Wish list: What we'd like to see from Parliament this year.

As the Federal Parliament grinds back into action for 2016 and the Government and Opposition gear up for the election (expected in September), here are some things we’d like to see this year.

A guarantee that pap smears won’t cost women more.

At the end of last year, Health Minister Sussan Ley confirmed that changes to bulk billing incentive payments could lead to people needing to pay more for pathology or imaging services.

The companies who do this testing confirmed the cuts would probably lead them to charge patients more — some saying a pap smear would cost $30.

The companies doing this test confirmed the cuts would probably lead them to charge patients more — some saying a pap smear would cost $30.

Experts have confirmed that cutting the bulk billing incentive is effectively a cut to the rebate paid to companies for these procedures, and they say it would not be surprising for those companies to stop bulk billing to enable them to make up for the shortfall.

This is not good enough.

Whether the Government does away with bulk billing incentives or not, ensuring that essential pathology and imaging are available to patients bulk billed is vital.

The Medicare review that is already underway is a great opportunity for the medical profession and the Government to work out how to fix the system, and make sure that essential healthcare is still available and accessible to everyone.

Fixing problems might mean bulk billing incentives are scrapped, but that shouldn’t happen without figuring out a way to ensure that patients aren’t disadvantaged by the change.

Because providing universal healthcare is the cornerstone of the Medicare system.

Don’t shortchange mums on maternity leave.

While the Government has walked back plans to stop “double dipping” on paid parental leave that would have seen new mums ineligible for the 18 weeks of Government funded leave if their employer provided leave, the changes haven’t totally been abandoned.

The proposed new system essentially caps paid leave at 18 weeks for women whose employer schemes are less generous than that.

The Government is seeking support in the Senate for changes that would essentially turn the Government scheme into a “top up”. So if your employer gave you, say, five weeks of leave, then the Government would give you a further 13.

That’s different than now, where you can add the 18 weeks of Government-funded leave (paid at the minimum wage) on top of whatever your employer gives you.

The current system encourages workplaces to offer more leave, to remain competitive with each other and it enables companies to effectively give women far more than 18 weeks of paid leave.

The proposed new system essentially caps paid leave at 18 weeks for women whose employer schemes are less generous than that.

The current system isn’t perfect. And it certainly isn’t the “rolled-gold” scheme this Government originally promised, but we don’t want to see it hollowed out any further.

Get children out of detention.

This one is long overdue.

While the number of children in immigration detention has fallen significantly since the Coalition took office in 2013, the amount of time children have spent there has increased.


Children just shouldn’t be in detention, onshore or offshore.

It’s terrible for their mental health, and the Government should move them out as quickly as possible.

On 30 December 2015, there were 91 children “in facility”, according to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

That’s 91 too many.

In 2014 the Government convinced Senate crossbenchers to support changes to visas so that they could get children out of detention before Christmas. There have been two Christmases since then.

It’s time to get them all out.

Just legislate for marriage equality already.

Another day, another Coalition MP saying even if the Commonwealth spends $160 million on a plebiscite and the Australian public says “yes we want marriage equality”, they still probably aren’t going to vote for it.

A marriage equality rally held in Melbourne, 2015.

It’s 2016. The polling says the majority of Australians support marriage equality. There are also reports that a majority of MPs are in support too.

The High Court has made it very clear that the Federal Parliament is the appropriate place to deal with this issue. A plebiscite will change nothing, it will simply cost millions of dollars and then evidently be ignored by the very same people who say it is vital.

Let’s just get on with it, save the cash and have a vote in the Parliament.

Indigenous recognition and reconciliation.

More needs to be done to ensure Indigenous Australians are recognised as the traditional owners of this land, and not just through formal recognition in the constitution.

The Government and Opposition need to work with Indigenous communities to develop policy that works, and enables respect, trust and real communication.

This is not a short-term goal, and a lot of work needs to be done to ensure decisions made about Indigenous health, welfare, incarceration rates, education and land rights are made in consultation with the people that are affected by them.

Don’t be afraid of the big debates.

Politics shouldn’t be about soundbites, or skirmishes over Twitter. It should be about policy that improves lives, and makes our society better.

Politicians need to be less afraid of having the big debates, over issues like an increase to the GST, fixing asylum seeker policy, climate change, and the republic.

As we work towards Indigenous reconciliation it might also be a good idea to start talking about things like whether the flag needs to change and if we should move Australia Day.

It’s an election year. There’s never been a more exciting time to tell the public about your vision for the future, and why it’s better than your opponent’s.

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