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
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
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
Sport is a wonderful pastime that gives so much to players and spectators, individuals and communities.
Investing public funds in sport is worth doing because it adds to community wellbeing. But investing in a new football stadium in Townsville’s CBD is not a good investment for three key reasons... there are better ways to invest in public infrastructure, the concept of a combined football stadium-convention centre is flawed, and the proposed stadium will likely cost far more than the $300 million currently being suggested.
No argument that the Cowboys (the main beneficiaries of a new stadium) are a champion team. They do the region proud every time they run onto the field, and the team and the fans deserve a first class facility. But the current playing surface is excellent and the ground is well serviced by ample car parking. It is located ‘where the people are’, but also has a good shuttle bus service. Although sellouts are rare (so capacity is not an issue), the facility could do with an upgrade. $50 million of public money, topped up with fundraising and investment from the private sector would give Townsville a first class sporting facility. It would also free up between $250M and $450M for other important local projects – more on this in my next blog.
Unlike most politicians, I want to start by justifying my figures.
Building a new stadium would be sure to cost more than $300 million because experience tells us that big public projects always run over-budget. If you don't believe me just Google 'costs blow out' to see how often it happens.
There are two main reasons for this... one political, the other logistical.
Politically, it is easier to get a proposal for a $200M or $300M stadium up than a $500M stadium, so typically the projections for these projects are set as low as is believable, because once $200M has been spent on a half completed stadium, everyone wants to see the project completed rather than waste the money on providing the city with an unusable construction site. A half built stadium makes it easier to get the full $500M to complete the project.
Logistically, you have to deal with the fact that much of the proposed site is landfill, which will have implications for the stadium foundations (significant cost), and the fact that being an old rail yards site, there are significant soil toxicity issues (more cost). Then you have the impact of weather events (think cyclones and floods) and a range of other unknowns (like short term material and labour/skill shortages, errors, design modifications, foreign exchange fluctuations, etc) that invariably lead to delays and cost increases.
The problem with spending $300M or $500M on one piece of Townsville infrastructure is that other important local infrastructure will not receive any funding for a significant period of time. The political argument will be 'we just spent $300M on you, you will now need to go to the back of the queue with the rest of your wish list'.
And finally, the concept of a combined stadium/convention centre. The real purpose of this proposal is to make the project politically saleable and to attract the large amount of public funding needed.
Even assuming that the concept could work (turf, open roof, stands?), such a combination is not best practice... Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth convention centres ... all of them are fantastic buildings, they all attract great performers, events and conventions, and none of them double up as a football stadium.
Given the success of all those facilities... why would Townsville be the exception, and how would this attract the kind of events that all the other capitals do?
Answer... it wouldn't.
These are the reasons not to spend up to $300m+ on a new Townsville stadium. In the next blog I'll outline some ways in which the money would be far better spent.
by Wendy Tubman
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.