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

STATEMENTS BY SENATORS;Turnbull Government – 10 May 2017

Can I say—and I have said it before, Senator O’Sullivan—being loud does not make you right. And if you want to talk about the budget and what the budget did, could someone come in here and tell me what it did for Tasmania? We all feel like we were left off the map, except for being slugged with a tax hike. So if anyone can come in here and tell me what Tassie got out of it, I would be very happy to hear it. But I have digressed from my speech for today—

Honourable senators interjecting

 Senator BILYK: If I could hear myself over the interjections, Mr Acting Deputy President, it would help. But they do not put me off—as you know, I was a childcare worker for many years; I am used to three-year-olds screaming and yelling—so they can continue and I will start with my speech proper. Continue reading

STATEMENTS BY SENATORS;Schools – 29 Mar 2017

I believe in the power of education to change lives. Education brings significant benefits to the individual and society and it allows individuals to gain access to better career opportunities and better life outcomes for themselves and their families. I also believe that access to a quality education is the right of every student. Every single student, no matter where they come from, no matter what their family background, should have access to a quality education. It is a right that we in this place should be ensuring. Whether it is in regional Tasmania or inner-city Sydney, it should not matter.

Labor believes that education funding should be needs based. In government, Labor recognised the urgent national importance of excellent and equitable schools and commissioned the biggest review of our school funding system in 40 years, the independent Review of funding for schooling. The review involved more than 70 education groups, 39 school visits—in every state and territory—and more than 7,000 submissions. This review, colloquially known as the Gonski review, found that falling attainment and growing inequality needed to be urgently addressed. The Gonski funding model is designed to ensure that all children are educated in properly resourced schools. The essence of Gonski is that funding goes to the schools and students who need it most, regardless of whether they are public or private. Not only is this important from an equity perspective but also it maximises the impact of the funding. Study after study has found that targeting funding at the most disadvantaged schools has the greatest impact. Continue reading

BILLS;Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2017;Second Reading – 28 Mar 2017

Today we are discussing the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. The Attorney-General, Senator Brandis, the person I believe to be the worst Attorney-General in Australia’s history, has introduced this bill under the pretence of defending freedom of speech. Is it any surprise that the Attorney-General, after spending much of his ministerial career attacking the President of the Human Rights Commission for doing her job, would seek to introduce a bill that winds back human rights protections that have served Australians well for 20 years? Continue reading

BILLS;Education and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2017;Second Reading – 27 Mar 2017

I am pleased to be able to stand up today to support the Education and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2017. A quality education is the best opportunity anyone can get to improve their life. While for some it is a university education, for many others it is a vocational education at TAFE or other training organisations. However, over the past few years we have heard numerous stories about dodgy and unscrupulous providers who have taken large amounts of funds in payments yet have delivered little meaningful training. Students and the Labor Party have been crying out for a VET Student Loans Ombudsman to act on the complaints of students and to bring some fairness back to the sector.

Education is an issue that I have had a particular interest in for many years, firstly through my employment background as an early childhood educator and currently as a member of the Senate Education and Employment References Committee. When I worked for the Australian Services Union, I was also their Tasmanian representative on a number of industry training boards. I wrote curriculum for early childhood education. I helped implement traineeships into local government in Tasmania for the very first time. So I have had quite a broad interest in education for many years. Continue reading

BILLS;Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Jobs for Families Child Care Package) Bill 2016;Second Reading – 23 Mar 2017

I rise to speak on the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Jobs for Families Child Care Package) Bill 2016. We all know that prior to the 2013 election the Liberals promised more affordable and accessible child care, but what has happened? They went the whole last term of parliament without doing anything at all about childcare costs for ordinary Australian families. A child born when the Liberals first promised more affordable child care will be in school by the time the government deliver. Early education and care are an investment in our future. The government need to listen to the experts, fix their package and just stop playing silly political games.

Labor still has some quite serious concerns about the childcare package. It is interesting that after two years the government are insisting that the only way we can pay for childcare changes is by cutting family payments. They will argue that they are freezing the family tax benefit. But, if freezing that is not cutting it, I am not quite sure what is, because, unfortunately, the cost of living will still keep going up every year, and the family tax benefit will not. It was quite encouraging yesterday to see them finally cave in after I do not know how long—months and months—and remove the link to the omnibus cuts. I still have not worked out what deal was done—I am sure eventually we will find out—but they at least separated them. Continue reading