Greens call on Premier Berejiklian to end native forest logging

Koala

Jan Barham MLC, the Greens NSW Forests spokesperson, has called on the new Premier Gladys Berejiklian to take action on climate change and the environment by halting the logging of public native forests.

“It’s time for the new Premier to act on climate change and the environment by putting a stop to the logging of public native forests in NSW. The Berejiklian Government has an opportunity to protect biodiversity while delivering new economic opportunities in tourism, recreation and plantation forestry by bringing an end to destructive and unsustainable logging in state forests,” Ms Barham said.

“It will be a test of the new Premier to see whether she listens to the science and the community by recognising that the Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) have failed, and a new direction in forest management is essential for the future of our forests and the protection of vulnerable species such as koalas.

“The RFAs have failed to deliver ecologically sustainable forest management [1] and the state’s native forestry sector has been poorly managed and unprofitable over many years. The Government cannot consider new forest agreements and needs to recognise that the future of timber supply is in an enhanced plantation industry.

Ms Barham noted that as well as the biodiversity benefits, protecting native forests would make an important contribution to addressing the state’s need to improve on climate action.

“Saving our forests would deliver a substantial opportunity for carbon capture. The NSW Forestry Corporation manages 1.8 million hectares of native forests and research from the Australian National University has shown that natural eucalypt forests in southeast Australia store an average of 640 tonnes of carbon per hectare.[2] Preventing the destruction of mature forests and allowing logged areas of native forest to regrow has the potential to make an effective contribution to climate change mitigation.

“The NSW Government has set a long-term aspirational greenhouse gas emissions target but hasn’t taken responsibility for urgently acting on climate change now. They didn’t support the Greens’ Climate Change legislation that would require a whole of government approach to meet annual carbon budgets and identify strategies to reduce emissions. The new Premier can change course, beginning with the clear need to preserve our forests and use them to store more carbon.

“The 1992 National Forest Policy Statement signed by all states promised a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative reserve system and ecologically sustainable forest management, but this hasn’t occurred. The decisions of the current Government will decide whether the next quarter of a century will see irreversible damage to forests, the extinction of more native species and continued global warming. I urge Premier Berejiklian to set NSW on a better course for future generations.”

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

[1] Review of evidence concludes Regional Forest Agreements a failed model for forest management

[2] Green Carbon: The role of natural forests in carbon storage

Stolen Generations Inquiry Chair welcomes Government’s commitment to Reparations

Stolen Generations survivors at Parliament House for tabling of the Unfinished Business report

Jan Barham MLC, the Greens NSW spokesperson on Aboriginal Affairs and Chair of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Reparations for the Stolen Generations, has welcomed the NSW Government’s response to the inquiry’s 35 recommendations.

“This strong commitment to act on reparations is welcome, it’s significant, and it’s long overdue,” Ms Barham said.

“It’s almost twenty years since the Bringing Them Home report into forcible removals was tabled. It would be better if we hadn’t needed two decades and another inquiry to get here, but I’m glad that our committee’s recommendations have received such strong support in the Government’s response.”

The response tabled today indicates that the NSW Government will provide a reparations package that involves more than $73 million, including ex gratia payments as well as support for survivors’ groups and programs and services focused on individual and collective healing to address the intergenerational impacts of the Stolen Generations.

“The financial reparations scheme leads the way among the states who have established compensation for the Stolen Generations, but what is most important is the acknowledgement, the healing and the certainty that comes from a comprehensive approach to reparations. That was captured in our inquiry’s recommendations and can now be delivered with the Government’s support.

“I’m grateful to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Leslie Williams, for her commitment, engagement and respect in addressing this issue. It’s important that she not only delivered this response, but that she made sure to meet with the Stolen Generations survivors to explain the detail of the Government’s response.

“Our inquiry’s report was a unanimous one and I want to acknowledge the contributions of all committee members who recognised the importance of this issue and worked to deliver these recommendations for the New South Wales Government to act on.

“But most of all I acknowledge those Stolen Generations survivors who came forward again and told their stories to our inquiry, and who have waited so long for governments and society to genuinely acknowledge and address the wrongdoing and harms they suffered,” Ms Barham concluded.

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Unfinished Business: Reparations for the Stolen Generations in New South Wales (Final Report of the Inquiry)

NSW Government Response to the Report

NSW Budget: Some welcome initiatives but inadequate investment to prevent community crisis points

Hand cradling paper figures

Jan Barham MLC, Greens NSW spokesperson on Housing, Homelessness, and Family and Community Services has warned that the latest NSW Budget continues to fall short in preventing key pressures on communities across the state.

“The NSW Government has again failed to adequately invest in addressing the key challenges in our society, including pervasive housing stress and alarming rates of risk to children and young people, to promote wellbeing and improve the long-term social and economic outlook,” Ms Barham said.

“Ahead of the Budget the Government announced $560 million in new funding for community services over four years, including $170 million on efforts to reduce the number of children entering care.

“While this appears to be a long-overdue step toward investing in prevention and family preservation, the budget papers show that overall funding for targeted earlier intervention isn’t increasing. The sad reality remains that the major budget increase in supporting vulnerable children comes from the 1,100 more children and young people than expected entering out of home care.

“Until there is a genuine boost to genuine early intervention services, including universal supports and targeted interventions for families with risk factors for abuse and neglect, we won’t see the cycle broken. The Government can invest now to prevent the crisis or face continued growth in demand for crisis interventions.

“Fewer households were supported in social housing in 15/16 than forecast, revised down from 142,000 to 140,700 households. Even fewer households are expected to be supported in social housing in 2016/17, despite the waiting list for social housing being higher than it has ever been sitting at 60,000 households.”

“The budget for maintenance and repair of Aboriginal Housing dwellings has been cut, down from $28.4 million in 2015/16 to $15 million in 16/17. Considering the huge improvements made to people’s lives and health from repairing rundown homes, this is disappointing and could cost the health budget in the long run.”

“These cuts come as stamp duty revenues of $8.88 billion have smashed forecasts, highlighting how the NSW Government continues to rely on speculative investment in property to balance its budgets, which only makes housing more unaffordable”, said Ms Barham.

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Opinion Article – Community expects high quality aged care

Traffic warning sign - frail or older people

This article was originally written and published on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, 15 June 2016

Aged care policy has changed a lot in the past 20 years. But what about care quality? Many in the industry would argue that it has improved, but what about people living in nursing homes? Would they agree?

Back in 1997, the Howard Government removed a requirement for nursing home operators to account for the funding they received and specifically show how much was spent on staffing. While the system wasn’t perfect, it implemented some accountability into a model where private operators receive public money to provide care to a vulnerable and generally voiceless group of people.

Since then, we have seen a substantial decline in registered nurses working in nursing homes and a substantial increase in lower skilled and lower paid personal care workers. Latest data show that registered nurse numbers are actually lower than what they were in 2003, despite there being 40,000 more high-needs residents in the aged care system. If care need has risen since 2003, why are there fewer registered nurses?

The nursing home industry has admitted that it stands to profit when it reduces the number of registered nurses, whose high-level skills and professional judgement come at a price. RNs have slowly been replaced by lesser-skilled Enrolled Nurses and Assistants in Nursing. The upshot is that we have nursing homes full of high-needs older people but fewer skilled people on the floor to look after them.

There are many homes that do a fantastic job caring for people. There are also homes that don’t. The problem with the current system of regulation is that it’s hard to tell the difference – 95% of homes are fully accredited with no mark against their name.

As repeated examples have shown, accreditation doesn’t equal good care. In 2010, a woman died in an accredited NSW nursing home because she fell from her bed and strangled herself on a bed pole. There were 45 residents in the home at the time but only one care worker rostered on to do the entire nightshift, with another worker on cleaning duties. The woman wasn’t discovered in time to be saved. The Coroner investigating the case found that one care worker to 45 residents was insufficient, even if it satisfied legislative requirements.

This is not an isolated case. Monash University and the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine released a report in 2015 that found over 100 Victorian nursing home residents die prematurely each year from preventable causes.

Most of the residents studied died from falls, but choking, being given the wrong medication and assault from other residents comprised the remaining deaths.

The report barely got noticed. What would be the public’s reaction if these figures applied to childcare centres?

Just because someone is old doesn’t mean their life doesn’t matter.

According to the latest Aged Care Financing Authority report, the average nursing home is making a profit of just over $9,000 per resident per annum. The top 25% of homes are making twice that. The 2014 Living Longer Living Better reforms are broadly expected to have injected billions into the industry as it opened up accommodation pricing allowing providers to charge more for the nursing home rooms.

Government, and the public, need to recognise that nursing home residents are more than just numbers on a profit ledger.

It is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day today, and I believe we need to reform regulation of aged care to protect our vulnerable older citizens. An obvious place to start is implementing minimum staffing requirements. A NSW Parliamentary Inquiry I chaired last year found that facilities looking after residents with high needs should have at least one registered nurse on duty at all times. Unfortunately, the NSW Government looks to be removing the last piece of regulation in the country that implements such a requirement.

Older people recently identified health as their number one concern when deciding who to vote for in this upcoming election. Yet, neither Labor nor Liberal has committed to reforming aged care regulation to improve care quality.

The community expects high quality care, particularly for older, vulnerable people. Aged care policy needs reform so that we can actually achieve what the community expects and show that we as a community value older people’s lives.

Taxi subsidies for people with disability to increase 1 July

Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme rally in Macquarie Street

“I welcome the announcement that subsidies for people with disabilities who rely on taxis will increase from 1 July. People with disability will be relieved to have a start date for the subsidy increase, which the Government announced in December last year”, said Ms Jan Barham, Greens NSW spokesperson for Disability.

The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme provides people with disability a half-price fare. The subsidy is currently capped at $30 per trip. From 1 July 2016, the subsidy will rise to $60, which will provide a full 50% discount on fares up to $120.

“People with disability have campaigned for years to increase the subsidy, which has sat at $30 since 1999. The subsidy should be indexed to CPI so that it doesn’t once again fall behind in covering the cost of taxis.”

“We must ensure there are enough wheelchair accessible taxis on our roads, particularly in light of the legalisation of ridesharing services like Uber. I have also asked the Government about how they will ensure ridesharing companies do not discriminate against people with disabilities, which we have seen cases of in the past few months.”

“Once again I would like to congratulate those who have campaigned to have the subsidy increased. This will have wide-ranging benefits for many people, facilitating participation in their communities and helping them to lead full lives.”

 

Greens NSW MP and Transport spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi said:

“Transport accessibility should be a priority for the NSW Government. The Government has a responsibility to provide affordable transport options for people who are unable to use the public transport system.”

“While public transport accessibility still has a long way to go, particularly on the train network, the doubling of the taxi transport subsidy is long overdue and a welcome reform,” she said.

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891 or Mike de Waal for Mehreen Faruqi on 0474 437 111.

Government’s Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme and Wheelchair Accessible Taxi announcement: http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/b2b/releases/20160529-wheelchair-accessible-taxis.pdf

Jan’s media release welcoming the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme reform announcement on 17 December 2015: http://www.janbarham.org.au/category/portfolios/disability/

NSW Government fails future generations by ignoring climate change and housing crisis

“A forecast that ignores the major threats to the wellbeing of future generations, climate change and the crisis in affordable housing, is irresponsible” said Ms Jan Barham, Greens NSW spokesperson for Climate Change and Housing.

“It’s beyond negligent for the NSW Government to release an Intergenerational Report that fails to provide a plan for action to limit global warming and how NSW is preparing for the increasing impacts of climate change in the coming decades”.

“This report makes the nonsensical prediction that mining royalties and coal prices will continue rising through to 2056[1], but makes no mention of renewable energy and how we must transform our society.”

“The Government’s so-called vision of the future is blinkered to the most serious risks and without a plan for capitalising on the opportunities for clean energy and adaptation.”

The NSW Government’s response to affordable housing is confined to forecasting that 45,000 new homes will be built each year up until 2056, despite average new dwelling numbers hovering around 30,000 per year over the past 15 years.

“Increasing supply does not automatically translate to more affordable housing. NSW needs to adopt affordable housing targets if it is to address the chronic problem of housing stress across the state.”

“The Government has also admitted that it is increasingly dependent on stamp duty for revenue. As long as the Government is reliant on stamp duty windfalls to balance its budget, it will be responsible for fuelling speculative investment in housing and driving up house prices.”

“With the number of people aged 65 and over forecast to comprise 25% of the population by 2056, affordable and accessible housing must be increased to meet rising demand because most older people will be on low incomes.”

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Complete NSW Intergenerational Report 2016 can be found here: http://www.treasury.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/128144/Intergenerational_Report_2016_-_full_report.pdf

[1] p.75

NSW Government fails leadership test on care for frail older people

“The NSW Government has not supported an inquiry recommendation to retain the requirement for nursing homes to have at least one registered nurse on duty at all times, putting at risk the needs of frail older people”, said Ms Jan Barham, Greens NSW spokesperson on Ageing and chair of the inquiry.

“I am greatly disappointed the Government has completely ignored the Parliamentary Inquiry recommendation, supported by its own members, for nursing homes with high-needs residents to have one registered nurse on duty 24/7.”

“Some of these facilities have over 300 residents. Now there’s no guarantee they’ll have a registered nurse on site during the day, overnight or on weekends.”

The Inquiry found that NSW should require 24/7 registered nursing as current federal regulation fails to ensure safe staffing levels and registered nurse care for residents.

“Doctors, nurses, gerontologists, academics, health professionals, older people and their families were unanimous in their call for 24/7 registered nursing.”

“Even NSW Health opposed removing the regulation .”

“There are many tasks that only a registered nurse can do. Without 24/7 registered nursing, residents can wait for hours or days for pain relief or to have a catheter changed or have the specialised care that recognises symptoms of an emerging condition.”

“Older people in NSW deserve the very best care. They should not be sent to an emergency department in the middle of the night because there is no registered nurse on duty to provide the expert care they need. Sadly, that is going to be a reality for more nursing home residents in NSW, which comes at cost not only to them, but also the NSW Health system” said Ms Barham.

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Inquiry report: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2275

No affordable rentals for single unemployed people in regional NSW

Photograph of houses

Anglicare Australia’s 2016 Rental Affordability Snapshot paints a stark picture of housing affordability for people on low incomes across regional NSW, with most areas recording very few, if any affordable private rentals for households living on income support payments.

“This year’s Anglicare report shows that we’re not addressing the affordable housing crisis, with the private rental market in regional NSW excluding households on the lowest incomes”, said Ms Jan Barham, Greens Spokesperson for Housing.

“It is alarming that none of the regional areas surveyed in NSW had affordable properties for single households on Newstart or Youth Allowance where rent does not exceed 30% of their income.”

“Unless these households can access social housing, they would be living in housing stress and be at great risk of homelessness. They would also likely have to access emergency relief, financial counselling and other support services.”

“Average waiting times for social housing across all areas of NSW are between two and ten years, revealing a chronic shortage of social and affordable housing supply.”

South-East NSW had no properties available for single people on Newstart or Youth Allowance and only 22 affordable and available properties for single pensioners. The large number of holiday homes was identified as a key reason for a lack of affordable housing as it reduces supply and pushes up rents.

In the Riverina, affordability was better with 351 properties of the 1,177 surveyed affordable for low-income households. However, there were still no affordable rental properties for single people on Newstart or Youth Allowance.

The Central West, Far West and Orana had very few options for households in receipt of income support as their sole source of income, with less than 1% of properties affordable for single parent families living on Newstart and the Family Tax Benefit. As with elsewhere, nothing was affordable for single unemployed households.

Only 8.3% of rentals advertised in the Central Coast, Hunter, Great Lakes and Taree region were affordable for income support households. There are few affordable rentals for young families and single pensioners, and none available for singles on Newstart.

In Tamworth, Armidale, Inverell and Moree there were 79 properties recorded as affordable for an income support household, but, as with the other regions, none was available for single people on Newstart or Youth Allowance. Only two properties were found to be affordable for a sole parent on the Parenting Payment with two children.

“No longer can our regions be viewed as a more affordable option for people on very-low incomes. The Government must increase social and affordable housing supply across all NSW regions with a focus on single households to reduce the widespread housing stress experienced by people on low incomes.”

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Snapshot: http://www.anglicare.asn.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/rental-affordability-snapshot-2016.pdf?sfvrsn=7

Affordable housing down 6% on North Coast: Anglicare report – Media release: http://www.janbarham.org.au/2016/04/affordable-housing-6-north-coast-anglicare-report/

 

Affordable housing down 6% on North Coast: Anglicare report

New research released by Anglicare today shows that just 6.8% of rental properties across the North Coast were affordable for low-income households receiving income support payments, representing a decline of 6% from last year.

 

“For the fourth year running, Byron Bay recorded no affordable properties available for a household in receipt of income support. There were also no properties available in Ballina or Tweed Heads”, said Ms Jan Barham, Greens NSW Spokesperson on Housing.

 

“Of greater concern is that Byron, Ballina and Tweed Heads have no affordable properties for some households on the minimum wage, showing that even working households can no longer afford to rent in key areas on the North Coast.”

 

“Not only is the North Coast home to a large number of people on income support, its economy depends on a casual workforce. The lack of affordable housing means that many of these workers struggle to put a roof over their head because of their insecure incomes.”

 

The Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot recommended that social housing be boosted on the North Coast and that the tax system be reformed to reduce the cost of housing.

 

“NSW has 60,000 households on the social housing waiting list, with some waiting up to 20 years for housing. These households are forced into housing stress in the private rental market, or end up homeless because there is nowhere affordable to live.”

 

“The housing crisis is not just happening in our cities; it’s happening in the regions, too. People on low-incomes are being excluded from communities that were once known for their diversity because there is no social housing available. Government must act to turn around the trend of unaffordable housing that is sadly becoming a hallmark of our towns and cities”, Ms Barham said.

 

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

 

Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Snapshot: http://www.anglicare.asn.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/rental-affordability-snapshot-2016.pdf?sfvrsn=7 (North Coast – p. 36).

Call for Planning Minister to intervene in Belongil rock wall & Ewingsdale rezoning

Rally Opposing Belongil Beach Rockwalls

Greens North Coast spokesperson, Jan Barham MLC, has called for NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes stop a decision for a 1km rockwall at the Belongil and the rezoning of land at Ewingsdale for a seniors and commercial development.

“I’m outraged by the actions of Byron Shire Council in overturning planning principles that have been in place since 1988 for the coast and for strategic residential and commercial development. The current council is acting against the interests of the residents of Byron Shire,” said Ms Barham.

“It is a folly to consider that it is feasible to defend the coastline. It is also an affront to many residents as the planned retreat principle was advised to owners prior to their purchase of coastal land. It appears that the current council is willing to advance the property interests of a few and require Byron Shire’s residents to pay for it.

“Byron Council cannot be allowed to proceed with such irresponsible considerations that undermine solid planning principles. The community is not being informed of future liability and there seems to be no regard for the history and property owners’ prior knowledge of risk. Also, advice regarding the legal implications of reversing the long-standing and legally upheld principle of Planned Retreat hasn’t been made known to the community.

“The Ewingsdale rezoning for a seniors and commercial development does not meet the State Planning requirements to have a Local Growth Management Strategy in place. In the last 30 years this site has never been considered for residential and or commercial development.

“I am calling on Planning Minister Rob Stokes to step in and stop Byron Council from making a decision to support the building of a 1 kilometre rockwall at Belongil and an unwarranted and unwanted rezoning at Ewingsdale.

“The current majority on council are out of control and are putting at risk the future of Byron Shire. The impacts of such poor decisions have ecological, social, infrastructure and financial implications that have not been adequately assessed or supported by the community. The legal implications must also be addressed before more irresponsible decisions are made. It’s time for the Planning Minister to exercise his powers over Byron Shire Council and stop the madness,” said Ms Barham.

The Minister released new draft coastal planning laws last year and the submission period has just finalised, with new legislation due to be introduced into Parliament in the coming months. The State is a major stakeholder in coastal management with the beaches that will be affected being Crown Land.

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Letter from Jan Barham MLC to the NSW Minister for Planning

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