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Filter by February, 2011

Alternative vote for the UK?

On 16 February 2011 the UK Parliament passed legislation providing for a referendum to be held on 5 May 2011 regarding possible changes to the UK electoral system. This was a key constitutional reform identified in the Coalition programme for government formulated by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats following the 2010 election. However, the parties hold opposing views on the form of the electoral system to be adopted. The Conservatives support the current electoral system, First-past-the-post, while the Liberal Democrats support the Alternative Vote, similar to the Australian system. The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 provides for the next UK general elect... Read more...

History of Australian pensions

 The long running Parliamentary Library publication Social Security Payments for the Aged, People with Disabilities and Carers 1901 to 2010 has been updated to include policy changes since 2006.At federation in 1901 the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia gave power to the Commonwealth Government to legislate for invalid and old-age pensions. A Royal Commission on Old-Age Pensions was conducted during 1905‐6 and legislation for both age and invalid pensions was passed in 1908 during the Deakin administration.These pensions were unusual compared with other countries in that they were non-contributory (paid for through general revenue, rather than social insurance contributions), non... Read more...

ALP's 2010 National Review

On Friday 18 February part of a review commissioned by the ALP's National Executive was released. The public section of the report deals with the future of the ALP and the changes that the Review Committee recommends for the party to 'survive and prosper'.The report shows declines in party membership, the number of local branches and the number of affiliated unions. Some of the significant organisational changes recommended by former premiers Steve Bracks and Bob Carr, and Senator John Faulkner, involve:strategies aimed at rebuilding the local branch membershipencouraging lapsed members to rejoingranting members a direct vote for a component of delegates to the National Conferencegranting fu... Read more...

How do school systems improve?

A new report, which so far does not appear to have received much attention but is certainly deserving of more consideration, is How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better. This report from McKinsey & Co. builds on the work of an earlier report, How the World’s Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top (2007), which examined the common attributes of ‘excellent’ school systems.This time 20 significantly ‘improving’ school systems, as measured by national and international standards of assessment, and which are at different stages across a performance spectrum (from poor to excellent), were examined to see what reform interventions are working—in all some 575 refo... Read more...

Will access to ‘gap year’ Youth Allowance improve regional students participation in higher education?

In the recent Senate debate on Senator Nash's private member’s bill to extend the criteria for Independent Youth Allowance to Inner Regional students the issue of why so few regional students go on to tertiary education was raised and an argument made that the ability to take a gap year and qualify for Youth Allowance would improve regional students’ access to and participation in higher education.However past experience would suggest that if the bill–which has passed the Senate–is debated and passed in the House of Representatives it may do little to improve the regional participation rate in higher education. Despite gap year provisions for Youth Allowance eligibility being in place for ov... Read more...

Radical new structure proposed for the ACT public service

A recently-released review of the ACT public service (ACTPS) has made an unusual recommendation: the abolition of the existing public service structure and the re-establishment of the ACTPS as a single agency. The proposed single agency would comprise a Chief Minister’s Department and several directorates covering portfolio responsibilities. The ACTPS employs around 20 000 staff and comprises nine departments and various agencies.The review found that the ACTPS is ‘not broken’ and in many respects ‘is at the forefront of leading practice’, but also concludes that a single agency structure would be a better model for government in the ACT. The review notes that current ACTPS structures are de... Read more...

Medicare Locals and reform of primary care

In their joint statement about the Agreement signed at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on 13 February 2011, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health stated that one of the aims of the reform package was to ‘shift the centre of gravity from hospitals towards primary health care’. To that end, the Government has committed to: increasing the number of Medicare Locals (MLs) that are to be established as a result of the health package announced by the Government in March 2010, bringing forward the establishment of more MLs, fast-tracking reforms to after-hours GP care and ensuring that local communities have more information about their local primary health care service... Read more...

Is there too much middle class welfare in Australia?

'Middle class welfare' has recently reemerged as an issue in Australian politics, primarily as a result of debates about how the Australian Government should fund infrastructure reconstruction following the floods in Queensland and Victoria. Criticisms of middle class welfare are often premised on the idea that it is a particular problem in Australia. But what is the extent of middle class welfare in Australia and should access by people on middle incomes to welfare benefits and services necessarily be seen as a matter for concern?First of all, it needs to be pointed out that Australia's social welfare arrangements are quite different from those of most overseas countries. For example, incom... Read more...

The new COAG health agreement: is it really health reform?

After marathon negotiations over the weekend, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) announced a revised health reform package. The new deal jettisons some of the more contentious and what had become unworkable elements of the previous National Health and Hospitals Agreement: some of the most problematic elements were the requirement that states dedicate a portion of their GST to health, and plans for the Commonwealth to takeover primary health care and fund capital investment in public hospitals through the ‘user cost of capital’ method.The new health reform deal undeniably focuses on reforming the financing arrangements for public hospitals. Some health commentators have expressed di... Read more...

Hung parliaments and minority governments

A recent Parliamentary Library paper examines the hung Commonwealth Parliament, the formation of the minority ALP Government, and voting dynamics in the House of Representatives together with a number of related issues such as the next federal election and hung parliaments and minority governments at the state/territory level.After a hung Parliament emerged from the 2010 federal election (the first in almost 70 years), both the ALP and the Opposition engaged in negotiations with the cross-bench parliamentarians in order to form government. The ALP was ultimately successful, forming government in mid-September 2010 after signing agreements with the Australian Greens and with three of the othe... Read more...