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The COVID-19 pandemic has, as we all know, presented us with the challenge of rebuilding our economy and creating employment. Inevitably, this has reopened the perennial debate about immigration and population policy. These are legitimate issues for us as a nation to tackle, but we must be very clear that the debate should not descend into xenophobia or scapegoating.

Australia's unemployment rate reached 6.2 per cent in April, and is expected to grow even higher. There is hope that many people will be able to return to their jobs once the worst of the crisis has passed and re- strictions are eased, but we also know that realistically, this won't be the case for everyone.

It is simplistic to say, however, that migration should automatically be reduced as a response to high unemployment. As the history of Australia's social and economic development has shown, a well- managed migration policy actually helps to build our economy and create jobs. Australian nationhood has been built on migration. The various components of our migration program are central to our economic, social and cultural future, whether it is addressing skill shortages through skilled migration, enabling family reunion, or resettling refugees in urgent need of safety and security. Of course we must craft our migration program in a way that ensures access to jobs for current Australians citizens and residents.

We need to find ways to again welcome international students, to help rebuild our vital education export industry. These students are important not just economically for our university sector, but provide an important opportunity for Australia to build cultural links and to support the development of other nations in our region by building intellectual capital and capacity.

It may be necessary to readjust our migration intake in the short term, to accommodate for local employment needs, but our response should be measured, informed and developed within a vision for our nation’s long term future.

We also need to be un- ambiguously clear that an immigration program is quite a separate is- sue from multicultural- ism. As community leaders, we have a responsibility to demonstrate to the nation that, while we can review our immigration policy according to our social and economic needs, racial intolerance, abuse and discrimination are NEVER acceptable. Regardless of who might become Australian in the future, our national identity and social cohesion depends on how all those living in Australia today are treated. We must condemn the reported incidents of abuse and harassment of Asian Australians and international students in recent weeks. While people are clearly frightened by the disease, and frustrated by the impact of restrictions, there is no excuse for vilifying anybody on the basis of race, ethnicity or appearance. Multiculturalism has been built in this country over many decades, and is central to our social cohesion.

Our recovery from the pandemic will depend very much on both building our economy, and maintaining our national unity and inclusiveness.

It is inspiring to see the generosity from our community shine once again.

It is wonderful to see community members coming together and helping out vulnerable residents during this time of uncertainty.

If you or someone you know is in need, reach out to Dal Baba Bidhi Chand Ji Khalsa Darbar, Mickleham Melbourne on their Facebook page or give them a call on 0433 573 785.

Let's help out each other however we can during these times.

 

And we’re back! This week my office moved back to Broadmeadows, setting up our new electorate office in Town Hall Broadmeadows.

Our new address is:

Level 2, Office 1, Town Hall Broadmeadows
14 Dimboola Road
Broadmeadows

Once we open up again for face-to-face meetings, you’ll be able to visit us through Entry B from the parking and Entry C on Dimboola Road.

In the meantime, my office is still here to help you through email and phone.

Due to the federal redistribution, my electorate office is now located in Craigieburn. You can visit me and my staff at:

Shop EOO - 48 Craigieburn Central Shopping Centre, 340 Craigieburn Road, Craigieburn. The phone number is the same - (03) 9367 5216. I look forward to meeting with you all and talking with all the people up in Melbourne's north of Craigieburn.

Important update from the Commonwealth Government.

A second stimulus package of $66 billion has been announced to support workers and households. See details below.

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Coronavirus supplement:

The Government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight. This will be paid to both existing and new recipients of the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.

The Coronavirus supplement will be paid for the next 6 months. Eligible income support recipients will receive the full amount of the $550 Coronavirus supplement on top of their payment each fortnight.

This measure is estimated to cost $14.1 billion over the forward estimates period.

An increase of up to 5,000 staff for Services Australia will assist to support delivery of new Government measures.

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Payments to support households:

In addition to the $750 stimulus payment announced on 12 March 2020, the Government will provide a further $750 payment to social security and veteran income support recipients and eligible concession card holders, except for those who are receiving an income support payment that is eligible to receive the Coronavirus supplement.

This second payment will be made automatically from 13 July 2020 to around 5 million social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. Around half of those that benefit are pensioners.

The first payment will be made from 31 March 2020 to people who will have been on one of the eligible payments any time between 12 March 2020 and 13 April 2020.

This measure is estimated to cost $4 billion over the forward estimates period.

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Early release of superannuation:

The Government will allow individuals in financial stress as a result of the Coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21.

Eligible individuals will be able to apply online through myGov for access of up to $10,000 of their superannuation before 1 July 2020. They will also be able to access up to a further $10,000 from 1 July 2020 for another three months. They will not need to pay tax on amounts released and the money they withdraw will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.

This measure is estimated to cost $1.2 billion over the forward estimates period.

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Temporarily reduce superannuation minimum drawdown rates:

The Government is temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account based pensions and similar products by 50 per cent for 2019-20 and 2020-21. This measure will benefit retirees by providing them with more flexibility as to how they manage their superannuation assets.

Reducing social security deeming rates
On top of the deeming rate changes made at the time of the first package, the Government is reducing the deeming rates by a further 0.25 percentage points to reflect the latest rate reductions by the RBA.

As of 1 May 2020, the lower deeming rate will be 0.25 per cent and the upper deeming rate will be 2.25 per cent.

The change will benefit around 900,000 income support recipients, including Age Pensioners.

This measure is estimated to cost $876 million over the forward estimates period.

Gambling and the use of pokies machines is a growing area of expenditure for locals in Calwell, with over $300,000 spent on pokies per day in the Hume area.  The serious effects of gambling not only impact the finances of an individual, but are also seen through the loss of physical and mental health, relationships, work performance and self-esteem.

The consequences of gambling affect the individual and those around them, yet this is still an issue that is hidden and not often spoken about in the community.

The Federal Government today announced new ways to stay informed about the latest official medical and safety advice straight from the government.

Download the Coronavirus Australia app from the Apple App Store or on Google Play, or connect with the Australian Government on WhatsApp to say up-to-date with the latest information.

You will be able to use the Coronavirus Australia app to:
📌 Get the latest official advice
📌 Check your symptoms
📌 Get a snapshot of the status of the Coronavirus in Australia
📌 Contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Line
📌 Receive push notifications for urgent information and immediate advice

Download from the Apple App Store: https://apps.apple.com/…/app/coronavirus-austr…/id1503846231

Download from Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details…

Connect with the Australian Government on WhatsApp: http://aus.gov.au/whatsapp

A big congratulations to Niketa Loftus for her well deserved accolade as a Westfield Local Hero. Niketa works incredibly hard in the Calwell community making sure our girls from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and socio-economically disadvantaged families get a change to play netball. 

I'm so proud of the work that Niketa does in creating an inclusive and safe Calwell community and making sure our girls get an opportunity to play sport and be healthy. 

Above: Niketa Loftus with Maria Vamvakinou MP.