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

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Procurement strategy for Indigenous business: The Canadian experience, and lessons for Australia

It has been estimated that, in 2012–13, Indigenous businesses secured only 0.001% of the overall Australian Government spend (around $6.2 million of the $39 billion spent). This is despite a specific provision in the Commonwealth Procurement Rules (CPRs) to encourage procurement from Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with at least 50 per cent Indigenous ownership. The ANAO will report on the administration of current procurement initiatives in support of Indigenous Australians in a performance audit to be tabled around June 2015. Following up on a recommendation made in Creating Parity (the Forrest Review), on 17 March the Government announced that by 2020 the Commonwealth will have... Read more...

The Forrest review and 'cashless welfare'

One of the more contentious elements in Andrew Forrest’s recent Indigenous Jobs and Training Review was the proposal for a for ‘cashless welfare’ system, provided through what he calls a ‘Healthy Welfare Card’. This FlagPost outlines key aspects of the proposal, highlighting where it differs from both the current income management system and Australia’s welfare arrangements in general. What is proposed? The Healthy Welfare Card would be based on the Basics Card which currently underpins the various income management schemes across Australia. It would be: issued as a debit card through a financial institution able to be used at any Austra... Read more...

The Racial Discrimination Act: Insults, Timing and Debate

The varying nature of insults and their context, along with a question as to whose standards they should be judged against is discussed in the Parliamentary Library’s recently issued Research Paper ‘The Attorney-General’s suggested changes to the Racial Discrimination Act’. One of the changes proposed by the Attorney-General would change the standards by which insults are to be evaluated. The law as it stands takes into account the perspective of the racially distinct person being insulted when considering the impact of that insult, whereas the proposed changes would confine judges to considering the ‘ordinary, reasonable’ Australian with no reference to a... Read more...

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...

National Close the Gap Day

Closing the gap developed out of the call in Tom Calma’s Social justice report 2005 for Australian governments to commit to achieving equality for Indigenous people in health and life expectancy within 25 years. In March 2006 some non-government agencies came together to develop a National Indigenous Health Equality Campaign and in April 2007 a Close the gap campaign was launched.In December 2007 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) committed to closing some key gaps and in March 2008 many government and non-government delegates to a National Indigenous Health Equality Summit signed a statement of intent. In July 2008 the Rudd Government established the National Indigenous Health Equ... Read more...

Indigenous Expenditure Report 2012

The just released 2012 Indigenous Expenditure Report estimates expenditure by all levels of Government on services to Indigenous Australians. It is the second in a series (the first being released in 2010) which examines inputs into Indigenous service delivery and which is intended to complement the longer running Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage reports which examine outcomes in this same area. Both reports are currently produced by the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision.Released at the same time as the full expenditure report has been a series of all-state and state-by-state factsheets, a series of web expenditure tables and the 2012 Indigenous Expenditur... Read more...

Hearing impairment—the silent barrier to Closing the Gap

On May 15 students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 across Australia commenced the annual tests for the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) testing. No doubt when the 2012 results are released they will continue to show a substantial gap between the achievement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. For example, the 2011 Year 3 reading results report that 21.3 per cent of Indigenous children were below the national minimum standard compared to just 3.3 per cent of non-Indigenous children. A significant, but often overlooked, factor inhibiting the school achievement of Indigenous children is the high rate of middle ear disease. Evidence presented to the Senate Community Aff... Read more...

110th anniversary of the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902

Tuesday 12 June 2012 marks the 110th anniversary of the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902, the law that granted most Australian women the right to vote, and therefore to stand, in Commonwealth elections. The Act stated that ‘all persons not under twenty-one years of age whether male or female married or unmarried’ would be entitled to vote in Commonwealth elections. It excluded Indigenous men and women, unless they were eligible to vote under state laws in accordance with Section 41 of the Australian Constitution. Across Australia, women voted for the first time in the second Commonwealth election held on 16 December 1903. Women in South Australia (who were granted voting rights in 1895) and W... 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...

Aboriginal Tent Embassy: 40th Anniversary 2012

 Australia Day 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the lawns of Old Parliament House, Canberra.On 26 January 1972 four young Aboriginal men: Michael Anderson, Billy Craigie, Bertie Williams and Tony Coorey set up a protest under a beach umbrella on the lawns of Parliament House. In a sad reflection on Indigenous life expectancy Michael Anderson is the only living member of the four founders. Michael Anderson believes the anniversary and Sovereignty Corroboree will be 'a great day of Aboriginal unity’.Anderson stresses the significance of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy is that 'it can be regarded as the longest running political demonstration in the world ... I add... Read more...