Wednesday, 5 November 2014

WestConnex disaster hits St Peters - 80 homes to go

Yesterday the Prime Minister and Premier announced in my electorate in the suburb of St Peters yet another version of the Westconnex - a road interchange to be constructed at St Peters just south of Sydney Park. Simultaneously, 80 home owners in St Peters were approached and advised that their property will be acquired.

I responded in parliament today. The video of my speech is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpgFjeUQTRs&feature=youtu.be

It is just lunacy to build a vast road interchange at that location and it is not the first time the stupidity of St Peters as a major road interchange has been raised. More than 2 decades ago the M5 East was to be constructed with a major road interchange at St Peters, exiting at Canal Road. It exits where it currently exits at General Holmes Drive because I as President of the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils campaigned vigorously to ensure common sense prevailed.

The roads around St Peters, Tempe, Sydenham, Canal Road, the Princes Highway, Unwins Bridge Road, Mary Street and adjoining streets are in absolute gridlock, carrying significant volumes of traffic, large trucks and dangerous goods. This is a return to the stupidity that existed more than two decades ago.

Quite frankly, my constituents in St Peters, Tempe and Sydenham are sick to death of this incompetent Liberal Government careering around, coming up with a variety of locations for the Wetconnex for their own political agenda with no concern for the uncertainty and fear that is created in the community.

Initially, the Wetconnex through the Tempe and St Peters area was going to be an above ground road going through Tempe Reserve and Tempe Wetlands, but the NSW Government didn’t actually know the route that was abandoned recently. Remember the massive culvert that they were going to build a boulevard like Paris and Barcelona which is now a tunnel?

2 weeks ago people started drilling in the streets of Sydenham without any consultation with the community, which in itself created consternation. Residents thought that might be the location of a tunnel, right underneath their homes with the adjoining exhaust stacks. 

Now, there is an announcement by political leaders from Manly. The closest they come to St Peters is when they get in their wide bodied jets for their overseas jaunts. For the Premier to tell the residents of St Peters that this, and I quote, is “short term pain for long term gain” is just insulting.

The fact is, the Government has no idea where the precise route of the Wetconnex is going to be. It has no idea about the environmental impact; in fact no environmental impact statement is to be published until next year, well after an election. This government devoid of intellect is asking private tenderer's to tell them where the route should be. The way the NSW Government is supposed to build a road is to plan the route, examine details, conduct a traffic analysis and offer up a solution to address those problems.

It is one thing for the Government to get cheap headlines in the media to be seen to be doing something. It is another thing to cause fear and consternation to residents of my electorate because of their own inability, failure and incompetence.

Every time an announcement is made by this Government regarding the Westconnex, my entire community is left with not only more questions but also uncertainty and fear.

The Government is playing with the lives of the residents at St Peters, Tempe and Sydenham. Many cannot sell their homes for fear of losing money. Many cannot finish or start renovations for fear of wasting money. Many do not want to be forced to leave the area that they’ve built their entire lives in.

The St Peters, Tempe and Sydenham community will not accept these displays of contempt from the NSW Government who continually leave their livelihoods hanging in the balance. Enough is enough. The Premier should immediately announce to my constituents that their properties are not going to be acquired.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Shalom College University of NSW - Shalom Gamrada Scholarship Program

Ron Hoenig MP with students, Scholarship Co-founder Ilona Lee and Shalom College Master Dr Hilton Immerman OAM
It was an honour to visit Shalom College at the University of NSW to meet with some inspiring Indigenous Scholarship students.

This remarkable University residential college located on the grounds of the University of NSW offers scholarships to Indigenous Australians to enable the college to make a contribution to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The program's name comes from the term Gamarada ngiyani yana in the Eora language (the coastal Aboriginal people of Sydney) and is translated as "We walk together as friends."

As the College points out; many Indigenous students find it difficult to succeed at university as they commonly come from disadvantaged educational communities, live far from campus, have to have part time work to support themselves and are seldom part of a 'learning community'.

"The Shalom Gamarada Scholarship Program helps to alleviate these problems by providing financial support, eliminating travelling time and creating an environment conducive to learning with tutoring and counselling support," the college says.

This year there are 25 students studying at the University of NSW living at Shalom College on scholarships.The students I met with all have a fascinating story to tell and are excelling in their chosen course, ranging from law to medicine to exercise physiology. All of the students have strong ties with their home towns and want to use their degree to better their communities. I found those students wonderful role models.

I was so impressed with the work of College Master Dr Hilton Immerman and his committment and obvious relationship with the students. And as always inspired by Shalom Gamarada Co-founder Ilona Lee who has always contributed so much to the community.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Vale Edward Gough Whitlam - Our greatest Australian

Today Australia lost its greatest ever leader. A leader that inspired Australia. A leader that captured Australians imagination. A leader that made all Australians proud to be an Australian.

Elected on 2 December 1972 with a campaign entitled; "It's time" the television add shown here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jykIqQxEOw still inspires me today as it did 39 years ago.

I must confess like so many other "Baby Boomers" from working class families that I was able to obtain a tertiary education as a result of Gough Whitlam's free education policies. I did not have to participate in the conscription lottery as the Whitlam Labor government was elected only months before I would have been considered for conscription.

However, it is not about the benefit I received from Gough Whitlam and his government. It is about the benefit to all Australians. It is hard to imagine today how opposed the vested interests were to universal health insurance. Labor had to go to a double dissolution election and have the bills passed by a historic joint sittings of the Federal Parliament for Medibank to be introduced. His visit to China at the height of the "cold war" sent the US Nixon Administration and the reactionary forces in Australia "tropo." Mr Whitlam changed Australia forever in its treatment of  Australians,  Family Law, human rights, foreign policy, health, and immigration.

I remember his bringing Australia's security services to heel with Attorney General Lionel Murphy's visit to ASIO Headquarters in Melbourne reminding them they service Australia through its democratically elected parliament.

Interestingly his dismissal during the constitutional crisis by Governor General John Kerr was predicated on what was known as the "loans affair" as the Whitlam government wanted Australia's resources owned and developed by Australians. Mr Whitlam was a great parliamentarian who demonstrated enormous respect for the parliament and its its conventions.

In his short 3 years as Prime Minister from 2 December 1972 to 11 November 1975 he transformed and inspired a nation with legacies that will last forever. Only great leaders do that. Gough was the greatest. Vale E G Whitlam.

Monday, 20 October 2014

LABOR ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR COMMUNITY LANGUAGE SCHOOLS IN HEFFRON WITH $2.5 MILLION FUNDING BOOST

NSW Labor has announced the largest ever funding boost to Community Language Schools across NSW which will provide the more than 30,000 students, as well as teachers and volunteers who attend and operate the schools more support and resources.

Under a Labor Government, funding for these schools will be boosted by more than $75 per student to $200 per student – leaving NSW Community Language Schools with the largest funding package of any state in Australia.

Community Language Schools offer classes in 56 different community languages and are open to any school-aged student from a government, Catholic or independent school. The classes are held outside normal school hours and help students learn and use their community language or learn a new language.

Labor’s funding commitment represented a 62 per cent increase in funding and would bring the total investment to $6.5 million a year.

Labor is committed to ensuring that students from different cultural backgrounds have the chance to develop skills in another language.

Labor’s $2.5 million funding boost will help Community Language Schools attract and retain teachers with specialist language skills to continue educating the thousands of students who attend these schools.

Thousands of young people around the state attend a community language school outside of regular school hours each week, because students and their families know the importance of being multilingual.

These schools not only to help young people connect with their cultural background and communicate with older relatives, but also help students who are preparing for the HSC or learning a language for the first time.

The community in Heffron benefit from NUMBER of schools where students are learning Greek, Turkish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Czech and Slovak - and I am proud to confirm that a Labor Government will increase support to these schools that our communities in Heffron rely on.

Labor’s $2.5 million funding commitment will mean that these and the other Community Language Schools across the state will be the best funded in Australia.

I am proud that under Labor, our community language schools will be the best-funded in the country, to reflect the importance of our multicultural communities.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Pedestrian Crossing for Beaconsfield & Rosebery residents and employees

After a considerable amount of lobbying to the Minister for Roads, a pedestrian crossing on Botany Road between Queen Street and Morley Avenue will finally be installed.

Not long after my election in 2012, a local resident contacted me and took me to stand with her as we watched pedestrians play chicken with the heavy traffic on Botany Road as they tried to get to and from the bus stop, or make a purchase from the IGA or the chemist.

I didn’t take much convincing that the community’s concerns were totally justified and something had to be done. 

From that day, with the support of the community, I constantly lobbied the Minister for Roads, asking for a crossing along Botany Road. I extended an invitation for him to personally visit the site so he could see for himself the danger that residents and local workers face every day. The RMS obliged and inspected the area.

Truthfully, I guenuinely feared for pedestrian safety. It is the only road that I am frightened to cross at that location.

This is why I was so delighted when it was confirmed that a crossing with traffic signals will be installed on Botany Road at Beaconsfield Street, this location will minimise traffic interruption and allow cars on Beaconsfield Street to finally turn right safely onto Botany Road.

It will provide a significant amount of relief to both local residents and the many workers employed by local businesses in the area.

This is a great community win in the name of common sense and safety.

Friday, 17 October 2014

THE ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE BLUE MOUNTAINS BUSHFIRES

As the one year anniversary of the bushfires that devastated the Blue Mountains community is upon us, I take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the emergency service men and women who assisted those affected by the disaster.

It was a community-wide effort and whether it is the service men and women who faced the wrath of the fires, those who assisted with evacuating residents or those who provided emergency assistance in the form of shelter, food or clothing, their contribution was appreciated and invaluable during the crisis.

I commend the efforts of the emergency service personnel who were present in the Blue Mountains community and assisted with the clean-up long after the last of the fires was extinguished. As the reality hit for many of the residents who lost everything, it was the support of the Rural Fire Service, the State Emergency Service and many other groups that provided peace of mind for the victims of this terrible tragedy.

Our hearts broke every time we heard news that another home had been destroyed and in true form, Australians united and donated money and goods at an unprecedented rate. 

The rebuilding effort of the Blue Mountains community and their tenacity during what has been described as the worst disaster in their history is astounding. I praise the Blue Mountains community for rallying together during the recovery period. It is a testament to the Blue Mountains community and their strong sense of community spirit that many have decided to rebuild and begin a new chapter in the very place that they lost everything. 

NSW Labor will continue to support the residents of the Blue Mountains as they go forward with their recovery efforts.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

St Michael's Parish Daceyville International Feast Day Celebrations

My wife Christine and I were delighted to join Matt Thistlethwaite MP at St Michael's Catholic Church Daceyville which held their International Feast Day Celebrations.

Todays celebrations incorporated the 50th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood of Father Anthony Simari (retired 17 July 2014 and the 60th Birthday of Farther Jerzy Chrzczonowicz, Parish Priest. St Michael's Daceyville is a wonderful Parish with a community that has alway warmly welcomed me for very many years.