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AU — The arts and culture: a quick guide to key internet links

July 22, 2014 Comments off

The arts and culture: a quick guide to key internet links
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

This Quick Guide provides links to:

  • Australian Government organisations responsible for the arts and culture
  • state and territory government websites
  • regional arts websites
  • non-government organisations websites and
  • international organisations.

It also provides links to a range of organisations by art form:

  • ballet and dance
  • film
  • libraries
  • literature
  • museums and galleries
  • music and opera
  • performing arts education
  • theatre and
  • visual arts.
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Australia’s female political leaders: a quick guide

July 21, 2014 Comments off

Australia’s female political leaders: a quick guide
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

This Quick Guide draws together information about women who have held leadership positions in Australia from Federation to May 2014. It includes vice-regal appointments, presiding officers, government, opposition and parliamentary party leaders, and parliamentary party presidents.

This Quick Guide includes dates in office, positions held and significant firsts. It also includes women who have served as deputy leaders in the Commonwealth Parliament. The final table presents women who have held executive (non-parliamentary) leadership positions in the parliamentary parties.

This information has been compiled from a range of sources including the Commonwealth Parliamentary Handbook, the Australian Electoral Commission, vice-regal, parliamentary and political party websites, biographies and archives relating to women in politics, and media articles relating to individual appointments.

A hyperlink to individual biographies is included where available, together with selected online sources for further reading. Using the arrows that appear in the header, the information may be ordered by name, party, jurisdiction, chamber and year of election/appointment.

AU — Indigenous affairs: a quick guide to key internet links

June 16, 2014 Comments off

Indigenous affairs: a quick guide to key internet links
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

This Quick Guide provides links to:
• the Council of Australian Government (COAG) key agreements under ‘Closing the Gap’
• a listing of Australian Government departments with responsibility for Indigenous affairs and their key programmes
• statistics and funding
• a map of ‘Aboriginal Australia’
• directories of Indigenous organisations and businesses
• key organisations outside Government departments
• state, territory and local government websites and
• overseas websites.

New Zealanders in Australia: a quick guide

June 10, 2014 Comments off

New Zealanders in Australia: a quick guide
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

Under various arrangements since the 1920s, there has been a free flow of people between Australia and New Zealand. Historically, migration flows across the Tasman have been large in both directions, but since the 1960s more New Zealanders than Australian have chosen to cross the Tasman to live. In 2011–12, the number of New Zealand permanent settlers who came to Australia was 44,304. This represents a 28 per cent increase from the figure for 2010‑11. As at June 2013 there were an estimated 640,770 New Zealand citizens present in Australia.

Under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement introduced in 1973, Australian and New Zealand citizens are able to enter each other’s country to visit, live and work indefinitely, without the need to apply for prior authority. New Zealand is the only country in the world that has such an arrangement with Australia. There are no caps on the numbers of New Zealanders who may enter under the arrangement, and the only limitations on entry relate to health and character requirements.

AU — The Thai coup amid broader concerns

June 4, 2014 Comments off

The Thai coup amid broader concerns
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

The recent assumption of political control in Thailand by the military has induced concerns around the world, for diverse but not always openly-expressed reasons. Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha took power in Bangkok through a coup d’etat on 22 May and placed the country under martial law, suspending the Constitution and subsequently dissolving the Senate. A number of politicians, activists and academics has been interrogated and some detained. The Thai king has reportedly endorsed the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), through which military control is now exercised. The Australian Foreign Minister has indicated grave concern, while US Secretary of State John Kerry urged ‘the restoration of civilian government immediately, a return to democracy, and … early elections that reflect the will of the people’. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has cancelled upcoming military exercises with Thailand and various high-level visits. The expressed concerns lie, however, not solely with the long-term well-being of the people of Thailand, and thus the coup and related issues need to be viewed within a longer and broader frame. Key among these is that Thailand—a founder member of ASEAN, a pivot in mainland Southeast Asia and a long-term ally of western powers—is essential in the maintenance of Western influence in East Asia. Close US-Thai links extend back to the days of the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts, while Australia has also enjoyed long and generally steadfast relations with the kingdom.

AU — The G20: a quick guide

March 26, 2014 Comments off

The G20: a quick guide
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

This is a quick guide to basic information about the G20, as well as links to useful summary resources. The G20 background section includes the G20’s history, its members, the hosting system and G20 meeting processes, as well as a brief discussion of selected policy areas. Material on Australia and the G20 includes Australia’s involvement in the G20, Australia’s G20 goals for 2014 and speeches and press releases on the G20. A short list of links provides access to more resources on the G20.

Major superannuation and retirement income changes in Australia: a chronology

March 25, 2014 Comments off

Major superannuation and retirement income changes in Australia: a chronology
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

The purpose of this chronology of key events is to provide an historical context with which to understand the evolution of superannuation and retirement income policy in Australia. More specifically, the chronology is intended to:

  • provide a quick reference guide to what happened and when
  • facilitate access to relevant documents and
  • complement other sources on changes to retirement income policy by providing an account that focuses on government decisions, reports and legislation.
  • The chronology focuses on key events in the development of superannuation and retirement income policy including:
  • major milestones and changes relating to the Age Pension
  • the development and implementation of mandatory and voluntary retirement income arrangements and
  • the development of, and changes to, taxation arrangements applying to superannuation generally.

The number of possible entries in a chronology of this kind is very large. By outlining only key events, the chronology is intended to convey the character of change since 1901. An important criterion in determining whether an event warranted inclusion was whether secondary sources referred to it.

AU — ‘That’s it, you’re out’: disorderly conduct in the House of Representatives from 1901 to 2013

March 24, 2014 Comments off

‘That’s it, you’re out’: disorderly conduct in the House of Representatives from 1901 to 2013
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

Executive summary

  • Of the 1,093 members who have served in the House of Representatives from 1901 to the end of the 43rd Parliament in August 2013, 300 (27.4%) have been named and/or suspended or ‘sin binned’ for disorderly behaviour in the Chamber. This study outlines the bases of the House’s authority to deal with disorderly behaviour, and the procedures available to the Speaker to act on such behaviour. It then analyses the 1,352 instances of disorderly behaviour identified in the official Hansard record with a view to identifying patterns over time, and the extent and degree of such behaviour. It does not attempt to identify the reasons why disorderly behaviour occurs as they are quite complex and beyond the scope of this paper.
  • The authority for the rules of conduct in the House of Representatives is derived from the Australian Constitution. The members themselves have broad responsibility for their behaviour in the House. However, it is the role of the Speaker or the occupier of the Chair to ensure that order is maintained during parliamentary proceedings. This responsibility is derived from the standing orders. Since its introduction in 1994, the ‘sin bin’ has become the disciplinary action of choice for Speakers.
  • With the number of namings and suspensions decreasing in recent years, the ‘sin bin’ (being ordered from the chamber for one hour) appears to have been successful in avoiding the disruption caused by the naming and suspension procedure. However, as the number of ‘sin bin’ sanctions has increased, it may be that this penalty has contributed to greater disorder because members may view it as little more than a slap on the wrist and of little deterrent value.
  • Most disorderly behavior (90%) occurs during Question Time and in the parliamentary proceedings which often take place during or just after it. Such behaviour also tends to increase daily as the sitting week progresses.
  • Front benchers and parliamentary office holders account for about 57% of instances of disorderly behaviour. Opposition members are sanctioned 90% of the time no matter which party occupies that role. No prime minister has been sanctioned for disorderly behaviour but two deputy prime ministers and seven opposition leaders have, although not all have been ordered from the House. Christopher Pyne leads the list of members most disciplined on 45 followed by Anthony Albanese on 34. Women members have accounted for 15% of disciplinary actions since they first entered Parliament in 1943.
  • Members were disciplined most frequently under the Speakership of Peter Slipper followed by Anna Burke, David Hawker and Harry Jenkins.
  • On four measures of disorderly behaviour (number of disciplinary actions, number of sitting weeks in which a member was disciplined, number of days when four or more members were disciplined, number of different members disciplined), the Rudd/Gillard Parliaments (42nd and 43rd, 2008–2013) were more disorderly than the Howard Parliaments (38th to 41st, 1996–2007). The most disorderly Parliament was the 43rd.

Ukrainian crisis—a quick guide to key resources

March 14, 2014 Comments off

Ukrainian crisis—a quick guide to key resources
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

This Quick Guide provides Parliamentarians with a list of key resources and commentary about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

AU — Payments to support victims of overseas terrorism

October 16, 2013 Comments off

Payments to support victims of overseas terrorism
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently announced that victims of past overseas terrorist attacks would be entitled to an Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment (AVTOP), worth up to $75,000. The AVTOP was created in 2012 under the Gillard Government. Many of those affected by previous attacks have received some form of assistance from the Australian Government including coverage of medical costs and counselling/rehabilitation—the AVTOP provides a new formal mechanism for delivering monetary assistance. While there is strong community support for the scheme, a number of issues have been raised in regards to its design.

How the payment works The AVTOP is a one-off, lump-sum payment intended to provide financial assistance to those affected by a ‘declared overseas terrorist act’. The following events have been declared as overseas terrorist acts under the Social Security Act 1991:

 2001 September 11 attacks in the United States  2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia  2005 bombings in Bali, Indonesia  2005 bombings in London, United Kingdom  2006 bombings in Dahab, Egypt  2008 attacks in Mumbai, India  2009 hotel bombings in Jakarta, Indonesia and  2013 armed assault on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Under the Social Security Act, to qualify for an AVTOP, an individual must have been in the place where the terrorist attack occurred and have been harmed as a direct result (a primary victim), or be a close family member of a person who died as a result of the terrorist act within two years of the attack occurring (a secondary victim). Close relatives of those involved in the commission of the attack cannot qualify for the payment. To qualify, an individual must be a permanent Australian resident on the day the attack occurred. The Attorney-General can make a determination so that certain non-residents may qualify—for example, expatriate Australian citizens resident at the site of the attack.

While the maximum amount of the payment is $75,000 (based on the amount available under state and territory victims of crime schemes), lesser amounts may be paid. Amounts are determined according to factors such as the extent of injuries, the impact of the attack on primary and secondary victims’ lives and the circumstances in which injuries or death occurred (such as whether victims ignored travel advice from the Australian Government on the high risk of a terrorist attack in the place the attack occurred).

UAVs: a vital part of Australia’s future?

August 14, 2013 Comments off

UAVs: a vital part of Australia’s future?
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

The increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in recent years has greatly heightened their public profile but also generated controversy because of their ability to attack military targets remotely and conduct covert surveillance. Nevertheless, a recent seminar, Drone Power: protecting Australia with drones, suggested that these controversial aircraft are set to play a key role in Australia’s civilian and military future. Despite a somewhat rough inception, UAVs are assuming an increasingly prominent role within the global defence arsenal and in other areas such as law enforcement, agriculture and environmental analysis. Indeed, the 2013 Defence White Paper calls for further integration of UAVs into the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Defence Minister has formally requested confidential information from the US Government regarding the performance of the long-range Triton UAV.

In layman’s terms, UAVs are simply remote-controlled aircraft. They range from small hand-launched devices to the much larger MQ 4C Triton, and the MQ9 Reapers and MQ1 Predators currently used by the US in Afghanistan. They range in cost from hundreds of dollars to many millions of dollars. The ADFP 101-ADF Glossary defines UAVs as: Powered, aerial vehicles that do not carry a human operator, use aerodynamic forces to provide lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry lethal or non-lethal payloads. Their capability has rapidly evolved and new uses are becoming apparent on a regular basis. In addition to law enforcement and military uses, UAVs have been trialled with, for example, surf-lifesaving, search and rescue, and in mining. They can be fitted out with a range of weapons and different types of imaging and detection equipment, depending on their purpose. Generally, UAVs are operated from a central headquarters to ensure the safety of the operators…

AU — Vehicle fuel efficiency standards

July 12, 2013 Comments off

Vehicle fuel efficiency standards
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

Fuel efficiency pertains to the conversion of chemical fuel energy into vehicle movement, whereas fuel economy is the energy efficiency of a particular vehicle. Larger vehicles, for example, typically have lower fuel economy than smaller vehicles, although their efficiency may be higher. While vehicles have tended to become more fuel-efficient over time, with improved vehicle specifications, the growth in sales of larger types has resulted in little change to overall fleet fuel economy. Fuel consumption in litres per 100 kilometres (km) is actually the reciprocal ratio of fuel economy in kilometres per litre, a semantic difference perhaps, but a subtlety that belies the complexity of the standards used. Fuel efficiency, whether measured per km or per litre, can be divided into engine and total vehicle efficiency, also links to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions (divided into carbon dioxide (CO2) and non-CO2 GHGs).

This paper provides an overview of mandatory vehicle CO2 emission (mandatory fuel efficiency) standards adopted overseas and the standards adopted by Australia. Fuel efficiency links also to air quality emissions (which this paper is not discussing) and issues of fuel quality supply and other combustion emission standards such as those for toxic gases and air particulates are not considered. The paper concerns itself with an emphasis on reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, not on improving general air quality by reducing emissions of oxides of nitrogen and sulphur (NOx, SOx), unburned hydrocarbons (HC), and carbon monoxide (CO). The paper does not cover the possible effects of and trends for these pollutant chemicals.

In considering the fuel efficiency standards which are evolving in Australia, the paper discusses a range of questions, some of which have an automotive industry focus—concentrating on passenger car, rather than light truck or heavy vehicle, limits. The central question to be answered is what standards Australia should adopt. Some of the difficulties to be overcome may be summed up as:

The process of developing new fuel economy standards is inherently more complex than can be done justice in a short paper. The timing of standards … is clearly a crucial element of any new standard—redesigning vehicles is a time-intensive and very expensive process that requires large engineering teams. Redesigning the large part of the new vehicle fleet will require at least a decade, and automakers must proceed cautiously in introducing new technologies to avoid maintenance and operational disasters.

AU — New psychoactive substances: Key challenges and responses

July 9, 2013 Comments off

New psychoactive substances: Key challenges and responses
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

As outlined in an earlier FlagPost, the availability and use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) have increased globally over the past decade. This has created new public health and law enforcement challenges that existing frameworks have failed to address, prompting a search for workable alternatives.

False sense of safety associated with use NPS are often marketed as ‘legal highs’ and professionally packaged, which can give the impression that they are safer to use than illicit drugs with similar effects. However, very little is known about their health impacts, partly due to the dynamic nature of the market and because the content and concentration of different batches of the same branded product may vary. A NSW Parliamentary inquiry was advised that synthetic cannabis products could actually be more harmful than cannabis itself, and that NPS may present a higher risk of overdose.

Number of NPS entering the market The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) observed in June 2013 that ‘the multitude of new psychoactive substances and the speed with which they have emerged in all regions of the world is one of the most notable trends in drug markets over the past five years’. In a submission to the NSW inquiry, one forensic science facility stated that new products claiming to be legal highs were submitted for testing every week. The NZ Ministry of Health advised that it had classified 31 NPS, but knew of around 2,000 cannabis mimics, ‘with the potential for there to be tens of thousands more’. Ease of evading prohibitions To date, measures to address NPS internationally and in individual countries have mainly involved their listing as prohibited substances. This has proven ineffective. A 2011 UK report outlines a typical example:

Despite the broad chemical generic ban on psychoactive cathinones imposed in April 2010, suppliers were able to find some loopholes, and within days a naphthyl derivative, Naphthylpyrovalerone (commonly referred as NRG-1) which lay outside the generic scope was offered for sale by internet retailers – advertised as “the legal alternative to mephedrone”.

When NSW prohibited seven synthetic cannabinoids in July 2011, ‘manufacturers quickly re-synthesised their products, replacing banned compounds with other synthetic cannabinoids not covered by the ban’. WA had the same experience in June 2011, with alternative synthetic cannabinoids on the market within days of its ban. Availability NPS are widely available through tobacconists, adult stores and online. In a UNODC survey, 88% of countries with a domestic NPS market indicated that the internet was a key source for NPS. Monitoring by an EU agency identified 693 online stores in 2012 selling NPS within Europe (up from 314 in January 2011 and 170 in January 2010). Between July 2011-July 2012, Australian researchers similarly identified:

+ 43 unique online stores selling stimulant/psychedelic NPS to Australian consumers • 212 unique products with purported stimulant/psychedelic effects and • 86 unique chemical substances.

Recent and proposed Australian responses Recent measures at the national level include:

+ the decision in February 2012 to create a group entry in Schedule 9 (Prohibited Substances) of the Poisons Standard, covering all synthetic cannabinomimetics except those separately specified (the Standard represents recommendations to States/Territories on the level of control that should apply to a substance)

+ moving the list of substances to which the Commonwealth’s serious drug offences apply from the Act to regulations in May 2013 to facilitate faster listing of NPS and • on 18 June 2013, a national interim ban under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 on 19 named products and products that contain any of 20 substances already prohibited under the Poisons Standard (following interim bans on the same products in NSW and SA).

On 16 June 2013, the Government announced plans to ban the importation of NPS based on a ‘reverse onus of proof’ under which ‘new drugs coming onto the market are presumed to be illegal until the authorities know what they are and clear them as safe and legal’. The announcement states such a system already operates in Ireland and is due to begin in NZ in August 2013, but the Irish and proposed NZ systems are actually quite different. The NZ Bill would allow psychoactive substances to be legally sold where the manufacturer can demonstrate they present no more than a low risk to users. The Irish system instead represents a prohibitionist approach. Advocates for a public health-based response, including representatives of the Australian National Council on Drugs, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and the Greens health spokesperson, are hoping Australia’s response will resemble NZ’s. The Government also announced a national drug monitoring system that will ‘[make] use of existing intelligence sharing networks and information sources from around Australia and internationally’. This sounds like a more modest version of the EU’s Early Warning System, which the NSW Parliamentary inquiry recommended be replicated in Australia.

AU — The ABC: an overview

April 22, 2011 Comments off

The ABC: an overview
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

The paper presents an overview of Australia’s principal public broadcaster, the ABC, with reference to its origins, current composition and functions and its vision for a viable future within a changing media environment. The paper also makes reference to some of the controversies which have been integral to long-running discussion about the ABC—allegations of bias, political appointments to the broadcaster and the perennial question of funding adequacy.

AU — Meeting employee entitlements in the event of employer insolvency

April 6, 2011 Comments off

Meeting employee entitlements in the event of employer insolvency
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

The issue of corporate insolvency and loss of accrued workers’ entitlements (usually comprising: unpaid wages, accrued annual leave, accrued long service leave and redundancy pay) received public attention after mine closures affecting the Oakdale Colliery (NSW), the Woodlawn mine (NSW) and the Cobar copper mine (NSW) in 1998-99. The waterfront dispute of 1998 involving Patrick Stevedore company group and the Maritime Union of Australia, brought before the Federal Court the use of intra-corporate restructurings so as to create an employing company which supplied labour to the other corporate members, resulting in redundancy of its employees when inter corporate agreements for the supply of labour were terminated. In the Australian Parliament, the Hon. Janice Crosio raised concerns over the loss of employee entitlements following a business insolvency in her electorate in 1996, leading to her presenting a Bill for the protection of employee entitlements via employer insurance in 1998.

In 1999 the closures of the National Textiles establishment in the Hunter Valley (NSW) and later, Braybrook Manufacturing in Victoria involved the loss of accrued entitlements for employees in the textile industry. Other corporate failures of 2001 including One.Tel and HIH Insurance Ltd appear to have resulted in smaller losses. In the case of One.Tel, its short time since start-up meant that accrued entitlements would be low. The efforts of its directors, the relevant union, the Community and Public Sector Union as well as the Federal Government, helped ensure that entitlements were met by initially securing a federal redundancy award. Its purpose was to generate binding redundancy and other entitlements as the individual employment contracts for staff used by One.Tel were silent on redundancy pay.

In the case of HIH, employee entitlement loss due to competitors taking over parts of a business mitigated the impact on HIH staff. However the relevant union, the Financial Sector Union also commenced redundancy award proceedings with the provisional liquidator advising the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) that a legal instrument determining the redundancy entitlement was preferable to the company’s non-formal policy on redundancy benefits, as an enforceable legal instrument would be created and thus recognised under company law. However the insolvency of the Ansett group of companies in September 2001 resulted in widespread redundancies and loss of entitlements, as discussed below.

Foreign investment in Australia: recent developments

April 2, 2011 Comments off

Foreign investment in Australia: recent developments
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

Introduction
This note reports recent changes in Australia’s foreign investment policy as released by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) in January 2011. It also explores trends in global foreign direct investment (FDI) as covered in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 2010 World Investment Report (released on 22 July 2010). Lastly, this Background Note analyses the dynamics of two way investments between Australia and its investment partners during the past eight years, based on data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on 30 July 2010.

Australia’s foreign investment policy
According to the foreign investment policy published by the Treasurer and governed by the FIRB, a foreign person must apply for approval to invest in an Australian business (including a piece of rural land having the characteristics of a commercial holding) if the foreign investment results in an interest of 15 per cent or more in an Australian business which is valued above a threshold of $231 million (or $1 005 million for US investors on 1 January 2011).1 All foreign investment proposals are scrutinised by the FIRB against national interest criteria on a case-by-case basis.

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