Wednesday, July 18, 2012

High School for Coburg!

I welcome the announcement by the Victorian Government to expand Coburg Senior High School to a full year 7 to 12 school in 2015.

I am delighted the Victorian Government has responded to this pressing need. Coburg will finally have the year 7 to 12 high school the community has been crying out for.

I have supported the call for a Coburg Open Entry High School for many years, and have been working to help make this happen.

In February 2008 I arranged a Wills Secondary Education Forum, following the closure of St Joseph’s Secondary College in Pascoe Vale. In the lead up to this meeting and following this meeting, it was made very clear to me that local parents in Coburg and Pascoe Vale wanted a local open entry secondary school.

In September 2010 I made a detailed submission to the Victorian Government’s Secondary School’s Provision Plan for the Coburg Schools Network, which recommended a Coburg Open Entry High School be opened.

I have continuously campaigned for a Coburg High School at every possible opportunity; through my Kodak Redevelopment Submission, and at community and Labor Party forums.

I congratulate Moreland Council, local schools, residents, and in particular Cate Hall and the High School for Coburg Group, all of whom have done a fantastic job to help build support over the years for this important cause.

The evidence on this issue was very clear. The Review commissioned by the Department of Education found there was a shortfall of 301 places in year 7 to year 9 in the area, with the number predicted to rise to 715 by 2021. As I outlined in my submission, Moreland has been experiencing a baby boom, and high population growth is placing record demand on local infrastructure, including the need for a High School.

I support the location of the new Open Entry High School at the Coburg Senior High site off Bell Street, which is located in the heart of the Coburg community, is easily accessible by all forms of transport, and which has the capacity to take in students.

I look forward to working with all concerned in getting the school up and running and making it the success that Coburg and Pascoe Vale parents and their children deserve.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Violence Against Women Unacceptable

I want to congratulate the Essendon District Football League on its ongoing work to make violence against women unacceptable. Last Saturday I attended a White Ribbon lunch at the Oak Park Football Club where the Guest Speaker, Acting Inspector Graham Banks from Victoria Police, gave a powerful and highly personal account of the impact of violence against women.

Since 2010 the EDFL Clubs have taken part in the “Fair Game: Respect Matters” program which aims to increase the awareness of domestic violence against women and create a more inclusive environment for women within local football clubs.

EDFL General Manager Marc Turri has also set out the history of the White Ribbon Campaign in an EDFL newsletter – how a man walked into a Montreal University in 1989 and massacred 14 of his female classmates, leading to national soul searching and the establishment two years later of the White Ribbon Campaign in Canada. In 1999 the United Nations General Assembly embraced the White Ribbon Campaign, and White Ribbon began in Australia in 2003. It is now the largest global male-led movement to stop violence against women.

White Ribbon calls on men to swear the White Ribbon oath: “I swear never to commit, excuse, or remain silent about violence against women”.

As one of the Australian Parliamentarians who belong to this campaign, and in a world where the position of women continues to be vulnerable and precarious, exemplified most dramatically by the disgusting public executions and abductions carried out by the Taliban, I am pleased to acknowledge the work being done by the EDFL to confront the issue in our own community.

Selling and Tolling Existing Roads Just Stupid

The idea of selling and tolling existing roads is one of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard, and could only come from people completely out of touch with the lives of ordinary Australians and Victorians.

Ordinary Victorians are feeling serious cost of living pressures. How does being required to pay each time we drive on roads we can presently travel on for free make us better off? It makes us worse off. Selling off existing roads to private companies and putting tolls on them will make those private companies wealthy, but it will be at the expense of ordinary motorists.

The reason Melbourne and other capital cities have traffic congestion is because our population growth is too fast, and we should tackle that by cutting migration back to the levels we used to have in the 1980s and 1990s.

Improved public transport is a superior answer to traffic congestion than building more freeways, but seriously, what is the point of building a freeway and then discouraging people from using it by sticking a toll on it?

It is a stupid idea and governments at both State and Federal level should reject it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The State Government Should Act to Compensate Firefighters

In the wake of revelations of the use of cancer-causing chemicals at the major fire training facility at Fiskville, it is time for the Baillieu Government to bring state legislation into line with federal law, accepting the occupational risks of cancer in firefighting.

The Senate had an inquiry last year into the link between the occupation of firefighting and occupational cancer. It was an extensive inquiry that called evidence from international experts, and visited a number of fire stations, including the CFA station at Geelong, and concluded there is a direct link between the occupation of firefighting and the incidence of cancers as a result of that exposure over a period of time.

The Senate report's recommendations were unanimously accepted by Federal Parliament and by all political parties, with a recommendation they be replicated in various state jurisdictions. The Fiskville scandal makes clear that now is the right time to align state law, as a remedy has already been identified as to how to deal with the link between occupational cancer and firefighting through legislation - it's a simple amendment to the current worker's compensation act. The work's already been done - all the Baillieu Government needs to do is replicate what's been done on a Federal level.

Peter Marshall from the United Firefighter’s Union points out the clear division that has now resulted between the way 'Federal' firefighters are treated when reporting with cancer, and where Victoria’s thousands of CFA firefighters find themselves. This needs to be urgently rectified by the Baillieu Government by bringing Victoria into line with Federal law.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


The concerns about the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) raised by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in a unanimous report to Parliament last week have been reinforced by an overwhelming vote last night by the European Parliament to reject the Treaty.

The vote - 478 against, only 39 in favour, with 165 abstentions - is likely to be a fatal blow to the European Union's participation in a treaty it helped to negotiate. The European Parliament has responded to concerns that ACTA would limit Internet freedom and to street protests about this issue in Europe with concerns that the agreement would have permitted private companies to spy on the activities of Internet users.

The vote effectively ends the treaty’s ratification in the 22 member states that signed the agreement, since individual member states cannot join ACTA once the EU officially rejects it. The concerns expressed by the Treaties Committee have been reinforced by this vote, and it would be appropriate for the Government to put ratifying ACTA on the back burner and undertake the work recommended by the Committee.

In Australia the Treaties Committee has recommended that ACTA not be ratified by Australia until the Treaties Committee has received and considered an independent and transparent assessment of ACTA's economic and social benefits and costs, until the Australian Law Reform Commission has reported on its Inquiry into Copyright and the Digital Economy, and the Australian Government has issued notices clarifying some of the terms of the agreement.

In Australia a significant area of concern was the potential impact of ACTA on generic medicines. The pharmaceutical manufacturer Alphafarm, for example, has advised me that ACTA as drafted could have delayed access by Australians to "quality, safe, efficacious and affordable generic medicines" in Queensland, and that they view the Committee's recommendations as a win for Australians and for the sustainability of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The Treaties Committee also recommended that Australia should have regard to ACTA's ratification status in the European Union and the United States of America, given their importance in the world economy. Given the overwhelming vote of the European Parliament, it is clear that the Committee's unanimous report is on the wavelength of European public opinion, and almost certainly global public opinion.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rail not Road - East West Tunnel is wrong priority

On July 1 the carbon price was introduced. The whole point of doing this is to reduce our carbon emissions. One of the greatest challenges facing the 21st century is the challenge of climate change. We cannot tackle climate change by building more roads. By all means let us build transport infrastructure- let’s be a nation of builders- but let it be public transport infrastructure. We cannot build our way out of congestion. We have been trying it for years and it does not work.

The cost of this project was said two years ago to be $10 billion. Now it is said to be $5 billion, with the Tony Abbott proposed contribution of $1.5 billion. You know what will happen - motorists will have to pay tolls to use it. But whatever the amount of public money involved, the East West Tunnel is the wrong priority. This money should go towards public transport in Melbourne - building a railway line to Doncaster along the Eastern Freeway, building a rail link to Monash University, improving the inner network capacity to take more frequent rail services.

This will not help traffic congestion in Melbourne. For years we have been told that one more freeway would solve Melbourne’s traffic congestion problems. I supported City Link, I supported East Link, I supported the Metropolitan Ring Road, I supported the Craigieburn By-pass. But it never works. As many studies around the world have shown, freeways generate new traffic and new trips.

So it would be better to put public money into public transport. This will do more to help traffic congestion, more to contain carbon emissions, and more to help people who don’t drive cars, for example younger people, older people and people with disabilities.