Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Insane population growth in Australia

Fed by an insane immigrant intake.  A moratorium on the refugee intake would be well warranted while Australia assimilates the refugees taken in already

Australia is growing fast. In one year we added nearly 400,000 people to our population. That is like adding a city the size of Canberra.

But, of course, we are not building new cities. Most of those new residents are swelling the populations of our four major cities: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

Between 2006 and 2016 Melbourne has added close to 1 million people. Sydney was not far behind adding 800,000.

In the same period, Brisbane and Perth grew by almost half a million.

The pressure points are plain to see — from congestion on the roads and rail networks, to the struggle to keep up with demand for schools and hospitals.

Back in 1997 it was estimated we would take until the middle of this century to reach a population of 25 million. Australia's population is there already.

Four Corners has investigated how this population growth has occurred and why it is taking government by surprise.

Australia has a steady birth rate and we're also living longer.  But the main driver of our population growth is immigration.

On our current rate of growth, Melbourne and Sydney will nudge 8 million in the middle of this century. But they are already groaning under the strain.

It is going to mean big changes. We will all need to make choices, trade-offs, and compromises.

We need more public transport, and fewer cars on the roads.

Most of us feel the pressure of population growth during our daily commute to and from work. Sydney has the longest commute times, followed by Melbourne.

Marg Prendergast is coordinator general at Transport for NSW. She told Four Corners our reliance on cars will have to change. "We're doing everything we can to put public transport as a real option, because single car drivers are just not going to fit on the road in years to come," she says.

"We can't build ourselves out of this growth. We actually need to manage demand better. We want people to travel earlier (or) to travel a bit later."

New South Wales is experimenting with getting employers to shift working hours, so that the traffic load can be spread across the day.

But if Melbourne and Sydney are going to become cities on the scale of London and Hong Kong, much bigger changes are needed.

"London and Hong Kong cope because they've got amazing public transport systems. Here in Sydney, we're in catch-up mode."

We're going to need a lot more schools

State governments are scrambling to keep up with demand for schools.

In 2016, the Grattan Institute estimated that in more than 10 years Victoria and NSW will need to build around 200 schools each to keep up. Queensland is not far behind, needing an estimated 197 new schools.

Victoria is now building multi-storey "vertical" schools in the inner city to replace those shut down in the 1990s.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino says this is the future for inner-city suburbs.  "The land lots are smaller, so you need to go vertical to cater for the student numbers," he says.

"We need to accommodate 90,000 additional students over the next five years, just incredible enrolment growth.

"We've got 56 new schools in the construction pipeline, 11 of which are opening for the 2018 school year.

"We just need to keep that pace up, year after year, because this pressure is not going to stop."

We need to think about how fast our population should be growing

Fresh calls for pulling back on immigration are coming from both sides of politics.

In 2000, former New South Wales premier Bob Carr famously declared Sydney was "full". Close to two decades later, he says we have overshot the mark on immigration.

"Would it be such a national tragedy, if it took us five years to add a million to our population, instead of three? Or, might it, in fact, encourage Australians to find other ways of driving a contemporary economy?" Mr Carr asks.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott recently suggested slashing immigration to allow infrastructure to catch up.

Treasurer Scott Morrison dismissed that immediately, saying "the hit to the budget of that would be about $4 billion to $5 billion over the next four years".

The Federal Government is cracking down on one aspect of the immigration program: temporary visas. Not only is the list of approved jobs for foreign workers shorter, but it is harder for them to stay on and become permanent residents.

Business is worried. Scott Farqhuar is the co-founder of the Australian tech giant Atlassian. He says about one-quarter of his Sydney workforce are here on temporary visas.

"Bringing someone in from overseas actually creates jobs and creates a whole industry versus taking someone else's job. That idea of one person in, one job gone, is a very much industrial-era way of thinking. It's not relevant for today," Mr Farqhuar says.

He says the changes have already made it harder to attract the skilled workers he needs. "If you're trying to find someone who's 45 and they're a senior person, they're going to bring their family, their partner, their kids. They want to know that if they like it here then they can stay, they're not going to have to uproot their family," he says.

"The government has basically put up a big red balloon internationally saying 'Australia's closed for business'. "People who are interested in moving here now think, OK, I don't want to move to Australia because the government has sent off this message."

And … we need someone in charge

By mid-century, Treasury forecasts show our population over the age of 65 will double. Our population over 85 will quadruple.

Bernard Salt of The Demography Group says that will be a major issue to manage.

"Five million baby boomers coming out of the workforce take their tax-paying capacity out. Then they say, 'Well, thank you very much, I'll have an age pension. I'll have pharmaceutical benefits, and anything else that's going'."

The question is, will there be enough working-age people to look after them?

And why do we not have a national population policy? Or a population minister?

"I suppose the urban plans we've got for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane are competent documents," Mr Carr says.

"They spell out where the high-rise will occur. All I'm saying is we're going to have to have a whole lot more high-rise to accommodate another 4 million over the next three or four decades."

Australian Industry Group chief executive officer Innes Willox is more blunt. "We've done an abysmal job," he says.

"You know, there has been really no serious integrated debate around all the key factors that population growth brings to our economy and our national way of life."


NSW laws that make land clearing easier reinstated by Berejiklian government

Greenies on the warpath

On Friday, the NSW land and environment court ruled the Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code was invalid, since it was not approved by the NSW environment minister before it was implemented by the primary industries minister.

The code was created to exempt clearing from the usual development assessment procedure and was introduced after the NSW Coalition government overhauled the state’s conservation laws in 2016, making land clearing easier for farmers.

But the laws were thrown into disarray on Friday when the Nature Conservation Council (NCC) of NSW won a challenge against them, after it was revealed the proper procedure for implementing them had not been followed.

The NCC and the NSW environmental defenders office, which represented the NCC, said on Friday the government should not simply remake the laws, since the case showed the environment minister, Gabrielle Upton, had not done the work required to protect biodiversity.

“This is not simply a matter of incorrect paperwork,” said David Morris, the chief executive of the environmental defenders office NSW. “Ecologically sustainable development is not just another box to tick. The environment minister has a legal responsibility to protect biodiversity in this state.”

But the government made no delay remaking the laws, announcing on Saturday it had been completed.

“The remade code is identical to the previous one and is an integral part of the new land management framework which gives landowners the tools and certainty they need,” said David Witherdin, the CEO of Local Land Services, which oversees clearing under the codes.

The move was condemned by the NCC. “By waving these laws through a second time without even pausing to consider the consequences, Premier Berejiklian has gone against the wishes of voters and the advice of leading scientists,” the NCC’s CEO, Kate Smolski, said.

“The government’s own experts have warned 99% of koala habit on private land is left exposed to clearing by these laws and that there would be a spike in tree loss of up to 45%.

“As the state’s peak environment organisation, we will continue to do everything we can to expose the damage of land clearing and will not stop until we have laws that give nature the protection it deserves.”


The NAPLAN nervous ninnies

NAPLAN [national school tests] results are out and high gain schools are receiving their just recognition. Yet, critics are calling for a review of NAPLAN because results have not improved as much as we would like.

Criticising NAPLAN for poor literacy and numeracy is like blaming your thermometer for your fever. NAPLAN is not responsible for the deplorable differences in performance between wealthy and disadvantaged students. NAPLAN’s job is to expose the truth about those gaps, and that is what it is doing.

Perhaps it would help to see what NAPLAN really involves. Here are two sample questions:

* Ben collected 68 cans. Jack collected 109 cans. How many cans did Ben and Jack collect altogether?

* The following sentence has one word that is incorrect. We bought fresh bred. Write the correct spelling of the word.

These questions may appear harmless, but critics claim they traumatise our children, pervert classroom teaching and undermine education. They say that asking children to calculate sums and spell ‘bread’ can cause insomnia, stomach aches and nail-biting — and getting the answers wrong crushes students’ self-esteem. Teachers report they are forced to ‘waste’ valuable class time teaching students to spell and do arithmetic when they could be focusing on more important things such as ‘creativity’.

Ludicrous? Welcome to the surreal world of opposition to the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy, commonly known as NAPLAN.

Questions 1 and 2 come from NAPLAN’s Year 3 numeracy and literacy assessments, respectively. To answer them, a child must know how to read, add and spell. These are vital skills. NAPLAN simply tells us whether children have learnt them.

Testing did not begin with NAPLAN. Teachers have always used assessments to monitor students’ progress and identify those who need extra help. In addition, state education authorities administered examinations to ensure that schools were preparing children adequately for further learning.

Unfortunately, the curriculum, the assessment tests and the standards children were expected to achieve differed across teachers, schools and states. As a result, students participated in a postcode lottery — the content and quality of their education depended on where they lived and which school they attended.

The Australian Curriculum and NAPLAN have eliminated these inequities. For the first time, all Australian children are taught the same content, undertake identical assessments and are held to common performance standards. The benefits have been enormous. Using NAPLAN, teachers can identify students’ strengths and weaknesses and plan lessons accordingly. In addition, because NAPLAN is administered in years 3, 5, 7, and 9, schools can see how their students’ learning grows over time.

Because their curriculum and the assessment methods are now comparable, schools in one state can compare their educational outcomes with those of similar schools in other states. Authorities can identify high performing schools and disseminate their successful teaching methods nationally.

NAPLAN will eventually move from paper and pencil to online assessment. When this occurs, results will be available much earlier in the school year, but that is not the only benefit. In contrast to the present one-size-fits-all paper test, NAPLAN online will be tailored to the abilities of each student. Teachers will be given a precise picture of each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, moving NAPLAN online will allow the test to be customised for the special needs of students with disabilities.

Instead of welcoming these benefits, the critics of NAPLAN have stepped up their attacks. In addition to lowering self-esteem, making children ill and occupying too much time, NAPLAN is also blamed for low levels of literacy and numeracy, and for not measuring creativity, critical thinking and ‘personal attributes’. These claims are all baseless.  Apart from anecdotes, there is no evidence that asking students how to spell ‘bread’ makes them ill.

Critics of NAPLAN believe that self-esteem is protected by never allowing children to fail. But the truth is precisely the opposite.  By preventing children from experiencing failure, we stop them from gaining the self-confidence that comes from overcoming it.

If we want young people to be able to handle life’s inevitable slings and arrows, then we should not encourage them to avoid difficult situations. Instead, we should teach children how to cope with them. If children find NAPLAN stressful, imagine the stress they will encounter trying to find jobs if they leave school unable to read, spell and do arithmetic.

Claims that NAPLAN takes up valuable teaching time are simply untrue. Over 10 years of schooling, NAPLAN testing occupies an average of 3 minutes per week. Surely this leaves enough time for teaching. Teachers claim that they are ‘forced to waste time’ drilling students on sample NAPLAN questions. It is not clear who is exerting this force, but drilling is not an effective teaching method.  The only way to prepare students for NAPLAN is to teach them to read, write and do mathematics.

And perhaps this is one reason that some educators are so critical of NAPLAN — it exposes the truth. By identifying good and poor performers (such as the high gain schools recognized this week), NAPLAN makes school learning transparent.  Some may find the spotlight uncomfortable, and criticise NAPLAN even as online delivery promises timelier and more useful tests. It is time for parents, policymakers, and community leaders to enter the debate.


$1.3bn hit on electricity users as subsidies for solar panels surge

Energy consumers will be forced to pay more than $1 billion for rooftop solar installation subsidies this year, increasing power costs by up to $100 per household, according to an industry analysis.

Operators warn of a spike in the number of unscrupulous ­operators unless the green-power subsidy is wound back.

The Clean Energy Regulator has released figures showing that more than 1057 megawatts of ­capacity was installed last year, equating to 3.5 million solar ­panels being fixed to rooftops.

Industry analysis obtained by The Australian reveals the cost of small-scale technology certificates — created to increase the incentive to install rooftop solar — shows the value of the sub­sidies was $500 million last year.

The solar industry is expecting the subsidy to increase to about $1.3bn this year after the regulator estimated in January that 22 million new certificates would be created over the year. The certificates are granted to people installing solar panels, and electricity retailers are required to buy them.

Jeff Bye, founder and owner of Demand Manager in Sydney, a company that creates and trades the certificates, warned that the rebate was “overly generous” in many circumstances. “There are strong reasons to support installation of rooftop solar in Australia; however, it’s a question of the degree of support needed,” he said.

“The cost increase (this year) is about $800m and there are 8 million households … so there’ll be a cost impact of around $100 per household. The electricity impact might be $40 or $50 per household but businesses will pass through the additional cost too … That subsidy of $500m last year, or $1.2bn to $1.3bn this year, is added on to everyone’s bills.”

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said the Australian Energy Market Commission had found the average cost to households over the past five years was about $29 a year, with the price peaking in 2012 at $44 for the year. “The AEMC forecasts residential electricity prices will fall over the next two years as renewable energy, including small-scale solar supported by the Renewable Energy Target, enters the system,” Mr Frydenberg said.

In last year’s Residential Electricity Price Trends report, the AEMC acknowledged that “costs incurred in purchasing certificates are assumed to be passed on to consumers through retail prices”.

Mr Frydenberg celebrated the solar rooftop take-up last year, saying Australia had emerged as a “world leader” and noted that one in five households used solar power.

NSW Liberal MP Craig Kelly, chairman of the Coalition backbench committee for energy and the environment, warned that the cost of rooftop solar subsidies was being carried by those who could least afford it.

He said the benefits of lower power prices were going to high-wealth households that installed the panels, while those without solar panels were hit with higher prices passed on by electricity ­retailers.

“It’s effectively a reverse Robin Hood scheme where we are ­increasing the electricity prices on the poor to reduce electricity ­prices for the rich,” Mr Kelly said.

“A woman rang me during the week and broke down on the telephone. She just got her electricity bill and it was $800. She was ­expecting a bill of $400 ... she’s got no way of paying for it.”

Mr Frydenberg faces calls to ­reduce rooftop solar subsidies by slashing the price of the certificates that electricity retailers are required to buy. He is expected to set a target for the calendar year by the end of this month.

Mr Bye said the number of certificates to be bought each year was set by the small technology percentage (STP), but warned the system was flawed and the certificates were overpriced.

“In recent history, the certificates have traded close to the maximum legislated price of $40 and the target-setting process, overseen by the minister, effectively leads to a continuation of that pattern,” Mr Bye said.

“However, there was a period last year when the market price dropped to $30 but the boom in solar installations continued.”

Mr Bye warned that the high STC price, coupled with growing demand for solar, could attract “unscrupulous operators”.

“It’s nowhere near what it was 10 years ago under the home insulation program but we should be wary of subsidies attracting the wrong people,’’ he said.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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