December 2014

Trawler ban a political stunt if it doesn’t address capacity

Greens fisheries spokesperson Senator Peter Whish-Wilson says the Abbott government’s super trawler ban is a cynical political ploy and not science based fisheries policy.

“This ban is a cynical political ploy not based on the recent independent scientific panel’s advice on super trawlers,” Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said.

“Banning ships over a certain length means nothing if mega freezing capacity industrial scale trawlers are still allowed to plunder our oceans and threaten ecosystems.

“We need science based fisheries policy to guarantee healthy oceans and the future of the industry, not some arbitrary ban based on the length of boats.

“The Greens have legislation ready to go that would limit freezing capacity to 2000 tonnes rather than the size of boats. This limits a boat’s ability to stay out at sea for long periods of time and cause localised depletion.

“Mega capacity trawlers brings the kind of industrial scale harvesting that has depleted local fish stocks and damaged marine ecosystems all around the world.

"We don't have them in Australia now and why do we need them in the future?"

Morrison set to lead renewed attack on our social safety net

The Australian Greens said the appointment of Scott Morrison as Social Services Minister shows the Government's clear intent to pursue hard-line policies which will weaken our nation's social safety net.

"Just when you thought this Government couldn't make things tougher for families and single parents, older Australians, young job-seekers and students, along comes Scott Morrison," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on family and community services said.

"Minister Morrison has taken a callous, hard-line approach to his work as Immigration Minister, showing an unprecedented level of cruelty to refugees fleeing some of the worst places on Earth.

"This should not be the CV of the man charged with protecting vulnerable Australians.

"The Prime Minister has labelled Mr Morrison the 'minister for economic participation', completely ignoring the importance of this role in supporting vulnerable people in our community who cannot meet the basic costs of living.

"This appointment is a clear sign that the Abbott Government is focused on making severe, unjustified cuts and changes to our social safety net.

"You would have thought the Government would have learned from the community's clear rejection of the budget as unfair to the most vulnerable. People want the Government to take a more compassionate fairer approach.

"I am deeply concerned about how Mr Morrison will handle the McClure and Forrest Reviews, policies that threaten to have a significant adverse impact on the Australian community," Senator Siewert concluded.

PM Abbott as Minister for Women only deepening inequality

Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne says Tony Abbott has revealed himself as small-minded in both the climate debate and his view of women, after claiming his greatest achievement as the Minister for Women has been abolishing the carbon price, because "women are particularly focussed on the household budget."

"He might as well have said his greatest achievement was to help women buy a better iron so they can stay home and iron more often," said Senator Milne.

"Australia's Minister for Women should be achieving in the areas of workforce participation, closing the gender pay and wealth gaps, and tackling domestic violence. Tony Abbott is doing the opposite.

"This backwards Minister for Women considers workplace reporting requirements to be red tape. He doesn't want people to have information they can use to bring about a more equal society.

"The reason we currently know about workplace inequality is because there are requirements for business to report on women's participation, wages and where they are in the hierarchy of the organisation, but Tony Abbott is trying to abolish it.

"The federal budget tried to lift interest payments on higher education debts and is set to cut superannuation boosts for low-income workers, both of which we know will impact women more than men.

"The budget is cutting funding for legal services and housing affordability programs, making life harder for domestic violence victims. Women shouldn't have to choose between staying in a violent relationship or homelessness. You shouldn't be forced to stay in a violent relationship because you can't get the legal support you need or somewhere to shelter with your children.

"All Tony Abbott can think of to brag about is weakening Australia's response to climate change. His government has ditched the carbon price and obstructed global efforts to cut pollution. This hurts women everywhere dealing with extreme weather events, especially those in developing countries.

"This small-minded Prime Minister is condemning Australia to being a social and economic backwater. Everybody benefits from action on climate change, and the Coalition could start by packing up its negotiating table and restoring certainty around the Renewable Energy Target.

"A strong RET will help household budgets and ease climate change suffering around the world. The old coal generators can't compete with clean, cheap renewable power.

"What an insight into the mind of our PM that he should cite the abolition of carbon pricing as the best thing he's done for women in his role as Minister for Women. It's as if he's in that portfolio to make sure there are no real strides forward."

LNP boasts about RET while wrecking renewable energy jobs

With news that Renewable Energy Target (RET) uncertainty has forced Meridian Energy Australia to abandon its Burdekin Hydro project in Northern Queensland, Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne, who is in Lima, says the Abbott government's duplicity has been exposed.

"Julie Bishop is over here in Lima bragging about ARENA and the Renewable Energy Target, but even as she speaks her government's attack on the RET is damaging jobs, investment, and efforts to cut pollution," said Senator Milne.

"It's such an outrageous deception, to say one thing to the UN, while doing the exact opposite at home.

"The Abbott government is actively working to stop action on global warming, and unfortunately for renewable energy workers, for people who want lower power prices, and for anyone who wants clean air to breathe, they're having some success.

"This hydro project near Townsville is just the latest to suffer because of uncertainty around the RET, and that's before any dirty deal has been done on not if, but how much, they'll cut the target.

"When the French and German leaders were in Australia, Tony Abbott bragged about the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, leaving out the fact that his government has promised to abolish it. Now Julie Bishop is using the RET to give the impression her government cares about stopping global warming, when actually they care about stopping action on global warming.

"This backward-thinking Coalition will be patting itself on the back for destroying a hydro project that would have threatened the business models of their fossil fuel mates.

"I will be telling everyone here in Lima that as long as the Abbott government is in charge, Australia can't be trusted to deliver action on global warming, or even a truthful speech," said Senator Milne.

"The Coalition has to abandon its attack on the RET. With the damage they've already done to the sector, it's more important than ever that the target is kept at 41,000gwh by 2020. We're going to need every ounce of ambition and investor confidence we can muster to reach it."

Pyne plan to fund religious colleges with public funds

Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s plan to divert public money earmarked for higher education to subsidise the training of priests and other religious workers will cause more outrage about his proposed changes to education funding, Australian Greens higher education spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said today.

Analysis of the register of approved colleges, held by the government’s national regulator, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, has found that 11 theological colleges are now accredited which means they are eligible for an estimated $4214 funding a year for each student, studying to enter religious ministries.

“Mr Pyne has gone one step further than robbing Peter to pay Paul – he is attempting to rob Australia’s public and secular university system to pay private, religious colleges.

“At least one of the private institutions that could receive millions of dollars in public funding if Mr Pyne's higher education bill passed states their mission as ‘training men and women to be effective servants for God'.

“It is deeply wrong that Mr Pyne is attempting to cut funding to public universities by 20 per cent in order to divert hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to private, for-profit education providers – including a number of religious based organisations.

“Courses that Mr Pyne wants to extend funding too include those teaching prescriptive Christian ideology on sexuality and marriage – is this really the best use of the higher education budget?

"Reports that the Coalition's higher education plan also involves handing over public money to religious based organisations should be another nail in the coffin of Mr Pyne's discredited legislation.

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Greens reject discriminatory work for the dole plans

The Australian Greens have rejected a discriminatory Government plan to make different rules for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities in order to access income support.

"The Government has waited until after Parliament has finished for the year to announce their plans to force people in remote communities to undertake work for the dole for 12 months a year in order to receive income support," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues said today.

"The Government is once again ignoring the underlying factors that are contributing to unemployment. It is unjustifiable that this scheme would be so much tougher in remote communities compared to the rest of the country.

"The Minister has admitted that there are 'a lot less jobs available in remote communities'. Work for the dole doesn't address that problem.

"The prospect of people working 25 hours a week for Newstart means they will be working for insignificant wages. This is an incredibly punitive and discriminatory approach, especially when you consider it is likely be paired with the roll-out of a healthy welfare card.

"Successive governments cut and reduced CDEP, a program that worked for many communities. People received top up wages and considered they had real jobs. Since stopping that program, many people have felt demoralised about losing those jobs. Work for the dole is a poor replacement.

"There are a range of factors contributing to underemployment, none of which are addressed by a punitive work for the dole scheme, especially at the same time as the Government are cutting $534 million from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs.

"Investing in new businesses is an important and necessary step but should not be accompanied by extreme work for the dole measures," Senator Siewert concluded.

Pyne gives state schools the devil's choice

LNP funding religious workers in our schools instead of trained counsellors

The National School Chaplaincy Program is exploiting the desperation of many NSW public school principals for additional assistance to cope with their schools' welfare needs, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.

Dr Kaye said: "It is hardly surprising that public schools are putting their hats in the ring for another set of hands.

"Principals coping with the impacts of students from dysfunctional homes, endemic poverty and even the normal stresses of growing up are unlikely to turn down additional assistance, even if it breaches the promise that no child will be proselytised at school.

"The program is deeply unfair.

"Principals have to make the devil's choice between extra resources to deal with welfare stress and protecting their students from chaplains hunting for converts.

"Religious schools that already have access to chaplaincy from their own denomination's clergy will be allowed to double dip.

"Many of the more than 180 Catholic, Protestant, Islamic and Jewish schools getting a free $20,000 a year gift would have had chaplains operating in the school even without the program.

"In religious schools that are already supported by clergy and lay volunteers, the program fails on even simple economic and governance grounds to ensure that public money is purchasing a service that would not have already been provided.

"Providing money to religious schools for chaplains is a waste of taxpayers' money.

"The Agreement delegates the allocation of chaplains to a cross-sector committee.

"Decisions about which public schools need more assistance will be handled by a committee with representatives of the Catholic and Independent schools, many of whom will have no idea of the range of stresses facing a school serving a disadvantaged community.

"The NSW Department of Education will now be required to establish and operate a new governance structure to cope with compliance, complaints and child safety at more than 500 schools across all three sectors.

"The Abbot government is allocating an entirely inadequate $320,000 a year for this task. Inevitably there will have to be a cross-subsidy out of the public education budget to prop up religious recruiting.

"NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli should renegotiate the deal and allow the money to be used to create more school counsellor positions in public schools," Dr Kaye said.