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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 October, 2011

Who's counting? Seven billion and growing

According to the United Nations (UN), the 31st of October 2011 is the day the world’s population officially reaches seven billion. However, it is not possible to absolutely calculate at which point in time the seven billionth person will be born. The US Census Bureau does not estimate the population reaching seven billion until February 2012, so the 31st of October is more symbolic. However, sometime in the very near future the world’s population will reach this milestone.The first billion was reached sometime in the late 1700s–1800s and approximately 130 years later the population of the world doubled to two billion. However from the 1950’s onwards we have seen a rapid growth in population.... Read more...

How many venues would be affected if mandatory pre-commitment is implemented in 2012?

  A significant proportion of gaming venues will be exempt from the proposed reforms to electronic gaming machines (EGMs), at least until 2018. Mr Wilkie's proposal is for venues to introduce mandatory pre-commitment on high intensity EGMs or deploy low intensity machines which have been configured to limit losses to around $120 per hour (or a combination of the two). But the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform Committee Mr Wilkie chaired on the proposed mandatory pre-commitment scheme also recommended (see recommendations 39 & 40 of the Committee's report) that venues with 15 or fewer machines, and those in rural and regional Australia, be exempt from this requirement until ... Read more...

Is counselling for pokie addiction an effective harm minimisation measure?

At a rally at the Canterbury RSL in western Sydney on Tuesday evening, the opposition leader Tony Abbott predicted a future Coalition government would rescind any legislation that introduces mandatory pre-commitment on electronic gaming machines (EGMs). Instead of mandatory pre-commitment, he suggested a greater focus on individual counselling for problem gamblers is needed.If the opposition leader's support for counselling results in more funding for such services, many who provide help to Australia's estimated 95,000 EGM problem gamblers and their families will probably welcome it. But the efficacy of counselling as a harm minimisation measure is questionable; it is not clear that increase... Read more...

Australia's record at the WTO

If success is measured by a win/loss record, then Australia has done remarkably well in the WTO dispute settlement system despite losing its recent appeal against New Zealand apple imports. Since the WTO dispute settlement system was created in 1995 Australia has been actively involved in 17 disputes in the WTO as a complainant and a defendant. Australia has won five of the seven cases it has prosecuted and lost three of the ten cases brought against it.Here’s the balance sheet to date:  In four of the five wins (Korea–Beef, US–Lamb, EU–Sugar Subsidy and EU–Trademarks) Australia was the initiating complainant and won on the substantive issue. In the two remaining cases brought by Austral... Read more...

The hung Parliament: the first year

On 7 September 2010 an agreement was formulated between the ALP, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor which, together with other agreements, gave the Labor Party the support it needed to form a minority government. A major component of the agreement with Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor was an annex, Agreement for a Better Parliament: Parliamentary Reform, which was negotiated by the ALP, the Coalition and the independents. The Agreement for a Better Parliament identified a range of changes to House of Representatives procedure and practice, many of which were subsequently implemented through changes to the House of Representatives Standing Orders. The Parliamentary Library has recently released a ... Read more...

Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program

Image source: The University of SydneyOn 22 September 2011 the Government released the Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011(the Knight Review), along with its response to the Review’s 41 recommendations.The Review recommends making some significant changes to visa processing, and post-study work rights, for students in the university sector. It also recommends some minor changes to the student visa program across other education sectors, and to the integrity measures applied by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) in monitoring and enforcing student visa compliance.The Government has responded positively to the Review’s recommendations, and announced some signif... Read more...

A return to the Six-Party Talks?

In diplomacy, as in comedy, timing is everything. Recent diplomatic signals suggest that the time for a return to the Six-Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program has arrived—even if the incentives of the participating countries do not match.The Six-Party Talks, involving North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States, seek a negotiated end to the North Korean nuclear weapons program. The talks started in August 2003 and have been effectively stalled since 2008. Since that time, relations between the two Koreas have deteriorated, culminating in the March 2010 sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan and the November 2010 North Korean shelling of Yeon... Read more...

MPs’ wages fall relative to average wages

The Remuneration Tribunal’s current review of parliamentary remuneration is generating much public discussion and media comment. This FlagPost examines the growth in MPs’ basic salary (the annual allowance) against growth in average wages (as measured by male total average weekly earnings) over the last 40 years.Since the 1970s the annual allowance for members of parliament has declined relative to the average wage. For instance in 1975 the annual allowance paid to an MP was nearly three times that of the average wage. In 2011 it was just over twice the average wage.Much of the deterioration in the relative size of the allowance to average wages occurred during the 1970s and 1980s. This tren... Read more...

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