DURING her maiden speech in Parliament Swan Hills MLA Jessica Shaw mentioned the Chidlow Cougars, her desire to establish a youth centre in Ellenbrook and how the state should use its ownership of Western Power to address the economic and climate change challenges it faces.
On Thursday, May 11 Ms Shaw’s mother Tracy Shaw, her brother Jordan Shaw as well as her aunt Michelle James and her husband Stephen James were in the public gallery to listen to her speech.
Ms Shaw said throughout the election campaign she strove to connect with people, to listen to their concerns and to respond to their needs.
In Swan Hills this meant committing to delivering the train to Ellenbrook and improving transport infrastructure, enhancing policing and community safety, ensuring jobs for WA workers, supporting and improving bushfire prevention and management, and keeping Western Power in public hands.
She first moved into the electorate more than a decade ago and during that time the hills community had provided friendship and support through good times and bad.
“I will never forget how the Chidlow community, particularly the Cougars football club, rallied around to support my family upon the loss of my father – I am eternally grateful,’’ she said.
“Perhaps, however, the most important local commitment that we made was to establish a youth centre in Ellenbrook and extend mental health and youth suicide prevention services.
“Ellenbrook’s disproportionately high rates of youth suicide and mental health issues are well documented, and there are growing domestic violence and broader community safety issues throughout the region.
“Kids there need somewhere to go, something to do, somewhere to socialise and, perhaps most importantly, somewhere safe to escape if things get a little too tough at home.
“By establishing the centre, Labor will support the great work already being done by a range of youth-focused community groups.
“I would particularly like to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of the team at the Ellenbrook youth service.
“My hope is that a youth centre will provide a safe and supportive place for young people and a base for service providers to reach at-risk kids, and that it will also promote links with other community groups.
“We cannot fail on this commitment to our young people. We cannot develop massive new suburbs and then not follow through with the services and facilities our young people need.
“We cannot ignore the fact that a considerable proportion of crime in the area can be attributed to low-level offences committed by kids with nothing to do and we cannot accept that it is legitimate to just shunt those kids into the juvenile justice system, with its attendant impacts on life outcomes.
“We cannot sit by when our youth are crying out, sometimes in the most tragic way imaginable, for support.
“I give my absolute commitment to work alongside the community, both on the delivery of this commitment and on the continued elevation of youth issues in the electorate.
“Young people’s voices are too often unheard and I will work hard to change that in Swan Hills.’’
She said during the past eight years while some of the best and brightest minds in Western Australia had turned towards a more sustainable energy future, there had been an abject lack of political leadership in this sector from government, and in some instances an outright denial of the need to even act to address the threat of climate change.
“This is a result of a narrow, ideologically-driven view of the energy market—what the market is, how it should be regulated, which voices within that market should be listened to, and which entrenched interests should be protected.
“There has been a fixation on protecting an old industry model; that is, thumping great fossil fuel-fuelled thermal generators connected to networks, funded by inefficient tariff structures, supplying distant loads, and all based on commercial instruments involving a massive, inappropriate transfer of risk and financial burden onto the people of Western Australia.
“John Kay states there is — a subtle but important distinction between policies that support markets and policies that support the interests of established large firms in these markets.
“It is a point that is well made about the energy industry and particularly the state’s continued ownership of Western Power.
“The sale of Western Power would lock in the old industry structure and protect entrenched interests.
“Retaining Western Power in the hands of Western Australians means that we have an opportunity to pursue policies that recognise the importance of traditional energy sources, but also support new markets, new industries, new companies and new jobs.
“We can now consider and implement policies that encourage market outcomes for the public good—more efficient capital investment in the network; a reconceptualisation of value in the network assets; a mix of generation technologies and fuel sources to optimise supply and manage risk; producing natural restraints on costs for consumers, and allowing us to mitigate carbon intensity.
“I believe that Western Australians also care deeply about, and are excited by, the prospects of the new energy economy.
“People like the idea that they can control their production and consumption of electricity and they want action on climate change.
“Labor took the right policy to the state election and secured a resounding mandate for retaining ownership of Western Power.
“At this point in the economic cycle, we should not sell Western Power; we should use it to assist us to address the economic and climate change challenges we now face.”
By Anita McInnes