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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, 2013

Australia's credit rating

Following reports on Wednesday 27 February 2013 that credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s had maintained Australia’s AAA credit rating with a stable outlook, there has been renewed interest in Australia’s historical credit ratings. This FlagPost presents the historical changes to credit ratings in Australia, drawing from public reports and discussions in Hansard. There are three major ratings agencies that provide scores on a country’s credit rating, thereby measuring sovereign risk. These agencies are Standard and Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s and Fitch Ratings, and they all currently rate Australia at their highest rating (AAA) with a stable outlook. ... Read more...

Australia's first National Children's Commissioner

On 25 February 2013 the Government announced the appointment of Australia's first National Children's Commissioner, Ms Megan Mitchell. The position of National Children’s Commissioner will sit within the Australian Human Rights Commission and commences on 25 March 2013. In its announcement, the Government outlined the Commissioner's legislative mandate to 'focus on vulnerable or at-risk groups of children, such as children with a disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, homeless children or those who are witnessing or subjected to violence'. In A picture of Australia’s children 2012, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) noted that while many of Australia’s... Read more...

The Tarkine: more than just a forest?

The recent statement by Greens leader Senator Christine Milne at the National Press Club that 'Labor has walked away from its agreement with the Greens…so be it', led to the airing of several government decisions that her party was unhappy with. One of the key issues was Labor’s decision on the Tarkine in Tasmania, which she said was evidence that the government gave priority to mining interests.The 439,000 hectares (ha) of the Tarkine includes Australia’s largest tract of cool temperate rainforest and is home to many rare species. But on the 8th of February Environment Minister Tony Burke announced that only a small part of the region would receive National Heritage listing. Is the Tarkine ... Read more...

Good food=Good health: making it add up

A healthy diet is fundamental to good health, acknowledges the latest Australian Dietary Guidelines prepared by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) this week. Based on a stringent review of over 55,000 scientific publications, the guidelines update and strengthen the evidence from the previous 2003 dietary guidelines. Primarily aimed at health professionals, the key recommendations of the guidelines are:Eat a variety of nutritious foods from the 5 key food groups (vegetables, fruit, grains, lean meats and nuts, low-fat dairy) to meet your energy needsLimit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcoholEncourage and support breastfeedingPre... Read more...

Latest US climate Bill follows Australian lead

The US seems to be following in the footsteps of Australia, at least in terms of climate policy. Last week, Senators Sanders and Boxer introduced into Congress a Bill that establishes a carbon price. Like Australia’s Clean Energy Act, the US’s proposed Climate Protection Act would see the majority of carbon tax revenue flowing back to households to assist with rising energy prices. Also proposed, and comparable to Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation, is a $500 billion program to co-invest in, or provide guarantees for, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Details of the US BillThere are a number of components to the Bill. It sets a 2050 target to reduce greenhouse gas em... Read more...

A snapshot of Southeast Asia in 2013

This year promises to be another big year in Southeast Asia, that part of Australia’s region where our economic and security interests are most actively engaged.Both Malaysia and Cambodia will conduct national elections in 2013. In the case of Malaysia, where the election must be called by April, the upcoming poll has been characterised as the most competitive in the country’s history. This is despite ongoing concerns on the part of opposition parties and democracy activists about possible vote-rigging by the country’s governing coalition, the Barisan Nasional. Cambodia’s elections, scheduled for July, take place against the backdrop of rapid economic development, continued pursuit of closer... Read more...

Does Australia really need a new anti-dumping agency?

Last week, the Minister for Justice and Home Affairs, Jason Clare, introduced the Customs Amendment (Anti-Dumping Commission) Bill 2013 into the House of Representatives. The purpose of this Bill is to establish a new anti-dumping agency, which will investigate foreign exporters who are allegedly dumping their goods in the Australian market. While the idea of a Commission dedicated to exposing those who are looking to cheat Australian manufacturers and undermine free trade sounds worthwhile, criticisms have been raised as to whether such an agency is necessary or whether the current arrangements will suffice.The establishment of an anti-dumping commission was announced by the Prime Minister ... Read more...

Food labelling logic- what really is the most logical approach?

Since the Government rejected the introduction of a traffic light food labelling system, public health advocates and industry representatives have been arguing about what method of food labelling would best assist consumers in making better choices. Traffic light labelling uses green, amber and red to show the relative levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt in a product. Yet the idea of a ‘star rating system’ may lead to a breakthrough in the debate.With 3 in 5 Australian adults either overweight or obese (and 1 in 4 Australian children), the idea of a front of pack labelling system on food is currently being promoted by experts as one of best ways to address obesity.... Read more...

Private health insurance premiums to rise by an average 5.6 per cent

Early each year the Health Minister announces the average increase to private health insurance (PHI) premiums that will apply from 1 April, following her annual assessment of applications for increases from the 36 health insurers. The announcement invariably attracts considerable attention, particularly if the increase is higher than community expectations. This year, the average increase to premiums will be around 5.6 per cent, according to the Minister’s statement. This is broadly in line with the magnitude of increases over recent years, and just marginally above last year’s increase of 5.06 per cent. For families with top cover this will mean an average increase of $3.70 per week.Over th... Read more...

The question of equivalence: aged care or the NDIS for those over the age of 65

The legislation to establish the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is due to be debated in Parliament this week. Under the legislation, people with a disability aged under 65 will be able to apply to receive NDIS supports but those aged over 65 will not. NDIS participants who turn 65 will have a choice about whether to remain in the NDIS or switch to the aged care sector. However, once NDIS participants over the age of 65 enter the aged care system (either residential care or home support), they will be unable to access the NDIS. This assumes a degree of equivalence between supports available for people with a disability in the aged care system and those that would be provided unde... Read more...

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