It was a busy and brutal week in parliament. There is a lot to report so I’ll jump to it!
Housing was a hot-button issue again this sitting.
Sneaky New Law
The Deputy Premier snuck through laws to cap rental increases to once a year. These were tacked onto an omnibus bill covering administrative updates in a number of health-related laws.
By throwing the rental increase change into the mix, the Government was able to avoid any public or parliamentary blowback. There will be no pesky questions about whether encouraging even more mum-and-dad investors to get out of the rental space will make things worse.
Clause Invalid from July 1
The change means that from July 1, 2023 any clauses in existing rental agreements about rent increases will be invalid unless the most recent increase was 12 months ago.
This is actually how 12 month leases work anyway, so I struggle to see any benefit for renters. But it will create anxiety for private landlords about how many more rights they are going to lose.
Wonder no more
The Palaszczuk Government is currently drafting its second package of rental reforms. On Tuesday, Minister Leeanne Enoch told the House that it will include changes to allow tenants to modify their rental property to install safety, security and accessibility changes. Tenants will also have improved rights to “personalise” their rental property. The examples the minister gave were hanging pictures and planning a garden.
New Tenant Rights
The reforms will also improve tenants’ rights around privacy and the landlord’s access to the property, the rental bonds process and ensuring rent payments, utility and re-letting fees and charges are fair and reasonable. Landlords will also have to provide the tenant with a fee-free method of paying rent.
Have Your Say Here
A public consultation on the reforms opened on Tuesday and closes on May 29, 2023. To find out more and to have your say, click on this link.
New Homes for Gregory
Still in the housing space on Tuesday, the Minister for Public Works and Procurement announced that contracts for 56 homes across Queensland have been awarded, including the Gregory towns of Capella, Lochington, Alpha, Tambo and Winton.
The Minister said the Government would be “partnering with industry to deliver modern new homes built faster, reducing build times from months to weeks.”
From this I take it that these may be the first manufactured homes produced by QBuild. I’ll be keenly interested in this development. It holds real promise for our remote towns, but we will need to monitor liveability and durability.
The next day, Deputy Premier Miles rose to make a ministerial statement about the Griffith University project to use abandoned student accommodation for social housing.
After $2.1 Mill
After spending $2.1 million to assess whether it was suitable for this purpose, the concept itself has been abandoned due to fire safety concerns.
Ask a Realtor- Who’d have thought?
Instead, the Deputy Premier will use the remaining $25 million to purchase 64 houses and units listed for sale on the open market. One of these will be in Emerald.
He told the House that contracts had already been exchanged on some of these properties.
Stumbling from Crisis to Crisis
Health also remained a hot-button issue this week.
January Ramping loses 13,000 Hours
Shocking new data on Tuesday revealed that Queensland’s ambulance ramping problem is getting worse, not better. The data was shocking because it showed that paramedics waited alongside patients at emergency departments for 13,000 hours in January alone.
24 Hour Wait for Beds
This is on top of data reported by the Courier Mail in March that in the first seven months of this financial year, 10,195 Queenslanders who needed to be admitted to hospital had to wait more than 24 hours inside the emergency department.
These are not patients waiting to be assessed. These are people who have been assessed and have been found to need a hospital bed. Yes, you read that right: waiting more than 24 hours.
Not Bad Enough Yet?
As if the thought of your injured love one waiting and waiting for an ambulance, and then waiting and waiting for a hospital bed is not proof enough that Queensland’s health system is in trouble, then consider the harrowing situation at Queensland’s spinal care unit.
Patients here have serious spinal injury which can leave them facing life-long quadriplegia or tetraplegia. Early intervention is considered vital to getting the best possible outcomes.
Qlder of the Year Blows Whistle
According to former Queenslander of the Year and Emergency Doctor, Dr Dinesh Palipana, in a letter to the Health Minister:
“it is my understanding that there are over 40 patients in Queensland awaiting a spinal injury bed.”
18 Months Before Spinal Care
They languish in Intensive Care Units where they cannot receive the treatment they need. Not only is this bad for them, it is also an incorrect use of our intensive care beds.
Dr Palipana told the Health Minister that in the USA “the transition is achieved in 6 to 12 weeks, whereas we see numbers over six months, up to even 18 months.”
Dr Palipana suffered a spinal injury himself during a car accident, and has been a patient at the spinal injury unit. He is now confined to a wheelchair. He knows what he is talking about and I commend him for his courage in speaking out. It gave strength to other patients and their families who have told the Courier Mail of harrowing experiences in the Unit.
It has been described as dank and depressing. Former Wallabies coach John Connolly was a patient at the unit for nine months after breaking his neck in an accident in 2021. He told the Courier Mail that he has helped to raise over $80,000 to supply about 90 iPads and TVs to the Spinal Unit and the Mental Health Unit at PA for patient use.
Where Are They?
However, a year on they are apparently still sitting in storage with no confirmed installation date.
Bad Times and Horrible Times
Worse still were the stories which show how under-resourced the unit is with patients feeling they lacked dignified treatment. One mother showed the Courier Mail a heartbreaking letter she had written to the Health Minister regarding her 17 year old son. He had tetraplegia and was totally dependent on others for his care. He was left lying in his own faeces for two hours. After he was cleaned and dressed he was placed back in the soiled bed.
No Response from Minister
Astonishingly, neither had received a response from the Health Minister so the LNP raised these issues in the House. After unsatisfactory responses, John-Paul Langbroek asked the Premier if it was time for Minister Yvette D’Ath to resign. This is the custom when Ministers take responsibility, even when they are not personally responsible.
The Premier’s answer was short, clear and revealing.
“N-O,” she said, and sat down satisfied.
By Thursday the minister had announced an “urgent probe” into the Spinal Care Unit and flagged a possible relocation of the unit to the Surgical Treatment and Rehabilitation Service at Herston. Let’s pray for some genuine outcomes and hope this is not just for appearances.
New Relaxed Drug Laws
Meanwhile Queensland’s new relaxed drug laws went through on Thursday. These relate to drug possession for personal use, not drug dealers.
The new approach is described as an expansion of the Police Drug Diversion Program. In the first instance, the offender will be issued a warning. On the second and third occasions they will be offered a drug diversion program through Queensland Health. On the fourth occasion they will be charged, but even then they may not have a conviction recorded.
Aim is Diversion
Currently, nearly 70 % of such offenders are young males, aged 24 or younger. Only 10 % are considered addicts, with the remainder classified as recreational users. The aim is to divert them away from drugs before they develop serious issues or a criminal record.
Qld’s Drug Problem
I have written before about Queensland’s drug problem and the impact it has on workplace safety, child safety, domestic violence, mental health and youth crime. It is a problem in the regions as well as SEQ.
Different Drugs Treated the Same
While this new approach sounds very positive, my concern is that the new laws treat Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 drugs the same. The approach will apply regardless of whether the drug is cannabis, MDMA, Cocaine, Heroin or Ice.
20,000 New Places?
Given that about 20,000 people are caught in possession each year, I am also concerned that there will not be drug diversion places available when needed.
Can’t Measure Impairment
The same sitting of parliament was told by the Transport Minister this week that medicinal cannabis users have been asking for a review of restrictions on driving, but the technology to measure the level of driver impairment in the way we do for alcohol is simply not available.
Thin Blue Line
At least the new approach should free up some police for other duties. You will recall that the Palaszczuk Government promised to recruit an extra 1450 police officers, above attrition, by 2025. So far, they’ve managed just 92.
This week the Police Minister moved new laws in the House on Wednesday to create a new category of police officers. To be known as “Special Constables”, it will allow retired police officers to return to the beat beyond the mandatory retirement age of 60.
God knows we need them, given the Minister’s recruitment strategy is failing. And the special constable will bring years of experience with them. Now it is a matter of how many will want to come back.
Digital Licences in 2024
The Transport Minister told the House that Digital Licences will be a reality for Queenslanders in 2024. This will apply to all Drivers and Marine Licences.
Importantly, it will be optional and you will be able to retain your card-style licence if you choose.
The digital licence will be an app-based licence and will be rolled out after a second trial of the system in Townsville, following an initial trial on the Fraser Coast. This will get underway shortly. You can find out more by clicking on this link.
Good news for wine and spirit lovers. From November 1, 2023, glass wine and spirit bottles will be able to be returned for a ten cent refund through the Containers for Change Scheme.
Mixed glass collected for recycling remains a problem, so including these glass bottles in the Container for Change Scheme will make recycling easier. It was always a strange omission.
Labor Loves Coal?
Treasurer Cameron Dick gave the coal industry fulsome praise in a ministerial statement on Wednesday. He told the House about “Queensland’s proud resources industry.” It was, he said, “an industry steeped in history, one that has shaped families, towns, communities and the way of life for so many in Queensland.
“The Palaszczuk Labor Government has never taken these communities for granted and we never will… Queensland’s coal industry and coal communities have a strong future for decades to come…”
ACTU Wants to run the Shut Down
It was very strange piece of theatre until you joined the dots to the ACTU’s call this week for the Albanese government to establish an Energy Transition Authority to plan and manage the closure of Australia’s 18 remaining coal-fired power stations.
It was even less convincing given the Premier’s ministerial statement the previous day about visiting Australia’s largest solar farm west of Dalby to watch the last solar panel being installed.
Environmental Risk Comes into Focus
One of the troubling aspects of our rush to renewables, is vast solar and wind farms are not actually good for the environment. The message is getting through to some people with global giant Apple pulling out of a take-off agreement with the Upper Burdekin windfarm near Ingham after environmentalists uncovered the amount of habitat loss it will create.
Agriculture at Risk Too
Agriculture is also at risk. When you visit the Business Queensland portal for proponents of renewable energy projects, strategic cropping land protections are not even listed as a consideration. I have lodged a Question on Notice with Deputy Premier Miles to try and ascertain if it is a consideration at any stage in the approvals process.
Boulia Flood Assistance Extended
The application period for Queensland victims of flooding in the North West have been extended for the Boulia Shire.
All affected residents are encouraged to call the Community Recovery Hotline on 1800 173 349 or visit www.qld.gov.au/disasterhelp to check their eligibility and other avenues of support.
For more information on loans for primary producers, small business and not-for-profits, phone the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority on 1800 623 946 or visit www.qrida.qld.gov.au.
If I can be of any assistance, do not hesitate to call my offices on the numbers given below.
7,300 Flu Cases So Far
Finally, flu shots are rolling out now to local pharmacies and GPs. There have been 7,300 cases in Queensland already this year.
Queenslander’s eligible for the government-funded influenza vaccine can access it from their doctor or immunisation provider from today.
Those eligible for the funded vaccine are:
- pregnant women during any stage of pregnancy
- persons 65 years of age or older
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children aged 6 months to 5 years
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people 15 years of age or older
- persons 6 months of age or older who have certain medical conditions which increase the risk of influenza disease complications.
All other Queenslanders can purchase the vaccine from their doctor, immunisation provider or local pharmacist.
Thanks For Reading
That’s all from me. If you have an issue to raise or comment to make you can simply reply to this email and it will find me.
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You can email at [email protected] or ring me: Longreach 07 4521 5700 or Emerald 07 4913 1000. You can find me on the web at lachlanmillarmp.com. You can also find me on Facebook at Lachlan Millar MP.
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Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory
Assistant to the Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Assistant Minister for Western Queensland
Deputy Chair – Queensland Parliamentary Transport and Resources Committee