Policy Principles

 

Social

 

Primary and Secondary Education

REASON sees education as an investment in the future of the nation, not a cost; it should be the primary function of governments. Education is a great enabler, providing the knowledge, skills and innovation our industries need to prosper and also promoting social harmony and mobility. REASON supports the invigoration of a robust and secular education system, amply funded by governments but supported by the private sector where it makes sense. Education funding should reflect the principles of equity between students, rather than equality.

What should be done?

  • Increase focus on, uptake of and outcomes from STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths)
  • Create incentives for teachers to teach in areas of particular need; invest in high quality teacher training and career development.
  • Government funding should be contingent on acceptance of a non-religious curriculum; end the National School Chaplaincy Program and redirect the funds to secular pastoral support officers; remove Special Religious Instruction from all states and territories school systems and replace with education about the world’s major religions and humanism/rationalism.
  • Establish a national approach to age-appropriate sex, sexuality and relationship education.

 

Universities

Universities must remain essentially public institutions, investing in the development of the next generation of professionals, business leaders, and public intellectuals for the benefit of the nation. University funding is derived from a combination of student (or their family) contribution, government contribution and private sector contribution. Over time this balance has shifted more toward the student and less from government. The original HECS program was an innovative way to enable students and their families to make some contribution without having to fund the full cost of course tuition, ensuring a reasonable degree of equity. REASON believes in restoring a more equitable balance between the student, the government and the industries that benefit from graduate expertise.

What should be done?

  • Negotiate funding increases directly with universities, avoiding increases to student fees. 
  • Oppose lowering the income threshold at which HECS repayments must be made; oppose increasing the interest rate on HECS-HELP loans.
  • Strongly oppose deregulation of university fees.

 

Health

REASON supports universally accessible, high quality primary healthcare for all Australians. In international terms, Medicare is relatively efficient and must be retained and protected. We reject US-style privatised healthcare. Good health policy should focus on prevention rather than cure, on effective regulation to prevent over-servicing and unscientific treatments, and on optimal use of new technology.

What should be done?

  • Enhance access to local GPs; retain bulk billing; explore incentives for long term care of those with chronic conditions; counteract incentives for sheer quantity over good quality. 
  • Increase funding for public health measures to prevent or reduce the incidence of diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis.
  • Invest in new technology to enable access to specialist medical treatment for rural and remote communities (telemedicine).
  • Support further investment in closing the gap in ATSI health outcomes.

 

Mental health

Focusing on early detection, intervention and prevention of mental health challenges results in less acute manifestations and fewer hospital admissions. Social intervention and care should begin through collaboration between service providers and the client's support networks, focusing on general health and wellbeing. Better mental health practices - and continuity of care - will give clients more confidence to engage in education, employment and social activities rather than becoming welfare dependent. 

What should be done?

  • Mental health and drug and alcohol issues often go hand in hand and must be treated in unison: establish more dual diagnosis rehabilitation facilities. 
  • Promote a strong primary care system that is comfortable and easy to access, particularly for young people aged 12 to 25.
  • Provide funding incentives for mental health services to create a “soft entry” into their premises, rather than a typical clinical or hospital environment.
  • Increase funding for education and training for mental health workers to understand how they can treat and support people with early onset of mental health conditions.

 

Sensible drug law reform

Prohibition has failed to reduce harms associated with illicit drug use; in fact, evidence suggests prohibition increases harms. Drug misuse should be treated as a health issue, caused by a damaging mix of socio-economic and social conditions. REASON acknowledges that not all drug use is harmful.

What should be done?

  • Decriminalise currently illicit drugs, based on the Portuguese model.
  • Provide evidence-based education about the harms of drugs in formal education and peer-education settings.
  • Introduce medically supervised injecting centres and increase clean syringe programs, including in prisons.
  • Legalise, regulate and tax cannabis.
  • Legalise electronic vaporisers and liquid nicotine.
  • Provide funding for substance testing at large music festivals.

 

Sexual health and reproductive rights

REASON believes women should have access to universal, legal, no-fault and guilt-free sexual and reproductive health services. We support the right of a woman to determine whether to terminate a pregnancy. 

What should be done?

  • Legalise abortion in all states and territories; implement buffer zones around abortion services to provide safe, harassment-free access to health services.
  • Fund evidence-based sexual and reproductive health information and health care services to ensure universal access across Australia.
  • Provide age-appropriate sex and relationships education in all state and territory curricula.
  • Make the age of consent nationally consistent.

 

Dying with dignity

REASON supports the right of individuals with terminal disease and intolerable suffering to choose to end their life with dignity, providing this is entirely voluntary and subject to appropriate safeguards. It’s not a matter of voluntary assisted dying OR palliative care; we should have both. 

What should be done?

  • Legalise voluntary assisted dying, with appropriate safeguards, in all states and territories.
  • Increase funding for non-religious palliative care, including home based palliative care.
  • Give legal force to Advance Care Directives in all states and territories.

 

Equal treatment

REASON believes in a social and political culture in which freedom from discrimination is entrenched and unquestioned. Any exploitation or malicious expression based on race or ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender, disability, age or family responsibilities is unacceptable. At the same time, REASON believes people should be free to express robust, but lawful, opinions without the threat of government-imposed sanction.

What should be done?

  • Develop and institutionalise a national Charter of Rights and Responsibilities.

 

Sex work

REASON rejects the Nordic Model of sex work that criminalises clients and infantilizes workers. Evidence shows decriminalisation leads to reduced risk of trafficking, gender-based violence, HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Sex work laws should recognise legal sex between consenting adults and should uphold the human rights and health rights of people who engage in sex work.

What should be done?

  • Decriminalise sex work; planning regulations to inform the appropriate location of brothels; no registration or licensing requirements for private workers; encourage but don’t mandate STI and HIV testing.
  • Work with peer-based sex worker organisations in the Asia-Pacific region to tackle criminalisation and issues relating to migration of people engaged in sex work.
  • Amend state and federal anti-discrimination laws to make it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the their profession, trade or calling.

 

Family violence

Domestic violence is a scourge on Australian society and a blot on our national psyche. Everyone should feel safe in their own homes and with those who are closest to them.

What should be done?

  • Increase funding for temporary safe houses for those affected by family violence; and for legal and psychological services.
  • Ensure family violence organisations are trained to deal with LGBTI people affected.
  • Include threats to maltreat family pets as instances of domestic violence.

 

Religious privilege

REASON supports a clear, constitutionally guaranteed division between religion and the state. In Australia, the legal separation of religion and state is not sufficiently guaranteed by Section 116 of the Australian constitution. We support moves to strengthen and expand this section of our constitution and to include similar provisions in the constitutions of the states. REASON believes religious doctrine should not override evidence-based reasoning in public policy-making. This does not mean we believe theists and theistic organisations should not participate in the political process – only that their arguments must, like anyone else’s, be based on reason, evidence and modern secular, democratic values.

What should be done?

  • All references to God in Federal and state constitutions should be removed; replace exclusionary Christian prayers with time for private reflection at each parliamentary sitting.
  • Remove ‘advancement of religion’ from the definition of charity; subject commercial enterprises owned by religious organisations to same legal and financial laws as other commercial entities.
  • Remove teaching of ‘scripture’ from government schools; replace with teaching of ethics and comparative religion.
  • Encourage interfaith groups to include humanists and rationalists.

 

The arts

The Arts are the most accessible form of creativity we have. Encouraging and sharing that creativity enriches us as individuals and as a society. The Arts are fundamental to economic growth and resilient happy communities. They're essential for a complete rounded education, developing all the key skills we need for the future - teamwork, creative leadership and lateral thinking, developing curiosity, imagination and cooperation.

What should be done?

  • Ensure all primary school children get a decent music education (less than 70% do currently)
  • Make it easier and cheaper for live music groups to book public spaces for performances by creating an agency that can provide day-to-day public liability insurance
  • Call for a return of the Interactive Games Fund to encourage innovative approaches and start-ups in the digital arts, with multiple year grants to grow sustainable businesses
  • Create a National Arts Week.

 

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Economic

 

Employment

REASON is economically prudent. We want to grow the economy but are not ideological in our approach to policy formation. We recognise that employees are both an input in the economy and individuals in their own right. They have human rights and economic rights that must be protected by government, as an impartial umpire between employees and employers. We support responsible fiscal decision making and stable monetary policy. We believe in evidence based spending supported by a business case, with employees and employers in mind.

What should be done?

  • Decrease the regulatory burden on small business, and increase assistance on small business taxation.
  • Maintain the minimum wage against all assaults.
  • Commission the Fair Work Commission to seek ways to decrease inequality and rebalance returns to capital and labour.
  • Investigate ways to ensure workers in the ‘gig’ economy have reasonable work protections.
  • Gradually increase minimum Superannuation Guarantee contributions to reach 12% by 2021 in order to reduce the future age pension liability.

 

Gender pay equity

Since 2006, Australia has slipped from 15th to 46th (2016) on the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index, behind four African countries and all major European countries. REASON believes women have a moral right to equality and the nation has an economic imperative to achieve gender parity.

What should be done?

  • Introduce six months paid parental leave at 80% of regular salary (capped at $70,000), with a safety net floor of the minimum wage.
  • Introduce a means tested government co-contribution to superannuation for women earning less than $60,000 a year.
  • Mandate a minimum of 35% of either sex on all boards of companies earning more than $15M.

 

Innovation

Technology has the ability to make life easier. Small business and start-ups – agile and unencumbered by bureaucracy -- are often best placed to catalyse the opportunities presented by new technology. We have world class research but not the existing capacity to translate that research into scaled-up, sustainable businesses that generate jobs and prosperity. Bolstering the ‘start-up’ and ‘scale up’ sectors by providing early stage investors with the right incentives to back promising ideas and products is critical.

REASON will prioritise policy levers that promote innovation and the creation of new highly skilled jobs.

What needs to be done?

  • Fund development of Accelerator and Innovation Hubs, linked to universities and regional community hubs.
  • Evidence based review and development of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.
  • Lower barriers to entrepreneurship and start-up investment.
  • Investigate ways to ensure a degree of financial security for young entrepreneurs and independent contractors when between businesses and contracts.
  • Establish an Australian Innovation Fund.

 

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Infrastructure

 

Transport

REASON recognises that efficient personal and goods transport is critical to the wellbeing of the nation. Lack of integrated transport planning has had a negative impact on our economy and our health and disproportionately impacts those on lower incomes. Australia’s addiction to building ever more new roads must be challenged and new expenditures must first be thoroughly tested for comparative return on investment. REASON supports a shift from the mindset that looks to roads first. By improving the convenience and regularity of public transport, roads can be better shared and made safer to help encourage more people to walk and ride a bicycle. A step-change investment in active transport would reduce road congestion, improve national health standards, and assist with reducing transport’s significant contribution to global warming.

What should be done?

  • Mandate safe walking and cycling paths whenever roads are upgraded or new housing estates are developed.
  • De-politicise transport investment and look to enforce strict return-on-investment measures and comprehensive metrics that include health and environmental impacts.
  • Commit to a boom in the number of people using cycling for commuting and short trips through education, marketing and infrastructure build, funded by a new national Bike and Walking Fund.

 

Housing

The lack of affordable housing is a major challenge to intergenerational fairness and equity. Negative gearing has become a tax minimisation tool primarily for the already wealthy. The status quo allows investors, for whom the purchase of a property is tax deductible, to compete against home-buyers, for whom the purchase is not tax deductible.

What should be done?

  • Grandfathering capital gains tax concessions to restore fairness to the tax system over time, while not destabilising the economy in the short term.
  • Require property investors to offset expenses and depreciation against capital appreciation.
  • Modify negative gearing benefits to ensure greater investment in new affordable housing stock.
  • Ensure Australian residents are not priced out of the housing market by foreign investors.

 

Environmental

 

Renewable energy

REASON emphatically rejects the climate change deniers; climate change is real and poses an existential threat to humanity. As a first world country with a warm climate, Australia should be leading the world in the development and implementation of renewable energy solutions. 

What should be done?

  • Restore a price on carbon emissions.
  • Subsidise development of renewable energy industries by progressively phasing out government subsidies to coal, gas and petroleum industries.
  • Invest in Australian research into renewable energy technologies and ensure developments are made available to Australian industries first.
  • Set a renewable energy target of 30% by 2020 and 50% by 2025.

 

Governance

 

Australian Republic

National sovereignty is essential to peace and security. REASON believes the purpose of governments is to protect national sovereignty for the benefit of all. REASON recognises and embraces representative democracy as the source and core of national political authority; such that the sovereignty of a nation may only be legitimately exercised in accordance with the will of the people. Let the people of a nation decide who that nation will be: what values it will aspire to, what laws it will obey and by whom it will be governed.

What should be done?

  • Hold a referendum to decide if Australians want an Australian Head of State.

 

Law and order

REASON understands the need for a robust criminal justice system sufficient to protect society without infringing on the rights of the individual. Integral to any criminal justice system is an appropriately trained police force overseen by an independent judiciary. The courts must be equipped with the powers necessary to ensure consistency and proportionality when imposing criminal sanctions. REASON is committed to maintaining the criminal justice system to ensure the safety of the community and the protection of the individual’s civil liberties.

There will always be instances where an adversarial model is needed due to the nature of criminal offences. However, the adversarial model does not take into consideration the long-term financial sustainability of administering a punitive correctional system. REASON believes that in some instances alternative approaches may be more effective in dissuading certain behaviours. Alternative models may also reduce the future prison populations and can ensure the provision of natural justice in hard to prosecute cases, such as sexual assault. Alternative criminal justice models can benefit the community and high-risk offenders who may otherwise end up in a detention facility, reoffend or commit more serious crimes.

What should be done?

  • Invest in strategies that identify savings that can be averted across the justice system in the longer term by reducing prosecutions and prison population numbers (the highest cost of the justice system) – and use those savings to run pre-emptive programs that prevent people from offending in the first place.
  • Increased funding for diversion and early intervention programs for young, low level offenders.
  • Repeal of mandatory sentencing.
  • The reintroduction of suspending sentencing options.

 

Privacy and censorship 

REASON believes adults should be treated like adults - and children like children. The right to privacy is basic to a free society and is under increasing threat by both governments and private corporations. Media classification systems should allow adults maximum freedom to watch, read or play legal content, with content indicators for parents to determine appropriateness for their own children.

What should be done?

  • Create a statutory right to privacy, with stronger sanctions for breach.
  • Ban any future collection of phone and internet metadata without a warrant.
  • Increase privacy protections; subject publication of private data in the media to a public interest test; increase accountability covering use of visual surveillance.
  • Introduce a single, nationally consistent classification scheme for online content, publications, films and computer games.

 

Refugees and people seeking asylum

International conflict and disaster results in the displacement of people fleeing from potential threat to their lives. Australia has a long history of accepting migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum; they contribute to our country and in return we provide a safe and prosperous life for them and their families. The current treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum through indefinite detention is inhumane, and the detention of children particularly egregious.

What should be done?

  • Genuine asylum seekers should be treated with dignity and compassion; the Australian Government must ensure the health and safety of people in offshore detention centres; international NGOs and the media must be given access to these centres.
  • The Nauru detention centre should be closed down as soon as practicable.
  • After a strictly enforced time for security screening, people seeking asylum should be brought to Australia and assisted to settle in regional towns and cities while their claims are processed.
  • Ensure LGBTI asylum-seekers are not sent to, or held in, regions that are hostile to LGBTI people.

 

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