By Roy Butler, Barwon MP

Parliament is back in full swing, after a long period where it wasn’t sitting, last week was the first of two successive sitting weeks and, not surprisingly it was a hectic one.

The federal budget is brought down this week and the state budget will be in June, so there will be a lot of attention focused on understanding what the federal government is doing with its money or predicting where the state government’s money will be going. But there is still a lot of other stuff going on in the meantime.

Coercive control advertising campaign

Recently we have seen a lot of news about domestic violence and the impact it is having, particularly the lives lost, which has prompted action at both state and federal levels. The week before parliament returned, I joined my crossbench colleagues and the NSW government at the announcement of the launch of an advertising campaign to inform people in NSW about coercive control laws that come into effect on July 1, 2024.

These laws identify a range of behaviours that are intended to control an intimate partner, deny them choices, manipulate, financially abuse, and isolate partners from family and friends and make it clear that such control is NOT OK and will be illegal from July 1, 2024.

Let’s be clear, there is a threshold for this stuff. What these laws are talking about are serious attempts to control another person and restrict their personal freedoms. There is a high correlation between coercive control, domestic violence and domestic homicide. This kind of abuse is something that needs to be acted on early before it escalates to something worse.

That is why I believe this is so important.

The day after the coercive control ad campaign announcement the federal government also announced a $925m federal commitment for helping people leave abusive relationships.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, head to these websites for support:, If you or someone you know is experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, domestic, family or sexual violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, chat online via, or text 0458 737 732.

Virtual fencing submissions

As chair of the Committee on Investment, Industry and Regional Development I am urging anyone with an interest or stake in the subject of virtual stock fencing to have their say on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment (Virtual Stock Fencing) Bill 2024.

The deadline for submissions is May 17, so time is running out. Submissions can be as simple as a line or two on what you think should, or should not, happen with this technology.

Submissions can be made on the NSW Parliament website.

Connectivity in the bush

There has been a lot of concern about the plan to turn off the 3G network, especially in many country areas where 5G coverage is patchy and, in some places, even 4G.

While some carriers have already begun shutting down their 3G networks, Telstra has announced it will be extending their closure date to August 31, 2024. Make sure to check if your device will be compatible with the changes.

This could be devices that are 3G only, devices that do not support Voice over 4G (VoLTE), or devices that are 4G enabled but hardwired to use 3G for emergency calls.

This will also affect medical devices and other hardware connected to the Telstra 3G network, from EFTPOS terminals to farm machinery.

If you are unsure if your device is impacted, SMS ‘3’ to 3498 (3G XT), and a Telstra checker will respond, confirming what action you need to take.

For other connected devices, please reach out to the supplier or manufacturer for more information.

Still on digital connectivity, the Australian government has announced an On Farm Connectivity initiative that provides eligible Equipment Suppliers with up to $30,000 rebate for selling digital farming technology to eligible Primary Producers to help improve their connectivity and productivity.

Applications are open until Friday, May 31, 2024, 5:00pm AEST.

The program is part of the Better Connectivity for Rural and Regional Australia Plan and assists primary producers in taking advantage of digital agribusiness solutions to boost productivity and improve safety.

Regional media

The news of the closure of the Barrier Truth back in April was a bit of a shock but hardly a surprise to many, because the newspaper, like many others across the state, had been struggling for some time because of a downturn in advertising revenue.

While there is some hope that the paper might be revived by another local media outlet, it is still a sign that there are problems with sustaining the press out in the bush.

This poses a major problem because regional media is a vital part of country life in a way that is very different to media in the cities.

While many think that digital communication is all pervasive, in many regional areas connectivity, and tradition, means that many people still get a lot of important information from print and local radio.

The local newspaper or radio station is also often the hub of a local town, run by small business owners who are well known in their towns and often wear several different hats.

But there are so many signs that regional media is struggling. Many outlets have closed in recent years and others have told me that they are finding it hard to keep afloat due to a downturn in advertising revenue.

Last week, I alerted parliament to the problem, firstly by asking Jihad Dib, the Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister for Youth Justice, a question about regional media during Question Time.

I asked what the government was doing to protect this vital part of bush communities. He answered that he had already met with people from regional media and outlined some of the things the government is doing, detailing some of the funding provided to regional newspapers.

I also introduced a Notice of Motion asking that Parliament:
(1) Acknowledges the imperative role that regional media plays in the bush;
(2) Understands that poor connectivity and the digital divide makes print and radio media a key source of important information;
(3) Notes that without proper support and government paying its way for advertising, viability in regional media is a real problem;
(4) Urges the government and its agencies to support regional media through paid advertising rather than expecting that service for free;

This is an issue that I will continue to pursue.

Housing crisis

Last week I delivered a Private Members Statement on the housing crisis in Barwon. In it I talked about how housing is a basic human need, one that sees to some of the basics of physical comfort but also makes it possible for us to feel safe, to feel loved, accepted and have self-esteem.

Barwon, like most other parts of NSW, and Australia, has a critical shortage of housing. The lack of housing means that a significant portion of the population is disadvantaged, which has negative effects, social and economic, for communities as a whole.

When large numbers of people in a community don’t have a comfortable, affordable, place to eat, relax, sleep and shelter from the elements, it can badly impact physical and mental health, lowering morale, sapping motivation, causing a rise in social complications.

A lack of crisis housing to support people leaving abusive relationships is having an impact on rates of domestic violence. Without adequate housing for a town’s workforce, particularly essential service workers and seasonal workers, it can cause a disruption to the proper functioning of a town, resulting in economic disruption and population decline.

There are solutions at hand. In my statement, I talked about pre-approved (pattern planning) modular and panelised homes (built from interlocking panels).

I have spoken to people who can build homes from locally made panels, cheaper and faster, with benefits for the local community, bringing in money and providing training and employment for young people.

We need to be thinking more creatively about how to solve this crisis.

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