Wednesday, January 01, 2014

PM Tony Abbott to start 'conversation' on Indigenous recognition in 2014

I have no idea what this is about.  The 1967  referendum removed all discrimination against Aborigines from the constitution but also gave parliament the right to make laws especially for the benefit of Aborigines.  What else is needed?  The 1967 referendum got 90% approval

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he will use 2014 to start a "conversation" about recognising Indigenous Australians in the constitution.

The former Labor Government shelved plans for a referendum on the issue because it argued there wasn't enough community support.

Mr Abbott has used his New Year's Day message to flag that he will make garnering support a key priority for this year.

"I will also start the conversation about a constitutional referendum to recognise the first Australians," he said.  "This would complete our constitution rather than change it."

Mr Abbott's intention has been welcomed by Warren Mundine, the head of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council.

But he says more debate will be needed to build a strong case for change. "For it to be successful, the proposed wording will need to be right," he said.

"It's not only just about the majority of people supporting it, but you have to get a majority of states.  "That double whammy makes it a bit more difficult, so I suggest caution.

"But at the same time I think we just need to get on with the job and start getting the wording right."


Former Labor party leaders tell Tony Abbott to slash spending

BOB Hawke and Paul Keating have urged the Abbott government to slash spending and speedily repair the budget bottom line, arguing they faced up to a similar challenge in 1986-87 when the terms of trade collapsed and the dollar plummeted.

"It's a very, very large budget deficit that you're looking at, projecting $47 billion, and they seem to be walking away from the suggestion that they can move into surplus in this first term," said Mr Hawke, the prime minister from 1983 to 1991.

"What is required is the same thing. You've got to have a prime minister and treasurer, and a competent ministry which understands the issue and is prepared to make hard decisions. So it's the same challenge."

Mr Keating, treasurer during the period, told The Australian that having informed voters "we couldn't go on maintaining the standard of living we had become accustomed to", he had to follow through with "structural adjustments to the economy and cut spending across the board".

"The broad lesson is to inform the public of the problem and then earnestly pursue the remedies," he said.

"When you're cutting outlays like we were, we had outlays growing at less than the inflation rate for a number of years, you've really got to want to do this. You've really got to have the skills."

The Australian's interviews with the two former prime ministers coincide with the release today of the Labor government's 1986-87 cabinet papers by the National Archives of Australia. Mr Hawke and Mr Keating pointed to $5.5bn made in savings over 1986-87, which is the equivalent of about $30bn in today's terms, as a share of the economy.

Government spending from 1986-87 to 1988-89 grew at a rate less than inflation, the only time that occurred in a 40-year period.

The budget returned to surplus in 1987-88 and remained in balance for two additional years, after the government inherited a $9.6bn deficit from the Fraser-Howard government in 1983.

The mid-year fiscal and economic outlook released last month revealed a projected budget deficit of $47bn this financial year. If the same level of savings made between 1986-87 and 1988-89 were repeated today, the budget would return to surplus in two years.

Spending fell from 26.9 per cent of GDP in 1986-87 to 23.1 per cent of GDP in 1988-89. Two-thirds of the savings were cuts to recurrent spending. In today's terms, this is a saving of about $60bn.

In separate interviews, Mr Hawke and Mr Keating also criticised the quality of MPs from both sides of politics, arguing that today they lacked a diversity of work and life experience.

"It's a problem on both sides," Mr Hawke said. "In some ways it's more of a problem for the conservative side of politics because Labor still has people who are ideologically driven and are prepared to go in and make sacrifices. On the conservative side, you're not surprised that they don't want to go in and subject themselves to this increasing intrusiveness of the media into their private life."

"I think the experience pool was much broader (in 1986-87) than now," Mr Keating said.

"We have seen a big change in parliamentary staff becoming ministers. Some are really good, like Chris Bowen, but there are a lot of very ordinary people who have never quite had that broader experience. In the end it's going to sap the vitality of the government and its wisdom."

Mr Hawke urged both parties to support a referendum to allow people to serve in cabinet without having to be elected to parliament.

"You would have a limited number of people who could be called in and serve, and be entitled to sit in parliament in respect of any issue concerning their portfolio, but they wouldn't be a full member of parliament," he said. "It would add considerably to the strength on both sides."

He reiterated his call for state governments to be abolished to achieve a more streamlined, efficient and effective structure of government. "I would love to think that both parties had the guts to face up to this issue of the states," he said.

Mr Hawke also responded to Mr Keating's criticisms of him in a recent four-part series with ABC journalist Kerry O'Brien.

"I don't see any need to rewrite history," Mr Hawke said. "I know what the facts are, my colleagues know what the facts are, and I feel I have no need to regurgitate history to justify myself."

The 1986-87 cabinet papers cover the period when Mr Keating said Australia risked becoming a "banana republic" due to falling national income sparked by a terms of trade crisis.

Mr Keating said he did not regret making the comment as it was important to be frank with voters about the scale of the challenge "and seize the initiative to reform".

He said Mr Hawke did not see the need to respond quickly and decisively to the crisis. On a May 1986 newspaper article, he wrote that Mr Hawke was suffering from a "mental fog".

Mr Hawke said the treasurer's banana republic warning was "unnecessarily dramatic" and "over the top". He said the government had a record of reform since 1983 and didn't need to be "galvanised" into action.

Mr Keating argued that the reform agenda he drove set up Labor to win a third term in government in July 1987 - a first for Labor. As early as March 1986, two months before his banana republic comment, Mr Keating warned cabinet about the crisis and urged remedial action.

"There was a lot of affection between Bob and me, but I still had to drive the show," Mr Keating said. "When I would get resistance from him, I'd push him."

Mr Keating said Mr Hawke initially opposed his proposal for a July 1987 election after cutting deeply into government outlays. He wrote in a newspaper article at the time that Mr Hawke said it would be "f . . king mad" to do so. Mr Hawke later called an election for July 11.

During the 1987 election campaign, Mr Hawke promised that "by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty". Although the introduction of the family allowance supplement helped to reduce disadvantage, Mr Hawke now says the pledge was "stupidly truncated". He said he should have said: "There will be no financial need for any child to live in poverty".

Among the other issues in the cabinet papers released today are: the deregulation of home loan interest rates; the burying of the Australia Card; the failure to achieve national land rights legislation; the defence white paper; adding Queensland's wet tropics to the World Heritage List; opposition to mining in Antarctica; grappling with the threat of terrorism; and sectoral industry reform.


Newman faces a storm on climate

THE terms of reference for a planned examination of the renewable energy target were still to be decided as a storm of controversy erupted yesterday over comments by Maurice Newman, Tony Abbott's key business adviser.

The full scope of the federal government's review of green energy policies would not be finalised for several weeks, a government spokesman has confirmed.

Mr Newman won support from industry groups for his comments in The Australian yesterday that misguided climate change policy was largely to blame for the collapse of Australian manufacturing.

He said an upcoming review of the RET should include an examination of payments already made to renewable energy projects. But Mr Newman was sharply criticised for rejecting the theory of climate change and the global industry it had spawned.

Mr Newman said the climate change establishment, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, remained "intent on exploiting the masses and extracting more money".

"When necessary the IPCC resorts to dishonesty and deceit," Mr Newman said.

ALP acting spokesman for environment, climate change and water Shayne Neumann said Mr Newman had "embarrassed Australia by calling the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change "deceitful and dishonest".

Climate change campaigner Tim Flannery was quoted as saying Mr Newman's attack on the IPCC and climate change was "gouty festive season ramblings".

But Professor Flannery said Mr Newman had to be taken seriously because of his role as the head of the Prime Minister's business advisory group.

Writing in The Australian, Mr Newman said Australia had become "hostage to climate change madness". But he said: "The scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling."

The ALP said Mr Newman's comments proved "the Coalition is not serious about taking action on climate change and does not accept the overwhelming evidence of a changing climate."

Mr Neumann called on Mr Abbott to withdraw comments that damage Australia's relationships with its trading partners, all of whom accept that climate change and are taking steps to reduce carbon pollution.

Mr Abbott was on leave yesterday and unavailable to comment, but a government spokesman said the terms of reference of the review of the RET was yet to be decided.

Responsibility for the RET is split between Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane.


Medicare about to cover dental care for poor children

More than 3 million children will be eligible for Medicare-funded dental care under a scheme starting on Wednesday.

The $2.7 billion scheme is the final element of a dental package negotiated by the Greens with Julia Gillard in return for their support for her minority government.

Under the scheme, families who receive Family Tax Benefit Part A will be eligible for $1000 worth of Medicare-funded treatment over a two-year period.

About 3.4 million children between the ages of two and 17 are expected to benefit.

As opposition leader in January 2012, Tony Abbott declared that it was his "aspiration" to extend Medicare to cover dentistry.

Greens senator Richard Di Natale used the launch of the children's dental scheme to challenge Mr Abbott to commit to a broader scheme. In 2012, Mr Abbott said the big problem with Medicare was "that it supports treatment for every part of the body except the mouth".

In 2007, Mr Abbott - then health minister in the Howard government - introduced a Medicare-funded dental scheme for sufferers of chronic disease.

The scheme was abolished by Labor to help fund the new scheme, but Senator Di Natale said it was evidence of Mr Abbott's commitment to including dental care in Medicare.

The Greens want Mr Abbott to implement their scheme for Medicare-funded dental care for all Australians by 2018. In the next stage, about 3 million pensioners and recipients would be included in 2015, at a cost of $1 billion a year. The full scheme would cost $8.5 billion in 2018-19.

"We're challenging the Coalition to back up their rhetoric with a promise," Senator Di Natale said.

He said the Greens were open to negotiation on how such a scheme would be funded, adding that while the party preferred it to be paid for by a redesigned mining tax and by ending fossil fuel subsidies, it was prepared to consider an increase in the Medicare levy.

Health Minister Peter Dutton said the Coalition would like to improve dental care but was hamstrung by the "historic debt and deficit" left by Labor governments.

Labor frontbencher Shayne Neumann called on the government to quarantine the children's dental scheme from cuts being considered by the National Commission of Audit.

Senator Di Natale said that while the children's dental scheme was enshrined in legislation, he was worried another element of the Labor-Greens package - $1.3 billion for dental care for low-income adults in the public system - could be a target for savings.


1 comment:

Paul said...

At least the Knockout game, or Polar Bear hunting (as its also called in the US) hasn't started here yet. You ultimately get sort of thing though that when you start pandering to minorities via guilt tripping (be it "legacy-of-slavery" or "stolen generation"). Why would we place the least productive element of this society in such an exalted position? Abbott is starting to smell of Fraser.