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Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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Oil and water: natural resources and Timor-Leste’s development challenges

Ongoing international arbitration proceedings arising from allegations of Australian espionage during the 2004 negotiations over the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) Treaty with Timor-Leste have highlighted the latter’s dependence on petroleum revenues to finance its future development. Less well-known are the concerns that have been raised about the long-term sustainability of these revenues and what this means for Timor-Leste’s broader development and stability challenges. At the Australian National University’s inaugural ‘Timor-Leste Update’ in November 2013, the non-government organisation La’o Hamutuk (... 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...

Total recall: the 2006 Papuan asylum seeker incident and Australia-Indonesia relations

In the wake of recent allegations that Australia spied on the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife, and a group of his advisors in 2009, Indonesia has recalled its ambassador to Australia, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, and is ‘reviewing’ current bilateral cooperation. The last time Indonesia recalled its ambassador was in 2006 following the Papuan asylum seeker incident.This earlier diplomatic crisis was sparked by the arrival by boat of 43 Papuan asylum seekers in northern Australia in January 2006. In the midst of extensive media coverage and a flurry of diplomatic activity on both sides, the subsequent decision by Australia to grant temporary protection visas to 42 of the asy... Read more...

The US Debt Ceiling – some historical background and key links

The United States (US) Treasury has funds available to cover outgoing expenses until approximately 17 October. It cannot borrow more because of a legislative limit on borrowing (the ‘debt ceiling’). While a major default by the US Treasury would be unprecedented, historical examples do provide some insight into the costs caused even by delays in raising the debt ceiling. The US has a budget deficit (with less revenue than expenditure), and US Government spending depends in part on borrowing to fund Government activity. However, that borrowing is limited by a debt ceiling - a feature in United States Government under which the Congress has ‘placed a limit on the total amount of debt that the ... Read more...

Protecting seafarers in Australian waters: the implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention

The Maritime Labour Convention (Convention) was adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2006. It is the result of tripartite negotiations between governments, employers and workers and consolidates and updates over 68 existing ILO conventions. The Convention came into force in Australia on 20 August 2013.How is the Convention enacted in Australia? The Convention was implemented in Australia by Schedule 13 of Marine Order 11 (Marine Order), a legislative instrument made under the Navigation Act 2012. What protections does the Convention provide to seafarers?The Convention provides seafarers a set of comprehensive employment protections, which recognises their unique working ... Read more...

Exiting quantitative easing – the need for a deft touch and some luck

In recent weeks, speculation the United States Federal Reserve may begin tapering its quantitative easing (QE) program has sparked volatility in bond and currency markets. This has underscored the uncertainty and risks associated with QE and the possibility that, if exiting QE is not handled well, it could have adverse implications for the global economy.With official interest rates close to zero monetary authorities in the United States, Europe, Japan and the United Kingdom turned to unconventional monetary policy tools. QE involves central banks purchasing financial assets (such as government bonds, corporate bonds and mortgage-backed securities). It increases the money base with a view ... Read more...

U.S Presidential Election

The U.S. general election will be held on Tuesday 6 November 2012 where ballots will be held to not only elect the 435 Representatives and 100 Senators that will form the 113th Congress but also to elect the 45th President. President Barack Obama (Dem) as incumbent President is seeking a second and final term running with incumbent Vice President Joe Biden. They will be challenged by Republican nominees Governor Mitt Romney and running mate Congressman Paul Ryan. The key to the Presidential election is that voters do not directly vote for the President, instead they vote for a ticket — this year, the two main party tickets are either the Obama/Biden or Romney/Ryan tickets. This vote is essen... Read more...

Speaker's resignation

Mr Slipper resignedmid-term as Speaker on 9 October 2012. A mid-term resignation by a Speaker is not unique, although in this instance the circumstances maybe seen as such. Mr Slipper resigned in the wake of a motionby the Leader of the Opposition to remove the Speaker under section 35 of the Constitution. The motion was narrowly defeated, 70 to 69, which meant the Speaker could continue in office. Mr Slipper had stood aside from his role as Speaker in the House on 8 May 2012 following allegations of sexual harassment and allegations of fraudulent abuse of Cabcharge vouchers. Other Speakers who have resigned mid-term include: Walter Nairn                                     Resigned 21 June ... Read more...

Do refugees really receive higher welfare benefits than pensioners?

The short answer is no. A series of emails have circulated in recent years asserting that refugees settling in Australia are entitled to higher rates of social security payment than other Australian residents, including pensioners. The emails also often claim that refugees receive free 'gifts' in the form of household items and even houses.However, as is explained in this updated Parliamentary Library Background Note, such claims are completely wrong. What's more, the original emails on which many of the Australian emails are based refer (again, falsely) to arrangements in Canada and have nothing to do with Australia. As highlighted in the Background Note, the information in the Australian... Read more...

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...