Showing posts with label Australian society. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australian society. Show all posts

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Australia - where the rich get richer as wealth & income inequality grows (interactive mapping)


The Guardian, 12 October 2017

Australia is among countries with the highest growth in income inequality in the world over the past 30 years, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Vitor Gaspar, the IMF’s director of fiscal affairs, has told an audience at the launch of the IMF’s latest Fiscal Monitor that Australia’s income inequality growth has been similar to the US, South Africa, India, China, Spain and the UK since the 1980s.

Last month the treasurer, Scott Morrison, said that income inequality was not getting worse in Australia.

Morrison told the Business Council of Australia in late September that Treasury and the Reserve Bank had found, in specific analysis of current wage fundamentals, that Australian wages were growing slowly across most industries in the economy, and most regions of the country, so the slow growth was evenly shared.

However, he would not release the Treasury analysis.

Graph showing inequality by country by the IMF. Illustration: IMF

Gaspar said IMF staff had used the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s income distribution database, Eurostat, and the World Bank’s Povcalnet data, among other sources, to calculate that income inequality had increased in nearly half of the world’s countries in the past three decades, and Australia had experienced a “large increase” in that time.

“Most people around the world live in countries where inequality has increased,” he said.

The IMF’s latest Fiscal Monitor, released overnight, is dedicated to the global growth in income inequality. It warns that while some inequality is inevitable in a market-based economic system as a result of “differences in talent, effort, and luck”, excessive inequality could “erode social cohesion, lead to political polarisation, and ultimately lower economic growth”. 

It also warns that income inequality tends to be “highly correlated” with wealth inequality, inequality of opportunity, and gender inequality……

Earlier this year, the OECD economic survey of Australia in April found “inclusiveness has been eroded” in the past two decades.

“The Gini coefficient has been drifting up and households in upper-income brackets have benefited disproportionally from Australia’s long period of economic growth,” the report said.

“Real incomes for the top quintile of households grew by more than 40% between 2004 and 2014, while those for the lowest quintile only grew by about 25%.”

In July the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, when asked about his views on inequality at a charity lunch in Sydney, said it had grown “quite a lot” in the 1980s and 1990s and had risen “a little bit” recently, but it was important to make a distinction between income and wealth inequality.

“Wealth inequality has become more pronounced particularly in the last five or six years because there’s been big gains in asset prices,” Lowe said. “So the people who own assets, which are usually wealthy people, have seen their wealth go up.”

He said income inequality had increased slightly in recent years, but wealth inequality was more pronounced because of rising asset prices.

So how do individual regions across Australia fare?

The Guardian on 4 February 2016 published this Australia-wide interactive graphic:



Income Distribution in NSW Northern Rivers Region (based on Australian Taxation Office data for 2012-13)

Byron – top 10%  of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 38.5% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.544

Kyogle – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 33.9% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.554

Ballina – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 33.2% of income – Gini coefficient 0.495

Tweed – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 31.7% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.473

Clarence Valley – top 10%  of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 31.1% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.493

Lismore – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 29.7% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.459

Richmond Valley – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 28.1% of total income  – Gini coefficient 0.448

*  Some low income earners, eg. those receiving Government pensions/allowances or earning below the tax free threshold may not be present in the data, as they may not be required to lodge personal tax forms. [Australian Bureau of Statistics, Estimates of Personal Income for Small Areas, Total Income, 2012-13]

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Political Tweets of the Week




Quotes of the Week


”Homosexuality was decriminalised in NSW in 1984. The first state or territory to take homosexuality out of the criminal code was South Australia in 1975 and the last was Tasmania in 1997.” [Julie McCrossin writing on ABC News, 23 September 2017]

“There are around 3,000 reported snakebites each year in Australia, resulting in 500 hospital admissions and an average of two fatalities.” [The Flying Doctor Service, 5 October 2017]

“In the first few months of 2017, more than 440,000 Australians have donated to a GoFundMe, demonstrating the staggering increase of people engaging with social fundraising across the country.”  [The Northern Star, 3 October 2017]

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Oh, it burns! It burns! #2


On 20 September 2017 first term Liberal MLA for Brindabella, Shadow Minister for Housing & Shadow Minister for Gaming and Racing Mark Parton rose to his feet and unthinkingly touched on the matter of male priviledge.

The match was lit.

He said in ACT Legislative Assembly:


know that much of this debate is about social inclusion. I get that. It is easy to say that this debate is not about taxes and charges. But I am here to tell you that when you feel the squeeze from all directions—when you feel the pinch from rising rates, rising land tax, rising electricity charges, rising rego fees, rising regulatory fees in every direction—and you are pushed into a financial space whereby you are struggling to breathe, you do not feel included. These people feel as though they have been left out; they do not feel included. 

On a broader level, I always find it fascinating that we focus on all of these groups who we are not going to leave behind. If you are a heterosexual, employed white male over the age of 30, you are not really included in anything. I know that those on the other side would say that heterosexual, employed Anglo males have opportunities aplenty, so we do not need to look after them; they will be okay. Madam Assistant Speaker, let me tell you that 75 per cent of suicides in this country are men, and overwhelmingly they are men aged 30 to 54. When we commit to inclusion, we should not be picking favourites; we should commit to including everyone.

She said in the mainstream media:


Director of the women's equality foundation 50/50 by 2030, Virginia Haussegger, said Mr Parton's comments were "foolish" and "offensive to all those not part of that privileged class".

"As Mr Parton is aware, our federal Parliament is overwhelmingly run by white, heterosexual men aged over 30, who hold the majority of power, influence and key decision-making roles," she said.

"They dominate among state premiers and chief ministers, across all three defence forces, our judiciary, academia, local government [and] across all religious denominations.

"White men aged over 30 rule the majority of Australia's publicly listed companies, they overwhelmingly control the boards, our financial institutions and our banks and operate in workplace environments that severely lack gender and ethnic diversity.

"What's more, they get paid more than women to do it."

Ms Haussegger said if Mr Parton was concerned about suicide rates among men there were better ways to draw attention to the issue.

"To suggest heterosexual, white, employed men aged over 30 are somehow missing out on attention or inclusion is not only daft, it is damaging to the gender equity project and has a heavy whiff of backlash about it," she said.

"If Mr Parton is suggesting that a particular cohort of men is struggling with mental health issues, as a result of missing out on attention, then perhaps it would be best to invite serious discussion about that important issue, rather than take a swipe at minority and disadvantaged groups who are in need of focused funding initiatives."

Sunday, 1 October 2017

On average one woman has died a violent death every week in the first nine months of this year

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
From 1 January to 30 September 2017 the total number of female violent deaths reported in the media has reached 38 women – averaged out that is one woman per week.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Turnbull Government's insistence on denying a basic human right to so many Australian citizens is a disgrace


The Guardian, 2 September 2017:

The former human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs has called for an end to the Northern Territory intervention and the government’s cashless welfare card trial, labelling them violations of international law.

The professor is one of 200 prominent Australians, including Cathy Freeman, Ian Thorpe and former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes, to support a statement prepared with Indigenous elders that calls the intervention a “crushing” failure.

Speaking at the University of Melbourne on Monday, Triggs said the NT intervention had harmed Indigenous communities since its introduction 10 years ago.

  “Assault and sexual assault convictions are about the same as before. Domestic violence has significantly increased. Incarceration of juveniles is now at world record heights.

“We’ve had a 500% rise in Indigenous youth suicide since the years 2007-11,” she said.

The intervention, enacted in 2007 under the Howard government, suspended the application of the Racial Discrimination Act, enacted harsh penalties on alcohol and pornography, and removed customary laws in certain areas of the territory after reports of high rates of child sexual abuse.

In 2012, the Gillard government passed the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act, which extended the laws until 2022.

“The Act and its extension breach the Racial Discrimination Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the important Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Triggs said. 

“While it was nominally designed to protect children, it’s become a chilling act of political cynicism and opportunism, an overreach of executive decision-making, a failure of parliament and the manipulation of truth.”….

Speaking on Monday, Triggs also condemned the NT’s BasicsCard and the government’s trial of cashless welfare cards in Western Australia and South Australia.

“There are significant problems with the card [and] the evidence on the ground is to the contrary. It is wrong and illegal as a matter of international law to penalise Aboriginal Australians where the impact of the BasicsCard is racially discriminatory.”

Friday, 1 September 2017

A possible explanation as to why in 2017 Liberal and Nationals politicians in Australia still hold the poor in such contempt?


In the 45th Australian Parliament 86.9 per cent of Liberal MPs and senators and 59.1 per cent of Nationals/CNP MPS and senators have formal higher education/professional qualifications.  

A total of 175 of these 196 qualified Coalition parliamentarians graduated from university, with the majority of qualifications being in law, commerce, economics and finance. [See 45th Parliamentary Handbook of The Commonwealth of Australia]

As a group Coalition parliamentarians have a higher percentage of members with higher education qualifications compared with other parliamentary political parties.

By comparison, in the general Australian population 48.9 per cent of 35-44 year-olds, 38.2 per cent of 45-54 year-olds, 33.9 per cent of 55-64 year-olds had tertiary qualifications in 2015 according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data.

Both Liberal and Nationals MPs and senators also feature prominently in a list of parliamentarians with significant investment property portfolios.

However, belonging to the current affluent political class doesn’t completely explain the level of arrogant entitlement our Coalition politicians display on the floor of federal parliament and elsewhere.

Unless for many in this affluent group a sense of privilege began generations before…….

In Australia a wide collection of rarer surnames, predominately of British/Irish origin, were used by Gregory Clark (University of California), Andrew Leigh (Parliament of Australia) and Mike Pottenger (Melbourne University) to study social mobility between 1870 and 2017.


In this paper we derive equivalent surname status correlations for Australia 1870-2017. These show that despite the fact that Australia was an immigrant society incorporating migrants from a wide variety of backgrounds, and without some of the entrenched social institutions and rigidities of England, underlying social mobility rates all the way from 1870 to 2017 were just as slow as in England. Also there is no sign of any increase in mobility rates in the most recent years……

In 1900-9 someone with the rare elite surname was 16.5 times as likely to get a degree from Melbourne or Sydney as someone with a common surname. Over the decades this overrepresentation declines, but more than 100 years later in 2010-17 the rare surnames are still 76% more represented among degree recipients than would be expected......
With this structure the social system behaves as though it has a longer memory of family status. The predicted status of children depends not just on the parents, but also on the grandparents, uncles, aunts and other relatives. In high status lineages, large short-term declines in status by a child tend to be corrected in the next generation, the grandchildren. For lower class families large upward movements in social status tend also to get corrected in the next generation.
Another feature that should be emphasized is that our data does suggest there will be complete social mobility in Australia, if we wait enough generations. The descendants of the Colonial elite are becoming more average with each passing generation, and will eventually be completely average in status. However, this process takes a very long time. The holders of rare elite surnames in table 2 had an average occupational status 1.54 standard deviations above the social mean in 1904. With an intergenerational correlation of 0.75 in occupational status their average status will lie within .1 standard deviations of the social mean by the generation of 2204. It takes about 10 generations, 300 years, for such an elite set of families to become effectively average.
It is not obvious how we should weight the two different elements of short run and long run mobility in terms of evaluating the degree of social mobility in Australian society. Indeed, policies that increase parent-child social mobility may be desirable even if we expect that there will be some reversion in the next generation. But it is clear that in terms of long-run social mobility, Australia has been just as immobile a society as its sclerotic parent England.
It appears that Australian society is as stratified as ever with dominant groups retaining high status through the generations and working class families remaining relatively fixed in lower status groups and, a genuinely egalitarian society in this country is not to be expected for another 300 years - if at all.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Legality of Same-Sex Marriage voluntary postal survey to be decided by High Court of Australia on 5 September 2017


On the question of whether the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry…..

On 8 August 2017 the Turnbull Government announced it would proceed with a voluntary postal plebiscite if the Senate again refused to pass the Bill for a compulsory attendance plebiscite.

On 9 August the Finance Minister announced that the Australian Bureau of Statistics would conduct a voluntary postal survey of citizens registered to vote.

On 10 August proceedings were commenced in the High Court challenging the minister’s power to expend monies to conduct this survey.

High Court of Australia, August 2017:


Documents*
10/08/2017 Application for an order to show cause
10/08/2017 Notice of constitutional matter (Plaintiffs)
11/08/2017 Hearing (Single Justice, Sydney v/ link Melbourne)
14/08/2017 Amended Application for an order to show cause
16/08/2017 Appearance (Defendant 4, Submitting)
17/08/2017 Hearing (Single Justice, Brisbane v/link Melbourne & Sydney)
23/08/2017 Written submissions (Plaintiffs)
23/08/2017 Chronology
30/08/2017 Written submissions (Defendants)
01/09/2017 Reply
05/09/2017 Hearing (Full Court, Melbourne)
*The due dates shown for documents on this page are indicative only. 

Related matter:
M106/2017 – Australian Marriage Equality Ltd & Anor v. Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann & Anor

  Documents*
10/08/2017 Writ of summons
10/08/2017 Statement of claim
10/08/2017 Notice of constitutional matter (Plaintiffs)
11/08/2017 Hearing (Single Justice, Sydney v/link Melbourne)
14/08/2017 Amended Statement of claim
16/08/2017 Defence (First Defendant)
16/08/2017 Submitting Appearance (Second Defendant)
17/08/2017 Hearing (Single Justice, Brisbane v/link Melbourne & Sydney)
21/08/2017 Special case
23/08/2017 Written submissions (Plaintiffs)
23/08/2017 Chronology
30/08/2017 Written submissions (First Defendant)
01/09/2017 Reply
05/09/2017 Hearing (Full Court, Melbourne)
*The due dates shown for documents on this page are indicative only. 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The question of marriage equality needs to be resolved



Over a two week period from 12 September 2017 an Australian Marriage Law Survey Form will be sent by post to every Australian registered to vote. It will be sent to the address given on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll.
This voluntary survey form needs to be returned before 6pm on 27 October 2017. If it is received by the Australian Bureau of Statistics after the deadline it will not be counted.
The survey form asks one straightforward question: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Up Yamba way "a fine young fellow" plays soccer.......



The Sydney Morning Herald, online, 16 August 2017:


This is the story of Marc Reichler-Stillhard, a fine young fellow, born with Down syndrome up Yamba way, and immediately embraced by the local community of the mighty Clarence Valley, where the river flows fast, the fields grow green and the local folk are strong. Integrated with mainstream classes at the local schools and signed up with local sporting clubs, Marc has been a beloved figure who has learnt as much from the kids around him, as they have learnt from him.


Respected: Marc Reichler-Stillhard is a beloved figure in the community of Clarence Valley.
Photo: Enid Reichler-Stillhard

I recounted one story of Marc a couple of years ago, in The Fitz Files. On a sunny day in March 2015, see, the young lads of Yamba are playing the game of their lives against the boys of nearby Lawrence in the local under-12 cricket grand final. No quarter asked for or given, Lawrence has set a good total, but the Yamba young'uns are a confident breed and they go out hard after it. And they get there, too. The scores are level with two balls to go! Yamba's last man on strike is Marc, and as he walks to the crease, the crowd holds its breath.

What is going to happen?
The second last ball is bowled, Marc swings valiantly and ... misses. One ball to go. The Lawrence bowler, a good sport with a fine instinct that some things are more important than mere trophies, a credit to his town, sends down an easier ball. This time young Marc connects, and starts to run like a scalded hare, but the ball is in the air. The Lawrence fieldsman runs in to take the catch ... but drops it. Yamba wins. Marc is carried off the field on the shoulders of both teams, as the crowd roars.

What's not to like? What's not to weep about?
Marc's parents, and the Yamba community take a similar approach to soccer, a sport that Marc loves. For the past couple of years, Marc has been running around with the Yamba soccer club, as an extra – that is, at the suggestion of his coach, he's been taking the field as a 12th man, running out with the others and doing the best he can. Though he's now 16, he's been playing with the under-14s, as it is his best chance of making some contribution, given that he is a lot smaller than his peers and has issues of co-ordination. Every match, Yamba has asked the opposing team if it’s OK and the opposing teams have – bless their cotton socks – never had a problem. The people of the Clarence Valley are just like that.
"Marc does his absolute best and the kids are phenomenal," Marc's mother Enid Reichler-Stillhard told ABC North Coast Radio this week. "When you watch how they interact with Marc, they help him on the field and off the field and make him feel good about himself. He is valued and they want him to play. It gives you goosebumps. The team once gave Marc the ball and said 'go with it Marc' and he ran the length of the field with it, and the kids fell over their own feet not to take the ball off him."
What's not to like?
It has been wonderful for Marc and his family, great for the Yamba team who love to play with him, and make sure he gets to kick the ball, and the opposing teams in the Clarence Valley have respected the situation, and Marc, not taking advantage of his position in the team.
So it's all fun in the sun, yes, in a manner that would bring a tear to a glass eye, as the true spirit of community sport for kids is embraced? Yes, for nearly everyone.
Somewhere out there, however, last week, a complaint was made by just one of the opposing clubs that this was – wait for it – against the rules, asking North Coast Football to stop Marc playing as a 12th man.
NCF have upheld the complaint. Though they are OK to provide an exemption to him on grounds of age, they now insist that Yamba field only 11 players.
And so allow me please, a few words, NCF, and the club making the complaint....
Read full article here.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Are voters really going to trust the Australian Bureau of Statistics with the same-sex marriage plebiscite?


Well here we are. With a federal government so afraid of exercising its constitutional responsibility to make laws concerning marriage and fearful that the High Court might block any move to conduct a compulsory plebiscite without the parliament’s consent.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 August 2017:

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed the government would "ask the Senate to reconsider" the compulsory plebiscite, which was "clearly our preference".

But "if that were to fail, the government believes we have a legal and constitutional way forward" to commission a non-legislated, voluntary postal vote, he said.

And who is going to conduct this voluntary postal vote?

Why that national statistical agency which is intent on collecting, matching and monetising every piece of data it can on each and every Australian. The very agency which gave the nation #CensusFAIL in 2016.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 August 2017:

Ask the Australian Bureau of Statistics when it knew about its role in the postal plebiscite, ask if it knew at all, ask whether it has the capacity to conduct the plebiscite, and you'll be told it's saying nothing. It's referring all such questions to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

Which is odd, because it's an autonomous agency used to speaking for itself. And the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister aren't the ministers it reports to. It reports to the Treasurer, through the Small Business Minister Michael McCormack. It was McCormack and the head of the ABS, David Kalisch, who kept the public updated during the computer meltdown that came to define the 2016 census.

At a cost of $122 million, the postal plebiscite would become the second-biggest project it's ever undertaken, after the $350 million census…..

Whereas in recent years the ABS has tried to hang on to the names and addresses of those that it surveys and link them to answers (in what many see as an invasion of privacy) each response to the plebiscite will have to be kept secret.

The ABS is, on the face of it, the wrong organisation to be conducting the plebiscite. So why it, rather than the Australian Electoral Commission?

One reason is that only governors-general can call elections, and the High Court is likely to decide that an AEC-conducted plebiscite is much the same as an election. The ABS already has the power to conduct surveys……. 

An ABS 'opinion poll' conducted without the authority of Parliament would be better able to withstand a High Court challenge than the AEC ballot conducted without the authority of Parliament.

On a practical level, the ABS is the worst-placed organisation to conduct such a postal plebiscite. It moves slowly. It needs (more than) five years notice to prepare each census. In recent years it has abandoned the commitment to total privacy that used to define it. And it is trying to move its surveys online.

The wrong organisation to be conducting the plebiscite?

It almost goes without saying that the high level of trust in the Australian Bureau of Statistics fell a few degrees after the 2016 Census debacle and it is likely that public confidence will be somewhat shaky with regard to its ability to run at such short notice what is less a plebiscite and more an unofficial national postal survey.

The ABS has issued this assurance:

The ABS assures Australians that there will be no personal identifiers on the survey form and all materials will be destroyed by the ABS at the end of processing.

However, not everyone will be comforted by this undertaking as so much can go wrong when such a large survey is conducted in such haste.

In 60 days time the ABS intends to have distributed the survey quesion to all registered voters, received the answers back in the post, collated those answers and published the result on 15 November 2017.

It may be that the most attractive thing about the ABS for the Turnbull Government is that its recent history might make some voters think twice about participating in this postal vote and, therefore deliver a participation rate that can be repudiated as not being genuinely representative if most Liberal and Nationals MPs and senators still want to block marriage equality becoming law.

A challenge to this government poll was lodged with the High Court of Australia on 10 August 2017, by lawyers acting on behalf of independent MP Andrew Wilkie, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and lesbian parent Felicity Marlowe.

The defendents are listed as the Commonwealth of Australia, Minister for Finance, Treasurer, Australian Statistician and Electoral Commissioner.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Why am I so angry about this postal vote in Australia to decide on marriage equality?


This following was tweeted by @liamesler within days of the Turnbull Government’s announcement that is has asked the Australian Bureau of Statistics to conduct a voluntary non-binding, national postal survey (not federal parliament authorised plebiscite) of citizens 18 years of age or older on the question Do you support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?"


Sunday, 13 August 2017

United Nations mixed response to Australia's human rights record


“Attacks against the Australian Human Rights Commission

60. The Special Rapporteur was informed about the attacks made by some politicians against the Australian Human Rights Commission and, in particular, its President, Gillian Triggs, which are particularly troubling given the prestige and respectability this Commission enjoys internationally. Following the Commission’s inquiry into the harm caused by the detention of migrant children, its President has faced public intimidation, questioning her integrity, impartiality and judgment. On several occasions in the recent past, efforts to weaken the financial resources and capacity of the Commission have resulted in budget cuts, which have been amplified by the additional functions assigned to it.

61.For the Special Rapporteur, this situation is even more unacceptable given the fact that Australia sponsored Human Rights Council resolution 27/18 on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights, in which the Council states, in paragraph 9, that national human rights institutions and their respective members and staff should not face any form of reprisal or intimidation, including political pressure, physical intimidation, harassment or unjustifiable budgetary limitations, as a result of activities undertaken in accordance with their respective mandates, including when taking up individual cases or when reporting on serious or systematic violations in their countries.

62.The fact that the Commission handles more than 20,000 inquiries and 2,000 complaints each year, the vast majority of which are resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, confirms its exemplary work, particularly with respect to racism and racial discrimination. It should be held up by politicians, as well as journalists, as a good example of the functioning of democratic institutions in Australia.”

United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xe... by clarencegirl on Scribd


Monday, 7 August 2017

So why might the far right of the Liberal and National parties being pushing for a postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage?


The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) states this of national plebiscites:

Plebiscites

An issue put to the vote which does not affect the Constitution is called a plebiscite. A plebiscite is not defined in the Australian Constitution, the Electoral Act or the Referendum Act. A plebiscite can also be referred to as a simple national vote.

Governments can hold plebiscites to test whether people either support or oppose a proposed action on an issue. The government is not bound by the 'result' of a plebiscite as it is by the result of a Constitutional referendum. Federal, state and territory governments have held plebiscites on various issues.

Under s. 7A of the Electoral Act, the AEC can conduct a plebiscite as a fee-for-service election, with the AEC entering into 'an agreement, on behalf of the Commonwealth, for the supply of goods or services to a person or body'. The rules for a plebiscite or fee-for-service election are normally contained in the terms of the agreement between the AEC and the person funding the election.

Military service plebiscites were held in 1916 and 1917 but, as they were not proposals to amend the Constitution, the provisions of section 128 of the Constitution did not apply. Voters in all federal territories were permitted to vote. Both the military service plebiscites sought a mandate for conscription and were defeated.

The first thing to note about a national plebiscite is that its outcome is not binding on the federal parliament or on any MP or senator.

Additionally, voting in a national plebiscite can be voluntary, unless otherwise stated in any legislation authorising a specific plebiscite. As was the case in the National Song Poll in May 1977 at which 7.59 million people or est. 90%+ of registered voters cast a voluntary ballot.

Besides being voluntary a plebiscite can also be a mail-out ballot as was the Election of Delegates to the Constitutional Convention some twenty years later in December 1997, at which 6 million ballot papers were returned, scrutinised and counted – that is to say only 50.04% of all eligible voters actually voluntarily voted and an est. 1.13% of these cast informal ballots.

A parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage was calculated as costing $17 million in 2016. A stand-alone same-sex plebiscite was estimated to cost up to $525 million in that same year.

An important point to note about a national plebiscite on same-sex marriage is that it is unnecessary as s51 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act gives federal parliament power to make laws regarding marriage and, parliament exercised that right as recently as 2004 when it changed the definition of marriage in order To ensure that same sex marriages are not recognised as marriage in Australia, inclusive of those performed under the laws of another country that permits such unions.

So one can see why far-right federal MPs and senators would be in favour of a voluntary plebiscite, particularly a postal one.

It may cost taxpayers more but the chances of a high voter participation rate is not as certain and, if the government of the day doesn't like the results of the ballot it can decide to not to act on them.

These parliamentarians probably believe those voters who will be less likely to return a postal ballot will not be those strongly opposed to same-sex marriage, but those who are undecided, neutral, or disinterestedly in favour of rewriting the Marriage Act to allow gay couples to wed.

In the minds of zealots like Eric Abetz and Tony Abbott this is probably seen as giving their cause a fighting chance and absolving them of any responsibility for continuing to actively oppose same-sex marriage.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Melbourne Institute's HILDA survey report 2017



Commenced in 2001, the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey is a nationally representative longitudinal study of Australian households. The study is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services (DSS) and is managed by the Melbourne Institute at the University of Melbourne. Roy Morgan Research has conducted the fieldwork since Wave 9 (2009), prior to which The Nielsen Company was the fieldwork provider.
The HILDA Survey seeks to provide longitudinal data on the lives of Australian residents. It annually collects information on a wide range of aspects of life in Australia, including household and family relationships, child care, employment, education, income, expenditure, health and wellbeing, attitudes and values on a variety of subjects, and various life events and experiences. Information is also collected at less frequent intervals on various topics, including household wealth, fertility related behaviour and plans, relationships with non-resident family members and non-resident partners, health care utilisation, eating habits, cognitive functioning and retirement.
The important distinguishing feature of the HILDA Survey is that the same households and individuals are interviewed every year, allowing us to see how their lives are changing over time. By design, the study can be infinitely lived, following not only the initial sample members for the remainder of their lives, but also their children and all subsequent descendants

Download the report here.

First Dog On The Moon: "My life as an enraged flibbertigibbet


First Dog On the Moon, 27 July 2017

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Australian Government guide to when it is extinguishing our traditional freedoms, rights and privileges


In 2015 Australian Attorney-General and Liberal Senator for Queensland George Brandis thoughtfully provided voters with a guide to assist them with analysing whether federal legislation rides roughshod over traditional rights, freedoms and privileges.

This guide can be found in the Australian Law Reform Commission Report 129, Traditional Rights and Freedoms— Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws:

The Terms of Reference, provided by the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, state that laws that encroach on traditional rights, freedoms and privileges should be understood to refer to laws that:

interfere with freedom of speech;
interfere with freedom of religion;
interfere with freedom of association;
interfere with freedom of movement;
interfere with vested property rights;
retrospectively change legal rights and obligations;
create offences with retrospective application;
alter criminal law practices based on the  principle of a fair trial;
reverse or shift the burden of proof;
exclude the right to claim the privilege against self-incrimination;
abrogate client legal privilege;
apply strict or absolute liability to all physical elements of a criminal offence;
permit an appeal from an acquittal;
deny procedural fairness to persons affected by the exercise of public power;
inappropriately delegate legislative power to the executive;
authorise the commission of a tort;
disregard common law protection of personal reputation;
give executive immunities a wide application;
restrict access to the courts; and
interfere with any other similar legal right, freedom or privilege

WARNING: Don’t attempt a drinking game with this list as you may succumb to acute alcohol poisoning before reaching the end.