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New South Wales News

I shall fight to save our schools: Saffin

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I shall fight to save our schools: Saffin

 By Janelle Saffin MP

State Member for Lismore

THE Nationals in the NSW Government are ploughing on with their half-baked plan to close Murwillumbah’s four public schools, merging them into an American-styled mega school campus. A half-baked plan that will do nothing to advance the educational outcomes for local students.

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This is despite widespread community concern and outright opposition.

Tweed Shire Council on 5 December 2022 formally objected to the proposed Murwillumbah Education Campus — State Significant Development (SSD-16848913) due to ‘remaining concerns’ about ‘a number of unresolved matters’.

Council then wrote to NSW Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell MLC, inviting her again to meet with community representatives, Parents & Citizens, students and families affected by the NSW Government’s decision to move ahead with the Murwillumbah Campus and closing the four public schools in Murwillumbah.

A move that I fully support.

Since the meeting I arranged with the Minister at Murwillumbah High, at which we were promised to be sent the ‘educational benefits’, we have not received even one word.

Because there is no educational benefit.  We all know that.

We all know that it is a cost cutting exercise and that the Murwillumbah community will not gain educational benefits, will not get the Performing Arts Centre promised, will lose space for students, will lose country school identities, will have traffic and bus mayhem, and to top it off, will lose 20 teachers and four administrative staff.

Given Council’s formal objection on outstanding matters and the widespread and continued community opposition to the mega campus, the NSW Government should withdraw its development application before the start of the 2023 academic year.

If elected at the March 25 State Election, a Minns Labor Government will kill off the Nationals in Government’s half-baked plan and instead will keep open Murwillumbah High School, Wollumbin High School, Murwillumbah East Public School and Murwillumbah Public School.

We will consult these school communities on much-needed infrastructure upgrades to these schools, and continue with the upgrades underway. This election commitment was made by NSW Shadow Minister for Education Prue Car and myself at a community meeting in Murwillumbah on 16 November 2021, and was reaffirmed by NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns when he met with stakeholders at a public education forum in Murwillumbah in late September.

A little over two years ago, former Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro (now not on the scene) and his colleagues rode into town to announce his half-baked thought bubble of closing four schools without any prior consultation and now they are left cleaning up the chaos.

I shall fight to save our schools.

Pothole repair funds a win

MY lobbying for extra funding to fix pothole-riddled local and regional roads across the Lismore Electorate in the wake of this year’s floods has paid off but the problem deserves more attention going into 2023.

I’ve been raising the pothole issue with the NSW Government before and since the floods, and I welcome the $50-million Fixing Local Roads Pothole Repair Round as a win from that sustained, strategic advocacy.

It’s a start but what would really help our local councils is if The Nationals in Government honoured their 2019 election promise to transfer 15,000 kilometres of regional roads from local councils to State ownership.

The Nationals have shown no sense of urgency in delivering this key election commitment.

NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway MLC even had the audacity to claim that it’s not a burning issue for councils.

Tell that to local people whose tyres and suspensions are being wrecked on deteriorating country roads or to mayors and general managers trying to keep up with their road maintenance backlogs.

From last month (December 2022), 94 regional councils are receiving their share of the Fixing Local Roads Pothole Repair Round.

The grant allocations included:

  • Lismore City Council — $422,000.
  • Kyogle Council — $415,000.
  • Tweed Shire Council – $428,000.
  • Tenterfield Shire Council — $579,000.

Energy plan essential

PARLIAMENT was recalled for one more sitting day (Wednesday, 21 December), throwing my diary into a new level of chaos, so I again apologise for missing some end-of-year engagements.

Both Houses sat to pass the Energy and Utilities Administration Amendment Bill 2022, essential for households and businesses here in the Northern Rivers and Northern Tablelands regions.

In the Legislative Assembly, there were only two speakers – NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns, who said:

NSW Labor supports the bill. We join the Premier in supporting the Albanese Federal Government’s energy plan, which will deliver price relief to families and businesses. We support a bipartisan and Federation-wide response to the energy crisis gripping our State and the entire country. We support the Premier’s decision to recall the Parliament to deal with this legislation as a matter of urgency. Intervention in the energy market is desperately needed for families whose ambitions and budgets have been shattered by unsustainable energy price rises. It is needed for thousands of businesses whose energy input costs are sending them to the wall. It is needed by hundreds of thousands of employees whose businesses and jobs will be at risk if the bill does not pass.

HAPPY NEW YEAR: State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin is approaching 2023 with complete optimism and wishes readers of The Northern Rivers Times all the best for the year ahead.

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Child Protection Workers Strike in New England Over Safety Concerns

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Child Protection Workers Strike in New England Over Safety Concerns

 

May 8th,  child protection caseworkers staged a walkout and gather for a protest outside the Community Services Centre in Tamworth, highlighting a severe staffing crisis and its impact on child safety in New England.

The workers, supported by the Public Service Association of NSW (PSA), are voicing urgent concerns over the handling of child protection cases in the region. According to internal data, last year saw 18,582 children reported as at risk of serious harm (ROSH) across New England, Mid North Coast, and Northern NSW, yet only 15% received visits from caseworkers—marking the lowest response rate in the state.

Chronic understaffing is a critical issue, with more than 20% of child protection positions currently unfilled in these districts, occasionally reaching 25%. This dire shortage contributes to high turnover rates, with 50% of caseworkers leaving within their first two years of service.

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Stewart Little, General Secretary of PSA, expressed deep concerns about the ongoing crisis: “Our most vulnerable children are being put at greater risk due to the lack of sufficient staff and the overwhelming exhaustion faced by the current workforce,” he said. Little highlighted that the strike is part of a broader strategy to press the government for significant reforms, including the recruitment of 500 new caseworkers, substantial pay raises for current staff, and a move to de-privatise foster care services.

The PSA warns that today’s protest is just the beginning, with plans for an escalating series of rallies across the state if the demands are not met. They assure the public that urgent child protection responses will not be affected during the protest, with skeleton staffing maintained throughout.

Child protection workers urge Premier Chris Minns and Minister Kate Washington to take immediate action to resolve the staffing crisis and improve the system, emphasising that while the current NSW government did not create the problem, it is their responsibility to solve it.

 

For more New South Whales news, click here.

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Marine Rescue NSW Wraps Up Second Busiest Season with Over 3,200 Missions

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Marine Rescue NSW Wraps Up Second Busiest Season with Over 3,200 Missions

 

Marine Rescue NSW has recently concluded its second busiest boating season to date, undertaking 3,242 search and rescue missions, including 921 emergencies from October 1, 2023, to ANZAC Day 2024. This year’s operations nearly matched the record-setting 3,251 missions of the 2022/23 season, according to Commissioner Alex Barrell.

The organisations 3,400 volunteers played a crucial role in ensuring the safety of 7,535 boaters across the state’s waters, returning them safely to shore. Commissioner Barrell highlighted a significant challenge this season: “Over 40% of our emergency responses were due to mechanical failures, particularly engine issues. We strongly encourage boaters to thoroughly check their equipment before setting out to prevent such avoidable situations.”

Marine Rescue Lake Macquarie reported the highest activity with 441 missions. Remarkably, the regions of Mid North Coast, Illawarra, and Monaro also experienced their busiest seasons on record. The Monaro region’s eight units saw a 16% increase in operations, Mid North Coast responses rose by 11%, and Illawarra units handled a 7% uptick in demand.

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Throughout the season, the service managed 144,806 radio communications, with many being coordinated through the Marine Rescue Sydney State Communications Centre at Belrose. Among these, there were 69 MAYDAY calls signalling imminent danger and 42 PAN PAN calls from boaters facing urgent but non-life-threatening issues.

Commissioner Barrell expressed his gratitude towards the volunteers: “I want to commend all our volunteers for their relentless dedication to maintaining safety on our waterways.” He also reminded boaters to stay vigilant year-round, emphasizing the importance of proper preparation and safety measures, especially during the colder months. “Ensure you log on with your local Marine Rescue NSW base and always wear appropriate safety gear, including lifejackets and warm clothing during winter outings,” he advised.

This season also saw a steady number of boaters using the free Marine Rescue app or VHF channel 16 to log their voyages, aiding in efficient monitoring and quicker response times in emergencies. With 44% of the season’s missions involving boating or fishing activities, and 125 incidents of capsized vessels, the importance of staying with the vessel and wearing lifejackets was particularly underscored by the Commissioner.

 

For more New South Whales news, click here.

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Cameras to enforce seatbelt law across NSW from July 1

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Cameras to enforce seatbelt law across NSW from July 1

 

WEARING a seatbelt will be enforced by existing mobile phone detection cameras from July 1 as the NSW Labor Government bolsters efforts to counter the rising number of road fatalities across the state.

The simple act of correctly wearing a seatbelt while in a moving vehicle has been a legal requirement in NSW for more than 50 years, but data shows 150 people died while not wearing one in the five years between 2019 and 2023.

On average, 15 per cent of deaths on NSW roads every year still involve seatbelt non-usage, with 36 people tragically lost last year.

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The enhancement of the state’s world-first mobile phone detection camera network will allow for a July 1 start date to the cameras also enforcing the seatbelt laws for the first time, the NSW Government confirms today.

Unlike when other new enforcement technologies have come into effect, there will be no grace period of warning letters after the NSW Parliament voted against starting seatbelt detection cameras in warning mode when enabling legislation was passed last year.

Photos released from testing of the cameras show a small but persistent percentage of drivers and some passengers continue to flout the law and wear their seatbelt incorrectly, including with the sash below the arm.

Every dollar raised by seatbelt cameras will go back into road safety.

Quotes attributable to State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin:

“The key here is personal, family and community safety. This is the best position from which to start.

“Our government wants to keep us safe. Our government has a duty to keep us safe. And at times that calls for some tough love.

“If drivers are failing in your obligation to keep yourself, your passengers and your fellow citizens, we shall slug you hard.

“I cannot believe that in 2024 some people are driving without putting their seatbelts on. They are putting themselves and everyone they come into contact with at risk.

“The message is clear; belt up, buckle up or pay the price.”

As of midnight Thursday 2 May 2024, 124 lives have been lost on NSW roads, which is 16 more than the same time last in 2023.

The NSW Labor Government has introduced a number of measures to counter the rising number of road fatalities, including:

  • The demerit point trial to encourage motorists who maintain a spotless record over 12 months to have a demerit point removed from their record
  • Hosting the state’s first Road Safety Forum of international and local experts
  • Last month we signed the National Road Safety Data Sharing Agreement to help support analysis of driver behaviour, and help the various state and federal governments work together to understand where the funding needs to go
  • Removing a loophole to force all motorists driving on a foreign licence to convert to a NSW licence within six months
  • Doubling roadside enforcement sites used for mobile speed cameras, with the addition of 2700 new locations where a camera can be deployed. Enforcement hours will remain the same.

Today marks the start of National Road Safety Week, an annual initiative of the Safer Australian Roads and Highways (SARAH) Group, which aims to highlight the impact of road trauma and ways to reduce it.

The theme for 2024 is All road safety is local – Drive So Others Survive. For more information on National Road Safety Week visit here.

 

For more New South Whales news, click here.

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