Sunday, October 02, 2022

Billions spent on housing affordability are making it worse: Productivity Commission

Eliminating legal barriers to home building and real estate investment generally is the only way to make adequate housing generally available. The basic problem is a shortage of housing and government regulations are the cause of that shortage

Federal folly is mentioned below but all levels of government are obstructive. Local governments, with their zoning regulations and reluctance to approve land subdivision, prevent new building and State governments do their best to discourage provision of rental accomodation by making life difficult for landlords

Sixteen billion dollars a year in government housing assistance could be better targeted, while nearly $3 billion spent helping first home buyers works against improving affordability, a Productivity Commission review has found.

Governments should commit to targets for new housing supply, improve Commonwealth Rent Assistance and address shortcomings in social housing, the review of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, released on Friday, recommended.

Productivity Commissioner Malcolm Roberts said the agreement, set up in 2018 to fund state and territory governments to improve access to housing, was ineffective.

“It does not foster collaboration between governments or hold governments to account,” Roberts said. “It is a funding contract, not a blueprint for reform.”

The report laid bare the housing affordability challenge for renters on low incomes who may not be in a position to buy a home, even with the help of government programs.

About two-thirds of low-income households spent more than 30 per cent of their income on rent in 2022. Another 20 per cent spend over half of their income on rent.

Many are left with little to spend on necessities, as about a fifth of low-income households have less than $250 left after paying their weekly rent.

Rates of rent stress are high for many recipients of Commonwealth Rent Assistance. More than eight in 10 households who receive rent assistance and either Austudy, Youth Allowance for students or JobSeeker are spending at least 30 per cent of their income on rent.

“Over the life of the NHHA, housing affordability has deteriorated for many people, especially people renting in the private market,” Roberts said. “The median low-income renter spends over a third (36 per cent) of their income on rent.”

Economists have long called for increased rent assistance, and the pressure is felt by homelessness services and social housing providers who are fielding more requests for help as rents rise.

The pandemic hit the property market, pushing up rents in regional areas when city dwellers made a tree or sea change, leaving local workers unable to find affordable rentals. New household formation has also increased rental demand in major cities.

Roberts said a new approach was needed to help those most in need into an affordable home.

“A two-track approach is needed to ease the pressure on low-income renters – the capacity for low-income renters to pay for housing needs to be improved and constraints on new housing supply need to be removed,” he said.

The $5.3 billion Commonwealth Rent Assistance program should be reviewed to improve its adequacy and targeting, the report found.

Fellow Productivity Commissioner Romlie Mokak said the safety net of homelessness services and social housing should be improved.

The report also called for a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing.

“More support is needed for homelessness prevention and early intervention programs. As governments invest more in social housing, they should also test more flexible and timely ways to assist people,” Mokak said.

The report called on state and territory governments to commit to targets for new housing supply and accelerate planning reform.


Youth crime surges in Qld as incompetence reigns in government

Deputy Premier Steven Miles has reassured the good people of Queensland that his government has spent loads of money on curbing youth crime.

Gee, I feel so much better, don’t you?

The impact of these vast sums – our taxes – is obvious when you look at the state of juvenile crime. It’s worse. Thanks for nothing, team Palaszczuk.

Following the latest tragedy – on Monday a 59-year-old man died after a crash involving an allegedly stolen car in Brisbane’s east – Miles attempted to spruik the government’s action on youth crime.

“We have seen consistent and significant investment into increasing our juvenile justice system and supporting our police,” he told a Tuesday press conference.

“The bulk of youth offenders do not reoffend so the system is effective with those offenders. “We will continue to take the advice of our police to address reoffending.”

I call BS on that.

In February last year Miles said he was seriously considering beefing up laws that deal with juveniles. Here we are, 20 months later, still waiting for the results of his earnest deliberations.

What Miles conveniently left out of his spin is that the 10 per cent of youth deemed chronic offenders commit one-third of all crimes recorded by the cohort.

The 2021 Youth Offending review by the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office also notes juveniles “average more offences during the year than their adult counterparts”. If Miles and his mob actually listened to frontline police, they’d know officers do not, in fact, feel supported by the justice system.

They feel constantly let down by weak court rulings which see them collaring the same kids over and over again.

The senseless death this week of Michael Warburton adds to a damning statistic that even this government – as intent it is on obfuscating the truth and avoiding scrutiny – can’t ignore.

In less than two years, five Queenslanders have died after being the victim of a crash involving juveniles in allegedly stolen vehicles. How many more lives must be lost?

Mr Warburton – a beloved husband and father described as “a rare gem of a bloke who was always there to help anyone” – joins Jennifer Board, Matthew Field, Kate Leadbetter and their unborn child as the state’s most recent fatal victims.

Two teens, aged 15 and 16, have been charged over the crash which caused Mr Warburton’s death, while two other 15-year-olds have been charged with unlawful use of a motor vehicle.

The alleged driver has also been charged with burglary, unlicensed driving and failure to remain at the scene of
a crash.

In February 2021 – pushed by public fury over the deaths of Matthew Field, Kate Leadbetter and their baby – the government promised to look into a “number of options”.

It set up a Youth Justice Taskforce (because we need more committees) and made absurd amendments to the relevant act.

These being that an offender who reoffends while on bail must “show cause” as to why they should get bail again; and that bail can be granted after seeking the support of a parent.

Presumably, these are the same hopeless parents to whom Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk referred after her over-hyped State of the State address on Wednesday.

She said parents needed to take more responsibility for their children. Don’t hold your breath.

The government also trialled, poorly, the use of GPS trackers on offenders aged 16 and over. The trial was meant to last for 12 months but didn’t, and only six kids were fitted with the devices.

When quizzed in May, Youth Justice Minister Leanne Linard refused to discuss the efficacy of the trial, instead throwing forward to an independent review being finalised by former police commissioner Bob Atkinson (who proposed the idea of trackers in 2018 but why rush?).

Well now that review is complete. However, in keeping with the Palaszczuk government’s pitiful record on transparency, it refuses to make it public. No guesses as to why.

Queenslanders are dying, their loved ones left traumatised, and our taxes are being frittered away by a bunch of incompetents while juvenile criminals have the last laugh.


Controversial $6.5b Burrup fertiliser plant to get green light by the end of the year

A gas-fed fertiliser plant on the Burrup Peninsula opposed by campaigners for the preservation of ancient rock engravings will likely be fully financed and go ahead by the end of the year after the federal government lent $220 million towards construction costs.

The US$4.2 billion ($6.5 billion) Perdaman urea plant that will process gas from Woodside’s Scarborough project will receive the funds from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility that has already lent the WA government $255 million to improve port and water facilities for the project.

Perdaman chair Vikas Rambal said the project won federal support because it offered local manufacturing of a commodity vital for Australian farmers.

“In four to eight weeks we should get financing done,” he said, with project approval expected before the end of the year and production beginning four years later.

Construction will require 2500 workers at its peak in the Pilbara where labour supply is already tight and Woodside is expanding its nearby Pluto LNG plant, which will need a similar number of workers.

Financing is likely to be a mix of debt and equity investment for the project that is currently wholly owned by the Rambal family’s private company Perdaman.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Madeleine King said Australia currently imported around 2.4 million tonnes a year of urea for agricultural use.

“The Perdaman project will have the capacity to reduce imported volumes and secure local farmers’ access to fertiliser,” she said.

When asked if the financing had any conditions to supply to the local market NAIF chief executive Craig Doyle said he “anticipated that a material portion of the urea produced will go to the Australian market.”

Higher gas prices due to limited supply from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine have caused global fertiliser prices to rise significantly.

Urea provides 40 per cent of Australia’s fertiliser needs according to Incitec Pivot, which agreed to buy all the plant’s output for 20 years.

The ASX-listed fertiliser and explosive manufacturer in September told investors that the plant’s large-scale cost-competitive supply would allow it to target new markets in Australia and overseas.

The Burrup Peninsula, called Murujaga by traditional owners, is home to more than one million rock engravings that are up to 40,000 years old.

Perdaman’s plant is opposed by some traditional custodians who object to the relocation of rock art for construction and the plant’s emissions that would add to the industrial pollution in the area that some scientists conclude is damaging the art.

Two weeks ago environment minister Tanya Plibersek under section 10 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act appointed an independent consultant to determine if the Murujuga engravings were under threat.

Murujuga traditional custodian Raelene Cooper said the NAIF funding was a bailout from the federal government aimed to reassure investors who are spooked about supporting a project that will remove sacred Murujuga rock art over the objections of Elders.

“The government propping up this toxic project when they have just commissioned a full cultural heritage assessment of all industry on the Burrup,” she said.

“A government that claims to support an Indigenous Voice is still refusing to listen to First Nations communities on the front line of this crisis.”

Rambal said he was not worried about the Section 10 report as the Perdaman plant was environmentally friendly with the latest technology.

The plant will initially emit 650,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year.

The WA government has required a gradual reduction in emissions to zero by 2050


The Australian legal system is not impartial

By backing in the worst extremes of climate hysteria, Australian courts – and our justice system in general – are increasingly in danger of losing their perceived legitimacy.

This week, many Australians would be shaking their heads at the New South Wales Local Court’s decision to dismiss charges against a climate protester charged with illegally blockading the Sydney Harbour Tunnel.

Blockade Australia activist Mali Cooper allegedly locked her head to her car’s steering wheel in June, while angry motorists yelled at her through her window and traffic backed up for several kilometres. According to Cooper’s lawyers, all charges have been dropped on the basis that she was found to be experiencing ‘climate change-induced anxiety’ that developed into flood-induced PTSD.

It is not the first time that Australian courts have invoked the so-called ‘climate emergency’. Perhaps the most high-profile finding we’ve seen recently is that of Federal Court Judge Mordecai Bromberg against then-Environment Minister Sussan Ley in relation to an application to extend the Vickery Coal Project in northern NSW.

Responding to an application by eight children to have the mining project scuttled, Bromberg held that Ley had a ‘duty of care owed to the children’ to prevent climate-related injury as a result of the mine’s approval. The decision was subsequently overturned.

As a more general theme, international and domestic courts may be seen as being increasingly open to second-guessing the decisions of elected leaders on the most tenuous of grounds, so long as ‘climate change’ is invoked. Following the recent passage of the Albanese government’s feted Climate Change Act, we can only expect the problem to get worse. With the government’s ‘ambitious’ carbon abatement targets enshrined in legislation for the first time, recalcitrant judges will have much greater scope to interfere with ministerial decisions in the name of ‘meeting our climate obligations’.

In contrast to the apparent sympathy towards the disruption by climate protesters, the judiciary has taken a much harder line on objectors to Australia’s heavy-handed management of Covid. While Mali Cooper has been acquitted after three months, Zoe Buhler spent two years in legal limbo following her arrest over a Facebook post promoting a peaceful anti-lockdown protest in Ballarat. Buhler’s charges were dropped as well, but in her case the unacceptably long wait for justice meant that the process itself felt like a punishment.

Out of the many legal challenges launched against the extraordinarily punitive measures imposed in the name of the coronavirus, few – if any – were upheld in court.

While some people may see the merit in interfering with a mining project that would amount to a tiny percentage of Australia’s tiny percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions, there is not a lot of judicial activism regarding the fundamental trashing of legal rights in the most egregious of ways during Covid.

The most nefarious element to a pattern of judgments across Australia is that our courts appear to be picking and choosing which protests are valid and which are not. And the phenomenon is not just happening in the courts, either. Consider the fact that Victoria Police, for example, took a knee at the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests in Melbourne in 2020, but responded to anti-lockdown protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. Both protests were ‘illegal’ under Covid regulations, yet only one was suppressed with bloody and brutal force.

If such obvious double standards continue, the faith of the public in our legal system will be badly damaged, perhaps irreparably. The role of judges is not to be popular, but they should at least be consistent.

Above all, our courts should protect the rule of law. At the very least, this requires them to be seen as being impartial, not at the mercy of political fads like climate change.




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