Sunday 30 March 2014

Congratulations to Pamela Richardson as Heffron’s 2014 Local Woman of the Year

Ron Hoenig MP presenting Pam Richardson with her award in the NSW Parliament
It was a great pleasure to present Pam Richardson with the award of “Heffron 2014 Local Woman of the Year”.

I nominated Pam Richardson for the award in recognition of her extensive commitment and contribution to the local community. 

Pam volunteers for so many organisations including Meals on Wheels, St Vincent De Paul, the Women’s Royal Australian Army Core, Randwick SES, teaches Catholicism to students at Mascot Public School and was the South Sydney Regional President for 7 years. 

Pam is an extraordinary member of our community who works tirelessly for the benefit of others. She is a local hero who, through all of her work, has become one of our most recognised community leaders.

Pam is truly deserving of this recognition and I thank her for her extensive contribution to our community.

Ever the humble unassuming person Pam was by surprised by the nomination telling me; “There are so many people that need help or support in some form, I just do what I can.”

Tuesday 25 March 2014

The Chief Justice of NSW could have saved his breath with his "Sentencing Symposium"

Last Thursday at Parliament House the Chief Justice of NSW did something quite unprecedented. His Honour held a “Sentencing Symposium”. The Chief Justice together with a number of Supreme Court judges held a Seminar to help MP’s, members of the media, and members of the public understand the judicial decision making when sentencing an offender.

It is rare in our Westminster system of government for judges appear in the general public, let alone Parliament House to explain principals of law that they are bound to follow. It is usual for the Attorney General to do so on behalf of the government. Informed media commentators often accurately and critically analyse the law and court decisions, and legal experts are interviewed regularly, all to give the public accurate information to enable them to make their own judgment.

In the last few months with the public frustrated at the government’s lack of response to “alcohol fueled violence”, attention was diverted by the government for political reasons, into a personal attack on judges. Fueled by a Premier who outrageously told judges to “man up”, Liberal MP’s calling the judges “left wing judges”, "who ignore victims", with some press commentary have suggesting that the sentencing process can be reduced to s simple equation.

The Chief Justice and his brother judges could have saved their breath. The only response by the Premier and his government was to rush into parliament the Legislative Council amendments to the Crimes Amendment (Intoxication) Bill 2014 and attack personally anyone, any MP, and any institution that dared oppose his quiet extraordinary approach.

It is not easy to be the Leader of a government. A Premier is blamed for every government failing either real or perceived. It is why the public elects governments. It is to the Leader of the government the public complains or seeks an explanation. Not only is a Premier required to lead, it is also his or her responsibility to preserve and protect the “Westminster System” of government, the institutions of democracy that are based on the “Doctrine of Separation of Powers.” MP’s are only elected temporarily. They are trustees of the democratic institutions that they must hand over, enhanced, to succeeding generations.

It is one thing to gain a political advantage by a decision, it is quite another to do so by denigrating the judicial arm of government. It is essential for the rule of law that the public maintains confidence in the judicial arm of government.

I genuinely believe the conduct of the government of the government of the day, the Premier of the day, and the Attorney General of the day to have been grossly improper. My contribution to this Bill can be viewed here:

Sunday 23 March 2014

Unveiling of the replica of the Bussole

Ron Hoenig MP, Matt Thistlethwaite MP & Michael Daley MP 
I was delighted to be amongst the guests of the Mayor and Councillors of Randwick City Council last Friday night at the unveiling of the replica of the Bussole at the La Perouse Museum by the French Consulate together with my parliamentary colleagues Matt Thistlethwaite MP Federal Member for Kingsford-Smith and Michael Daley MP Member for Maroubra.

The Bussole and the Astrolabe of the French Navy, commanded by Jean-Francois de Galaup, comte de La Perouse arrived off Botany Bay on the 24 January 1788 as the First Fleet was attempting to move the colony from there to Sydney Cove.

More than 10000 protest at cuts to beds and services at Prince of Wales Hospital

Michael Daley MP, the Shadow Treasurer and Member for Maroubra and I received a petition a few weeks ago signed by more than 10,000 people which we presented to the parliament. That petition said:

“To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned oppose the cuts to jobs and services at Prince of Wales Hospital and call upon the O'Farrell Government to increase funding to the hospital as a matter of urgency.”

Michael Daley MP best describes events when he posted on his Facebook Page the following:

“Today, Ron Hoenig MP and I debated a 10,000 signature petition calling on the Government to STOP THE CUTS at Prince of Wales Hospital.

What a shame that people like doctors, nurses, hospital workers, patients, and families were forced to collect 10,000 signatures just to be given the chance to beg the Government to reverse their cuts.

As a further insult, the Minister for Health couldn't even be bothered attending. Instead, she sent the member for Coogee, Bruce Notley-Smith who argued the cuts weren't real. What an insult. Why don't you come up to the hospital and talk to the staff, Bruce? 

Thanks to everyone who came today and worked hard on this over the last few months. We won't give up!”

My speech to parliament is here:

Monday 17 March 2014

Windgap Foundations annual St Patricks Day celebration

George Lundy President Pagewood Fottball Club, Cr Christina Curry & Ron Henig MP
It was terrific to see so many in the community support the Windgap Foundation's annual St Patrick’s Day breakfast at South Sydney Juniors, Kingsford this morning.

Joining Botany Bay City Councillor, Dr Christina Curry we just marvel at this wonderful not for profit organisation that provides so many services in this area to support people with intellectual disabilities.The Windgap Foundation provides services, which include; supported employment, supported accommodation, training, community access and community participation.

Windgap is in its 61st year of operation, and has established an outstanding reputation as a quality disability services in the Eastern Suburbs. As Windgap says it “prides itself on its values of caring, integrity, independence, innovation and empowerment. It is Windgap’s mission to improve the quality of life of people with intellectual disabilities by supporting them in reaching their full potential and raising community awareness as to their needs and aspirations.”

Thank you to everyone form the wonderful support, particularly, the Community Bank and the Pagewood Botany Football Club and its President George Lundy

Sunday 16 March 2014

M1 to M2 Motorway - Whose idea was it? Anthony Albanese and Labor

NSW Shadow Minister for Roads Walt Secord has today welcomed the re-announcement by the Prime Minister and Premier to provide $405 million towards a new toll road linking Sydney’s F3 (M1) to M2 with a tunnel under Pennant Hills Road.

But Mr Secord pointed out that the previous Federal Labor Government had actually signed an inter-governmental agreement with the O’Farrell Government on June 21, 2013 at State Parliament.

Mr Secord said motorists had a right to be cynical about the O’Farrell Government and the best response was for the Premier to name an exact date for the beginning of actual construction.

“Barry O’Farrell and his media team are just being tricky. They re-name the State’s motorways and they then re-announce the funding agreements or push back their completion dates like the Pacific Highway which has shifted from 2016 to after 2020,” Mr Secord said.

“We are now entering the fourth year of the O’Farrell Government and we have yet to see a single kilometre of new motorway in Sydney under Barry O’Farrell’s watch.

“Families want to see real solutions and see the choke-hold of congestion lifted off Sydney.

“Sydney is now the seventh most congested city in the western world – just behind Los Angeles.

“Motorists are spending hours in traffic when they should be home with their families.

“Tuesday mornings and Friday afternoons are the worst times to be on Sydney roads and Saturday mornings is as congested as a working week day.

“Last week, we had two separate incidents and the whole city ground to a halt with kilometres of traffic jams and people waiting for hours to pick up their kids at child care.”

O'Farrell's cuts to homeless services is not just bad policy but bad economics

The drastic cuts of $5 million for homeless services in Sydney's CBD is not just bad public policy it is bad economics.

Welfare agencies as reported in Central Sydney on March 12, 2014 said the cuts "epitomises a government's lack of compassion as homeless numbers rise". 

I wrote only 5 days ago that there were 105,000 people homeless on any given night. A 23% increase since 2006.

Only 5 days ago did Jewish House launch "Project 2500". Through the engaging of PricewaterhouseCoopers a project plan was developed to demonstrate that an investment in $6.2 million would result in a potential savings to the state of NSW up to an estimated $243.2 million (minimum of $74.2 million) as a result in cost reductions in health, justice, welfare and eviction.

Cutting funds to homeless services is not a cost savings, it will just cause a huge financial cost to the state. As I have observed before the O'Farrell Liberal government does not have the intellectual ability to manage this states affairs. March 2015 can't come quick enough.

Celebrating the Jewish Purim Festival at Maroubra - Redfern Red Sox

Ron Hoenig MP and Michael Rom (dressed as a Haredi Jew)
It was wonderful to share the Jewish Festival of Purim at a family event where the Jewish Communities of Coogee and Maroubra Synagogue came together dressed in costumes to celebrate Purim.

Purim is a Jewish holiday that is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther and commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in ancient Persia where a plot had been formed to destroy them.

"The Book of Esther tells how the evil Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his cousin and adopted daughter Esther who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing."

The customs of the Jewish people on Purim throughout the world involve; donating to charity to the poor, exchanging gifts of food and drink, eating a celebratory meal, hearing the Scroll of the Book of Esther read publicly, drinking alcohol, wearing costumes and masks, and public celebration.

I decided for my costume to wear the baseball strip of the Redfern Red Sox presented to me recently by its President, Dominic Zahra.

Redfern Red Sox, as reported in the South Sydney Herald in April 2012; was established about 4 years ago as " Indigenous baseball club in the Redfern area. The plan was to introduce mostly Indigenous as well as non-Indigenous children to the game of baseball. “I saw how the establishment of a baseball club in the inner city would encourage team spirit and build self confidence” reports Shelly Zahra in the April 2012 edition of The South Sydney Herald.

After a lot of planning and making sure the baseball club would be viable, it came together with two Indigenous players, Darren Moss and Dominic Zahra, who together recruited a small group of people who went on to find the players.

They started by going down to The Block in Redfern and throwing a baseball around with the locals, working with Baseball NSW running clinics for the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy as well as introduction to baseball days at local schools like Our Lady Of Mount Carmel and Alexandria Park Community School.

In 2011 Redfern Red Sox registered in the Ryde Hornsby Baseball League. A local school, Alexandria Park Community School, let them use part of their playground as their “home ground”. The Redfern Red Sox were born! They were humble beginnings with not enough money for team shirts (red t-shirts were made do in the first season). They still managed to place our first representative player and have a team finish runner-up in the southern division – tribute to our local talent and dedication of the club’s volunteers."

The work of volunteers like Dominic Zahra, his family and others, and how they are working with the indigenous community through baseball is inspiring. Wearing the Redfern Red Sox strip to a Jewish Festival that celebrates victory over persecution, I thought, was befitting the occasion.

Friday 14 March 2014

Why your gas bills are going to explode

Lewis Thompson of Kensington recipient of the NSW Government State Representative Award

Ron HoenigMP & Lewish Thompson
I was delighted to attend  a whole school assembly at Waverley College and present rising track and field star, Lewis Thompson of Kensington with the NSW Government State Representative Award for his achievements at the 2013 Australian All Schools Athletics Competition.

I also on behalf of Waverley College presented to Lewis, a Year 8 at student, with an Outstanding Sporting Achievement Award from the NSW Combined Independent Schools Sports Council at a whole school sports assembly.

Lewis Thompson, is a promising talent in the track and field disciplines of hammer throw and discus, has the makings of becoming a future Olympian for Australia. 

I was honoured to have been invited to Waverley College to present these awards to a truly remarkable young man.

At last year’s National Titles in Track and Field, Lewis finished 16th in the Under 13’s Discus and an impressive 3rd in the Under 16’s Hammer Throw events, competing with athletes three years his senior.

Lewis threw the longest distance in hammer throw for a 13 year old in Australia in 2013 at the Championships.

Lewis’s first taste of track and field was at the age of 6 at his local Randwick-Botany Little Athletics Club. 

Eight years later he has proven to be a promising talent that all of NSW can be proud of.

Lewis is a natural sporting talent who has also shown great promise in rugby and has the potential to become a future Wallaby. He is a member of the Under 13’s rugby A-side of Waverley College. 

Lewis will again represent NSW at this year’s Australian All Schools Athletics Championships which will be held this weekend at the Homebush Olympic precinct. I wish Lewis all the success at the meet.

Thursday 13 March 2014

O'Farrell government refuses to protect Sydney and Illawara water supplies from coal seam gas mining

Protecting the water supply to Sydney and the Illawara should be a prime government responsibility you would think. With the jury out on whether coal seam gas can be mined without contaminating the state's aquifers, prime agricultural farmland or public water supplies the O'Farrell liberals are refusing to support an opposition Bill that would permanently ban coal seam gas exploration or mining in the water catchment areas of Sydney and the Illawarra. 

If enacted, the opposition's Bill will cancel existing licences and leases relating to the exploration, assessment and production of coal seam gas in Sydney water catchment special areas. It also will prohibit the grant or renewal of new licences.

The Sydney Water Catchment Management Act and the regulations currently identified 5 special areas, 5 catchments managed and protected by the Sydney Catchment Authority—Warragamba, Woronora, Upper Nepean, Blue Mountains and the Shoalhaven. Taken together these catchments cover less than 2 per cent of NSW but supply clean drinking water to around 5 million people—60 per cent of the State's population. So precious are these water catchment special areas that, penalties of tens of thousands of dollars apply for doing things like, camping, lighting a fire, swimming or fishing in the water in any of these special areas. 

What a joke, you can't light a fire for a billy but you can mine coal seam gas.

Why, you might ask is the O'Farrell government so implacably opposed to protecting our water supplies? Is all his promises like the Wallarah 2 coal mine a promise that it will never happen; "no ifs, no buts"?

The real question is what is Mr O'Farrell's real agenda?

The video of my contribution to the parliamentary debate on the Bill is here:

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Jewish House launches Project 2500 at Parliament

The Hon. Sophie Cotsis MLC, Ron Hoenig MP, Rabbi Mendel Kastel 
Jewish House, a not for profit organisation headed by Rabbi Mendel Kastel that provides crisis accommodation for homeless members of the community, has launched a novel and impressive program called "Project 2500" designed to help 2500 homeless over a 3 year period in Sydney's Inner City and Eastern Suburbs.

The Jewish House proposal was launched today at Parliament by its local member Gabrielle Upton MP. The launch was attended by Shadow Housing Minister, Sophie Cotsis MLC and a number of other of my parliamentary colleagues. The proposal is very unique. Through the engaging of PricewaterhouseCoopers a project plan was developed to demonstrate that an investment in $6.2 million would result in a potential savings to the state of NSW up to an estimated $243.2 million (minimum of $74.2 million) as a result in cost reductions in health, justice, welfare and eviction.

Did you know there were 105,000 people homeless on any given night? A 23% increase since 2006.

What makes this project so unique is that Jewish House is not just asking for money for the homeless. It has demonstrated even to the economic rationalists, that have infected every avenue of government activity in the modern political era, the immediate and tangible financial cost benefit to the government.

Congratulations Rabbi Kastel and the board of Jewish House you are an inspiration to us all.

Welcome to new Australian citizens at Randwick City Council

It was a delight to recently join Randwick Mayor Scott Nash in welcoming our "New Aussies" at Randwick City Council's Citizenship Ceremony.

Randwick Town Hall was filled with excitement as our "New Aussies", guests, family and friends waited to take the "Pledge of Allegiance" which is the final step to becoming an Australian Citizen.

As Mayor of Botany Bay I presided over many many citizenship ceremonies. It was a duty that always filled me with pride. As I addressed our Nation's newest citizens, I reminded everyone that Australia was a land built by migrants and their children. Australia is a land that has always welcomed new citizens, best described in the second verse of our National Anthem; "For those who come across the seas, we've boundless plains to share".
Congratulations to all our new citizens.

Monday 3 March 2014

Shadow Ministers visit Jewish House

Joseph Zamit, Ron Hoenig MP, Walt Secord MLC, Rabbit Mendel Kastel & Sophie Costsis MLC
I was delighted to be accompanied on a visit to Jewish House by The Hon. Walt Secord MLC, Shadow Minister for Roads and The Hon. Sophie Cotsis MLC, Shadow Minister for Housing to inspect their facilities used to provide assistance for the homeless in the Eastern Suburbs.

Jewish House is a not for profit organisation headed by Rabbi Kastel providing assistance to all members of the community who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

Jewish House provides a refuge for individuals and families who have no other option than to sleep out on the street.

Jewish House provides accommodation for up to 12 men, women and children at a time for up to two weeks and offer case management services to help locate more permanent accommodation and other support services that may be appropriate.

They provide kennels to accommodate homeless people with pets, who would otherwise choose to sleep on the streets instead of leaving their four legged friends behind.

Their approach to tackling homelessness extends to services such as financial counselling assistance that help prevent the vulnerable from becoming homeless.

It is a holistic approach which also includes programmes such as psychological counselling and other mental health services to ensure clients do not fall into an insidious cycle of falling into homelessness and becoming reliant on community support.

Shadow Housing Minister, Sophie Cotsis said Rabbi Kastel and Jewish House have some bold proposals for tackling homelessness.

“In 11 March 2014, Jewish House will release their Project 2500 report; backed by consultancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, it proposes a systemic and responsive approach to homelessness by incorporating programmes from overseas in particular initiatives developed for the City of New York, where the law requires the City provide a bed for every homeless person.

“What is important about the initiatives in the Project 2500 report is that it is devised with today’s fiscal constraints in mind.

“Funding of services that address homelessness have reached boiling point. The Government no longer wants to inject much needed funds to community programmes assisting the homeless and current services cannot cope with the demand.

“According to the ABS homelessness in NSW is up 26% from 2006 figures. A fresh approach is needed to stem the tide.

“Jewish House and the Project 2500 report will provide some much needed vision in addressing homelessness in NSW.

“I look forward to working with Rabbi Kastel and Jewish House now and in the future, Ms Cotsis said.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Public will not cop Barry O'Farrell's breach of trust Nielsen Poll shows

Chris Holstein MP, Darren Webber MP, Barry O'Farrell MP, Chris Spence MP (2nd from right), Chris Harcher MP (right)  Liberal candidates before 2011 election.
The public collectively never gets it wrong. The Nielsen Poll published by Fairfax Media yesterday shows a 14% swing against the O’Farrell government with the 2 party preferred poll showing the Liberal/Nationals on 49% and the ALP on 51%.

Before anyone gets carried away with one poll it is worth considering why has the O’Farrell government lost public so spectacularly?

An article by Sean Nicholls in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday sums it up.

Mr. Nicholls identifies a major reason. It is trust. The public will not cop dishonesty. They will not tolerate politicians trying to manipulate them by not being truthful and straightforward. The proposed Wallarah 2 coal mine is a case in point.

In 2009, Mr O’Farrell as Leader of the Opposition attended a community protest at the proposed coal mine on the Central Coast with two Shadow Ministers. Whilst addressing the residents at the meeting he said:

The next Liberal National Government will ensure that mining cannot occur here – will ensure mining cannot occur in any water catchment area and will ensure mining leases and mining exploration permits reflect that common sense. No ifs, no buts, a guarantee.”

The video of that assurance can be seen here.

Now it transpires that since Mr. O’Farrell’s government has been in office, his Ministers, officials and he himself have met with the proponents and a chief Liberal Party fundraiser. This is in breach of his own Ministerial Code; and the proposal is now recommended for approval.

Mr. O’Farrell is trying to distance himself from that recommendation for approval by saying the coal mine is to be determined at arms length by an Independent Planning and Assessment Commission.

The problem with that excuse is that the Planning and Assessment Commission is not seen to be independent. It comprises of government appointed people, it is a government body, and has recently been exposed for approving 94% of all applications submitted to it.

It is within the power and authority of the O’Farrell government to adhere to his explicit guarantee and not permit the coalmine to proceed. To try and manipulate his words to say otherwise is dishonest.

I am not in a position to determine the merits of the Wallarah 2 coal mine.  I cannot give the residents of the Central Coast, nor can I give the proponent any comfort in respect of the application. What I can say is that Mr. O’Farrell’s personal unequivocal guarantee given in 2009 has been discarded.

In my view the public will understand if circumstances change, a politician might have to change his or her position. It is the elected government’s responsibility to govern and make decisions in the interests of the community, pursing positions consistent with its principles and consistent with its undertakings. When government’s breach those undertakings, and don’t explain why, then the public will rightly reject them at the earliest opportunity. Yesterdays poll is a judgment by the public that they do not trust the word of Barry O’Farrell.