Liberals Abandon ABC Nowra

POSTED ON
November 24

LIBERALS ABANDON ABC NOWRA 

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The decision to close ABC Nowra and 4 other ABC Radio sites is a slap in the face for Regional Australia.

ABC Nowra employs 2 journalists that report on local stories affecting the Shoalhaven and Illawarra communities.

This is a fundamental breach of the Governments pre-election promise that there would be:

“no cuts to the ABC or SBS”

[Tony Abbott SBS, 6 September, 2013].

Immediately after the election, the Government initiated their plan for ABC budget cuts with the secret Lewis Review into Public Broadcasters. While refusing to release the report, the Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull has then announced $254 Million worth of cuts to the ABC leading to job cuts and station closures.

I can understand why the Minister who lives in the inner city of Sydney is less interested in stories from regional Australia but I’m perplexed by the inaction of the Coalition’s regional and rural MPs. They have failed to stick up for their communities.

Ann Sudmalis campaigned under a platform of no cuts to the ABC – now she is supporting a Government which is cutting the ABC station in her own electorate.

Watch the speech that calls out Ann Sudmalis as barracking for the fire and the firebrigade.

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West Dapto roads upgrade reaches design stage

POSTED ON
November 21

Labor MPs Anna Watson and Stephen Jones have welcomed the creation of new concept designs for substantial upgrades to key West Dapto roads as part of Labor’s commitment to improving flood-free access for local residents.

“While the State Liberal Government has only promised the allocation of funds for the Fowlers Road extension, no action has been seen on the road and no construction will take place for at least another two years.

“The former State and Federal Labor Government’s provided Wollongong City Council with $40 million in total funding since 2010 ($26 million interest-free infrastructure loans by State Labor and $14 million by Federal Labor under Building Better Regional Cities Program) .

“This funding has seen the construction of new local road links and bridges at Cleveland Road and Shone Avenue, West Dapto.

“Labor’s funding has led to real roads and better road access, while the Liberals have only made promises – none of which have yet to materialise”, Ms Watson said.

Member for Throsby Stephen Jones said, “I’m very pleased that the $14 million provided to Wollongong City Council by the former Federal Labor Government is ensuring safer, flood-free access for West Dapto residents.

“The concept designs Council is releasing for public comment includes the construction of two new bridges, road widening to four lanes, installing traffic lights and boom gates at the rail crossing at Wongawilli.

“The release of these concept designs now mean the local community can provide important feedback before the bulldozers get to work”, he said.

Wollongong City Council has organised an information session for the concept designs at Wongawilli Community Hall on Thursday evening, 27 November 2014 commencing at 6pm.

Further information can be found at Council’s website: http://haveyoursaywollongong.com.au/proposed-upgrades-to-wongawilli-and-west-dapto-roads1

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Local diabetes patients will be hurt by Abbott's GP Tax

POSTED ON
November 14

diabetes_day.jpgToday is World Diabetes Day and Labor’s Spokesperson for Regional Health, Stephen Jones is calling on the Abbott Government to re-think its ill-conceived GP Tax that will slug local patients an additional $13.4 million per year and deter thousands with chronic diseases like diabetes from seeking treatment.

“The Illawarra is ground zero for diabetes. The incidence of diabetes is about 5.6 per cent of the population nationally. In our region it is close to 6.5 per cent, almost one percentage point above the national average”, said Jones.

“This is likely a conservative figure, as the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study reveals that while 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, up to half of the cases of type 2 diabetes remain undiagnosed.

“This is part of the reason bulk-billing rates in the Illawarra are at historically high levels, increasing over the last five years, to 91.7 per cent.”

Local GPs understand that patients in the region with chronic diseases like diabetes require bulk-billing in order to have access to basic preventative health care and avoid the most expensive part of the health system – the public hospital system.

The Abbott Government’s GP Tax and hike to prescription medicines will slug local patients with $94 million over the next four years.

“The last thing we should do with diabetes patients is discourage them from seeing a doctor. Avoiding treatment will mean many end up facing the most dangerous consequences of the disease including blindness, loss of limbs and end-stage kidney disease”, said Jones.

“A disproportionate number of Illawarra diabetes patients are already suffering – they are the ones who can least afford this Government’s reckless tax.

I’m calling on Tony Abbott must dump the GP Tax as a matter of urgency.”

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Abbott Government needs rural health wake-up call

POSTED ON
November 11

Latest life expectancy figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics should be a wake-up call to the Abbott Government over its complete lack of a health plan for rural and regional Australia.

ABS data shows a massive 14 year gap between the life expectancy of a person in remote NSW of just 67.8 years, compared to the average Australian of 82.1 years.

The Abbott Government has no comprehensive rural health policy and has abandoned preventative health in rural and regional communities, axing the Australian National Preventative Health Agency (ANPHA) – the only body dedicated to improving preventative health policy at the Commonwealth level

This can only hamper efforts to tackle conditions such as chronic diabetes, obesity and complications from heavy smoking which have a much higher incidence in rural and regional areas.

In the past 12 months, Tony Abbott has cut health and hospital funding by more than $50 billion, setting our health system back decades.

He has cut over $125 million from Indigenous health programs, many of which were targeted at disadvantaged communities in rural and remote Australia, introduced budget measures that will rip $1.4 billion from rural and remote general practices. On top of this, he has announced a medicine price hike, announced a GP Tax that will rip the heart out of Medicare, destroyed Labor’s community-focused Medicare Local network and abolished Health Workforce Australia, an crucially important body set up by Labor to help address Australia’s growing health workforce challenges.

These cruel cuts will only make things worse for patients in rural and regional Australia.

Rural and regional Australians deserve a Government that will champion their health needs, not one that makes hollow promises to get elected and then completely betrays them. 

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Abbott's new Petrol Tax hits locals today

POSTED ON
November 10

petrol_tax.jpgFrom today, every motorist in the region will pay more for petrol because of Tony Abbott's new $2.2 billion petrol tax.

Despite promising no new or increased taxes before the last election, and having his petrol tax budget measure shot down by the Senate earlier this year, Tony Abbott has bypassed Parliament to ensure thousands of locals will pay more for their petrol.

The indexation of the petrol tax to CPI by the Abbott Government means Australians will pay around $19 billion more for petrol over the next decade.

Sharon Bird says within the next five years, the average motorist will be paying an extra $135 for petrol every single year because of this new tax from Tony Abbott.

“Australians in regional areas like the Illawarra and those running small businesses will be particularly hard hit by Tony Abbott’s increasing petrol tax”, said Ms Bird.

“Local families are already struggling to make ends meet with the cost of living because of this Government’s unfair budget – the last thing they need is to pay more tax every time they fill up the car.”

“This is a sneaky move by the Abbott Government, trying to get through the back door what they couldn’t get through the front”, said Stephen Jones.

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Inquiry into Trio fraud must be re-opened

POSTED ON
November 03

Member for Throsby, Stephen Jones has today written to the Chairs of the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Corporations and Financial Services and the Senate Standing Committee on Economics, urging the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Collapse of Trio Capital be re-opened.

Recent reports by Fairfax allege that millions stolen from Illawarra investors was used to cover commitments of a growth fund on Sydney’s North Shore.

Mr Jones has asked that either the Joint Committee re-open the Inquiry into the Collapse of Trio Capital, or the Senate Economics Committee, inquire into specific allegations that have been made after the Joint Committee published its report.

“This request is consistent with the approach I took on this matter under the former Government”, said Jones.

“If these reports include information that has not been before the Inquiry, that information should be held to the same scrutiny as evidence previously submitted.

The matters must be properly investigated.”

Mr Jones also pressed the Abbott Government to deliver on its pre-election promise to the Trio victims.

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Local MPs tell Education Minister: Explain your cuts

POSTED ON
October 28

Local Members Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones issued a challenge to Education Minister Christopher Pyne in Parliament today, asking him to front up to the Illawarra and explain his Government’s outrageous higher education cuts to over 31,000 University of Wollongong students.

Just before Question Time today, Stephen Jones said:

Today the Member for Cunningham and I stand in Parliament and challenge the Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne to come to Wollongong and explain his egregious changes to the higher education system, which is going to deny thousands of students from the Illawarra region their chance for a better chance in life.”

Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones used the opportunity to reconfirm to the Parliament and their electorates that they will continue to work strenuously to defeat this legislation.

“You should get to university based on your ability, based on your passion for your chosen field of study, based on your determination to contribute to the nation, not on—never on—what you can or cannot afford to pay. It is unacceptable. Labor will fight it and the community will join with us in that fight,” Sharon Bird told the Parliament.

“A university degree should not be a debt sentence. This has been the overwhelming message from people right across the region in response to Christopher Pyne’s reckless higher education legislation”, said Stephen Jones.

“Coming from this region we know how important it is to give people on ordinary incomes access to affordable higher education. Doubling the price of university fees and locking students from low income backgrounds and rural and regional areas is not the answer.”

Both members stated that Minister Pyne needs to explain to students and their families across the Illawarra why, instead of removing barriers to affordable higher education, his Government is putting more in the way.

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Vale Gough Whitlam

POSTED ON
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.

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Government must reject privatisation of Australian Hearing Services

POSTED ON
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.

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Abbott Government policy failing remote nurses

POSTED ON
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.

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Stephen Jones MP
Stephen Jones MP For Throsby