Don’t let Gloucester tourism fall victim to coal seam gas

On World Tourism Day, Greens MP and Tourism spokesperson Jan Barham has called on the NSW Government to recognise the importance of tourism to communities such as Gloucester by reconsidering its approval of coal seam gas in the picturesque region.

“Visitors spend around $30 million annually in the Gloucester region, providing jobs for up to 240 people in the tourism sector and supporting many local businesses. Tourism is an increasingly important part of Gloucester’s economy and to jeopardise it through drilling for coal seam gas in the area is risky and short-sighted,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham noted that tourism operators are playing a significant role in the local protest against AGL’s plan to commence fracking four wells at their Waukivery pilot project site outside Gloucester. In a submission to the 2011 Parliamentary Inquiry into Coal Seam Gas, Tourism Advancing Gloucester’s (TAG) Thomas Davey wrote that:

‘TAG believes that CSG mining works hard against the scenic beauty of Gloucester, adding a slow uglification to a region long-recognised for its beauty; it destroys productive farming land; and it detracts from the tourism experiences of the town.’

“As the gateway to the World Heritage Listed Barrington Tops, the natural beauty of Gloucester is a key attractor for the region. The tourist operators of Gloucester see the impact this mining project will have on the landscape, along with the risks to air quality and water security, and the Government should act in the region’s long-term interests,” Ms Barham said.

“Although Minister Anthony Roberts’s announcement last Thursday that he was extending the Government’s coal seam gas moratorium is a welcome reprieve for some communities, it doesn’t apply to Gloucester.

“The community opposition to AGL’s coal seam gas project and the risk it poses to tourism mean that the Minister needs to take further action,” Ms Barham said.

“Communities in regional NSW work hard to establish local industries that complement the traditional agricultural basis for their survival.

“We should be supporting the long-term viability of rural communities through tourism instead of threatening their very existence by approving fracking despite the strong protests of the community, including businesses involved in tourism,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Petition: Stop the West Byron Mega-Development

The NSW Government is currently considering a massive, inappropriate proposed urban development in West Byron and our community is determined to stop this proposal.

You can help – our petition calls on the Government to defer its decision on the proposal until it has better information about the environmental and social impacts of the development on Byron Shire.

Print, Sign and Send this petition to my office and it will be presented in Parliament. If we can get to 10,000 signatures then there will be a debate in the Legislative Assembly.

Every signature counts, so print the petition, sign it yourself and get your friends and family to do the same, then get those signatures to me so they can all be tabled in Parliament.

Does the NSW Government even realise that it has no Social Housing Policy?

Answers to questions in the NSW Legislative Council this week have revealed that some Ministers appear to be unaware that their Government is operating without a social housing policy, says Greens MP and Housing spokesperson, Jan Barham.

“Despite the fact that the Auditor-General pointed out the need to deliver a Social Housing Policy last year, and that less than a fortnight ago our Parliamentary Inquiry repeated that call, Ministers in the Upper House seem to have no idea that their Government is operating without a policy,” Ms Barham said.

The August 2013 Auditor-General’s report on Making the best use of public housing recommended that the Government deliver by December 2013 a policy that aligns tenant management with emerging client need, including short-term and long-term targets.

More than a year later, the Select Committee on Social, Public and Affordable Housing noted that the policy had not been delivered and again recommended that it be delivered, this time setting a new deadline of 1 March 2015.

In question time yesterday, Minister for Fair Trading Matthew Mason-Cox answered a question about the sell-off of Millers Point public housing by stating, “This Government has a social housing policy whereas those opposite have got absolutely no idea.”

“When invited to table the policy, the Minister said he only had a draft answer to the question he was asked. It’s a shame that draft document didn’t warn him that he shouldn’t talk about a policy that doesn’t exist,” said Ms Barham, who served as Deputy Chair of the Select Committee.

“My attempt to clarify in question time whether the Government has finally delivered its policy, which I asked of Minister Ajaka who represents the Minister for Family and Community Services in the Upper House, was met with a non-answer.”

Ms Barham called on the Government to acknowledge the serious deficiency its lack of a social housing policy poses.

“The Government is selling off properties, dealing with a waiting list that has more than 50,000 people on it, yet they won’t even acknowledge that they are operating without a solid plan.

“The Auditor-General and the Select Committee both could not have been clearer – at this stage there is no clarity about what the Government sees as the role of social housing or their vision for its future. After more than three years in Government, it’s time that they confront the challenge of delivering a strategy for social housing,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Hansard, 16 September 2014 – Millers Point Property Sales:

The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: My question is addressed to the Minister for Fair Trading, representing the Minister for Finance and Services. Will the Minister update the House on the recent sales of public housing properties at Millers Point?

The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX: I thank the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner for this important question. I want to outline the success of the sales process to date, despite the protestations from members of the Opposition. Let us have a look at what happened last Thursday night. I am pleased to report to the House that a five-bedroom Victorian terrace built in 1879—which was about the last time members of the Opposition reviewed their social housing policy—sold for $3.96 million. A four-bedroom property built in 1832 sold for $2.685 million. For the benefit of those opposite without a social housing policy, that adds up to $6.6 million.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Sophie Cotsis to order for the first time.

The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX: The four properties that have been sold at Millers Point in the past few weeks add up to a grand total of $11.1 million. At Millers Point there are 293 properties, and four have been sold for $11.1 million. What will this Government realise through this sale process and put back into the coffers for social housing? This Government has a social housing policy whereas those opposite have got absolutely no idea. We will sell those properties and invest those hundreds of millions of dollars into new social housing properties. The sale of these properties will produce multiple other properties. At the start of this process the Government estimated producing three times as many properties as are being sold but given the success of this sale process it will be a lot more than that. A lot more people will be housed in proper housing by this Government.

We must not forget that 58,000 people are on the waiting list and because those opposite have no social housing policy they do not care about them. The Opposition has a bunch of carping ideologues on the front bench who cannot understand the economics and sense of this Government’s policy in this area. We are getting on with the job with a real plan, not getting on with the job of complaining about a process that is realising money for this important investment. We look forward to continuing this sales process. A further two properties will be sold as part of the pilot program which will then be assessed and reviewed. The Government will make another statement in relation to the realisation of these important assets, all the money from which will go into social housing at locations across this State. The bottom line is it is an investment of a very significant proportion of housing for the 58,000 people on the social housing waiting list who have been neglected for too long. It is a successful sales process. I congratulate both Ministers involved, and I look forward to reporting on the success of that process in the future.

The Hon. Amanda Fazio: Point of order: My point of order is that the Minister has referred to the Government’s social housing policy and under the standing orders I seek that he table a copy of that policy for the information of members of the House.

The Hon. Catherine Cusack: To the point of order: The Hon. Amanda Fazio has misunderstood the standing orders in relation to documents to be tabled if they have been quoted by the Minister. It does not refer to every single document to which a Minister might refer.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I presume the Hon. Amanda Fazio was seeking to have the document tabled under Standing Order 56?

The Hon. Amanda Fazio: Yes, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Did the Minister have a document?

The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX: I had a piece of paper to which I barely referred.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Under the standing order I am required to ask: is the document of a confidential nature or should it be more properly obtained by order?

The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX: I have just provided to Hansard the draft answer to a question I had with me.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister has not indicated that it is either confidential or should be more properly obtained by order. Therefore, I have to put the motion.

Question—That the document be tabled—put.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion agreed to.

Document tabled.

Hansard, 17 September 2014 – Social Housing Policy:

Ms JAN BARHAM: My question is directed to the Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for the Illawarra, representing the Minister for Family and Community Services. Noting that in answer to a question on 16 September the Minister for Fair Trading stated:
This Government has a social housing policy …
and given that the Auditor-General’s 2013 report, “Making the best use of public housing” and the report of the Select Committee into Social, Public and Affordable Housing recommended the Government develop and release a social housing policy, can the Minister confirm that this policy has been completed and advise when the policy document will be made public?

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: I thank the Hon. Jan Barham for her question. The Government was facing deep and systemic challenges when it inherited the social housing system. The system was not delivering outcomes for tenants or taxpayers and had been managed in the worst possible way by Opposition members. It is clear that real reform was in the too-hard basket for the Australian Labor Party [ALP]. This Government is determined to change that and to deliver a better result. It has the courage of its convictions to make the necessary calls. Its vision is clear: deliver a more sustainable housing system for our most vulnerable. Unlike the ALP, our actions speak louder than words. We have already made progress. We have made waiting lists transparent to help people make better decisions. We have run amnesties to crack down on those rorting the system. We have introduced vacant bedroom charges so more people can access housing. We have made decisions about areas such as Millers Point, which will mean more money for new homes and maintenance.

The Hon. Steve Whan: Point of order: It is on relevance. The question was specific about Minister Mason-Cox’s comment yesterday that the Government “has a social housing policy”. I request that the Minister be asked to return to the point of the question.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister was being generally relevant.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: It is clear that social housing should be financially sustainable. It has to provide a fair safety net and ensure that those requiring housing are given an appropriate opportunity to acquire it. As has been clearly shown, the ALP had no plans or policies to make social housing more fair or sustainable. The ALP flirted with reform in Government, but the very best it could do was claim that it would reshape social housing.

The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox: There were 58,000 on the waiting list.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: Absolutely. Labor left the public with a backlog of housing maintenance worth close to $300 million. The reality is that this Government cares and it is taking appropriate action.

Ms JAN BARHAM: I ask a supplementary question. Could the Minister elucidate when this policy will be made publicly available?

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA: Each day that this Government acts on social housing it will ensure that members opposite are well aware of it.

Auditor-General’s report

NSW Legislative Council Select Committee report

NSW Upper House supports ongoing recognition of forced adoption practices

Greens MP and spokesperson on Family and Community Services, Jan Barham, has welcomed the NSW Legislative Council’s passage of her motion calling for recognition of forced adoption practices.

“September 20 will be the second anniversary of the NSW Government’s apology for past forced adoption practices. I am gratified and deeply moved that the Upper House has supported the call for continued acts of recognition,” Ms Barham said.

“The NSW apology, along with the apologies by the Australian Government and other states and territories, were profound acts of recognition our past mistakes. But just as the impacts of forced adoptions were lifelong, the apologies should be followed by ongoing efforts to remember and understand the harms caused to many parents and children.

“I understand that the NSW Minister, Gabrielle Upton, will take the issue forward by seeking national cooperation for an annual day of recognition. I welcome the Minister’s commitment to ongoing commemoration of forced adoption practices, and I appreciate the support for this issue among all Members of our Parliament,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Motion on Forced Adoption Recognition as passed by the Legislative Council, 11 September 2014:

1. That this House commends:
(a) the NSW State Government for their delivery on Thursday 20 September 2012 of a State Apology for Forced Adoption Practices,
(b) the Commonwealth Government for their delivery on Thursday 21 March 2013 of a National Apology for Forced Adoptions, and
(c) all of the other state and territory governments of Australia, each of whom has delivered or announced their intention to deliver an apology to those affected by forced adoption practices.

2. That this House acknowledges that offering apologies for an injustice is an essential step toward reconciliation and reparation, but that apology must be followed by ongoing efforts to recognise the harms caused and to provide support to those affected.

3. That this House calls on the Government to:
(a) establish an annual Day of Recognition of Forced Adoption Practices,
(b) construct a public memorial to commemorate the apology to those affected by forced adoption practices in NSW,
(c) develop information resources and a communications strategy to raise public awareness of past forced adoption practices and the traumatic effects of forced adoptions, and to highlight the support services available to those affected by forced adoption practices.

Inquiry highlights Government reform is desperately needed to address the affordable housing crisis

The release of the report from the Parliamentary Social, Public and Affordable Housing inquiry initiated by The Greens NSW Housing spokesperson, Jan Barham, has identified key areas for reform to address the housing crisis in NSW. The inquiry received over 250 submissions and visited inner city, suburban and regional areas to see and hear first-hand from local communities.

“This inquiry has heard about the challenges being faced across the state and the impacts of unaffordable housing. The inquiry recognised that housing is not just about people having a roof over their head, but living in a home that is affordable and connected to transport and jobs, and to the education and support services they need to secure their wellbeing,” Ms Barham said.

“The Government must take up these recommendations and deliver housing that is affordable and appropriate to all people in our communities. Many people are finding it difficult to secure housing that meets their needs, including key workers, people with disabilities, and women and children at risk from domestic violence,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham noted that some key recommendations of the inquiry pointed to the lack of strategy and direction in housing policy.

“The inquiry has recommended the State consider the appointment of a dedicated Housing Minister and the establishment of an advisory council. It has also highlighted the Government’s failure to deliver policies and strategies to define the future of social and affordable housing.

“Addressing the housing crisis is an issue for all levels of government. It is crucial that long-term partnerships with the Australian Government continue, including the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH),” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham also emphasised the importance of planning and taxation policies that ensure affordable housing is available across Sydney and the state.

“Housing affordability pressures continue to worsen and it will take clear direction to address the problem. The Government should ensure that the NSW planning system, along with local government strategies, consider targets for the inclusion of affordable housing that is suited to the needs of local communities.

“The inquiry also heard clear concerns that existing tax policies, such as state stamp duty and negative gearing of investments, could be reviewed and a long-term transition planned to promote housing affordability and the delivery of appropriate new supply.

“We need to get affordable housing right to ensure that people are able to build successful lives, ensure their wellbeing and prevent the risk of homelessness,” Ms Barham concluded.

NSW Parliamentary inquiry into Social, Public and Affordable Housing final report

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891