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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 February, 2015

Beidou: China's new satellite navigation system

On 28 October 2014, just three weeks before Prime Minister Abbott and PRC President Xi Jinping signed an agreement in Hobart promising ‘increased collaboration in Antarctic science’, the Chinese official newsagency Xinhua announced that China would be establishing the first Antarctic base station for its Beidou satellite navigation system.  Read more...

Potential changes to the Australian Census: could it kill the goose that lays the statistical golden egg?

The Australian Statistician, David Kalisch, announced on 19 February that, as part of the options for transforming its statistical collections, the ABS is considering changes to the way it runs, and potentially, the frequency of the Census (Reforming the Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS Media Release, 19 February 2015). This article is part of a series of FlagPosts exploring what the Census is, why it’s important, how other countries run censuses, and what the alternatives—either officially proposed or informally discussed—may be. Read more...

The Pension Loans Scheme: an old program attracts new interest

The Australian Government’s Pension Loans Scheme (PLS) is a reverse mortgage scheme that allows people of pension age to access an income stream by borrowing against their housing equity. Currently it is only available people of pension age (or their partners) who are unable to receive a full pension because of the income or assets test. Amidst recent debates over the cost of aged care and the treatment of the family home in the pension assets test, two think tanks, the Australia Institute and Per Capita, have suggested expanding the scheme. How it works The PLS allows people to top up a part pension to the full rate or, for those not eligible for any pension, receive fortnightly pay... Read more...

Attitudes towards the death penalty at home and abroad

The debate over the death penalty reignited in early 2015 with the news that Indonesia would execute two Australians who had been convicted of heroin trafficking. Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said Australia would seek clemency for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, while Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Tanya Plibersek also called for a stay of execution for the ‘Bali nine’ drug smugglers. More than 150,000 Australians signed a petition asking for mercy for the two men, who face death by firing squad. Read more...

Trade agreements and immigration policy: Commitments in the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement

While discussion of Australia’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with various countries usually focuses, for obvious reasons, on tariffs and trade barriers, what is often not widely discussed is the fact that these agreements usually also include provisions for the ‘movement of natural persons’. That is, FTAs (as well as multilateral trade agreements) often include clauses relating to migration. These usually relate to the entry of foreign nationals into Australia as temporary overseas workers, for example on subclass 457 visas. The effect of Australia’s FTAs with Japan, Thailand, Chile, South Korea and New Zealand is that employers wishing to sponsor workers from these c... Read more...

Private health insurance in primary care: overview of issues

While the Government’s proposed patient co-payment for GP services has focused debate on whether some kind of ‘price signal’ for GP services is needed, private health insurers have been exploring options to provide their members with free or expedited access to GPs. Under current legislation, health insurers cannot provide insurance for which a Medicare benefit is payable. Despite these legislative restrictions, Medibank Private and other health insurers have been trialling different approaches to improve access to GP services for their members. In Queensland, Medibank Private has been running the GP Access Program in selected clinics which is aimed at improving members&rs... Read more...

Ken Hodge [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

High Court validates maritime interception powers but watch this space!

On the 28 January 2015, the High Court delivered its much anticipated judgment on the scope and extent of Australia’s maritime interception powers. The Court held, by a majority (4:3) that the detention of a Sri Lankan asylum seeker intercepted en route to Australia with another 156 passengers was lawful under the Maritime Powers Act 2013 (the MPA). In doing so, their Honours also confirmed that the asylum seekers were not entitled to be consulted as to the desirability or otherwise of the destination to which they were to be taken (in this case India) and the Government was not required to have secured an agreement in advance with the country to which they were likely to be taken. In ... Read more...

Murray Financial System Inquiry recommends raising capital requirements for Australian ADIs

In December 2014, the Treasury released the final report of the Financial System Inquiry 2014 (the Murray Inquiry) which examined the Australian financial system and made 44 recommendations to the Government for its improvement.  Read more...

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