Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Carbon tax a foundational faith for the Australian Left?

Taxes generally certainly are

LABOR was demonstrating "breathtaking arrogance" by refusing to countenance the repeal of the carbon tax under an Abbott government, the Coalition said yesterday.

"How arrogant and out of touch is this government to say it will defy the verdict of the people? The next election is going to be a referendum on the carbon tax … Any Labor Party which persists in opposition in supporting a carbon tax is a Labor Party which is arrogant and out of touch," the Coalition leader, Tony Abbott, said yesterday.

The Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, told the Herald on Monday there were no circumstances in which Labor would support a repeal, meaning the Coalition would probably have to go to a double dissolution election to abolish it and the tax would operate well into a conservative government's first term.

Combet also vowed to hold Abbott to account for his "rank" and deceitful" campaign against the tax, which he said had been based on untruths.

But Abbott is continuing his attack, saying yesterday the tax was "an act of economic lunacy" which would be "toxic for families' cost of living".

"As for the damage that the carbon tax will do, we are already seeing it. I mean, jobs are already being lost in places Kurri Kurri … Airlines are already shutting routes because of the carbon tax. Councils are already putting up rates because of the carbon tax," he said.

The Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter cited the carbon tax as a long-term consideration in its decision to mothball its operations, but said the strength of the Australian dollar and low commodity prices were far bigger reasons and that the decision would have been taken "with or without a carbon tax."

Brindabella Airlines said tax was a "major factor" in the closure of some marginal routes.

IPART has ruled that councils across NSW will need to raise rates by just 0.4 per cent to cope with the costs of the tax.

The Coalition has said it will "begin" to repeal the tax on day one, but many constitutional experts say it will be difficult to meet the requirements for a double dissolution election (two rejections by the parliament three months apart) before a new Senate takes its seat in mid-2014, meaning the repeal process could under some circumstances take years.


Who is it who wants to destroy our heritage buildings?

An architect, of course.  Let him go get "playful" with himself.  Thank goodness Prince Charles stomps on such critters in London.  We need the Prince here too

TOO many buildings in NSW have been preserved in aspic for sentimental reasons instead of being sympathetically adapted and reused, the newly appointed head of the NSW Heritage Council, Professor Lawrence Nield, said yesterday.

He supports preserving "genuine heirlooms". However, very often preservationists, particularly those in local government, confused heritage with sentimentality, preserving anything old and Victorian and destroying valuable buildings from the 1930s, '40s and '50s, he said.

Part of what made for a livable city such as Sydney or Barcelona was "getting the balance between old and new right" and juxtaposing the "playful with the serious".

For example, the Cook and Phillip Aquatic Centre, which he designed, is located between two of Sydney's most august buildings, St Mary's Cathedral and the Australian Museum. He also designed Canberra's Questacon, the second-most visited building in the ACT. It was a "huge decision to put something as popular" as a science museum for children and teenagers within the parliamentary triangle, next to the National Library and a short skip away from the offices of Treasury, he said.

During his 45 years as an architect, Professor Nield has won awards around the world, including the Australian Institute of Architects' 2012 Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement and the French Republic's Order of Arts and Letters in 2007. One of his designs, the Caroline Chisholm High School in the ACT, completed in 1986, has already been listed as a heritage building in the ACT.

As the council's new chairman, Professor Nield said he was very interested in "living heritage" rather than museum pieces. "We need to have milestones that tell us about our past. It may be a disused blast furnace in Newcastle or a shipwreck," he said.

To illustrate his planning philosophy, he used the term "palimpsest", which means to scrape something clean, and start again without destroying the foundation.  [The fact that a palimpsest is regarded as a work of vandalism among paleographers is apparently unknown to him] The transformation of Sydney's Mint, which added a new wing, and the QVB, which was once a market and is now a shopping centre were examples of the principle in action.

"People want to see buildings grow and change over time. We don't want them frozen," he said.

The Minister for Heritage, Robyn Parker, said Professor Nield would also drive heritage reforms to make the system more transparent. The council will now have a 14-day window to make recommendations on listings to the minister. The changes include a website which will track an application's progress, and a requirement that listings by the minister be made public.


Few want to give up city living - go-bush grant is a failure

This is a replay of the Whitlam decentralization scheme of the 70s.  It failed then so it is no surprise that it has failed again.  Do governments ever learn?

THE cash carrot offered to get city slickers to relocate to the country is being ignored, with less than 700 applying for the $7000 grant - and most of those who do apply seem to be moving to the next suburb.

The state government offered the money to Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong residents willing to sell their homes and go bush.

But in almost a year, only 636 grants have been issued - well short of initial projections of 10,000 per year, and lagging behind the revised expectations of 7000 a year.

A comparison of where people are moving from and to shows the grants have been most popular in the Hunter and Illawarra.

However, among the top five suburbs people are moving from is Adamstown, which is a nine-minute drive to Charlestown - among the top five suburbs people are moving to.

In response to questions on notice in parliament by Labor MP Mick Veitch, the state government produced the number of regional grants handed out, by postcode.

Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner said that in the current financial climate it was not surprising so few grants were being taken up.

"In view of the current economic conditions, with low consumer and business confidence, it is not surprising many Sydney families are choosing not to make a tree or sea change at present," Mr Stoner said.

"The government remains convinced that encouraging balanced population and economic growth across the state is good for NSW.

"Personally, I wouldn't need a $7000 incentive to move from the city to one of our beautiful regions, where costs of living are lower, the food is fresher, the air is cleaner and the commute to work is enjoyable."

The NSW government spent $739,640 on a campaign to promote the grants, that ran from January to March. It initially budgeted $1 million to promote the scheme.

Opposition Leader John Robertson called it a flop.

"One week out from the state budget, Barry O'Farrell's key election pledge to drive a population shift away from Sydney and into the bush is in tatters," he said.

"To make matters worse, one third of people who received the grants have been paid to leave the Central Coast, Hunter and Illawarra regions - starving rather than growing areas outside Sydney."

The majority of grants were handed out to those aged between 61 and 70, followed by those aged 31 to 40 and 51 to 60.


Northern food bowl dream branded a folly

Much of what the Greenies say below is true but they underestimate Chinese farmers. 

Since China itself is now a net food exporter, however,  the need for the scheme is far from obvious:  Just a wet dream of some Canberra bureaucrat who knows a lot less than he thinks he does

The Wilderness Society has described Australian Government moves to attract Chinese investment to develop agriculture in northern Australia as a waste of taxpayers' money.

The Federal Government expects to release a study later this year into policy changes to allow large-scale agricultural investment by China in the north.

Wilderness Society spokesman Gaven McFadzean says the Government's Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce has previously found the region could never be turned into a food bowl.

"It is virtually in drought (for) seven or eight months of the year, evaporation is very high," he said.

"The geology and the topography of northern Australia does not suit major dam construction.  "It is very flat and most of the rainfall falls very close to the coast, so dam construction is very hard.  "Overwhelmingly the soils of northern Australia are impoverished and nutrient poor."

Mr McFadzean says previous studies have shown irrigated agriculture in northern Australia could only be expanded by about 40,000 hectares.

He says the scale of production being considered by the Federal Government would be unviable and environmentally damaging.

"We are extremely concerned by the scale and size of what is being proposed across northern Australia ... very large agriculture and development projects involving dams on rivers, major land clearing, major new infrastructure, with significant environmental impacts," he said.  "We think (it) will be a waste of taxpayers' money."


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