Recognise campaign on the road in regional Australia

August 29

IMG_4021.JPGThe campaign to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in our Constitution hit regional Australia today with the Illawarra community turning out in force for a forum hosted by Stephen Jones and Senator Nova Peris.

“Ultimately this is an opportunity for all Australians to celebrate 40,000 years of this nation’s history and add to the last 226”, said Senator Peris.

“The recognise campaign is a great opportunity for two cultures to unite as one. It is about being inclusive, not exclusive and something we should all get behind.”

Stephen Jones says Australians must get behind constitutional recognition and make the most of the opportunity of bi-partisan support from both sides of politics.

“Today is about ensuring we can convert that Parliamentary support into widespread community support”, said Jones. 

“In 1967 the Australian Government ran a referendum to change the constitution to make laws for all Australians and include Aboriginal people in the Census. It was overwhelmingly endorsed by Australians, winning 90.77 per cent of votes and carrying in all six states.

“Constitutional recognition will builds on this win and should make further substantive change to remove racism from the Constitution.

“It is a statement of historical truth that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People have lived here for over 40,000 years, and it is long overdue.”

“It is imperative that all Australians are on-board with the journey towards constitutional recognition. That’s part of the reason for my visit to the Illawarra today”, said Senator Peris.

“We will be working hard to engage with communities across the country to demonstrate the importance of Aboriginal Australians to our national history and culture, and showcase what a positive step constitutional recognition will be for all Australians.” 


Eight School Welfare Officers at risk in the Illawarra

August 28

Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones today expressed concern following the release of Government documents that reveal that 8 local schools are at risk of losing their welfare officers due to the Abbott Government’s decision to only fund religious chaplains.

The High Court ruled that it was invalid for payments to be made directly by the Commonwealth to schools under the program, the Federal Government is now giving the money to states and territories to administer, but on the condition it is used to only fund religious chaplains.

“School principals and their communities know what is best for their students – they should be able to make the call on what their students need – not Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott,” Sharon Bird said.

“There was a high level of complains under the religious-only chaplains program put in place by the Howard Government – in Government Labor expanded the program so local school communities had the choice of hiring a qualified welfare officer or counsellor, not just a religious chaplain. 

“Local welfare officers have trusted relationships within the school community.  The interests of students should be the focus – not Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott’s radical ideology,” Stephen Jones said.

“The Government needs to advise what safeguards will be put in place to ensure that students interests remain of utmost importance.

*Link attached with each of the 452 schools across Australia who have employed welfare offices attached. Schools with welfare officers are marked with SWW under Worker Type column:


Locals deserve certainty over Australian Hearing Services

August 27

As Australia marks National Hearing Awareness Week, local Members Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird are calling on the Abbott Government to put local families at ease over the potential sale of Australian Hearing Services outlined in the Federal Budget.

“I was recently contacted by a local family, deeply concerned about the impact that the potential sale of Australian Hearing Services by the Abbott Government will have on the services delivered to their son”, said Jones.

“Five year old Felix is deaf with a profound hearing loss. He has to wear Cochlear implants and has had to receive regular services from Australian Hearing since he was 6 weeks old.

Australian Hearing Services provides children with annual testing, new hearing technology and spare parts as well as guidance and support at seven locations across the Illawarra including Wollongong, Dapto and Shellharbour.


Nash in denial over regional health cuts

August 27

It’s no wonder the Abbott Government’s health budget strategy is in such disarray, with the Minister for Rural and Regional Health Senator Fiona Nash refusing to acknowledge the glaring gaps between health services in rural and regional areas compared to major cities.

In Senate Question Time yesterday Minister Nash claimed:

“… a large proportion of out-of-pocket costs in Australia result from patient choice in services that are not funded by the government. Indeed… there is not a significant difference in bulk-billing rates or average out-of-pocket costs between people in major cities and those in rural and regional areas.” 

[Sen. Fiona Nash, Senate Question Time, August 25, 2014]

Minister Nash should know her claims are incorrect. The Senate Inquiry into Out of Pocket Expenses in Australian Healthcare last week confirmed:


National Party health cuts punish regional communities

August 27

Labor’s Spokesperson for Rural and Regional Health, Stephen Jones today accused National and Liberal Party MPs of punishing regional communities. Jones revealed new figures that show patients in regional Australia will be hardest hit by the Abbott Government’s $1.2 billion increase to medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Data obtained from the Federal Department of Health shows that the top 12 electorates to pay the highest out-of-pocket costs after the Coalition’s $1.2 billion increase to medicines will be in rural and regional Australia.

“Coalition MPs are asking patients in these rural and regional areas to fork out an additional $112 million over the next four years”, said Stephen Jones.

“Has the National Party gone in to hiding?

“Tragically, the regions that need the most support are the ones getting the least.


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.


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.


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Stephen Jones MP
Stephen Jones MP For Throsby