Sunday, January 06, 2019

Cape crusaders open up Australia's last wild frontiers

To have vast areas of one's country inaccessible by road does seem rather negligent -- though Greenies would disagree.  So on grounds of the national interest, spending on these roads would perhaps be defensible. 

As they go through areas that have small populations of unproductive Aborigines only, however, they are a boondoggle by economic criteria.  They largely go nowhere. 

The idea that they will open up the areas concerned to economic development is a very old dream but the failure of the Ord project tells us that the dream will remain a dream

Australian governments are rather prone to boondoggles.  The barely-used Alice to Darwin railway and the Snowy hydroelectic scheme will never cover their costs or provide a reasonable return on capital

One is a bumpy road to somewhere, snaking through the scrubby wilds of Cape York and on to an even dustier track that ends at the most northern tip of Australia.

The second, on another remote northern cape on the opposite side of the country, claims 4WDs and sometimes even lives in the soft red dirt north of Broome.

Now the sort of nation-building projects of a century ago are simultaneously opening up two of the nation’s last wild frontiers to anyone with a sedan.

The twin highway projects are predicted to transform the lives of indigenous people in about 80 ­remote communities; there is hope for tourism and jobs, but some elders also worry that good roads could bring bad town problems.

For them, living at the end of a treacherous track — often cut off in the wet season — is a form of protection.

Within a year, the $63 million Cape Leveque Road project will seal 90km of boggy red dirt track between Broome and the former mission of Beagle Bay, completing bitumen works that started further north in 2007.

Nine-year-old Tatiana Kitchener’s Beagle Bay home is an uncomfortable one hour and 45 minutes by car to Broome, where she likes to swim at the town pool. And that is in good weather. The track has a reputation for wrecking cars and fatalities.

In far north Queensland, the half-finished upgrade of the Peninsula Developmental Road over the past few years has begun to transform the Cape.

The trickle of 4WD adventurers belting along the road on their way to pristine fishing and camping spots has become a steady stream of motorhome-driving grey nomads and tourists.

More than 80,000 vehicles travelled the 560km stretch from Lakeland to the Weipa turn-off last year — up from 25,000 five years ago. At the peak of the last dry season, there were even queues for the ferry that takes cars across the Jardine River and on to the final leg to the top. Completion of the project will be a metamorphic moment for the Aborigines of Cape York, who make up about 70 per cent of the population.

The state and federally funded project, which has cost $280m since 2014, is paving the way for a year-round economy on Cape York that few thought possible.

Landholders are gearing up, with plans for fruit plan­tations and cattle properties that have been limited without a ­reliable route to Cairns or the Weipa port.

Traditional owners, who have native title over their country or secured land through a state buyback program of wound-down cattle stations over the past decade, are also planning ventures involving tourism and agriculture.

On Cape Leveque, Deborah Sebastian, a relative of Tatiana, knows the new road can bring jobs and enterprise to the four communities along the cape. She also worries it might deliver town problems. “It’s going to be safer for driving,” she said. “But we are scared it will be easier for drugs and alcohol to get in.”

The Bardi Jawi communities that own and run the idyllic Kooljaman wilderness camp near One Arm Point are expected to be among the beneficiaries when the entire cape is opened up to two-wheel cars and coaches.

Broome’s population swells from 13,000 to 40,000 between June and October each year, but currently only a tiny proportion of those visitors venture up the track.

The two road projects are already creating indigenous jobs. An estimated 25 per cent of the contract work awarded for the upgrade to the Cape York road has gone to locally owned indigenous companies. The Cape Leveque job is smaller, but 53 per cent of its contracts have been awarded to indigenous-owned companies. Thirty-six of the 43 people working on the road are indigenous.

One of the success stories of the Peninsula Development Road is Kalan Enterprises, an indigenous-owned company based in Coen, in central Cape York.

Started nine years ago by traditional owners of the Southern Kaantju people, the company was doing land management — including feral animal and invasive weed control — before the road upgrade kicked-off. The ongoing “One Claim’’ native title application — filed in 2014 over 14.6 million hectares not already under native title — ensured that traditional owners across Cape York were consulted and were able to negotiate involvement in the project.

Kalan, which has a small fleet of trucks, backhoes and crushers, employs 17 indigenous people full-time. Dozens more are doing regular contract work.

The next few months will be decisive for the project. State and federal governments will do scoping work to finish sealing the PDR, extending the construction of bridges and possibly extending the bitumen to the tip.

The project will take at least another five years.

The promise of development and economic opportunity will have to compete with the need for environmental protections across the mostly unspoilt peninsula. The Palaszczuk government is considering a bid for World Heritage listing — supported by federal Labor — which they promise will be pursued only with majority support of traditional owners.

Federal Liberal MP Warren Entsch, who championed and helped deliver the road upgrade, said the balance could be struck but it was critical to finish the job, which he thought would cost $700m more. “It is one of the last frontiers and we are taming it,” Mr Enstch said.


Safest airlines in the world revealed: Qantas is No 1 with British Airways and American Airlines in the top 20

Qantas has never killed a passenger

The world's safest airlines for 2019 have been revealed by a leading aviation group - and Qantas is named as having the best safety record.

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia as well as American Airlines also make the top 20 list of the world's safest carriers.

The list of the least safe airlines, meanwhile, includes Afghanistan's national flag carrier, Ariana Afghan Airlines.

Australia-based releases its safety ranking each year after studying audits from aviation governing bodies, government audits, airlines' crash and serious incident records and fleet age. In total it studies 400 carriers.

Top rated Qantas is praised by the review website for being the world's oldest continuously operating airline.

It also notes that the Australian flag carrier had been a leader in helping to develop several innovative safety features. These include the Future Air Navigation System - a space-based navigation and communication set-up that will lead to a quantum leap in capacity and service performance, with flight crews and air traffic controllers less reliant on ground infrastructure to communicate.

The website also said Qantas has been the lead airline in real-time monitoring of engines, so problems can be detected quickly.

Those singled out for praise also include Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Austrian Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and EVA Air. The rest of the top 20 is made up of Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Qatar, SAS, Singapore Airlines, Swiss and United Airlines.

Meanwhile, also identified the top ten safest low cost airlines for 2019. British-based Flybe and Thomas Cook, US carriers JetBlue and Frontier and Australian airline Jetstar all make the list. Making up the rest of the top ten are HK Express, Volaris, Vueling, Westjet and Wizz.

As well as Ariana Afghan Airlines, others that are named the least safe carriers for 2019 are Bluewing Airlines from Suriname, Indonesia-based Trigana Air Service and Kam Air, which also operates out of Afghanistan. Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas said: 'All airlines have incidents every day and many are aircraft manufacture issues, not airline operational problems.

'It is the way the flight crew handles incidents that determines a good airline from an unsafe one. So just lumping all incidents together is very misleading. 'And some countries' incident reporting systems are weak, further complicating matters.'

News of the world's safest airlines comes just days after another annual report said the fatality rate on passenger jets worldwide jumped in 2018. Dutch aviation consulting firm To70 and the Aviation Safety Network both reported there were more than 500 deaths stemming from passenger airline crashes in 2018.

However, in 2017, airlines recorded zero accident deaths on commercial planes.


The Australian suburbs and council areas most vulnerable to extreme heat

Trees are the solution so Greenies might really do some good if they campaigned for tree planting and preservation.  But coal mines and plastic bags seem to be their sole obsessions these days. 

Despite their postures, they are in fact enemies of trees.  Many of their policies lead to trees being cut down -- as when they got polystyrene containers replaced by cardboard.  Cardboard is made from trees

City suburbs are becoming “heat continents” posing a severe health hazard. But the heat stress is not being shared fairly with residents in better off ‘burbs keeping far cooler.

Vast tracts of Australia’s major cities are unnecessarily overheating leading to a potential health crisis for residents.

New research has found otherwise identical suburbs, and even streets lying side-by-side, are not sharing the heat load equally. Some are sweltering with surface heat temperatures up to 20C higher than the neighbourhood next door.

The worst affected areas include parts of Melbourne and Adelaide.

All too often it’s poorer outer suburbs that end up far hotter than inner city enclaves.

And while one seemingly simple solution could cool down our streets, bureaucratic red tape and risk-averse councils are shunning the idea.

The analysis comes from 202020 Vision, a national initiative that includes state and local governments, universities and business, which aims to increase urban green spaces by 20 per cent by 2020.

It has said over the last four years tree and shrub cover in urban areas has declined by the equivalent of 4000 sq kilometres — that’s the same area as 162,000 Melbourne Cricket Grounds.

That can have a negative effect on everything from anti-social behaviour to health.

“If heat continues to rise it can have profound concerns about health impacts,” Griffith University urban and environmental planner Dr Tony Matthews told “The concern is that in the future that heat will get more extreme and the heat stress will hit people a lot harder. “And heat stress can be deadly; it’s nothing to be sniffed at.”

This week Sydney has sweltered through a heatwave that has lasted for more than 10 days while Melbourne has seen a “one-in-10-year heat event” as temperatures soared past 40C in the CBD.

202020 Vision has compiled a heat vulnerability index looking at each state as well all local government areas (LGA) to assess the total number of hot days, the ability of the local population to remain healthy in the heat and the extent of green space.

Most cities contain “urban heat islands” (UHI) where the surface and air temperatures can rise substantially higher than other areas and stay hotter for longer due to human impact.

“The main reason cities suffer from the UHI effect is because they are constructed from steel, concrete and aggregate that absorb heat. At a hot time of year, the extent of that is exaggerated as the materials release heat back into environment,” Dr Matthews said.

Airports, with their large runways and terminals, are often UHIs.

Vehicles and airconditioners further pump up the temperature, tipping the scales from bearable to blistering.

Worse though, some cities now contained substantial “urban heat continents” where UHIs had joined together. In Sydney, a huge heat continent now stretches in three directions with Parramatta at its centre and bordered by Botany Bay, Liverpool and the Hills District. Melbourne has a heat continent that surrounds Sunbury and Melton in the west.

Dr Matthews said that above 42C a “tolerability threshold” is reached where infrastructure, like train tracks, begins to potentially facture and melt. And people don’t fare particularly well either.

“Overall, Sydney is quite green as are Melbourne and Brisbane. Perth and Adelaide are not that green while the Gold Coast and a lot of regional cities are playing catch-up,” Dr Matthews said.

The report found tree and shrub canopy cover nationally had reduced by 2.1 per cent in four years, the equivalent of 162,000 Melbourne Cricket Grounds.

Over eight years, 35 per cent of councils has seen a “significant decline” in canopy with only four per cent seeing a notable increase in foliage.

In 2017, climate scientist Dr Elizabeth Hanna said a combination of heat and humidity could mean Darwin is “not a viable place to live” in the future. There the council is busily attempting to bring down surface temperatures by reducing hard spaces and shade streets.

The least heat-stressed LGAs were often those in the ritziest areas including Woollahra, Mosman and Kuring-Gai in Sydney, Bayside in Melbourne and Claremont in Perth. Posher ’burbs were often closer to the coast where sea breezes helped cool the locals. But Dr Matthews said that wasn’t the only reason.

“There’s also often a correlation of how well-off suburbs are and how much greenery they have. People with a bit of money tend to live in suburbs that are well established with mature greenery.

“A lot of newly developed suburbs on the urban fringe have low levels of greenery because lot sizes have been reduced so you get lots of houses, very few gardens and nature strips are given over to street parking. These newer suburbs tend to be much hotter.”

Parramatta, in Sydney’s west, is at the centre of a heat continent that spreads out in three directions.

The city council has an aim to increase street tree cover from 33 per cent to 40 per cent by 2050. It shared with thermal images taken after a string of consecutive hot days of two parallel streets, one with trees and the other without.

“The thermal images show that the heavily treed street has much lower day and night temperatures. This in turn reduces the nearby air temperature, making the street a more pleasant place to walk along,” a council spokesman said.

Parramatta city chiefs reckon the shade provided by trees could be enough to bring surface temperatures down by as much as 20 degrees while air temperatures could reduce by between two and five degrees.

The report said councils including the City of Sydney and Blacktown in NSW, Yarra in Melbourne, Townsville in Queensland and Armadale in Western Australia were seeing the biggest canopy increases.

But many councils, and property owners, are frustrating efforts to make our suburbs greener and cooler, Dr Matthews said.

“There is the fear of liability by councils of, for instance, underground tree roots or if tree branches fall.”

More trees could also lead to more wildlife and human conflicts, such as possums on roofs and birds pooing on cars. But he said these were “pretty minor” concerns compared to the overall benefits. And hardier species could lessen the likelihood of branches falling.

Urban greening wasn’t just about cooler streets, Dr Matthews said. Soil can help soak up torrential rain taking pressure of stormwater drains. More vegetation and parks can improve the mental health of locals and encourage exercise. Even crime can go down, he said.

“You would think the opposite would happen as trees limit sight lines but there is strong research that suggests more greenery has the effect of bringing down crime levels as it prompts people to behave a little bit better. “Let’s not say trees are the solution to crime, but more evident urban greenery can have a positive effect.”


Investors to pay ‘world’s highest capital gains tax under ALP’

Josh Frydenberg has launched a pre-election assault on Labor’s plan to halve the capital gains tax discount, warning that hundreds of thousands of Australians will be taxed at the “highest rates” in the Western world.

Shifting his focus from Bill Shorten’s proposal to limit negative gearing to new dwellings and the “retiree tax”, the Treasurer yesterday cited government analysis that showed Australians would be taxed up to 36.75 per cent on their capital gains under Labor’s policy, up from 23.5 per cent now.

By comparison, US taxpayers face a 23.8 per cent tax on capital gains, the British pay 28 per cent on residential property and 20 per cent on other assets, while Can­adians are taxed at 16.5 per cent, according to the modelling.

Analysis obtained by The Weekend Australian also revealed 885,530 taxpayers reported a capital gain in 2015-16, with about half of their investments in shares and a quarter in real estate.

Mr Frydenberg said Labor’s plan to increase the capital gains tax by 50 per cent had “gone under the radar” but it would have “far-reaching consequences” for ­people who invested in property and shares.

“Labor’s plan to make Australians pay a capital gains tax rate that is higher than comparable countries such as the US, UK, Canada, NZ, Japan and Germany is destructive to say the least,” he said. “Independent economic analysis confirms it will not only hurt confidence in the market but reduce GDP growth, lower real wages, increase rents and undermine economic activity overall.”

His criticism of the policy comes as the Morrison government tries to turn Labor’s war chest of tax proposals into a ­federal election issue.

Halving the capital gains ­discount is expected to raise $12.6 billion over 10 years, while the negative gearing changes will bring in $19.8bn over the same period.

“Labor’s policy is short-sighted and ideological and brings into focus a key difference between the government and the opposition,” Mr Frydenberg said. “The ­Coalition believes in lower taxes and has the record to prove it.”

Opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen lashed Mr Frydenberg for talking about Labor policy rather than focusing on the Liberal Party’s ideas.

He said Australia had a slowing economy, low wages growth “and a government with no plan”.

Individuals are currently taxed on capital gains they make on their investments at their personal marginal tax rate, but receive a 50 per cent discount on the gain if they have held the assets longer than 12 months.

A person on the top marginal tax rate of 47 per cent (45 per cent plus the 2 per cent Medicare levy) has the rate discounted to half of that: a 23.5 per cent effective tax rate.

Under Labor, which plans to reintroduce the 2 per cent budget repair levy, the capital gains tax discount reduces to 25 per cent, meaning those on the top marginal tax rate pay up to 36.75 per cent in tax against their gain.

“Capital gains tax is effectively the marginal tax rate minus the CGT discount,” Mr Bowen said. “Is Mr Frydenberg assuming everyone who makes capital gains is on the top rate? The fact is that 70 per cent of these benefits of the CGTD go to the top 10 per cent of income earners. The question is: how can Josh justify people getting a 50 per cent tax reduction not available to PAYG payers and which was introduced when ­inflation was much higher than it is now?”

Capital gains tax, when introduced in 1985, was levied at taxpayers’ relevant marginal income tax rate after discounting the gain by the increase in prices. The Howard government simplified the system in 1999, substituting a 50 per cent discount for assets held longer than a year for the complex indexation method.

Like its negative gearing policy, Labor’s CGT changes would be grandfathered so Australians would keep the existing 50 per cent discount against any shares or property they have purchased before the policy’s start date.

The Henry Tax Review commissioned under Labor recommended in 2010 that the capital gains tax discount be cut from 50 per cent to 40 per cent, and be applied to a wider range of savings income, including bank interest and net rental income.

“A 40 per cent discount represents a more realistic inflation adjustment … given the recent history of real risk-free returns and the Reserve Bank of Australia’s objective of medium-term price stability,” the review 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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