Some of our policies are under review for updating, due to changes in circumstance or new information that has come to light. Updating our policies takes time as, being a truly Democratic party, every member has an equal voice and equal vote. Click here to find out more about how we make policy.
If you have feedback on a policy, contact National Policy Coordinator Max Baumann: firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out the Your Say page. While we welcome feedback from all places, being a member entitles you to actively shape policy.
2. To accept the challenges of the predicament of humanity on the planet with its exponentially increasing population, disappearing finite resources and accelerating deterioration of the environment.
3. To recognise the interdependence of all people and all nations, to co-operate fully with the United Nations, and to accept our obligation to the developing countries by co-operating with them in their social and economic development.
4. To seek the transition to a sustainable economy, in equilibrium with world resources and eco-systems, with a minimum of dislocation by planning the necessary changes in good time, and by increasing public awareness of problems ahead.
5. To be even-handed to employee and employer, and reconcile their real interests by encouraging industrial democracy and other appropriate forms of co-operation.
6. To foster greater mutual understanding as well as greater equality in income per hour of work, between city and country dwellers.
7. To stimulate the development of a multi-faceted national culture, with full opportunity for all ethnic groups to contribute.
8. To further unite the people of Australia by co-operative, indicative national planning, taking into account social, economic and environmental objectives.
9. To seek improvement in the quality of human relationships in all aspects of society and the economy, through honesty, tolerance, compassion and a sense of mutual obligation.
10. To decentralise power, to oppose its concentration in the hands of sectional groups, and to ensure that the power of large groups or of bureaucracies is not allowed to override the interests of individuals or of smaller groups.
11. To achieve and defend effective participatory democracy and open government by appropriate constitutional, parliamentary and government reforms.
12. By supporting existing rural and provincial industries and in other ways, to stem, and finally reverse, the flow of population to the cities.
13. To emphasise prevention rather than cure in social and health services.
14. To foster community activities and the growth of community spirit, bringing government and health and social services closer to the people.
15. To enable people to pursue their own way of life so long as they do not interfere with the rights of others.
16. To provide throughout life an education for living as well as for earning a living.
17. To ensure ready access to the media for public communication.
18. To ensure that the basic needs of all people are securely met, and to distribute income, wealth, social services and opportunity more equitably without undermining either incentive or self-respect.
19. To encourage individual initiative and enterprise and to recognise the need for self-fulfilment.
20. To protect animals from cruelty and exploitation.
21. To recognise the rights of all people to self-determination.
22. To ensure the maintenance of biodiversity, to protect threatened species and to provide for better habitat protection.
23. To seek the election to Parliament of members committed to the objectives of the Party, in such numbers as to win Government.
The Australian Democrats recognise that the provision and receipt of information is a fundamental human right according to the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Further, we recognise that censorship is a significant issue with regard to access to information, and its effects should be considered before imposing restrictions on information content through radio or television broadcasting, in printed material, and via the Internet.
- The Australian Democrats oppose any censorship that suppresses access to information and the acquisition of knowledge.
- We support restrictions of such matter that incites irresponsible misinformation, violence, hatred or pornography involving or depicting any person under the age of consent, or under threat or compulsion without full responsible consent, or having participated for less than fair pay or working conditions.
- We support providing users/consumers with information about content, such as internet filtering devices and labelling, providing such measures are not imposed without consideration of the deleterious consequences of censorship.
- We support education programs on the uses and abuses of information technology that provide members of the community with the information necessary to make informed choices.
- To develop and retain an efficient, effective and sustainable agriculture sector as a crucial economic, social, environmental and inter-generational asset.
- To establish and maintain “food security” for all Australians.
- To ensure that agricultural producers receive a return commensurate with their labour.
- To work with agricultural producers in order to resist unfair competition from international traders which destroy Australia’s domestic agricultural industries.
- Australia’s domestic agricultural industries must be supported to the fullest possible extent. Exports of Australian agricultural products are based on strong domestic markets, which ensure a fair price is paid to the producers.
- Fair-trading will be negotiated with other exporting countries. The Australian democrats will ensure that the full authority of trade treaties is exercised to prevent other exporters from trading unfairly in Australia’s domestic markets. Assistance will be provided to primary producers where returns are reduced in markets demonstrated to be corrupt.
- To use measures available under World Trade Organisation rules to protect Australia’s agricultural industry from unfair competition from subsidised imports.
- Research and development into value adding to agricultural products will be actively encouraged.
- Assistance will be provided to open and develop export markets for Australian agricultural products.
- Trade liberalisation will be reciprocal, not unilateral.
- The WTO will be lobbied to include non-trade issues such as environmental protection and labour standards in its negotiations.
- Support will be given for the creation of more grower peak bodies, as distinct from industry peak bodies, to achieve better representation and value for producers from compulsory levies.
- Single desk trading for major commodities will be continued, subject to review based on producers’ satisfaction with outcomes.
- National Competition Policy as applied to agricultural production will be opposed where it results in a reduction in the price paid to producers.
- The Australia Quarantine Inspection Service’s primary directive when making import decisions will be the protection of Australian consumers and natural and productive assets.
- A rational national plan for the management of water resources will be developed.
- Support and assistance are provided to agricultural producers to change practices to achieve the objective of a sustainable agricultural industry and to protect natural resources and biodiversity.
- Research and development of organic farming will be encouraged.
- Support and assistance are provided to improve workplace health and safety.
- State planning policies for the protection of agricultural land from urban development are enhanced.
- Measures are taken to reduce the average age of farmers through a generous application of conditions within the farmers’ retirement legislation.
- The taxation treatment of transfer of farms within a family is extended to maximise the opportunity for farms to remain under family control.
- National Trust funding is extended to provide funding for the retention of farm heritage.
- Off farm personal exertion income may be offset against farm losses for producers and family members engaged in the productive activities of the farm and that only the net amount be considered for social security purposes.
- Properly and conveniently structured agricultural educational opportunities are available as an ongoing resource for both people entering the industry and existing producers.
- Credit providers to agricultural producers shall be required to renegotiate debt terms with producers affected by declared natural disasters.
- Australia’s clean green image is fostered by way of incentives, loans and grants. In particular the use of genetically modified organisms will be subject to the precautionary principle.
- A scheme is established to compensate agricultural producers at full market value for the loss of production in order to fulfil environmental and biodiversity objectives.
- The vast majority of drug-related harm in Australia comes from the legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco and some doctor-prescribed drugs.
- Prohibitionist and ‘tough on drugs’ approaches to illicit drugs are not working and their effect can be to:
- Drive up the price of drugs and potentially lead an addicted user to crime to support the habit;
- Cause importers, manufacturers and growers to take greater risks in view of the greater profits to be made and increased policing;
- Lead to contamination of the drugs, resulting in harm to the user;
- Discourage the availability of information on the safe use of drugs;
- Increase blackmail, crime, and corruption.
- Our law-makers have repeatedly failed to base their decisions on the available scientific information about drugs.
- Drug and alcohol issues are more appropriately dealt with as health rather than criminal matters.
- To discourage excessive drug use (quantities to be determined through research), particularly amongst young people as their brains are still developing neural connections;
- To encourage informed scientific and evidence-based debate about the positive and negative impacts of drugs;
- To reduce and, where possible, prevent the harms associated with the use of licit and illicit drugs;
- To ensure drug laws are based on the best available scientific evidence;
- To distinguish between the use and abuse of recreational and medically prescribed drugs, and to intervene where there is a recognised cost to society;
- To eliminate habit-supporting crime;
- To discourage organised criminal activity.
We will work towards:
- Nationwide expansion of needle and syringe programs and safe self-injecting rooms;
- Continuation of methadone maintenance programs;
- Greater availability of drug diversion programs through the courts system;
- Setting of penalties that reflect the relative harms of different drugs;
- More detox and rehabilitation facilities;
- School-based education programs centring on scientific evidence of the relative harms of drug-taking without moralising or scare-mongering;
- Trials of cannabis, ecstasy, and heroin for medical purposes;
- Decriminalisation of the possession and use of non-hydroponically grown cannabis;
- Tax to be levied on the sale of cannabis;
- Controlled availability of legal recreational drugs through limiting trading hours of hotels and regulating marketing of alcohol, including association with glamour.
The Australian Democrats believe that animals must be protected from cruelty and exploitation.
- The Australian Democrats advocate the establishment of a nationwide, enforceable system of animal welfare codes of practices covering all industries
- We will legislate to require the development and implementation of more humane farm practices
- We will campaign for a ban on the importation of animal products from rare or endangered species used in alternative medicines such as tiger bone, rhino powder, and bear bile
- We will initiate an open public process that allows for public input, decision making and appeal, before any licenses are issued for such practices as the killing of animals
- We support the regulation of all aerial shooting and baiting, and any other indiscriminate baiting practices, and ban the use of steel-jawed traps nationwide .
- We support the regulation of the hunting of endangered species by indigenous people, in conjunction with indigenous communities, and the NPWS
- We will legislate to stop the intentional killing of whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and dugongs
- We will legislate for humane methods of egg and poultry production
- We oppose the use of genetically altered animals for food and the genetic engineering of animals
- We advocate the support and funding of animal welfare groups
- The Democrats oppose the use of animals for testing non-essential products and oppose the use of toxicology tests like the LD50
- We will support funding research into alternative testing methods
- We will campaign to ensure that stray animals are not used for research
- We support the removal of non-domesticated animals from circuses
- We will ensure all products tested on animals are labelled to inform the consumer of this fact.
To ensure planetary biological diversity by restoring damaged ecosystems to health wherever possible; anticipating, preventing and stopping processes that threaten biodiversity; fostering greater ecological awareness and progressively addressing the underlying economic, institutional and social causes of the ecological crisis.
- Integrating ecological values into decision-making at all levels of government and across all sectors;
- Developing and promoting a national approach to environmental governance and the rigorous application of strong, uniform environmental performance and management standards;
- Supporting community consensus land-use agreements on a bioregional basis, according to national standards of ecologically sustainable development and integrative conservation management, providing adequate resources to ensure their success;
- Providing assistance and incentives to promote the conservation and rehabilitation of native habitat values on private lands, and to minimise the social and economic hardship where agricultural and pastoral land is retired to permit ecological recovery;
- Strengthening the institutional and financial capacity of governments to ensure the urgent and thorough protection of rare/threatened species and remnant ecological communities, as well as anticipating, preventing and stopping threats to Australian biodiversity;
- Raising community awareness and understanding of local, national and global ecology and the linkages between social, economic and environmental issues;
- Proposing an environmental impact assessment law that:
- ensures oversight by accountable, public authorities;
- includes requirements for additional, periodic or ongoing monitoring and assessment as appropriate;
- includes long-term, cumulative and synergistic costs and benefits, and the value to the community of the zero development option;
- ensures the separation of administration of developments from the administration of environmental impacts resulting from developments;
- follows due process, and provides for full and fair opportunity for public participation;
- ensures EIAs are paid for, or at least subsidised by, the proponent.
- Affirming the special significance of Australia’s natural heritage to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their native title rights and their ancient role in land and sea management, and co-operating with indigenous peoples in the sustainable conservation management of their traditional lands and waters.
- Prioritising the strategic acquisition and ecologically sustainable management of a truly national, comprehensive, adequate and representative system of protected areas, that maintains or restores ecological connectivity and promotes biodiversity.
- Ensuring the protected area system includes the identification and dedication of:
- Outstanding sites of World Heritage value;
- Freshwater wetlands with Ramsar qualifications;
- Coral reefs, coastal regions and islands; and
- Currently under-represented ecological communities – especially in arid and semi-arid zones.
- Ensuring that expansion of the national protected area system is accompanied by a concomitant increase in the resources needed for orderly conservation planning and management, including the ongoing provision of well-trained staff to implement management plans.
- Better identifying priorities for and methods of humane and targeted control of exotic animals and plants, and adequately resourcing pest and weed management, especially to safeguard the protected area system.
- Ensuring that human use of all conservation estate is subservient to the protection of designated ecological values and that “multiple use” is limited to non-extractive industries in conservation zones.
- Prioritising the inventory, declaration and protection of Australia’s remaining wild places to conserve remnant wilderness in as close to its primal state as possible, with minimal impact from contemporary civilisation.
- . Encouraging the development of ecologically sustainable tourism and recreation industries and activities, including rehabilitation programmes, on a bioregional basis according to nationally agreed criteria.
- Enabling native flora and fauna to survive and thrive in their natural habitats, retain their potential for evolutionary development and prevent additional species and populations from becoming threatened, by:
- Ensuring a national response to, and sufficient resourcing of, conservation research and actions for Australia’s rare, restricted and threatened plants and animals, including the less well-known groups and migratory species;
- Supporting comprehensive fauna and flora trafficking laws complementary to Australia’s international obligations, including adequate enforcement provisions and effective penalties for offenders;
- Banning the export of native species for commercial gain, and prohibiting the import of exotic species, except where there are demonstrable conservation benefits;
- Publicly reviewing and regulating proposals for the harvesting and/or commercialisation of native wildlife, and ensuring strict adherence to national animal welfare guidelines.
- Rapidly scaling back, monitoring and strictly regulating the clearing and modification of all remnant and re-growth native vegetation on both freehold and leasehold properties, with total and immediate cessation of clearing in environmentally sensitive areas and areas of high conservation value.
- Biosecurity is the protection of our environment, society, and economy from the negative impacts of pests and diseases. The Australian Democrats are committed to maintaining and improving the very high biosecurity status that Australia commands in the world. This status is due to Australia’s geography and to maintaining our national borders to manage the risk of entry of exotic pests and diseases.
- Australia is a member of the global community and has an important role in participating in global free trade markets; the Australian Democrats are committed to maintaining this role without damaging our biosecurity status. We recognise that Australia is not a fortress and nil risk is not realistic, however, risk can be mitigated to very low levels. The maintenance and improvement of our national biosecurity system based on principles of transparency, consistency, and a sound scientific basis can protect our valuable biosecurity status for the benefit of the unique Australian environment, our people, and our economy.
The policy ensures appropriate actions are developed, funded and undertaken that address all facets of the biosecurity continuum through the development of an effective and functional National Biosecurity System. This includes funding and implementing activities undertaken pre-border to manage biosecurity threats to Australia off-shore, supporting and maintaining a comprehensive quarantine border nationally, and addressing biosecurity threats and incursions that may enter Australia or are already here. We are all biosecurity stakeholders and to be successful in our biosecurity endeavours shared responsibilities have to be understood and accepted.
The Australian Democrats will:
- Negotiate regional differences with respect to biosecurity status under the international World Trade Organisation Agreements. The geographic and biological diversity of Australia means that biosecurity risk profiles vary across Australia from region to region. For example, Tasmania as an island has a physically different biosecurity risk profile to other States hence regional differences apply that may necessitate different rules for managing biosecurity risk.
- Expand access to the basis of biosecurity decision-making with clear recognition and response to primary producer concerns. At present import risk analysis reports are available for consultation with stakeholders; however, operational working documents are confidential government to government. This makes it very difficult for major stakeholders such as primary producers to consider how biosecurity risk mitigations will be put in place on the ground or to have their say.
- Establish scientifically based decision-making processes with respect to biosecurity risk and management with the exclusion of political interference.
- Implement a system of bonds for potential risk-makers (and some beneficiaries) to ensure equity of payment in response actions etc. This action is designed to enhance the current system of cost-sharing agreements that provide the basis for a sharing of costs across the public and private sector when responding to biosecurity emergencies.
- Establish post-border surveillance systems in conjunction with the States and Territories to ensure early detections. This would include an emphasis on environmental biosecurity surveillance in addition to the primary industry sectors.
- Establish cost that benefits decision-making processes for pest control and eradication that takes into account environmental and social factors as well as economic ones.
- Improve accountability of the Australian Biosecurity System to the people of Australia, including implementation of recommendations from the 2008 Beale Review into quarantine and biosecurity.
Implementing the proposals put forward by the Australian Democrats will result in thorough and effective management of biosecurity risks posed to the Australian environment and production sectors in the most cost-effective manner possible. The end point of an effective Australian Biosecurity System will pay dividends in return to Australia, its environment, its people, and its economy.
A five-year program is anticipated to implement proposals to enhance the national biosecurity system.
- As vulnerable members of our society, every child living in Australia has the right to have their fundamental need for shelter, food, physical and emotional care and education met, and to live freely and securely within a society that values and protects them. It is the responsibility of Government and communities to ensure these needs are met if a child’s family/caregiver cannot or will not protect their rights.
- The Australian Democrats believe that children are not only the people of tomorrow, but are people with rights and responsibilities here and now. They need to have their voices heard particularly in decisions affecting their lives.
- There have been enormous social and family changes in the last thirty years that have impacted particularly on the lives of children. It is important for government to provide innovative responses that enhance whatever benefits have resulted and minimise any harms.
The Australian Democrats:
- Will establish a National Commissioner for Children and will encourage those states and territories that currently do not have such an office to establish one. Many children and their families/caregivers currently fall through the gaps in the system caused by inadequate coordination of children’s services between state/territory governments and the federal government. The commissioner will:
- be independent of government
- report directly to the Federal Parliament
- have wide-ranging investigative powers, including the power to investigate federal and state departments and agencies with responsibility for children
- be a voice for children and young people
- ensure that all forms of families are recognised, and as such are entitled to the full support of government and their community and
- monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ensure that community awareness of and education about the Convention are undertaken.
- will establish a National Office for Children. The office will:
- monitor legislation and new policy proposals for impact on children and report directly to the Federal Parliament
- establish a National Agenda for children, seeking input from all relevant stakeholders but especially from children themselves
- co-ordinate the implementation of the National Agenda within the Commonwealth and within the States and Territories and
- monitor the effectiveness of the various government policies and programmes affecting children and their families/caregivers, making recommendations for the improvement of services.
- believe that all children in Australia are entitled to the full protection of the law and the Australian legal system. The Democrats will move to establish a National Legal Task Force on Children to develop and oversee:
- the implementation into domestic law of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
- the establishment and on going funding of specialist children’s units within State and Territory Legal Aid commissions to deal specifically with children’s legal issues
- an adequate level of funding is made available and maintained for a reasonable number of children’s legal advocates in specialist children’s legal centres
- the establishment of appropriate training programs for those who represent the interests of children within the Family Court
- the development of programs designed to emphasise rehabilitation as the primary principle of detention and to ensure that it is incorporated in all relevant legislation
- to work with relevant state and territory governments to ensure that no child under the age of 18 is incarcerated under mandatory sentencing laws and ensure children in paid employment are protected by comprehensive guidelines ensuring the child’s needs for education, social, emotional and physical development are met and that their workload is developmentally appropriate.
- believe that every child is a valuable addition to our society and as such must be protected, nurtured and cared for. The Democrats will direct a National Office for Children to:
- recognise the long-term impact of children’s early life experiences on outcomes affecting development, education, health and behaviour
- recognise that relationships are the building blocks of healthy human development and effective citizenship
- acknowledge the evidence for the effectiveness of early intervention early in life and early in life pathways and ensure that all children have access to a range of evidence-based early intervention services
- monitor how well our children are doing throughout childhood by collecting data on developmental outcomes, especially outcomes that reflect early childhood experiences
- co-ordinate the development and implementation of universally available community capacity building programs that enhance the development of effective parenting skills
- increase community awareness of children’s capacity to learn from the earliest age and their ability to contribute to shaping the world in which they live
- emphasise the need to listen to children’s views,
- highlight the effects of abuse and ways in which it can be prevented,
- and increase availability, access and ulitisation of health and other community services
- ensure that all programs working with families with young children recognise the family’s cultural heritage and take into account their previous life experience in crafting responses designed to enhance the child’s development
- ensure that support and resources are immediately available for families in crisis
- ensure that adequately resourced accountable and transparent services are available for those children whose situations will be demonstrably improved by substitute care
- ensure that all professionals working with children are made mandatory notifiers of cases of child sexual abuse with a mandatory response by the relevant department
- co-ordinate the implementation of programs aimed at teaching children and young people their rights, responsibilities and skills to protect themselves, to be run by all schools, public and private.
- call for a Royal Commission into sexual abuse of children in Australia.
- recognise the need for a national review of child protection legislation, policies and practices with the goal of achieving a national unified child protection system.
- will ensure that there is targeted resourcing to respond promptly to all reported cases of child abuse.
- believe that children should not be detained in detention centres but be allowed to live within the community and must be monitored by child welfare officers who have knowledge of their language and customs
- will work to ensure all refugee children in Australia receive assistance to overcome trauma resulting from their refugee status.
- believe refugee children must receive complete health care, education and recreation opportunities whilst in Australian care.
- Australia’s coasts and oceans are of vital importance to our community and economy.
- Australia’s marine environment covers twice the area of Australia’s terrestrial environment, but receives scant attention.
- The concentration of settlement and economic activity in eastern, south-eastern, and southwestern coastal zones has had an enormous impact on the coastal and marine environment.
- Future sea level rises are projected to cause significant impacts on the built and natural environments.
- Almost 60% of Australia’s fisheries are overfished and a significant number of marine and estuarine species are threatened with extinction.
- An understanding of our ocean’s past and present condition and knowledge of basic mapping is deficient, yet critical in understanding future resource management issues including climate change.
- To ensure the maintenance of biodiversity, to protect threatened species and to maximise habitat protection.
- Ensure Australia has a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) coastal and marine protected area system.
- To co-operate with Indigenous peoples in the sustainable conservation management of their traditional lands and waters.
The Australian Democrats will work towards:
- Initiating an inquiry into the need for, and design of, a National Oceans Act, which will establish a National Oceans Authority. The Act will:
- Ensure there is a legislatively backed regional marine planning process;
- Ensure all regional marine plans include target areas for marine protected areas and timelines for their proclamation;
- Ensure that all decisions concerning fisheries management, shipping and mining are consistent with approved regional marine plans.
- Rapidly expand the National Reserve System program to ensure Australia has a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) coast and marine protected area system.
- Ensuring that the expansion of the National Reserve System is accompanied by an associated increase in the resources needed for orderly conservation planning and management, including the ongoing provision of well-trained staff to implement Coastal and Marine Management Plans.
- Increasing the resources available for the protection and conservation of coastal and marine areas, including programs to improve water quality in rivers that discharge into coastal and marine areas.
- Supporting programs that identify, control or eliminate coastal and marine invasive species, including programs that stop the introduction of new pest species.
- Supporting and expanding no-take (or green zones) in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
- Increasing resources available for research into the conservation status of coastal and marine species.
- Committing to recurrent funding for the oceanographic research vessel program.
- Increasing funding for the systematic collection of hydrographic and oceanographic data from Australia’s coastal and oceanic waters.
- Ensuring Australian fisheries are harvested at sustainable levels based on sound scientific evidence, and ensure that effort and catch data is publically available for all Australian fisheries.
- Increasing surveillance of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone to stop illegal fishing activities and poaching of threatened marine species.
- Funding programs that reduce fisheries by-catch such as albatross, petrels, sea turtle and sharks, from both commercial and recreational fishing.
- Establishing national guidelines for aquaculture developments in coastal and marine areas.
- Increasing the involvement of Indigenous communities in the management of coastal and marine areas.
- Reducing or, if possible, eliminating sewage, stormwater and industrial discharge to marine and estuarine areas (including discharges from ships) and ensuring there are strict environmental regulations and enforcement concerning discharges to marine and estuarine areas including through aquaculture.
- Establishing a nationally co-ordinated Coastal Inundation Mitigation Plan due to sea level rise as a result of climate change.
- Supporting a strict compliance and risk management review of offshore oil and gas exploration, production processes and facilities.
- The Constitution of Australia should reflect our Nation’s and its people’s independence in keeping with its fundamental principles of parliamentary and participatory democracy.
- While recognising prior ownership by our indigenous peoples, the Constitution protects the rights of all, promoting and celebrating cultural diversity and uniting all who live in Australia.
- The Constitution will recognise Australia’s fragile environment and will seek to protect and preserve its diversity and natural beauty.
- The Australian Democrats believe that our flag and national anthems be incorporated into the Constitution.
- In accordance with the principle of popular sovereignty, Australians should strive for a more open and direct democracy ensuring that the people are the rulers and not the ruled. We support enhancing public participation in the political system by way of establishing regular elections, and referenda and plebiscites, including those initiated by the citizens themselves.
- An Australian Republic would include:
- The Constitution should be amended to reflect our status as an independent democratic nation in which the People are Sovereign.
- Consistent with the principle of popular sovereignty, a fully elected constitutional convention should be held to develop republic models after a plebiscite has been held to determine that Australia wishes to become a republic.
- The separation of powers and the rule of law should be strengthened by creating an Australian Head of State with limited codified powers that adequately describe his or her relationship with the Executive, Legislature, Judiciary and the People.
- The Government should not have the power to arbitrarily dismiss the Head of State. Natural justice requires that this only be done on certain specified grounds in accordance with a procedure, which involves both Houses of Parliament.
- The Australian Democrats recognise:
- Australia’s indigenous peoples as the prior owners of the continent, with a spiritual attachment to the land, which extends back over thousands of years, and that the land was never surrendered to the British colonisers and their successors.
- Indigenous Australians are hardly mentioned in the Constitution. The Constitution should acknowledge their prior ownership and their spiritual connection to Australia.
- The Australian Democrats will support a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.
- In enacting a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, we will seek to have it enshrined in the Constitution by the people
- The legislation will detail freedom from discrimination and vilification on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexuality and culture
- It will also detail freedom of speech, information, expression, association, assembly, to join and form unions, the freedom of the press, to conscientiously abstain, and a right of thought, to a fair and speedy trial, to sexual expression, to strike, to medical treatment and to die with dignity
- The Bill will also detail responsibilities such as a duty to vote, pay taxes, defend the nation, respect intrinsic environmental values, protect the natural environment and promote justice, particularly by serving on juries
- Separation of Powers
- The separation of Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers should be strengthened to ensure that there is not an excessive concentration of power in any one branch. Currently, the Executive enjoys far too much power. It exercises an inappropriate amount of control over the Parliament and controls judicial appointments.
- The Democrats propose that judicial appointments should be made by a Judicial Appointments Committee according to a set of established and public criteria. The Committee would comprise community representatives, academics, the AttorneyGeneral and representatives of the Bar Association and the Law Council.
- Ministers should be drawn only from the House of Representatives and not from the Senate. This would establish the Senate as a genuine house of review with a far greater degree of independence from the Executive.
- We will also seek to ensure that the High Court interprets and applies the Constitution, that the Government remains responsible to the people for government expenditure and policy implementation, and that the bureaucracy remains independent of the Executive
- We will continue to uphold one of the first policies adopted by the Australian Democrats, that the Senate will not be able to block supply
- Electoral Reform
- The Australian political system should remain fully representative of all citizens. In order to ensure that a broad range of views and interests is represented in the Federal Parliament, the Democrats support the entrenching of the quota preferential method of proportional representation as the Senate electoral system.
- The Democrats propose that the existing three year electoral cycle be increased to four years for the House of Representatives and eight years for the Senate.
- Ensure that parliamentary terms be fixed, subject to the power to resolve deadlocks between the Houses.
- In constitutional change, the Democrats will seek to provide for a bicameral parliamentary system with a House of Representatives and a Senate, both elected by proportional representation, and responsible to the people
- We strongly hold that the current three tiers of Government in Australia should be replaced by a more representative framework, where the States are replaced by Regional Governments and Local Councils are replaced by Community Councils that carry out the work of that regional framework
To secure Australia’s independence and the lives, land, democratic rights and freedom of Australian citizens and those who come under Australian protection, and to promote and protect peace, security, democracy and human rights throughout the world.
- Australia must support the United Nations, as the key forum for international cooperation, in its role of promoting peace and security and will be bound by the United Nations
- The Democrats are committed to Australia acting diplomatically to establish and maintain peace, democracy and respect for human rights in our own region, and
- We will ensure Australia supports regional multilateral forums and international forums, including the United Nations, to enhance transparency, build trust and confidence, encourage peaceful dispute resolution and create agreements to promote peace and
- We will ensure Australia supports the functions and operation of the International Criminal Court as the appropriate forum in which to prosecute war crimes and other crimes against humanity where sovereign states are unwilling or unable to prosecute such crimes under domestic law. Australia will not enter into any agreement with another sovereign state which would grant the citizens of that state immunity from prosecution in the International Criminal Court.
- We believe Australia may enter into bilateral and multilateral mutual defence agreements with democratically elected governments provided this does not contribute to the suppression of human rights or democratic
- We believe that while entering into bilateral and multilateral defence relationships is permissible, Australia’s defence capability must be based on self-reliance and the capability to defend Australia from military
- We support Australia’s defensive capacity against threats to its security from armed assaults on Australian democracy and institutions, external military threats and natural
- We will ensure Australia’s defence organisations have the capacity to cooperate with other nations’ defence forces to protect Australians abroad; to contribute to the maintenance of collective security, particularly in our region; and to give support to other lawful endeavours including collective peacekeeping
- We believe Australia must only enter into military conflict as a last resort where diplomatic and other peaceful means of resolution have been exhausted. Australia will not initiate, engage in or support pre-emptive strikes or other acts of aggression outside of international
- We will legislate that both houses of Federal Parliament are required to give consent before Australian troops are committed to overseas conflict except for normal peacetime activities or where swift action is required in an
- We believe Australia must work for the elimination of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the illegal trafficking and proliferation of conventional weapons by supporting disarmament and non-proliferation agreements and encouraging other countries to do
- We will ensure that Australia has strict controls on the import and export of weapons and offensive military hardware and will not export uranium for weapons
- We support maximum Australian control, including parliamentary oversight with respect to all joint intelligence and surveillance facilities currently located in Australia. The establishment of additional foreign-controlled military bases will not be
- We will ensure that Australia does not allow the use of Australian ports or other facilities by foreign military where they may be carrying nuclear, biological or chemical
- We believe that Australia’s infrastructure necessary for the deployment of Australian defences, including communications, should be Australian owned and
- We believe that Australia’s military and defence equipment will, where possible, be manufactured in Australia from Australian owned and operated companies but where this is not possible, a diversity of source countries will be maintained. Contracts for defence equipment will be chosen through open tender and will be as transparent as possible within security and commercial
- We will ensure that Australia does not use or support the use of nuclear weapons, including weapons with a radioactive residue, such as depleted uranium hardened
- We believe Australia must have a strong, capable and well equipped defence force, including defence
- We will ensure that Defence personnel are appropriately compensated for their
- We will legislate so that compensation, rehabilitation and other support systems are in place in the case of injury, and compensation and support will be available to families where personnel are killed in service. Where operational training is highly hazardous it will be classified as ‘war- like service’ for the purposes of compensation and
- We believe that Australian troops must give informed consent before medications or vaccines are administered. Refusal of medication or vaccines is a personal right and must be free of any recrimination.
- We all adverse reactions to medications and vaccines must be notified to the Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee including adverse reactions to experimental and non-licensed medications and
- We will ensure that screening for exposure to radiation, biological agents or other environmental hazards are offered on an on-going basis to those considered at increased risk and those who request
- We believe that all troops’ and veterans’ medical records should be kept and be made available to them on
- We believe that eligibility for and service in the Defence Forces should be non-discriminatory on the basis of gender, ethnicity and
- We will ensure that Australia does not introduce conscription or any form of compulsory national military
- We believe Australia’s defence forces’ rules of engagement must observe high standards to protect
- We will ensure that Australia’s military, police and emergency services have effective communication links and inter-agency
Reducing unemployment must be Australia’s highest social priority. In particular, we recognise the urgent need to specifically combat the unacceptably high unemployment levels of young and older Australians.
- The Australian Democrats are committed to the development and implementation of initiatives to create jobs where they will be of greatest benefit, to job seekers and the community as a whole, and to providing the assistance to enable the unemployed to take up these new jobs.
- The Australian Democrats will encourage the private sector to play its part in reducing unemployment by:
- developing sectoral industry plans to foster new, preferably high-value adding, job opportunities, particularly in manufacturing, research and development, tourism, information technology and hospitality and environmental industries;
- encouraging increased investment in research, development, education and training and increasing incentives for new apprenticeships and traineeships;
- phasing out payroll tax, particularly for employers creating new jobs;
- supporting the start-up of new small businesses, particularly micro-businesses by the unemployed, and protecting small business against unfair business conduct;
- ensuring monetary policy gives greater regard to a full employment policy objective, even if this means a modest rise in inflation;
- promoting co-operative enterprises as a means of enabling job creation, sharing and security;
- critically assessing job-shedding corporate takeover activity, particularly by foreign investors.
- The Australian Democrats will encourage the public sector to play its part in reducing unemployment by:
- increasing spending on infrastructure, public housing and regional Australia;
- overhauling labour market programs and abolishing the Work for the Dole scheme to find better ways of getting the jobless back to work;
- preventing excessive job shedding, especially in regional Australia, when unemployment remains above 5%;
- insisting that employment effects be taken into account in any decision about privatisation, contracting out or National Competition Policy.
- The Australian Democrats recognise that technological and social change and will initiate a fundamental review of the relationship between paid and unpaid work performed in the home or in the community, employment and the distribution of wealth and income, employment, work and our place in society with a view, among other things, to providing greater options for those wishing to make a contribution other than through the paid workforce.
- The Australian Democrats will increase jobs opportunities by expanding environmental industries, with emphasis on energy efficiency and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions with firm and industry specific targets and plans, a national recycling strategy and revegetation and environmental repair particularly in regional areas, and by doubling the Youth Conservation Corps with more attention to accredited training.
- The Australian Democrats will improve jobs opportunities for young Australians with a Youth Employment Strategy developed in consultation with young people which:
- integrates education, training and work experience at the secondary and postsecondary schooling levels, backed up by career counselling;
- offers a youth guarantee with a choice of free full-time tertiary education, OR apprenticeships or traineeships OR entry to the workforce through subsidised employment OR accredited vocational training and integrated paid work experience.
- The Australian Democrats will improve job opportunities for mature aged Australians by:
- improving job security by increased notice periods and retrenchment benefits and reviewing corporate and industrial laws that encourage companies to downsize, contract out and retrench;
- providing incentives to employers to retain and redeploy workers in preference to retrenchment;
- utilising the life skills of the mature aged to fill unmet needs for support workers in the community sector, in hospitals and schools and in the environmental sector.
- The Australian Democrats will ensure a strong voice for the unemployed in developing strategies for addressing unemployment and in all consultations between Government, industry and the community.
The Australian Democrats are committed to providing high-quality, universally available employment assistance and services, and will seek to reverse the inappropriate application of market forces to the provision of services for unemployed Australians.
- The Democrats support the provision and maintenance of free public employment services, which are composed of a network of local and, where appropriate, regional offices, sufficient in number to service employers and workers in each region.
- The Democrats do not support the retention of the competitive employment services model which views the unemployed as a means of turning a profit rather than as individuals requiring help.
- The Democrats will oppose further privatisation of employment services and will critically review the design and operation of Job Network to develop a more accountable system, which:
- charges no fees to employers and the unemployed for services which were previously free,
- provides a diversity of providers, including providers specialising in workers with disabilities;
- makes maximum use of community-based organisations in case management and training.
- Accountability will be enhanced by minimum training standards, regular service delivery reports and qualitative monitoring, closer scrutiny of the tendering process, and a charter of conduct to promote social equity, consumer protection and regional protection standards.
- The Democrats will improve services to the job seekers by ensuring that those needing access to intensive assistance are not subject to service rationing, and by giving job seekers the legal right to enforce obligations and protect private information.
- The Democrats will ensure that Centrelink has sufficient trained staff to properly deal with demand from clients.
- The Democrats will improve labour market programs by:
- expanding programs to assist the unemployed to set up new businesses;
- re-establishing the Skillshare community-based training program;
- increasing funding for TAFE courses for the unemployed;
- increasing intensive case management for the long term unemployed.
To ensure the transition to an ecologically sustainable, diverse, equitable and decentralised energy economy based on clean, renewable sources, sustainable employment growth, democratic control and genuine community needs; as well as being tailored to Australia’s natural conditions and developed in the context of sustainable global development.
The Australian Democrats support:
- The integration of energy issues into social and economic decision-making and the development of a well resourced, whole of government, nationally co-ordinated approach to the transition to a sustainable energy economy;
- A substantial, progressive reduction to well below current levels in fossil fuel dependence and greenhouse gas emissions from all sources and across all sectors;
- Mandatory fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and otherwise reducing private motor vehicle dependence;
- The removal of market barriers to the research and development of a strong, commercially viable, diverse and Australian owned renewable energy industry;
- The judicious, creative and fair use of taxes, levies, and other fiscal instruments to reduce consumption and encourage the transition to a sustainable energy economy;
- The use of revenue from energy taxes and the like to reduce or abolish regressive taxes and subsidise renewable energy research and development;
- The development of individually and co-operatively owned renewable energy generation and co-generation systems that contribute to greater local self-reliance, improve efficiency and prove ecologically benign;
- Government control of the main energy supply such that community needs are observed, equity conditions are met and energy is supplied as a least cost service;
- Community education programs that address Australian and international energy issues and the deleterious ecological and social impacts of consumerism;
- Régimes of tradable greenhouse gas emission rights as an interim measure only, and only where these are based on reputable, independent scientific research, genuine environmental efficiency and developed by thorough public consultation;
- The strategic removal of direct and indirect public subsidies to unsustainable and dirty energy production and supply;
- The development of strategies acknowledging that climatic and seasonal variation across Australia will lead to regional variability in the mix of renewable and finite energy sources;
- The development of transportation, settlements, buildings and industries incorporating principles of eco-design and energy efficiency;
- . The widespread implementation of an industrial whole of life cycle approach, pricing structures that reflect the full (environmental and social) cost of production and service, a greater emphasis on product recycling and the mandatory eco-labelling of all products and services according to national standards;
- Progressive strategies that lead to greater national and regional energy self-reliance;
- The transfer of appropriate technology and other forms of aid to low-income countries to enable them to develop their own locally controlled sustainable energy economies.
The Australian Democrats oppose:
- The production of energy from nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. *Nuclear energy, including the mining of uranium, is unacceptable because of its whole-of-life carbon impact (including the detrimental environmental impacts of uranium mining), water usage, economic costs, decommissioning costs and issues of ongoing radiation monitoring;
- The construction of new coal-fired power stations, the recommissioning of old stations, or the expansion of existing ones;
- Large scale hydroelectric developments where other ecologically benign renewable energy options are available;
- The privatisation of the main energy supply unless it can be demonstrated, by a thorough public review and ongoing assessment, that such positively contributes to the development of a sustainable and equitable energy economy.
To protect our farming future we must support farmers to effectively manage their farms. This includes encouraging the development of comprehensive farm management plans and providing appropriate training and support to encourage best practice farm management, managed through a centralised program.
- Currently, farmers have to deal with a myriad of government departments, agencies and other organisations as well as different licensing for things like using chemicals, numerous quality assurance programs and numerous awareness campaigns and initiatives. This disjointed regulatory system creates an incredibly complex and sometimes contradictory matrix of red tape.
- The Australian Democrats propose to introduce a holistic farm management program that enables farmers to develop individual management plans specifically for their farm. These plans would comply with all requirements to simplify the farmer’s interactions with authorities and improve the productivity and health of our farms. The program would seek to enhance the planning for those farmers who already have good farm management plans through additional freedoms and support, as well as lifting the standards of those farms that are not currently at best practice management standards.
The Australian Democrats will push to have a comprehensive best practice farm management training and support program developed that would allow farmers to develop personalised farm management plans that take in to account all the requirements of the different agencies they deal with, all quality assurance requirements, environmental requirements and licensing relevant to their property.
The program would comprise two main components:
- Support in developing individualised holistic farm management plans. These would be designed with the ongoing assistance of extension officers who are able to work with the farmer on their property to develop a best practice farm management plan. The individualised farm management plans would help clarify and streamline regulatory requirements. They would also allow for better management of the specific conditions of each property (as opposed to adherence with blanket State or Federal standards or restrictions that may be unsuitable for some properties), and would assist farmers in the environmental management on their properties. In doing so, these farm management plans would act as an environmental management system, demonstrating a level of quality which would then be marketable to consumers.
- Increased support for training and information on farm management plants and best practice farming. The Democrats recognise that successive Governments, particularly at the State level, have moved away from extension services that deliver one-on-one support for farmers, and that farmers are now increasingly being forced to source their information from the private sector. As part of this program, extension services would be better funded to assist farmers in meeting their regulatory requirements, accessing information on the latest technological improvements for increasing productivity and accessing grants for conservation work.
The program would need to be developed and managed by a specific agency or department within the Federal Department of Agriculture in partnership with other relevant Federal departments, State and Territory Governments and all industry bodies in an inclusive and collaborative way.
By providing a single best practice farm management model the Australian Democrats believe the following can be achieved:
- Better performance and health of farms
- More support for farmers through ongoing education and additional support
- Less confusion for farmers who will only have to liaise with one program instead of many
- Elimination of conflicting requests from different agencies or bodies as a result of the centralised management program being able to identify and resolve such conflicts
- Better penetration of disease prevention and other biosecurity or best practice farming messages through delivery in a common format
- Increased flexibility and freedoms for farmers through individual farm management planning rather than being confined by multiple blanket restrictions and guidelines
- Increased confidence in food production and quality assurance systems from better clarity and awareness of the requirements
- A mechanism to empower farmers to manage emissions and transition into an emissions trading scheme with confidence (NB: Dependent on farmers being able to take credits for inputs so they can offset emissions within their properties if they so choose)
- Better surety for farmers through a more stable operating environment
- Easier implementation of new initiatives and requirements through the established program
Initial development and implementation will take approximately 3 years, allowing an additional 5 years for all farmers to transition in to the program.
To ensure the sustainability of natural fishing resources and aquaculture industries by means of adequate research, management and enforcement with a mind to supporting a viable industry as well as conserving the environment.
The Australian Democrats:
- Will ensure that research programs to determine ecologically sustainable harvesting rates for coastal fisheries are undertaken and completed and that licences for coastal fisheries are undertaken and completed in accordance with the results of such surveys – both in terms of harvesting rates and administrative costs.
- Insist that measures be taken to prevent the collapse of fishing stocks due to exploitation. Research and monitoring of commercial breeding stocks will be accelerated, and action will be taken to reduce fishing pressures where necessary.
- Support the establishment of a separate, independent National Fisheries Commission, particularly to monitor overcatch, but nevertheless to upgrade the work of the present state departments and enhance proper management of resources.
- Hold that fish marketing authorities are made directly responsible to the National Fisheries Commission, and will engage in new and direct marketing programs, both here and overseas.
- Oppose the stocking of streams with introduced species and seek to launch a feasibility study of the commercial use of native species.
- Believe that Australian aquaculture should not be supported until strictly planned environmental and locality constraints are imposed and complied to. Licences should be justified and subject to regular review.
- Believe aquaculture cannot be force-fed and the food must be the creature’s natural diet, with controls over pelletised feeding.
- Support the banning of all foreign fishing activities in Australian waters with the exception of traditional fishing by indigenous peoples.
- Oppose and will move to prohibit in Australian territorial and economic zones the use of gill netting, drift netting and other methods detrimental to the environment. Harsh penalties will be imposed upon any offender, and restrictions placed upon any country found to be using such methods in the Australian economic zone. Australia will seek a worldwide ban on gill nets, driftnets and long-lining.
- Support the elimination of all by-catch over a ten year period.
- Support the significant reduction of harvesting effort in all overfished or fully fished fisheries.
- Support rigorous sustainability assessment of all fisheries, including assessment of impacts of fishing of non-target species, habitats and ecosystems.
- Support the introduction of sustainable trawling controlled by bag limits.
- Believe that the licensing of recreational fishing should be investigated at a Federal level.
- Maintain that all threatened species and habitats should be protected.
- Support the introduction of recreational fishing bag limits for all species.
- Will support an education program encouraging restaurants to kill live lobster and crabs humanely.
To protect human and environmental health, together with quality of life, by minimising and preventing the contamination of the air commons; to prevent climate change by substantially reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances; and ensuring Australia anticipates and is prepared for the social, ecological and economic consequences of rapid global climate change.
- The urgent introduction of legislation to improve the detail of emissions inventories in Australian cities and towns and guarantee community access to the data;
- Adoption of the world’s highest ambient air quality standards and corresponding agreed measures for maintaining satisfactory air quality and ensuring all pollution control legislation and policy acknowledges international guidelines and agreements to which Australia is a signatory.
- Fostering a better understanding of and protection for native wildlife and plants from the effects of air pollution.
- Introduction of community air quality and climate change education programs with special program targeting of public agencies, politicians, industries by sector and the broader community.
- Introduction of incentives to reduce air pollution including tax concessions, full cost pricing of products, favoured government contracts, rate reductions, eligibility for grants and government subsidies.
- Introduction of effective penalties for polluters including clean-up costs, implementation of environmental management plans, compensation to affected parties (including legal aid), financial penalties, restitution and gaol.
- Applying the precautionary principle of withholding licensing of emissions and industrial developments until all health effects are accurately identified and found to be acceptable to the community.
- Community access to comprehensive air quality data from all sources including monitoring, self-reporting and modelling, and supporting the right of community members to report and trigger investigations, restraint orders and independent, public inquiries where guidelines or legislation are clearly breached with adequate legal and technical assistance.
- Improved monitoring of pollution by independent agencies, and the development and implementation of regional air quality strategies for all urban air sheds, with full, fair and adequately resourced community participation in the policy making process.
- The inclusion of air quality strategies in urban transport management policies and projects, mandatory emissions standards for new vehicles and otherwise reducing private motor vehicle dependence.
- Annual vehicle emissions testing of private and publicly owned car fleets, buses and heavy vehicles with means-tested economic assistance to reduce vehicle emissions.
- The introduction of air quality alerts on days of potentially or actually high ground-level ozone and particulate levels.
- Ensuring better understanding and community awareness of indoor air quality and pollutants such as house-dust mites, tobacco smoke, Legionella, asbestos, etc and developing clean air building standards and other preventative and protective measures, together with wider community health reforms.
- Progressively reducing national and per capita greenhouse gas emission levels and reliance on fossil fuels to well below current levels and across all sectors.
- Introducing régimes of tradable greenhouse gas emission rights as an interim measure only and only where these are based on good science, genuine environmental efficiency and developed by thorough public consultation.
- Supporting an international framework for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions with targets binding on all industrialised countries, and developing patterns and mechanisms of international aid and exchange to allow newly industrialising countries to reduce their emissions.
- The strategic removal of direct and indirect public subsidies to inefficient and non-renewable industries.
- The use of taxes, levies and ‘polluter-pays’ instruments designed to reduce and limit greenhouse gas emissions, as well as encourage business innovation in environmental efficiency.
- Ensuring the replacement or complete containment of substances that are known, to or suspected of, depleting stratospheric ozone through a range of industrial and production reforms.
- Ensuring technologies and methods of replacing and containing ozone-depleting substances are made available to industrialising countries and supporting an international framework of containment.
- Supporting a global ban on the test-detonation of nuclear and thermonuclear devices and the removal of the threat of (even limited) nuclear conflict, and seeking ways of minimising the damage to the stratospheric ozone layer from space vehicle launches.
- Developing a national strategy that prepares Australia for anticipated changes in climate, weather and sea levels, as well the regional economic and social consequences of rapid global climate change.
- Assisting small island states and other areas deemed to be especially prone to global warming-induced changes to sea level, weather patterns, disease and agriculture. This will include accepting environmental refugees as required.
To provide an equitable, high-quality health care system that is accessible to all Australians.
- provides access to health care for all on the basis of need and not the ability to pay;
- is funded through progressive taxation;
- recognises and addresses the physical, psychological, environmental and social determinants of health;
- emphasises health promotion and the prevention of illness;
- supports the key role played by primary health care, including dental and mental health care;
- recognises the diverse health care needs of the Australian community, including people in rural areas, and people of diverse cultural backgrounds, and develops and facilitates targeted services as appropriate;
- supports Commonwealth leadership in the setting of national health goals and the funding of local and regional areas for the planning and delivery of health care services;
- seeks to ensure that an efficient, accessible, well provisioned and managed system of public hospitals is maintained;
- ensures people have the opportunity to choose from conventional and alternative registered health care;
- allows the right to refuse medical treatment, and to choose to die;
- provides resources for the development of health infrastructure, research and training, including natural and herbal remedies;
- supports consumer involvement in the development and provision of health care services, policies and programs.
The Australian Democrats recognise the significance of Australia’s diverse indigenous and nonindigenous heritage. The Democrats recognise the breadth of Australia’s heritage which includes the cultural, artistic, social, natural, architectural, agricultural, industrial, military, commercial, intellectual and political aspects of our history.
The Democrats support the protection, registration, interpretation and effective management of this heritage for the benefit of Australian citizens now and into the future. To this end, the Australian Democrats will implement a comprehensive heritage strategy that ties together the actions of each level of government, Commonwealth, State and Local, and the large number of professional and community groups committed to preserving and interpreting this heritage.
The Australian Democrats:
- Support the development of an adequately funded national heritage strategy to ensure Australia’s rich heritage is adequately preserved for future generations. The strategy should be developed by all levels of government in consultation with peak national heritage groups.
- Support a National Heritage body with professional expertise and legislated capacity to provide expert independent advice on heritage policy and practice.
- Support a Ministerial Council representing Commonwealth, State and Local Government and peak national heritage groups to:
- Advise on the development of national standards and guidelines.
- Advise on the allocation of national funding to support projects of national importance.
- Will strengthen legislation at the Commonwealth level to enhance the protection afforded to Australia’s heritage and will ensure that this legislation provides the capacity to adequately protect nationally significant heritage sites and artefacts. Best endeavours will be made to ensure that Commonwealth heritage legislation is appropriately administered and rigorously enforced.
- Will establish national standards and guidelines on the protection and preservation of heritage sites and will seek to retain in their original form, buildings that reflect Australia’s built heritage.
- Support the preservation of historical film, photographs and written documents that record Australia’s history.
- Support the adoption of taxation and other financial incentives for owners of heritage sites/artefacts in need of preservation subject to public accountability standards.
- Will work with State and Local governments and other authorities to develop consistent approaches to protection of heritage sites/artefacts.
- Will support the work of non-government bodies and local communities engaged in heritage preservation activities.
- Where possible, will ensure that significant Australian heritage works (art, historical records, artefacts) remain within Australia and preferably within public ownership.
- Support the on-going public ownership of Commonwealth sites with significant heritage values. The Australian Democrats will campaign to ensure that such sites remain in public ownership and where appropriate, that public access to those sites is ensured. Any heritage sites that are sold should be adequately protected through conservation agreements, covenants or other legal mechanisms.
- Support a comprehensive national register of heritage sites and artefacts with appropriate resources provided to ensure regular review and update of the register.
- Supports the registration of endangered sites and artefacts to ensure that priority action is taken to preserve them.
- Require systematic reporting to Parliament on the condition of places included in the national register and in all other heritage lists/registers.
- Recognise the importance of museums, libraries and galleries in the conservation and interpretation of heritage artefacts, documents and art works and will encourage the provision of adequate funding for these facilities within the national heritage strategy.
- Encourage and support the development of interactive museums that encourage visitors to experience aspects of Australia’s past.
- Support the development of a national program to ensure the delivery of high quality interpretation of historic sites.
- Support the integration of Australian studies across the school curriculum and encourage the training of students at tertiary level in disciplines such as Australian History.
- Support free access to public museums and galleries and will encourage sponsorship partnerships with the private sector for supporting artists and special exhibitions.
- Support touring museum/library/gallery programs to ensure access to heritage displays for rural and regional areas.
- Support world heritage listing for appropriate sites including, but not limited to, the Sydney Opera House, convict sites, and natural heritage sites including the Alps, Eucalypt Forests of Eastern Australia, Antarctica, the Kimberley Region and Purnululu.
- Recognise the special significance of indigenous heritage and will work in consultation with ATSIC and indigenous communities in relation to the protection, registration, and interpretation of this heritage.
- Recognise that Indigenous Australians are the rightful custodians of their culture, and should have a primary role in managing their heritage.
- Support programs to record and retain indigenous languages and oral histories and will support bilingual education in indigenous communities, where this has the support of the community.
- Strengthening the protection afforded to indigenous heritage in state planning and environmental legislation. State and local government land management and planning processes should incorporate the protection of indigenous heritage as a basic objective.
- Support Indigenous Australians with appropriate knowledge and experience as members of heritage advisory councils at Federal and State levels.
The Australian Democrats aim to ensure equitable access to housing for all Australians, including public or community housing for those who require it, and that economic and planning practises of all levels of government are applied to meet these goals in a sustainable way.
- The Australian Democrats believe that government should play a role in smoothing the boom and bust cycles in the housing market by ensuring all legislation that encourages property investment and which impacts on lifestyle and affordability, is monitored and reviewed to minimise negative effects.
- We will ensure land taxes are extended to certain owner-occupied properties at the top end of the market and reduced for multiple investments in low-cost rental housing.
- We will work towards the abolition of stamp duty on homes that are bought as a principal place of residence.
- We will legislate so that there is increased funding for public and community housing of an adequate standard, and that this funding is indexed and cannot be used for any other purpose.
- We will work to ensure that the Commonwealth and States governments support investment in affordable rental housing through a variety of taxation and other incentives.
- The Democrats commit to ensuring that housing strategies are developed to meet the needs of disadvantaged groups, including youth, people with a disability, indigenous people, senior Australians, and people with intellectually or mentally impaired.
- We will actively encourage governments at all levels to become more proactive in facilitating community housing and low-cost housing projects , by working together to reduce development, infrastructure and energy costs and provide an integrated approvals and funding process.
- We believe tenants should be given every opportunity to have an effective role in managing their own homes and communities.
- We support the universal introduction of tenancy tribunals to protect the rights of all people who rent, board or lodge.
- We will work towards uniform national laws that ensure security of tenure for renters.
- We believe State Governments should apply consistent and sustainable urban and environmental planning processes to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing.
- support the enforcement of environmental standards within the building code, including energy efficiency standards.
- advocate design and construction practices that reduce reliance on non-renewable power sources.
- believe that the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement should be maintained and that the Commonwealth must play a continuing financial role in ensuring affordable and appropriate housing for all Australians.
- support initiatives for people on low and moderate incomes to have access to a choice of affordable housing options, as well as access to rent and mortgage subsidies.
- will provide incentives so that urban planning processes are improved to better integrate the environment with urban development, and improve community input into major infrastructure and planning decisions. will work towards legislative change so that all subsidies and schemes to assist people to rent or buy homes are means tested, combined with a review and revision of eligibility requirements.
- support the use of independent organisations to provide low cost land and housing infrastructure, and to encourage innovative planning to meet community needs.
The Australian Democrats believe in a non-discriminatory immigration program, which gives priority to refugees and family reunion, the total number of which when included with overall population trends will not impede sustainability of the nation’s natural resources.
- all areas of Australia’s immigration law meet our international obligations;
- departmental resources will be equitably distributed to ensure equal access to immigration posts;
- application fees will be adjusted to take into account variations in national average earnings;
- Qualifications will be linked with the right of reciprocity for Australian qualifications and based on careful assessment of education and work experience;
- all migrants including refugees will be eligible for the full range of welfare benefits and employment assistance available to other Australians;
- all people accepted into Australia as refugees will be granted permanent visas;
- Non-authorised arrivals will not be automatically subject to detention unless there are compelling security or public health reasons for doing so;
- incentives will be provided to encourage settlement in regional areas;
- settlement services for newly arrived migrants will be adequately resourced to maximise the opportunities for migrants to participate fully in the Australian community;
- all refugees and asylum seekers will be provided access to the Australian legal system equal to that of any Australian resident.
- Invasive species are plants and animals that occur in the wild outside their natural range.
- In Australia, invasive species have major economic, environmental and social impacts.
- Invasive species are generally regarded as the second greatest threat to biodiversity behind land clearing.
- Invasive species can adversely affect the availability and quality of water resources, destroy landscapes and interfere with the cultural practices of Indigenous communities.
- Invasive plant and animal species can cause human health problems, such as respiratory diseases and allergic reactions.
- Invasive species have adverse impacts on agriculture and pose significant threats to Australia’s fishery and tourism industries.
- Potential new weeds, known as ‘sleeper weeds’, pose a significant new threat to Australia as a result of a changing climate.
- To identify established invasive species of national significance.
- To coordinate a national response on the eradication, containment and establishment invasive species across Australia.
- To gain essential knowledge and implement techniques for effective invasive species management.
- To improve public awareness of pest animals, research coordination and its support for invasive species management at the national level, and adoption of best practice management methods.
- To prevent the introduction of new species with pest potential.
- To ensure early detection of, and rapid response to, new incursions of potential pest species.
- To prevent the spread of invasive species to new areas within Australia.
- To ensure the maintenance of biodiversity, to protect threatened species and to provide for better habitat protection.
- To co-operate with Indigenous peoples in the sustainable conservation management of their traditional lands and waters.
The Australian Democrats will work towards:
- Strengthening Commonwealth environmental laws to restrict the introduction, sale, and spread of introduced species, including laws to prohibit the importation, translocation and sale of ‘black listed’ environmental pests and weeds.
- Developing and implementing a national framework for the prevention and control of invasive species which should facilitate the development of:
- Uniform national laws on the control and management of pest and weed species;
- National action plans for non-native animals, weeds, invertebrate pests and diseases;
- A fully funded national facility for responding to new incursions of invasive species; and
- A national invasive species information system, which will provide up-to-date information on all introduced species.
- Increasing Federal, State and Territory funding for programs to eradicate or contain priority pests and weeds.
- Creating a ‘Weed Risk Ranking System’ at the Commonwealth and State level whereby funding is allocated accordingly following science-based decisions to lessen the impacts on the environment and agriculture.
- Creating incentives to encourage private landholders to eradicate invasive species from their land.
- Establishing a national introduced species education program.
- Significantly increasing funding that is available for the development, testing and release of biological control agents.
- Re-establishing the Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management and ensure continuing funding for the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.
- Ensuring long-term research and monitoring of invasive species and ensure government grants to research institutions are provided for 5-10 year periods.
- Improving procedures and facilities at ports and airports to detect and eradicate introduced species.
- Supporting long-term planning for pest animal population control and support non-lethal options such as relocation and sterilisation of the animals concerned wherever possible, with environmentally sensitive and humane culling a last resort.
- Ensuring Indigenous communities are fully involved in invasive species management programs.
Government should continue to support the mix of broadcasting and media services in Australia. This includes ensuring that media consumers have equal access to the range of commercial, national, and community television and radio services and new media forms as they emerge, no matter where they reside or their levels of income. Subscription television services should be available to all people, no matter where they reside, and people’s choice in the take-up of such services should be made on the basis of their willingness to pay.
- Broadcasters should acknowledge their responsibilities to the community, with this reflected in their codes of practice.
- Government should not interfere in the operational or content aspects of broadcasting and media, except when intervention is necessary to ensure the public interest objectives of broadcasting and media are met.
- Broadcasting and media law should ensure that the public has access to a range of opinions, and should encourage diversity of ownership and Australian control.
- Government should acknowledge the vital importance of national public broadcasters, such as the ABC and SBS, and adequately fund them.
- Broadcasters, the media, government and the public should take advantage of the new opportunities for media diversity, and a new breadth of debate and analysis, provided by the growth of new technologies.
- The community should be involved in broadcasting and media policy making processes, and in the setting of content standards.
- The role of broadcasters and the media in meeting information and educational needs of the community should be supported and encouraged.
- Broadcasters and media should serve widely varied needs and there should be positive and adequate representation of young people, women, indigenous peoples, disadvantaged groups and those from other nations.
- Maximum Australian content should be delivered across all types of media and all program categories.
- Broader and more adequate public access to the media should be achieved through the further development and public funding of community and indigenous broadcasting
That Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People will be able to exercise and enjoy the human rights and fundamental freedoms enjoyed by all peoples and protected by the conventions and proclamations of the United Nations.
- The Australian Democrats will promote good will between all Australians.
- The Australian Democrats recognise the unique spiritual and physical attachment that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have with the land, and that this attachment extends many thousands of years. We recognise the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the original owners and custodians of Australia – our nation’s First Peoples.
- We acknowledge that we need to continue to heal the pain and grief experienced since colonisation.
- In order to advance Reconciliation we acknowledge the “unfinished business” identified by Indigenous leaders, and are committed to:
- the need for a framework for negotiation;
- the need for constitutional change;
- increased political representation;
- greater recognition and promotion of the heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples;
- greater recognition and protection of Native Title rights;
- greater social justice measures ensuring the provision of basic citizenship rights that are required if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are to enjoy the same living standard and opportunities as other Australians.
- The Australian Democrats are committed to educational activities in formal schooling, the training of professionals, and community awareness programs that are based on an honest and deep understanding of the truth of our shared history and respect for each other.
- We are committed to continuing the Reconciliation process.
- The Australian Democrats support the Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation and the principles contained in the Roadmap for Reconciliation.
- The Australian Democrats recognise that people living in regional and rural Australia are an integral part of our society and that they make valuable contributions to the economy, identity and culture of this country.
- The Democrats believe that government has a pivotal role to play in building and maintaining rural and regional communities, and in fostering greater understanding and equity between city and country dwellers.
- The Democrats also believe that action needs to be taken to reverse the population drift to the cities by creating jobs, expanding infrastructure and fostering community spirit.
The Australian Democrats:
- will work to achieve equitable access to infrastructure and services for all Australians ;
- will provide incentives to businesses to decentralise to regional and rural areas, especially high technology industries that have the potential to create a skilled workforce;
- shall encourage value-adding secondary industries to locate to those areas where the primary products are produced;
- will promote job creation in regions of high unemployment through creative use of tax credits, infrastructure spending, regional development and financial incentives;
- support the promotion of policies that ensure diversity of population, culture and industry in regional and rural areas;
- support the establishment of a ministry of regional and rural affairs that includes community development and that works to protect and develop the economic and other assets of regional and rural Australia. This may include the establishment of project teams which are able to work at the local level to implement specific programs;
- will actively encourage people in regional and rural Australia to participate in planning for and development of their own community, and empower communities to actively seek ways of managing the local effects of globalisation;
- commit to ensuring the cultural survival and economic development of indigenous communities and the provision of adequate and appropriate services and resources to such communities;
- will ensure that appropriate consultation with indigenous communities delivers improved health, housing and education to those communities;
- will rigorously enforce the Community Service Obligations of public organisations regarding the provision and pricing of essential services;
- oppose the further sale of Telstra and privatisation of Australia Post and ensure that regional telecommunications infrastructure is improved;
- will restore and improve funding for health, education and other services to ensure equitable access for regional and rural communities;
- promote the use of new technologies and innovative programs, such as internet medical consultation, internet education, to provide equitable access to essential services, including health care and education;
- oppose National Competition Policy and deregulation which adversely affects regional Australia;
- endorse the increased use of regional development authorities to support rural and regional Australia;
- promote co-operative relationships between regional/rural and urban communities on a one-to-one level, and encourage the development of networks within and between communities;
- will work to protect the many fragile environments which are found in regional Australia;
- will use World Heritage mechanisms and Commonwealth legislation such as the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to support environmental sustainability in regional Australia;
- support sustainable initiatives that address the impact of the rising water table and land salinity, particularly through community-based initiatives such as Landcare;
- will support the formation of community-focused financial organisations where they are able to provide services for regional and rural communities;
- will ensure that people in rural and regional Australia have equitable access to financial services at a level comparable to urban Australians;
- support the restructure of industries that are that are no longer economically, socially or environmentally sustainable;
- will promote job creation in regions of high unemployment through creative use of tax credits, infrastructure spending, regional development and financial incentives.
Note: Essential services include water, power, communications, transport, health, housing, employment services, welfare, legal services, law enforcement and education. Landcare – The National Landcare Program (NLP) is one of a number of programs supported at the federal level by the Natural Heritage Trust. The NLP encourages landholders to undertake landcare and related conservation works by supporting collective action by communities to sustainably manage the environment and natural resources. www.landcare.gov.au
The Australian Democrats support the rights of Australians to full access to all options and information regarding pregnancy and reproductive choice and health. This includes sexual health awareness and education, access to all three options on confirmation of a pregnancy, and support throughout pregnancy.
Currently in Australia, there is an enormous variation in the knowledge levels about sexual health and reproductive issues. There is also great variation in the availability of services and the legality of accessing certain options. The Australian Democrats believe that all Australians should be able to access the same choices and have the information they need in regards to their sexual and reproductive health.
Sexual Health Awareness and Education
- Conduct an audit of all primary and secondary schools to identify what is taught to students in sexual and reproductive health education
- Ensure comprehensive, evidence-based, age appropriate sexual health and relationships education is provided by adequately qualified professionals in all schools
- School and University-based or linked health centres for health education and access to health care for young people
- Appropriate funding for sexual health awareness campaigns in the general community, including specific targeted campaigns for at-risk communities
- Appropriate funding for free and confidential sexual health centres providing information, advice, counselling, STI and pregnancy testing, and contraception. In remote or small rural centres where a separate service can not be maintained full time a visiting service or agency service (such as through a pharmacy or other health centre) should be provided
- Provide support for parents to talk to their children about these issues, particularly for parents of children who mature early
- Push for the enactment of the cross-party Pregnancy Counselling (Truth in Advertising) Bill 2006, which requires pregnancy counselling services to advertise which of the three options they provide advice on (abortion, adoption or keeping the baby)
- Lobby to have counselling services who do not offer all three options to be prevented from calling themselves pregnancy counselling services or for advertising to that effect
- Implement a federally funded pro-choice 24-hour pregnancy counselling service
- Make counselling available for both expectant parents with both planned and unplanned pregnancies to support the mental health and wellbeing throughout their pregnancy and, where applicable, the transition to parenthood
- A full range of safe, affordable contraception on demand, including over the counter access to the oral contraceptive pill, placement of all forms of contraception on the PBS, and ready access to free or low cost condoms and emergency contraception in schools, universities and sexual health centres
- National public education campaigns on emergency contraception and preconception health
- Equal rights for all potential parents who want access to assisted reproductive technologies, regardless of marital status, sexual orientation or financial capacity
- Uniform national laws for abortion, surrogacy and adoption
- All women having access to legal, free and safe pregnancy termination services including unbiased counselling where requested and chemical abortion (RU486)
- Uniform national guidelines for routine antenatal care for all antenatal providers
- A National Maternity Action Plan to give all pregnant women greater choice in where and how they give birth, including the option of publicly funded midwifery services throughout pregnancy and childbirth with a single caregiver throughout the process
- Equal access to most common birth options, including the right of the mother to choose a natural birth or epidural and other pain management
- Postnatal care and support which is flexible and tailored to individual needs, including funding support for advocacy and support groups
- A national home visitor program for families with a new baby offering a range of services to supplement those of midwives and maternal and child health nurses.
Our goal is to ensure the sexual and reproductive health of all Australians by empowering them with information, options and support. We hope this will result in a lower rate of STI transmission, fewer unplanned pregnancies (particularly amongst young girls), and healthier and happier babies and parents.
We anticipate all of these reforms could be rolled out in under 18 months.
To foster ecologically sustainable rural communities, industries and livelihoods by modifying existing land uses and encouraging the development of alternatives to permit the ecological recovery of degraded lands with minimal hardship and conserve biodiversity beyond reserves.
- Ensuring that the current and future use of Australia’s rangelands for pastoralism is scrutinised, with the aim of progressively retiring heavily degraded areas to prevent further damage and allow ecological recovery adaptively managing rangelands on a bioregional basis;
- Providing assistance and incentives to promote the conservation and rehabilitation of native habitat values on private lands, as well as to minimise social and economic hardship where agricultural and pastoral land is retired to permit ecological recovery;
- Reforming land-use and property law to ensure landholders (including the Crown) have an enhanced duty of care to prevent foreseeable environmental harm to their own properties and related natural resources;
- Promoting local and global agricultural trading patterns, consumer co-operation and education, and regulatory frameworks that maintain or enhance crop and stock variety;
- Promoting the precautionary and judicious use of pesticides and fertilisers, only after full and public impact assessment, and investing in alternative pest and weed control to protect the health of whole ecosystems and consumers;
- Removing market and other barriers to the research and development of commercially viable, diverse and locally-owned alternative rural industries, developed in a bioregional context, to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable rural livelihoods;
- Urgent, nationally co-ordinated and well-resourced action to survey, reduce, control and reverse salinity and soil degradation, and otherwise actively encouraging and assisting landholders to switch from ecologically malign practices and industries to those ensuring soil use does not outpace healthy soil formation;
- Rapidly scaling back, monitoring and strictly regulating the clearing and modification of all remnant and regrowth native vegetation on both freehold and leasehold properties, with the total and immediate cessation of clearing in environmentally sensitive areas and areas of high conservation value;
- Recognising that fire is a natural, often essential element of the Australian landscape:
- supporting burning practices that mimic indigenous or natural fire régimes so as to control introduced biota, maintain or restore historical biodiversity, and protect ecosystem processes,
- preferring alternative methods of fire risk management, to large-scale prescribed burning, including arson prevention, community education and discouraging residential development in fire-prone areas,
- opposing the use of fire to manipulate native ecosystems expressly for commercial gain,
- ensuring that conservation and fire control interests are reconciled as far as possible by encouraging direct dialogue and co-operation between stakeholders;
- Thorough and fair public participation and accountability in all decisions related to water resources, and explicitly addressing social and environmental objectives in legislation and policy;
- Opposing the privatisation of any aspect of the water supply, and only supporting corporatisation after a thorough public inquiry and only where a strong regulatory framework affords full environmental protection and fair, sustainable use;
- Ensuring that water pricing covers the full social, environmental and economic costs of extraction, distribution and use, and the development of transparent and integrated least-cost supply, supporting the user/abuser-pays principle as an essential aspect of demand management;
- Using taxes and levies, where appropriate, to promote the efficient, fair and ecologically sustainable use and re-use of water resources, and the elimination of subsidies of environmentally and economically inefficient water use;
- Ensuring the harvesting of groundwater does not exceed natural recharge rates, and groundwater pollution, from both point and diffuse sources, is avoided;
- Ensuring the priority sustainable management of artesian and sub-artesian waters, including mandatory bore capping;
- Ensuring that trade in water licences, and the artificial movement of water between catchments occures only where thorough environmental impact assessments demonstrate that the proposed trade will not increase adverse environmental impacts and not disadvantage all users;
- Preventing the modification or destruction of remnant riparian vegetation by extending the legal duty of care and providing assistance to enable landholders to preserve and restore riparian habitats;
- Considering new dam proposals only after adequate impact assessment, giving due regard to environmental and habitat protection, and ensuring the beneficiaries of dam developments bear the full costs;
- Promoting urgent, nationally co-ordinated and well-resourced action to reduce, control and reverse salinisation of river systems, particularly with regard to irrigation practices, active encouragement for irrigators to switch from wasteful and harmful practices, and a comprehensive review of the future growing of some crops in degraded catchments;
- Ensuring the establishment, adequate resourcing and technical support of integrated catchment management Australia-wide, with all stakeholder interests properly represented and encouraging the development of a sense of community stewardship to ensure success, recognising the interdependence of water, soil, biodiversity, land use, cultural heritage and climate;
- Encouraging greater co-operation and better cost-sharing between jurisdictions and sectors to ensure the long-term protection and restoration of riverine and aquatic ecosystems to supporting Constitutional reform to ensure the Commonwealth bears ultimate responsibility for the conservation of water resources;
- Promoting community education that raises awareness of local, national and world water issues, and the interdependence of ecological, economic and social considerations;
- Ensuring the carrying capacity of Australia’s rural landscape is assessed and implementing long-term, bio-regionally based strategies to manage population change and reverse the drift from rural/regional areas to major urban centres by fostering diverse, ecologically sustainable and more self-reliant rural and regional development.
- To provide and maintain a well-resourced, free, public education system.
- To fulfil the right of every child in Australia to an equal level of educational opportunity, through the provision of a standard of teaching and educational facilities which enable the full development of their potential.
- To promote education as the cornerstone of society, developing well-informed, tolerant, responsible and critical citizens functioning as an integral part of the community.
- The Commonwealth is responsible for directly and indirectly funding formal education and training
- Government financial support for education must aim to reduce current inequalities of resources provided to children in Australia.
- The Democrats are committed to increasing spending on education to at least five percent of gross domestic product within three years, with priority to government schools, improving access to quality free higher education and promoting research and training.
- Whilst the delivery of education in government schools remains the responsibility of the States and Territories, the Commonwealth should, by agreement with the States and Territories:
- establish an education body to advise the Government on the resources required to deliver the Eight Key Learning Areas and National Goals for Schools, and to determine the appropriate level of public funding for government and non-government schools;
- plan and approve the establishment of new schools;
- fund capital works and technology infrastructure on a per-capita basis to a level that ensures all schools have and maintain high-quality facilities;
- fund disadvantaged schools in a manner that recognises their greater level of need;
- provide free and universally available preschool for three and four-year-olds;
- prohibit compulsory fees and charges in government schools and establish nationally consistent protocols for voluntary charges. It should not be necessary for voluntary contributions to fund core curriculum;
- ensure the availability of an adequate supply of appropriately qualified teachers;
- provide for ongoing professional development for teachers;
- provide for special programs such as counselling in each school, bi-lingual, Languages Other Than English and Non-English Speaking Background, integration, learning disability, vocational education and training, literacy and numeracy, etc;
- regularly review curriculum standards;
- establish a national register of teachers;
- coordinate national curriculum development and training which should encompass all agencies involved in education and training;
- develop nationally-consistent core subjects while enabling individual schools and communities to be free to establish electives according to their own perceived needs;
- develop and implement strategies for improving school retention rates.
- The important contribution of independent schools is recognised; however, governments must direct funding in a manner consistent with their primary responsibility being the funding of public schools.
- Only schools that offer an accredited standard of education and qualified teachers are to be funded.
- Schools must not be dependent on corporate sponsorship, and State and Territory governments should develop nationally consistent codes of practice for accepting sponsorship. These codes should discourage overt advertising at the school and encourage arrangements at a national or statewide level to, as far as is practicable, ensure that all schools and students are able to benefit financially.
- Preparation for school and pre-school education should be an integral part of the education process.
- Maternal and child health services and developmental and educational counsellors should be available to work with parents in the development and education of their children from birth to school entry. A national strategy is needed to make these services available to all families, preferably delivered by local government.
- Learning in pre-school should remain informal.
- Whilst recognising the importance of autonomy to many pre-schools they should be entitled to administrative support for their general day-to-day operations.
- The rights of parents to influence their child with their cultural values and religious beliefs is recognised as a fundamental feature of, and right in, a healthy multicultural society. Governments must be vigilant however in ensuring that this right does not compromise educational standards or interfere with the child’s integration into Australian society.
- Support is given to different forms of education to cater for individual preferences within the community.
- More resources and facilities must be provided so that students with physical, sensory, psychiatric or intellectual disabilities can be taught in mainstream schools.
- Special attention must be given to the significant numbers of students in any cohort whose barriers to education are learning difficulties and learning disabilities. A nationally consistent approach and adequate resources are needed for early identification, intervention and ongoing individual assistance.
- Non-government schools, as a condition of funding, must accept students with special needs.
- Special programs are required to address the problems faced by children at risk of early school leaving.
- The identification and encouragement of specific talents in individual students should be encouraged and developed.
- Languages other than English should be provided as part of the core curriculum.
- Indigenous education warrants urgent attention and the Commonwealth, in conjunction with State and Federal Governments, must work to provide:
- culturally appropriate programs and school environments, as determined by indigenous communities;
- as far as possible, for indigenous students to be taught by qualified indigenous teachers;
- hostel accommodation for families of indigenous boarding students;
- graded education for all students;
- teachers skilled in teaching English as a Second Language for indigenous students for whom English is not their first language;
- regular testing and treatment for children, particularly in remote areas, for medical conditions that interfere with learning;
- enrichment programs for gifted indigenous students;
- bilingual education in indigenous languages, where this is desired by a community.
- Core curricula should facilitate balanced, responsible citizenship, encouraging skills, attitudes and knowledge necessary for:
- peaceful conflict resolution;
- respect and tolerance of others with a particular emphasis on Australian Indigenous cultures;
- environmentally responsible behaviour;
- awareness and appreciation of the body and mind, the importance of exercise, nutrition and general good health;
- morally responsible behaviour;
- understanding the rights and obligations of citizens in the way we are governed and in the administration of the law;
- engagement in cultural pursuits;
- practical, independent living, including domestic and financial matters.
- New learning technology should be utilised where it can be demonstrated to be of educational assistance to students, particularly those disadvantaged by distance, disability or other special circumstances.
- Appropriate resources and facilities should be made available to provide geographically isolated students with full educational and cultural opportunities.
- Children are entitled to learn in a safe, non-discriminatory environment without fear of corporal punishment, where their ethnicity, religious background, socio-economic status, and different learning styles and talents are respected and, where appropriate, factored into their learning.
- Support will be given for recognised behavioural management strategies this could include programs such as the School With Out Walls or Flexi School programs as used in some states.
- The Australian Democrats believe that all people, including gays, lesbians, bisexuals, intersexed persons and transgenders have a right to equality under the law and in all dealings with Government and the community and that all Australians should be protected from discrimination and vilification on the grounds of their sexuality or gender status.
- The Australian Democrats will pursue comprehensive legislation which prohibits discrimination and incitement to hatred or vilification, against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, intersexed persons and transgenders and provides for basic democratic rights and true equality of all these individuals, such as freedom of assembly, equal access to public funds and equality for all couples irrespective of their sex or gender.
The Australian Democrats:
- accept and celebrate human sexual and gender identity diversity
- believe that these principles should be applied in the conduct of Australia’s foreign policy, particularly where there is a need to rectify the injustices suffered by people around the world who are being persecuted for their sexuality or gender identity
- believe that the age of consent for sexual activity should be equal across the nation, and not less than 16 years
- support the removal of homosexuality and consensual acts as criminal offences from all Australian statutes
- believe that all couples should be treated equally to ensure full partnership equality, particularly in relation to division of property and stamp duty, access to partners at time of sickness and incapacity, superannuation and life insurance, employment entitlements and benefits, and in death, such as in funerals, post mortems, intestacy and succession
- support the establishment of an office for sexuality and gender identity discrimination (or similar) to ensure that the intent of the legislative changes is being achieved and advocated
- believe there should be no discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity against couples in their assessment for suitability and eligibility, for parenting in relation to official separation of partners
- believe the eligibility criteria for fertility and surrogate programs should not discriminate on the grounds of sexuality or gender
- support the creation and development of safe and supportive educational environments for young people, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, and encourage tolerance and respect to underpin school curricula
- believe that all training and development courses, particularly those for the health, education, legal and law enforcement professions, must include an introduction to sexuality and gender identity issues
- support the establishment of specific sexuality and gender identity police liaison officers or task forces
- will encourage active support of activities and information resources aimed at meeting the needs of people with sexuality or gender identity concerns
- support the provision of specialist health and social services within the existing health infrastructure to address sexuality and gender identity concerns, including the provision of services for those experiencing severe emotional distress or disturbance, and will ensure continued funding of existing specialised services
- believe that personal and familial relationships of sexuality and gender identity prisoners be recognised, with confidentiality ensured where requested, and actively support the provision of adequate protection for all prisoners who are being persecuted for their sexuality or gender identity
- believe that all constraints hitherto placed on gays, lesbians, bisexuals, intersexed persons and transgenders from entering and serving in all areas of the defence forces and prison services should be removed
- believe that no discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender should be made against persons in regard to immigration or applications for permanent residency
- support the provision of multilingual information about sexuality and gender identity for people from diverse cultural backgrounds
- support the provision of adequately funded community-based accommodation services for all people in need, with special emphasis on refuges for young people with sexuality or gender identity concerns, along with appropriate research into the issues of youth suicide and drug use within this community
- support the provision of funds for research into discrimination against sexuality or gender identity in Australian society and the law, with specific emphasis on the workplace, law enforcement and institutional practices, and where such research shows that discrimination remains, we will promote legislative amendment
- support the recognition of gender affirmation without the onerous restrictions that some state legislations have in place
- believe that transgendered persons and intersexed persons should have full access to information about treatments available (both surgical and non-surgical) and that such treatments be available under Medicare
- support the earliest possible disclosure of a diagnosis of an intersex condition to the parents and carers of intersexed infants and to intersexed persons at the earliest appropriate time
- support the provision of counselling and support services for parents and carers of intersexed infants before and after important decisions are made concerning the child’s medical treatment and social gender role
- support the prohibition of ‘Normalising ’ surgery in the absence of physical danger, without the informed consent of the intersexed person
- believe a person’s gender is no longer a requirement on official documents issued by the government
Note: Affirmation, formally known as gender change or reassignment. “Normalising” surgery is the assignation by surgery of the intersex (IS) infant to “male” or “female”, and involves penis removal, vaginal removal, gonad removal, loss of orgasmic ability in later life, assignation to a gender opposite to that later chosen by the child, very psycho-active hormone treatment, repeated surgical procedures to a child’s genitals over a period of many years, shame around needing sex and gender “correction”, and the routine “medical” insertion of foreign objects into a child’s surgically created vagina without their consent. More at AIS Support Group Australia (http://home.vicnet.net.au/~aissg/) or (http://www.isna.org)
The Australian Democrats support a superannuation system based on compulsory employer and voluntary employee savings as an integral component of retirement income provision.
- Believe the superannuation system should be fully integrated into the social security and taxation system to encourage people to provide for retirement. Retirement incomes policy should be based on a fair government-funded pension, compulsory employer superannuation contributions and voluntary superannuation contributions.
- Believe superannuation savings should be encouraged by taxation incentives that are fair, progressive and avoid excessive tax minimisation by high-income earners while properly reflecting the deferral of the benefits of superannuation, and government co-contributions targeted at low-income earners.
- Believe retirees should be encouraged to take more of their superannuation as an income stream in preference to lump sum payments unless the retiree is using the funds as capital to start a small business.
- Believe Superannuation trustees should be subject to a strict regulatory regime to ensure they are acting in the best interest of members.
- Support the creation of an industry-funded low-cost dispute resolution mechanism to resolve complaints.
- Will encourage by incentive that superannuation funds to invest more of their assets in Australia, in ethical investments, infrastructure, regional areas and in venture capital, taking into account the investment preferences of their members.
- Believe that the laws and regulations that apply to superannuation should be simplified and stabilised, and will initiate a public education program to improve understanding of rights and responsibilities.
- Will maintain award clauses regulating superannuation while giving workers the right, either collectively as a workplace or individually, to choose their own super fund including at least one ethical fund, in a way that minimises the cost to employers and funds, and ensures adequate consumer protection.
- Will support measures to improve the portability of superannuation, and the reduction in the number of small, multiple, inactive accounts, while ensuring protection of the fund member’s entitlements.
- Will require superannuation funds and financial advisers to disclose to members, in a simple and standard format, all fees and charges and commissions, insurance cover, investment returns, entitlements and investment options.
- Support workers who take time out of the workforce for family obligations by allowing tax concessions on catch-up superannuation contributions.
- Believe employees should be offered a selection of superannuation funds, including at least one defined ethical fund.
- Will enact legislation so that prudential regulatory authorities are able to ensure that fees and charges are monitored and minimised, that multiple and lost accounts are reduced, and that all relevant factors in making an informed choice about superannuation are fully discussed with customers.
- Believe that superannuation fund members should be able to use part of their funds as collateral towards the purchase of their own home.
- Believe discrimination on any grounds, including gender, marital status and sexuality, should be eliminated from superannuation legislation.
- Support individuals who desire to control their own superannuation through a self-managed fund, but require appropriate regulatory supervision to ensure the fund is being effectively managed and not used as a tax minimisation device.
- Believe that a significant portion of the member’s funds paid subsequent to the member’s death should not be subject to taxation.
The Australian Democrats will push for the creation of a new legislative framework for the Internet and Technology Industries that has been designed for the specific reality of the industry.
Currently, the Internet and Technology Industry is operating under broadcast and telecommunications law which fail to appropriately cater for the reality of the day-to-day operation of the industry. The current legislative framework is ill-fitting and ill-serving making it difficult and prohibitive for the Australian Industry to operate with certainty; a very blunt tool when a scalpel is required.
The Australian Democrats will push for the introduction of a completely new legislative framework for the Internet and Technology industries to provide a more secure operating environment for businesses and users of the Internet and related technology. This includes:
- Removing Schedule 5 from the Broadcast Services Act, and otherwise amending the Act to make it clear that it does not cover internet and multimedia services
- Making it the responsibility of law enforcement, not Internet Service Providers, to police illegal activity online
- Making the creator of web content, and not the internet company to provide the carriage of it, legally responsible for that content
- Legal protections for ISPs from prosecution for the acts of their customers online
- Legal protections for the providers of collaborative online service providers such as forums and social networking sites from prosecution for the acts of their users
- The specific details of the legislation should be worked out with representatives of the industry and users to ensure an equitable and agreeable arrangement for all and to secure the future of our Internet and Technology Industry.
(Note: We also intend to remove Schedule 7 from the Broadcasting Services Act and replace all classification legislation and codes with a simplified system of classification that applies to all media and mediums. Please see our separate policy on “A Simplified Classification System”.)
The main aim of this legislative reform proposal is to create a better operating environment for internet-related industries. This will improve their capacity to make better business decisions, and to deliver better services to consumers, as well as have more certainty and confidence in their regulatory environment. This reform will also provide greater certainty for online users and online businesses about what their rights and responsibilities are.
The review process should take approximately 12 months, with another 12 months to be allowed for transition to the new framework. Any element identified as a critical need should be expedited.
- To work towards an Australian taxation system that is fair, progressive, simple, transparent, effective, flexible, has ease of compliance and encourages civic responsibility.
- To work towards an Australian taxation system that will deliver sufficiency of revenue, ecological sustainability, employment opportunities, sustainable growth, fair distribution of wealth, and international and domestic competitiveness.
- The Australian Democrats support a taxation system that is broadly based, progressive and based on capacity to pay.
- We believe the mix of taxation between direct and indirect sources should be restructured so that it promotes a more transparent and progressive tax system.
- We believe the Direct tax system should be progressive and restructured so as to remove the potential for tax minimisation by the wealthy (including the use of family trusts and companies, negative gearing and exorbitant salary sacrificing).
- We advocate that Taxation Legislation be written in such a way as to make clear the principles upon which it is based and to enable the securing of tax payable, with a minimum of need for judicial determination, and shall make provision for an independent appeal mechanism.
- We support the principle of indexing taxes in general with income tax brackets adjusted regularly to minimise ‘bracket creep’.
- We believe that income tax brackets should be linked to meaningful social indicators.
- We believe that the tax-free threshold should be raised to the poverty line.
- The Democrats believe that losses principally generated from debt should be quarantined and only deductible against profits from similar activities.
- We believe that all business activity should, in principle, be taxed in the same manner whether conducted as a sole-trader, trust, company, joint venture or partnership.
- We will promote comparatively labour intensive (as distinct from capital intensive) enterprises.
- The Democrats will promote the viability of rural and regional based enterprises.
- We will encourage the expansion of environmental industries, such as the renewable energy and environmental management sectors.
- We believe that a comprehensive overhaul of international taxation arrangements is needed to minimise the capacity for tax avoidance.
- We support the taxation of capital assets with:
- exemptions for the family home and farm; incentives for longer-term investments;
- incentives for investment in low-cost rental housing;
- appropriate taxation of land values at all levels of Government; and
- appropriate taxation of high wealth individuals;
- The Democrats actively support social and environmental tax reform, which will ensure all externalities are fully reflected in the costs associated with economic activity and promote ecologically sustainable development. This should include:
- The use of environmental taxes and charges to promote the transition from non-renewable resources and other polluting substances to more environmentally benign products and energy sources, including renewable resources;
- The use of environmental taxes and charges to promote sustainable natural resource management practices;
- Increases in tax deductions for research and development concerning technologies and practices that promote ecologically sustainable development;
- The removal of tax subsidies that:
- promote fossil fuel industries;
- provide disincentives for the use of public transport; and
- promote unsustainable natural resource management practices.
- We support changes to Federal-State taxation arrangements so that:
- . the States will be more directly accountable to their taxpayers for the level and distribution of their budget outlays, and cost-shifting is minimised;
- the Commonwealth shall continue to be the main collector of taxes;
- the Commonwealth shall dedicate to the States the whole (or a fixed proportion) of one or more of its existing revenue streams;
- the Commonwealth discourages States from reliance on gambling taxes because it gives them a stake in promoting socially destructive activities.
- We believe the taxation system must be integrated with the welfare system and structured to prevent disadvantage and penalty arising from the mismatch between the two systems. It should prevent ‘poverty traps’ and not discourage people on welfare benefits from undertaking part-time employment, or moving into full-time employment.
- We believe that superannuation should be concessionally taxed to maximise future returns and that superannuation should be integrated into an effective welfare system. It should use a simplified common set of standards and parameters for calculation of benefits and tax payable. (This is detailed further in the superannuation policy.)
- We believe that certain basic items such as food, health, education, childcare, public transport and charitable activities should be free from consumption taxes.
- We believe that luxury items can be taxed at higher rates.
- We believe the taxation system should enable special consideration for private expenditure on defined charitable and civic responsibilities.
- Promote education as the cornerstone of society, developing well-informed, tolerant, responsible, ethical and critical citizens, functioning as an integral part of the community;
- Ensure government provides and maintains a well-resourced, free, secular, diverse and high quality public post-secondary and higher education system that provides access to knowledge through teaching, scholarship and research;
- Fulfil the right of every person in Australia to an equitable level of educational opportunity, through the provision of a standard of teaching and educational facilities that enables the full development of their potential; and
- Ensure that in planning, policy decisions and operation of the higher education system, students are the primary focus of universities and government.
The Australian Democrats:
- Will continue to campaign for appropriately publicly-funded, high quality and universally available education.
- Believe education at all levels is a long-term investment in our society and should not be narrowly focussed on short-term economic objectives, industry goals nor vocational training.
- Education is part of a life long learning process that will provide people with the opportunity to develop their interests and skills, and serve the needs of the community;
- Education is a community asset, which provides a positive response to the social, cultural, environmental and economic issues facing society;
- Educational institutions must: be internally democratic, with the decision-making power of the institution resting with staff, students and the community
- Believe that university education must be:
- Available to all Australians irrespective of gender, ethnicity, class, socio-economic background, age, sexual preference, disability, religion, national origin or geographic location;
- Publicly owned, publicly accountable and publicly controlled;
- A flexible and diverse system which enables people to move freely between different educational institutions;
- Support equal access to University that is based on an individual’s willingness to undertake such an education and not on capacity to pay.
- Reject and oppose the application of the so-called ‘user-pays’ principle to education in any form including HECS, PELS, differential HECS, up-front fees, vouchers, or through any other form of student loans schemes.
- Oppose the deregulation of fees and charges where they are applied to the post-secondary sector;
- Believe that the preservation and extension of academic freedom is fundamental to the role of tertiary education in preserving, transmitting and extending knowledge.
- Will extend access to post-secondary and higher education, student financing by way of a direct grants scheme with the aim of providing a minimum liveable income for all students.
- Call on governments to significantly increase funding for education so that institutions can improve access to education by:
- The development of more places and expanded special entry programs to increase enrollments;
- Allowing the development of comprehensive and equitable part-time study programs;
- Expanding course options;
- Basing entry requirement on academic capacity, recognising that due to the inherent inequities within the secondary school system the ideal of access to higher education being based on intellectual merit alone, as a prejudice free determinant, is fundamentally flawed;
- The development of flexible timetables and staff arrangements to cater for special needs;
- Undertaking substantial capital and building projects;
- Providing an expansion of low-cost on-campus student accommodation;
- Substantially increasing child care facilities with provision for flexible, after hours, and vacation child care;
- Undertaking programs that attempt to support and encourage participation of traditionally excluded groups;
- Providing flexible credit arrangements with a focus on cross-sectoral agreements between universities and TAFE institutions;
- Expanding library resources; and
- Substantially increasing information technology resources at no cost to students or staff.
- Call on governments to substantially increase funding to education to ensure that adequate counselling, health and welfare, study skills programs and other support services are provided.
- Call for substantial funding for staff development and to increase staff/student ratios that will improve the quality of teaching in general, and greatly assist those students in most need of support.
- Support selection and entry criteria to post-secondary education that serves to:
- break down existing inequalities within society;
- counter discrimination; and
- be part of a comprehensive approach to providing real educational opportunities for socially and educationally disadvantaged groups.
- reduce workforce segmentation, structural barriers between education sectors, and encourage greater mobility from unemployment to formal education and the workforce; and between education, training and work.
- Educational institutions becoming dependent on corporate sponsorship.
- Any corporate sponsorship in public educational institutions that funds core activities or facilities.
- Partiality or any form of advertising in return for donations.
- face-to-face teaching and research as the core focus of academic staff at all levels and not administrative work.
- Retaining and attracting quality staff through providing appropriate salaries, working conditions and professional development opportunities.
- Continued training and development to ensure that all staff, both academic and general, are familiar with developments in their field.
- Support greater attention being provided to improve educational outcomes among our country’s Indigenous population and will work to ensure that Government provides:
- programs and educational environments that welcome and promote Indigenous culture, as determined by Indigenous communities;
- Qualified Indigenous academic and support staff for Indigenous students in recognition that appropriate support mechanisms are vital to ensuring Indigenous students reach their learning potential and goals;
- Recognition and support for the diverse cultural needs of Indigenous students forced to board away from their families and communities in order to further their education.;
- Staff trained in teaching English as a second language
- Promote and defend the right to a safe comfortable and clean physical environment in which to learn and teach. To this end the Democrats will work to ensure that:
- there are enough teaching and learning facilities with adequate heating and cooling systems;
- land, facilities, equipment and infrastructure meet at least minimum government OH&S standards and building regulations;
- there is no overcrowding in lecture theatres and classrooms.
- Support the role of Post-Secondary Student Organisations and:
- Assert that in order for students to work towards the positive transformation of the post-secondary education system, and society, they must be able to organise collectively in democratic student organisations.
- Strongly support the principle of student control of student affairs, and open and democratic structured student organisations as necessary for the academic and democratic integrity of institutions.
- Recognising that all students benefit from the activities of student organisations, the Democrats are committed to universal membership which should be automatic upon enrolment of a student in an institution.
- Support the important role student organisations in the provision of campus services, in adding to the university experience, and by facilitating the creation and maintenance of cultural diversity.
- Acknowledge and support the important roles that higher education representative groups play in the sector and in the community.
- Oppose campus amalgamations on economic issues alone. However will consider an amalgamation of universities only if there is genuine, non-partisan support; and there is a demonstrated academic and equity benefit for and support from staff, students, and the community.
- Support adequate student support services as essential to students fulfilling their potential within the post-secondary and higher education system. The Australian Democrats further support:
- Shifting the onus of funding student support services to governments and institutions, not students.
- Direct involvement of students in the establishment and ongoing management of such services in order to maximise effectiveness.
- Support the role part-time, Open Learning, and Mature Age Students have in ensuring that all Australians have equitable access to further education In order to support Part-time, Open Learning, and Mature Age Students, the Democrats call on institutions to:
- Provide services outside normal hours;
- Waive any financial penalties for open learning and distance education students who withdraw from any or all of their subjects.
- The Democrats believe that the following areas are a priority:
- Improve flexibility of timetabling arrangements;
- Extend library opening hours;
- Make welfare and counselling services more accessible to part-time students;
- Support the principle that the rights and responsibilities afforded to international students studying in Australia should be the same as those available to offshore students of Australian Tertiary Institutions. The Democrats further support offshore education that:
- Is delivered within the same quality frameworks & assessments as on-shore education;
- Is equivalent in structure, content and quality to the same program taught by that institution in Australia as taught by that institution or their agent offshore;
- Recognises the language & place of instruction on testamurs.
- Affords offshore students the same level of access to representation and support services as onshore students noting the vital work of student organisations.
- Will work towards:
- Ensuring that Australian Universities are accountable for public monies expended in developing offshore activities and that full acquittal is made in appropriate public reports and to the relevant Federal Department;
- The development of an official register of all offshore education provided by Australian Institutions.
The Australian Democrats continue to acknowledge the special obligation owed to veterans who served the nation in conflict.
The Australian Democrats:
- recognise the obligation to veterans and their special needs by retaining the administration of benefits under one piece of legislation and one separate, sufficiently funded, Veteran’s Affairs Department with a specialist Veteran’s Review Board
- support increase of funding for community services for veterans, including counselling and home care services as well as increasing the number of nursing home beds made available for veterans and their spouses
- oppose the veterans disability pension being subject to the income test by the Department of Social Security
- are concerned at the erosion in the worth of many veteran’s pensions and support indexation of those payments. We support the indexation of veteran’s pensions and compensatory payments to Male Average Weekly Earnings or CPI (whichever is greater) as we do in regard to Social Security pensions. The Democrats have long argued that all pensions, including the War Widows Pension and the Service Pension, should be indexed quarterly
- support the provision of the Repatriation Health Card for all conditions (Gold Card) that provides the full range of health care services to those with qualifying service being extended to include all personnel who served in the armed forces during WWII, and veterans of Korea and Vietnam upon reaching the age of seventy
- will improve funding for the Vietnam Veteran’s Counselling Service (which provides services to veterans of other conflicts as well as the families of veterans) for the provision of improved services, including outreach services in regional areas where there are a high population of Vietnam veterans
- will design specialised support packages for veterans of more recent conflicts such as the Gulf War, the East Timor Conflict and U.N. peace-keeping operations
- support the provision of repatriation benefits to address the significant but not adequately recognised health problems of Australian military personnel exposed to nuclear radiation (including members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force), and Vietnam and Gulf War veterans and their families
- acknowledge the need to assist the victims of exposure to chemical and biological harm; including medical harm such as experimental vaccines and drugs; and recognise that such harm may manifest itself in not only the veteran exposed but also in their offspring who should be considered victims of such exposure
- support the ongoing service available to veterans via the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
- support adequate legal aid funding being provided to veterans to appeal decisions of the Repatriations Commission, the Veterans’ Review Board or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
- support ongoing funding for appropriate memorial and commemorative programs including education programs to be conducted in schools
- continue to oppose the introduction of fees at the Australian War Memorial
- Young people should be accorded the support, rights and responsibilities which will enable them to participate fully in their society.
- The Australian Democrats recognise that it is highly important that young people are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities.
- The Democrats are committed to providing the resources and organisations which will allow young people to be properly heard, educated and cared for.
- The Australian Democrats believe that people should not be discriminated against on the basis of age.
- Support and work towards the re-establishment of an adequately funded and resourced independent peak youth affairs body. This organisation will provide youth focused and directed policy development, advocacy, leadership and support services. This body will enable and encourage young people to play an active role in political life.
- Work to lower the age of enfranchisement  to 16, with voluntary enrolment until 18, and compulsory voting once enrolled.
- Move to establish independent community law centres to enable young people to be referred to them so as to avoid any unnecessary criminal proceedings.
- Promote full access for young people to legal services and the legal system, expanding and defining their existing legal rights.
- Expand legal aid and advocacy services to young people, in acknowledgement of the variety of circumstances in which young people may require legal assistance.
- Improve young people’s’ health by promoting preventative and holistic health care covering physical, mental and sexual well-being, recognising that health is the outcome of lifestyle.
- Work towards improving youth people’s health outcomes by providing adequate income support, proper housing, efficient and equitable education and training opportunities, protection from abuse and readily available access to information on sexuality and contraception.
- Support privacy and independence in all areas of young people’s life, including health.
- Ensure the existence of compulsory health and lifestyle programs, including STI  awareness components in all government and non-government schools and the provision of sexual health services such as condoms in schools.
- Work to ensure young people have access to affordable and adequate accommodation.
- Support young people in their wish to live independently, by working towards:
- Providing alternative housing options for young people including emergency refuges, foster homes, hostel type accommodation and communal homes;
- . Increasing Government provided rent assistance to young people on low incomes who are living away from home, recognising their independence;
- Ensuring Government provision of adequate income support on the basis of need, not age.
- Remain committed to the principle of equal pay for work of equal value and replacing youth wages with a competency based wage system, real training and meaningful employment.
- Work to ensure young people have equal access to public space and should not be harassed or intimidated for their use of that space.
- Oppose any curfew on young people because curfews do not adequately address issues of young people’s use of public space, and that solutions should come from consultation with young people.
- Promote and work towards the government provision of adequate mental health services which seek to address the disproportionate number of young people with mental health issues. The Australian Democrats support early intervention programs which provide young people at risk proper care and attention.
- As a consequence of human impacts, Australia faces serious environmental degradation and resource constraints which continue to be exacerbated by a growing population, increased per capita consumption and inefficiencies.
- Population growth reduces our ability to preserve our unique biodiversity and places strains on our economy, infrastructure and housing supply.
- A growing population puts more pressure on us to find new ways of ‘keeping up’ with material demands that are one of the highest per capita in the world.
- Population growth does not necessarily create wealth, despite the claims of the development lobby, and it certainly does not improve national well-being.
- To ensure our continent’s long-term sustainability, we aim to first stabilise then reduce Australia’s population to an ecologically sustainable level.
- To restrain population growth in a way that is equitable to all, is in keeping with the environment’s capacity to sustain human numbers and that acknowledges Australia’s international human rights obligations.
- To support families in making decisions about family size so that additional stresses are not placed on our unique environment, long-term agricultural productivity or infrastructure.
The Australian Democrats will work towards:
- Creating a formalised system whereby immigration intakes are determined as a result of trends in key indicators of sustainability.
- Decoupling the business visa class immigration programme from market demand, and instead introducing an annual quota system congruent with key indicators of sustainability (when considered with Policy Element iii).
- Doubling the numbers in our humanitarian visa class.
- Expanding programmes promoting gender equality, empowerment and opportunities for women, and welfare services so that the aged are less reliant on their dependents to financially support them, both at home and in our international development programmes.
- Expanding programmes that make all family planning options cheaper and more accessible to anyone who may choose them.
- Expanding programmes that provide retraining and support the 1.5 million long-term underemployed, unemployed and disadvantaged back into the workforce.
- Limiting baby bonus/family leave provisions and diverting the resources to education, family planning and foreign aid.
To recognise and maintain a multicultural society which values all those who live in Australia and ensures that all have a part to play in building a strong safe harmonious and prosperous nation
- Continue to recognise the role that indigenous Australians play in multicultural society;
- Continue to recognise the strong link between family migration and multiculturalism;
- Continue to work for: a community which supports harmony, the elimination of prejudice, and the combating of discrimination through education and, where necessary, legislation;
- Support the role of the Ethnic Community Broadcasting ,SBS and community based indigenous broadcasting;
- Work to ensure that all immigrants (including refugees) and indigenous Australians achieve equality in access to services, benefits and opportunities available in Australia;
- Seek to ensure that funding of interpreter services is maintained at a rate that ensures equity in access to health education and government services;
- Support the maintenance of a strong multicultural/multilingual public sector including schooling at all levels;
- Ensure that all school curriculums include multicultural studies and that school counsellors receive cultural awareness training;
- Provide research into drug and alcohol issues for young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to assist in the development of programs which are sensitive to their needs;
- Encourage cultural awareness programs within mainstream recreation clubs and service providers.
- The Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) is one of Australia’s most important agricultural areas, with the basin producing 40% of Australia’s food. Two million people live in its catchment, while another 1.4 million living outside of it are directly dependent on it, principally in South Australia.
- Lacking an overall national plan, the Basin has been severely over-allocated, a problem which has been exacerbated by prolonged drought and increasing population numbers dependent on it for work and food.
- Drought is the norm for much of the land through which these waters flow, with only 6% of Australia’s rain falling in the Basin; yet despite this, the MDB accounts for 70% of Australia’s irrigation.
- The death of wetlands, soil acidification, salinity, feedlot, pesticide and fertiliser run-off, high E.coli levels and eutrophication are increasing problems for the Basin.
- Due to minimal flows, unprecedentedly, the mouth of the Murray silted over between 2002 and 2011 and was able to be kept open only by constant dredging.
- Within the MDB a predicted average increase in temperatures of between 2.5 and 6 degrees by 2100 could lead to a flow reduction of between 16 and 48%.
- Without an environmentally healthy river system the food industry which depends on it will collapse.
Our goals for the Murray Darling Basin
- The development and implementation of a whole-of-basin management plan which includes achievable, practical and ecologically sustainable measures for the environment, communities, agriculture and industries reliant on the Basin;
- The true independence of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, based on a model similar to the independence of the Reserve Bank;
- All decisions about future use of the MDB taking account of CSIRO climate change predictions of a further 9-14% reduction in water availability;
- The environment having its own fair entitlement to MDB water based on independent peer-reviewed science;
- Enough flow to keep the Murray mouth open to the sea in quantities large enough for this to occur naturally, without dredging and at or above a scientifically agreed water quality;
- Increasing the efficiency of irrigation;
- Ensuring that connectivity between surface water and groundwater is observed in decision-making. Official Australian Democrats Policy – as balloted May 2013
The Australian Democrats will support or work towards:
- Reducing the cap on diversions from the Basin and preventing any new diversions, including for mining;
- Increasing environmental flows for the restoration of wetlands, lakes and billabongs using the best available ecological modelling;
- The development and implementation of structural adjustment schemes to assist irrigator efficiency, and assist those irrigators wishing to do so to exit from the industry with just compensation and dignity;
- The provision of socio-economic assistance to local communities within the Murray-Darling Basin where required as part of structural adjustment;
- Achieving population levels that do not exceed the environment’s capacity to supply water;
- Ensuring that forestry is declared a licensed water using activity;
- Promotion of farming methods known to improve water quality and continuity of supply e.g. natural sequence farming;
- Governments having the right to water buybacks as part of the Basin’s water trading system, including for environmental uses;
- Strict independent monitoring of environmental standards of mining, milling and processing occurring within or adjacent to the Basin;
- Ensuring strict compliance of those holding water licences and penalties for non-compliance;
- Preventing the over-exploitation of groundwater;
- Opposing any new dams or expansion of existing water infrastructure;
- Research programs for monitoring Murray Darling Basin biodiversity and water quality;
- Regular reviews of water allocation volumes to agriculture and the environment.
To anticipate and prevent threats, protect and restore to health Australian soils and native ecosystems – ensuring the economic use of soils does not outpace healthy soil formation.
- urgent, nationally co-ordinated and well-resourced action to survey, reduce, control and reverse salinity and soil degradation;
- significantly reducing the sanilation of our major water systems such as the MurrayDarling basin.
- rapidly scaling back, monitoring and strictly regulating the clearing and modification of all remnant and re-growth native vegetation on both freehold and leasehold properties;
- initiating the total and immediate cessation of vegetation clearing in environmentally sensitive areas and areas of high conservation value;
- introducing assistance and incentives to promote the conservation and rehabilitation of native habitat values on private lands, as well as to minimise social and economic hardship where agricultural and pastoral land is retired to permit ecological recovery;
- promoting techniques and strategies leading to the reduction of soil salinity on irrigated or other sensitive lands through the use of financial incentives for investing in conservationoriented farming;
- ensuring all potential acid-sulphate, together with other sensitive soil types, are thoroughly mapped and monitored – with priority given to development proposal sites – preventing soil and water acidification and contamination at the outset of developments, and opposing the use of sea water to neutralise acidic water because of the mobilisation of toxic metals;
- opposing the grazing and cropping of marginal land and otherwise actively encouraging and assisting landholders to switch from ecologically malign practices and industries to those ensuring soil use does not outpace healthy soil formation;
- introducing incentives and assistance for greater community involvement in ecological land management and restoration;
- integrating the degradation of Australia’s soil and rangeland ecosystems into the national accounts, enhancing community awareness and understanding of soil, salinity and other land degradation issues, and not confusing defensive expenditure with positive national development
To ensure that all people working in Australia are able to freely and fairly enjoy secure and just working conditions, remuneration and entitlements and a productive and rewarding work-life which integrates well with their personal, family and community obligations, and which is underpinned by adequate legislative protection and assistance.
The Australian Democrats will: Workplace Democracy
- foster and enhance industrial democracy and greater cooperation between owners, management and employees through principles of transparency, open management and communication, and support for participation in decision-making, reward and ownership. Trade Unions and Employer Groups
- encourage employers, employees and their unions to set conditions of employment through collective bargaining, at whatever level, with access to arbitration where necessary to prevent unfair outcomes.
- encourage the legitimate role of trade unions, employees elected representatives and employer organisations in legislation and workplace culture. All representative organisations should be open, independent, democratic and fully accountable to their members.
- protect freedom of association and the right to join a particular union or employers organisation. Membership of unions and/or employer organisations should be encouraged and non-members who benefit from negotiations obliged to contribute a fee-for-service. The Role of Governments and the Industrial Relations Commission
- underpin Australian working conditions and entitlements by a national award system providing a liveable minimum wage and high minimum conditions consistent with community expectations and standards, and ensuring adequate protection for disadvantaged or underprivileged employees.
- encourage mediation and non-litigious, speedy resolution of industrial disputes.
- where non-litigious resolution fails, support resolution through an independent Industrial Relations Commission as the sole arbiter, the members of which are selected on merit, and whose orders are respected by law.
- abolish the Office of the Employment Advocate and have its powers reconstituted in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
- include, but not being limited to, the following powers for the Australian Industrial Relations Commission:
- the power to require an employer to collectively bargain where a significant group of employees request this option;
- the legislated power to arbitrate in regard to the establishment of certified agreements if bargaining and conciliation has failed to reach an agreement. Working Hours/Job Sharing/Part-time Work
- encourage a variety of flexible working structures to accommodate the diversity of individual employees’ personal, family and community obligations.
- reduce the standard working week (number of hours) through the promotion of incentives to foster greater employment rather than use of excessive overtime whether paid or unpaid.
- support and formally legislate paid parenting leave funded by the State. Discrimination
- oppose all forms of discrimination in employment.
- support the principle of merit based selection as the sole criterion for determination of employment. Continuous Education
- support access to continuous education for employees to be able to constantly upgrade and diversify their knowledge and skills.
- support the right of access for all employees to continuous education pertinent to their employment and facilitated by their employer. Equal pay
- support and uphold the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value. Industrial Action
- make industrial action legal in the pursuit or protection of pay and conditions, but prohibited where contrary to the orders of the Commission.
- Make industrial action particularly the right to strike legal in defined circumstances.
- Support secondary boycott action in support of human rights, environmental protection and consumer protection issues. Dismissals
- make claims of unfair dismissals subject to legal review that provides a fair go for both employers and employees.
- Make redundancies and retrenchments also subject to review and appropriate compensation once appropriate training, re-deployment and re-employment options have been explored and exhausted.
- Allow regular casual, fixed term contract and probationary employees access to unfair dismissal processes.
- waive – in cases of financial hardship, and refund if the claim is found to be valid, any lodgement fees for unfair dismissal. Employee Entitlements
- Protect all employee entitlements in law, by whatever mechanism gives workers best protection.
- Support and implement the following mechanisms to provide for employee entitlements in order of priority: a. an employer established trust fund in which all entitlements are held until they become due and which is protected under the ‘trust’ legislation from use for any purpose other than the payment of the entitlements. b. a national employee insurance scheme established to assist employees who lose entitlements and funded by employer premiums International obligations
- give effect to Australia’s signed international conventions, treaties and agreements as they apply to Workplace Relations and Australian industrial and workplace legislation, and be pro-active in pursuing improved labour standards in international treaties. Those not covered
- Develop new institutional arrangements to protect the interests of workers not represented by unions.
- Develop new arrangements to provide small business employers not represented by employer organisations with access to advice on and support in relation to workplace relations issues. Workplace Health and Safety (formerly Working Environment policy)
- maintain and contribute to the health and safety of all workers in Australian workplaces.
- Develop national minimum workplace health and safety standards for each industry.
- Support shared responsibility between workers and employers in monitoring and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.
- Legislate and adequately fund a system of monitoring and advice on health and safety issues.
- Make readily available, access to training on Workplace Health and Safety best practices for both employers and employees.