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NSW should follow Victoria's lead with increased measures to tackle pokies harm

NSW Greens have called on the NSW Government to take Victoria’s lead to implement local caps on the number of poker machines in order to reduce poker machine gambling harm. The call follows an announcement that the Victorian Government of a suite of measures to tackle poker machine harm including: added restrictions on pokies numbers in regions most affected by gambling, with an extension of regional caps on machines; and Limiting the number of machines in a single venue to 105.   Greens MP and Gambling Harm Spokesperson Justin Field said, “While Victoria pushes ahead with reform aimed at protecting people and communities from addictive poker machines, the NSW Government fails to act. “NSW already has more than three times the number of machines compared to Victoria and more than five times the Victorian 105 limit in some of our clubs. This is driving gambling losses in NSW of about $8 billion a year. We need to turn this around. “The NSW Government has a close relationship with the vested interests of the clubs and hotels that operate pokies and acts in their best interests. It talks up reducing gambling harm while its budget forecasts ever increasing tax revenue from poker machines over coming years. “Recently Fairfield City Council, that faces the biggest poker machines losses of any local government area in NSW, called for a cap on machines. “The Greens are calling on the NSW Government and the Labor party to support a winding back of poker machines number across the state. Venue limits, regional limits and an overall state cap make a lot of sense. “The pokies are not a game, these machines are causing family breakdown and financial ruin, contributing to domestic violence and promoting addiction for profit. “Minister Paul Toole time and again jumps to the defence of pokies when anyone can see the balance has swung too far in their favour. He should take his responsibility to people and families seriously and follow Victoria’s lead on addressing gambling harm. “The Victorian example shows there are solutions available to make a significant impact on pokies-related harm, what is lacking in NSW is political leadership and will,” Mr Field said.   Victorian Gaming Minister’s Media Release on pokies reform: http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/sweeping-reforms-to-tackle-pokies-harm/

Baby whale caught in shark net off Noosa highlights why nets should be removed from beaches

Media reports of a baby whale caught in shark nets off Noosa demonstrates the urgent need for removing nets off the NSW coast to protect whales, dolphin, turtles and other marine life, according to Greens MP and Marine Spokesperson Justin Field. The mother whale has been desperately trying to free the distressed calf from the net and lifeguards will attempt a rescue of the baby if conditions permit, reports suggest. The recently released Annual Performance Report of the Shark Meshing Program showed 373 marine animals, including turtles and dolphins, were caught in sharks nets between Newcastle and Wollongong with 211 killed. “The community has been warning Minister Niall Blair about the risk of shark nets during whale migration and now we’ve got a baby whale fighting for its life in the net off Noosa,” Mr Field said today. “Only in July, a whale entangled in shark nets on Gold Coast died despite rescue attempts. We hope there’s a better outcome today but the fact remains that shark nets are a big risk to marine life. “Shark nets are a political fix, not an effective way of managing the interaction between people and sharks. Shark nets may make ocean goers feel better but the evidence shows they are no barrier to sharks but they do kill hundreds of marine animals every year. “Most of the animals killed in nets were non-dangerous animals including dolphins, turtles and rays and many were caught between the beach and the nets. “Shark nets are an out-dated technology that provides a false sense of security and takes an unacceptable toll on marine life. The NSW Government should remove all shark nets from our beaches for good and focus on non-lethal shark management technologies,” he said.

NSW Government should be employer of choice not spending millions on consultants

Figures tabled in the Legislative Council have revealed State Government spending on external consultants will triple this year, outsourcing jobs and its responsibility as an employer of choice in NSW. Earlier this year, a report released by the NSW Auditor-General also found the NSW government’s spending on contingent labour - non-permanent and insecure working arrangement - had increased from $503 million in 2011-2012 to $1.1 billion in 2015-16. Greens MP and Treasury spokesperson Justin Field said the NSW Government should be ensuring the state can attract and retain the best talent to ensure the public service has the skills and resources to deliver for the people of NSW. “The State Government should be an employer of choice, attracting the best staff and setting the gold standard for pay and conditions, not relying on consultants and temporary, outsourced workers," he said. “The NSW Government is obsessed with privatisation and outsourcing -- from the sell off of our public services and assets to the recently revealed jump in employing external consultants. “The role of government as a service provider and employer of choice has been ignored and responsibility to workers, families, the community and the environment hollowed out. “At the same time the public have become very concerned at the capacity of Government to deliver for the state. They are sick of cost blowouts on major projects and the undue influence of vested interests. “We need a strong public service, secure in their jobs who will provide frank and fearless advice to Government to ensure the best outcomes for the state. “Over recent years we have seen tens of thousands of jobs cut from the public service and a harsh 2.5% wage cap, yet now we find there is money in the budget for consultant fees and casuals. “We expect more from the NSW Government as an employer, it should be setting the example by providing quality jobs with fair pay and conditions. This role becomes increasingly important in the face of global economic changes, new casualised work models and growth in insecure work. “The NSW Government should immediately put the brakes on its excessive use of consultants, casual and temporary workers and prioritise the creation of secure, permanent employment,” he said.

NSW Govt rejects Greens effort to force release of 'secret' gambling harm report

The Government has blocked a motion from the Greens in the NSW Legislative Council calling for the public release of a Gambling Harm Report that has been kept secret from the public for almost two years. In 2013 the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing awarded a tender for research into the harm caused by various types of gambling, including poker machines, and the report was handed to the Government in December 2015. The comprehensive report is aimed at establishing the risk from various forms of gambling in NSW, the effects on gamblers and their families, and determine the level of ‘risk’ from each gambling category. Greens MP and Reducing Gambling Harm Spokesperson Justin Field said, “The NSW Government has hidden the Gambling Harm Report it commissioned from the University of Sydney for almost two years and has today actively thwarted efforts to make the findings available to the community. “The secrecy and active delay of the release of this report raises the question -- what exactly is being kept from us about the impacts of gambling on people, families and communities? “Poker machines are designed for addiction and to strip billions a year from the NSW community. These addictive machines ruin the lives of individuals and families. “I call on Minister Paul Toole to urgently release the Gambling Harm Report. Every day this report is delayed is a missed opportunity for greater understanding and real action on addressing the devastating impacts of pokies. “I remind the Minister of his responsibility to protect people and communities over the interests of the gambling industry,” he said. <u>Excerpt from Transcript of Budget Estimates Hearing with Minister Paul Toole, 6 September 2017</u> Mr JUSTIN FIELD: In 2013 the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing awarded a tender for research into the harm caused by various types of gambling, the report was handed to the Government in December 2015. Why has the report not been released? Mr PAUL TOOLE: There are a number of reports. Gambling is an issue for any individual in our communities and I consider the harm caused by gambling to be a serious matter. As the responsible Minister I want to ensure that reasonable and balanced measures are being put in place to look at the impacts of gambling in our communities. The Government receives many reports. The Cabinet determines the appropriate time for any report to be released. Mr JUSTIN FIELD: Minister, I appreciate your concern about the harm caused by gambling but you are very aware of this report. It has been the subject of media reports and of many requests to make this document public. Why has it not been released? It was commissioned for a particular purpose. You are undertaking reviews that go to the heart of these questions about harm. Does not the public deserve to have this report whilst those reviews are being undertaken? Mr PAUL TOOLE: That is exactly what you and I both want to see. From the reviews that are being undertaken we want to look at how we can address these situations in a more mindful way. We want to make sure that there is not just a review and that is the end of it. Obviously we are seeing various reports being shared with the public, which allows the public to make comment as well. There are a number of reviews currently underway that are seeking feedback from the community. Mr JUSTIN FIELD: They are government processes. This report was commissioned for a particular purpose and the Government has refused to release it. I am just trying to understand why. What does that report say? Mr PAUL TOOLE: It will be a decision by the Government at the appropriate time; a decision by the Cabinet. When it is released it be available to be seen then. Mr JUSTIN FIELD: In this year's budget the Government is anticipating a significant increase in gambling tax revenue over the forward estimates—to the tune of $271 million between 2016-17 and 2020-21. That will equate to a significant increase in loss to the community from gambling, poker machines being the greatest. How can you take the position of being seriously concerned about the harm, in particular from gambling on poker machines, when you are forecasting a significant tax revenue increase? Mr PAUL TOOLE: I want to put a few things in perspective before I ask Mr Newson to make comment. As I stated before, gambling does impact on a small number of people. I want to make sure that as the responsible Minister we have measures in place to support those who may need help. I also point out that 65 per cent of people gamble—that is, all types of gambling—whether it be on the poker machines, through lotto, betting on the horses or betting on the dogs. Sixty-five per cent of people in this State enjoy a punt. A harm minimisation report that came out a number of years ago shows that 0.8 per cent of people are impacted by gambling. That is why we have our Responsible Gambling Fund to support those people in our communities who may be vulnerable and who may need support. I will ask Mr Newson whether he would like to add a little more in relation to that. Mr NEWSON: If it assists the Committee, affirming what the Minister has said around the measure for problem gambling harm, the popularly accepted measure is the problem gambling prevalence surveys. The last two surveys that have been conducted in New South Wales have shown, as the Minister said, a 0.8 per cent rate of adult problem gamblers in New South Wales. This is a serious issue. I think the work of the Responsible Gambling Fund demonstrates the seriousness with which the Government takes this matter. These studies are done every five years. Over the past 10 years there has been stark stability in the rate of problem gambling in New South Wales. Mr JUSTIN FIELD: I appreciate that. I appreciate you quoting the figures. However, whilst there is a harm report that has been hidden now for a couple of years, the community is right to be questioning whether or not those figures are current and whether or not the true extent of harm is being reported. Minister, under your watch, you have withheld this report. You have withheld Justice Callinan's report into three-strike provisions—we had to force that out of you. By all accounts you have ignored community submissions into the three-strike review and developed reform that was consistent only with the submission from the Australian Hotels Association. You have banked on an increase in revenue from gambling while advocating a harm minimisation policy. Besides calling me an inner city snob on a regular basis, what response do you have to the complete neglect that the community sees, including health and welfare professionals? This Government has a clear bias in favour of the liquor and gaming lobby.

NSW increasingly a rogue state on plastic pollution as WA Bans the Bag

The NSW Greens have welcomed the WA Government’s phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags from mid-next year and called on NSW to follow its lead. Australians use up to an estimated 4 billion light-weight plastic bags a year. Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT have already banned the bag. Greens Marine spokesperson Justin Field said NSW was lagging behind on taking urgent action to stop plastic pollution. “Every year in NSW thousands of marine animals are injured and killed by plastic pollution in our oceans. There is one way to fix it - it's time to put an end to single use plastics,” Mr Field said today. “People are shocked when they hear an estimated 50 million plastic bags end up as litter in the environment each year in Australia, mostly in our waterways and ocean, where they kill and injure dolphins, turtles and other marine life. “NSW is falling behind the rest of the country and the rest of the world when it comes to reducing litter and protecting our marine life. While states like WA and Queensland have banned single-use plastic bags, Premier Berejiklian has refused to act. The state has become a plastic pariah, trashing our natural environment and people’s health. “The community is ready for change, the big supermarkets have announced plastic bag bans, now we need action from the NSW Premier. “Every day we delay is a missed opportunity for reducing our pollution, protecting marine life and creating a healthier future for NSW. “The Greens will stand with the community and keep up pressure for the change needed,” he said.

Port Kembla Community Grants should be reserved for the community: Greens

The Greens have questioned the ethics of a NSW Government decision that has directed money from the Port Kembla Community Investment Fund to NSW Government projects run by the Department of Planning and Environmental Protection Agency. The allocation of more than $1 million in grants under the scheme was announced yesterday and included two grants totalling almost $144,000 to NSW Government departments for an Industrial Land Activation Project and contamination reports. Greens Spokesperson for the Illawarra Justin Field said the Illawarra community did not support the Government hand-picking its own projects ahead of genuine community projects. The purpose of the Port Kembla Community Investment Fund is to support community projects that: increase economic activity; enhance activation and connectivity of public infrastructure, precincts and community spaces; and improved environmental air, land and waterway quality. Other projects funded in this round include lighting for local ovals, a wetlands rehabilitation project and the Wonderwalls mural project. “The question the community should be asking is, what genuine community projects have missed out in order to give almost a quarter of the total fund granted in this round to Government departments,” Mr Field said. “The community doesn’t expect big departments and agencies with multi-million dollar budgets to dip into community funds, it sets an appalling precedent. “Those projects should be funded within the Government’s recurrent budget and the Community Investment Fund money redirected to local community projects. “The Government should look into the process of allocating and prioritising these grants so this situation doesn’t occur again,” he said.

Is NSW's drinking water contaminated with plastic fibre?

IS NSW’S DRINKING WATER CONTAMINATED WITH PLASTIC FIBRE?TESTS URGED AFTER INTERNATIONAL STUDY The NSW Government should urgently test the state’s tap water for plastic fibre contamination after <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/06/plastic-fibres-found-tap-water-around-world-study-reveals">media reports of a scientific study</a> finding more than 80% of the world’s drinking water is contaminated with plastic fibre. The test results of water in both developed and developing countries raises serious questions about whether plastic fibre has polluted local water supplies and the safety of NSW’s drinking water. Scientists have called for urgent research on the implications of plastic fibre contamination for health. During Budget Estimates yesterday, Greens MP and Urban Water spokesperson Justin Field called on Premier Gladys Berejiklian for an urgent test of NSW’s drinking supply for plastic fibre contamination. “Clean water is one of the essentials of life and the widespread plastic contamination of tap water worldwide raises serious questions for the safety of NSW’s drinking water,” Mr Field said. “There are few things in life more fundamental to our health and wellbeing than clean drinking water. Countries in the US, Europe and across the world had no idea they had plastic contamination in their tap water and we still don’t know the full potential impacts on human health and wellbeing. “We are learning more everyday about the extent of plastic pollution making its way into the environment because of a failure of regulation, this recent study adds even more concern. “What we do know is that we’re all turning on the tap every day for a drink, for cooking, for a shower and we should take action to ensure we know what's in the water and guarantee it is safe. “It’s vital that Premier Berejiklian can assure the NSW community that the water in our taps is clean and safe from plastic fibre pollution. We need an urgent test of NSW drinking supply for plastic fibre contamination and the public release of the results so the public can have confidence in the quality of our drinking water,” he said.

Respect childcare workers and pay them a fair wage: Greens

The NSW Greens are standing in support of the nation’s early childhood workers as they take strike action for fair pay from 3.20pm today [7 September]. Early childhood educators and child care workers in NSW and across the country are paid significantly less than primary and secondary teachers, and as much as $30k less than the average annual wage. At the same time as workers walk off the job, NSW Greens Early Childhood Education spokesperson Justin Field will grill NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on what actions the NSW Government will take to support fair pay for educators in the sector. “The Greens stand with early childhood workers in asking for recognition of the valuable work they do educating children and supporting families, and shaping our future society,” he said. “Early learning is the foundation for happy and productive adult lives and a good society. “For too long, our skilled early childhood workers have not received the respect or financial recognition they deserve for their valuable and essential work. Women make up more than 97% of the workforce, which has contributed to the ongoing gender pay gap in Australia. “As a parent with a child currently in care, I can speak of my personal gratitude for the tireless work of the carers and educator working  in this sector who are helping to give our children the best start in life and enabling parents to continue to pursue careers and support their families. “But gratitude alone won’t pay the bills. “It’s not acceptable that in 2017 a skilled, tertiary educated early childhood worker is forced to get by on $21 an hour. “This is significantly less than what we pay secondary and tertiary education teachers, and it falls far short of what’s needed for workers to provide a comfortable life for their own families. “The Greens support the fair pay claim of the union but reform of the sector is needed to support fair pay and universal access to quality early childhood education,” Mr Field said.

NSW should follow Queensland's lead and Ban the Bag

The NSW Greens have welcomed the Queensland Government passing legislation overnight for a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags from mid-next year and called on NSW Premier to introduce a similar ban across NSW. Australians use up to an estimated 4 billion light-weight plastic bags a year. South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT have already banned the bag, with Queensland joining them. Greens Marine spokesperson Justin Field said NSW was playing catch up on taking the action needed to stop plastic pollution. “Every year in NSW thousands of marine animals are injured and killed by plastic pollution in our oceans. There is one way to fix it - it's time to put an end to single use plastics,” Mr Field said. “NSW is falling behind the rest of the country and the rest of the world when it comes to reducing litter and protecting our marine life. While states like Queensland have banned or are on their way to banning single-use plastic bags, Premier Berejikilan has refused to act. The state has become a plastic pariah, trashing our natural environment and people’s health. “The community is ready for change, the big supermarkets have announced plastic bag bans, now we need action from the NSW Premier. “Every day we delay is a missed opportunity for reducing our pollution, protecting marine life and creating a healthier future for NSW,” he said. “The Greens will stand with the community and keep up pressure for the change needed.”

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