Update from the Member for Canberra
Even those with only the slightest interest in politics wouldn’t have missed the shocking allegations and behaviours that have come to light in Australian politics recently. The Parliament needs to be a model workplace and it is clear that fundamental reform and cultural change is required to get there. While Parliament has its own particular problems, many of the issues reflect what women are facing around the country more broadly. I hope that as a Parliament we seize this moment to achieve reform and change in our own workplace, but also more broadly so that women can feel safe, valued and respected in our workplaces and in the community.
The bright side for me this fortnight was that I was able to bring Elena, my six-month-old, into Parliament with me. Her dad is on parental leave, so he has been bringing Elena in for feeds and cuddles. It would have been so much harder if I suddenly had to spend 12 hour parliamentary days away from her, though I know that is a reality many parents face. It has made me even more determined to expand rights and support for parents, including making childcare cheaper and ultimately free, and expanding access to parental leave for both mothers and fathers. I spoke about childcare and the Government’s shambolic response to support childcare services during the pandemic and you can view that speech here. I also talked with Sally Whyte from the Canberra Times about this and you can read the article here.
Catching up with Labor women in the Opposition Caucus Room.
We started the sitting fortnight with the incredible March4Justice on the lawns in front of Parliament House. All the speakers were courageous and inspiring, and none more so than Brittany Higgins. It was disturbing to hear this week that the review into Brittany Higgins’ allegations being conducted by the Prime Minister’s Departmental Secretary had been paused, and that she had not been interviewed as part of it yet. It was very concerning to see the Prime Minister fail to answer questions more than 12 times in Question Time about whether he had asked if his staff had been undermining Brittany Higgins’ loved ones, as she had been told by journalists. I spoke about these issues and the culture in Parliament on ABC television on Wednesday and you can view that video here.
In the ABC TV studio for Capital Hill.
My focus on climate change action continued this fortnight. I know how important Labor’s response to climate change is for Canberrans, so I invited Labor’s new climate spokesperson, Chris Bowen to discuss climate change action with Canberrans at a town hall forum at ANU on Wednesday night. You can view the video of the forum on my Facebook, with the conversation starting about 30 minutes into the video.
I also attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s Climate Change Forum online and you can view my speech on that here.
Chris Bowen speaks with Canberrans about climate action.
This fortnight the Parliament voted on the Morrison Government’s insulting $3.55 per day increase to the JobSeeker payment. This increase is simply too low, falling well short of amounts that have been called for. In my view the amount needs to be urgently reviewed to get the rate, as well as indexation and income testing of the payment, right. A range of issues need to be considered, but the central one is whether people can live with dignity and health on the payment. You can see my speech to Parliament on this here.
I continue to advocate for the Biloela family and once again spoke about their inhumane treatment by the Morrison Government. Priya, Nades, Tharunicaa and Kopika have been in immigration detention for three years and the Morrison Government refuses to end this cruelty. Our immigration detention policies need to change and I am ashamed as an Australian that this family remains in detention. They must be allowed to go home to Biloela.
The Government’s plan to make access to the NDIS even harder through ‘Independent’ Assessments is causing deep concern in the disability community as it threatens to fundamentally undermine the principle of choice and control central to the NDIS. You can see my speech here.
I also spoke about Aged Care, the NDIS and carers. You can view the speech here. I told the stories of several constituents and their difficult experiences accessing support they need and are eligible for from government. Following the report of the Aged Care Royal Commission with its 148 recommendations, we need a serious response to fixing Aged Care in this country, as any of us who have had a personal experience with it know all too well.
Another issue I’ve been pursuing is improving the NBN in Canberra and you can view my speech here. A constituent recently sent me some data mapping which shows that Canberra has the worst NBN of any capital city. Although the NBN announced a further $3.5 billion to fix the NBN in September last year, none of this money has been spent or allocated for the ACT. I wrote to the NBN and the Communications Minister last month to highlight this issue but neither have committed to allocate money to Canberra. I raised it on radio with Liberal ACT Senator Zed Seselja but he is also non-committal. If poor NBN is an issue for you, I encourage you to write to Senator Seselja at [email protected].
Thank you for taking the time to read my newsletter. If you have friends or family who you think would like to join my mailing list, please forward this on and suggest they send me an email at [email protected] to sign up.
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If there is anything I can do to help you, please get in contact at [email protected] or 02 6247 8475.
I’ll be holding Coffee Catchups around Canberra in coming weeks, including on Monday 29 March at Teddy Pickers in Campbell at 10:30am, and Wednesday 7 April at Red Brick in Curtin at 9:30am. For future dates please check out my Facebook to find out where I’ll be.
Alicia Payne MP
Member for Canberra
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