Happy New Year
I hope everyone had a happy and safe festive season and wish you all the best for 2023.
After a couple of weeks re-charging it’s been so good getting stuck back in and preparing for what is going to be a huge year ahead.
The team and I have kicked off the year by mapping out a heap of community and engagement activities and walking through the top priorities of things we want to get done for our community in 2023.
With parliament returning next week, we’ve also started consulting on the big pieces of legislation we know are coming down the pipeline.
Here’s a snapshot of where we’re at and also a shout out for your ideas on a couple of different things.
Federal budget spending priorities
As many of you would know, each year ahead of the federal budget in May, Treasury invites individuals, businesses and community groups to share their views regarding priorities for Commonwealth spending.
I’ve been pulling together a pre-budget submission on behalf of our community setting out the key asks, both local and national, informed by hundreds of meetings and conversations last year and a short survey early this year.
The top three areas our community identified for more federal government spending were health, housing and education.
Keep an eye out for the submission being published next week and if you’d like to volunteer on Budget night to help the team trawl through the budget papers on 9 May please let us know here. Dinner will be on me!
Hearing first hand from our community about what’s important to you and getting your take on big reforms is so important to making sure I’m doing the best possible job of representing our community. That’s why I’m adding more community events to the schedule for this year.
Town Hall - Belconnen - 22 February 2023
Quarterly town halls in each of the town centres will continue this year with our first one kicking off at 6.30pm on Wednesday 22 February at the Belconnen Arts Centre.
With access to affordable housing still one of the biggest challenges faced by our community, and legislation to establish the $10bn Housing Australia Future Fund and the new National Housing Supply and Affordability Council coming before the parliament in Feburary, our guest speaker will be YWCA Canberra CEO Frances Crimmins.
This is a free event but please RSVP here so we can keep you updated with any changes. You can also use this link to submit and upvote your questions, I hope to see you there.
I’ll also be starting a schedule of mobile offices around town generally on a Friday and Saturday morning. This is a chance to come down, have a chat one on one, and raise any issues you think I can help with.
The first one will be from 9am - 11.30am on Saturday 4 February at Morning Dew café in Denman Prospect. Find our more and register for updates here.
Bluetts Block Bushwalk
Together with the Friends of Bluetts Block, I’m organising a bushwalk as a chance for Team Pocock volunteers and other friends to get together and go out exploring one of our most underappreciated beautiful and biodiverse local habitats. Home to 100 different species, a walk through this special spot will be a great opportunity to talk about some of the big environmental reforms on the agenda for this year, including reforms to our federal environmental laws and the safeguard mechanism currently before the parliament.
Register to attend and find out more here.
Catch up at Rose Cottage
On Friday 10 February from 5.30pm I’ll be hosting a relaxed catch up at Rose Cottage. This will be a chance to get together at the end of the first parliamentary sitting week and talk through some of our plans for the year. There will be loads of opportunities to get involved on issues that matter to our community, from environment to voice and it would be great to catch up and talk through ways to support these important national campaigns. Details here.
Priorities for the year ahead
The federal government has another big agenda this year as a bunch of big reviews on everything from higher education to defence report back and they look to legislate some big reforms.
This will include everything from another tranche of industrial relations changes, to overhauling the Aged Care Act and substantially reforming our federal environmental laws.
With so much happening I’ve been doing a lot of work with the team to identify what changes we want to prioritise pushing for on behalf of our community. Here’s a summary of the highlights.
Climate & Environment
Kicking off the sitting year will be what’s shaping up as a bit of parliamentary stoush over the Safeguard Mechanism.
In the absence of a price on carbon or any form of climate trigger or ratchet mechanism in our emissions reduction target, the Safeguard has become a critical piece of policy to drive the transition to net zero.
I’ve been working through the Government’s draft proposal with a range of experts and will have more to say on this in coming weeks.
Last year the government committed to halting species extinction and implementing all of the recommendations from the Samuels review into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
That piece of legislation is failing to achieve its core objective of protecting our environment. Similarly, the range of threatened species action plans haven’t stopped Australia from being a world leader in species extinction.
This is the year to do something meaningful on both of those things and I look forward to working constructively to get the best outcome that prioritises Nature and see real investment delivered to protect our future.
We are expecting legislation to be introduced in the first sitting fortnight to establish the government’s $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund and the new Housing Supply and Affordability Council following the release of exposure draft legislation before Christmas.
Again, my team and I have been consulting with stakeholders and exports in the field and I will be pushing government for more ambition to address what is a worsening crisis, here in the ACT and across Australia.
The recent Productivity Commission report on Government Services confirmed that Canberra has the highest rate of persistent homelessness in the country and we have to change that.
The referendum to enshrine a First Nations Voice to Parliament in our Constitution will be one of the most important votes in a generation.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an incredibly generous offer that we need to embrace.
I will be mobiling our resources in support of the Yes campaign. There will be a national week of action kicking off on 20 February and I will be sharing campaign collateral and opportunities to get involved as they become available.
Canberra Region City Partnership
Another longer-term project I’ll continue working on is making the case for a Canberra Region City Partnership.
We are the only jurisdiction not to have one (meanwhile Queensland and Tassie each have two!) and they are an important mechanism for driving long-term investment in key infrastructure. And this is something Canberra desperately needs.
As a fast growing city servicing almost a million people in the broader region it is imperative that we invest now to keep up with that growth.
A city partnership could be used to anchor investment in key projects like a new convention centre and stadium, as well as wrapping in other much needed investment, such as in community sporting facilities and growing our start-up sector.
Host a Helen Haines’s volunteer!
Thank you so much to everyone who has responded to the call to host volunteers for Helen Haines. We’ve had such a great response.
If you are interested in hosting someone during a sitting week this year it’s not too late.
Helen’s volunteer program was started by Cathy McGowan, the previous independent Member for Indi, during her time in parliament. The volunteers travel up from the rural electorate of Indi for a week and get hands-on exposure to how parliament operates.
If you would like to be involved or are interested in knowing more, please click on the link below and fill out the expression of interest form.
And of course if you’d like to volunteer with Team Pocock we’d love to have your help! We have a program of volunteers helping out in the electorate office, at parliament during sitting weeks, as well as organising community events and providing support on specific policy issues. If you’re interested you can give the EO a call and chat to Sarah or Karen or register online here and they will get in touch.
Out and about in January
It’s been so good getting out and about in the community over the past few weeks. I’ve been visiting a whole range of local small businesses from local icons like Majura Valley eggs to Capital Brewing and lesser known but brilliant companies innovating on everything from quantum computing to satellites and circular waste.
I’ll keep doing this throughout the year so if you have ideas or are happy to host a visit please let us know
I also headed down to Deniliquin (Wemba Wemba and Perrepa Perrepa Country) for a two day trip last weekend to learn more about the challenges and opportunities when it comes to water use and management. It was really important to me to see and hear directly from people on the ground. I’m grateful to the many locals as well as the officials who shared their knowledge and perspectives.
It was incredibly special getting to see the Barmah-Millewa Forest, the largest stand of river red gums in the world, and the extraordinary biodiversity it supports and a privilege to walk on Bangerang Country, learning from Dozer and and his daughter Ji at A.C.H.E.
In closing I want to pay respect to a few extraordinary Canberrans.
The first, Professor Will Steffen whose passing was felt deeply by so many across our community. He was a giant in the science world, a passionate advocate for bolder climate action and a brilliant communicator. Will was so generous with his time and so greatly admired. We will miss him sorely.
The second, is to congratulate Professor Tom Calma AO on being named Senior Australian of the Year. Thank you for everything you do for our community.
And Aunty Pat Anderson AO for her leadership with the Uluru Statement from the Heart and her tireless advocacy since then for a Voice to parliament. Aunty Pat is also part of the government's referendum working group who are helping design the structure of the Voice. If you’re interested in learning more about the Voice, sign up to my email list to make sure you’re the first to hear about an information night we’ll be running in the coming months.
Hopefully see you at one of the upcoming events,