Monday, February 07, 2011

Green tape makes the poor poorer

An extreme illustration of what a shortage of building land leads to can be seen in the house pictured below. It is a former workman's cottage in an inner Western suburb of Sydney, is infested by termites, has no floor and is uninhabitable. It has just sold for $800,000

According to English humourist Auberon Waugh, the urge to pass new laws must be seen as an illness, not much different from the urge to bite old women.

Perhaps Julia Gillard recognised this in abandoning the cash-for-clunkers scheme. Designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this was to give new car buyers a $2000 rebate to scrap pre-1995 cars.

Premature scrapping of serviceable older cars creates a used-car shortage, and this raises the prices of used cars that are mainly bought by younger and poorer people. Giving cash for clunkers would have allowed politically powerful people to parade a phony environmental sensitivity while getting others to pay the cost.

It is not the only example of such hypocrisy. Self-selected political elites also use environmental concerns to prevent housing developments. Even though urban land comprises only 0.5 per cent of Victoria, and even less for Australia as a whole, regulations restrict city growth.

This creates housing land shortages, increases the cost of land for housing and inflates new house costs.

People without their own homes lose out. But existing homeowners benefit from increased house prices and can therefore have much to gain from supporting planning restraints in the name of environmentalism.

Last week, the think-tank Demographia released price data for detached housing in 325 housing markets in seven countries. Prices in Melbourne and the rest of Australia were, except for land-starved Hong Kong, the highest among the countries examined.

The analysis showed that to buy the average Australian house in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth required 7.1 years of the average household's income (nine years for Melbourne). For comparable US cities, it is 3.3 years, and in Britain, where houses are smaller, 5.1 years. For the sample of 82 world cities with populations over one million, Melbourne's house prices are the 79th highest (Sydney's are 81st).

Demographia demonstrated that government planning restraints creating a scarcity of housing land were the overwhelming cause of Australia's high prices.

Self-proclaimed housing experts have denied that high housing prices in Australia result from our planning and regulatory system. Some have said high prices in Australian capital cities are seen in all seaside cities. Yet house prices in US coastal cities like Houston and Tampa are a third of Melbourne's. Inland Bendigo's house prices are actually double those of Houston, the world's space research centre.

Some said high Australian house prices stem from low interest rates making them more affordable. Yet interest rates are far lower in Britain, the US and Canada, but houses are cheaper.

Others blamed high house prices on demand pressures from immigration. But low house prices in cities like Houston, Dallas and Atlanta are accompanied by far higher immigration levels than in Australian cities.

The Demographia analysis shows the high Australian house costs are overwhelmingly caused by the high costs of land. For a block on the Melbourne outskirts planning regulations, on my reckoning, add $80,000 to the cost of a new house.

Government intrusion in our lives reduces overall prosperity and often the poor face particularly adverse impacts.


Some babies' brains damaged by mothballs

So they want to ban a very common and very effective household precaution. Why do we all have to suffer for the benefit of a few? Should not the at-risk groups be responsible for avoiding whatever is harmful to them? And whatever the do-gooders suggest in place of napthalene will undoubtedly be found to be also problematical eventually (as with trans fats). I'm going to stock up on mothballs. I have been using them to good effect for decades

EXPERTS have called for a ban on the sale of mothballs containing the chemical naphthalene, warning that they pose a risk of severe blood problems and even brain damage for significant numbers of Australian babies.

About 5 per cent of Australians of Asian, African, Middle Eastern or Mediterranean descent have an inherited enzyme deficiency, and affected babies can suffer blood-cell breakdown if placed too close to fabrics stored with naphthalene mothballs.

In severe cases this causes jaundice and the yellow pigment linked to jaundice, called bilirubin, can build up in the brain. This causes a condition called kernicterus, triggering neurological problems and sometimes brain damage, The Australian reports.

Australians of predominantly Anglo-Saxon or indigenous background are less commonly affected, but naphthalene can also cause red cell breakdown in those without the G6PD deficiency.

In a letter to the Medical Journal of Australia published today, three pediatric experts from Sydney and one from Christchurch say at least three babies suffered from the brain complications in the past three years. One of them died.

William Tarnow-Mordi, director of the Westmead International Network for Neonatal Education and Research at the University of Sydney, said affected babies could develop massive breakdown of their red blood cells within hours of being wrapped in clothing stored with mothballs containing naphthalene.

"The lifetime costs of caring for a baby with kernicterus are many millions of dollars," Professor Tarnow-Mordi said.

The European Union banned the supply of naphthalene products in 2008, and Professor Tarnow-Mordi said he and other experts were working with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to see whether similar action should be taken in Australia.

"Health authorities in Australia already inform parents about the dangers of mothballs with naphthalene. Without further measures, more babies could sustain brain damage or die," he said. "A total ban on mothballs with naphthalene may now be the safest course."


Health professionals stymied by bungling bureaucracy

HUNDREDS of health professionals have been stuck in limbo after a bureaucratic bungle stripped them of registration and insurance. Some Queensland medicos have been banned from working for weeks because of delays and paperwork disputes with the new national registration system.

Dentists and psychologists in Queensland, and physiotherapists and nurses in Victoria and NSW, who have been caught up in the drama, have been Warned by Medicare to stop bulk-billing.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, the [Leftist brainchild] new independent national registration body that began in July, was yesterday still scrambling to fast-track applications.

AHPRA said it had no choice but to strike off medicos for failing to renew their registration but some health professionals across Australia say they were never issued the paperwork and their phone calls and emails went unanswered for days.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon and state Health Minister Paul Lucas told The Sunday Mail they were taking the matter seriously, but federal Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said the “shambolic” system needed immediate fixing.

Brisbane psychologist Hayley Webster, a doctor for nine years, was told by Medicare on January I8 to immediately stop bulk-billing because she had been deregistered. Dr Webster, who now cannot legally practise, said: “Every day, I’ve got to ring up seven or eight clients and tell them about the mix-up and I have to cancel.”

She said she never received paperwork with a log-in and password to allow her to renew her registration. AHPRA on Friday increased the operating hours of its call centre and has published on its website the fast-track application form.

The above report appeared in the Brisbane "Courier Mail" on Feb. 6

Yet another government computer bungle

Have they ever heard of beta testing?

THOUSANDS of shooters are furious they can't get firearm permits because of problems with a $6 million computer system introduced by the State Government to "streamline" processing.

Queensland Police Service implemented the Weapons Licensing Management System in late November with a switch to an online service expected to save $7.5 million in staff "efficiencies" over five years.

After more than two months, shooters and dealers said it was still not working. Delays have led to staff lay-offs and now threaten to send businesses to the wall. The state's largest firearm dealer, the Qld Gun Exchange in East Brisbane, has 800 customers waiting for permits and more than $800,000 worth of stock in limbo.

"Customers can't collect their guns unless they have a permit and we can't get paid until they collect their guns," owner Dave Augur told The Courier-Mail. "We have had to put off seven of our 24 staff and things are looking pretty grim."

Mr Augur said Permit to Acquire applications for those in the system and seeking extra firearms used to take two weeks to gain approval. This had blown out to months.

More than 100,000 firearms are registered to Queensland sporting shooters, hunters, professional shooters, farmers and security companies.

Shooters Union of Queensland president Graham Park said firearm owners were angry they had been hit with a 150 per cent fee rise and told changes would improve the process. "We were initially very supportive," Mr Park said. "But they have taken our money and not delivered on their promise of greater efficiency. This backlog is unacceptable."

Mr Park said the old process of collecting an application from police and faxing or mailing it to the Weapons Licensing Branch usually got a result in about a week. Now, it could take two months "if you were lucky".

QPS admitted there had been teething problems with "data migration" and additional staff had been assigned to "catch-up". A spokeswoman said there were about 4000 Permit to Acquire applications to be processed.

"Extra staff and extended work hours are being implemented to reduce the delays and to have applications processed as quickly as possible," she said. "It is anticipated that the applications will be within standard tolerances by March."



Paul said...

The Leftist Brainchild (as you so rightly call it) is nothing more than a grab for more money. It has jacked up the cost of registration and created new and unnecessary requirements for continuing registration, all of which are designed (in Nursing at least) to force practitioners into expensive yet ineffectual professional organizations that provide questionable ongoing education units at cost to the practitioner (and ultimately the taxpayer). At its silliest the 55 year old Nurse doing one day a week in a Nursing Home now has to provide evidence of hours of ongoing education in order to remain registered. I know some who will be retiring early and dropping their registration because of this.

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