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

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Filter by June, 2012

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...

Dissecting the growth of vocational education and training in Victoria

The announcement of an Enterprise Migration Agreement providing for the recruitment of temporary overseas workers for the Roy Hill project in the Pilbara has fuelled debate about the supply of skilled workers for industry, and to what extent Australia needs to import skills rather than ‘grow our own’. Amid this debate, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) has released preliminary Students and Courses data for 2011. The full publication (due in July) provides data on the numbers of students, subject enrolments, hours of delivery and qualifications in Australia’s public vocational education and training (VET) system.The preliminary data reveals some interesting results... Read more...

The deeper worries about coal seam gas

One-third of Eastern Australia cooks its breakfast, warms its homes, and generates its power from natural gas, the main component of which is methane, supplied by coal seam gas (CSG) operations. Our need for natural gas has allowed CSG operations to grow, but critics contend that this has not always been accompanied by sufficient understanding of the social and environmental implications. Ground and surface water contamination, water consumption, and waste disposal are but a few issues fuelling the ongoing debate. However, reports of deeper risks are now surfacing.The United States Geological Survey (USGS) recently indicated that CSG activities in the US appear to have contributed to an incr... Read more...

People trafficking, forced marriage and slavery offences

The Crimes Legislation Amendments (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012 was introduced into the House of Representatives on 30 May 2012. This Flagpost is a skeleton of a larger project. If passed in its current form, this Bill will:expand the definition of slavery to include physical and psychological threats, coercion and deception expand the servitude and exploitation offences to not be limited to sexual servitude create new offences for aggravated slavery-like offences. create new offences for forced marriagecreate new offences for harbouring or receiving a trafficking or slavery victimincrease the penalties for debt bondage offences The Bill is the culminati... Read more...

World Refugee Day

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 2001, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution deciding that 20 June would be celebrated as World Refugee Day in order to increase awareness about the world’s growing number of refugees, asylum seekers and forcibly displaced people.The numbersWhen the Refugees Convention was first adopted in the 1950s there were an estimated 1.5 million refugees worldwide. By the time World Refugee Day was first celebrated in 2001, the total population of concern to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was estimated at 19.8 million, including 12 million refugees, 940 000 ... Read more...

Burma's economy—the long road ahead

Following the Parliamentary by-elections in April, much of the commentary has now shifted focus from domestic political reforms and international responses to Burma’s economy and the challenge of achieving sustainable and inclusive growth. A brief discussion of these issues is important in the wake of the Australian Government’s decision to ‘normalise’ the bilateral economic relationship and last week’s visit to Burma by the Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr. During this visit, Senator Carr announced that Australia would suspend all remaining financial and travel restrictions against the Burmese Government. He also canvassed the potential for increased trade an... 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...

Astronomical events

Some 242 years ago, Captain James Cook explored the eastern coast of Australia, after having been sent to the South Pacific Island of Tahiti to observe the transit of the planet Venus in 1769. He was sent there partly in order to help astronomers of the day estimate the size of the solar system. Australia’s long and distinguished association with astronomy had begun.On 6th June 2012, just before 8:30 am along the east coast of Australia, the tiny dot of the planet Venus will again pass slowly across the face of the Sun, as seen from Earth. Such ‘Transits of Venus’ are infrequent events; the next transit does not occur until 2117 so this is one for us to savour. Many smaller observatories her... Read more...

A labour market for the resources sector – what are Enterprise Migration Agreements?

The use of temporary overseas workers to fill skills gaps in the Australian labour market has been commonplace over the last two decades. The subclass 457 visa was introduced by the Howard Government in 1996 specifically in order to meet the needs of employers looking for timely and flexible access to labour where it could not be found locally. There were 90 400 subclass 457 primary visa holders in Australia at 30 April 2012.The Immigration Minister’s recent announcement that an Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA), facilitating the recruitment of temporary overseas workers, had been granted to the Roy Hill project in the Pilbara appears to have taken many observers by surprise. It shou... Read more...

New unit to lower health insurance premiums and improve competition

The 2012–13 Budget included an announcement of funding for a new unit to advise the Government on private health insurance industry costs, insurance premiums and competition in the sector. Costing $2.3 million over four years—to be met by an increase in a levy imposed on private insurers—the unit will be established within the Private Health Insurance Administration Council (PHIAC), the independent regulator of the sector. One of the primary functions of the new unit will be to identify options to increase competition in the sector and put downward pressure on health insurance premiums (see Portfolio Budget Statement, p. 556).Established in 1989, PHIAC's role is to monitor, regulate and main... Read more...

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