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My first column …

By Fiona Patten - MP for Northern Metropolitan

Hi. This is the first of a regular column I’ll be writing for Docklands News, and I am grateful for the opportunity to communicate directly to the community and would welcome feedback, ideas, suggestions and comments. 

The joy and relief are so beautifully evident as people burst out of lockdown. There’s a lift in community spirits as people burst out of lockdown. Our city is like a plant starved of water. Well, the rain has come. 

But, it’s not only a time for celebration. It’s also a time for compassion, for kindness.  

Not everyone has bounced back out with gusto and a grin. Far from it. There is a loneliness epidemic – and it existed before COVID.  

The Reason Party and I will within days launch a campaign to raise awareness of this silent mass killer, and to push for a range of mitigating policies. Loneliness affects 25 per cent of our community! It is a as big, if not bigger, threat as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is a significant risk factor for depression, heart disease, stroke, and dementia. 

Also coming up, of course, is the Parliamentary debate on pandemic-specific legislation to replace the State of Emergency (SoE) provisions that always had a strict cut-off (mid-December), unlike other states and territories – which simply keep extending SoE powers without apparent desire to move to reducing governmental power by increasing the transparency and accountability of executive government. The Bill passed the Lower House a week ago, amid ugly shouting, misinformation and abuse. It will now come to the Upper House, where I sit. 

There has been a shrill overreaction, encouraged by shock jocks and the opposition. Sadly, this has created significant fear in our community that somehow these new laws will lock us down forever and they are some crazy “grab for power’’.  They won’t and they are not.

I am going through the Bill line by line and will seek to amend it if needed. For example, I successfully advocated for the Independent Pandemic Management Advisory Committee but we must ensure that it has the resources and powers that it needs. 

The government will no longer be able to conceal its decisions and responsibility behind “health advice’’. At last, we shall all be able to see all the advice behind public-health decisions and we will the first state to do this. 

Finally, the buck stops with the Premier and Health Minister, as it should have all along, rather than with unelected officials – notwithstanding their ability and focus on the public interest. 

My simple question to those who are misunderstanding this proposal is: if you don’t want the Premier and Health Minister accountable for these decisions, who might you prefer? •

For more information: fionapatten.com.au

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