Monday 3 April 2017
Drug Law Reform, Amalgamated Rates Protection, Fire & Emergency Levy, Central Railway, Palm Sunday Refugees and Redfern Legal Fundraiser
Drug Law Reform
NSW has one of the harshest approaches to recreational cannabis use in the country at a time when laws across the world are being relaxed. Cannabis use in the community is much higher than other drugs, while its contribution to crime and poor health is very low. In Parliament, I called for an evidence-based approach to cannabis use that does not criminalise recreational users or squander police and court resources on a widespread activity that harms few people. My speech is HERE.
The independent think tank Australia21 proposes a national drug decriminalisation policy, with standard rules for personal use and possession, advertising restrictions and stringent controls on some drugs. Former premiers, police chiefs, prison officers, health and welfare workers, lawyers, drug users and their families have long been calling for drug law reform. Details HERE.
Amalgamated Rates Protection
The government had to admit that forced council amalgamations may not deliver lower rates as it promised but could in fact result in much higher fees. While I do not support rate pegging, I supported its bill to require a merged council to use rate paths imposed by the previous council for three years to ensure Paddington, Woollahra and Edgecliff residents are not hit with a predicted 53 per cent rate rise if Woollahra Council is forced to merge with Randwick and Waverley. Forced mergers guarantee disruption and can mean larger bureaucracies and lose grassroots representation and local expertise.
With Ku-ring-gai Council winning a Court of Appeal case against being forced to amalgamate, the government should refocus local government reform on strengthening councils’ long term sustainability and financial viability to ensure they can deliver high quality services and programs into the future. My speech is HERE.
Fire & Emergency Levy
All insurance holders currently pay an additional levy to fund statewide fire and emergency services and from 1 July this levy will instead be collected through council rates. I supported the bill to impose the change, which was recommended by the Ken Henry tax review and the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, however I am concerned that it shifts costs to councils and that insurers may not pass on the full savings to customers. The community has not been adequately informed and I am also concerned ratepayers will get a shock when their notices arrive. The government will set up a hotline for complaints, an insurance monitor and a pensioner concession and hardship scheme.
The government has released plans for a new underground pedestrian link at Central Railway Station to connect the new light rail stop in Chalmers Street with the new Sydney Metro platforms and existing train platforms. Work will start in 2018 as part of the new underground metro station.
Media reports indicate the government will soon announce proposals for a major redevelopment above the railway lines south of Central Railway Station, through to Redfern Railway Station, part of the promised Central2Eveleigh redevelopment. I’ve asked the minister for a briefing about the plans. Information HERE.
Palm Sunday Refugees
This year’s Palm Sunday rally 2pm Sunday 9 April at the Archibald Fountain Hyde Park north calls for reform of refugee policy. Details HERE.
Redfern Legal Fundraiser
In Parliament I congratulated Redfern Legal Centre as the first community legal centre in NSW and 40 years of helping vulnerable people with legal problems. My statement is HERE.
Shamefully, federal funding cuts threaten Redfern’s services to the inner city and I encourage you to support their fundraiser on 6.30-11pm Thursday 27 April at Sydney Town Hall. MCs Wendy Harmer, Triple J’s Veronica and Lewis and guest speaker Justice Virginia Bell AC will toast RLC's achievements and history, along with entertainment and an auction. Bookings HERE.