What an interesting two weeks it has been in parliament.
Dominating much of the discussion was the Upper Hunter by-election which comes to a head this week with voters heading to the polls on Saturday.
The importance of the election was thrown into stark relief for the government this past week when a vote in the Legislative Assembly was tied 44-44.
In the end the speaker was forced to cast his vote – a very rare occurrence.
This past week also saw the NSW government finally answer calls for mice plague assistance – albeit after intense media and public pressure.
I’m interested to hear what you think of the announcement and whether it will help you and your family or business.
I was able to meet with the teachers federation last week to talk about the understaffing of regional schools which is predicted to get much worse over the coming years.
I’m extremely concerned about the impact this will have on our kids and the great teachers we have in our local schools.
I’ll be talking more with local teachers about what needs to happen and applying pressure to make sure our kids don’t miss out.
Later this week I’ll head down to the Upper Hunter to throw my full support behind the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party candidate Sue Gilroy before heading out to Broken Hill on Monday for the week.
I’ve been calling on the NSW government to provide assistance to tackle the mouse plague for months now, I’ve written to, I’ve spoken to and asked questions of the agriculture minister in parliament.
I’ve gone on radio, TV and the newspaper alongside many mayors, farmers, business people and locals calling for action from the NSW government.
Last week I hosted the Country Women’s Association and NSW Farmers at Parliament House to give a mouse plague briefing – everyone in parliament received an invitation to attend.
The agriculture minister said he’d be there. But then failed to attend and called the event a ‘stunt’. On Tuesday, May 11, the minister said “you could throw billions of dollars at this in rebates and it doesn’t actually make one iota of difference”. Come Thursday, May 13 the NSW government announces a ‘$50 million package to offer farmers, households and small businesses assistance to battle the mice plague’.
The package includes the following:
• Households who are eligible will be able to claim rebates of up to $500 for baits purchased.
• Small businesses that are eligible will be able to claim a rebate of up to $1000 for baits purchased.
• Free bait preparation sites will be set up to allow broadacre farmers to treat grain for use as mouse bait.
As with anything the government does on the fly there are no details on how it will roll out these rebates, what the application process is, or even a start date.
They have published a website – but it contains no actual information about accessing the rebates.
It’s called the ‘hidden wait time’ – it’s the time you wait after being referred from your GP to a specialist.
The reason it’s called that is because in NSW the government doesn’t publish any information about the expected or average wait times to see a medical specialist.
I’ve been told that in Broken Hill there are 700 people on a waitlist to see a dermatologist – the expected wait time – years.
This is just one specialist service that has an excessive wait time.
I have heard from people who have waited excessive amounts of time to see oncologists, cardiologists and paediatricians.
The wait times people are reporting to me are extremely concerning.
We know that people get sicker the longer they sit waiting to see a specialist.
What may have started off as a simple or small problem can escalate, decreasing people’s quality of life and leads to having more and more appointments.
As a first step I’m calling on the NSW government to track and publish average and maximum wait times for each hospital by speciality area.
The South Australian government already produces a report on a quarterly basis which assists GPs and patients in making decisions about treatment options.
We cannot begin to address the problem until we have accurate information about the current state of affairs.
I’m taking this issue on because of the high cost burden being sick has on people in Barwon, we have to travel further to access medical care and that comes at a high cost – petrol, accommodation and lost income from taking days off.
In a time when almost everyone is carrying around a phone that can live stream there really is no excuse for the regional health inquiries not to be live streamed.
The regional health inquiry has been out hearing from local mayors, local health district representatives, community groups and individuals but these local hearings were not livestreamed like those from Sydney were.
Following increasing pressure from myself and other politicians, the media and the community, the parliament has finally agreed to livestream the Wellington and Dubbo hearings.
This is just a trial at this stage, I will be pushing to make sure the remaining hearings are all livestreamed.
The attitude and dismissive commentary of one government member of the committee should be witnessed by the broader community. Likewise, the apologies from the local health district should be heard.
Everyone in NSW should have the ability to see and hear their commentary – so you can form your own view.
The webcasts will be available on the NSW parliament’s website.To order photos from this page click here