Thursday, May 19, 2022

Why the PM’s first homebuyers plan gets a big tick

I am normally the last person to disagree with Terry McCrann but I am surprised by his judgment below.  He does recognize that the government proposal will put more buyers into the property market and hence increase prices -- but seems to discount the importance of that.  

His judgment seems to be that the effect on prices will be small.  I suppose it depends on how many take up Morrison's offer.  So some modelling of the effect would be interesting.

My fear is that the price effect might nullify the increased ability to spend.  If the superannunt frees up $20,000 to spend and the price of a desired property goes up by $20,000 we surely have an exercise in futility.  And a price rise of $20,000 would not be a big move

The Government’s proposal to let first homebuyers use some of their super to buy their first house makes unequivocal good sense.

The major criticism is that it’s taken so long. Many people in their 30s and 40s, who are still renting, would be entitled to be a tad pissed.

Why is it now only happening when that first house is probably going to cost me a million, at least in Melbourne and Sydney?

Why wasn’t it around when I could have got my first house for, say, $500k? And then spent the last ten or more years building a tax-free capital gain – and by the bye shared in the Reserve Bank mandated free money for home loans for a few years – instead of all that rent money?

It is important to understand two big points.

First, the Morrison scheme has the same roots as the Albanese proposal for the government to fund up to 40 per cent of that first home buy.

Head-to-head, Morrison’s proposal is, in my view, superior. But I would also argue there is clearly both room for and a need for both. Let the buyer choose.

Albanese’s proposal has a homebuyer going ‘partners’ with the government to buy the property.

In contrast Morrison’s has the homebuyer going ‘partners’ with their own super fund; and in a more limited way.

Albanese’s would have the government providing up to 40 per cent of the total home cost; and so also would get up to 40 per cent of the – of any – capital gain.

Morrison’s would indirectly limit the super fund’s effective equity in the home to a much smaller percentage; and so both the super fund’s exposure to the property, to the ‘risk’ of profit or loss.

But critically, there’s no real ‘leakage’ to a third party. The super fund’s likely gain still is also the homebuyer’s.

The second big point is to accept that, yes, the whole issue of doing ‘something’ to boost the ability of first-home buyers is a vexed issue; there are genuine pluses and minuses.

This was rather neatly captured in a series of successive emails that popped into my inbox in reaction to the prime minister’s announcement.

“Allowing super for home deposits would ignite a new housing price explosion.”

“Super for housing inflationary and contrary to retirement income objective.”

“Access to super a step up for home ownership.”

Yes, all of them have elements of truth; in particular, any scheme which boosts the number of buyers and the amounts they can pay, other things being equal, will add upward pressure to property prices.

But to make that determinative - that there should therefore be no or only very marginal schemes – is really an argument to deny first home buyers both the ability and the right to buy their first home.

To deny them that, critically, in the context where there’s active concerted and persistent action by policy-makers to enrich those already owning property.

It’s not only a social imperative to help people buy their first home; it’s also a critically important finance one and really about fundamental financial equity.

Further, the bit of the third email headline I left out – from the Master Builders I might note – asserts, correctly, the over-arching justification for the Morrison proposal: it “maintains (the) Integrity of (the) super system.”

This is not a proposal to let people take money out of their super to go on a holiday, or fund a business or some other frolic.  It is very directly an investment by the super fund, just like any other investment.

And one that critically enables the single most important investment a person can ever make, given the way owner-occupied home ownership is so significantly and widely tax-enhanced


Unemployment drops to lowest rate since 1974

This is not as good as it sounds.  It is basically a "sugar hit" from massive governmemnt spending. But that spending will fuel inflation, which will in turn lead to job losses as people  have to cut back on their spending

The latest unemployment figures show that the unemployment rate has dropped from 4 per cent to 3.9 per cent.

That’s the lowest level in half a century or since mid-1974 and it comes after a small increase in the number of people working through April.

Officially, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) says the unemployment rate held steady at 3.9 per cent that’s because it revised down March’s rate of 4 per cent to 3.9 per cent, the same figure for April.

It is the lowest jobless rate since August 1974 when it was 2.7 per cent.

Total employment increased by only 4000 for the month but there were huge swings involved.

Full-time employment increased by 92,400 but part-time employment dropped by 88,400.

Underemployment dropped by 0.2 percentage points to 6.1 per cent while the hours worked lifted by 23 million across the economy.

“The number of people working fewer hours than usual due to bad weather dropped from its March peak of over 500,000 to around 70,000 people in April,” ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said.


Report: widening price gap between fixer-uppers and hot new homes

Hmmm ... This is good news for investors. At 78, I am too old to get back into the property market but I am pretty sure I would win big in this situation if I were up to my old form.

It is perfectly obvious why fixer-uppers are now avoided. Doing any kind of renovation would be both difficult and costly at the moment.

But if one could afford to buy and hold until renovation services become more available, the investment would be a good one. Fixer-uppers are normally in big demand and that will return

The cost gap between brand new homes and fixer-uppers is expected to widen amid steep price hikes for construction materials and difficulty securing a builder.

Homeowners had shied away from taking on projects of their own, with rising interest rates tipped to add further pressure, a new report has found.

Herron Todd White’s Month in Review report noted a shift among homeowners as the construction industry struggled to balance existing strong demand coupled with supply chain shortages.

“Many are weighing up whether buying an established home might be more prudent given the cost and time blowouts,” HTW CEO Gary Brinkworth said.

“We’ve observed that homeowners and investors alike are being drawn to completed homes rather than those with renovation potential.

“Given costs are predicted to elevate over the coming one to two years, I’d venture that finished homes will not only retain their price premium for some time, but the value spread between renovated and unrenovated properties will, in all likelihood, get wider,” he said.

The HTW report found the cost of building a new home had risen by about 30 per cent over the last 12 months, equating to about $4,000 per square metre for a four-bedroom house with a pool on the southern Gold Coast.


Qld Attorney-General to appeal Joshawa Eric Kane’s ‘inadequate’ sentence over sickening attack

What an inadequate thing this is

Joshawa Eric Kane had been hiding in the bushes at the park when he attacked a 22-year-old woman, asking “baby are you single” before grabbing her from her behind, dragging her to a nearby cricket club house and sexually assaulting her.

Kane, 28, walked free at sentencing in the Brisbane District Court last month after serving only 282 days in custody, sparking criticism from experts who slammed the state’s treatment of victims of sexual crime.

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman has announced she is appealing Kane’s sentence on the grounds it was “manifestly inadequate”.

Harrowing CCTV footage was played to the court at Kane’s sentencing hearing in which the young woman can be seen struggling to break free as he carries her to the sporting club at a Dakabin park in November 2020.

The court heard Kane carried the woman underneath the building, pushed her against the back wall, touched her breasts and put his hands in her underwear while restraining her with a hand around her throat.

The terrifying assault only ended when a bystander heard the woman’s screams for help and came to investigate.

The CCTV showed the woman run to the bystander who rang police as Kane left the scene.

Judge Michael Williamson sentenced Kane to 18 months’ imprisonment, immediately suspended for three years. He had already served nine months in prison for the offending.

“This was a cowardly, disgusting act on a woman who was vulnerable going to catch the train,” Judge Williamson said at the sentencing last month. “It is something about which you should be deeply ashamed.

“Now it would not take much imagination on your part to realise the attack would have been terrifying, distressing on the complainant.”

The “light” sentence sparked criticism from community members and advocates for victims of sexual assault who said the system and the legislation judges were bound by in sentencing was letting down victims of crime.

Both the prosecution and defence in Kane’s case had submitted the 18 month head sentence was appropriate based on the legislation and similar case law.

The prosecutor submitted Kane should be given parole eligibility, meaning it would be up to the parole board to decide whether to release him, at which time he would be under supervision for the remainder of his sentence, while the defence argued in favour of an immediate suspension.




Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Bob Katter: A Lebanese Aborigine?

image from

Bob is very popular in Far North Queensland -- where I also come from. All four of my grandparents were born up that way, as I was. In my memory, the Far North was a very conservative place. Views that today identify me as very conservative were simply normal during my early life in North Queensland. It is my "spiritual" home.

It is over 30 years since I spent much time back up there, though I did have a couple of holidays there, with the last such being in 2004. So I have often wondered if my old home is still as conservative as it was. My impression is that not much has changed

And Bob's great popularity up that way confirms it. He too is very consrervative. So I am rather pleased with his views and what he does. As a member of Federal parliament he represents the North well

But I don't like his claim to be Aboriginal. He bases that claim on once having been "adopted" into an Aboriginal tribe. And under current Australian law, if he "identifies" as an Aborigine, he IS an Aborigine. I am critical of that rule in general so I deplore Bob using it for political advantage.

In fact he is, if anything, Lebanese, though he fiercely denies it. He grew up in a clothing shop run by his Lebanese grandfather. It is a curiosity of North Queensland that there are or were in many towns a men's clothing shop run by Lebanese immigrants -- with surnames like Mellick and Malouf. I remember them well.

The surname Katter is most common among Americans of German origin. In German, a "Kater" is a tomcat

Bob Katter has declared his people made a 'big mistake' 250 years ago by letting in whitefellas, and that's why Australia should keep borders shut to asylum seekers ahead of Saturday's federal election as he prepares for his 10th win.

A surprising little-known fact about the controversial Queensland MP is that he identifies as Aboriginal, but Mr Katter recently spoke candidly about the subject during a TV appearance when addressing foreign policy and the plight of refugees.

'I come from Cloncurry, and I'm dark - I'm one of the Curry mob, you know?' Mr Katter said on ABC's Q&A.

'We made a hell of a bad mistake 150 years ago, letting you whitefellas in. I don't know that we should make the same mistake again.'


Sergeant Bruno's big speech mistake

A Victorian policeman is under investigation for posting online that there are only two genders.

And so he should be!

Everyone knows there are actually three genders: Males (pronouns he/him), Females (pronouns she/her), and Narcissists (pronouns me!/me!/me!).

The Age newspaper reported this week that 62-year-old Sergeant Bruno Staffieri was interviewed by officers from Professional Standards Command over an online comment he made to an officer working in the Gender Equality and Inclusion Command.

Staffieri reportedly wrote: ‘So you are doing tertiary education studying genders. I’ll make it easy for you to pass … there are 2.’

Someone call triple-zero!

You have to hand it to Victoria Police; they know what constitutes inappropriate behaviour.

* Shoot peaceful protesters with rubber bullets? No consequences.

* Pepper spray law-abiding citizens? No consequences.

* Harass old ladies sitting in a park during Covid lockdown? No consequences.

* Slam people into the pavement for not wearing a mask? No consequences.

But if you dare to state a biological fact, everyone – from the Deputy Commissioner down – wets their pants.

Sergeant Staffieri should demand to know how many genders there are so that he can be more accurate in future.

Google doesn’t know, so we’ll wait for the answer.

Oh, and if you’re the victim of an actual offence, you’ll have to wait too. Police are busy attending to thought crimes.

Staffieri, who has been an officer for more than 35 years and is close to retirement, could lose his job because of the online comments.

This is not the first time Staffieri has upset police command with views that, until five minutes ago, were entirely unremarkable.

Staffieri was also investigated over his public criticism of the government’s decision to cancel Australia Day and Anzac Day celebrations last year, but allow the Gay Pride March in St Kilda to proceed.

‘So the next time Australians are sent out to fight a war, maybe we can send out the 8,000 that marched today … and try to stop the enemy by waving feathers and brightly coloured boas at them,’ Staffieri reportedly posted on May 17, 2021.

‘Triple-zero. What’s your emergency?’

‘Sergent Staffieri objected to the Mardi Gras.’

‘Does anyone need help?’

‘Yes. We are all very hurty.’

‘Does Sergeant Staffieri have a weapon?’

‘It’s his words. His words! Words are violence.’

‘Stay in a safe space and practice socially distancing until a squad car full of thought police arrives.’

In June last year, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Neil Paterson posted on Yammer, the force’s internal communication platform, that…

‘Victoria Police is proud to have been recognised as a silver employer at the 2021 Australian LGBTQ+ inclusion awards.’

Staffieri reportedly responded by posting:

‘Yes, I agree. Great achievement. But if the public knew how much time, effort, and taxpayer dollars went into this, they would also be demanding why we didn’t get a gold.’

That’s pretty funny.

Paterson didn’t think so. According to The Age, he defended the campaign and denied it had received significant public funding.

Staffieri responded: ‘Sir, I totally value and respect your opinion and your rank, I simply ask that you value and respect mine.’

Paterson fired a broadside back at Staffieri… ‘I don’t respect or value your views as they are offensive and there is no place for those views in Victoria Police… Either limit your comments on Yammer to comments that are respectful of everyone or consider your employment options.’

So in Daniel Andrews’ Victoria, it’s an honest police officer who tells the truth who is threatened with the sack for being in possession of what police hierarchy call ‘those views’

Maybe, if Sergeant Staffieri flies the Chinese flag outside his station, all will be forgiven.


The unprecedented use of force to control the population during the pandemic means all previous notions of limited state power belong in the dustbin of history

Any lingering doubts evaporated when Victorian protesters, alarmed by their losses of liberty, were fired on by their own police

When it comes to our freedoms, former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, got it right. He believed that people don’t appreciate what they have until it’s gone. ‘Freedom is like that,’ he said. ‘It’s like air.’

There was a time when we cherished our freedoms. We even fought two world wars to preserve them. But, over the last fifty years, first by stealth, then with determined haste, a growing coalition of anti-democratic elites have colluded to reset society and render those sacrifices in vain. We ignored the warning signs and began taking our freedoms for granted. Now, as we feel the effects of government’s pervasive, suffocating, actions, we are understanding what Yeltsin meant.

Of course, when we struck our bargain with the forces of darkness, we were promised that in exchange for the surrender of a few personal freedoms here and some individual responsibility there, everyone could be better off and live more equitably at the expense of everyone else.

For half a century, that compact was restated, yet only one party kept its side of the bargain. It is the people who naively continued to cede responsibility for themselves and their families to an ever-expanding army of officials who began progressively interfering in every aspect of their daily lives.

The trade-off – the promise of greater prosperity and equity for all – has been an ever-receding horizon. Indeed, according to a recent report released by the Productivity Commission, economic growth per person over the past decade has slipped to its slowest rate in sixty years, both in terms of GDP per capita and income per person. And not only that, but the wealth of the top twenty per cent of Australians has grown sixty-eight per cent in the past fifteen years compared to six per cent for the bottom twenty per cent.

But then, while cloaked in good intentions, the ‘promise’ was always about powerful interests colluding to deliver power, patronage and protection to a chosen privileged few. Even the Reserve Bank played a part by creating a systemic moral hazard, dubbed ‘too big to fail’. By making credit cheap and plentiful, it de-risked the stock and real estate markets underwriting enormous gains for the rich and well-connected.

Central bankers also lent their weight to push economy-destroying, emissions abatement regulations. This peculiarly Western obsession helps transfer wealth from the poor to rich renewable-energy rent-seekers via subsidies and consumer taxes. Soon governments will be able to use an app to monitor household emissions, giving them a seat right at the kitchen table.

Far fetched? Perhaps once. But not any more. The unprecedented use of force to control the population during the pandemic means all previous notions of limited state power belong in the dustbin of history. Any lingering doubts evaporated when Victorian protesters, alarmed by their losses of liberty, were fired on by their own police.

Worst of all, this atrocity was met with a deafening silence. The media behaved like an arm of government. The Prime Minister and the federal and state parliaments were silent. Business leaders were invisible. It was a defining moment in our nation’s history and confirmed that we now live in a society where freedom and the rule of law are at the sole discretion of the state.

This is the ‘great reset’ our children and grandchildren have been prepared for. From primary school on, they have been brainwashed to be ashamed of their heritage, their parents’ values and their traditional institutions. They have been taught how capitalism and markets are evil and that our colonial settlers were nothing more than oppressors, slave owners and environmental vandals.

They learn that fighting for freedom on the battlefields was nothing but the assertion of white supremacy. Their curriculum includes Marxist critical race theory and gender fluidity. Academic assignments lead students down an ideological path which, if they are to pass exams, they must take. This merciless moral scrutiny of the nation’s past and present is intended to cancel the past and confer legitimacy on today’s illiberal new direction.

Unsurprisingly, the most recent report from the OECD Program for International Student Assessment confirms that when measured against eighty countries, Australia has continued its 20-year decline in the quality of schooling in reading, mathematics and science. Indoctrination may not give tomorrow’s leaders the critical edge in a competitive world, but at least they will get their pronouns right.

Who dares speak against this brave new world, where even the word ‘mother’ can cause offence to some? Where to be politically incorrect can be career limiting or socially ostracising. Understandably, intellectual cowardice abounds.

There is certainly no mention of freedom or smaller government in today’s election campaigns. Voters are expected to forget the past’s multiple costly blunders like the NBN, the NDIS and the French submarine project and embrace new, expensive thought-bubbles, none of which will achieve their stated intent.

But, as US economist Herb Stein once quipped, ‘If something can’t go on forever, it will stop’. Massive debt overhangs, growing deficits and economic waste and distortions will soon prove him right in a way that neither the electorate, nor the political establishment, are expecting. Then the incompetence and frivolous nature of today’s political class will be exposed. So too, how centralised power has concentrated risks and robbed society of its resilience. But don’t expect the elites to relinquish their power and privilege. They will use the moment to expand them.

It’s as Mark Twain observed. ‘Every civilisation carries the seeds of its own destruction, and the same cycle shows in them all. The Republic is born, flourishes, decays into plutocracy, and is captured by the shoemaker whom the mercenaries and millionaires make into a king. The people invent their oppressors, and the oppressors serve the function for which they are invented.’

We have been warned. But have we the courage to turn back?


Tradies forced into a quasi-union under Labor

About 43,000 self-employed Queensland tradie independent contractors could be declared “employee-like” and forced on to enterprise bargaining agreements under a Labor policy, Master Builders Australia claims.

More than half the tradies in a survey conducted by the MBA said they were opposed or strongly opposed to being forced into “being covered by union enterprise bargaining agreements”.

But Labor said the building industry group is “peddling false stories” and that genuine small businesses are not “employee-like”.

Under its Secure Australian Jobs plan Labor would extend the powers of the Fair Work Commission to include “employee-like” forms of work and to determine “what rights and obligations” would apply.

Master Builders CEO Denita Wawn said the policy wording was broad and she feared independent contractors and sole traders, working mostly for one or two big building companies, could be taken to the FWC by unions to force them on to EBA agreements and essentially become employees.

“The Rudd-Gillard policy was balanced. This is exceptionally one sided,” Ms Wawn said.

“People want to be able to retain those choices. We want people to maintain choice, as opposed to be forced on to something they don’t want to do.”

She said while there were legitimate issues around sham contracting or some individuals who wanted to be employees rather than contractors, there were other tools in place to deal with them including the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

But a Labor spokesman said the Masters Builders had been “peddling false stories” about Labor during the election campaign.

“I don’t know what part of the phrase ‘employee-like’ they don’t understand. Someone who is genuinely running a small business is not ‘employee-like’,” he said.

“But it’s pretty obvious when we have so many workers being paid below the minimum wage in the gig economy this reform is essential.

“The Master Builders and Scott Morrison might be relaxed about people being paid less than the minimum wage. Labor is not and we will fix it.”

The MBA survey was of 1000 people taken between May 4 and May 11, in electorates with high proportion of construction industry workers.

It found 53 per cent of tradies, and 48 per cent of all respondents, opposed “forcing independent contractors into being covered by Union enterprise bargaining agreements”.

It also found 84 per cent of respondents believed independent contractors should have the right to choose whether they become part of a union or not.




Tuesday, May 17, 2022

How Australia saved thousands of lives while COVID killed 1 million Americans

From the NYT below. We are honoured

MELBOURNE, Australia — If the United States had the same COVID death rate as Australia, about 900,000 lives would have been saved. The Texas grandmother who made the perfect pumpkin pie might still be baking. The Red Sox-loving husband who ran marathons before COVID might still be cheering at Fenway Park.

For many Americans, imagining what might have been will be painful. But especially now, at the milestone of 1 million deaths in the United States, the nations that did a better job of keeping people alive show what Americans could have done differently and what might still need to change.

Many places provide insight: Japan, Kenya, Norway. But Australia offers perhaps the sharpest comparisons with the American experience. Both countries are English-speaking democracies with similar demographic profiles. In Australia and in the United States, the median age is 38. Roughly 86% of Australians live in urban areas, compared with 83% of Americans.

Yet Australia’s COVID death rate sits at one-tenth of America’s, putting the nation of 25 million people (with around 7,500 deaths) near the top of global rankings in the protection of life.

Australia’s location in the distant Pacific is often cited as the cause for its relative COVID success. That, however, does not fully explain the difference in outcomes between the two countries, since Australia has long been, like the United States, highly connected to the world through trade, tourism and immigration. In 2019, 9.5 million international tourists came to Australia. Sydney and Melbourne could just as easily have become as overrun with COVID as New York or any other U.S. city.

So what went right in Australia and wrong in the United States?

For the standard slideshow presentation, it looks obvious: Australia restricted travel and personal interaction until vaccinations were widely available, then maximized vaccine uptake, prioritizing people who were most vulnerable before gradually opening up the country again.

From one outbreak to another, there were also some mistakes: breakdowns of protocol in nursing homes that led to clusters of deaths; a vaccine rollout hampered by slow purchasing. And with omicron and eased restrictions, deaths have increased.

But Australia’s COVID playbook produced results because of something more easily felt than analyzed at a news conference. Dozens of interviews, along with survey data and scientific studies from around the world, point to a lifesaving trait that Australians displayed from the top of government to the hospital floor and that Americans have shown they lack: trust, in science and institutions, but especially in one another.

When the pandemic began, 76% of Australians said they trusted the health care system (compared with around 34% of Americans), and 93% of Australians reported being able to get support in times of crisis from people living outside their household.

In global surveys, Australians were more likely than Americans to agree that “most people can be trusted” — a major factor, researchers found, in getting people to change their behavior for the common good to combat COVID, by reducing their movements, wearing masks and getting vaccinated. Partly because of that compliance, which kept the virus more in check, Australia’s economy has grown faster than America’s through the pandemic.

But of greater import, interpersonal trust — a belief that others would do what was right not just for the individual but for the community — saved lives. Trust mattered more than smoking prevalence, health spending or form of government, a study of 177 countries in The Lancet recently found. And in Australia, the process of turning trust into action began early.

Government: Moving Quickly Behind the Scenes

Greg Hunt had been Australia’s health minister for a couple of years, after working as a lawyer and investor, when his phone buzzed Jan. 20, 2020. It was Dr. Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, and he wanted to talk about a new coronavirus in China.

Murphy, a low-key physician and former hospital executive, said there were worrisome signs of human-to-human transmission.

“What’s your honest, considered advice?” Hunt recalled asking.

“I think this has the potential to go beyond anything we’ve seen in our lifetime,” Murphy said. “We need to act fast.”

The next day, Australia added the coronavirus, as a threat with “pandemic potential,” to its biosecurity list, officially setting in motion the country’s emergency response. Hunt briefed Prime Minister Scott Morrison, visited the country’s stockpile of personal protective equipment and began calling independent experts for guidance.

Sharon Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, one of Australia’s top medical research organizations, received several of those calls. She fed his questions into the meetings that had started to take place with scientists and officials at Australia’s public health laboratories.

“There was a very thoughtful level of engagement, with politicians and scientists, right at that early phase in January,” Lewin said.

The first positive case appeared in Australia on Jan. 25. Five days later, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first human transmission of the virus in the United States, President Donald Trump downplayed the risk. “We think it’s going to have a very good ending for us,” he said.

The same day, Hunt struck a more practical tone. “Border, isolation, surveillance and case-tracing mechanisms are already in place in Australia,” he said.

Less than 24 hours later, on Feb. 1, Australia closed its border with China, its largest trading partner. On Feb. 3, 241 Australians were evacuated from China and placed in government quarantine for 14 days. While Americans were still gathering in large groups as if nothing was wrong, Australia’s COVID containment system was up and running.

A full border closure followed. Hotels were contracted to quarantine the trickle of international arrivals allowed in. Systems for free testing and contact tracing were rolled out, along with a federal program that paid COVID-affected employees so they would stay home.

For a business-friendly, conservative government, agreeing to the COVID-containment measures required letting go of what psychologists describe as “sticky priors” — long-standing beliefs tied to identity that often hold people back from rational decision-making.

Morrison trusted his close friend Hunt. And Hunt said he had faith in the calm assessments and credentials of Lewin and Murphy.

In a lengthy interview, Hunt added that he also had a historical moment of distrust in mind: Australia’s failures during the 1918 flu pandemic, when inconsistent advice and a lack of information sharing led to the rise of “snake oil” salesmen and wide disparities in death rates.

In February and March, Hunt said, he retold that story in meetings as a warning. And in a country where compulsory voting has been suppressing polarization since 1924, Australia’s leaders chose to avoid partisanship. The Morrison government, the opposition Labor Party and state leaders from both parties lined up behind a “one voice” approach, with medical officers out front.

Still, with a highly contagious virus, scientists speaking from podiums could do only so much.

“Experts ‘getting on the same page’ only matters if people actually trust the actions government is taking and trust their neighbors,” said Dr. Jay Varma, director of Cornell’s Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response and a former COVID adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.

“While that type of trust is relatively higher in New York City than in other parts of the U.S.,” said Varma, who has worked extensively in China and Southeast Asia, “I suspect it is still quite low compared to Oceania.”

Health Care: Sharing the Burden

The outbreak that many Australians see as their country’s greatest COVID test began in late June 2020, with a breakdown in Melbourne’s hotel quarantine system. The virus spread into the city and its suburbs from guards interacting with travelers, a government inquiry later found, and within a few weeks, daily case numbers climbed into the hundreds.

At Royal Melbourne, a sprawling public hospital built to serve the poor, clusters of infection emerged among vulnerable patients and workers. Case numbers and close contacts spiraled upward. Vaccines were still a distant dream.

“We recognized right away that this was a disaster we’d never planned for, in that it was a marathon, not a sprint,” said Chris Macisaac, Royal Melbourne’s director of intensive care.

A few weeks in, the system started to buckle. In mid-July, dozens of patients with COVID were transferred from nursing homes to Royal Park, a satellite facility for geriatric care and rehabilitation. Soon, more than 40% of the cases among workers were connected to that small campus.

Kirsty Buising, an infectious disease consultant at the hospital, began to suspect — before scientists could prove it — that the coronavirus was airborne. In mid-July, on her suggestion, Royal Melbourne started giving N95 masks, which are more protective, to workers exposed to COVID patients.

In the United States, hospital executives were lining up third-party PPE vendors for clandestine meetings in distant parking lots in a Darwinian all-against-all contest. Royal Melbourne’s supplies came from federal and state stockpiles, with guidelines for how distribution should be prioritized.

In New York, a city of 8 million people packed closely together, more than 300 health care workers died from COVID by the end of September, with huge disparities in outcomes for patients and workers from one hospital to another, mostly according to wealth.

In Melbourne, a city of 5 million with a dense inner core surrounded by suburbs, the masks, a greater separation of patients and an intense 111-day lockdown that reduced demand on hospital services brought the virus to heel. At Royal Melbourne, not a single worker died during Australia’s worst institutional cluster to date.

)In the U.S., coordination within the health care system was haphazard. In Australia, which has a national health insurance program and a hospital system that includes both public and private options, there were agreements for load sharing and a transportation service for moving patients. The hospitals worked together, trusting that payment would be worked out.

“We had options,” Macisaac said.

Society: Complying and Caring

“I’d just hate to be the one who lets everyone down.”

When Australians are asked why they accepted the country’s many lockdowns, its once-closed international and state borders, its quarantine rules and then its vaccine mandates for certain professions or restaurants and large events, they tend to voice a version of the same response: It’s not just about me.

The idea that one’s actions affect others is not unique to Australia, and at times, the rules on COVID stirred up outrage.

“It was a somewhat authoritarian approach,” said Dr. Greg Dore, an infectious diseases expert at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. “There were lots of mandates, lots of fines for breaching restrictions, pretty heavy-handed controlling, including measures that were pretty useless, like the policing of outdoor masking.”

But, he added, the package was effective because the vast majority of Australians stuck with it anyway.

“The community coming on board and remaining on board through the tough periods of 2020 and even into 2021 was really, really important,” Dore said. “There is a general sense that for some things, where there are major threats, you just have to come together.”Studies show that income inequality is closely correlated with low levels of interpersonal trust. And in Australia, the gap between rich and poor, while widening, is less severe than in the United States.

During the toughest of COVID times, Australians showed that the national trait of “mateship” — defined as the bond between equal partners or close friends — was still alive and well. They saw COVID spiral out of control in the United States and Britain, and chose a different path.

Compliance rates with social distancing guidelines, along with COVID testing, contact tracing and isolation, held steady at around 90% during the worst early outbreaks, according to modeling from the University of Sydney. In the United States, reductions in mobility — a key measure of social distancing — were less stark, shorter and more inconsistent, based in part on location, political identity or wealth.

In Australia, rule-following was the social norm. It was Mick Fanning, a surfing superstar, who did not question the need to stay with his American wife and infant in a small hotel room for 14 days of quarantine after a trip to California. It was border officials canceling the visa of Novak Djokovic, the top male tennis player in the world, for failing to follow a COVID vaccine mandate, leading to his eventual deportation.

It was also all the Australians who lined up to get tested; who wore masks without question; who turned their phones into virus trackers with check-in apps; who set up food services for the old, infirm or poor in lockdowns; or who offered a place to stay to women who had been trapped in their homes with abusive husbands.(BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM.)At a recent awards luncheon in Melbourne for people who made a difference during COVID, those were the kinds of people being celebrated. Jodie McVernon, director of epidemiology at the Doherty Institute, was the only scientist lauded at the event.

“Care is so undervalued,” she said. “This was all about the power of care.”

And, perhaps, the power of adaptability.

When the delta variant flooded the country last year as vaccine supplies were low, Australia’s ideas of protection and compliance changed.

Hunt scrambled to procure vaccines — far too late, critics argued, after the AstraZeneca vaccines made in Australia seemed to pose a greater-than-expected risk of heart problems — while community leaders fought against a moderate burst of fear and skepticism about vaccines.

Churches and mosques became pop-up COVID inoculation clinics. Quinn On, a pharmacist in western Sydney’s working-class suburbs, took on extra staff at his own cost to get more people vaccinated. Mayor Chagai, a basketball coach in Sydney’s South Sudanese community, hosted Zoom calls with refugee families to answer questions about lockdowns and vaccines.

Many Aboriginal Australians, who have countless reasons to distrust authorities, also did what they could to get people inoculated. Wayne Webb, 64, a Wadandi elder in Western Australia, was one of many to prioritize a collective appeal.

“It all goes hand in hand with protecting our old people,” he said he told the young men in his community.

Vaccination uptake in Australia surged last year as soon as supplies arrived, rushing from roughly 10% of Australians over age 16 to 80% in six weeks. It was the fastest rate in the world at the time. Once that 80% was reached, Australia eased open its national and state borders.

Now, more than 95% of Australian adults are fully vaccinated — with 85% of the total population having received two doses. In the United States, that figure is only 66%.

The arrival of the omicron variant, which is more transmissible, has sent Australia’s case numbers soaring, but with most of the population inoculated, deaths are ticking up more slowly. Australia has a federal election Saturday. COVID is far down the list of voter concerns.

“We learned that we can come together very quickly,” said Denise Heinjus, Royal Melbourne’s executive director for nursing, whose title in 2020 was COVID commander. “There’s a high level of trust among our people.”


The Team Morrison claim that the government’s handling of the pandemic saved 40,000 lives

James Allan is more skeptical

This is to defend itself against the charge that Australia’s pandemic response – on the ‘weld them in their homes’ end of the spectrum – condoned despotism, police brutality and heavy-handedness, preventing citizens from leaving the country, unbelievably massive government spending needed after government itself forced businesses to close (and that everyone knows is a main cause for the looming inflation, and for transferring wealth from the poor to the rich via asset inflation and from the young to the old via massive debts our grandchildren will be paying off); vaccine and mask mandates; and the rest.

So what do we make of the ‘we saved 40,000 lives’ claim? Let me be as polite as possible. It’s patent nonsense. It’s worse than disingenuously mendacious. It’s based on looking at Europe, arbitrarily picking a median country death rate per capita, then implicitly assuming Australia’s death rate would have been precisely what it was had we been situated in Europe. But it wouldn’t have been. No European country came close to our low Covid death tally.

The European country that now has some of the best ‘excess deaths during the pandemic’ numbers is Sweden, the one country that did not lock down but focused on protecting the vulnerable, trusting individual citizens and not going down the China-inspired lockdown route. So its economy is doing better than most all of Europe and it did not rack up a huge debt burden for the kids and grandkids.

What basis is there for picking a model that assumes away every variable to do with geography and being an island? (And haven’t we all had enough of models that were wrong every time throughout the pandemic, and always on the over-stating it side of the ledger so convenient to the authoritarian public health types?) Listen, Taiwan is in our neck of the woods. It was nothing like as despotic as we were. And its Covid deaths per capita were seven times lower than ours.

And anyway, British epidemiologists are already predicting that deaths caused by lockdowns (think missed health checks, suicides, super-charged alcoholism, what flows from a stuffed economy and two missed years of schooling, etc.) will be upwards of ten times higher than lives saved by locking down. It was a brutal, stupid, fear-mongering approach we took in this country. It opted to throw all freedom concerns out the window. Likewise all inter-generational fairness ones. It should not be rewarded.


Truths that should guide voting in the Federal election

Viv Forbes is pulling no punches

The ‘Man-made Climate Crisis’ is a fraud. Natural cycles control the climate.

‘Net Zero Emissions’ is a destructive, impossible green dream.
Hydrogen, Pumped Hydro, and Big Batteries are all net consumers of energy. They can store energy and recycle it, but that round-robin process consumes energy.

Carbon Capture and Storage and ‘Clean Coal’ are con games designed to consume more hydro-carbon energy for no public benefit. They would enrich big businesses.

Reliable affordable electricity for industry and homes is best supplied by coal, gas, hydro, or nuclear power.

While the world scrambles to get coal supplies, Australian bureaucrats have delayed coal exploration and development for decades. And we can mine and export uranium, but not use it. These follies must stop.

All electricity generators should be treated equally – no special taxes or subsidies. They should be obliged to provide their own backup power and their own connections to the grid.

Electric cars may suit rich city folk (who forget they are powered mainly by coal), but battery-electric engines are an impossible dream for dozers, tractors, harvesters, road trains, aeroplanes, and bulk carriers. The supply chain that delivers daily food and fuel to the cities relies totally on hydrocarbon energy.

To moderate the effects of droughts and floods we need more dams right now.

We need a regulatory firestorm to clear the legislative litter of green and red tape.

We have far too many complicated tax laws. We need to slash and simplify taxes everywhere, starting with the abolition of payroll tax (the tax on jobs) and capital gains tax (the tax on capital improvements).

Most politicians since the Whitlam era as having helped to create a huge national debt. Unless we reverse this, our currency will be destroyed, opening the door to digital money, electronic rationing, and The Great Green Reset.

We must abolish federal/state/local duplication, leaving more control with state and local authorities and with families.

The federal government should focus on defence, foreign affairs, quarantine, and maintenance of free trade between states.

We need a ‘back-to-basics’ in public education, with less green indoctrination.

Australia has a shortage of labour, and a surplus of people receiving welfare. Welfare for able-bodied recipients with no dependents should be reduced.

It is time to vote for real change.

Australia is in possession of huge resources regarding minerals, energy, timber, and food but too much is sterilised in nationalised parks, world heritage areas, or buried under rainbow serpents. We have to import farm labour while we pay Australians not to work. Now, grasslands and farms are being suffocated beneath subsidised green energy paraphernalia while speculators tout capital-destroying dreams like hydrogen. Our education system devalues maths and science, despises educational excellence, and offers an expanding array of soft options. Australia’s immigration policy seems to encourage racial tension while our military leaders seem more concerned with diversity and zero emissions than with discipline and skills.


Coalition launches strongly, but will it pay off?

Of everything that was said yesterday, this are the sentences spoken by Scott Morrison that stood out for the Liberal base:

‘I also know Australians, they’re tired of politics. It’s been an exhausting time and they’ve certainly had enough of Governments telling them how to live their lives and I agree’.

How Morrison persuades disillusioned and frustrated voters of the Liberal conservative base that these words are true and sincere – even if they don’t give him their first preference – can decide the result on Saturday night. Can Morrison lure the Straya Strayers back from parties of protest, whose power is in their preferences, to the only centre-right party that can seriously aspire to government?

The most enjoyable part of the post-launch was watching commentators, either expecting or cheering an Anthony Albanese victory, react to Morrison’s surprise ‘game changing’ announcement that younger people will be able to borrow from their own superannuation savings to contribute to a first home deposit. It has the lot to appease the base: zero cost to the budget; promoting self-help and self-reliance, promoting home ownership without government taking equity in the dwelling; and making the Coalition’s being saddled with an unreformable (in terms of a permanent Senate majority against it) compulsory super sector work for the Coalition rather than against it. Take it from a campaign veteran: keeping a blockbuster policy announcement like this from leaking was an achievement in itself.

Other things from the policy launch that were welcome? Actual, detailed policy; a focus on the positive with a vision for the future beyond three-word slogans; and absolutely no mention of Anthony Albanese. John Howard always referred to his opponent as ‘my opponent’, let alone mud wrestle with him. Morrison should always have done likewise, and his taking a prime ministerial time is long overdue.

Anthony Albanese staged an ambush rally yesterday, also in Brisbane. Scott Morrison was mentioned. A lot. Let’s be clear: beyond framing this election as a referendum on Scott Morrison, what has Labor really offered, other than ‘trust us, we’re not the Morrison or the Morrison government and, if we win, we’ll keep our glorious Leader in witness protection in the national interest’.

Final thought: Had the Coalition’s launch been held last Sunday, with Morrison speaking as strongly as he did yesterday – that is, the day before pre-poll voting started – and with the blockbuster Super to First Home policy centrepiece sucking Labor’s oxygen, what effect would it have had? As it is, this revivified version of Scott Morrison, PM, might yet carry the day, but one fears he has left his run a little too late. But, from a similar position in 2019, Morrison won. So, let’s see.

Email from The Spectator




Monday, May 16, 2022

I don’t need to be ‘welcomed’ to my country

Its just endemic Leftist stupidity and race-hate but it gets tedious

Lincoln Brown

The notion that Australians must be welcomed or invited to their own country by Indigenous leaders – as occurs at the opening of state and federal parliaments, conferences, and school assemblies – is a divisive and destructive one.

This practice, while it may appear reasonable or harmless, is a manifestation of the ongoing assault on Australia’s Western heritage and implies that non-Indigenous Australians, whose families have called Australia home for many generations, do not really belong here.

I recently attended an event where the audience (mostly comprised of Australians with European heritage) were ‘welcomed’ by an Indigenous speaker. It was a pitiful display of bitterness, resentment, and even hatred towards white Australians. Indeed, it was little more than a scolding for the colour of their skin.

The speaker bluntly stated that Australia still belongs to ‘First Nations’ people (a nonsensical and ahistorical term lifted from Canada’s debates about colonialism) and does not belong to so-called ‘white people’ (or presumably any other migrant families). He then asserted that the audience needed to learn Australia’s ‘true history’. This, even though ignorance of Australia’s British heritage has never been more apparent than it is now.

It was an overtly adversarial presentation – devoid of hope or a positive vision for Australians. Not a trace of recognition for the fact that Indigenous people enjoy the same fundamental rights that all Australians enjoy, or the tremendous efforts that governments, charities, and individuals have put into improving life for Indigenous Australians over many decades. Instead, the speaker aggressively asserted that Indigenous people are still colonised and that white people must continue to be reminded of this until colonialism ends.

The belief that all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, have a right to call the country in which we were born home is now openly attacked.

The desired outcome for such activists is unclear. How, exactly, will we know when enough has been done to overcome racism? What measurable goals must be achieved? When will we be able to congratulate ourselves for elevating Indigenous voices and dismantling colonialism enough? Will it be when all references to Christianity are removed from the national curriculum, as was attempted (and, thankfully, negated) last year? Or when we abolish the Australian flag? At what point will we have made enough progress?

Ironically, as I flew home on a Qantas jet, the pilot acknowledged the traditional custodians of the state I was returning home to. It is a strange form of colonialism in which major corporations, from airlines to the AFL, feel the need to constantly remind everyone that the land belongs to Indigenous people. One would think that if racism were the ubiquitous problem that we are told it is then major corporations would not bother with such sentiments.

White people, as nebulous as that concept is, are not guests in Australia. My ancestors were also born and raised here many generations ago. No one should be made to feel guilty for the colour of their skin or blamed for the actions of people who have long since died. This attribution of historical, collective guilt to an entire group of people due to their ethnicity is not only racist but is a symptom of a dying Australia. It is a direct, ideological assault on Western values based on selective distortions of history and the Marxist idea of class guilt, now applied to race, which divides humanity into ‘oppressed’ and ‘oppressor’ classes and ascribes sinfulness or virtue based on whatever group one happens to belong to.

If you are Indigenous, you are a victim, and therefore virtuous. If you are white, you are an oppressor, and therefore sinful. If you disagree, this demonstrates that you are entrenched in your oppressor privilege, which makes you more of a racist.

This is a dangerous fiction.

The reality that nobody is allowed to acknowledge, but everyone knows, is that Indigenous Australians not only enjoy the same basic rights as everyone else but are now viewed by mainstream institutions such as government, media, and education as having a kind of culturally protected status thanks to policies concerned with promoting ‘equity’. Such policies mean that Indigenous people have access to a range of opportunities, from scholarships to employment, that non-Indigenous people do not.

Welfare policies for Indigenous people abound, yet so do high rates of alcoholism, abuse, imprisonment, and early deaths in Indigenous communities. Is this because of racism? How many more apologies, more welcomes to country, more equity programs, are needed to remedy these issues and undo the supposed harms of our colonial heritage? Or could it be that these policies, which negate personal responsibility (that nasty colonial idea), do more harm than good?

People are afraid to suggest these things because they will be accused of racism. To call someone a racist is one of the most destructive slurs available. It destroys careers and reputations. This constant threat of ostracism for saying ‘the wrong thing’ is a cudgel the Left wields to shut down debate and discussion about how to view Australian history and how issues in Indigenous communities can be addressed. The tragic irony is that ‘welcome’ ceremonies, apologies, and other pointless gestures do nothing whatsoever to address the real and serious problems faced by Indigenous communities (especially those who live in remote areas). The virtue-signalling activists do not care about helping them, only about getting revenge on white people, and promoting themselves as victims.

None of this is likely to be new to most readers of The Spectator Australia. We know that Western values are under attack and that Australian history is more complex than being entirely good or entirely bad.

What is needed is the courage to say the unsayable: it is not right for white people to be chastised for their skin colour, nor is it right to blame every problem that Indigenous people face on so-called racism. This assault on Western values only ends when cancel culture is countered with courage culture, and name-calling stops being a weapon that can be used against people who see through the pernicious cultural-Marxist worldview.


Outrage at Deves ignores gravity of her message

British teenager Keira Bell was 14 when she began to feel dysphoria about her body. She was not a traditionally feminine girl but, instead of rejecting feminine stereotypes, she came to reject her own femaleness instead.

In doing so she decided she was, in fact, a boy. When she saw professionals about these issues – at a British clinic for gender dysphoric children – the health practitioners affirmed her belief that she was a boy. The clinic did not explore whether she was suffering from depression, or whether she had a history of trauma or low self-esteem, and promptly placed her on a treatment path to halt her normal development.

It took only three appointments before Bell was prescribed puberty blockers at age 16. She then took testosterone from the age of 17 and underwent a double mastectomy at 20. When Bell, at 23, decided to sue the clinic for malpractice, she said these treatments did not alleviate her dysphoria and she wished the clinicians had challenged her more about her beliefs that she was a boy. Reflecting on her transition, Bell has said: “I look back with a lot of sadness. There was nothing wrong with my body, I was just lost and without proper support. Transition gave me the facility to hide from myself even more than before. It was a temporary fix, if that.”

In Australia, activists have argued that gender-affirmation surgery is unavailable to children and therefore concern about such medical treatments is unfounded. But this applies only to surgery on the genital region. Children still can access double mastectomies if they have permission from a doctor and a parent or guardian. And children still are prescribed puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.

We don’t know how many children have undergone double mastectomies or how common puberty blockers and cross-sex hormonal treatment is, as there is no data publicly available for journalists to access.

It is for this reason, as well as many others, that outrage over comments made by the Liberal candidate for Warringah, Katherine Deves, has been disingenuous. While her choice of words may have been indelicate (Deves has likened gender-confirmation surgery to mutilation) these issues are serious and are in dire need of debate in this country.

Several journalists and activists have made efforts to paint Deves as a culture warrior railing against trans children – much like a puritan railing against gay boys and lesbian girls a generation or two ago. The issue has been framed as a battle between progressive values and conservative prejudice, with conservatives just lagging behind in their acceptance of children who are different.

But this framing is factually wrong. There is no scientific consensus on the treatment for childhood gender dysphoria.

Sweden, for example, recently has halted the prescription of puberty blockers for minors and Finland prioritises mental healthcare for gender dysphoric children over drugs and surgery. When the most socially progressive countries in the world are pumping the brakes on using medical treatments to transition children, the idea it is only conservatives who have legitim­ate concerns is as shallow as it is dishonest.

The medical community knows puberty blockers are associated with significantly reduced bone density in developing children. They know cross-sex hormonal treatments can lead to infertility, which is irreversible. They know after double mastectomies patients are at risk of bleeding, infections and blood clots. They know after genital reconstruction surgery many patients can expect to experience lifelong sexual dysfunction. And they know while severe complications are rare, they can be debilitating: males who undergo vaginoplasty are at risk of fistula – a rupturing of the colon.

Sky News host Chris Kenny has rubbished claims his interview with Katherine Deves was “set up”.
It is for these reasons the issue of transgender children and how to treat them is profoundly different to the issue of accepting lesbian and gay children in decades past. For a gay teenager to embrace their sexuality, they must learn to see themselves as no less of a boy because they are attracted to other boys (or no less of a girl because they are attracted to other girls). It involves learning to love one’s body while overcoming feelings of shame and alienation.

By comparison, embracing a transgender identity involves rejecting one’s body and medicalising one’s shame. This is a process that leads individuals to have a lifelong dependence on medical interventions such as drugs and surgeries. In some cases this may be liberating; in others this path may be tragic and unnecessary.

The way in which outraged media commentators have framed the issue is to portray Deves as attacking or belittling gender dysphoric children, when in reality Deves’s comments appear to come from a place of genuine concern for these vulnerable individuals.

Bell had no one in her corner when she took her feelings of distress to the British gender clinic that prescribed her puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and that led to the removal of healthy female breasts. We need more discussion, not less, to ensure that stories such as Bell’s do not become more frequent than they have to be.

When asked how people can support gender dysphoric children without pushing them into medicalisation, Bell has offered the following advice: “It has to start with how we look at gender nonconformity, and nonconformity in general. Almost every girl (if not all) that wants to or has transitioned has felt like they are wrong because they do not conform to something that this society deems as important or necessary … Gender nonconformity needs to be accepted …

“We need better mental health support, and I think that speaks for most countries. Mental health support is a great preventative measure.”

We do our children no favours if we ignore the advice of brave individuals such as Bell. Similarly, our society does not benefit if people such as Deves are demonised simply for sharing honest opinions on such complex and important issues.


Parents turned away as childcare centres don’t have enough staff

Queensland’s childcare industry is being crippled by worker shortages with many centres forced to turn parents away due to regulatory child and staff ratios.

The number of job vacancies in the early learning sector are at record highs across the country with one in 10 roles vacant nationally and 1371 in Queensland. Hiring difficulties are so dire fears grow that some centres will not survive and many have had to apply for a government waiver to legally operate as they have not enough staff.

The Australian Childcare Alliance in Queensland is deeply concerned by the job crisis and has been lobbying all parties in the lead up to the Federal Election to recognise the need for strategies to attract workers to the sector and in the long run keep more mothers, who need childcare, in the workplace.

“The workforce crisis in early childhood education has been on our radar for many years but this became even more of an issue during the pandemic when we had a significant number of educators leave our sector, either taking early retirement because they were simply exhausted, or due to vaccine mandates,” president of the ACA in Queensland Majella Fitzimmons said.

The ACA has been working with members on the most effective ways to find new staff.

“We highlight government programs for staff and businesses to support new entrants to the sector. There are some great packages and grants that bring new entrants to our sector and allow them to ‘earn while they learn’ through supported work placement programs,” Ms Fitzimmons said .

The early education peak body believes the government needs to look at reduced fees for qualifications in this field, and a boost in Skilled Visa Immigrants.

Lucy Schweizer Cook, general manager of a chain of Amaze early education centres across the state plus outside school hours care services, told The Courier-Mail that all but one of the Amaze centres are at capacity due to staff shortages.

“Parents are on waiting lists until we can meet the ratios to enrol more children. During Covid a lot of educators had a life reboot with many deciding they would stay home rather than work or looking for jobs with higher wages. We are doing all we can to make things more attractive for workers. We give loads of bonuses, pay four per cent above award wages, have staff childcare discount, flexibility, free uniform,” she said.

“It is such a rewarding career, who wouldn’t want hugs from babies and children every day,” she said.

Under The National Quality Framework there must be one educator for four children under 24 months in child care settings, two to three year olds require one staff member for five children and in outside school hours care and vacation care one educator for 15 children.


Sydney upsizers face record gap between unit and house prices

Making the leap into a larger home has become increasingly difficult for Sydney upsizers, who need to bridge a record price gap to trade up from a unit to a house.

Sydney houses now cost twice as much as units, Domain data shows, with the price difference between the two property types widening rapidly during the pandemic.

More than $794,000 now separates the harbour city’s median house price of almost $1,591,000 and the unit price of about $796,500, climbing from a 54 per cent gap in late 2019 to just shy of 100 per cent last quarter.

Domain chief of research and economics Dr Nicola Powell said demand for houses has soared amid the pandemic as buyers sought more space, with house prices growing six times faster than unit prices over the past two years.

Despite Sydney’s cooling property market – with house price growth flatlining and unit prices down 1.2 per cent last quarter – a record price difference remains.

However, that gap is likely to narrow, Powell said. Unit prices were first to fall, but house prices would follow and could see sharper declines, given their stronger growth during the boom.

Apartment demand could also be propped up by increased investor activity, at the same time as affordability constraints pushed or kept more people in the unit market.

The premium paid for houses varies greatly across the city, with the smallest difference found in more affordable outer suburbs and the Central Coast, and the starkest difference in the city’s east, north shore and inner west.

Median house prices in Vaucluse are more than five times higher than unit prices, while house prices are at least four times higher in Bellevue Hill, Mosman and Strathfield. It’s a virtually impossible gap to bridge for most, though Powell said few apartment owners in such areas would ever expect to be able to upsize locally.

The smallest price gap was in Ingleburn, at just under 10 per cent, or $66,000.

House prices in Riverstone, Quakers Hill, Norwest and Terrigal were also less than 30 per cent above unit prices. Medians were only recorded and compared for suburbs with a minimum of both 50 house and unit sales over the year to March.

Higher price gaps highlighted the extreme cost of land in inner markets, Powell said. While land was more affordable in outer areas, reducing the premium for houses, there were also more low-density apartments and villas on offer. These and newer units could command higher prices, reducing the price difference.

In the inner west, where the house median of $2.4 million is three times the unit median of $800,000, it’s become very difficult to upsize locally, said buyer’s agent Hamada Alameddine of BuyerX.

Apartments had been subject to softer price growth, and owners had built up less equity. More people were leaving the area to upgrade, or opting to upsize to a larger apartment as a result.

“People upgrading from a unit to house are struggling if they’re relying on capital growth. Unless they’re higher earners or have the capacity to borrow a lot more money, it’s hard,” Alameddine said.

Buyer’s agent Pete Wargent, co-founder of BuyersBuyers, said a lack of suitable stock, strong competition and rapidly rising prices had made upsizing more difficult over the past two years. Moving from a unit to a house in suburbia was usually the hardest gap to jump, he said.

However, conditions for upsizers would improve with increasing stock levels giving buyers more choice and time. He also expected the higher end of the market, which was traditionally more volatile, to see greater price declines, narrowing the price gap between houses and units.

While the borrowing power of upgraders would be affected by rising interest rates, most upsizers were not borrowing to their maximum capacity, he said. Rate rises would also put downward pressure on property prices.




Sunday, May 15, 2022

Disturbing implications of the Peter Ridd case

Ridd was fired because he questioned the integrity of the research behind a claim that the Barrier Reef was threatened by global warming.

Now that he is gone there is no-one in a position to critique the latest panic. In the circumstances this year's panic lacks all credibility

In October last year when the High Court handed down a short, unanimous decision in Peter Ridd’s case, it was a tragic outcome for a world class professor of physics who tried to defend his right to engage in robust professional discourse – no matter who took offence.

After 27 years at James Cook University, Ridd had failed to overturn his dismissal. Officially, James Cook University won this case. But it’s a pyrrhic victory.

The university was left with a big legal bill and a judgment that identified its improper attempts to silence an academic who questioned the rigour of other scientists.

The High Court broke with normal practice and refused to order Ridd to pay the university’s costs. But James Cook University lost something far more important than money: the reputation of this institution has been trashed.

The world has been left with the impression that this university did not understand the principle that lies at the heart of the scientific method: when searching for truth, robust debate is more important than professional courtesy and collegiality.

So to describe this university as a winner does not capture the full impact of what happened.

The High Court’s ruling falls into two parts: the first is a defeat for one man based on the peculiar circumstances of the case and the court’s even stranger form of reasoning. That aspect of Ridd’s case is best viewed not simply as an aberration, but wrong.

From Ridd’s perspective it was utterly unjust. On the substantive issue of academic freedom, the court’s judgment shows he was right and the university wrong when it tried to silence his criticism of what he considered shoddy science.

Yet these wrongdoers still managed to salvage victory after the court used a form of reasoning that was right out of Kafka: Ridd had failed to respect the confidentiality of an improper disciplinary process that targeted his legitimate right to engage in robust professional discourse.

That form of reasoning is less than persuasive and will eventually be seen for what it is: an embarrassment that sits uneasily with the rest of the ruling.

The lasting significance of this decision is in the second part of the judgment, which is an entirely convincing exposition on the importance of academic freedom and why robust scientific debate needs to prevail over bureaucratic demands for courtesy.

If the next federal government builds on this foundation, the real winners will be future generations – not just of academics but of all those who benefit from academic rigour.

This part of the ruling serves as a warning to university bureaucrats. The nation’s highest court is united on the importance of intellectual freedom and seems likely to side with academics should this issue again come before the court.

That, of course, assumes that other academics will have the fortitude and resources to follow Ridd’s example and fight for the right to speak their mind. That is quite an assumption.

In the real world, it would be a rare soul who would be prepared to risk their career and finances in a fight over an issue of principle. That is why the next federal government has an obligation to build on the foundation laid in the second part of this judgment.

The next education minister needs to ensure academics will never again need to resort to private litigation to defend their right to engage in robust professional discourse.

We have already seen how government action can nudge universities in the right direction through the development of a voluntary code on academic freedom by former High Court Chief Justice Robert French.

This code, however, fails to take account of the fact that universities are sensitive to threats to their revenue and the interests of influential stakeholders. Public policy therefore needs to support those who challenge academic orthodoxy, regardless of who takes offence.


The costs of ignoring the powderkeg men

Did restrictive feminist ideas of what is allowed in a relationship lead to a dreadful explosion?

Bettina Arndt

Three months prior to the appalling homicide of Hannah Clarke and her children, Clarke visited her local police station concerned about her husband’s behaviour, particularly following the break-up of their marriage.

She spoke to Senior Constable Kent who told the inquest last month that at first, she wasn’t “greatly concerned” by what Hannah was telling her – “just because they’re not a very pleasant man doesn’t mean it’s necessarily domestic violence,” she told her.

But then came the revelation. “She disclosed to me he makes her have sex every night. Then I went, ‘Ok, now we’ve got something.’”

There had never been violence. It was just that Clarke didn’t particularly want to do it every night - “She said that she did it so the house would be peaceful the next day.”

That was enough for Kent. She explained to Clarke that such “controlling behaviours” constituted family violence and referred her to a domestic violence support service.

Wow, how’s that for concept creep? Now having sex to keep a difficult hubby happy is domestic violence.

Of course, most long-married women aren’t interested in having sex every day, and it isn’t a healthy relationship if she feels she can’t say no. But plenty of wives choose to sometimes have sex simply because they know everything is better if they maintain that intimate connection. It’s their choice and they have agency in that decision.

But that’s not good enough for Sen Const Kent. She decided that Hannah Clarke’s reasons for having sex breached the new rules – rules underpinning enthusiastic/affirmative consent laws currently being introduced across Australia. Legal sexual relations now require more than just consent but rather, constant expressions of enthusiasm.

Now we discover that demand for enthusiasm will also be used to define when a married woman needs protection from unwanted sex. Clearly for Kent, having sex to keep hubby happy is a sure sign that a woman doesn’t know what’s good for her.

Kent is a domestic violence officer, after all. She’s used to imposing domestic violence laws requiring police to slap apprehended violence orders on the male partner at any hint of potential trouble, even over the objections of the woman concerned.

The Senior Constable felt entitled to decide what was good for Hannah Clarke and to inform her that daily sex was a sure sign that she was a DV victim. The assumption is that behind every woman having sex without appropriate enthusiasm is a dangerous, coercive man. “Sex demand a sign you could be in danger,” read the alarmist headline, reporting Kent’s evidence to the inquest.

This red flag was enough for Kent to swing the whole domestic violence apparatus into place to target Hannah Clarke’s husband, Rowan Baxter.

Let it be understood that in discussing these issues, I totally condemn Rowan Baxter for his heinous crime. His actions are inexcusable – there is no possible justification for the abhorrent act of setting fire to a car containing a woman and three children. But the question remains as to whether what led him there is potentially preventable.

It is shameful that we have allowed the mob to silence any proper discussion of the motivations and trigger points that resulted in Baxter committing this dreadful crime – information which could one day prevent other similar tragedies. This month’s inquest was not a fact-finding mission to determine the truth of what happened. It had no interest in understanding the systemic factors required to prevent such tragedies in the future.

It was a posthumous show trial, parading Baxter’s head on a spike to promote the twin towers of the latest feminist edifice – enthusiastic consent and more importantly, coercive control.

Remember what happened when the investigating officer, Detective Inspector Mark Thompson, announced at a press conference that the police would investigate with “an open mind”, including the possibility that this was an instance of “a husband being driven too far.”

His statement was greeted with outrage, the mob descended, the police officer taken off the case. Regular readers will be aware that after I supported him in a tweet, I was condemned by the Australian Senate which falsely claimed I’d raised this question, rather than quoting Mark Thompson. My treatment made all too clear the dire consequences of breaching the gag on public discussion of this issue.

Well buried in the huge mountain of evidence given at this month’s inquest, is the sequence of events that, from Baxter’s perspective, fuelled the escalating crisis, culminating in his appalling crime, followed by his own stabbing suicide. Kent’s decision to link too much sex to domestic violence seems to be the initial trigger which led to Clarke’s sudden rationing of access to the children and eventually, as everything unravelled, the restraining order preventing him from going near the family. Read this revealing message Baxter wrote to Clarke which was found on his phone, describing his bewilderment at what was happening to him.

Naturally this is given short shrift in the carefully constructed coercive control narrative dominating the inquest. Indeed, counsel assisting the coroner, Dr Jacoba Brasch, announced after eight days of hearings that nothing could have stopped Baxter from killing his family. “Why? Because Baxter was evil.”

Brasch marshalled abundant evidence of the evil man’s controlling behaviour. Witnesses trotted out bizarre stories about Baxter working people so hard in his gym that they vomited and dropping his mother-in-law on her head in a gym exercise.

Here’s a selection from a list of 17 red flags compiled by Hannah Clarke’s parents, with the help of The Guardian:

isolating Hannah from her friends and family; controlling where she could go and who she could see; depriving her of food, clothing and sleep; belittling her; monitoring her phone; printing and sharing intimate photos she had taken of herself; becoming violent towards other people when drinking to excess; throwing away children’s toys.

Baxter apparently had previously threatened to kill his previous wife and son and had been charged with assault both in New Zealand and Australia.

There’s no doubt that Baxter was a volatile man with a troubling history, and a propensity for predatory behaviour. A man set up to respond to stressful situations with behaviour destructive to himself and to others.

Within weeks of the homicide, Hannah Clarke’s grieving parents, Lloyd and Suzanne Clarke, were speaking out about the need for coercive control laws - they went on to raise $330,000 through their small steps 4 hannah campaign. It’s totally understandable that people facing this type of unspeakable loss would seek to make a difference, hoping to protect others in similar circumstances.

But their recruitment into this latest feminist campaign parallels the capture of our former Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, who initially spoke so movingly about how her ex-husband’s mental illness contributed to the tragic murder of her son. But she quickly became a spokesman for the feminist cause, with her take on domestic violence narrowing to the party line - that male misogyny and patriarchal control is the real cause of such dreadful events.

Predictably, the Clarke family homicide is being used to demand ever more stringent domestic violence measures, coercive control legislation across the country, specialist domestic violence courts, GPS electronic monitoring of perpetrators – the list is endless.

Last year I interviewed a former police officer Evelyn Rae, who explained that she dealt with many more false allegations of violence than real cases. Rae said police everywhere are aware that most protection orders are issued to women falsely claiming to be violence victims to gain advantage in family law battles. The outcome of the Clarke homicide is bound to be more stringent laws making lives miserable for the thousands of innocent men caught up in this net.

There’ll be no discussion of whether there was any possible intervention that could have prevented Baxter from going off the rails, no examination of factors in his treatment prior to the homicide which contributed to his growing instability. Note that instead of being offered help to deal with his distress over being denied contact with his children, he was told to seek a behaviour change program to control his violence. The transcript of his subsequent phone call with a MensLine counsellor is pretty revealing.

Nearly twenty years ago I wrote about powderkeg men, making the point that the pain of marital breakup leads people to do terrible things. I reported a mild-mannered man telling me how surprised he was to find himself crawling around in the bushes outside his ex-wife’s house, mad with jealously and rage. “If I had a gun, I’d have killed her,” he said.

Wounded bulls can be lethal, I wrote. “With women so often making the decision to end the marriages, men are left floundering, deprived of daily contact with their children, often losing their homes, their social and support network. Our newspapers so often carry tragic tales of separated men lashing out, doing awful damage to their families or to themselves. These are powder keg men, but it is our system which lights the fuse.”

It's thankfully very rare that powderkeg men wipe out their families. Most simply kill themselves – a fact our society prefers to conveniently ignore. The shameful secret carefully hidden by our mental health authorities is that family breakup is the number one cause of suicide in this country – I will write about this soon.

Try as we may to pretend they don’t exist, ignoring the wounded bulls is simply asking for trouble.


How Australian farmers are on track to save millions of lives

The war in Ukraine is studded with shocks and surprises. The multitude of deaths, suffered especially by Russia, is much higher than was anticipated, and a global energy crisis is feared.

Even food supplies in impoverished parts of the world are a potential casualty of this conflict.

In Australia, hardly any of us have noticed that our country – seen as a pariah at the Glasgow climate summit last year – has quietly emerged as one of the worthier nations of the world. Australian children, who in primary school often are instructed that their country has so much of which to be ashamed, will have to be told that at present it is a global benefactor.

The contrasting stories of farming and food production in Ukraine and Australia could teach us a lesson. Across Ukraine and the southwest corner of Russia is one of the world’s most extensive layers of that black soil the Russians call chernozem. Rich in decomposed plants, it is as fertile as a first-rate compost heap. Ukraine’s black soil occupies two-thirds of the arable land in a nation that has a higher proportion of arable land than all but two other countries on earth, Denmark and Bangladesh.

The damage to Ukraine’s diverse grain-belt with its wheat and corn and barley is causing increasing concern. Many farms are damaged severely; explosives and booby traps have been laid on the edge of some farmlands; and grain from last year’s harvest is pilfered from silos and trucked away by the invading Russians. Even the lumbering farm machinery, similar to the costly combine-harvesters in our wheatbelt, has been stolen by the invaders.

The harvest, normally at its busiest in just a few months, will certainly be much lower than last year’s and there is no likelihood that the surplus usually set aside for export will even reach the crucial Black Sea ports.

Mariupol, now a wreck of a city, is a wheat port as well as a hub of heavy industry. The biggest wheat port, Odesa, and various oil and wheat facilities and high-rise apartments have been hit by Russian missiles. Only as old as Sydney, this celebrated city with its terrace of 192 stone steps leading to the waterfront (I once tried and failed to count them) was the setting of a highlight in the history of cinema, the Battleship Potemkin mutiny.

One fact rarely noticed is that three of the world’s five largest wheat importers in 2020 were Muslim nations. Egypt was the largest, followed by Indonesia and Turkey. A fourth nation, Nigeria, has recently become more a Muslim than a Christian nation.

China and India as hot spots of malnutrition have been replaced by Arab nations in a typical year. According to an authoritative report issued in June last year, one-quarter of Arab children under the age of five were defined as stunted.

Egypt and its 101 million people – a larger population than any nation in the EU and still growing swiftly – now depend on foreign wheat. The country’s local output of grain always lags far behind the imports. In Cairo the government operates the ingenious Baladi subsidy scheme, which provides – largely from imported grain – cheap bread for more than half of the population.

Ukraine and Russia in recent years have supplied most of the grain used by Egyptian flour mills and bakehouses. Here is an exceptional somersault in world history. Egypt’s Nile Valley was a major supplier of wheat to the Roman Empire in its heyday. In the past decade, however, millions of Egyptians would have starved to death without the frequent arrival of food ships, some of which come from Australia.

The Middle East nation that depends most heavily on Australian grain is Yemen. One of the poorest nations in the world, its farms are noted more for their sheep and goats, asses and camels than their cereals, and its schools are notorious for the low attendance of girls. Yemen’s population, doubling every 20 or so years, has already passed Australia’s.

In the past two years especially, we have been a huge exporter of wheat to East Asia. In Indonesia, countless families who ate their daily bread or noodles made from wheat grown mainly in what is now the war zone in Ukraine now consume bread from Australian white-wheat flour.

In some months, Indonesia is the world’s largest importer of wheat, while The Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and now China are also large importers of Australian wheat. Australia is one of the five or six main wheat and barley exporters in the world and a major power if a world food shortage should arise.

In this simple old-time world, if a harvest is poor, a government will try to import grain. As shipments from the Black Sea are highly unlikely, the Third World nations that urgently need wheat will pay dearly for it on the world market in the following months – even after a ceasefire or a fragile period of peace begins in eastern Europe.

In our nation, the gap in attitudes between city and countryside is wider than ever, and in a city-dominated election campaign the farms and their contribution to the economy are barely touched on. Yet we hardly hear the news that agriculture here – highly efficient and innovative by world standards – has just experienced two prolific harvests. Last summer in Western Australia and NSW the wheat harvest, for example, has been sensational.

Thus the lives of tens of millions of adults and children on the far side of the equator will be saved or prolonged.

The past two years have been record-breaking for Australian wheat and barley and canola crops, in aggregate. It is almost certain that no matching period in our history has been so productive. While the recent floods in northern NSW have been devastating, and are seen by some scientists as proof that our climate is somewhat out of control, there is hardly a mention of the fact the grain harvests in vast areas of inland Australia have been wonderful and a reason for intense satisfaction.


Large deficiencies in our political debate

None of us want to acknowledge that our runaway inflation is less a product of the war in Ukraine than it is because of free government money being poured like petrol on the dumpster fire of pandemic over-reaction.

How can we address cost of living when both sides of politics are committed to eschewing cheap and abundant coal and gas and refuse to embrace nuclear energy?

Here the Greens and Teal ‘independents’ are driving policy in an illogical direction that suits rich people who can afford to virtue signal on climate but oppresses people in the suburbs with unaffordable electricity.

We can’t have jobs and manufacturing without affordable and reliable energy and both major parties are frittering away Australia’s competitive advantage as an energy superpower by installing wind turbines and solar panels which cannot power a modern economy.

The key to reducing cost of living is a vision for energy.

The key to ensuring young people can get into a house is land supply – something Australia has plenty of yet this is barely discussed.

If we want to tackle violence against women and children, we should have pro-family policies – policies that favour mum, dad, and the kids as the basic group unit of society.

This doesn’t mean we ignore others, it just means we do our best to support the model which provides the best security for children and the least prospect of violence against women.

But loyalty and faithfulness are old-fashioned concepts, as we prefer sexual licence and keeping options open.

Political correctness means we discriminate against stay-at-home parents as money is poured into every form of childcare choice except the choice to care for one’s own kids in one’s own home.

Women’s issues are high on the agenda but there is no discussion on a major cause of violence against women – pornography.

It was good to hear both leaders give the right answer to the question, ‘What is a woman?’ but the obvious follow-up questions were not asked. Why are our children not taught this at school and why are our schools teaching harmful LGBTQI+ gender-fluid ideology?

Why can’t the government overturn the Australian Human Rights Commission’s transgender guidelines which put sporting clubs at risk of legal action if they try and protect girls’ and women’s sport and private spaces?

Woke climate and social policy is stifling debate and hobbling our future, making a mockery of Albo and ScoMo’s respective slogans for a better and stronger future.

But because Woke is viciously anti-free speech, politicians shy away from reality, preferring to appease our cultural and media elites.

So, the election campaign consists of appeals to the base-selfishness of voters who don’t seem to want leaders who will rock the boat too much but will complain about them nonetheless.

The price we pay is kicking the can of hard issues down the road until they come to bite us.