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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 March, 2014

Impact of drought in the Middle East

According to a Reuters report from 7 March, United Nations (UN) agencies and water and agricultural authorities are preparing to declare a drought in the Middle East. Aside from the immediate impact of drought on crops, water scarcity is already a problem in parts of the Middle East, and some of the most affected countries are already struggling to absorb hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Read more...

Asylum levels and trends in industrialised countries 2013

On 21 March 2014 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released Asylum levels and trends in industrialised countries 2013. The report provides data on asylum claims lodged in 44 industrialized countries (38 European countries plus the USA, Canada, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia), and reveals a number of interesting trends. Read more...

Parliamentary Library Lecture: Innovation and job targets the keys to disability employment

Craig Wallace, President of People with Disability Australia, has told a Parliamentary Library Lecture that poverty for people with disabilities in Australia will not be overcome by changes to the system of income support. Instead, he argued, Australia should commit to a national challenge to create jobs for people with disabilities over the next decade. Mr Wallace argued that ‘Australia has a troubling record on jobs on disability’: We rank 21st out of 29 OECD countries in employment participation rates for those with a disability. We rank 27th of the 27 in terms of the correlation between disability and poverty. 45 percent of people with a disability live in, or near, pov... Read more...

By Ssolbergj [ GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Dynamic efficiency - the key to lifting Australia's productivity performance?

The need for Australia to lift its productivity performance is well recognised (see for example the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) latest assessment of the Australian economy). With its terms of trade declining Australia can no longer rely on the willingness of the rest of the world to pay more for our exports to fund improved living standards. Part of the challenge is improving the efficiency of Australian firms and other organisations that produce the goods and services we consume as a community and export to the rest of the world. Read more...

Financial support to grandparent carers

The Senate Community Affairs References Committee is currently inquiring into the needs of grandparents who take primary responsibility for raising their grandchildren when parents are unable or unwilling to do so. An important issue raised by many grandparents in this situation is the stark difference between levels of financial support available to those whose caring role is formal and those caring under informal arrangements. There are also substantial differences between jurisdictions. Grandparents as carers According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, in 2009-10, there were 16,000 grandparent families in which the grandparents were guardians or main carers of resident children a... Read more...

Trumping racial vilification

There is currently heated debate over the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RDA) and its racial vilification provisions. This debate has been narrowly focussed on one section of the Act, and has sometimes failed to recognise the impact of the following ‘free speech’ provision. The media’s coverage has focussed almost exclusively on section 18C of the RDA. 18C makes it illegal for someone to do a public act which is ‘reasonably likely, in all the circumstances,’ to ‘offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate’ someone on the basis of their race (‘the vilification section’). There has been less attention paid to section 18D, which  provide... Read more...

Explainer: paying for GP services

This post has been revised on the 21st August 2014. Recently the debate around healthcare has focused on paying for GP services. The proposal for a patient co-payment is one example. Other proposals include capitation, blended payments and managed care. Arguments over the best funding models for primary care may appear to have little relevance for most patients, but how we fund primary care services can impact on the quality of care, as explained in this paper from the Primary Health Care Research & Information Service (PHCRIS). Currently, most primary care services like GP visits are funded through Medicare. GPs receive most of their remuneration through fee-for-service (FFS) payments... Read more...

What’s happening with the McClure welfare review?

The Government is conducting a review into welfare payments, headed by former Mission Australia CEO, Patrick McClure. This post briefly outlines what is currently known about the McClure review, including its objectives, processes and possible outcomes. Late in 2013, it was reported that McClure had been asked to provide recommendations on streamlining and improving Australia’s system of welfare payments. While initially it was thought that the review would examine the entire system, the Government clarified that it would only be looking into working age payments such as Newstart Allowance (NSA) and the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Payments such as Age Pension and the various for... Read more...

Fair Work Commission hands down landmark ruling on anti-bullying regime

Fair Work Commission hands down landmark ruling on anti-bullying regime On 6 March 2014, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled that its jurisdiction to hear complaints from workers who allege they are victims of workplace bullying extends to complaints that relate to bullying that occurred prior to the anti-bullying regime coming into force.   Background As detailed in a previous flag post, the reforms related to bullying were introduced by the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013, which provided the FWC with jurisdiction to hear complaints from workers covered by the Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA) who allege they are victims of workplace bullying. On 9 January 2014, Ms Kathleen McInnes... Read more...

Temporary Protection by hook or by crook

The Coalition has consistently argued for the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas (or TPVs as they are more commonly known) because it considers them to be an essential component of its border protection arsenal to deter asylum seekers from trying to enter Australia by boat. When in Opposition in early 2013, the Coalition unsuccessfully introduced legislation to try to reintroduce TPVs. When they formed Government six months later, the domestic landscape had changed significantly. Some 33,000 boat arrivals were already living in the community on Bridging Visas and following former Prime Minister Rudd’s announcement in July 2013, all future asylum seekers arriving in Australia ... Read more...

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