June news: pill testing win, film screening, neighbourhood events & more

28 Jun 2024

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Community, News, Parliament

Hi, here are my latest updates from Parliament and around the Brunswick electorate (Brunswick, Brunswick East, Brunswick West, Fitzroy North, Princes Hill & Carlton North).

In this month’s newsletter:

  • Pill testing win!
  • Join me in the fight against new offshore gas in Victoria
  • Standing up for renters and public housing
  • And more…

Missed last month’s newsletter? You can find it here if you’d like to read about solar for apartments, accessible tram stops, what was in the budget for Brunswick, and more.

Want to get these updates delivered straight to your inbox? Enter your email at the bottom of this page.

Victoria to get pill testing!

I was thrilled this week to hear that the Victorian government has finally agreed to bring pill testing to our state.

The Greens and I campaigned for this for years – in fact, pill testing was the subject of the first bill I ever brought to parliament, back in 2019. With support from other members of the progressive crossbench, medical experts, and many of you who signed petitions and wrote to your MPs, Victoria is finally catching up with other governments around Australia and the world who recognise that pill testing will save lives.

The government’s plan looks a lot like the Greens’ original bill, with mobile testing at festivals and a fixed site trial. And I’m hopeful that a fixed site drug checking unit might be used by heroin users to check that the heroin they’ve bought does not contain more lethal drugs like nitazenes or fentanyl, which are beginning to enter the Australian drug market. So there will be more to say on drug harm reduction soon.

Gas extraction near the Twelve Apostles

Now for some bad news: as of this month, the Victorian Labor government’s new gas project near the 12 Apostles has officially started. Fossil gas is now flowing 24/7 from just outside Port Campbell. As I pointed out in my speech in Parliament, despite the claims of the major parties and the gas lobby, it’s clear that the only role gas has to play these days is to delay the energy transition while cooking our planet and enriching fossil fuel bosses.

It’s the first gas extraction licence to be approved in Victoria in a decade – and unfortunately, it’s just the beginning. Labor also plans to allow whale-deafening seismic blasting for offshore gas exploration later this year. Seismic blasting is the first step in oil and gas exploration, and poses a significant threat to our marine life and ecosystems. If these projects proceed, it will be years, even decades, until the gas comes online. We should be investing in renewable energy sources, not mining the fragile and biodiverse Southern Ocean for unnecessary fossil fuels.

We’re not going to stand by and let this happen without a fight. So let’s get together and make a plan to stop Labor’s new gas projects. Please join me, Samantha Ratnam, and campaigners from Surfrider Foundation and OCEAN at a screening and discussion of Southern Blast, an important film from the Surfrider Foundation that sheds light on one of Australia’s most urgent climate threats, and hear how our community can work together to protect our seas and our climate.

Federal vaping agreement

In federal news, I was also happy to see that the Greens and Labor agreed this week to make vapes available behind the counter at pharmacies for vapers aged eighteen and over, rather than the Albanese government’s previous plan to require everyone to obtain six-monthly prescriptions to get a vape.

Vapes will only be available in plain packaging and only a few flavours will be allowed. We know prohibition doesn’t work, and our GPs are already overloaded. The challenge is to design a supply system that discourages teens from taking up nicotine vaping but doesn’t set up so many barriers that vapers are driven to the black market or to smoking.

So it’s good to see this sensible agreement driven by my federal Greens counterparts to put more structure and regulation around this growing issue without punishing users. Only time will tell if we’ve got the right balance, and there may be further adjustment required.

Parliament roundup

Parliament is currently on winter break for most of July. I must admit it’s a much-needed rest – there has been a lot going on! 

During the last sitting week, I asked the government what they’re doing to fill vacant public housing in my electorate, talked about how we should be approaching the energy transition (and it doesn’t include nuclear), objected to Labor’s new gas project near the Twelve Apostles, gave my speech responding to Labor’s disappointing state budget, introduced the Greens’ amendments to the government’s integrity bill, tried to move a motion to acknowledge the slaughter in Palestine (leave denied of course), and spoke for 47 seconds against the state government’s privatisation agenda until the clock cut me off. 

My colleagues and I will be back next month, well-rested and ready to keep fighting for our planet, renters, public housing residents, everyone struggling with the cost of living, and for more liveable neighbourhoods in Brunswick and beyond.

Fighting for renters

Sharing renters’ anonymous stories on the steps of Parliament this month.

I was pleased to speak with Vanessa Gatica from 3ZZZ Melbourne Ethnic Community Radio and The Wire about our Homes Not Hotels campaign to regulate short stays like AirBnB to free up homes for renters. If you’re interested, you can listen to my interview or read the transcript here

I also spoke again about the rental crisis in parliament recently, highlighting the story of one young renter who recently copped a 30% rent increase despite the fact that her apartment has a serious mould problem that the landlord has refused to address. 

The state government is currently running a consultation on proposed new minimum standards for rentals, including energy efficiency and safety standards. These would be good changes, but won’t do much until the government stops letting landlords get away with unlimited rent increases and no-grounds evictions. If you can, please make a quick submission to this consultation and tell the government what renters really need. You can have your say here until 1 July 2024. 

Rally for accessible tram stops on Sydney Road

It was good to join federal and local Greens candidates, disability and public transport advocates, and hundreds of community members on a sunny Saturday morning to highlight the state government’s continued failure to build accessible tram stops on Sydney Road. This action capped off the most recent push by the Sydney Road Accessible Tram Stops community group, following last month’s parliamentary debate on a community petition sponsored by Samantha Ratnam (you can read more about this in my May newsletter). 

It’s unacceptable that 5.5 kilometres of Sydney Road are still inaccessible to people with disabilities and mobility restraints. We will keep pushing the Labor government to fulfil their legal and moral obligation to make our public transport truly public and accessible to all.

Visiting Carlton Farmers Market with Adam Bandt

If you did your shopping at Carlton Farmers Market earlier this month, you might have run into me or Adam Bandt while picking up your fresh flowers and sourdough loaf. We had a delightful time chatting to local residents about everything from AirBnBs to school funding, alongside Yarra Greens candidates Sophie Wade, Edward Crossland and Thibaut Clamart.

Community BBQ at Barkly St public housing

It was a privilege to host a community BBQ alongside my Greens colleague Samantha Ratnam earlier this month at Brunswick’s only public housing high-rise on Barkly St. 

We spoke with residents about the Victorian Labor government’s plans to knock down all 44 public housing towers in the state, displacing over 10,000 residents – including the older residents at the Barkly St tower, which caters for people 55 and over.You can watch Samantha and I talking about our visit here, and print & sign our paper petition to save public housing here (or swing by my office to sign our copy).

What’s on in the neighbourhood

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have noticed that I regularly post events and opportunities that are happening in the Brunswick area. Here’s my most recent post where you can find out about events and opportunities like the Drag Queen Disco Formal, Bush Tucker with Aunty Jo, Yarra & Merri-bek Libraries school holiday programs, and more. And you can always email me to suggest other events and opportunities you’d like me to share.

Thanks for getting this far! Remember, if there’s anything you want to raise with me, you can always get in touch with my office on [email protected] or (03) 9384 1241.

Until next time,


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