Sunday, September 06, 2009

A True Tale of Two Houses

By Sara Hudson

Once upon a time in a community called Baniyala, the houses were old, there weren't enough houses, and there was no house for the school teacher. However, the community didn't have very much money and they didn't know very much about building houses.

So they spoke to someone who knew about building houses to see if he could help them build one. He could, and with the help of his friends, he managed to raise enough money to buy some materials and talked some people into giving materials cheaply. The people in the community helped build the house because they knew if they didn't, it wouldn't get built. The house only cost around $250,000 to build because most of the labour was voluntary.

Meanwhile in another community, people were waiting for the government to build them houses under the new Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program. They didn't consider building the houses themselves because the government had always done everything for them. The government wouldn't build the houses without the community giving them some land.

After lots of meetings, the community agreed to lease some land. Now the government had to find the people to build the houses. This took a while. Finally, they found three organisations to be part of their Alliance. These partners were keen to start building, but the government couldn't decide who was in charge and how much it would cost to build the houses. They argued for a while and then got someone else to manage the program.

By now, there were six layers of managers and $45.54 million spent but not one house had been built. The community was unhappy. Lots of people had come and talked to them about the sort of houses they would like, but no building had started. The government wrote a paper saying they were three months behind but would catch up and build the houses for $450,000 each.

And then the wet season started.

Moral: People should not wait for the government to do something.

Note: In the Northern Territory, people living on communally owned land cannot borrow money from banks to build their own homes because they do not have individual title over the land. Individual 99-year leases would solve this, but they also could raise the money independently of banks and build their own houses. Except they have been led to believe that the government is responsible for housing and that private homeownership is not for them.

The above is part of a press release dated Sept. 4 from the Centre for Independent Studies. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

A cloud of unnecessary debt hangs heavy over Australia

By Joe Hockey, the federal shadow treasurer, who says that the Rudd Government must recalibrate its spending, or Australia's future is gloomy

ONE of the biggest mistakes a government can make is to stubbornly continue with a policy that is no longer necessary or beneficial for the nation. This is the position that the Rudd Government finds itself in with its overblown response to the global financial crisis – a multibillion-dollar economic stimulus that is being financed with borrowed money.

The latest national accounts show the Australian economy grew in the second quarter of the year by 0.6 per cent. Let's not forget that many factors contributed to getting Australia through this downturn in good shape.

Australia had a strong and well-regulated financial system, largely due to financial reforms undertaken by the Howard government. Our banks were well-capitalised with relatively low exposure to subprime loans. The depreciation of the Australian dollar in the second half of last year helped keep our exports competitive on world markets. China's solid growth continued to support demand for Australian resources and the large and rapid reduction in interest rates boosted household and business spending power.

Most importantly, the Coalition's sound financial management during its 11 years in government left the country with a world-leading balance sheet: no net debt and money in the bank. We entered the global financial crisis as the envy of the developed world. In less than 18 months, the Rudd Government has managed to turn Australia's strong fiscal position upside-down.

From the outset, the Coalition has argued that the Government was spending too much. In what can only be described as a massive over-reaction to events offshore, the Government whipped out the national credit card, announced to the markets that it was increasing its credit limit and committed taxpayers to more than $52 billion in "stimulus" spending and at least another $50 billion increase in spending over four years.

Treasurer Wayne Swan and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd are always quick to talk up the effects of their stimulus package, but at the same time as the Government was pushing the pedal to the metal in its spending, the Reserve Bank was doing likewise with monetary policy. Interest rates dropped, with home borrowers receiving most of the benefits, although small business received only minor rate reductions.

In recent weeks the Reserve Bank has been sending clear signals to the Government that it would soon increase interest rates. Some economists predict a rate rise as early as next month. The Treasurer has said on many occasions that monetary and fiscal policy must work in tandem. Yet now we face the imminent prospect of the two major levers of economic policy heading off in opposite directions.

The Government's stubborn refusal to change the course of its own spending policy has thrown the recalibration burden squarely on to the Reserve Bank. This will mean higher mortgage interest rates. Some financial commentators are forecasting the RBA's cash rate to hit 5.5 per cent to 6 per cent by the end of 2011. If the rate rises are passed on by the banks, it means an interest cost increase of $9000 a year on a $300,000 mortgage – an out-of-pocket expense of up to $175 a week for working families.

The increased cost of rate rises on overdrafts may force some small business owners to let staff go. Undoubtedly it will hinder their ability to hire staff as the economy continues to recover. In the face of an improving global and domestic economy, the Government must recalibrate its spending and allow fiscal policy to work in tandem with monetary policy as the economy recovers. The alternative is clearly higher interest rates and higher taxes to pay off the massive debt.

The refusal of the Prime Minister and Treasurer to do so reveals its spending motives as purely political and not in the best economic interests of the nation. The blame for any interest rate rise will therefore lie squarely with the Rudd Government. Its inability to make tough decisions will pose the greatest threat to Australia's recovery.


Biased Leftist researchers can't see Leftist bias

Anybody who thinks the ABC is right wing lives in cloud-cuckoo land. This study just shows how far Left ANU academics are -- which is also no surprise

Newspapers are left wing, television is right wing, and the media as a whole tends to favour the Coalition. And surprisingly, according to researchers from the Australian National University, the ABC Television news is the most pro-Coalition of them all.

Former Liberal prime minister John Howard railed against the alleged left-wing bias of the ABC, but the researchers found Aunty was more likely to favour his side. Researchers pored over news stories from 1996 to 2007 to establish if the media was biased. The results, released today, point to the media being generally middle-of-the-road, with the Coalition tending to win out.

Researchers found journalists were "a centrist bunch". The exception was ABC TV news, which "had a significant slant towards the Coalition". Newspapers were more pro-Labor, while talkback radio and television were more pro-Coalition. Melbourne's The Age newspaper had the most "slanted" pro-Labor headlines. [That bit is correct]

When it came to editorial slant and donations by the media to political parties, the Coalition was laughing all the way to the polls. More than three-quarters of newspaper editorials endorsed the Coalition. The Herald Sun and The West Australian newspapers endorsed them 100 per cent of the time.

Media companies donated significantly more money - 39 per cent more - to the Coalition than to Labor. Every media company that donated favoured the Coalition. Of course, the Coalition was in power for the period studied.

The researchers found that the more a political party spent on advertising with a media outlet, the more favourable the media coverage. "It is consistent with the simple notion that advertising dollars may be an explicit or implicit payment to proprietors for favourable coverage," the study said. But it said the link could also be explained by political parties advertising with media outlets that were slanted in their favour.

Study author and ANU economist Andrew Leigh concluded that journalists were centrists, but editors were "more likely to take a party line". The study suggested "slant is determined at an editorial level rather than through pressure or article selection by journalists".

The researchers measured bias by counting the number of mentions of left-leaning or right-leaning intellectuals. They also rated the "slant" of front-page election stories and headlines, counted electoral endorsements and tallied political donations. The ABC's Radio National was the only media outlet to score dead even when it came to favouring left-leaning or right-leaning intellectuals.


A great way to get people out of their cars

Bus driver suspended after being caught reading while driving. But how long had this been going on? This is just another reason why people feel safer in their cars. And when the drivers concerned get let off with a slap on the wrist, we see how uninterested governments are in protecting the public. It's only their own long lunches that they care about. All the rest is puffery

A SYDNEY bus driver has been suspended without pay after being filmed by a terrified passenger reading a magazine at the wheel, occasionally glancing at the road. The mobile phone footage - taken on the 4am Westbus service from Toongabbie to Parramatta - shows the driver holding the magazine and turning its pages whilst glancing up at the road.

A Westbus spokeswoman said the company was "alarmed'' when it was shown the mobile phone footage, The Daily Telegraph reports. "We immediately downloaded our CCTV footage from that bus,'' she said. "Westbus takes very seriously any compromise to the safety of passengers, drivers and other road users. "We have tried various means to contact the driver today but have been unsuccessful. "We must speak with him prior to resolving this matter, but in the meantime, he has been stood down without pay effective immediately.''

The news comes after The Daily Telegraph revealed last month that a State Transit Authority bus driver reading a book while driving a packed peak-hour service in May was let off with a warning. A passenger who boarded the bus on William St watched as the driver sat stationary - despite having a green traffic light - because he was so enthralled in the novel.

The passenger, who did not want to be named, then photographed the driver for the next 10 minutes as he crawled along Elizabeth St barely looking up from the novel on the steering wheel.


Right to reject medical care upheld

DOCTORS and paramedics must withhold life-saving medical care if a patient has previously made a ''living will'' that clearly states they do not want a specific treatment, such as kidney dialysis or a blood transfusion. A landmark NSW Supreme Court decision has upheld the right to refuse medical treatment, even if the decision was made only in anticipation, and well before treatment was needed.

Doctors' groups have welcomed the decision, saying it allows them to respect a patient's wishes without fear of prosecution or litigation by relatives. In fact doctors and paramedics who treat a patient against their expressed refusal could be charged with assault and battery or be sued for providing unwanted treatment.

The case concerned Mr A, a Jehovah's Witness, who had been admitted to an emergency department in a critical state on July 1. He subsequently developed renal failure and went into a coma, kept alive only by mechanical ventilation and dialysis. On July 14 the hospital discovered that almost a year earlier Mr A had prepared an advanced care directive that specifically refused dialysis. Aware that stopping the treatment would bring on death, the Hunter New England Area Health Service sought an urgent hearing to determine if the directive was valid.

Justice McDougall said that while there was no legislation covering the issue, the common law right to refuse treatment stood - regardless of its basis on religious, social or moral grounds, and whether or not it was a sensible, rational decision based on the relative risks and benefits.

Furthermore, the directive is still valid despite patients not being informed at the time of writing of the consequences of their decision. ''If an advanced care directive is made by a capable adult, and is clear and unambiguous, and extends to the situation at hand, it must be respected,'' he said. ''What my orders did was recognise his right to make that decision … it is no recognition of a 'right to die'.'' An exception could be made if a pregnant woman's refusal of treatment would result in the death of her unborn child.

If a doctor suspected that a directive was made under duress, or the person was incapable of making such a decision, health authorities should ask the court to decide if the directive was valid but administer life-saving treatment in the meantime, he said.

The director of medico-legal relations at the Australian Medical Association (NSW), Sarah Dahlenburg, said doctors faced a stressful dilemma when faced with an advanced care directive, especially when relatives wanted treatment to continue. ''A doctor can now feel comfortable telling the family that they are abiding by the wishes of the patient, and if the family wants to do something about it it's them who should take up the legal case,'' she said.

But a partner at TressCox Lawyers, Don Munro, said hospitals should be reluctant to rely on the Mr A judgement. It would be safer to get an urgent declaration from a judge on each case. ''The legal costs involved would be nothing compared a lawsuit from an aggrieved relative,'' he said.

NSW Health said advanced care directives were legally binding and could not be overruled by family members. But they could not contain instructions for euthanasia or assisted suicide.



Incognito said...

The story by Sara Hudson was a prime example of what communities should be doing. Government was created by independent people. Why can't the spirit of individualism continue to thrive past the creation?

Paul said...

The trouble with so-called "Living wills" is that they are often made when people are well and at their most blissfully ignorant, but when actually placed in the situation of a critical health crisis their understanding of things changes, usually dramatically and thus their attitude to what they previously didn't want. It is far easier to not want some type of treatment when you don't need it anyway, but precious few stick to that choice when really faced with the alternative.