Upcoming NSW Budget must address youth unemployment crisis on South Coast

Next month's NSW Budget must invest in support young people getting into work on the South Coast, according to Greens MP and South Coast spokesperson Justin Field. New Labor Force Statistics released by the NSW Parliamentary Library have revealed youth unemployment reached staggering highs at 23.7% compared to a statewide average of 11.9% across NSW. View interactive map and charts here: The total number of people employed in the South Coast and Southern Highlands region fell for the sixth straight month  The total number of employed person has fallen 10.8% since October 2016 representing a total reduction of people in work in the region. While total unemployment in the region has been relatively static over the same period (between 6.4% and 7.4%) the falling number of employed persons is being primarily driven by a falling participation rate that is now down to 46.4%. This compared to a state wide average of 63.5% and a regional NSW average of 59.1%. Greens Spokesperson for the South Coast Justin Field said, "The employment statistics for young people on the South Coast are unacceptable and we need a contribution in next month's state budget to turn work to restore hope for young people across the region. "The Labor Force statistics are showing some significant trends that paint an economically challenging time for the region. "More than half working aged adults on the South Coast have left the labour market. They are not working or looking for work. When you add this to the significant number of retirees you start to realise that the economic base of the region is built on a smaller and smaller number of people - that's despite a growing population. "We need to know more about what is driving these statistics. Are people opting out of the workforce for lifestyle reasons or because they have given up trying to find a job. I suspect for young people it is a later and that is a growing tragedy that needs to be addressed "With such significant Government employers and other major industries in the region, it is shocking to think that almost 1 in 4 young people cannot get a job. "The Illawarra Youth Employment Strategy is less than one year old and while I hope it is a success, it is clear that the situation is not yet getting better on the South Coast. The conditions on the South Coast are quite different from the Illawarra and it is time for a local solution. "We need resources to do that and I'm calling on South Coast MP Shelly Hancock to make representations to the Treasurer and ensure the region gets the financial support we need to start to turn these figures around,” he said.

Sydney FC threatens family-friendly image with Star Casino announced as major sponsor

Sydney FC has threatened its family-friendly image with the announcement yesterday of Star Casino as the football club’s principal partner and front of shirt sponsor, according to Greens Gambling Harm spokesperson Justin Field. In recent years, Sydney FC has made efforts to market itself as a family-friendly football club including: the formation of ‘Mixed Reserve Bays’ designed for fans who want to sit in “a safe and family friendly environment” for matches; a precinct Family Fun Day ahead of its first home game last weekend; and a more family-friendly kick-off time of 5pm for its semi-final game in April this year. However, Mr Field said Sydney FC’s attempts for a more family-focussed culture would be undermined if the club took more than $1 million in an advertising deal with Star Casino. “Sydney FC can’t credibly be a family friendly club if it exposes children and families to gambling advertising on every player’s shirt at every single game,” he said. “The Sky Blue players, including club legend and captain Alex Brosque, are important role models for children and young people. This can all be undone when the experience of watching the game can’t be untangled from exposing our children to gambling advertising and promotion of the Star casino. “While this is a sponsorship deal for Sydney FC it is just another plank in Star’s advertising strategy to encourage people to gamble in their casino. By targeting professional sports they are trying to associate themselves with our sporting heroes and inevitably that advertising will be seen by children. “While gambling advertising isn’t necessarily targeted at children, Australian research on betting ads suggest marketing linked to sport drives a normalisation of gambling in young children. “The Greens are calling on Sydney FC to ensure its club is a safe and healthy environment for everyone, particularly children and families. “I’m encouraging the club to rethink this deal and ensure it protects its reputation as a family friendly and socially responsible club. That will be much harder when it’s young supporters are continually exposed to gambling promotion through this Star deal,” Mr Field said.

Whistleblower allegations of illegal poker machine tampering in Vic raises serious questions for NSW Government

The NSW Government should investigate the operation of pokies at Sydney’s Star Casino and other venues in NSW after the tabling of explosive evidence in Federal Parliament of whistleblowers alleging Melbourne’s Crown Casino deliberately tampered with poker machines. Former Crown staff have alleged the Melbourne casino forced staff to remove betting options from pokies and to "shave down" buttons on gaming machines to allow illegal continuous play on the poker machines and manipulated return rates to players. Greens Gambling Harm Spokesperson Justin Field has called on the NSW Government to come clean about any allegations or investigations into similar behaviour in NSW and ensure compliance activities are able to identify and take action to stop this kind of behaviour. “The serious allegations made today of illegal operations in the pokies industry in Victoria raises questions about all poker machine operations in NSW and whether similar tampering is occurring here, including in our big gambling clubs and hotels,” he said. “People have the right to play the pokies but they also have the right to expect protection against the worst excesses of the industry and to know the Government will take action if casino, clubs or hotels have illegally tampered with machines. “The odds are already stacked in the favour of pokies against the people and communities who play them. Poker machines are addictive and designed with one intention -- transferring money from people’s pockets into the profits of owners. “Pokies harm people and the community, it destroys relationships and families and tears at the social fabric. “The pokies industry is extremely powerful but we can’t let this lobby group call the shots when it comes to protecting communities from this damaging trade,” he said.

NSW must follow Victoria and Ban the Bag

Premier Gladys Berejiklian should urgently introduce a ban on single-use plastic bags after a Victoria announcement yesterday left NSW as the only Australian state or territory without a commitment to ban the bag. South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT all have bans on plastic bags in place, Queensland is set to join them in 2018 and Victoria and Western Australia have recently announced bans. Woolworths and Coles will phase out single-use plastic bags over the next 12 months. NSW Greens Environment spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi said Premier Berejiklian was out of step with the growing community support for NSW to join the other Australian states and territories and ban single-use plastic bags. “The Greens call on Premier Berejiklian to announce a ban on single-use plastic bags in NSW and close the loop on a nationwide ban,” Dr Faruqi said. “It is quite frankly a deep embarrassment that NSW is the only state not to commit to banning the bag. “We saw during Plastic Free July that the community is ready and willing to act for change, the big supermarkets have announced plastic bag bans, all the states and territories are on board, now we need action from the NSW Premier. NSW Greens Marine and Fisheries spokesperson Justin Field said, "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. There is one way to fix it - it's time to put an end to single use plastics and especially plastic bags. . “Every day we delay a ban on plastic bags is a missed opportunity for reducing pollution, protecting marine life and creating a healthier future for NSW,” he said.

Liberals over-rule Nationals' push for nuclear power in NSW

NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader John Barilaro has been delivered a stunning rebuke by his Liberal Government colleagues with the Government ruling out his push for nuclear power in NSW. In response to a Greens Notice of Motion in the Legislative Council on Tuesday, NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin said there were “no proposals before the State or Federal governments for the construction of nuclear reactor at Jervis Bay or in the city of Shoalhaven”. Today the Government has further clarified its position, acknowledging it has committed to maintaining its current position of opposition to nuclear energy for NSW. Greens MLC Justin Field said the position of the Government is a massive rebuke to the Nationals Leader and Deputy Premier who has been calling for a debate on nuclear energy and has said publicly we could have a nuclear industry within 10 years in NSW. “The Nationals leader has become the Tony Abbott of NSW state politics by spruiking reckless energy policies and being unwilling to heed the science on the environmental costs and risks,” Mr Field said today. “NSW energy policy is stuck in the dark ages. It’s outrageous that in 2017 it has taken the Liberal/Nationals two days to settle their internal differences and clearly rule out risky, toxic nuclear power stations in this states. “The Liberal/Nationals would have better spent this time working out how they will end the state’s reliance on fossil fuels and make an urgent transition to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. “Climate change should be the most urgent and important driver of energy policy in this state. We are seeing the impacts of climate change now, including rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather, and our best solution is phasing out coal for renewable energy. “NSW has an abundance of solar and wind resources, and it’s clear our future economy will be powered by renewables. “We can start making the transition now, with all the jobs and business opportunities for regional communities that this can bring. Or the NSW Liberal/National Government can join its Federal colleagues in playing politics with energy, holding back our economy and increasing global warming,” he said.

Whales at threat as new study shows seismic testing noise has larger impact than previously considered

NSW Greens Marine and Fisheries spokesperson Justin Field is calling on the NSW Government to reject an exploration licence for oil and gas in the waters off Newcastle after a new study found the impacts on migrating whales could be significantly larger than previously considered. The University of Queensland study published in a recent edition of the Journal of Experimental Biology studied the behavioural responses of humpback whales to the noise of seismic surveys. It found “the majority of groups appeared to avoid the source vessel at distances greater than the radius of most mitigation zones”[1]. The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority has already called for revised plans for seismic testing by Asset Energy in the waters off Newcastle as they did not meet environmental regulations. Mr Field said this new study showed the community could not have confidence in the process designed to protect migrating whales from harm and Asset Energy’s licence proposal should be scrapped. “The precious coastal waters off Newcastle and Sydney are no place for an oil and gas field, and even the exploration process is fraught with danger for migrating whales and the environment,” he said. “This new scientific study raises serious questions about the safety of seismic guns on the hearing and navigation of migrating whales. “Seismic testing in the waters off Newcastle poses an unacceptable risk for ocean habitat, marine wildlife including migrating whales, and productive local fishing grounds. “The annual whale migration up and down Australia’s east coast is one of our great natural attractions, luring visitors from home and abroad. “Nature-based visitors to NSW spent $18.3 billion in the year ending September 2016 noted whale watching as one of their most popular activities [2]. Aside from its economic contribution, the annual whale migration is much-loved natural spectacle and holds significance for Indigenous and local communities. “It’s not worth risking the health of the marine environment, our valuable fisheries resources and good local jobs for oil and gas exploration where the community will never accept a future gas field.”   [1] [2]

Greens community forum to address Shoalhaven's runaway youth unemployment becomes more urgent

Youth unemployment in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven region has again spiked and reached the record level of 29.5% in August, according to Labour Force figures released on Monday by the NSW Parliamentary Library. Greens MP and South Coast spokesperson Justin Field will host a round table of politicians, council officers, service providers, businesses and young people next month to work to address the youth unemployment in the region. The event will be held on 25 October in Nowra and will identify barriers to youth unemployment and the action needed for addressing the growing jobs crisis. “The Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands region has the highest level of youth unemployment in NSW, currently nearly 30  per cent. This is more than 2.5 times the state average and has been rising since 2014,” Mr Field said. “At the recent Budget Estimates hearings, Premier Berejiklian refused to take responsibility for this crisis among local 15-to-24 year olds looking for jobs, and seemed to blame young people for not wanting jobs. “I know many young people who can’t get work want to work and the Premier seemed not to be aware of some of the structural local issues driving youth unemployment in the region, which is well above comparable regional communities. I’m glad she has agreed to send someone from the Premiers Department to participate in the forum. “Despite rising and record youth unemployment in the region, the Government has no clear plan for increasing access to training and employment opportunities and many of the Government’s programs supporting employment are not being delivered in the Shoalhaven. “There  are no silver bullets when it comes to addressing this issue which is why I am inviting stakeholders and decision makers from a wide range of sectors to participate in the forum. “The Forum will aim to improve our understanding of the structural causes behind our region having such a high rate of youth unemployment, and to share ideas and identify opportunities to begin to address this critical problem,” he said.

Alcohol advertising under the spotlight of new Parliamentary Inquiry in NSW

The NSW Legislative Council has today supported a Greens’ proposal for an inquiry into alcohol advertising in NSW. Following debate on a Christian Democratic Party Bill to restrict alcohol advertising, a Greens amendment to conduct an inquiry into the issue was supported by all parties. A 2016 report by the Chief Health Officer on Trends in Alcohol Use and Health-related Harms in NSW found [i]: A quarter of all adults drink at levels that place their long-term health at risk. Just under one quarter of all adults drank more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion in the past 4 weeks, which placed them at a higher immediate risk of harm. Harmful drinking is highest for people aged 16-24 16-24 years and lowest for people over 65 years. People living in regional and remote areas are more likely to drink alcohol at harmful levels. Greens Alcohol Harm Spokesperson Justin Field said the issues of alcohol promotion and advertising by the big supermarket retailers, sports advertising and sponsorship and promotion targeted at children should be a focus of an inquiry. Eighty per cent of alcohol consumed in Australia is sold as packaged liquor at ‘Big Box’ retailers such as BWS,  Dan Murphys and First Choice, predominantly owned by Woolworths and Coles (Wesfarmers). Mr Field said, “Coles and Woolworths are using aggressive advertising and shop-a-docket type promotions to promote their alcohol brands. They use a high volume, low profit margin business model to sustain low prices to encourage alcohol consumption. “This inquiry will start an important conversation with the NSW community about the prevalence of alcohol advertising and its role in the harm caused by high rates of drinking. “In recent years we have come a long way in restricting the advertising of harmful products such as tobacco, it’s right that we now turn our attention to the promotion of alcohol and its associated risks. “Alcohol advertising is visible on the high street, at sporting venues, on the television, in our newspapers and online. Yet we know the ‘bargain’ prices advertised are a bad deal for communities, resulting in higher consumption levels, including heavier drinking, occasional drinking, and underage drinking [ii] . “Alcohol advertising is not the only risk factor for heavy drinking or alcohol-related harm but it is a key issue that the Government can investigate and provide solutions for the better protection of people and communities. “I thank all parties in the NSW Legislative Council for seeing value in this inquiry and the Christian Democratic Party in bringing this matter to the house through their bill,” he said. [i] [ii] Wagenaar AC, Salois MJ and Komro KA (2009) Effects of beverage alcohol price and tax levels on drinking: a meta-analysis of 1003 estimates from 112 studies. Addiction 104: 179-190

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:

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