The 47th Parliament sat for the first time this week and there is a big program of legislation being introduced to implement some really important changes.
It was a huge honour to be sworn in as our first independent Senator for the ACT. In the Senate you don’t have to wait until after your ‘first speech’ to talk so I have jumped at opportunities to do so. So good to have the opportunity to get up and speak in the Senate on behalf of our community.
I’ve enjoyed meeting and spending time with Senators on the crossbench and in the major parties, as well as meeting with stakeholders, getting across upcoming legislation, following up issues that have been raised with me, meeting with Ministers about these issues, speaking about the things that matter to people in the ACT and doing my best to stay on top of correspondence.
I’ll be posting all key speeches in parliament on my website and my voting record will be published there shortly too. I want to be transparent with how I’m voting.
If you are a real political tragic (and I know some of you are) you can also tune in live and keep an eye on proceedings (not just Question Time) in both the House of Representatives and the Senate Chamber either via the APH website.
Another part of delivering on that promise is consulting regularly across our community, including through quarterly town halls. We held our first one the week before last and you can check out the recording here.
Thanks so much to everyone who attended, contributed questions and provided feedback about how we can make these even better going forward. Our next one will be in Tuggeranong on 18 September, you can register here and we will share further details closer to the date.
Bring on the bills
Headlining the legislative agenda for this sitting fortnight are bills to implement some of the Government’s key election commitments including on Jobs and Skills Australia, 10 days paid domestic violence leave, reforms to aged care and legislating a 2030 climate target.
In total there will be some 18 bills brought on for debate this sitting period.
I am doing my best to get across the detail, consult with stakeholders, the community and experts and will look to move amendments to improve legislation where it's warranted.
I’ve been having some good conversations with Ministers behind the scenes to help ensure we get the best outcomes from these bills, especially Minister Bowen, and I look forward to those discussions continuing over the coming sitting week.
I have heard loud and clear that our community wants to see more ambition on climate action but that equally we want the certainty from a legislated target. That’s the message I am taking into negotiations and also keeping one eye on the EPBC Act reforms which will have a crucial part to play in our overall climate response.
Restoring our rights
On Monday the Members for Canberra and Solomon will introduce a bill into the House of Representatives to reverse a quarter-century old injustice and restore our rights as a territory.
I understand that voluntary assisted dying is a deeply personal issue where people have strongly held views. But for me, this legislation is about our fight to end a long running injustice and give our community here in the ACT the same rights as people in the states.
It is about representing the wishes of our community, more than three quarters of whom support Territories being given back this right.
As former Chief Minister and ACT Senator Gary Humphries has said previously, we are mature enough to decide the question of voluntary assisted dying. What Canberrans do not need is the federal parliament telling us we can't examine the question of voluntary assisted dying on our own.
The right to discuss and ultimately decide this issue is one people in every state have now had. It's time for us to have that same right and I will be working hard to make this argument to my fellow Senators.
Voice. Treaty. Truth
There is overwhelming support in the ACT to accept the generous offer of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, so it has been encouraging to see the government talk about how they will be prioritising this. I’ll be doing more consultation in the ACT, and continue to work to ensure we make the most of this opportunity to recognise and then include the oldest living cultures in the world in our parliament.
Last chance to register to attend my First Speech
You may have seen media reports regarding my request to have an Auslan interpreter with me on the floor of the Senate live translating my first speech. This was in response to approaches from members of, and advocates for, our deaf community.
While disappointed that the major party Senate leaders were unwilling to grant my request, and the message this sends, I’m glad that there will be some measures in place to enable live translating, even if it isn’t in the inclusive and welcoming way our deaf community had hoped for.
I will be following up Senator Wong’s commitment to pursue better accessibility through the Senate Standing Committee on Procedure. Clearly we still have some way to go when it comes to aligning the lived values of the parliament with those of the people we have been elected to represent.
Santa speedo shuffle
Sunday morning I will be taking part alongside a small group of Team Pocock volunteers in the 10th and final Santa Speedo shuffle raising funds and awareness for cystic fibrosis ACT. You can find out more here and all are welcome if you can brave this winter weather.
I wanted to finish this update with a quick note about my recent trip to meet constituents on Norfolk Island. It is a stunning place and I enjoyed hearing from the community about the unique issues they face and learning about their history and culture. But the people on Norfolk are facing some real challenges, not least with freight and the growingly empty shelves in their supermarket. I will be working with the Government to try and address some of the key concerns raised with me. Thanks for having me and I look forward to another visit soon.
Senator David Pocock