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

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FlagPost — Parliamentary Library Blog

The Federation Census, 1901

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has set Tuesday 27 June 2017 as the date for the first official release of 2016 Census data, with further releases to take place in October, December, and continuing into 2018. Ahead of this date, it is timely to recall the newly federated Australia’s first census in 1901.  Read more...

BasicsCard and Cashless Debit Card: What’s the difference?

The Australian Government has two separate cards designed to restrict how income support recipients can spend their payments—the BasicsCard and the cashless debit card. While both schemes rely on cards provided by payments company,  Indue, they work in different ways. The biggest differences are: Who can accept the card. The BasicsCard can only be used at merchants that the Department of Human Services has approved. The cashless debit card can be used at any merchant the Department has not blocked (provided it is able to accept Visa Debit). Merchant responsibilities. All merchants who accept BasicsCard must sign an agreement not to process transactions for ... Read more...

The Major Bank Levy explained

On 19 June 2017, the Parliament passed the Major Bank Levy Bill 2017 and the Treasury Laws Amendment (Major Bank Levy) Bill 2017 to introduce a new ‘major bank levy’ on banks with over $100 billion in total liabilities. Currently, based on this threshold, it will apply to the five largest banks: Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Macquarie Bank. The proposal was announced by the Government in the 2017-18 Budget and is expected to raise around $1.5 to $1.6 billion per annum every year, net of increased deductions for other taxes. The levy will apply from 1 July 2017. The levy rate is set at 0.015 per cent, paid each quarter on the balance of a bank&r... Read more...

‘The computer says no’: automatic product blocking for the Cashless Debit Card

The Department of Social Services is looking for software that can automatically stop income support recipients from using the Cashless Debit Card to buy restricted goods such as alcohol. While the Government’s cashless welfare system can automatically stop income support recipients using the cashless debit card at businesses like bottle shops and the TAB, it can’t automatically stop them from buying restricted goods at a shop that accepts the card. Instead, staff need to manually sight the card and refuse the sale. The Department plans to change this. From income management to the cashless debit card The Government created the cashless debit card in response to the recommendatio... Read more...

Australia upgrades sanctions on North Korea

On 2 June 2017, while the United States continued to pressure China to act in restraining North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK), Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced that she had designated five North Korean individuals for ‘targeted financial sanctions and travel bans because of their association with North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction or missiles programs’. Read more...

The 2017 UK general election and possible Conservatives/DUP arrangements

On Thursday 8 June 2017 the United Kingdom went to the polls for the third time in as many years. Read more...

Proposed travel restrictions for registered child sex offenders

Senator Derryn Hinch came to the Senate following the 2016 election, with a dedication to act on what he termed “human vermin”: Australia’s child sex offenders. In his first speech, Senator Hinch said that he wanted ‘to do something tangible to end Australia’s paedophiles’ involvement in the repugnant sex trade in Asia’. The Law, Crime and Community Safety Council (consisting of justice, policing and emergency management Ministers across all jurisdictions, including New Zealand)  agreed in October 2016 to form a Working Group to consider gaps in the existing legislation and in May 2017 agreed to continue to work together on proposals to implemen... Read more...

Afghanistan: the elusive endgame

Since the bulk of NATO military forces withdrew from Afghanistan in late 2014, the security situation has steadily worsened. The absence of critical foreign enabling support and constant intense warfare has left the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) depleted and worn out. The 23,712 security incidents reported in 2016 were the highest number on record for a single year. The first quarter of 2017 resulted in 2,181 civilian casualties (715 killed and 1,466 injured). Other challenges include the reportedly ‘paralysed’ National Unity Government (NUG), stalled peace talks with the Taliban, and the ongoing high levels of internally displaced people. Read more...

Get your permits in order: humanitarian relief in Syria and Turkey

The Turkish Government’s current approach to international NGOs raises some questions about Australia’s possible partners in the region—international and local NGOs alike—and how they are approaching what appears to be an increasingly difficult relationship with the Turkish Government.   Read more...

The 1967 Referendum

Saturday 27th of May marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum in which Australians voted overwhelmingly to amend the Constitution to allow the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal people and include them in the census. The referendum put the following question to the Australian people: Do you approve the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled 'An Act to alter the Constitution so as to omit certain words relating to the people of the Aboriginal race in any state so that Aboriginals are to be counted in reckoning the population'? The proposed law (Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) 1967) sought to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to make laws with r... Read more...

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