Thursday, June 08, 2023

Will regulating short-term accommodation help to ease the rental crisis?

There are few things more moronic than a Leftist government. First they create a shortage of properties to rent by imposing ever more onerous regulations that drive owners out of the long term rental business.

Now they want to regulate the short term market. Can we guess that increased regulation will drive owners out of that market too? Houses and apartments are fetching high prices these days so the temptation for owners to sell up and leave the government to its problems will be strong. The one thing governments are provably good at is REDUCING the number of properties available for rent

Australian rental market listings declined 18.9% in April, according to recent PropTrack data – the largest decline since December 2017. Now, there are calls for limits to be put on short stay accommodation as a potential solution to the problem.

Melbourne, Perth and Sydney are facing the toughest rental market conditions in the entire country, with total rental listings over the year falling 31.3%, 19.2% and 15.7%, respectively.

While some markets saw an increase in rental supply (mainly regional), total stock for rent remains significantly lower than at the start of the pandemic in both capital cities (-40.2%) and regional areas (-36.1%).

And with rental prices at the end of March 2023 sitting at a median of $500 per week in capital cities, an increase of 11.1% over the past 12 months, it’s like renters are being dealt a double blow.

The question of how to sustainably fix the rental supply issue and provide secure housing to the millions of Aussies who rent is now more pertinent than ever.

Is ending short-stay accommodation the answer?

“If the short stays industry is allowed to go unregulated, we just can’t have a healthy long-term rental market,” Gabrielle de Vietri Greens MP and State Member for Richmond said.

This has led the Greens to introduce a bill to parliament which would place strict regulations on the short stays industry in Victoria, with the aim to bring more properties back to the regular rental market.

“Some of the things we’re proposing is a 90-day cap on how many days someone can rent out a property on the short stays market,” de Vietri said.

Similar restrictions have already been placed on short-term stays in the cities of London and Amsterdam.

If this bill was passed, it could mean thousands of short stay accommodation listings on sites like Airbnb would potentially return to the long-term rental market, helping to ease the current rental crunch.

However, many oppose the bill, including Robynne Young who owns two Airbnbs in the Dandenong Ranges and Mornington Peninsula. Ms Young and partner Nick are using the income from these properties to self-fund their retirement. “They’re taking away our livelihood,” she said.

“I think we lose sight of the fact the tourism industry is integral to the Dandenong Ranges [and] neighbouring communities rely on it for their existence.”

Experts suggest a nuanced approach

A more balanced approach is needed according to Dr Tom Alves from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute:

“This form of accommodation can be a positive contribution to local economies and tourism in some places. However, at the same time, it’s harder for low-income earners who are a permanent part of a community to access affordable rental houses,” he explained.

As a response to the rental crisis Airbnb last year proposed state and territory governments introduce state-wide registration schemes and codes of conduct.

A tourism levy to fund housing and community projects, and a review of eviction protections have also been suggested by the accommodation listings site.

The NSW government has already introduced a 180-day cap on using empty properties for Airbnb-style letting in Sydney and other tourist hotspots.

And in October, the Queensland government announced an investigation into the impacts the short-term rental market was having on housing stock.

The long-term solution

Dr Alves suggested Australian lawmakers look to borrow from what the EU is doing and consider harmonised regulations across all states.

That could mean a nationwide cap on the number of days a property can be rented out on short-term accommodation sites, which may see more properties returning to the long-term rental market for the millions of Aussies struggling to find affordable rentals.


British cardiologist calls for mRNA vaccines to be suspended due to heart risks

A British cardiologist has called for Covid vaccines to be suspended in Australia due to heart risks, accusing the TGA of a “cover-up”.

A controversial British cardiologist has called for the Pfizer and Moderna Covid shots to be suspended in Australia until the risk of heart complications is better understood, saying prior vaccines “have been pulled for much less”.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, who has emerged as one of the most high-profile figures in the anti-vaccine movement and is currently in Australia on a speaking tour, said it was a “no-brainer” and accused the medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), of ignoring the clear safety signal from its own reporting system once the rollout was well under way.

“People can be forgiving if new information comes in, we know people make mistakes — but once you get that information back, them not acting on it … the problem is the cover-up is worse than the crime,” he said.

The 45-year-old boasts an impressive resume but has become a polarising figure since last year, when he first called for the suspension of mRNA Covid vaccines and started making claims — which have been disputed by fact checkers — about their dangers.

Professor Marc Dweck, chair of clinical cardiology at the University of Edinburgh, told The Guardian in January that Dr Malhotra’s opinions were “misguided and in fact dangerous”.

“The vast majority of cardiologists do not agree with his views and they are not based upon robust science,” he said. “I would strongly urge patients to disregard his comments, which seem to be more concerned with furthering his profile … rather than the wellbeing of the public.”

Dr Malhotra, a National Health Service-trained consultant cardiologist and prominent public health commentator for many years in the UK — particularly on diet-related illnesses and the pharmaceutical industry — appeared on breakfast TV in 2021 to encourage Britons to get vaccinated.

But last July, his father, Dr Kailash Chand, former deputy chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) died unexpectedly of a cardiac arrest at 73.

“At the time people were trolling me, saying it was the vaccine, and I got really angry and blocked them, because that was not my mindset — but then I started to notice increased incidences in cardiac deaths and I started to wonder,” he told The Telegraph earlier this year.

He would come to attribute the death of his father, who he described as “one of the fittest guys I knew”, to the Covid booster shot six months earlier.

“Previous scans showed he had nothing significant, no underlying conditions,” he said.

Dr Malhotra has since courted controversy with inflammatory statements on social media linking high-profile deaths or injuries to the vaccine, such as the on-field cardiac arrest of American football player Damar Hamlin in January.

In April, Hamlin told reporters that “the diagnosis of what happened to me was commotio cordis”, or a “direct blow at a specific point in your heartbeat that causes cardiac arrest”.

Dr Malhotra has also linked unusually high excess death rates in many developed countries to the vaccination rollout.

That claim has been widely disputed by experts, who instead attribute the rise in deaths to factors including Covid itself, undiagnosed illnesses after lockdowns, and strain on health services.

In January, the BBC was forced to apologise after Dr Malhotra “hijacked” a live TV interview to claim that “Covid mRNA vaccines do carry a cardiovascular risk” and call for the rollout to be suspended pending an inquiry into excess deaths.

But Dr Malhotra is unrepentant.

“Basically, all patients with unexpected heart attacks or cardiac arrests have to be seen as being caused by the vaccine until proven otherwise — even several months later, so even, I would say, up to two years since having the vax,” he said.

“As a cardiologist, it is unusual to see sudden cardiac death. We have a mechanism of action, it would be unscientific not to include it as a potential cause. What the vaccine does is it accelerates the progress of coronary artery disease, so someone who otherwise wouldn’t have is going to present several months or a year later.”

In recent months Dr Malhotra has been on a “world tour of activism”, even making an appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience in April.

The description for his Australian tour says he will be “raising public awareness about vaccine injuries and providing a risk-benefit, evidence-based analysis of the Covid vaccines with special emphasis on cardiovascular complications and solutions”.

Despite speaking at a series of sold-out events in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and the Gold Coast, Dr Malhotra’s Australian tour has been met with a virtual media blackout.

Save for an appearance on Sky News Australia and an article in the small local publication Canberra Weekly about his speech there, most media outlets have steered well clear.

Dr Malhotra said it only highlighted the disconnect between the public and institutions including government, health and media.

“What’s really interesting is everyone comes up to me and is aware, and doctors are seeing stuff, but they are generally afraid to say anything,” he said, adding he was meeting many doctors at his talks.

“You could argue I’m speaking to an echo chamber … [but] the professionals are very supportive — they’re horrified, sad. When you speak to people on the ground, taxi drivers, shopkeepers, everyone is aware of someone they know, either a family member or friend, who suffered a serious adverse event.”

Dr Malhotra said the “objective evidence to support the fact there is a disconnect between the public and the establishment is people are not turning up” to get boosters.

According to the most recent Health Department figures, 16.5 million Australians, or 82 per cent, had their last Covid vaccine more than six months ago, making them “out of date” under the new definition.

Just under 3.1 million, or 15 per cent, have had a vaccine within the last six months.

“There is a massive drop among people who are recommended to have boosters,” he said. “That [loss of trust] is not a good recipe — where does that lead us next?”

Myocarditis and pericarditis — inflammation of the heart or lining around the heart — are known but rare side effects of the mRNA vaccines.

According to the TGA, myocarditis is reported in one to two out of every 100,000 people who receive Pfizer or Moderna, but young men and boys are more at risk.

“These are usually temporary conditions, with most people getting better within a few days,” the TGA says. “Vaccination against Covid-19 is the most effective way to reduce deaths and severe illness from infection. The protective benefits of vaccination far outweigh the potential risks.”

As of May 28, 2023, the TGA has received 138,730 total adverse event reports from 67.4 million doses administered, a rate of 0.2 per cent.

The medicines regulator has identified 14 reports where the cause of death was linked to vaccination, from 986 reports received and reviewed.

But Dr Malhotra is one of a growing number of health professionals arguing the true rate of serious adverse events is far higher than reported.

He accused the TGA of “wilful blindness”.

“Think about it from a psychological perspective — they are responsible in a way for approving and the mandating of these vaccines for all Australian citizens — it’s not easy to suddenly acknowledge what they’ve done is harm people to such a significant degree,” he said.

“It’s much easier to bury your head in the sand. I would be mortified to know what I’d done, even accidentally. But having said that, it is their job — there has to be accountability.”

He stressed he was a supporter of vaccines, and that’s why “people have to believe in the safety of vaccines”.

“Historically, traditional vaccines have a serious adverse event rate of one in one million — other vaccines have been pulled for much less,” he said, citing the 1976 swine flu vaccine which carried a one in 100,000 risk of Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome, and the 1999 rotavirus vaccine which was linked to bowel obstruction at a rate of one in 10,000.

In December, former AMA president Dr Kerryn Phelps broke her silence about the “devastating” vaccine injury she and her wife suffered after Pfizer.

In a bombshell submission to parliament’s Long Covid inquiry, the former federal MP revealed she had spoken with other doctors “who have themselves experienced a serious and persistent adverse event” but that “vaccine injury is a subject that few in the medical profession have wanted to talk about”.

“Regulators of the medical profession have censored public discussion about adverse events following immunisation, with threats to doctors not to make any public statements about anything that ‘might undermine the government’s vaccine rollout’ or risk suspension or loss of their registration,” she said.

Last week, Dr Phelps lent her tacit support to Dr Malhotra’s visit, sharing the Canberra Weekly article on social media in which he called for an inquiry into mRNA vaccines.

She declined to comment, however, saying she had not attended his talk in person.

Another high-profile physician, 2020 Australian of the Year Dr James Muecke, attended Dr Malhotra’s Adelaide talk over the weekend, happily posing for a photo afterwards.

But Dr Malhotra said there was a “culture of fear” with some people reluctant to even be seen attending his talks.

“All of this is suppression of free speech — Australians need to know their democracy is under attack,” he said.

The speaking tour is being arranged by the Australian Medical Professionals’ Society (AMPS) — one of several splinter organisations born out of opposition to Covid vaccine mandates in 2021 — and sponsored by Gold Coast-based internet radio station TNT Radio, which the website Crikey recently described as “a home for Australia’s fringe political figures and international conspiracy theorists”.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus in 2021 branded AMPS and other groups under the umbrella of Queensland-based Red Union as “fake unions run by LNP members and their associates set up to try and divide working people”.

Dr Malhotra countered that the smearing of anyone raising concerns as anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists or “cookers” was “part of the playbook” of the drug industry.

“One of the ways is through opposition fragmentation — it involves smearing and deplatforming those who are countering their narrative,” he said.

“This is not unusual. This is deliberate. If there are people who are in opposition, this is how we discredit them, this is how we frame them to other people in society. Big tobacco did it for many years — this is not new.”


Trucks stuck in tunnels face deregistration after tunnel chaos prompts crackdown

It's not the trucks that are at fault. It's the drivers. Such drivers should face a lifetime ban on driving trucks

Trucks more than 30 centimetres overheight that get stuck in tunnels would automatically be referred for deregistration under a proposed crackdown after the Harbour Tunnel was blocked three times in two days.

Premier Chris Minns called the situation “intolerable” and said the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator needed to get tough or NSW would seize back the power to suspend registrations.

NHVR acting chief executive Ray Hassall told the Herald the regulator wanted severe overheight offences – those exceeding 300 millimetres above the limit – to automatically trigger a referral to suspend the truck’s registration. “We want the problem to be fixed as soon as possible,” he said.

Roads Minister John Graham will meet regulator chairman Duncan Gay, himself a former roads minister, on Thursday to discuss the 57 overheight incidents in Sydney tunnels so far this year.

About half of those were in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, including two on Tuesday – one in the morning peak and one in the afternoon – that caused traffic chaos. The southbound entrance was briefly closed again at lunchtime on Wednesday when another truck set off the warning system.

In that case, Road Freight NSW said the truck was under the limit but a twisted piece of plastic protruding from the top of the truck – of unknown provenance – triggered the sensor.

The government is also looking at repositioning warning systems further back from the southbound tunnel entrance, to give drivers earlier notice they are above the limit, and introducing personalised warning signs with the truck’s number plate.

“The infrastructure in the run-up to the Harbour Tunnel is a mess,” Minns told Nine’s 2GB radio on Wednesday. “The slip lane that trucks can pull into if they’re overheight apparently is in front of the final stop sign. Once you pass that final stop sign you’re in the mouth of the tunnel.”

Minns said only three offending trucks had been taken off the road since August and a fourth attempt was derailed in court. He warned the regulator that if it did not toughen up, the NSW government would take back the power to suspend registrations.

“Clearly the system isn’t working,” Minns said. “Something has to change and if necessary we’ll take that responsibility back into state hands and enforce it ourselves. The situation as it currently stands is intolerable.”

Under national laws, the regulator must refer “aggravated” overheight incidents to Transport for NSW for a truck’s registration to be suspended – which is a large financial impost for operators.

Graham wrote to Gay earlier this week asking for the regulator to help make this process easier. “Operators ... should be held accountable,” Graham wrote. “On multiple occasions in the last two weeks, NSW commuters have been left inconvenienced and frustrated.”

Hassall said the regulator was keen to be more stringent. “We want to use severe overheight offences as an automatic trigger for making a referral,” he said.

The NHVR also has four “chain of responsibility” investigations under way that could lead to prosecutions of trucking operators, Hassall said, and is investigating causal factors behind the apparent spate of incidents.

The NSW government rebuffed calls from lobby group Business Sydney to ban large trucks from the tunnel altogether, saying such a move would divert too many heavy trucks to the bridge, and they would clog up the city.

Tuesday morning’s incident in the Harbour Tunnel reportedly had traffic queued back for up to 20 kilometres. The penalty for driving past low clearance signs on NSW tunnels and bridges is $4097 and 12 demerit points, which is the maximum permitted under current legislation.

Minns also flagged a police blitz in coming weeks. He said data indicated inexperienced operators and owner-drivers were the main problem, rather than big logistics companies. Hassall said that made sense.

At the Harbour Tunnel’s southbound entrance, overheight trucks first trip a digital sensor a kilometre away, which triggers a warning sign diverting them to the bridge. There is a second detection point 740 metres from the entrance, a third at 480 metres and fourth at 250 metres.


Alcohol consumption likely to continue, despite harms and parallels with tobacco

Alcohol consumption is declining across the world, including here in Australia.

According to the latest data, 31 per cent of Australians cut down the amount they drank in 2019.

Leading up to that year, the number of those who had stopped drinking altogether grew slightly, too.

Since the 2010s, movements such as "sober curious" have been increasingly embraced, while the non-alcoholic drinks industry has boomed.

It comes as alcohol's harms are increasingly recognised.

"We know that alcohol and ethanol in particular is considered to be a Class 1 carcinogen," Cancer Council Australia's Clare Hughes tells ABC RN's Future Tense.

"The evidence is really strong of the link between alcohol use and cancer risk."

Alcohol use cost Australia an estimated $66.8 billion in the 2018 financial year, with premature death accounting for almost $26 billion of this sum.

Parallels are being drawn between alcohol and tobacco use in Australia, which — after years of targeted campaigns and initiatives — is among the lowest among of the OECD nations.

But some argue that alcohol's history, and its distinct cultural position, mean it will follow a different trajectory.

A long history of drinking

Since tobacco's risks were recognised in 1950, its cultural acceptance has shifted drastically. Between 1993 and 2019, the number of Australians who smoked daily dropped from 25 per cent to 11.2 per cent.

But Carl Erik Fisher, an addiction physician and author of The Urge: Our History of Addiction, argues that alcohol is rooted in human civilisation.

Though sentiments have changed over time, including the 20th century's temperance movement, Dr Fisher says alcohol is "deeper in our cultural and social consciousness" due to how long humans have been drinking.

Sobriety here to stay with alcohol-free business booming
From non-alcoholic drink stores to booze-free beers, businesses are cashing in on the growing movement to go sober.

Some research indicates that humans have been consuming alcohol since 7,000 BC. By comparison, Dr Fisher says our understanding of tobacco as a widespread commodity, particularly cigarettes, is "young" and therefore less cemented in our cultural DNA.

He argues the prevalence of alcohol in human history makes it less likely to fade away.

Neurologically, alcohol is like a "shotgun spring across many different neural receptor systems, some of which are very powerfully sedative", Dr Fisher says.

Because of its range of effects, including an anticipation or sense of "chase" attached to wanting it, people will continue to drink alcohol compulsively, despite the risks, Dr Fisher says.

"That's where things turn from an impulsive, enjoyment-oriented or ... rewards-oriented pattern of use, to a more compulsive pattern of use."

Cognitive dissonance a barriers to change

The prevalence of alcohol in society could also be reducing appetites for policy change similar to that faced by tobacco.

There are social barriers to new policies, says Terry Slevin, the CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia.

He says policymakers are unlikely to introduce measures that confront their own alcohol consumption behaviours.

"These are people who understand science and know it very well but still don't like being made to feel uncomfortable and reflecting upon their own consumption behaviour," he says.

"And that's certainly the case for decision makers, politicians [and] policymakers in government.

"That cognitive dissonance is a very real fact that I've seen loud and clear for more than 30 years."




Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Distressing moment little boy watches on in tears while his father gets 'bashed' and pepper-sprayed by cop

Disturbing footage showing a police officer beating an innocent man in front of his sobbing son has been released after the cop's desperate bid to clear his name was dismissed.

NSW Senior Constable Jay Maleckas was found guilty of unnecessarily punching and using capsicum spray on father Steven McIvor outside the Castle Hill metro station in north-west Sydney on September 5, 2020.

The officer of 21 years also had his appeal against the conviction thrown out by Judge Stephen Hanley in Parramatta District Court on Monday, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Footage recorded by Mr McIvor and captured on police body cams shows the tense exchange which followed a plea for help from from the dad after he was confronted by a group of 'eshays'.

The beginning of the video shows Mr McIvor repeatedly asking Maleckas if he could speak to a sergeant and if he was under arrest while Maleckas blocked him from moving along the footpath.

Eventually Maleckas told the distressed father that he was under arrest 'to prevent a breach of the peace'.

Mr McIvor was then told to get on the ground and was tackled as his seven-year-old son cried while crouched next to him.

The young boy was then moved to the side and watched in horror as Maleckas capsicum-sprayed his father to the point he could no longer breathe and punched him nine times, causing his head to bleed profusely.

Throughout the assault, Mr McIvor told the constable he was willing to cooperate, saying: 'I'll do whatever you want sir, tell me!,' and 'I'm over it, I'm over it, let me go!'.

Eventually Maleckas let the father roll onto his side and strangely went over to comfort the hysterical boy.

While walking to the police car behind his handcuffed father, Mr McIvor's frightened son asked Maleckas: 'Can you not kill him?'

Maleckas told the boy: 'Oh I'm not going to kill him mate, I'm not going to kill him. He's alright.' The seven-year-old insisted: 'But you have a gun.'

Maleckas shut down the exchange, saying: 'Nah, I'm not going to shoot him. I'm not going to shoot him mate.'

The court heard Mr McIvor had called for police claiming 'about 50 little kids' had threatened him with violence on the metro station platform after he'd left the nearby Hillside Tavern.

He admitted he was 'slightly' affected by alcohol at the time and was in a 'heightened emotional state'.

However, police seemingly didn't respond to Mr McIvor's call so he started to walk towards the local police station to make a report.

It was on his way to the station that he was confronted by Maleckas, who had two probationary constables shadowing him to learn about the job, at about 4pm.

The judge noted neither of the rookies wanted to arrest Mr McIvor.

Video shows Maleckas yelled 'don't you bite me, don't you bite me you c***' at Mr McIvor in between capsicum-spraying and beating him.

Judge Stephen Hanley found Maleckas had 'no basis' to arrest Mr McIvor, noting: 'Even if it had been lawful the appellant (Maleckas) needed to use reasonable force.'

Outside the court on Monday, Mr McIvor said the verdict left him 'relieved'. '(It's been a) big three years,' he told Seven News.

Maleckas has resigned from the police.


QPS reveals number of officers sacked for refusing to get Covid-19 vaccine

The Queensland Police Service has sacked 38 people – including 16 officers – for refusing to get the Covid-19 vaccination after a mandate was introduced during the pandemic.

Nine officers remain suspended over the mandate and are understood to be awaiting a Supreme Court decision after the directive was challenged in the courts.

Justice Glenn Martin has reserved his decision on applications to overturn vaccination mandates.

“The number of Queensland Police Service members suspended at any point because of noncompliance with the Commissioner’s directions on mandatory vaccination is 201, comprising 116 police officers and 85 staff members,” a police spokesman said.

“Several matters remain ongoing with respect to the Covid mandate, and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Commissioner Katarina Carroll made the direction in 2021, telling officers they were more exposed to the risk of Covid-19 than most occupations as they were on the frontline.

“Recent modelling indicates the QPS has over 2 million contacts with the community annually,” she wrote at the time to staff.

“These interactions are often conducted in uncontrolled and sometimes volatile circumstances that routinely involve close proximity to members of the public, which further increases our risk of exposure. As such, I have a duty to protect both our employees and the broader community.”

However a number of staff refused to have the Covid vaccine and were later stood down and then suspended. Challenges were lodged in the courts and Justice Glenn Martin has reserved his decision on applications to overturn vaccination mandates.

In December last year Deputy Commissioner Shane Chelepy revoked the directive but said public health advice suggested the virus would persist in the community for some time “with the severity and risk presented scaling up and down at various intervals”.

“While the COVID-19 public health environment continues to remain unpredictable, following the removal of the Public Health Emergency Declaration and changes to the public health risk environment, the QPS has reviewed the current COVID-19 vaccination requirements and it has been determined to revoke Commissioner’s Directions No. 13 and 14 as of Monday 12 December 2022,” Mr Chelepy wrote.

“The Deputy chief health officer of Queensland was consulted as part of the review process conducted by QPS to determine the outcome of the direction.

“Following the revocation of the mandate, any conditions attached to exemptions granted by the Vaccination Exemption Committee (VEC) will no longer apply. Members who had conditions attached to their exemptions will be required to engage with their local management to arrange a return to business as usual.

“Members who were subject to discipline action for failure to comply with the Commissioner’s Directions will still be investigated and dealt with in line with our discipline processes.

“The outcomes for these employees will need to be reviewed on an individual basis, with consideration given to the nature and details of each matter.”


Vulnerable left behind in cashless welfare fiasco

Food, clothes and school excursions for children, rent to keep a roof over a family’s head – since when are these worth less than winning an inner-city vote?

The answer, apparently, is when federal Labor makes an election promise to win inner-city seats by abolishing the cashless debit card. So senior Labor minister Don Farrell told senate estimates last week.

The card in four trial sites across Australia was abandoned last year – without any new form of income management or support in place – to belatedly be replaced by a new voluntary “smart card”.

Last week in estimates we found how the smart card wasn’t that smart. At a cost to taxpayers of $217m, the card was being used by just 22 people from my electorate of Hinkler.

The year prior in Hinkler, around 7000 people were on the card: those aged 35 and under and receiving JobSeeker, Parenting Payment Partnered or Single and Youth Allowance (other). This meant 80 per cent of their welfare was placed on to the cashless card, ensuring there was money for the essentials like rent, food and clothing, leaving 20 per cent to be withdrawn in cash, or retained and saved.

That was before Labor cut the card up in a blaze of ideological zealotry, saying it was demeaning and taking away people’s human rights.

I ask you, how is it taking away human rights to leave welfare recipients to face huge cost-of-living pressures, rent increases, food and power price hikes, without the card to aid their financial management?

Labor’s timing could not have been worse for vulnerable children and families.

At a time when all the heavy lifting to set up the card, roll it out, test it and ensure it worked across the nation’s EFTPOS machines had been done; at a time when inflation was hitting record highs, when housing affordability and availability was becoming dire, Labor pulled the plug.

The smart card wasn’t even ready to put in the cashless debit card’s place, stranding people who wanted to retain any form of income management. And now, we find out that a massive $217m was wasted on the smart card; millions that could have been spent improving the quality of lives of vulnerable children and families.

Services Australia CEO Rebecca Skinner admitted in senate estimates last week that the smart card was a national system. That means the card can be accepted anywhere in Australia. The cashless debit card was accepted at EFTPOS machines anywhere in Australia.

Now that technology exists and welfare recipients can easily access EFTPOS payments across the nation, instead of limiting its use, I say expand its use across the nation so that welfare recipients have money for rent, food and clothes before welfare can be used on alcohol, cigarettes and other non-essential items.

But wait! The Labor left Twitter tweeters are choking on their soy lattes at the thought of destroying the rights of welfare recipients.

What about the rights of children to be fed and clothed, for domestic violence victims not to be bashed or intimidated to hand over their cash; for Australian taxpayers to be reassured that their hardworking taxes are going to actually help not hinder!

And remember, that welfare payments are meant to be a safety net until paid employment can be found. Post-Covid-19, Australia has been desperate for workers, mainly unskilled workers, in retail, admin, farming, trades, factories. Employers are still facing huge challenges in filling jobs.

If welfare recipients don’t like the mandatory cashless debit card/smart card, there are jobs to pick and choose from at their finger tips.

Sadly, Australia has a major problem with intergenerational welfare. In my electorate and many others, all kids have known is their parents and grandparents having been on welfare. In some cases, up to four generations of welfare dependence. It is the norm for these kids to believe that is what families do, they rely on welfare not work.

We’ve all seen way too many graphic and heart-wrenching images of towns in Australia in recent months where children aren’t being given the opportunities they should. Where crime, alcoholism, domestic violence and lawlessness are destroying children’s lives, their opportunities, ambition, dreams and hopes of a normal life.

Was an election promise by Labor to win votes in inner-city seats worth it?

It’s time to stop the political, ideological game playing and get the cashless debit card, by any other name, rolled out nationally for welfare recipients under the age of 35 to provide financial management, the essentials of life and safer, more functional communities for all.




Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Deadly effects of ingrained inflation as RBA likely to hike rates again

That the time of 2.30pm on the first Tuesday of each month can suddenly be of such grave consequence to so many Australians does not speak well for our national economy.

We will know on Tuesday afternoon which way the Reserve Bank of Australia will move on interest rates. After 11 increases since April 2022, it is possible the move will continue to be upward.

That will mean we have faced a full dozen rate increases in a little over a year, taking the official cash rate to just over 4 per cent.

The word “transitory’’ prefaced the word “inflation” for much of 2021. The developed world appeared to accept (or perhaps hoped) the rapid increase in the money supply sparked by the pandemic, along with surging consumer demand for dwindling supplies of consumer goods, had sparked an inflationary trend that would swiftly disappear.

Australians now know that was not true. They also know a Fair Work Commission decision last week allowed for a 5.75 per cent increase in award wages.

That will impact around 2.5 million people, or up to 20 per cent of the workforce, while there will also be a record 8.6 per cent rise in the minimum wage.

Few economists buy the theory that wage increases spark inflation, but almost none discount the theory that, once inflation rears its head, a potentially devastating wage-price spiral can swiftly develop as the wages dog chases the inflation tail.

That the Fair Work Commission has said its decision will only make a modest impact on total wage growth in 2023-24, and has specifically ruled out the possibility of a wage-price spiral developing, does not mean it won’t happen.

We now know the truth. Inflation is part of our lives, and will be for some time.

In fact, Terry McCrann writes on Tuesday that the RBA is already “still way behind the curve”.

Those mortgage holders exiting fixed-interest deals in the months ahead and facing massive hikes in their monthly repayments are enduring some sleepless nights, wondering how their families will survive.

Ordinary Australians now know something has fractured in the national economy.

Their anxiety is reflected in new numbers collected by Suicide Prevention Australia showing financial anguish is routinely cited in those battling suicidal thoughts.

Distress is highest among middle-wage earners, with almost 30 per cent of those living in households earning $100k-$149k a year reporting they have experienced suicidal behaviour in the past 12 months.

What happens on Tuesday afternoon is not merely a clerical exercise in national account keeping. It can translate into genuine anguish and despair among ordinary people – ordinary people who do the right thing.

They work hard, they obey the law, they pay their taxes and they try to improve their lot in life by taking out mortgages, only to be crushed by outside forces they cannot control.

The federal government cannot be held entirely responsible for this state of affairs, but it can do something in the year ahead to try to assist in bringing inflation under control and helping to cut interest rates.

It can stop spending so much money.


Australian business leaders to fight Labor on ‘same job same pay’ IR reforms

Australia’s builders, farmers, oil, gas, small and large business operators will launch a pre-emptive strike on Labor’s industrial relations plan with a public campaign warning the proposal will create a “red tape minefield” for employers, destroy workers’ flexibility and drive up consumer costs.

In an advertising blitz starting Monday, peak bodies including the Business Council of Australia (BCA), the National Farmers Federation, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Master Builders Australia, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APEA) and more will condemn the federal government’s proposed “same job, same pay” reforms as heavy-handed and unfair.

The full details of the government’s proposed changes, due to be unveiled later this year, will focus on what Labor has described as closing “loopholes” exploited by businesses to undercut workers’ pay.

Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has said the reforms would ensure subcontractors or labour hire workers were not deliberately paid less than their permanent colleagues for doing the same work.

But ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said “same job, same pay” was the “opposite of fair” as it restricted “reward for effort and experience”.

“It will take away the flexibility that workers want and businesses need,” he said.

BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott agreed and said Labor’s plan would be an “own goal” for the country because “jobs will go somewhere else”.

“This is going to really impact on workers … and will also make Australia an extremely unattractive destination for people to invest,” she said.

Council of Small Business Organisations Australia chair Matthew Addison said Labor’s changes must not be allowed to have “far reaching, unintended negative consequences”.

Master Builders Australia acting chief executive Shaun Schmitke said Labor’s changes “pose a serious threat” to the construction industry and threatened to strip subcontractors of their “autonomy,” ability to negotiate higher wages and be “free from the influence of unions.

Minerals Council of Australia chief Tania Constable said the “dangerous policy” would chase away local investment and jobs, and was unfair to workers.

“How is it fair that someone with six-months’ experience can demand the same pay as someone with six-years’ experience?,” she said.

National Farmers Federal boss Tony Mahar said “same job, same pay” would be a “red tape minefield” for farmers.

“Most farms are small, family-run businesses which don’t have lawyers or any HR department to turn to,” he said.

“It would spell chaos and confusion at peak periods like harvest.”

APPEA chief executive Samantha McCulloch said the oil and gas industry needed an industrial relations framework that supported flexibility and improved productivity to “ensure competitive and affordable gas supply” needed for the future.

Mr Burke has consistently rejected criticism from the business sector, arguing it was “not fair” for a major employer to agree to a pay rate with employees and then undercut that by using cheaper labour hire workers instead.

“It’s a loophole,” he said in May. “It needs to be closed and we’ll be closing it this year.”

Mining and Energy Union general secretary Grahame Kelly has also condemned employers’ “fearmongering” and said the new laws would be “good” for the industry.

“Same job, same pay … will be great for regional communities who lose out when big employers cut wages for half the workforce,” he said.


Queensland hospitals reveal patient wait times when brought in by ambulance

Patients are waiting nearly eight hours on stretchers across multiple Queensland hospitals, a situation that has been slammed as “devastating” and “stressful”.

New data shows public hospitals at Bundaberg, Caboolture, Cairns, Robina, Hervey Bay, Ipswich, Logan, Mackay Base, Brisbane’s Mater, Prince Charles, and Princess Alexandra all recorded ramping times of more than seven hours between August 2022 and February 2023.

In the worst case, at Princess Alexandra Hospital, a patient waited on a stretcher for eight hours.

Opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates, who had asked then Health Minister Yvette D’Ath for the data in a Question on Notice, said the unacceptable and chaotic situation was “devastating” and “stressful” for patients.

“Paramedics didn’t sign up for this vocation to spend an entire shift ramped while other calls go unanswered by Queenslanders in their hour of need,” Ms Bates said.

She said the LNP party proposed solutions to tackle ramping like “better resources, improving triaging and real time data monitoring.”

As this publication reported on Monday, more Queenslanders were turning to emergency departments for primary healthcare as a Medicare system “on its knees” was making seeing GPs unaffordable.

Queensland paramedics waited nearly 13,000 hours with patients outside emergency departments in January.

Mackay Hospital and Health Services acting chief executive Dr Charles Pain said the shortage of comprehensive bulk-billing clinics was contributing to EDs dealing with “more acutely unwell people” and more people arriving by ambulance.

The state’s biggest paediatrics units – Queensland Children’s Hospital and Prince Charles Hospital – both saw increases by as much as 30 per cent in almost every category of patient under 14 years of age according to the latest hospital performance data for January, February and March.

New Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said Queensland had the busiest ambulance service in the country, and was the only mainland state to provide the service “free at the point of use”.

“Despite (this) … Report on Government Services data shows the QAS outperforms most jurisdictions, including Victoria and New South Wales, in relation to ambulance response times.”

Ms Fentiman stated 72 per cent of Queensland patients were seen within the recommended time frames compared to 66.4 per cent in NSW, and that every category 1 patient was seen within the recommended two-minutes.

She said this was despite the number of category 1 and 2 patient presentations having more than doubled since 2013/14.

“The rise in the urgency of cases, and the reduction in the availability and affordability of primary care, means that people who would have otherwise sought care in the community are now coming to our emergency departments,” Ms Fentiman said.

“Some of these patients will be less urgent and may need to wait for some time before receiving care from an emergency doctor.”

Ms Fentiman said the Labor government had invested in measures to help patient flow including Satellite Hospitals, and fast-tracking new beds.


Kathleen Folbigg pardon exposes sad truth about many in our jails – DNA lawyer

A leading Queensland DNA lawyer says many innocent people are still languishing in jail and Kathryn Folbigg’s pardon must change the way the Australian justice system deals with wrongful convictions.

Ms Folbigg, the woman once dubbed Australia’s worst female serial killer over the deaths of four babies between 1989 and 1999, sensationally walked free from Grafton prison on Monday after serving 20 years for murder and manslaughter.

She was released after being pardoned by NSW Governor Margaret Beazley following an inquiry headed by the state’s former chief justice, Tom Bathurst KC, which found that scientific evidence had cast doubt over her guilt.

Jason Murakami, who established the Griffith University Innocence Project in 2001 to help free those wrongfully convicted of serious crimes, said Ms Folbigg’s pardon and the possible quashing of her convictions showed the system was flawed and needed an urgent overhaul.

He said the current petition process for pardons used in all Australian states was “outdated, cumbersome and far too slow”.

“In 2023, there is still reluctance by various players in the justice system that the system does get it wrong and there are victims of wrongful convictions sitting in jail as we speak,” he said.

“Ms Folbigg’s matter puts sharp focus on what we have been calling for for over years and that is a formalised process to deal with post-conviction claims.

“As a country, we are so far behind the UK, Canada and even New Zealand in relation to how we as a society deal with wrongful convictions.”

Mr Murakami, an adjunct professor in law and partner in Gold Coast firm Behlau Murakami Grant, co-wrote an international law journal called Murder, Wrongful Conviction and The Law which was published last month.




Monday, June 05, 2023

Shock development: Police believe Linden Malayta was shot dead

The Malaytas are Pacific islanders, not Aborigines. When they were younger, the chidren of the familty were a lawless terror in the Ayr/Home Hill area. It seems likely that at least some of them eventually became involved in more serious crime. And the death of Linden could well have been due to a falling-out among criminals, due to fear that he might "rat" on his associates

A teenage boy who disappeared two years before he officially became a missing person was likely gunned down, police believe, in a shocking development based on new evidence.

The shocking development in the mystery disappearance of 14-year-old Linden Malayta can be revealed today by the Courier-Mail after police received new evidence.

Police also revealed they believe the Ayr teen predicted his own death telling a friend he feared for his life.

Authorities will now set up multiple crime scenes in North Queensland as police pledge to not give up on the boy.

“He made comments (to that friend) in relation to individuals who were going to kill him, and that he had come to say goodbye to that person,” Townsville Child Protection and Investigation Unit officer-in-charge Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Miles said.

Linden told her “they won’t let me stop”, and shared how he thought these people were going to kill him.

She encouraged him to tell the police, but he said “no one could help” him.

“Someone out there knows what happened to Linden, it’s about those people coming forward now to bring some closure,” Detective Miles said.

Linden was last seen in Ayr in March, 2019, but it wasn’t until police checked in with his family in June, 2021 that they told officers they hadn’t heard from the teenager in years.

Police began investigating his disappearance, and in March this year announced they now believed Linden had been murdered and announced a $500,000 reward for information.

The new timeline of Linden’s final days alive suggest he travelled from Ayr to Townsville with two or three people on or around March 18, 2019.

Soon after, police believe he was shot dead by those people during an altercation.

“The information we have been provided is that there was a firearm that was incidental to his death,” Detective Miles said.

“We are unsure whether that death was the result of intentional or accidental use of that weapon.”

Detective Miles said police would now move to set up crime scenes at multiple locations across the region, including the houses of some associates.

“We’ve got some other information that is going to allow us to undertake some examinations of some historical crime scenes associated with that altercation, that we know of … we’ll be doing that in the near future.”

The Malayta family, a well-known family from Ayr, have been struck by tragedies in the last few years, with two other family members dying in tragic circumstances.

Linden’s cousin Robert Malayta, 18, drowned in the Ross River in February last year when he jumped into the water to try and escape police after fleeing from a crashed stolen car.

Selwyn Malayta, Linden’s uncle, drowned in Plantation Creek in Ayr after wandering into the water late at night in September.

There were initially suggestions Linden had left Ayr to start a new life and cut off contact with his family, with some inquiries leading police to South Australia. This was never confirmed.

More than four years had passed since Linden was last seen but Detective Miles called on anyone who has information to come forward.

“(The length of time) certainly has probably impacted the memories of individuals who interacted with Linden, certainly with that passage of time small snippets of information may well have been forgotten that could be crucial to establish his movements.

“We remain positive that more information will come to hand and no matter what, we won’t stop doing what we are doing until we are able to bring this matter to a resolution.

Linden was last seen wearing his favourite red baseball cap and had a distinctive walk due to clubfoot.


Credlin: Why trial of VC winner is not the whole story

Applying armchair standards to what happens during the heat of war is absurd. Killing someone who has been trying to kill is a normal reflex in war

While a damning court judgment reveals terrible mistakes were made in Afghanistan, it’s far from clear that it’s just Ben Roberts-Smith, and some of his SAS comrades, who’ve made them, writes Peta Credlin.

When does a beaten enemy go from being a combatant to a prisoner, and where’s the line between the necessary brutality of war and criminality? Obviously, these distinctions matter and, in the case of Ben Roberts-Smith, it seems that these lines have been crossed.

But the fact that some of his fellow warriors, as their testimony shows, regarded him as a hard “soldier’s soldier”, while others thought him a murderer, suggests that very different interpretations are possible, even if the facts can be agreed.

And while it’s pretty clear, following last Thursday’s damning court judgment, that terrible mistakes have been made, it’s far from clear that it’s just the VC recipient, and some of his SAS comrades, who’ve made them.

The Australian soldiers comprising our task group in Uruzgan province were really three different armies. Of the roughly 1500 troops deployed at any one time, about half were essentially support personnel, meaning they rarely left the comparative safety of the heavily fortified base.

I visited this base at Tarin Kot on four separate occasions and it resembled a modern industrious village, in the middle of lunar-like landscape, surrounded by guns, wire and concrete.

In addition to those inside the base, there were also about 400 regular infantry, in what we called the “mentoring task force”, whose job was to patrol the fertile valleys, usually with elements of the Afghan national army, sometimes to clear but mostly to hold ground that was safe for the civilian population (more or-less loyal to the Afghan government) to go about their lives.

Then there was the 400-strong Special Operations Task Group, alternately SAS or commandos, who several nights a week would venture forth into the badlands on what were essentially hunter-killer missions, to find and destroy those who were thought to be hardened Taliban insurgents.

It was not uncommon for our special forces operators to have done six or more tours of duty, mostly dealing out death to a less-skilled enemy, but sometimes having it dealt back to them.

I’m not sure that any of us, who have never been exposed to deadly combat, can fully grasp just how psychologically fraught and morally deadening this could be. That’s why I won’t join the pile-on against Roberts-Smith, typified by the vindicated journalists (who have themselves never risked a bullet for our country) now triumphantly describing him as a liar, a bully and a murderer.

Yes, he may have been all those things, in some instances, but the judgment against him last week was a civil law matter, with a lower burden of proof (on the ‘balance of probabilities’) and not a war crimes trial operating at the criminal standard of proof (‘beyond reasonable doubt’). Even if he is charged (and that hasn’t occurred to date) and found criminally guilty, that won’t be the whole story.

Our country sent him and his fellow soldiers on hardest job of all, to kill people who would kill us for our beliefs, and to protect people who just wanted to live and worship in their own way. And if mistakes were made, at least some of the fault lies with us too – and with the senior commanders, now tut-tutting about the excesses of military culture.

Plainly, a succession of risk-averse governments and military hierarchies expected too much of the SAS and the commandos, whose extraordinary level of skill and professionalism was thought to render them less likely to suffer casualties than normal infantry.

Then there’s the resentment inherent when particular soldiers are singled out for gallantry awards, given that soldiering takes a team, as well as brilliant individuals, with each member exposed to similar deadly risks.

Roberts-Smith became a target, as well as a hero, the instant he gained the ultimate accolade of the VC. I might add, given all the talk he should be stripped of his VC without a criminal conviction, that the Victoria Cross is a not a “best and fairest” award. It’s a medal for ‘most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent valour or self-sacrifice’ and I defy anyone to read his citation for bravery on 11 June 2010 and say he didn’t deserve it.

Of course, even in war, our soldiers are expected to act honourably, and it’s never right to harm prisoners. On the other hand, we have to accept that terrible things happen in war, especially after people have seen their mates slaughtered, or brought in prisoners reasonably suspected of making suicide vests, or being a bombmaker, only to see them released on some legal technicality.

Fits of moral indignation seem to be characteristic of these times. But the pariah status we seem so happy to confer on people sometimes turns out to be undeserved.

Think Cardinal George Pell, convicted and jailed before the High Court unanimously exonerated him 7-0. Think of the Bruce Lehrmann case, where a righteous trial-by-media declared him guilty of raping Brittany Higgins but, as the Sofronoff inquiry goes on, is starting to look more and more like an orchestrated show trial to score a political point.

What’s happened to the old presumption that people are innocent until proven guilty; or the understanding that only those without sin should be the first to a cast stone?

Our greatest military historian, Charles Bean, knew something about flawed heroes. Writing of the original Anzacs, he said: “The good and the bad, the greatness and the smallness of their story will stand. Whatever of glory it contains, nothing now can lessen”.

My respect for those who wear our uniform has not diminished.


Flawed franking legislation must be abandoned. Just look at the UK to know why

We have been publicly fighting for the preservation of Paul Keating’s franking system since Labor’s proposed changes in March 2018. For the sake of every Australian, let’s hope and pray the government comes to its senses and abandons the current changes, which industry and taxation experts, lawyers and academics all agree are flawed.

The Senate economic committee, chaired by Labor senator Jess Walsh, has clearly heard us all.

Now it is time for the government to show leadership by stepping up and abandoning this deficient proposed legislation, as the unintended consequences are just too high.

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones seems to agree. “If there are having unintended consequences, we’ll look at that.”

He doesn’t have to look too far. I’m currently in London, meeting with fund managers and business leaders.

Two things come up repeatedly – Australia is the envy of London’s investment community, and the Australian government’s plans to fiddle with franking will be a disaster for Australia.

The lesson the people I speak to keep pressing is this: Britain once had a structure similar to our dividend imputation system, but unfortunately the changes their government made helped downgrade London’s reputation as a financial centre, forced their greatest companies to move offshore for funding and have seen the nation’s retirement savings flee for foreign markets.

Here’s a quick history lesson: in 1973, Britain implemented a system of company taxation called the Advance Corporation Tax (ACT).

Like our own franking credit system, the ACT aimed to prevent double taxation of corporate income in Britain by providing a tax credit to shareholders that reduced any tax payable on their dividends by an amount equal to the tax already paid by the company.

Under ACT, companies paid tax on distributed profits at 30 per cent and that tax payment was credited against their shareholders’ tax liability on the dividends.

So far, so familiar.

Unlike Australia, Britain abolished its dividend imputation system in 1999 following a series of changes the government made that resulted in the system losing its value. Still sound familiar?

In the two decades since, institutional ownership of companies listed on the UK sharemarket has plummeted – a completely unforeseen consequence of a change that has now left policymakers contemplating laws to force pensions and insurance companies to buy British shares.

The numbers are stunning.

In 2000, insurance companies and pension funds owned 38.7 per cent of the British sharemarket.

By 2010 ownership had fallen to 14.4 per cent and by 2020, they owned just 4.3 per cent.

Where did the money go? Almost all of it has been moved overseas into foreign companies and alternative assets.

The reason is clear: dividends paid from British stocks to British shareholders are now taxed twice.

And while the Albanese plan so far is not as drastic as scrapping franking entirely, the complicated interplay of capital markets means the consequences of any weakening of dividend imputation will be severe.

On the surface, the latest proposed change seems simple: the government wants to stop companies paying fully franked distributions that are funded by a capital raising and from conducting fully franked off-market buybacks.

But the proposal will have a significant impact on Australian companies’ ability to pay fully franked distributions and will discourage the normal process of investment, economic growth and capital formation in Australia.

The proposed legislation promotes debt over equity, discourages large, mature companies from paying tax in Australia and will lead to a significant increase in the budget deficit.

If superannuation funds ultimately move money out of Australia, it’s not just bad news for local business, it’s bad news for every single one of us: from our youth looking for a job to anyone saving for retirement.

Because of the changes to dividend imputation in Britain, pension schemes now hold 72 per cent of their investments in fixed income, real estate and other assets – assets that typically offer lower returns than equities and employ fewer people.

Lower returns mean less money saved for retirement and a lower standard of living for retirees.

Contrast that experience to Australia.

Our franking system has encouraged Australian companies to invest in Australia, employ Australians, pay tax in Australia and emboldened Australian shareholders to do the same, in turn creating more local jobs and more ownership of Australian companies by Australian citizens.

Our franking system encourages all Australians, from mum and dad investors to large industry superannuation funds, to support and invest in Australian companies.

This directly reduces the cost of capital for our businesses, improving shareholder returns and allowing all of us to look forward to a safe and prosperous retirement.

Things are now so bad in Britain that London’s most famous companies are drawing up plans to move their listings to New York. A new law has even been proposed to force pension funds to invest 5 per cent of their capital into companies based in Britain to help bolster the local economy.


Crisis point: Sick kids inundate EDs as hospital system buckles

This was inevitable. New government regulations, restrictions and taxes have made it more difficult for private GPs to provide "free" (bulk-billed) care to all so hospitals are the only alternative now for most lower income people

Queensland emergency departments are being inundated with sick kids and adults, with as much as 30 per cent more needing hospital care as access to bulk-billing GPs becomes scarce.

Families struggling to cope with cost-of-living pressures and a lack of bulk-billing doctors are being blamed for a surge in the number of children presenting to Queensland’s emergency departments.

The state’s biggest paediatrics units – Queensland Children’s Hospital and Prince Charles Hospital – both saw increases by as much as 30 per cent in almost every category of patient according to the latest hospital performance data for January, February and March.

Queensland emergency departments divide patients into categories from one to five, with category one patients representing the most severe illnesses or injuries and category five the least urgent.

Regional centres like Mackay, Toowoomba, Rockhampton saw increases in every category of patients aged 14 years and under, with Mackay seeing a whopping 100 per cent increase in category two patients seeking medical attention.

Townsville University Hospital had a 44 per cent surge in Category two children (516) and 34 per cent for Category three, Ipswich Hospital saw a 41 per cent jump in category two (920) and 32 per cent in category four (1046) while Sunshine Coast University Hospital had a 22 per cent increase in category two (720) and 60 per cent in category five (80).

Gold Coast University Hospital had spikes across nearly all categories including a 79 per cent jump in category five patients (95) while Logan and Cairns Hospitals also surged across all categories.

Over half a million people presented to the state’s emergency departments in the last quarter with Health Minister Shannon Fentiman blaming the high numbers on population growth and difficulties in people being able to get into a GP or find one that has bulk-billing.

“Clearly we have huge population growth here in Queensland, and yes, we have a primary care system that was neglected for many, many years by the federal government,” she said.

“If you talk particularly to people in regional Queensland, it is very difficult to find a GP appointment and it’s expensive because not many of them are bulk-billing.

“So people wait, and they don’t go and see their GP, they don’t get access to primary health care in their community, they get sicker and then they present in an emergency department.”

Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine president Dr Dan Halliday said the federal government’s decade-long resistance to thawing the freeze on Medicare rebates had forced the hand of many GPs to ditch bulk-billing, including to children and pensioners.

He said it was a misconception that all GPs bulk-billed children 16 and under, with this decision entirely up to each individual practice or GP.

“We know that if you do provide good quality primary care, that you actually reduce the presentations and admissions to the emergency departments,” Dr Halliday said.

“Bulk-billing in certain areas is on its knees, and in some areas that it’s ceased altogether, which is an absolute shame.”

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Dr Bruce Willett said he feared that without a permanent moratorium on payroll tax for GPs, the Medicare reform would just be eaten up in payroll tax.

“It was actually really rare for children not to get bulk-billed, but the rebate got down to the stage where (it was no longer viable),” he said.

He said the issue of payroll tax “sucking money” out of Medicare affected every state and territory in the country and needed to be taken to national cabinet.

But Dr Boulton said the best way that the state government could alleviate the pressure was a permanent moratorium on payroll tax.

“The amnesty doesn’t apply to new practice, so a practice anywhere in Queensland will be liable to pay the patient tax when they see their doctor, which we know is not fair,” she said.

“The evidence is very clear that if governments support patients accessing their GP, those patients will be healthier and they’re less likely to visit the hospital and it will reduce the strain on hospitals.”




Sunday, June 04, 2023

Locals outraged as popular outback tourist campsite closed to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage

Locals in a small Queensland outback town have slammed council’s decision to close a popular camping site that draws hordes of tourists every year, due to concerns the area’s Aboriginal heritage is being “trampled on”.

The popular Camooweal billabong camping site on the banks of the Georgina River, located about two hours west of Mt Isa close to the Northern Territory border, is a popular destination during the dry season from May to September.

But last week, Mt Isa City Council announced that public access to the area, including the banks of the Georgina River and Lakes Francis and Canellan, would be closed for six months — including for the rest of the 2023 tourist season.

The site has been managed by the Myuma Group through a sublease with the council since 2021. Myuma represents the traditional owners of the upper Georgina River region.

Mt Isa Deputy Mayor Phil Barwick told ABC Radio on Monday both council and Myuma wanted to protect the area’s environment and cultural heritage.

“We’ve been trying to work through that and while it’s going well, at the same time the area’s been quite trampled on, if you like, so we need to recognise that as well,” he said.

In its statement last week, the council said the decision to close the sites for camping was “to protect cultural heritage and was made following discussions held between Mount Isa City Council and representatives of the sites’ lessees and native title claimant holders”.

“Public access to the sites will remain open to all permanent Camooweal residents for the purpose of fishing and water activities, and for people who hold the appropriate permits under the Stock Route Management Act 2002,” council said.

“Appropriate signage will be installed at the entrances of the three sites — the Barkly Highway, Urandangi Road and Highlands Plains Road — advising of the temporary public access closure, with the lessees to install fencing and gates at the entrances.

“Other than rubbish bins, there are no other amenities in the camping areas. Council collects rubbish from the Georgina River site each week.”

In a statement, Mt Isa Mayor Danielle Slade said council appreciated the sites are popular with campers every tourist season, but the temporary closure was important in order for the cultural heritage sites to be assessed and processes put in place for their preservation.

“Council apologises for the inconvenience the temporary public access closure may cause and thanks people for their patience and understanding while this matter is assessed,” she said.

“Hopefully the temporary closure will have a positive effect on businesses in Camooweal, with campers and caravanners instead staying in the town’s caravan park.”

Yahoo News reports the decision has rocked the small town of just 236 residents, with local businesses fearing tourists will bypass Camooweal entirely.

“If they close it, yeah it’s going to affect us,” Camooweal Roadhouse manager Sandeep Kumar told the outlet on Monday.

Mr Kumar told Yahoo News he often sees travellers who come back year after year to stay at the camping grounds.

“They’re regularly coming here in the store and they’re buying fuel and groceries and stuff, so if that happens, nobody is going to stay here, you know,” he said. “That’s the favourite spot to stop here.”

One reader wrote, “Shows how much the Mayor knows of Camooweal. Absolutely zilch … If the river is not available to tourists — this town will be a ghost town. Well done Mount Isa City Council. Don’t bother funding the Drovers Festival — the attendees will have nowhere to stay. Why would you do this at the start of a tourist season? Why do it at all?”

Another said, “Now watch the town die! Who’s going to bother stopping when they can’t camp?”

Some locals have speculated similar closures will occur around the country with the introduction of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

In April, a popular Victorian campsite was also closed over Aboriginal heritage concerns.

Bear Gully Campground, located within the Cape Liptrap Coastal Park south of Melbourne, was closed by the state government’s peak body for the management of National Parks, Parks Victoria.

The sudden move came after advice that camping and recreational activities within the park may have impacted an Aboriginal place and its artefacts.

Overlooking Wilsons Promontory, the Bear Gully camping area is renowned for its unpatrolled surf beach suitable for “rockpooling, fishing, surfing and coastal walks”, according to the Parks Victoria website.


Infill housing might be our best hope of ameliorating the housing shortage

Put more housing in existing suburbs -- if councils and the NIMBYS will let you

It is a year for divisive debates – the kind that pit generations against one another and make people hateful and racist. While you’d think the Indigenous Voice to parliament might head that ticket, it comes a distant second to the urgency and ire in the housing debate.

Housing has become a culture war with a number of fronts: the first is intergenerational resentment, the second is population and the third is ideology.

Intergenerational conflict has been with us since teenagers were invented, so no surprises the generations are at loggerheads over shelter as well. The conflict is simple: the older generations as a whole (yes, I hear you, not necessarily individuals) own more stuff. That stuff includes houses – sometimes big ones and sometimes many of them. The younger generations don’t own a lot of stuff yet. So, they need to buy it, cajole it, or vote it off the older generations.

This is not a new conflict but it is exacerbated by the fact Australia’s economic sunshine has disappeared momentarily behind a cloud of inflation. Inflation has pushed up mortgages, rents and the cost of living more generally. The people doing best in this environment are those who own their home outright and benefit when interest returns on deposits are high – that is, generally, the oldies.

Recent data from Commonwealth Bank found that spending by over-55s has increased above the inflation rate and those over 75 are spending 13 per cent more than previously. And they’re doing it ostentatiously – Baby Boomers are spending 18 per cent more on eating out than last year, snaffling Wagyu and chocolate treasure chests, no doubt, at kitsch, made-for-Instagram, French-theme brasseries. Of course, these were also the people who had less to spend when rates were low for a very long time.

Still, appropriating Millennial culture by booking out the ’grammable restaurants is a direct affront to under-35s, who are cutting back on all the fun stuff. With reality getting all too real, no wonder BeReal, the “authenticity” app, is no longer popular.

Philip Lowe’s suggestion to get a flatmate to help manage costs has merit – I once got myself a boyfriend for the same reason, a long time ago, in a country far away – but the generational optics of a Boomer with a large house in an inner-cityish suburb telling young people to share bog roll was never going to be great. Now he’s got the people who haven’t managed to buy a house off side, as well as those who are dealing with rising mortgage rates that were predicted to stay low.

The precariousness of renting feels more acute as prices rise and immigration starts to bounce back post-COVID. The only thing more terrifying than rent rises is the idea that a wave of high-skilled workers with high-skilled incomes is about to arrive in Australia and outbid locals for the mould-free rentals. This is exacerbated by the fact that, though there is notionally full employment, some large companies have been laying off workers. In news that absolutely everybody but the die-hard work-from-home class saw coming, tech giant Atlassian “rebalanced” 500 people off its books in March.

Then Commonwealth Bank offshored 40 roles to India in April and rounded that up by another 200 in May. (I hear HR isn’t worried, though – those who remain have been given two days of paid bereavement leave when their pet dies, so internal staff satisfaction surveys should record a dead-cat bounce.)

Where low-income cohorts have historically been most affected by population policy, now it’s the educated classes who are feeling off-kilter. But you won’t get any points for suggesting to out-of-work coders that they should learn to clean.

If this seems like a mix of the serious and the silly, it’s because that is exactly what life’s most fraught issues are underpinned by. Existential angst is intertwined with status anxiety.

People who own houses fear anything that will devalue them. Building more stock and infilling suburbs would push down prices, according to Centre for Independent Studies economist Peter Tulip. While developments in desirable areas would fetch higher prices, higher-income people moving to live there would free up stock lower down the chain, as people upgrade to suit their circumstances.

And Tulip argues that “if we put more money into construction, then the value of the housing stock will fall”. This would make housing more affordable for those who want to buy, but of course it would decrease the value of existing housing. He believes this is one of two reasons why increasing supply is so politically difficult. The other is simply fear of change. “It’s the same mentality that opposed decimal currency or daylight saving,” he says.

But Sydney University economist Cameron Murray reckons the current feeling of crisis is driven by the anxious educated classes. He calls them “the forgotten elite” – people in their 30s and 40s “who thought they’d be living in the inner city but now feel they can’t”.

“It’s the same half a dozen suburbs we always hear about needing more housing,” Murray says. “In the US, in California, where this culture war over housing has been imported from, it’s always about Berkeley, as though you can’t live anywhere else.”

Tulip is a YIMBY – Yes In My Back Yard – and believes the world needs more YIMBYs to embrace medium-density infill accompanied with well-planned infrastructure. Murray says YIMBYism is just another status play.

In the current circumstances, making YIMBYs cool seems like a win-win solution to me, whether it’s for silly or serious reasons. Concentrate on good town planning to build up thriving cities and let the rest take care of itself.


Penalizing obstructive political "protests": Reforms to South Australia's Summary Offences Act

After more than 14 hours of overnight debate, mainly due to the filibustering efforts of the upper house crossbench MPs and the unwillingness of the major parties to adjourn, the reforms passed just before 7am on Wednesday with three minor amendments.

It means the maximum fine for obstructing a public place jumps to $50,000 and three months jail.

The government — and opposition for that matter — say it will give the courts the discretion to impose harsher penalties than they could under the existing regime.

The trigger for the changes was two days of disruption on Adelaide's streets earlier this month by climate change protesters amid an oil and gas industry conference.

They were floated by the Liberal opposition, quickly adopted by the government with minimal internal or external consultation and shunted through the lower house of parliament in less than half an hour with bi-partisan support.

Between debate in the two houses, there was backlash from human rights groups, the Law Society of South Australia and the union movement, which helped get Labor elected in 2022.

The state government has argued the changes are not anti-protest laws.

When he spoke in parliament on May 18 as the changes were introduced, Premier Peter Malinauskas said the government considered protest and speaking up as "an integral part of our vibrant democracy".

"The government does not seek to prevent members of the community from having their say," he told the house.

Earlier in the speech, he said:

"Irrespective of the causes that protests are aimed at, the way that the protests are increasingly conducted puts the safety of the public at risk."

A press release issued by the premier's office shortly after the rapid passage of the bill in the House of Assembly was titled "Tough new penalties for dangerous and obstructionist protesters".

"We have swiftly introduced legislation that increases the penalties for those who do not seek to comply with appropriate arrangements when it comes to protesting peacefully," he told reporters at the time.

Mr Malinauskas has repeatedly pointed out it's the Public Assemblies Act that governs organised protests, a piece of legislation itself that makes no mention of the word protest or protesters.

"There is nothing changing to that. Not one word. Not one comma. Not one full stop," he said.

Others have seen the impact of the Summary Offences Act changes on protesting in South Australia differently, including allies of the government.

"This bill fundamentally threatens our ability to take action like this, in the interests of our members and the South Australian community."

They are the words of Leah Watkins, secretary of the Ambulance Employees Association, as she addressed a crowd on Tuesday morning rallying against the bill as Labor MPs met at parliament.

As a senior figure in the paramedics union, in recent years she has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Peter Malinauskas and Labor MPs to push for better resourcing for the state's ambulance service.

"The fact that we are facing these laws without any community consultation, without any engagement with the community whatsoever, is outrageous," said the president of SA Unions Dale Beasley to the same rally.

He went on to add he was "really worried" about what these laws were going to mean for workers who take action in and outside their workplace.

"This is a very serious piece of legislation that deserves time and consideration and that's not something that we've had," he said.

Steph Key, a former Rann Labor government minister, told hundreds of people gathered on Festival Plaza there was "no excuse" for the way the legislation was handled.

"By ramming through that legislation, there's no excuse for it, and I don't support it at all," she said.

"We really do need to make it clear that protesting is a right that we should have."

The government's decision to make its move so quickly could be seen to have some echoes of the Rann-era so-called "announce and defend" style of leadership — an approach his successor Jay Weatherill tried to distance himself from.

Or maybe the Malinauskas-led administration just wanted to move quickly so the issue didn't drag on, nor give the opposition the upper hand.

When asked whether this was his government's Land Tax moment — a reform that fired up regular Liberal Party supporters last term – Mr Malinauskas said that issue didn't get resolved by the parliament for "almost a year" while Summary Offences reforms were sorted "relatively quickly".

But, whatever the reason, tensions have been publicly inflamed with traditional friends of the Labor parliamentary party for the second time in little more than a year, following the back and forth over changes to the state's Return to Work scheme.

After the bill passed, Mr Malinauskas said it wasn't a question about people's ability to protest.

"It's a question of every other citizen in the state that wants to be able to move through the city safely and with confidence that it's happened in an ordered way," he said.

As things stand, though, the Malinauskas government's relations with some key unions — the people who pay the bills at election time — have been hit.

It has left some on the left side of politics wondering whether that fight could and should have been avoided.


Just 3pc of tech graduates are job-ready, Australian Information Industry Association survey finds

Only 3 per cent of Australian tech companies believe graduates are job-ready after finishing university, with many taking up to 12 months of training to reach required productivity levels.

The lack of readiness is tightening the overall jobs market, forcing smaller firms that can’t afford to train staff without experience to fork out hefty sums while competing against major companies for highly-skilled workers.

The state of the market amid Australia’s current skills and labour shortage is severely limiting the ability for Australian tech start-ups and small firms to be innovative, Australian Information Industry Association chief executive Simon Bush said.

“Feedback from our members is that on average it takes between six to 12 months to train a graduate and while larger companies can take on that overhead and the cost of training, for smaller companies it is a real handbrake on productivity,” he said.

The 3 per cent job-ready rate, which arrived from the AIIA’s fourth Digital State of the Nation survey, had fallen from 5 per cent in the previous year.

Across the nation, cybersecurity positions are the most in demand in the tech space followed by artificial intelligence roles.

To meet demand, many tech companies had moved away from hiring people university degrees and were actively hiring workers who had recently completed micro-courses and vocational training courses, the AIIA found.

Some of the training provided in short courses was similar to on-the-job learning, and easing the pressures on companies to train staff, Mr Bush said.

“We’re finding that our members really are looking to hire people from non-traditional areas, in other words, non-ICT areas in order to meet demand,” he said. “And in relation to cyber security, micro courses are the what the market wants.”

The local tech market will not be as active as previous years over the next 12 months, with 26 per cent of companies unsure if they would actively hire this year, the survey found.

The pulling back on expanding staff headcounts may drive some pressure down on graduate salaries, which The Australian revealed last year had been as high as $147,000 to $350,000 at the top-paying firms.

“What’s happening with consumers, and cost of living, inflation and interest rates there, companies are not looking to grow their business as much as they perhaps were going to last year in terms of hiring people,” Mr Bush said.

The roles which demand a premium are cybersecurity and AI, with senior staff in those fields in more demand than ever before. “If you are an AI expert in a technology company, right now you are a rock star,” Mr Bush said.

Of those looking to hire, the intention to bring on local workers had grown to 69 per cent, up 5 per cent from the previous years when borders were closed.

The major factor driving companies toward hiring overseas staff was the skills shortage. Labour costs were another factor, cited by 17 per cent of staff, down from 50 per cent the previous year.