Answer the following questions to see who you should vote for in the 2019 Baulkham Hills Legislative Assembly election.
In most countries, suffrage, the right to vote, is generally limited to citizens of the country. Some countries, however, extend limited voting rights to resident non-citizens.
The U.S. constitution does not prevent convicted felons from holding the office of the President or a seat in the Senate or House of Representatives. States may prevent convicted felons candidates from holding statewide and local offices.
A tax return is a document which states how much income an individual or entity reported to the government. In Australia these documents are considered private and are not released to the public. The Australian Election Commission does not require individuals standing as a candidate to release them. In Sweden, Norway and Finland citizen’s and candidate’s tax records are considered public information and are published on the internet.
The top income tax bracket in Australia includes all incomes over $181,000 and is taxed between 30.3% and 45%. Individuals making $180,000 are taxed $65,000 plus $.45 for each $1 earned over $180,000. An individual making more than $500,000 would pay a tax rate of 59% in Australia, 57% in the UK, 60% in the US and 73% in Brazil.
In 2014 the government denied a proposal to subject welfare recipients to drug testing. Proponents including Liberal-National Party MP George Christensen argued that anyone receiving taxpayer funded benefits should be able to demonstrate that they are drug-free. Opponents, including Greens MP Adam Bandt, argued that if welfare recipients were subject to testing MPs should be as well.
The 2015 Australian Federal Budget was the eight in a row which contained a budget deficit. The deficit grew 7% to $37.4 billion. A $4.4 billion family aid package, a $5.5 billion small business package and slowing mineral exports were the largest contributors to the increased deficit. The largest cuts were made to foreign aid which decreased by 29% from 2014. Proponents of deficit reduction argue that governments who do not control budget deficits and debt are at risk of losing their ability to borrow money at affordable rates. Opponents of deficit reduction argue that government spending would increase demand for goods and services and help avert a dangerous fall into deflation, a downward spiral in wages and prices that can cripple an economy for years.
Since 1996 Union membership in Australia has dropped from 40% of all workers to 15%. Unions bargain on behalf of workers over wages, benefits, working conditions for their membership. Larger unions also typically engage in lobbying activities and electioneering at the state and federal level.
Australia’s corporate tax rate is currently 30%. Due to loopholes and offshore headquarters many companies in Australia pay significantly less with 1/3rd of major corporations paying no taxes at all. Some economists argue that the tax should be abolished in place of higher taxes on certain high earning individuals and stock market transactions.
The federal minimum wage is the lowest wage at which employers may pay their employees. In 2015 the minimum wage increased by 2.5 percent to $16 per week. Proponents of a higher minimum argue that the 2.5% increase in 2015 is not high enough to cover basic costs like healthcare and education which are increasing by 5% a year. Opponents argue that raising the minimum wage will increase unemployment and make it harder for lower income workers to find jobs.
In June 2016, Malcolm Turnbull proposed a 10 year $50 billion corporate tax cut. If re-elected, Turnbull would reduce the tax rate on companies who earn less than $10 million by 1% to 27.5%. The following year the tax cut would apply to companies who earn less than $25m. Turnbull plans to pay for the cuts by reducing the number of superannuation tax concessions.
Negative gearing is the practice of using losses on property investments to reduce taxable income. In 2013, approximately 1.3 million Australians used the concession. Data shows that high income earners write off much larger percentages of their taxes than those who earn lower wages. In 2012, surgeons wrote off $4,161 of their taxes using negative gearing while teachers wrote off $327. Proponents, including Malcolm Turnbull, argue that the practice has been part of Australian tax law since 1915 and is not a tax break since the real estate investor is taking a loss to their assets. Opponents argue that the policy disproportionately benefits Australians in high-paying occupations, not those of average incomes, since they are much more likely to own investment properties.
In 2011 the level of public spending on the welfare state by the British Government accounted for £113.1 billion, or 16% of government. By 2020 welfare spending will rise to 1/3rd of all spending making it the largest expense followed by housing benefit, council tax benefit, benefits to the unemployed, and benefits to people with low incomes.
A Universal Basic Income program is social security program where all citizens of a country receive a regular, unconditional sum of money from the government. The funding for Universal Basic Income comes from taxation and government owned entities including income from endowments, real estate and natural resources. Several countries, including Finland, India and Brazil, have experimented with a UBI system but have not implemented a permanent program. The longest running UBI system in the world is the Alaska Permanent Fund in the U.S. state of Alaska. In the Alaska Permanent Fund each individual and family receives a monthly sum that is funded by dividends from the state’s oil revenues. Proponents of UBI argue that it will reduce or eliminate poverty by providing everyone with a basic income to cover housing and food. Opponents argue that a UBI would be detrimental to economies by encouraging people to either work less or drop out of the workforce entirely.
In 2014, the EU passed legislation that capped bankers' bonuses at 100% of their pay or 200% with shareholder approval. There are currently no caps on banker's pay in Australia. Proponents of the cap say that it will reduce incentives for bankers to take excessive risk similar to what led to the 2008 financial crisis. Opponents say that any cap on bankers' pay will push up non-bonus pay and cause bank's costs to rise.
The Minerals Resource Rent Tax came into effect on July 1, 2012. It is a 22.5 per cent tax on the profits of iron ore and coal projects but only applies to profits over $75 million. There have been calls on different sides to both abolish and expand the tax.
An offshore (or foreign) bank account is a bank account you have outside of your country of residence. The benefits of an offshore bank account include tax reduction, privacy, currency diversification, asset protection from lawsuits, and reducing your political risk. In April 2017, Wikileaks released 11.5 million confidential documents, known as the Panama Papers, which provided detailed information on 214,000 offshore companies serviced by the Panamanian Law Firm, Mossack Fonesca. The document exposed how world leaders and wealthy individuals hide money in secret offshore tax shelters. The release of the documents renewed proposals for laws banning the use of offshore accounts and tax havens. The Australian Tax Office identified more than 800 individuals who were using the law firms services. Proponents of the of the ban argue they should be outlawed because they have a long history of being vehicles for tax evasion, money laundering, illicit arms dealing and funding terrorism. Opponents of the ban argue that punitive regulations will make it harder for Austrian companies to compete and will further discourage businesses from locating and investing in the United States.
In 2015 the Senate blocked the passage of a bill which would have restored the Building and Construction Commission. The agency was responsible for monitoring and promoting workplace relations in the building and construction industry. The ABCC provided education, investigated workplace complaints and enforced compliance with national workplace laws in the industry. The agency was abolished in 2012 after unions successfully lobbied the government to dismantle it.
In 2015 men were paid an estimated 17.2% more than women according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. There is currently no proposed equal pay legislation in the Australian parliament. Opponents of equal pay laws argue that pay gap statistics don’t take into account women who take jobs that are more family-friendly in terms of benefits rather than wages and that women are more likely to take breaks in employment to care for children or parents. Proponents argue that laws should be passed to even the playing field for women in all parts of the country including Western Australia where the pay gap is 26%.
After the 2008 financial crisis The Rudd Government passed two stimulus packages in an effort to revive the Australian economy. The packages were worth more than a combined $50 billion. Mr. Rudd argued that they helped sustain the economy by boosting retail sales and saving tens of thousands of jobs.
Australia farmers currently receive approximately 4% of their income in subsidies from the government. Farmers in the European receive 35% of their incomes in subsidies and farmers in the U.S. receive 28%. Proponents of higher subsidies argue that they are necessary to compete with agriculture exports from other western countries. Opponents argue that the farmers should fend for themselves and point out that 2,300 farmers who do not grow crops receive annual subsidies
In 2015 the Productivity Commission recommended changes to the workplace laws which included removing the requirement that workers in the cafe, hospitality, entertainment, restaurant and retailing industries receive double pay for working on Sundays. The commission argued that the laws were created in a different era when less people shopped and went to church. Opponents, including Unions, argue that the rule change would result in a pay cut for thousands of minimum wage workers who work in cafes, shops and restaurants.
Australia is a constitutional monarchy, with Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state. The role is largely ceremonial, but the monarch does have the power to dissolve parliament, as in 1975, when Queen Elizabeth sacked the government. In 1999 a referendum to end the monarchy was defeated by voters 55%-45%.
Recreational use of illicit drugs including marijuana, cocaine and heroin is currently illegal in Australia. In 1985, the federal and state governments adopted a National Drug Strategy which included a pragmatic mixture of prohibition and a stated objective of harm reduction. Between 1998 and 2007 overall illicit drug use declined close to 40%. Amphetamines use declined by 38%; cannabis use fell by close to 50%; and use of heroin dropped by an impressive 75%. In February 2016 parliament amended the Narcotics Drugs Act, and created a national licensing scheme for the controlled cultivation and testing of medical cannabis.
Candidate quotas is a system in which political parties are penalised for not running a certain percentage of women candidates for office. In 2012 legislation was introduced which would have required parties to field at least 30% women candidates at the next election and 40% at the election after that. If a party failed to meet these thresholds they would lose half of their public funding. Women currently make up 24.7% of the lower house and 38.2% in the upper house. Of 189 developed countries Australia currently ranks 46 out of 189. Proponents of quotas argue that they help promote gender diversity in government and are responsible for a 20% increase in the proportion of women in parliaments worldwide.
Currently the Australian government permits live export trade. The ESCAS welfare assurance system was recently introduced to provide independent oversight on Animal Welfare.
The Australian constitution does not currently reference Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The federal government created a council to explore holding a referendum on the subject in May 2017. Proponents, including Prime Minister Turnbull, argue that the original inhabitants of Australia should be recognized in the constitution and all racial elements should be removed. Opponents argue that the government resources should not be wasted on holding a referendum.
Flag desecration is any act that is carried out with the intention of damaging or destroying a national flag in public. This is commonly done in an effort to make a political statement against a nation or its policies. Some nations have acts that ban flag desecration while others have laws that protect the right to destroy a flag as a part of free speech. Some of these laws distinguish between a national flag and those of other countries.
In October 2019 Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that his social media company would ban all political advertising. He stated that political messages on the platform should reach users through the recommendation of other users – not through paid reach. Proponents argue that social media companies don’t have the tools to stop the spread of false information since their advertising platforms aren’t moderated by human beings. Opponents argue that the ban will disenfranchise candidates and campaigns who rely on social media for grassroots organizing and fundraising.
In 2015, Treasury Secretary John Fraser warned that Australia’s largest cities were experiencing a housing bubble. He warned that the major cause of the bubble was low interest rates and access to easy financing for real estate loans. In 2016 the average price of a home in Sydney passed $1M. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott argued that increasing house prices in cities were a sign that the economy was healthy.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has the power to enforce content restrictions on Internet content hosted within Australia, and maintain a "black-list" of overseas websites which is then provided for use in filtering software. The restrictions focus primarily on child pornography, sexual violence, and other illegal activities, compiled as a result of a consumer complaints process. In 2009, the OpenNet Initiative found no evidence of Internet filtering in Australia, but due to legal restrictions ONI does not test for filtering of child pornography.
In 2014 the Australian government passed the National Security Amendment bill which granted new surveillance powers to Australia's spy agency, ASIO. Under the legislation, which passed the lower house with support from the main opposition Labor Party, anyone disclosing information about "special intelligence operations" could face a decade in prison.
Labor, the Coalition and the Greens support the concept of high-speed rail linking Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as regional areas in between. The parties disagree on whether the project should be a current priority and whether it should be financed federally or by the states.
A term limit is a law which limits the length of time a person may serve in an elected office. In Australia there are no term limits for Prime Ministers, Senators or MPs.
In January 2018 Germany passed the NetzDG law which required platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to take down perceived illegal content within 24 hours or seven days, depending on the charge, or risk a fine of €50 million ($60 million) fines. In July 2018 representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter denied to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary committee that they censor content for political reasons. During the hearing Republican members of Congress criticized the social media companies for politically motivated practices in removing some content, a charge the companies rejected. In April 2018 the European Union issued a series of proposals that would crack down on “online misinformation and fake news.” In June 2018 President Emmanuel Macron of France proposed a law which would give French authorities the power to immediately halt “the publication of information deemed to be false ahead of elections.”
In 2015, the Turnbull government proposed allowing health insurers to cover GP visits and common tests including X-rays. The proposal would transform the Australian healthcare single-payer system into a higher cost US style system. Opponents argue that the system would encourage doctors to charge their patients higher rates. Proponents argue that this will reduce the government’s healthcare costs.
In 2015 Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that parents would no longer receive welfare payments if their children were not vaccinated. People who object to vaccines for religious purposes can continue to receive payments if they are affiliated with a religious group whose governing body has a formally registered objection recognised by the federal government. 97% of children in Australia are vaccinated.
Nuclear power is the use of nuclear reactions that release energy to generate heat, which most frequently is then used in steam turbines to produce electricity in a nuclear power station. Australia currently has no nuclear facilities generating electricity. Australia's extensive, low-cost coal and natural gas reserves have historically been used as strong arguments for avoiding nuclear power. Proponents argue that nuclear energy is now safe and emits much less carbon emissions than coal plants. Opponents argue that recent nuclear disasters in Japan prove that nuclear power is far from safe.
In October 2015, Education Minister Simon Birmingham revealed a proposal that would cut funding to universities and deregulate the fees that they charge students. The Parliamentary Budget Office estimated that tuition fees would increase by 40% if universities were allowed to set them without government regulation. Proponents, including Mr. Birmingham, argue that the cost of university funding has grown at twice the rate of the economy since 2009. Opponents argue that the PBO’s estimate of 40% is too low and tuition fees will easily double or triple if the government ceases to regulate them.
In 2016, Prime Minster Turnbull suggested that education funding should shift from the federal government to the states if they are able to raise more revenue under his proposed tax plan. The plan was opposed by the Labor and Green parties who argued that it would abandon the need-based funding reforms put in place after the Gonski report was released in 2012. Without federal funding, they argued, states with economically disadvantaged students would fall further behind. Proponent argue that the Department of Education is too large and states would do a better job of managing schools.
Charter schools are tax payer funded K-12 schools that are managed by private companies. In Australia 30% of high school students are enrolled in private schools. All Australian private schools have received some federal government funding since the 1970s. Since 2010, the government has tested an initiative in Western Australia called the Independent Public School (IPS) Initiative. The federal government has shown interest in rolling out the IPS initiative nationwide.
The Safe Schools Coalition is a group of organizations which promotes the acceptance of same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students. In 2016 the Turnbull government proposed cutting funding to the program and restricting it to secondary schools. Opponents of the program argue that parts of the group’s curriculum, including teaching 7 year olds to imagine they attracted to the same sex, are inappropriate. Proponents of the program, including the Green party, argue that between 1 and 2% of all students identify as gender diverse and the curriculum helps prevent bullying.
Euthanasia, the practice of ending a life prematurely in order to end pain and suffering, is currently considered a criminal offense. Euthanasia is currently illegal in Australia. In 1995 the Northern Territory passed a bill legalizing euthanasia but it was overturned by the federal government in 1998 under the Australian Capital Territory Act.
LGBT adoption is the adoption of children by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. This may be in the form of a joint adoption by a same-sex couple, adoption by one partner of a same-sex couple of the other's biological child (step-child adoption) and adoption by a single LGBT person. Joint adoption by same-sex couples is legal in 25 countries. Opponents of LGBT adoption question whether same-sex couples have the ability to be adequate parents while other opponents question whether natural law implies that children of adoption possess a natural right to be raised by heterosexual parents. Since constitutions and statutes usually fail to address the adoption rights of LGBT persons, judicial decisions often determine whether they can serve as parents either individually or as couples.
Gay marriage, also known as same-sex marriage, is the marriage between two people of the same sex. The Australian government outlawed same-sex marriage when it passed the Marriage Act of 1961. The act stated that the government would not recognise same-sex marriages, traditional Aboriginal marriages or polygamous marriages. In 2016 the leaders of Australia’s major political parties voiced their support for legalizing same-sex marriage though a formal bill has yet to be introduced.
Abortion is a medical procedure resulting in the termination of a human pregnancy and death of a fetus. Abortion is legal in Australia in every state except for Queensland and New South Wales. Abortion is legal in every state if it is needed to protect the life of the mother.
The death penalty or capital punishment is the punishment by death for a crime. Currently 58 countries worldwide allow the death penalty (including the U.S.) while 97 countries have outlawed it.
Several Western countries including France, Spain and Canada have proposed laws which would ban Muslim women from wearing a Niqab in public spaces. A niqab is a cloth that covers the face and is worn by some Muslim women in public areas. In 2014 the Austrlian Parliament briefly debated banning women from wearing niqabs in public places. The proposal was defeated. The controversial plan to make Muslim women wearing burqas and the niqab sit in glassed enclosures at Parliament House, which has now been dumped, was put in place without any prior advice from security agencies. Proponents argue that the ban infringes on individual rights and prevents people from expressing their religious beliefs. Opponents argue that face-coverings prevent the clear identification of a person, which is both a security risk, and a social hindrance within a society which relies on facial recognition and expression in communication.
In 2016 the International Olympic committee ruled that transgender athletes can compete in the Olympics without undergoing sex reassignment surgery. In 2018 the International Association of Athletics Federations, track’s governing body, ruled that women who have more than 5 nano-mols per liter of testosterone in their blood—like South African sprinter and Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya—must either compete against men, or take medication to reduce their natural testosterone levels. The IAAF stated that women in the five-plus category have a “difference of sexual development.” The ruling cited a 2017 study by French researchers as proof that female athletes with testosterone closer to men do better in certain events: 400 meters, 800 meters, 1,500 meters, and the mile. "Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes," said IAAF President Sebastian Coe in a statement.