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

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Filter by October, 2013

Stronger targets proposed in Climate Change Authority draft report

Today the Climate Change Authority (CCA) released a draft version of its ‘Targets and Progress Review’. The review, which according to the Clean Energy Act 2011 must be finalised by 28 February 2014, is to be used by the Minister in determining Australia’s emissions reduction goals under the carbon price mechanism. The draft report proposes two sets of caps; each set of caps defines a different emissions trajectory between now and 2020, and then to 2030. The CCA is calling for stakeholder input until 29 November 2013.The proposed targetsTwo scenarios are put forward. The more ambitious scenario aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% below 2000 levels by 2020 and 40 to 50% by 2030. The l... Read more...

Has the United Kingdom sold their student debt?

On a recent Q&A program Education Minister Christopher Pyne, in response to a question about selling HECS debt, stated: ‘Britain have sold their HECS debt as an asset and we should investigate whether that is a sensible move for us to do so.’ This Flag Post looks at the UK experience of selling some of their student loan; of a 2007 proposal to sell more that did not proceed and of recent proposals to again sell part of their student debt asset.Pre 1998 debtThe UK Labour Government introduced an income contingent student loan scheme similar to Australia’s HECS HELP programme in 1998. The student loan scheme that had existed since 1990 was a loan with fixed rate repayments over five years ... Read more...

When experts conflict

Making decisions about complex public policy issues inevitably involves the assistance of experts. On occasion, however, experts in a given area disagree in their judgements. In such cases, how can non-experts go about deciding which experts to believe? Expert disagreement is one of the issues addressed in a recent Parliamentary Library research paper, Expertise and public policy: a conceptual guide. As noted in the paper, expert disagreement poses a problem because by definition non-experts are not in a strong position to decide which of the experts' judgements is the most correct. Using social expertise The paper argues that the only way that non-experts are able to appraise expertise... Read more...

Expertise and public policy: don’t just ask the experts

In recent years the number of highly technical policy issues considered by the Australian Parliament has increased. This means members and senators are obliged to grapple with the technical issues associated with all manner of topics, some of which have scientific or technological aspects.  But in order to reach a considered position and to have an authoritative basis for decision making, members and senators must achieve some grasp of these technical issues. Thus, members and senators often find themselves in a difficult position—one that is shared by other non-experts: that is, that their ability to understand and reach a considered, informed judgement on the technical aspects of many deba... Read more...

Time period between election date and first sitting date

It is up to the government to decide when parliamentary sittings will commence following an election, provided that the first sitting day is no later than 30 days from the date of the return of the writs. The election timetable is governed by the Constitution and the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. According to the timetable, the date of the return of the writs for the election is to be no longer than 100 days after it is issued, which is within 10 days after the election is announced. The 2013 Federal election was announced on Sunday 4 August 2013 and the writs were issued on Monday 5 August 2013. The latest date by which the writs must be returned is Wednesday 13 November 2013, and parlia... Read more...

First speeches

With the 44th Parliament due to open on 12 November new members will be making their first speeches in the opening weeks or months of the new parliament. The Chamber departments provide detailed notes for the guidance of new members when they are preparing their first speeches; this brief contains more general information and some historical background.TerminologyFrom its first printing in 1953 Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice used the term first speech to refer to a senator’s first contribution to debate in the Chamber. Despite this, the phrase Maiden Speech continued to be used by the presiding officers when referring to such a speech, until Condor Laucke assumed the Presidency at the ... Read more...

Payments to support victims of overseas terrorism

Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently announced that victims of past overseas terrorist attacks would be entitled to an Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment (AVTOP), worth up to $75,000. The AVTOP was created in 2012 under the Gillard Government. Many of those affected by previous attacks have received some form of assistance from the Australian Government including coverage of medical costs and counselling/rehabilitation—the AVTOP provides a new formal mechanism for delivering monetary assistance. While there is strong community support for the scheme, a number of issues have been raised in regards to its design.How the payment works  The AVTOP is a one-off, lump-sum payment intend... Read more...

The US Debt Ceiling – some historical background and key links

The United States (US) Treasury has funds available to cover outgoing expenses until approximately 17 October. It cannot borrow more because of a legislative limit on borrowing (the ‘debt ceiling’). While a major default by the US Treasury would be unprecedented, historical examples do provide some insight into the costs caused even by delays in raising the debt ceiling. The US has a budget deficit (with less revenue than expenditure), and US Government spending depends in part on borrowing to fund Government activity. However, that borrowing is limited by a debt ceiling - a feature in United States Government under which the Congress has ‘placed a limit on the total amount of debt that the ... Read more...

Future growth in DSP receipt—not all bad news

No doubt one of the priorities of the proposed review of income support payments will be the Disability Support Pension (DSP). DSP numbers have risen substantially in recent decades, despite numerous reforms designed to tighten eligibility and hence restrict growth. However a recent paper suggests that changes made to other income support payments have offset these reforms, and that the story is more positive than previous reports suggest.The factors behind DSP growthThe paper examines the factors behind the growth in DSP recipient numbers over the last 30 years, which rose from 216,600 in June 1982 to 827,500 in June 2012. Demography accounts for a significant amount, with an estimated 117,... Read more...

What the latest IPCC report says about Australia

Since the 1900s the world has warmed an average of 0.85 degrees and the sea has risen an average of 19 cm. So affirms the 2,216-page draft report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on 27 September 2013 (see separate FlagPost on the IPCC). The first instalment of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) presents the latest science on global climate change. But Australia has a unique climate, influenced by both Indian Ocean events and the highly variable El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. What does the latest IPCC report say about Australia? Understanding IPCC scenariosIn order to model the climate system and propose possible futures, climatologists u... Read more...

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