The third of the Boyer Lectures by Professor Marmot is on a timely subject. With our ideologically driven government seeking to push people into under-employment and temporary work as way of cutting social security spending. While Christian Porter pushes the idea of 'self-reliance' and 'obligation' it is worth asking are the government acting in people's best interests.
Professor Marmot underlines that while unemployment is bad for health, work can damage health too. Jobs characterised by high demands and low control, imbalance between efforts and reward, organisational injustice, shift work and job insecurity increase risk of physical and mental illness. The lower the position in the social hierarchy the greater the concentration of these stressful characteristics. When work is no longer the way out of poverty, health suffers.
Porter is seeking to push people into any work, and the question is will this cost more than it saves? As he is following a conga line of blinkered neoliberals into a social experiment that has repeatedly failed... the answer is YES. For the evidence on why Porter is wrong.... Listen to the Third Boyer Lecture Here.
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.
Life is complex – socially as well as biologically.
The current, devastating, coral bleaching event Is primarily the result of ongoing warm seawater associated with the climate change happening around us. But climate change also increases the acidity of the ocean, another problem for the coral.
Then again, stresses like nutrient-rich run-off and coastal development, also decrease the extent to which the coral is able to cope with the warm water And the bleaching isn't just an issue for the coral itself but for everything that depends on it.
These dependents are not only fish and other sea creatures which depend on the coral reefs for food and protection, but also many groups of people, including commercial and recreational fishers and those who sell and consume fish, fishing rods and boats; the tens of thousands working in reef-related tourism; those who travel to the reef and experience transformative joy at seeing its beauty, and those who fly them there; those who research the coral looking for things with medical benefits; and those who live on the coast and depend (whether they know it or not) on the coral reef to protect the coastline from cyclones and tsunamis.
To make matters even more complex, the impacts of climate change stretch further than to the reefs around the world and the issues linked to that.
It is estimated that, as a result of the adverse effects of climate change, 400,000 people die every year
The Climate and Health Alliance in their latest report has described climate change as both the “defining health issue” and the “greatest global health threat” of the 21st century.
Worsening levels of health impose financial burdens on individuals, the community and the economy. For example, there are limited funds for health care and, as more funds need to be allocated to dealing with the direct fallout from climate change, less can be spent on the most efficient form of health care: preventative health.
Reduced health has productivity outcomes – from reduced output at work, to chronic illness and work absences, and on to early death, which means skill sets are lost forever.
Poor health also leads to poorer educational outcomes – for children as well as adults.
Lower levels of education not only mean reduced productivity, less innovation, and a reduction in high value work, it also leads to poorer health choices, which in turn mean poorer health outcomes.
As you can see, environmental outcomes affect economic outcomes, they affect health outcomes, which affect educational outcomes, which in turn affect economic and health outcomes. And as we live in the global village, this all has an effect on foreign affairs, and immigration.
Everything is co-dependent and interconnected. What this should mean is that policy frameworks are likewise interconnected. As we develop educational policy, we must have an eye to economic policy and health policy; as we develop health policy we should be mindful of how this might affect or be affected by environmental policy, education policy, economic policy, foreign policy. Etc, etc.
You get the picture... interconnectedness.
But does government policy take this into account? When the health minister announces policy changes (like the $7 co-payment) do they mention the impact this will have on workplace productivity, educational outcomes, or economic outcomes (outside of the direct savings they believe this change will drive).
They don't. Not just because they don't know (the modeling is never that robust) but because it hasn't been a consideration in the policy development process. Instead, policy has been developed by adhering to particular philosophies – like 'living within our means'; 'small government'; 'only doing for people what they can't do themselves'.
You hear the philosophies repeated again and again... which is symptomatic of the problem with the major parties.
The budget will be delivered soon. It will outline where the spending priorities lie. It will present all the expected benefits of addressing those priorities. But will it be a coherent statement that highlights the interconnectedness of our everyday lives?
It may, but the signs aren't good.
Ewen Jones appeared on Q&A on Monday. Ewen can be relied upon to repeat the governments talking points, push their key themes, and, at the same time, say as little as possible. On Monday Ewen was asked about youth unemployment and the future for North Queensland.
You can watch his answer by clicking on the video below
Basically... mining, coal, coal fired power, poles and wires, dams... if you build them the jobs will come (including for youth), and the country towns will thrive.
Very narrow. Possibly it represents where the government's thinking is. But don't take my word for it. Decide for yourself when the budget is released
by Wendy Tubman
While the biggest story around the world is tax havens run by a Panamanian law firm, our major parties are silent on changing the status quo.
Less than 12 months ago Joe Hockey was famously saying: the rich pay too much tax, and poor people don't pay much fuel excise. And Hockey himself felt his greatest contributions were his preference for lifters over leaners, and ending the age of entitlement.
Hockey was wrong time and time again, and when he was pointing the finger at who he thought the leaners were... he was clearly pointing at the wrong end of town.
Our current treasurer is focused on spending cuts because we must live within our means and we can't afford a strong social safety net, the best health care for all Australians, a decent education which targets resources to the neediest, and we certainly can't afford real action on climate change.
Labor's Andrew Leigh is someone whose writing and research I have admired for some time. Not so long ago he was deeply concerned about the growing gap between the rich and poor, publishing Battlers and Billionaires. He put forward a compelling argument for more effective wealth distribution. But now he is willing to do little more than “carefully consider proposals for making information regarding all companies available on a public register”
But responses to the most wealthy avoiding their share of the tax burden are bad all over. David Cameron had suggested that he was serious about multi-nationals' tax avoidance, and then he revealed he profited from dodging tax himself.
The Chinese are censoring information that relates to their families' tax dodging activities.
Iceland's Prime Minister was forced to step down over his activities.
Our biggest companies are doing it. BHP-Billiton - as revealed by 4 Corners loans money to itself from an off shore shell company. The interest payments it makes to itself are tax deductable, the interest the shell company receives disappear into a tax haven.
News Corp received a $882M tax refund in 2014 by shuffling papers.
The scale of the problem is alarming, not just for Australia but for the planet. The ABC reveals that Tax havens account for 50% of all world trade.
According to the data gathered by Andrew Leigh, the rich spend their money on: sports cars, private air transport, bottles of Penfolds Grange Hermitage, first class airfares or perhaps Virgin Galactic Space flights, private treatments, private resorts, memberships at exclusive private clubs... all while keeping their tax affairs exceedingly private.
What makes this kind of behaviour completely abhorrent is that these taxes foregone by governments means less can be spent on: alleviating poverty, addressing the fallout from natural disasters (which are becoming more frequent), real action on climate change, fast tracking innovation and our transition to the new economy and a clean energy future, building infrastructure like public transport (which is a great social equaliser), adequately funding schools and universities, and better health outcomes all over our planet.
And this growing inequality is driving conflict, which in turn drives refugees, which we respond to by attacking the victims in all this.
And although all this activity is mostly legal (but shouldn't be), the somewhat ironic thing is that the same loopholes the very wealthy are using (legally) to hide their wealth are being used by criminals to hide their ill-gotten gains. It has to stop... we can't afford it.
So what to do?
Get angry. Stay angry. And let the decision makers know that rather than there being no other option than to cut services (or increase debt)... there is no other option than ensuring EVERYONE pays their fair share of taxes.
It's time to turn the world's leaners back into lifters again.
by Mark Enders
About a month ago a 10 year old Indigenous girl in the Kimberly took her own life. A sad event on so many levels... that a 10 year old saw no future, another death in a remote community where suicide is the most common cause of death for young people, and yet more evidence of indigenous disenfranchisement.
The story hit the news, lasted slightly more than 24 hours, and then essentially disappeared. You might think this is a function of the pace at which news travels and is reported. But last year when Indigenous footballer Adam Goodes was booed whenever he touched the ball, the story continued for three months. Targeting an athlete because of their colour, race, or even their religion is wrong and innately unfair, but sport is easier and safer to talk about and it pales in comparison to a 10 year old suiciding... or the unreported events which have led to children as young as 9 taking their own lives.
The question is why we won't discuss it publicly
I was heartened to see that The Saturday Paper took on the story and dug deeper. They revealed that Howard-era policies like the intervention, welfare spending restrictions, and linking welfare payments to school attendance were not working. They were a one size fits all approach which need to be better targeted - there needs to be engagement so that things are done WITH those in need, not done TO them.
While the emergency of Howard's imminent election defeat spawned the intervention, the emergency of young kids continuing to take their own lives has instilled.... mostly silence.
Experts and those who are engaged with these at risk and needy people say that more money is needed (as opposed to the cuts Abbott drove as 'Indigenous Prime Minister'), programs need to be longer term, they need to occur with a greater level of consultation with the recipients, and they need to multi-factorial... addressing employment, support around domestic violence, managing tobacco and alcohol consumption (and reducing the level of foetal alcohol syndrome), policies to reduce the level of indigenous incarceration.
It's a great article... you'll find it here
There is no quick fix. Sadly many more children will suicide. But the less talk about it and the slower we are to act... the more that will suffer, the more that will die, and the more people that will live an impoverished life in one of the world's richest nations.
It is our national shame... but we need to own it and we need to do something about it.
In the same edition of The Saturday Paper there is another related story. While Uluru was handed back to the traditional owners 30 years ago, and it is the express wish of those owners that people don't climb the rock... it's still happening.
Ongoing disrespect for sacred aboriginal sites and the practices and beliefs of aboriginal people is another blow to their cultural wellness, of which there have been many repeated blows for over two hundred years.
Suicide is a health problem... mental and cultural ill-health are key contributing factors. Fully handing control of the rock back to its traditional owners is one small but necessary step towards greater cultural wellness and ultimately towards reducing youth suicides.
We all need to be vocal advocates for avoiding these deaths by a thousand cuts.These problems can be fixed - one cooperative and consultative step at a time.
by Mark Enders
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
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.