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

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The gender composition of the 45th parliament

Following the 2016 election the total number of women in Parliament has risen slightly from 69 (31 per cent) to 73 (32 per cent). The number of women in the House of Representatives has risen to 43 (29 per cent), up from 40 (27 per cent) at the end of the 44th Parliament. The number of women in the Senate has increased by one since the end of the 44th Parliament to 30 senators (39 per cent). As is the case in many parliaments around the world, women remain significantly under-represented in the Australian parliament. The Australian figures are similar to those of comparable countries such as Canada, where women make up 29 percent of the parliament, and New Zealand, where women make up 31 per... Read more...

Turkey: from bad to worse

The Turkish Government’s ongoing response to the 15 July coup will almost certainly exacerbate, rather than address, the significant problems it has been facing in recent years. Turkey’s Kurdish issue, the threat from Islamic State, Syrian refugees and its increasingly polarised society are key challenges for Turkey, as are its tumultuous foreign relationships. And these challenges will only be compounded by the inevitable divisions within the military following the failed coup and Erdoğan’s now-widespread efforts to purge the country of any opposition.  Read more...

How might a Trump presidency affect Australia?

The US Republican Party is poised to nominate Donald Trump as its candidate for the November 2016 presidential election. Trump has no previous experience of governing, no record of military service and has evinced little interest in policy details. He has, however, suggested that Muslims should be prohibited from entering America, that Japan and South Korea should consider developing nuclear weapons, and praised authoritarian leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un. These compliments have been reciprocated, illustrating that Trump is no ordinary candidate. Given its close strategic relationship with America, it is timely to assess what a Trump presidency might mean for Australia. Read more...

Changes to the Foreign Investment Review Board tax conditions

In February 2014, Treasurer Joe Hockey stated that the tax affairs of foreign investors would be taken into account when foreign investment proposals were considered by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). In February 2016, the Government announced that conditions aimed at ensuring ‘multinational companies investing in Australia pay tax here on what they earn’ would be applied by the FIRB to foreign investment proposals. Following consultations between Treasury, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and industry, in May 2016 the Government revised the tax conditions that will apply to certain foreign investment proposals. The revised conditions addressed concerns raised by... Read more...

A smaller ‘Indo-Pacific’: more detail on Australia’s 2015–16 aid cuts

In the wake of further reductions to Australia’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) programs in the 2016–17 Budget, recent government responses to Questions on Notice (QoN) from Senate Additional Estimates hearings reveal more about where previous cuts have been applied. Read more...

Less Bangkok, more Geneva? Security cooperation, human rights and Australia–Thailand relations

In the same week that Australia co-hosted regional peacekeeping exercises with the Thai military, which seized power in a May 2014 coup, it also raised concerns at a United Nations (UN) review about the worsening human rights situation in Thailand. This comes at a time when Thailand’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is alleging that a Thai woman has committed royal defamation, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in jail under the country’s strict lèse majesté law, by failing to reprimand her son for a Facebook message he sent her. In December 2015, a Thai man was charged for allegedly insulting the King’s dog. Read more...

The 25th Anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

The 15th of April 2016 marks 25 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its final report, which set many directions in current Indigenous policy. The commission was established in 1987 by the Hawke government, and examined 99 Indigenous deaths in custody between 1 January 1980 and 31 May 1989. The key finding of the Royal Commission was that the deaths were due to the combination of police and prisons failing their duty of care, and the high numbers of Indigenous people being arrested and incarcerated. Indigenous and non-Indigenous prisoners did not have different death rates.  Read more...

2016—a big year for Laos

This year will be an important year for the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR).  Laos is among Asia’s smallest and poorest nations, but is also one of the world’s fastest growing economies.  In January, the communist Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP), from which the country’s secretive ruling elite is drawn, completed its tenth party congress and chose Mr Bounnhang Vorachit, 78, as its new leader.   Read more...

The vulnerability of Native Title?

Queensland v Congoo [2015] HCA 17, a recent High Court case, has implications for Native Title holders throughout the country.  It may also have implications for the High Court’s management of cases with an even number of judges. Recent changes in personnel within the High Court have led to a number of decisions being made with a bench of six, rather than the full seven, judges.  This has in turn led to some decisions being made with a 3:3 split.  In such cases, under section 23 of the Judiciary Act 1903, the decision being appealed from is left intact. The resulting judgments may be referred to as having a ‘statutory majority’, which offers less precede... Read more...

Aboriginal advantage: an insider look at an Aboriginal community

In his National Reconciliation Week lecture to the Parliamentary Library, Dr Lawrence Bamblett, Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, proposed an alternative way of understanding life in Aboriginal communities through the concept of Aboriginal advantage. He declared, ‘You can all do a lot to help us by changing the way that you talk about us’. Dr Bamblett’s academic, teaching and community development work explores relationships between identity, representation and engagement in Aboriginal communities. He explains that telling positive stories can both change the unfavourable image that many Australians have of Aborig... Read more...

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