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.


Hands off regional health, Hockey

July 16

Labor is calling on the Abbott Government to immediately rule out more cuts to rural and regional health following the Treasurer’s announcement today that he is looking for more cuts to rescue his shambolic Budget.

Joe Hockey’s arrogant threats to hurt Australians more won’t hide the fact that he has failed to get his unfair Budget through the Parliament.

Bill Shorten and Labor will fight this Budget because it is unfair and based on lies to the Australian people.

Now, if the Senate chooses to block savings initiatives, then we need to look at other savings initiatives that may not require legislation and I would ask the Greens and the Labor Party who between them hold 35 votes on the floor of the Senate - to understand that there are alternatives for a Government.


“The Abbott Government’s Budget has already declared war on the health of rural and regional Australians”, said Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Stephen Jones.


Almost 9,000 families in region to be hit hard by Abbott's Child Care Benefit cuts

July 03

tiny_tots_6.JPGThe Abbott Government has introduced legislation that will cut the Child Care Benefit for almost 9,000 families across the region, including 3,090 in Cunningham, 3,620 in Throsby and 2,280 in Gilmore.

The Child Care Benefit is a means-tested payment to low and middle income families to assist with the cost of child care. The Abbott Government wants to freeze the income thresholds of the targeted and means-tested Child Care Benefits.

This cut will directly hit families earning as little as $42,000 a year. The Education Department has confirmed that over 500,000 low and middle-income families across the nation will see their child care assistance cut.

“This is a direct hit to those families who can least afford it, including many parents who would otherwise be forced to leave the workforce,” Sharon Bird said.

“Low and middle income families in the Illawarra should not have to foot the bill for Tony Abbott’s luxury multi-billion dollar Paid Parental Leave Scheme,” Sharon Bird said.

“The crazy thing about this Government’s priorities is they propose to spend more on their new Paid Parental Leave scheme than they do on child care”, said Stephen Jones


Local residents demand answers on NBN

July 02

SJ_and_Jason_Clare_NBN_Tullimbar.jpgShadow Minister for Communications Jason Clare, Federal Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and Federal Member for Throsby Stephen Jones today called on the Abbott Government to tell the people of the Illawarra if they are going to get the real NBN or Tony Abbott’s second rate version and when they are going to get it.

Suburbs like Bellambi, Russell Vale and Horsley were on the NBN rollout map under Labor. They were taken off the map by the Abbott Government. They have now been put back on, but residents still don’t know whether they are going to get the real NBN or the second rate NBN and when they are going to get it.

Other suburbs like Fairy Meadow and Mount Ousley were ripped off the NBN map by the Abbott Government and haven’t been put back on. Residents have no idea when they are going to get the NBN at all, let alone what they are going to get.

“Stephen and I are constantly getting questions from the community about whether they will get Labor’s super-fast fibre to the premises NBN or if they will be stuck with a second rate NBN that relies on the old copper network.” Ms Bird said today.

“I have written to Malcolm Turnbull directly to put these questions to him and asked him to provide advice as a matter of urgency.”

Jason Clare today met with NBN Action Groups from across Illawarra.


Abbott's hospital cuts hit the region today

July 01

SJ_Kolomeitz_Phillips_hospital_4.JPGShadow Assistant Minister for Health, Stephen Jones joined State Labor candidates Glenn Kolomeitz and Fiona Phillips at the Shoalhaven District Hospital to highlight over $50 billion in cuts to public hospitals by the Abbott Government that will start hitting patients from today.

“Shoalhaven families are right to be concerned about Tony Abbott’s broken promises on health”, said Jones.

“Over $50 billion is being ripped out of public hospitals – $65 million of that right here in the region – and it starts today.

“There’s no two ways about it – these cuts are going to have a massive impact on patient care in the Shoalhaven.”

Before the election Tony Abbott promised no cuts to health. His first budget has ripped over $50 billion dollars from health and hospitals across Australia.

Glenn Kolomeitz says the Federal Government cuts of over $1 billion from tearing up the National Health Reform Reform Agreement compounds NSW Government cuts of over $3 billion since the Liberals were elected in 2011.

“Our hospitals were already straining from NSW Government cuts, and these Federal Liberal Government cuts will make a bad situation dire”, said Kolomeitz.

“Cuts to health and hospitals is in the Liberal Party DNA and patients in our community will be worse off.”

Fiona Phillips says patients in regional areas are already at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing primary healthcare.

“Waiting times for potentially life-saving surgeries are already being pushed back by months for patients in the Shoalhaven”, said Phillips.

Stephen Jones says cutting over $65 million from Shoalhaven hospitals will only increase emergency department waiting times, elective surgery waiting times, and reduce the number of hospital beds across the region. It’s just not good enough.”


Any infrastructure announcements for the Illawarra, Minister?

July 01

Local Federal Members, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones, today called on Jamie Briggs, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, to explain why the Abbott Government has failed to commit to funding critical local infrastructure projects in the Illawarra:

  1. $50 million seed funding for the Maldon Dombarton Rail Link
  2. $7.4 million for the Home of Football at Dapto
  3. Fibre to the premise rollout of the NBN

Mr Briggs is in Wollongong to meet with RDA Illawarra and launch the Transition Illawarra Report.  The Assistant Minister needs to explain to the people of the Illawarra why the Abbott Government has axed these projects which are vital to jobs growth in the Illawarra.


Ministers back the 'Healthy Star Rating' system

June 27

Labor welcomes the endorsement of the Health Star Rating system at a meeting of Commonwealth, State, Territory and New Zealand ministers at a meeting in Sydney today. The confirmation that the website supporting the system will be reinstated has Labor’s strong support.

Although the decision to pursue the Health Star Rating system is welcome news, it comes at a time when the Abbott Government has cut more than $377 million from preventive health programs. These decisions include the abolition of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, tearing up the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health, cutting millions of dollars from the National Tobacco Strategy, and an ideological campaign designed to destroy Medicare.

Today’s decision is the result of months of advocacy by Labor and members of the working groups established to design and implement this important system. Their advocacy is to be commended, but it should not have been necessary had the Assistant Minister for Health not unilaterally instructed her department to take the Health Star Rating website down in the first place.

Australians deserve access to clear and accurate information about the food they buy and that is precisely what the Health Star Rating system will deliver.

Australians also deserve ministers in the health portfolio who will advocate for good health policy and fund preventive health programs.

Minister Nash is clearly not up to the task of Assistant Minister for Health. 


Local Employment Coordinator will be missed

June 27

Local Federal Members, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones, today expressed their sincere appreciation for the five years of service of Local Employment Coordinator, Jane Robinson, and Employment Project Officer, John Morris, at the final meeting of the Local Employment Coordinator’s Advisory Committee.

Ms Robinson was appointed as the Illawarra Local Employment Coordinator in July 2009 to assist the region during the Global Financial Crisis.  Ms Robinson has worked with local employers, community groups and all levels of government to help increase local jobs and assist retrenched workers and other job seekers.

Ms Robinson formed a Rapid Response Team to support retrenched workers from Poppets, King Gee, Bonds, Bluescope and other manufacturing companies in the Illawarra.  The Rapid Response Team played a vital role in bringing together Centrelink, State Training Services and Job Services providers to help job seekers connect with employment and training opportunities.

The Local Employment Coordinator position has been axed by the Abbott Government which has ripped $800,000 from the flexible funding pool for the 21 priority employment areas around the country.

Without a Local Employment Coordinator, job seekers will find it harder to gain employment.


Nationals abandon regional Australia on PBS promise

June 18

Before the election, National Party candidates were hopping from country town to country town, promising regional Australians their wellbeing would be front and centre of a Liberal National Government.

In their policy document, Our Plan for Regional Australia, members indicated they wanted to lower the PBS safety net, stating:

“In government we will examine the implications of changing the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme safety net threshold for single persons to half that applying to couples and families.’

[Our Plan for Regional Australia, page 51]

This has been revealed to be nothing more than a hollow promise. National Party members were rolled yet again by their Liberal colleagues today, with Minister for Health Peter Dutton introducing Government legislation that will increase concessional safety net threshold by 10 per cent every year, as well as the cost of prescriptions to $42.70 for general patients and $6.90 for concessioners.


Local Liberal MP misleads on GP Tax

June 18

Confusion continues to run rife amongst the backbenches of the Coalition over the implementation of the Abbott Government’s ill-conceived GP Tax. 

This week Member for Hume, Angus Taylor was caught out incorrectly informing his constituents in an email about the budget that, “GP co-payments will not apply to those who cannot afford to pay.”

Assistant Shadow Minister for Health, Stephen Jones says this is incorrect.

“Under the Abbott Government’s plan, every single patient in Australia will be slugged upfront with the GP Tax when they visit their doctor, get a blood test or medical scan”, said Jones.

“Constant fumbling the on the policy shows the Abbott Government is blind to the health needs of rural and regional Australians. It’s just not on their agenda.


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Stephen Jones MP
Stephen Jones MP For Throsby