Filter by December, 2010

The curious case of Julian Assange

Over the last few months there has been an enormous amount of material written in Australia and abroad about Julian Assange and the possible legal consequences that may flow from the publication of classified government material on his now famous WikiLeaks website. Similarly, and coinciding with this interest in WikiLeaks, there has been a huge amount of speculation in the media about his alleged sexual activities in Sweden earlier in the year and about the case being prepared by the Swedish public prosecution office in relation to a number of alleged sexual offences. This FlagPost entry will not draw upon such speculation or attempt to add to it. Rather, it will simply examine the ambit of... Read more...

New paper on revenue forecasting accuracy and the independence of forecasters

Thiess Buettner and Bjoern Kauder have released a paper in the September 2010 edition of the journal Fiscal Studies on government revenue forecasting practices and the consequences of forecasting performance. The object of analysis is the one-year ahead deviation of the forecast from the actual outcome, and various descriptive statistics. Revenue forecast errors for twelve OECD countries (including two competing institutions in the United States, the Congressional Budget Office which deals with the legislative branch of government, and the Office of Management and Budget, which is a part of the executive branch) are examined using panel data estimation techniques.The countries examined are: ... Read more...

When is government paternalism justifiable?

A core assumption of liberal societies is that individuals are the best judge of their own interests and therefore are best placed to make choices about how to live their lives. But what if a choice—say, to take adictive drugs or to smoke—is likely to be detrimental to the person involved? Can governments be justified in interfering with individual choices in the interests of the person concerned? This question is examined in the new Parliamentary Library Research Paper, Paternalism in social policy—when is it justifiable?  The paper argues that paternalist policies may be considered justifiable under circumstances where: high stakes decisions are involved the decisions being made by individ... Read more...

Department of Health's FOI release - challenges ahead for health reform

Various government departments have made publicly available incoming government briefs that have been released under Freedom of Information. Despite sections of the briefs having been blacked out they provide an insight into the workings of government and the advice provided to Ministers in the post-election environment. The Department of Health and Ageing’s (DoHA) incoming government brief provides an overview of the health system and arrangements for implementing health reforms begun during the previous parliament. The brief also lists key decisions for the Minister to make in the first four months. Some of these decisions have been made and legislation has already passed, for example, the... Read more...

Islamic finance

In October 2010, the Board of Taxation published a discussion paper on the Review of the Taxation Treatment of Islamic Finance. This discussion paper was in response to the Australian Financial Centre Forum (AFCF) which recommended in its November 2009 report that the impediments to Islamic finance in Australia be considered by the Board of Taxation. The AFCF was established in September 2008 by the then Assistant Treasurer to discuss options for positioning Australia as a leading financial services centre. This post presents some of the key characteristics of Islamic finance and the opportunities for reform in Australia.Islamic financial products are different to other financial products in... Read more...

Perceptions of Australia's health care system

Perceptions of the health care system are difficult to measure and there is very little comprehensive information about how Australians perceive the heath care system. The Menzies Centre for Health Policy and the Nous group recently completed a survey (Menzies-Nous 2010 survey) on Australians' attitudes to the health care system. This is a repeat of the survey completed in 2008, on which the 2010 survey was based.The survey found that, on average, Australians are satisfied with the health care system. Satisfaction was highest with services provided by pharmacists, followed by private hospitals and specialist doctors. There is a high amount of confidence that the health care system would prov... Read more...

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

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