Archives for July 2013

To invest in universities is to invest in our future

Earlier this year, the Federal Government announced cuts of $2.8 billion to the expected funding for student support and universities, already on top of a $1 billion in cuts announced late last year.

 

I don’t know about you, but to me it really makes no sense.

 

According to OECD figures, our public investment in universities ranks just 25th out of 29 advanced economies. Meanwhile, the strongest nations in our region are investing more and more in universities to drive skills, science and research.

 

That is, nations in our region are investing into their best resource – their minds – while we are going in the opposite direction.

 

As a student at RMIT University where I recently completed an undergraduate degree, I became well aware of the financial situation. RMIT’s primary analysis suggested that the funding cuts would cost the University more than $25 million over the next four years.

 

Even with the government’s promise to maintain indexation, the massive reductions have made the framing of future budgets increasingly difficult, as RMIT is still carrying the effects of cuts imposed on higher and vocational education in 2012.

 

Australians have the potential to transform our economy and indeed the world.  Despite having less than 0.3% of the world’s population, we account for over three per cent of the world’s scientific research output.

 

The Bionic Ear, Black Box Flight Recorders, spray-on skin for burns victims and WiFi are just some Australian innovations that come to mind.

 

Who do you think drives the innovation behind such products and services and industries? Our universities.

 

Furthermore, the Australian Workforce Productivity Agency found that each extra one dollar invested in tertiary education grows the economy by $26 and grows tax revenue by $8. I really can’t think of any public funded investment which pays itself off better than investment in tertiary education.

 

To invest in universities is to invest in our future.

 

I don’t understand politicians. I don’t think most people do. But to me it’s clear: the Federal Government needs to stop cutting and start investing more into our tertiary education.

 

 

 

By Vince Stefano

Full time carers are ending up in poverty – it’s about time we fix this

There are over 500,000 unpaid primary carers in Australia.

These primary carers are often people caring full time for a family member such as an elderly parent or disabled child.

I cannot think of a commitment that could be more commendable. It is in a sense a giving up of one’s life for the service of another, a great act of love and generosity that is indeed a prime example of the beauty found in selfless humanity.

Acts of great generosity have a power that touches and moves us, I’m sure you’ve felt it before.

While caring is an experience which deepens friendships and relationships, it can also be very physically and emotionally demanding. It can be very hard work. The more hours spent caring, the greater the decline in carer health, because carers end up having less time to maintain their own health.

What I find very concerning is this: their role as a full time carer prevents them from obtaining full time employment and receiving compulsory superannuation payments available to employees.

Because of this, most will reach retirement age with little or no means of financial support.

Sure, full time primary carers are eligible for welfare benefits. But these are only enough to get you by a day at a time. As soon as these welfare payments stop, you are on your own. Full time primary carers have been retiring into poverty, because decades without paid employment means decades without superannuation.

In my opinion, this is simply not acceptable. These people do not deserve to finish up in poverty the way they do after years and often decades of full time service to not just a person in need of great care, but also service to the community and indeed the nation.

As these carers provide a major contribution to society and a massive saving to Government expenditure, they are should be entitled to receive a government funded contribution based on 9% of average weekly earnings.

The Democratic Labour Party believes that the government should fund superannuation contributions for full time primary carers. 

I find it an absolute disgrace that such an initiative has not been sought after by successive governments on both sides of politics.

The DLP are likely to hold the balance of power in the Senate after this year’s federal election but as always, it comes down to votes.

 

 

By Vince Stefano

DLP blog site now live

We are please to announce that we now have a separate blog site: federalelection.com.au

While the DLP website will still maintain its blog page, federalelection.com.au will be the official blog site of the Democratic Labour Party.

 

 

 

Small business policies by small business people

The DLP is the party of small business people. Senator John Madigan has over 25 years experience operating a small business. Federal Secretary and Victorian senate candidate Mark Farrell has over 16 years experience. Indeed, they are exemplary of the bulk of the Party’s membership. It is within the context of first-hand experience in small business that has lead to the formulation of the DLP’s small business policy.

The DLP believes that big business and government trading terms for the supply of goods and services by a small business should be no longer than 30 days standard trade.

Too often, small businesses are ripped off by big business. One common example is when a big business unfairly delays payment to a small business which has provided goods and/or services. This is one of the biggest obstacles small businesses face when trying to improve cash flow, which is crucial for survival and investment. DLP members have experienced this problem first-hand, so they have formulated a policy solution.

Click here to view the DLP’s small business policy

Where’s the commitment to help our tortured and oppressed West Papuan neighbours?

In the previous West Papua post, I provided an overview of the history of West Papua and the atrocities that have been inflicted upon Papuans by the Indonesians. In this post I will talk more about why Australia has been ignoring the issue, and who in our Parliament has been taking a stand.

 

Diggers will tell stories of Papuans running under heavy Japanese fire during World War II to pick up wounded Aussie solders bringing them to safety.

 

But for over 40 years, Australia has been ignoring the plea for help of the very people who risked their lives with outstanding bravery to save our own.

 

Australia’s position solidified in 2006, when the Howard government signed the Lombok Treaty with Indonesia, reaffirming the recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua, a position held by successive Australian governments to this day. Indeed, this was reiterated by Kevin Rudd in a meeting with the Indonesian president in July 2013.

 

When it comes to West Papua, all we have done over the years is express ‘concern for human rights in the region of Irian Jaya’ (West Papua), but not once has it been taken as a serious issue.

 

But let me be crystal clear: Australia has moral and legal obligations to pursue, through its close relationship with Indonesia, an end to the atrocious human rights abuses happening there.

 

Australians want action on this. A Newspoll survey in 2006 found support for West Papuan self-determination to be over 75%.

 

Thankfully, there are some members of our Parliament who doing what they can to help our abused, oppressed and forsaken Papuan neighbours.

 

Two minor parties in Parliament have found in each other unlikely allies: the Greens and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).

 

Last year, DLP Senator John Madigan moved a motion that the Senate expresses its condolence at the death of Ms Vikki Riley, a campaigner who dedicated her life to helping refugees and the people of West Papua and East Timor. The government and opposition failed to support the motion, because Ms Riley’s involvement with West Papua was “in conflict” with Australia’s foreign policy.

 

And because the motion contained the name “West Papua”, instead of the Indonesian name “Irian Jaya”.

 

The DLP and the Greens have continuously been questioning the Foreign Minister on Australia’s involvement in promoting and encouraging human rights in West Papua. The usual responses have been less than satisfactory, no surprise there.

 

Unfortunately, one of these two parties has been playing politics and not the issue.

 

In November 2011, DLP Senator Madigan supported a Greens motion in support of West Papua, which was knocked down by the house, but the Greens did not return the favour when Madigan put up a similar motion only moments later. See Hansard pages 9502-9504.

 

While the Greens website outlines a general commitment to human rights and justice, the DLP website clearly shows the Party’s commitment to West Papua, with practical steps that can be taken. You can read the DLP policy here.

 

 

 

By Vince Stefano

DLP launches new name and slogan in Melbourne

On Tuesday, the DLP launched its new name and 2013 campaign slogan at Federation Square in Melbourne.

DLP Senator John Madigan put on a blacksmithing display as he forged a branding iron of the letter U, which he then branded into the word laboUr on a sign displaying the DLP’s new name, ‘Democratic Labour Party’.

This spelling change was launched with the very apt slogan, ‘Putting YOU back into Labour”

The event also provided a great opportunity for passers-by to talk with DLP candidates, discussing many issues and learning more about the DLP.

 

We must back our students

The formation of undergraduate students is a time of utmost importance for both the students and the future of the nation. The DLP believes that certain changes must be made to the  Social Security Act 1991 to ensure equitable access to university education and to increase the quality of life for our students.

These changes include:

  • Raising the level of student income support payments to the Henderson poverty line
  • Increasing the parental means test threshold to the level of Average Weekly Earnings
  • Lowering the age of independence from 22 to 18
  • Reintroducing Centrelink counters at university campuses

 

Currently, student income support payments are at less that 70% of the Henderson poverty line. This is a shameful way of treating our nation’s future.

Lowering the age of independence to 18 will make means testing fairer – there are many students under the age of 22 who are financially independent because their parents cannot afford the costs incurred by tertiary education.

Having Centrelink counters at university campuses will be of immense benefit to students who are often tied to tight weekly schedules, as well as cut the waiting queues at Centrelink offices.

 

The DLP also believes in retaining Start Up Scholarships, as these play an important role in easing the burden of costs that students are faced with at the start of each semester.

 

Our students deserve a fair go. The best investment any government can make is in the future of its nation.

 

Click here to view our full Students Policy

Which party really understands small business?

There’s not a drop of doubt that small business is underrepresented in Australia, as highlighted in the previous small business post. With the Federal election near at hand, let’s take a look at some of the small business policy platforms being proposed by some of the main political parties.

 

 

Australian Labor Party (ALP)

The ALP website highlights what the party has already done for small business, but nothing new is being proposed. It gives mention to the following:

  • the establishment of a Minister for Small Business (Unfortunately, the Minister the Hon. Gary Gray has no experience in small business what-so-ever)
  • the establishment of Enterprise Connect
  • certain financial entitlements

 

With nothing new being proposed, one can’t help but wonder how the current situation for small business could be improved if the ALP retains government.

 

Interestingly, the ALP has no separate ‘small business’ policy, but places it into an ‘Australian Business’ page on their website, together with big business plans like the NBN and Tourism 2020. It begs the question: does the ALP really understand how small business is different to big business?

 

 

Liberal Party of Australia

The Liberals are proposing a lot of changes for small business, and these can be found in their policy document Our Plan: real solutions for all Australians. The Liberal Party’s policy is intended to:

  • lowering taxes and business costs
  • cutting red and green tape
  • double the annual rate of small business growth
  • relieving competition laws and policy
  • extending unfair contract protection to small business

 

Cutting bureaucratic tape and conducting a review of competition laws would be greatly welcomed by small business. However, there are some pretty big ‘ifs’ with the other policies.

 

The Liberals’ plan for lowering taxes and cutting business costs hinge on their intention of abolishing the carbon tax and funding from savings in the budget.

 

Will the next parliament pass legislation to abolish the carbon tax? Will there be a slice of the pie for small business made from savings in budget cuts, when the Liberals are desperate to deliver a budget surplus? These are arguments for another day; for now I’ll leave it for you to decide.

 

And doubling small business growth by adding more than 30,000 new small businesses every year? If they have a master plan, you’d think we’d know of it by now.

 

 

 

The Greens

The Greens don’t have a small business policy. Don’t believe it? Take a look at their 2013 election website to see for yourself.

 

 

Democratic Labour Party (DLP)

The DLP are likely to hold the ‘balance of power’ in the Senate following this year’s federal election, so let’s see what this resurgent party has to say on small business. Their policies seek to stop big business making life hard for small business, increase cash flow, cut back bureaucratic tape and make it easier to get a new small business up and running. The policies are:

 

  • stopping big businesses’ and government’s unfair practice of lengthy delays on payments for goods and services provided by small business by introducing a maximum of 30 days standard trade for such payments;
  • deferring small business company tax for one year for the first seven years followed by a generous catch up period;
  • having superannuation and WorkCover costs covered by Federal Government for the first year of a small business employing its first full-time employee, covering a wage of up to $48,000 per annum;
  • establishing local small business mentoring programs comprised of both retired and current small business owners;
  • opposing undue and excessive Federal and State Government and local council bureaucracy for small business operators.

 

It is worth mentioning that not only does DLP Senator John Madigan have over 25 years of small business experience under his belt, but if this year’s DLP Victorian senate candidate Mark Farrell joins him, you can add an extra 16 years on top of that.

 

That would mean the DLP would be holding the balance of power in the Senate, with a combined total of over 41 years of experience in owning and operating a small business. Indeed, this would create refreshingly new dynamics to Australian politics.

 

Voting for a minor party might prove a lot more effective than some may think.

 

 

By Vince Stefano

Do we need a bigger defence force?

Choosing the Australian Defence Force (ADF) we want is like choosing an insurance company – if we pay too high a premium, we may be wasting money on what is not needed; yet, if we pay too low of a premium, we mightn’t get the payout required when needed.

It’s for this reason that the cornerstone of investment in the ADF should be based on ensuring that it is self-reliant and capable of defeating any credible threat to Australia’s geographic security as well as insuring regional stability.

Australia’s defence should be based on three critical elements: being Australian, being a credible defence to Australia, and having a strong forceful capability. In order to develop an effective, robust and resilient ADF, we must recognise how these three elements support the other.

 

Being Australian

Being Australian is not simply about having Australian front-line personnel; it’s about the whole supply chain. It’s the idea that the boots the military marches on and the food that it eats are produced in Australia by Australian firms which recognise their contribution to Australia’s defense force by providing a quality product.

It’s the idea that the ships we sail, the vehicles we drive and the guns we fire are produced in Australia and only in exceptional circumstances are built overseas with Australian components – such as fighter aircraft.

 

A credible Defence to Australia

Determining the credibility of Australia’s defence ability should be done from an exterior perspective. While how we communicate our defence capability has psychological influence to potential foes, the credibility is more based on hard fact – on its actual capability. This is heavily linked with operational equipment, the ability to procure through an Australian reliable supply chain, advanced training of personnel, and appropriate geographical positioning of our forces.

 

A Strong Forceful Capability

The forceful aspect of our military enables us to offer deterrence from any potential adversaries. The pointy end can be expressed through the quantity and quality of our ‘blue water’ navy, our fighter aircraft, coupled with our AEW&Cs and aerial refuelling capability, as well as the interoperability of our army with the other two branches of our defence force.

Although on paper Australia has a strong forceful capability, the capacity has been neglected by successive Governments, leaving submarines to be unreliable, the bulk of our fighter aircraft to be out-dated and our forces not being remunerably supported as they should be

 

The DLP Difference

The ADF currently needs the Government’s support to address all three elements of what makes up our supposed military middle power status.

This can only be done by ensuring as a minimum, that the defence budget is kept at 2% of GDP, not including those costs required when on operations overseas. This forms the foundation of the DLP’s defence policy, which you can read by clicking this link.

We need to bring forward vital procurement projects. In my opinion, this means projects such as constructing of 12 new conventional submarines and purchasing three squadrons of the F-22 to operate in conjunction with 100 F-35s beyond 2020.

Self-reliance is good for Australia, it is good for our allies and it is good for the region. For other countries to know that Australia has the capability and the credibility to alone hold its own and support the region in times of need will provide a certainty and bedrock for other nations to peg their own concerns about the balance of power in our region.

Australia must value its existing military alliances, but must not sell out the defence of Australia to the United States, as this will simply be seen in the region as a power imbalance and provide potential adversaries with reason to believe that Australia’s motives are not peaceful.

 

 

By Matt Restall

Government funded sports insurance for amateur sports people

The DLP believes that the Federal Government should cover the sports insurance costs for all amateur sport participants.

 

Such a scheme will make participation in high level amateur sport more affordable and should increase the participation rate among lower income families.

Greater involvement in sport helps break down political, racial and social economic barriers. It helps people live healthy lifestyles as well as building the community.

Covering the costs of sports insurance may only be a small move but its positive effect would be huge.

 

Click here to view our full Sports Policy