Housing is a significant issue in Australia. We do need to address affordability through removing tax breaks around negative gearing and capital gains tax as per Greens Policy.
This is important for a number of reasons. It is a question of equity and of ensuring our monetary policy doesn’t widen the divide between the haves and the have-nots, between the landlords and the renters, between the young and the older members of our community.
It is also important to ensure that an essential service (or even a right) such as housing is taken out of the hands of those who seek to profit from it (developers, investors and bankers) and put into the hands of end-users… people who actually want a nice affordable place to live.
If it sounds like a pipe dream, it’s not. It’s already happening in Melbourne in an architect-driven project called Nightingale 1.0. You can read about it here.
This development ensures a triple bottom line… of social, financial and environmental sustainability. It delivers affordable, quality house that meets the needs of occupiers, not other rent seekers. And it is very, very popular.
The loser should such an initiative become more widespread would be the rent-seekers mentioned above. People do have a right to invest and to profit, but not on the misery of others and not is such a way that it 'ties up' money rather than allowing it to circulate and create wealth - which is how the current housing market is working.
While this is surely enough reason to drive change, there is another more compelling reason… we are in danger of returning to a situation where large numbers are living in ‘Slum Housing’… a situation we haven’t seen for more than a century.
Issues like overcrowding, houses in a poor state of repair, poor insulation, and insufficient heating and cooling are not just an issue for remote Aboriginal communities. Students and the unemployed (or under-employed) find themselves in similar situations. Not only is this unfair, it also means poorer health outcomes for these people… just as it did over a century ago.
The scale of this issue was recently revealed by researchers from South Australia and Victoria, who applied the HILDA survey and found that more than 100,000 people were living in properties regarded as very poor or derelict.
Many of the people living in this accommodation are already disadvantaged, and the state of their accommodation only increases their disadvantage.
Unless Governments take steps to ensure the supply of affordable, good quality housing we will see the re-emergence of slums, and the associated reduced life chances and shortened lives. The well-meaning architects working on the Nightingale project can’t do it on their own.
In Townsville we are suffering under an economic downturn, with high levels of youth and general unemployment. Some people have moved away, but others are still here suffering in relative silence. We have a responsibility to address these issues now.
There is more we can do. There is more we need to do. These issues are preventable, waiting for a time when we have to resort to the slum-clearing of a century ago is not an approach we should even contemplate.
by Wendy Tubman
A picture does paint a thousand words. The power of Television and the Cinema is directly linked to the power of the images they project.
Many commentators have suggested that the reason that numerous reports into the treatment children were receiving in the Don Dale detention centre didn't have any effect was because those reports didn't contain the confronting images that were on national display on 4 Corners.
The reason why sympathy for Syrian refugees took a huge about face, right around the world, was because of the image of Aylan Al-Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach.
Images of horror do spur us into action. But equally, images of more positive emotions like joy, love and compassion are equally powerful. As Jane Lydon from the University of Western Australia says in her piece on The Conversation website - positive images of refugees shape perceptions and the public debate.
Images of both horror and joy surrounding refugees are censored by governments as they try to control the debate. It is the reason journalists are not permitted into detention centres. Photo-journalists would no doubt find endless images which would undermine their flimsy argument that they are being tough on people smugglers... rather than just unnecessarily cruel.
We intend to try balancing the discussion with some powerful images of our own. Images that tell a different story. Such as:
A story of Successful Migrants and Refugees...
Stories that speak to the humanity of refugees and highlight they are much like us...
Stories of love, joy and no threat to our collective safety....
Stories of Generosity, Welcoming and Kindness. Stories that show off our better selves...
We are a lucky country. We can be a generous nation. We live in a safe and relatively prosperous place.
The biggest threat to that is not refugees... it is the way we are being manipulated to think differently by powerful forces in sections of the government and the media.
We can all play our part in changing the course and the tone of the debate, on any issue, by sharing images that subvert the populist narrative. And in this highly connected world of social media it has never been easier to share.
by Wendy Tubman
It is difficult making good health choices for many reasons. And one of the key issues is hidden sugar.
While Mary Poppins told us a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, too many spoons of sugar make us very sick. And our modern diet has more sugar in it than it ever did.
In the last 20 years, the amount of sugar each person consumes yearly in the United States has soared from 12 kgs per person to more than 61 kgs per person, with similar changes all over the world. Since 1983, sugar consumption has been steadily increasing every year by an average of 28%, fueling an epidemic of obesity, dental disease, diabetes and other health problems.
An analysis of 175 countries over the past decade showed that when you look for the cause of type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes, the total number of calories you consume is irrelevant. It’s the specific calories that count. When people ate 150 calories more every day, the rate of diabetes went up 0.1 per cent. But if those 150 calories came from a can of fizzy drink, the rate went up 1.1 per cent. Added sugar is 11 times more potent at causing diabetes than general calories
The American Heart foundation when exploring the relationship between dietary sugar intake and heart disease recommends that high sugar intake should be avoided
The World Health Organisation has recommended that people significantly reduce their sugar intake.
Leader of the Australian Greens Dr Richard Di Natale has announced a new tax on sugary sweetened beverages to help tackle Australia's obesity epidemic.
Added sugar is very bad for your health, and puts an enormous strain on our health system. We have a major health crisis on our hands with over a quarter of Australian adults and children overweight or obese. 30% of the added sugar kids consume comes from sweetened drinks, which are a major contributor to increasing rates of childhood obesity. If this trend continues our children may be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Earlier this year, Jamie Oliver laid down a challenge to Australia and called on us to follow the UK and introduce a tax of sugary soft drinks. The Australian Greens have accepted that challenge, and will push for the introduction of a 20 percent tax on sugary drinks which the evidence shows will reduce uptake by at least 12 percent. Every cent of the expected $500 million per year raised by the tax on sweetened drinks will be reinvested back into positive health initiatives for Australians.
Over four years $2 billion could be raised by ensuring that sugary sweetened drink manufacturers contribute to the harms their product causes. This tax is part of a broader prevention strategy for obesity, including clear food labeling; restricting junk food advertising to children; and encouraging physical activity through active transport.
The sweetest part of this policy will be the longer term benefits to Australians by reducing chronic disease and achieving better health outcomes,
This is another great primary health initiative from the Greens
by Wendy Tubman
We all have a right to know.
To know what is being done in our name. To know that those in a position of power are held accountable for their actions. We have a right to expect transparency from all our public servants, especially those whose position is as an elected official.
Our democracy is made stronger by an informed and engaged populace. Our democracy depends on freedom of the press, and our democracy is being damaged every single day that we, the voting public, are kept in the dark.
The Greens believe in our right to know, we believe in accountability, and transparency, we believe in a free press and a strong democracy, and we believe that the major parties are not doing enough to protect human rights, basic freedoms and the integrity of our political system.
While some politicians give lip service to the things we believe in, the Greens know that actions speak louder than words.
The Greens have announced that they will introduce a Private Members Bill into the Parliament, allowing media to gain access to Australian detention centres, following the election.
The ‘Transparency Guarantee Bill’ would mandate a reasonable level of access for media to detention centres and amend the migration act to make it illegal for the government to fund offshore detention centres where media are not allowed regular access.
Bill Shorten has conceded that the time has come to lift the lid on the secret torture camps on Manus Island and Nauru. Labor need to put their money where their mouth is and commit to legislating for transparency and genuine media access to the detention camps.
We all know (the Labor party included) that these detention camps operate under a cloak of secrecy for a reason and it’s important that we get this commitment from Labor enshrined in legislation.
A policy of secrecy is a dangerous one and secrecy has a long and sorry history in this country.
Secrecy allowed indigenous children to be taken from their parents.
Secrecy allowed the systematic abuse of children who were in the care of state and religious institutions.
Secrecy protected serial offenders and allowed abuse to continue long after it should have been stopped.
State sponsored secrecy has an even longer and more tragic legacy right around the world. And that is why fair minded people don’t just object to it, they are fearful of it.
Even with the little information we have been allowed to know about offshore detention, it is clear that the secrecy and the ongoing media blackout has allowed an environment of abuse and neglect to fester on Manus Island and Nauru. The Greens will act to put it to an end.
We ask for your support on July 2nd – stand alongside us and help us give the right to know back to every Australian.
by Wendy Tubman
Far from being a one issue party, The Greens have a suite of policies that cover issues and ideas that are important to most Australians.
We understand that different issues hold different levels of importance to people, we understand that time is limited, and we believe that every voter should go to the polling booth armed with good quality information in order to make the best decision for their future.
To keep things clear and simple we’ve listed the Greens full range of policies (in Alphabetical order below, and have included links to all the relevant policies.
All you need to do is click on the highlighted areas below that are of interest
Agriculture - Protecting our Food System Soil Health Local Food
Arts – Supporting Artsists Investing in the Arts
Economy – Banking and Finance Superannuation
Education – TAFE Equality Early childhood learning University Disability
Energy – Solar community owned energy Battery storage
Environment – Protection Wildlife Sustainable Tourism
Health – The Health System Palliative Care Dental Active communities Primary care Mental Health
Indigenous issues – Closing the Gap Indigenous Rangers Empowerment
Innovation – Innovation Nation R&D Agriculture Reducing harm
Justice – Access Re-investment
Reef – Protecting the Reef Marine Reserves
Renew - Queensland Australia
Social policy - Public Housing Diversity Domestic violence Inclusive communities
Tax - Tax Avoidance Capital Gains Tax The Buffett Rule Negative Gearing
Trade – Fair Trade, Live Exports
Transport – Sustainable transport Cycling Electric vehicles
There’s a lot there, and among all that policy, there’s an issue that matters to you.
Remember if you dismiss the Greens as a one issue party… you’re making a very big mistake
by Wendy Tubman
Accessible, affordable, quality childcare is a real issue at the moment. Working families all around the country are feeling the financial pressure of childcare costs and the government has responded by delaying their announced changes by 12 months.
It’s not good enough.
Families under significant pressures are expected to just hold tight for another year so the government can make the books look better for the election. But again it is not good social or economic policy.
The Greens know that affordable and quality childcare is important. It’s important for the economy as it takes pressure off disposable income, makes room for increases in discretionary spending, and so supports an array of jobs and businesses.
It’s an important part of ensuring healthy workforce participation rates for women. This is especially true for lower income earners, and this in turn will impact their superannuation and retirement savings. The government’s short term thinking will have longer term ramifications.
It’s important for kids and their education as it provides an opportunity to set them up for greater academic achievement. It is well established that the early years are an important phase of their learning. To make quality childcare unaffordable is a form of generational theft that this government sanctions.
In response the Australian Greens have announced a policy of ‘Universal Access’ childcare, with a guaranteed minimum of 24 hours of subsidised care offered to every Australian family each week.
The Greens policy creates a single, means tested payment model with access guaranteed for all Australian families. Whoever wins government will need to get their proposed childcare legislation through the Senate. The Greens would push for this policy to be implemented from the 1st of July 2017.
Families earning under $65,000 per year would have 85% of the cost of their care covered, with that amount tapering off until families who earn over $340,000 have 20% of their costs covered.
The Greens have also announced that they will create a $200 million ‘Reducing Waiting Lists Fund’, that centres could apply to access for either capital works, increasing staff or the expansion of specific programs to free up more places in high need areas.
Implementing the Greens’ policy of ‘Universal Access’ would add $370 million per year to the cost of the government’s proposed childcare overhaul. This would be funded through the Greens fully costed platform.
Again the Greens are offering a real point of difference. All the details on the policy are available here.
by Wendy Tubman
This far in to the longest election in living memory, you'd be forgiven for thinking there is nothing good about an election, other than it being over.
Elections are interesting times. We starts to see more of our local representatives, whether we want to or not. On one side we are reminded how well we are being served by our government, and on the other we are reminded of how we are being failed by those same people. Interest groups become more vocal, and those who are given the biggest megaphone can leave us wondering why.
And in among all that, we start to have the kind of conversations we need to have… about the present and the future.
The Conversation website is always a great source of information and inspiration. During this election period they have provided some great stories. Below are a few worth checking out.
The storm system along the East coast has done a great deal of damage, led to a number of tragedies, and has got people asking great questions… like - Is climate change playing a role in these events?
It also has people considering the unseen damage occurring from water run-off and the associated pollution of our waterways caused by the way our cities are designed. There is clearly more we should do, and you’ll find some suggestions in the article by Katherine Dafforn and Emma Johnston from UNSW.
Innovation has been a word that Malcolm Turnbull has been using frequently, without well-defining what he is talking about, or even proposing where our innovation investment should be focussed. Perhaps he doesn’t know, or perhaps he just needs a distraction from the record of his government. Either way, there are people who are making real and concrete suggestions about where our potential lies.
Peter Fisher from RMIT asks what a smart modern city looks like. This includes digital entanglement, densification and managing the risks of climate change. The Greens see these same risks and are addressing them through its policy on the NBN, protecting the envirnoment, addressing the reef's challenges, meeting our future transport needs, supporting and investing in innovation and research.
Professor Peter Doherty suggests that we play to our strengths and take advantage of our abundant renewable resources and our ability in medical and scientific research.
And what about the issues facing rural and regional Australia? According to Stewart Lockie from JCU they are: Infrastructure, Unemployment, Diversification and New economy jobs, ATSI participation, Health, Education and Social services, Climate change, Natural resource management, and Agriculture. You can read more of his views here.
The Greens understand this and have policies which include supporting our clean energy future, community owned energy, getting the community into active transport, investing in health, closing the gap, and empowering ATSI peoples.
Part of the process of being clear about the facts and the truth, is the ability to identify the lies, the exaggerations, and the popular myths. Again The Conversation and their fact checking unit is a great source of information.
While most rational people would take anything Pauline Hanson said with a grain of salt.. fact check has debunked her claims that crime is getting worse in Australia. And while Pauline relied on anecdotes, sensationalist news reports and her own gut feeling, fact check looked at the official data.
So rather than feel like you are being let down by politicians or news services who want to sell you the idea that all we need is a big new dam, or a new football stadium and all our problems will be solved for the next three years… feel encouraged that you can always search out other, more reliable sources of information, advice and opinion.
The Greens want people to be informed, they embrace a diversity of ideas and opinions, they support the research and the science, and they want people to make their own informed decisions. And the Greens have a full suite of policies which supports and integrates all the outcomes it believes in.
We might be in the middle of an election campaign but we will keep telling the truth, we will keep the hyperbole under control, and we will continue to highlight the kind of ideas that will serve the interests of all Australians.
In our opinion The Conversation website is such a reliable source. When you get the chance, check it out.
by Wendy Tubman
Water is an issue for the nation (one of the driest continents on Earth), as well as for Townsville, a large regional city in the dry tropics. The choices we make about water security underpin cost of living pressures, liveability and the ability of the city to grow and support jobs and industry.
Water is a simple supply and demand relationship. We can’t expect an unlimited supply and we can’t expect to have unrestrained demand.
We need a reasonable balance.
On the supply side - Townsville has an excellent water supply system, with highly treated and very safe water sourced from the Ross, Paluma and Burdekin dams.
While the Ross is our main supply dam, it is highly variable, with a limited catchment and low rainfall. The Paluma dam is situated in the wet tropics and is much more reliable, but can only supply 30 ML per day. The Burdekin dam is a huge system, with over 1 000 000 ML per year of water allocations, some of which is not committed. Townsville has 120 000 ML of allocation from the Burdekin.
In 2014, the Department of Energy and Water Supply (DEWS) undertook an assessment of Townsville’s water security. It found that at current consumption levels of 60 000 ML per year, we would have to be on Level 4 water restriction on average once every 160 years. It’s almost certain that we will have level 4 water restrictions this year (and perhaps next year). But that doesn’t mean we have a chronic water shortage problem.
It should be noted that the DEWS report used historical data in its modelling and did not consider the impacts of climate change on rainfall and catchment flows. However CSIRO have found that climate change is not likely to result in significant changes to rainfall patterns in North Queensland.
It is however worth considering that with population and economic growth we would expect to see demand grow to around 75,000 ML/a by 2026 (if current usage patterns remain the same). Even with that level of consumption, DEWS found that we would have to impose Level 4 water restrictions only once every 100 years.
Nevertheless, people are concerned about the city’s water supply, so it is worth some discussion now.
There have been a number of supply side solutions floated: Haughton pipeline duplication ($250M), Hells Gate Dam ($2-3B), Desalination (over $5B), but all these proposals have logistical challenges (and costs) as well as significant environmental impacts.
This begs the question… What about the demand side?
Townsville discharges 40 ML per day of treated water into the sea. There is an opportunity for reuse of this water, either in a third pipe system for irrigation or returned to the Ross Dam for additional treatment as part of the potable water supply. Reuse of treated wastewater directly into the water supply dam is not only safe, but common in many parts of the world, including Europe.
Many of us have travelled to places like London, drunk the water without hesitation, without ‘taste’ issues and without any ill-effects. The time will come when water management of this kind will be common in Australian cities, but until then there are other water saving options.
The reuse of treated wastewater for irrigation (whether for food production or for maintaining public facilities like sporting fields) is already common place in Australia and is a viable solution for Townsville. It will come at an additional infrastructure cost, but a much smaller cost than the supply side solutions. It will also be more reliable as it will not depend on rainfall
Alternatively, we can maintain our water demand to 60 000 ML/a and these works wills not be required. If we are factoring in population growth, to reduce our total city demand means we need to reduce our per capita consumption by 20%. If, as some are predicting, Townsville grows to 300,000 these reductions would need to be around 50%. The good news is both targets are achievable.
The average Townsville household uses 1,700 litres of water per day, while in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne households use around 210 to 285 litres per day. More than 70% of Townsville's water supply is currently being used on residential lawns and gardens
This needs to be addressed by applying targeted and effective price signals on usage, but also through a range of strategies that give us more benefit per drop of water (more efficient showers and toilets, better grey water reuse systems, less thirsty gardens or less wasteful gardeners)
It is time to have a healthy discussion about Townville’s water use. People need to understand their options along with the pros and cons of every choice. They need to know what are the most cost-effective and responsible courses of action, but they are being badly let down by the media and the major parties. But through forums like this blog the Greens are happy to lead the conversation.
The Greens propose policies which are economically, socially and environmentally responsible. And our approach to a sustainable water supply for Townsville is consistent with this approach.
The same can’t be said for the current election campaign, with the haphazard, expensive and unsustainable solutions being proposed by the major parties and their unfunded and poorly researched proposals.
by Wendy Tubman
Tertiary health care might be the most reactive form of treatment we have, but it is still very important.
It is our last line of defence against injury and disease, but it is equally important that we are spending wisely and driving great outcomes. We do need to only direct funds only towards best practice treatment, as mentioned in the previous blog. But we also need to know when to stop spending and treating.
Just one example of poor health spending that sadly leads to poor mental and physical health outcomes for patients was revealed on 4 Corners on Monday night – in the IVF industry. In part through poor regulation and loose Medicare funding guidelines, and in part as a result of the manipulation of desperate patients for financial gain, an insidious anti-health industry has sprung up where we should have had health care.
Cutting off inappropriate funding, will bring an end to unethical and unproductive practices. And we should make moves in this direction as soon as possible.
Better end- of- life options are also an important factor in ensuring we are more able to stop treatment appropriately. Properly resourced Palliative care is an essential part of good health care as it provides people with more choice and more certainty, alleviating mental anguish for patients and their families.
Beyond Palliative care we need to give people the surety and the security that comes with maintaining control and personal dignity at the end of life. Voluntary euthanasia is a difficult area to manage legally, but there are many international examples of countries who that have taken steps ahead of us. We can learn from their efforts and move forward in this issue in a safe and a sensitive way.
But the first step is to start a national conversation discussion about how we want to proceed, because doing nothing is inhumane.
The impact that climate change will have on human health is well documented. The effects will be significant. Any health policy that doesn't address climate change is both narrow and misguided.
It is important to recognise the essential role protecting the environment plays in good health outcomes. As the coal industry continues to decline we will see fewer respiratory disorders, reducing the load on tertiary health care.
By fast tracking an end to burning coal there will be fewer particulates in the air (less health impact), and we will see a limit to extreme weather events (also fewer health impacts). We will see a halt to the spread of tropical diseases like malaria, ross river fever, and zika virus into the sub-tropics.
By avoiding dangerous climate change we will have a greater chance of maintaining environmental biodiversity… which is a critical resource for medical science and research.
Many of our new and innovative medications and treatment regimes come from studying plants, and in particular the Rreef. There are a great many new treatments, as yet undiscovered, that we may never see if we don’t preserve our biodiversity. Developing these treatments takes time, and when it comes to preserving biodiversity it is a race against time.
The Greens are driven to provide better health outcomes for Australians (our leader is a Medical Doctor), and all our policies… whether they be social, environmental, economic, or sector specific (like in health and education) have at their core an interest in caring for all Australians and ensuring they have the best chance possible to achieve good health outcomes in their lives.
The Greens understand the need to have integrated policy that provides transformational leadership on important issues, and there are few more important issues than health.
As the saying goes… if you don’t have your health, what do you have?
by Wendy Tubman
Following on from the previous blog on primary health care... Secondary prevention is a smart and essential part of health care also.
Secondary prevention is about early detection, early treatment and effective long term management. It saves patients a great deal of money and suffering, not to mention saving them from premature death. Early detection occurs in part through education – the Cancer council has recently been running ads that encourage people to keep an eye out for suspicious signs.
Doctors surgeries have their walls covered with posters encouraging people to keep an eye on their weight (by looking at which hole on their belt buckle that they are using), and encouraging men in particular to have regular checks.
There are the screening services like those provided by Breastscreen, endoscopy procedures that look for early danger signs, and simpler and less invasive procedures like the blood pressure and blood sugar checks we should all have after the age of 50.
The reason why we have these education and screening services is that early detection means simpler, less expensive treatment and better outcomes. It helps us detect a problem before we experience symptoms (like bleeding, pain, or even lumps), which can be critical. And it helps us overcome our natural complacency… if we feel well, we assume there is nothing wrong, when sometimes there is. Screening gives us the peace of mind we are well, and just in case we aren’t it puts on the road to early treatment and recovery… keeping us well.
It promotes wellness, it keeps us happy and healthy, and it is relatively inexpensive. At the same time, it is the kind of service that governments can cut without people noticing too much. And sadly, that is what short sighted governments who focus on election cycle time frames do.
The Abbott/Turnbull government’s move to introduce GP co-payments undermines secondary health care because it discourages people going to the doctor early and getting screening done. The freezing of the Medicare rebate (slowly) undermines secondary health care in the same way. Limiting people’s access to affordable medications through undermining the PBS has the same effect. And even providing funding windows for specific and emerging health problems undermines long term secondary prevention. Because when the special funding runs out… the service stops, regardless of its effectiveness.
In contrast, the Green believe that secondary prevention is exactly where we need to invest our health dollars. Greens leader Dr Richard Di Natale has today announced a proposal to expand the cover Medicare provides for a significant and growing health problem for Australia in general and Townsville in particular … better treatment for diabetes. And of course, there are other emerging health risks which we need to address now… mental health, oral health, dementia and aged care.
The Greens have the major parties worried because they understand the issues that matter to most Australians and they have workable solutions.
But it is not just about spending, it is also about saving.
Medicare currently funds many procedures for which there is limited clinical evidence that they are best practice. Last year Four Corners highlighted many areas of waste in health funding.
You can watch that episode of Four Corners by clicking this link.
But despite that, the government has not sought to address wasteful spending, just to restrict access to health for people who can’t afford to pay.
The Greens support a great deal more spending on primary and secondary health care, and believe that in turn good health will be affordable for all. We also believe that good health for us all is tied to managing the health of both our built and our natural environment.
When we draw all those threads together... our nation and our citizens will prosper as a result.
by Wendy Tubman
Primary prevention, efforts made to stop people getting sick in the first place, are the best strategies to ensure good health outcomes. Not only is this the least expensive approach, it also preferences wellness over the treatment of illness. It produces the best possible health outcomes for the smallest spend.
Australia has done primary prevention well in the past.
The ‘Life. Be in it.’ campaign was incredibly successful locally and was exported to the US in the 1980’s. Unfortunately, Federal funding was ceased in 1981 to redirect money to elite sports, and, while the program went into a hiatus, it was picked up by private interests and continues (in a much diminished form) to increase physical activity today.
‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ was an equally successful campaign. It markedly changed people’s behaviour in the sun and was responsible for seeing reductions in skin cancer rates. As often happens with successful campaigns, the government took its foot off the pedal (assuming the problem was fixed), behaviour changed again and we saw increasing prevalence of sun- related skin damage.
As a result that campaign has been effectively re-launched as Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.
When AIDS blindsided the world in the mid 1980’s, Australia again responded with a very effective public education campaign:, The Grim Reaper Ads which encouraged people to wear condoms and not to share needles. AIDS affected every corner of the planet, but it left Australia relatively untouched… saving many individuals from a premature death or a shortened life time of health issues and saving the economy billions.
But primary prevention goes beyond education. All the measures that have been taken to reduce tobacco use… plain packaging, banning smoking in some places and relegating smokers to out-of the-way places, support to quit through the Quitline. All that has driven smoking rates in this country to 17%, from where we now lead the world in rates of non-smoking.
Councils have played their part… providing active transport options like great bike path networks, and, in bigger cities, providing end of trip facilities and integrating bike transport with other public transport options. They have provided gyms in the park, like what is currently available in Sherriff Park.
But there is more that can be done… like increasing the Walkability of suburbs.
Federally, we will push further for clear labelling of processed foods, taking the Traffic Light labeling system beyond a voluntary scheme to a mandatory one. We will push for greater availability of healthier choices for kids and the banning of junk food advertising being broadcast during prime viewing times for kids.
There is also a great deal of support for other measures, like a sugar tax.
In addition to what’s been mentioned, there are a great many more opportunities for the government to drive down health costs, and at the same time increase the general health of the population. But while we are focused on emergency department waiting times, and waiting times for elective surgery, our eye is off the real game.
The Greens don’t support cuts to health… but we do support a smarter spend. We recognise that an effective health system must be based on primary health care and preventative health care measures — such as health promotion, disease prevention, risk reduction and early intervention — in order to manage chronic disease, reduce ill-health and avoidable hospital admissions.
The Greens will work in government to achieve this and have established, clear policies on:
Health Care, and
Check them out by clicking the relevant link.
Greens policies, and all the examples of great primary health initiatives are innovation in action. Malcolm Turnbull is good at talking about innovation (and getting excited about it), but terrible at translating it into real world solutions.
Only the Greens are making sensible proposals in this space.
by Wendy Tubman
Wendy Tubman, the Greens candidate for Herbert is passionate about the local community and is working hard to connect with locals and discuss what matters to them. This campaign is not solely about getting elected, it is about giving voice to local people and how they see our shared future in the region.
Wendy is talking with her colleagues in the party about what matters to Townsville, but also what is important for Queensland's and Australia's future. Although this is a Federal election campaign, local, state and federal issues are impacting on us all, and Wendy believes good governance is about bringing all our representatives together to work on a shared vision for a great future.
Wendy has been at the markets talking to anyone who is interested in stopping to chat. She'd encourage more people to take the opportunity... it's our democracy and by getting involved at any level means not only do we get to keep it, but it reflects our needs, our hopes and our desires.
But Wendy says don't just stop and talk to her, talk to the other candidates, let them know what you care about, and make sure they are as focused on representing you as Wendy is.
Wendy was out during the May day marches talking with locals. The issues at QNI are a topic of concern for us all.
Regardless of how things play out at Yabulu, our region needs new jobs and new industries. Wendy stands for looking after workers who have lost their jobs (especially in circumstances like those surrounding QNI), in supporting the transition to new jobs and in creating opportunities for all people who want to work, but especially for youth and new workers in our region. Everyone deserves the opportunity to contribute.
People are cynical about politics and politicians... with good reason. Thankfully our cartoonists have the ability to combine those feelings with a good laugh.
But Wendy reminds you all... all candidates are not the same. It is a long election campaign... but don't switch off. Be well informed and choose wisely on July 2nd.
While it is risky to generalise, it would be uncontroversial to say that all Australians believe in a decent standard of health care for all.
Not many would suggest that if people want good health care they should pay for it, especially if their circumstances make it unaffordable. We do believe in looking after each other, and going the extra mile to help the less fortunate among us.
Yet we are seeing increasing levels of obesity, more and more people developing chronic diseases and suffering from chronic illnesses, and we are facing emerging mental health epidemics across all demographics. Despite the huge amounts we are spending.. our health is getting worse.
We are all concerned about the ever increasing cost of health care, to us as individuals, and to the society more broadly. And we are right to ask if money is being wasted.
The truth is that it is.
Not because we are employing too many doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. Not because more people aren't taking out private health insurance. And not because we don't have 'price signals' in the system. It is being wasted because spending is prioritised on the wrong things.
There is a solution to both problems, and we've known the answer for a very long time.
Primary health care is the business of preventing illness and maintaining wellness. It leads to better health outcomes and it is far less expensive.
But when governments talk about 'health' they are largely talking about treating illness. We know this based on how governments measure success.
There is an old saying 'What gets measured gets done'. Its roots go back to the 1500's, and the reason that it has survived is that it retains a kernel of truth.
When governments report on the state of the health system they typically quote only two measures... waiting time in Emergency, and elective surgery waiting times. The truth is emergency surgical procedures are almost always performed in a timely fashion, and emergency presentations at Emergency are almost always seen immediately. And that is the service working as it should.
In contrast... People requiring elective surgery are in most part evidence of the health system failing them.
If they require joint replacement, the question should be asked 'could their joints have been protected through all manner of preventative measures' (like diet, exercise, better shoes, better work conditions)?
If they require gastric banding, the question should be asked 'could a better, conservative management approach have prevented their obesity and the accompanying health issues' (like diet, exercise, education, making better nutrition information available, a sugar tax, subsidising fresh food).
If they require organ transplantation, could better lifestyle choices (like not smoking, drinking in moderation, better diet and exercise choices) have negated the need?
In many cases the answer is yes. But by not measuring physical and mental outcomes.. like body fat percentage, blood sugars and lipids, cardiac and respiratory output, the self reporting of wellness and happiness.. we are not measuring the real effect of our society on our health, and we are not seeking good health outcomes for all.
By measuring the treatment of illness we are in effect ensuring there are more illness to be treated.
With activity based funding (which encourages hospitals to perform more and more surgeries) we are making surgery the most likely outcome for patients when often the research suggests surgical outcomes are not the best option. Performing arthroscopies for osteoarthritis of the knee is a good example.
By measuring waiting times for non-urgent ED presentations and elective surgeries... we are making health more expensive and we are accepting poorer health outcomes for all.
A first step to fixing our health system, is to start measuring (or perhaps reporting) on the right things. Things like the percentage of the population who are in a healthy weight range. These things are measured reported in the background but are never held up primary evidence about the effectiveness of our health system.
Most of us would believe that if health ministers were held accountable for societal obesity levels, we would see a bigger focus on primary health care. And with that changed focus we will quickly a slowing in the rate at which people are getting heavier and more unhealthy.
But instead we have MP like Ewen Jones telling fat jokes.
But I'm not going to leave you with questions... or Ewen's terrible jokes. There are ways we can reform the health system, and this can be led Federally.
More about that in upcoming blogs
by Wendy Tubman
The take home message from the recent budget was jobs and growth. We know this because Scott Morrison repeated this mantra 13 times in a 30 minute speech. He also repeated the word plan 21 times, as if to reinforce the idea that economic thought bubbles (like giving States taxing powers) were a thing of the past. And following the speech, Liberal MPs dutifully followed their talking points and repeated key words Ad Nauseum, without actually saying very much.
The only plan the government seems to have is to cut tax for small business and the wealthy, and, over the next 10 years, cut tax to bigger and bigger businesses.
But where is the evidence that this approach leads to more jobs?
And, setting aside for a moment the significant problems of advocating for never-ending growth on a resource-constrained planet, where is the evidence that it leads to growth?
Mike Seccombe pulls the ‘tax cuts leads to more jobs and growth’ approach apart in The Saturday Paper.
In 2012, the US Congressional Research Service looked at the effect of reducing income tax rates since 1945.
It found that, in 1945 the top marginal tax rate was 90% but by 2012 it was 35%, and stated: “Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment or productivity growth.”
It also found that “the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution”.
The Research Service also found that the approach increased growth in inequality (an issue we touched on in a previous blog).
But what about the Australian experience?
Investment - Bureau of Statistics data show that, since 1960, private business investment in Australia has trended slowly down as a share of GDP. Before the late 1980s, corporate tax rates averaged well above 40%. Since then, have been progressively reduced to 30%. But there has been no increase in investment as a result.
Economic growth - Up to 1988, the economy grew, on average, by 3.8% a year. Following reductions in corporate tax rates, growth dropped to 3% and is currently forecast at 2.5%.
Employment and Wages - The data show unemployment rates were lower when corporate taxes were higher, and that, since company tax rates have been lowered, the share of GDP going to wages has declined.
This government has asked as a part of its re-election pitch… who do you trust on the economy?
A sane person certainly wouldn’t trust the Coalition, given the deterioration we have seen since they took charge.
I would suggest putting more faith in a Nobel prize-winning economist such as Joseph Stiglitz who says it is “Those at the top spend far less than those at the bottom, so that as money moves up, demand goes down.”
Numerous Coalition policies are shifting wealth towards the top… to those who won’t spend. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a Nobel Prize winning economist) to tell you that their plans will have disastrous economic outcomes for most Australians.
It’s a recipe for more job losses, less growth, more inequality and social problems, growing deficits, and even more tax cuts for the wealthy.
Who can we trust on the economy… not Scott Morrison for one. And although you wouldn't know it if your only news was from the mainstream media... the Greens do have an economic plan.
by Wendy Tubman
The 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
Across the world we are seeing increasing levels of inequality – between developed and under-developed economies, and within national boundaries. In Australia the gap between rich and poor has been rising for over 30 years, and that has accelerated in the last decade and a half as we have moved away from a progressive tax regime and the means-testing of government financial support.
But is this a problem? According to those on the Right it isn’t. Their arguments include: our duty is to reward success and ‘lifters’ rather than ‘leaners’; that wealth accruing to the rich ‘trickles down’ to the poor; that income inequality is healthy because it inspires lower income earners to work
The arguments may, at first hearing sound plausible, but do they really stack up?
It has long been accepted, following the Whitehall studies, that your position within a large organisation, and within society as a whole, has a significant impact on your life expectancy and other health outcomes. Those higher on ‘the ladder’ clearly experience much better outcomes. In 2010, the Marmot review in Britain found that people living in poorer areas die on average seven years sooner, but also spend more of their lives with disability – an average total difference of 17 years.
These health inequalities are not just limited to life expectancy but also include infant mortality, mental health, physical health and so on. This is not a localised effect, the results having been largely replicated in a study that looked across 50 countries. In their 2009 book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Wilkinson and Pickett found a clear relationship between income inequality and health and social outcomes. See below.
Looking at all these indicators separately, the effect of income inequality is quite stark. (Note, a score of zero means no correlation, and a score of 1 or -1 means a perfect positive or perfect negative correlation.)
So we can see that income inequality has a significant impact on increased teenage births, higher imprisonment levels, mental illness, reduced levels of social trust and higher levels of obesity. There is also a notable effect on increased rates of homicide, reduced educational performance, and increased infant mortality.
Recent studies have investigated whether or not income inequality causes health and social problems, independent of other factors, and some rigorous studies have provided evidence of a relationship. Kondo, et al (2009) estimated that about 1.5 million deaths (9.6 per cent of total adult mortality in the 15–60 age group) could be averted in 30 OECD countries by reducing income equality below current levels.
Another study suggested that the loss of life from income inequality in the US in 1990 was the equivalent of the combined loss of life due to lung cancer, diabetes, motor-vehicle accidents, HIV-related causes, suicide and homicide.
As an indication of where Australia sits in relation to the rest of the world, see the chart below.
We're being outperformed by both Spain and Italy who both have much bigger domestic financial headwinds than us.
Significantly, the most (over) used argument by the Right –that income inequality may have positive effects on economic growth by providing incentives to work – while it may sound good at an LNP conference, in an IPA position paper, during budget speeches (that launch an election campaign), or during a doorstop interview, the evidence to support this is weak.
The relevant research unambiguously points towards positive and important society-wide outcomes being achieved through reducing the rich-poor divide. Even from a purely economic perspective, the very thorough work of Thomas Piketty has demonstrated that significant income inequality damages economic growth – the one strategy the government is relying on to return the economy to surplus.
Given that inequality is a major problem for us all, both economically and socially, this suggests that a return to more means-testing of government financial support programs, and a return to a more progressive taxation regime and a crack down on tax minimization by the wealthy, is needed .
If the government were serious about fiscal repair they would commit to the funding guidelines in Gonski, they would properly fund health, they would address the excesses of superannuation and cut back aggressively on negative gearing concessions, they would build a proper and effective social safety net, and they would make big business pay the appropriate amount of tax.
Whether or not the government is representing the interests of all Australians, present and future, will be partly revealed on budget night
by Wendy Tubman
As mentioned in the last blog, $300m is a low-ball projection for the cost of the proposed stadium (or is that a stadium/convention centre mongrel?) in the CBD.
More recent estimates put the price tag at $380m for this poorly conceived idea. But this is not necessarily the full pot of investment funds that could be found... matching it up with funds from the Commonwealth's Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility could double it to $760m.
If we are serious about spending about $760m (or even $380m) in Townsville there are smarter and more productive ways to use that money than on a new football stadium.
People are already coming up with better ideas. Many are supportive of some serious industry-scale renewable energy projects, and others look at value-added agriculture developing export opportunities, education, tourism and health. All of them incorporate a mix of benefits and on-going clean jobs for Townsville.
Think about, for example, an ‘urban cooling’ project that makes our suburbs more appealing and healthier places, a solar power station supplying the city, a renewable-energy-powered business hub, an upgraded and better integrated cycle network with more end of trip facilities, investment in kick-starting a local film industry, a start on Townsville joining the growing number of transition towns in Australia, a new entertainment, convention and learning centre that could bring big acts and events to Townsville year-round, more sustainable water initiative, flexible learning centres for disenfranchised youth, a sophisticated, interactive information centre about Townsville and the region for visitors.
The list goes on and there are more out there.
Share your ideas with us in the comments section or on our facebook page.
We'll run with all the great ideas that could improve the lives of North Queenslanders far more than a new football stadium in the CBD ever could.
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.