This month my team and I marked one year representing and supporting the Mackellar community in federal parliament. It's been a year where I have negotiated, campaigned and pushed for local and national outcomes that benefit our climate, environment, health and strengthen our community. Thank you Mackellar for putting your trust in me – it’s an honour to represent our wonderful community in Canberra. We’ve achieved a lot but there’s still more to be done! View my one year in one minute here.
As we enter another week in Parliament, this sitting period has seen a hive of activity and debate around critical issues relevant to you. I have spoken in the House on behalf of around three million Australians - mostly young people - who as of June 1 will see their HECS and HELP debt soar due to inflation. This is unacceptable and fuels the growing problem of intergenerational inequality.
I’m also pushing to end the logging of native forests and am calling on the Federal Government to follow Victoria’s lead on this issue. The Environment Minister can and must immediately remove exemptions within the EPBC Act for Regional Forestry Agreements. See my full statement here.
Among Parliament's many issues this month, I also supported the Bill to ban gambling advertising, spoke in support of the Voice to Parliament, joined a roundtable with WWF, the Australian Food and Grocery Council, Minderoo Foundation and Boomerang Alliance on solving the soft plastics crisis and progressed action on my 'Ending Jobs for Mates' Bill. I'll be conducting my regular Zoom Parliamentary Update live from Canberra on Monday 5 June and welcome your questions – more details below.
Now, let’s dive into more of the latest news!
Dr Sophie Scamps
Submission to the Select Committee on Cost of Living
The people of Mackellar, along with Australians across the country, are experiencing distress due to the rising cost of living. The findings of my Mackellar Community Survey showed cost of living as one of the top national issues of concern for Mackellar constituents. Please read my submission to the Select Committee on Cost of Living on behalf of the people of Mackellar here.
Why we need my ‘Ending Jobs for Mates’ Bill
The recent appointment of Kathryn Campbell, the former head of the Dept. of Human Services during the Robodebt era to a $900,000 per-year AUKUS advisor role appears to be yet another example of a lack of transparency and independence of the Commonwealth appointment process. According to FOI documents, the position was not advertised and was created on the same day Ms Campbell lost her role as the Secretary of the Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade. My ‘Ending Jobs for Mates’ Bill seeks to legislate a transparent and independent process for major government public appointments. View my media statement on Ms Campbell’s appointment here. And watch my webinar discussion with The Australia Institute on Ending the Jobs for Mates Culture here.
It's time to ban gambling ads
I was proud to support the Independent Member for Goldstein Zoe Daniel as she tabled her Private Member's Bill to ban gambling advertising. The issue of pervasive gambling advertising is a public health issue and should be treated as such. Our children deserve to be protected and Zoe has led the way to ensure sensible legislation is at the forefront of our national conversation. We need urgent action from both sides of the aisle. View my statement here.
Supporting the Voice
Australia is still failing to hit more than two-thirds of Closing the Gap targets, so it’s clear something has to change. The Voice to Parliament is a gracious invitation to all Australians to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on a journey of respect and healing. I look forward to sharing information and answering your questions about the Voice referendum in the coming months. As I said in my speech in Parliament, Australia has undergone many significant societal changes in the past - women’s suffrage, Indigenous land rights and marriage equality. These changes did not harm our society as some feared but have instead led to greater understanding and equality.
View my speech here.
My call to action on HECS & HELP debts
As of June 1, over three million Australians, mostly young people, will be hit with a 7.1% indexation hike on HECS and HELP debt due to the high inflation rate. For many, this means that after a year of paying back their debt - the amount they owe at the end of the year will be higher than at the start. This is not how HECS was intended to operate.
Our young people are working hard to get ahead, but, amid cost-of-living pressures, the unreliable gig economy and the impossible rental and housing market right now, this extra cost is an unfair additional burden. I spoke in Parliament to call on the Government to urgently consider pausing indexation prior to the 1 June indexation date. Longer term, the Government must consider capping the indexation rate so that young people are never put in this situation again. View my speech here.
Out and about
During the last two sitting weeks in Parliament I attended many events, briefings and insightful presentations from important groups and individuals. It’s challenging to capture them all but one of the highlights was a visit from St Martin’s Catholic School in Davidson. It was such a pleasure to meet these wonderful and enthusiastic young students and to answer their questions. Additional highlights included: speaking to Kerry O’Brien and Thomas Mayo at the launch of their book The Voice to Parliament, speaking with Julian Assange’s wife Stella and his father John Shipton, meeting young Indigenous Australians accepted into this year’s Indigenous Marathon Program, and joining Helen Haines MP at the book launch of The Indi Way: How a rural community sparked a social and political movement.
Cottage Point visit
My thanks to Jon Russell, Commander, Cottage Point Rural Fire Brigade and Tony Gordon, Unit Commander Marine Rescue Cottage Point, for spending the morning with me on and off the water at Cottage Point this weekend. Both Jon and Tony expressed how vital reliable mobile phone coverage and internet access is to the work they do. It is inconceivable that the Cottage Point community is still waiting for secure mobile phone and internet access to their area after so many years. Poor mobile phone reception poses great risk to the many residents and visitors who visit the area each year. I have called for the Communications Minister to urgently intervene in this matter. See here.
Recognising our local volunteers
As part of National Volunteer Week this month, I was honoured to recognise many local volunteers who give their time to support so many within our community – catching people when we fall through the gaps or are in distress, protecting our environment for future generations, mentoring young people to learn life and leadership skills, teaching new skills and creating joy and vibrancy in our lives.
Marking ‘One year in office’
To mark my first year as the first Independent MP for Mackellar, my team and I held a celebration with our wonderful volunteers and supporters at Mona Vale Bowling Club. With everyone dressed in hues of blue it was a festive gathering fuelled with optimism and positivity. The celebration allowed me to recap the achievements we’ve worked towards during the past year and to communicate the priorities and challenges we face as we move forward. It was also a great opportunity to thank the many amazing individuals who give their time and efforts to assist me and my team!
Mackellar Youth Partnership Program
Our second session of the Mackellar Youth Partnership Program delved into the creation of Australia’s first national framework on wellbeing as part of the consultation on the Measuring What Matters Statement. We were joined on Zoom by Taylor Hawkins, Managing Director of Foundations for Tomorrow, which advocates for a 'partnerships and collaboration' focused approach for a more equitable and sustainable future, with leadership from young Australians. The students provided constructive and articulate feedback during the session, and a submission has been sent to Treasury on their behalf. This opportunity provided a good example of how people can be involved in their democracy far more extensively than just voting on election day.
Discussion on renewables and the latest from Canberra
Join me for a special discussion in this month's Parliamentary Update on renewables, following the recent Budget announcements. I’ll share with you the politics of the day, the latest news from Canberra and my personal, firsthand analysis of what’s going on behind the media headlines. It’s a two-way conversation so feel free to ask me questions in the chat. I look forward to talking to you on Monday 5 June at 6pm. Register to get your Zoom link.
Facebook Live: Q&A
Join me on a live Facebook Q&A hosted by Northern Beaches Mums. I’ll be talking about my experiences, achievements, insights and the challenges I’ve faced during my first year as your Independent MP for Mackellar. It’s a great opportunity for us to connect and you’re invited to ask me questions so I can address the items you'd like to talk about. It’s free to join and runs online on Wednesday 7 June from 8pm – 9pm. View details and RSVP here.
Grants for artists and creative groups
Calling all local artists and creative organisations! The Australian Council for the Arts is offering a range of grants and opportunities. Their support programs include Fellowships through to a Creative Climate Leadership initiative and funding for new visual arts and craft commissions. There are six key programs on offer but applications must be received by Tuesday 6 June. View more details here.
Grant opportunity for community groups and not-for-profits
The IMB Bank Community Foundation is offering funding to a diverse range of community groups including school, sporting, charity and volunteer organisations, with an overarching goal of improving outcomes for our local communities and the people living in them. Grants have previously been allocated as seed funding to get a great idea off the ground, or as the means to expand an existing community project. Applications are now open until Friday 16 June. Find out more here.
Have Your Say
Community battery for Warriewood
While it’s great news the Federal Government has announced funding for a community battery in Warriewood, it’s clear that ongoing community consultation by Ausgrid is required to find an appropriate location.
I look forward to working with the community and Ausgrid to find a suitable solution. I encourage you to have your say on this proposal here by 31 May.
Fuel Efficiency Standard Consultation
The Federal Government is seeking your feedback on the design of a fuel efficiency standard. On average new cars in Australia use 40% more fuel than in the EU and 20% more than in the US. The reason is that, along with Russia, we are one of only two developed nations without a fuel efficiency standard. Fuel efficiency standards incentivise global vehicle manufacturers to supply cleaner, greener vehicles to Australia – and penalise them for failing to do so. This is a way for owners to reduce fuel costs and support our net zero emissions target by 2050. To learn about the consultation process and provide a submission, please view here. Submissions close 31 May.
Sophie in the Media
The Newcastle Herald
The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Get in touch
If there is an issue you would like to raise with me or something our electorate team can help you with, please email [email protected]. Also don’t forget to follow me on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.