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.

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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

ADJOURNMENT;International Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – 04 Sep 2017

September is International Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and it is a time when cancer organisations around the world put the spotlight on children’s cancer and the need to improve diagnosis, treatment and outcomes. We need to do more to drastically improve childhood cancer survival rates in Australia and across the world. In Australia, over 700 children aged nought to 14 are diagnosed with cancer every year, and about 100 will die from the disease. Of those children, 35 or so each year are children who suffered from brain cancer.

The awareness month is the idea of Childhood Cancer International, CCI, which was founded in 1994 as an umbrella organisation of childhood cancer grassroots and national parent organisations. CCI is a global, parent driven non-profit organisation that represents 181 parent organisations, childhood cancer survivor associations, childhood cancer support groups and cancer societies in 90 countries across five continents. In September every year, CCI members and childhood cancer champions, advocates and supporters encourage iconic buildings, historic landmarks, monuments, bridges and natural environment to go gold by lighting up in gold or by hanging huge gold ribbons. So it was good to see, late last week, the photo of the Sydney Harbour Bridge lit up in gold in support of this cause. Other buildings in Melbourne, Fremantle and other locations around Australia are also going gold during September for this great cause. Continue reading

ADJOURNMENT;CanTeen – 15 Aug 2017

There are some organisations that we come across that we realise do incredible work within our communities. One of those is CanTeen. They do an amazing job providing support and services for young people living with cancer. Cancer is a terrible disease. It wreaks utter havoc on people’s lives. In particular, it can be an extremely difficult time if you’re a teenager or young adult and you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. It can be scary and it can be isolating. You can feel like you’re alone, or that you need to take on responsibility far ahead of your years. But if you’re one of these young people, there is a community of other young people across Australia who are in the same situation and who you can turn to for advice and support. CanTeen is an incredible resource and is there to help.

I was fortunate enough recently to be invited to the Tasmanian headquarters of CanTeen to meet with staff, volunteers and some teens who access their services. They talked me through their range of programs and services, and I heard from people at all levels of the organisation, including the national CEO, young people whose lives have been affected by cancer, psychosocial support staff, young people in leadership positions and a cancer support nurse. I would sincerely like to thank them for providing me with a better insight into what CanTeen is about and the services CanTeen offers. Continue reading

BILLS;Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017;Second Reading – 15 Aug 2017

I’m pleased that I was given some time today to talk on the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017. It’s good that, having seen levels of abuse of workers’ rights that not even this government could ignore, we are finally presented with the bill. Over the last couple of years, just some of the high-profile cases of exploitation of workers we’ve heard about include 7-Eleven shop assistants, Myer cleaners and Pizza Hut delivery drivers. But what we need to remember is that not all cases have been high profile. There has been consistent evidence of the exploitation of workers taking place over quite some time.

It is utterly despicable that in 2017 we’re still hearing of exploitation of workers on such a large scale. Labor senators welcome the provisions of the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017, which will reduce the exploitation of some vulnerable workers in Australia. However, Labor senators consider that in some aspects the bill as currently drafted falls well short of addressing the range of ways workers are exploited. It falls significantly short on the suite of legislative measures required to properly address the breadth of worker exploitation. Continue reading

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE;Australia – 14 Aug 2017

Unfortunately, we do have a need for a new vision for a stronger and fairer Australia. And that’s because this government has not got the ability to lead our nation. There is no leadership. Added to that, they fundamentally lack vision and a sense of what is fair. It’s as if they’re stuck in a time warp. They espouse policies from the 1950s without realising that the world has actually moved on, that the world has changed. And the policies the Australian government enacts for the Australian people need to change, too; they need to keep up-to-date.

Labor, on the other hand, has a vision for a stronger and fairer nation. Only Labor will fight for secure jobs and fair wages. Only Labor will tackle rising power prices, invest in education and health and address housing affordability. And why is that? It’s because those opposite lack the courage, willingness or ability to fight for a better Australia. They’re content to keep on eroding workers’ rights and conditions because it suits them and their big-business mates. But we on this side believe Australia will be a stronger nation when we are a fairer nation, when everyone believes that they have opportunities, when everyone has potential to succeed and when loopholes in the law aren’t used by some to not pay their fair share. Continue reading

STATEMENTS BY SENATORS;Tasmania: Early Childhood Education – 09 Aug 2017

Early in my working career, I was employed as an early childhood educator. I worked in childcare centres and then I ran my own family day care business. While the profession used to be simply referred to as ‘child care’, it was in those times that the title ‘early childhood educator’ was adopted. It was adopted to recognise that there is a much broader role for workers in this industry. We are not just carers but also skilled educators who help young children to learn and develop. We understand that learning begins from birth and that those who provide professional care for children while their parents are working or studying have a huge responsibility for that learning. As skilled professional educators, we understand a great deal about childhood development. As a former early childhood educator with over a decade of experience, I feel qualified to make some comments about the transition from early childhood education to school. Continue reading