NATIONAL AFFAIRS: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
NCC national conference looks to federal election
, February 16, 2013
The recent 2013 national conference of the National Civic Council focused on policies for the federal election, which has been announced for September 14.
Conference speakers covered a range of the major issues facing Australia.
Mary Louise Fowler, national vice-president of the Australian Family Association, outlined how the World Congress of Families can play a major role in profiling marriage and family when it is held in Sydney this coming May 15-18, at Technology Park, Redfern (see report in this issue of News Weekly).
Christopher Brohier is an Adelaide barrister who appeared last year with Neville Rochow SC before same-sex marriage inquiries into bills before the federal and Tasmanian parliaments. Mr Brohier spoke on defending natural marriage in the states and territories. Although same-sex marriage legislation was defeated in federal parliament and in Tasmania last year, similar bills are either before, or anticipated, in NSW, the ACT, South Australia and possibly again in Tasmania.
Chelsea Pietsch is a lawyer and the executive officer of Freedom 4 Faith, a new organisation that was established to educate the Christian churches and wider public on issues relating to religious freedom in Australia. Also, she has worked as a research officer at the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute. She spoke on the effect that the planned consolidation of federal anti-discrimination laws could have on the churches, freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
Angela Shanahan, writer for The Australian, spoke on the injustices to single-income two-parent families under the current taxation and family payments system (her speech is reproduced in this issue of News Weekly).
A senior lecturer in accounting from Monash University, Stephen Smith, explained why Australia should follow the example of many other Western nations and allow families the option of income-splitting, which involves the pooling of family income for taxation purposes. He also explained the benefit of combining multiple family and childcare payments into a simplified, single payment benefit for each child.
Respected educational consultant, Dr Kevin Donnelly, is read regularly in Australia’s mainstream papers. He spoke to the conference on the decline in educational standards, which are being further weakened by the national curriculum. (An articles is reproduced in this issue of News Weekly).
Terri Kelleher, Victorian president of the Australian Family Association, spoke on the drive to push gay, lesbian bisexual and transsexual (GLBT) issues into schools from the education and health departments in most states.
Two leading farmers, Neil Eagle AO (NSW) and Ken Pattison (Victoria), spoke on the plight of rural and regional Australia, due to the combined effects of national competition policy, opening Australia’s borders to imported food products, the duopoly supermarkets forcing down farm-gate prices, rising input costs like electricity, and the loss of irrigation water.
The NCC national president, Peter Westmore, and vice-president, Patrick J. Byrne, addressed the conference on current international and domestic, social and economic issues.
A forum of six doctors, lawyers and teachers spoke on the need for networking to take on the hostile cultural and social issues facing their respective professions.
Particular emphasis was given to some of the key policy commitments the NCC is seeking from the political parties before the federal election.
Marriage: It will be important to ensure the Coalition parties pledge to maintain their support for marriage between one man and one woman, as defined in the federal Marriage Act 2004, and to oppose moves to legalise same-sex civil unions or any other form of relationships register.
Family taxation: The next government will be urged to implement family-based taxation, which now operates in the United States, France, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal, Switzerland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Poland, and Spain. (In addition, the Netherlands has a closely related system). Studies show that at least 90 per cent of families worldwide pool their income in some way and regard earnings as belonging to the family rather than any individual member.
Banking and finance: A conduit is needed for channelling a proportion of the $1.8 trillion Australians have accumulated in superannuation into domestic infrastructure.
Agriculture and water: Inquiries are needed into Australia’s food-manufacturing industries and their contribution to the domestic and export food and fibre markets, and into the availability of new water supplies for irrigation, industry and cities.
Energy: US strategic policy includes achieving energy self-sufficiency by 2030. Similarly, Australia should aim at self-reliance in transport fuels, through the greater use of natural gas and mandated domestically-produced sugar-cane-based ethanol.
The nation also needs to build modern coal-fired power stations.
Defence: As a proportion of the economy, expenditure on defence is at the lowest level since the late 1930s. It needs to be raised from 1.3 per cent of GDP to around 2 per cent in the next term of government, and 2.5 per cent subsequently.
About 150 delegates and observers from across Australia attended the NCC’s annual conference in Melbourne.
Patrick J. Byrne is vice-president of the National Civic Council.