Greens leader Richard DeNatale recently spoke at the National Press club. It was forward looking with a vision for the future... something neither of the major parties is doing. Watch his speech below.
As mentioned in the last blog, $300m is a low-ball projection for the cost of the proposed stadium (or is that a stadium/convention centre mongrel?) in the CBD.
More recent estimates put the price tag at $380m for this poorly conceived idea. But this is not necessarily the full pot of investment funds that could be found... matching it up with funds from the Commonwealth's Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility could double it to $760m.
If we are serious about spending about $760m (or even $380m) in Townsville there are smarter and more productive ways to use that money than on a new football stadium.
People are already coming up with better ideas. Many are supportive of some serious industry-scale renewable energy projects, and others look at value-added agriculture developing export opportunities, education, tourism and health. All of them incorporate a mix of benefits and on-going clean jobs for Townsville.
Think about, for example, an ‘urban cooling’ project that makes our suburbs more appealing and healthier places, a solar power station supplying the city, a renewable-energy-powered business hub, an upgraded and better integrated cycle network with more end of trip facilities, investment in kick-starting a local film industry, a start on Townsville joining the growing number of transition towns in Australia, a new entertainment, convention and learning centre that could bring big acts and events to Townsville year-round, more sustainable water initiative, flexible learning centres for disenfranchised youth, a sophisticated, interactive information centre about Townsville and the region for visitors.
The list goes on and there are more out there.
Share your ideas with us in the comments section or on our facebook page.
We'll run with all the great ideas that could improve the lives of North Queenslanders far more than a new football stadium in the CBD ever could.
by Wendy Tubman
Sport is a wonderful pastime that gives so much to players and spectators, individuals and communities.
Investing public funds in sport is worth doing because it adds to community wellbeing. But investing in a new football stadium in Townsville’s CBD is not a good investment for three key reasons... there are better ways to invest in public infrastructure, the concept of a combined football stadium-convention centre is flawed, and the proposed stadium will likely cost far more than the $300 million currently being suggested.
No argument that the Cowboys (the main beneficiaries of a new stadium) are a champion team. They do the region proud every time they run onto the field, and the team and the fans deserve a first class facility. But the current playing surface is excellent and the ground is well serviced by ample car parking. It is located ‘where the people are’, but also has a good shuttle bus service. Although sellouts are rare (so capacity is not an issue), the facility could do with an upgrade. $50 million of public money, topped up with fundraising and investment from the private sector would give Townsville a first class sporting facility. It would also free up between $250M and $450M for other important local projects – more on this in my next blog.
Unlike most politicians, I want to start by justifying my figures.
Building a new stadium would be sure to cost more than $300 million because experience tells us that big public projects always run over-budget. If you don't believe me just Google 'costs blow out' to see how often it happens.
There are two main reasons for this... one political, the other logistical.
Politically, it is easier to get a proposal for a $200M or $300M stadium up than a $500M stadium, so typically the projections for these projects are set as low as is believable, because once $200M has been spent on a half completed stadium, everyone wants to see the project completed rather than waste the money on providing the city with an unusable construction site. A half built stadium makes it easier to get the full $500M to complete the project.
Logistically, you have to deal with the fact that much of the proposed site is landfill, which will have implications for the stadium foundations (significant cost), and the fact that being an old rail yards site, there are significant soil toxicity issues (more cost). Then you have the impact of weather events (think cyclones and floods) and a range of other unknowns (like short term material and labour/skill shortages, errors, design modifications, foreign exchange fluctuations, etc) that invariably lead to delays and cost increases.
The problem with spending $300M or $500M on one piece of Townsville infrastructure is that other important local infrastructure will not receive any funding for a significant period of time. The political argument will be 'we just spent $300M on you, you will now need to go to the back of the queue with the rest of your wish list'.
And finally, the concept of a combined stadium/convention centre. The real purpose of this proposal is to make the project politically saleable and to attract the large amount of public funding needed.
Even assuming that the concept could work (turf, open roof, stands?), such a combination is not best practice... Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth convention centres ... all of them are fantastic buildings, they all attract great performers, events and conventions, and none of them double up as a football stadium.
Given the success of all those facilities... why would Townsville be the exception, and how would this attract the kind of events that all the other capitals do?
Answer... it wouldn't.
These are the reasons not to spend up to $300m+ on a new Townsville stadium. In the next blog I'll outline some ways in which the money would be far better spent.
by Wendy Tubman
Life is complex – socially as well as biologically.
The current, devastating, coral bleaching event Is primarily the result of ongoing warm seawater associated with the climate change happening around us. But climate change also increases the acidity of the ocean, another problem for the coral.
Then again, stresses like nutrient-rich run-off and coastal development, also decrease the extent to which the coral is able to cope with the warm water And the bleaching isn't just an issue for the coral itself but for everything that depends on it.
These dependents are not only fish and other sea creatures which depend on the coral reefs for food and protection, but also many groups of people, including commercial and recreational fishers and those who sell and consume fish, fishing rods and boats; the tens of thousands working in reef-related tourism; those who travel to the reef and experience transformative joy at seeing its beauty, and those who fly them there; those who research the coral looking for things with medical benefits; and those who live on the coast and depend (whether they know it or not) on the coral reef to protect the coastline from cyclones and tsunamis.
To make matters even more complex, the impacts of climate change stretch further than to the reefs around the world and the issues linked to that.
It is estimated that, as a result of the adverse effects of climate change, 400,000 people die every year
The Climate and Health Alliance in their latest report has described climate change as both the “defining health issue” and the “greatest global health threat” of the 21st century.
Worsening levels of health impose financial burdens on individuals, the community and the economy. For example, there are limited funds for health care and, as more funds need to be allocated to dealing with the direct fallout from climate change, less can be spent on the most efficient form of health care: preventative health.
Reduced health has productivity outcomes – from reduced output at work, to chronic illness and work absences, and on to early death, which means skill sets are lost forever.
Poor health also leads to poorer educational outcomes – for children as well as adults.
Lower levels of education not only mean reduced productivity, less innovation, and a reduction in high value work, it also leads to poorer health choices, which in turn mean poorer health outcomes.
As you can see, environmental outcomes affect economic outcomes, they affect health outcomes, which affect educational outcomes, which in turn affect economic and health outcomes. And as we live in the global village, this all has an effect on foreign affairs, and immigration.
Everything is co-dependent and interconnected. What this should mean is that policy frameworks are likewise interconnected. As we develop educational policy, we must have an eye to economic policy and health policy; as we develop health policy we should be mindful of how this might affect or be affected by environmental policy, education policy, economic policy, foreign policy. Etc, etc.
You get the picture... interconnectedness.
But does government policy take this into account? When the health minister announces policy changes (like the $7 co-payment) do they mention the impact this will have on workplace productivity, educational outcomes, or economic outcomes (outside of the direct savings they believe this change will drive).
They don't. Not just because they don't know (the modeling is never that robust) but because it hasn't been a consideration in the policy development process. Instead, policy has been developed by adhering to particular philosophies – like 'living within our means'; 'small government'; 'only doing for people what they can't do themselves'.
You hear the philosophies repeated again and again... which is symptomatic of the problem with the major parties.
The budget will be delivered soon. It will outline where the spending priorities lie. It will present all the expected benefits of addressing those priorities. But will it be a coherent statement that highlights the interconnectedness of our everyday lives?
It may, but the signs aren't good.
Ewen Jones appeared on Q&A on Monday. Ewen can be relied upon to repeat the governments talking points, push their key themes, and, at the same time, say as little as possible. On Monday Ewen was asked about youth unemployment and the future for North Queensland.
You can watch his answer by clicking on the video below
Basically... mining, coal, coal fired power, poles and wires, dams... if you build them the jobs will come (including for youth), and the country towns will thrive.
Very narrow. Possibly it represents where the government's thinking is. But don't take my word for it. Decide for yourself when the budget is released
by Wendy Tubman
While the biggest story around the world is tax havens run by a Panamanian law firm, our major parties are silent on changing the status quo.
Less than 12 months ago Joe Hockey was famously saying: the rich pay too much tax, and poor people don't pay much fuel excise. And Hockey himself felt his greatest contributions were his preference for lifters over leaners, and ending the age of entitlement.
Hockey was wrong time and time again, and when he was pointing the finger at who he thought the leaners were... he was clearly pointing at the wrong end of town.
Our current treasurer is focused on spending cuts because we must live within our means and we can't afford a strong social safety net, the best health care for all Australians, a decent education which targets resources to the neediest, and we certainly can't afford real action on climate change.
Labor's Andrew Leigh is someone whose writing and research I have admired for some time. Not so long ago he was deeply concerned about the growing gap between the rich and poor, publishing Battlers and Billionaires. He put forward a compelling argument for more effective wealth distribution. But now he is willing to do little more than “carefully consider proposals for making information regarding all companies available on a public register”
But responses to the most wealthy avoiding their share of the tax burden are bad all over. David Cameron had suggested that he was serious about multi-nationals' tax avoidance, and then he revealed he profited from dodging tax himself.
The Chinese are censoring information that relates to their families' tax dodging activities.
Iceland's Prime Minister was forced to step down over his activities.
Our biggest companies are doing it. BHP-Billiton - as revealed by 4 Corners loans money to itself from an off shore shell company. The interest payments it makes to itself are tax deductable, the interest the shell company receives disappear into a tax haven.
News Corp received a $882M tax refund in 2014 by shuffling papers.
The scale of the problem is alarming, not just for Australia but for the planet. The ABC reveals that Tax havens account for 50% of all world trade.
According to the data gathered by Andrew Leigh, the rich spend their money on: sports cars, private air transport, bottles of Penfolds Grange Hermitage, first class airfares or perhaps Virgin Galactic Space flights, private treatments, private resorts, memberships at exclusive private clubs... all while keeping their tax affairs exceedingly private.
What makes this kind of behaviour completely abhorrent is that these taxes foregone by governments means less can be spent on: alleviating poverty, addressing the fallout from natural disasters (which are becoming more frequent), real action on climate change, fast tracking innovation and our transition to the new economy and a clean energy future, building infrastructure like public transport (which is a great social equaliser), adequately funding schools and universities, and better health outcomes all over our planet.
And this growing inequality is driving conflict, which in turn drives refugees, which we respond to by attacking the victims in all this.
And although all this activity is mostly legal (but shouldn't be), the somewhat ironic thing is that the same loopholes the very wealthy are using (legally) to hide their wealth are being used by criminals to hide their ill-gotten gains. It has to stop... we can't afford it.
So what to do?
Get angry. Stay angry. And let the decision makers know that rather than there being no other option than to cut services (or increase debt)... there is no other option than ensuring EVERYONE pays their fair share of taxes.
It's time to turn the world's leaners back into lifters again.
by Mark Enders
About a month ago a 10 year old Indigenous girl in the Kimberly took her own life. A sad event on so many levels... that a 10 year old saw no future, another death in a remote community where suicide is the most common cause of death for young people, and yet more evidence of indigenous disenfranchisement.
The story hit the news, lasted slightly more than 24 hours, and then essentially disappeared. You might think this is a function of the pace at which news travels and is reported. But last year when Indigenous footballer Adam Goodes was booed whenever he touched the ball, the story continued for three months. Targeting an athlete because of their colour, race, or even their religion is wrong and innately unfair, but sport is easier and safer to talk about and it pales in comparison to a 10 year old suiciding... or the unreported events which have led to children as young as 9 taking their own lives.
The question is why we won't discuss it publicly
I was heartened to see that The Saturday Paper took on the story and dug deeper. They revealed that Howard-era policies like the intervention, welfare spending restrictions, and linking welfare payments to school attendance were not working. They were a one size fits all approach which need to be better targeted - there needs to be engagement so that things are done WITH those in need, not done TO them.
While the emergency of Howard's imminent election defeat spawned the intervention, the emergency of young kids continuing to take their own lives has instilled.... mostly silence.
Experts and those who are engaged with these at risk and needy people say that more money is needed (as opposed to the cuts Abbott drove as 'Indigenous Prime Minister'), programs need to be longer term, they need to occur with a greater level of consultation with the recipients, and they need to multi-factorial... addressing employment, support around domestic violence, managing tobacco and alcohol consumption (and reducing the level of foetal alcohol syndrome), policies to reduce the level of indigenous incarceration.
It's a great article... you'll find it here
There is no quick fix. Sadly many more children will suicide. But the less talk about it and the slower we are to act... the more that will suffer, the more that will die, and the more people that will live an impoverished life in one of the world's richest nations.
It is our national shame... but we need to own it and we need to do something about it.
In the same edition of The Saturday Paper there is another related story. While Uluru was handed back to the traditional owners 30 years ago, and it is the express wish of those owners that people don't climb the rock... it's still happening.
Ongoing disrespect for sacred aboriginal sites and the practices and beliefs of aboriginal people is another blow to their cultural wellness, of which there have been many repeated blows for over two hundred years.
Suicide is a health problem... mental and cultural ill-health are key contributing factors. Fully handing control of the rock back to its traditional owners is one small but necessary step towards greater cultural wellness and ultimately towards reducing youth suicides.
We all need to be vocal advocates for avoiding these deaths by a thousand cuts.These problems can be fixed - one cooperative and consultative step at a time.
by Mark Enders
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.