a bit of a long story, but there is a post on my Facebook page from June 20th with all the details.
Pleasingly, after many months of community advocacy the WA State Government announced they will look into an alternative Lloyd Street Bridge alignment to protect the Helena Wetlands and First Nations cultural heritage. A big congratulations to the Save the Helena River Wetlands ‒ Rethink the Lloyd Street Bridge group and a thank you to Senator Dorinda Cox who lobbied the federal ministers in Canberra to act. This is a great outcome for our environment and First Nations cultural heritage. I am so pleased to have supported local community members and Traditional Owners to save this site.
Other bits and pieces
There are a few other important things to note. This month we sponsored two more Parliamentary petitions, the first is an e-petition to implement a reparations scheme for Stolen Generation survivors in WA and the second is a petition to introduce no-mining zones to protect areas of environmental and social significance. We also still have a couple months left of our e-petition to ban greyhound racing in WA. Both the Stolen Generation reparations and the greyhound petitions are still open online. Please sign them via the WA Parliament website if you haven't already!
This month I also had fruitful meetings with Government Ministers (more to come on this); attended a CARAD (Center for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees) event put on by the General Manager and former Greens MP, Alison Xamon; made a member statement in support of the Beeliar Group of Professors for Environmental Responsibility; and continued my work on the Estimates Committee's inquiry into homelessness. Our office is also progressing work on our new net-zero cities project which will collaborate with peak planning and transport bodies to carry on the vision of former Senator Scott Ludlam's Design Perth report. I've written a separate article on that project for this month's Green Issue which you can read up on if you'd like.
I also took a trip out to Melbourne to join my colleagues and fellow Greens members at the 2022 Australian Greens National Conference. It was excellent to see so many people in our movement join together. A big highlight of the weekend in Melbourne was getting together with my fellow State MP colleagues from across the country – there’s 22 of us in total!
I'm sure there's bits that I've missed as it has been an incredibly busy last month for our team. WA Parliament is now in winter recess so I will be taking a couple weeks of much-needed leave to go camping up north with my family.
As always, if you have any questions or issues you would like to raise with my office, feel free to send us an email at Brad.Pettitt@mp.wa.gov.au.
Header photo: At the Australian Greens National Conference in Melbourne