Sunday, September 27, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is very concerned about the worldliness of the present Pope

Has Australia stopped being a lucky country?

There is much truth in the tale below but it completely skips over who was responsible to pulling Australia down. As ever, it is the Left.  The article below fails to mention the huge debts run up by the 2007-2013 Rudd/Gillard government and the need the present government has to divert taxpayer funds from productive expenditure into paying the interest bill.  On top of the borrowing, it was also the Labor government that squandered the income from the mining boom.  The coalition government has been in power for only two years and has been blocked from reforms by the Senate -- JR

AUSTRALIA is no longer the ‘lucky country’.  That is the assessment of the nation’s most powerful economist, John Fraser. Mr Fraser says Australians have become complacent about their declining wealth because they live in a stable and peaceful country.

“Our income per capita is falling. You wouldn’t know it. Everybody is happy and, in Canberra in particular, everybody is deliriously happy and comfortable,” he said in an interview for The Australian Financial Review Magazine’s power issue.

His comments come as Australians’ disposable income drops and house prices continue to rise.

Mr Fraser said that the nation’s problems were similar to those experienced in the early 1980s, when Australia was falling out of the ranks of the world’s richest countries, but the community didn’t recognise the need for policy chances.

Leading economist Saul Eslake told it was “fair to say Australia’s luck is changing”.

“We had 10 years of good fortune in the form of rising prices for commodities but I think previous governments have squandered that good fortune and now that luck has changed,” he said.

Commodity prices were almost 60 per cent down following a peak in 2011, according to Mr Eslake. “And they’ve got further to fall,” he said.

“Some of the chickens hatched in that era are coming home to roost.  “They come in the shape of governments’ ongoing budgetary difficulties.”

He said Australians had been lulled into a false sense of security and were not prepared for what was to come.  “Because the last 25 years have been so good, only a proportion of currently working Australians have much memory of difficult times,” Mr Eslake said.

“And as a result they have high exceptions of what government can and should do for them which governments will almost certainly not be able to meet.

“That’s because, in part, the way in which successive governments squandered the fruits of the earlier luckier period and partly because global circumstances won’t be as favourable.”

Mr Eslake predicted that “growth in national income and employment will be significantly slower on average than it has been over the last 15 years” in coming years.

But it’s not all bad news.  Mr Eslake said Australia’s economy was faring better than other resource-based economies including Canada and Brazil.

“Lower interest rates are working to give us the highest level of housing activity ever and there are signs that the fall in the exchange rate is also boosting the competitiveness of some of our other industries such as tourism and the greater flexibility of the labour market is helping to provide some support for employment,” he said.


Rich People Only: How the property boom is tearing our cities apart

Once again, no analysis of why.  The problem is real but solving it needs understanding it.  And the causes are as simple as the law of supply and demand.  Demand is outstripping supply despite quite high building activity.  Why?  Demand is being pumped up by a high level of immigration.  All those migrants, refugees or otherwise, have to be housed.  And the supply is being restricted by an unholy combination of Greenies, NIMBYs and some farmers -- who regularly oppose the release of land for new housing.  That keeps the supply down and the price up.  The simplest remedy would be a big reduction in net immigration, maybe even a complete moratorium -- JR

AUSTRALIAN capital cities have sold out to the elite and cashed in the values that have sustained them, according leading Sydney University academic, Professor Patrick Phibbs.

“The problem is we’re essentially sleepwalking our way to very unequal cities and unless we do something about it soon it might be too late,” the Chair of Urban and Regional Planning and policy said following Sydney University’s Festival of Urbanism earlier this month.

“We’ve taken our eye off looking out for people on low to moderate incomes and we’re basically just pandering to an elite, and I think that’s a risk. Do we want a fair city, do we want an equal city, or do we just want a city where people talk about how much money they made off their million dollar apartment?”

The problem, according to Professor Phibbs, is the way Australians, and much of the world, sees housing today. “We’ve seen the complete pivot of housing from being a place where you live, as a form of shelter, to essentially housing as a wealth generator,” he says, “People have got to look a bit beyond their own personal gain. Sure you’ve made $500,000 on your house but is that really a good thing?”

With the mining boom fading, Australia’s economy is now leaning on an exploding property market for support.

As the Australian reported recently, a boom in apartment buildings around the nation has been responsible for a fifth of Australia’s economic growth over the past two years. A push that has been fuelled by a six billion dollar contribution from China, along with other foreign investors, to the Australian property market. Some of whom have used sophisticated trust structures to get around foreign investment laws.

The Abbott government, who oversaw the recent boom, failed to rein in the runaway housing market. Instead they encouraged it, despite persistent howls over housing affordability in the nation’s major cities. Today it’s left us with some of the least affordable housing on earth, particularly in Sydney where house prices are now 13 times the average annual wage.

“Sydneysiders have always prided themselves on being reasonably egalitarian and sticking up for the battler, but I think essentially we’ve stabbed the battler right in the wallet over the last ten years,” said Professor Phibbs.

Around the country, meanwhile, the economy is showing sign of weakening, with an inflated rental and housing market distorting living costs; unemployment on the rise; wage increases struggling to keep pace with inflation; and Australia’s net disposable income per head — the best measure of living standards — dropping by 1.2 per cent.

The losers in this scenario are pretty much everyone, says Professor Phibbs, though particularly the current generation of young Australians.

“In the current property boom there is a huge group of losers and the biggest, in a general sense, are young people. If they want to buy a house in Sydney, which a lot do, they essentially have to climb a cliff and I just think that’s completely out of order,” he said, adding, “If we’ve managed to make what was an affordable suburb to where houses are worth a million dollars, we’re just headed in the wrong direction.”

“If you’re saying Sydney is a place where kids can grow up and have opportunities, we’re essentially saying, nup, if you’ve bloody got a lot of cash you can stay here,” he says.


UN cancels Australia visit over Border Force laws

Well-done!  Keeping creepy Crepeau out is a big win, judging by his absurd condemnations of the UK.  There is no doubt about what his judgment of Australia would be.  He compared Britain to Nazi Germany -- JR

The United Nations has postponed a planned visit to Australia because the federal government cannot guarantee legal immunity to detention centre workers who discuss asylum seekers and migrants.

The United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Canada's Francois Crepeau, was due to visit Australia on Sunday for about two weeks to investigate the plight of migrants and asylum seekers in offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, following an invitation from the federal government.

But Mr Crepeau said in a statement that the Border Force Act, which makes it a crime for immigration and border protection workers to disclose information about offshore detention centres, "serves to discourage people from fully disclosing information relevant to my mandate".

Under the law, such people face up to two years in prison for recording or disclosing information they obtain from their work.

 "This threat of reprisals with persons who would want to cooperate with me on the occasion of this official visit is unacceptable," he said. "The Act prevents me from fully and freely carrying out my duties during the visit, as required by the UN guidelines for independent experts carrying out their country visits."

It was impossible for Mr Crepeau to carry out his visit as an independent expert for the UN because the Australian government "was not prepared" to meet his request for a written guarantee that anyone he met during his visit would not risk being intimidated or face imprisonment under the law.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton described the postponement as "disappointing and unfortunate".

"The government accommodated to the fullest extent possible the requests of the office of the Special Rapporteur as it has with past visits."

The spokesman declined to say whether the government would consider offering exemptions to the secrecy provisions of the Australian Border Force Act, saying: "The Special Rapporteur was briefed on the responsibilities and obligations of personnel under relevant Australian law.

"Australia remains ready to arrange a future visit by the Special Rapporteur."

Mr Crepeau said Australia had also denied his repeated requests for full access to offshore detention centres since March. "I was also extremely disappointed that I was unable to secure the cooperation needed to visit any offshore centre, given the international human rights and humanitarian law concerns regarding them, plus the Australian Senate Inquiries on the offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, which raised concerns and recommendations concerning these centres," he said.

The Special Rapporteur said he had been planning the visit with the Australian government since January.   

Mr Dutton's spokesman said the Department of Immigration had worked closely with Mr Crepeau's office to organise a programme for his visit, which was to include visits to detention centres, and meetings with key government officials and service providers.

But he said the government had no role in organising access to offshore detention centres: "Access to Regional Processing Centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru is the responsibility of these sovereign nations and needs to be addressed with their governments."

Organisations including the Australian Human Rights Commission, UNHCR and Commonwealth Ombudsman, had visited both on and offshore detention centres "without the need to respond in this way," he said.

The Human Rights Law Centre's executive director, Hugh de Kretser, said the cancelled visit was "unprecedented for a western liberal democracy".

"This is extremely damaging for Australia's reputation – particularly when our human rights record will be reviewed at the UN in November and we're seeking election to the UN Human Rights Council in 2018. It's extremely damaging to our ability to advance our national interest on the world stage," said Mr de Kretser.

It was also a "huge missed opportunity" for newly-appointed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to pursue a "more constructive relationship with the UN".

"We urge the Australian Government to urgently provide the necessary assurances to the Special Rapporteur to enable the official visit to take place at a future date."

Doctors, and humanitarian workers have previously criticised the Border Force Act which was passed earlier this year with the support of Labor, saying it prevents proper public scrutiny of detention centres in line with their duty of care to asylum seekers.

The government has dismissed such claims, saying a separate federal law ensured officials were protected in making "public interest disclosures". But it is unclear which health or medical professionals would be required to comply with the new secrecy provisions.

Under the law, workers can only release such information legally if they have permission from the secretary of the department, if they are authorised by law, or if a court or tribunal orders or directs them to do so. The secretary would have to be satisfied that the information would help the person to perform their duties or powers to give them permission to release it.


Abbott-hater celebrates Turnbull

For perspective, you may need to know that Niki Savva --  below -- wrote a book titled "So Greek, confessions of a conservative leftie"

Malcolm Turnbull’s first ministry has sent a powerful message of inclusion as well as regeneration. The photo of the new Prime Minister surrounded by all the women he has appointed to the cabinet and outer ministry, with his deputy Julie Bishop in the vanguard, will act as a clarion call to women that not only are they welcome inside the Liberal Party again, there is room for them at the top.

The previous administration kept talking about it, complaining incessantly about the shortage of prominent women despite the fact there were talented women there all along, waiting for the call, only to be locked out despite any number of opportunities to promote them. It was left to Turnbull to do it. He did it partly by having the courage to retire men who had a better run than they deserved or by appealing to mates such as Ian Macfarlane to step aside, which he did with great poise. Eric Abetz likewise maintained his dignity.

Will the country be less safe with Marise Payne as Defence Minister? Methinks her first press conference in that job showed it will not, nor would it have been a year ago when there was an opening. Michaelia Cash and Kelly O’Dwyer also have finally been given the opportunity to shine.

Importantly, Turnbull has conveyed a message of tolerance too. Many of those promoted, or who retained their positions, did not vote for him. Check them out: Andrew Robb, Scott Morrison, Mathias Cormann, Greg Hunt, Peter Dutton, Josh Frydenberg, Christian Porter. One of them went so far as to say he had spent more time discussing with the new Prime Minister the shape of things to come than he ever did with his predecessor. Those who suggest Turnbull has engaged in retribution, or that conservatives have been sidelined, are peddling self-serving nonsense.

While we wait for the changes in policy, there has been an immediate and welcome change in rhetoric, in tone and in manner. On Monday night, in a flirty, expansive interview with Leigh Sales, those viewers who had forgotten what Turnbull was like got an insight into an intelligent, complex personality. It also laid down some markers on matters on which he can be judged later, such as tax reform, the importance of polling in the lives of politicians, and the setting of policies within a free-market framework.

Yesterday, in another long interview, this time with Sky News, he was confident, cool, determined not to be led by one of the nation’s sharpest interviewers, David Speers, on to paths too dangerous to tread.

Turnbull has learned the value of consultation, and it shows. His colleagues are flattered he is asking, even more delighted when their suggestions are taken up, as some have been. It has come as a revelation to them, dispelling at least one doubt about his capacity to learn from his first time around. He has learned that colleagues often have good ideas too, so setting aside the time to talk to them pays off in more ways than one. Hallelujah.

The thrashing and gnashing of the capital-C conservatives continues, reminiscent if anything of the last moments of Pris, the replicant terminated by Deckard in the film Blade Runner. If they want Bill Shorten to become prime minister, with everything that entails, they should keep it up. The lying, delusion, bitterness or vengefulness of the vanquished and their supporters is really smart. Dignified too. Not.

Turnbull cannot pander to those carrying on like they want him to fail, nor can he afford to ignore them. He needs to deliver another message, by way of a thoughtful, broad-ranging speech to promote the healing — or the bonding, if you like — of the party’s conservative and liberal wings.

It should come sooner rather than later because there is no point allowing things to fester.

The idea was prompted from one of many wise heads wanting him to succeed, one key to the success of the Howard era who became so disillusioned with the Abbott regime that he had stopped listening but is now, like many others, hopeful and alert.

The objective of such a speech should be to show Liberals, not just inside the government but in the party’s heartland (and to steal a favourite expression of John Howard’s) that what unites conservatives and small-l liberals is greater and more enduring than that which divides.

Take budget repair. Fulfilling the dream of returning it to surplus is both a liberal project and a conservative one. It is about prudent management of taxpayers’ dollars to ensure there will be money there for things society needs and cares about: strong defence, a proper safety net, improved health and education services.

Border protection is both a liberal project and a conservative one. Governments should be able to control who comes here, and if they can do that, they provide a vehicle for a more generous immigration and refugee program.

Tackling social problems with a strong focus on personal responsibility (such as domestic violence) is both a liberal project and a conservative one. Nowhere was that demonstrated more emphatically than when Howard reformed gun laws in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre. People are free only when they feel safe.

And so on.

Turnbull was restored to the leadership because he repaired relations with enough of the sensible Right to win. Others, except the completely unhinged, will gradually come across after a suitable period of mourning if he shows what they can achieve if they all work together.

But it will take more than words. Integral to the success of this government is the relationship between the Prime Minister and Scott Morrison.

When prime ministers and treasurers work well together, when both are at their peak in their jobs (which is the polite way of saying when both are up to their jobs) the government overall works well. That was the case with Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, then with Howard and Peter Costello. Keating slotted into the leadership role; however, after John Dawkins resigned as treasurer, the government struggled. A competent prime minister cannot succeed on his own.

Turnbull and Morrison have had a complicated relationship, which is now on a sound footing. Given their combined talents there is no reason, in the early years at least, they should not secure strong foundations for the Coalition, despite the best efforts of some to besmirch the Treasurer’s reputation


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