The Jones Report - 1 March 2019

I’ve spent the week avoiding comment on the conviction of George Pell for Child sex offences. Here’s why.

The jury has done its job. It’s a really tough job. They spent weeks listening to evidence presented in meticulous detail. Not easy to hear. They have had the benefit of analysis and argument presented by counsel for the prosecution and the defence - two of the most eminent criminal barristers in the country. They have been guided on points of law by a senior judge, experienced in criminal law trials.

It is wrong for Prime Ministers or ex Prime Ministers or MPs like me to assume we are in a  better position to judge innocence or guilt than the 11 members of the jury. Cardinal Pell has a right of appeal. He has decided to exercise it. His conviction stands unless it is overturned. I’m glad we have a legal system with all of these checks and balances.

What I do know, having spoken to many survivors, is that these trials cause enormous distress for those who have lived with the aftermath of abuse. If there is any outpouring of sympathy it should be overwhelmingly weighted toward these people and not the institutions rocked by all we now know.

Higher Education: we have to close the gap.

In the Illawarra and South Coast there's a big gap in participation in higher education. We are between 5.- 17% below the national average for young people who have a bachelor degree or higher. It affects employment opportunities and income and Labor has a plan to fix it.

In the Southern Highlands only 18.2% of people aged 25-34 have a bachelor degree or higher, in the Illawarra it's 30.1%.

Both areas are well below the national average of 35%.

The Liberals’ cap on the number of student places when they cut $2.2 billion from universities in 2017 has been felt in my electorate.

Under Labor, it's projected an extra 989 locals in my electorate will be able to get a university education, with more than 3300 across the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven.

More members of the Liberal Party have made the decision to jump off a sinking ship, leaving Captain ScoMo to navigate increasingly dangerous waters.

Steve Ciobo and Christopher Pyne grow an ever-growing list of Government MPs who have decided to call it quits.

It's a massive blow for Scott Morrison, following Julie Bishop's decision not to go around again, but it's not a surprising one.

This is a Government that doesn't know what it stands for, is in chaos and is becoming more fractured by the day.

It was a pleasure to be able to support the Bradman Foundation with a $125,000 grant.

Bradman Oval isn’t just a cricket ground anymore, it is used by many Southern Highlands community groups.

That’s why it’s great to be able to provide funding to provide a shade cover, irrigation upgrades and a new electronic scoreboard to ensure everyone can continue to enjoy this great local ground.

I always love the opportunity to drop in to the Southern Highlands Botanic Garden - what a great spot for a meeting!

They have big plans to continue developing the space, to ensure it's well utilised by the entire Southern Highlands community.

Fun fact: I helped plan one of the trees in the background of that photo, they've come a long way since!

There's big plans underway at the Robertson Men's Shed.

Most importantly, is the establishment of the Robbo Women's Shed!

The only thing missing for these two outstanding groups, is they don't currently have a shed, but one is on the way.

They've received a grant through the national shed program, and are currently in the process of building the facility on the same lot as the Robertson Community Technology Centre, which will be shared by the men's and women's organisations.

Good luck to everyone taking part in the Memory Walk in Wollongong this weekend.

The event raises much needed funds for Dementia Australia

Tomorrow is also Clean Up Australia day, and I'd encourage everyone to take part if they can.

I'll be heading across to Dapto to lend a hand to Horsley Services who are doing a big clean up around the Leagues Club


- I'll be holding a mobile office this weekend at Roo Theatre in Shellharbour Village (on the Corner of Addison and Wentworth Street)

I'll be there with Anna Watson from 9:30 until 10:30, come and say g'day

- Robertson Show is on next weekend (Friday the 8th and Saturday the 9th) at the famous Robertson Showground.

It's always a great fun weekend, I'll be presenting a couple of awards including the best heavy horse!

- Locals can book an appointment with a NSW Trustee & Guardian specialist at one of their plan ahead days.

They're being held in Wollongong, Shellharbour and Warilla and will look at topics including preparing a will, making a power of attorney and appointing an enduring guardian.

Click here for more info and to make an appointment

- A Games Night will be held on March 9 to raise funds for Shellharbour Relay For Life at the Shellharbour Civic Centre. It will feature individual games or team games - anything from old school bottle top throwing to fun party games.

Tickets are $20 per person, and for registered teams, $5 from each ticket sold will go back to the team’s fundraising.

Contact Ashley Gomes on 0402 529 473 to book a spot.