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.”




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