Maldon Dombarton Rail Line - Too good to be true?

August 20

Local Federal Members, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones, today have indicated that they would be writing to State Minister for Roads and Freight, Duncan Gay, to confirm and clarify his comments on ABC Illawarra this morning that the State Government will be seeking private sector interest for the Maldon Dombarton Rail Line.

While welcoming this new information, if it is accurate, the Federal MPs said that they would like to see the details and information on the funding for this next step in the process.

“I have been campaigning to get the Maldon Dombarton Rail Link built for almost a decade.  When I first put forward the idea and started the campaign, people thought it was a waste of time and would never get support,” Sharon Bird said. 

“I am very pleased to hear that the NSW Government is approaching the private sector in an effort to get the rail line built.  This is in stark contrast to the Abbott Government who recently ripped $50 million of seed funding for the Maldon Dombarton line from the Budget. 

“Labor had previously invested $25.5 million for preparatory work to get the project shovel ready.  We then committed an additional $50 million in seed funding,” Stephen Jones said.

“The rail link will mean fewer freight trains on the South Coast Line which will then take the pressure off the commuter rail line.  It will also mean a direct rail link from Port Kembla to south-west Sydney which will open up new opportunities for employment.

Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones will write to Duncan Gay today seeking further details of this announcement.


Bill Shorten: Condolence statement on MH17

July 18

- Parliament House, Canberra, 18 July 2014.

Madam Speaker

I rise to support the words of the Prime Minister – and I thank him for the conversations that we have had this morning.

This news that we woke up to this morning is worse than shocking; it is debilitating, bewildering, with bewildering losses.

Travelling at six miles height, this is unimaginable. This is a violation of the rules of civilisation. It is a tyrannical, wild act.

And I appreciate that when I rang the Prime Minister this morning, he has been most forthcoming and, in a time when international events require one to put aside partisan issues,  I greatly appreciate it.  

I acknowledge too the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and my colleague Tanya Plibersek, who have also been working on this.

As this Parliament convenes, right now and throughout today there will be anxious families having their worst fears confirmed.

3 kilometres from the town of Grabove, near the Russian-Ukranian border, on a patch of disputed ground currently controlled by separatist terrorists, lies the scattered ruin of MH17. 


Abbott Government sends Australia back on climate action

July 18

The only election promise Tony Abbott intends to keep – the repeal of the carbon tax – was passed today by the Senate.

It came after an ordeal of frustration and embarrassment for the Government but will ultimately be an even bigger embarrassment for Australia, which is now the only country in the world to reverse action on climate change.

“History will judge this Government harshly for its refusal to believe that action is needed on climate change”, said Stephen Jones.

“Tony Abbott will do anything to ignore the science of climate change and send Australia backwards. It’s clear that he still thinks it is – in his own words – a “so-called science” and “absolute crap”.

“He has said world leaders shouldn’t bother themselves with tackling climate change. Perhaps the PM should listen to the advice of US President Barack Obama, who said last month:

We have to all shoulder the responsibility for keeping the planet habitable, or we're going to suffer the consequences – together.

-      Barack Obama, June 25, 2014.

“There is no doubt our earth is warming and our seas rising – or that humankind is the cause.


Coalition MPs don't have the guts to speak out on health cuts

July 18

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (16:37): This is an absolute outrage—that the coalition today have gagged debate on the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014, this important bill. I make this point: they had the opportunity to let the people of Australia vote on this proposition, but they did not have the courage to put this proposition to the people of Australia not 12 months ago when we went to a general election. They then ram the bill into the parliament and demand that we vote on it without having a full debate. Well, there is a very good reason they will not let us have a full debate on it: they do not want sunlight on it.

As the shadow minister, the member for Ballarat, has pointed out just now, they could not even fill a speaking list on it. In fact, the shortest queue in the building yesterday was the queue of government MPs who were willing to stand up in this place and defend this atrocious legislation. Only four speakers were willing to stand here in this place yesterday and defend this atrocious legislation. There is a very good reason for that. We know that one of the last reports that the COAG Reform Council published before the government shut it down—because they do not like the message that the COAG Reform Council is giving them—showed that there are already people who are failing to fill the scripts that their health professionals have told them are essential for their health. There are already people who cannot afford to fill those scripts. In fact, in June they found that around 8.5 per cent of people were already delaying or failing to fill their prescriptions.


Deputy PM says costs will always be lower under Coalition - clearly not talking about health costs

July 18

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (17:42): The National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014 is a part of the government's plan to increase the cost of health services for all Australians. It includes the $7 GP tax; the $55 billion in cuts to hospital funding, which have been roundly condemned by every single premier and chief minister, the AMA and every health association in the country; and a 13 per cent increase in PBS out-of-pocket costs. Labor will not be supporting the bill. Let me explain why. It increases the PBS charges from 1 January 2015—for general patients by $5 to $42.70, and for concessional patients by $0.80 to $6.90. These changes are above and beyond the usual CPI increases and indexation. On top of this, the concessional PBS safety net threshold is increased by two prescriptions per year and the general safety net threshold is increased by 10 per cent each year for four years. The bill raises $1.3 billion over four years and diverts money straight from people's pockets—the pockets of sick people—into the Medical Research Future Fund. We simply cannot support the bill.

In question time today, we heard the Deputy Prime Minister say that costs would always be lower under the coalition. Clearly he was not talking about the cost of health services. This bill introduces a 13 per cent increase to the cost of prescriptions on top of the $7 GP tax. This means that a patient is lucky to pay just less than $100 in out-of-pocket expenses for a trip to the doctor that results in two prescriptions and a blood test. Nobody can claim that that is lower than under Labor. The Treasurer famously said the GP tax payment would be about the equivalent of a couple of beers or one-third of a packet of cigarettes. I know the Treasurer has expensive taste but you would struggle even in this town to find a beer that cost you 100 bucks. Clearly, the Treasurer is out of touch and these propositions are out of touch.

For Australians living in the country, in regional areas such as the one I represent, where bulk-billing rates are lower and it already costs more to travel the greater distances to see your doctor, the costs will be even greater. For Australians with private health insurance cover, this measure comes on top of the largest increase to private health insurance premiums that have been approved by a government in living member. One of the health minister's first acts on coming to government was the approval of over a six per cent increase in private health insurance premiums. It is simply not fair and Labor cannot support it.

The government has a package of measures which is deliberately designed to drive up the cost of health care for every day Australians. We saw during the MPI debate today the member for Lyne concede that exact point. The measures are designed to drive up the cost of health services, of visiting a GP, because if you do that you are going to dissuade people from going to the doctor.


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