Update from the Member for Canberra
Parliament came out of isolation last week, meeting for the first time in over a month. But it’s not entirely back to operating as normal. Parliamentarians were ‘rostered on’ in the House of Representatives chamber. Doors remain open, water is in disposable bottles and hand sanitiser is always nearby in the chamber. I was rostered on for Tuesday and made the most of my time.
The House regularly considers Matters of Public Importance or MPIs following question time. On Tuesday I was able to participate in an MPI on ‘The need to manage the economy in the interests of all Australians.’ I spoke about the impact of the pandemic on the economy and the opportunity we have to rebuild a stronger and more inclusive economy post COVID-19. Unfortunately, the Treasurer’s speech earlier that day was devoid of vision for rebuilding so I think it is vital that Labor continues to develop ideas that the Government can adopt. The key example is JobKeeper – the Government ruled out a wage subsidy before adopting one after strong lobbying from Labor. This also demonstrates why it is so important that Parliament continues to sit regularly during the pandemic – we need to make sure the Government is developing policies Australians need during this crisis. You can view my MPI speech on Facebook or Youtube.
Alicia speaking on COVID-19 in the Parliament
I also had a speaking slot during an adjournment debate – the final half hour of the day when Parliamentarians can make 5-minute speeches on anything they want. Opportunities to speak about anything are few and far between in the Parliament, so I split my speech into two parts.
First up, I wished Kopika, the older daughter of the ‘Biloela Family’ a Happy 5th Bithday. Along with her parents Priya and Nades and little sister Tharunicaa, Kopika has been in detention for almost three years. This family are valued members of the town of Biloela in Queensland, with community members keeping up the fight to get them #HometoBilo. So many Australians, including many Canberrans care deeply about this family and the broader right of anyone to claim asylum in Australia. I will continue to raise my voice within the Parliament on the issue of asylum seekers and you can view the video of me doing just that on Facebook or Youtube.
I used the rest of my adjournment speech to thank Canberrans for all they have done to keep us safe during the pandemic, and the workers who have kept our society operating. I made it clear in the Parliament on Tuesday that the Morrison Government has done good work during the pandemic, particularly implementing the JobKeeper wage subsidy and doubling the JobSeeker payment, but that many people have fallen through the cracks of the assistance package. Students, international students, disability support workers, people with disabilities, arts sector workers, temporary visa workers to name just some of the groups struggling during the pandemic. I thanked the ACT Government for the work they are doing to plug these gaps and support valued members of the Canberra community.You can view that speech on Youtube.
If you missed it, I was able to publish my thoughts on the importance of the social security system during the pandemic in an opinion piece in The Canberra Times. You can also access it on my website. Unemployment can happen to anyone, and the pandemic has clearly demonstrated this. Therefore, it is important that the rate of JobSeeker doesn’t return to the punitive level of $40 per day, as the Prime Minister has said it will on 24 September 2020. This is also the point at which JobKeeper will end and it is clear that ending the wage subsidy suddenly at this point will be disastrous for businesses, workers and the Australian economy more broadly. We have an opportunity now to reshape the economy to be inclusive of everyone. I’ll continue to contribute my ideas on how we build a better Australia out of this pandemic crisis and I encourage you to do so too. Please get in contact at [email protected] if you have any ideas you want me to know about. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.
Finally, I was able to fund the development of the Sullivans Creek Micro-Forest through the Community Environment Program. The forest will be planted at the corner of Wattle St and Goodwin St in Lyneham. There will be a co-design webinar held TOMORROW, Saturday 23 May at 11am and you can find all the details on the Sullivans Creeks Facebook page.
Sullivans Creek Micro-Forest
As always, please get in touch if you have an issue to raise or need assistance at [email protected] or on 6277 4168.
Alicia Payne MP
Member for Canberra
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