Evers Supports Union on the Right Track as Engineering Assessment Announced

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has welcomed news that an engineering assessment of the condition of Western Australia’s unused Tier 3 rail lines will be commissioned by the McGowan Government.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for regional development and long-term campaigner for the re-establishment of freight on rail in regional Western Australia, met with the Rail, Tram and Bus Union WA Branch (RBTUWA) state secretary Craig McKinley in May.

The RBTUWA recently campaigned to seek support from both state and federal governments to reopen of Tier 3 rail lines in regional Western Australia and successfully lobbied WA Labor’s state executive to call on the Government to commission an independent investigation of the economic and environmental impacts of Tier 3 line closures on the WA economy and its future development.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti later announced the engineering assessment in response to questions from Farm Weekly and said the proposed assessment would look at the potential cost and time required to bring the grain lines back to an operational standard.

WA’s Tier 3 rail lines were placed into care and maintenance in 2013 and 2014 by the State’s freight rail network operator Arc Infrastructure and Ms Evers said she hoped the assessment would outline a clear opportunity available for WA Labor to follow through on its own commitments and put freight back on rail.

WA Labor’s 2019 party platform described the Barnett Government’s closure of regional Tier 3 rail lines as ‘ill-advised, irresponsible and unsafe’, whilst committing to the recovery of closed Tier 3 lines along with a more proactive approach to the networks’ management.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“WA loves trains and I am pleased the McGowan Government is taking further steps to maintain its commitment to the recovery of Tier 3 rail lines.

“WA Labor’s 2019 platform committed to the recovery of Tier 3 rail lines and recent comments from Minister Saffioti acknowledge the strong community support for reinstating Tier 3 rail lines.

“The RBTUWA, along with stakeholders such as the Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance, have done a fantastic job in pushing the Government to match its words to action through the announcement of this assessment.

“We know that rail is good for the regions and makes roads and travel safer for tourists and residents, it decreases the costs associated with road maintenance and brings work crews into regional towns.

“As recently as last year I tabled a petition to WA Parliament in August 2019 with over 3,000 signatures calling for the reopening of Tier 3 rail lines.

“It is my hope that an engineering assessment will provide the government with ample justification to support the recovery of these lines from a negligent operator and begin a regeneration of regional rail infrastructure.

“Minister Saffioti has admitted in the past that truck movements on South West roads are set to increase sharply, and projected to quadruple beyond the year 2022.

“The time has come to restore the balance between investment in unnecessary and unsustainable road infrastructure and the longer term benefit of maximising use from existing rail networks.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Time Ticks on WA Labor Commitment

South West MLC Diane Evers has called on the McGowan Government to follow its words with action after it emerged that WA Labor’s 2019 platform has committed to the recovery of Tier 3 rail lines.

The Government’s party platform described the Barnett Government’s closure of regional Tier 3 rail lines as ‘ill-advised, irresponsible and unsafe’, whilst committing to the recovery of closed Tier 3 lines along with a more proactive approach to the networks’ management.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for regional development and long-term campaigner for the re-establishment of freight on rail in regional Western Australia, tabled a petition to WA Parliament in August 2019 with over 3,000 signatures calling for the reopening of Tier 3 rail lines.

Since then, in November 2019, major grain cooperative CBH Group failed in a long-running dispute with rail leaseholders Arc Infrastructure to find a solution to the use of Tier 3 rail lines in WA’s Wheatbelt.

Despite the current Government’s position on Tier 3 lines and its repeated criticism of the previous Government for the closure, there has been no action taken to deliver the commitment, despite contributing tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to mitigate the impact of freight haulage through road projects such as the $170 million Albany Ring Road.

Ms Evers said the reason road infrastructure projects were being built is because of a misguided failure to invest in rail, which will result in an increased risk to road users’ safety.

The WA Labor state executive also passed a motion put forward by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) last week to call on the State Government to commission an independent environmental and economic impact statement on the closure of Tier 3 and the rail freight lease agreement and the effect that that has had on the state’s economy and future development. 

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“The McGowan Government needs to get its act together and do something about recovering Tier 3 rail lines in this term.

“Western Australia is contractually bound by a lease that all sides of politics acknowledge has been a mistake, but now this lease perpetuates further bad infrastructure spending.

“Last year, the Transport Minister Rita Saffioti admitted that truck movements on South West roads are set to increase sharply, and projected to quadruple beyond the year 2022.

“Meanwhile, the Albany Ring Road — which state and federal governments are putting $175 million into — is only expected to reach 1200 trucks per day in ten years’ time.

“That is fewer than one per minute, or only 50 trucks an hour, on a $175m road.

“We know that rail is good for the regions and makes roads and travel safer for tourists and residents, it decreases the costs associated with road maintenance and brings work crews into regional towns. 

“In 2019, 60 percent of road facilities were the result of crashes in regional WA — the more trucks there are, the more accidents we will have.

“There is clear strong community and industry support for change, now it is time for WA Labor to follow through on its own commitments and put freight back on rail where it belongs.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Blind Eyes Must Not Be Turned To South West Native Forest Logging: Evers

South West MLC Diane Evers is seeking answers after community concerns about the logging of Karri forest in Channybearup have been met by almost two months of silence from the McGowan Government.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for forestry, was contacted regarding potential logging in the Treen Brook area just outside of Pemberton in recent weeks after business owners in the area wrote to Forestry Minister Dave Kelly in March.

After the correspondents received no reply from the minister’s office, Ms Evers wrote to the Forestry Minister on April 22.

Alongside the existing threat to old and large trees under current methodology used to define old growth native forests, Ms Evers described a lack of consultation and the subsequent impact of logging activity on nearby businesses as unacceptable.

As machinery moves onto the site in anticipation of activity commencing at the Treen Brook 12 forest coupe, Ms Evers expressed her concerns as community and business fears about the logging operations increased. 

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“We are yet again seeing a disregard by the FPC for not only for our precious native forests, but also the local community who are impacted by an unnecessary and unprofitable industry.

“The management of logging operations by the FPC and their apparent lack of regard for neighbouring properties and businesses is of great concern to me as now, more than ever, we must support our small businesses to remain viable.

“I hear often from people, for both private and commercial reasons, being impacted by nearby logging operations who have not been consulted nor their concerns addressed prior to FPC commencing logging of these areas. 

“This is why I have contacted Minister Kelly’s office on multiple occasions to seek more information about what consultation FPC have carried out with residents and apiarists that depend on these forests for their business.

“Native timber logging in Western Australia lost its social licence long ago, the time has come to complete the transition of the timber industry to ecological plantations and farm forestry through a rapid and just transition strategy.

“The need remains clear: the Forest Products Act must be repealed and the Forest Products Commission disbanded for the McGowan Government to demonstrate any real leadership for our forests.

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Two Per Cent Success-Rate In Shark Drumline Trial Costs Taxpayers Millions

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has encouraged Western Australians to contribute to the Environmental Protection Authority’s seven-day public comment period for the continuation of the WA Government’s SMART Drumline trial.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for marine and fisheries, has criticised the trial as an inappropriate method for shark attack mitigation in the past, representing concerns from thousands of Western Australians on the matter.

While the trial proceeded last year despite these community concerns, with concessional oversights enacted as a result of public pressure, Ms Evers said there was no evidence extending the length of the trial would yield significant information.

The EPA’s public comment period runs from Thursday, 30 April to Wednesday, 6 May and can be accessed at the following link: https://consultation.epa.wa.gov.au/seven-day-comment-on-referrals/continuation-smart-drumline/

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“The McGowan Government has said extending the SMART drumline trial will help determine the efficacy of this program, despite its two per cent success-rate costing $6million to the taxpayer so far.

“Spending $3million per great white shark tagged does not strike me as effective research or expenditure.

“In November 2018 I tabled a petition in parliament opposed to this trial, which was backed by over 7000 Western Australians in an online equivalent.

“Initial concerns about this trial were that it lacked supporting evidence, increased risk to beach users and would have a harmful effect on our precious marine life – little has been done to alleviate this.

“Over 15 months, 73 non-target species have been captured unnecessarily by this trial.

“The capture of only two target species in this multi-million dollar program surely cannot be justified as improving safety or as value for taxpayer dollars.

“It may seem fait accompli for this extension to go ahead, but I would still encourage those in the community who are opposed to this trial to lodge their comments on the record during the EPA’s public comment period.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Stewardship Support a Small Step Only

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has described the McGowan Government’s plans to increase total funding for the Community Stewardship Grants by $1.5 million as falling short of the commitment needed to support community-based land management groups.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for a range of environmental issues including forestry, agriculture and water, said Tuesday’s announcement by the Government would struggle to provide local landcare groups with adequate certainty and stability.

While Ms Evers said she appreciated an increase to the Natural Resource Management (NRM) Community Stewardship Grants Program and described the Government’s plan to direct additional funding towards core landcare and resource management activities as a good step forward, she was concerned the seven Regional NRM bodies could absorb this funding before it could reach community-level organisations where funding was needed.

Ms Evers introduced the Royalties for Regions Amendment Bill 2019 to Western Australian Parliament last year as part of efforts to enhance the state’s environmental legislation and ensure environmental purposes would be reflected in Royalties for Regions spending. The Bill called for the McGowan Government to direct a minimum of 10 per cent of all royalties for regions annual funding for the stewardship of environmental rehabilitation and preservation by dedicated community groups.

The WA NRM Program was established in 2009 and builds community capacity in natural resource management, supports on-ground local community action, leverages volunteer effort and other resources, and maintains goodwill and engagement developed over many years.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“Tuesday’s announcement by the McGowan Government is a welcome increase to the existing funding of the state’s environmental management, but there is a need to do much more.

“I have been calling for the State Government to redress environmental inequity in the state by ensuring profits from our state’s mining and gas resources are translated into benefits for the community.

“Right now the state’s NRM and Landcare groups are each doing their very best to fill the gaps between government management of the environment in regional communities, but the organisational costs and competing priorities make financial resourcing difficult.

“The increasing environmental degradation and pollution as a result of mining and gas sector activities means the current level of support the Government is providing for environmental rehabilitation is insufficient, with significant potential impacts likely through the loss of valuable ecosystems.

“There has been little emphasis on environmental programs in the application of the Royalties for Regions funding in the past, when such investment is vital for regional communities, especially for the groups that administer environmental programs.

“Allocating a minimum of 10 per cent of all royalties for regions funding on an annual basis for environmental rehabilitation and for the preservation of the State’s unique biodiversity will greatly assist in building regional economies, complement existing carbon sequestration initiatives and aid in the reversal of global warming.

“This Government has taken positive steps forward in environmental conservation, but I intend to push them along for the entire journey and enact significant reform in environmental conservation for the generations to come.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Evers: Virus Burn-Off Adaption Should Highlight Long-Term Health Risks

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has encouraged a State Government response to concerns about regional prescribed burning practices highlighted during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to a report published in the Medical Journal of Australia on March 23, on days where air pollution in WA exceeded national air quality standard levels during a 15-year period, 73 per cent of those were directly caused by prescribed burns or wildfires.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for forestry, has called for a review of bushfire mitigation practices in the past and said she had received urgent concerns regarding burning permits in regional towns from members of the Great Southern community with a view to its environmental and health impacts.

In response to this correspondence, Ms Evers has written to the WA Government to share the community view of prescribed burning being risky and unnecessary during the current COVID-19 response period, while acknowledging initial adjustments have already taken place. 

Ms Evers’ letter, addressed to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson and Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan, highlighted particular concern for impacts on those suffering from asthma and respiratory issues, as well as the need to observe social distancing requirements.

Ms Evers said she believes an opportunity exists to reconsider the application of prescribed burning practices once the state transitions out of its emergency period.

The Shire of Denmark recently extended its restricted burning period to the end of May, with only conditional permits factoring social distancing protocols being considered until this time.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“Regional residents and the volunteers who manage the landscape are finely tuned to the needs of their community as well as the environment, with the ability to care for both.

“The urgent concerns I was informed of last month reflected a deep concern not only for the current health crisis we are all experiencing, but an ongoing consideration of how prescribed burning is carried out.

“I have called in the past for a thorough review of bushfire mitigation practices in Western Australia.

“We must abandon annual burning targets and instead focus on strategic planning around towns and infrastructure.

“Any prescribed burning of forests and woodlands should be based on ecological principles and independent, peer reviewed risk assessment incorporating land use planning, residential design and community preparedness to risk reduction strategies.

“An outcome from our forced adaptation to the COVID-19 crisis is a shifted perspective on how the environment is managed as the land is given time and space to heal.

“Pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen across continents as countries try to contain the spread of the new coronavirus and as a society we have a responsibility to learn from this healing by adapting how we operate once restrictions are lifted.

“Less prescribed burns would mean less health risk to volunteers, as well as members of the wider community staying at home, given that COVID-19 can cause significant respiratory illness and place at risk those vulnerable to the negative impacts of smoke inhalation from prescribed burns.

“As a result of these community concerns, it appears some COVID-19 adjustments may have already been effected by the State Government, however, these voices must continue to be raised and be heard to make a difference.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

East Coast Forest Estimates are Evidence for Action

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has called for action by the McGowan Government to end logging in Western Australian native forests, after an independent estimate was conducted by the Victorian Parliamentary Budget Office on its own native timber industry.

The Victorian Andrews Government announced a transition plan in November 2019  to phase out logging of native trees in the state by 2030, including a $120m package for the industry and workers. 

However, according to a report by The Guardian on Monday, immediately ending native forest logging in Victoria would save taxpayers $192m over the next decade, which Ms Evers described as evidence that WA should fast-track a transition to its own, smaller industry.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for forestry, has campaigned during her term to end the commercial logging of WA’s native forests, with plans to introduce a Bill to repeal the Forest Products Act later this year.

Ms Evers said the changing economic landscape has created an opportunity to take action now and utilise budget savings from ending native logging to help regional communities create new employment opportunities during recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“Our native forests need to be protected so we can tackle climate change and ensure they are there for everyone to enjoy for generations to come.

“However, it is clear there is also economic evidence to support this change – and for it to happen now.

“Native timber logging lost its social licence long ago and the Victorian Labor Government recognised this when it announced it would phase out it’s industry and transition workers by 2030.

“However, this estimate by the Victorian Government’s own Parliamentary Budget Office indicates this is insufficient action.

“The McGowan Government cannot argue that native timber logging in Western Australia remains viable, particularly given the industry’s smaller size in comparison to Victoria’s.

“By supporting the ongoing operation of the Forest Products Commission (FPC), WA Labor and the Liberals are propping up the unprofitable and destructive native forestry industry, frustrating our transition to a fully sustainable timber industry. 

“There is a wealth of possibility in a wholesale transition to a sustainable timber industry, particularly given the employment crisis suffered by so many as we are impacted by COVID-19.

“By implementing a rapid and just transition of the timber industry to ecologically beneficial plantations and farm forestry, regional Western Australia would see its community supported through the creation of new job opportunities in the state, as well as preserving the environment.

“With the FPC proven unfit to prevent serious breaches within the industry, Forestry Minister Dave Kelly must show leadership now by making necessary and inevitable progress on this issue.

“The WA Labor Government must repeal the Forest Products Act and protect our native forests.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Supporting Diverse Media Crucial to Regional Fabric

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has called on the McGowan Government to ensure regional and independent media publications do not fall victim to the COVID-19 crisis, as outlets nationwide suffer the impacts of falling advertising revenue.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for regional development, highlighted that regional areas comprised 95 per cent of Western Australia and the survival of trusted news sources was important to consider in the state’s recovery.

Ms Evers said she was concerned that the impact on independent and community publishers will be critical in the regions, while the impact on larger media groups will be felt more broadly across the country.

Seven West Media announced it had gone into a trading halt on the Australian Securities Exchange on Wednesday and last week News Corp announced it would suspend print editions of 60 local newspapers across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

While such closures had not yet affected Western Australia, some regional broadcast organisations have flagged the possibility of stopping news bulletins and shutting down broadcast signals due to financial pressure brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“Western Australia has a long history of regional media providing a fabric for connection across the largest state in the country.

“Digital technology and social isolation have combined to exacerbate our geographic isolation, putting digital and social media front-and-centre of our consumption.

“This has been a valuable development while we seek to remain connected to our communities during this time, as well as important government advice, but a loss of diversity and structure in the media landscape would be detrimental post-COVID.

“Our public broadcasters ABC and SBS have continued to be leaders in the production of independent news during this time, and diversity of both opinion and ownership of media across Australia provides better balance and opportunities for democratic debate.

“Media diversity in content and format is everyone’s right and regional content should be strongly supported – if regional publications cannot survive through this crisis, it will be all Australians who suffer.

“This not only includes consumers, but also journalists and staff who will see their industry shrink as a result.

“The Federal Government has committed $5 million of relief to the media sector, but this miserly amount will surely have little impact during a time of economic devastation.

“The concentrated media ownership in Western Australia is also likely to focus its resources towards metropolitan areas, where audiences are larger, eroding regional communities’ ability to remain informed.

“I call on the WA Government to ensure steps are taken to offer targeted support to regional and independent media throughout this crisis period as part of ongoing stimulus measures – this is a matter in the public interest.”

KEY POINTS:

The Australian Greens believe that:

  • Freedom of the press and effective, affordable and accessible media and communications systems are integral to the functioning of a successful democratic society
  • Media diversity in content and format is everyone’s right
  • Australian content should be strongly supported and well-funded
  • Strong, independent public and community media are an essential part of Australia’s media sector

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

COVID-19 in Western Australia

  • Cases
  • Tested (negative)
  • Cases (positive)
  • Recovered
  • Deaths
  • Unknown source
  • Total
  • 35,155
  • 550
  • 495
  • 8
  • 16

Greens Call for No One to be Left Behind

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has encouraged the McGowan Government to take further steps as part of its economic stimulus response to the COVID-19 health emergency.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for finance, said initial stimulus measures to freeze household charges and fees were the minimum required during a time of unprecedented economic and social disruption, and highlighted areas of opportunity to enact a positive response throughout Western Australia.

Areas of focus indicated by Ms Evers included protective measures for those with health, social or domestic vulnerabilities as well as those within struggling industries as a result of current circumstances such as arts, tourism, retail and hospitality.

Ms Evers said a response to the current emergency could involve job-making innovations in infrastructure and education, as well as ensuring rural and regional communities were not left behind. 

Key objections

  • Too much focus on economic stimulus of an already flagging economy prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, WA needs to do more to protect people and workers 
  • Freezing of cost increases is maintenance of the status quo, not stimulus 

Key demands

  • Infrastructure boost to increase low-cost public and crisis accommodation to protect the most vulnerable in Perth and in the regions
  • Provide additional support to organisations in arts, tourism, hospitality and retail sectors
  • Make online TAFE courses free to enable workers to upskill during self isolation

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“The McGowan Government’s COVID-19 economic response constitutes the minimum measures expected from a government focussed on financial stability. 

“This is a challenging moment in time and a freeze on economic increases can only be a first step, much more will be required to provide stimulus at a state level. 

“We also need to do more for those most in need, including those in regional and rural Western Australia, to ensure no one is left behind.

“There are a range of health measures being enacted by the government to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 at this response stage, but a front-foot approach is required to provide safety and security to the most vulnerable in society. 

“People experiencing existing hardships will have their situations compounded by this health emergency. 

“Those without homes, with existing health issues or those in volatile domestic situations will need varied support. 

“Without a targeted economic response for these people – which requires even more consideration when placed in rural and regional contexts – there will be a wider social impact.

“There is an urgent need to invest more in building low-cost social and crisis housing, this can be implemented locally and provide employment opportunities in regional communities.

“Consideration must be given to people in seasonal or casual work who will struggle to meet their basic needs, such as making online TAFE resources available at no cost for workers who wish to upskill whilst in isolation.

“Now is the time to ensure strategies are enacted to bolster our arts, tourism, retail and hospitality sectors as they each experience an anticipated, but uncharted, decline.

“I expect the McGowan Government to make use of their recent half year budget surplus to urgently do more in the coming days and weeks to ensure stimulus measures do not allow those at risk to fall through the gaps. 

“I acknowledge that a great deal of responsibility falls at a federal level to respond to COVID-19, but our approach to this health emergency must be proactive and positive from an economic standpoint at a state level also. 

“Finally, I encourage people, while practising social distancing, to remain connected to their communities, support your local community groups who provide for those most in need – this is always where the most important support comes from when responding to times of difficulty.”

GET IN TOUCH:

Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070