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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 January, 2014

The role of the Fair Work Commission in tackling workplace bullying

From 1 January 2014, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has jurisdiction to hear complaints from workers covered by the Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA) who allege they are victims of workplace bullying.  Read more...

Medicare at 30

Medicare, Australia's universal health insurance scheme marks its 30th anniversary on 1 February 2014. For 30 years Australians have had free public hospital treatment and subsidised medical services; free if the doctor bulk bills. Medicare is part-funded by a 1.5% levy on income tax (which meets around half its cost) and general taxation. In 2012–13, spending on Medicare totalled $18.5 billion. This makes Medicare the third most expensive government program after the Age Pension and family payments. Read more...

Australia tops the charts... in tax deductions

In the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s recently released ‘Reforming Tax Expenditures in Italy: What, Why, and How?’, Australia was found to forgo more revenue as a proportion of GDP than all other OECD nations. Although tax expenditures result in the government forgoing revenue, they have not been widely scrutinized and cannot be comprehensively measured. As a method through which specific groups, sectors, regions and activities receive a ‘myriad of discounts in the tax code’, tax expenditures continually arise as the subject of debate. Read more...

High Speed Rail for Australia - a fast track to the future or just the same old pipe dream?

High Speed Rail (HSR) has been talked about for many years in Australia but has never progressed beyond the study and report stage. However, on 9 December 2013, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, introduced a private member’s bill — the High Speed Rail Planning Authority Bill 2013. The Bill proposes setting up a High Speed Rail Planning Authority which, as the second reading speech notes, is designed to provide critical ‘long-term Commonwealth leadership to progress the project’ and to ‘maintain the momentum generated by the recent strategic studies’. The other objective of the Bill is to secure the rail corridor, which... Read more...

Growth in Age Pension receipt: the elephant in the room of the welfare reform debate

The Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, has recently expressed concern at the continued growth in the number of people in receipt of income support payments, and suggested that the welfare system is unsustainable. He has therefore commissioned Patrick McClure to undertake a review of the welfare system. Mr McClure’s previous review led to the Welfare to Work changes in 2006. However a closer investigation of the figures, released by the Department of Social Security, suggests that welfare receipt among those of working age is already declining, and hence the scope to make further large reductions may be limited. However Age Pension take up rates continue to increase. Read more...

Keeping our sharks....at a distance

In the last three years there have been six fatal shark attacks on popular beaches in Western Australia. In response, the state government announced on 10 December 2013 a program to catch large sharks (great white, bull and tiger) near heavily used beaches off Perth and the state’s South West (from Capel to Margaret River). The government program deploys baited drum lines one kilometre offshore, but this has been opposed by conservation groups because of the incidental catch of non-target species and the fact that the great white shark is a threatened species.  Read more...

Are the good burghers of Griffith poised to make history? – House of Representatives by-elections 1901–2014

The Australian Electoral Commission has announced the candidates who have nominated to fill the vacancy caused by Kevin Rudd's resignation. Early voting has begun so it’s a good time to review some of the history of by-elections for the House of Representatives. The Griffith by-election is due to be held on 8 February 2014, 1526 days since the previous by-election, a period exceeded only by Balaclava (Vic) and Macquarie (NSW) in 1951 (1946 days) and Fremantle (WA) in 1945 (1547 days). Here we draw on Stephen Barber, Christopher Lawley, Scott Bennett and Gerard Newman's paper from 2009 (House of Representatives by-elections 1901-2009), which is still current as there have been no... Read more...

The heat is on: BOM launches heatwave forecasting

Just as a record-breaking heatwave was moving eastwards from Western Australia last week, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) launched a trial heatwave forecast service. The forecast shows, up to four days in advance, which areas of Australia can anticipate heatwaves. But are heatwave warnings even necessary for “a sunburnt country” with a history of long, hot summers? Read more...

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