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

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Can the Government bypass the Parliament over the GP co-payment?

Recently, ABC news online reported that based on advice provided to the Greens from the Parliamentary Library, the Government could bypass the Senate to introduce elements of its GP co-payment proposal. The news story goes on to suggest that the Government could use its regulatory powers to implement at least one element of the proposal—a $5 reduction in the Medicare rebate paid to doctors—without the need for legislation. This Flagpost explains how this might occur. The Medicare rebate is calculated as a proportion of the Medicare Schedule Fee, which is listed in the Medicare Benefits Schedule. For most out of hospital services, the rebate is calculated at 85% of the Schedule F... Read more...

The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013—consequential amendments

On 1 July 2014, the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (the PGPA Act) will implement a new financial management framework for the Commonwealth and Commonwealth entities. However, implementation of the PGPA framework requires the enactment of five Bills in June. The first of these was passed on 19 June 2014. The remaining four consequential and transitional Bills were introduced on 24 June and passed by the House of Representatives on 25 June. Read more...

The Coalition’s PPL scheme: budget drain or revenue raiser?

One of the most controversial features of the Coalition Government’s proposed Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme is its significantly greater cost compared with the current scheme. The more generous proposed scheme is expected to cost $5.7 billion per year when up and running in 2016-17, while the current scheme will cost $2 billion in that year. Media reports suggest that this has led some Coalition members of parliament to urge the Prime Minister to either abandon or ‘scale down’ his proposed scheme. However, it is important to note that according to the Coalition’s 2013 election costings the scheme is expected to make money by its second year—that is, it will ... 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...

Higher education savings - students pick up the bill

The government’s Statement on Higher Education announces savings measures in three areas. Reaction from, and on behalf of, the higher education sector has been negative. The peak body representing universities, Universities Australia, has condemned the cuts.Yet it is not the universities that will bear the brunt of the savings but their students.Of the expected $2.33 billion in savings:$230 million is coming from removal of HECS discounts and repayment bonuses$900 million is coming from the two-year, 2 per cent efficiency dividend being applied to university funding, and$1,200 million is coming from conversion of the Student Start-up Scholarship from a benefit to a loan.Only one of these mea... Read more...

Announcements end superannuation budget speculation?

Following recent media speculation about possible changes to superannuation in the upcoming 2013–14 Budget and concerns about the inequity of tax concessions for superannuation, on 5 April 2013 the Government announced a range of measures to superannuation tax, contribution and age pension arrangements. The Government’s overall intent in making these changes was to ‘improve the fairness, sustainability and efficiency of the superannuation system’. So what are the major changes proposed by the Government and how do they contribute to fairness?In general, arguments about ‘fairness’ in the superannuation system primarily stem from concerns that superannuation tax arrangements allow higher incom... Read more...

Public sector staffing reductions in the states and territories

Since 2011 the state and territory governments have introduced public sector staffing reductions as savings measures (some jurisdictions also had reduction programs in place prior to 2011). A summary of the reductions is provided below; ‘FTE’ is not a headcount but refers to full-time equivalent staffing levels. For the Commonwealth Government, the 2012–13 Budget estimates a staffing reduction in the Australian Public Service of 3 074 FTE for 2012–13 to be achieved in the main by a combination of natural attrition and voluntary redundancies. In November 2011 the Government also increasedits efficiency dividend rate to 4.0 per cent for 2012–13 (up from a rate of 1.5 per cent per annum). In 2... Read more...

Sibling rivalry: Baby Bonus and Paid Parental Leave

The Government has announced as part of the Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) that it will reduce the Baby Bonus to $5000 and freeze indexation of the payment for three years. Currently, the Baby Bonus is $5437 and indexed in line with changes to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on 1 July each year. The decision has been criticised by some as discriminating against 'stay at home' mothers because the Government did not also take savings from the Paid Parental Leave scheme. This post attempts to clarify the issues involved by briefly looking at the relationship between Baby Bonus and Paid Parental Leave.Baby Bonus in its original form was introduced by the Howard Government in 2002. I... Read more...

Pilot Programs for management of Asian honeybees and myrtle rust

In a post–Budget announcement on 20 May 2011, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig, said that pilot programs would be designed for the management of Asian honeybees and myrtle rust. This follows the conclusion that the eradication of both species is no longer feasible. The funding of these new programs will be $2 million for the management of Asian honeybees and $1.5 million for the management of myrtle rust. It has not been announced over what timeframe the money will be made available.This funding is separate from the Animal and Plant Pest Eradication Programs detailed in the Budget. It was noted in the Library’s Budget Review 2011-12 on Pests th... Read more...

The Health Budget - a summary of pre-budget speculation and advocacy

On Budget eve, the Government has already made several announcements about the contents of the 2011-12 health Budget. There have been some announcements regarding capital expenditures. These include $220 million to Tamworth Hospital, redevelopments to Mt Gambier and Port Lincoln Hospitals, regional cancer centres for Albury/Wodonga and Geelong, $57 million for regional Western Australia and a Youth Health Hub for Colac.It has also said that a comprehensive dental plan will not be funded this year, although a 'down-payment' will be made. It should be noted that all of the health infrastructure projects that have so far been announced are the result of successful applications to the regional p... Read more...

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