After close to two years of doing next to nothing (other than not being Campbell Newman), the Palaszczuk government has been busy appearing to have a plan for the state, and more specifically a plan for north Queensland. The core of this plan has been to pretend that the Carmichael mine is: important, feasible, and a jobs bonanza.
It is none of these things, and no matter how much bluster is generated by the Townsville Bulletin or the state government... the mine remains dead in the water.
There are a number of good reasons (which aren't changed by giving the mine lip service) why the Adani project is unfeasible and won't actually generate any jobs.
India is stockpiling Coal
In India - Domestic demand for coal is weak and demand for power is down
India can't burn the coal it currently has because of a drought and the shortage of water
India will be producing all the coal it needs long before the first piece of coal could be dug up from the Carmichael mine.
Indian demand for renewables is growing and thermal power is being scaled back
The proposed Carmichael mine will be digging up thermal coal and the current blip in thermal coal prices is highly unlikely to be sustained
Banks won't finance Adani. Doing a search on the histroy of the sources from which Adani have sought finance (and those who have ruled it out) covers so many nations. Europe, Australia, Asia, the US. Even the State Bank of India has cold feet.
While the unwavering support of the Townsville Bulletin must be of some comfort to Adani, and the recent words uttered by the state minister for Mines are likely also encouraging... they are just words. There remains no compelling reason for proceeding with the mine.
The only chance this mine has of getting up is if large amounts of this projects infrastructure are funded by the tax-payer... and the Palaszczuk government has already promised not to do that.
Without a major political promise being broken (an act of political suicide), the plans for the Carmichael mine have no hope of being realised.
It's important we keep reminding people of the facts, but politicians in particular. Write to your local representative (state or federal), your state senators, or even your local paper and remind them of both the facts and your sentiments surrounding the Carmichael mine.
by Mark Enders
Government has a role to play in reducing inequality... a role it has largely abandoned over the last few decades, working on the assumption that it is 'not their job'.
There is a large body or research and academic writing that points to our growing inequality and the role it plays in stagnating economies, as well as leading to adverse social outcomes around health as well as Law and Order. If it isn't the government's job to support a thriving economy and to ensure the delivery of a good level of social services to ensure everyone has the same opportunity to flourish, then what is its job? And if it is the government's job, then why aren't they doing more to address inequality?
An excellent example of where the government has failed in addressing (or failing to address) need - as outlined by the Gonski recommendations. It is uncontested that higher levels and higher quality education generally lead to higher income and better health outcomes. By not implementing the Gonski reforms as recommended (not as conceived by Labor or the Coalition), we are ensuring poorer health outcomes for disadvantaged groups.
This is the essence of the last of this year's Boyer lectures - addressing issues of fairness and equity at every opportunity. Professor Marmot refers to the principle as 'make every contact count'.
In the fourth Boyer lecture Sir Michael suggests that we need government action as well as action by communities. He insists we should be seeking to create the conditions for individuals to take control over their lives with the aim of creating a more just society that enables social flourishing of all its members.
This touches on issues such as a fairer taxation system, the better funding and targeting of services, but also the refusal of people to look at a problem and say 'not my job'.
Professor Marmot's fourth lecture is well worth a listen and you'll find it here.
The third of the Boyer Lectures by Professor Marmot is on a timely subject. With our ideologically driven government seeking to push people into under-employment and temporary work as way of cutting social security spending. While Christian Porter pushes the idea of 'self-reliance' and 'obligation' it is worth asking are the government acting in people's best interests.
Professor Marmot underlines that while unemployment is bad for health, work can damage health too. Jobs characterised by high demands and low control, imbalance between efforts and reward, organisational injustice, shift work and job insecurity increase risk of physical and mental illness. The lower the position in the social hierarchy the greater the concentration of these stressful characteristics. When work is no longer the way out of poverty, health suffers.
Porter is seeking to push people into any work, and the question is will this cost more than it saves? As he is following a conga line of blinkered neoliberals into a social experiment that has repeatedly failed... the answer is YES. For the evidence on why Porter is wrong.... Listen to the Third Boyer Lecture Here.
Donations to politicians and political parties still seem to be on the radar, and that’s a good thing. The truth is that donations do affect the political process, they do damage our democracy and they do sway policy and political decisions.
What's the evidence for this... let’s start by looking at the international experience – recently released court documents from an investigation into Wisconsin governor Scott Walker don’t just reveal the indiscretions of one person, they reveal how widespread the influence of corporate cash is… on politicians, lobbyists and judges.
There is the incredibly complex story of political corruption in Nauru as revealed recently on 7.30 – and the dance that continues between senior members of government, money being provided an Australian company and the Australian government’s complex relationship with the nation as a result of our asylum seeker policy. The democratic fallout affects the citizens of both Nauru and Australia and the root cause of this problem is money and a lack of transparency.
It would be naïve to believe that these issues are isolated ones.
We only need look at our own political history for signs of problems. Donations disclosures are available online.
In 2014-15 (a non-election year when they were not in government) the ALP received $153, 000 in donations from a combination of Clubs NSW, the Australian Hotels Association, and Woolworths (the nation’s biggest owners of poker machines).
In 2011 (an election year when the ALP was in government) the same group donated $156,600 while simultaneously launching a multi-million dollar ad campaign focusing on marginal seats held by Labor.
At the same time the Liberal party received (from the same donors) – in 2011 - $121,000 and in 2014-15 no reported donations. It would be fair to say that the Abbott opposition was already opposing proposed changes vigorously before the clubs and hotels joined the debate because it saw relative political advantage.
Over the same periods The Greens received no donations from any of these groups.
Currently, The Greens are one of the few parties with a prominent pokies harm reduction policy while neither of the major parties are currently showing any interest in addressing the issue.
In 2011 there was a lot of heat on pubs and clubs in relation to poker machine regulation. In 2016 there is none despite ongoing issues with gambling addiction and ongoing community concerns about the pervasiveness of poker machines. Did money and a massive political scare campaign buy a political outcome that suited donors who have a lot of skin in the poker machines game? It would appear so. This is significant because perceptions are as important as reality when we are discussing public confidence in the political process.
These concerns are a likely factor in the declining confidence in democracy in Australia.
Foreign donations add another layer of concern and complexity (as seen in the case of Nauru), so concerns surrounding state owned enterprises in China are both understandable and completely valid.
Ideally we want to see a more level playing field that gives parties, policies and ideas an equal chance of being heard. We don’t want to see voices drowned out by big money advertising campaigns, and we don’t want to amplify individuals or interest groups based solely on their financial resources rather than the quality of their argument.
And that is what we are currently getting.
A more appropriate arrangement would cap donations and election campaign expenditure, ban foreign donations, improve transparency and disclosure, as well as provide a more level playing field through more equitable public funding.
How that might look in practice would be a great basis for the debate we are not currently having in this area.
by Mark Enders
The second of this year's Boyer Lectures (delivered by Professor Sir Michael Marmot) focuses on enabling good health outcomes through preventative approaches, and by starting early... especially with at risk groups. This includes addressing both the positives and negatives of early childhood experience.
According to Professor Marmot.... the positives include nurturing of psychological, linguistic, social, emotional and behavioral development. The negatives that need to be addressed are adverse child experiences. An absence of nurturing and the presence of the harmful are strong contributors to inequalities in health in adult life and there is a great deal we can do to make things better through national policy settings and by supporting families and children.
You can hear the full talk by clicking on this link.
The 2016 Boyer Lecture Series is titled Fair Australia: Social Justice and the Health Gap, to be delivered by Professor Sir Michael Marmot, President of the World Medical Association, Director of the Institute of Health Equity and a leading researcher on health inequality issues for more than three decades. Sir Michael’s lectures will explore the challenges faced by communities in solving issues around health inequality.
In the first lecture, professor Marmot explains how the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, determine their risk of poor health. According to Sir Michael “The causes of the causes are the social determinants of health and they influence not only lifestyle but stress at work and at home, the environment, housing and transport,”
You can listen to his lecture by clicking this link.
Housing is a significant issue in Australia. We do need to address affordability through removing tax breaks around negative gearing and capital gains tax as per Greens Policy.
This is important for a number of reasons. It is a question of equity and of ensuring our monetary policy doesn’t widen the divide between the haves and the have-nots, between the landlords and the renters, between the young and the older members of our community.
It is also important to ensure that an essential service (or even a right) such as housing is taken out of the hands of those who seek to profit from it (developers, investors and bankers) and put into the hands of end-users… people who actually want a nice affordable place to live.
If it sounds like a pipe dream, it’s not. It’s already happening in Melbourne in an architect-driven project called Nightingale 1.0. You can read about it here.
This development ensures a triple bottom line… of social, financial and environmental sustainability. It delivers affordable, quality house that meets the needs of occupiers, not other rent seekers. And it is very, very popular.
The loser should such an initiative become more widespread would be the rent-seekers mentioned above. People do have a right to invest and to profit, but not on the misery of others and not is such a way that it 'ties up' money rather than allowing it to circulate and create wealth - which is how the current housing market is working.
While this is surely enough reason to drive change, there is another more compelling reason… we are in danger of returning to a situation where large numbers are living in ‘Slum Housing’… a situation we haven’t seen for more than a century.
Issues like overcrowding, houses in a poor state of repair, poor insulation, and insufficient heating and cooling are not just an issue for remote Aboriginal communities. Students and the unemployed (or under-employed) find themselves in similar situations. Not only is this unfair, it also means poorer health outcomes for these people… just as it did over a century ago.
The scale of this issue was recently revealed by researchers from South Australia and Victoria, who applied the HILDA survey and found that more than 100,000 people were living in properties regarded as very poor or derelict.
Many of the people living in this accommodation are already disadvantaged, and the state of their accommodation only increases their disadvantage.
Unless Governments take steps to ensure the supply of affordable, good quality housing we will see the re-emergence of slums, and the associated reduced life chances and shortened lives. The well-meaning architects working on the Nightingale project can’t do it on their own.
In Townsville we are suffering under an economic downturn, with high levels of youth and general unemployment. Some people have moved away, but others are still here suffering in relative silence. We have a responsibility to address these issues now.
There is more we can do. There is more we need to do. These issues are preventable, waiting for a time when we have to resort to the slum-clearing of a century ago is not an approach we should even contemplate.
by Wendy Tubman
The attitude and the approach that both Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have taken to the immigration portfolio is both insulting and undemocratic.
Democracies function best when the voting public is properly informed, and government and especially outsourced government services become dysfunctional bordering on criminal when they are not held accountable and are not exposed to scrutiny in the media and the public domain.
We are where we are at Don Dale, Nauru and Manus due to a lack of scrutiny and accountability over many years.
It is time our governments stopped treating us like mushrooms on important issues and on issues on which we have a right to know.
These issues are surprisingly easy to fix, as outlined in a recent article in The Conversation by Johan Lidburg from Monach University (reprinted below with permission)
How did one of the world’s most-successful multicultural countries made up of refugees and immigrants end up harming children who came to us seeking protection and help? One of the answers to this question is secrecy.
Successive Australian governments, both Labor and Coalition, have dehumanised refugees and kept Australians in the dark about what really goes on in the offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.
The cornerstone of the strategy is to limit public access to information. The policy started by the Rudd Labor government in 2013 has been put into overdrive by the Abbott and Turnbull Coalition governments.
There are three pillars to the secrecy strategy:
Australian journalists have found it very difficult, bordering on practically impossible, to obtain visas to visit Nauru. Applying for a media visa for Nauru comes with an A$8,000 fee – which is non-refundable even if the application is rejected.
The only journalists to be granted visas in the last two years filed stories that did not properly investigate or challenge the Nauruan and Australian governments' versions of the situation for refugees.
This means the two governments directly and indirectly control who is allowed onto the island to tell the refugees’ stories of how they are treated. This leads to speculation that serves no-one – not the refugees nor the Australian government nor the public.
The second issue with outsourcing refugee processing to another country is that neither Nauru nor Papua New Guinea has Freedom of Information (FOI) laws. This means an important journalistic tool is missing when it comes to seeking information.
This, combined with the poor FOI history of Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection (and its predecessor), which have repeatedly blocked and delayed requests, makes obtaining raw and unspun information about offshore refugee processing a time-consuming and frustrating task.
Wilson Security is contracted to provide security in the offshore centres.
The 2010 amendments to the federal FOI Act significantly strengthened the requirement on government agencies to obtain information from a private contractor when asked to do so.
However, contracting out adds another layer of complexity to using FOI effectively. The practical consequences are longer processing times, delays and the increased possibility of the contractor claiming the information can’t be released due to commercial-in-confidence issues.
In July 2015, the Australian Border Force Act came into force. Its controversial disclosure offence section extended the questionable Australian tradition of limiting public servants’ right to public speech and participation in public debate.
The section effectively stops current and former staff, including those from volunteer organisations such as Save the Children, speaking out about conditions in refugee detention centres.
It is nigh-on impossible to see how this gag section can be in the public interest. But it is easy to see how it is in the government’s political interest.
The consequence of the fortress of secrecy built on these three pillars is that Australians don’t know what is being done in their name on Nauru and Manus Island.
It also means the refugees are dehumanised. Suffering children and families become numbers instead of human beings.
Every one of the nearly 1,300 refugees currently on Nauru and Manus has heartbreaking and crucial stories to tell. If Australians were allowed to hear and see those stories, the centres would have been closed a long time ago.
If offshore detention is to continue, the Australian government should:
We don’t need a Senate inquiry or royal commission to figure out what needs to be done. More than enough evidence is available thanks to the Nauru files, former detention centre staff sharing their experiences, and the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report on children in immigration detention. The government must do the decent and right thing by the refugees and the Australian public.
In short... we are being treated like Mushrooms and we are all tired of the Bullshit.
The first thing that needs to be said about vaccinations is that there is absolutely no link between childhood vaccinations and Autism. Numerous studies have confirmed this. And while vaccines do have an adverse effect on some people, the vaccination process is closely controlled and monitored to ensure very high levels of safety for recipients.
It is also worth noting that not vaccinating actually carries a higher level of risk for children. The decision not to vaccinate is not entirely a personal one - unvaccinated children put all those they come into contact with at greater risk. That is the reason behind the government's policy of 'no jab - no pay' for welfare recipients.
The government has hailed their program a success. The problem is that the children of lower income earners and those dependent on government payments are not the most important target group.
Some of the wealthiest suburbs are at high risk due to dangerously low vaccination rates. There are numerous explanations for this (none of which relate to vaccine safety), but what is clear is that families living in areas such as Mossman and Manly are unlikely to be influenced or affected by a 'no jab no pay' policy.
The other areas with dangerously low levels of vaccination are among indigenous people and among select indigenous communities (especially in NT). There is no evidence that these groups are avoiding vaccination based on personal choice or fear of side effects. and the government's own website suggests:
These disparities point to the importance of identification of Indigenous status, particularly in mainstream health services, and particularly in urban areas. The use of patient information systems to record Indigenous status and schedule preventive health services has the potential to increase opportunistic vaccination and enable the provision of patient reminders, with resultant improvements in coverage and timeliness. Culturally appropriate service delivery and communication strategies, as well as use of Indigenous-specific Medicare items, will also assist in improving access to health services for Indigenous Australians.
No mention of 'no jab no pay' so clearly these measures are not intended to close the gap.
Peter Mares from the Swinburne Institute for Social Research suggests that there is another large group that the government isn't targeting and is in effect withholding support from.
Vaccination rates are low is among the 800,000 temporary residents in Australia, people the government has allowed and even encouraged to enter. Public health staff have been instructed not to give free vaccinations to the babies of workers on 457 visas, international students and other temporary visa holders. Instead they have been instructed to seek out a GP and pay for the vaccinations themselves. By asking people from a group that largely has very limited financial resources to pay for immunisation is a formula for low vaccination rates.
Based on the way the government is treating the above higher risk groups, it does make you wonder whether the government is really interested in driving up immunisation rates, or whether immunisation is being used as an excuse for using another tool (no jab no pay) to hit the poor and those depending on financial support from the government. It seems plausible that this government wouldn't be overly disappointed with less than 100% take up as this would be an opportunity to both make savings in the budget and to level blame at those in need for their increased financial hardship.
Because based on the evidence, and based on what strategies are most likely to target key at risk groups, the government isn't being effective and isn't following its own advice. Either they are incompetent or they have a different agenda.
by Mark Enders
A picture does paint a thousand words. The power of Television and the Cinema is directly linked to the power of the images they project.
Many commentators have suggested that the reason that numerous reports into the treatment children were receiving in the Don Dale detention centre didn't have any effect was because those reports didn't contain the confronting images that were on national display on 4 Corners.
The reason why sympathy for Syrian refugees took a huge about face, right around the world, was because of the image of Aylan Al-Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach.
Images of horror do spur us into action. But equally, images of more positive emotions like joy, love and compassion are equally powerful. As Jane Lydon from the University of Western Australia says in her piece on The Conversation website - positive images of refugees shape perceptions and the public debate.
Images of both horror and joy surrounding refugees are censored by governments as they try to control the debate. It is the reason journalists are not permitted into detention centres. Photo-journalists would no doubt find endless images which would undermine their flimsy argument that they are being tough on people smugglers... rather than just unnecessarily cruel.
We intend to try balancing the discussion with some powerful images of our own. Images that tell a different story. Such as:
A story of Successful Migrants and Refugees...
Stories that speak to the humanity of refugees and highlight they are much like us...
Stories of love, joy and no threat to our collective safety....
Stories of Generosity, Welcoming and Kindness. Stories that show off our better selves...
We are a lucky country. We can be a generous nation. We live in a safe and relatively prosperous place.
The biggest threat to that is not refugees... it is the way we are being manipulated to think differently by powerful forces in sections of the government and the media.
We can all play our part in changing the course and the tone of the debate, on any issue, by sharing images that subvert the populist narrative. And in this highly connected world of social media it has never been easier to share.
by Wendy Tubman
There is no denying that money buys power and influence. That has always been the case.
Money can keep illegitimate governments in power – it propped up Saddam Hussein’s regime, including Australian money that came from AWB. At the time the Howard government sent us to war in Iraq while at the same time turning a blind eye to allowing the regime they were fighting to be funded by an Australian country. This period has been thrown into further controversy recently with the release of the findings of the Chilcot inquiry - a report which made adverse findings against the Howard government, and which brought a robust defense from Howard himself. Interestingly, we have still not had an inquiry in Australia into what took us to war.
As they say in government - only hold an inquiry if you already know the outcome and you are sure it won't hurt you.
The Pacific Solution came about because Australia was able (and is still able) to bribe nations like Nauru to deal with a political problem such as refugees. But the damage to democracy extends beyond our shores. Nauru was essentially a failed state when the Howard government started pouring millions of Australian dollars into their economy to help run his Pacific solution.
Outside the moral issues of outsourcing our international responsibilities, this created a different issue. It made Nauru less dependent on foreign aid, which might at first blush seem to be a positive. But what this has done is to make them less accountable... as with foreign aid comes the need for levels of transparency. As Tess Newton Cain has highlighted - the removal of independent office holders (like the commissioner of police and the resident magistrate) has coincided with the new-found financial independence. As Tess states:
...with hindsight, it appears that the ‘Pacific Solution’ has contributed to a ‘perfect storm’ with the government having increased funds available at a time when those in power are actively seeking to throw off the perceived shackles of good governance.
Murdoch’s money and the media empire he built with it gives him a voice and influence well beyond what he would otherwise have. Gina Reinhart’s ideas were heard not because they are insightful, but because she was the richest woman in Australia. Clive Palmer built a profile, a voice and eventually a short career in parliament based on the money he spent in 2013. And for a brief time he had a powerful voting block in the Senate which was hugely influential.
The North Sydney Forum raised a lot of money for Joe Hockey’s political aspirations by selling access if not influence when he was Australia’s treasurer. It opened up many questions which were never sufficiently answered, as well as exposing connections to the corrupt Australian Water Holdings and people like Nick Di Girolamo (who gave Barry O'Farrell the $3000 bottle of Grange Hermitage that ended O'Farrell's political career) and Senator Arthur Sinodinos (whose selective memory seems to have saved his political career)
Political fundraisers for both major parties involve attendees paying ridiculous sums of money per ‘plate’. And while I’m sure the food is good, there is no doubt that what is being paid for is access and potential influence
It also seems that recent governments and their policy settings have been heavily influenced by money - either through donations or through money spent campaigning against them.
Back in the mining super-profits tax days, a large amount of spending from foreign owned mining interests was able to change government policy through the influence it was able to exert through advertising.
But very recently money has potentially decided who formed government. It is reported that quite late in the campaign at a time when a Liberal insider said 'The Party is broke. There is no money' Malcolm Turnbull donated $1M effectively trying to get himself re-elected as PM.
Government representatives are bemoaning policy setting on Superannuation and the impact it had on both the election result and donations. In the wake of the election result Eric Abetz has called for changes to the government's policy on Superannuation as he believes this was the message the election result sent. Abetz's comments were reported on the saveoursuper.org.au website. Clearly not an independent news site.
What the website didn't report was that there was actually no evidence for this claim.
The Australian quotes Senator Ian McDonald as saying (about the Superannuation policy taken to the election):
It also severely impacted our fundraising because most of those affected and even those who weren’t affected but were concerned that they might have been were traditionally our supporters and very often our very good donors.
McDonald is linking policy settings to donations, and while he isn't overtly calling for policy changes to ensure donations keep flowing, you do wonder why he makes the point.
The recent changes made by the Queensland government to ensure political donations are revealed in real time are a welcome change and are one step towards handing democracy back to everyone, not just the rick and the well-connected.
There isn't a democracy on the planet which suffers from too much transparency, and we should be calling for more of it. The Greens are one of the few political parties which are calling for a Federal ICAC and the banning of political donations.
They are next steps we need to take to shore up our democracy and wrest back some power from the wealthy and the well-connected.
by Mark Enders
The Greens have long understood the interconnectedness of things. Our previous blog post pointed to how one policy area affects another, from Education, to Health, to Social Issues, to the Economy.
Beyond the internet, people are all inter-connected and inter-dependent, and are in fact mostly much closer than the popular myth of 7 Degrees of separation.
Equally we are not just a product of our environment, we are a part of it, we are dependent on it, and increasingly it is dependent on us. It is good to have beliefs supported by research and evidence. Green cities are not just healthier and happier cities, they are safer cities and the Greening of cities has been an important of urban regeneration and transformation.
J. Morgan Grove and Michelle Kondo from the US Forestry Service have published some compelling results from the projects they have been involved in. The results are published on The Coversation website. They have been republished below with permission.
In the 1953 short story The Man Who Planted Trees, a lone shepherd plants thousands of trees, transforming a desolate valley into a vibrant forest with pleasant villages and unspoiled wilderness. The moral of this story is a simple one: that perseverance and planting trees can make places more desirable to live.
Across the United States, the US Forest Service is proving this, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.
Within some neighbourhoods, scientists are documenting a connection between trees and a specific social improvement: a reduction in crime. These studies combine modern mapping technology with spatial and economic statistics to compare crime levels between similar urban neighbourhoods in the same city.
This research is becoming increasingly widespread and sophisticated. According to Kathleen Wolf, a research social scientist with the University of Washington and the US Forest Service, this is “part of a movement to understand the role of nature in public health”. Wolf observes:
Now that we’re in the era of Big Data, we’re seeing an acceleration of crime-related research in a wide variety of disciplines and fields. We’re also incorporating data on things like disparities of green in urban communities.
Not only do healthy, well-maintained trees provide shade and benefit the ecosystem, they can have a social meaning: that people in that neighbourhood look out for each other.
One of the places we are conducting this type of research is Baltimore. One of the oldest cities in US, Baltimore has more than 600,000 residents. It is known for its rich historical heritage, a picturesque inner harbour, crab cakes … and for having some of the worst crime and poverty levels in the nation.
According to recent estimates, 25% of Baltimore residents and 37% of Baltimore children live in poverty.
Faced with one of the highest homicide rates in the country, the city implemented a youth curfew law in 2014 to keep unaccompanied children off the streets at night.
Baltimore also has an extensive team of urban research scientists, affiliated with both the US Forest Service Baltimore Field Station and the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, and a proactive non-profit organisation, The Parks & People Foundation. These entities are working together to demonstrate a connection between adding trees and reducing crime in under-served neighbourhoods.
We worked in a research collaboration to look at the relationship between urban tree cover and rates of robbery, burglary, theft and shooting in under-served neighbourhoods in Baltimore. After controlling for income, population density, block-scale tree canopy and housing type, we found that a 10% increase in tree canopy corresponded to a roughly 12% decrease in crime.
According to Valerie Rupp, director of community greening for The Parks & People Foundation in Baltimore, people are taking back their neighbourhoods. “While crime still exists, there’s been a shift to more minor, less violent crimes,” she says.
Less than 150 kilometres northwest of Baltimore is the city of Philadelphia, another historic metropolis. With a population of more than 1.5 million, Philadelphia also has its share of big-city problems.
Although Philadelphia’s homicide rate is lower than Baltimore’s, the city has one of the highest homicide rates of the country’s ten most populous cities.
The US Forest Service Philadelphia Field Station is working with city groups such as the Parks and Recreation Department and the Philadelphia Water Department to establish the “triple bottom line”, meaning improvements in three broad areas of impact – environmental, social and economic.
In terms of crime reduction, our studies have found that “green” stormwater infrastructure improvements resulted in significant reductions in narcotics possession and theft. According to Philadelphia police detective Hugh Davis, one can feel neighbourhoods changing and becoming safer over time. Davis says:
It often starts out as a grant program to make landscape improvements, and then residents start to take ownership. It improves neighbourhood pride and goodwill toward the city.
Developing ‘green courage’ in the inner city
The theory behind urban greening and reduced crime levels is that when under-served neighbourhoods are made more pleasant, it can result in a healthier sense of community. In turn, it makes those neighbourhoods less hospitable to criminal activity.
In places like Baltimore and Philadelphia, city departments are working with communities to give people what some urban sociologists call “green courage”. This occurs when residents become more willing to work together after seeing improvements in their neighbourhood.
At the end of the day, urban greening is not simply about planting trees. It’s about people working together to make neighbourhoods better places to live.
We are working alongside these efforts, helping to document and provide a scientific basis for the work to spread and continue. For those of us who are working toward these goals, we sometimes wonder: are we planting trees to organise people or are we organising people to plant trees?
The best answer is probably “yes” to both.
The Conversation website contains considered discussion on issues of importance. One of the key issues for this region is a sustainable and secure water supply, and Barry Hart from Monash University, and Avril Horne and Erin O'Donnell from the University of Melbourne have addressed the issue in detail. An important conversation to be had before election day.
Their piece is reprinted with permission below.
Ahead of the election, the major parties have released different visions for developing northern Australia. The Coalition has committed to dam projects across Queensland; Labor has pledged to support the tourism industry.
These pledges build on the Coalition’s A$5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, a fund to support large projects, starting on July 1.
The Coalition has pledged A$20 million to support 14 new or existing dams across Queensland should the government be returned to power, as part of a A$2.5 billion plan for dams across northern Australia.
Labor, meanwhile, will redirect A$1 billion from the fund towards tourism, including eco-tourism, indigenous tourism ventures and transport infrastructure (airports, trains, and ports).
It is well recognised that the development of northern Australia will depend on harnessing the north’s abundant water resources. However, it’s also well recognised that the ongoing use of water resources to support industry and agriculture hinges on the health and sustainability of those water resources.
Northern Australia is home to diverse ecosystems, which support a range of ecosystem services and cultural values, and these must be adequately considered in the planning stages.
Sustainability comes secondThe white paper for northern Australia focuses almost solely on driving growth and development. Current water resource management policy in Australia, however, emphasises integrated water resource planning and sustainable water use that protects key ecosystem functions.
Our concern is that the commitment to sustainability embedded in the National Water Initiative (NWI), as well as Queensland’s water policies, may become secondary in the rush to “fast track” these water infrastructure projects.
Lessons from the past show that the long-term success of large water infrastructure projects requires due process, including time for consultation, environmental assessments and investigation of alternative solutions.
What is on the table?The Coalition proposes providing funds to investigate the feasibility of a range of projects, including upgrading existing dams and investigating new dams. The majority of these appear to be focused on increasing the reliability of water supplies in regional urban centres. Few target improved agricultural productivity.
These commitments add to the already proposed feasibility study (A$10 million) of the Ord irrigation scheme in the Northern Territory and the construction of the Nullinga Dam in Queensland. And the A$15 million northern Australia water resources assessment being undertaken by CSIRO, which is focused on the Fitzroy river basin in Western Australia, the Darwin river basins in Northern Territory and the Mitchell river basin in Queensland.
Rethinking damsNew water infrastructure in the north should be part of an integrated investment program to limit overall environmental impacts. Focusing on new dams applies 19th-century thinking to a 21st-century problem, and we have three major concerns about the rush to build dams in northern Australia.
First, the process to establish infrastructure priorities for federal investment is unclear. For instance, it’s uncertain how the projects are connected to Queensland’s State Infrastructure Plan.
Investment in new water infrastructure across northern Australia needs to be part of a long-term water resource plan. This requires clearly articulated objectives for the development of northern Australia, along with assessment criteria that relate to economic, social and environmental outcomes, such as those used in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Second, the federal government emphasises on-stream dams. Dams built across the main river in this way have many well-recognised problems, including:
As a minimum, new dams should be built away from major waterways (such as on small, tributary streams) and designed to minimise environmental impacts. This requires planning in the early stages, as such alternatives are extremely difficult to retrofit to an existing system.
Finally, the federal government proposals make no mention of climate change impacts. Irrigation and intensive manufacturing industries demand highly reliable water supplies.
While high-value use of water should be encouraged, new industries need to be able to adapt for the increased frequency of low flows; as well as increased intensity of flood events. Government investment needs to build resilience as well as high-value use.
Detailed planning, not press releasesIn place of the rather ad hoc approach to improvements in water infrastructure, such as the projects announced by the federal government in advance of the election, we need a more holistic and considered approach.
The A$20 million investment for 14 feasibility studies and business cases in Queensland represents a relatively small amount of money for each project, and runs the risk of having them undertaken in isolation. The feasibility studies should be part of the entirety of the government’s plan for A$2.5 billion in new dams for northern Australia.
Water resource planning is too important and too expensive to cut corners on planning. Investment proposals for Queensland need to be integrated with water resource planning across the state, and across northern Australia, and with appropriate consideration of climate change impacts.
Fast tracking dams without considering ecosystem impacts, future variability in water supplies, and resilience in local communities merely sets the scene for future problems that will likely demand another round of intervention and reform.
It is difficult making good health choices for many reasons. And one of the key issues is hidden sugar.
While Mary Poppins told us a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, too many spoons of sugar make us very sick. And our modern diet has more sugar in it than it ever did.
In the last 20 years, the amount of sugar each person consumes yearly in the United States has soared from 12 kgs per person to more than 61 kgs per person, with similar changes all over the world. Since 1983, sugar consumption has been steadily increasing every year by an average of 28%, fueling an epidemic of obesity, dental disease, diabetes and other health problems.
An analysis of 175 countries over the past decade showed that when you look for the cause of type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes, the total number of calories you consume is irrelevant. It’s the specific calories that count. When people ate 150 calories more every day, the rate of diabetes went up 0.1 per cent. But if those 150 calories came from a can of fizzy drink, the rate went up 1.1 per cent. Added sugar is 11 times more potent at causing diabetes than general calories
The American Heart foundation when exploring the relationship between dietary sugar intake and heart disease recommends that high sugar intake should be avoided
The World Health Organisation has recommended that people significantly reduce their sugar intake.
Leader of the Australian Greens Dr Richard Di Natale has announced a new tax on sugary sweetened beverages to help tackle Australia's obesity epidemic.
Added sugar is very bad for your health, and puts an enormous strain on our health system. We have a major health crisis on our hands with over a quarter of Australian adults and children overweight or obese. 30% of the added sugar kids consume comes from sweetened drinks, which are a major contributor to increasing rates of childhood obesity. If this trend continues our children may be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Earlier this year, Jamie Oliver laid down a challenge to Australia and called on us to follow the UK and introduce a tax of sugary soft drinks. The Australian Greens have accepted that challenge, and will push for the introduction of a 20 percent tax on sugary drinks which the evidence shows will reduce uptake by at least 12 percent. Every cent of the expected $500 million per year raised by the tax on sweetened drinks will be reinvested back into positive health initiatives for Australians.
Over four years $2 billion could be raised by ensuring that sugary sweetened drink manufacturers contribute to the harms their product causes. This tax is part of a broader prevention strategy for obesity, including clear food labeling; restricting junk food advertising to children; and encouraging physical activity through active transport.
The sweetest part of this policy will be the longer term benefits to Australians by reducing chronic disease and achieving better health outcomes,
This is another great primary health initiative from the Greens
by Wendy Tubman
We all have a right to know.
To know what is being done in our name. To know that those in a position of power are held accountable for their actions. We have a right to expect transparency from all our public servants, especially those whose position is as an elected official.
Our democracy is made stronger by an informed and engaged populace. Our democracy depends on freedom of the press, and our democracy is being damaged every single day that we, the voting public, are kept in the dark.
The Greens believe in our right to know, we believe in accountability, and transparency, we believe in a free press and a strong democracy, and we believe that the major parties are not doing enough to protect human rights, basic freedoms and the integrity of our political system.
While some politicians give lip service to the things we believe in, the Greens know that actions speak louder than words.
The Greens have announced that they will introduce a Private Members Bill into the Parliament, allowing media to gain access to Australian detention centres, following the election.
The ‘Transparency Guarantee Bill’ would mandate a reasonable level of access for media to detention centres and amend the migration act to make it illegal for the government to fund offshore detention centres where media are not allowed regular access.
Bill Shorten has conceded that the time has come to lift the lid on the secret torture camps on Manus Island and Nauru. Labor need to put their money where their mouth is and commit to legislating for transparency and genuine media access to the detention camps.
We all know (the Labor party included) that these detention camps operate under a cloak of secrecy for a reason and it’s important that we get this commitment from Labor enshrined in legislation.
A policy of secrecy is a dangerous one and secrecy has a long and sorry history in this country.
Secrecy allowed indigenous children to be taken from their parents.
Secrecy allowed the systematic abuse of children who were in the care of state and religious institutions.
Secrecy protected serial offenders and allowed abuse to continue long after it should have been stopped.
State sponsored secrecy has an even longer and more tragic legacy right around the world. And that is why fair minded people don’t just object to it, they are fearful of it.
Even with the little information we have been allowed to know about offshore detention, it is clear that the secrecy and the ongoing media blackout has allowed an environment of abuse and neglect to fester on Manus Island and Nauru. The Greens will act to put it to an end.
We ask for your support on July 2nd – stand alongside us and help us give the right to know back to every Australian.
by Wendy Tubman
Far from being a one issue party, The Greens have a suite of policies that cover issues and ideas that are important to most Australians.
We understand that different issues hold different levels of importance to people, we understand that time is limited, and we believe that every voter should go to the polling booth armed with good quality information in order to make the best decision for their future.
To keep things clear and simple we’ve listed the Greens full range of policies (in Alphabetical order below, and have included links to all the relevant policies.
All you need to do is click on the highlighted areas below that are of interest
Agriculture - Protecting our Food System Soil Health Local Food
Arts – Supporting Artsists Investing in the Arts
Economy – Banking and Finance Superannuation
Education – TAFE Equality Early childhood learning University Disability
Energy – Solar community owned energy Battery storage
Environment – Protection Wildlife Sustainable Tourism
Health – The Health System Palliative Care Dental Active communities Primary care Mental Health
Indigenous issues – Closing the Gap Indigenous Rangers Empowerment
Innovation – Innovation Nation R&D Agriculture Reducing harm
Justice – Access Re-investment
Reef – Protecting the Reef Marine Reserves
Renew - Queensland Australia
Social policy - Public Housing Diversity Domestic violence Inclusive communities
Tax - Tax Avoidance Capital Gains Tax The Buffett Rule Negative Gearing
Trade – Fair Trade, Live Exports
Transport – Sustainable transport Cycling Electric vehicles
There’s a lot there, and among all that policy, there’s an issue that matters to you.
Remember if you dismiss the Greens as a one issue party… you’re making a very big mistake
by Wendy Tubman
Accessible, affordable, quality childcare is a real issue at the moment. Working families all around the country are feeling the financial pressure of childcare costs and the government has responded by delaying their announced changes by 12 months.
It’s not good enough.
Families under significant pressures are expected to just hold tight for another year so the government can make the books look better for the election. But again it is not good social or economic policy.
The Greens know that affordable and quality childcare is important. It’s important for the economy as it takes pressure off disposable income, makes room for increases in discretionary spending, and so supports an array of jobs and businesses.
It’s an important part of ensuring healthy workforce participation rates for women. This is especially true for lower income earners, and this in turn will impact their superannuation and retirement savings. The government’s short term thinking will have longer term ramifications.
It’s important for kids and their education as it provides an opportunity to set them up for greater academic achievement. It is well established that the early years are an important phase of their learning. To make quality childcare unaffordable is a form of generational theft that this government sanctions.
In response the Australian Greens have announced a policy of ‘Universal Access’ childcare, with a guaranteed minimum of 24 hours of subsidised care offered to every Australian family each week.
The Greens policy creates a single, means tested payment model with access guaranteed for all Australian families. Whoever wins government will need to get their proposed childcare legislation through the Senate. The Greens would push for this policy to be implemented from the 1st of July 2017.
Families earning under $65,000 per year would have 85% of the cost of their care covered, with that amount tapering off until families who earn over $340,000 have 20% of their costs covered.
The Greens have also announced that they will create a $200 million ‘Reducing Waiting Lists Fund’, that centres could apply to access for either capital works, increasing staff or the expansion of specific programs to free up more places in high need areas.
Implementing the Greens’ policy of ‘Universal Access’ would add $370 million per year to the cost of the government’s proposed childcare overhaul. This would be funded through the Greens fully costed platform.
Again the Greens are offering a real point of difference. All the details on the policy are available here.
by Wendy Tubman
This far in to the longest election in living memory, you'd be forgiven for thinking there is nothing good about an election, other than it being over.
Elections are interesting times. We starts to see more of our local representatives, whether we want to or not. On one side we are reminded how well we are being served by our government, and on the other we are reminded of how we are being failed by those same people. Interest groups become more vocal, and those who are given the biggest megaphone can leave us wondering why.
And in among all that, we start to have the kind of conversations we need to have… about the present and the future.
The Conversation website is always a great source of information and inspiration. During this election period they have provided some great stories. Below are a few worth checking out.
The storm system along the East coast has done a great deal of damage, led to a number of tragedies, and has got people asking great questions… like - Is climate change playing a role in these events?
It also has people considering the unseen damage occurring from water run-off and the associated pollution of our waterways caused by the way our cities are designed. There is clearly more we should do, and you’ll find some suggestions in the article by Katherine Dafforn and Emma Johnston from UNSW.
Innovation has been a word that Malcolm Turnbull has been using frequently, without well-defining what he is talking about, or even proposing where our innovation investment should be focussed. Perhaps he doesn’t know, or perhaps he just needs a distraction from the record of his government. Either way, there are people who are making real and concrete suggestions about where our potential lies.
Peter Fisher from RMIT asks what a smart modern city looks like. This includes digital entanglement, densification and managing the risks of climate change. The Greens see these same risks and are addressing them through its policy on the NBN, protecting the envirnoment, addressing the reef's challenges, meeting our future transport needs, supporting and investing in innovation and research.
Professor Peter Doherty suggests that we play to our strengths and take advantage of our abundant renewable resources and our ability in medical and scientific research.
And what about the issues facing rural and regional Australia? According to Stewart Lockie from JCU they are: Infrastructure, Unemployment, Diversification and New economy jobs, ATSI participation, Health, Education and Social services, Climate change, Natural resource management, and Agriculture. You can read more of his views here.
The Greens understand this and have policies which include supporting our clean energy future, community owned energy, getting the community into active transport, investing in health, closing the gap, and empowering ATSI peoples.
Part of the process of being clear about the facts and the truth, is the ability to identify the lies, the exaggerations, and the popular myths. Again The Conversation and their fact checking unit is a great source of information.
While most rational people would take anything Pauline Hanson said with a grain of salt.. fact check has debunked her claims that crime is getting worse in Australia. And while Pauline relied on anecdotes, sensationalist news reports and her own gut feeling, fact check looked at the official data.
So rather than feel like you are being let down by politicians or news services who want to sell you the idea that all we need is a big new dam, or a new football stadium and all our problems will be solved for the next three years… feel encouraged that you can always search out other, more reliable sources of information, advice and opinion.
The Greens want people to be informed, they embrace a diversity of ideas and opinions, they support the research and the science, and they want people to make their own informed decisions. And the Greens have a full suite of policies which supports and integrates all the outcomes it believes in.
We might be in the middle of an election campaign but we will keep telling the truth, we will keep the hyperbole under control, and we will continue to highlight the kind of ideas that will serve the interests of all Australians.
In our opinion The Conversation website is such a reliable source. When you get the chance, check it out.
by Wendy Tubman
Water is an issue for the nation (one of the driest continents on Earth), as well as for Townsville, a large regional city in the dry tropics. The choices we make about water security underpin cost of living pressures, liveability and the ability of the city to grow and support jobs and industry.
Water is a simple supply and demand relationship. We can’t expect an unlimited supply and we can’t expect to have unrestrained demand.
We need a reasonable balance.
On the supply side - Townsville has an excellent water supply system, with highly treated and very safe water sourced from the Ross, Paluma and Burdekin dams.
While the Ross is our main supply dam, it is highly variable, with a limited catchment and low rainfall. The Paluma dam is situated in the wet tropics and is much more reliable, but can only supply 30 ML per day. The Burdekin dam is a huge system, with over 1 000 000 ML per year of water allocations, some of which is not committed. Townsville has 120 000 ML of allocation from the Burdekin.
In 2014, the Department of Energy and Water Supply (DEWS) undertook an assessment of Townsville’s water security. It found that at current consumption levels of 60 000 ML per year, we would have to be on Level 4 water restriction on average once every 160 years. It’s almost certain that we will have level 4 water restrictions this year (and perhaps next year). But that doesn’t mean we have a chronic water shortage problem.
It should be noted that the DEWS report used historical data in its modelling and did not consider the impacts of climate change on rainfall and catchment flows. However CSIRO have found that climate change is not likely to result in significant changes to rainfall patterns in North Queensland.
It is however worth considering that with population and economic growth we would expect to see demand grow to around 75,000 ML/a by 2026 (if current usage patterns remain the same). Even with that level of consumption, DEWS found that we would have to impose Level 4 water restrictions only once every 100 years.
Nevertheless, people are concerned about the city’s water supply, so it is worth some discussion now.
There have been a number of supply side solutions floated: Haughton pipeline duplication ($250M), Hells Gate Dam ($2-3B), Desalination (over $5B), but all these proposals have logistical challenges (and costs) as well as significant environmental impacts.
This begs the question… What about the demand side?
Townsville discharges 40 ML per day of treated water into the sea. There is an opportunity for reuse of this water, either in a third pipe system for irrigation or returned to the Ross Dam for additional treatment as part of the potable water supply. Reuse of treated wastewater directly into the water supply dam is not only safe, but common in many parts of the world, including Europe.
Many of us have travelled to places like London, drunk the water without hesitation, without ‘taste’ issues and without any ill-effects. The time will come when water management of this kind will be common in Australian cities, but until then there are other water saving options.
The reuse of treated wastewater for irrigation (whether for food production or for maintaining public facilities like sporting fields) is already common place in Australia and is a viable solution for Townsville. It will come at an additional infrastructure cost, but a much smaller cost than the supply side solutions. It will also be more reliable as it will not depend on rainfall
Alternatively, we can maintain our water demand to 60 000 ML/a and these works wills not be required. If we are factoring in population growth, to reduce our total city demand means we need to reduce our per capita consumption by 20%. If, as some are predicting, Townsville grows to 300,000 these reductions would need to be around 50%. The good news is both targets are achievable.
The average Townsville household uses 1,700 litres of water per day, while in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne households use around 210 to 285 litres per day. More than 70% of Townsville's water supply is currently being used on residential lawns and gardens
This needs to be addressed by applying targeted and effective price signals on usage, but also through a range of strategies that give us more benefit per drop of water (more efficient showers and toilets, better grey water reuse systems, less thirsty gardens or less wasteful gardeners)
It is time to have a healthy discussion about Townville’s water use. People need to understand their options along with the pros and cons of every choice. They need to know what are the most cost-effective and responsible courses of action, but they are being badly let down by the media and the major parties. But through forums like this blog the Greens are happy to lead the conversation.
The Greens propose policies which are economically, socially and environmentally responsible. And our approach to a sustainable water supply for Townsville is consistent with this approach.
The same can’t be said for the current election campaign, with the haphazard, expensive and unsustainable solutions being proposed by the major parties and their unfunded and poorly researched proposals.
by Wendy Tubman
Tertiary health care might be the most reactive form of treatment we have, but it is still very important.
It is our last line of defence against injury and disease, but it is equally important that we are spending wisely and driving great outcomes. We do need to only direct funds only towards best practice treatment, as mentioned in the previous blog. But we also need to know when to stop spending and treating.
Just one example of poor health spending that sadly leads to poor mental and physical health outcomes for patients was revealed on 4 Corners on Monday night – in the IVF industry. In part through poor regulation and loose Medicare funding guidelines, and in part as a result of the manipulation of desperate patients for financial gain, an insidious anti-health industry has sprung up where we should have had health care.
Cutting off inappropriate funding, will bring an end to unethical and unproductive practices. And we should make moves in this direction as soon as possible.
Better end- of- life options are also an important factor in ensuring we are more able to stop treatment appropriately. Properly resourced Palliative care is an essential part of good health care as it provides people with more choice and more certainty, alleviating mental anguish for patients and their families.
Beyond Palliative care we need to give people the surety and the security that comes with maintaining control and personal dignity at the end of life. Voluntary euthanasia is a difficult area to manage legally, but there are many international examples of countries who that have taken steps ahead of us. We can learn from their efforts and move forward in this issue in a safe and a sensitive way.
But the first step is to start a national conversation discussion about how we want to proceed, because doing nothing is inhumane.
The impact that climate change will have on human health is well documented. The effects will be significant. Any health policy that doesn't address climate change is both narrow and misguided.
It is important to recognise the essential role protecting the environment plays in good health outcomes. As the coal industry continues to decline we will see fewer respiratory disorders, reducing the load on tertiary health care.
By fast tracking an end to burning coal there will be fewer particulates in the air (less health impact), and we will see a limit to extreme weather events (also fewer health impacts). We will see a halt to the spread of tropical diseases like malaria, ross river fever, and zika virus into the sub-tropics.
By avoiding dangerous climate change we will have a greater chance of maintaining environmental biodiversity… which is a critical resource for medical science and research.
Many of our new and innovative medications and treatment regimes come from studying plants, and in particular the Rreef. There are a great many new treatments, as yet undiscovered, that we may never see if we don’t preserve our biodiversity. Developing these treatments takes time, and when it comes to preserving biodiversity it is a race against time.
The Greens are driven to provide better health outcomes for Australians (our leader is a Medical Doctor), and all our policies… whether they be social, environmental, economic, or sector specific (like in health and education) have at their core an interest in caring for all Australians and ensuring they have the best chance possible to achieve good health outcomes in their lives.
The Greens understand the need to have integrated policy that provides transformational leadership on important issues, and there are few more important issues than health.
As the saying goes… if you don’t have your health, what do you have?
by Wendy Tubman
Following on from the previous blog on primary health care... Secondary prevention is a smart and essential part of health care also.
Secondary prevention is about early detection, early treatment and effective long term management. It saves patients a great deal of money and suffering, not to mention saving them from premature death. Early detection occurs in part through education – the Cancer council has recently been running ads that encourage people to keep an eye out for suspicious signs.
Doctors surgeries have their walls covered with posters encouraging people to keep an eye on their weight (by looking at which hole on their belt buckle that they are using), and encouraging men in particular to have regular checks.
There are the screening services like those provided by Breastscreen, endoscopy procedures that look for early danger signs, and simpler and less invasive procedures like the blood pressure and blood sugar checks we should all have after the age of 50.
The reason why we have these education and screening services is that early detection means simpler, less expensive treatment and better outcomes. It helps us detect a problem before we experience symptoms (like bleeding, pain, or even lumps), which can be critical. And it helps us overcome our natural complacency… if we feel well, we assume there is nothing wrong, when sometimes there is. Screening gives us the peace of mind we are well, and just in case we aren’t it puts on the road to early treatment and recovery… keeping us well.
It promotes wellness, it keeps us happy and healthy, and it is relatively inexpensive. At the same time, it is the kind of service that governments can cut without people noticing too much. And sadly, that is what short sighted governments who focus on election cycle time frames do.
The Abbott/Turnbull government’s move to introduce GP co-payments undermines secondary health care because it discourages people going to the doctor early and getting screening done. The freezing of the Medicare rebate (slowly) undermines secondary health care in the same way. Limiting people’s access to affordable medications through undermining the PBS has the same effect. And even providing funding windows for specific and emerging health problems undermines long term secondary prevention. Because when the special funding runs out… the service stops, regardless of its effectiveness.
In contrast, the Green believe that secondary prevention is exactly where we need to invest our health dollars. Greens leader Dr Richard Di Natale has today announced a proposal to expand the cover Medicare provides for a significant and growing health problem for Australia in general and Townsville in particular … better treatment for diabetes. And of course, there are other emerging health risks which we need to address now… mental health, oral health, dementia and aged care.
The Greens have the major parties worried because they understand the issues that matter to most Australians and they have workable solutions.
But it is not just about spending, it is also about saving.
Medicare currently funds many procedures for which there is limited clinical evidence that they are best practice. Last year Four Corners highlighted many areas of waste in health funding.
You can watch that episode of Four Corners by clicking this link.
But despite that, the government has not sought to address wasteful spending, just to restrict access to health for people who can’t afford to pay.
The Greens support a great deal more spending on primary and secondary health care, and believe that in turn good health will be affordable for all. We also believe that good health for us all is tied to managing the health of both our built and our natural environment.
When we draw all those threads together... our nation and our citizens will prosper as a result.
by Wendy Tubman
Primary prevention, efforts made to stop people getting sick in the first place, are the best strategies to ensure good health outcomes. Not only is this the least expensive approach, it also preferences wellness over the treatment of illness. It produces the best possible health outcomes for the smallest spend.
Australia has done primary prevention well in the past.
The ‘Life. Be in it.’ campaign was incredibly successful locally and was exported to the US in the 1980’s. Unfortunately, Federal funding was ceased in 1981 to redirect money to elite sports, and, while the program went into a hiatus, it was picked up by private interests and continues (in a much diminished form) to increase physical activity today.
‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ was an equally successful campaign. It markedly changed people’s behaviour in the sun and was responsible for seeing reductions in skin cancer rates. As often happens with successful campaigns, the government took its foot off the pedal (assuming the problem was fixed), behaviour changed again and we saw increasing prevalence of sun- related skin damage.
As a result that campaign has been effectively re-launched as Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.
When AIDS blindsided the world in the mid 1980’s, Australia again responded with a very effective public education campaign:, The Grim Reaper Ads which encouraged people to wear condoms and not to share needles. AIDS affected every corner of the planet, but it left Australia relatively untouched… saving many individuals from a premature death or a shortened life time of health issues and saving the economy billions.
But primary prevention goes beyond education. All the measures that have been taken to reduce tobacco use… plain packaging, banning smoking in some places and relegating smokers to out-of the-way places, support to quit through the Quitline. All that has driven smoking rates in this country to 17%, from where we now lead the world in rates of non-smoking.
Councils have played their part… providing active transport options like great bike path networks, and, in bigger cities, providing end of trip facilities and integrating bike transport with other public transport options. They have provided gyms in the park, like what is currently available in Sherriff Park.
But there is more that can be done… like increasing the Walkability of suburbs.
Federally, we will push further for clear labelling of processed foods, taking the Traffic Light labeling system beyond a voluntary scheme to a mandatory one. We will push for greater availability of healthier choices for kids and the banning of junk food advertising being broadcast during prime viewing times for kids.
There is also a great deal of support for other measures, like a sugar tax.
In addition to what’s been mentioned, there are a great many more opportunities for the government to drive down health costs, and at the same time increase the general health of the population. But while we are focused on emergency department waiting times, and waiting times for elective surgery, our eye is off the real game.
The Greens don’t support cuts to health… but we do support a smarter spend. We recognise that an effective health system must be based on primary health care and preventative health care measures — such as health promotion, disease prevention, risk reduction and early intervention — in order to manage chronic disease, reduce ill-health and avoidable hospital admissions.
The Greens will work in government to achieve this and have established, clear policies on:
Health Care, and
Check them out by clicking the relevant link.
Greens policies, and all the examples of great primary health initiatives are innovation in action. Malcolm Turnbull is good at talking about innovation (and getting excited about it), but terrible at translating it into real world solutions.
Only the Greens are making sensible proposals in this space.
by Wendy Tubman
Wendy Tubman, the Greens candidate for Herbert is passionate about the local community and is working hard to connect with locals and discuss what matters to them. This campaign is not solely about getting elected, it is about giving voice to local people and how they see our shared future in the region.
Wendy is talking with her colleagues in the party about what matters to Townsville, but also what is important for Queensland's and Australia's future. Although this is a Federal election campaign, local, state and federal issues are impacting on us all, and Wendy believes good governance is about bringing all our representatives together to work on a shared vision for a great future.
Wendy has been at the markets talking to anyone who is interested in stopping to chat. She'd encourage more people to take the opportunity... it's our democracy and by getting involved at any level means not only do we get to keep it, but it reflects our needs, our hopes and our desires.
But Wendy says don't just stop and talk to her, talk to the other candidates, let them know what you care about, and make sure they are as focused on representing you as Wendy is.
Wendy was out during the May day marches talking with locals. The issues at QNI are a topic of concern for us all.
Regardless of how things play out at Yabulu, our region needs new jobs and new industries. Wendy stands for looking after workers who have lost their jobs (especially in circumstances like those surrounding QNI), in supporting the transition to new jobs and in creating opportunities for all people who want to work, but especially for youth and new workers in our region. Everyone deserves the opportunity to contribute.
People are cynical about politics and politicians... with good reason. Thankfully our cartoonists have the ability to combine those feelings with a good laugh.
But Wendy reminds you all... all candidates are not the same. It is a long election campaign... but don't switch off. Be well informed and choose wisely on July 2nd.
While it is risky to generalise, it would be uncontroversial to say that all Australians believe in a decent standard of health care for all.
Not many would suggest that if people want good health care they should pay for it, especially if their circumstances make it unaffordable. We do believe in looking after each other, and going the extra mile to help the less fortunate among us.
Yet we are seeing increasing levels of obesity, more and more people developing chronic diseases and suffering from chronic illnesses, and we are facing emerging mental health epidemics across all demographics. Despite the huge amounts we are spending.. our health is getting worse.
We are all concerned about the ever increasing cost of health care, to us as individuals, and to the society more broadly. And we are right to ask if money is being wasted.
The truth is that it is.
Not because we are employing too many doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. Not because more people aren't taking out private health insurance. And not because we don't have 'price signals' in the system. It is being wasted because spending is prioritised on the wrong things.
There is a solution to both problems, and we've known the answer for a very long time.
Primary health care is the business of preventing illness and maintaining wellness. It leads to better health outcomes and it is far less expensive.
But when governments talk about 'health' they are largely talking about treating illness. We know this based on how governments measure success.
There is an old saying 'What gets measured gets done'. Its roots go back to the 1500's, and the reason that it has survived is that it retains a kernel of truth.
When governments report on the state of the health system they typically quote only two measures... waiting time in Emergency, and elective surgery waiting times. The truth is emergency surgical procedures are almost always performed in a timely fashion, and emergency presentations at Emergency are almost always seen immediately. And that is the service working as it should.
In contrast... People requiring elective surgery are in most part evidence of the health system failing them.
If they require joint replacement, the question should be asked 'could their joints have been protected through all manner of preventative measures' (like diet, exercise, better shoes, better work conditions)?
If they require gastric banding, the question should be asked 'could a better, conservative management approach have prevented their obesity and the accompanying health issues' (like diet, exercise, education, making better nutrition information available, a sugar tax, subsidising fresh food).
If they require organ transplantation, could better lifestyle choices (like not smoking, drinking in moderation, better diet and exercise choices) have negated the need?
In many cases the answer is yes. But by not measuring physical and mental outcomes.. like body fat percentage, blood sugars and lipids, cardiac and respiratory output, the self reporting of wellness and happiness.. we are not measuring the real effect of our society on our health, and we are not seeking good health outcomes for all.
By measuring the treatment of illness we are in effect ensuring there are more illness to be treated.
With activity based funding (which encourages hospitals to perform more and more surgeries) we are making surgery the most likely outcome for patients when often the research suggests surgical outcomes are not the best option. Performing arthroscopies for osteoarthritis of the knee is a good example.
By measuring waiting times for non-urgent ED presentations and elective surgeries... we are making health more expensive and we are accepting poorer health outcomes for all.
A first step to fixing our health system, is to start measuring (or perhaps reporting) on the right things. Things like the percentage of the population who are in a healthy weight range. These things are measured reported in the background but are never held up primary evidence about the effectiveness of our health system.
Most of us would believe that if health ministers were held accountable for societal obesity levels, we would see a bigger focus on primary health care. And with that changed focus we will quickly a slowing in the rate at which people are getting heavier and more unhealthy.
But instead we have MP like Ewen Jones telling fat jokes.
But I'm not going to leave you with questions... or Ewen's terrible jokes. There are ways we can reform the health system, and this can be led Federally.
More about that in upcoming blogs
by Wendy Tubman
The take home message from the recent budget was jobs and growth. We know this because Scott Morrison repeated this mantra 13 times in a 30 minute speech. He also repeated the word plan 21 times, as if to reinforce the idea that economic thought bubbles (like giving States taxing powers) were a thing of the past. And following the speech, Liberal MPs dutifully followed their talking points and repeated key words Ad Nauseum, without actually saying very much.
The only plan the government seems to have is to cut tax for small business and the wealthy, and, over the next 10 years, cut tax to bigger and bigger businesses.
But where is the evidence that this approach leads to more jobs?
And, setting aside for a moment the significant problems of advocating for never-ending growth on a resource-constrained planet, where is the evidence that it leads to growth?
Mike Seccombe pulls the ‘tax cuts leads to more jobs and growth’ approach apart in The Saturday Paper.
In 2012, the US Congressional Research Service looked at the effect of reducing income tax rates since 1945.
It found that, in 1945 the top marginal tax rate was 90% but by 2012 it was 35%, and stated: “Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment or productivity growth.”
It also found that “the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution”.
The Research Service also found that the approach increased growth in inequality (an issue we touched on in a previous blog).
But what about the Australian experience?
Investment - Bureau of Statistics data show that, since 1960, private business investment in Australia has trended slowly down as a share of GDP. Before the late 1980s, corporate tax rates averaged well above 40%. Since then, have been progressively reduced to 30%. But there has been no increase in investment as a result.
Economic growth - Up to 1988, the economy grew, on average, by 3.8% a year. Following reductions in corporate tax rates, growth dropped to 3% and is currently forecast at 2.5%.
Employment and Wages - The data show unemployment rates were lower when corporate taxes were higher, and that, since company tax rates have been lowered, the share of GDP going to wages has declined.
This government has asked as a part of its re-election pitch… who do you trust on the economy?
A sane person certainly wouldn’t trust the Coalition, given the deterioration we have seen since they took charge.
I would suggest putting more faith in a Nobel prize-winning economist such as Joseph Stiglitz who says it is “Those at the top spend far less than those at the bottom, so that as money moves up, demand goes down.”
Numerous Coalition policies are shifting wealth towards the top… to those who won’t spend. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a Nobel Prize winning economist) to tell you that their plans will have disastrous economic outcomes for most Australians.
It’s a recipe for more job losses, less growth, more inequality and social problems, growing deficits, and even more tax cuts for the wealthy.
Who can we trust on the economy… not Scott Morrison for one. And although you wouldn't know it if your only news was from the mainstream media... the Greens do have an economic plan.
by Wendy Tubman
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.