What Labor says:
The ALP sees itself as the party of educational opportunity. They believe that all Australians, regardless of their social background, have the right to a high quality education to enable them to reach their full potential and that the government has a clear responsibility to ensure this is the case.
They propose universally available, affordable early childhood education. Following this, their policy is for all communities to have access to a free, secular, government school. Labor argues that adequate public funding significantly contributes to the quality of public education and training. Publicly funded schools are seen as the most important community institutions, places where young Australians learn about citizenship, civic rights and democracy. At the same time, the right of families to choose non-government schooling should be supported by some public funding.
Labor support significant public funding of Australia’s universities. Universities are seen as playing an important role in providing opportunities, imparting knowledge and skills and conducting research for the benefit of society, industry and the environment. The party is strongly in favour of academic freedom, arguing that it must be guaranteed and against all forms of commercial and political pressure.
What the Liberals say:
The Liberals’ education policy places great emphasis on supporting parental choice in educational decisions.
The Education Tax Refund introduced by Labor would be increased to $500 per year for primary school children, and $1000 per year for secondary school children. In addition, the types of expenses it may cover would be expanded to include, for example, school fees, extra-curricular activities, additional tuition and musical instrument lessons.
The Liberals also support cutbacks of school management structures and bureaucracy. Unspent school hall funds would be directed away from state education departments and given to schools themselves. Schools would be allowed to decide what infrastructure they to enhance the education of their students. Schools would also be allowed to self-manage projects in order to deliver better value for money. Any money they save would then be kept for investment in further projects.
What Labor says:
The ALP focuses its immigration policy primarily on the issues of compliance and immigrant detention centres.
Labor are keen to strengthen the integrity of Australia's visa programs, including student visas, to ensure that individuals meet their visa conditions. Decisions on immigration clients are to be taken using a risk-based approach, emphasising robust yet transparent processes that are applied equally to all applicants.
Labor are against the detention of those awaiting clarification of their immigration status, preferring to keep people within communities. They argue that immigrant detention is an important feature of robust border controls, but should only be used when absolutely necessary as a last resort. Three groups would always be subject to detention: all unauthorised arrivals; unlawful non-citizens who present unacceptable risks to the community; and unlawful non-citizens who have repeatedly refused to comply with their visa conditions. Families with children would never be subject to detention.
For those granted permission to remain in the country, Labor proposes intensive settlement assistance for up to 12 months after arrival. They are also in favour of providing access to a Translating and Interpreting service, and a comprehensive programme of English language tuition for recent migrants.
What the Liberals say:
The Liberals’ primary focus for border control is on reducing immigrant numbers.
A top priority for the Liberals is their commitment to ‘turn back boats’. Where possible, they would return boats and their passengers to their point of departure or an alternative third country destination. The Liberals claim they will work to implement this policy through secure interception of vessels in international and Australian waters.
The Liberals are in favour of off-shore processing of asylum applicants. Arguing that the Christmas Island detention centre has almost reached capacity, they propose the construction of an additional off-shore processing centre. This facility would accept illegal arrivals on vessels and would become the preferred place of detention.
The Liberals argue that the best solution for the vast majority of asylum seekers is a voluntary return to their home country, when conditions allow. However, they do support permanent resettlement of people under their Refugee and Humanitarian programme, and wish to ensure this programme would be made available based on the needs of Australia rather than demand from asylum seekers.
They party argues that a person’s status as a refugee is not defined as permanent, under the UN Convention for Refugees. Consequently, they propose the reintroduction of non-permanent visas for asylum seekers, known as the Temporary Protection Visa (TPV). TPVs will be granted to people who have successfully sought asylum, but have arrived illegally by any means or entered Australia on a valid visa but were in breach of their visa conditions at the time of their application. TPV holders will have no family reunion rights and, if they decide to depart Australia, no right to re-enter the country.
What Labor says:
Julia Gillard’s Labor believes that, in order to successfully negotiate the global economic crisis, the government must play an active role in supporting the economy.
The party is in favour of a free market, and believes the market should operate within a framework of pro-competitive rules that encourage innovation, enterprise and investment. Labor argues that market mechanisms are not always the best way to create the most equitable and efficient distribution of power, wealth and services. Consequently, should the market fail, the party believes that the government has a duty to address this using the full range of policies available, including expenditure, taxation, regulation and the provision of goods and service.
Labor advocates strong regulatory frameworks in the financial sector, both domestically and globally, seeing them as essential to the creation of open and transparent markets where misconduct is prevented and exposed.
The party believe that the benefits of economic growth and wealth creation should be available to everyone. As such, it is in favour of establishing a more equitable distribution of assets, income and employment. A fair tax system would fund equal educational opportunities across the country, policies working towards the elimination of poverty, strong public services and a ‘social safety net’.
What the Liberals say:
Tony Abbott’s Liberals claim an economic policy designed to create an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable Australia.
To achieve this, they are in favour of free, competitive markets guided by the choices of individuals, rather than the government. Consequently, they prefer “light touch” regulation of the financial sector, arguing that such an arrangement helped Australia through the global economic crisis better than foreign counterparts with heavier regulatory structures.
Extending this, the Liberals advocate small government. Whilst accepting that the government does have some role to play in spending and taxation, they believe that caution should be exercised with federal spending, which should be kept as low as possible. They hope that, in turn, this will enable them to keep taxes low, simple and fair.
The party places great importance on increasing productivity, seeing this as the primary determinant of living standards across the country. It is proposed that increases can be induced through quality education, policies that boost workforce participation and encouragement of the small business sector.
In essence, Liberal economic policy is guided by fiscal conservatism. The party proposes to restore fiscal rectitude and repay ‘Labor’s debt’ as soon as possible, running at a budget surplus.
What Labor says:
The Labor Government's health reform promises additional funding of $5.3 billion over the next four years put into the health and hospital system in Australia—the biggest reform program undertaken since the introduction of Medicare.
The additional funding is to be used to increase the number of hospital beds, quicker access to emergency department treatment and shorter elective surgery waiting times in public hospitals.
By investing in GP and primary health care, they will push to take the pressure off the public hospital system by providing high quality integrated care within the community.
A Labor Government will work to ensure there are more doctors, nurses and allied health professionals across Australia to meet growing pressures on the public health and hospital systems, as well as providing more aged care places for older Australians and easier access to mental health services for the youth of Australia.
The party will focus on preventative medicine by tackling the lifestyle risks which cause chronic disease, with a particular emphasis on smoking.
What the Liberals say:
Tony Abbott and the Liberals say they stand for direct action to put decision-making on hospitals back in the hands of local doctors and nurses. They believe that all Australians should have access to an affordable, quality health care system regardless of whether they live in the city or in regional areas.
The Liberal Party also says it believes there will be no improvement in the standards of treatment in hospitals unless Australia has a strong private and public health system and that private health insurance is therefore essential to keep pressure off the public hospitals. The party asserts that every private health insurance patient who receives treatment in a private hospital bed means one more public hospital bed available for others in the community.
The Liberals are therefore committed to private health insurance. They reiterate their introduction of the 30 per cent Private Health Insurance Rebate.
The Liberals will not recommend means-testing the private health rebate as it may result in fewer people with private health insurance and place additional pressure on the already stretched public hospital system.
Tony Abbott has pledged that a Liberal government will invest $1.5 billion for mental health, to build 20 early intervention centres and 60 'headspace' sites for young patients, and to create 800 specialised beds. The money would be funded from Labor's health deals with the states and from slashing some programs such as extra GP super clinics.
What Labor Says:
The party says it believes that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme should be central to Australia’s response to climate change and that it’s best supported by additional measures to help drive investment in clean and renewable energy and aid the shift to a low carbon future.
It says it is ready to set post-2020 targets so that Australia can contribute positively to a global agreement to stabilise emissions and says a deeper National 2050 target may be necessary to act in concert with international efforts to reduce carbon pollution.
Labor is increasing the Renewable Energy Target, so that by 2020, 20 percent of the nation's electricity—the equivalent of all Australia's household electricity—will come from renewable sources such as wind and solar. It hopes to make progress on this in part through the creation of a new, independent body, the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy.
The party says that to reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change Australia must implement the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the party also plans to drive the creation of green collar jobs in Australia through the implementation of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and other measures.
Labor pledges to ensure that 20 percent of Australia's electricity supply will be sourced from renewable-based electricity by 2020 and it says it will deliver policies to continue increasing the uptake of renewable energy beyond 2020, noting that the CPRS could see up to 51 percent of Australia's electricity sourced from renewable by 2050.
The party also pledges to restore the balance in the Murray Darling Basin through the Murray Darling Basin Authority, an independent authority that was established under Labor. As a priority, the Authority will develop a new sustainable Basin Plan and cap that will be completed in 2011. This plan will include a sustainable limit on the amount of water that can be taken from rivers and groundwater systems, to take effect as existing Basin water plans expire.
Labor says it will ensure that national environment laws, including the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, provide strong, rigorous and accountable protection for the environment while being harmonised with state and territory regulatory regimes.
The party says it will provide funding and other support for landholders who have engaged in good environmental practice, particularly those who are conserving and regenerating native plant communities.
As a priority, Labor supports cooperation on environmental issues in the Asia Pacific region through APEC and in cooperation with ASEAN and says it will seek to upgrade consultations with Japan, the United States, Canada and New Zealand.
What the Liberals say:
The party says a Coalition government would implement a climate change strategy based on direct action to reduce emissions and improve the environment.
It says that direct action on soil carbons will be the major plank of their strategy, supported by other direct action measures that will reduce CO2 emissions by 5 percent by 2020 based on 1990 levels and deliver significant environmental outcomes, without the need for a great big new tax.
To facilitate direct action, the Liberal Party says a Coalition government would establish an Emissions Reduction Fund to support CO2 emissions reduction activity by business and industry. Through the Fund, it would support 140 million tonnes of abatement per annum by 2020 to meet their 5 percent target.
Through the Fund, the party hopes to make incentives available for the oldest and most inefficient power stations to reduce their emissions in an orderly manner which protects jobs, electricity prices and energy security. ‘Clean Energy Hubs’ will also be established in the LaTrobe, Hunter and Central Queensland regions.
According to the party, a Coalition government would introduce a range of initiatives to boost renewable energy use in Australian homes and communities, including investing $100 million each year for an additional one million solar energy homes by 2020.
To accelerate the roll-out and uptake of renewable energy right across Australia, 125 mid-scale solar projects would be established in schools and communities and 25 geothermal or tidal power ‘micro’ projects would be established in suitable towns.
The party says it supports strong and effective action to improve the environment and to reduce CO2 emissions and that it would support direct action on climate change to reduce Australian CO2 emissions by five percent by 2020, while at the same time delivering real environmental benefits.
It says this could be done without new or increased taxes on Australian industries or increased costs to Australian households and families.
The party says that while there are no cost-free approaches to reducing the country’s CO2 emissions, direct action can be taken to reduce emissions and improve the environment without the onerous costs of a big new tax. It says its policy will cost $3.2 billion over 4 years, while the ETS costs $40.6 billion over the first four years.