Friday, February 25, 2022

Australian health authorities have treated our kids shamefully during Covid

Some sections of our community have had a ‘good’ pandemic. If you’re a cold-eyed capitalist with a flair for early adoption and lobbying, you’ve made a motza from masks and RAT riches. If you’re a middling health bureaucrat with a dour expression and a flair for the dramatic, you’ve clogged our television screens for hours at a time and not lost a single day’s pay.

Not everyone has been so lucky. While our public health overlords strenuously ignore it, it is clear the worst effects of the Covid panic have been suffered by children. Lockdowns were particularly troubling. A Unesco report in 2021 examined the adverse consequences of school closures. The report details the effects felt by children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. From missing out on meals to increases in unreported sexual abuse, poorer children suffered the most. Protecting the vulnerable, indeed.

These lockdowns and restrictions trapped children in the home with their abusers. Kids Helpline reporting data demonstrate a 49 per cent increase in sexual abuse reports in the home during lockdowns. Anecdotal evidence from police officers indicates that this is probably far greater, as children have gone unseen by health services, schools or community groups which otherwise might notice and file mandatory reports.

Children have borne the brunt of the effects of draconian policies and those who have been born during this era will feel the effects well into their futures. Babies born recently will be victims of missed screenings that identify early childhood issues, like deafness or astigmatisms, which, if diagnosed early, can result in better outcomes over the course of a lifetime.

This is coupled with foolish policy decisions like the cancellation of home visits by community nurses in South Australia. They only serve to punish newborns that will be victims of missing checks identifying physical safety concerns or domestic violence, putting them at risk of SIDS, the third highest cause of death in children under one. Without a rigorous cost-benefit analysis against the risk of Covid in children under one it is an arbitrary and potentially dangerous decision.

The ongoing Resonance Study at Brown University in the United States recently released a pre-print paper indicating that children born during the pandemic in the USA experienced declines in verbal, motor and cognitive performance and an average decline in standardised IQ testing of 22 points. If this is even half correct, it’s still cause for alarm.

As with all the pandemic’s negative effects, authorities and commentators are quick to castigate parents, rather than cast so much as a glance at their own policy failure, blaming any loss in children’s cognition or speech on parental neglect, when so many of them were trying to work, keep house and teach children all at once as required by health department diktat.

Childcare, going to playgroup or shopping with a parent or carer are all regular routines that promote socialisation and help develop verbal and emotional skills. These mundane societal interactions help shape children’s development, and their loss has had a devastating effect.

For children turning four this year and entering preschool, half their lives have been shaped by inane rules, denial of simple pleasures and lack of social contact. This drives an increase in social isolation and bleeds into the poor educational outcomes that older children experience.

Ironically, bureaucratic overreach and Covid theatre have created a situation where children who truly require medical attention can’t receive it. When my own son was ill and I was nervous about pneumonia, I was forced to first have a farcical telehealth consult (‘shall I hold the phone up to his chest for you?’) before being ushered to a sweltering back room along with supplies and an old fax machine, because his complaint was ‘respiratory’ in nature. Covid cases in Adelaide at the time? Zero.

Other longer-term medical concerns for children’s health have also been obliterated due to Covid monomania. At a time when children’s obesity rates have been steadily rising, we have abandoned them to devices and screens, further entrenching the sedentary lifestyles already commonplace prior to the pandemic. Once again, it is our poorest children that end up worst off here, with obesity rates in children from lower socio-economic areas 2.4 times greater than children from our most wealthy areas. Anyone who has tackled obesity from childhood knows how hard it is to reverse. Protecting our health system, indeed.

The irrationality of decisions about children’s participation in activities that would help to reverse obesity trends knows no bounds. The same children that play sports together at weekends are banned from interschool sports in South Australia, while unvaccinated teens are locked out of community sports in Victoria. Some of the more ludicrous decisions made about children’s lifestyles in South Australia are all the more galling given the chief public health officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier, is a paediatrician by trade. Perhaps, in all her pronouncements of ‘do not touch that ball’ or the ‘pizza box strain’, she simply forgot about the children.

The rhetoric across Australia has become increasingly shrill. One of the ugliest scenes recently was breakfast television host Natalie Barr and media identity Mayor Basil Zempilas cheering on the idea floated by the WA government that would see unvaccinated parents restricted from accompanying or visiting sick children in hospital. Any civil society ought to reject outright such a vile notion, if not for the parents, at least for the sick children unduly punished by the edict.

Of course, the media in Australia have a case to answer for in championing these policies and their less-than-subtle attempts to shift the Overton Window to make outlandish restrictions seem required by the masses. Children have been scared witless by news coverage throughout attempting to paint Covid as the peril of our lifetime. The relentlessness of the pandemic news coverage cannot have been good for children’s mental health. Banning breakfast television has been one of the simplest and easiest mental health boosters in this household.

From failing young children through reducing their verbal skills, to creating the sadness of teenagers missing out on school formals due to ridiculous vaccine mandates, there has been no end to the cruelties foisted on our kids.

Our children have had a terrible pandemic. Nelson Mandela said, ‘The true character of society is revealed in how it treats its children.’ Australia’s bureaucrats have demonstrated that children are at the absolute bottom of the pile when it comes to wearing the consequences of poor policy and draconian crackdown. We should all hang our heads in shame.


Revolt has Dan Andrews in retreat on property tax

Daniel Andrews has blamed Victoria’s housing industry after being forced to reconsider his government’s latest property tax.

Housing Minister Richard Wynne announced the $800m “social and affordable housing contribution” less than a week ago, but by Wednesday the Premier conceded the future of the bill was “very uncertain”.

On Thursday ­Mr Andrews ­denied that was due to fears Labor could lose outer-suburban marginal seats at the ­November election should the property industry and opposition campaign on the impact the tax could have on supply and affordability. He instead accused the Property Council of reneging on a deal.

Mr Andrews said the bill would see developers receive windfalls worth billions of dollars through the removal of red tape, in exchange for contributing 1.75 per cent of the value of all newly built developments with three dwellings or more, or three or more lot subdivisions.

“Engagement began on this very issue, and written submissions began back in 2019, so this has been a process that’s taken quite some time, and people were very clear on what their positions would be,” Mr Andrews said.

But peak bodies denied the Premier’s claims. “Both prior to, and following the government’s announcement, we have not been provided with any further documentation, modelling, legislation or any other government analysis of the proposed planning reform or social and affordable housing contribution,” the Property Council said.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia said the imposition of “yet another tax” would add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home.


Australia is pushing ahead with new coking coal projects for decades to come

Money is being pumped into research and technology to reduce big polluters' carbon footprints, none more so than in steel making, which accounts for eight per cent of all CO2 emissions globally.

Australia is the world's largest exporter of metallurgical coal used in steelmaking, and the second-largest exporter of thermal coal, used for electricity generation.

So in Queensland's coal belt, where so many livelihoods depend on this black gold, how long will its run last?

CQ University resource economist John Rolfe believes there'll be a strong need for coking coal in the foreseeable future — that is at least until green steel made without coking coal becomes economically viable.

"That's a low possibility," he said. "It's a bit like electric cars. Electric cars have been around for a long time and there's been talk for nearly 30 years that they will soon become mainstream, but the conversion has been really slow."

It's a snail-pace transition that mining companies like Sojitz Blue are planning to capitalise on. The company has three mine sites in central Queensland: Gregory, Minerva and Meteor Downs South.

Sojitz Blue has "committed to reducing its environmental impacts", but has also recently proposed to expand its operations at the Gregory Crinum Mine to continue producing two million tonnes of hard coking coal per year until 2043.

Sojitz Blue declined the ABC's request for an interview about its future, as its plans for expansion are still open for public comment.

Professor Rolfe is urging all mining companies to be prepared for changes in supply and demand as technology develops. "The new technologies could be both positive and negative," he said.

"If carbon capture becomes more viable then that will probably increase demand for coal mines. "But if alternative forms of energy become more viable then that will reduce the demand for coal."

New mines planned for Queensland

The Queensland Resources Council's Ian Macfarlane said the state could expect to see a number of coking coal mines open in the next three to five years.

"There is a very strong demand for high quality coking coal and central Queensland has the best coking coal in the world," Mr Macfarlane said.

Mr Macfarlane said there were three likely prospects for new mines in the state, including the Winchester South and Olive Downs mines planned for near Moranbah.

Blast furnace age will direct future coal use

When new technologies become commercially viable, Dr Tahmasebi explains there could be a reluctance from countries like China, which produces half the world's steel, to jump onboard quickly.

"The average age of the reactors that are used in China, for example, are about 14, 15 years old," he said.

"Ideally you want to operate that for 40 years, so there's another 25 to 30 years that they will want to use their reactors.

"From some of those countries there's going to be some resistance to shift to lower carbon alternative and technologies.

"The blast furnace technology is also very efficient and it's producing iron at a low cost, so there will need to be a lot of effort in alternative routes to decrease the cost to compete with that."


Broadcaster slams calls for Australia to allow 235,000 new immigrants a year claiming it would push up house prices and bring wages down

Ben Fordham has slammed a push to open Australia to hundreds of thousands of skilled migrants as a 'quick fix' to pay back debts.

The 2GB radio host questioned if enthusiasm surrounding foreign workers was prompted by the tens of millions of dollars owed by the federal government.

He explained the influx would mean more tax could be collected but claimed it would stretch public services, inflate house prices, and pull wages down.

This is despite Australia having virtually no immigrants for two years since Covid closed the borders, and accepting 200,000 net a year before that.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg recently called for 235,000 new arrivals every year.

'That's the population of Hobart arriving in Australia every year,' Fordham said on his 2GB radio show.

'Our leaders see this as a money tree but is this really in our best interests?

'We're not talking about government interests or the treasurer, we're talking about the best interests of everyday Australians.

'It may satisfy economists but it won't help those who are waiting years for surgery and it won't assist anyone who can only dream of buying a house.'

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce backed the push to bring skilled migrants Down Under but said they had to be prepared to settle down in regional areas.

'We have to say 'if you want to come to Australia you have to live in Tamworth. Sydney's full,' he said on the 2GB show.

'Sydney does not want more people but regional areas do.'

Fordham said though immigrants were crucial in building Australia, he worried housing, health services and transport would suffer.

He said a mass influx of 190,000 or even 235,000 skilled workers may satisfy economists but make life tougher for residents.

'For our political leaders it's a quick fix,' he said.

Fordham said Sydney was crippled by some of the worst traffic congestion in the world with 500 schools already crowded with too many students.

'Before Covid came along, one in three patients in our hospitals were waiting too long to be treated in emergency rooms,' he said, with 100,000 on the waiting list for elective surgeries.

House prices in the Harbour City also soared up to three times the rate of wages, faster than the rest of the country.

He said the demand for housing in Sydney would result in many having nowhere to live, putting pressure on public services to help the homeless.

The influx of skilled migrants would also put pressure on the 900,000 Australians currently surviving on unemployment benefits, he claimed.

Business leaders are complaining of a job shortage and there are fears employers will favour migrants to avoid paying higher wages to Australians.

'More needs to be done to put Aussies in jobs, before sending an SOS to the other side of the world,' Fordham said.

'You've got to show some tough love to those who refuse to work. And if you're a leaner and not a lifter you can't keep on collecting a cheque from taxpayers.'

Economists said the arrival of foreign workers would fill the gaps in high and low-skill jobs and contribute at least $1 billion a year to the economy.

Accounting giant KPMG has suggested bumping net migration levels beyond 350,000 a year to reverse a population decline and stimulate demand, increasing the size of the labour pool.

The report said pushing migration to 350,000 people a year - equivalent to adding a city the size of Brisbane every seven years - would boost GDP by 4.4 per cent.

However, the Grattan Institute said numbers alone would be counter-productive and the migration policy must tilt even more towards skilled workers, even though they far outnumber family reunion arrivals.

Business groups demanded the nation's cap on permanent skilled migration to be bumped up to 200,000 per year, rather than the current 160,000.

National wages growth has been stuck below the long-term average of 3 per cent since mid-2013 and last year grew by just 2.2 per cent, Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed.

Property prices in the year to January 2022 rose by 22.4 per cent, the fastest annual pace since June 1989, as professionals who could work from home took advantage of record-low interest rates to buy a bigger house or move to coastal regional areas.

The CoreLogic data showed an even more dramatic 29.8 per cent surge in Sydney's median house price to $1.39million, putting a home with a backyard beyond the reach of an average, full-time income earner on $90,329.




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