While supporting a strong defence force the SDP opposes the adoption of targets such as 2 per cent of GDP to be defence spending. Particularly in times of economic difficulty such as the present, we need to be extremely rigorous in appraising large-scale defence purchases like submarines and fighter aircraft.
We also need to be stringent in obtaining value for money and not compromise the defence budget by diverting spending to higher cost domestic producers. Our long term capacity to strengthen our defence capacity depends on dealing with our present Budget challenges and promoting high levels of economic growth.
The SDP is appalled by the abuses suffered by some members of the armed forces from misconduct by other members of the armed forces. We believe much stronger penalties are needed for such misbehaviour including the potential for lengthy jail terms.
We believe those who join the armed services and choose to remain in the armed services need to be totally confident that such misbehaviour will not be tolerated and will be met with the most severe consequences. We believe those who potentially make themselves available for the daunting challenges of overseas military service should be able to do so with nothing but the full support of their service colleagues and the wider community.
The SDP supports economic policies to achieve high economic growth and continued jobs growth. To achieve this it is essential that the the Federal Government address the continuing structural budget deficit.
The SDP appreciates that it is difficult to achieve major expenditure reductions but we are supportive of efforts to do so. However, such measures should not be unfair or impose major social costs, especially of a long-term nature.
To the extent that expenditure reductions cannot be achieved, it is vital to address the revenue side of the Budget. This should involve addressing tax avoidance and evasion, broadening and streamlining the tax base as necessary and raising tax rates, if needed, provided this is done in a way that does not jeopardise job opportunities or involve unfairness.
The SDP believe that over time the Federal Government should run annual budget surpluses of at least 1 per cent of GDP. This provides a strong foundation for promoting high levels of national savings and investment and reducing and eventually eliminating the need to use taxes to pay interest on government debt.
The SDP believes there is some role for government stimulus when the economy is subjected to major economic shocks, especially from overseas. However, this needs to be exercised with care.
The SDP believes that the stimulus applied by the Rudd-Gillard Government was both too large and kept in place for too long. This left the economy with major on-going Budget problems which the current Federal Government is still grappling with.
Electoral Reform and Public Funding
The SDP accepts that the Senate voting system is in need of major reform. The system was devised by the major parties for their own benefit but has backfired on them somewhat in recent years. We are prepared to support reforms that promote fairness while simplifying the current Senate voting system.
One reform we support is to allow preferential voting 'above the line'. This would allow voters themselves to decide party preferences without having to complete the herculean task of filling in all boxes 'below the line'. The power of party bosses to trade preferences for their own purposes – oblivious to the wishes of the voters themselves – would be greatly reduced.
The SDP believes the public funding of political parties is a complete waste of taxpayers' money. It currently costs the Budget about $60 million a year and its underlying purpose is to exclude new entrants to the political process. It helps fund mindless advertising campaigns by the major parties which have little interest in devising and explaining coherent policies to improve the nation.
The SDP accepts that public funding cannot be abolished retrospectively as the major political parties plan their campaign spending on the basis of existing public funding legislation. However, the SDP is committed to acting in the Senate to abolish all public funding for future elections.
The current federalism arrangements have a huge problem of 'vertical imbalance' where the Commonwealth raises the bulk of government revenue while the States have vital expenditure responsibilities in fields like education, health, public transport, roads etc.
The SDP supports the Federal Government being considerably more generous in its division of revenue between Federal and State/Territory Governments.
To help achieve this goal the SDP supports the Commonwealth Grants Commission being tasked with reviewing the 'vertical imbalance' in funding between Federal and State Governments and making appropriate recommendations on the basis of alternative revenue projections.
Currently the Commonwealth Grants Commission only addresses the 'horizontal imbalance' issue, that is, the distribution of total State funding from the Commonwealth between the individual States and Territories.
The SDP supports Australia achieving the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of GNI (gross national income) being spent on foreign aid. We understand that this will make Australia among the most generous per capita foreign aid donor nations.
The SDP believes that foreign aid should provide a balance between immediate humanitarian relief and measures to promote longer term economic development through improved infrastructure, education etc.
Foreign aid should not be viewed as an instrument of foreign policy although it can have benefits in this area. Rather it should be viewed as a humanitarian and civilised response by a wealthy nation to overwhelming poverty and civil strife in many parts of the world.
The massive humanitarian crisis posed by millions of refugees flooding into countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey should, by itself, be enough to prompt Australia to step up its aid effort. We need to dramatically lift our support for refugees in these crisis regions.
Many SDP members who are educators believe young Australians will be especially supportive of any additional government efforts to step up humanitarian relief overseas.
The SDP supports the ANZUS alliance. However, the alliance should be viewed as a fundamentally defensive one which allows Australia to spend much less on defence that we might otherwise be able to.
The ANZUS alliance does not oblige Australia to automatically support military operations in third countries. The SDP believes we should treat all such requests by the United States with great care.
We believe the Vietnam War and the invasion of Iraq in 2003 were both disasters. We must learn from these experiences and exercise great caution before becoming involved in military operations overseas.
Freedom of Expression and Racism
The SDP strongly supports the right to freedom of expression and strongly opposes laws designed to stifle the legitimate expression of political views or muzzle the media.
The Racial Discrimination Act contains elements which have the effect of suppressing the legitimate expression of political views on controversial issues and therefore needs some amending. At the same time its basic focus on combating racism is welcome and needs support.
The SDP believes we need to allow the expression of controversial views in newspapers and on the Internet. However, we also need to strongly affirm the right of people to go about their normal lives without being subjected to racial or religious vilification or indeed any kind of harassment.
We support Federal and State legislation being strengthened to affirm the fundamental principle that all of us should be able to walk down the street, catch a train or bus or eat at a restaurant without harassment.
The SDP is also happy to support any program of advertising and/or police enforcement to combat 'on the street' racism or harassment based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation etc. A phone number service separate from 000 may be useful in helping follow-up 'non-emergency' incidents of public harassment and provide a deterrent to those who engage in such behaviour.
The SDP accepts that the strong view of most climate scientists is that global warming is a major issue and needs to be addressed. However, we also realise that a small number of prominent climate scientists question the 'majority view'.
We recognise that government institutions and other organisations can sometimes develop a 'conventional wisdom' that may at times leave them less than fully receptive to evidence that might be contrary to the prevailing view. We should also acknowledge that modern climate science is a relatively new field and progress in knowledge, including knowledge that could modify or overturn previous conventional wisdom, can occur at any time.
We therefore believe that as a nation we should remain open to further evidence on global warming as it emerges. Our elected parliamentarians, while evaluating current evidence and forming a view, should be careful not to 'lock themselves' too strongly into either side of the argument (that is, that the science on global warming is completely settled or that the whole notion of global warming is nonsense).
Given the 'majority view' of scientists on climate change the SDP believes it is prudent for nations to act collectively to moderate their emissions. The SDP does not believe Australia needs to lead the way on this issue. However, we also believe that Australia should at least make a reasonable contribution to the efforts of Europe, the United States, China and others to moderate emissions.
The SDP accepts that the 'least cost' method of reducing emissions may be a market-based, properly structured emissions trading scheme. However, we also take the view that other initiatives including measures coming under the category of 'direct action' might also play a useful role and would consider all these options on their merits.
The SDP accepts that countries like Australia that have around the highest per capita emissions in the world can reasonably be expected to make greater relative efforts to reduce emissions than countries like China and India with much lower per capita emissions.
The SDP believes that any emission reduction targets announced by the Federal Government should be seriously pursued. If such targets are not to be seriously pursued they should be officially rescinded.
The SDP supports an inquiry by the Productivity Commission into the feasibility of emission reduction targets under alternative policy settings. It would examine, among other things, the feasibility of the current Federal Government's recently announced emission reduction targets with existing 'direct action' policies as well as with alternative policies such as types of an emissions trading scheme.
The inquiry would also consider what form any emissions trading scheme might take (in concert with various other policy packages) to achieve a range of emission reduction targets, including longer-term targets. This would provide an important factual basis for the debate about policies to combat global warming.
The SDP is also prepared to support a separate 'take no prisoners' inquiry into the issue of global warming and its extent and causes. This inquiry would be carried out by a small panel of outstanding independent scientists (with a combination of climate science, statistical and other expertise). Especially if Australia is to commit to action to combat global warming costing billions of dollars, it is reasonable to conduct a small but rigorous check on just how plausible the assumptions behind such initiatives are.
The SDP acknowledges that the continuing blow-out in health spending is a matter of national concern. We are prepared to cooperate with any government to contain the expenditure blow-out provided it is done in a way that does not impose unwarranted burdens on vulnerable individuals and families or compromise the core objectives of a modern health system.
The SDP is also prepared to support any reasonable government initiatives to address other challenges to our health system. These include relieving pressure on emergency departments, making nursing a more attractive profession, reducing the inefficiencies, bureaucratic red tape and inflexibility of many government-operated hospitals, supporting world-class medical research in Australia and promoting Australian health services as a major 'export' industry (through attracting foreign clients to Australia and expanding Australian health services overseas).
(a) Normal Migration
The SDP believes that it makes little sense to promote major inflows of new migrants while our capital cities are choking with inadequate roads and public transport and experiencing major pressures on public hospitals and public schools.
Further, it makes little sense to have migrants with limited or no skills entering Australia in our normal immigration program while we are struggling to find jobs for our young people and to move large numbers of largely or totally unskilled people off welfare and into gainful employment.
While large-scale immigration adds to Australia's total national income, it is doubtful if it adds to per capita incomes. On the other hand a smaller carefully targeted immigration program based on well-educated, highly skilled migrants is likely to enhance the living standards of all Australians over time.
The SDP therefore supports a low migration intake (excluding consideration of humanitarian migration which is discussed separately below). This intake should be determined by an application of a 'points system' broadly along the lines currently operating.
The SDP believes the family reunion program should be modified. While it is understandable that many migrants to Australia would be keen to have relatives join them, the wider national interest should also be considered: all potential migrants should be evaluated according to the same criteria with reduced preference being given to applicants because they have relatives in Australia.
At the same time restrictions should be eased for successful migrants in relation to their parents coming to Australia. Here, however, parents would not be automatically eligible for free health care, social security etc. In effect part or all of the social costs of migrants bringing their parents to Australia would be borne by the migrants themselves.
The SDP favours a small block of migrant places (say 5000 a year) being subject to auction. This would provide potential migrants and their relatives in Australia with a fall-back alternative (at a monetary cost) where they are desperate for entry to occur. The revenue raised would partly offset the cost to the Government of these migrants' call on government services.
The SDP believes all aspects of immigration should be applied without any form of discrimination on the basis of race, religion or other extraneous factors.
The SDP believes our migration arrangements with New Zealand should be renegotiated to ensure that New Zealand residents seeking entry to Australia are subject to exactly the same processes as other foreign nationals.
We believe the bulk of current residents who came via New Zealand should be allowed to continue in Australia. However, a small number should be exited on a case-by-case basis where issues of crime or other anti-social behaviour have arisen.
We recognise that to obtain New Zealand acquiescence in these changes Austalia will need to provide significant concessions on other matters such as, for instance, health care for New Zealand tourists in Australia.
(b) Humanitarian Migration
Australia's humanitarian migration program should comprise two components, a refugee program and a non-refugee program.
The non-refugee program should be much smaller than the refugee program and incorporate several components. These include a small ‘family reunion’ program where humanitarian considerations are especially strong and those concerned do not have the means to successfully pursue the auction option described earlier.
The SDP believes Australia’s refugee intake should be increased significantly. We believe a new 'points system' for potential refugees should be applied to ensure the most needy applicants and those with the best prospects of assimilation are given proper consideration. A degree of flexibility would still be maintained.
Australia should be proactive in seeking out those needing refugee assistance rather than concentrating on those who submit formal applications. Those in need of refugee assistance include a number in overseas prisons for political, religious or certain other 'non-criminal crimes'. Also in special need of assistance are those such as religious minorities facing ongoing threats of violence.
The SDP believes the Government should conduct 'due diligence' on those being considered for the refugee intake with reference to possible propensity for violence etc. It would also allay community resistance to increasing the refugee intake if a judicial procedure were set up where any refugees subsequently convicted of specified major crimes such as murder, sexual assault etc would lose their Australian citizenship.
(c) Border Protection
The SDP believes that to protect our borders and to ensure no further drownings at sea, Australia should continue to enforce a policy that those who seek to enter our country by unauthorised means should never be granted permanent settlement.
On current information, the SDP is prepared to countenance a 'boat turnback policy where it is safe to do so' as part of an armoury of measures to deter people smugglers and so prevent drownings at sea.
However, it is important not to demonise asylum seekers (including those attempting unauthorised entry). It is also important to take all steps necessary to ensure those in detention are treated humanely at all times.
As a priority Australia needs creatively to seek the resettlement of those we currently detain in third countries where they can get on with their lives in freedom. As part of this process short-term and possibly medium-term financial support for those being resettled may well be appropriate.
The SDP supports Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generation. We believe it has helped promote genuine reconciliation.
The SDP supports in principle a constitutional amendment to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. We would determine our final position after seeing the precise change proposed. The Government should proceed carefully as it would be disastrous to put a proposal of this nature to a referendum and see it defeated.
The SDP is open to considering a change to the day Australia Day is celebrated. We believe having Australia Day on 26 January – marking the day in 1788 that European settlement in Australia began – may potentially be an ongoing obstacle to having many Indigenous Australians fully embrace the celebration.
On this issue we acknowledge the profoundly beneficial contribution to the Australian people that stems from Western culture and institutions. However, we also recognise that many Indigenous Australians are deeply ambivalent about aspects of the European impact on their culture and link this to the 'date of first European settlement'. Changing the date of Australia Day may help ensure all Australians unambiguously embraced the celebration and focused on the future as well as the past.
The SDP acknowledges that there are debates about the exact nature of the European impact on Indigenous communities. These debates (which include ones about the precise circumstances of the Stolen Generation) should be based on intellectually rigorous scholarship and an absence of personal abuse.
The SDP wishes to see the wages and salaries of Australians as high as practicable consistent with full employment.
We support policies to achieve higher wages such as boosting national savings, promoting open trade, supporting high productivity industries and sectors, increasing competition, reforming and simplifying the taxation system, improving the efficiency of Australian infrastructure and ports, reducing government spending where it is wasteful, limiting the intake of unskilled workers etc.
The SDP does not support a 'free for all' industrial relations system and wishes to see suitable protections and restraints on employer action against employees. However, we acknowledge that elements of our industrial relations system, including some minimum wage laws for young people and sections of the unfair dismissal legislation, may have the effect of inadvertently promoting unemployment.
The SDP believes the Fair Work Commission should be directed to investigate minimum wages for young people and be empowered to make some adjustments to youth wages, especially for 15 and 16 year olds, where this would reduce the youth unemployment rate.
In addition the Unfair Dismissals legislation should be amended to allow employers who take on young workers to dismiss them if they are not able to fit in successfully. Legislation to prevent employer abuses and exploitation of young employees would also be maintained or extended. However, this would be done in a way that would not prevent employers who acted in good faith to 'give young people a go' from subsequently dismissing them if circumstances changed or the individuals turned out to be unsuitable for that type of employment.
While these adjustments may involve somewhat reduced wages for some of those starting out in the workforce who have poor school education levels, we believe they can be justified if they achieve their goal of promoting job opportunities and giving young people a greater chance to 'get their foot in the door'.
The SDP believes that mental health is a major issue that our nation is still to deal with adequately. It appears, for instance, that around a third of our prison population consists of individuals with significant mental health issues.
Most of these individuals end up in prison because society does not know what to do with them. Many should probably be dealt with in non-prison institutions (which may well involve compulsory confinement) where they can receive the specialist help they need.
The SDP accepts that a significantly increased Budget commitment to mental health is needed.
The SDP supports in principle a form of Mineral Resource Rent Tax or 'mining tax'. This is a tax on profits generated from the exploitation of non-renewable resources in Australia. Taxes of this form operate in many parts of the world.
The rationale for this tax is the same as that for the existing Petroleum Resource Rent Tax levied on off-shore petroleum extraction activities, which was introduced by the Hawke Government.
Government revenue from the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax varies depending, in particular, on oil and natural gas prices but appears to average over $1.5 billion per annum. Those opposed to any form of mining tax should, if consistent, also support the repeal of the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax.
The SDP acknowledges that the introduction of the mining tax by the Rudd-Gillard Government was bungled. We support an inquiry by the Productivity Commission into the desirability and appropriate form of a resource rent tax on the exploitation of Australian's on-shore non-renewable resources.
The terms of reference of the inquiry should specify the need for a practical relatively straightforward tax design to limit administrative costs to business and government. Consideration should also be given to the need to avoid undue 'sovereign risk' issues in the design, introduction and operation of the tax.
Finally State royalties and other relatively inefficient 'output' taxes would also be reviewed with a view to abolishing them as part of a comprehensive tax reform addressing non-renewable resources. The States would be fully compensated as part of the reform package.
The SDP supports the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). We believe a key challenge is to carefully and properly prioritise disability needs to ensure most available funds are directed to individuals and areas of greatest need.
National Identity Card
The SDP believes that a suitably structured National Identity Card would have significant benefits for Australia. It would be a 'one-stop card' that would simply replace a driver's licence or pension card for most Australians (simply being a more sophisticated version of these cards). Its purpose would be to help combat crime and other anti-social behaviour (such as welfare fraud, fathers not paying child support, illegal immigration etc).
Among other things, improved data from the National Identity Card would allow various authorities to follow up quickly and appropriately on criminal or anti-social behaviour and also be in a better position to anticipate further such behaviour and respond appropriately (eg by offering anger management courses etc).
For example, individuals engaging in harassment on racial or religious grounds may not necessarily be charged but relevant information (including prior warnings) would form part of the national data base that could be drawn on by police, courts etc in determining an appropriate response.
Information on the National Identify Card data base would be restricted to that relevant to actual or potential criminal or anti-social behaviour and some health issues. Access to that data would be subject to limitations depending on the type of 'users' (eg police, hospitals, employers, clubs, schools etc). Strict privacy rules would be put in place. The data recorded about individuals who have not engaged in criminal or anti-social behaviour would on the whole be fairly minimal.
A National Identity Card could only be implemented in cooperation with the States. If some of the States were not prepared to cooperative with a reasonable proposal, the Federal Government could consider holding a referendum to obtain the authority to implement the proposal unilaterally.
National Savings Guarantee
The SDP supports policies to promote higher national savings. We believe the Government should introduce a National Savings Guarantee. It would operate through a small percentage tax on all interest income in banks and other financial institutions paid by the institutions themselves. Interest income received by depositors would then be totally tax-free.
The interest income tax would be set at a rate that ensured that the value of bank deposits etc (after allowing for inflation) would rise consistently each year. This National Savings Guarantee would ensure that all Australians (including those without any access to paid financial advice) would be able to protect their savings and see the real value of their savings increase year by year simply by depositing them in a bank or other financial institution.
The SDP understands that the National Savings Guarantee will require a careful review of taxation and regulation affecting financial institutions etc. The purpose would be to ensure that the National Savings Guarantee operates in a neutral manner as far as practicable in relation to all financial institutions etc and does not distort savings choices.
The SDP strongly supports the Federal Government negotiating with the States to abolish all stamp duty – especially stamp duty on the sale of houses and cars. This will increase the incentive and ability of people to acquire houses and cars – the two assets that Australians most commonly acquire.
National Security and Terrorism
The SDP recognises the need for a professional national security service and is pleased that planned terrorist plots have been foiled by the authorities. However, it is important that laws relating to terrorism and the conduct of national security authorities not inadvertently promote a climate more favourable to those promoting terrorist activities.
The SDP believes that all Australians should have the right to robustly express their views on all matters. Restrictions on free speech should essentially be confined to the incitement to violence in Australia under very restrictive conditions.
A small proportion of Muslim Australians are deeply angry about a range of issues such as the West's intervention in Islamic-majority countries, Australia's policies towards Israel and Palestine and the conduct of the security services.
Our message is these disaffected Muslims should be this: our Australian society will basically allow you to say whatever you like. However, if you cross the line into violence then the consequences will be severe.
It is also important to address the legitimate concerns of Muslim Australians. Action should include:
- ensuring that ASIO and the police services operate under protocols that ensure raids on individuals only occur if there is significant evidence of potential terrorist-related activities
- requiring ASIO and the police to extend their liaison with members of the Islamic community and to ensure follow-up to provide as much information as practicable to those individuals and families who have been the subject of raids or other action by the authorities
- liaising with State authorities to facilitate the legitimate aspirations of Muslim communities to build mosques at or near where they live and ensure that local government planning requirements are not misused to created unjustified obstructions
- supporting State police and other authorities to step up action to prosecute or otherwise restrain those individuals harassing women who wear 'Islamic' dress. (See Section on Freedom of Expression and Racism above.)
The SDP supports a 'super-minimalist' form of an Australian Republic. Under this proposal the Governor-General would become Australia’s Head of State but otherwise existing arrangements would be unchanged. In particular, the Governor-General would continue to be appointed by the Federal Government (but without final reference to the British monarchy). Australia would remain a member and strong supporter of the Commonwealth of Nations.
The SDP opposes an Australian republic based on an elected head of state. We acknowledge that there is widespread support for this in the community. However, we believe that this proposal runs the risk of adding to political instability in Australia. An elected Head of State would have immense political authority. Inevitably situations would develop in which that person was strongly opposed to the elected Federal Government and Prime Minister.
The potential for intense political conflict between the elected Head of State and the elected Federal Government is real. This would create an in-built and needless source of potential political instability.
The SDP supports addressing the precise issue that unites all Republicans – the need for an Australian Head of State. Once this is implemented (with minimal other changes) the Australian community could later on consider a further change to an elected Head of State.
However, it should do so at that time with careful consideration for how this very real (rather than purely symbolic) change to Australia’s political institutions could inadvertently promote political instability at some time in the future.
The current design of the Australian Flag, while having major public support, has the disadvantage of having the flag of another country in its top left corner – the Union Jack of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The SDP is sympathetic to attempts to reach agreement on an alternative design that does not feature the British flag. The new design might retain some or all of the other features of the flag with perhaps some new element inserted to replace the Union Jack component.
The current national anthem 'Advance Australia Fair' is a creditable song but not especially inspirational or reflective of our national values. The SDP believes that consideration should be given to adopting a new national anthem.
Our current preference is for “I Am Australian”, a popular Australian song written in 1987 by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton. Its words embody the diversity of Australia's heritage including that of Indigenous Australians and its chorus is an uplifing evocation of national unity:
We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australians.
See also the comments on Australia Day under Indigenous Issues above.
The standard of conduct of elected members in the Australian Parliament is deplorable by most international standards. The SDP proposes the following initiatives.
First, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate must rigorously implement the standing order that all remarks should be addressed through the Chair. This prevents parliamentarians insulting other members directly ('You are a cad!') and makes them use a somewhat less direct approach ('the Honourable Member for … is a cad!').
Second, all members of Parliament expelled for misconduct should be required to attend a supervised detention for two hours immediately. They will have to dispense with all mobile phones, books, papers, food, drink etc. and sit in silence as if they were on a school detention.
Parliamentarians failing to behave during the detention will be detained beyond the two hour period and may be required to repeat the detention the following day. Any member failing to attend a detention should be fined $5000 – a penalty which doubles each day the member fails to turn up. School children visiting Parliament will be allowed to observe the detention process at close hand but will not be allowed to speak with these parliamentarians.
The rationale for this initiative is that if parliamentarians behave like children – as they are currently doing – then the community is entitled to treat them like children. Once parliamentary behaviour improves sufficiently this practice can be dispensed with.
Third, a parliamentary conduct panel will be formed with the duty of determining the three worst behaved members of the Australian Parliament each calendar year (chosen from the House of Representatives and the Senate). These three parliamentarians will each be fined $50000. This will provide a serious disincentive to misconduct and especially misconduct that continues year after year.
The parliamentary conduct panel might be chaired by a retired officer of the parliament and include the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Clerk of the Senate. The panel would have the power to determine that less than three parliamentarians ought to be so fined (or even none) if the standard of parliamentary behaviour happens to improve sufficiently.
Finally we believe that parliamentary attendants should be required to provide school children visiting Parliament House with a written warning along the following lines:
On entering the chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives in the Parliament of Australia you may witness behaviour that is juvenile, immature and unworthy of a national parliament. It is important that you do not form the impression that any such conduct is an acceptable way for grown adults to conduct themselves. The behaviour you witness in the parliament of Canberra may in many ways be a model of how not to behave. There are parliaments in other parts of the world where democratically elected parliamentarians conduct themselves in a way much closer to the ideal of a mature, properly functioning democracy.
Again once parliamentary behaviour improves sufficiently this practice can be dispensed with. If parliamentary attendants cannot be required to provide this written warning, elected SDP members of parliament could do it themselves and also make the warning available for parents and teachers to use.
The SDP opposes the Coalition Government’s superannuation freeze under which the superannuation guarantee will not reach the full 12 per cent until 1 July 2022, a full three years after it would have otherwise. We believe this is a short-sighted policy driven by immediate revenue considerations.
It ignores the urgency of boosting superannuation contributions to take the pressure off pensions over time and allow people to retire at a time of their preference with reasonable financial security.
Following recent changes, Australians born after 1965 will have to work until they are 70 before they are eligible for the age pension. The SDP believes this is unrealistic, especially for manual workers who may be subject to a range of physical constraints on their capacity to work until age 70. If such late eligibility for the pension is to continue, this only reinforces the need to boost superannuation contributions so those forced to retire before 70 will be in a financial position to do so.
The SDP supports changed fee arrangements for managing superannuation savings to protect those who change jobs frequently and who tend to see their superannuation savings eaten up by fees and administrative charges.
The SDP is reluctantly prepared to consider balanced and fair proposals to tighten eligibility for a full age pension if this is shown to be necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the pension system.
Senate/Balance of Power
The SDP regards the current performance of the Senate as unsatisfactory. It has to some extent helped divert the Government from focusing on core long-term objectives and detracted from a sense of stability and confidence that should be the hallmark of Australia’s democracy.
If the SDP happened to obtain the balance of power in the Senate, it would conduct itself with restraint, fairness and impartiality towards both major parties. Within this framework the SDP would seek to negotiate an agreement with the elected Government on the ‘safe passage’ of a range of agreed policy measures.
The SDP Senators would seek to discuss ‘as a package’ all contentious policies that the Government would be seeking support for in its current term. We would seek agreement with the Government to pass most or all of these measures together with certain policies proposed by the SDP. These SDP policies would include education reforms as well as a number of other matters.
The SDP understands that notwithstanding the best endeavours of the Government, further contentious issues and proposals will arise during the course of the Government’s term of office. As part of the agreement the SDP would undertake to ‘err on the side of passage’ in cases where the case for and against government legislation seemed fairly evenly balanced.
The SDP would undertake to provide the Government with early guidance on the circumstances in which it would be able to support ‘post-agreement’ contentious policies. In this way the Government would be able to introduce legislation into the House of Representatives with confidence that it would also pass the Senate.
The SDP would expect to be informed about all ‘sleepers’ with upcoming legislation and be able to consider the views of the Opposition and other groups in parliament before committing itself to support legislation.
As a further part of this agreement the SDP would undertake to support the smooth running of the Senate, to oppose disruptive or delaying tactics by the Opposition and to play its part in helping to deliver stable government to Australia.
To enable these negotiations to occur in the best possible spirit and without unwarranted pressure on the Government, the SDP Senators would largely or totally refrain from contact with the media during the course of the negotiations and would treat the specific issues being negotiated as confidential.
In the negotiations the SDP would respect the Government’s authority as the team elected by the Australian people to the very difficult task of government. We appreciate the need for the Government to be able to get on with its job without being constantly diverted by ongoing disputes and wrangling with the Senate.
In the event that the SDP was unable to negotiate a ‘safe passage’ agreement with the Government, its Senators would oppose all contested Government legislation until an agreement was reached. The SDP regards this response as an absolute last resort.
SDP Senate candidates commit themselves to working as a team in the Senate. They also commit themselves to honouring in good faith all agreements with the Government endorsed by a majority of SDP Senators even if they are personally opposed to some or many elements of them.
There are a number of issues as diverse as abortion, assisted suicide, same-sex marriage and the death penalty that can be described as matters of conscience. Members of the SDP have a range of views on these issues. This range of opinion may broadly match the diversity of views in the wider community.
The SDP has not adopted a formal policy on any of these matters. Any elected SDP Senators will be free to vote on such issues in line with their conscience. The SDP also encourages other political parties to allow a free vote on these conscience issues.
The SDP supports tax reform to combat tax avoidance and evasion, to simplify and streamline the tax system and to broaden the tax base as necessary.
We are willing in principle to support raising tax rates in the short term to address the current Budget structural deficit, provided this is done in a way that does not jeopardise job opportunities or involve unfairness.
However, we believe that current tax rates, including marginal income tax rates, are too high. Our long-term goal is to see lower tax rates. This should be consistent with promoting fairness in the tax system and maintaining a strong Budget position with little or no expenditure required to repay government debt.
Achieving lower taxation will require high rates of economic growth, moving many people from social welfare to gainful employment over time and progressively winding back the relative size of government in the economy.
The Medicare Levy only partially funds health expenditure. As such, it is a needless complication to the existing taxation system. The SDP believes the Medicare Levy should be abolished with revenue made up by adjustments to the settings of the existing income tax system. Funding for health, disability services etc would continue as previously but be financed from general revenue like other government programs.
See also the entries on the Mining Tax and the National Savings Guarantee.
Trade and Industry
The SDP believes tariffs and other barriers to international trade have the effect of raising costs in non-protected sectors of the economy, including export industries, and lowering overall living standards in the long term. We support the gradual and progressive elimination of all tariffs and other trade barriers over a seven year period. This move to free trade would have the effect of increasing economic growth and living standards.
While sectors of the economy losing protection would tend to contract, remaining sectors of the economy, including export industries, would benefit from a lower cost structure. National savings would be concentrated in those parts of the economy able to fully compete internationally.
A long-term move to free trade is not only in Australia’s interests but also in the interests of poorer countries around the world. By opening up our economy we help provide a means to assist these countries to trade their way out of extreme poverty and be less reliant on foreign aid.