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Filter by November, 2013

Extending income management in Cape York

Legislation introduced into Parliament last week proposes to extend operation of income management in Cape York for a further two years until the end of 2015. This will be the third time income management has been extended in Cape York since it began in 2008. The Government argues that income management is a key element of welfare reform efforts in Cape York, which it says have 'seen improved school attendance, care and protection of children and community safety'.Cape York income managementIncome management refers to a policy under which a percentage of the welfare payments of certain people is set aside to be spent only on ‘priority items’ such as food, housing, clothing, education and hea... Read more...

Quantitative easing - What do we know about the Fed's exit strategy?

For much of this year there has been speculation about when the US Federal Reserve (the Fed) will begin tapering quantitative easing (QE) as a first step to normalising monetary policy. This would be a welcome development for Australia because the Australian dollar, which remains at uncomfortably high levels, would likely depreciate. This note provides a quick summary of what the Fed has said about its exit strategy. It follows on from an earlier flagpost Exiting quantitative easing – the need for a deft touch and some luck.The Fed has clearly done a lot of work to prepare for exiting QE and restoring its balance sheet to a more normal configuration in the longer term. An important first ste... Read more...

Legislation and the financial initiative: what happened to the Opposition amendments to the Carbon Tax Repeal Bills?

The Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and other related Bills passed the House of Representatives on 21 November 2013 with no amendments. While this is not an unusual occurrence, what is notable is that Opposition amendments to the package of bills were not debated during the consideration-in-detail stage.The Speaker, the Hon. Bronwyn Bishop, made a ruling prior to the commencement of the consideration-in-detail stage of the Bills, that the amendments could contravene standing orders 179(a) and 179(b):179. Taxation proposals initiated by Minister(a) Only a Minister may initiate a proposal to impose, increase, or decrease a tax or duty, or change the scope of any charge. ... Read more...

Abolishing free legal advice to asylum seekers — who really pays?

One week before the 2013 federal election, the Coalition announced that, if elected, it would no longer provide funding for free legal advice to asylum seekers who have arrived without a valid visa. The primary concern for the Coalition was clearly the increasing cost of providing this service. However, one month prior to the Coalition’s announcement, the Government had entered into a regional resettlement arrangement with Papua New Guinea which meant all future boat arrivals would be processed abroad with no access to the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS). Nonetheless, there are estimated to be in excess of 30,000 asylum seekers in Australia that will be affected ... Read more...

Removing employer responsibility for Paid Parental Leave

New Abbott Government legislation will remove the requirement for employers to make payments to employees under the national Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme from 1 March 2014. Instead, employees would be paid directly by the Department of Human Services, unless the employer chooses to make the payments.The Government's reason for making the change is to 'ease administrative burdens on business'. Currently, in most cases, the Commonwealth Government funds employers to provide instalments of PPL to their eligible long-term employees for up to 18 weeks at the National Minimum Wage (currently $606.50 per week). The employer role in making these payments was suggested by the Productivity Commiss... Read more...

How much does working until 70 save the budget bottom line?

Last week, the Productivity Commission released a research paper on the ‘economic issues raised by population ageing’, which included a recommendation to raise the age for eligibility for the Age Pension to 70. This proposal has been widely condemned by interest groups including the ACTU and National Seniors Australia, with one group claiming that implementing the policy would ‘see grandmothers and grandfathers joining the dole queue’. A Grattan Institute report released yesterday also includes this proposal as one of the ‘tough choices’ that may be required to balance the budget.The Productivity Commission’s proposal is that once the current legislated increase to 67 for the age of eligibil... Read more...

The Hung Parliament: procedural changes in the House of Representatives

On 5 August 2013 the 43rd Commonwealth Parliament—the first hung parliament since the early 1940s—was officially prorogued ahead of the federal election to be held on 7 September 2013. Whilst there has been considerable commentary on the performance of the Government, the Opposition, the parties and the cross-bench during the 43rd Parliament, there has been much less discussion about the nature of the hung parliament itself. However, the 43rd Parliament was characterised by a range of new arrangements to House of Representatives practice and procedure.These new arrangements were the result of an agreement formulated in the aftermath of the 2010 federal election between the ALP, Independents ... Read more...

Housing affordability and social housing

Australia’s housing affordability situation is dire, and looks set to worsen. The figures, as outlined in a recently released AIHW report, are stark. They indicate that between 2001 and 2011 national average house prices increased by 147 per cent, from $169,000 to $417,500, while median household disposable income rose by 57 per cent. Further, the proportion of Australian households in housing stress (that is, spending over 30 per cent of their gross household income on housing costs, either mortgage repayments or rent) has increased from 14 per cent in 1994–5 to 18 per cent in 2011–12, with 2 in 5 (42 per cent) of these being low-income households (in the lowest 40 per cent of the income d... Read more...

Gambling reforms to be wound back

On the 20 November 2013, the Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews introduced the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 to the House of Representatives. Among a host of amendments to various social welfare, higher education and income support arrangements, the Bill proposes to significantly wind back national gambling reforms that were intended to address problem gambling associated with electronic gaming machines (EGMs), or pokies.The National Gambling Reform Act 2012 will be renamed the National Gambling Measures Act, with a shift in emphasis to encouraging responsible gambling. When the Act was passed in November 2012, it established a national regulatory regim... Read more...

The disputed 2013 WA Senate election

The initial count of the Senate vote in Western Australia gave the last two Senate seats to Palmer United Party (PUP) candidate Zhenya Dio Wang and ALP candidate, sitting senator Louise Pratt. However, the closeness of the result (14 votes separated two minor parties at an important point in the count) was challenged by defeated candidates sitting senator Scott Ludlam (Australian Greens ) and Wayne Dropulich (Australian Sports Party). As a result on 2 October, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) deferred the formal announcement of the six successful candidates. The next day (3 October) the AEC turned down the appeal for a recount by Ludlam and Dropulich because they ‘did not identify a... Read more...

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