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Senator Siewert to take the floor.

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Senator Rachel Siewert Australian Greens Senator for WA

MEDIA RELEASE Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Senator Siewert to take the floor

Rachel Siewert was sworn into Parliament today as the new Greens Senator for Western Australia and will make her inaugural speech on Thursday 11 August at 5.50pm (AEST).

Rachel Siewert is a small woman with a big voice, a rational mind and a huge heart and will take her seat in the chamber this week to offer a vision for a better Australia.

Senator Siewert sees a powerful opportunity in the Senate in spite, or perhaps because of, the Coalition’s control.

“This enables us to work with communities and support grass-roots democracy. Debate in the chamber may be somewhat limited, but you will see a rising force within the community as we fight for a more just and sustainable future for Australia.”

Senator Siewert’s vision for Australia:

“We live in a community, not simply an economy. Our economy is one vital way in which we sustain our community,” said Senator Siewert. “My vision is that of a community in which people care for each other, not just themselves, and act responsibly to ensure our community can be sustained into the future.”

Senator Siewert refers to recent surveys that found the majority of Australians, despite having more material wealth than ever before, are no happier for it and are instead suffering higher stress levels.

The Government’s Industrial Relations reform program is seen by Senator Siewert as an attack on the human rights of Australians.

“The proposed changes are not in the interest of working Australians, families or small business,” she stated. “They will not strengthen our economy or improve our way of life - in fact they undermine it by stripping away the awards, rights and conditions we fought so hard for over the last century. That is absurd. Combined with the proposed ‘welfare to work’ provisions, we have a recipe for disaster.”

Further evidence of government policies undermining civil society can be seen by recent attacks on Non-Government Organisations (NGOs). NGOs play an essential role as intermediaries between community and government, however in the last decade federal funding to community organisations has been drastically reduced (such as funding to the Conservation Councils) and the attempted silencing of NGO’s through the failed Charities Bill 2003.

Ironically, while the Howard government has undermined NGOs he is also increasing the demands on the community sector by outsourcing welfare services previously provided by government agencies.

Little respect or recognition is given to the community sector, which the Australian Bureau of Statistics found in 1999-2000 that Australian NGOs accounted for $20.8 billion, or 3.3% of the GDP. This is greater than the contribution from the electricity, gas and water industry, the accommodation and restaurant industry and the recreational services industry. This figure is before the value of thousands of hours of voluntary labour is taken into account.

Senator Siewert’s portfolios include: Community Services, Industrial Relations and Employment, Indigenous Affairs, and Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries. With these crucial areas in her fold, it is expected that important issues will be raised in her speech.

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