Sharon Bird, Federal Member for Cunningham, and Stephen Jones, Federal Member for Throsby, today condemned the decision by the Abbott Government to shut the Wollongong Veterans’ Access Network (VAN) office.
“In his media release the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Michael Ronaldson, has announced that the Wollongong VAN will close and a veteran information service will be provided by Department of Human Services service centre in Nowra,” Sharon Bird said.
“Following our earlier correspondence to the Minister expressing concern about the possible closure, Stephen and I have again written to the Minister today to ask the following questions:
1 – Can the Minister guarantee that no jobs will be lost?
2 – Will our veterans still be able to access face to face services in Wollongong or will they need to travel to Nowra?
3 – Will face to face services be available in Nowra?
4 – Can the Minister guarantee that the current first rate services and expertise will be available to our veterans by properly trained staff who understand the issues and health concerns of veterans?
“Just one month ago Sharon and I expressed our concern that the short consultation process on local VAN offices was not a genuine attempt to get community feedback and that the Department had already made the decision to shut our VAN office down,” Stephen Jones said.
“Sharon and I took our concerns to Shadow Minister Don Farrell who has been pursuing these concerns with the Minister. Our local veterans and their families are entitled to receive quality care after service to our country.
“If the Minister is unable to answer these questions and guarantee that our veterans will be able to access services in Wollongong it will bring into question whether this is a blatant political move to take jobs and services from Wollongong and relocate them to a marginal Liberal seat in Nowra,” Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones concluded.
The Abbott Government is gearing up to break its pre-election promise to thousands of local pensioners that there would be no cuts to their payment.
“Tony Abbott said time and time again before the election that he wouldn’t change the pension but today we learn that’s exactly what his Government is planning”, said Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird.
Before the election, Tony Abbott made a solemn promise to Australian pensioners:
ABBOTT: I can assure your listeners that there will be no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no changes to pensions, no change to the GST.
[Tony Abbott – 5 September – ABC AM]
“This is a Government with its priorities completely out of whack”, said Ms Bird.
“The Prime Minister thinks paying age pensioners around $20,000 a year to live is unaffordable but he's prepared to hike up taxes to pay wealthy parents $75,000 when they have a baby.
Federal Member for Throsby Stephen Jones welcomes the approval for the next stage of construction for the Shone Avenue upgrade at West Dapto and urges the Abbott Government to ensure funding for further regional infrastructure projects are not cut in the upcoming May Budget.
“Dapto is one of the fastest growing suburbs in the Illawarra and the West Dapto housing development is essential to make sure that local infrastructure keeps up with demand and the Illawarra economy continues to grow", said Jones.
“The previous Labor government awarded Wollongong City Council $13.92 million for the project - the largest amount of funding of any regional area under our Building Better Cities program."
Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and Member for Throsby Stephen Jones have today welcomed the International Court of Justice’s historic decision in the case Australia took against Japanese whaling.
“The former Labor Government brought this case against Japan in 2010 and it was strongly supported in our local area. I am very pleased that this decision will mean that a program which has seen Japan kill thousands of whales in the Southern Ocean will at last be brought to an end,” Ms Bird said
“Labor is opposed to commercial whaling”, said Jones.
Federal Member for Throsby Stephen Jones today visited Noogaleek Children’s Centre in Berkeley to discuss the implications of the Abbott Government’s review of the Budget Based Funding Program (BBF) for Indigenous early childhood education.
“The overwhelming message I received from early childhood educators at Noogaleek is to make sure funding for Indigenous early education is not cut”, said Jones.
“The Government has pledged to halve the gap in literacy and numeracy levels between Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students within a decade.”
“To achieve this target, Indigenous children need equal access to quality early childhood education and care services, including pre-school, child care and family support services like those in the BBF Program at Noogaleek.”
“The services are community owned and driven, providing a direct entry point for early childhood educators to tackle poverty, disadvantage and disempowerment that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience”, said Jones.
“Without these early childhood education opportunities, Indigenous children start their very first day of school socially and intellectually behind non-indigenous kids.”
“I’m calling on the Abbott Government to re-commit funding to the BBF Program to ensure that Indigenous families in areas like the Illawarra have continued access to culturally appropriate early childhood education.”
“We need to all we can to break the cycle of disadvantage for Indigenous Australians and make sure our kids the very best start in life.”
Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and Member for Throsby Stephen Jones were outraged today by the Abbott Government’s attempts to ram the Qantas Sale Amendment through Parliament.
“There are many Qantas workers who live in the Illawarra whose jobs are under threat from this legislation” Sharon Bird said.
“To not allow representatives to stand up and fight for local jobs is just outrageous.”
“It is a disgrace that the Government has used their numbers to gag the debate on this major decision on our national airline. This has huge ramifications for workers and their families.”
When Qantas was privatised in 1992, the Keating Government put in place the Qantas Sales Act to ensure Qantas jobs stayed in Australia and the national carrier was based in Australia. The changes announced by the Abbott Government will remove these protections.
I am honoured to be appointed to the role of Shadow Assistant Minister for Health and thank the Caucus and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for this great opportunity.
It is a privilege to be entrusted with such a broad and dynamic portfolio.
I look forward to working with Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King to protect the things that Labor has spent generations building – Medicare, a universal health system and investment in preventative health.
As Shadow Assistant Minister for Health I will take the fight up to the Abbott Government over their new GP Tax, their cuts to public health bodies and their botched decision to pull down the Health Star Rating website.
Coming from the Illawarra, I understand the difficult health challenges facing regional communities and will make this a particular focus of my work in this role.
Families in the Illawarra will be among the hardest hit by Tony Abbott’s new GP Tax, new Medicare analysis has shown, Illawarra MP’s Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones said today.
“It is a cruel tax that will hurt families right across the country, including thousands in the Illawarra, where more than 87% of all GP visits are bulk billed”, said Stephen Jones.
“If Tony Abbott breaks his election promise and introduces a $6 GP Tax, the cost to local families will be upwards of $15 million in taxes every single year.”
“In the great traditions of Medicare, Australians should receive the healthcare they need not the healthcare they can afford,” said Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird.
Member for Throsby Stephen Jones and Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird say local job seekers should take advantage of the hundreds of jobs and training opportunities on offer today at the Illawarra Jobs Expo.
“Today’s expo is a rare opportunity for locals looking for work, to meet with employers and training providers all under one roof”, said Jones.
“There’ll be over 300 jobs advertised, as well as 100 vocational training programs to help skill locals for the jobs of the future.”
“Around a dozen of these will be from business who received funding from the previous Labor Government under the Illawarra Region Innovation and Investment Fund (IRIIF).”
“It’s fantastic to see IRIIF is delivering on its objectives to create secure local jobs and diversify the Illawarra’s economic and employment base”, said Ms Bird.
Federal Member for Throsby Stephen Jones welcomes the news that the first homes and businesses in Dapto will be able to connect to Labor’s NBN fibre broadband network from today.
“This news will remove uncertainty for locals in 2,300 premises in Dapto, who had been kept in the dark by the Abbott Government as to when, if ever they would be connected to Labor’s NBN”, said Jones.
“I remain concerned about the fate of the rest of the region who could be stuck with a mess of different and inferior broadband technologies, after the Abbott Government’s dismantling of Labor’s NBN fibre rollout plan.”