Monday, August 26, 2013

Death of Chris Lane

I went to yesterday’s ceremony at Boeing Reserve Strathmore paying tribute to the life of Chris Lane. Chris’s Essendon Baseball Club and the local community were out in force, I think more than 1000 people were present in a great display of community support and solidarity, making a statement that Chris Lane and his life mattered.

In December last year after 20 small children were killed in a school in Connecticut, I wrote to every United States Member of the Congress, urging them to adopt Australia’s gun laws. I pointed out the dramatic decline in gun deaths in all categories – homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings – since Australia’s National Firearms Agreement came into effect.

I got some good replies from some US Congressmen and Congresswomen, but as is well known there was no change in the US.

It seems that there are too many people who think guns make the world safer, when they make the world more dangerous, and too many men in particular who think that owning a weapon makes them more manly. There is nothing manly about shooting a young man out jogging in the back – just a gutless and cowardly attack from young men with no courage and no decency.

Our thoughts and hearts go out to Chris Lane’s devastated family, and our thanks to the Essendon Baseball Club for its strong and warm response to this tragedy.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Trade Training Centres and Preparing for the 21st Century

Few things better illustrate the difference between the Government and the Opposition than our approach to education.  With the Better Schools Plan, the $2.5 billion investment in Trade Training Centres, and the focus on improving Asia-literacy through education, this Government has demonstrated it not only understands the needs of today’s students, but has anticipated the needs of tomorrow’s students, and the needs of young people entering the workforce in the 21st Century.   

On 14 August, the Prime Minister and Minister Shorten announced $209.8 million to build 137 new Trades Training Centres, benefitting 225 schools across the country.  

This investment is part of Federal Labor’s positive plan to ensure all Australian students are given every opportunity to secure high-skill, high-wage jobs beyond the China mining investment boom.

This funding represents the next instalment (Round Five, Phase One) of the Rudd Labor Government’s highly successful 10 year $2.5 billion Trades Training Centres in Schools program.

As a result of this announcement, the Trades Training Centres in Schools program has committed $1.4 billion for more than 510 Trades Training Centres, benefitting more than 1,290 secondary schools. Over 60 per cent of these schools are located in regional Australia.

Of the projects previously announced, over 70 per cent have already been built – this is a great achievement considering the first funding round only opened in March 2008.

Federal Labor will continue to invest in new Trade Training Centres if re-elected to ensure young Australians gain the skills they need by providing a further $200 million under Round Five (Phase Two) of the program.

These Trades Training Centres are concrete evidence of Federal Labor’s determination to ensure every young Australian can get the skills they need to succeed, no matter what field they want to build a career in. 

The Prime Minister said this election is all about choices.  In relation to education, that choice is stark.  Labor has the strategic vision to give Australia schools fit for the 21st Century; to give students a world-leading education; and to prepare tomorrow’s school leavers for the high-skilled workforce that Australia needs. 

And through the Better Schools Plan, the Trade Training Centre Program, the Building the Education Revolution, the Digital Education Revolution, and other initiatives, the Government has committed the required resources to achieve these ambitious goals.

On the other hand, the Opposition tries to pass platitudes off as policies.  And in an example of a statement on the run, the Opposition’s pledge to partially match the funding for the Better Schools Program fell well short of the resources required, and lacked any framework to ensure that funds were properly spent.  And the fiscal black hole of tens of billions of dollars in the Opposition’s policies means they will be cutting rather than funding. 

For the sake of Australia’s education, and for Australia’s future that depends on a quality education system, the choice is clear – vote Labor.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Parole Review

I am pleased that the review of Victoria’s parole system by former High Court judge Callinan has recommended that violent criminals, serious sex offenders, and burglars should not be given parole unless they have a negligible chance of re-offending.
I am also pleased that Justice Callinan has recommended that community safety and protection should be the paramount consideration in granting parole. This definitely needs to be the paramount consideration. It is troubling, but not surprising, that Mr Callinan has found that under the current Parole Board, it “has proved to be too easy for serious violent and sexual offenders to obtain and to remain on parole”. He has found that “the balance in relation to the grant of parole, its cancellation and the revocation of cancellations may have tilted too far in favour of offenders and sometimes, even very serious offenders”.
Mr Callinan also suggested there may need to be changes to the Parole Board’s membership. He said that “As a result of some of my discussions, I became concerned that there are those involved in the work of the board who might find it difficult to accept that there were other or better ways of doing things than had been done over decades”.
I hope the Victorian Government will act on Justice Callinan’s findings. Just over a month ago I wrote to the Victorian Attorney-General urging action concerning parole for crime occasioning actual violence, and for repeat offenders. I said that the murder of Jill Meagher and the case of Adrain Bayley, and many other cases of people who have been convicted of offences while out on parole, show that the system of maximum judicial discretion has failed us, and that the present system is allowing prisoners to serve manifestly inadequate sentences.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tunnel is a White Elephant

Daniel Andrews is right in opposing the multi-billion dollar Tunnel. This money would be better spent on improving public transport infrastructure, frequency and reliability. This money should go towards building a railway line to Doncaster along the Eastern Freeway, building a rail link to Monash University, and extending the Epping rail line.
Investing in better public transport and other sustainable means of transport means less cars on our roads, less congestion and a smaller carbon footprint for our city. Another freeway will create more carbon pollution, increase traffic congestion, and destroy local amenity for the communities that will be affected by the tunnel’s construction.
The Doncaster Rail project would carry an estimated 100,000 passengers per day and take 800 cars per train off congested roads. This equates to each train removing a 3.7 km lane of traffic. Doncaster Rail could be built at a fraction of the cost of the Tunnel. This estimation of 100,000 passengers per day would not only enable a 20 minute journey to the CBD, but substantially ease vehicle congestion on the Eastern Freeway, Hoddle Street and other arterials north and east of the CBD.

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.

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.