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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 May, 2012

Australian elections in the next four years

There are between four and seven elections at the federal, state/territory or local government level each year. From now to the end of 2015 there will be one federal election, eight state or territory elections and seven local council elections. This does not include supplementary elections, by-elections or separate legislative council elections. By the end of 2012 there will have been three state/territory elections (Queensland in March, the Northern Territory in August and the Australian Capital Territory in October) and four sets of local council elections across the Northern Territory in March, Queensland in April, New South Wales in September and Victoria in October.In 2013 four electio... Read more...

The expulsion of Syrian diplomats

Image source: Voice of America On 29 May 2012 the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, announced that the highest ranking Syrian diplomat in Australia, Chargé d'Affaires Jawdat Ali, was being expelled from the country in response to recent atrocities in Syria. Ali and one other Syrian diplomat were given 72 hours to leave Australia. There has been no Syrian Ambassador to Australia since Tammam Sulaiman left Australia in October 2010. It has been suggested that the Australian Government has been delaying the processing of the credentials of the prospective new Ambassador, Mohammed Khaddou... Read more...

Immigration detention: what are the alternatives?

  Since 1992 when the policy of mandatory detention was introduced in Australia, the detention of asylum seekers arriving unauthorised by boat has received a great deal of public attention. In particular, the duration and conditions of their detention have been controversial issues that have plagued successive governments since the early 1990s when there were several hunger strikes, rooftop demonstrations and suicide attempts at Villawood and Port Hedland immigration detention centres. Numerous reports on the pros and cons of mandatory detention, from both the government and non-government sectors, have been produced since 1992. The latest Parliamentary committee to conduct an inquiry on... Read more...

Codes of conduct for members of parliament

Many Australian and overseas parliaments have put in place codes of conduct covering ministers and members of parliament. Some parliaments have ethics or integrity commissioners to advise members on their code, while others have external bodies empowered to investigate members' conduct. The federal Parliament is currently considering the arguments for and against a members' code of conduct and the benefits of establishing a National Integrity Commission.A Parliamentary Library Background Note on parliamentary codes of conduct around Australia and in selected overseas jurisdictions has been updated to reflect some recent developments.The following table summarises the codes of conduct operati... Read more...

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Indigenous federal voting rights

It is 100 years since the right and responsibility to enrol to vote became enshrined in Australian law and 50 years since all Indigenous Australians became entitled to vote in federal elections. (Some, but not all, adult Indigenous Australians, were able to vote prior to 1962.) Celebrations are in order.  In March 1962 the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 was amended to enable Indigenous people to enrol to vote in federal elections, but it was not compulsory for them to enrol. It was made an offence for anyone to use undue influence or pressure to induce them to enrol. Once they enrolled, however, voting was compulsory. The story of Indigenous enfranchisement is a long and complex one. There ... Read more...

Same sex families

Although children of same sex relationships often experience discrimination and stigmatisation, the existing evidence overwhelmingly indicates that the sexual orientation of a parent has no effect on a child's development or sense of wellbeing. Studies conducted since the 1980s have consistently found that ’there is simply no credible evidence that such relationships cause harm to the intellectual, emotional, psychological or sexual development of children’. One research review conducted in 1996 noted that the results are ‘exceptionally clear’ and ‘yield a picture of families thriving even in the midst of discrimination and oppression’: Certainly, they provide no evidence that psychologica... Read more...

Schapelle Corby granted clemency by Indonesian President

In April 2012, Indonesia’s Justice and Human Rights Ministry recommended Schapelle Corby’s jail sentence be reduced by ten years, on humanitarian grounds. Corby, now 34, is said to be suffering from mental illness. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a letter on 15 May granting Corby clemency, cutting five years off her 20 year prison term. This is particularly significant as previously the Indonesian President has stated that he would not use his power of clemency in favour of drug offenders. This may have consequences for other Australians seeking clemency from the President, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran of the “Bali 9”. Two senior government officials in Indonesia have confirmed... Read more...

New Zealand: Foreign Charter Vessels to be reflagged

On 22 May 2012, the New Zealand Government announced that it would require reflagging of foreign owned fishing vessels working in New Zealand waters, to "address labour, safety and fisheries practice concerns."Commercial fishing in New Zealand is managed by a quota system, with all fishing quota owned by New Zealand companies. Foreign Charter Vessels (FCVs) are foreign owned and flagged fishing vessels leased by a New Zealand company to fish in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone. As discussed in a Flagpost last year, the then Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Hon Phil Heatley MP, and the Minister for Labour, the Hon Kate Wilkinson MP, had jointly convened a ministerial inquiry i... Read more...

Latest Illicit Drug Data Report released

The Illicit Drug Data Report produced each year by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) provides a statistical overview of illicit drug arrests and seizures for the financial year and details the current situation, national impact and emerging trends related to illicit drugs in Australia and internationally. The latest report is the ninth in the series, which replaced the Australian Illicit Drug Report from 2002–03. Outlined below is a brief snapshot of some of the key findings of the 2010–11 Illicit Drug Data Report launched by the Minister for Home Affairs on 17 May 2012, with a focus on amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), cocaine and heroin. Overall findings and trends C... Read more...

‘For a Few Dollars More’: DFAT identifies priority posts

A recent submission by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to a Parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s overseas representation identifies its priorities for new posts should the Government provide additional funding.These priorities were identified in response to a Question on Notice from Mr Michael Danby MP, Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and an ex-officio member of the Foreign Affairs sub-committee undertaking the inquiry. Under the three funding options put by Mr Danby, DFAT nominated the following priorities for new posts:‘Low option’ ($25 million a year added to the DFAT budget): Astana (Kazakhstan), Ulaanbatar (Mongolia), Daka... Read more...