Vale Gough Whitlam

October 21

Vale_Gough_Whitlam_(1).jpgWe are deeply saddened at the passing of Hon E G Whitlam AC QC this morning.

We extend our deepest sympathy to Mr Whitlam’s children, Antony, Nicholas and Stephen Whitlam and Catherine Dovey, and their families.

Australia has suffered a great loss today.  Mr Whitlam made an outstanding contribution to the well-being and prosperity of our country and its care and concern for the most vulnerable.

It is hard to imagine what Australia would look like today had it not been for the Whitlam Government.

Mr Whitlam’s prime ministership was one of Australia’s most transformative. His drive and vision modernised our country.

The Whitlam Government introduced free access to education and medical care for everyone in our society, not just the privileged. He started the process of giving land rights to the first Australians, introduced no-fault divorce and social security for sole parents.

Gough has a longstanding connection to the Illawarra as his electorate of Werriwa extended to Helensburgh when he was first elected; a connection that stayed with him beyond his time in office with the conferral of an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Wollongong in 1989. The region continues to benefit from his and his government’s legacy.


Government must reject privatisation of Australian Hearing Services

October 20

Labor’s Spokesperson for Regional Health, Stephen Jones today demanded the Abbott Government reject the recommendation by the Commission of Audit to privatise Australian Hearing Services.

In his address to Parliament, Jones said he is deeply concerned the sell-off will result in a lack of affordable services in regional areas like the Illawarra and Southern Highlands, where incomes are lower, care is more expensive and distances to travel more vast.

“For local kids like Felix Williams of Windang and his family, the support of Australian Hearing Services is immeasurable”, said Jones.

“The organisation has a bulk-purchasing arrangement that allows families on lower incomes to access new technologies, upgrades and parts for their child’s hearing devices at below market cost.

“When costs for a Cochlear upgrade can be anywhere up to $20,000, a lack of support services like Australian Hearing would mean a huge blow to the hip-pocket of local families.


Abbott Government policy failing remote nurses

October 17

CRANA_Plus.jpgLabor’s Spokesperson for Rural and Regional Health, Stephen Jones’ address at the 2014 CRANAplus Annual Conference today drew attention to the disaster the Abbott Government’s policies are having on access to nurses and allied health professionals in remote Australia.

“We know there are obvious gaps in remote communities. People in remote areas have a 35% greater chance of dying from cancer compared to those in the cities. They live up to 7 years less and are more likely to develop diabetes, melanoma and mental health issues”, said Jones.

“The lack of GPs in remote areas means nurses and allied health professionals are the key to dealing with these crippling health disparities but the Abbott Government’s policies are making nursing less and less attractive.”

The recent Health Workforce 2025 – Doctors, Nurses and Midwives report revealed the stark reality facing the Australian nursing sector.


Illawarra carer's voices heard

October 16

IMG_4251.JPGIt’s National Carers Week and Member for Throsby Stephen Jones will join CareWays Community today to help launch their new ‘Carers Reference Group’ that will give local carers, clients and other groups the opportunity to come together and advocate their issues and concerns across the region.

“I’m working with CareWays to help inform local carers about the impact of the new Aged Care reforms, their rights and responsibilities, and the likely impacts of the changes to their own lives and the lives of those they care for”, said Jones.

CareWays Operations Manager Michael Szafraniec said there is a significant amount of change happening within the Aged Care and Disability Care sectors.

“The shift to a consumer directed care model is the biggest challenge facing the sector in years”, said Szafraniec.

“Some of the lessons being learnt from disability trial sites around the country operating the consumer directed care model are about ensuring clients and carers understand the changes and the impact they will have in their lives.


Closure of Medicare Locals another blow to the region

October 16

The Abbott Government has slashed the NSW Medicare Local Network overnight by more than half, going from 17 specialised communities to just nine new Primary Health Networks (PHN).

Local Members Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird say this decision was done without consultation and are deeply concerned the boundary changes will result in a disruption of services and a loss of regional focus as the PHNs will be spread too thin.

“There’s a reason they were called Medicare Locals”, said Stephen Jones.

“Labor created the Medicare Local network to deliver community-specific services based on local need. We know that people in regional areas like the Illawarra and Southern Highlands have different health needs to those in major cities.

“We have higher rates of chronic disease, obesity and mental health issues – that’s what the Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local was set up to tackle.


GP Tax a double hit for local hospitals

October 10

Labor’s Spokesperson for Rural and Regional Health, Stephen Jones has today called on the NSW Health Minister to reveal the modelling on her Department has prepared on the GP Tax impact on emergency departments in regional areas.

A NSW Government briefing paper prepared for the Premier in May has revealed that the GP Tax will cause a staggering 27% increase in patients presenting to local emergency departments due to the increased cost of seeing a local GP.

There were 142,595 total presentations to emergency departments across the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven in 2013. If the NSW Government modelling is correct and an additional 27% of patients choose to visit the ED due to cost once the GP Tax is introduced, we will see an influx of more than 38,500 additional patients in regional EDs every year.

Stephen Jones says this is a conservative estimate.


Call for Minister to guarantee mobile blackspot funding

October 07

Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones today welcomed the addition of 17 local areas to the Mobile Black Spot Program database but called on the Minister to guarantee that funding will be allocated according to need and not by the margin of their local Liberal or National MP.

“On 30 June 2014 I wrote to the Department of Communications indicating that there were a number of areas in my electorate that received poor mobile phone coverage.  I am pleased that 10 different areas, including major transport routes, Picton Road, Bulli Pass and the Wollongong-Sydney Rail Line, have been included on the database,” Sharon Bird said. 

“By being listed on the database, these areas will now be eligible to access the $100 million Mobile Black Spot Programme.  I sincerely hope that this is a genuine attempt to improve mobile phone reception in regional areas.

“As only 250-300 areas from the 6000 strong database will receive funding, I hope to see our local Illawarra region well-represented when the money is handed out.” 


Amputee Awareness Week highlights more support needed for disability care

October 07

Federal Member for Throsby Stephen Jones today visited members of the Illawarra Support Amputees Family & Friends (SAFF) at Port Kembla Hospital to mark the start of National Amputee Awareness Week.

"We've made big steps in reducing road accident and trauma-related amputations over the past decades", said Jones.

"But there is still a lot of work to do in preventing the loss of limbs from various cancers, smoking and chronic diseases like diabetes."

Stephen Jones spoke with Port Kembla Hospital Physiotherapy Manger, Marnie Jones and members of the local amputee community to discuss their issues and concerns. 

"One of the biggest concerns for amputees today is the cost of their prosthesis. New pieces can be anywhere up to $100,000.

"This is a significant barrier for someone who has lost a limb and is also dealing with a loss of income and costly medical bills.

"It's great to see that there are organisations like SAFF that are committed to helping our local amputees in difficult situations but more still needs to be done.


Regional Cities a priority under Labor

September 24

illawarra.jpgLocal Federal Members, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones, today welcomed the release of a comprehensive Labor plan by Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese, to promote productivity, sustainability and liveability of regional cities including Wollongong. 

“In Government, Labor made investing in regions a priority and funded over $865 million in local projects in the Cunningham electorate alone.  The Abbott Government has ignored the Illawarra in his first Budget – he has axed $50 million in seed funding for the Maldon Dombarton Rail link and sacked our Local Employment Coordinator and we have seen no new investment in infrastructure for our region.

“We need to be investing in our regions for job creation and economic prosperity.  Anthony Albanese’s comments today reinforce Labor’s commitments to regions like the Illawarra.  

Stephen Jones said the previous Labor Government committed $7.4 million in federal funding to kick-start the Home of Soccer at West Dapto from the Regional Development Australia Fund.


Government must honour Trio compensation commitment

September 24

Today Member for Throsby Stephen Jones called on the Abbott Government to honour their pre-election commitment to the victims of the Trio Capital fraud

In May last year, then Shadow Finance and Superannuation Minister Mathias Cormann said that, “there would be some justification for a level of compensation” for the victims in the Trio Capital case.

Senator Cormann also said there were “a series of unique circumstances” in the Trio Capital case which could allow the Government to do more for victims.

“It has been 382 days since the election, and even longer since the Finance Minister made these commitments and still nothing has been done for the victims”, said Jones.

“What’s worse is that this very same Minister is now in Government trying to wind-back the Future of Financial Advice reforms that Labor introduced to protect investors in the wake of the $176 million Trio fraud – the largest in Australia’s history.

“In Parliament today I demanded the Finance Minister honour the commitment that he gave to electors across the region last year that he would provide compensation for victims that was in his words ‘justified’.”

“I also called upon the Abbott Government to heed the advice of the experts in the industry who are overwhelmingly demanding the watering-down of the Future of Financial Advice reforms be ditched as a matter of urgency.”


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Stephen Jones MP
Stephen Jones MP For Throsby