Morrison Government’s vaccine bungle

The government that brought you Robodebt, the Census debacle and the botched COVIDSafe app rollout has let down Australians with yet another IT bungle. Almost 4,000 Tasmanian vaccinations had to be manually entered into the Australian Immunisation Register because the Morrison Government failed to make their systems compatible with the Tasmanian Department of Health’s software.

The bungle was revealed by Minister for Government Services, Linda Reynolds, after I wrote to her in July on behalf of affected Tasmanians, including aged care workers who needed their vaccine certificates.

With more and more Australians relying on their COVID vaccine certificates, they need to be reassured that the system is working, but the Minister refuses to answer simple questions. For example, are all the records affected are now up to date, and do they expect the same software glitch to affect future records?

Australians deserve answers. Watch the video below to hear my 2-minute statement to the Senate about this bungle and cover-up.

Draconian charities regulation disallowed by the Senate

The Australian Senate just voted to disallow the Morrison Government’s charities governance regulation.

This draconian regulation allowed the charities commissioner to deregister charities for minor offences like blocking a public footpath at a demonstration, or for promoting an event at which such a minor offence occurred. It even introduced the Orwellian notion of a “thought crime” where the commissioner could deregister a charity because he ANTICIPATES an offence being committed!

Had the regulation taken effect, it would have cost the charities and not-for-profits sector millions of dollars in legal red tape and had a chilling effect on democracy and free speech. I delivered Labor’s argument in favour of the disallowance motion to the Senate remotely. The video below contains some brief excerpts from my speech.

The Liberals have spent eight years waging a war on charities. THE WAR MUST END. Charities and not-for-profits need an Albanese Labor government that is on their side.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day Senate speech

Last year, the Senate resolved to recognise 15 October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in perpetuity. On the first Senate sitting day following this year’s Remembrance Day, I delivered a 2-minute statement to mark the occasion.

It is a day when we pay respect to the more than 100,000 babies lost to miscarriage, more than 2,000 lost to stillbirth and more than 600 lost to neonatal death in Australia every year, and their families.

I thank Senators Kristina Keneally, Jim Molan, Malarndirri McCarthyPerin Davey for also marking the occasion with their own moving contributions.

Thank you also to Stillbirth Foundation AustraliaSands Australia and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Australia for everything they do to support families through these tragedies.

Morrison Government’s refusal to take responsibility for the consequences of their cuts

I am absolutely appalled at the Morrison Government’s refusal to take responsibility for the consequences of their cuts to, and mismanagement of, the NDIS.

There should not be lengthy delays to the finalisation of participants’ plans.

There should not be inconsistencies in assessments from one year to the next.

Getting a decent outcome should not depend on the advocacy of people like me and my Parliamentary colleagues.

This is an outrage.

BILLS;Treasury Laws Amendment (Putting Consumers First—Establishment of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority) Bill 2017;Second Reading – 06 Dec 2017

The bill we’re debating today, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Putting Consumers First—Establishment of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority) Bill 2017, arises from the Turnbull government’s policy to set up a one-stop shop for consumers’ complaints about financial services. In doing so, the bill combines three existing external dispute resolution schemes, the Financial Ombudsman Service, FOS; the Credit and Investments Ombudsman, CIO; and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, SCT. The new body will be known as the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, AFCA. For the FOS and CIO, this is simply a merging and rebranding of the two existing services.

We, of course, welcome higher monetary thresholds for disputes that can be heard. But the government is not proposing any new or additional powers that the existing dispute resolution bodies don’t already have. The bill also purports to copy the powers of the SCT into the AFCA. However, as the AFCA will be a private company limited by guarantee, this bill will result in reduced consumer protections for superannuation disputes. The chair of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, Helen Davis, said:

I don’t think it would be true to say, in relation to super, that it’s a rebranding exercise. Arguably, it’s quite a significant change for superannuation, specifically in terms of the external dispute resolution. It goes from a statutory body to a non-statutory body. It moved from a specialist body to a one-stop-shop body.

Continue reading

COMMITTEES;Cancer Funding;Report – 28 Nov 2017

I present the report of the Select Committee into Funding for Research into Cancers with Low Survival Rates, together with the Hansard record of proceedings and documents presented to the committee.

Ordered that the report be printed.

 Senator BILYK: I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

For many years, I felt like a lone voice in the Senate talking about brain cancer and other low-survival cancers.

While others have paid tribute to individuals who have suffered from these diseases, in general these cancers have not received the attention that they deserve. But the inquiry by the Select Committee into Funding for Research into Cancers with Low Survival Rates has finally given the issue the attention it deserves. I have been proud to be the chair of this committee. Continue reading

ADJOURNMENT;Brain Cancer – 27 Nov 2017

Earlier this month, I hosted an annual fundraiser which I’ve been organising for four years now. The fourth annual Walk4BrainCancer Tasmania was held at Dru Point Bicentennial Park in Margate. While donations are still being received after the event, we have so far raised more than $36,000, and this brings the total funds raised from Walk4BrainCancer Tasmania over the four years to just over $120,000. This year, Walk4BrainCancer nationally has raised close to $2 million. All money raised goes to Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, the largest dedicated brain cancer charity in Australia. Continue reading

BILLS;Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 – 27 Nov 2017

I would like to reiterate Senator Moore’s comments in regard to Senator Smith. Senator Smith, you have shown great courage in bringing this matter forward and I do congratulate you on that. You have done an amazing thing for so many people within Australia. I think you’ll go down in history—and I’m proud for you to do that. So there you go!

It’s clear to the vast majority of Australians that it’s time that marriage equality was finally legislated. We have seen this issue delayed by the government for far too long. Too many people have had their rights denied for too long and too many people have been hurt by this debate. On 15 November 2017 the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that over 60 per cent of Australians supported a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry, and the results of the survey confirmed what we already knew from a string of published opinion polls—that Australians overwhelming supported an end to discrimination of same-sex couples when it comes to our marriage law. Not only did the government waste over $100 million on telling parliament something that we already knew but they also ignored warnings about how holding a national plebiscite or survey would encourage homophobic hate speech and increase anxiety for LGBTIQ Australians. Continue reading

BILLS;Fair Work Amendment (Repeal of 4 Yearly Reviews and Other Measures) Bill 2017;Second Reading – 05 Sep 2017

Once again, we are in this place discussing changes to workplace relations laws and yet we haven’t seen an overarching narrative from the government about what their entire intent in the area of workplace relations is. Over 1½ years have passed since the Productivity Commission report into Australia’s workplace relations system was handed down, and, in what has come to be standard operating procedure for this dysfunctional government, there has been no government response to that Productivity Commission report.

The Australian public are completely in the dark about which Productivity Commission recommendations the government does or does not agree with. This coalition government does not have the courage to put a workplace relations policy to the people of Australia, because they know that the Australian people don’t want to see wages cut, they don’t want to see conditions cut and they don’t want to see their friends, families and neighbours exploited. We just get piecemeal pieces of legislation like the Fair Work Amendment (Repeal of 4 Yearly Reviews and Other Measures) Bill, without any explanation of where they are going. They want to keep things hidden, because we know that when the coalition come clean on their workplace relations policy we get things like Work Choices. The government saw how furious Australians got with such an unfair, anti-worker change to our nation, and they saw how millions of Australians fought back and defeated the Howard government at the 2007 election. That is why they keep sniping at the workplace relations system, piece by piece. Continue reading