Wednesday, July 15, 2020

An Aboriginal death in custody

There appears to be some mystification about this death.  There should not be.  Chatfield was an Aborigine and Cutmore probably was too. And the stimulus for the seizures leading to Chatfield's death was clearly his forced separation from his cellmate.

Why should separation from his cellmate be distressing?  Because Aborigines are hugely social.  They need to be with one another. An Aborigine put into solitary confinement will do his best to commit suicide.  That need for social connectedness is not unknown among whites.  I suffer from it to some extent also.  It can be very distressing.

That it is super-strong among Aborigines is demonstrated in the way Aborigines can be "Sung" to death by their tribe.  A tribal Aborigine who breaches an important tribal behaviour code will be "Sung" to death.  The singing/chanting is simply an emphasis of the fact that the offender has been excommunicated from the tribe.  It makes the excommunication final.  So the offender has no-one to whom he has a social connection.  Whatever the physical process may be, death is rapid.

One does see something similar among whites. A mother who suicides after the death of her child, for instance, will sometimes be referred to as having died of a "broken heart"

Chatfield and Cutmore would have been housed together because prison authorities know that housing Aborigines together reduces problems with them.  But in so doing they caused the usual Aborigine grabbing for affiliation to take place.  The two became "Mates" in a very strong sense.

So separating them led to the perfectly normal result among Aborigines:  Deep distress leading to death.

An inquest into the death of an Indigenous man in NSW custody has heard the young father may have had multiple seizures and was distressed to be separated from his cellmate on his last night in remand.

Tane Chatfield died in September 2017 after being held on remand at Tamworth Correctional Centre for two years. The 22-year-old attended court in Armidale but was returned to Tamworth after the first day of a hearing on 19 September.

Darren Brian Cutmore had been Chatfield’s cellmate in the preceding days, but was moved to a different cell that night as the pair were co-accused.

Cutmore told deputy state coroner Harriet Grahame that Chatfield was on the way back to Tamworth from court “happy as can be” as he was confident of being acquitted.

But Chatfield’s former cellmate, who considered himself an “older brother” to the 22-year-old, could still remember his reaction when he realised the pair were to be separated later that night.

“He was very upset ... he said ‘all we’ve got is each other and now they’ve fucking taken that away from us too’,” Cutmore told the inquest on Monday.

Cutmore also said that while the pair had often used drugs in prison together, he did not think Chatfield did so on the night of 19 September.

The man who replaced Cutmore in Chatfield’s cell, Barry Evans, told the inquest the deceased appeared “agitated” following his separation from Cutmore but he made his new cellmate feel “welcome and comfortable”.

Evans, who only met Chatfield that day, said he did not see his cellmate use drugs or hear him talk about doing so.

The former firefighter said he called for help after seeing Chatfield hit the floor. “It was like he was having a fit,” Evans told the inquest.

One of the officers at Tamworth Correctional Centre that day, David Mezanaric, told the inquest he knew of the victim having two seizures on 19 September – one in his cell and one in a treatment room before paramedics arrived.

The victim’s mother, Nioka Chatfield, said the grief she felt after the death of her son “became like a chronic illness” and her family needed accountability to move forward.

“I can’t tell you how my boy lost life ... there are lots of unanswered questions,” Chatfield said after the first day of the inquest.

“I’m only concentrating on the love that will never change for my boy. The boy who I saw smiling down at me when I was tying his laces ... the teenager I saw playing football, and the young 22-year-old who lost his life in custody.”

NSW Corrective Services at the time said Chatfield’s death was not suspicious, telling his family he took his own life.

Chatfield died after two days at Tamworth Base Hospital on 22 September 2017.


Is social housing worth the cost?

Public housing is in the news with the lockdown of several Melbourne towers amid the spread of COVID-19. There were regular live crosses on news bulletins. Stranded residents were unhappy about the lack of notice and inadequate catering to their needs.

Melburnians are used to the imposing ugliness of these inner-suburban buildings. Built in the 1960s and 70s from precast concrete, they provide accommodation for many, often dis­advantaged, residents.

Whether it was a good idea to build them and if it might be sensible to demolish them are constantly debated. Other than their handy locations, there is little to commend them. They offer inadequate accommodation with shared laundry facilities and often broken-down lifts.

Several are drug-dealing hubs and violence is common. Some residents have uneasy relations with the police.

Their origin owes much to overseas developments. In Britain, run-down housing in parts of London and other cities was torn down and high-rise flats, often 20 or 30 storeys, constructed instead. Quite quickly, the slums that were demolished were replaced by another type of slum.

In Melbourne, there was a similar flattening of shabby inner-city houses. About 4000 houses were demolished, replaced by 7000 flats in tower blocks.

Few residents of the houses were relocated to the flats, and the houses that survived have been restored, renovated and sell for high prices.

Recently, some commentators have pushed for more government spending on public housing — also referred to as social housing — to stimulate the economy while meeting an obvious social need.

The best information on this comes from the Productivity Commission, which publishes the Report on Government Services each year and looks at housing and homelessness.

The states and territories are largely responsible for the construction, maintenance and administration of public housing; the federal government provides support through rental assistance. The National Housing and Homelessness Agreement between the federal government and the states and territories is the principal means of directing federal funds to support public housing and the homeless.

Substantial sums are involved. In 2019-20, more than $3bn of federal money was provided for housing and a further $4.6bn was provided for Commonwealth Rent Assistance. State and territory expenditure is also considerable.

What role does public housing play in Australia? About two-thirds of households are homeowners or purchasers, 27 per cent are private renters, with slightly more than 3 per cent in public housing. That number has dropped from almost 4 per cent in a decade.

The ACT has the highest proportion, at 6.8 per cent; Victoria the lowest, at 1.7 per cent. South Australia also has a high proportion (4.9 per cent), reflecting the historical legacy of state government policies that used public housing as a form of industrial development dating from the Playford era.

The type of households in public housing has changed. Where once there were families with dependent children, the typical occupant now is a single person, although many flats are overcrowded. This has led to a disjunction where about one-sixth of public housing is underused in terms of bedrooms with another one-sixth significantly over­crowded.

One of the principal reasons for investing in public housing is to relieve “rental stress” on low-income earners — defined as spending more than 30 per cent of gross household income on rent.

According to the Productivity Commission, in 2017-18, 43 per cent of private renters were on low incomes. About half experienced rental stress. Without rental assistance, close to 70 per cent would have experienced rental stress. Even with the assistance, many still suffer from it.

More public housing residents are likely to be unemployed. But in relative terms, rents have fallen across time, reflecting manner in which rents are set in relation to income.

The research on the effect of public housing tenure on employment outcomes is not clear-cut. But for those on the waiting list — and it is possible to be on a public housing waiting list for years — it seems some are dissuaded from active, full-time employment lest they jeopardise their place in the queue.

Failed experiments to encourage more affordable housing for low-income and disadvantaged households are common. A recent example was the National Rental Affordability Scheme introduced with much fanfare in 2008 by the then newly elected federal Labor government.

The plan was for 50,000 units to be built and to be rented at below market rates to low-income earners, with the federal government paying a subsidy of $6000 annually to the owners of the units for up to 10 years.

It was a shemozzle. The building program was slow — the target of 50,000 was to be met by June 30, 2012, but by mid-2015 only 26,000 dwellings had been constructed.

Because of the way the subsidy was designed, the developers ended up constructing a large number of — cheaper — studio apartments and many of the occupants were low-income earners only by virtue of being university students. International students also qualified.

The scheme was wound up by the incoming Coalition government although the subsidies continue to be paid out under the agreement.

Public housing policy can be devised only in the context of an understanding of the housing market. With the population recently allowed to grow rapidly by dint of high net overseas migration, there were always going to be significant price pressures, particularly given government-imposed restrictions on new housing investment — think zoning and release of land. That most migrants head to Melbourne and Sydney is another complication.

Whether long-term occupancy in public housing really provides a service to residents is not entirely clear, particularly where residents are locked into deficient, possibly dangerous accommodation. It is a worthwhile debate before even more taxpayer money is spent on public housing.


Brisbane’s prestige market lures expat buyers looking to re-establish their Aussie roots

The lure of a COVID-free haven, a stable economy and bargain lifestyle homes are driving expats and international buyers into Brisbane’s prestige property market with dozens of sales clocked sight unseen across the city’s top real estate pockets.

Place Brisbane CEO Damien Hackett said the agency had witnessed a sharp increase in cashed-up expats looking to re-establish their roots in a city that had not only handled the pandemic commendably, but offered a better lifestyle at a lower cost compared with the nation’s major southern hot spots.

He said investors were following hot on their heels amid growing market confidence, with off-the-plan apartments close to the city centre in particularly hot demand.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in inquiry from expats and that’s linked to the fact that they have found their roots back here (due to the pandemic). In fact, there has been a sharp increase and they are realising Australia is a good place to be,” Mr Hackett said.

“We’re also seeing a rise in foreign investment as well.

“A lot of this comes down to confidence and to invest and move forwards and the great thing we have going for us (at the moment) is the availability of funds and the cheapness of funds to move forward. That’s also the good thing about Brisbane – we have been immune to the rises and falls of the market and we haven’t had massive growth.”

Mr Hackett said while Place estate agencies had noticed a sharp rise in expat buyers, the city’s entire market was trucking along smoothly in a post-COVID world, particularly from a listing’s perspective.

“I think in the last three weeks sellers are more confident so we have seen an upswing in listings … but the biggest question for what happens next is economically,” he said.

Alex Jordan, of McGrath Paddington, said their agency had also witnessed increased appetite from interstate and international buyers – with expats particularly driven to buy in Brisbane.

“We’re seen as a safe haven economically, and that’s partly because of the way we handled COVID,” Mr Jordan said.

“We’re looked at from the outside and we’re seen as having a good lifestyle too and that’s what drives the demand. It’s also affordability (luring expat buyers into the market).”

Mr Jordan said while buyer interest was high across all sectors of the real estate market, the rise of international purchasers willing to snap up properties virtually revealed just how much confidence the city was continuing to generate.

“I’m speaking to a buyer at the moment and she’s a resident (living abroad) and she’s looking at properties via Facetime and Zoom – so these buyers are not even physically able to seen them and they are willing to transact sight unseen – that gives me some comfort,” Mr Jordan said.

“The ones that I’m exposed to and talking with are looking at properties above $1.5 million and they are looking for something modern or brand new and in a good location – typically in the more affluent pockets such as the inner west that’s close to quality schooling.”

While he said listing levels had also risen slightly on his end, supply was yet to meet demand with the McGrath Paddington office’s property stock levels down 30 per cent year on year.


Australia’s Effective Unemployment Rate 13.3%, Frydenberg Says

Australia’s effective unemployment rate that also includes people who have opted against searching for work as the economy contracts is almost double the official jobless level, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

“That is around 13.3% right now,” Frydenberg said of the effective rate, in contrast to the official unemployment rate of 7.1%, in Melbourne Thursday. “That is a large number of people reflecting the economic challenges that we see right now.”

Unemployment would be higher if it included those who left labor force

Australia’s economy tumbled into recession in the first half of the year -- ending an almost three-decade expansion -- and Treasury, the department that provides economic analysis and develops policy for Frydenberg, reckons official unemployment will climb to 8% this quarter.

“We have seen a big reduction in hours worked in the months since the Covid pandemic first hit in Australia. Globally, they are seeing the same,” the treasurer said. “That just reflects the enormous economic challenge that we face and the impact it’s having on the unemployment rate.”

The official unemployment rate has been held down by people giving up looking for employment -- captured with sharp fall in the participation rate -- and by the government’s JobKeeper program that pays a wage subsidy to keep workers tied to employers.

The jobless rate probably edged up to 7.2% in June as those previously discouraged from job searching return, offsetting the 100,000 positions added in the month, economists predicted ahead of Thursday’s employment data. The expected surge in hiring reflects the removal of restrictions and reopening of the economy during the month.

The southern state of Victoria, the second largest contributor to gross domestic product, has since had to reimpose lockdown orders as a second wave of Covid-19 sweeps the state capital, Melbourne.

Frydenberg is due to deliver a fiscal and economic statement on July 23 that will outline the government’s plans for ongoing stimulus as programs like JobKeeper and JobSeeker, a temporarily higher welfare payment for the unemployed, are due to expire in September.

There will be a “second phase of income support. It will be governed by the same principles that have defined our economic measures to date, namely that our support will be targeted, it will be temporary, it will be designed based on existing systems and it will also be demand driven,” Frydenberg said.

“So it is fair to say in Victoria, with the lockdown, which is going to be harsh on businesses and households, that our announcements on the 23rd will take into account the Victorian circumstances,” he said.


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

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