Thursday, March 31, 2016


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG wants to give hoverboards to the Jihadis

Why investors are leaving 90,000 Sydney homes EMPTY and thousands more in Melbourne

Belinda Cleary must be very young.  She hasn't got a blind clue about the topic she addresses  below. 

You CANNOT "benefit from negative gearing" by leaving a property unoccupied.  Negative gearing applies to rental income only.  You have to let out the property to "benefit  from negative gearing".

The article is pretty downhill after that so let me give the major reason behind the vacancies:  Difficult tenants and no support for landlords in dealing with them.  The various State Governments have passed restrictive legislation that is strongly protective of tenants -- and thus causes large losses for landlords when a tenant trashes the place or fails to pay rent.  So if you have just bought a nice new house or apartment you may well decide not to let tenants mess it up for you -- by leaving it vacant.  You will still usually get benefits from capital gains.

Another TEMPORARY factor is a mismatch between requested rentals and what tenants will pay.  There has been a huge building boom in most of Australia's capital cities recently, with new apartment buildings springing up like mushrooms.  And the owners think they can get both the purchase price and the rental income that they could have got 2 years ago.  But they cannot.  The law of supply and demand says that a big increase in supply will lead to a big decrease in price.  So those new apartments will sell for less than projected and rent out for less than projected.

Owners of new builds, however, are often very reluctant to drop their expected rents so keep a property vacant for a year or so just hoping that someone will give them the rent that they calculated on.  As disappointment sets in, however, they will drop their requested rent and get the property let out.  So part of the vacancy factor is temporary.  Rents will fall markedly in the next two years, thus leading to higher occupancy rates

The second article below confirms part of what I have just said

Some of Sydney and Melbourne's most desirable suburbs are being left vacant by property investors who benefit more from negative gearing than they do by filling the homes.

Now experts are calling for Sydney property investors to fill their empty properties and end the 'artificial' housing shortage the city is experiencing.

UNSW Futures Research Centre has found that one in seven homes in the inner-city, eastern suburbs and north shore suburbs of Sydney are empty.

A similar report shows up to 88,000 homes are vacant in Melbourne's inner suburbs leading researchers to believe it is a nation-wide program.

Dr Laurence Troy and Professor Bill Randolph have published an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which explains investors are securing big tax properties so they can benefit from tax-breaks.

This means they benefit more from leaving their properties empty than they do by filling them.

It is estimated around 90,000 properties are sitting vacant in some of the city's most desirable suburbs.

'The number of empty dwellings could more than account for the notional supply shortfalls,' Dr Laurence Troy and Professor Bill Randolph wrote.

The areas which see the highest amount of vacancies are those where capital gains are high and rental yields are low.

The experts say this is 'no coincidence' and reflective of negative gearing.

A study in Melbourne last year suggested more than 80,000 properties in the Victorian capital were left empty The Age reported.

'Having property sitting vacant has a very high cost on the economy. It's very destructive to our national prosperity,' Catherine Cashmore, author of the Prosper report said.

The researchers in that study used water-use data to reveal how many homes in the city area were being under used.

The recently revealed Sydney study showed fringe suburbs which experience higher rental yields and lower capital gains had fewer empty properties.

Doctor Laurence Troy has said on social media that he and his team want 'houses for people to live in!'

The Futures Research Centre team believe both the housing supply and shortage issues can be solved by filling those vacant properties.

They explained that the structure of the housing market is driven by a poor match in supply and demand.

'This only further exacerbates the emerging spatial inequalities experienced in our major cities, driving affordability in central, well connected and serviced parts of the city,' they wrote. 

'Failure of governments to acknowledge the pervasive prevalence of empty homes only adds to the ongoing un-affordability crisis,' they wrote. 

Haymarket and The Rocks are the most vacant suburbs in Sydney but a more than 13 per cent of homes in Manly, Potts Point, Wooloomooloo, Darlinghurst and Kirribilly are also vacant.

The researchers noted many desirable inner-city suburbs have also been left vacant in other Australian state capitals.


Australia's apartment price crash is real

Apartments in central Melbourne are being resold at discounts of up to 30 per cent from their original off-plan purchase price, sales data shows.

Not all units have fallen in value, but analysis of a handful of transactions shows many apartments have failed to hold their value between original purchase and resale, typically a few years later.

One property where prices have fallen is 27 Little Collins Street, which includes 171 apartments in a 32-storey tower above a Sheraton-branded hotel, completed by developer Golden Age in July last year.

A three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment occupying 140 square metres and with two car parks sold for $1,565,000 in August, a 28.7 per cent discount on its November 2010 purchase price of $2,195,000.

A two-bedroom unit in the same building fell almost 23 per cent in less than a year, when it was bought for $1,075,000 last April, having previously been purchased for $1,320,000 in June 2014.

A number of smaller apartments without car parks suffered falls ranging from almost 4 per cent to 8 per cent between 2010 and their resale last year.

Melbourne’s surge in new apartments led to predictions more than a year ago than an oversupply was likely to push prices down. While greater supply would limit rental income growth, as long as interest rates remained low there was unlikely to be a big correction in prices because buyers could still fund the gap between rental income and their mortgage payments, said BIS Shrapnel analyst Angie Zigomanis.

“Anyone who’s bought an apartment off-plan and then looks to onsell within a couple of years will probably be looking at a 10 per cent decline, but the 40 per cent decline – it’s definitely not going to be the norm,” Mr Zigomanis said. “At the broader level those price falls will be mitigated by lower interest rates and the fact that people aren’t necessarily going to be obliged to put their property on the market.”

At 108 Flinders, a 190-apartment building by developer Riverlee completed in August 2014, data from five transactions shows prices are treading water or falling, the numbers from CoreLogic RP Data also show.

The figures point to a downturn in prices and demand for investor buyers of apartment dwellings.

“Generally speaking, you’re going to get a worse outcome if the apartment doesn’t appeal to owner-occupiers and only appeals to an investor,” said Matthew Baxter, a director of valuation firm Opteon.

“You’re more likely to have a more favourable outcome if the apartment you’ve purchased appealed to an owner-occupier as well as investors.”

Mr Baxter declined to comment on individual properties or their prices. The figures are not comprehensive and give no indication of the CBD apartment market as a whole.

Golden Age managing director Jeff Xu said sales in the building were limited and the rental vacancy rate was zero.

“Some apartments will lose value, but that does not mean every apartment project will lose value,” Mr Xu told The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday. “It depends on the location, quality and how you manage it as well.”
Settlement risks mount

But these figures confirm the growing concern about the scope for prices to fall in central Melbourne.

With the number of apartments due for settlement ballooning, concern is rising about whether buyers will be able to pay for them, especially at a time when banks are tightening their rules.

If banks value properties for less or cut the loan-to-value ratio they will offer customers, buyers are forced to pay more at time of settlement. If they cannot pay more, they may be forced to sell into a weakening market.

The CoreLogic numbers add to separate figures compiled by valuation firm WBP showing half of 1,794 properties purchased off-plan between December 2009 and August 2015 had been revalued below their purchase price.

WBP figures subsequently broken out for The Australian Financial Review in the 3000 postcode that includes central Melbourne show that the 197 properties valued suffered an average fall in value of $51,272, or 9.15 per cent.

In one case, a two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit purchased for $740,000 on 3 August last year was revalued at $600,000 – a 23 per cent discount – just 16 days later.


University tells students Britain 'invaded' Australia

What's wrong with saying "settled"?  "Settled" does not deny that there were other people there as well.  It is just typical Leftist hatred for the society they live in that lies behind this nonsense

A top Australian university has rejected claims it is trying to rewrite the nation's colonial history. Students are being encouraged to use the term "invaded" rather than "settled" or "discovered", and avoid the word "Aborigines".

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Indigenous Terminology guide states that Australia was "invaded, occupied and colonised".

But UNSW says it does not mandate what language can and cannot be used.  "It uses a more appropriate, less appropriate format," a UNSW spokesperson said in a statement to the BBC.

"The guide suggests referring to Captain [James] Cook as the first Englishman to map the continent's East Coast is 'more appropriate' than referring to his 'discovery' of Australia."

Students are instructed to use the terms "Indigenous Australian people" or "Aboriginal peoples" in place of "Aborigines" or "the Aboriginal people", to avoid implying that all Indigenous Australians are the same.

The guide also lists words such as "primitive", "simple", "native" and "prehistoric" as less appropriate than "complex and diverse societies".

Use of a term such as "nomadic" is discouraged on the grounds that it implies Indigenous Australians were not permanently settled, supporting the doctrine of terra nullius that English settlers used to justify occupying land in Australia. Rubbish. terra nullius was a much later doctrine

The guidelines have sparked outrage in Australia's tabloid Daily Telegraph newspaper and on talkback radio.

Conservative radio host Alan Jones said: "Don't try and restrict the thinking of university students by some so-called diversity toolkit on Indigenous terminology rubbish which dictates game, set and match that Cook's arrival in New South Wales must be referred to as an invasion."

"One student might well argue in favour of invasion and another in favour of settlement. The argument should be judged on its quality. But prejudice and political correctness are anathema to genuine scholarship and learning."


Taller, faster, sooner: Australia’s growth spurt

I have noticed this myself.  I was a bit over 5'10" in my youth and was regarded as tall in that era ('60s).  But there seem to many young people around me these days who are taller than I am, even women

The hardwood lintel capping the front door of Reynolds Cottage in Sydney’s The Rocks was built in 1829 and it’s just part of the obstacle course 18-year-old Jackson Raddysh must run each time he visits his father Wes’s workplace. Standing 191.7cm in his port-coloured Vans, Jackson looms over his 180.3cm-tall dad, who runs ghost tours of the former penal colony out of one of Australia’s oldest surviving dwellings.

When convicts built Reynolds Cottage nearly two centuries ago, the average male height in the colony was 165cm. They couldn’t have known that Australians would start growing at a rate of knots: over the past 150 years our average height has soared almost 15cm. Now each generation is 3-4cm taller than the previous one. At 177.8cm, the average male aged 18-24 years today is 8.1cm [3"] taller than a man aged 75 and over (169.7cm), according to the ABS. Women aged 18-24 (163.8cm) are also 8.1cm taller than those of their grandparents’ generation. (We’ve also grown outward, with average weight up 3.9kg for men and 4.1kg for women between 1995 and 2011-12.)

More than that, though, the pattern of growth has changed significantly. Look around: at the schoolkids peering down on their teachers; at the lofty young athletes entering the ­Australian Institute of Sport (and not just to play basketball); at the adolescent girls shopping in the grown-up clothing aisles; at the huddles of skinny-jeaned teens Snapchatting, Spotifying and growing, still growing. You’re not imagining it: the younger generation is not only taller, it is shooting skyward earlier and faster.

“When I started teaching about 20 years ago, I was noticeably taller than my students,” says Timothy Olds, professor of health sciences at the University of South Australia. “Now there are very few I’m taller than.” Professor Olds studies the evolution of body size and shape in children and says that while better nutrition and improved public health help to explain the soaring heights, which typically max out around age 20 for boys and 16 for girls, there’s a new factor at play.

“Puberty appears to be very important,” he says. “We know that kids grow much more rapidly when they reach puberty. If they achieve that earlier, they are obviously growing faster younger, so kids are getting relatively taller.” The pubertal growth spurt is the most significant of the three major growth spurts — the first occurs in infancy, the second between the ages of six and eight — and there is a wealth of scientific data to show the age of onset of puberty has been falling, particularly in the past two decades.

At the turn of the 20th century, the average age for a girl to get her period was 16 to 17. Today that number has plummeted to a mean age of 12.5, with girls as young as seven starting to develop breasts and the growth spurt kicking in around 10. Similarly, boys are reaching puberty about four years earlier, around the age of 13. Why is unclear. Excess body fat, stress, less physical activity, and the presence of ­chemicals known as endocrine disrupters in food and the environment have all been touted as possible contributors.

Puberty is not just occurring earlier; some public health professionals say the process itself is compressed into a shorter time frame. “What was a process that perhaps took up to seven years now lasts three to four years,” says Professor George Patton, an epidemiologist at the Murdoch ­Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne. “So not only is the growth spurt occurring earlier, it tends to be over more quickly.”

Jackson was already approaching the average height of a colonial Australian adult by the age of 14 when, he says, he shot up 25cm. “It’s like something in my body just clicked and went, ‘Time to grow’,” he says.

Much has been made of our children growing heavier, with a quarter of all Australian kids now overweight or obese. But more stealthily, over the course of a generation, Gullivers like Jackson have been sprouting like dandelions in spring. (His 15-year-old sister, Sophie, is already as tall as their father.) And yet, says Patton, who also has a clinical background in child and adolescent ­psychiatry, our social systems are failing to keep pace. From fashion to furniture and official growth charts, from mental health protocols to the timing of the all-important transition from primary to secondary school, this rapid escalation, with its accompanying emotional upheaval, has caught us flat-footed. “We’ve learnt so much more about this phase of life; it is such an active phase of growth and development, particularly brain development, which until 15 years ago we had no idea about,” says Patton. “But have we taken that into account in any of the ­systems that we have in place to support, protect and empower kids during these years? No we haven’t.”

Forget apparitions in centuries-old attics; what’s really spooky is how quickly our kids are outgrowing the world around them.

There are no pencil marks edging up the door jambs in Professor Olds’ Adelaide home. No need. Son Spencer, 19 (176cm) and daughter Francesca, 17 (168cm) are measured expertly every year by their father’s anthropometry ­students using a height-measuring machine called a stadiometer. There’s little room for error as they are each measured 100 times. “It takes eight hours,” Olds laughs. “They get prodded and pinched, every skin fold is measured, every bone breadth is taken. But they get paid!”

Olds, 60 (180cm) anticipates his son will undergo a late growth spurt as he did and notes that his daughter, who’s 3cm taller than her mother Liz, already conforms to the dimensions predicted by a model he spent six years assembling. Olds compiled data on 644,613 children aged five to 17 between 1899 and 1999 and calculated that kids have been gaining a little over 1cm a decade for the past century. A 10-year-old boy, for example, stood on average 133cm tall in 1901, compared with 143cm at the tail-end of last century.

A 2006 study of 5000 South Australian ­adolescents by Olds’ University of Adelaide colleague, orthodontist Sarbin Ranjitkar, showed that steady increase continuing into the new millennium. “I was a bit surprised [the upward trend] was still continuing,” says Olds. “When I started in the 1990s, people were saying it was slowing but it’s not at all.”

Numerous studies have shown that society is significantly biased towards tall men: they get promoted more quickly, earn higher wages and have a better chance of finding a partner. A 2009 study, Does Size Matter in Australia? by Andrew Leigh, then economics professor at the ANU, and Michael Kortt from the ­University of Sydney found that an extra 5cm of height tends to secure a man an additional $1000 a year in wages.

So, height is a potent symbol. More than that, a new discipline of “anthropometric ­historians” now uses it to assess changes in the health and wellbeing of nations. According to an influential and oft-quoted 2006 paper, Underperformance in affluence: the remarkable relative decline in American heights in the second half of the 20th century by John Komlos and Benjamin Lauderdale, “height is indicative of how well the human organism thrives in its socio-economic environment.” The paper caused much consternation in the US as, by this measure, Americans are trailing much of the developed world. Once the tallest people on the planet — for 250 years they measured 7.6cm taller than Europeans — the Americans stopped growing about 60 years ago and much of the world’s population overtook them. Even the Japanese, once the shortest industrialised people on Earth, are catching up.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands has become a nation of giants. Over the past 200 years they’ve shot up 20cm to become the tallest population on the planet. There is widespread agreement within the scientific community that the incidence of disease and availability of medical services, especially during childhood, have a major impact on human size. The Netherlands has the world’s best — and free — prenatal and post-partum care, while America’s healthcare system and welfare safety net leave much to be desired. But because the increase in the Netherlands is more pronounced than that of the other ­European ­countries crowding the top end of the height charts — countries like Norway, ­Denmark, ­Sweden, Belgium and Germany — researchers believe there could be something other than environmental factors at play. Interestingly, a 2015 British study found taller men tended to have more children, leading its authors to ­suggest a process of natural selection may have been driving the astounding Dutch growth.

Diet is also crucial, with nutritionists claiming the removal of any one of 50 essential nutrients from a diet can restrict growth. This partly explains the height plateau in America, with its obesity problems and ultra-processed diet. In Australia, evidence shows kids are ­eating better than they did in the past. “We know kids are getting fatter, so we were ­doubtful about this,” says Olds, who looked at 2574 reports of energy intake in children from different countries dating back to 1854. Our great-grandparents “obviously expended more energy, but the amount they ate back then was unbelievable,” he says. “The other striking thing was how stodgy the diet was — huge amounts of meat and potatoes, very little fruit, no fresh vegetables. Our diet is so much better today in terms of variety and freshness and less saturated fat.”

A person’s height is mainly (about 80 per cent) determined by the combined effects of hundreds of genes. “Everyone is born with a genetic height potential but the likelihood they will reach that is based on a set of environmental circumstances such as nutrition,” says ­Professor Ravi Savarirayan, clinical geneticist and paediatrician at Victorian Clinical Genetics Services. He points to Korea where, since the country’s division, North Koreans have become several centimetres shorter than their counterparts in the South, despite similar genetics, “because they are starving”.

Stress is also an important factor. “If you starve a child they won’t grow, but even if you feed a child but neglect them, they won’t grow,” he says. Olds adds that historical data from World War II shows children’s growth decelerating during their attendance at boarding school, with “a catch-up growth when they were on holidays back with their families”.

Pffh is the sound of an exasperated mother trying to source age-appropriate clothes for her rapidly unfurling daughters.  At 185cm, Green knows what it’s like to feel out of step with the world. Benchtops and ergonomic desks are too low; she struggles with leg room on trains, planes and buses; and, on rainy days, must navigate a minefield of eye-poking umbrellas. In 2000, she established Tall People Australia for taller-than-average Australians. With only “a couple of hundred” in the club, she doesn’t have the numbers to form a powerful lobby group such as the Netherlands’ Klub Lange Mensen. So it’s more of an information network and social hub. But Green’s hoping for a revolution to make life easier for the girls who have inherited her genes: an 11-year-old who is 169cm and a 13-year-old who stands 177.8cm.

“There are a lot more places catering to large sizes because it’s more common to see overweight people in the community now,” Green says. Yet clothing manufacturers still operate on the same old standard height. “Even though we are growing taller as a nation, are we going to reach that point where businesses will think it’s viable to sustain a tall line?” she says. “In my lifetime it hasn’t changed much.”

Green is not alone in her despair. When ­Adelaide body-sizing expert Daisy Veitch teamed with Maciej Henneberg, professor of anthropological and comparative anatomy at the University of Adelaide, to conduct a national sizing survey in 2002, they were mainly concerned with filling a yawning gap in the data on the body shapes and sizes of adult Australians. But they also heard anecdotal evidence from a lot of distressed mothers. “We interviewed 5000 people about their shopping experiences and, overwhelmingly, the parents were telling us that young children were getting bigger faster,” says Veitch, who has advised Safe Work Australia and the US Air Force Research Laboratory on anthropometrical issues. “Now, imagine you’re the mother of a seven-year-old girl and you have to buy your child a size 12 and suddenly they’re being marketed sexy items. They’re being thrust into the tween market prematurely.”

Growth in children can be extremely rapid. Some studies have shown increases of half to a full centimetre in a single day; in one longitudinal study of 1000 children in NSW, a Year 8 boy grew 16cm over a 12-month period while a girl in Year 7 grew 13cm.

Elite sport is one area that’s been quick to size up the new generation and relatively fleet of foot in adapting. Staff at the Australian Institute of Sport, which enrols kids as young as eight, have adjusted their teaching methods after observing the increase in size of the centre’s 3D body scanners, endurance athletes’ altitude tents, even residence beds. “I’m continually astonished by how big the kids coming through are,” says AIS senior skills acquisition scientist Daniel Greenwood (185.4cms). “In the past decade, the biggest change I’ve noticed is in the team sports. Previously, there would be one tall person on each team, stuck in a certain role, whereas now the packs of kids are all taller.

“We’ve taken the reins off these tall kids, taken them out of traditional tall-kid positions, and had them show us what they’re capable of rather than what we expect them to do.” Training has also been modified. “Tall athletes are now better understood within physio circles,” Greenwood says. “Their muscles are tighter, their connective tissue is tighter, so there’s a greater emphasis on flexibility and an understanding they may not be able to do the same volumes of training as someone bulkier. We have to give them time and space to grow into their bodies.”

Increasingly, precipitous growth spurts are linked to earlier onset puberty with its attendant physical changes and emotional turmoil. And this is where the social scaffolding becomes shaky, says George Patton, who is also professor of adolescent health research at the University of ­Melbourne. “It’s an age where kids are still working out who they are, they’re still very limited in terms of interpersonal skills and they’re experiencing many new, challenging emotions,” he says. ­Without the corresponding social or emotional maturation, early puberty can be a confusing time, especially for girls, who may face sexual innuendo or teasing before they are able to deal with it. Risks for anxiety, depression, social exclusion and aggressive behaviour arise whenever puberty occurs but “kids going through puberty earlier encounter these challenges sooner and are less well prepared,” Patton says.

With his steel-rimmed glasses and kindly, unhurried manner, Patton blends science with compassion, emerging as an ideal advocate for young people at the most vulnerable phase of their lives. He and a team of researchers are undertaking the biggest longitudinal study of puberty in Australia, the Childhood to Adolescence ­Transition Study, in the hope of understanding “changes in the timing of puberty, the shape of puberty and what that means for the growth spurt that happens during the adolescent period”.

So far they’ve learnt that patterns of health and nutrition during childhood and the effective treatment of viral, bacterial and parasitic infections have “a profound effect” on the timing of the pubertal growth spurt. “And what we’ve come to understand is that it’s not just the ­timing of puberty that is earlier in the modern, higher-­income, better-nourished settings but the speed in which kids go through puberty,” he says, citing studies from the US and Denmark suggesting the onset of puberty occurs about one year earlier than two decades ago, at around 10 years old.

The transition in Australia from primary to secondary school, he says, is just one of numerous structures and ingrained practices that need to be rethought. “When the education system was designed, quite a long time ago, primary school was what happened prior to puberty and secondary school was what happened after and that aligned pretty much with the biology then,” Patton says. “What we have now is a system where, particularly for girls, but also to a certain extent with boys, you’ve got this transition between Grade 6 and 7 where it’s bang in the middle of the most profound developmental event in the life of children after birth. It’s a time of utterly profound change not just physically and in sexual reproductive maturity but emotionally, socially … You’re making this change at a point where it just makes no sense. And a lot of kids do struggle — they’ll be tracking along nicely to Grade 6 then you see this fall-off in educational achievement in Grade 7, 8 and 9 before you get a plateauing out when they’ve readjusted.”

Brisbane high school teacher Emma Warren, 38, has made peace with her height (195.5cm) but remembers her youth as a time of turbulence. “There are a lot of tall girls at my school struggling with low self-esteem, self-conscious about their height, and I’m a sort of mentor to them,” she says. Warren gets plenty of practice at home: her eldest daughter Sara, 17, is 178cm; Ingrid, 15, is 185cm, and her youngest, Wendy, 13, stands at a skyscraping 192cm. “Bendy Wendy”, as she’s sometimes called, recently tried on her first pair of heels, stilettos that lifted her a good 5cm closer to the gods. The teen twirled and strutted, turning the aisles of a suburban chain store into her own personal catwalk. As confidence lengthened her stride, she rehearsed the mantra her mother had lodged in her head: I’m not too tall; the world’s too small for me.


No comments: