Daily News - Monday 15 September 2014

Posted 15 September 2014 8:23am

Renewing Australian federalism
Miranda Stewart, The Conversation

Just because the Commonwealth government is best placed to raise taxes nationally does not mean it should be in charge of all spending. The Commonwealth is good at making payments to individuals: the social security system. Australians think this is important: we put this into the Constitution, in s 51(xxiii) and expanded Commonwealth powers in 1946, in a successful referendum (s 51(xxiiiA)).

But the Commonwealth is much less good at service delivery. There is increasing impatience with the proliferation of responsibilities between State, Territory and the Commonwealth governments across areas as diverse as mental health, education, age care, welfare interventions and environmental policy. We can find better ways to ensure that State governments, and the cities and localities in their domain, which are good at public goods and service delivery, can do that.


Tax reform depends on clarifying state and Commonwealth responsibilities, says BCA
Business Council of Australia (via APO)

Commonwealth involvement in areas traditionally delivered by the states seems to be driven increasingly by revenue dominance rather than a first principles look at which level of government will be best placed to deliver services more efficiently and effectively.

... The starting point should be reviewing the roles and responsibilities of governments through the white paper on reform of the federation. Once this is resolved then there will be greater clarity on a more appropriate division of revenue raising between the Commonwealth and the states to better align with these roles and responsibilities.


Clubs to offer childcare for tax break on pokies

Australia's licensed clubs have offered to plug the childcare shortfall in exchange for tax exemptions.

In a submission to the Productivity Commission childcare inquiry, Clubs Australia boss Anthony Ball said licensed clubs could come to the rescue.

"Not-for-profit clubs are well positioned to deliver affordable access to child care," he said.

Its NSW branch commissioned a report that claimed a third of 4000 clubs would be keen to diversify into childcare services if they could get income tax exemptions on poker machine profits.


Time-limits the alternative to waiting times for the dole
Trisha Jha, Centre for Independent Studies

Among the most controversial of the measures announced in the May budget was the move to deny 15 to 29-year-olds access to unemployment benefits for up to six months.

This waiting period would be subject to a discount of one month for every full time equivalent year worked to a maximum of five months. There would also be a six month cycle-on cycle-off period over a year.

The Abbott government has thus far not had much luck convincing the crucial crossbench senators of the merits of this scheme, which has been characterised as 'punishing' the jobless for being out of work.


Poverty shows no respect for age
Caroline Zielinski, The Canberra Times

For the past four years, Wendy has been living in a double garage. In one corner, the owners have built a bathroom the size of a walk-in-robe,squeezing in a shower, tub and toilet. The rest of the space is what a real estate agent might optimistically call "open plan". To make it feel more like a real home, Wendy has divided it into two sections: her living quarters, which include a small stove; and a workspace where she works on her PhD and composes classical and experimental music.


‘PM for Aboriginal Affairs’ Abbott faces his biggest hearing test
Anthony Dillon, The Conversation

Complaining is so much easier than tackling the real problems we face in many parts of Australia. These include community dysfunction, alcohol abuse, unemployment, ensuring real jobs are available and that the adults are ready to do those jobs, and ensuring the kids are in quality schools.

If the topic of a treaty or constitutional change is raised during Abbott’s time in North East Arnhem Land, those raising should also present a plan describing how it will help people.

Given the high rates of child abuse and violence in some Aboriginal locations, the Prime Minister should do all he can do to ensure that people can talk about these issues. This can be an extremely challenging task, given the reluctance to discuss such topics. These are problems of today that are not likely to be shown in shallow, emotive “documentaries” like Utopia.


Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s plea for indigenous Australia: Early childhood the key for change
Matt Bamford, The Daily Telegraph

Mining agnate Andrew Forrest has called on all Australians to finally end the disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous - and said early childhood is the key for change.

“I grew up with Aboriginal people, they were my mentors ... they certainly taught me the things I hold dear now,” Mr Forrest says in a video to explain the gap between the two cultures.

On the back of his government-commissioned report released last month _ titled‘Creating Parity” _ Mr Forrest says the idea behind the video is to get as many people indigenous and non indigenous to have their say during the formal consultation process which ends September 19.


Tony Abbott's indigenous takeover in 'disarray'
Noel Towell, The Sydney Morning Herald

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's takeover of indigenous affairs is in "disarray", public service insiders allege, with hundreds of specialist public servants retrenched, funding and programs stalled and staff morale in the "doldrums".

Senior leaders in the Prime Minister and Cabinet department's Indigenous Affairs Group have based themselves in Canberra's dress circle, nearly 10 kilometres away from their rank-and-file workers, who are still reeling after repeated restructures to their workplaces.

The internal problems have emerged on the eve of the Prime Minister's trip to Arnhem Land, part of his pledge to be "a prime minister for indigenous affairs" that also included the takeover by PM&C of indigenous functions from several other government agencies.


PM speaks a 'big game' on Indigenous issues, but govt agenda is very narrow: Parker
Chris Uhlmann, AM, ABC

CHRIS UHLMANN: Kirstie Parker is co-chair National Congress of Australia's First Peoples.

Kirstie Parker, Tony Abbott said that he would be Prime Minister for Indigenous Australians. How would you rate his first year?

KIRSTIE PARKER: Well, it's been a frustrating year for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, Chris. Of course the Prime Minister has spoken an extraordinarily big game. He did say that he would be the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs and like previous prime ministers he has said that would begin with a new relationship with Indigenous peoples.


US - The Way to Beat Poverty
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Within four weeks of conception, a human embryo has formed a neural tube, which then begins to produce brain cells. As the brain is forming, it is shaped by the uterine environment in ways that will affect the child for the rest of his or her life. A mother who drinks alcohol may leave her child with fetal alcohol syndrome or, less serious, fetal alcohol effects. A study by Ann Streissguth at the University of Washington found that by age 14, 60 percent of children born with fetal alcohol syndrome or effects have been suspended from school or expelled. Almost half have displayed inappropriate sexual behavior such as public masturbation.


Alcohol a no-no if pregnant
Damien McCartney, NT News

A midwife has said women should not drink even a drop of alcohol while pregnant, to avoid Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Danila Dilba midwife Elle Crighton said there was no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

“If a mother drinks while pregnant, she puts her baby at risk of structural and morphology disorders and behavioural issues,” she said.

“A baby with FASD is irritable and could display behavioural symptoms right through childhood and adolescence.”

She said they could struggle to develop social skills and feel empathy.


Gold Coast leads Australia in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder research
Sally Rope, ABC (audio)

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was identified in the 1970s, and it refers to the various disorders that can occur when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol - such as low birth weight, distinctive facial features, heart defects, behavioural problems and intellectual disability. Here on the Gold Coast, we have Australia's only diagnostic team in the area of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Dr Doug Shelton is the Director of Children's Health at Gold Coast Health, and he spoke with Nicole Dyer...


Alcohol’s hidden disaster: violence in the home
Michaela Hewitt, Sunshine Coast Daily

A Sunshine Coast clinical psychologist believes most alcohol-fuelled acts of violence are not seen by the public.

Cooinda Clinic's Dr Richard Spence Thomas said the perception that young people out at pubs and clubs caused most alcohol-related incidents of violence was incorrect.

He said alcohol abuse and violence were prevalent across all spectrums of society, age groups and genders, but it was mostly hidden.

"There's a lot more violence involved with alcohol in the home," he said.


Cape York Institute to McClure review: Cashless welfare card ‘the way to go’
Patricia Karvelas, The Australian ($)

Noel Pearson’s Cape York Institute has urged a review of the welfare system to support the introduction of a cashless benefits card and says an “opportunity system” should be created to reward good behaviour.

In a submission to the McClure review, the institute for policy and leadership says it is time for bold ideas. This is despite Tony Abbott rejecting the recommendation by businessman Andrew Forrest for a cashless welfare card.


Healthy Welfare Card a "breakthrough idea" — Cape York Institute
Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, submission (pdf)

The recently released Forrest Review has put forward a breakthrough idea in proposing a form of cashless welfare through the Healthy Welfare Card but your Interim Report does not currently consider this approach. The Healthy Welfare Card is about supporting disadvantaged Australians to meet their basic needs, without setting up dependency as a long-term destination. I would urge you to consider this measure for your final report.


We need to work out how indigenous voices can be heard
Greg Craven, the Australian

There is very little truly historic speech-making or writing in modern Australia. Most “historic” utterances are certified as such by spin doctors and the egotists who employ them well in advance of delivery.

Both now and in the past, genuinely historic prose is characterised by a single thing: the instant crystallisation of indisputable reality. This moral chemical reaction happens but rarely, and can be neither forced nor faked.

Noel Pearson’s Quarterly Essay 55, A Rightful Place , is one of these unmistakable occasions. In shifting the debate over the place of indigenous Australians from the chafing divisions of race to the shared fundamentals of culture, Pearson has lifted the line of sight of a nation.


UK - Poverty policies should be independently monitored, says charity
Toby Helm, The Observer

The performance of future governments in tackling poverty should be monitored by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) as part of a necessary "seismic shift" in public policy, a leading charity says.

In a report, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says the government needs to transform its approach from treating the symptoms of poverty to focusing on its causes, such as low pay.


Couples with kids, cohabitating are among those marrying at papal Mass
Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

Among the men and women Pope Francis is set to unite in marriage are Catholics who have been living together as well as couples who already have children.
The pope will preside over his first wedding ceremony as pontiff during a nuptial Mass on Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica.

The event, which will see 20 couples from the Rome diocese celebrate the sacrament of marriage, was organized by the vicariate of Rome.

"Those who will get married Sunday are couples like many others," the diocese said in a press release Wednesday.

The ages of the brides and grooms range from 25 to 56, the vicariate said.


US - Is the Pope's 'new balance' message getting through?
Michael O'Loughlin, Crux

John Carr, who was director of the US Catholic Bishops Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development for more than 20 years, said the church’s reticence to speak up on poverty mirrors a wider unwillingness to address inequality. But Carr, who now runs the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, hopes that the pope’s insistence on keeping the issue alive might make waves in Washington.

“The silence on poverty is widespread and dangerous,” he said. “Hopefully that silence is coming to an end, and Pope Francis ought to get a lot of credit for taking that on.”

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