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Spring Edition 2015
OFF THE SHELFA magazine of the Australian Parliamentary Library SPRING EDITION 2015
From the Parliamentary Librarian 1
Information services: News service from the Parliamentary Library 2
A quick guide to news services from the Parliamentary Library 4
Statistical analysis—New data 4
What didn’t make the news 5
Understanding social impact bonds 6
Tax white papers and negative gearing 7
Military anniversaries 8
Guide to gas 10
Same-sex marriage bills introduced into federal Parliament 12
New books 14
Library contacts 15
Guide to library services 16
FROM THE PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARIAN Welcome to the Spring edition of the Parliamentary Library’s ezine.
As well as the regular sections, this edition has articles examining the topical issue of tax reform as well as examining social impact bonds: an innovative but potentially flawed policy tool.
With debate running hot on climate change, there is also an explanation of the term ‘gas’, showing that it is not as straightforward as it might at first appear.
In the regular sections on information services, we provide some pointers on how you can make best use our news and media databases. These are our most used services, and because they can be heavily customised, they are powerful tools to assist in your work.
We also have several new sources of data. Our Statistics and Mapping section combine these and all sorts of other demographic, educational, social or economic data to build detailed and customised maps of your states or electorates. If you’d like to see any of these services demonstrated, we run a regular drop in session from 10.00-12.00 on Tuesdays during sitting weeks in the Senators and Members Reading Room on the ground floor.
Finally, we recognise that some of our products, while powerful sources of information and analysis, are also complex and not necessarily intuitive to use. However, there’s an easy to way to manage this: give us a call and we can come to your office and do a personalised set up.
Liz Luchetti A/g Parliamentary Librarian
AS WELL AS THE REGULAR SECTIONS, THIS EDITION HAS ARTICLES EXAMINING THE TOPICAL ISSUE OF TAX REFORM AS WELL AS EXAMINING SOCIAL IMPACT BONDS...
NEWS SERVICE FROM THE PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY
Social media monitoring The Library has a tool to help you keep up with and monitor the issues you are interested in: Sentimentmetrics. With this service you can set up keyword searches and alerts to capture mentions of relevant topics such as ‘#budget2015’ or ‘Canning’.
The data can be analysed by sentiment, top topics or buzz volume. The ‘word cloud’ below shows an example of what were the top topics on Thursday 8 October:
Shutterstock image ID: 189811238, Copyright: Rawpixel
For a log-on for this service, contact Library enquires, or ring the CEP on x2500. We can also organise training.
If you already use the service, we’d love to hear from you: email Guy Woods at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find the entry point for Social media monitoring under news service page on the Library intranet site:
A QUICK GUIDE TO NEWS SERVICES FROM THE PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY The Parliamentary Library has a number of services to help you keep track of what’s going on in the news.
Media alerting For media alerting and current awareness there is:
â This service provides access to content from national, metropolitan and regional media outlets including newspapers, radio and television. Mediaportal has a 180 day archive which supports keyword searching and alerts.
Daily News Clips
â Every morning the Library creates a daily news clips service for each of the chambers. There is a Senators’ news clips and a Members’ news clips service. These are usually available by about 7.00 am each day.
Media alerting and archiving— newspapers Current and older archival news items can be found in the Library’s ParlInfo newspaper clippings database. This database contains selected articles from the major national and metropolitan newspapers. Updated with the latest news every day by 7.30 am, this database has an archive that goes back to 2000. The database supports keyword searching and alerts. A key feature of this database is the subject headings assigned to each article. These subject headings help to sort out
the background noise when searching for a particular topic. Every day the Library collects together the main headline stories, by subject heading, in our Leading news service
We also have an archive of subject-categorised information files containing historical newspaper articles going back to the 1960s, which are held in the basement. If you’re looking for this type of historical information, call the CEP on x2500.
Media alerting and archiving— television and radio Dedicated to broadcast news is the Library’s Electronic Media Monitoring Service (EMMS). EMMS monitors all the main radio and television stations broadcast in Canberra. The service also includes some of the major ABC FM metropolitan and regional radio stations. All the programs recorded by EMMS are held for 30 days and many, such as the ABC’s 7.30 Report and AM, are archived. The archive goes back to 2004. Older archival material is held on tapes.
Breaking news To follow stories as they break we have an online news feed. Our Breaking News site refreshes every 60 seconds with the latest news stories appearing on news sites such as the ABC and News.com.
Latest developments Recently the Library created a new app for iPads which provides access to the Breaking News and daily clips services. You can find a tip sheet on how to get this on your iPad on the Library’s News services intranet site.
For more information about these services and to obtain a log-on to Mediaportal, contact Guy Woods at email@example.com.
STATISTICAL ANALYSIS— NEW DATA Previous editions of the ezine have shown examples of the types of products our Statistics and Mapping service can produce.
We use detailed statistical information to produce analysis and maps of specific areas, including at the state or electorate levels.
To do this, the Library has access to a range of data sets covering economic and social statistics. We’ve recently enhanced our analytical capability through acquisition of new detailed data sets from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ survey of Education and Work (2001 to 2011), Business Longitudinal Database (2004-05 to 2010-11) and Employee Earnings and Hours (2006 to 2014).
These and other data sets can be used for in-depth analysis. For example, the Business Longitudinal Database can provide a useful profile of the characteristics of exporting firms, including productivity, innovation, wages and employment arrangements.
Likewise, we’ve used the Education and Work data to analyse changes in the youth labour market, in particular for youth with and without higher educational qualifications.
We have also recently purchased access to the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey data.
You can find more information about the types of data and analysis we can provide on the Library portal, or contact Library enquiries on (02) 6277 2500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT DIDN’T MAKE THE NEWS
Births and deaths A number of former members of parliament, and one sitting member, have passed away recently. In chronological order, they are as follows:
April 2015—Peter Walsh, AO (b. March 1935), former ALP Senator for WA, 1975-93, and Adrian Gibson (b. Nov 1935), former Liberal Member for Denison (Tas), 1964-69.
May 2015—Michael MacKellar, AM, (b. Oct 1938), former Liberal Member for Warringah (NSW), 1969-94, and Leslie ‘Les’ Johnson, AM (b. Nov 1924), former ALP Member for Hughes (NSW), 1955-66; 1969-83.
July 2015—Albert ‘Alby’ Schultz (b. May 1939), former Liberal Member for Hume (NSW), 1998-2013, Peter Sim (b. Jan 1917), former Liberal Senator for WA, 1964-81, and Donald ‘Don’ Randall (b. May 1953), sitting Liberal Member for Canning (WA).
Walsh, MacKellar and Johnson served as Ministers in the Hawke, Fraser and Whitlam governments respectively. Peter Sim was the oldest surviving parliamentarian at 98 years 6 months.
Parliament has also experienced a mini-baby boom, with three members of the House of Representatives having children in 2015: Amanda Rishworth (ALP, Kingston—SA) and Kate Ellis (ALP, Adelaide— SA), who have had sons, and Kelly O’Dwyer (LIB, Higgins—Vic), who has had a daughter.
Christian Porter (LIB, Pearce WA) and his wife are reportedly expecting a child in October and South Australian Labor Senator Penny Wong’s partner had a baby in April.
Recent trends in female political leadership The number of women in political leadership roles has declined since the Parliamentary Library published Australia’s female political leaders: a quick guide in June 2014.
At the time, there were three women among the eight vice-regal appointments, with none now. Likewise, the number of women holding the office of presiding officer in an Australian parliament has declined from seven to five over the past year (women currently hold the office of Speaker in the ACT, Tasmanian, Victorian, NSW and NT Parliaments). In those parliaments with an upper house, the office of President continues to be held by men.
The number of women serving as a leader of a government remains at one, with the resignation of the ACT’s fourth female Chief Minister in December 2014, balanced by the swearing in of Queensland’s second female Premier following the state election in January 2015.
There is currently no female Leader of the Opposition in any Australian jurisdiction. Queensland’s new Premier previously held the position in that state, while the Leader of the Opposition in the NT resigned in April 2015.
Canada may follow Australia’s lead on declaring conflict zones off-limits Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has reportedly promised that if his Conservative Government is re-elected in October, it will make it an offence for Canadians to travel to areas controlled by designated terrorist organisations. The proposed offence is an attempt to deal with so-called ‘foreign fighters’ leaving Canada to fight with terrorist and insurgent organisations overseas, and appears to be modelled on the Australian ‘declared areas’ offence enacted in 2014. Like the Australian offence, it would be up to a person to point to a legitimate purpose for their travel, such as providing humanitarian aid or working as a journalist. However, a campaign spokesperson has reportedly since said that those who can show they were fighting against a terrorist organisation (for example, with Kurdish forces in Iraq) will not be prosecuted.
Australian legal action brings ray of hope for Taiji dolphins?
In 2010 the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove shone a spotlight onto the annual slaughter of dolphins and small whales in the Japanese fishing village of Taiji. The dolphins are killed in a ‘drive-hunt’, in which they are herded (or ‘driven’) into a cove.
Around 2,000 dolphins and small whales are permitted to be captured in Taiji each year. While the majority of the dolphins are butchered for their meat, the most lucrative returns come from the animals that are sold to zoos and aquaria. It is on this aspect of the hunt that Australia for Dolphins focused its innovative legal action. In March 2015 the organisation launched a civil case in Switzerland against the World Association for Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). WAZA’s Code of Ethics and Animal Welfare states that WAZA opposes
‘cruel and non-selective methods of taking animals from the wild’. A 2004 WAZA resolution specifically states that catching dolphins through drive fishing is ‘inherently cruel’ and that WAZA members must not obtain animals through such methods. The Australia for Dolphins legal action sought to compel WAZA to enforce its Code of Ethics, by ensuring its members did not obtain animals from the Taiji dolphin hunt. After the launch of the case, WAZA suspended the membership of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA), members of which had obtained live dolphins from the Taiji dolphin hunt in the past and refused to undertake not to do so in the future. Following the suspension, JAZA prohibited its members from acquiring dolphins from Taiji. As a result of this action, WAZA lifted its suspension.
As JAZA members were the source of demand for up to 40 per cent of the live dolphins captured in the Taiji hunt, Australia for Dolphins expressed hope that the decrease in demand for the more lucrative live animals would make the hunt uneconomic.
UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL IMPACT BONDS
There is often a tension at the heart of government social programs: governments want to pay social services providers for results rather than inputs or process, but cash strapped providers need funding up-front.
Social impact bonds have been proposed as a way to solve the problem by bringing in private sector and philanthropic investors. Also known as social benefit or pay-for-success bonds, this innovative funding mechanism is being trialled by governments in the UK, US and in New South Wales. In its 2015-16 budget the Queensland Government announced plans to pilot three social benefit bonds.
Problems like chronic homelessness, poor educational attainment, and repeated criminal offending cost governments billions. If there was a way to intervene before these problems become entrenched, governments could save money and turn people’s lives around.
There is no shortage of social services agencies eager to deliver prevention programs for at-risk populations. The catch is that government funders can’t be sure which programs will work and which won’t. The risk is that they’ll spend money on programs that don’t work and still have to deal with the cost of entrenched social problems.
One solution is pay-for-success contracts. Popularised in the early 1990s by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler’s book Reinventing Government, pay-for-success contracts make providers meet the upfront cost of delivering the program. If the program fails, the government pays nothing. If the program succeeds, the government pays a success fee based on the outcomes delivered (for example the number of ex-prisoners who do not reoffend). If the fee is less than the government saves and more than the provider spends, then both the provider and the taxpayer come out ahead.
A problem with pay-for-success contracts is that most providers cannot afford to wait months or years to get paid. To run the program they need funding up-front. Social impact bonds attempt to solve this problem by creating a new kind of financing instrument that enables private sector investors to provide the upfront funding
Image courtesy of www.savejapandolphins.org
Shutterstock image ID: 149921993, Copyright: ChameleonsEye
and earn a return if the program succeeds. In effect, the risk of failure is transferred from the provider to the investor in return for a right to the outcome fees if the project succeeds.
In practice it’s difficult for governments to make the social impact bond model work in its pure form. The first problem is results are often hard to measure. For example, a pay-for-success contract for a welfare-to-work program can’t simply pay a fee for every participant who moves from welfare to work because many welfare recipients will move into work whether they participate in the program or not. The government will usually need to pay for an independent program evaluation as well as for a success fee. This adds to the administrative complexity of the deal as well as to the cost. The temptation is to move away from a strict pay-for-success model to reduce complexity and cost.
Another problem is that private sector investors are often unwilling to accept the risk of losing their entire investment. In the US, New York City dealt with this problem by getting a philanthropic foundation to guarantee $7.2 million of the private investor’s $9.6 million stake. Another approach is to guarantee investors a minimum return even if the program fails.
Administratively, social impact bonds are complex. They involve a provider, an evaluator, investors and, usually, an intermediary organisation to coordinate the project. Everyone needs to get paid. The challenge for governments like Queensland is to create a model that performs better than the traditional model of directly funding pilot programs, evaluating them and then scaling up those that work.
TAX WHITE PAPERS AND NEGATIVE GEARING
The Government’s process for a tax white paper is now well underway, generating debate on a range of issues.
One of the issues raised in the Government’s tax discussion paper is negative gearing. The Government has asked ‘Do the [capital gains tax] and negative gearing influence savings and investment decisions, and if so, how?’
Negative gearing is a strategy of borrowing to invest in an asset which generates income, but not enough to cover the investor’s costs (including interest and
depreciation). Although this results in a loss for the investor, the loss can be used to reduce other taxable income, lowering the investor’s tax liability. Investors can also benefit from the capital gains tax discount, which reduces the tax payable on eligible capital gains when the property is sold. A deliberate negative gearing strategy relies on an expectation that gains from selling the asset at a higher price will be greater, in after-tax terms, than the earlier losses.
While different types of assets can be negatively geared, the tax discussion paper notes that ‘investment properties constitute a substantial proportion of the total value of negatively geared assets’.
Negative gearing is a contentious issue. The Australian Council of Social Services argued that ‘[n]egative gearing and Capital Gains Tax discounts for investors together encourage overinvestment in existing properties and expensive inner city apartments which lifts housing prices and does little to promote construction of affordable housing’. The Property Council of Australia commissioned a paper which argued that negative gearing ‘contributes to the provision of new housing’.
At least one previous tax white paper has discussed negative gearing: the Hawke Government’s 1985 tax white paper, described negative gearing as a tax shelter. Shortly afterwards the Treasurer Paul Keating, announced a legislative change that would apply to new (but not existing) investments, limiting the amount of interest that could be deducted. The measure was expected to raise $55 million in 1986-87, rising to $195 million in subsequent years. In 1985 around half of investor financing was for new construction.
Shutterstock image ID: 148486547, Copyright: Konstantin L
Source: Parliamentary Library based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Housing Finance June 2015, cat. no. 5609.11, ABS, Canberra, 2015.
The 1985 change was followed by extensive debate, in particular over whether rental costs had increased. At the time, Paul Keating described negative gearing as an ‘outrageous rort’. Then Leader of the Opposition John Howard stated that the ‘abolition of negative gearing, done in the name of levelling the tall poppies, has had disastrous consequences on the renting poor of the Australian cities.’ The Hawke Government announced a reversal of the measure in 1987, reinstating negative gearing in the lead-up to the 1988 New South Wales state election.
While the issue has received some attention in the Parliament since then, subsequent policy processes have not resulted in changes to negative gearing. The 1999 Review of Business Taxation mentioned negative gearing in a discussion paper and resulted in changes to the capital gains tax, but did not recommend changes to negative gearing. The 2010 Australia’s Future Tax System Review report recommended changes which would reduce, but not completely remove, the incentives for negative gearing. More recently, the 2014 Financial System Inquiry final report included an appendix on tax, which noted that ‘The tax treatment of investor housing, in particular, tends to encourage leveraged and speculative investment’.
It has been 30 years since the 1985 tax white paper, and it is likely that the forthcoming tax white paper will also include some discussion of negative gearing. While the debate still centres on the same issues, some of the figures have changed; a recent Parliamentary Budget Office costing estimated that prospective reforms to negative gearing (grandfathering existing investments) would raise $700 million in the second year.
Australia’s annual Anzac Day this year marked the centenary of the first major military action fought by Australian (and New Zealand) forces during the First World War. This commemoration is, on the whole, characterised by the solemn dawn services that have become increasingly popular, extensive media coverage of both the courage of the Anzacs and the horrors of war, and the notion that erstwhile enemies can be reconciled and become friends, as illustrated by the famous, but perhaps somewhat apocryphal, words of Ataturk. With one notable exception (an SBS reporter reportedly sacked for tweeting disrespectful comments about Anzacs), the commemoration was widely embraced and uncontroversial.
Per cent of housing investment loans
Construction of new dwellings
Purchase of existing dwellings
Figure 1: Lending to property investors for new and existing dwellings, 1985-2015
Anzac Day memorial, Lone Pine Cemetery 6 August 2015 Attribution: Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence
However, other war commemorations are far more contested and illustrate the ability of history to shape the contemporary strategic environment. On 9 May, for example, Russia celebrated its Victory Day, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Second World War surrender of Germany to the Soviet Union. In contrast to the 60th anniversary commemoration, attended by prominent Western guests including Gerhard Schroeder, Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush, this year’s ceremony was boycotted by Western leaders, though Angela Merkel laid a wreath at Russia’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the following day.
Western politicians, in a move that has been interpreted in Russia as an American gambit to isolate Moscow and as an insult to the war dead, boycotted the commemoration due to Russia’s activities in Ukraine. The commemoration has previously been explicitly used by Russian authorities to buttress nationalism; last year, in addition to celebrations in Moscow, Putin also attended a ceremony in Sevastopol where he conflated Russian veterans’ victory over the Nazis with its present day seizure of Crimea.
Russia’s neighbours, who suffered for decades under Soviet rule and fear that Moscow seeks to again enlarge its territory at their expense, are concerned by such rhetoric. President Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania condemned Russia’s activities in Ukraine, arguing:
Grybauskaite was not the only leader to use the occasion to condemn Russia. President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland, speaking at an event in Poland held to commemorate the end of the Second World War, observed:
Articulating a Russian perspective, Putin paid tribute to the contributions of the Soviet Union’s wartime allies, Great Britain, France and the United States, but implicitly criticised the eastward expansion of NATO, stating that in ‘recent decades the basic principles of international co-operation have been ignored ever more frequently. We see how a military-bloc mentality is gaining momentum.’
Ordinary Russians interviewed by Western media were less diplomatic, accusing those leaders who did not attend of politicising an event to honour veterans who fought against the Nazis and blaming their non-attendance on their antipathy toward a strong Russia.
Russia’s Victory Day celebrations are not the only contentious commemorative event this year. Earlier this month, China hosted its own celebration to mark the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Japan. China hinted that Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister, might be given an invitation. Abe, however, declined to attend, as did Western leaders, fearing, correctly, that it would be used as an opportunity for the Chinese Government to engage in anti-Japanese rhetoric.
Japanese leaders have suggested that China ought to move on from its obsession with Japan’s wartime actions and instead focus on improving future co-operation. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga spoke for many Japanese when he highlighted Japan’s exemplary post-war international record as ‘a nation that is democratic, protects human rights and respects the rule of law’, drawing a none-too-subtle comparison with China’s political development under the Chinese Communist Party. Shinzo Abe also recently questioned whether Japanese born after the events of the Second World War should be predestined to apologise.
China’s commemorative event also required Australia to walk a diplomatic tightrope. The Australian Government was placed in the awkward position of seeking to maintain good relations with both China, its primary economic partner, and Japan, a country to which Australia is developing increasingly close strategic ties. It resolved this quandary by sending the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Michael Ronaldson, as its representative.
Those who call themselves the conquerors and liberators of Europe have begun a new war in Europe against a sovereign state wishing only to decide its own future.
…in Europe there are still forces reminiscent of the darkest days of the 20th century, which do not respect the rule of law and civilised relations between nations… They still want to maintain ‘spheres of influence’ and they endeavour to keep neighbours as their vassal… Ukraine expressed its desire to forge closer ties with Europe, for its people to live a normal life in dignity and freedom, but its stronger neighbour responded through the use of force and changing borders.
What these events illustrate is that history, particularly in Australia’s neighbourhood, is a strong driver of contemporary foreign relations. As Arseny G. Roginsky, a Russian activist, has observed, ‘the fight for history is also the fight for the present day.’
GUIDE TO GAS
Gas is one of those words with several meanings. For many people’s homes, ‘gas’ is vital, and it’s also one of our major exports. But there are many different gases, and which gas is it that powers our heating and cooking? We call it ‘natural gas’, but plenty of gases are natural. ‘Air’ for example.
Some gases, however, are not so benign. A hundred years ago, in the Great War, gas meant poison gas, of which there were several types. One of the earliest forms of this terrifying new weapon was actually chlorine, a perfectly natural but toxic substance. (For a first-hand account of that horror see Wilfred Owen’s poem Dulce et Decorum Est.) But of course not all gases are poisonous. The gas used in homes is not toxic, but breathing it—or indeed breathing any other gas that is not oxygen—will kill us by suffocation (lack of oxygen). Although it’s not poisonous, the gas supplied to our homes is explosive, which is why ‘gas leaks’ are so dangerous and why this gas has an odour deliberately added to it so that we can detect the leaks more easily.
Gas is also vital to Australia’s economy. We have lots of it, but where and, again, what sort of gas? What’s the difference between shale gas, coal seam gas and reservoir gas? What’s compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)? (To sort out the difference, see the Library’s publications here and here.) And, confusing the issue still further, in the USA gas is short for gasoline, which is a liquid and not a gas at all.
Going back to air again; is it a gas, or is it a mixture of gases? What about greenhouse gases? What exactly are they, and what do they do? We often talk of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, but how do you get a gas to sit on the scales so you can weight it? Does a gas even have a weight?
How we answer these questions reveals a lot not only about gases, but perhaps also much about the state of science education. There is considerable confusion about gases, which is a pity, because substances such as methane, ozone, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and chlorofluorocarbons are central to many of the major resource and environmental issues we face.
Stalingrad, Russia during WW2, Nov. 1942. Shutterstock Image ID: 251930377, Copyright: Everett Historical
Shutterstock image ID: 147115004, Copyright: iurii
States of Matter The main meaning of gas in science is one of the ‘three states of matter.’ Gas, liquid and solid are these states, and even though matter can exist in other states (such as plasma), the usual three forms do nicely enough for everyday use. Many common substances can exist in any of the three states—for example, hydrogen oxide, better known by its chemical formula H2O. Water commonly refers to liquid H2O; under certain conditions, H2O is a gas (often called ‘water vapour’) or a solid (ice). The state of a substance depends mainly on temperature and pressure. Higher temperatures move substances from solid to liquid to gas. Higher pressures take them back the other way. Thus it is possible to turn a gas into a liquid either by cooling or by compression.
Light as Air Everyone thinks of air as a gas, but really it is a mixture of three main gases, and a host of minor trace gases, of which carbon dioxide (CO2) is the best known.
Composition of dry air (after removal of H2O gas)
Gas Symbol Percentage %
Nitrogen N2 78
Oxygen O2 21
Argon Ar 0.9
Trace gases -- 0.1
Of which, carbon dioxide CO2 0.04
Although we think of air as ‘light’, it does actually have a weight. Our scales operate in the air, so they are calibrated not to weigh the air above them, and to show zero when in fact there is a weight of air (the air pressure) pushing down on them. A gas which is heavier than air will tend to accumulate at ground level, and this is what happened with chlorine in the First World War. A gas that is lighter than air will tend to rise up—think of helium in a kid’s balloon. So this clearly demonstrates that gases have a weight. A little knowledge of basic chemistry enables us to know the weight of a gas without having to ‘weigh’ it with any sort of device. This is how we can calculate emissions of CO2 and other gases and express them in tonnes. You can also measure the volume of a gas, but because gases are compressible the volume is misleading and the weight is preferable.
Methane Matters The ‘natural gas’ used in cooking or heating is mainly methane (CH4), along with a few related gases (ethane, propane, butane). Its ‘natural’ description comes about because it occurs naturally underground, often in association with coal and oil, and is derived from decayed biological material of millions of years ago. Methane gas is useful because when it reacts with another gas (oxygen), energy is released as heat and light—in other words, methane burns in air. You just need a little concentrated heat energy to get it started (such as a spark or match), and away it goes. Methane is therefore a fuel. It can be used to power vehicles, to provide heating, to cook, and to generate electricity. When methane burns, the carbon atoms and the hydrogen atoms in it both combine with oxygen. The result is that the methane no longer exists, but two new gases are formed in its place—H2O and CO2. Neither methane nor carbon dioxide are toxic. But they are both greenhouse gases, meaning that they are transparent to heat energy from the sun (which passes through them to warm the Earth), but partially block some of the heat energy leaving Earth’s surface.
Shutterstock image ID: 102909170, Copyright: Spectral-Design
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BILLS INTRODUCED INTO FEDERAL PARLIAMENT
The issue of same-sex marriage continues to be a topical one in the Parliament; and both the Government and Opposition have debated whether or not to allow a conscience vote on the issue has been considered by.
Government and opposition positions on same-sex marriage The ALP has allowed a conscience vote on same-sex marriage since the National conference held in December 2011.
On 26 July 2015, the ALP National Conference agreed to continue the existing policy and allow members a conscience vote on same-sex marriage until 2019 after which (upon commencement of the 46th Parliament) members will be bound to support same-sex marriage. Opposition leader Bill Shorten has promised that within 100 days of a Labor government being elected he would ‘move in the parliament of Australia for marriage equality for Australians’.
On 11 August 2015 the Coalition party room considered its position on same-sex marriage in a marathon six-hour meeting. In response to a Question without Notice the following day, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated that the result of the party room
meeting was that the Coalition ‘decided to confirm our existing position for this term of parliament … that marriage is between a man and a woman’ by a ‘very strong majority, essentially by two to one’.
The Prime Minister also raised the possibility of holding a plebiscite or referendum on the issue after the next election: ‘Our strong disposition is to go into the next election with a commitment to put this to the people’.
On 13 August 2015 the leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Richard Di Natale, announced that the Greens and other members of the Senate crossbench would ‘put forward a bill to ensure a fair question on marriage equality is put to the people no later than the next election’. This commitment was achieved with the introduction of the Marriage Equality Plebiscite Bill 2015 on 19 August 2015.
Image ID: 261044711 Copyright: Syda Productions
Same-sex marriage bills A recent Parliamentary Library publication shows that 17 bills dealing with marriage equality or recognition of overseas same-sex marriages have been introduced into the federal Parliament since 2004, when the Marriage Act 1961 was amended to define marriage ‘as a union of a man and a woman’. These bills have been sponsored by members of parliament representing the Australian Democrats, Australian Greens, Australian Labor Party, Liberal Democratic Party, Liberal Party of Australia, and by Independents.
The most recent same-sex marriage bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on 17 August 2015 by Warren Entsch (LP, Qld). This bill is the first cross-party same-sex marriage bill introduced into the parliament, and marks the first time Liberal Party members have been involved in the sponsorship of such a bill. An earlier House of Representatives bill, introduced by Opposition leader Bill Shorten, was the first time a same-sex marriage bill was introduced by the leader of a political party.
Bills statistics Since 2004 only four same-sex marriage bills have come to a vote, three in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives. Although some Government backbenchers have indicated that they are prepared to cross the floor on the August 2015 same-sex marriage bill, to date only one Government member, former Senator Sue Boyce, has crossed the floor on this issue.
No bill has progressed past the second reading stage; consequently no bills have been debated by the second chamber.
Bills that have reached a vote Bills that have reached a second reading vote are listed below (sponsors are listed in parentheses). All bills were defeated at the second reading stage.
ALP members of parliament have been allowed a conscience vote on all the bills listed above, except the 2009 Senate Marriage Equality Amendment Bill.
â Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009 (Sarah Hanson-Young, AG) Marriage Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012 (Carol Brown, Trish Crossin, Gavin Marshall, Louise Pratt (all ALP))
â Marriage Act Amendment (Recognition of Foreign Marriages for Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2013 (Sarah Hanson-Young, AG)
House of Representatives
â Marriage Amendment Bill 2009 (Stephen Jones, ALP)
Same sex-marriage bills introduced in the current parliament There are currently three same-sex marriage bills before the Senate and two before the House of Representatives. To date none of these bills has come to a vote in either Chamber (sponsors are listed in parentheses).
â Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2013 (Sarah Hanson-Young, AG)
â Recognition of Foreign Marriages Bill 2014 (Sarah Hanson-Young, AG)
â Freedom to Marry Bill 2014 (David Leyonhjelm, LDP)
House of Representatives
â Marriage Amendment (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015 (Bill Shorten, ALP)
â Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (Warren Entsch, LP; Teresa Gambaro, LP; Terri Butler, ALP; Laurie Ferguson, ALP; Adam Bandt, AG; Cathy McGowan, Ind; and Andrew Wilkie, Ind)
Constitutional conventions in Westminster systems: controversies, changes and challenges, by Brian Galligan Cambridge University Press, 2015 342.0292 CON 1
In Westminster democracies, constitutional conventions provide the rules for forming government; they precede law and make law-making possible. The rise of new political actors has disrupted the stability of the two-party system, and in seeking power the new players are challenging existing practices. This book examines the conventions that govern constitutional arrangements in Britain and New Zealand, and the executive in Canada and Australia, which are changing to accommodate these and other challenges of modern governance.
NEW BOOKS Battle for the flag , by Amelia John Melbourne University Publishing, 2015 305.800994 JOH 1
This book focuses on race relations in Australia, drawing upon participant observation and interviews conducted with local residents of diverse backgrounds. By paying attention to the voices of bystanders and those involved, the author examines the riots, racism and nationalism of recent years.
The making of a party system: minor parties in the Australian Senate, by Zareh Ghazarian Monash University Publishing, 2015 Copy 1: 320.994 GHA 1 Copy 2: R 320.994 GHA 2
This book charts the rise of minor parties in the Australian Senate since the end of the Second World War and how they became the powerful actors they are today. Rather than be created as a result of a split in a major party, newer minor parties have been mobilised by broad social movements with the aim of advancing specific policy agendas. The book shows how minor parties have impacted the Australian political system and how they look set to remain an important component of governance in the future.
LIBRARY CONTACTS The Library has six research teams providing specialist advice on specific areas of policy:
Economics—covering the economy, superannuation, taxation, trade, public finance, commerce, foreign investment, primary industry, competition policy, employment and industrial relations.
â Director, Kai Swoboda (ph: 02 6277 2460)
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â Director, Nigel Brew (ph: 02 6277 2673)
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â Director, Michele Brennan (ph: 02 6277 2764)
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â Director, Nicholas Horne (ph: 02 6277 2627)
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â Director, Luke Buckmaster (ph: 6277 2724)
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â Director, Sue Johnson (ph: 6277 2480)
The Central Enquiry Point (02 6277 2500) can direct you to the right researcher to assist with your request.
â Director, Leo Terpstra (ph: 02 6277 2787)
Databases and media services
â Director, Guy Woods (ph: 02 6277 2648)
â Director, Oliver Lewis (ph: 02 6277 2573)
To arrange orientations or training in Library services contact:
â Director, Client Relations Joanne James (ph:02 6277 2512)
GUIDE TO LIBRARY SERVICES The Parliamentary Library has a staff of around 135 expert researchers, librarians, library technicians and support staff. We provide services to:
â all senators and members of the Parliament of Australia
â the staff of senators and members when undertaking work on behalf of a senator or member and
â the staff of parliamentary committees when undertaking work on behalf of their committee.
All services are provided in an impartial manner and are strictly confidential.
There are two libraries in Parliament House:
Main Library on the second floor of the Ministerial wing—opening hours:
â 8:30 am-5:00 pm Mon-Fri (non-sitting days)
â 8:30 am-8:00 pm Mon-Wed (sitting days)
â 8:30 am-5:00 pm Thurs-Fri (sitting days)
Senators and Members Reading Room on the House of Representatives side of the building between the Members’ Hall and the Ministerial wing—opening hours:
â 8:30 am-5:00 pm Mon-Fri (sitting and non-sitting days)
Senators and members have 24-hour swipe access using their parliamentary pass.
A Newspaper Reading Room is adjacent to the Senators and Members Reading Room and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.