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Archives for November 1999

Democrats Reject Reith’s Anti-Union Bill

Senator Andrew Murray - Australian DemocratsThe Australian Democrats have rejected the key elements of Peter Reith’s “second wave” industrial relations changes.

The Workplace Relations Minister has proposed legislation which would further strip industrial awards of conditions, require secret ballots on strike votes, and introduce user-pays mediation processes. The bill also attacked union rights to enter workplaces and redefined the definition of a closed shop.

Senator Andrew Murray, the Democrats Workplace Relations spokesman, has said the bill “went too far.”

The legislation, dubbed the “More Jobs Better Pay” bill, was the subject of a Senate Committee Report released yesterday. Senator Murray issued a minority report.

The campaign against the legislation included a media campaign by the Australian Council of Trade Unions around the slogan “just say no”. A rally attended by about 500 workers was held yesterday outside Reith’s office in Melbourne.

The legislation now appears to be facing certain defeat before Christmas. The “first wave” of industrial reforms were passed in 1996 with the support of the Democrats under the then leadership of Senator Cheryl Kernot.

UK By-Elections – 1997-99

This is a research paper on UK by-elections held since the 1997 General Election.

The paper was produced by the research section of the House of Commons Library. [Read more…]

Labour Party Wins New Zealand Election – Shipley Concedes Defeat

Prime Minister-elect Helen ClarkNational Party Prime Minister Jenny Shipley has conceded defeat in New Zealand’s general election. A centre-left coalition government led by the Labour Party’s Helen Clark is set to take office.

The Labour Party has won 38.9% of the national vote and the left-leaning Alliance party has won 7.9%. Together, they will form a government, although they may need the support of the Green Party which has won 4.9% of the vote.

Under New Zealand’s voting system there are 60 electorate seats where members are chosen using the first-past-the-post system. Voters have a second vote similar to the Australian proportional voting system. The political parties register lists of candidates nationwide. The final composition of the 120 seat parliament is determined in accordance with the proportion of the vote achieved by each party nationwide. A minimum 5% of the national vote is required before parties are allocated seats.

At this stage of counting, the final result is unclear. The Greens have polled 4.9% of the vote, but have not won a seat. If they manage to increase their vote to 5%, they will receive 6 seats in the House of Representatives. If this happens, Labour and the Alliance will need Green Party support to form government. The Greens have committed themselves to support a Labour government.

Winston Peters, the leader of New Zealand First and renegade former member of the National Party, was struggling to hold his own seat of Tauranga, although late counting showed him in the lead.

New Zealand Election
Party % Vote Seats
NZ First

Due to an extraordinary feature of New Zealand’s electoral laws, the following party web sites are off-line until the day after the election:

Murdoch Group To Lobby Backbench MPs Over Digital TV

News Limited, the Murdoch company that publishes The Australian, is planning to direct mail hundreds of thousands of leaflets in coalition held marginal seats in an effort to lobby the government over digital television policy.

Federal Cabinet is due to debate the issue on Monday, the same day as the campaign is scheduled to start. Previously, the government allocated high definition television (HDTV) rights to the existing free-to-air broadcasters, including the ABC.

Companies such as News Limited argue that HDTV will be too expensive for consumers – television sets currently cost in excess of $3000 – and that the government should opt for a cheaper form of digital television and allow more datacasting, online shopping and the like.

Due to the tight party discipline that exists within the Australian parliamentary system, it is rare for such an intensive lobbying campaign to be directed at backbench members of parliament. In the United States such lobbying is commonplace, indeed rampant, given the separation of the Executive branch from Congress.

Ordinarily, a company like News Limited would use professional lobbyists or someone like its political strategist, Grahame Morris, who used to be John Howard’s Chief of Staff until he was sacked during the 1997 Travel Rorts scandal.

Whoops… Gareth Evans Booked for Drink Driving

Gareth EvansFormer Foreign Minister and Deputy Opposition Leader, Gareth Evans, was booked for exceeding Victoria’s drink driving laws last night.

Evans registered 0.074 when stopped in the Melbourne suburb of Kew. He was given an on-the-spot fine of $300 and had his licence automatically suspended for 6 months.

Evans is due to take up a new appointment as Chief Executive of the International Crisis Group early in the new year. Presumably, he will not need a driving licence in Brussels.

Historic Deal Between Coalition and Labor on Business Tax

An historic deal was announced tonight between the Labor Opposition and the Liberal-National Party government to pass business tax reforms.

The deal will see the Capital Gains Tax halved and the Company Tax Rate reduced to 30%. Other measures include capital gains tax concessions for venture capital and a crackdown on the use of tax shelters and general tax avoidance.

The agreement follows the Opposition’s support earlier this week for the government’s Medicare levy increase to pay for Australian troops in East Timor and agreement on the handling of refugee boat people.

Howard Introduces Temporary Tax Levy To Pay For East Timor Commitment

The Howard government is to introduce a temporary tax levy to pay for Australia’s military commitment to East Timor.

In a statement to the House of Representatives today, Howard said the levy will only apply for 2000-01. It will be applied as an addition to the Medicare levy for taxpayers earning above $50,000 per annum.

The levy will be 0.5% for taxpayers earning between $50,000 and $100,000. It will be 1% for taxpayers earning above $100,000. [Read more…]

Federal Parliament Broadcasting Live on the Internet

The Federal Parliament can now be viewed live on the Internet.

Both houses of parliament are available for live viewing, as are a number of parliamentary committees.

The Senate Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, and the Senate Committee on Finance and Public Administration, are amongst the first committees to be broadcast.

Government Increases Medicare Levy To Pay For Increased Commitment To Timor

The Federal Government today announced an increase in the Medicare levy for people earning in excess of $50,000 to pay for an increased Australian commitment to East Timor.

The levy, to be known as the “Defence – East Timor levy”, will apply for the financial year 2000-01 only. Taxpayers earning between $50,000 and $100,000 will pay an additional 0.5% levy. Taxpayers earning over $100,000 will pay an extra 1%.

Speaking to Parliament today, Prime Minister Howard said that the commitment to East Timor would cost around $1.1 billion dollars in 2000-01. He said that combined with changes to the GST legislation negotiated with the Democrats earlier this year, the budget in the next financial year would record an underlying cash deficit of approximately $500 million. The increased levy is designed to prevent the budget going into deficit.

The Prime Minister also announced the formation of two additional infantry batallions for the Australian Army.

Five Candidates To Contest Burwood By-Election

Five candidates have nominated for the Burwood by-election caused by the resignation of the former Premier, Jeff Kennett.

The Labor candidate, Bob Stensholt, has drawn the top position on the ballot paper, followed by the Liberals’ Lana McLean.

The Greens have nominated Philip Crohn, the Democratic Labor Party has nominated perennial candidate Dr. Peter Ferweda, and Stephen Mayne is running as an independent.

Mayne continues to operate a web site called, styling it as “real news”.