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August 8, 2014

Australian government prepares legislation to restrict travel of Australian fighters overseas

Australian government prepares legislation to restrict travel of Australian fighters overseas

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Friday, August 8, 2014

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On Tuesday, the Australian Cabinet approved the “Counter Terrorism Foreign Fighters Bill” which is to be introduced into the Australian Parliament between August 26 and September 4. The bill follows after the “National Security Legislation Amendment Bill” which was introduced into the Parliament on July 16 and is now before the Australian Senate.

Attorney-General George Brandis mentioned at a joint press conference in Canberra on Tuesday, he has “been asked to develop — in consultation with relevant stakeholders, in particular, in the telecommunications sector — a system of mandatory data retention. That legislation has been approved in principle and is in development from today and is to be introduced into Parliament later in the year”. As Tony Abbott mentioned, “the Government’s proposals to change 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act […] are now off the table”.

The proposed legislation would change the “Commonwealth Crimes Act“, to include provisions currently found in the separate “Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act”. It would expand the definition of armed hostilities, to keep up-to-date with the current terrorist activities, from “The Terrorism, Incursions and Recruitment Act” of 1978. An important provisions of the proposed laws would make traveling to places with active terrorism an offence, as defined by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. With stated intention of “preserving national unity”, Tony Abbott cancelled controversial changes to section 18C of the discrimination act which George Brandis had promoted.

“Not everyone who goes to the Middle East is a bad person”, cautioned Labor Party leader Bill Shorten. “I think we have to be very careful in this complex situation about demonising Australians of Middle-Eastern backgrounds […] So I think we need to be balanced in our approach, maintain our national security but also not try and blame everyone or tar everyone with the same brush.”

“There’s no question that Australia needs to be vigilant against terrorism but we must insist on ways to protect Australians from terrorism without overturning the fundamentals of our justice system”, said Greens Senator Penny Wright. “Clearly we would need to see the detail of any legislation but as it’s been described so far, it seems that this legislation could see Red Cross and other humanitarian workers in declared zones having to face court to prove they’re not terrorists. This law could also see Australian journalists reporting from countries like Syria or Iraq presumed guilty of terrorism.”

Penny Wright also warned against removing the legislation’s sunset clause. “The Australian Greens would be very concerned about any legislation that further restricts civil liberties and removes scrutiny and oversight. There’s a very important balance to strike between security and freedoms, and we would not want to see very legitimate security concerns be used to permanently erode human rights.”

There has been a significant increase in Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) cancellations of Australian passports over the last year. To make it easier for ASIO to complete security assessment of suspected individuals, the government-announced proposals include the power to temporarily suspend an Australian passport, or foreign passport of a dual national, on ASIO request, a change recommended by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor.



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  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Australian anti-terrorism legislation, 2004
  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Anti-Terrorism Act 2005

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March 22, 2013

Australia\’s AAP claims government oversight of media not necessary

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Six media reform bills introduced last week before Australia‘s Parliament—including one proposing appointing Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA) to monitor print and online sectors&mdash were shelved by the Australian Labor Party with only one having passed before a seven week break for country’s governing body. On Monday, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) released a statement yesterday saying such oversight is not required.

Australia’s Parliament building in Canberra
Image: JJ Harrison.

The six bill media advocacy legislation package, which includes Public Interest Media Advocate Bill 2013, Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Convergence Review and Other Measures) Bill 2013, Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (News Media Diversity) Bill 2013 which includes provisions related to new media and PIMA, News Media (Self-regulation) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013 which would require media organisations to be registered with the government to enjoy protections traditionally enjoyed by journalists and the media, News Media (Self-regulation) Bill 2013 which creates PIMA and Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Convergence Review and Other Measures) Bill 2013 were introduced last Thursday before the House Standing Infrastructure and Communications and the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee.

The Parliament of Australia summarized Public Interest Media Advocate Bill 2013 as, “Part of a package of six bills in relation to the media sector, the bill: creates the independent statutory office of the Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA); provides for the functions, appointment, and terms and conditions of PIMA; and requires an annual report to be prepared on PIMA’s activities and other specified matters.” Other bills in the package delineate what PIMA’s role would be. Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Convergence Review and Other Measures) Bill 2013 has its second reading today. Unlike the other bills in the package which have not had a second reading yet, this bill deals primarily with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Special Broadcasting Service.

Speaking before a Senate committee about media reform, AAP chief Bruce Davidson said, “We simply do not believe that there is a problem with the conduct of the media in Australia, and certainly not that of AAP, that warrants further oversight by a minster-appointed body. […] Any hidden perception, I believe, of government interference is simply a dangerous precedent that may lead to control, may lead to interference. […] The aims may be noble, Mr Chairman, but the potential for potential misuse and changes of that legislation as presented to us, I think, is a dangerous thing to contemplate.”

Other Australian media organizations have protested the proposed legislation. Australia’s The Daily Telegraph is quoted by the Brisbane Times as saying of this legislation that it is an “aggressive attempt to silence your media.”

Former federal court judge Ray Finkelstein oversaw an inquiry into the Australian print media 2011. He told a government inquiry that, “There are no powerful groups in society that can come along to governments or anybody and say ‘we can do what we like when we like and there’s nothing you should do about it’.” Finkelstein is also on the record as stating that self regulation by the industry through their own organization has failed.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy hopes to see the media legislation packaged passed by the end of this week.



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Australian Labor Party shelves government oversight of media legislation

Australian Labor Party shelves government oversight of media legislation

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Friday, March 22, 2013

A package of six media reform bills introduced last week before Australia’s Parliament — including one proposing appointing a Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA) to monitor print and online sectors — was shelved yesterday by the Australian Labor Party, with only two passed before a seven week break for the country’s legislative body. Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, had hoped to see the legislation package passed by the end of the week.

Australia’s Parliament building in Canberra
Image: JJ Harrison.

The six-bill media advocacy legislation package, including Public Interest Media Advocate Bill 2013, Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Convergence Review and Other Measures) Bill 2013, Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (News Media Diversity) Bill 2013 which includes provisions related to news media and PIMA, News Media (Self-regulation) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013 which would require media organisations to be registered with the government to enjoy protections traditionally enjoyed by journalists and the media, News Media (Self-regulation) Bill 2013 which creates PIMA, and Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 2013, were introduced Thursday February 14 before the House Standing Infrastructure and Communications and the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee.

The Parliament of Australia summarized Public Interest Media Advocate Bill 2013 as, “Part of a package of six bills in relation to the media sector, the bill: creates the independent statutory office of the Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA); provides for the functions, appointment, and terms and conditions of PIMA; and requires an annual report to be prepared on PIMA’s activities and other specified matters.” Other bills in the package delineate what PIMA’s role would be. Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Convergence Review and Other Measures) Bill 2013 and Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 2013 both had their second reading on Tuesday in the House and were the only bills to pass both houses of parliament. Unlike the other bills in the package which have not had a third reading before being shelved, the former bill deals primarily with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Special Broadcasting Service, while the latter bill increased licensing fees for television stations.

On Monday, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) released a statement saying such government oversight is not required. Other Australian media organizations have protested the proposed legislation. Australia’s The Daily Telegraph is quoted by the Brisbane Times describing this legislation as an “aggressive attempt to silence your media.”

Speaking before a Senate committee about media reform, AAP chief Bruce Davidson said, “We simply do not believe that there is a problem with the conduct of the media in Australia, and certainly not that of AAP, that warrants further oversight by a minster-appointed body […] Any hidden perception, I believe, of government interference is simply a dangerous precedent that may lead to control, may lead to interference […] The aims may be noble, Mr Chairman, but the potential for potential misuse and changes of that legislation as presented to us, I think, is a dangerous thing to contemplate.”

Former federal court judge Ray Finkelstein oversaw an inquiry into the Australian print media in 2011. He told a government inquiry, “There are no powerful groups in society that can come along to governments or anybody and say ‘we can do what we like when we like and there’s nothing you should do about it’.” Finkelstein is also on the record as stating that self regulation by the industry through their own organization has failed.



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September 8, 2010

Australian Senate Committee recommends formation of Charities Commission

Australian Senate Committee recommends formation of Charities Commission

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

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The Economics Legislation Committee of the Australian Senate reported Tuesday on their investigation into the matter of investigating the benefits of religious charities in Australia, and recommended the formation of a Charities Commission. The recommendation has received bipartisan support. The inquiry began as the result of legislation initially introduced in the Senate by Senator Nick Xenophon after he had received complaints from former members of the Scientology organization in Australia.

Australian Senate in 2006
Image: Dysprosia.

The Charities Commission recommended by the Australian Senate Committee would have responsibilities including investigating charitable organizations in order to make sure that their business dealings were forthright. Such organizations would be required to prove they were worthy of maintaining charitable status from the government.

Cquote1.svg it was as a direct result of being approached by many victims of the Church of Scientology. Their evidence, their complaints played a key role in triggering this inquiry. Cquote2.svg

—Senator Nick Xenophon

Senator Xenophon commented that the recommendation would begin a process towards increasing accountability of these organizations, “I believe reform is now inevitable. We can’t continue to have business as usual when it comes to organisations that have been beyond any reasonable level of accountability.”

He emphasized such inquiry came about due to controversial revelations from former members of the Church of Scientology, “This inquiry came about because of legislation I introduced for a public benefit test for religions and charities, and it was as a direct result of being approached by many victims of the Church of Scientology. Their evidence, their complaints played a key role in triggering this inquiry.”

Senator Xenophon said that recommendations included in the Report served as a warning to cult-like organizations such as the Church of Scientology. The Report requested that the Attorney-General of Australia investigate laws relating to cults in the country. The “Tax Laws Amendment (Public Benefit Test) Bill 2010” was introduced into the Senate by Senator Xenophon in May 2010; the Economics Legislation Committee investigated this proposed legislation and completed a report on the matter in the form of a series of recommendations for the new government in Australia to consider.

A member of the inquiry committee itself, Senator Xenophon pointed out that the recommendations of the Report went beyond the scope of his initial proposed legislation through a recommendation that a Charities Commission use a “Public Benefit Test” in order to assess non-profit organizations active in the country. Senator Xenophon provided an addendum to the Report in the form of a special notes section, wherein he wrote that due to the nature of the disturbing accounts told before the committee regarding controversial activities of organizations in the country, legislation to set up a Charities Commission should be completed before June 30, 2011.

Cquote1.svg It is … important that [religions and charities] are transparent and appropriately accountable. Cquote2.svg

—Report, Economics Legislation Committee, Australian Senate

The Committee’s Report included recommendations regarding concerns about controversial activities of cult-like organizations. The Report stated there was sufficient evidence heard before the Committee such that the activities of cults should be investigated in the country with the goal of forming policy broader than simply with respect to taxation laws. For the purposes of the Committee’s investigation, the Macquarie Dictionary was cited to define the term cult as, “A religious or pseudo-religious movement, characterised by the extreme devotion of its members, who usually form a relatively small, tightly controlled group under an authoritarian and charismatic leader.”

With regard to behaviour of cults in the country, the Committee recommended the Attorney-General report on operations of governmental organization which investigate these groups such as the French government organization, MIVILUDES. The recommendation to the Attorney-General stated, “The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General’s Department provide a report to the Committee on the operation of Miviludes and other law enforcement agencies overseas tasked with monitoring and controlling the unacceptable and/or illegal activities of cult-like organisations who use psychological pressure and breaches of general and industrial law to maintain control over individuals.”

In the summary and recommendations section of the Report, the Committee concluded, “Religions and charities, and other not-for-profit organisations … play an important role in the community and in the economy. They receive significant tax concessions. It is therefore important that they are transparent and appropriately accountable.”



Related news

  • “Women reveal accounts of forced abortion in Scientology” — Wikinews, June 15, 2010
  • “Senator Xenophon of Australia calls for criminal investigation into Scientology” — Wikinews, November 19, 2009

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  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Scientology in Australia
  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Nick Xenophon

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May 11, 2006

Australian Parliament hears reply to Budget

Australian Parliament hears reply to Budget

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley

The Australian House of Representatives heard the traditional right-of-reply to the Budget released May 9, from the Australian Labor Party, led by Kim Beazley (Labor, Brand), plus Budget replies from minor parties in the Australian Senate.

While the Budget is politically popular, having as one of its main features significant tax reform, Beazley focused on the omissions in the Budget, such as the failure to address a skills shortage.

Opposition reply

Beazley opened by stating that “This budget fails middle Australia and mortgages our kids’ future”, and continued by stating that “after ten long years, they deserve a break” from the Howard Government.

Beazley introduced the key idea of his Budget reply by speaking directly to middle Australia, “Tonight I seek a binding agreement between us… Australia is counting on you to do the next round of heavy lifting… relying on you to drive a new wave of economic prosperity… under a Beazley labor government, when you put in, you get back”.

Beazley contrasted that idea by criticising the Treasurer, saying that after five budgets without a decent tax break, which was affected already by “soaring petrol prices”, likening him to a poker machine with a payout of only “ten bucks”.

Beazley’s commented solicited applause from the galleries, and continued sporadically through his reply, which focused on five points:

  1. new childcare centres at school, giving “parents the incentive to work without killing family life”, and announced 200 million dollars for new childcare centres, placed “where childcare shortages mean they’re needed most”.
  2. students shouldn’t have to pay for training in trades, and pledged to “get rid of tafe fees for traditional trades”, to “train Australians first, train Australians now”. Beazley announced payments of “AUD$800 per year for up to four years to apprentices”, “AUD$1200 per year for up to two years for childcare workers”, and a payment of AUD$2000 to students on the completion of their trade.
  3. no unfair dismissals. Beazley reiterated his plan to “tear up this government’s extreme industrial relations laws” and to put in place a new system “to protect working Australians”, “protecting both sides”, and “resolving claims”
  4. no foreign apprentices: “three hundred thousand Australians have been turned away from tafe” and Beazley would “abolish foreign apprenticeship visas”
  5. real broadband: Beazley announced under a Labor government, he would “invest in a joint venture with telecommunications companies to build a super-fast computer network” and bring Australia’s networking up to world standards.

Beazley also announced the founding of an independent expert body on infrastructure, and a “Building Australia” fund to invest in infrastructure.

In his conclusion, he stated his “unshakable faith in the Australian people”, and criticised the Government’s failure to “deal with climate change now”, the Government’s mishandling of foreign debt, rising up to “half a trillion dollars” — Beazley likened Costello to Wile. E. Coyote, with an anvil about to drop on his head.

Beazley welcomed the tax cuts, but noted the influence of rising oil prices and student debt. Beazley also noted that he would not have spent the money on the Iraq war and would not have paid money to Saddam’s regime, referring to the AWB scandal.

Beazley’s speech ended in further applause.

Minor parties

Australian Democrats

Senator Lyn Allison (Australian Democrats, Victoria), the Leader of the Democrats, was the first to speak in the Senate on the Budget.

Allison stated that the Budget was developed through the eyes of “political strategists” and was developed with “little interest in the social, economic, and environmental mess left behind”.

Allison criticised the Government, stating that “manufacturing can’t compete against cheap imports”, criticised size of the trade deficit and foreign debt, noted the lack of the Budget to address high petrol prices, noted that bankruptcies are at their highest, and high household debt, saying that “you won’t read about them in this budget”.

Allison argued that “surplus should have been invested in the future”, to address climate change, student debt which was “burdening generations with personal debt”, and strongly criticised the Government in regard to its failure to fund education, saying it was “an act of vandalism”.

Allison said that the Budget was a Budget “for buying votes, not for the long-term future of the nation”.

Allison continued to describe how the Government had lost its environmental credentials, stating that the “environment in much better hands when the Democrats held the balance of power”.

Allison responded to the Budget allowances for transport infrastructure, saying that the Budget “ignoring public transport” and that freeway funding was not sustainable.

Allison argued that the income tax cuts introduced in the Budget were “rewarding those on the highest incomes the most”. In response to the mental health provisions in the Budget, she stated that more must be done on mental health, smoking, obesity related disease, and said that the Treasurer’s “generosity was not extended to the PBS“.

She noted how the Government was “cynically failing indigenous Australians”, describing a Government scheme of an assistance payment to indigenous Australians which was based on attendance at schools, and that the Government had revised the total amount of payment downward based on the expectations that indigenous Australians will not attend schools.

Ellison concluded by stating that “The Democrats are committed to what we know to be the priorities for a sustainable future for all Australians, well beyond a Costello next decade and most definitely beyond the next election.”

Australian Greens

Senator Christine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) presented the Australian Greens budget reply speech.

She begun by describing how the Howard Government had said they had “delivered rivers of gold and manna from heaven”, and that the Budget message was such that “people were prompted to rejoice and be glad to spend, spend, spend”.

Milne went on to say that Australia had become “two nations…one that is fixated on the present and cannot see what the problem is and the other that can see the problem and the huge risks for our children, grandchildren and future generations.”

Milne noted that the capacity of the environment to provide and fuel economic growth by traditional means “is in doubt”. She went on to criticse the squandering of a “a minerals boom which has delivered corporate profits to the Treasury”, stating that the money should have been spent on “nation-building”.

Milne went on to criticise Australia’s interest in nuclear power and criticised Australia’s export of uranium, and noted the impact of salinity and climate change, and called for the establishment of a “climate change disaster fund”.

Milne responded to the AusLink funding proposed by the Government Budget, by also criticising the lack of development in public transport. Milne also echoed Ellison’s criticism of the Government’s treatment of its indigenous population, stating “If we cannot address Aboriginal disadvantage in an economic boom time, when can we address it?”

Milne concluded by stating “the Greens’ vision for Australia and the values we hold mean we would not squander the surplus on a spending spree. We do not support the tax cuts or superannuation windfall for high-income earners.” and reiterated the points of view that the Greens felt needed addressing.

Family First

Stephen Fielding (South Australia, Family First Party) was the final Senator to speak on the Budget in the Senate.

He criticised the lack of support for low and middle income earners, stating “The government claims this is a budget for families, but the big winners are the high-income earners”, and reiterated his earlier calls for reduction in fuel price by “10c a litre”.

Fielding noted that Family First supported the fact that more families would receive benefits, but called for a greater increase in the benefit rather than “the child-care rebate, which only goes to parents of children attending formal child care”.

Fielding concluded by noting that “Families do benefit from this budget and will welcome it. But, for the average Australian family, this budget will not be the bonanza the government would like us all to believe it is.”

Sources

Wikinews
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
  • ABC NewsRadio broadcasts of Parliament, May 11, 2006.
  • Australian House of Representatives Hansard, May 11, 2006.
  • Australian Senate Hansard, May 11, 2006.
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February 15, 2006

RU486 debate complicates with amendments posed in Australian House of Representatives

RU486 debate complicates with amendments posed in Australian House of Representatives

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The ongoing debate over whether the Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott, or the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulate the abortifacient mifepristone (RU486) has complicated with a number of members proposing amendments to the Senate bill, now in the House of Representatives.

Jackie Kelly (Australian Liberal Party, Lindsay) has said that “There should be a transparent process in which the minister is accountable for his or her decision” on so-called restricted goods (of which RU486 is such a good) as listed in the TGA legislation. Kelly has proposed an amendment with points stating that “the Minister for Health and Ageing continuing to have the decision making role in relation to the approval of restricted goods…”, “the Minister being required to obtain written advice from the Therapeutic Goods Administration prior to giving written approval or refusal to approve”, “the Minister’s decision being subject to disallowance”.

In the debate on February 14, Andrew Laming (Liberal, Bowman) noted his intent to propose an amendment in the later consideration in detail stage, noting his views that the TGA process is “so far removed…from the concerns and the beliefs of the community” and that he is “unable to convince [himself] that completely leaving these decisions to the TGA is the right thing to do”. His amendment loosely aims to propose a “disallowable instrument in Parliament where there is a disagreement with the findings of the TGA.”

The introduction of amendments has caused confusion on procedural matters February 15 in the Questions to the Speaker period (that follows Question Time), where members can ask questions of the Speaker on procedural and other technical matters. In the following vote on the proposed legislation, if one of the votes on the amendments succeeds, this has the effect of discontinuing the other amendment proposals, as each of the amendments proposed has the effect of being a complete alternative bill.

The RU486 debate will have precedence over all other matters in the House until it is dealt with. Voting is expected on Thursday.

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Sources

Wikinews
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  • Australian House of Representatives Hansard, February 14, 2005.
  • ABC NewsRadio broadcasts of the House of Representatives, February 15, 2005.
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February 8, 2006

RU486 debate enters Australian Senate

RU486 debate enters Australian Senate – Wikinews, the free news source

RU486 debate enters Australian Senate

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Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: RU486 (abortion pill) debate

The looming debate on whether the Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott or the Theraputic Goods Administration (TGA) should regulate mifepristone, RU486, has entered the Australian Senate, February 8. A free vote is due to be conducted on this issue.

The first speakers have been all women speaking in support of passing control from the Health Minister to the TGA: Australian National Party Senator Fiona Nash, Australian Democrats Senator Lyn Allison, Australian Labor Party Senator Claire Moore. They have drawn attention to the fact that abortion is already legal in Australia, the inappropriateness of a Parliament minister to regulate a single drug versus a scientific and independent body, and if RU486 is an unsafe drug then the TGA will not approve the drug. Petitions were presented by Moore with the undersigned stating “medical experts, not the health minister” should regulate the drug.

Australian Liberal Party Senator Gary Humphries then spoke, stating that the bill is a “mistake”, not because of the possible risks, or that the TGA is unfit to perform the evaluation, but because RU486 is “not just another drug”, “facilitating a medical procedure that is not just a medical procedure”. Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle spoke in favour of the bill, making mention of views of others on the supposed push polling of some groups opposing the bill. Liberal Senator Nick Minchin, the new Leader of the Government in the Senate, spoke in support of Humphries and his views, and “was not persuaded to support [the] bill”, and expressed his “conservative” views that life begun “from conception onwards”. Family First Party Senator Steven Fielding spoke out against the bill also, likening the TGA as comprising of “unelected bureaucrats”. He further commented that Family First cannot consider the social policy issues without considering social views, and drew attention to the TGA’s response in the earlier Senate inquiry that the TGA “cannot consider social and ethical issues”. Fielding drew attention to the guillotine being placed on the debate of the bill and the attitudes of the non-Government senators earlier criticising the Government on the industrial relations legislation being “rammed through” late last year.

Other senators, including Guy Barnett (Lib.), Helen Polley (Labor), also later spoke against the bill; Senators Judith Adams (Lib.), Ruth Webber (Labor) spoke in support.

Related news

Sources

Wikinews
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
  • ABC NewsRadio broadcasts of the Senate, February 8, 2006
  • Australian Senate Hansard (pdf), February 8, 2006.

External links

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has more about this subject:
Mifepristone


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January 18, 2006

Australian senate inquiry receives 4,000 submisions on abortion pill

Australian senate inquiry receives 4,000 submisions on abortion pill

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: RU486 (abortion pill) debate

The Australian Senate has been flooded with submissions into an inquiry about the possible use of the abortion drug Mifepristone (known as RU486) in Australia.

The senate committee is to consider a private members bill, introduced by a group of female senators and MPs to strip the Australian health minister of his control over the drug. If successful, the drug would then have to be approved by the Threrapeutic Goods Administration before it would be allowed to be used in Australia.

Senator Fiona Nash of the Nationals argues that the bill is not about abortion but about process. She said “What’s been put forward here is who is best able to judge the quality, safety and efficacy of this particular drug and who is best able to judge whether it should be used in Australia”.

Ms Nash believes that the TGA should be responsible for allowing or denying the use of drugs in Australia, not the health minister.

Lyn Elisson, leader of the Democrats said that only around 2,000 of the submissions would be considered as the remainder do not meet the senate’s terms of reference. She also said “This bill is not about the morality or legality of abortion.

“It’s really about whether the Minister for Health should have the power of veto over an alternative to legal surgical abortion.”

National’s senator Barnaby Joyce argues that all opinions should be taken into account and that the enquiry should be conducted for at least a week.

Peter Slipper, MP for the Liberal party claims that the proposed legislation can not be separated from the RU486 issue. He told ABC radio “I believe it would be a negation of our responsibility if we were to flick the decision to an unelected body, an unaccountable body, such as the TGA.”

It is believed that only 100 submissions are from those supporting the use of RU486.

The inquiry has received international attention with submissions from the US, New Zealand and Austria. This pill has been available for use in France since 1988, in Switzerland since 1999.


Sister links

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Mifepristone

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December 8, 2005

Australian government paves way for nuclear waste dump in Northern Territory

Australian government paves way for nuclear waste dump in Northern Territory

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Thursday, December 8, 2005

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The Australian Senate has passed legislation to force a national nuclear waste dump on the Northern Territory (NT). Despite opposition from Aboriginal land owners, the NT government, environment groups and Labor the Federal Government can now officially build a nuclear waste repository in the NT after the legislation for the waste dump passed the Senate today. The Radioactive Waste Management Bill was passed with 34 in favour and 29 against.

The two bills override the Northern Territory’s objection to the radioactive waste dump after the South Australian government opposed a previous preferred site near Woomera. According to Federal Labor opposition MP, Warren Snowdon, it is the first time since 1978 that Territory law has been overridden. “It’s an absolute disaster and it shows contempt for the Northern Territory community, it shows absolute contempt for land use planning in the Northern Territory,” he said.

The Territory Labor Government has been a resolute opponent of the plan, saying a nuclear dump will expose residents to a new security threat.

The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Clare Martin, says transporting nuclear waste to the Territory would make it vulnerable to terrorists looking to make a dirty bomb. Ms Martin says experts on the issue have raised concerns about security at a national nuclear waste facility.

She says scientific debate played no part in the Federal Government’s decision to build a dump in the Territory and nuclear waste could be a target while it is being moved to the Territory. “You’d have to look at how far around a country you’re going to be transporting things like intermediate nuclear level waste,” she said.

“And if you’re going to put such a nuclear facility in the middle of central Australia you’ve got to get the waste there by road and that’s thousands of kilometres.” She says the Commonwealth should not expect any cooperation from her Government.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation‘s (ANSTO) Craig Pierce says there would be no point trying to use low level waste to make a dirty bomb because the waste is mostly gloves and labcoats. “It simply would make no sense to get this material and want to blow it up,” he said.

Alice Springs on a large scale map

“It would have no impact at all. On the intermediate level, that will have a high level of security when it is transported. It won’t be transported for very far on road, on land, and it will have an appropriate level of security.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation said it expected community anger would escalate, now the bills had passed. “Last year the federal government gave the people of the NT an absolute categorical assurance there would be no dump in the NT,” ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney said. “Today they have broken this promise and bulldozed through bad law in an attempt to gag community concern.”

“Under the government’s proposal, 130 truckloads of radioactive waste would be driven from Sydney’s Lucas Heights reactor, through NSW, to an as-yet unnamed site in the NT in the first year alone, with dumping to continue for decades,” he said.

The Australian Greens say the legislation could be manipulated to allow waste from other countries to be stored in the Northern Territory. The party is angry that amendments they proposed were not considered when the bill was passed. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert says the legislation is not strong enough.

“In the bill, there were some provisions to supposedly keep out international waste,” she said. “We don’t think they go far enough and that they are open to manipulation and interpretation. So what we were trying to do is absolutely positively ensure that international waste will not be brought into this facility.”

The NT Environment Centre’s Gary Scott has hinted at civil disobedience similar to that seen during the anti-uranium mining protests at Jabiluka. “I don’t think Territorians are going to take this lying down unless that is in front of bulldozers,” Mr Scott said.

The Centre’s Peter Robertson has emphasised the importance of the waste dump for the federal government to realise its plans for a second nuclear reactor. “If we get the dump, Sydney gets the reactor”. Establishing a national waste dump is a precondition for the operating license for the proposed OPAL nuclear reactor which will replace Lucas Heights in Sydney.

Robertson pointed out that the issue of waste is creating an international crisis for the nuclear industry, with no storage plans for the more than 250,000 tonnes of high-level radioactive waste currently in existence.

A detailed study of three Defence sites – Fishers Ridge, 43 km south-east of Katherine, Harts Range, 100 km north-east of Alice Springs, and Mount Everard, 27 km north-west of Alice Springs – will be conducted next year, with the facility to be operational by 2011.

Traditional owners of Athenge Alhere – an estate group of the Arrernte Nation – have voiced their dissent to the nuclear dump and say they don’t want waste from Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor brought to their land. “Because the land we take care of, because all our ancestors lived in this land and hunted on this land as well, so it’s mainly because of the animals and the next generation of our kids and their children, so we still say no,” traditional owner Benedict Stevens said.

Coalition MPs, including Northern Territory Country Liberal senator Nigel Scullion, secured a number of amendments to the bill. They included the ability of the NT government and indigenous land councils to decide on other site options, a prohibition on the storage of high level and overseas waste and the free storage of the NT’s own waste.

The South Australian Government says tenacity staved off a nuclear dump on its land. SA Environment Minister, John Hill, says there could be a federal election before the facility’s finally built. “It will take them some time to construct this facility and that gives you some opportunities,” he said.

Mr Hill says waste should be stored closer to Lucas Heights in Sydney where it is generated. Radioactive waste is currently stored at over 100 locations across the country, including in hospital basements in major capital cities and at universities.

Update: NT farmers have threatened to take action if a site near their farms is selected for the dump. Fishers Ridge, south of Katherine, is one of three Commonwealth sites earmarked for the facility. Sharon Shaw’s farm 12 kilometres from the Fishers Ridge site. “The thing that worries us the most, it’s on top of a Tindal Aquifer which really concerns us in the fact that there’s many sink holes that turn up every wet as the ground is always shifting,” she said. “Any normal person without an environmental degree or anything would realise that this ground is unstable.”

Related Wikinews

  • “Opposing a nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory” — Wikinews, October 30, 2005

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December 2, 2005

Australian Senate sits for extra day, passes industrial relations legislation

Australian Senate sits for extra day, passes industrial relations legislation

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Friday, December 2, 2005 The Australian Senate sits for an unusual extra day today, in order to finish considering amendments to the new industial relations legislation. An extended sitting of the Senate was held yesterday, December 1, considering these amendments.

The bill has been declared as urgent and as consequently a timetable for debate is set, so the bill would have either passed or not in its entirety today. Key senator Barnaby Joyce has expressed his support of the bill due to his influencing Government amendments dealing with public holidays. Non-Government senators expressed their concerns yesterday and today in regard to these amendments — Family First Party senator Stephen Fielding introduced amendment to try and complement the Government amendments, but the Government has expressed that they will not be supporting them as they do not contain “right to refuse” provisions.

The Senate had not finished debate on all the amendments in the nine page outline of business before 4.30 pm, the time set by the earlier guillotine, and the amendments were consequently put without debate. Non-Government members did not pursue divisions on all the amendments other than key ones. Ominously, during the following third reading debate, fierce thunderstorms had brought about the use of emergency power to the parliament with Opposition senator Penny Wong saying that “The lights may have just gone out in the Senate chamber, but they do not go out on the labour movement!”. Persons in the gallery of the Senate were applauding to non-Government speeches, which brought about support from the Opposition and skepticism from Government senators saying that “no amount of guffaws from those who have been trundled in here today to stand up the back will change the fact that we have been re-elected four times by Australian working men and women.”

Due to Government numbers, the bill eventually passed the third reading debate.

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