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Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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Review of the Renewable Energy Target released

The expert panel, set up to review the Renewable Energy Target (RET), has released its final report. The Government commissioned the review in February 2014, in the wake of the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, arguing that the RET was placing ‘upward pressure on power prices’. The report provides several options to Government for making changes to the Renewable Energy Target scheme, which include abolishing parts of the scheme and grandfathering others. So what are the proposals, and what is their impact? Read more...

New restrictions on disability pensioners travelling overseas

In the midst of heated debate over the Budget’s welfare reforms some significant measures have escaped the headlines, including new restrictions on Disability Support Pension (DSP) recipients travelling overseas. The measures, proposed by the Social Services and Other Legislation (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014, will reduce the time disability pensioners can spend overseas from six-weeks at a time to four weeks in a 12-month period. A number of submissions to the Senate committee inquiry into the Bill, from individual DSP recipients and from welfare groups, took issue with the changes suggesting that DSP was being unfairly targeted and that the measures would increase red tape. Read more...

Concerns raised over Government disability payments scheme

The Senate is scheduled this week to debate legislation establishing a payment scheme for around 10,000 workers with intellectual disability whose wages were determined using a tool found by the Full Court of the Federal Court to be discriminatory. The use of tool, the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT), has long been contentious and the Government’s proposed BSWAT payment scheme is equally so. Background In 2012 the Full Court of the Federal Court decided (Nojin v Commonwealth) that the employers of two men with intellectual disabilities, Mr Nojin and Mr Prior, had unlawfully discriminated against them by imposing a requirement or condition that, in order to secure a hi... Read more...

Social services budget bills propose major changes to welfare

The 2014-15 federal budget included proposals for major changes in the social services portfolio, including payments to the unemployed, aged, people with disability and families with children. With most of these measures being introduced through two large and complex pieces of social services legislation, there is likely to be some confusion about the changes being made and which changes are being introduced where. This FlagPost provides a brief outline of what is in each of the social services bills. Most of the significant (and contentious) changes are introduced in the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014. This Bill includes proposals t... Read more...

Access to and retention of internet 'metadata'

On 5 August 2014, the Government announced its intention to update Australia’s telecommunication interception laws. This is part of broader efforts to enhance powers available to security agencies ‘to combat home-grown terrorism and Australians who participate in terrorist activities overseas’. This includes developing a mandatory ‘metadata’ retention system. Whilst having a period of mandatory metadata retention would be new, the collection of metadata by telecommunications companies and government access to it is not new and is governed by the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (TIA).  Whilst the need for such a scheme was linked to c... Read more...

Targeting online predators: proposed changes to criminal law

Fifty-year-old Gary Newman was sentenced to life in prison in 2010 for the brutal murder of 15-year-old Carly Ryan in 2007. However, Newman committed no crime in posing online as 18-year-old Brandon Kane in order to meet Carly.     Senator Nick Xenophon says that is a gap in the criminal law which he hopes to close with his Private Members Bill, the Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013. Read more...

The Forrest review and 'cashless welfare'

One of the more contentious elements in Andrew Forrest’s recent Indigenous Jobs and Training Review was the proposal for a for ‘cashless welfare’ system, provided through what he calls a ‘Healthy Welfare Card’. This FlagPost outlines key aspects of the proposal, highlighting where it differs from both the current income management system and Australia’s welfare arrangements in general. What is proposed? The Healthy Welfare Card would be based on the Basics Card which currently underpins the various income management schemes across Australia. It would be: issued as a debit card through a financial institution able to be used at any Austra... Read more...

ACT Assembly to increase in size

With bipartisan support, the ACT Assembly has passed two bills to increase representation of ACT citizens and enhance democracy in the Territory. The number of electorates will increase from three to five, with five members per electorate—a 5X5 model. Greens’ MLA Shane Rattenbury, said that the model ‘locks in the two old parties and makes it harder for smaller parties and independents to gain representation. I support a bigger Assembly - but one that encourages diversity and broader community representation, not one where democracy loses out’. Read more...

Maintaining oversight of the Australian Intelligence Community

The Government’s announcement on 25 June 2014 that it would be introducing new national security legislation at the same time that it was actively moving to abolish the office of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) led to heightened concern and criticism, including from the Labor Opposition, that oversight of the Australian Intelligence Community was being eroded when it was arguably needed the most. On 16 July the Government reversed its decision to abolish the INSLM and the Opposition threw its support behind the new legislation. Read more...

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