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.
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
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
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
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
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.