Thursday, March 30, 2023

Exactly WHERE will Australia's 650,000 new migrants live as the nation's housing crisis deepens

It's grossly irresponsible for Albanese to allow a migrant influx when housing is already so tight. He clearly doesn't give a damn about the poor people who are bearing the brunt of the present shortage. It's a long time since the Labor party cared about the worker

Concerns are growing over how Australia will cope with a record level of permanent migrants entering the country as the nation continues to battle a housing and rental crisis.

The Albanese Government is reportedly planning for a total of 650,000 new migrants to settle here by mid-2024.

Combined with estimates for next year, this means a total of 1.2million extra people will be living Australia in June next year compared to five years earlier.

The floodgates are being opened to skilled migrants, international students and those coming for family or humanitarian reasons, even though Sydney and Melbourne - home to more than half of those who have come to Australia in the last 20 years - have ultra-low one per cent rental vacancy rates.

SQM Research managing director Louis Christopher said surging immigration would make it even harder for people looking for a home to find accommodation, with weekly rents in Sydney soaring by 25 per cent during the past year compared with 22 per cent in Melbourne.

'We still remain very concerned for the situation in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane where most international arrivals first land,' he said.

'The surge in net overseas longer term and permanent arrivals relative to new residential property supply is ensuring extremely tight rental conditions remain with our two largest capital cities.'

Australia's rental crisis is so critical that some families are being forced to live in tents because there is a severe shortage of long-term accommodation.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson was so fed up she tweeted her disgust at plans to see net overseas migration surge to 650,000 - which is the amount coming during 2022-23 and 2023-24 combined.

'Labor's record high immigration is literally forcing Australian families to live on the streets – and winter is coming,' she said. 'We have an unprecedented housing and rental crisis. We don’t have enough homes for everyone in Australia. 'Australia is in serious trouble.'

The accommodation shortage problem is widespread with Sydney having a rental vacancy rate of just 1.3 per cent compared with 1.1 per cent in Melbourne, 0.4 per cent in Perth and 0.5 per cent in Adelaide.

Brisbane's rental vacancy rate stands at just 0.8 per cent, SQM Research data showed.

Sydney and Melbourne housed 56 per cent of Australia's new migrants between January 2000 and August 2021, new Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed.

Australia's net annual immigration in the year up to September 2022 stood at 303,700 people - a 15-year high - taking the overall population above 26.1 million.

This was the biggest overseas increase since late 2008, and included skilled migrants, family reunions and international students.

The immigration surge is also coinciding with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese facing obstacles to his plan to build 30,000 homes under its Housing Future Fund.

Labor's plan to build new social and affordable homes during the next five years has met opposition from the Greens, whose support the government needs in the Senate to get the legislation passed.

A bill to establish the $10billion fund is being put to a parliamentary vote this week but Brisbane-based Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather, who holds the minor party's housing portfolio, is opposed to the program investing money in shares.


Huge stretch of Victorian coastline returned to Aboriginal owners

A huge stretch of land in Victoria along the Great Ocean Road and up to Ararat was formally recognised as Aboriginal land this week.

There was celebrations in a small temporary courtroom in Warrnambool on Tuesday as the Federal Court of Australia granted Eastern Marr people Native Title over the 8578.35 square kilometre area.

Eastern Maar chief executive Marcus Clarke described it as a “historic moment in time”.

However, news of the decision prompted confusion online about what it would mean for popular tourist sites in the area – a large section of the Great Ocean Road, which is home to the famous 12 Apostles, and part of the Great Otway National Park.

“Will we be required to purchase permits to enter?” wrote one person.

“Wonder if the Indigenous people will put a toll on the (Great) Ocean Road and charge money if you get out of your car,” said another. spoke to Jamie Lowe, director of the Eastern Marr Aboriginal Corporation and chief executive of the National Native Title Council, about some of these misconceptions.

“We just can’t come in and unilaterally charge to use the road. The government is still in control of this stuff,” he said, explaining that instead they would be part of the discussions with government if it was to happen.

Mr Lowe, a Gundjitmara Djabwurrung man, said the Native Title would actually help enhance the tourism experience, particularly for international visitors.

He said some examples they were looking at to offer an Indigenous experience included Indigenous signage and Indigenous guides to give tours.

“If we want people to stay on the road longer and spend more money, they need more things to do,” he said.

He added more options for tourists was “a good thing for everyone”.

The determination includes the right to camp, hunt, fish, collect plants, protect sites of cultural significance and conduct ceremony, but Mr Lowe said it was important to note the Native Title only applies to Crown lands and national parks.

“We won’t be rocking up on people’s backyards and pitching a tent,” he confirmed of the misconception circulating online.

The native title claim was first filed in the Federal Court more than 10 years ago in December 2012.

In a statement, Mr Clarke said: “Our community has been steadfast in their aim to achieving Native Title and getting to this point has been a long travelled path but we are here.

“Achieving Native Title recognition provides a strong foundation for our society to strengthen our communal goals and assertions for Country including adding another link in our chain toward strengthening and advancing our self-determination and nationhood agenda.”

Eastern Maar citizen Jodie Sizer told the ABC, who attended the temporary courtroom where the decision was handed down on Tuesday, that it was important for generations to come.

“It’s a recognition of rights that provides a platform for all things; from economic development to meaningful recognition, so we can ensure that we have the self-determination to secure our rightful place in the future,” she said.

Kirrae Whurrong elder and Eastern Maar member Aunty Lee-Anne Clarke told the publication: “I’m in hope that we can take away the sorrow and oppression that we’ve actually felt and replace that with some joy and happiness, with who we are.”


Expanded eligibility for COVID antivirals as Covid cases rise

Around 160,000 extra Australians will be able to access subsidised COVID antiviral treatments from Saturday, as virus cases rise and the federal government launches a new ad campaign encouraging booster doses.

Australians in their 60s with one severe illness risk factor will join the eligibility list for Pfizer’s oral antiviral, Paxlovid, from this weekend, when a vaccination drive is also rolled out on television, social media and billboards.

Health Minister Mark Butler said aged care cases had risen by about 65 per cent, antiviral prescriptions had risen by about 40 per cent, and while there were fewer hospitalisations from COVID than in the peak of the summer wave, there had been a slow and small uptick over the last five weeks.

“All of which goes to reinforce the message that this is not over,” he said. “There will be future waves of COVID across the course of this year, and it is important to continue to reinforce those standard messages about remaining COVID-safe.”

Less than half of the eligible population (45.2 per cent) has had their fourth COVID dose going into winter although that figure is much higher – 75 per cent or more – for groups over 70-years-old.

Butler said the government’s campaign would emphasise new advice issued in January that shifted booster eligibility away from how many doses a person had, to how many months it had been since their last dose or infection.

All adult Australians who have not had a COVID-19 infection or vaccination in the last six months can get an extra booster, regardless of how many vaccine doses they have previously received.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said expanded eligibility for antiviral treatments – which prevent severe disease, hospitalisation and death – had been recommended by the independent pharmaceutical benefits advisory committee based on latest evidence and there was “plenty of supply”.

The cost for a course of treatment for people who are not eligible for the subsidy remains close to $1000 on the private market, he said.

“But I think the message to Australians is the people that really need it, they are now eligible for that highly subsidised PBS rate, and they’re the ones that should be making those plans [with their doctor] in case they are diagnosed with COVID in coming months.”

Kelly also released his review of the fourth Omicron wave, which ended in February. At 19 weeks it lasted longer than expected but was flatter in terms of case numbers and severe illness.

He said it was the first time that there had been a so-called “soup” of variants circling the community, rather than one dominant strain. “[That] actually [makes it] more difficult to predict what is going to happen in the next wave, or even the timing of the next wave,” he said.

“I think we’ve got a ripple at the moment. Whether that will turn into wave … it’s difficult to predict at this stage. But certainly, there has been an increase in numbers over the last few weeks.”

Kelly also said that hybrid immunity – meaning the combination of immunity from vaccines and prior infections – was making a difference, particularly in more vulnerable populations, with COVID death rates among First Nations, culturally and linguistically diverse, and disabled people now closer to resembling the general population.

“These are positive things,” Kelly said. “There is still a need to protect our most vulnerable people and that’s very clearly the policy that we’re doing now.”

He said the most at risk remained elderly people, particularly in aged care homes, as he strongly advised people over 65 to get a booster vaccine if they had not received one or been vaccinated in the past six months.

The government will also extend the disaster payment scheme for aged care workers, which had been due to expire at the end of March. It will continue paying $750 a week for workers who contract COVID but do not have leave entitlements.

Kelly said the department was giving personal protective equipment and rapid antigen tests to aged care facilities, and he would be writing to all providers on Friday to remind them of the key issues with COVID, the flu and other viruses approaching winter.


Greens, Coalition and entire crossbench unite to force inquiry into ‘broken’ FOI system

Only the party of secrecy dissented. Guess who?

The Greens, Coalition and crossbench have teamed up to set up an inquiry into the freedom of information commissioner’s resignation over dysfunction and delays in the FOI system.

The FOI commissioner, Leo Hardiman, announced his resignation earlier in March citing his lack of powers to make changes necessary to improve the timeliness of reviews of FOI decisions.

On Tuesday the Senate voted to establish a legal and constitutional affairs references committee inquiry into the resignation, resourcing for FOI applications and reviews, and the possible “creation of a statutory time frame for completion of reviews”.

The motion, put by the Greens senator David Shoebridge, was supported by the Coalition and the entire crossbench, passing 43 votes to 19, with only Labor opposed. The inquiry will report by 7 December.

In March Guardian Australia revealed almost 600 freedom of information cases have languished before the nation’s information commissioner for more than three years, including 42 that are still not resolved after half a decade.

The former senator Rex Patrick has brought a federal court case challenging lengthy delays in the FOI review process. He has warned that vast delays plague Australia’s “broken” freedom of information system and are shielding the activities of government from scrutiny.

In March Hardiman posted to LinkedIn that “further changes are necessary to ensure that the timeliness of … reviews and, consequently, access to government-held information, is increased”.

But without changes to his powers, Hardiman said he had come to the view he would not be able to improve the timeliness of reviews and access to information.

“I have accordingly decided the most appropriate course is to resign my appointment.”

Shoebridge said “anyone who has been near the FOI system will tell you it’s broken, responses are glacial, costs are obscenely high and too often no documents are released despite compelling public interest”.

“The FOI commissioner’s appointment was intended to be a turning point in the scheme but that too has failed, it’s time to take a proper look at what’s going on,” he said in a statement.

“The broken state of FOI laws and the impossible backlog aren’t an accident, they were intentionally created by a Coalition government that was committed to secrecy and hiding ministers from accountability.

“What’s really disappointing is that the new Albanese government has done nothing to fix the problems in FOI, and by refusing to increase funding, they have allowed matters to get even worse.”

In June, the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, told Radio National he was “not sure that we need to amend the Freedom of Information Act”.

But Dreyfus said there “needs to be a different approach” starting with “a direction to government to make information as widely available as possible”.

A spokesperson for Dreyfus said “the former government trashed FOI, leaving the system in a dysfunctional mess”.

“This government supports Australians’ right to know and is committed to ensuring the FOI Act is operating effectively.

“We will use this inquiry to demonstrate our commitment to that.”




Wednesday, March 29, 2023

$15bn NRF bill clears Senate with crossbench support

More funds for a bloated bureaucracy, political favoritism and projects that lose money. Goverments are woeful investors

The Albanese government’s flagship $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund will be created after enabling legislation passed the Senate late on Tuesday evening following a debate in which 20 amendments were voted on.

With the support of the Greens secured before the bill passed through the House of Representatives, the government secured support from the Jacqui Lambie Network, as well as independent Senators Lidia Thorpe and Senator David Pocock earlier on Tuesday.

The successful crossbench amendments go to the size, term and composition of the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) board, although most of the proposed amendments did not pass. All of the Opposition’s amendments were rejected.

The amended bill will now return to the House of Representatives, where the government holds a majority of the seats. It is expected to be officially legislated on Wednesday.

The bill establishes the NRF Corporation, which will administer the $15 billion industry fund. It will be directed by an independent board whose members will be appointed by Industry and Science minister Ed Husic and Finance minister Katy Gallagher.

In a statement, Mr Husic described the fund as “one of the largest peacetime investments in Australian manufacturing capability”.

“The most successful modern economies are built on strong, advanced manufacturing capability. The NRF will help deliver this for Australia,” he said.

“We genuinely wanted this bill to be a moment where Parliament came together to support the national interest. I am pleased the crossbench engaged constructively on this important bill that will help rebuild Australia’s sovereign capability.”

Mr Husic said the fund – one of Labor’s key election commitments – will “position Australia as a maker of high-value added products and creating good secure jobs in the process.”

“The NRF shows the Government is serious about investing our human capital to keep Australian smarts on shore. We want Australia to be a country that makes things, a nation that has faith in its know-how and ability to get the job done,” he said.

With the bill to be signed off by the House of Representatives, Mr Husic and Ms Gallagher will shortly develop an investment mandate that will guide the investments of the NRF Board. The mandate will include an agreed rate of return.

According to a government amendment to the bill in the Senate, the board must also have regard to six other considerations such as “the desirability of encouraging the commercialisation of Australian innovation and technology” and Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

The government’s other Senate amendment also requires the NRF Corporation to produce a written policy on the “impact of investments of the Corporation on First Nations Australians”.

Investments through the NRF may be made through loans, credit, bond or other debt security purchase, guarantees, or the acquisition of equity interests. Grant funding will not be made through the NRF.

The government has committed to seven sub-funds within the NRF, the largest of which is an up to $3 billion sub-fund for renewables and low emissions technologies. The other priority areas are for medical science, transport, value-add in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, value-add in resources, defence capability, and enabling capabilities or ‘critical technologies’.

Just one of Jacqui Lambie Network Senator Tammy Tyrell’s three NRF amendment sheets passed. Senator Tyrell’s amendments increases the minimum and maximum NRF board membership by two – to six and eight respectively – and specifically highlights ‘the commercialisation of innovative research’ as an appropriate area of expertise for a board member.

The legislation also requires the ministers to ensure the board members “have an appropriate balance of experience or expertise, professional credibility and significant standing” within their fields.

Speaking to the amendment on Monday evening, Senator Tyrell said this would prevent the possibility that the board become dominated by members of a single profession, for example.

Senator Pocock had one of his three NRF amendment sheets pass. The amendments reduce the maximum term for NRF board members from five years to four years, with the option for an additional term of reappointment. This sheet also brings forward the date of the first review of the fund from five years after passage to before 31 December 2026.

Two second reading amendments also passed. These are not included in the NRF Corporation bill itself.

Greens Senator Peter Whish Wilson secured a call for the NRF to support circular economy projects and to incorporate circular economy principles in the fund’s investment mandate.

Senator Pocock’s , meanwhile, received a commitment from government to explore policy mechanisms for financing startups, as well as establishing a presence for the Corporation in the Australian Capital Territory.

None of Senator Thorpe ‘s amendment sheets or second reading amendment passed. A requirement that consent be obtained from First Nations Traditional Owners before projects situated on their land could receive NRF investment from was pursued as an amendment to the bill as well as a call for inclusion in the Investment Mandate through a second reading amendment.


Another public trustee disgrace: Bloodsuckers

Stealing from pensioners is their speciality

A decision was made a year ago to try to protect Mark* from being financially exploited – but now, he pays a dollar to the state agency protecting him for every dollar he gets back.

Mark has a neurodevelopmental disorder and survives on an age pension. His sister Annie* has cared for him since their father died.

In recent years, Annie became increasingly worried about her brother's ability to manage and protect his own finances, which prompted her to seek help.

She applied to the State Administrative Tribunal for Mark's assets to be taken under state care. It was a decision she now regrets.

"It feels like they've taken complete control of my brother's life, and mine. I have never been so stressed," Annie said. "It feels like being incarcerated."

Left without money for food

Mark was put under an interim administration with the WA Public Trustee, and he was blocked from accessing his own bank accounts. He couldn't even afford to buy food, forcing Annie to pay out of her own pocket to help.

In a statement, the Public Trustee said it could not comment on individual cases, but acknowledged that miscommunication with banks has led to other similar events.

"The Public Trustee has been alerted to instances where the bank has frozen accounts because the bank did not understand the administration order and the Public Trustee will instruct the bank to unfreeze the account."

Annie said Mark was unable to access his bank account for almost three months.

Eventually, after an hour-long tribunal hearing over the phone, the Public Trustee was appointed Mark's official administrator.

A dollar for you, a dollar for them

Mark was only given access to his money through a $200 weekly allowance authorised by the Public Trustee.

In his first four months of administration, he received $3,500. Over that same period, the Public Trustee charged at least $3,664 in financial administration fees alone.

Totalling all the fees, Mark paid 40 per cent of his pension to the Public Trustee, including for "asset management" and establishing the administration.

It's illegal in every state and territory except the ACT to identify people like Mark who have their assets under state care. The potential penalty in WA for publishing their identity is one year's imprisonment or a fine of up to $10,000.

It means we can't show Mark and Annie's faces, despite them wanting to share their story.

"It's a secret, secretive organisation … it's an absolute disgrace the way you're treated," Annie said.

ABC's Background Briefing has revealed how the Public Trustee forces some clients out of their own homes, against their will, and charges tens of thousands of dollars.


Queensland is set to have 'the strongest hate crime laws in the country'

The public display of hate symbols, like Nazi flags, will be banned in Queensland under proposed laws set to be introduced by the state government today.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there was no room for hateful ideologies, after several recent anti-Semitic incidents in Brisbane.

"Our government promised to review and strengthen serious vilification and hate crime laws and this bill is delivering on that promise," she said.

"These reforms mean Queensland will have some of the strongest hate crime laws in the country."

What are the proposed laws?

A new "prohibited symbols" offence will be introduced in a bill in parliament today by Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman.

Under the new offence, public display, public distribution or publication of prohibited symbols in circumstances that might reasonably be expected to cause a member of the public to feel menaced, harassed or offended, are prohibited, unless the person has a reasonable excuse. The hammer and sickle?

This includes publishing images or symbols online on social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook, or publicly displaying hateful tattoos.

Criminals found guilty of violent crimes, including assault and grievous bodily harm, who are motivated by hateful ideologies, will face increased penalties, including longer jail terms.

"I think that sends a really serious message that racial vilification or vilification based on religion or sexuality, or gender identity will not be tolerated here in Queensland," Ms Fentiman told ABC Radio Brisbane.

It's important to note it won't be illegal to possess material displaying hate symbols, only to display it.

"We can't stop people from having this kind of really disturbing material. But if you display them and it causes people distress, then that will be illegal, and it will be a crime," Ms Fentiman said.

The new offence will give police officers and the courts expanded powers to prove a hate crime. Officers will be permitted to access the phone records of suspected offenders, provided they have a warrant.

Are there any exemptions?

There will be exemptions to the proposed laws, with hate symbols permitted for educational, historical, and religious purposes, as well as cultural settings.

"There will be very sensible exemptions built into the legislation," Ms Fentiman said.

"We know, for example, that the swastika, as opposed to the Nazi hooked cross, is a religious symbol for people practising Hinduism and Buddhism."

Chief executive of Multicultural Australia, Christine Castley, said the reforms were a step in the right direction.

"The laws will enhance the safety of every person and every community in Queensland, especially for those culturally and linguistically diverse communities who all too often face harassment as they go about their lives in public spaces and places of worship," Ms Castley said.

"We will continue to amplify the voices of affected communities and individuals, and work with the Queensland government and response agencies such as the Queensland police to improve awareness and reporting of hate crimes."


Big coal miners warn on prices, jobs as coal faces ‘carbon tax by stealth’

Solar panels from China trump Australian-produced coal as an energy source

Major coal companies are warning that Anthony Albanese’s deal with the Greens to pass Labor’s signature climate policy is a ­“carbon tax by stealth” that will drive up ­energy prices, destroy jobs and kill foreign investment.

Whitehaven, New Hope, Bowen Coking Coal and Peabody Australia condemned Labor’s 11th-hour safeguard mechanism shake-up amid concern the changes would damage prosperity and make it harder and more expensive to reduce ­emissions.

The companies – which collectively represent $15bn worth of fossil fuel projects and count billions of dollars in their investment pipeline – say the government’s proposed amendments will make Australia uncompetitive.

While Labor locked in a second parliamentary win in securing crossbench support to pass its $15bn National Reconstruction Fund, negotiations with the Greens broke down over its signature housing policy, with the left-wing party refusing to deal with the bill until the budget sitting ­period.

The $10bn Housing Australia Future Fund is facing parliamentary defeat, with the Greens and ACT independent senator David Pocock opposed to the scheme to underwrite 30,000 new affordable homes amid concern the ­investment will not cover projected housing shortfalls.

The coal industry’s intervention comes after gas producers warned the Prime Minister’s ­climate policy, which forces 215 big emitters to slash emissions by nearly 5 per cent each year out to 2030, could drive up costs for households and businesses if supply is restricted.

While the safeguard amendments have been welcomed the Business Council of Australia and Australian Industry Group, Whitehaven Coal chief executive Paul Flynn warned the Greens’ changes put Australia at a “significant” competitive disadvantage, and created risks for energy ­security for strategic partners ­including Japan.

“Nearly 70 per cent of Japan’s thermal coal imports come from Australia so it exposes them to a material new risk in terms of security of energy supply,” Mr Flynn said. “In the midst of a global shortage of ­energy, and considering ­alternative technologies aren’t ready to pick up the slack from the 80 per cent of primary energy derived from fossil fuels today, it’s mind-boggling the government has entertained these concessions.”

Prime Minster Anthony Albanese said the Liberal Coalition is a party addicted to ‘secrecy, coverups and denial’… after Labor was criticised for working with the Greens by the opposition. “Only a party addicted to secrecy, coverups, and denial would say that it’s a bad thing that this parliament More
Bowen Coking Coal chief executive Nick Jorss said Labor was entering “extremely dangerous and uncharted territory” with a “carbon tax by stealth” that would limit Australia’s high-quality, low-emissions coal exports.

With coal Australia’s largest export industry, Mr Jorss said: “Global coal demand is at the highest level in history and it’s ­fanciful to think that reducing our high-quality exports in the face of record demand will do anything other than drive up energy and steel prices, create a net increase global emissions and destroy ­Australian jobs, both in regions and in cities.”

New Hope Group chief executive Rob Bishop said the amendments were built on “a political objective on a base demonisation of fossil fuels” and that they would see Australia abandon its role as a reliable energy exporter for the region.

President of Peabody’s Australian operations, Jamie Frankcombe, said the company was concerned the legislation would “make the mining industry less competitive at a time when it’s integral to providing the minerals and energy required for the ­energy transition”.

“The very real danger in setting aspirational emission ­reduction targets and imposing rigid rules to achieve them is that it will reduce our cost competitiveness, lead to potential job ­losses and hurt regional communities.”

A spokesman for Glencore said the reforms needed to achieve emissions reductions without “destroying the jobs and investments that are critical to the national economy”.

Industry sources were concerned the government was “ring-fencing” sectors including manufacturing from their role in emissions reductions, and the “preferential treatment” would mean other groups had to “pick up the slack” after Labor carved out $1bn to support hard-to-abate sectors and critical industries during the transition.

Private equity fund EIG – the soon-to-be owner of Origin ­Energy’s gas business – said the deal between Labor and the Greens failed to recognise the role of gas as a bridge to renewables. “it’s a mistake to treat coal and natural gas the same,” EIG chief executive R. Blair Thomas said. “I think gas does have a critical role to play in energy transition in a way that coal does not.”

EIG, which along with Canada’s Brookfield has signed a binding $18.7bn deal to buy Origin Energy, said the Australian government must balance the need to reduce emissions while ensuring energy security.

“If we don’t get that balance right and we have the extreme volatility, like we saw in Europe last year, I think you’re going to get very significant consumer backlash,” Mr Thomas said.

Greens leader Adam Bandt on Tuesday said Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen now had special powers – under what he called a “pollution trigger” – to stop fossil fuel expansion that would lift pollution above legislated targets. He also said the party would push to install a climate trigger as part of an overhaul of environmental laws. This would require emissions to be considered before projects were approved.

Despite Mr Bandt claiming the deal would stop about half of 116 coal and gas projects in the pipeline, Mr Bowen said the safeguard mechanism would not damage investment or drive up prices. Mr Bowen said emissions targets under the laws already accounted for new entrants, and the legislation included a buffer for emissions from future projects.

He said new transparency ­requirements would see coal and gas projects brought in line with “international best practice” for emissions reductions.

“What we negotiated was a very clear cap on emissions, which is perfectly reasonable and sensible,” he told the ABC. “They will have to meet those requirements, as will every other facility, whether it’s gas, coal, any other new facility, an industrial emitter will need to meet international best practice when it comes to ­future emissions.”

After weeks of closed-door talks, Tasmanian Greens senator Nick McKim unleashed a torrent of criticism on green groups and claimed his own party’s negotiation position was “not as strong as it could have been”.

“We have been in negotiations with the corrupt, ecocidal government of a petro-state that was prepared to hold a gun to the head of future generations by threatening to blow up climate action ­unless they could continue to approve massive new coal and gas projects,” he said.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown, who torpedoed Kevin Rudd’s carbon pollution reduction scheme, backed the deal with Labor and attacked green groups for being “unhelpful”.




Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Developers thrown huge tax incentives to fix housing crisis
Property developers who build affordable homes will receive a slew of tax concessions

The tax concessions are attractive so developers may grab them. The fact that only one out of 10 homes has to be "affordable" is a rort. The developer will provide minimal facilities in one propery and build the rest to an attractive standard. So the poor will still get only the most basic accommodation

Property developers who build affordable homes will received a slew of tax concessions including land tax slashed in half Treasurer Cameron Dick has revealed.

Owners of build-to-rent projects will have their land tax bill slashed in half for 20 years if they make one in every 10 units an “affordable home”.

Other available tax concessions include a full exemption on the 2 per cent foreign investor land tax surcharge also for 20 years.

A full exemption from the additional foreign acquirer duty for the future transfer of a build-to-rent site will also be available.

The concessions will come in on July 1, 2023.

Mr Dick said the private construction sector was “at capacity” across Australia, and the government was “working with industry to identify innovative ideas that create new pipelines of housing”.

It comes as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced hundreds more emergency hotel rooms across Queensland will be funded under a $28m boost to the state government’s housing response package for another year.

The announcement comes as the state government prepares to focus the parliamentary sitting week on housing, including the push to limit rent increases in Queensland to once a year.

The government will unveil the rent shake up as housing stakeholders gather on Tuesday to look at progress from last year’s housing summit, which the Premier called following The Courier-Mail’s Hitting Home series.

Under the changes, it is understood property owners and landlords will only be allowed to lift the rent on their property once every 12 months.

The move would bring Queensland in line with other states, such as Victoria and South Australia – where the rental price on a property can generally only be changed once a year.

Ms Palaszczuk on Tuesday morning also confirmed the state government would fund its immediate housing response package for an extra year to the tune of $28m.

The support would help “our most vulnerable Queenslanders facing homelessness and housing stress” and including funding more than 600 emergency hotel room spots, and help pay bond payments.

“Through our immediate housing response for families package we've supported more than 4000 families with over 44,000 nights of accommodation,” Ms Palaszczuk said.


New Origin owner Brookfield ‘flexible’ on Eraring coal closure

There's a lot of persiflage below but there is a committment not to close Eraring until replacement generation is available. That may never happen. The idea that batteries could help is a laugh. A battery will only last hours and then be useless

The soon-to-be owner of Origin Energy will hold talks with incoming NSW premier Chris Minns on the future of Australia’s biggest coal plant, Eraring, as pressure grows to keep the station running longer than 2025 amid fears of blackouts.

“What’s most important to us is that it is closed down as soon as it possibly can be. So within that context we’re obviously happy to have a conversation with the government and hear what they have to say,” Brookfield Australian boss Stewart Upson said.

“But it will be important to us that whatever happens the result of our investment here is that Eraring can be closed down as soon as it can be done so in a responsible manner.”

The takeover deal includes a plan for Brookfield to invest an extra $20bn in Origin through to 2030 to build up to 14 gigawatts of new renewable generation and storage facilities in Australia.

Before the Brookfield approach Origin had given notice that it intended to close the 2880-megawatt Eraring power plant in the Hunter Valley in August 2025.

Mr Minns has said his view is to seek talks to keep the nation’s biggest coal-fired generator open past the scheduled closure date.

Mr Upson told The Australian the August 2025 date “is not a required closure date”. Any closure would also ensure there is alternative supply in place, he added.

“It’s not a commitment by Origin to close on that date, it’s the earliest possible date, it can close.

“Both Origin (now) and under our new ownership – are focused on closing Eraring as soon as we possibly can, only if we can only in a way that’s responsible and doesn’t have an impact on consumers or supply in the market.”

“That’s about ensuring that we have the replacement capacity in place before we close it down, which is something Origin has already been working on with its battery project and something we will be working on as fast as we can,” Mr Upson said.

He said he welcomes talks with the incoming NSW Premier.

“They are a very important stakeholder and I think it’s going to be important that we work closely together to ensure that the transition happens in a way that doesn’t have a negative impact on consumers, business or the economy in general,” he said.

The comments by Mr Upson shows the infrastructure giant is prepared to play the long game on politics as it prepares to take control of one Australia’s most important power generators.

Mr Upson still has some way to go to win Origin, but he has got past the biggest hurdle – securing binding scheme agreement on the $18.7bn mega power deal.

The proposal still needs to get approvals from competition and foreign investment regulators and Orgin’s shareholders are yet to vote on the deal, although it has been endorsed by the board.


The Greens say they’ve derailed the Beetaloo gas project but proponent Tamboran disagrees

Dozens of oil and gas projects face higher costs under a Labor climate deal with the Greens, analysts said, but claims it will scuttle two of the Northern Territory’s largest gas developments were rubbished by the project developers.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said the safeguard mechanism would put a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s 215 largest polluters, as well as introducing a “pollution trigger” requiring the Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen to test a new or expanded project’s impact on the cap and net carbon budgets.

Mr Bandt said the net effect of the agreed amendments to the mechanism was that “the Greens have stopped many of the 116 coal and gas projects in the pipeline from proceeding ... and we’ve derailed the Beetaloo and Barossa gas fields’’.

Credit Suisse head of integrated energy and resources Saul Kavonic said the deal represents “a far cry from a ban on new oil and gas, but certainly doesn’t indicate new oil and gas supply is welcome”.

“The new reforms agreed with the Greens are going to be inflationary and risk jobs by hindering investment and restricting offset use across all of Australia’s heavy industry.’’

But Tamboran Resources - developing the Beetaloo project in the NT - said claims its project would not be able to proceed under the new rules were totally incorrect.

“This is 100 per cent wrong,’’ managing director Joel Riddle said on Monday

“Tamboran’s progressive sustainability plan was and is doing everything already called for in these amendments.

“This is a decisive political failure for the Greens who have campaigned to destroy industry, jobs and real progress on emissions reductions.’’

Mr Riddle said the project was already aiming to be net zero across the company’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions for first commercial production of gas, and Tamboran has been marketing Beetaloo as “Australia’s largest green initiative’’.

Empire Energy, which is also targeting gas in the NT, said with less than 1 per cent of carbon contained in its Beetaloo gas resource, the challenge of offsetting the emissions of our development is significantly lower than other gas sources.

“Empire welcomes the additional clarity today’s announcement brings to regulatory requirements for the development of the Beetaloo’s natural gas resources,” Empire Energy chief executive Alex Underwood said.

Tamboran shares fell 6.7 per cent to 21c while Empire dropped 6.3 per cent to 15c.

Santos, which is developing the Barossa project 300km off the NT coast, declined to comment on Monday.

Many industry figures are still grappling with details of the agreed-to amendments. However, there is broad agreement they will make developing gas projects more costly and difficult.

While the “hard cap” did not equate to an outright ban on new oil and gas projects “it raises the bar for the resources sector in that it effectively halves the allowable emissions of new projects’’, pro vice chancellor of sustainability at Murdoch University Martin Brueckner said.

“The resultant cost increases may render many of the 116 projects currently awaiting Australian government approval financially unviable,’’ he said.

The deal includes a “hard cap” on emissions, which would not be allowed to exceed current levels of 140 million tonnes per annum, bettering the previous proposal which would have seen pollution rise to between 155-184 million tonnes by 2030, the Greens said.

Mr Bandt said the “pollution trigger” element of the mechanism “could” be used by the Minister to set allowances for Australian Carbon Credit Unit offsets at zero, “effectively stopping a project from proceeding’’.

Industry sources said this was drawing a long bow as it relied on ministerial discretion to make such a decision, and a statement released on Monday by Mr Bowen said “no limits” would be placed on the use of Australian Carbon Credit Units as offsets.

A freeze on the use of “human induced regeneration” offsets, which the Greens claimed were “the most dubious” was also a part of the deal. The Minister’s statement also said the government would commission a review into the feasibility of an Australian carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM).

“The review will give particular consideration to a CBAM for the steel and cement sectors,’’ Mr Bowen said.

Companies such as cement producer Adbri have been calling for an Australian CBAM, in order to stop cheaper, carbon intensive imports flooding the Australian market and undercutting them.

Adbri said it still faced a significant task to decarbonise while keeping its manufacturing plants in South Australia and Western Australia competitive.

Mr Bowen also committed to $1bn in funding for the manufacturing sector and trade-exposed industries through the Powering the Regions Fund.


Surging migration inconsistent with botched housing plan

In the long list of ill-considered and foolish government policies that have been suggested or implemented through the years, there is little doubt that the Housing Australia Future Fund stands out as among the most imprudent.

Raised as something of a thought bubble by then opposition leader Anthony Albanese in his 2021 budget-in-reply speech, it has now found its way into a concrete proposal that is being debated by the Senate.

Given pressures in the rental housing market and the long waiting times for residents to secure a place in social housing, it’s not unexpected that the federal government is seeking to take action to alleviate some of these problems.

The most direct ways would be simply to lift government spending on social housing via the states and territories; to raise the rate of government rental assistance; and to facilitate greater housing supply in general.

But for reasons that are not completely obvious, apart from staying true to Labor’s pre-election announcement, the government has decided to press ahead with HAFF notwithstanding its glaring deficiencies.

The plan is for the government to raise $10bn in debt – which is currently not cheap, by the way – and to get the Future Fund to invest the funds. The net returns will then be invested in social and affordable housing each year.

From the expected average annual return of $500m, the plan is to invest in a total of 6000 social and affordable dwellings each year.

Affordable dwellings are deemed to be for essential workers such as nurses and teachers who otherwise struggle to find accommodation within acceptable distances from their places of work.

Let’s be clear here: these numbers are extremely modest.

At the current rate of population growth, we need at least around a quarter of a million new homes just to accommodate the extra people. It is also estimated that there are at least a half-million people on the current waiting lists for social housing.

It’s also worth doing the maths: at $500m each year – it’s unclear what happens if the returns are negative – it works out as just more than $83,000 a dwelling funded by HAFF each year. Everyone knows you can’t get anything for that sum of money even if you exclude stand-alone houses.

What is not clear is what the government thinks it can achieve by allocating just more than $83,000 a dwelling – it most certainly won’t be the full costs of construction and land. Will this sum be used to subsidise other financiers by, for example, subsidising the gap between the market and actual rents paid by low-income tenants?

What the federal government doesn’t appreciate is that it doesn’t really matter who funds the additional social and affordable housing because the cost is the cost. Any amount of financial engineering doesn’t alter this.

It may be the case that non-government entities are better at running and maintaining rental accommodation than government agencies, but it’s not necessary to establish a costly and convoluted investment fund such as the HAFF to achieve this.

The HAFF is essentially a bet on the equity risk premium that generates higher returns than the cost of the debt. If this were really a good idea, it should be extended to all forms of government spending which, of course, no one thinks is a good idea.

The only explanation seems to be the political value of cashing in on the Future Fund brand and having a perpetual entity.

In the meantime, the news on the rental crisis becomes grimmer as each month passes. The vacancy rates in many parts of the country are at historic lows and the annual rate of increase in rents ranges from 10 to 30 per cent. Rents are gobbling up higher proportions of tenants’ incomes, for those who can find suitable accommodation in the first place.

But here’s the real rub: just when it’s clear that the rental situation is dire and becoming worse, the federal government has facilitated a substantial surge in the number of migrants entering the country, particularly international students but other temporary entrants as well.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund is on track to be rejected by key…
Talk about poor timing. Before the pandemic, the annual net overseas migration (long-term arrivals minus long-term departures) was 240,000 in 2019. On current trends, NOM will end up between 350,000 and 400,000 this calendar year. Combined with natural population growth, that’s more than the entire population of Canberra – although the migrants don’t live in Canberra but largely in Melbourne and Sydney.

The Treasurer has tried to justify this surging migration by making the point that there was a substantial hiatus during Covid and we are only making up for the “lost” arrivals.

What he fails to mention is that the pandemic was also associated with a substantial stalling in the building of new accommodation that is needed to accompany strong population growth. In other words, the last thing we should do is to try to make up for these “lost” arrivals. It’s a clear case of the government implementing inconsistent policies.

The HAFF, on the one hand, is ill-conceived and won’t do anything to alleviate the rental crisis any time soon. It’s also too small to have any real impact. On the other hand, egged on by pro-immigration Treasury officials and other vested interests, the government has decided to open the flood gates for even more migrants to come here and stay. This involves a substantial loosening of the conditions that are attached to the various visa categories.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the Housing Australia Future Fund will make a “practical difference” to…
Needless to say, these migrants need somewhere to live and this is making the battle for accommodation even fiercer, driving up rents even further. State governments toy with various perverse policy responses, such as more pro-tenant laws, outlawing rent bidding and even rent controls, which further deter investors from putting money into residential real estate

The bottom line is that the HAFF should be jettisoned before it gets off the ground and the government should go back to the drawing board to deal with the rental crisis. It also should consider means of throttling the current number of new migrants.

There is little doubt that the labour market will soften towards the end of the year; we won’t want the migrant intake to be running at its current high level at that stage.




Monday, March 27, 2023

Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll says Gabba just needs a ‘coat of paint’ to host 2032 Games

Some sense at last

The Gabba just needs “a coat of paint” to be able to host the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Australia’s Olympic boss has sensationally declared.

The Gabba Stadium just needs “a coat of paint” to be able to host the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the head of the Australian Olympic Committee Matt Carroll sensationally declared.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Mr Carroll made an appeal to the Federal Government for a $2 billion investment in sport over the next 10 years, saying, “the Brisbane Games will not be a success if the Australian teams are not successful”.

But Mr Carroll also declared the $2.7 billion investment in the Gabba Stadium redevelopment was not about the Olympics.

It comes after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced in April 2021 that the redevelopment would cost $1bn, a figure Queensland Auditor-General Brendan Worrall told a parliamentary committee came “from a press release”.

Last month Ms Palaszczuk announced, alongside Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, that the Gabba would be demolished and rebuilt for $2.7bn – 170 per cent more – with the state government set to foot the bill.

“Let’s be honest. The infrastructure of the Gabba is for the AFL and cricket,” Mr Carroll told the National Press Club.

“The Olympics and Paralympics will use it for a month. They could just give it a coat of paint.

“Those sports will be the beneficiaries of a rebuild of the Gabba.”

He said the Games being hosted in Australia meant it could “turbo charge” investment in sport and sporting facilities, including for the community.

“The other facility which is they’re building in Queensland, particularly the indoor sport facilities in various suburbs across southeast Queensland, Australia’s fastest-growing population, are needed for the people,” Mr Carroll said.

“This investment in infrastructure is not just for the Olympic Games. We’re going to use them but they are there for the community.

“Without those infrastructure builds, particularly in the community sports, we won’t get what we’re looking for – more kids playing sport. They’ve gotta be able to play somewhere.”

Mr Carroll said without the $2 billion investment in sport, increased funding for the Australian Institute of Sport, a federal department of sport and the Sports Minister promoted into Cabinet, the success of the Brisbane Games was at risk.

“Unless the situation is rectified, Australia will be staring failure in the face of the 2026 Commonwealth Games and the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, because our home teams will have been undermined by inaction. The time starts now,” he said.

“The Brisbane Games will not be a success if the Australian teams are not successful.

“The Olympic flame is going to be lit in July 2032. That date will not shift, you can’t put it off, it will not go away.

“Ready or not, you’ve got to be there.”


Union boss Ian Leavers rejects claim shooting victim was unarmed

The only reason why this incident is controversial is that the offender was Aboriqinal

Aubrey Donohue was shot by police after a four-hour siege at a Mareeba address on Saturday, after he allegedly approached officers with a knife.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said because the matter was before the coroner he was limited in what he could say but that he must “correct the misinformation” stated by some people.

“Despite reports to the contrary, I can confirm the violent offender was definitely brandishing a knife and threatening the hostage,” he said.

“I can confirm the offender had an extensive history of highly violent domestic violence incidents.

“All police involved in this matter performed professionally, responsibly and with great restraint.

“Police only acted when it was clear that the life of an innocent hostage was in jeopardy.”

Mr Leavers said police were called specifically about a serious domestic violence incident and not a mental health issue.

“All police involved should be commended for their actions and it was pleasing to see that the new domestic violence situations assessment tool brought in as a result of the recent Commission of Inquiry into domestic violence was utilised and it demonstrated that the offender was identified as “extreme” in every single assessment category,” he said.

“We are very lucky that police were able to prevent the murder of an innocent domestic violence victim.”

Dozens of protesters have rallied outside the Mareeba police station, holding "black lives matter" and "jail killer cops" signs, after the shooting death of 27-year-old Aubrey Donahue.

Dozens of protesters have rallied outside the Mareeba police station, holding "black lives matter" and "jail killer cops" signs, after the shooting death of 27-year-old Aubrey Donahue.
A police spokesman said CPR was performed but Mr Donahue could not be revived.

Police attended following reports Mr Donahue threatened self-harm and allege Mr Donahue was not allowing another occupant of the house, a woman, to leave.

Despite this, family members have been vocal at a meeting on Sunday and again at a protest on Monday, alleging that the police shot him when he was unarmed and that domestic violence was not the reason for police to attend.

One person in the crowd called for the officer who fired the bullets to be stood down, another wanted the officer publicly named.

On Sunday, a man claiming to be a brother-in-law disputed Mr Donahue was armed. “He was walking out the door to give himself up. He said to them he only had a phone in his hand,” he said.

Mr Donahue’s mother, Desley, told the tense, 100-strong crowd at a community meeting on Sunday that she was at a loss to understand why her son had died. “My son has got bullet holes in his body. I’m his mother, and they (police) aren’t telling me anything,” she said.

Officers were verbally abused and had objects thrown at their cars when they left the community meeting.

At a media conference held on Sunday afternoon, Far North regional crime co-ordinator Detective Acting Superintendent Sonia Smith said an “extensive investigation” into the circumstances surrounding Mr Donahue’s death was underway. The incident is being investigated by the Ethical Standards Command on behalf of the State Coroner


Kochie smashes Baby Boomer housing ‘myth’

He is right. I remember paying 19% mortgage interest in the '80s. But houses were much cheaper then. The flood of amost free money unleashed by governments in response to the pandemic is the problem. It shot the cost of buying to unprecedented levels

Sunrise host David Koch has unleashed on Baby Boomers with a brutal message aimed at smashing the myth that young Aussies are simply too lazy to save for a home.

While it remains a persistent talking point among older Australians that younger generations are bad savers, the breakfast TV host analysed the issue to determine exactly why home ownership seems increasingly out of reach.

Koch, commonly referred to as Kochie, compared the financial burdens weighing on those trying to buy a home in the late 1980s versus now — and he found it had nothing to do with avocado toast.

“Back in my day, I was paying 17 per cent on my home loan. Now that was tough,” Koch began.

“All right, now hands up who has said that or been told that at a family get together recently. Is that grumpy oldie right or wrong? These are the facts.”

While it is true that the interest rate in 1989 and 1990 was at a staggering 17 per cent, compared to the six per cent rate today, Koch said exceptionally cheap house prices meant Boomers still had the better deal.

House prices have skyrocketed in Australia in recent years, while wages have struggled to keep pace. In fact, wages essentially did not move in the entire decade to 2023.

“Back in the 80s, the average cost of an Aussie house was $70,000. Now it’s $700,000 — ten times more expensive,” Koch told Channel 7’s Sunrise on Monday.

“A 20 per cent deposit has gone from $14,000 to $140,000, but wages have not kept pace.”

The TV host and financial expert explained how, in the 1980s, the average salary was $19,000. In 2023, it’s about $90,000.

“So in the 80s, the price of a house was four times the average person’s income,” he said.

“In 2023, it’s eight times the average Aussie salary.”

The situation is even worse in the most densely populated parts of the country. A 20 per cent deposit on the median dwelling in Sydney, for instance, is a staggering $220,000.

Contrary to the boomer myth, a recent study from the University of Sydney found the majority of young Australians already had a robust savings plan in place.

The study, which tracked a group of 25-35-year-old prospective first home buyers in Sydney and Perth, found that most had implemented standard budgeting strategies like cutting back on discretionary spending. One of the households surveyed only ate two-minute noodles for weeks at a time in their attempts to buy a home.

Still, the study found that 95 per cent of the group didn’t even come close to having enough savings for a home deposit. Three-quarters had less than $5000 in savings, and 40 per cent planned to call upon the bank of mum and dad when it came time to buy.

Koch’s tirade comes after a Finder survey revealed that one in three young Australians have missed their mortgage repayments in recent months.

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s 10 consecutive rate hikes since May are biting, as the financial comparison website’s monthly cost of living report showed 31 per cent of Gen Z borrowers (born 1995 onwards) had missed a mortgage repayment in the past six months.

By comparison, 11 per cent of Gen Y — also known as Millennials — had missed a repayment, and eight per cent of Gen X.

“Increases in housing costs are having a higher impact on Australian households than any other metric,” the report said.

“Younger generations were far more likely to report financial difficulty in managing their mortgage repayment.”


Climate deal struck after Labor and the Greens reach safeguard mechanism agreement

Keeping the lights on to be a bigger and bigger challenge

The federal government has secured the support it needs to implement its central climate change commitment, after reaching a deal with the Greens following months of safeguard mechanism negotiations.

The Greens have long demanded Labor commit to no new coal and gas projects, but the government has repeatedly ruled this out.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said the deal included a hard cap on emissions, which would impact new or expanded high-polluting projects.

He predicted the hard emissions cap would make it unviable for 116 new coal and gas projects in the pipeline because they would be unable to get their emissions below the limit.

"The Greens have stopped about half of them [in the pipeline] but Labor still wants to open the rest," Mr Bandt said.

"And, so, now there is going to be a fight for every new project that the government wants to open."

The safeguard mechanism bill before the parliament seeks to impose emissions limits on the 215 largest-polluting facilities in the country.

It requires those companies to cut, or pay offsets, to reduce their emissions by 4.9 per cent each year to 2030.

Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen has led the safeguard negotiations with the Greens since Labor won power last year. He said Labor only accepted amendments that were in keeping with Labor's election commitments and policy agenda.

"They do two things, strengthen accountability, transparency and integrity of the scheme and, secondly, provide extra support for those strategic manufacturing industries that are so important for our economy and transition as well," Mr Bowen said.

Extra support for some sectors

The deal will see the government offer extra money to support "Australia's sovereign capability" in the steel, aluminium and cement sectors.

There had been fears that those sectors would be forced offshore without additional support to cut emissions.

Mr Bandt said that, while the negotiations had been in good faith, he was critical of Labor's approach to coal and gas. "Negotiating with Labor is like negotiating with the political wing of the coal and gas corporations," he said. "Labor seems more afraid of the coal and gas corporations than the climate collapse."

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese thanked the Greens and the crossbench for engaging constructively in negotiations but took aim at the opposition.

"It says a lot about the state of the Liberal and National parties in 2023 that, in spite of the election result, they have excluded themselves from any participation," he said.

The Greens' support means Labor now has the numbers to pass the bill through the Senate, allowing it to take force from July 1.

Shadow Climate Change Minister Ted O'Brien said the cap agreed to as part of the deal would hurt Australian industry.

"In order for Australia to decarbonise our economy, we have to get the balance right between cutting emissions and allowing the economy to grow," he said.

"What we see today is a deal between Labor and the Greens that throws that balance out of whack."

But the Business Council of Australia said it was still supportive of the government's policy. "Additional support for trade-exposed businesses and workers, as well as critical sovereign capabilities, is a crucial step that will help save jobs and ensure Australian businesses are competing on the global stage," BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

"As designed, the safeguard mechanism and its baseline targets are tough but achievable, so we'll be working with members to assess the full impact of proposed changes."

Mega projects into doubt

The agreement has thrown two major gas projects in the Northern Territory into doubt, according to the Greens and environmentalists.

Gas companies have been wanting to open up hydraulic fracturing in the Beetaloo Basin while gas giant Santos has been seeking to open up the Barossa Gas Field, located off the coast of the NT.

The Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, which represents traditional owners of the Beetaloo Basin region, released a statement today expressing optimism the amendments to the Safeguards Mechanism Bill would make it harder for gas companies to get their projects approved.

"Our country is in the hands of these big gas companies and I feel very grateful that we may one day not have to fight to protect our land, sacred sites, culture and water," said the corporation's chair, Johnny Wilson.

"No one has seen the jobs and economic benefits which have long been promised by the fracking companies, and we do not believe they will ever come."

Beetaloo fracking decision looms

The oil and gas industry's peak body says Beetaloo fracking licences could be issued in a month, as critics say the government's promise to implement a key inquiry is "impossible".

Mr Bowen said the agreement would require "scope one" emissions from the Beetaloo to be offset. Scope one and two emissions are emissions that are directly controlled or owned by companies, while scope three emissions are emissions not directly controlled by a company.

Mr Bowen said new gas fields would be required to have "zero reservoir carbon" during development. "That's a condition which is international best practice and has been Australian best practice for many years," Mr Bowen said.

Mr Bandt said the agreement had effectively "derailed" both projects by imposing a limit on carbon emissions that prevented new coal and gas projects from being approved.




Sunday, March 26, 2023

It's not hate to allow women to have their own spaces and their own events

The desperation of the elites to look good lies behind this suddenly invented "trans" war. The elite are aware that others envy and dislike them so grab at anything that will make them look good and wise and noble. So the poor old trannies have suddenly been elevated to an important group requiring support at all costs

For a while "women" were a big cause to the elites but women were just a convenient group for them to use to show that they cared. The fact that they all along did not care about women at all is now so clearly revealed that they are not even prepared to name them. It must be quite a shock to genuine advocates for women to find that they have gone overnight from friend to enemy in the minds of the insecure Leftist elites

And once the elites have set the ball rolling and given the latest issue big support, lots of other attention seekers climb on board in support of the issue in the hope of also becoming seen as good and wise and noble. They too seize the chance to be seen as virtuous

There are two issues at stake in the transwars that are again finding their way to our shores with ‘Posie Parker’s’ (aka Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull’s) Australian Let Women Speak tour. These are: children’s bodily integrity, and women’s rights including the need for single-sex spaces. These issues have very different histories, politics, and ontologies but they coalesce around transgenderism because this is the point at which the conflict of interest arises.

On social media and in the legacy media this week, this critique has been presented as tantamount to Nazi ideology. What we have is a classic case of reductio ad Hitlerum, defined by Leo Strauss as a type of ad hominem used to derail arguments by creating a ‘guilt by association’. In other words, ‘playing the Nazi card’.

This means if neo-Nazis are on the steps of the Victorian Parliament, ushered around by police and with excellent camera crews capturing their Sieg Heil, and you happen to be in the vicinity, you’re ‘guilty by association’.

If you’ve been so propagandised as to assume that there is no legitimate discussion to be had around these issues, then you’re a victim of a corrupt media that has ceased to do its job. The Third Estate has well and truly died if a smallish group of women, including MPs, teachers, doctors, and philosophy professors, can’t gather in a public place to discuss matters of cultural and political importance to women.

When Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and progressive party leaders such as the Greens’ Adam Bandt define these women (or their protest) as associating with ‘neo-Nazis’, we have a gross misrepresentation at play and one that anyone participating in this charade should be ashamed of.

This whole mess is an orchestrated misrepresentation that amounts to propaganda.

It is obliterating the legitimate concerns of women regarding the safety and privacy of women and girls in rape crisis centres, women’s shelters, women’s prisons, women’s changerooms, and toilets. It is sabotaging the discussion around how women can possibly compete against natal males in sport, and of the gross inequality of quotas, prizes, or shortlists for women being filled by trans-identifying males. It is also about the loss of meaningful language for motherhood, including the removal and replacement of words such as pregnant woman, mother, and breastfeeding (with abominations such as ‘vulva owner’, ‘birthing people’, and ‘chest feeder’). These are important conversations, nothing more, but also nothing less. It is not and never has been about the violation of trans people’s legal, civil, or social rights. It is about the recognition of women’s rights.

Sure, feel free to disagree but don’t engage in this false and indeed defamatory characterisation of the gender-critical feminist voice. There are two sides to this discussion; not one legitimate side (trans) and a motley assortment of neo-Nazi bigots. Moreover, we have seen misogynist overtones from male leaders who appear to dismiss women speaking about issues of fundamental importance like equality, privacy, safety, and the well-being of children.

The neo-Nazi optics are undoubtedly appalling, and one can’t help but wonder how this came about. At the very least, this alignment serves the status quo very well, as every polite mainstream-media-reading centre-Left, small ‘l’ liberal who, having never left their media ecosystem, assumes that ‘Terfs’ are a bunch of scary bigots with radical ‘far Right’ views. Political goal achieved.

A quick lesson in protests: not all who attend a protest are in agreement. Some are widely divergent politically. Moreover, ‘outside agitators’ can and are planted to stir up trouble and/or to alter the public’s perception. A quick lesson in propaganda: the truth doesn’t matter if the lie has been accepted. Certainly, in the public’s mind, ‘gender critical feminism’ and the important political issues this argument represents, have been thoroughly besmirched.

In the public’s mind, Kellie-Jay has a kitsch Norma Jean aesthetic going on and seems to be showcasing more star-spangled nylon and sequins as her social media following grows (and concomitantly, as we descend into the ‘bread and circuses’ era of the culture wars). Moreover, in my opinion she has failed to overtly distance herself from the far Right, as some local feminist groups have rightly pointed out.

Nonetheless, her message is direct and simple, delivered in a working-class idiom: ‘men can’t have vaginas’, ‘men can’t give birth’, ‘men can’t be women’, ‘men shouldn’t be in vulnerable women’s spaces’, ‘men can’t (or shouldn’t) compete in women’s sports’, and ‘children aren’t old enough to surgically remove their primary and secondary sex organs, or make decisions about adult sexuality or fertility’.

These were all uncontroversial statements not long ago. Indeed, the first three statements were common knowledge in all cultures, in all places, and across all time until maybe five years ago (that’s a pretty big sample!). At this point, inner-urban, educated progressives extrapolated an obscure set of gender ideologies localised to arcane corners of university Arts departments and gaslit or bullied anyone who disagreed.

Magically, and in lockstep, governments the world over introduced legislation and policy to allow self ID, to outlaw ‘conversion therapy’ (i.e., newspeak for adopting an exploratory approach to gender dysphoria rather than uncritical affirmation), to update the protected category of sex in law, and to revise statutes regarding sex discrimination so that sex-category was replaced with gender identity.

This effectively created a mandate around the acceptance of transgenderism with no capacity – politically or socially – to disagree. If the ‘choice’ is to agree or be an incorrigible bigot with few job prospects, except perhaps as Mark Latham’s cleaning lady, then most people are going to shut up and go along with this agenda. This is the coward’s bargain; it is not agreement.

Let’s stop pretending this doesn’t have the full force of the corporate-state and captured media and academia behind it. Let’s stop pretending that there are two sides to this ‘debate’: there is one side and a maligned minority of women bravely fighting for the right to have a conversation. As I have said before, what we are owed is more and better disagreement, not slogans and abuse.

Until a moment ago we all understood what a woman was, and we understood that men were physically stronger than women. Most also understood that women had been historically excluded from political rights with ongoing ramifications for their civil standing in liberal democracies. Feminism was the movement for women’s rights that began with married women’s property rights and culminated in suffrage and access to education and the professions. It was the movement to end women’s legal and political subjection. From second-wave feminism onwards, larger questions were asked concerning women’s role in society, the family, sexuality, and psyche as women entered into paid work en masse and redefined what it meant to be women.

That the ‘category of woman’ is now being jettisoned (or revised beyond all recognition) at the precise historical hour that women in the West have gained a political and cultural voice is disturbing. Moreover, in redefining women’s rights almost entirely in terms of queer identity politics, crucial issues such as women’s poverty and homelessness, sexual and domestic violence, and mothering and care work, fade from view. These issues barely raise a mention as sex-class transmogrifies into gender ID.

Assuming this debate is like other debates between say, liberals, and conservatives, or between opposing philosophical paradigms like positivism and hermeneutics, is sadly mistaken. This debate, like so many in the contemporary culture wars, is on an entirely new epistemological terrain: what is at stake here is nothing short of reality itself!

The ‘priors’ therefore of either side are no longer shared; we need rather to understand this issue (as with several other contested political issues) as a disagreement, not on a shared understanding of reality, but rather a disagreement about the nature of reality itself. The question pivots, interestingly enough, on what it means to be a woman.

A poignant example to illustrate this point can be seen in the nomenclature used: one party refers to themselves as ‘gender critical feminists’ and sympathetic media outlets adopt this terminology, sometimes situating it in the longer history of feminism. This side suggests that ‘transwomen’ are better understood as ‘trans-identifying males’ to locate both the person’s natal or biological gender and their preferred identification.

However, the other side, the trans activists and their allies, refer to gender-critical feminists as ‘transphobic’ and as committing dangerous ‘hate speech’. These are such egregious accusations that, if true, require punitive action and redress. Thus, a position itself is defined by one side as ‘gender critical’ and based on women’s ‘sex-based rights’ and by the other as ‘hate speech’. The issue pivots on the ‘category of woman’ which is defined by one side (the gender criticals) as a political class – a ‘sex class’ – founded in biology and given its contemporary meaning in society.

That is, from a classical feminist perspective, the category of woman is a biological category with political implications, namely subjection within a patriarchal society. The newer definition replaces gender with sex and defines the category of woman (or man) as one that can be opted into, it is a subjective state or a feeling. Thus, we haven’t even made it out of the paradigmatic gate before we find ourselves fighting over the nature of reality itself. The category of sex is the site of the struggle. If we cannot agree that sex exists or is materially, politically, and linguistically distinct from gender, then we are not arguing about the same thing. To invoke Smith’s famous aphorism regarding the two women arguing from their respective balconies: they were arguing from different premises!

To suggest that any discussion which assumes natal women have a claim on the sex category woman is a priori an act of discrimination is effectively to quash the discussion. It is to define it as an abominable act of hate speech before it is even out of the gate. How is this a fair discussion? To suggest that gender-critical feminists are neo-Nazis is transparent bullying and it’s coming from the top – literally the leader of the Victorian government – not from minorities as we’re being told. It has the sanction of the mainstream media who are hacks failing in their duty to the electorate to fairly represent the issues from all sides.

Parker’s Let Women Speak Tour gives women an opportunity to speak about their experience of this inflamed political and cultural conflict without being silenced.

In the sinkhole of partisan politics and propaganda this act of discursive generosity is defined as ‘far Right’. In the real world of heterodox politics and culture, Posie Parker’s message cuts across the increasingly defunct Right/Left divide and indeed speaks to women and men across the political spectrum.


Posie Parker protests: iron fist of intolerance in velvet glove of woke

It is a mystery to me that anyone could look at those Posie Parker gatherings and think Posie Parker is the problem.

On one side there’s the diminutive bottle-blonde from Britain whose rallying cry is “Let women speak”. Parker’s supporters are mainly women, too. All of them have been impeccably civil. They’ve stood still in a public place and given calm, sensible speeches, mainly on their concerns with transgenderism.

On the other side, in contrast, there is a baying mob. We’ve seen huge crowds of Posiephobics bellowing insults at these women who only want to speak.

I was horrified by the sight of independent senator Lidia Thorpe crawling on her hands and knees – after she was knocked to the ground by cops – so she could tell “that thing” (Parker) that she was not welcome here.

That thing? Now that’s dehumanising language.

I was shocked by the sight of the Tasmanian Greens senator Nick McKim saying Parker and her gang of “Nazi-supported transphobes” should not be referred to as TERFs but as TERDs.

A TERF is a trans-exclusionary radical feminist – that is, a woman who commits the thoughtcrime of believing men cannot become women. A better title for them was TERDs, McKim said – “trans-exclusionary right-wing dropkicks”.

“They’re not TERFs, they are TERDs,” he said, much to the juvenile glee of Posie-haters on Twitter. You don’t need a PhD in linguistics to work out why McKim chose the acronym TERD. It’s because it sounds the same as turd: excrement, faeces.

A public official grossly demeans women whose only offence is to speak in public and we’re meant to be more outraged by Posie?

I have been alarmed by the heaving crowds that have tried to menace Parker into silence. The mob has chanted “F..k off, Posie, f..k off”. Social media has overflowed with hyperbolic effluent about Parker. She’s scum, she’s a Nazi Barbie. Misogyny much?

So, yes, there has been hate and hysteria on the streets of Australia these past couple of weeks. But it hasn’t come from Posie’s camp. It has come from her searingly intolerant critics.

The woke demonise Parker as a bigot, but it is they who behave like bigots.

The Oxford Dictionary of English defines bigotry as “intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself”. Who does that better describe – Parker and her supporters, who only want to express their beliefs, or the mobs who furiously shout down these women, these “things”, these turds?

The fury around Parker tells us a really important truth about political correctness. It comes dolled up in the language of kindness and fairness, but in reality it’s a chillingly unforgiving creed that will destroy anyone who deviates from its commandments. In the mob loathing for Parker we can glimpse the iron fist of intolerance that lurks in the velvet glove of woke.

Posie Parker is the pseudonym of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, one of the best-known blasphemers against trans thinking.

She believes sex is immutable. She thinks a man never becomes a woman, no matter how many hormones he takes or surgeries he undergoes. She wants biological males out of women’s sports and women’s spaces.

Her Let Women Speak initiative is genius, in my view. She cleverly entices the woke to behave in a menacing fashion in full public view.

Across Britain and now in Australia, her public stunts lure misogynists into daylight. She knows the counter-protesters will make her point for her. She and her allies say: “Let women speak”, and the mob essentially replies: “No. Shut up. Go home.”

Hey presto, the sexism that she believes courses through the veins of the trans lobby makes itself visible. Job done.

For me, the most cynical thing the Posie-haters did during her visit to Australia was brand her movement “Nazi-adjacent”. They did this after a bunch of hard-right idiots turned up to Parker’s gathering in Melbourne. Uninvited, it should be noted.

This gave rise to the chant: “Posie Parker, you can’t hide/You’ve got Nazis on your side.”

What desperate stuff. Virtually every anti-Israel demo of recent times has had anti-Semites on it, people who horrifically demean Jews as Nazis or child-killers. Yet the left never describes Palestine solidarity as “Nazi-adjacent”.

Their hurling of the Nazi gibe at Posie’s women is a sexist silencing tactic. It’s designed to paint these harridans as being beyond the pale, and thus ripe for censure and punishment.

Posie and her allies are defending reason and freedom. They’re standing up for biological truth and the right of women to express themselves.

Their woke persecutors, meanwhile, are the foot soldiers of irrationalism. They fantasise that there are 72 genders and they clamour for the silencing of all who disagree.

Liberty or absurdity? I know which side I’m on.


Sir Lunchalot goes down again

He was just looking after his union mates. There seems to be no claim that he personally profited

Ex-NSW Labor minister Ian Macdonald gets 14-year jail sentence for corruptly awarding mine licence

Ian Macdonald is already serving a maximum nine-and-a-half-year jail sentence for another offence. (AAP: Joel Carrett )
Former New South Wales Labor minister Ian Macdonald will stay in jail until at least 2027 for misconduct in public office involving two mining licences.

In 2022, Macdonald, 74, was convicted after a retrial for issuing the Doyles Creek mine licence to a company chaired by former union boss John Maitland.

Mr Maitland was acquitted of being an accessory to the misconduct.

The men were granted the retrial in 2019, after an appeal court found the judge in their original trial misdirected the jury about the state of mind required for Macdonald to be found guilty.

Justice Hament Dhanji, who presided over the retrial without a jury, found Macdonald wilfully made decisions to benefit Mr Maitland, and there was no justification for his actions.

In sentencing him to 14 years and six-months' jail, with a non-parole period of 10 years, the judge said a high degree of criminality was involved.

"The misconduct occurred at the time the finances of the state were under considerable strain. The damage to the institution of government is a serious loss that affects the entire community," he said.

The Doyles Creek licence was granted by direct allocation in 2008 when Macdonald was resources minister, and the court heard he lost the state tens-of-millions of dollars in fees paid by other mining companies for coal exploration licences.

Around the same, time a tender process saw Chinese company Shenhua pay $300 million for an exploration licence in the Liverpool Plains and a BHP subsidiary pay $91 million for an exploration licence at Caroona.

Justice Dhani said Macdonald had expressed no remorse and the crime was committed 15 years ago, making it a "stale crime".

He said the sentence has been backdated, discounted and influenced by special circumstances, including Macdonald's range of health issues including a large hernia and anxiety, and threats from other prisoners.

The judge noted Macdonald was already concurrently serving a maximum nine-and-a-half-year jail sentence for conspiring with former Labor minister Eddie Obeid and Obeid's son Moses, over a separate mine licence for Mount Penny in the Bylong Valley.

Justice Dhanji said with time already served for misconduct over both mine licences, Macdonald won't be eligible for parole until 2027.


The national curriculum substitutes emotion for hard learning

Occasionally our political representatives will say things which stand the test of time, but more than often, they do not. One example which springs to mind is a comment made in 2004 by the then federal education minister Julie Bishop, who optimistically proposed that the creation of a national curriculum would wrestle education out of the hands of the left-wing ideologues occupying state bureaucracies and give it to a national board of studies comprised of educators from the ‘sensible centre’.

Unfortunately, the Institute of Public Affairs’ new report on the latest iteration of the National Curriculum, De-Educating Australia: How the National Curriculum is Failing Australian Children reveals beyond a shadow of doubt that the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is now irreversibly stacked with utopian activists who know that in order to change the world, you have to change what children are taught.

What is currently being unleashed in classrooms across this country is about as far away from a traditional curriculum as you can possibly get. Rather, it is an anarcho-political manifesto which seeks to dismantle the entire edifice of the modern state of Australia by undermining its values and institutions.

Children taught according to the dictates of this curriculum will finish school with a set of beliefs, a worldview and a sense of what it means to be Australian that are at odds with those which have previously been passed on to generations of Australians.

This document is indoctrinating the young and impressionable with radical theories about race and gender, which were once marginal academic ideas but have now become the pedagogy favoured by the progressive educationalists employed by the state.

Take critical race theory, for example. This American import is now interwoven into the arts, history, civics and citizenship learning areas. In the health and physical education syllabus students will ‘gain insights into the impact systemic racism and discrimination have had on Australian First Nations Peoples’.

The progressive educationalists are using their considerable institutional power to bring forth and legitimise radical ideas such as the notion that Australia is a fundamentally racist country, and that all of its institutions are smokescreens for racial domination. It introduces children to the fiction of ‘systemic racism’, as well as the racist concept of ‘whiteness’ being problematic.

Students studying Australia’s history will leave school convinced that Aboriginal Australians were not, and never have been, beneficiaries of the universal rights afforded to all Australians that were brought by the British to this country in 1788. In year 9 history, students will study ‘potential barriers to equality of access to justice, such as education and literacy, location and proximity to legal avenues, financial constraints, race or ethnicity especially for First Nations Australians’. At the same time, the curriculum teaches that the source of Aboriginal Australians’ rights is different from that of non-Aboriginal Australians, the implication being that Aboriginal Australians are in some way legally separate from other Australians. In the years 7 to 10 arts syllabus, for example, students are informed that, ‘First Nations Australian cultures have internationally enshrined rights to ensure that these diverse cultures can be maintained, controlled, protected and developed’. They will also be taught about ‘rights relating to Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property and how these rights can be protected through respectful application of protocols’. We should hardly be surprised that in a recent YouGov poll, 64 per cent of 18 to 25-year-olds were in favour of establishing an Indigenous Voice to parliament.

In the meantime, the ‘Sustainability Cross Curriculum’ priority is doing significant damage to Australia’s youth. It has become the gateway through which children are being introduced to concepts and ideologies that have nothing to do with looking after the environment in the true sense. They are schooled in environmental determinism, which is the concept that humans and their natural environment are interrelated, and that environmental factors such as climate change presuppose the success or failure of civilisations. The priority promotes the idea that a sustainable world cannot be achieved without a socially just world, and that the two are inextricably linked. Children are repeatedly asked to ‘recognise that the interdependence of Earth’s systems and values of diversity, equity and social justice are essential for achieving sustainability’.

In every learning area, they are bombarded with the view that society is not progressing towards greater wealth, prosperity, and improvement in the human condition, but that because of our attachment to plastic straws and bad recycling habits, we are careering headlong towards an environmental cataclysm. We should also not be surprised that young Australians are suffering from severe bouts of ‘eco-anxiety’.

This is placing an extremely unfair burden on young Australians. On the one hand, they are being fed the current prognosis of the ‘scientific consensus’ that every day of inaction brings us closer to catastrophe, while on the other they are being told that only they can avert that catastrophe through activism. In ‘foundation arts’, we see four-year-olds rapping about climate change. Eight-year-olds are ‘identifying ways they can change their behaviours to support the sustainability of the Earth’s systems’ in health and physical education. Students of French are organising real protests and rallies to ‘raise awareness of environmental, social or ethical issues’, and year 7 science students are writing letters to editors of newspapers to ‘express a view about an environmental issue affecting local ecosystems’.

Children are repeatedly informed that they are global citizens and that the global problems are theirs to solve, yet the curriculum does not even give them the basic literacy and numeracy skills they need to flourish and live fulfilled lives, let alone tackle imagined problems of a global nature.

There is no doubt that the bureaucrats at ACARA have deliberately jettisoned the acquisition of knowledge and replaced it with pure, unadulterated emotion. They have created a curriculum that will elicit feelings of guilt about the past, anger about the present and sheer terror about the future. In this way, they are manipulating children for political gain. As Thomas Sowell notes, ‘there are few things more dishonourable than misleading the young’.