Sunday, April 10, 2022

Who’d be a landlord as deadbeats rule and reliable tenants suffer

I once had 7 properties and let out 6 of them but tenants whose pets ruined the carpets and others who failed to pay their rent finally pissed me off and I put my money into the stockmarket instead. I have never looked back.

I used to let to single mothers as I love kids but I eventually had to stop renting to them. They were often "broke" and unable to pay their rent. Very sad but they were no good to me. There is no reason why I should pay for other people's mistakes

You can blame the 2022 floods, you can blame the influx of southerners when Covid-19 hit and our borders were yet to be slammed shut, and you can blame poor supply of building materials for new housing developments.

But Queensland’s record dearth of rentals is also because more and more landlords are opting out.

Who would own an investment property when tenants get to call the shots, they argue. In October, more disincentives kicked in, including the abolition of “no pets” rules.

While these edicts might find favour with renters, they’re on the nose with landlords, who say their rights are being trampled. Many are selling up – in a white-hot market, why the heck not? – and switching to shares as a comparatively hassle-free investment.

What this means for Queensland’s rental crisis is there will be even fewer properties available as more owner-occupiers buy in.

This is of absolutely no help to the growing number of earnest tenants battling homelessness, or the very real threat of it.

For every deadbeat who lets their pet defecate on the carpet, there are responsible renters who respect the properties they call home.

Kerri-Lee Hicks is a Gold Coast mother of three children – all with disabilities, one chronic – and she’s in the fight of her life to keep a roof over their heads.

Mrs Hicks and husband Michael, a store manager, have rented the same Pimpama home for more than 12 years, without incident. They and their family – which included a German Shepherd therapy dog until it died in January – are model tenants.

But come April’s end, their landlord is withdrawing the property from the rental market and renovating it.

Mrs Hicks, 37, says it has been a “full-time job” these past three months to find a new home. She has received more than 50 knock backs – and as many no replies – to applications, this week forcing her to put away her phone for a few hours because she “couldn’t handle another rejection”.

“I am super resilient, emotionally and mentally,” Mrs Hicks says, “but this has nearly broken me.”

Her sons’ medical conditions mean they need stability and routine but instead, the family is set for chaos.

If there’s no joy in the next few weeks, Mr Hicks will find a bed in a mate’s house near his Nerang workplace, while his wife will take their high-needs kids to her father’s place in Adelaide … until the market sorts itself out. They could be there for some time.

Mrs Hicks says real estate agents have told her they’re receiving more than 100 applications for any given property but only have time to sift through the first 20.

Her single income family is also competing for four-bedroom homes with people who have six full-time salaries.

“Targeted assistance is needed and the Government should be providing it,” Mrs Hicks says.

“It’s fine for them to say we can have pets in our rental property but when there’s no property to go to, even with a perfect track record like ours, then something’s really wrong.”

You can say that again.

Landlords bowing out of the game is but one problem demanding urgent attention as the housing shortage bites harder and more Queenslanders face the unthinkable.


Hybrid Deltacron variant of COVID-19 now detected in Australia

A new strain of Covid-19, dubbed Deltacron, has been detected in Australia, less than a month after the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the hybrid variant was making its way through Europe.

With the arrival of Deltacron in Australia, along with other Omicron variants, there’s concern Covid complacency and easing restrictions could prompt a rise in cases.

Here’s what you need to know about Deltacron.

As the name suggests, Deltacron is a combination of the Delta and Omnicron Covid-19 variants, the two most dominant coronavirus variants globally.

Deltacron was first discovered in February, when the Pasteur Institute in France reported evidence of a new genetic sequence of the virus via global science community GISAID.

The following month, three additional hybrid genetic sequences were reported. Since then, the variant has travelled through Europe, the US and the UK, and now it has landed in Australia.

Biochemistry Professor Luke O’Neill told The Conversation there may be a variety of Deltacron strains.

“Scientists at the Institut Pasteur have said the Deltacron sequences reported in the UK and US have certain differences from those found in other countries,” he said.

Deltacron is what’s known as a recombinant virus. A recombinant virus has genetic material that’s made up of portions from two or more other viruses.

In other words, when an organism is infected with two strains of a virus, it allows them to mix together to create an entirely new one.

“Recombination usually creates a new virus that isn’t viable, as the mixing of different genes can interfere with the virus’s ability to make the proteins it needs to survive. But sometimes one does survive, and that appears to be what’s happened with Deltacron,” Professor O’Neill said.

“Indeed, as the Deltacron hybrids found in the US/UK appear to be different from those found in mainland Europe, it’s possible that this has happened multiple times separately.”

As the Deltacron variant is so new, it’s difficult to say how the strain will impact the community in terms of spread and severity, but as the World Health Organisation’s Maria Van Kerkhove explained, a recombinant variant of Delta and Omicron wasn’t unexpected, especially given the widespread distribution of both strains.

Ms Van Kerkhove said via Twitter that viruses were designed to evolve. “The SARs-COV-2 virus changes over time, therefore new variations will inevitably appear,” she tweeted.

WHO enior scientist Soumya Swaminathan shared a similar message via her Twitter account. “We have known that recombinant events can occur, in humans or animals, with multiple circulating variants of #SARSCoV2. need to wait for experiments to determine the properties of this virus. Importance of sequencing, analytics & rapid data sharing as we deal with this pandemic.”

In a recent press briefing, Ms Van Kerkhove said scientists were currently studying the variant. “We have not seen any change in the epidemiology, change in severity, but there are many studies that are underway,” she said.

According to reports, an initial analysis of the variant revealed Deltacron was similar to the Delta strain, but included Omicron’s spike protein which increased transmission, prompting fears the new virus may contain the worst elements of both its parent strains.

But Professor O’Neill told The Conversation it was hard to say in what ways Deltacron would resemble Omicron and Delta. “Delta and Omicron are quite different viruses,” he said. “They differ in how they infect cells and how they evade immunity. We still don’t know enough about Deltacron to be able to tell how different it’s going to be to either.”

As for whether Deltacron will displace Omicron or Delta, or the severity of the new disease, it’s currently a case of wait and see.

In addition to the Deltacon variants, known as XD and XF, New South Wales Health also reported one case of a recombinant variant of Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 dubbed, XE. This hybrid was first detected in the United Kingdom, with WHO reporting at the time that the variant could be the most transmissible so far.

But experts say we should expect further recombinant viruses to occur.

According to the UK Health Security Agency, recombination is not an unusual occurrence and several recombinant SARS-CoV-2 variants have already been identified throughout the pandemic.

“Recombinant variants are not an unusual occurrence, particularly when there are several variants in circulation, and several have been identified over the course of the pandemic to date,” said UKHSA Chief Medical Adviser Professor Susan Hopkins. “As with other kinds of variant, most will die off relatively quickly.”

As always, vaccines remain the best way to protect yourself from all forms of Covid-19.

Due to the similarities between Deltacron and Omicron, experts say current vaccine schedules should be just as effective against the new variant.

“We know that vaccines, which are based on the original Wuhan strain of the virus, also protect against severe disease with the more recent variants,” Professor O’Neill said.

“Time will tell whether Delta and Omicron have produced a wild child for us to worry about.”


"Climate 200" organization faces accusations of white privilege after rejecting former Tibetan refugee

Climate 200 is facing accusations of white privilege after the campaign funding group twice knocked back a Tibetan human rights advocate seeking support for the upcoming election.

Kyinzom Dhongdue, a refugee and former MP in the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan parliament-in-exile, is running on a platform ­advocating a hardline stance against Chinese interference and strong action on climate change in the Sydney seat of Bennelong.

Ms Dhongdue said she ­believed her repeated requests for endorsement were rejected in part because she did not fit the Climate 200 mould of a white, upper middle class candidate.

“If you look at Climate 200’s candidates they are a predominantly white, upper middle class cohort of candidates,” she said. “The knockback, it really exemplifies the lack of representation, which is primarily why I’m running, to promote representation and diversity.”

Liberal MP Dave Sharma, whose father is an Indian ­migrant, said he was not surprised Climate 200 turned down Ms Dhongdue. He believes the decision exposes the hypocrisy of a movement run by elites and bankrolled by millionaires.

“Climate 200 is the party of white privilege – just look at the candidates they are running, and their leader, Simon Holmes a Court – so the fact they turned down a candidate of diversity does not surprise me,” Mr ­Sharma said. “It also reveals the hypocrisy of a movement which claims to be ‘grassroots’. It is run by elites and for elites, with no ­interest in people who have done genuine community service.”

Mr Sharma is facing a challenge from independent Allegra Spender in the Sydney seat of Wentworth, which he holds on a margin of 1.3 per cent. He is the first MP of Indian-origin; Dave is short for his birth name Devanand, after popular Bollywood star Dev Anand.

Ms Spender comes from Liberal pedigree. She is the daughter of the late fashion designer Carla Zampatti and politician John Spender, who spent 10 years as the Liberal member for North Sydney. Sir Percy Spender, her grandfather, served as a cabinet minister under Robert Menzies and Arthur Fadden.

Mr Holmes a Court, the Climate 200 founder, is the son of Australia’s first billionaire, Robert Holmes a Court. He is supporting more than a dozen candidates and hoping to raise a war chest of $20m.

While claiming not to be a formal political party, the group uses a centralised funding money and campaigns on similar policies, centred on climate and integrity.

Nearly all of its lower house candidates are women seeking to unseat Liberal men.

Monique Ryan is running against Josh Frydenberg in Kooyong; Zoe Daniel against Tim Wilson in Goldstein; Nicolette Boele against Paul Fletcher in Bradfield, Sophie Scamps against Jason Falinski in Mackellar; and Kylea Tink against Trent Zimmerman in North Sydney. Independents Zali Steggall, Andrew Wilkie and Rebekha Sharkie, from the Centre Alliance group formed by Nick Xenophon, are also receiving its support.

Ms Dhongdue said she was first knocked back by Climate 200 because she wanted to run for the Senate. However, Climate 200 is supporting David Pocock’s tilt to take Liberal Zed Selselja’s ACT Senate seat and the Tasmanian Senate campaign by Leanne Minshall of the Local Party.

Ms Dhongdue then decided to run as MP in Bennelong and ­approached Climate 200 again, but was told it was no longer supporting new candidates so close to the election. It has since confirmed another three candidates.

Ms Dhongdue has spent years in Canberra advocating for Tibet, and has built relationships across the political spectrum. When asked by The Weekend Australian, a number of politicians vouched for her character.

She is now running in Bennelong for the newly registered minor party Democratic ­Alliance. Headed by China critic Drew Pavlou, the Democratic ­Alliance’s other candidates include Hongkonger Max Mok and Uighur-Australian woman Intezar Elham.


Human Rights Commission challenges mandatory Covid-19 vaccination of teachers

The Queensland Human Rights Commission has sensationally claimed the chief health officer’s direction requiring teachers and early childcare workers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 is not justified.

The commission also claims the latest vaccine mandate direction is outside John Gerrard’s power, under the Public Health Act.

The QHRC has made the claims in a submission, as an intervener in Supreme Court legal challenges against vaccine mandates by three groups of suspended teachers and early childcare workers.

The QHRC claims Dr Gerrard’s latest direction, made in February, requiring full vaccination of teachers and others, does not comply with the Act.

“The right not to be subjected to non-consensual medical treatment has clearly been limited by the directions and, on the evidence, other rights also,” the submission says.

The vaccination direction prohibited unvaccinated workers in early childhood, primary and secondary schools and kindergartens from entering or working in “high-risk settings’’.

Counsel for QHRC said the right of the CHO to give such directions was conditioned upon him placing “reasonable and demonstrably justifiable limits upon human rights’’.

“On the present evidence … the limits on human rights imposed by the current CHO direction are not demonstrably justified and so, the direction was outside of power,’’ the QHRC submission says.

The decision to give the latest direction was not compliant with section 58(1) of the Human Rights Act, counsel said.

There was an apparent failure to consider the voluntary vaccination rates of teachers by February 4, when the direction was made.

The CHO also appeared to have failed to consider the effectiveness of the prescribed course of available vaccines against the Omicron variant.

There also was a lack of consideration of less restrictive alternatives in this latter phase of the pandemic and an absence of any time frame for considering revoking the direction, the submission says.

Dr Gerrard’s evidence indicated the latest direction was necessary to prevent the risk of Covid-19 spreading through school communities.

But the QHRC submission says the CHO’s material did not address the need for the direction, in light of voluntary vaccination rates. It did not identify the number of unvaccinated teachers, in order to consider alternatives such as more individualised exemptions or unvaccinated staff wearing masks or having daily or thrice-weekly RAT testing. There needed to be a balance between the rights of the challenging teachers against the rights and safety of students, families and the community.

Justice Jean Dalton recently ruled that the CHO’s vaccine directions were legislative and not administrative decisions, not requiring explanation, but her judgment is being appealed




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