This week in Canberra
Posted December 12, 2013
Today I’m heading home for a weekend in Indi (including the Yackandandah High Country Fair!) and thought I would take a moment to keep you informed about what’s happening in Parliament.
This afternoon I met with Paul Fletcher, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications. Mr Fletcher is responsible for the Government’s black spot policy. They are finalising a discussion paper on this policy very soon, meaning they can move ahead next year to co-invest in building phone towers. I’m working with Indi’s councils on identifying where the biggest trouble spots are for communications, to get ready for this next year.
There has been a lot of legislation passed this week, but most of it hasn’t made it into the papers. This week, more than 20 bills have been debated in the House of Representatives, affecting everything from the price of medicines to submarine cables to levies on primary industries to fund research. The vast majority of this has bipartisan support.
One bill that passed yesterday was the ‘Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013’, which makes changes to a number of important social payments and services. There are several positive reforms in this bill, including a change to the National Disability Insurance Scheme which protects peoples’ payment packages from debt collectors, and a move to making it easier for small business to administer paid parental leave.
However, the bill also freezes the indexation on the Family Tax Benefit and Child Care Rebate, meaning that even as child care and other costs increase, many low and middle-income families in Indi may be squeezed off the Benefit and the Rebate won’t go as far. These programs provide important support for many low income families in Indi, helping them make ends meet.
The bill also repeals the gambling reforms of the last Parliament, which were made law after recommendations from the Productivity Commission in 2010. These include mandatory pre-commitments and limiting cash withdrawals from ATMs.
This bill, which has a big impact on many people across the country, passed the House just ‘on the voices’ – there was no vote. It might be altered by the Senate and come back to the House later.
There are some great opportunities to get involved in policy development, and I’ve decided to join both the House Agriculture committee and to co-chair the parliamentary friends of youth mental health group – roles I’m really looking forward to.
I’ve also been lucky enough to have a home made Indi fruitcake and some muscat at the ready, and have hosted a few late-night cake sessions with Indi expats and visitors from the electorate. We want to make the office as welcoming as possible to everyone from Indi. This week we also got to pick art for the office from the Parliamentary collection and I was thrilled to see so many Indi artists represented there.
Will keep you informed about what’s happening next week! Or take a look for yourself here.