Sunday, April 03, 2022

Morrison fumbles home-ownership challenge

Latest "help" will in fact make home-ownership more difficult. The only real way of makiing home-ownership more available is the long hard road -- build lots more houses. But State government and council land-use restrictions and building codes stand in the way of that -- supported by both Greenies and Nimbys

Owning the place where you live is sold to us as the “Australian dream”. In reality it should be an attainable reality for people who work hard for years on end and are sensible with their money.

However, this is not the case and it is a problem we have all known about for years, yet nobody in the political establishment seems to give a damn. After all it’s the money-spinner that keeps on giving, so why rock the boat?

This week, the Prime Minister gave an interview to the Today show in which his attitude towards home ownership was on full display.

But if you look at the policies he’s talking about, and that were expanded upon in this week’s budget, you’ll see that they are not even a Band-Aid solution – in fact experts believe they are just making the problem even worse.

The flagship policy that will affect the most Australians looking to buy a first home is the First Home Guarantee, which will be expanded to 50,000 places a year for the next three years.

This means tens of thousands more aspiring homeowners will be able to buy a property without having to save a 20 per cent deposit. Instead they will be able to buy a home with a deposit worth just 5 per cent of the property’s value.

Single parents can buy with an even smaller amount of savings. They will need just a tiny 2 per cent deposit if they are lucky enough to get on the government’s expanded Family Home Guarantee.

In other words, the government’s solution to an over-inflated property market, that is quite clearly being driven up by excessive demand and a shortfall in supply, is to encourage low income earners to saddle themselves with even larger amounts of debt.

This appears to be an almost irresponsible move considering we are facing interest rate rises.

People with higher levels of debt – for example those who bought their homes with a ridiculously low 5 per cent deposit – could be crippled by even the smallest increase.

To top it all off, experts say that giving people extra money to buy a home just makes all houses more expensive while failing to address structural issues such as building the half a million homes needed to meet the chronic shortage of supply in the country.

In other words, it is doing the exact opposite of what is needed to help the vast majority of people looking to buy their first home.

RMIT University’s emeritus professor of environment and planning Michael Buxton said that when buyers have a larger budget to spend, they can bring forward purchases that would have eventually happened anyway – while leaving behind those for whom homeownership has slipped out of reach.

“Every time the government announces assistance packages for home buyers it just goes on to the price of housing because developers simply raise the price of the house and land packages they are selling,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald this week.

“All these homebuyer grants do is stimulate demand, which increases pressure on the supply of houses and prices of housing products.

“Governments know this. But they get a free kick just before the election, so they keep on making the same mistake and adding significantly to the price of housing in the longer term.”

So instead of coming up with a plan to build more homes or a real incentive to give first home buyers a level playing field against greedy investors looking for their third or fourth rental house, the government is encouraging people to take on ridiculous levels of debt at a time of major economic uncertainty and artificially inflating the prices of homes even further.

All this does is to increase the divide between those who can’t get their foot in the door and those who have amassed a portfolio of properties to bolster their wealth.

It’s a mindset that pushes Australia towards a state where people who are born into disadvantage stay there and those who have the keys to the castle have bolted the door.

That is something I thought Australia was better than.


New ‘stripped back’ school curriculum slammed as ‘just political’

Children will have to do more maths without a calculator and learn about consent and respect in a new “stripped back” school curriculum available from next term.

They will also learn more about the impact the British settlers had on First Nations Australians and about Australian democracy.

History has also been “significantly decluttered”, allowing more time for in-depth teaching, and there will be more emphasis on phonic in English, according to the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

“Importantly, this is a more stripped-back and teachable curriculum that identifies the essential content our children should learn,” ACARA CEO, David de Carvalho, said.

“There is a stronger focus on phonics in English and on mastering essential mathematical facts, concepts, skills and processes.”

ACARA said the curriculum would include a stronger focus on students mastering the essential maths and being introduced to these at the right time.

In particular, children in Year 1 will be expected to achieve a higher level of maths than they do currently and be able to memorise times tables from the beginning in Year 2.

Students will also be taught about privacy and security online, as well encouraging children to get outside of the classroom and be more active.

Mr de Carvalho said the new curriculum would lead to better results.

The overhaul follows Australia’s steady decline in the international education rankings over the past decade.

It will be available online from the start of next term.

Education Standards Institute Director Kevin Donnelly said on the surface the new curriculum looked to be an improvement but the “devil will be in the detail”.

“It sounds good to cut it back and to talk about explicit teaching, memorising times tables and not relying on computers,” he said.

“The problem is teacher training is based on progressive fads and beginner teachers are not being properly trained.”

He said the existing curriculum was already currently weighted towards Indigenous studies so it was wrong to further emphasise it.

He said teaching about consent and respectful relationships was pushing a “woke agenda”.

“It’s just political,” he said. “Boys are taught that masculinity is negative.”

Dr Donnelly said the curriculum was just the first stage, whether the states and territories fully adopt or adapt is up to them.

He said his own research found that principals were unable to confirm what children were being taught in the classrooms.

Ministers considered the final draft of the curriculum earlier this year.

The existing Australian Curriculum that is currently taught in schools, and all support resources, will continue to be available on the current Australian Curriculum website until all states, territories and schools are implementing the updated curriculum


Black gold: Coal cracks $100b record despite China’s ban

A record $110 billion in Australian coal is expected to be exported by the end of the financial year, despite China’s infamous ban on the Australian resource, creating a huge royalty windfall for Queensland.

It will only be the second Australian resource to crack the $100 billion export mark, the Resources and Energy Quarterly March edition will reveal.

The skyrocketing earnings comes off the back of booming prices driven by critical energy shortages in parts of the world – including in China last year.

Metallurgical coal, used for making steel, hit a record $650a tonne recently and thermal coal reaching $280 a tonne – well up from budgeted for prices of $130 a tonne and $60 a tonne respectively.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt said the results highlighted the importance of coal to the state and national economy.

“Coal is making a significant contribution to a very successful year for Australia’s resources and energy sector,” Mr Pitt said.

“Critical global shortages in energy and some resource commodities have led to the high prices for some of our commodities.

“These earnings will keep the benefits flowing to all Australians, including through royalties the states use to pay for services such as the hospitals, roads and schools, we all rely on.”

The figures have been seized on by the Coalition as it heads into a tight election race, with Capricornia MP Michelle Landry saying the resource was critical to jobs and economic opportunities in the state, particularly in her electorate.

““We can’t risk the future of our coal sector to Labor who’ll be led around by The Greens. It would be the end of central Queensland’s coal mining,” she said.

Blue-collar workers turned on Labor at the 2019 election, after perceived attacks on the coal industry focused around the Adani mine.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has significantly shifted the party’s position and has stated the coal export industry will continue under a government he leads and the jobs of miners will not be cut short by his policies.

Coal exports only reached about $40 billion in 2020-21. The first Australian resource to crack $100 billion in exports in a year was iron ore last financial year.


Australian doctors are now being warned they “are obliged to” follow public health messages

Australia’s march toward medical authoritarianism continues.

Doctors are now being told they could face discipline for saying anything that contradicts “public health messaging,” even if what they are saying is “evidence-based.”

They may even face investigations for “authoring papers” that health authorities do not like.

Unfortunately, I am not exaggerating.

Like all physicians, Australian doctors can face disciplinary investigations for medical errors or other problems. In Australia, those investigations are called “notifications,” a nicely Orwellian euphemism. Ahpra, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency, oversees them.

On Feb. 28, a big Australian medical insurer warned physicians that to avoid Aphra notifications, they needed to “be very careful” not to contradict “public health messaging” in social media comments.

But the warning - although first mentioning social media - went even further. It also warned against “authoring papers” that contradicted the authorities’ favored views.

Further, even “views… consistent with evidence-based material” could lead to problems if they contradicted “public health messaging.”

The warning came from the Medical Indemnity Protection Society, which provides professional insurance coverage for doctors. Although these insurers do not speak officially for government agencies, doctors effectively cannot practice without professional insurance, so their pronouncements are powerful.

In other words, only a very brave physician in Australia would consider offering advice that’s not “consistent with public health messaging” anytime soon.




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