Showing posts with label government policy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label government policy. Show all posts

Monday, 11 January 2021

COVID-19 State Of Play 2021: about the Australian Government national vaccination program......


On 7 January 2021 Australian Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison fronted a press conference at which he stated of the proposed national vaccination program; “It's a federal vaccination policy”.


Currently this federal policy commences with only one vaccine agreement being implemented – the two-dose Astra Zeneca vaccine (doses given 28 days apart) which is considered to have an efficacy rate of at least 62 per cent in those fully vaccinated.


This vaccine choice by federal government appears to be predicated on potential product loss and lower storage costs, as the Astra Zeneca vaccine vials can be stored in fridges rather than requiring very low temperature medical freezers.


The Australian Government’s agreement with Astra Zeneca is that this pharmaceutical company will deliver 3.8 million doses in early 2021, with another 50 million doses to be manufactured under licence in Australia by CSL Behring.


Using the stated dosing regime the initial doses sent to Australia would only fully vaccinate est. 1.9 million people or would only partially vaccinate 3.8 million people.


It is to be hoped that before mid-February CSL Behring will have managed to manufacture and stockpile at least another 4.2 million doses if Morrison's stated population target is to be met.


At that 7 January press conference Morrison went on to say that he expected that the nation rollout will commence with vaccinations of high priority groups in mid to late February 2021.


He is hoping to start the vaccination with around 80,000 vaccinations a week and, to build up those numbers over the next 4 to 6 weeks.


Further, Morrison expressed a hope that that by the end of March 4 million people will have received the vaccine.


If vaccinations commenced at the earliest date Morrison has indicated then it would be on 14 February 2021 with 80,000 having received a first dose injection by 21 February.


To reach the target of 4 million people having received an injection by 31 March 2021, the rollout would have to proceed from 22 February onwards at a rate of est. 95,609 people a day.


Being generous and allowing that though he said March he may have meant mid-April, the amended rate of vaccination would be lowered to est. 66,440 people per day.


To complete full vaccination of 4 million people, the second-dose round would have to commence on or about 14 March 2021 which would raise the number of people receiving injections by the end of March (or alternatively by mid-April) to an impossibly large number.


This appears to be an incredibly optimistic timetable and the logistics daunting. Hospital clinics and GP practices would likely be overwhelmed.


I sincerely hope I am wrong and the states and territories manage to pull a few medical rabbits out of their public health hats, because I suspect on past behaviour Scott Morrison will decide to holiday or be otherwise unavailable for much of the initial 4-6 week vaccine rollout period.


Thursday, 10 December 2020

Recent Berejiklian Government reset after education policy failure seen as 'buck passing' by NSW Teachers' Federation


The Age, 7 December 2020:


Educators have lashed out at the NSW government's new performance targets for public schools, saying the policy fails to provide them with specialist resources they need and instead scapegoats teachers and principals for system failures.


The new School Success Model, announced by Education Minister Sarah Mitchell on Sunday, will require the education department to intervene in public schools that fail to meet performance targets and see executives take more responsibility for school outcomes.


It replaces the troubled Local Schools, Local Decisions model from 2012, which gave principals greater autonomy but axed support staff and left the department with little influence over how schools made decisions or spent money.


NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said Sunday's announcement was "more spin than substance" as it failed to restore adequate specialist support for schools. He said it instead blamed teachers and principals for failures.


"This policy will not deliver schools, teachers and principals the support they need to perform the very complex task expected from them ... It will not address crippling administrative burdens placed on schools," he said.


"It provides no evidence of the restoration of more than 800 specialist and expert positions that were stripped from the system when Local Schools, Local Decisions was announced."


He accused the government of attempting to distance itself from the "failed policy", which had cut support to schools for efficiency gains…..


Monday, 30 November 2020

Scotty and Josh are riding the superannuation wrecking ball in 2020

 

Josh and Scotty a double act since 2018
IMAGE: The Guardian


Employers are required to fulfil their obligations under the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 (or under industrial agreements in many cases) to make superannuation contributions on behalf of their employees.


The current statutory rate of employer compulsory superannuation contributions is scheduled to rise incrementally by 10 per cent in 2021 and reach 12 per cent in 2024.


According to the Financial Review on 15 July 2019; Politicians, public servants and academics are among the est. 2 million workers or 18 per cent of all employees who would be unaffected if a scheduled rise in the compulsory Super Guarantee from 9.5 per cent to 10 per cent to 12 per cent did not occur as their existing employer superannuation contribution is already above 12 per cent.


Another est. 300,000 people, or 3 per cent of all employees are not included in the Super Guarantee as they earn less than $450 a month before tax and est. 63 per cent of these workers are female.


Add to this the reportedly 2.2 million employees who do not receive their full super entitlements because their employers unlawfully do not pay all or any employer contributions to eligible workers and, the size of the workforce who might receive a benefit from a 0.5 per cent increase in the Super Guarantee next year has shrunk to est. 8.2 million workers.


Based on full-time average adult weekly earnings in October 2020 an employer’s compulsory superannuation contribution per worker would be est. $651 per month at 9.5% in 2020 and $681 per month at 10% in 2021.


That’s an increase of $30 a month or $7.50 a week next year.


A dollar a day is not going to break either the employer or the worker and, at the end of the 2021-22 financial year there would be an extra $415 in interest payments in that worker's superannuation account – and if that worker has another 30 years before retirement that $415 dollars in interest could represent up to $29,000 more in his/her superannuation account at the end of that time period.


When one considers that an est. 98 per cent of all businesses in Australia employ 20 or less people and as that would only mean an employer contribution increase of $20 or less a day for the vast majority of employers, it is hard to see this as an unreasonable move.


After all, even the Morrison Government admits that superannuation assists middle income earners to smooth their income over their lives, and Without compulsory superannuation, middle income earners would not save enough for retirement.


However, the Abbott-Trunbull- Morrison Government does not fancy 8.2 million workers receiving an extra $30 a month in their super accounts next year.


So Josh Frydenberg is doing a good imitation of Chicken Little and screeching the sky will fall if $1 a day is added to a worker’s superannuation account in 2021. 


He bespoke a study from Treasury to back him up when it comes to not increasing the Super Guarantee this year and moving towards a policy of forcing homeowners on age pensions or retirees with little super to either sell their house or borrow against it in order to fund retirement, so that Scott Morrison can happily continue his personal war on the poor and vulnerable.


Put simply the Morrison Government is arguing that neither workers, their bosses nor the national economy can afford an increase in the amount of money which enters a worker’s superannuation for his/her financial benefit on retirement.


Quite frankly I see no real justification for that stance.


A stance that is also incredibly hypocritical given that by 2007 the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Scheme saw newly elected federal parliamentarians receiving government compulsory contributions into their own superannuation accounts at a rate of 15.4 per cent in order to bring superannuation arrangements for parliamentarians in line with current community standards.


The lack of congruence between what federal politicians see as community standards applicable to themselves and community standards as applicable to ordinary workers is so marked that the ordinary voter has begun to notice......


 

Monday, 23 November 2020

How the scandal plagued Berejiklian Government bill to extinguish the protection of koalas and their shelter & food trees in NSW went down

 

At 3pm on Thursday 19 November 2020 the NSW Legislative Council considered the second reading of Local Land Sevices Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020.


Thirty-seven members of the Legislative Council attended the Chamber for the passage of this bill, although not all participated in the debate.


The debate on the bill itself went for 5 hours and 24 minutes before the bells rang for a vote.


Here are excerpts drawn from the Hansard record of this debate:


The Hon. SARAH MITCHELL (Liberal Party): 


With the endorsement of the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, I make this statement now in this second reading speech: There will be no ministerial direction requiring any local council to zone core koala habitat as an environmental zone—period. The Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 will help to ensure that primary production is regulated consistently and fairly right across New South Wales, making it easier for the agriculture and forestry sectors to invest in the future. Government action now is essential to reduce regulatory burden and simplify the interaction between areas requiring additional environmental protection on rural land.


A slow undermining of farmers' rights and the Local Land Services Act, which is such a critical reform for farmers and this Government, will not be allowed to happen on our watch. The last time I introduced a bill into this House I stood in defence of a farmer's right to farm and their right to go about their business without being subject to on-farm invasions. I was proud to introduce the toughest raft of penalties anywhere in the country for this highly dangerous and disgusting trespass activity to which farmers were being subjected. I said then that I would be back with further reforms. This bill is one piece of the puzzle. It is a significant next step forward for farmers today by unscrambling some of the issues about how we regulate on-farm activities.


Ms CATE FAEHRMANN (The Greens Party): 


Up and down the mid North Coast and the North Coast hundreds of thousands of hectares of private native forestry plans have been approved within which there is a lot of core koala habitat. The timber industry has been consulted on the bill and loves it because, lo and behold, if core koala habitat is not already mapped it ends up for grabs…..


In his second reading speech the agriculture Minister said that the bill amending the Local Land Services Act has come about after years of consultation with farmers. Basically he said that the bill will make farmers very happy and that the key people with whom he consulted were the NSW Farmers Association and the timber industry. I will talk briefly about what the new koala SEPP was going to do. After speaking with the environment Minister, the planning Minister and various people in this place about what on earth this bill was about, we were assured that it is okay because it tightens the definition of "koala habitat". That it is what we had been after for some time because it puts in 123 feed trees and that it is a great step because more koala habitat will be protected and expanded. But a new definition of "core koala habitat" is useless if it cannot be applied to where it is needed most. The bill expressly prohibits that. Every time we heard something else about the bill, you could almost hear the committee members who sat on the koala inquiry asking, "What? They have done what?"


After the year we have had, after the bushfires, after the inquiry finding that koalas will become extinct in New South Wales before 2050 without urgent Government intervention to prevent ongoing loss and fragmentation of koala habitat, the National Party has the gall to try to get away with this absolutely disgraceful bill. Perhaps that is fair enough, given The National Party's strong track record of being anti-environment. I would welcome any National Party member coming forward to explain how this bill is not an anti-environment bill. In fact, we heard a lot of that in the lower House and not a single member of the Liberals spoke in favour of this incredible compromise that the National Party came up with. To hear the agriculture Minister say in his second reading speech that he worked collaboratively with the Premier's office and with the planning Minister's office makes one wonder what the hell was going on with this legislation. After all of the fanfare and all of the promises, they booted out the environment Minister Matt Kean for having the gall to talk about doubling koala numbers. For goodness sake! They boot him out and say, "We will take over, there's nothing to see here. Go away, let's do this bill…..


During debate in this place on the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party bill—which tried to do something similar but went a little further—on the day that the Minister's bill was second read in the other place, the Hon. Ben Franklin quoted the Hon. Mark Banasiak. He basically said that Sydney-based greenies should keep their noses out of any affairs in the bush. Pretty much everybody cares about koalas. Maybe a few people in The Nationals call them and think of them as "tree rats", but pretty much everybody I speak to right across New South Wales cares. In fact, people call my office and every office from across the country and, indeed, the world. More than 10,000 emails were sent on a single day, crashing the server. I do not think I have seen more emails on an issue. It is koalas, for goodness sake; we are talking about koalas. It is not a city-based greenie issue; this is an Australian issue. This is our national icon and the most loved animal not just in Australia but also the world. It wins so many contests and surveys as the most loved animal…..


Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE (Christian Democrats Party): 


Like other members of this House I have a great love and attraction for our koalas. I will do all that I can to ensure—as we are doing in this legislation—that we protect particularly those major areas of habitat in Ballina, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Lismore and Port Stephens.


The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK (Liberal Party)


A hundred years ago the New South Wales Government supported a thriving primary industry in the name of jobs, property rights, economic growth and revenues to the public purse. The industry operated across all States and involved the slaughter of well over 8 million koalas and the export of their furs, mainly to the United Kingdom. At least 4 million koala pelts were sent to the USA, and trade only ceased when the American Secretary of Commerce signed an order prohibiting further imports. How embarrassing. The koalas were hunted to functional extinction in South Australia. Well-intentioned conservationists alarmed by the losses relocated several koalas to Kangaroo Island, which had never before had koalas. This created a new environmental disaster on the fragile environment of that island that is still being mitigated today. In Victoria it is estimated that hunting continued until barely 1,000 koalas were left, and the Australia Koala Foundation estimates that fewer than 500 were left alive in New South Wales.


After that the slaughter moved north to Queensland, where a month-long event known as "Black August" in 1927 saw more than 800,000 koalas killed. We have made so many mistakes. The koala fur traders that profited from their pelts are all dead and gone, but the impacts of what they did are with us today. One day all of us here in this Chamber will be dead and gone, but the impacts of what we decide today will last forever. I do not want this Government or this Parliament to be remembered for a massive policy error, added to the very long list of errors that we have already been making for more than a century—particularly when everyone from scientists to councils to passionate communities are telling us so clearly that this is not what they want.


It is safe to say that in my own North Coast region, fragile koala numbers have declined significantly. We know that the region lost an estimated 71 per cent of its already endangered koalas during the Black Summer fires. Our koalas are in so much trouble. The plight of koalas is really well understood by my community, and indeed by the whole world, which donated tens of millions of dollars in a stunning act of generosity to funds established specifically help koalas. My community is incredibly distressed by this legislation. In all of the communications sent to me on this issue, I have not had a single person ask me to vote for this bill—not one. I cannot find a constituency for this legislation. All I can find is enormous distress and mistrust. The Minister's second reading speech referring to a promise by the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces not to proclaim any more environmental lands was a huge shock to me personally. It was really hard for me to process as a lifelong Liberal…..


I admit that this bill brings to the surface many disappointments. Nine years ago I thought that there was a lot of hope and promise for the environment. But this has brought me to a tipping point because of the reframing of policy that began with catchment management authorities being removed from the Environment portfolio and handed to the primary industries Minister by former Premier Barry O'Farrell. Those disappointments have of course had to be endured for the sake of loyalty. But as members are aware, the shock of what happened to the portfolio and the incremental stripping away of protections from Environment and Planning and into a Primary Industry framework have been very difficult to swallow—particularly since the models that we have been dismantling were set up by the Liberal Party and The Nationals during the Greiner years. It is our own good work that we have been undoing…..


I have received assurances that the bill is not as bad as it looks and that it will be amended and improved, but the problem is that I have to deal with what is on the table before me, and the risk is too high to rely on those assurances. I have done that in the past and I have felt foolish for doing so. Mention has been made of the departure of the bill from the Cabinet decision, which I find shocking. I feel for my colleagues, including Ministers, who voted for the bill in the other place, believing incorrectly it had been approved by Cabinet. Truly, I have not encountered such poor integrity of processes, which all members have no choice but to trust and rely upon. My faith in those processes has been shattered. I have friends in Cabinet, and they are great Liberals with whom I have worked for decades. My position on the bill today inflicts enormous harm on those relationships. I cannot say how sad and sorry I am for that.


I apologise to the Premier, to my party and to our Coalition partners. I believe they are all good people. The damage that is inflicted by the bill is not what they wanted or intended, but the flawed processes means that that is what has been delivered. I believe in my heart that what I am doing today will assist the Government. The Premier, the planning Minister and the environment Minister could not have tried harder to ask me to support the bill. They should not be blamed for the fallout from today. I hope we can stop yelling at each other, work like adults for our communities and listen to each other and create consensus where there is chaos. I do not think that is a fairytale; I believe it is achievable if we leave ourselves out of the policy and go with the science and the facts.


I will make mention of Glen Turner, an inspector who lost his life in a shocking event. All members have a responsibility to honour him and to respect the sacrifice that he made. One person's humble career on the floor of Parliament is insignificant compared with what occurred in that incident. I acknowledge Glen and I thank him and his family. I will move an amendment to the bill in the earnest belief that a more transparent process will assist the bill, the Government and the community to come together in the great cause of saving our koalas. There is nothing to fear from an all-party inquiry, and there is much to be gained from inspiring confidence in the community. I thank the House for the opportunity to put my thoughts on record. I move:


That the question be amended by omitting "be now read a second time" and inserting instead "be referred to Portfolio Committee No. 7 - Planning and Environment for inquiry and report".


The Hon. JOHN GRAHAM (Labor Party)


We are so far from that with the bill. We are so far from that world, which is possible. The bill heads in the opposite direction. I am concerned that that is the case because of the culture of the Government: the developers are out in force, the tipsy developers wandering through the Premier's office, the developers housed in the pub at Taree are part of the fundraiser and the walking ATM back on the typewriter. That is the culture of the Government. Our concern, and the planning Minister's concern, is that that culture is driving the bill. Secondly, members have been critical about the maps and how some of the aerial surveillance is regulated. There are real concerns with how that is working. My concern there is that the system has not been resourced properly to settle those questions. Of course, the way to settle questions is with science, but the science to proof the maps is not there if the money is not there or to ground-truth what is going on. That is what is falling over: the decline in the funding for the regulatory agencies. The loss of skills as people lose hope and leave the regulatory agencies is killing our ability to be settle those issues through science. That is bad for everyone. That is bad for anyone who wants to see a result in the area. The best bit of the Hon. Catherine Cusack's speech was when she described to koala plans of management as a little bit complicated—not a truer word could have been spoken. It is complicated if we are going to regulate it properly.


Finally, I want to talk about the consequences. Members have been clear that the situation is very bad for koalas. Koalas will be extinct by 2050 if we do not get it right. We are heading in the wrong direction, but my concern about the past few years—but more than anything, about this bill—is that we are heading back to the forest wars. That is bad for everyone. That is not where members of the Government want to go because it is drawing the attention of environmental activists across the State and country who, frankly, were concerned about climate change and tackling that issue. They are being drawn back to New South Wales and the natural resource policies of the Government because of what is going on. The Government is drawing the attention of those activists and legislators. It is drawing the attention of this House, the Opposition and the crossbench. The issue is becoming more and more controversial. It is drawing the attention of the community, not only in Australia but also around the world, and that attention is not going to go away.


As the Hon. Catherine Cusack said, the bill is dragging us back to a time before the Greiner years. We had been moving towards consensus on some of those issues over Labor and Liberal governments, but the conflict is gearing up because of the approach. It is not just this bill; it is the other context I talked about. The bill is clearly drawing the attention. That is bad for farmers, forestry workers, environmentalists and regional communities. That is the problem if we gear up that conflict. Those issues rely on trust, faith and an understanding that we can work together. There is an optimistic path but the bill is so far from it. That is the Opposition's concern. I am glad that the Hon. Catherine Cusack mentioned Glen Turner and his family. He paid the price for one of those conflicts, which is what happens when we let loose those conflicts across the State. We should act very carefully and the Opposition will try to do that. The real fear is that the forest wars that the State has suffered over decades will really set us all back.


The Hon. MARK BANASIAK (Shooter, Fishers and Farmers Party): 


The Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 is a good example of the National Party's inability to negotiate outcomes for the bush with the Liberal Party. We sincerely appreciate the effort of Minister Adam Marshall, despite him being undermined by the pretend Nationals Deputy Premier John Barilaro in what can be described as his Winston Churchill moment, appeasing his Liberal masters.…..


As I have said already, Minister Adam Marshall has proven, once again, that he is one of the few sharp tools in the shed of the National Party in this Parliament. The Hon. Wes Fang is another. We achieved a lot together with Minister Marshall during debate on the Right to Farm Bill 2019. We are looking forward to achieve similar outcomes on this important Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill. However, that may not happen because the Hon. Catherine Cusack has gone a bit rogue. Either she will vote against the bill or she will refer it to a portfolio committee controlled by The Greens or an inquiry. Either way, The Nationals have been bent over the barrel unceremoniously. Who is the winner in all of this? It is definitely not the National Party.


The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX (The National Party): 


Those people sit in their offices in their ivory towers pretending that they know what is best for the people who, for generations, have been looking after the lands which they have held in trust. They are very conscious of environmental issues, yet their stewardship and responsibility to their land and the environment is not recognised. Instead, we have another set of regulations and a number of maps that have been put through a local government process that, over time—particularly on the North Coast—have been taken over by people with a one-eyed view about what the environment means to them.


That is the problem. We cannot continue down this pathway of undermining the paradigm and framework that was carefully put in place in 2016. The codes under those Acts have embedded the protections so far as the environment is concerned, as well as biodiversity, land clearing and private native forestry. It is all there. Let us not pretend that this system is going to make it any better. It confuses everything right down the line. Let us go back to the simple processes that the Coalition Government carefully put in place at that time and enhance them where we need to through that Local Land Services framework. We should be doing that and not get caught up in State environment planning instruments. My view is that those types of SEPPs should be disallowed by this House of Parliament, because we are basically giving all those powers for those planning instruments to local governments, which are undermining the absolute basis of planning in this State, particularly in rural lands outside the cities.


The Hon. MARK PEARSON (Animal Justice Party): 


There are times in my political life when I step back in amazement at the terrible cruelty so casually inflicted upon the animals with whom we share this island continent. Reading the provisions of the Local Land Services (Amendment) Miscellaneous Bill 2020 and understanding its implications for koalas in particular is one of those occasions. Combined with the recent changes to the State Environment Planning Policy No. 44 (Koala Habitat Protection)—the koala SEPP— the effect of the bill has a diabolical impact on the survival of koalas in New South Wales. This is neither histrionics nor an overstatement. My concern is shared by every reputable conservation and environmental organisation in this country and the world. The ink is barely dry on the report of this House after its 12-month inquiry into New South Wales koala populations, which found that koala numbers were down to 15,000 to 20,000 and that koalas were at risk of extinction by 2050.


The bill will bring forward that estimated date of extinction. The bill and the revised SEPP make an absolute mockery of the Government's very recent promises to prevent the extinction of koalas on their watch. Senior Ministers such as the planning Minister, Rob Stokes, and the environment Minister, Matt Kean, have made very public statements about increasing protections for koalas. As recently as 21 September, Minister Stokes stated that, "The fact is you can't save the koala and remove koala habitat at the same time.” Minister Kean told The Sydney Morning Herald on 26 July:


I don't want to see the koala extinct by 2050, I want to see their population doubled by 2050 … Koalas are the most iconic example of our mismanagement of the environment and we've got to say 'enough is enough'.


That is not the Opposition, The Greens or the Animal Justice Party stating that. That is Minister Kean saying that he will ask the Chief Scientist to assemble an expert panel to develop a 30-year plan.


Yet, instead of a properly considered plan made by the environmental experts, there is this hastily put together bill, which completely abrogates any responsibility that the Government owes to the protection of koalas. The only thing missing to finish off koalas is to issue free chainsaws to every landholder and tell them to go for it.


The Hon. MARK LATHAM (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation: 


The green ideology on this is all about control….


You are not interested so much in the koalas as the trees. If the wombat or the echidna could climb trees, they would have a SEPP as well. They are the forgotten marsupials. Menzies had his forgotten people; I have the forgotten marsupials in this debate and I want them to be considered just as much. This is ableist discrimination. The Greens discriminate against them because they are disabled in the sense that they cannot climb a tree. It is ableism, as they term it in their mad, politically correct world of language. Let us get back to the basics of the parameters I have outlined in the speech. The history does not reflect well on Federal and State Government, but the Minister is doing the right thing. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party has magnificent amendments that One Nation supports. Hopefully that package will go through and we will forget the nonsense going off to The Greens committee.


Mr JUSTIN FIELD (Independent): 


If this legislation passes it will represent a total capitulation by the majority of the Liberal Party to the tantrums of Deputy Premier John Barilaro and The Nationals. Far from being a koala hero that stared down John Barilaro, if the bill becomes law the Premier will have buckled in the face of that tantrum by a political party that has absolutely no credibility when it comes to natural resource management in this State—never mind our shared natural environment. We have seen the papers. We have seen the tantrum, the showdown, the stare‑down, the peace deal and the breakdown of the peace deal. Now we are somehow expected to believe tantrummer-in-chief Deputy Premier John Barilaro has stepped in to save the day. We have had pushback today from the Hon. Catherine Cusack. About an hour ago the next phase started when Channel 7 reporter Alex Hart tweeted:


It's understood Nats have called an urgent partyroom meeting for 630pm, with their land rights (koala) bill about to be voted down in Upper House given Lib Cusack is opposed. When asked what this means, one Nat Minister replied "war".


That is the maturity that we are dealing with here. None of that makes sense based on the bill in front of us. Either the bill goes significantly further than the deal apparently struck and represented in the media by planning Minister Rob Stokes, acting Nationals leader Paul Toole and agriculture Minister Adam Marshall, or the spin around the deal did not reflect the actual agreement or the Cabinet decision. If a new peace deal has been negotiated by the Deputy Premier and the subject of yesterday'sThe Sydney Morning Herald story, then where are the amendments from the Government to implement it?


Where we are with this piece of legislation has become farcical. The reality is that the legislation will strip away significant protections for koalas and koala habitat. I will address something that has not been covered much today and that is the impact the bill will have on areas like wetlands and other critically important habitat on private land. It will do what The Nationals have always said they want to do; I am not surprised by this move. They do not want anyone other than their Minister and his legislation overseeing what happens on private land because they come at the debate from the perspective that rural landholders should have the right to manage their land as they see fit. I can understand how someone would arrive at that conclusion, but the consequences of that position are now apparent to us.


Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE (The Greens Party): 


Why is it happening? Because the Coalition is in some kind of meltdown and its internal ructions mean that it is introducing this legislation not because it thinks it is good policy, or fairly balances the environment and forestry and agricultural practices, but because there is a small group of National Party MPs—and some of their supporters in the Liberal Party—who are committed to sacrificing environmental and social values for short-term political gains, regardless of the damage it does to the environment, and even regardless of the damage it does to their own party and the Coalition.


The idea that development consent conditions differ between council areas seems to be one of the primary justifications for removing them when it comes to private native forestry practices. Because council A might impose a set of conditions on private native forestry operations and council B might impose a different set of conditions, the response in the bill is to abolish them entirely. The argument presented is that that is inefficient and creates red tape or green tape. Why does that happen in practice? Councils create land planning rules and put conditions on private native forestry operations based on the environmental and social issues that they are addressing in their local areas. It is a fact that councils can be responsive to the local area on that granular level, which makes it appropriate for different conditions to apply in different parts of the State.


The Hon. ADAM SEARLE (Labor Party): 


When the legislation we are now debating surfaced it was quite clear to a number of observers, including the Opposition, that The Nationals had essentially won their tussle with the Liberals, who had essentially capitulated in terms of protecting koala populations and what was in this bill. I will not canvass the details. Different members of this House—including my deputy, the Hon. Penny Sharpe—have done so eloquently. I will not repeat those arguments, but it is clear that the legislation is a complete sellout. We have also seen it transpire that, as people have examined the legislation more carefully, at least a big part of the Government or a large proportion of the Liberal Party has identified or believes the legislation that we are debating is not the legislation approved by the Coalition Cabinet. It contains elements that go well beyond what was understood to be agreed.


This is the fundamental basis upon which the Hon. Catherine Cusack rests her position and her proposed course of action. If that is in fact what has happened, there has been a breakdown in decision-making at the most senior levels in the Government. One wonders where the version or quality control is. Small wonder do we learn late this afternoon—probably a few minutes ago—that apparently the National Party is having a partyroom meeting to discuss this very problem. One wonders whether the koala crisis will engulf the Government once more. Is the National Party about to announce pulling out of the Government again? Time will tell. But it is quite clear that this legislation is fatally flawed, should be dispatched or sent to an inquiry. We will be supporting one or other of those courses of action.


The House divided a little after 8:38 pm and voted by 19 votes to 18 to amend the question being put to the House from the bill “be now be read a second time” to "be referred to Portfolio Committee No. 7 - Planning and Environment for inquiry and report".


This in effect means that the bill cannot come back before the Legislative Council until sometime in 2021.


It also means that there is a possibility that the Berejiklian Government will abandon this particular bill and begin writing its amendments to existing legislation all over again.


Later on the night of 19 November NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy-Premier John Barilaro issued a joint media release which stated:


Today the Legislative Council resolved to send the Local Land Services (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 to Parliamentary Committee 7 – Planning and Environment.


Our farmers deserve certainty and they do not deserve to be held to ransom by a Greens-controlled inquiry.


The Premier and the Deputy Premier have agreed the NSW Government will revert to operations under the former SEPP 44 by the end of the month and in the new year we will develop a policy to protect koalas and the interests of farmers.


Shortly thereafter the Premier issued this in another media release:


Media statement from Premier Gladys Berejiklian.


Following her decision today to move a non-government amendment to a government bill, I have made the decision to immediately remove Ms Catherine Cusack as a Parliamentary Secretary.


On the morning of Friday 20 November 2020 concerned people around Australia responded on social media with the hashtag

I Stand With Catherine Cusack.


Note:


Those 18 MLCs who were not at all interested is supporting anything but their own political interests and who refused to support Ms. Cusack’s amendment were:


Lou Amato (Liberal)


Ben Franklin (Nationals)


Matthew Mason-Cox (Nationals)


Mark Banasiak (Shooter, Fishers and Farmers)


Trevor Khan (Nationals)


Sarah Mitchell (Nationals)


Robert Borsak (Shooter, Fishers and Farmers)


Mark Latham (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation)


Fred Nile (Christian Democrats)


Wes Fang (Nationals)


Natasha Maclaren-Jones (Liberal)


Rod Roberts (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation)


Scott Farlow (Liberal)


Shayne Mallard (Liberal)


Bronnie Taylor (Nationals)


Sam Farraway (Nationals)


Taylor Martin (Liberal)


Damien Tudehope (Liberal)


Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Morrison Government to settle 'robodebt' class action out of court reportedly for in excess of $1.2 billion

 

In July 2016 the Turnbull Coalition Government began to issue income compliance notices based on automated data matching to recipients of government cash transfers such as Job Seeker, Youth Allowance, Abstudy, Single Parent Payments and Family Tax Benefit payments.

At the time the then Minister for Social Social Services Scott Morrison expected to clawback an est. $1.7 billion dollars over five years from individuals who were, or had been in the past, receiving a Centrelink pension, benefit or allowance.


On social media and elsewhere the scheme began to be called 'robodebt' and unverified reports began to emerge of vulnerable people in receipt of large robodebts suiciding.

In February 2019 it was revealed that the Morrison Government had spent between $400m to recover just $500m from welfare recipients through the flawed 'robodebt' scheme.

By 2019 at least 570,000 of over 600,000 income compliance notices issued were considered to be unlawful. As were Australian Taxation Office garnishee notices associated with these alleged debts.


In November 2019 the Morrison Coalition Government called a halt to using automated data matching to calculate income compliance, as it was faced with at least one adverse court judgment and a forthcoming class action in the Federal Court of Australia.

On 29 May 2020 the Morrison Government announced that it now accepted that many debts raised under the 'robodebt' system were unlawful and, consequently, that it would refund 470,000 debts raised totalling $721 million to 373,000 people. This refund did not cover all members of the class action.

The class action was scheduled to go to trial on 16 November 2020.

Yesterday, Monday 16 November, came news that the class action had been settled out of court by the Morrison Government. Presumably in order that Morrison & Co. along with senior Social Security and Centrelink bureaucrats could avoid the possibility of having to give evidence in court, to avoid any legal admission of liability and, to avoid the risk of a detailed adverse judgment.

It seems that Scott Morrison's personal war on the poor and vulnerable, begun when he was Minister for Social Services and continued on during his time as Treasurer and now as Australian Prime Minister, has cost the federal government well in excess of  $1.2 billion when one factors in the federal government's legal costs and the pre-existing 'robodebt' scheme administration costs - including debt recovery agent commission payments.

Gordon Legal, media release, 16 November 2020:


Gordon Legal announces today the settlement of the Robodebt Class Action, subject to the approval of the Federal Court of Australia.


The settlement reached with the Commonwealth of Australia means that if approved by the Court, since the commencement of the Robodebt Class Action, more than $1.2 billion in financial benefit will have been provided to approximately 400,000 group members.


In settling the class action, the Commonwealth has not admitted that it was legally liable to Group Members. [my yellow highlighting]


KEY POINTS:


The total financial outcome achieved is made up as follows:

  • The Commonwealth has today agreed to pay $112 million in compensation to approximately 400,000 eligible individual Group Members, including legal costs;

  • The Commonwealth is repaying more than $720 million in debts collected from Group Members invalidly and will continue to provide refunds;

  • The Commonwealth has agreed to drop claims for approximately $398 million in debts it had invalidly asserted against group members of the class action;

  • Subject to Court Approval, a Settlement Distribution Scheme will provide that eligible individual Group Members’ entitlements will be assessed and all amounts due to them be paid in 2021.


Subject to approval by the Court, a notice setting out the details of the proposed Settlement Distribution Scheme and the Court approval process will be provided to all Group Members.


Gordon Legal Partner, Andrew Grech said:


We want to acknowledge the courage of the lead applicants; Katherine, Elyane, Steven, Felicity, Shannon and Devon, who led these proceedings on behalf of all Robodebt victims in pursuit of this class action, which has allowed this outcome to be achieved today.


Our clients have asked us to especially thank Bill Shorten for his relentless pursuit of this issue, for his compassion over the last four years for vulnerable Australians hurt by Robodebt and for bringing the case to Gordon Legal’s attention when it seemed that all other options had been exhausted and only resorting to the legal system would help.


Once again we would like to acknowledge the work of the legal team at Victoria Legal Aid, who worked tirelessly to bring a number of individual claims before the Federal Court before the Class Action was commenced as well as the efforts of many community legal services in the Welfare Rights Network, such as Social Security Rights Victoria who have been advocating for victims of Robodebt for the last few years.


Our clients would also like us to acknowledge the Federal Court of Australia for its preparedness to schedule frequent case management hearings and to facilitate a trial of the proceedings so quickly, notwithstanding the difficult circumstances of the Melbourne Covid-19 lockdown.”


ENDS –


For more information visit: https://gordonlegal.com.au/robodebt-class-action/robodebt-faqs/