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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 September, 2011

Government's reponse to the deferring of medicines on the PBS

The announcement by the Government earlier today that medicines previously deferred on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) will be listed on the PBS has been welcomed by the main stakeholder groups. Medicines Australia (MA), the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) and the Generic Medicines Industry Association (GMiA) have all been lobbying Government to reverse the deferral decision made in February this year. See here and here for background. At the same time, the Government also released the ‘statement of principles of commitment between stakeholders.’ This sets out the short and medium term arrangements for the deferral of PBS medicines. In short, between now and October 2012, medicines app... Read more...

Affordability and access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Expenditure on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) grew by 9.3 per cent last year (to 30 June 2010). Growth in PBS expenditure (and other health care programs) and the subsequent pressure on growth in spending was noted in paper recently released by Senator Wong as background to the upcoming tax forum. Yet it is not only government that is feeling the financial pain. A recent study found that expenditure by consumers on prescription medicines trebled between 1991 and 2007. The Government has attempted to rein in PBS spending through the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) it signed with Medicines Australia and, controversially, the deferral of the listing of some medicines on the PBS.Affo... Read more...

Coal seam gas: should the gates be locked?

Coal seam gas! It’s controversial and in the news every day. Why has it suddenly become an issue? What is going on? The exploration for and development of coal seam gas (CSG) is a relatively new and small activity in Australia, but the size of the estimated CSG resource suggests that it could grow to become a major industry, and an important new energy export sector. But only if it can overcome some problems.  Coal seam gas occurs naturally in most coal seams and is trapped there by the confining pressure of groundwater. Chemically it is the same as natural gas (i.e. mostly methane) extracted from conventional oil and gas deposits. See the Library’s Background Note for further details.  In i... Read more...

Industrial relations reforms: boosting labour productivity?

Business leaders are citing impediments caused by the Fair Work legislation as a significant limit on labour productivity:Mr Argus (former BHP Billiton chairman) ... warn(ed) of a return to "the dark days of the 1970s" if labour market flexibility was not boosted. He said under the Fair Work laws, unions were resisting "management attempts to achieve efficiency"... Bureau of Statistics data shows little change in labour productivity growth under the Fair Work Act when compared to the period under Work Choices, while other measures of productivity have also weakened since 2000.( ‘Labor woeful on economic reform, says Argus’) The aim of such criticism, at a minimum, would be to widen ‘prohibit... Read more...

Health Insurance in Australia: time for a new debate?

  In July 2011 the Government re-introduced its Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives legislation into the House of Representatives; for an overview of the history of this legislation, see here. The Bills have not yet been debated. The key changes proposed by this legislation are: a means-test on tax-funded rebates for private health insurance (PHI) for those on incomes above a specified threshold, and; a higher Medicare Levy Surcharge for people on high incomes who choose not to purchase PHI. If passed, the legislation will mean that higher income earners will receive a lower or no tax-funded subsidy when they purchase PHI, and, if they choose not to purchase PHI, they will face high... Read more...

Not in New Zealand? Labour exploitation on foreign flagged fishing vessels.

A Ministerial Inquiry is underway in New Zealand into the use and operation of Foreign Charter Vessels in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The review has been convened jointly by the Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Hon Phil Heatley MP, and the Minister for Labour, the Hon Kate Wilkinson MP.  Its principal objective is to ensure that foreign owned and flagged vessels chartered by New Zealand companies:  Protect New Zealand’s international reputation and trade access Maximise the economic return to New Zealand from its  fisheries resources, andEnsure acceptable and equitable New Zealand labour standards are applied on all fishing vessels operating in New Zealand’s fish... Read more...

Government extends special Youth Allowance access to Inner Regional students

The Government has announced that it will introduce legislation allowing students from inner regional areas to access independent Youth Allowance under the same rules that apply to students from Outer Regional, Remote and Very Remote areas. This follows the Government’s release of a scheduled review of student income support reforms conducted by Professor Kwong Lee Dow (the Dow Review). The Government brought forward the review by 12 months in response to concerns about access to income support by students in rural and regional areas. The Government has not accepted Professor Dow’s most contentious recommendation which is to remove the current special arrangements for young people from Outer... Read more...

Australia and the European Union: towards a Treaty-level partnership agreement

 The President of the European Commission and former Portuguese Prime Minister, José Manuel Barroso, visited Australia on 4–7 September 2011 as a guest of the Australian Government. The last President of the European Commission to visit Australia was the former prime minister of Luxembourg, Gaston Thorn, in February 1982. Thorn came to Canberra during the Fraser Government’s last years, and his visit was remembered in the Australian press at the time by disagreements over agricultural issues.Nearly thirty years later Mr Barroso, who heads the European Union’s (EU) largest department with over 30 000 civil servants, delivered a public lecture at the Australian National University on 6 Septem... Read more...

Changes to the National School Chaplaincy Program

As foreshadowed in a previous FlagPost, the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett has announced changes to the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP). From 2012, the NSCP will be transformed into the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program. Schools will be able to employ ‘either a chaplain or a secular student welfare worker’ and tighter administrative controls will be introduced. This announcement appears to have appeased some of the NCSP’s proponents and addressed some of the concerns raised by its critics.The NSCP’s expansion and the introduction of minimum qualifications, benchmark standards for service providers, and improvements to the complaints management sys... Read more...

National Child Protection Week

  The week beginning 4 September 2011 marks the start of National Child Protection Week. The Australian Government’s National framework for protecting Australia’s children 2009–2020 acknowledges that child abuse and neglect rates have ‘more than doubled over the past 10 years and the number of children subject to child abuse and neglect remains unacceptably high’. Globally, child protection issues are complex and the consequences for the world’s children of abuse, exploitation and neglect are immense. The scale of the problem globallyThe United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that at least 300 million children are subjected to abuse and that violence may affect as many as 1.5 bi... Read more...

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