I think today is going to be my day for small parties headed by high profile independents, which means that it’s time for everyone’s favourite monkey-pyjama-wearing pollie, Nick Xenophon and his Team.
The Nick Xenophon Team has a hugely annoying website. Sorry, Nick. It’s pretty, but it’s driving me bonkers, it really is. (It works, but it’s a pain to navigate. Maybe I’m too old-fashioned?) We are told that the NXT is “A common sense, fair alternative”.
For us, it’s all about looking at issues on their merits and working out the best outcome for everyone. Politics should never just be about left or right, it should always be about right or wrong.
NXT stands for honest and responsible government and the national interest, and their core focii are predatory gambling, Australian Made and Australian Jobs, and Government and Corporate Accountability. One could do much worse. Unlike the JLN, NXT does think of itself as a party who will vote together on issues. They are not directing preferences and are not trying to form government, they are simply trying to increase the number of voices in the Senate that support their policies. The policies themselves are laid out quite nicely – they provide a guiding principle, and then a few examples of how the policy would work.
Let’s see what these policies are, then…
NXT wants to support older Australians. This means, among other things, not upping the pension age – but encouraging and supporting older Australians to stay in the workforce or in volunteer work. They want to relax income tests for those on the pension so that they aren’t penalised for supplementing their income. They also want to regulate aged care more effectively.
Under the banner of healthcare, NXT is all about preventative medicine, telemedicine, and “Government resources should be directed to maximising patient outcomes that involve enhancing local care and existing GP clinics”. Do I detect a little snipe at the recent Medicare Rebate freeze, not to mention the changes to bulk billing for pathology? I rather think I do… NXT also wants to reintroduce the 30% private health insurance rebate, so that more people can afford it, and to take pressure of public hospitals. Good policy all round, here.
Substance abuse and rehabilitation also fall under this banner, with personal drug use to be treated as primarily a health issue, rather than a criminal issue. There’s lots of stuff about making it easier to inform on dealers safely, and on preventing and minimising addiction – a nice harm minimisation vibe all around, actually. NXT wants better funded rehabilitation programs, and better access to clinics, including transitions into skills and job training. This is a nice set of ideas, and I approve. They do get an eyebrow raise from me here though:
Drug trafficking legislation should be modified to allow authorities to rapidly and simply seize assets of those involved in trafficking and distribution .
This sounds very much open to corruption – I seem to recall reading about similar laws to this in the US, and that they have been used to seize all sorts of things as a form of revenue raising. So I’d be cautious about that particular idea.
A flagship policy for Nick and his Team is Predatory Gambling. Nick was originally elected as a No Pokies senator, and he still feels very strongly about this.
With pokies being the biggest cause of problem gambling, the immediate implementation of the Productivity Commission’s recommendation for $1 maximum bets per spin and $120 in hourly losses (compared to $10 per spin and $1200 an hour) is required.
OK, I’m actually shocked that people are currently allowed to lose that much money per hour at the pokies. Wow. Yes, that needs to be changed (look at me, all about the nanny state – but gambling addiction is a real thing, and $1200 in an hour is just too much to lose.)
Also, I just thought about the maths and now I’m stuck on that visual of someone just standing at a pokie machine, pulling the lever every thirty seconds for an hour – and evidently not winning even once. What an incredibly sad way to spend an hour. Gambling sells hope, I think (or at least it does for me – I buy scratchies occasionally for the pleasure of imagining all the things I could do if I actually won) – we need to find better alternatives than this for people who are in need of that much hope.
NXT would also remove ATMs from poker machine venues, and end sports betting ads during games, among other things.
You know, I think I’ve just found an issue I feel really strongly about. If NXT’s other policies are good, they might score my vote.
NXT wants better privacy protection – and hello, we have more gambling stuff here, prohibiting betting agencies from direct marketing. I should say so. They also want metadata collection to occur only with a warrant for a serious crime.
Ooh, hello, this one is interesting:
Amend the Privacy Act to ensure that all Australians must provide informed, written consent before their personal information can be disclosed to third party and overseas entities (e.g. banks and telcos outsourcing to overseas data and call centres)
Is this about privacy, or is it about offshoring jobs? Or is it about Them Scary Furriners? I haven’t seen a whiff of the latter yet, but I have my suspicions about the offshoring jobs bit.
NXT wants more funding for schools – the Gonski funding, but also university fee regulation, and greater emphasis on trade and work-ready courses from years 10+. There’s a definite emphasis on making sure everyone can get the education they need, regardless of background.
NXT wants to support Australian businesses, and make stronger laws around labelling things as Australian made and grown. I personally would love this – I want to buy local, but it can be hard to tell where things come from at times. They also want anti-dumping laws to prevent below-cost imported goods flooding the market at the expense of local products and jobs.
They want us to be more self-sufficient in defense resources, and for Parliament to be involved in any decision to deploy troops to conflict zones. I think Nick and Jacqui might get along quite well here. Also:
Defence procurement must be overhauled to acknowledge the economic and strategic benefits of local manufacture.
Subtext: Build those submarines right here in South Australia, damn you!
Government Accountability is a key issue for NXT:
Politicians must be open and up front with the Australian people. Government’s primary role is to provide public infrastructure and services and to drive both national economic growth and personal growth. The public have the right to expect that governments will deliver services efficiently and fairly without unnecessary waste and duplication. Australians who speak out against corrupt practices deserve to be protected.
They want, among other things, better whistleblower protections, better reporting of politician entitlements, an anti-corruption commission. Woohoo, first anti-corruption commission of the season! They were everywhere I looked with the tiny parties in 2013.
NXT is pretty strong on the environment:
Clean air, clean water and preserving our iconic natural resources are fundamental to guiding what we do for our environment – not just for us, but for Australia’s future generations.
Like the JLN, NXT wants to preserve agricultural land, but unlike the JLN, Nick wants an emissions trading scheme. Good lad! He also wants to maintain the right for environmental groups to pursue legal action under environmental legislation, and he wants federal legislation to protect key environmental assets. Doing well, Nick, I like this a lot. No mention of global warming, presumably to avoid scaring the horses, but it’s a strong subtext.
Under regional Australia, NXT wants more investment to boost the economy and increase education, and more tourism and arts in the regions. They want to encourage more families to live in regional areas and are dubious about ‘Fly in, Fly out‘ work arrangements. They want incentives for renewable energy in regional areas to boost manufacturing – good man! They also want to encourage immigrants to settle in rural and regional Australia first. A sound plan, and if you guys would only say something about refugees so I knew where you stood, we could be very good friends.
NXT wants to help out small businesses, with tax breaks in their first two years of operation, and with 15 or fewer employees. I just thought of two loopholes already, but I’m hoping that any legislation would be written by someone who is sneakier than I am.
Last of all, NXT wants utilities to be publicly owned, and price increases to be set at no greater than the CPI. Unlike the JLN, they seem to think that this is possible even with more renewables.
And – hello, I have just found a whole extra page of policies. Oh Lord. Really, this site is not well designed!
Right. I’m afraid I can’t do all of these – I’d be here all night, and I still have to do at least one more party if I’m going to be done in time to pack on the weekend, so I’m just going to pull out four issues that are of interest to me and leave the rest for you to discover.
Housing affordability – they want to modify negative gearing to encourage building more houses and more affordable houses, and they want to stop foreign investors from pricing local residents out of the market.
Penalty Rates – “Penalty rates are an integral part of the industrial relations system and any variance to rates and conditions must be dealt with by the appropriate workplace relations tribunal (currently Fair Work Commission). The unique challenges of small business should always be considered”
I think they are sitting ever so slightly on the fence with regard to small businesses, but that’s not bad.
Marriage Equality – they are for it. But they think churches should still get to decide which marriages they perform. I think that’s fair.
And last of all, here’s what they have to say about refugees:
Immigrants, including refugees, have always played an important role in Australia. We should continue to encourage safe and orderly immigration to Australia, particularly amongst younger skilled families and investors who will help drive economic growth.
- A special category of visa should be created to encourage investors to settle in areas of low population growth
- The bi-partisan support for offshore processing, in order to discourage risky boat journeys to Australia, must be matched with at least a doubling of the number of humanitarian visas being granted to refugees in camps
- Those seeking asylum and found to be genuine should be afforded protection
- Government must ensure the safety and security of refugees in offshore detention centres, including timely health and mental health care, with whistleblowers being given protection for speaking out appropriately
Not bad. I note that NXT is not offering an opinion on whether refugees should be allowed to settle in Australia, but they make up for this with their excellent whistleblower laws and emphasis on timely health and mental healthcare in their final point.
Altogether, this looks like a centre left sort of party – leaning to the left on social issues, and maybe a little more to the right on things like business. I see our local Senate Candidate in Victoria, Naomi Hearn, seems like my kind of candidate – a social worker who has worked with children and homeless youth, is an advocate for victims of white collar crime, whose work “has led to understanding that family violence, substance abuse, gambling, radicalization into violent extremism and mental health issues are inextricably interwoven with personal, social and economic disenfranchisement”.
Good policies, and good people. I think NXT is going to score high on my ballot.