Jenny Leong speaks in Parliament on Police Accountability and Excessive Violence, on 01 June 2023:
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (18:21): Tonight I address the serious and distressing incidences of excessive police use of force that have occurred in the past few weeks. A 95-year-old resident of a palliative care home tragically died after being tasered twice by a New South Wales police officer. A 41-year-old man died after being shot four times by New South Wales police in the middle of the day on Sydney's lower North Shore. Those are not isolated incidents. In 2012 a young man died after he was tasered 14 times, including seven times within 51 seconds, in Sydney's CBD. A court heard that the New South Wales police officers involved used "unnecessary, excessive and unlawful force". In 2020 a distressed 81-year-old dementia patient was forcibly handcuffed by police at their Sydney nursing home. Police aggression and violence has repeatedly and systemically targeted First Nations people and communities.
In my electorate of Newtown, TJ Hickey was 17 when he died while fleeing a police patrol car on his bicycle in Waterloo in 2004. Every year at the rally commemorating his death and marching for justice, the chants cry out, "They say accident; we say murder!" Mark Mason was capsicum sprayed, tasered and then shot dead by police in his home in 2010. Rebecca Maher was arrested for public intoxication in 2016 and, instead of being taken home or to hospital, was taken to a police cell where she died. Patrick Fisher died in 2018, again in my electorate, after falling from the thirteenth-floor balcony of a housing block in Waterloo, Sydney, while being pursued by New South Wales police.
I say some of their names in this Chamber because we cannot talk about police violence and police brutality without also fighting for First Nations justice. As we marched to insist that black lives matter, the First Nations activists and Elders and the thousands who marched with them in those rallies would call out, "Say Their Name!" We say their names to remember that they have died and there has been no justice, there has been no peace and that there are, sadly and tragically, too many racist police. There are clear and systemic issues with the excessive use of force by the police, the excessive powers the police are given by people in this Chamber and the excessive harm it causes in our community.
At least 474 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in police or prison custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and yet not a single officer has ever been found guilty of murder. Time and again police investigate police, with little or no consequences ever faced, while their powers continue to grow. Whether it is the ongoing criminalisation of protest, attempts to police our way out of a pandemic or the overuse of sniffer dogs and searches, police continue to be handed a huge amount of expanded powers without any of the desperately needed oversight or accountability.
When there is no accountability, the consequences are enormous. Many First Nations people and people who experience racism understandably do not feel safe coming forward to police. Many who experience sexual assault and domestic violence do not feel comfortable reporting it to police. Many young people and people from migrant communities, who grow up seeing those communities overpoliced, grow up with an innate distrust of the institution that we are repeatedly told is there to keep us safe.
The endless increases in police powers and police numbers are not making our communities safer; what would make our communities safer is stopping the endless increases in funding and the boosting of resources to police, and instead re-investing that money in more community and social services, more housing and more programs, and ensuring that there is proper, independent and fully resourced oversight of police and their actions. There is no place for tasers or guns in responding to people who are in crisis. There is no place for police chases that are so aggressive that they result in death. But we will not see an end to that until we put an end to police investigating police, and until there is a genuine commitment to ending deaths in custody and to respecting and upholding every person's human rights.
Jenny Leong Pays Tribute to Dr Anthony Pun in Parliament, on 01 June 2023:
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (16:39): I acknowledge the passing of Dr Anthony Pun, the founding president of the Chinese Community Council of Australia and a founding member of the Chinese Australian Forum, and express my deepest sympathies to his family and friends for their loss. During his lifetime Dr Pun served as the president of the Australian Chinese Community Association of NSW and chair of the Ethnic Communities' Council of NSW. A three‑time recipient of the Premier's award for community service, last year Dr Pun received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in medicine, services to the Australian‑Chinese community and dedication to multiculturalism. Since his passing many have written about Tony's involvement in the promotion of Australia‑China relations since the early 1980s, particularly his powerful contribution in 1989, when he advocated to Prime Minister Hawke to allow Chinese students to remain in Australia following the Tiananmen Square massacre. Tony remained a vocal advocate in his later years, continuing to stand up for Chinese Australians subjected to racism. On 29 May many gathered at Dr Pun's funeral in a show of respect and appreciation for his contribution and the influence he had on them and our society.
Jenny Leong speaks in Parliament on Gambling Reform, on 01 June 2023:
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (15:46): On behalf of The Greens I speak in debate on the motion moved by the member for North Shore, and I wish to raise significant concerns about this debate. It appears we have gone from discussing the serious harms of gambling, poker machines and money laundering to a political point-scoring exercise between the Government and the Opposition. It has become a contest of who we are commending, who we are condemning and who we are moving on. Instead, we ought to be recognising that we have a responsibility to act to address gambling harm and money laundering. From that point of view, I thank the member for North Shore for putting the issue of poker machine reform on the agenda and allowing members to have this debate. It is critical for members to examine the impact of gambling harm. In keeping with the comments of the member for North Shore about focusing on the main game of reform, I will move a Greens amendment that will seek to bring us all together, instead of scoring political points, to recognise that all members of this House have a responsibility to act. I move:
That the amendment of Mr Harris be amended by omitting all words after "That" and inserting instead "this House recognises that every Member in the Parliament has a responsibility to act to end gambling harm and money laundering."
It is the view of The Greens that we must work through this problem to address all of the pressures and influence that we have seen from the clubs industry, the gambling industry, organised crime and money laundering. We have seen how gambling harm preys on our communities and how it corrupts our politics. I am proud to be a member of The Greens, which is the only political party represented in this place that does not take corporate donations or donations from gambling or the clubs industry. But the reality is that the gambling industry continues to wreak ongoing damage on our communities while reaping massive profits from poker machines and an enormous personal toll is taken on individuals and families who are experiencing profound financial stress.
Over the past 30 years, poker machines have taken $135 billion from people in New South Wales. The machines are designed to draw people in and addict them, and the families that can least afford it are being hardest hit by the pain. The Greens and the other crossbench members are clear on this. It seems that every member in the Chamber sees clearly that we must act to address the harm that is being caused by pokies in our communities. Through our willingness to act, we can demonstrate that we are not addicted to political point‑scoring in the way so many in our communities are addicted to poker machines. We can demonstrate that here and now by taking responsibility for ending gambling harm and money laundering. The Greens want to see a whole lot more. I recognise that the member for Murray is in the Chamber.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Clayton Barr): Order! There is too much audible conversation in the Chamber.
Ms JENNY LEONG: The member for Murray has made a significant commitment to reform, as have many members on the crossbench. The member for Sydney, like The Greens, has made an absolute commitment to reform in this space. The Greens want the introduction of a cashless gambling card. We want pubs and clubs to pay for the harm they cause with pokies. We want to phase out poker machines in pubs within five years and in clubs within 10 years. The Greens are committed to mandatory statewide cashless gambling cards in all pubs and clubs. We need to reduce gambling harm in so many ways. This is not the time to score political points and create division; it is time to show unity. All members in this place have the responsibility to act when it comes to ending gambling harm and money laundering.
Jenny Leong speaks in Parliament on the First Home Buyer Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, on 30 May 2023:
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (21:55): The Greens support the First Home Buyer Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. While The Greens want to see an equitable transition from stamp duty to a broad-based, progressive land tax, that is not what the First Home Buyer Choice scheme amounts to. Thanks to our Greens colleagues in the Australian Capital Territory, who helped to shepherd in a landmark stamp duty reform in collaboration with the Territory Labor Government, we know what genuine reform in this area looks like. The First Home Buyer Choice scheme is simply not it.
The inquiry secured by The Greens in the upper House when the scheme was first introduced by the previous Liberal-Nationals Government showed us that the First Home Buyer Choice scheme was neither a housing affordability measure nor an equitable transition away from stamp duty to land tax. So what was it? It was little more than a half-baked attempt at housing policy reform that was always intended to be temporary and that the former Coalition Government rushed through in the final sitting weeks before an election. The Greens did not support it as good policy then, and we do not support it now. While we absolutely support long-overdue reforms to stamp duty in this State, and we want that reform to go further towards implementing a progressive land tax system, we cannot have the complex conversation required to do that if we use scare-tactic rhetoric about a forever tax on the home. The Greens and progressive housing tax advocates expect better from Labor, and I hope that as the conversation continues we can leave that kind of rhetoric aside and talk about the big challenges we face in the housing system.
In the past six months since the scheme was introduced, it is reported to have "saved" first home buyers $199.8 million in stamp duty. But to put it another way, the State Government has forfeited almost $200 million to subsidise the private property market. Imagine what that almost $200 million could have done to actually support housing affordability in the midst of a worsening crisis. We could have built new public housing. We could have refurbished existing public housing dwellings that are currently uninhabitable and therefore sitting empty. We could have provided cost-of-living support for renters struggling to meet their weekly housing costs. The list goes on. Instead, nearly $200 million was used to marginally subsidise the cost of home ownership, predominantly for the slim minority of first home buyers who buy properties worth between $1 million and $1.5 million.
Over the past few weeks we have heard from people in our communities and we have heard concerns being raised within the Newtown electorate and beyond. Understandably people are concerned that rising property prices are making it impossible for them to make the jump to buy a family home near their schools, their public open spaces or their communities. We know that many people are absolutely desperate right now to scrape funds together to purchase a home so that they can escape the completely cooked rental market, even if it means going into massive debt and buying into an overheated property market to do so.
It is clear that the entire private housing system is broken for renters, first home buyers and people with a mortgage across the board. The only ones not suffering now are big investors and property developers who are continuing to profit from other people's desperation and housing insecurity. It is also clear that funding private home ownership is not the solution. Instead, we need to reform rental laws to better protect tenants, offer longer leases, implement rent controls and freeze interest rates now as well as rents. Federally, we need to address tax handouts and concessions. We need to advocate for more than what the Federal Government is investing in funding for public and social housing.
Rental prices have continued to ascend to astronomical heights as vacancy rates have plummeted, painting an incredibly grim picture for people who rent across the State. In their contributions to this debate a number of members have talked about the rental crisis in their areas. I urge members to look at this more closely in the coming weeks when I lead for The Greens and introduce a rent-freeze bill to this Chamber. We can look at putting in place a two-year rent freeze to help ease the pressure on people who are currently facing a rental crisis while we move through the reforms this new Labor Government has introduced that addresses things like ending unfair no‑grounds evictions and other changes that would see a pressure lift on the cost of living.
We need time to get that legislation and those reforms right. I note the Minister for Planning is in the Chamber. He has a vision for how we can increase supply. We need to increase the supply of affordable housing in New South Wales. While we go about working together on that project and ending unfair evictions, putting in place a two-year rent freeze would be a sensible measure. We saw the benefit it had during the pandemic. It is a sensible measure that will take the pressure off families and other people renting right now while we make those legislative changes. Rental prices have continued to increase to astronomical heights. There is cold comfort in the promise of being able to choose between a lump sum, stamp duty and an annual property tax for two-thirds of low-income renters who can barely afford to pay their weekly rent let alone even think about the idea of purchasing their own home.
The Greens support raising the stamp duty exemption threshold in this legislation to $800,000 and the concession threshold to $1 million in recognition of the fact that 84 per cent of first home buyers purchase a home for less than $1 million. We welcome the extension of residents' requirements for first home buyer benefits from six months to 12 months. The Greens will always support closing any loophole that allows investors to reap the benefits that were made for people who intend to live in their homes. We know that the real issue underpinning every debate on housing affordability in this place is the fact that investors and property developers are still making a profit from housing, which should be a universally accessible human right.
Stamp duty may be an old-fashioned tax that we want to see phased out, but it is far from the only barrier that people face when it comes to housing affordability in this State. Stamp duty should never have scrapped at the expense of losing revenue that could have been used to fund real solutions to the housing affordability crisis, like providing public and social housing, and homelessness and crisis services for those who need it most. A healthy tax base that can fund the social services our communities need is one of the best ways to redistribute public wealth, and address inequality and financial disadvantage.
While The Greens absolutely support the bill before us and rejected the so-called First Home Buyer Choice scheme, we recognise that it is important to talk about the idea of a shift from stamp duty to a broad-based progressive and equality-based land tax. But we will never be able to have that very hard and complex debate if we resort to tactics where social media tiles and media grabs start using phrases like "a forever tax on your home". We need to move beyond that. The people of New South Wales expect better from us. We need to find a solution to move forward and we need to have a complex conversation about developers, investors and those who are making a profit out of the insecure housing market that is causing people in our communities so much stress.
The Greens support the bill. We look forward to seeing well-thought out and substantive reforms that deal genuinely with improving housing affordability in this State. We hope that we can move beyond the wedge politics that invokes discussions of forever taxes, nimbys or yimbys. We hope to find a solution that focuses on delivering affordable social housing and significant rental reforms for our communities.
Jenny Leong speaks in Parliament on the International Day of Mourning, on 25 May 2023:
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (12:54): The Greens support the International Day of Mourning motion moved by the Minister for Work Health and Safety, and recognise the significant grief caused to family members and workers when someone dies in a workplace. As we have heard, the International Day of Mourning plays an important role in commemorating workers who have died in workplace incidents or as a result of workplace illnesses, as well as those who have been disabled, injured or made unwell as a result of their work. On 28 April every year, colleagues, friends, family and comrades come together to commemorate their loved ones' lives and share their memories. But we also use this day to reflect on how we can work together across the political divide to prevent these incidents from ever happening in the first place and pledge our solidarity to the collective action of unions and workers to continue the struggle for safe workplaces.
We should never accept that anyone in our community might go to work and not return home or might suffer a long-term illness causing death as a result of their work. But, sadly, too many existing workers in New South Wales are not afforded that dignity. I acknowledge that the past couple of years with the pandemic was a particularly difficult time in terms of work health and safety. The inequity of worker safety was laid bare. While so many of us, including members in this place, were able to safely work from home, many—nurses, paramedics, doctors, teachers, delivery drivers, aged-care workers, hospitality staff and those working in temporary and gig‑related economies—faced significant risks and challenges in their workplaces during that time. Many international students and those on temporary visas had little or no choice but to rely on getting money in unsafe or insecure work. The impacts on them and their families and, in some cases, the tragic consequences of that work, are significant.
It is also important to recognise the failures of governments, particularly in recent times, to provide adequate support and oversight of work health and safety. I acknowledge the fact that I feel a sense of optimism and hope, as I am sure many in the Injured Workers Support Network do—whom the Minister and I met with on a number of occasions—as well as those workers and union members who come together at the memorial that Unions NSW holds every year on or around 28 April to commemorate those who have lost their lives. I acknowledge the fact that there is a sense of optimism that the new Minister will take these issues very seriously. For the past 12 years under the former Liberal‑Nationals Government, putting the interests of workers over the interests of big developers, big construction industries and big corporations and their profits has sadly never been a priority.
I believe that this Minister and this new Minns Labor Government will do exactly that. New South Wales can start the process by legislating to ensure that industrial manslaughter is an offence. I am proud to say that The Greens have been trying to do that through private members' bills for more than two decades. Members may recall Michael Organ, who was for a brief time The Greens member for Cunningham in Federal Parliament. I acknowledge the fact that, when my partner worked as a staffer for him, he drafted The Greens' first private members' bill to try to recognise industrial manslaughter in legislation. I acknowledge the grief and loss that families feel. We all have a responsibility to make sure that everybody is able to return safely home from work.
Jenny Leong responds to racism in the NSW Parliament, on 24 May 2023:
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (16:32): I contribute to this public interest debate and express the dismay that I think the member for Strathfield and others have expressed in relation to the fact that there is very little about this public interest debate that is in the public interest. It is very clear and very disappointing to see in the Chamber today actions that have demonstrated that the intention of Opposition members, as a result of being put on the Opposition benches, is to punch down, attempt to whip up really offensive behaviour, and behave in a way that demonstrates their insecurity at the loss of their power and influence by trying to intimidate and have an impact on other members in the Chamber.
I share solidarity with the member for Strathfield in recognition that my family also worked in catering. My dad, as an international student, after studying to be an accountant, decided that he could make more money starting a restaurant with his mates. They used to enjoy going to the markets in Adelaide. They would buy the squid which Australian folks would buy as bait—it was very cheap at that stage—and have feasts, as they were struggling to make ends meet in the restaurant industry. I also worked in catering as a hospitality staff person to pay my way through my studies. I recall that I wrote an academic paper for theCourt of Conscience journal of the University of New South Wales on the inequality of the pandemic and the impact that it had. I wrote in the conclusion:
In my workplace, the New South Wales Parliament, most of the people who look like me and those who reflect the real diversity of our community are actually not those sitting in the Chamber. They are the ones serving the food, cleaning the offices and keeping things moving day-to-day.
The reflection that I make on the comments made earlier by the shadow Minister for Multiculturalism, the former Minister for Multiculturalism, is that we would do well in this Chamber to reflect the diversity of the people who work in catering in this building. It is a great pleasure to see, following the election this year, that when people make racist comments in this Chamber, we can have a mini caucus just outside; it is not the Chamber looking to me alone and wondering whether I will call out the racism. That is a credit to many people in the community who have got behind and backed in to ensure that our parliaments are starting to reflect the diversity of our community. Whether someone makes a racist joke or a racist flippant remark, it is still racism, and the racism sticks and lingers; it infects people's public perception.
In our role, as members of Parliament, we could and should hold our public perceptions strong. It is for no member of this place to determine how we put ourselves forward as representatives in this place. While it might be well and good for someone to stand up and apologise in this place, the impact that that racist remark has on that member in the long term, into all the Google searches, all of the records, all of the discussions, and the impact it has on their community and their family is real. I know this all too well—the member for Bankstown and I have discussed it before—because the main time we get a media scrum is when someone is a racist pig to us, basically, and then everyone is interested in knowing what we have to say.
When the police trolled my public Facebook page after I had been a member for a short period of time, they wrote the most disgraceful and disgusting things about my family, about my father and about me. For years after that, every time any media story came up, in any of the searches, results would come up showing the most offensive and vile things about my dad which were quoted in those media stories. You cannot take that back with an apology. The impact of that lasts.
I urge every member of this place to think about what they are saying, and to think about what they are taking away. What they are doing is taking away people's ability to participate in this Chamber as equals. They are taking away our ability to behave as we want to behave without being tainted by whether we will be angry, whether we will be enraged or whether we will be upset and hurt by the actions that are taken. Members will note that the member for Strathfield and I—and he does a much better job at it than I do—have been very measured and calm in this debate. I can speak only for myself to say that my rage and my hurt at what was said in this Chamber today is so strong—but if I come in here and yell, I will be further marginalised, so I have to put on my nice and reasonable voice to face the racists that continue to try to stop us from participating in society.
Jenny Leong thanks the Newtown community for her re-election to the NSW Parliament, on 11 May 2023:
Ms JENNY LEONG: For the past eight years it has been an honour to represent the people of the electorate of Newtown, and I am humbled and excited to have the privilege of doing so again for the next four years. Our community is one of the most proudly diverse and fiercely progressive in the State. Newtown electorate locals have been instrumental in mobilising and organising campaigns for First Nations justice, decriminalising abortion, marriage equality, protecting public housing and securing better protection for renters. I am committed to ensuring that our community's values, expectations and priorities drive the work that we do in this place for another four years.
My electorate is home to staunch community groups and activists—from public housing tenants mobilising to defend their homes, to students and unionists taking to the streets for climate action, workers' rights and First Nations justice, demanding an end to deaths in custody. We know that change happens both in this place and well beyond its walls. We know that change is only won because communities come together to fight for it. By striking, by locking on, by protesting, by breaking bad laws and by engaging in non‑violent direct action, we see change happen. As the member for Newtown, I am proud to represent a passionate community that is not afraid to take direct action in the face of injustice and inequality, to step up and speak out when they see that something is broken and needs fixing, to speak up for those who cannot do so for themselves and to give support to a friend, neighbour or community member who is struggling.
Over the next four years The Greens will continue to deliver positive change not just for people within the Newtown electorate but far beyond its boundaries because, after all, we have always been a bit nonchalant about the concept of borders. Our priorities for the coming years are clear. At the ballot box our community told us they want us to go hard to champion and strengthen renters' rights. From working constructively with the Government to finally end unfair no-grounds evictions to pushing for rent controls, we will do everything we can to fix the blatant power imbalance that so many renters face. We make no apologies for putting the rights of renters to have a safe, secure and affordable home above those of property investors and big developers to make profits. We will continue to provide direct support to public housing tenants in our community who are forced to live with mould, leaks and other unacceptable maintenance issues, and we will push for massive investment in maintaining public housing properties across the State and ensure that they are never sold off.
The Greens will continue to push for much, much more public and social housing so that everyone has a place to call home without having to wait 10 years on the public housing waiting list or deal with the stress and trauma of the private rental market. We will continue to stand against coalmines and native forest logging to stop species extinction and end land clearing, and to be bold and relentless in our calls for meaningful action for climate. We in the electorate of Newtown know that climate justice is inseparable from the struggles of First Nations people and racial justice, and that communities that are being disproportionately impacted by the onset of the climate crisis have already faced discrimination and injustice.
To everyone who handed out leaflets for us at the many train stations throughout the electorate of Newtown in the early mornings or made phone calls, sent endless text messages or had conversations on doorsteps with the people of Newtown to keep Newtown Green, I say thank you. We would not be back here without you and we certainly would not have achieved the overwhelming and impressive goal, on behalf of all of you, of being the first Green seat in the country to secure a win on primary votes. To the left activists and community organisers, those at the forefront of demanding change, thank you for everything you do and know that The Greens will always stand with you in your struggle for a more just and equitable world. Whether you live in the electorate of Newtown or you are a left activist living somewhere else in the State, the country or around the globe, know that I will be your voice in this place, for justice, for equality and for social and environmental change.
To the Newtown community who put their trust in me, I can say nothing more than thank you. It is a true honour to have the privilege of having moved to the electorate of Newtown at the age of 19, had my education as an activist come from its people and suburbs, and to now be here representing our community. I will always challenge and raise expectations for what is possible through politics while I am in this place. I look forward to spending the next four years pushing the boundaries and making the impossible feel possible—for renters, for climate justice, for housing justice, for people and for our planet.
Jenny Leong questions the Premier in Parliament about the sale of public housing, on 11 May 2023:
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (12:02): My question is directed to the Premier. Given the Premier's very welcome announcement of an immediate freeze on public housing sales, will he now give certainty and housing security to the public housing tenants in Waterloo south and Explorer Street in Eveleigh by scrapping the former Liberal-Nationals Government's plans to privatise and redevelop their homes through State-led rezoning?
Mr CHRIS MINNS (Kogarah—Premier) (12:02): I thank the member for Newtown for her question. Over the past 12 years, $90 billion worth of government assets were sold off. Perhaps the most egregious is the sale of government property, particularly public housing. Something like $3.5 billion worth of property administered by the State of New South Wales was privatised by the previous Government, always with the promise of increased supply as a result of the sale. But it never delivered. We have 12 years worth of history of this bogus concept of privatisation to look back on. We saw the growth in housing roles, and we saw public housing deteriorate as a result. Former Minister Pru Goward—I cannot remember what electorate she represented—
Mr Jihad Dib: Goulburn.
Mr CHRIS MINNS: Goulburn. She constantly said, "We need to privatise as many public assets as we can, particularly government land. As a result, we will see a net increase in the amount of public housing." But it never materialised. This Government is committed to 30 per cent of homes that are built on government land being social and affordable housing. That is important context. A growing city like Sydney cannot meet the challenges of the skills shortage, inbound immigration or the housing crisis without those specific targets. I know the planning Minister is committed to doing that.
In relation to Waterloo south, the planning controls will have a minimum provision of 34 per cent social and affordable housing. It will have other requirements, like public benefits for improved public realm, more open space and a community centre. The Government is exploring opportunities to increase the proportion of social, affordable and key worker rental housing for the Waterloo south site. I think every member in this place who has spoken to an essential worker at any point in the past four years—whether it be a police officer, a teacher, a nurse or a firefighter—will say that their wages will not sustain housing near where their jobs are.
We have to look at housing in a different way, ensuring that when we do look at urban renewal, and when there is development on government land, that we ensure affordable and social housing is part of the mix. It was a crucial and missed opportunity from successive planning and housing Ministers in the previous Government. Notwithstanding that some of them had good intentions when they approached their portfolio, the delivery was lax and, at the end of the day, we are where we are—in an unmitigated housing crisis. The rezoning of Waterloo south is complete. It will take time to build, but it will transform 749 old social dwellings into a mixed community with over 3,000 homes. We need to get the balance right.
Ms JENNY LEONG: Mr Speaker—
Mr CHRIS MINNS: That balance includes urban consolidation that allows young people, in particular, to have a place to live and raise a family, and the opportunity to grow their professional life in this city.
Jenny Leong responds to the Lieutenant-Governor's address in Parliament, on 11 May 2023:
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (14:46): I contribute to debate on the address-in-reply to the speech delivered by Lieutenant-Governor the Hon. Andrew Bell. First and foremost I acknowledge that Lieutenant‑Governor the Hon. Andrew Bell acknowledged the contribution and the feelings of newly elected members. This is my first opportunity to welcome new members to the crazy place that is the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. I particularly acknowledge my Greens colleague the member for Balmain, Kobi Shetty. I recognise the very large shoes to fill of the former member for Balmain but hasten to add, having campaigned with Kobi as the candidate for Balmain over the past year or more, that she will effortlessly fill those shoes. I am very confident she will work hard for her community and that she is absolutely committed to being an effective member of this House.
It is important to recognise what I like to describe as a new world order in New South Wales, after 12 years of seeing the most vulnerable and desperate people in our community being left behind while big business, corporate profits, corporate interests, backroom deals and discussions with mates in stadium corporate boxes ruled the way our democracy functioned. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minns Labor Government on the outcome of the election and add that it is a welcome change to see Labor members occupying the Government benches. I acknowledge the presence in the Chamber of the Minister for Women. I am very pleased about her appointment to that role.
We know that the Labor Government is a minority government. On the first day of formal business the Premier suggested that in many ways this House will be a place of much more robust, healthy and—hopefully—at times respectful debate. Perhaps that will not always be so, but maybe the idea of listening to different perspectives and views may actually come to this Chamber. Because the reality is that the harsh numbers sometimes do the talking, and there is a need to convince more people to get on board.
Another useful aspect of minority government in the context of what priorities the Labor Party took to the election and was elected for is the refocusing on communities and people. Minority governments can do a number of things. While sitting on the crossbench The Greens are absolutely committed to ensuring that we put the community at the heart of our democracy. The need for governments to negotiate and have conversations with crossbench members is a way of ensuring a diversity of community views and voices. The crossbench includes both the smallest electorate and largest electorates geographically: Newtown, in the inner city, which I represent; and Murray and Barwon. Because the crossbench represents inner-city communities and regional and remote communities, we have a broad spectrum and range of views on a number of issues. I note that the member for Wagga Wagga is also in the Chamber.
We feel that full political spectrum on a range of issues but, on the issue of listening to and representing our communities' concerns in this Chamber and making sure the Government is listening to those priorities, the crossbench shares many common values. In a lot of ways those values align with the priorities of the incoming Government, particularly the need to listen to, support and resource our teachers, nurses, midwives, paramedics, those engaged in frontline services and particularly those who are engaging with what has been a challenging time in New South Wales transport. I give a shout-out to the incredible folks who have been dealing with the crisis under former transport Ministers who were running the show as if it were their kingdom to manoeuvre and score political points in but were failing to get the trains running when they needed to. They were also privatising our bus network right under our noses.
Those former Ministers seemed to have forgotten that the concept of public transport is that we keep it in public hands. It is not public transport if we privatise it and it is run to make a profit instead of to deliver services to the community. I am happy to give credit where credit is due: to the new Minister for Transport. I caught the train in from Newtown this morning, and it ran very smoothly. It was the first time I had been on a train since this Parliament began. I congratulate the new Minister for Transport on doing a sensational job. I stopped catching the train when Minister Elliott was in the role because I thought he was such a disaster. I did not like to show him support—I am only joking; I like to catch public transport all the time.
While I am on the issue of transport, I will talk about the commitment the Minister for Transport and member for Summer Hill made to the upgrade to the Lewisham station, which is on the border of the electorates of Newtown and Summer Hill. That station is regularly the subject of memes. People draw fish and sharks in the flooded stairwell people must go through to get into the station. There is no accessibility at that station. Every time it rains, it floods, so people cannot get down the stairs without getting wet. It is outrageous. Our new regional members might think that the city gets everything, but we seriously need a lift at Lewisham station. I am pleased to say that the new Minister for Transport made that commitment during the election campaign, and I look forward to working with her soon to make sure that promise is delivered.
I was pleased that during the election we had a real recognition of renters and a commitment to making sure that they were prioritised. It was very much the renters' election. It is valuable to know that people are renting for longer and longer in our communities and that the rental crisis is significant and real. I acknowledge that this Government has prioritised rental reforms in the first sitting of Parliament. I welcome the portable bond scheme put in place. I have foreshadowed that we have concerns about the rent-bidding element, but we hope we can work constructively with the Government to deliver the reforms needed in the rental space to make sure that there is a commitment to ending all bidding as opposed to ending only secret bidding.
It is important to highlight that the cost-of-living crisis is putting financial stress on all members of our community, and that has huge impacts on the need to adequately fund mental health support, homelessness services, crisis accommodation, tenants' advice and advocacy services, and domestic violence services. We must recognise that helping the most vulnerable in our community to make sure that they are not left behind is a role for the Government. It is critical that we recognise that tinkering around the edges when it comes to addressing these reforms will not be enough.
We had 12 years of decimation under the Liberals and The Nationals. They put everything they could out to tender and consulted on everything they could—not by listening to the community, but by paying their wealthy consultant mates lots of money. They privatised everything they could and cut funding to every service that helped vulnerable people in our communities. So I urge the Minns Labor Government and all the incoming Ministers to recognise that they must be bold in reshaping the way in which we support vulnerable communities. Just making a small shift here or a small change there will not be enough to actually address the harm that has been done to communities over successive terms of Liberal-Nationals governments in this State.
We need a shift to the idea where people and communities are put first. That means that no-one should ever be turned away from a homelessness shelter in any of our electorates. It means that when a person rings up a sexual assault line, someone should always be on the other end of the line. It means that every time someone needs specialist care in one of our hospitals or public health facilities, they are responded to and supported. We must recognise that a budget surplus or a budget bottom line should never be the choice we take over and above making sure people in need in our community are looked after and cared for.
I acknowledge that there is a significant shift with the increase in diversity in representation in the Legislative Assembly. It is a welcome change to see in this Chamber. I acknowledge the incredible achievement of the New South Wales Labor Party, whose Cabinet, through a commitment to quotas and to developing and supporting women within their ranks, is 50 per cent women. But I would not be myself, the member for Newtown, if I did not take a minute to say that we have a long way to go. We have increased the diversity in the Chamber and the number of women in the Cabinet—that's bloody great. But, with all due respect, you might notice, Mr Speaker, that the Premier, the Opposition leader, the Leader of the House, the Manager of Opposition Business, the Government Whip, the Opposition Whip and the Deputy Opposition Whip and yourself are all men. It is time for women to step up. The men should not get to run this place. I urge all members to do—
Mr Stephen Kamper: Take my job.
Ms JENNY LEONG: I do not think anyone wants it. The member can have it. It is important for us, especially those of us who are strong feminists and unionists in our communities, to recognise that, while we campaign hard for equal pay for equal work and for the recognition of the importance of making sure that women have a seat at the table, it should extend to all aspects of our lives. We must also recognise that in this Parliament there is currently a massive gender pay gap because all of those positions are taken by men. The Greens raise that challenge so that we can address it in the future.
I conclude with the need to recognise our community's demand—the urgent voices and cries for help—for desperate action on a range of measures. We saw on the street outside this Chamber incredible actions of unions striking, demanding an end to the public sector wage cap, demanding ratios for our nurses and midwives, demanding that our public bus and train networks come back into public hands, demanding better pay and conditions for public sector workers, and demanding that our emergency frontline services' need for help be recognised.
We also saw First Nations people marching during the pandemic and beyond to demand justice. It is incumbent on all of us to recognise the ongoing struggle for First Nations justice. We need to commit to delivering it in this Parliament. It starts with treaty, but it must not end there. It is unacceptable for young First Nations children to be away from their families and loved ones tonight, incarcerated in New South Wales prisons. Prisons are no place for children. Children should not be away from their parents, from their kin or from their loved ones for one night, let alone for multiple nights, because the system has failed to provide them with the support they need early in life.
We need to recognise that the destruction happening to our environment and climate is real and that we cannot have environmental and climate justice without First Nations justice. We need to recognise that there is an intersection between all of these things and that the Parliament has the opportunity to address it. I welcome the chance to contribute to this address-in-reply debate, to congratulate the incoming Minns Labor Government on its election and to welcome all new members here. But I also say that this is an opportunity for us to take radical and drastic steps to change the direction of this State. The past 12 years have shown us that we are heading the wrong way. Our community, environment, climate and our many threatened species are crying out for us to act. It is not time to make incremental changes but to implement radical reforms that deliver on the promise we made to our communities and to keep them at the heart of everything we do.
Jenny Leong contributes to the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill, on 19 October 2022:
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (11:09): On behalf of The Greens I contribute to debate on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill 2022. While I note the serious concerns that have been expressed by the sector about the Government's bill, which I will go into during the course of my contribution, I confirm that The Greens will not oppose this bill in the Legislative Assembly. The Greens, through our colleague in the Legislative Council Ms Abigail Boyd, have secured an inquiry into this legislation in the hope that some of the serious concerns raised by those in the sector, and those with expertise and lived experience, can be listened to and addressed, and that the bill will be returned to this Chamber in a different form before the end of the parliamentary term. The Greens support criminalising coercive control, but crucially we do so in close consultation with and the support of the domestic violence sector and those with lived experience.
The Greens are in a position to support this bill only on the basis of recognising that significant amendments would be needed and required in the Legislative Council to be able to achieve those aims. Criminalising coercive control is an important reform. But it has to be done right or it will create more harm than good—something that we have heard consistently throughout all of the consultations. I start by acknowledging, as the Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience, and Minister for Flood Recovery, acknowledged when she spoke, that what we are talking about today is sensitive. When talking about issues of domestic and family violence we need to recognise that the reach into our community is so significant that no-one in this place would not have had personal experience of, or a connection with someone who has experienced, domestic and family violence or personal violence.
Coercive control is an insidious form of domestic and family violence that often leads to physical abuse. Many victims of domestic abuse live in a constant state of fear, in relationships marked by dangerous patterns of controlling behaviour. Perpetrators of coercive control seek to control their victims with actual or threatened harm. Harm does not always mean physical violence; it manifests itself in a variety of ways. It could be the grabbing of someone's phone; it could be providing them with more alcohol than they want to consume at a certain time; and it could be by controlling people's finances, people's connection to family, people's connection to community and people's autonomy to be able to make choices for themselves.
The seriousness of coercive control and the nuanced ways it manifests necessitates a considered response, which is exactly why this Parliament took the issue to an inquiry which recommended a variety of reforms spanning all corners of the justice system and domestic violence sector, and a staged process for its implementation. We must criminalise coercive control, but doing it the wrong way risks creating more harm than taking no action at all. The proposed bill would create an offence in the Crimes Act 1900 to criminalise coercive control in current and former intimate partner settings, with a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment.
Key concerns that the NSW Women's Alliance—backed in by more than 220 domestic and family violence advocates—has raised about the proposed bill are as follows: It is concerned that requiring proof of a specific intent to coerce or control would place a significant burden on the prosecutor; it is concerned that the bill is limited to intimate partner violence excluding many forms of abuse suffered by victims in the community; it is concerned that there is no singular concise definition of "coercive control"; and it is concerned that there is no contextual definition of "domestic and family abuse", which will cause confusion when the legislation is put into practice.
It is incredibly disappointing that instead of listening to those concerns, to the committee, to the domestic violence sector and to those with expertise as a result of their lived experience, that theGovernment has chosen to rush this bill through now while these concerns still remain on the table. I acknowledge and recognise the Attorney General is in the Chamber for this debate. In his second reading speech he noted that criminalising coercive control must be approached with great care and caution. I could not agree more, which is why I ask how the Attorney General feels about claiming to be proceeding when there is so much concern from the sector and domestic and family violence advocates and experts who do not support taking this action right now.
Members know that the women's safety and domestic violence sector is unanimous in its opposition to this bill as it is currently drafted because it has taken the extraordinary step of writing to all members of the New South Wales Parliament to try to slow down its passage through the Parliament. The first draft of this bill was made available to the sector only in late July. The vast majority of feedback provided during the consultation has not been taken on board by the Government. I note that the Attorney General went through in detail the vast amount of consultation that has been undertaken, but consultation requires change. There is no point in engaging in consultation unless we are changing and shifting what has occurred in response to the experts and listening to the advice of those with lived experience in the sector. It is not okay to cherrypick the bits that we want while ignoring the other voices of concern.
That is why I want to take the time to put on the record the concerns about this bill raised by a number of women's safety and domestic violence sector advocates. It has the potential to harm the very people that it was designed to protect. Christine Robinson, chief executive officer of the Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Service, noted that the bill's narrow definition of "relationship" does not consider some communities where more people can be involved in acts of violence. She stated:
The bill does not allow for the practices that may happen in Aboriginal communities, and the NSW Government must take into account Indigenous experiences.
Redfern Legal Centre's financial abuse service has repeated concerns over the rushed introduction of this legislation and the lack of proper and meaningful consultation with the sector. Gayatri Nair, who also coordinates the Economic Reference Group in New South Wales, stated:
… economic and financial abuse needs to be recognised in NSW, but we are disappointed that a new criminal offence has been introduced without proper and robust consultation.
Women's Legal Service NSW also does not support the bill in its current form. It stated:
We need to start with a contextual definition of domestic, family abuse—violent, threatening or other behaviour that coerces, controls or causes fear. Without a contextual definition, the focus will remain on incidents in isolation which results in the misidentification of the person most in need of protection. Further, with such high mental elements of intent to coerce or control, there will likely be few successful prosecutions. We fear this will have the effect of providing victim survivors with false hope of protection and embolden perpetrators to continue and even worsen their abuse as they will likely be able to act with impunity.
The Economic Abuse Reference Group, an informal group of community organisations that collectively work to influence government and industry responses to reduce the financial impact of family violence, noted:
The introduction of the new coercive control offence will require significant and extensive cultural and systems reform. A failure to allow the necessary time and provide appropriate resources for such cultural and systems reform will lead to an underprepared and under-resourced police force, court system and legal profession struggling to implement important reforms. The consequence may be exposing women, children and other victims of survivors to even greater risks.
Domestic and family violence advocate Rosie Batty has warned:
If criminalisation is not given enough time for consultation with victim survivors and experts in the field, the complex legislation has the potential to retraumatise the people it was designed to protect.
The NSW Women's Alliance has repeatedly called for longer and more considered consultation and development to ensure we are in the right place to introduce this legislation. Domestic Violence NSW is the peak body for specialist domestic and family violence services in New South Wales. Acting Chief Executive Officer Renata Field stated:
We are concerned that important issues raised by experts in the field have not been sufficiently heeded and, therefore, a second round of open consultation is essential to support the best and safest outcome for victim survivors.
If the bill were to pass in its current form, we are concerned at best it would be under-utilised and not really help the people it is set up to help. At its worst, it could create issues of misidentification and not provide support to those who really deserve it.
[Extension of time]
The concern about misidentification is real. A recent ABC article by Hayley Gleeson in March 2022 paints a damning picture. Lee, which is not her real name, lived in suburban Melbourne with her boyfriend. One day she reached breaking point and finally called the police. For two years she had been struggling to cope with her boyfriend's physical violence, financial abuse and threats to withdraw his sponsorship of her visa and have her deported if she left him. He often cut her allowance to punish her but would not let her work casual shifts in the beauty industry, insisting instead that she stay home to look after their child. When officers arrived, she was beside herself with frustration and relief. She was wailing and grabbing her thighs, yelling in her language. The police were flummoxed. They had no idea what she was saying, but Lee's boyfriend was calm and well spoken. "She is crazy," he told them, "Clearly she has mental problems." The officers accepted his account that she was the violent one and, apparently without even trying to talk to her, arrested her on the spot.
That is not just happening in Victoria. In the past days, weeks and months I have heard of numerous incidents of women of colour and First Nations women who have been misidentified in domestic violence situations. The situation is real. For a First Nations woman to be misidentified by the NSW Police Force, the risk of facing a death sentence is real because we have never properly implemented the recommendations around First Nations deaths in custody. For women of colour or migrant women for whom English is their second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth language, the issues of misidentification are real and they last a lifetime. As someone who has suffered racist and sexist abuse at the hands of the NSW Police Force, it is incumbent on members in this place to recognise that wealthy white women will not suffer if the legislation is not drafted properly. First Nations women, migrant women and women of colour will suffer as a result of us not getting it right. The legislation risks increasing the number of cases of misidentification.
Instead of listening to the serious concerns that have been set out by the sector, the Government has chosen to push through the bill. Despite continued claims by the New South Wales Government that it is listening to consultation, the Government has not acted accordingly. Sadly, that is not new. For over a decade the Government has not been listening to the absolutely desperate pleas of the domestic and family violence sector to address gender‑based family and domestic violence. We need a significant boost to funding in this area. Rushing through coercive control legislation might change the Crimes Act, but it will not address the scourge of domestic and family abuse in our communities.
I acknowledge and note the work of my Greens colleague in the other place Ms Abigail Boyd, who is responsible for the portfolios of Domestic Violence and Attorney General and who introduced a coercive control bill in 2020. She drafted her bill in consultation with academics, victim-survivor experts and frontline domestic violence workers over 18 months and made many revisions. I also acknowledge the tireless work of the advocates in the domestic and family violence space. It is challenging to navigate that space when many frontline services rely on the support of the Government while pushing for policy and legislative reform. I recognise their efforts to navigate that space and ensure people in our community are safe.
The Greens are committed to getting the reform right. We will not be rushed by the Government. We will not be rushed by election cycles. We will not be rushed by the time limits that are placed on debate in the Chamber. We will ensure that we get to the right point. It appears the Opposition has not heeded the concerns of the sector and plans to support the Government in passing the bill in its current state. I hope upper House Labor members work collaboratively with us to address our serious concerns. The Greens members in the upper House will attempt to salvage the situation and ensure that the law is not used as a weapon against those whom it is intended to protect.