Brunswick Newsletter Feb 2021
A lot has happened since I was last in touch. We’ve had Christmas, summer holidays and to everyone's horror another lockdown. There’s a lot here so feel free to jump to whatever interests you most.
In this newsletter:
- A Medical Moon Landing?
- Local Brunswick News
- My work at Spring St
A Medical Moon Landing?
This week marked the beginning of the end of our awful COVID year with the medical equivalent of a moon landing. The fact that we began vaccinating staff in quarantine, hospitals and aged care little over a year after the disease was discovered, is truly impressive. That we’re using a new type of vaccine made out of RNA (like DNA) is just as remarkable.
Will our vaccines stop people catching and spreading the coronavirus? Early data from Israel suggest they will, but new viral strains create some doubt. We are more confident that the vaccines will keep most people alive and out of hospital. Within a few months those at greatest risk, the over 75s, will be vaccinated and the need for lockdowns will subside as more people are protected.
Continued COVID outbreaks coming out of quarantine show how hard it is to contain the virus. While errors in infection control likely contributed to the latest outbreak, it’s also likely that hotels aren’t as safe as cabins that open to the outdoors, as used in the Northern Territory. So I joined calls from experts for Victoria to start using quarantine cabins with fresh air between the rooms and I’m pleased that the Premier has decided to do this. This week, Victoria’s upper house will debate whether and for how long, the Government can extend the Public Health emergency powers. The Chief Health Officer will clearly need these powers for some time, as I explained in the lower house last week.
And if you need any more public health news, check out the warning for Buruli ulcer infection in Brunswick West!
Local Brunswick News
Make Our Schools Safer For Kids To Walk And Ride
Lately, I’ve heard some horror stories from parents and from school crossing supervisors about kids and traffic around schools. I’ve been visiting primary schools in Brunswick at drop-off or pick-up time to hear from parents. Ensuring kids are safe commuting to school is one of my top priorities, so I’ll pressuring Moreland Council and the Minister for Roads to get these safety concerns addressed as soon as possible.
Forty years ago 75% of kids walked or rode their bikes to school. Now it’s 25%, and I know many parents want to turn that around.
I’ve also spoken to school principals about their priorities for the upcoming State Budget. And everyone has told me how excited kids are to be back on school premises after missing so much last year. I have a few more schools to visit so check my Facebook page for dates and times.
Ride to School day March 19th
Ride to school day is coming up! This year, I’ll be down at Brunswick East Primary where Council will close part of Stewart St to cars as part of a ‘School Streets’ trial. If you’re delivering kids to school, come and say Hi.
Supporting artists and performers
Last year during the long Stage 4 lockdown, a local share house decided to cheer up the neighbourhood. You may have spotted the Brunswick East Entertainment Festival on the front lawn of a Nicholson St house near Glenlyon Road. Recently, the group were served a notice of eviction because the owner plans to move in. They are just one household of many who lack secure housing. Artists and creatives have been hit hard as a result of the pandemic, so getting approval for a new rental isn't that easy. Last year I raised this issue in Parliament and asked the Government to increase financial support for artists and performers. The lockdown might be over but it is having lasting impacts on the creative community. Artists contribute so much to our society and I’ll continue to advocate for them.
The Lonely 505 Bus and Parkville Gardens
Name a suburb that’s very close to the CBD, but very poorly served by public transport. If you picked Parkville Gardens, the old Commonwealth Games village, jammed between the Tulla and Royal Park, you’d be right. Parkville Gardens gets one bus per hour, with one extra in the morning peak. Running more buses on route 505 would cut the numbers joining the regular morning traffic jam, and would only cost the Government an extra $200,000 for five extra services: two in the morning and three in the afternoon during peak times as well as paying for a couple of bus shelters. (We got it costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office). I’m continuing to raise this with the Transport Minister and the Treasurer, ahead of the next State Budget. This could be the most glaring public transport deficiency in the Brunswick electorate. Add your name to support the Parkville Gardens Bus campaign here.
My work at Spring St.
Supporting casual workers
The 5 day COVID “circuit breaker” lockdown may be over but for many the lockdown meant shutting shops and cutting staff shifts. Once again, casual workers were left without income. My Greens colleagues and I called on the Government to provide a one-off payment to support these workers. Watch my question to the treasurer asking him to support casual workers who lost their shifts due to the 'circuit breaker' lock down.
Abolishing public drunkenness laws: passed the Parliament
For decades Victoria's “public drunkenness” laws have been used to lock up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, some of whom died in custody.
So the passing of legislation to abolish public drunkenness as an offence last week was historic, even if it should have happened decades ago.
I want to thank the many Aboriginal activists who have campaigned for so long for this reform, particularly the family of Yorta Yorta woman, Aunty Tanya Day, who died in custody after being arrested while asleep on a train. This would not have happened without their tireless campaigning. We know that there is a lot more to do to end deaths in custody and the over-incarceration of First Nations people, and we'll keep pushing this government to do better.
Raising The Age Of Criminal Responsibility
In 2019 almost 600 children between the ages of 10 and 13 were locked up around Australia. Because children’s brains are still developing, child imprisonment leads to poor adult mental health and increases the chances of reoffending in the future. I raised this in an adjournment debate in Parliament last week and asked the Attorney General to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14. It’s time we stop treating our children like criminals and listen to the experts.
Victoria’s Climate Challenge
Every week I’m in the Victorian Parliament I’m working for more urgent action on climate change and global heating. Most recently I spoke about the Victorian Government’s delayed climate targets, the need to urgently transition away from coal to renewable energy, and the fact that we should be encouraging the uptake of electric cars rather than taxing them. If you want to understand the challenges our state faces and where we are lagging behind, check out my speech.
Making Electric Vehicles More Affordable
This week my Greens colleagues and I launched our Electric Vehicle Rapid Uptake Plan - after a huge number of people called for incentives to help them cut their transport emissions, by switching to an electric car (including second-hand options). This 5 year plan would see Victoria become a world leader in the switch to cleaner electric vehicles, drastically cutting emissions, reducing air pollution and creating jobs.
The key parts of the plan include:
- $10,000 Eco-Bonus for people to switch to an electric vehicle
- EV readiness laws, to ensure more charging ports
- Stop Labor’s Electric Vehicle Tax
- Build 3000 Electric Buses in Victoria
- Replace 5000+ Government petrol cars with an electric fleet, to flow on to the used car market
- Right to charge laws, so renters can charge at home
You can see a write up of our plan here.
The Royal Commission into Crown Casino: Better Late Than Never
I wasn't surprised to read about the recent NSW inquiry (also known as the Bergin Inquiry) that has found links between Crown and money laundering and international crime syndicates. This is not the first time Crown has made headlines for dodgy behaviour. In 2019 when evidence of money laundering at Crown aired on national TV, I asked the Government, what will it take for Crown to lose its license? The Bergin Inquiry has forced our Labor State Government to launch their own inquiry. Although, this conveniently gives Crown 6 months to clean up their act, when it’s already clear there are serious violations. Victoria's casino regulation has utterly failed. The Premier has said they will be taking up the recommendations of the Royal Commission and I’ll be watching this very closely.
Brunswick Music Festival 5th-14th March
The Brunswick Music Festival is back. With things kicking off on the 5th at Gilpin Park there will be a mix of indoor and outdoor Brunswick venues over the following week and a bit. COVID restrictions on overseas arrivals make this the perfect opportunity to showcase Australia’s best including some Brunswick locals. Some events have already sold out so get in quick. Check out the full program here.
The Boîte: International Music
A few weeks ago I met with Eyal from The Boîte. The Boîte is a multicultural music organisation that showcases and promotes artists from diverse cultural communities. Usually, The Boîte would organise regular concerts, often in the Brunswick area, but 2020 was different. For the first time since they started in 1979, The Boîte moved online. Through their Adapt Not Cancel program, they continued to put on successful shows and were able to connect local artists with audiences all from their homes. The Boîte have generously offered you the chance to view one of their performances from the Adapt Not Cancel program for free. This video showcases Brunswick artist, Xani Kolac. You can watch her performance here. In 2021, in person shows have restarted. Check out their website for upcoming events and support live, diverse music.
International Women’s Day
Join Greens leading women, Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam and Deputy Leader of the Victorian Greens, Ellen Sandell, to celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday. These incredible leaders will be in conversation about what drives them, challenges they've faced, and what they #ChooseToChallenge in 2021 and beyond, followed by a Q & A session. RSVP here.
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