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Filter by April, 2014

GP co-payment proposal: lessons from the past

Recent comments by Health Minister Dutton and ongoing media speculation suggest the Government is considering a $6 patient co-payment on GP visits. Speculation is mainly focused on a proposal by former Coalition adviser, Terry Barnes, who describes his GP co-payment proposal as a revival of a 1991 Hawke Government measure. The key features of the Barnes proposal are: an indexation freeze on Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) fees for GP consultations until 2018 a co-payment of $6 for all GP attendances a safety net for concessional patients and families with children after 12 visits a year: subsequent GP attendances in that year would be free the removal of Extended M... Read more...

The Coalition’s PPL scheme: budget drain or revenue raiser?

One of the most controversial features of the Coalition Government’s proposed Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme is its significantly greater cost compared with the current scheme. The more generous proposed scheme is expected to cost $5.7 billion per year when up and running in 2016-17, while the current scheme will cost $2 billion in that year. Media reports suggest that this has led some Coalition members of parliament to urge the Prime Minister to either abandon or ‘scale down’ his proposed scheme. However, it is important to note that according to the Coalition’s 2013 election costings the scheme is expected to make money by its second year—that is, it will ... Read more...

Sunset on Large Trawlers

Former ALP Fisheries Minister, Senator Joe Ludwig, has introduced a private member’s bill that will permit the Federal Government to require assessment of new fishing ventures such as large trawlers. The sunset clause in present legislation meant that such powers expired in September 2013. Read more...

Can the Direct Action Plan be blocked in the Senate?

The leader of the Palmer United Party (PUP), Clive Palmer, has this week expressed an intention not to support the Abbott Government’s Direct Action Plan, the Coalition’s climate change policy, in light of reports that the Government was planning to tighten eligibility for the aged pension. Mr Palmer has suggested that his party would block the policy in the Senate when three PUP senators take their seats after the first of July. The Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, cast doubt on this by saying that the Direct Action Plan will be part of the federal Budget, which is traditionally passed by the Senate. Mr Palmer replied that PUP could ‘reconsider its stance’ on passing... Read more...

Pension indexation: a brief history

In the lead-up to the Coalition Government’s first Budget, speculation has focused on possible changes to the age pension, including adjusting the way pension rates are indexed. Indexation is a complex and important component of the Australian social security system but one that is often misunderstood. The following provides an explanation and brief history of indexation. How pension rates are adjusted Currently, pensions (including the Age Pension, Service Pension, Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment) are indexed twice each year by the greater of the movement in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI). They are then ‘b... Read more...

Syria: losing ground in the fight to eradicate polio

Polio resurfaced in Syria late last year, and has now been found in Iraq as well, leading to concerns that this could reverse gains in international efforts to eradicate the virus. A side effect of the conflict in Syria, now running for over three years, is that for many children vaccinations have lapsed.  According to the BBC‘Vaccination rates in Syria fell from 91 per cent of children before the war to an estimated 68 per cent in 2012. But those are national figures. In rebel-held territory, where all the polio cases so far have occurred, immunisation levels are much lower’. In some cases, the Syrian Government has been accused of deliberately excluding rebel-held areas ... Read more...

Offshore processing: lessons from the ‘Pacific Solution’

On 9 May 2014, the High Court of Australia is scheduled to begin considering the legality of the former Government’s decision to classify Papua New Guinea (PNG) as a regional processing country. Amongst other things, the plaintiff argues that the former Labor Government failed to take into account advice from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which stated there were no laws and procedures in place in PNG for the determination of refugee status or immigration officers with the experience, skill or expertise to undertake refugee status determination (RSD). When the Government processed asylum seekers under the so-called ‘Pacific Solution’ (2001—2008) it mo... Read more...

Money in electoral politics: no small risk for democracy and fairness

In 2010 the US Supreme Court ruled—in its controversial Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision—that there could be no restrictions on the amount of money that corporations and unions could spend on Federal political campaigns. As a result, nearly $1.3 billion flooded into candidates' official campaign accounts and nearly $6 billion was spent on campaigning overall. The the vast majority of the expenditure came from big special interest donors. The 2012 US election cycle was by far the most expensive in history. Read more...

The IPCC's fifth report: the time for adaptation is now

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the second part of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) - Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Unlike the first instalment of AR5, which reviewed the physical science basis of climate change, this report reviews research that outlines how climate change might affect ecosystems and societies. In Australia, most public and political discussion of climate change policy has centred on mitigation strategies – that is, how best to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions – rather than on the impacts that climate change could have, or how best to adapt to those impacts. AR5 makes it clear that... Read more...

Sale of Medibank Private: key arguments

The Minister for Finance has announced that the Government will sell the government-owned private health insurer Medibank Private Limited (MPL) sometime in the 2014–15 year, via an initial public offering (IPO). The long-expected decision follows the recommendations of a scoping study commissioned by government, but not publicly released. Most estimates put the value of MPL at between $2.5–$4 billion or higher. The Medibank Sale Act 2006 allows the sale to proceed without further legislation and limits individual ownership to 15% for at least 5 years. The Minister indicated that current arrangements around premium setting would remain, while the scoping study found no evidence t... Read more...

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