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Filter by November, 2010

Market concentration in the banking sector - household loans

Recently, there has been considerable concern amongst politicians, the media and the broader community regarding competition in the Australian banking sector. Specifically, concerns have been raised regarding banks increasing certain lending rates over and above rises in the RBA’s official cash rate, particularly for housing loans. This observation has led to a debate about collusion and ‘price-signalling’ within the banking sector. This post examines data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) on market shares and concentration in the household lending sector to see whether there has been any increase in the capabilities of financi... Read more...

Sitting days for 2011

The sitting pattern for the House of Representatives was issued on 22 November 2010. In 2011 the House is scheduled to sit for 68 days (or 71 if required). The mean number of sitting days since 1996, in non-election years, is 70.5 days.Since the beginning of the 38th Parliament, the number of sitting days has been:YearSitting Days199661199776199854199973200073200156200269200374200459200567200668200750200869200968201053Election years are shown in bold.The Parliamentary Library published a paper comparing sitting days for 2008 in other Australian parliaments and overseas.(image sourced from: http://www.aph.gov.au/house/pics/chamber.gif) Read more...

Constitutional recognition of Indigenous people

During the course of the election campaign both major parties made announcements about constitutional recognition of Indigenous people. The Coalition promised to hold a referendum at the 2013 election on the wording of a preamble in the Constitution to recognise Indigenous Australians, and the ALP promised to set up an expert panel to build support for the constitutional recognition of Indigenous people.   The agreement reached between the Greens and the Government following the election outlined that they would work together and with other parliamentarians to ‘hold referenda during the 43rd Parliament or at the next election on Indigenous constitutional recognition and recognition of local ... Read more...

Opposition Youth Allowance bill referred to committee

A Private Member's Bill, introduced by Senator Fiona Nash, seeking to make it easier for students in inner regional areas to qualify for Independent Youth Allowance has been referred to the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee for inquiry and report by 15 February 2011. The purpose of the bill, the Social Security Amendment (Income Support for Regional Students) Bill 2010, is to require that the eligibility criteria for students on Independent Youth Allowance from very remote, remote and outer regional areas be extended to include inner regional students.Background to this issue can be found in a recent post on Senator Nash's Bill and a related House of Representati... Read more...

High Court ruling on the offshore processing of asylum claims

On 11 November 2010 the High Court delivered its much anticipated judgment in the cases of Plaintiff M61/2010E v Commonwealth of Australia; Plaintiff M69 of 2010 v Commonwealth of Australia [2010] HCA 41. The plaintiffs were asylum seekers intercepted and initially detained on Christmas Island. Although subsection 46A(1) of the Migration Act bars visa applications by such asylum seekers (known as ‘offshore entry persons’ under the Migration Act), the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has the personal discretion to lift the bar under that provision, or to grant a visa under section 195A, if in the public interest. However, neither section imposes a duty on the Minister to consider exer... Read more...

Private health insurance premium increases

The private health insurance sector has begun its annual process of negotiating premium increases with the federal government. To most, the process of—and indeed the need for—negotiating premium prices with government is a little mysterious. A Background Note prepared by the Parliamentary Library provides an overview of the current process for seeking premium increases. Under the Private Health Insurance Act 2007, private health insurance funds must seek the Minister for Health and Ageing’s approval for all premium increases; and the Minister must publicly disclose reasons for not approving an increase.According to an article in the Australian Financial Review on 19 November 2010, this year ... Read more...

Independent review of aid effectiveness

On 16 November 2010, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced an ‘Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness’ which will examine the effectiveness, efficiency and strategic direction of Australia’s aid program ‘in line with Australia’s national interests’.  It is expected to be completed by April 2011 and will be the first major review of the program since the Simons Review commissioned by the Howard Government in 1996. The review will be conducted by a panel chaired by Sandy Holloway and includes Stephen Howes, former Chief Economist at AusAID.Outlay on Australia’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) has doubled over the last five years to an estimated $4.3 billion in 2010–11 and is expected to... Read more...

Australian Government funding for schools

A recently published Background Note from the Parliamentary Library shows that Australian Government funding for schools will increase in real terms (in 2008–09 dollars) from $6.9 billion in 1999–00 to $11.5 billion in 2011–12. This means that funding for government schools will increase from $2.8 billion to $4.4 billion and, for non-government schools, from $4.2 billion to $7.1 billion.Usually, most of the funding increases for schools are the result of indexation. The remainder is from increases in student numbers and new money as the result of government policy initiatives. However, the Building the Economic Revolution (BER) economic stimulus measures, (amounting to $16.2 billion), has re... Read more...

Attitudes to same-sex marriage

The Federal Parliament is currently debating a motion on same-sex relationships moved by Adam Bandt—the recently elected Australian Greens party member for the seat of Melbourne. The motion notes there is ‘widespread support for equal marriage in the Australian community’ and calls on ‘all parliamentarians to gauge their constituents’ views on the issue of marriage equality’. As a result of this and other related debate, there is currently great interest in what public opinion polls may be able to tell us regarding changing attitudes towards same-sex marriage.Not surprisingly, public opinion polls on this issue, as on any other, can differ markedly depending on the questions asked, the conte... Read more...

Australian report on Bisphenol A

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has released its report on Bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging and the risks to consumers. The compound BPA has a controversial history. It is suspected of being an endocrine disruptor (a chemical that mimics some of the natural hormones of the human body). It can also be directly toxic at high enough doses. More recent studies have found a range of other possible adverse effects from BPA, but this research is still preliminary and subject to confirmation. Some materials containing BPA have been banned in some countries (i.e. Canada), and there have been suggestions that Australia should follow suit. On 30 June 2010, the Australian Government anno... Read more...