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
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.
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
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
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 government has been making one amateurish error after another this year as they nervously watch their approval and support fall among voters.
No one believes the impending Double Dissolution is about the importance of re-establishing the ABCC, rather it is an excuse to try and 'clean out' the Senate of dissenting voices, and a chance to rush to an election before government support and the PM's approval slips too much further.
The much anticipated Budget has for some time been used as an excuse to not answer questions, and to avoid repeated gaffes. Everything was to be answered on Tuesday night. But the strange thing was that it left us with no real answers... perhaps an indication that the government doesn't have any.
One commentator after another has been suggesting the real plan is for budget talk to disappear as quickly as possible, and not hang around like Joe Hockey's 2014 stinker.
But as much as it was designed to fly under the radar, there is still plenty to criticise.
The Greens spokesperson for transport and infrastructure Senator Janet Rice said
“Turnbull’s much-trumpeted $50 billion infrastructure spend is just smoke and mirrors, mostly just reannouncing Abbott-era projects. Less than 10% is going to public transport, continuing the chronic underinvestment in our trains, trams and buses. We’re not going to ease congestion by continuing Tony Abbott’s addiction to great big polluting toll roads. Trying to fix congestion by building more roads is like loosening your belt to cure obesity – car use will inevitably expand to fill the space. A better budget would have prioritised trains, trams and buses, freeing up our roads for people who need them most."
Senator Scott Ludlam said:
"We will see thousands of wealthy retirees switch their investments from superannuation to property. That will squeeze lower income earners and first home buyers even further out of the market. Negative gearing already costs the community $4 billion a year, a cost that will no doubt rise further as people move their wealth out of superannuation and into property, forcing ordinary taxpayers to subsidise their investments. The capital gains tax discount costs closer to $7 billion annually. The government ran away from tackling these handouts, for fear of upsetting the property sector. More and more Australians are locked out of the housing market, and Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison seem determined to make it worse. This budget confirms more than $110 million of annual funding to homelessness services comes to an end next year. They've locked in Tony Abbott's appalling $600 million cuts to affordable rental and housing programs."
Senator Larissa Waters said:
“Our Reef is suffering record coral bleaching driven by global warming but the Liberals are ripping out a billion dollars from clean energy, and funding for work on Reef water quality comes from cutting Landcare. True to its anti-science agenda, the Turnbull Government has locked in the Abbott Government’s cuts to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. While environment funding is cut, the mining industry get another $100 million for exploration to dig up more fossil fuels to further cook the Reef’s corals. A better budget would have invested in clean energy, not dirty energy, to help save the 69 000 jobs the Reef provides. While the fossil fuel industry continues to get over $20 billion in subsidies, the Turnbull Government’s budget locks in the $1.3 billion slashed from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency."
But the Budget is perhaps best summed up by Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale:
"This Budget is a massive let-down, just like Malcolm Turnbull has turned out to be. The government is pretending it can afford unsustainable and unfair tax cuts for the big end of town by claiming fanciful levels of economic growth. While champagne will be flowing in board rooms across the country, these irresponsible cuts come at the expense of long-term funding for schools, hospitals and public services. Rather than reducing inequality the government has chosen to make it worse by cutting social support, university funding and health services. The government doesn't see the jobs of the 21st century in building wind turbines and public transport, they see them in building military hardware. The much-trumpeted $50 billion investment in infrastructure turns out to be a case of smoke and mirrors. It's just a repackaging of existing funding."
As always with the Abbott/Turnbull government... we are promised so much and offered so little. This budget is just par for the course.
Never has there been a more important time not to settle for 'more of the same' from tired old major parties who have either run out of ideas or else are beholden to their support base.. selling out the rest of us in the process.
It is now clear that the only real hope for change is to vote Green at the upcoming election.
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
Sometimes a series of events don't really require any commentary... all you need to do is to draw the key events together so that their meaning becomes clearer than if the events are looked at in isolation.
The Safe Schools debate (if you can call it that) has been very emotive so perhaps the best place to start is with some very funny commentary on the changes to the program as agreed to by Simon Birmingham and Malcolm Turnbull .
It is worth examining the events that shaped the Coalition's attitude to the Safe Schools program and the irresistible drive for seemingly urgent and significant change.Those events are outlined below in what approximates the order in which they occurred.
In November last year the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) slammed the Safe Schools Program.
In early February Cory Bernardi labels the program a 'gay manual' and calls its supporters 'hetero-phobic'
On the 10th of February the ACL continues its attacks on the program.
In mid February, Family First Senator Bob Day echoes Bernardi's calls for defunding of the program, calling it 'Gay Lifestyle promotion' rather than an anti-bullying program.
In late February George Christiansen likens the program to Paedophilic grooming.
Turnbull orders a review of the program after concerted right wing pressure.
On February 29th Lyle Shelton, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, appears on ABC's Q&A further pressing the case to shut down the Safe Schools Program
Turnbull faces another backbench revolt, this time over the results of the review he had authorised into the program. George Christiansen hands Turnbull a petition signed by more than half of the government's backbenchers asking that the program be suspended until a full parliamentary inquiry in conducted.
Tony Abbott is a signatory to Christiansen's petition despite having launched it.
Turnbull defends letting the debate on Safe Schools run so long and acts as an apologist for some very unsavoury remarks by attacking the opposition for their criticisms of the tone of the debate.
The government makes significant changes to the Safe Schools program which please far right conservative George Christensen who welcomes the 'gutting' of the program.
Protests against the changes are currently being organised.
70,000 signatures are collected by Senator Simms from The Greens in support of the Safe Schools program. Cory Bernardi's petition to defund the program collected only 9500 signatures.
Writer Daniel Swain sums up the actions of Christensen and Bernardi beautifully in this article and opens the article powerfully with:
The Safe Schools debate in Parliament takes us back to the playground. Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and their supporters claim to be motivated by belief in traditional gender roles and family choice.
Cory Bernardi underlines the point being made by Daniel Swain with an aggressive and dismissive email to a concerned parent.
You can make you own mind up about the reasons behind Malcolm Turnbull's decisions and actions, and who the key influencers were... the ACL, government back benchers, particular Senators or MPs. You can also make up your own mind as to whether Bernardi and Christiansen (as apparent intolerant bullies) would benefit from participating in the program.
At the end of the day it probably doesn't matter too much... Christiansen and Bernardi are unlikely to ever change, and the decision to alter the program has been made and likely tucked away out of sight until after the election.
What it is worth being clear about is... what the Safe Schools program is actually about and what are its merits and weaknesses. You can also decide that for your self by reading the program... in my opinion it is well structured, easy to read and its intent seems very clear.
What is less clear is what the all fuss has been about. We could ask George and Cory to explain but I'd say most of us feel we've heard more than enough from them
by Mark Enders
Malcolm is a well read, well informed, highly intelligent man with excellent communication skills and a good working knowledge of information technology. He is also a well trained and highly experienced barrister who can argue that black is white, and at the drop of a hat can argue that black is in fact black, it always was and it was never suggested that it was otherwise.
Before Malcolm became a serially disappointing Prime Minister, he was a very effective communications minister who had been instructed by Tony Abbott to 'demolish the NBN' and before he saw the opportunity to knife his leader Malcolm was a very loyal servant of Captain Abbott.
Turnbull argued that with a mix of technologies (old and new), he could deliver a cheaper, good enough service faster. Many technology experts said FTTP (fibre to the premises) was vastly superior to FTTN (fibre to the node)... here is just one example from 2011.
There were many warnings about abandoning the FTTP roll out plan, but Malcolm knew better, so he told us. But the real question... was did he really believe FTTN was a smarter option, or was he following his client's instructions and destroying the NBN?
In 2016 we have the benefit of hindsight and the ability to look at Malcolm's track record... what he promised Vs what he delivered.
Cheaper? Well Malcolm's cost projections have already blown out by 100%. And that is achieved by keeping the old technology which will need to be replaced within 10 years at an even greater cost.
Faster? Well Malcolm won't see NBN Co.reach his target of every user having access to 25 Mbps by the end of 2016... that is now projected to happen by 2020.
Independent analysis by Rod Tucker from the University of Melbourne suggests that sticking to FTTP in 2013 would've led to similar costs and time frames as Turnbull's botched network.
At every step along the way it seems we are paying the same and waiting as long as we would have in the original FTTP plan, but we will have a far inferior product.
One of the persistent critics of the Turnbull plan was Nick Ross, formerly technology editor at the ABC... an organisation Turnbull also had oversight over when communications minister.While Turnbull claims in public that he supports the freedom of the ABC... there is compelling evidence that in private Turnbull sought to gag Nick Ross. And in the same article (link above) Nick goes into great detail how much interference was run to protect Turnbull's position on the Coalition's NBN policy.
But bad news can't be suppressed forever evidenced by this recent article on the ABC which underlines the telecommunications mess created by Turnbull and delivered by Ziggy Switkowski
Putting aside Turnbull's failings as communication minister (and now as PM), what kind of future have we been locked into?
The infographics below suggest problems ahead.
Much slower speeds than our international competitors... slower than even Russia.
Capacity constraints which will limit our access to technology and information. At a time when we are transitioning to more and 'smart devices' the internet of everything will be something our network will struggle to support.
We'll be saddled with speeds which won't meet our needs to 2025 and beyond.
Malcolm Turnbull keeps saying the this is an exciting time and that our future is tied to innovation. When the truth is we will be constrained by infrastructure bottlenecks created by Turnbull policies and rather than making it exciting to be an Australian, will make it frustrating to be in Australia... accelerating the international brain drain.
Australians will continue to do great things, they might just have to do them overseas thanks to the poor policy decisions of Malcolm Turnbull.It begs the question as to why Malcolm is so excited about our near term future prospects. Or is it just words to get a bad government past the next election?
by Mark Enders
You know how the saying goes.
Today's post is a number of images from which you can draw your own conclusions
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.