Invitation to International Women’s Day Breakfast

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Greens NSW MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi and Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon will host an International Women’s Day breakfast with special guests, playwright and actor Nakkiah Lui, performer, writer and activist Candy Royalle, and author Randa Abdel-Fattah, for breakfast on Tuesday 8 March 2016 to celebrate International Women’s Day at NSW Parliament House. This is an autonomous event for all people who identify as women. Tickets are available here: http://bit.ly/1Pc1Y6V For … Continue reading

Forced WestConnex home acquisitions unfair

Despite a finding by a parliamentary committee, for the past 3 years, the NSW Government has known that the process for valuing homes forcibly acquired for major infrastructure projects – including WestConnex – is unfair to home owners.

As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald (p1) this morning a parliamentary committee chaired by Liberal MP Matt Kean found the compulsory acquisition system is “unfair and inadequate”. Yet the Government has forged ahead, acquiring a number of homes along the WestConnex route, with many more targeted for acquisition in the coming months.

MP for Newtown and NSW Greens WestConnex spokesperson Jenny Leong has called for a moratorium on all home acquisitions until a fair process has been determined and an independent inquiry of WestConnex has been undertaken.

“This is yet another reason why the construction of WestConnex needs to be halted until a full inquiry is undertaken. With the whole WestConnex project looking shakier by the day, people should not be forced out of their communities for what is looking more and more likely to be a failed project.

“Over the past year I have been in direct contact with extremely distressed residents, some of whom have lived in their homes for 40 years, that are facing the loss of their homes.  The impact on so many families, elderly people and individuals is life-changing – it’s disgraceful.

“Families are being forcibly uprooted removed from their homes and communities, before planning approvals have even been granted. Without sufficient compensation these families are unable to find a new home in the same local area – and that’s unacceptable.

“Why hasn’t the Government taken the advice of a parliamentary committee chaired by one of its own MPs? Does it have something to do with the already massive budget blowout on this disaster of a project?

“The community opposition to WestConnex is clear. It seems like every other week there’s a new story about cost blowouts, health concerns, lack of transparency – and now confirmation that the Government is taking advantage of people who happen to live along the route, by not offering them fair and just compensation,” she said.

11 January 2016

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Showdown between Community and Coalition on forced council amalgamations

 

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The NSW Government’s forced amalgamations plans for local councils have been announced.

The forced amalgamations will cut the number of councils from 152 to 112. In Sydney, 43 councils will be reduced to 25, while 109 regional councils will become 87.

NSW Premier Mike Baird has said the target population size for the proposed merged Sydney councils was 150,000.

State-wide opposition to forced amalgamations has already seen Mike Baird’s merger plans ‘Fit for the Future’ scaled back significantly.  Growing community opposition means that the plans are far from guaranteed.

Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“When a government dribbles out an unpopular policy a week before Christmas it’s a pretty clear sign that it’s feeling a lot of pain and just wants it to stop.

“For all the bluster and arrogance of the Baird government the proposed forced amalgamations on the table today are far less aggressive than his plans were earlier in the year.

“Six months ago the Baird government was planning to have a mass sacking of councils to appoint administrators and force Sydney into just six mega councils with dozens more council mergers in the bush.

“Growing community pressure has already forced a back down from Baird with no councils being sacked and a much reduced plan for forced mergers across the State.

“The Coalition now faces six months of even greater public pressure as each and every one of their proposed forced amalgamations grinds through separate public inquiries run by the Boundaries Commission.

“It’s no surprise this is being announced just before Christmas, it’s is a rubbish policy from an arrogant  government that knows forced amalgamations are deeply unpopular.

“What has been announced today is an incoherent plan for the future of local government without a scrap of evidence to support it.

“There is not a single report that supports a single one of these proposed mergers. What we see from Baird is a scrappy attempt at a political fix and councils and residents deserve far better.

“Baird is already finding that communities have far closer connections with their local councils and the services they provide than some smooth-talking bloke that they see on TV occasionally.

“The Greens remain committed to work with communities to stand up to the Coalition’s bullying, oppose forced amalgamations and keep local councils genuinely local.” Mr Shoebridge said.

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TRANSGRID LEASE EXPOSES CONSUMERS AND RENEWABLE ENERGY TO UNCERTAIN FUTURE

The $10.3 billion paid for the long-term lease of NSW’s high voltage transmission network raises serious questions about what guarantees have been given to the consortium and their costs for consumers and the future of the renewable energy industry, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.

Dr Kaye said: “The over-the-odds sale price looks like consumers have been served up on a platter to the multi-national consortium.

“Premier Mike Baird must come clean on the details of what guarantees were provided.

“TransGrid is the nerve centre of the electricity system in NSW.

“If a top-dollar sale price was locked in with a series of contract sweeteners, then inevitably it will be consumers and the renewable energy industry who will pay.

“With annual revenues of only $2.2 billion, TransGrid was set to be the smallest of the leases yet it has brought in what looks like a highly inflated price.

“This will help Mike Baird politically and it will provide for additional infrastructure but inevitably the additional cash will be extracted from households.

“The Australian Energy Regulator wrote down TransGrid’s allowable annual revenue from $2.9 billion to $2.2 billion.

“Clearly the new leaseholders are expecting something more for their $10.3 billion investment.

“There is little the electricity price commissioner can do to protect consumers after the first four years of the lease period.

“The transmission network, set up to deliver electricity from the state’s five large coal fired power stations to urban centres and large industry, is at risk of becoming an impaired asset.

“Somewhere hidden in this deal there will be a massive sting in the tail for NSW.

“Today the people of NSW have lost control over their energy future to a consortium of multinational corporations that care nothing for households or the clean energy future,” Dr Kaye said.

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LOCAL COUNCILS SHOULD NOT BE FOOLED BY BAIRD’S BLUSTER AND BULLYING

Local councils across the state should not be fooled by Premier Baird’s bullying language and aggressive campaign to force amalgamations.

Premier Baird and Local Government Minister Toole sent a letter to all NSW Mayors with an unsubtle threat to councils who have listened to their local community and decided to remain standalone: “Councils that see the benefits of merging, but are unable to reach agreement with neighbouring councils, should submit their merger preferences even if agreement has not been reached. These councils will have the best opportunity to shape the future of the new council.”

In response to Baird and Toole’s bulliyng letter, Greens MP David Shoebridge has distributed a letter to all NSW Mayors and Councillors with some essential truths.

There is a very good reason why the Premier is so vague and why he is so bullying. He wants councils to capitulate and “voluntarily” merge by the end of this year because the alternative for him is a lengthy, politically damaging and far from certain outcome.

The Premier does not have a political majority in the NSW Upper House to amend the Local Government Act to allow him to simply sack councils and force mergers without due process.

Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said: “This is blatant bullying from the Premier and Minister who know that if local councils don’t voluntarily amalgamate, the alternative is a lengthy, politically damaging and far from certain outcome.

“Baird and Toole have clearly been frustrated by local councils who have listened to their communities and been told to stand firm and not become a mega council.

“Most councils after consulting with their communities have found that their residents don’t support having their democratic say diluted by a merger and there is no economic justification for a merger.

“The fact is the Premier does not have a political majority in the Upper House to amend the Local Government Act to allow him to simply sack councils and force mergers without due process.

“The Greens will continue to support locals who, in the face of the Premier’s bullying, decide to stand alone as viable, community-supported and responsible councils.“ Mr Shoebridge said.

Both letters are online here: http://davidshoebridge.org.au/2015/11/13/local-councils-should-not-be-fooled-by-bairds-bluster-and-bullying/

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ALCOHOL AND POKER MACHINE REGULATION WEAKENED TO APPEASE POWERFUL LOBBY

The NSW government is about to undermine the regulatory structure that enforces laws about alcohol sales, electronic gaming machines and the casino, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.

Deputy Premier Troy Grant’s proposed restructure of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) (see http://j.mp/LiquorGamingReforms1015) would:

  • Strip ILGA of all of the staff that service its regulatory, enforcement and policy work. Instead the supposedly independent body would be reduced to just a board with all support services to be provided by a government department;
  • Allow merit appeals from ILGA decisions to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), providing clubs, pubs and bottle shop chains the opportunity to use expensive lawyers to overturn restrictions on poker machine entitlements or rejections of licence applications. NCAT is not a specialist jurisdiction for alcohol and gambling policies; and
  • Move compliance monitoring of the casino from ILGA to a government department.

(Further background information is available at: http://j.mp/ILGAchanges1015)

Dr Kaye said: “The Baird government has once again caved in to pressure from the pubs and clubs lobbies by opening the floodgates to more poker machines, more liquor outlets and longer trading hours.

“The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority is being savagely punished because it exercised its independence to protect communities by limiting opportunities for excessive gambling and alcohol abuse.

“The industry might have been annoyed by the outcomes, but the Authority responded to the evidence of harm caused by high densities of liquor outlets and concentrations of poker machines in disadvantaged communities.

“Deputy Premier Troy Grant is turning the Authority into a toothless tiger by stripping it of staff who are free from political pressure. He is also subjecting its decisions to appeal before a non-expert tribunal.

“This is much more than just administrative changes to organisational structures and processes.

“A critical safeguard against problem gambling and alcohol abuse is about to be brought to heal.

“If this goes ahead, the Minister will be able to exercise influence over its decisions through pressure on staff and pubs and clubs will inevitably deploy expensive lawyers to overturn any determination they don’t like.

“Once again the lobby has its way with the NSW government and what little protections communities have against aggressive hotels or clubs are swept away.

“Compliance regulation at both the Star and Barangaroo casinos will no longer be in the hands of an independent authority.

“Instead, the Minister’s public servants will be in charge of monitoring conditions that are supposed to stop the spread or organised crime and money laundering.

“This is the next step in the industry’s push to a deregulated alcohol and gambling environment. They successfully destroyed the Licencing Court and now they are lining up to shackle its successor to ministerial influence and a non-expert tribunal.

“The lobby knows its members will have much more success with their push to expand when a politician can influence the outcome than at the hands of genuinely independent and evidence-based authority.

“The Greens will be moving to send the legislation off to an inquiry to fully expose the implications of this move.

“It will be up to Labor and the conservative crossbenches to show that they are not completely captured by the alcohol and gaming lobbies by voting with us to stop the destruction of the independent authority,” Dr Kaye said.

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NEWCASTLE HERALD 15/9/15 – TAFE WARNING: SALE WILL “ROB REGION”

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THE full and partial sale of Hunter TAFE campuses will raise more than $6million for the state government but potentially rob the region of a prosperous economic future, according to Greens MP John Kaye.

‘‘There’s no question theHunter has taken a fairly savage blow,’’ Dr Kaye said.‘‘For more than a century the state has provided young people, working class people and people with disadvantaged  backgrounds with a ladder to climb into employment and to get skills.‘‘The Baird government is now busy breaking that ladder.’

Mr Kaye said the leaked four-page cabinet document that named 27 TAFE sites across the state to be sold for a total of $62.97million earmarked four Hunter campuses to be fully or partially sold for $6.47million.

This includes the sale of the Scone campus for $1.17million, which will move primary industries training to the Kurri Kurri campus.
The western side of the Muswellbrook campus will be sold or ‘‘repurposed’’ in collaboration with Muswellbrook Shire Council for $1.48million.The western side of the Belmont campus will be sold for $2.96million, which will require courses to be delivered either in other campuses or to a limited extent in nearby leased facilities.Vacant land at the Glendale campus will be sold for $860,000.

Dr Kaye said the proposed closures would reduce the access of a whole generation of Hunter residents to education and training, particularly if they did not drive or have access to public transport to travel to another campus.

He said many of the students who attended TAFE needed the support of a face to face teacher and physical classroom and would struggle with courses being moved online.

‘‘It’s fine for people who have experience in learning and who have language, literacy and numeracy skills, but very bad for people who struggle with the use of computers and who will be isolated without access to teachers,’’ he said.

‘‘Many young people will have the chance of employment, the chance of building a life for themselves taken away because the Baird government wants to cut its investment in TAFE.

‘‘The Hunter community is being robbed of its economic future and pathway to employment and quality of life in return for more than $6million being ripped out by the government.’’

Dr Kaye said the Hunter faced employment challenges and needed tools to continue building the skills of its workforce. ‘‘Investment in public education produces a big return to the community and to government, and not just economically, but socially, too,’’ he said.

The leaked document said TAFE NSW required a $54.5million increase in capital spending this year to fund $32million for new projects.

NEW TRAINERS ROLE MOOTED

A PROPOSAL to replace TAFE teachers with trainers will be discussed when the NSW Teachers Federation meets with the state government on Thursday September 17 to negotiate a new enterprise agreement.

The state government has given teachers a document that reads ‘‘To continue to deliver quality training, TAFE NSW needs a modern educational workforce model that is responsive to the needs of our learners, who want training delivered anytime and anywhere, in a way that works for them.’’

It proposes adding a new role of trainer to the agreement, to ‘‘help us win new business’’.

It said a trainer’s responsibilities would include delivering training and conducting assessment using pre-designed materials, customising pre-designed delivery and assessment to a learner cohort, support compliance and liaising with industry on training needs.

NSW Teachers Federation President Maurie Mulheron said his members were concerned teachers would be replaced over time with unqualified trainers, who would be paid at what he estimated would be half the teacher rate.

‘‘Over time teachers will move to a smaller role at TAFE and be more supervisors working in the background, developing a curriculum to be delivered by an unqualified person,’’ he said.

‘‘The stability and assurance that comes with knowing your teacher is an expert in their field and on the cutting edge will be gone.

‘‘People graduating won’t be able to have the same confidence [in their qualifications] that TAFE was known for.’’

The agreement also includes increasing annual teaching hours from 720 to 820 and annual teaching weeks from 36 to 41, eliminating the five hours a week offsite ‘administrative arrangements’ and eliminating paid related duties for part time causal teachers.

The state government has proposed a 2.5 per cent per annum pay increase each year for two years.


First published in The Newcastle Herald on 15 September 2015.

 

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