Newsletter - July
In this month’s newsletter,
- Gas Drilling near the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park
- Raising the age of criminal responsibility
- Crown expected to lose their gambling licence
- Extra Midwives after successful Greens-led campaign
- New National Parks but first, logging!
- Art Ride
- Brunswick’s first-ever separated bike lanes.
But first, I wanted to thank everyone for helping to drive down COVID cases (once-again) to safe levels. While I’d prefer to hear from the small businesses who contact me in different circumstances, getting to know and helping members of the community has been a real silver lining during a grim time.
The epidemic in Sydney is really serious and I can’t predict how much worse it will get. But I want to add one note of optimism. While so much has gone wrong with our vaccine rollout, 78% of Australians aged over 70 have had one vaccine dose and 40% have had two. Those figures are 64% and 24% for the over 50s. Given almost all the nurses and doctors in public hospitals are vaccinated, our elderly and our health system is well on the way to being protected from coronavirus.
With many over 50s due for their second dose in the next few weeks, these figures will rapidly improve and there will be less need for lockdowns to keep people out of ICU. This will improve further as increased amounts of Pfizer vaccine start arriving later in the year. While vaccination rates of the above age groups are promising, it's the under 40s who are hardest hit by lockdowns and the sooner we can offer them Pfizer the better.
I’m getting a steady stream of emails detailing chaos in the handling of people isolating at home, problems with the testing system and inequities in the vaccine rollout. I’m passing much of this on to the Minister for Health, or raising it in the regular briefings given to MPs.
Parliament resumes next week, but please continue to contact my office if there is anything you need help with. The Federal Government has just extended COVID disaster payments to people already receiving assistance, check if you’re eligible here.
GAS DRILLING NEAR THE TWELVE APOSTLES MARINE NATIONAL PARK
The Victorian State Government is supporting the move by The Federal Government to open an area close to the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park for gas exploration. When questioned about the new gas fields a government spokesperson confirmed it’s government policy to “support new gas”. Gas (aka methane) is a fossil fuel and along with coal and oil, it’s one of the leading causes of global heating and extreme weather events. To stop runaway climate change, there can be no new oil and gas projects. A government concerned about climate change would ban all new fossil fuel projects, which is precisely what I’ll keep fighting for.
RAISE THE AGE OF CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY
In Victoria, children as young as 10 can be arrested, sent to court and locked up. It’s time for the Victorian Government to lead the way and raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years. I’ll be raising this in parliament again next week.
Despite increasing pressure from human rights groups, First Nations advocates and the Greens to adopt the reform, Australia’s attorneys-general have repeatedly reviewed this but they keep deferring any decision.
MPs across the political spectrum have already started to break ranks and support the reform, joining calls to raise the age from groups as diverse as Change the Record, Amnesty Australia, Aboriginal legal services, the UN, and the Australian Medical Association. If you haven’t done so already, signing my open letter is a great way to put pressure on the Victorian Government to implement this important change. The more who sign, the more pressure there is.
CROWN EXPECTED TO LOSE GAMBLING LICENCE
This month counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Crown Casino said Crown is unfit to hold a licence. It’s a good result but it’s hardly news. The Greens have been calling out Crown’s corrupt behaviour for years while the Labor Government looked the other way.
For too long Victorian governments have provided Crown with sweet deals and leniency, enabling the gambling giant to get away with money laundering, bags of cash under desks, and links to international crime syndicates. Meanwhile both the Labor and Liberal parties have pocketed thousands in donations.
Even if another operator is given the opportunity to take over Crown’s licence, the business models of casinos haven't changed. Casinos rely on predatory and illegal tactics. Premier John Cain was right in trying to keep a casino out of Melbourne.
The Government should either declare the casino experiment a failure, or at the very least, impose strict harm reduction measures (eg maximum bet sizes and limits on bet frequency on pokies) and well-resourced, powerful, independent regulation on whoever holds the next casino licence.
EXTRA MIDWIVES AFTER CAMPAIGN SHINES LIGHT ON THE ISSUE
After a fantastic campaign from Greens MP for Melbourne, Ellen Sandell, that highlighted a severe lack of maternity beds and midwives, meaning women were giving birth in emergency rooms and a range of other concerning issues, the State Government announced $13 million for 175 more midwives across Victoria, and more funding for the Royal Women’s hospital for supporting babies with higher needs.
Fortunately the number of women in labour arriving at the Royal Women’s has dropped back to normal levels and things seem to be improving, but for the past few months several maternity hospitals were struggling to cope with demand because they were barely able to manage normal levels of demand.
NEW NATIONAL PARKS
It’s great to hear that the State Government will create three new national parks, but I can’t get over the fact that some of those parks will be heavily logged prior to protection.
After last year’s bushfires swept across our state and eradicated the habitats of countless species, the government should be doing everything it can to restore biodiversity and these parks are an important step towards that.
The fine print in this decision has revealed the government will allow these parks to be logged until 2030. It’s like allowing an old building to be demolished before putting it on the heritage register. We’re well past the point where we must do everything we can to protect and restore nature.
Thanks to everyone who came to my Art Ride last month. Sarah Beth, who joined the ride, summed up the event: "The art works ... send an important message: invest in the arts, invest in bike networks and invest in the community.". You can still take the tour (get the map go here.) Local publication, The Brunswick Voice, joined the launch event and wrote this fantastic article. My office also produced a video of the launch and a separate video discussing the themes of each mural. Watch them all in this playlist.
BRUNSWICK'S FIRST SEPARATED BIKE LANE
Have you seen our new trial separated bike lanes along Dawson Street in Brunswick? You can now ride your bike, separated from vehicles, along a stretch of Dawson Street between the Upfield Railway Line, to Brunswick Secondary College and on to Barry Street which connects the Upfield shared path with the West Brunswick Shimmy bike route.
Council used recycled materials to construct the lanes in a way that can be modified or removed depending on community feedback and outcomes of the trial, which is expected to run up to 12 months.
It’s fantastic to see change happening after many years of campaigning! If you’d like to get involved, join our Brunswick 4 Bikes Facebook group.