Archive for the ‘Social Services’ Category

A speech to the ACT Council of Social Service Community Sector ‘Meet the Candidates’ Forum for the 2010 Federal Election


A speech  to the ACT Council of Social Service Community Sector ‘Meet the Candidates’ Forum for the 2010 Federal Election: 16th August 2010.

Thank you.

A bit of background about me. In spite of my advocacy for separation of Church and State, I am a practising Anglican – an Anglo-Catholic. For those of you who don’t know anything of Anglo-Catholicism, we have a history of being ‘the Church in the slums,’ ministering to the poor of the inner-cities. So, a social justice angle there.

The last few decades of Australia’s history have led to an increasing level of conservatism in our community. I don’t mean this as a political statement, but as a social comment. It started well before the Howard years and continues today.

The primary result has been an increasing level of selfishness by the well off in our community, and this has moved on into the political arena with a series of both governments and oppositions failing the disadvantaged – and creating a larger gap between the rich and poor.

We should have had political leadership that resisted this pressure and had the moral courage to improve conditions for lower income earners and disadvantaged groups, and as the topic here today “the contest for a fairer nation” implies, it really is time to regain lost ground.

The Australian Democrats have a proud record of being the people’s watchdog in the Senate. We speak for everyone and anyone who needs a voice.   We are committed to fighting for the rights of all Australians and our environment.

We are aware of our damaged environment and depleting water resources, and are prepared to stand up to protect them. We have called for immediate action on climate change. We speak on behalf of the Australian people, seek affordable health and free education, and aim to protect ordinary Australians struggling to pay their bills. We stand against the exploitation and marginalisation of Indigenous Australians and other minority groups.

We fight against discrimination and bigotry. Our long history of being led by strong women has given us the passion to fight for issues often ignored by male politicians – paid maternity leave, affordable child care, reproductive health and free education to name a few.

One of our important proposals in relation to money, is our income tax proposal to increase the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $25,000. A long-standing Australian Democrats position. And I acknowledge the work of my colleague, former Senator Andrew Murray, for his work on this policy.

Thank you.


The following points were included but not presented due to the tight, two minute time constraint:

Australian Democrats policy

To address some of the points in the contest for a fairer nation document, I want to give some examples of current Australian Democrats policy statements.

Income tax and incomes

The current income tax system is complex, unfair and highly inefficient due to significant churning effects and unnecessary tax concessions. The Democrats plan would improve equity, simplicity and efficiency.

Proposals from our 2010 Income Tax issue sheet include;

· Increase the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $25,000

· Index income tax rate thresholds to maintain their present value over time

· Remove unnecessary tax deductions and concessions such as FBT for company cars and other salary packaging and negative gearing deductions

Health and Mental Health

A quick selection of points from our 2010 health issue sheets includes;

· A 5-year Capacity Building Plan for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services

· Increase the rate of carer payment to 75% of the standard minimum wage and double the rate of the carer allowance

· A national public dental health program that is free for concession card holders and special needs groups, and which includes a full dental check-up and basic dental treatment every two years.

· a national system of community-based mental health centres staffed by psychiatrists, psychologists, GPs and psychiatric nurses

· coordinated case management for at least 12 months after discharge from mental health acute care

Climate Change and power bills

The science is clear – the world’s climate is changing fast. Greenhouse emissions must be reduced across the economy using a multitude of measures. Both the Stern Report and the Garnaut Report show that indirect costs of doing nothing will be higher than the direct cost of taking action. Increased direct energy costs must be tackled by;

· A carbon tax of $20/tonne until emissions trading commences

· A tax on coal exports of $5/tonne, with the revenue used to subsidise power bills for low income earners

· 6-star energy performance standards for appliances by 2012, 10-star by 2017 and a target of overall energy efficiency of 30% by 2020

· I also want to make it clear that the Australian Democrats are opposed to nuclear power.


The Australian Democrats are not new to population policy. We have for years said that we cannot continue to grow our population at the behest of the development lobby, which is the prime beneficiary of such growth. We have rejected the flawed argument that population growth can be sustained merely by having better urban planning.

Perhaps total immigration rates should be capped?  This would be, however, without any reduction in refuge intakes, in order to meet our humanitarian obligations.   We want an eventual end to the skilled migration programme.  Australia must take responsibility for its own skills training.


Please think seriously about your vote.   Please think of the Democrats, You deserve better.