Friday, April 01, 2022

Albanese pledges $2.5 billion for aged care, and cheaper childcare in budget reply

This guy is brain-dead. The big extra requirements of aged care providers will force up costs of that care and thus greatly REDUCE the availability of such care. Only the rich will be able to get into nursing homes

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has made a $2.5 billion pledge to improve the treatment of older Australians with an aged care package that opens a wider election fight on “fairness and decency” by holding out the promise of higher wages for millions of workers.

The Labor plan would force every aged care facility to have a registered nurse on site at all hours, hire more carers, set higher standards for meals and fully fund a boost for workers through an appeal to the Fair Work Commission to set higher wages.

But the wage pledge does not come with a specific funding commitment, given Labor cannot know what the commission will recommend, while Uniting Care estimates the cost at $4 billion each year if unions gain all that they seek in their wage case.

Mr Albanese put the aged care plan at the centre of a budget reply speech on Thursday night that promised billions of dollars for local industry and manufacturing as well as more defence spending to help Australia “stand on our own two feet” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine unleashed instability.

“This agenda isn’t radical. My team and I are promising renewal not revolution,” Mr Albanese told voters in his speech to Parliament.


Professor Nick Coatsworth wants schools to end mask mandate for students

Australia’s former deputy chief health officer says mask mandates for school students in Victoria and WA are having a “detrimental” impact on kids.

Children in Victorian and West Australian schools attending grades 3-6 are required to wear masks inside the classroom.

No other Australian state and territory is enforcing masks requirements for students.

The infectious diseases physician and Associate Professor at the Australian National University was asked about the mandates by 3AW host Neil Mitchell on Friday.

He said not only should schools ditch masks for children, but Victoria and all other Australian states and territories are nearing a point where counting daily cases is redundant.

“It’s absolutely time to do away with the rules,” Prof Coatsworth said.

“Victoria was an outlier at the start, is still an outlier with regard to masks in schools. The only other place that’s doing it is Western Australia.”

Mitchell put to Prof Coatsworth that Australia is seeing a spike in cases from the latest Omicron subvariant BA. 2 and a corresponding rise in the number of deaths.

“Why wouldn’t you just cover (childrens’ faces) with the masks,” Mitchell asked.

Prof Coatsworth said children are not at risk of becoming seriously ill themselves from Covid-19.

“You’re not actually protecting the kids themselves because it’s a very, very mild disease in children with or without the vaccine,” he said.

“It doesn’t stop them from getting very sick because they don’t get very sick.

“Yes … there’s lots of cases around. The people who are getting very sick with this are the very frail elderly … in nursing homes. Or the people with severe underlying conditions.

“There is an overemphasis on the risks posed by Covid in a fully-vaccinated population and an overemphasis on the benefits of masking kids.”

Prof Coatsworth said he had just spent a week working on a hospital ward where he wore a mask and found it difficult to communicate with people.

“I have trouble communicating with my patients (while wearing a mask),” he said.

“It’s hard for them to hear me, it’s hard for them to know who I am, and if that’s hard for me then I can only conclude that it would be detrimental to kids.”

Prof Coatsworth said it would be reasonable for people over 70 to keep wearing masks in indoor settings until the current Omicron wave subsides.

When that happens, he said, it will be time to stop counting daily Covid-19 case numbers.

“This needs to move beyond cases now. There needs to come a time when we need to stop counting the cases. That’ll probably be when the Omicron curve comes well and truly down.”

Victoria’s chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton said in February that his advice remains the same regarding masks in schools.


Carbon farming under scrutiny

Carbon farming is when the government pays farmers to plant trees etc. It can include reverting cleared land to native bush and conversion of crop-land to grass cover

Energy Minister Angus Taylor says significant criticisms of the nation’s carbon credits scheme – a rort, according to former senior government advisory chairman Andrew Macintosh – are “completely unfounded” and a direct attack on farmers, traditional owners and public servants.

In a speech to the Carbon Market Institute on Friday, Mr Taylor will accuse the Australian Conservation Foundation of “backing away” from the claims made by Professor Macintosh.

Separately, a flagged veto on some native forest regeneration carbon projects will begin next Friday, the government will announce. Under those changes, the agriculture minister will be able to stop projects if they are deemed to have an adverse impact on agricultural production and regional communities.

These native forest regeneration projects, along with other methods, generate ACCUs after being registered with the Clean Energy Regulator.

But the ACCU scheme has come under considerable criticism including from Professor Macintosh, a law academic at the Australian National University who has chaired the government’s Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee – the body tasked with ensuring the integrity of carbon offset projects.

Professor Macintosh told the ABC’s 7.30 program last Thursday that the nation’s carbon market had “degenerated to become a rort”. “Payments are being made to people to not chop down forests that were never going to be chopped down, to grow forests that are already there, to grow forests in places that will never sustain permanent forests,” he said.

But Mr Taylor will say many of those allegations – now being investigated by the ERAC and the regulator – had already been considered and “were not supported by evidence”.

“Many of (the market’s) participants are feeling aggrieved by accusations which do not appear to be substantiated by the academic papers,” he will say.


The unsustainable secret of almost half of Australia’s ‘sustainable’ funds

Is it ethical to invest in fossil fuels? Turns out almost half of Australia’s sustainable fund managers think so. Morningstar analysed the assets of 155 sustainable funds and found 74 of them had fossil fuel investments.

The bulk of these (65) had what Morningstar considers low exposure, meaning 7 per cent or less of their assets is invested in oil, gas or thermal coal.

But some had much more.

The worst offenders were Patrizia Low Carbon Core Infrastructure Fund with 47 per cent, followed by JP Morgan Global Macro Sustainable (20 per cent) and Maple Brown Asset Management Responsible Investment (18.70 per cent).

The data exposes the often ugly complexities of the responsible investment movement.

Unlike Europe, there is no ‘green taxonomy’ in Australia, meaning there is no accepted list of sectors that responsible investors are permitted to include in sustainably branded funds. This has allowed the ‘ethical’ tag to be slapped across some of the most environmentally degrading tactics, such as drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

None of the worst offenders fully disclosed their portfolio holdings. This means clients have limited ability to see exactly where their money is going. Most product disclosure statements have vague commitments to “take into account” environment, social and governance (ESG) factors or tout their membership of responsible investment bodies.

There are three possible explanations for why investment managers would stack ‘sustainable’ funds with uniquely unsustainable energy sources.

At this rate, it seems almost anything can be called sustainable. And that’s simply not sustainable.

The first two are rooted in the idea that investing in fossil fuels is, in fact, a sustainable practice. While this may sound counter-intuitive, it’s worth considering.

Exploring, extracting and exporting fossil fuels is a capital-intensive business. The divestment movement has worked to push up the cost of capital, making it harder for these companies to access both debt and equity to finance new projects. The Russia-Ukraine war and the resulting new focus on energy supply constraints and dependency on producers such as Russia might change this.

But ‘engagement’ via investor activism has increasingly become the strategy du jour, with the aim to use the power of the dollar to agitate for change. This has seen fossil fuel companies pen ‘climate plans’, setting out the blueprint for how they will survive in a green energy future.

The question is – can you really engage a pure-play fossil fuel producer into changing its stripes?




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