Looking back on a successful year - and ahead to a better one
With the first sitting day of the new parliamentary year today, it's an appropriate time to reflect on the year now past and our focus for 2018.
Last year was a shocker for Federal Parliament, and the public would be right to feel frustrated that our nation's leaders appeared to be more interested in playing political games than progressing positive legislation and managing the economy and welfare of its citizens in a responsible way.
The dual citizenship saga in particular took up an enormous amount of time, resources and public funding – with absolutely no positive benefit to the community. We have lost many admirable parliamentarians - and for what gain? This saga will continue well into 2018 and no doubt cost the taxpayer tens of millions more. It is an indictment on our political system that it escalated in the way that it did – primarily driven by one party's desperation to overturn the elected government.
In the Senate, we ended the year with seven new faces and four empty seats. Almost all parties were impacted, including my colleagues Nick Xenophon and Skye Kakoschke-Moore. Rex Patrick took over the spot vacated by Nick, but we are still awaiting the Court of Dispute Returns to decide what happens with Sky's seat.
Legislation wise there was a whopping 222 bills introduced into the Senate last year, with a further 11 carried over from 2016. 143, or 61%, made it through the Senate.
The NXT voting record shows we took a balanced approach, voting with government 54% of the time and the opposition 48% of the time.
We supported common sense legislation, motions and inquiries that brought about positive change.
The notable achievements via legislation and negotiation with government that had a direct impact on South Australia since the start of the current Parliament are:
- Carly’s Law – to protect children from online predators;
- Whistleblower protection laws – to protect against maladministration;
- Government procurement changes – where Australian businesses now have a real opportunity to sell their goods to government;
- Security of payment reforms in the building and construction industries that will assist small to medium contractors;
- $60 million package to assist small and regional publishers to update their processes and systems and a 200- strong scholarship and cadetship program;
- $60 million to restart an apprenticeship mentoring program to help retain and motivate young trainees
- Advocating and securing an extra $4.9 billion for education funding over 10 years;
- Securing $100 million for an Advanced Manufacturing Fund to help transition the loss of car making to South Australia;
- Securing a $68 million payment for South Australia’s life saving Proton Therapy Centre;
- Securing the government commitment for a $110 million concessional loan for the Port Augusta Solar Thermal project;
- Justice for nuclear test veterans to finally obtain gold card benefits for medical treatment;
- $25 million for defence abuse victims, and
- $40 million in additional regional road funding for South Australia.
My colleagues and I have also been active participants in many worthwhile inquiries – a number having been instigated by us. The inquiries I participated in, and which have brought about good results or highlighted key issues, are: Funding for Research into Cancers with Low Survival Rates, National Broadband Network, Red Tape on Pharmacy Rules, Medical Prostheses, Private Health Insurance, Aged Care Workforce and Citizenship.
Overall a full-on year - but a year where our team has kept a keen eye on South Australia’s interests and progressed sensible actions that have benefited all Australians.
For 2018, our primary aim will continue to be - as it always is - to look after South Australia’s interests, whether that be to lobby for our state, or reject any legislation that will have a disproportionately negative impact on South Australia.
Here’s to a positive 2018 parliamentary year, where perhaps this time around all parties will work for the good of our country and not their own self-interest!