Sunday, April 30, 2023

Customers hit back at new dining trend taking over Aussie restaurants

I find mobile phones very tedious so use them or anything like them only to a minimum. So I object to ordering food by using one. Unless I can order from a person, I walk out. That usually makes the place back down. But if not there are thousands of other places to eat. Quality of life matters

They were an ubiquitous presence at cafes, restaurants and bars during the pandemic, but love them or loathe them, industry insiders say QR ordering is here to stay.

While some expected it to fade away as the pandemic dissolved and check-ins were no longer relevant, the opposite has actually been true.

Not everyone is a fan. In fact many people appear downright hostile to QR ordering and restaurants and cafe’s not providing physical menus.

Social media is filled with people raging against it.

One person wrote on an angst-ridden Reddit stream that they just “hate it”.

“I hate paying for dinner on my phone,’ the person complained. “I hate navigating through menus to find food.”

Another said they disliked being forced to “give every-f***ing-detail about myself or sign up”, while another observed “having phones out was a terrible way to start dinner together”.

While one person claimed they often go to the counter and refuse to do it or threaten to go elsewhere: “I haven’t had anyone let me leave yet”.

Others pointed out it isn’t practical for some.

“My grandparents never really got onto the smart phones (and with dementia it’s not the time to start) and I have a friend who has fine motor skill issues so he struggles to control the scrolling function that’s required,” one person explained.

“It’s embarrassing for them to have the menu read to them or to have others decide what they have because they can’t use a menu in that format.”

Another noted it was difficult for families with kids with “everyone is fighting over mums phone to see what they can order”.

Despite not all Aussies being a fan of the new system, Square, which provides a range of technology for restaurants and other industries, says QR codes are here to stay saying sellers were increasingly turning to tech to run their business.

“QR code ordering has definitely become mainstream for restaurants,” said Colin Birney, head of business development at Square in Australia.

“As cost-of-doing-business pressures remain and staff shortages continue, restaurants are seeing technology as a non-negotiable and a way to find efficiency gains and unlock new ways to sell.”


Mum-and-dad landlords sell up amid housing reforms

Thousands of mum-and-dad landlords are selling off their rental properties in response to state Labor governments’ strengthening of renter protections and increasing interest rates, with the threat of more changes on the horizon.

New data from PropTrack has revealed a spike in the number of investors cashing out of the market, with sales remaining notably higher than pre-Covid levels for the past two years.

It comes as Anthony Albanese secured the support of state and territory leaders on Friday for changes to strengthen “renters’ rights” on a national level and committing an extra $2bn in the May budget for 7000 more ­affordable homes.

The nation’s housing ministers will present policy options to help renters by the end of the year, with the group set to examine programs regulating landlord decisions on the size and frequency of rent increases.

“What will occur over coming months is looking at different programs that are in place … Some of those are around the frequency of any rent increase that can occur. In at least one jurisdiction’s case, it’s also over the amount that can occur of any increase,” the Prime Minister said in Brisbane.

Leading investors and real estate experts on Friday warned Mr Albanese that governments had disincentivised “demonised” landlords who provide the markets with millions of homes, and further change threatens to shake confidence in the wider property market.

Fewer landlords have been in the buying market since 2017 when numbers peaked, which has caused the rental pool nationally to shrink. With fewer homes and heightened local and migrant demand, asking rents in Australia’s capital cities have surged $80 a week on average in the past 12 months to sit at a weekly rate of $520 as vacancy rates hover at 1.5 per cent – half of what is considered a “healthy” level.

PropTrack’s director of economic research Cameron Kusher said it had become much harder for investors to park their money in property.

“Investors are charged higher interest rates, borrowing capacities have reduced quite dramatically because interest rates have risen so fast so quickly and it is generally less attractive for investors,” he said.

Landlords have become the main target of government policies aimed at providing relief to tenants facing rapidly rising rents and intense competition.

National cabinet on Friday agreed to develop a plan with housing ministers from each state and territory to strengthen housing growth and rental rights across the country, while also increasing housing supply.

Founder of investment buyers agency Propertyology Simon Pressley said investors were sick of being demonised by governments and were choosing to put their money elsewhere. “Investing in real estate is an enormous financial outlay, so you’re not going to put out this big financial decision unless you’ve got confidence,” Mr Pressley said.

“We’ve had eight years of a heck of a lot of regulatory change, all of which has been targeted at causing harm to the investor.”

Real Estate Institute of Australia president Hayden Groves agreed that a strategically aligned approach to tenancy laws between jurisdictions was productive but urged an examination of supports rather than targeting landlords. “There’s been successive housing policies that are all looking to disincentivise this very, very important cohort of the investor pool that is continuing to supply Australians with homes,” he said.

The Greens put the removal of negative gearing and two-year rental caps back on the table this week by withholding support for the federal government’s $10bn housing bill. Over the past two years, state governments have sought to introduce rental reform. NSW will soon introduce no-grounds evictions, following Victoria, which introduced the same policy in 2021 alongside a suite of changes. Queensland also recently brought in once-a-year rental increases after rolling back proposed land tax changes.

Mr Pressley said: “We don’t go and punish the farmers because the cost of the produce goes up; the cost of rent has gone up because we don’t have enough supply of rental accommodation.”

Federal Housing Minister Julie Collins also announced on Friday that May’s budget would look to increase housing supply, with extra funds and taxation changes for the development of build-to-rent projects, which was supported by the Property Council of Australia and Master Builders Australia.

Governments have been selling off social housing stock for decades, said Mr Kusher.

In the 1981 census, a quarter of renters were living in a government-provided home, with that number falling to 8 per cent today. He said increased housing stock – whether privately owned or commercial – would help to ease the escalation in rent.


University of Queensland forced to apologise over ‘white privilege’ medical assignment

The University of Queensland has been forced to apologise and scrap the results of a controversial “white privilege” medical assignment after students feared they could be expelled for failing.

First year UQ medical students had been asked to write about their own “white privilege” and institutional racism in a two-part assignment.

The Sunday Mail understands when students received their grades last week the majority of the cohort received a fail mark.

One medical student told The Sunday Mail, on the condition of anonymity, they believed the ones who had passed had effectively lied about admitting to being racist.

“The people who did well have frankly lied, they played into the notion that they’re racist, even if they’re not,” they said.

Following backlash from the medical cohort, the prestigious university has been forced to apologise and remove the results of the assignment from end-of-year grades.

Prior to the decision, students had been concerned that the university was at liberty to expel them from the program if they failed.

The medical student said that the passing grade on the assignment was required for an overall passing grade of the year.

The student said the cohort had feared that a fail on this subject could be the difference between getting an overall high distinction or a distinction which could impact postgraduate employment.

“UQ has a very good reputation internationally but students with all As in assignments are looked at better than B,” they said prior to UQ’s announcement. “You could be the best doctor in the world but fail on this.”

A UQ spokeswoman said there was no suggestion that students could be expelled for failing the assignment as the university took a “whole of approach” to progression.

The spokeswoman did not respond to questions about how many students failed the exam.

A leaked email from UQ’s dean of medical school Professor Stuart Carney to students, seen by the Sunday Mail, confirmed the results of the assignment had been removed from the final component.


Albanese is making life harder for mainstream Australians

He is hitting people from all angles

While Australians were ensconced in the Easter long weekend, the Albanese government announced that would not be extending the low- and middle-income tax offset (LMITO) in the upcoming budget.

LMITO was stage one in a three-phase tax reduction plan legislated by the previous government.

This revelation should not come as a surprise as the current policy agenda of the federal government is making the livelihoods of mainstream Australians more difficult. Everything from tax policy, red tape, and immigration to energy policy is making life harder for mainstream Australians.

This tax rise could not come at a worse time for Australian families struggling with the crippling cost-of-living crisis, a housing crisis, and inflation all contributing to a lowering of our standard of living. Analysis aired by Channel Nine revealed that the LMITO tax hike will take up to $1,500 from the back pockets of lower- and middle-income Australians.

It also follows the federal government abandonment of a promise to reduce household energy bills by $275 a year.

While considering energy, research by the Institute of Public Affairs previously found that the emission reduction policies pursued by the federal government will prevent the creation of approximately half a million jobs, the majority of which being in regional Australia.

Worse still, Australian households can expect retail electricity prices to double by the end of the decade due to the implementation of these policies.

Increasing household electricity prices have been accompanied by a shortage of houses themselves, which has driven an increase in their purchase value. This shortage is set to exacerbate with the recent announcement that there will be an increase in immigration of over 650,000 people over the next two years.

The federal government have justified this massive increase in immigration because of the unprecedented worker shortages in Australia. Yet, in a rush to open the front gate to new arrivals, absolutely no consideration has been given to what is going on in our own backyard.

IPA research has found this worker shortage could be alleviated by reducing red tape faced by pensioners, veterans, and students who wish to enter the labour force but cannot because of prohibitive tax and social security penalties.

This red tape is costing Australia $32 billion in forgone wages alone, all of which could be going into the back pocket of Australians.

Instead of increasing taxes on Australians who are already working, the government should increase the amount of Australians working and paying tax.

While it has been argued by some economists that the abolishment of the LMITO is a good idea as it would sure up the budget bottom line, this argument falls flat considering the Albanese government is being cajoled into bailing out the fiscally irresponsible Andrews government. A move that will only increase inflationary pressures.

Increasing taxes on the lower and middle classes is not the solution to budget constraints, especially during a cost-of-living crisis.

This tax increase is a hammer blow to the livelihoods of 10 million hard-working Australians, and should be a wake-up call to the rest of the population, with stage three tax cuts to people earning between $45,000 and $200,000 potentially next in line.

The political class must realign their values and promote policies that help lower- and middle-income Australians. Fixing the budget, providing reliable energy, and ensuring Australians keep more of their own money should all be mission-critical for the government and the opposition.

This can be achieved by reversing the emission reduction policies pursued by the Albanese government, lowering taxes on mainstream Australians, and reducing red tape in the labour market to allow more Australians to work.

Everyday Australians need a way out of the crises that are crippling our way of life, failing that then there is a very real risk then this cost-of-living crisis could very much become the norm.




Friday, April 28, 2023

One final question for medical regualtors: Will your credibility be restored or slide further?

On 25 July 2021, Scott Morrison said the government will buy another 85 million Pfizer booster doses in 2022 and 2023. That’s more than three boosters for every Australian or more than four for every adult, after their initial two-dose vaccination. Thus the government was already aware of the vaccine’s waning effectiveness against the existing strain and its likely ineffectiveness against new variants. This of course is also the understanding about annual flu vaccines: they are reformulated every year because the pathogen is unstable and keeps mutating, which in turn rules out an eradication strategy. This is why we learnt long ago to live with the flu, focus public health efforts on protecting the most vulnerable through annual vaccines and leave the rest of society to carry on with the normal routine of life. Meanwhile, the ‘safe and effective’ messaging on Covid vaccines looks increasingly suspect. Confidence has diminished in health authorities, parliaments, medical establishments and media for their manifold failures to interrogate the official claims and report on the rising toll of vaccine injuries. As from last month, the AstraZeneca vaccine is no longer available in Australia owing to the ‘rare but serious side effect’ thrombosis. On 31 March, the ABS reported there were 25,235 (15.3 per cent) excess deaths in Australia in 2022. Yet the government and opposition MPs rejected a motion from Senator Ralph Babet to hold an inquiry into this concerning phenomenon. Meanwhile from 1 April Switzerland has withdrawn all vaccine recommendations. Doctors can administer Covid vaccines only in individual cases under specified conditions and bear the risk of liability themselves.

Even if Covid had proven to be as deadly as the Spanish flu and the vaccines 90 per cent effective, coercion and mandates would still have been unethical. Revelations that authorities knew this to be false in early 2021, means there was little medical justification either. This makes the public policy scientifically perverse and ethically immoral. Social media Big Tech made it worse by actively censoring, shadow-banning, downgrading and slapping labels from self-identifying fact-checkers better described as misinformers and disinformers. (India has gone one logical step better. The government will create a fact-check body for regulating online content. Opposition parties have denounced the move as censorship and accused the ruling party of being the biggest purveyor of fake news.) On the one hand, Big Pharma and public regulators meant to oversee them colluded to hide and delay important information. On the other, they ferociously attacked independent researchers who tried various forensic techniques to ‘mine’ the relevant data and offer a counter-narrative, with the goal of discrediting and demonising anyone with the temerity to question the official ‘truth’. The Censorship-Industrial Complex was weaponised into a powerful tool of state power in an evolving system of governance that is a threat to the very survival of free society. I am not impugning doctors and researchers who put their faith in the underlying integrity of the regulatory agencies and medical establishments, even if that faith turned out to have been misplaced and abused. I too feel betrayed by the WHO and disillusioned with its patchy performance, to put it kindly.

On 5 April Maryanne Demasi published an article on Substack, republished by Children’s Health Defense, that the triumphalist 95-per-cent-efficacy narrative of the Pfizer vaccine, which would give us all an exit ramp from the coronavirus pandemic with universal vaccination, had already gone off script by June 2021. Some highly vaccinated countries like Israel were experiencing a fresh wave of infections that was fuelling vaccine hesitancy and slowing take-up. By July Israel was reporting effectiveness of 64 per cent and in August only 39 per cent. Regulatory filings show that Pfizer and the FDA had evidence already in April 2021 on waning effectiveness. This was not publicly disclosed until much later. The press release from Pfizer on 1 April 2021 announcing results of its six-month Phase 3 trial repeated claims of 91.3 per cent efficacy against the Covid disease and up to 100 per cent effectiveness against severe disease. The top authorities continued to downplay the lack of evidence to demonstrate vaccine effectiveness against viral transmission and long-term protection. While acknowledging the possibility of breakthrough infections, Anthony Fauci said on national TV on 16 May 2021, ‘When you get vaccinated, you not only protect your own health, that of the family, but also you contribute to the community health by preventing the spread of the virus throughout the community… you become a dead end to the virus. And when there are a lot of dead ends around, the virus is not going to go anywhere’. The official report from Public Health Ontario in March shows Covid hospitalisations and deaths in 2022 were 31 and 39 per cent higher respectively than in 2021, despite 76 per cent of Ontarians being double-vaccinated.

Neither the pharmaceutical industry nor public health agencies are releasing all the data nor undertaking the important safety studies and acting on safety signals in a timely fashion to restore trust in their good faith, competence and integrity. Independent researchers are still having to do medical detective work instead. With widely varying and contested definitions and measurements of Covid and vaccine-related deaths, they look instead for clues in all-cause excess deaths. In February, Norwegian scientists published a study which found vaccination rollouts across 31 countries in 2021 were associated with rising all-cause mortality in the first nine months of 2022. A March analysis from the Vaccine Damage Project concluded there were 310,000 vaccine-related US excess deaths in 2021 to 2022 inclusive. Professor Norman Fenton calculates the number of deaths caused directly by vaccines until 23 March 2023 to be 120,000 in the US and 16,000 in the UK. Dr. Ros Jones, a retired consultant paediatrician, examined the lagged temporal correlations in several European countries between vaccine uptakes and falling births nine months later. On 28 March WHO experts published a revised roadmap which prioritises vaccines for the elderly and people with comorbidities, relegates healthy children and adolescents down to low priority because of their low disease burden and recognises natural immunity from prior infections.

In a sign they might be awakening to the risk of cross-vaccine hesitancy because of disillusionment with Covid vaccines, the guidance acknowledges: ‘The public health impact of vaccinating healthy children and adolescents is comparatively much lower than the established benefits of traditional essential vaccines for children’.

My final question is to the public health clerisy. If you become transparent on efficacy, investigate safety signals urgently and fully and publish the findings honestly, in the long run will your credibility worsen or will you begin to regain public trust and confidence?


Australia has an immigration problem, and it’s tearing the country apart

‘The rental market right now is currently utterly f**ked,’ reads a post currently trending on r/Sydney, a Reddit board devoted to the Sydney area. ‘Our landlord wants a $300 increase, we can’t find anywhere to live.’ A similar comment posted on r/AusFinance asks: ‘Is anyone else feeling a sense of long-term hopelessness regarding housing?’ This is followed by a rather depressing comment stating ‘a regular job can’t afford a regular life anymore’.

This could simply be, as is often suggested by older generations, another case of sensitive Millennial syndrome. But the facts don’t lie. Rents really have risen 24 per cent nationally. Housing prices really did rise a record 27.5 per cent in the last few years. Inflation really is running hot at 7.4 per cent, and interest rates really have jumped more than 3 per cent in less than a year. Wages are growing on paper – but in real terms are shrinking.

Young people – typically the most exposed to economic volatility – are complaining, and they have good reason to be. As one former RBA head says, they ‘should be squealing louder’.

While the political class likes to pretend that most of these economic events are simply out of their control, the reality is that much of what was listed above is a direct result of government policy, especially immigration policy. Sadly this is still a topic that goes dangerously under-discussed, and if recent events in Europe are anything to go by, it could soon have huge political consequences.

We know that the last twenty years in Australia has seen the highest intake of migrants ever. We also know that young people today are poorer, unhappier, and having fewer children than at any other time in history. Yet for all the government reports, think-tank studies, academic essays, news articles, and comment pieces, nobody – nobody – has bothered, or had the courage, to draw a connection between the two.

And it’s not for a lack of evidence. A 2018 Grattan Institute report concedes that immigration overwhelmingly puts pressure on affordable housing, hurting younger Australians. Data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics shows a direct correlation between rising migration and depressed wage growth. Report after report shows that migration is creating a rental crisis, and a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald has suggested how rapid population growth might worsen inflation, requiring higher interest rates. It truly is the worst of all worlds.

Just this week, a Resolve Political Monitor poll showed that two-thirds of young Australians expect they will never be able to buy a house.

‘Young Australians and middle-income earners have given up on ever buying their own homes amid mounting evidence the nation’s dysfunctional housing system is destabilising the entire economy.

Among those who do not already own a home, 63 per cent of low-income earners and 54 per cent of those on middle incomes believe they will forever be shut out of the property market that is among the most expensive in the world.’

Young Australians today are currently being economically pincered. From below, their wages are being arbitraged to migrants from poorer countries willing to work for less, while from above, renting or purchasing a property is made more expensive thanks to increased demand.

Yet on the flipside of these policies, the economic advantages for the old and rich are hard to dismiss. For the rich, decades of low labour costs and a growing consumer base has meant record profits for corporations, with the wealth of Australia’s richest rapidly growing. And for the middle class, decades of consistent house price growth has meant that buying a simple family home in 1970 probably makes you a millionaire today, without an hour of work needed. The best financial decision you could ever make is to be born a Baby Boomer.

To add insult to injury, much of Australia’s economy and tax system today is overwhelmingly geared towards wealthier older Australians, while costs are passed on to younger working Australians.

Ours is now a two-tier economy. If you’re rich and you own assets, your net worth is likely going up with GDP. If you’re young, your net worth – and quality of life – is likely in reverse.

Remarkably few people are talking about this. Albanese, despite saying in the lead-up to the election that ‘Australia can’t rely on overseas migration’, has since lifted migration to its highest annual intake ever. The Greens, choosing to ignore the fact that rampant population growth is the single biggest destroyer of the environment, promote immigration, while simultaneously proposing rental caps – a blaring example of economic nonsense. The Liberals and Nationals say nothing, and only One Nation – to their credit – have spoken out against the current levels of migration.

The media has only just now started to whisper about the real reason for the rental crisis. After months of endlessly spruiking migration as a solution to the so-called ‘skills crisis’, they begun reporting on the inevitable harmful effects of that policy. Yet for every hundred articles churned out by ‘demographers’, ‘property specialists’, and ‘economists’, only one will even mention migration as a direct cause of the crisis. A remarkable coincidence.

Which brings forward a bigger question – if migration really is causing such huge strain on the country, why do we hear so little about it? The reason, writes Edward Smith, is because those promoting migration are seldom the ones affected by it.

‘One of the reasons CEOs, politicians, public servants, lobbyists, humanities academics, consultants and journalists — what I call protected knowledge workers — are so fond of globalisation of the labour market is because they do not experience it.

‘Protected knowledge workers face negligible competition from most recently arrived migrants who obviously lack the native cultural ‘skill’ set.

‘But for farm workers, drivers, cleaners, hospitality workers and uncertified construction workers on the other hand — manual labourers — next year’s migrants will compete directly for wages.’

These ‘protected knowledge workers’ simply don’t see what all the fuss is about when it comes to mass immigration. What’s wrong with letting a few people in? So removed are they from the effects of immigration, they fail to consider what bringing in hundreds of thousands of newcomers might mean for others. No group better represents this phenomenon than the Teals, who are quite happy to have massive new apartment blocks built on the cheap to house the rapidly growing migrant-fuelled population, just so long as it’s not in their neighbourhood.

Speaking to a friend involved in state politics recently, I asked why they think so few politicians publicly recognise mass migration as a direct cause of the housing crisis. ‘They don’t want to be called a racist. It’s as simple as that.’ Cynically, one of the biggest and most important conversations in Australia goes without discussion, out of fear of being cancelled.

Of course, this silence suits big business and the political left just fine. The conversation is kept sewn shut, with workers, politicians, families and young people harmed by mass migration left too afraid to speak out.

It’s now looking like the end result of this can only go one of two ways. We can admit the fundamental core of the issue, ignore the ridiculous accusations of racism and xenophobia, and gather enough political power to sufficiently reduce migration to a more sustainable level – or, we can continue to grow our population exponentially by bringing in 300,000+ a year, put intense strain on housing and wages, dramatically reduce our standard of living, and inevitably bringing the country to a political and economic flashpoint. It’s not as far off as you think.

‘Australia has not yet had the populist backlashes that have led to crises in other liberal democracies,’ writes Claire Lehmann in The Australian.

‘But our good fortune may be starting to unravel. High immigration can be absorbed when the pie is growing, and opportunities for upward mobility are abundant. But the pie is no longer growing, and younger and lower-income people in particular, feel like they’ve been screwed out of a fair go.’

Could we see a populist backlash? Populist parties across the world have figured out what time it is and are capitalising on a backlash – a smart party in Australia would do the same. Finland recently went to the polls, with the right-wing populist Finns Party coming out as the major winners after forming a coalition government with the centre-right. Notably, a 2020 poll showed that the Finns Party was the most popular party among young people, especially young males.

A not too dissimilar story in Italy, where a poll showed 17 per cent of young Italians backed Giorgia Meloni’s populist-right Brothers of Italy party – the second highest for support after the politically fashionable centre-left Democratic Party on 19 per cent. Likewise in Sweden, which now boasting both its first Millennial leader, and its first leader vowing to reduce immigration. The reason for this is simple: younger people have grown up with globalism, they are now naturally reacting against it.

This fact stands in complete contradiction to the narrative that young people are becoming more left-wing. A recent article from the Australian Financial Review rightfully tells us ‘Millennials are getting older, but not more conservative’, yet fails to mention that one reason younger people aren’t becoming more conservative, might be because they’re becoming more like their European counterparts.

It’s not hard to see why conservatism failed. Australia’s ‘conservative’ movement is nothing more than the exact same reheated Howard-era hyper-growth economics. While that may have worked back then, it’s these exact policies that are today worsening the housing crisis, the wage crisis, and ruining our standard of living. It may be good for the think-tanks, corporate donors, and the upper and older echelons, but it’s not good for the young Australians who were hoping to have living standards at least equal to that of their parents.

So what alternative should young people vote for? One Nation is increasingly shaping up to become a mainstream alternative populist party, but it needs some help. If it were smart, and if it wanted to grow its influence, it would look to the success of the parties overseas in Europe, and broaden its appeal to younger voters. It would modernise, professionalise, and digitise its image and its approach. It would start leaning on the issues flowing on from immigration: namely housing, wages, infrastructure, public services, environment, and social cohesion, as well as globalisation: namely culture, social cohesion, wealth gap, and cultural Marxism. Like Meloni’s party, like Finns Party, and like the Sweden Democrats, they would encourage more involvement from younger, energised members. They would talk to younger voters, ask their concerns. Support for the major parties is at its lowest ever, and young people today are angry and looking for not just a protest vote, but a genuine path out of this mess.

Of course, the Liberal Party could do the same, but the genetic makeup of their party is now far too upper-middle-class, far too established to understand the concerns of the average Australian, let alone lead a populist backlash. Like the conservatives above, they’re likely too removed from (or dependent on) the effects of globalism to effectively rally against it. They may have in the past effectively tricked voters into thinking they’re fighting for them, but that clearly isn’t working now.

One final point. People reading this who think they can buy their way out of the effects of globalisation are correct, insofar as it only affects them. But their children, and their children’s children will have to inhabit a country far different from the one they enjoyed. Looking around, I see a lot of rich parents who were made richer by a growing population, with their kids left materially and financially poorer, culturally astray, mentally unwell, and removed from the community that the parents enjoyed. The parents wonder what went so wrong, oblivious to the obvious connection: that globalisation gave them immense wealth, while ruining the country their children inherited.

We are in a skills shortage. There is now more than ever a desperate need for talented, smart, and driven people to speak up on the issue of immigration. If politicians, media figures, unions, businesses, and others only use their voice to silence dissent, shout louder. Right now, it’s all we’ve got.


The battle to fix Australia’s broken immigration system

Today, half of all living Australians or their parents were born overseas. But for at least the last decade, Australia has been adding large quantities of migrants, without paying as much attention to the economic quality of the foreigners we have invited to live here.

Australia, one of the most desirable locations in the world, needs to attract more highly skilled migrants in the global race for talent, according to a government-commissioned review led by former top bureaucrat Martin Parkinson.

Temporary migrants living in Australia have doubled to more than 2 million people over the last 15 years, who have in effect become “permanently temporary”.

Many of them work in relatively low-skill, low-paying jobs such as hospitality and retail, and are often not matched to their qualifications and skills.

Parkinson says a better targeted migration program can help improve the nation’s dwindling productivity, enhance human capital, lift business competitiveness and mitigate the fiscal costs of an ageing domestic population.

Australia can no longer keep relying on increasing the labour force participation of domestic females, which is already around a record high.

“We’ve got an economy that can’t be supported by the size of the permanent population,” Parkinson says.

The migration system “is way too antiquated and outdated”. “It’s clear that we are being left behind by our global competitors.”

In past decades, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom were the major competitor destinations for skilled migrants. Today, Germany, Russia, Israel and Spain are among the top 10 destinations for skilled workers.

Australia’s global share of skilled migrants has slipped from third in the 1990s to sixth in 2020, or from 7 per cent to 4 per cent. Ageing populations and declining birth rates are challenging the demographic profiles of many major economies. There is a war for talent.

Younger skilled workers fill jobs and pay income taxes, easing skills shortages and propping up government budgets to pay for the rising cost of aged care, healthcare and defence.

Not a ‘big Australia’

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neill was at pains this week to emphasise that Labor’s multi-year overhaul of the migration system would not be a repeat of former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd’s contentious “big Australia”.

“It’s not about a bigger program,” O’Neill told the National Press Club on Thursday. “The likely impact of the changes that I’ve suggested here is probably a slightly smaller migration program over time.”

Despite being invited by media, she declined to a put a numeric target on Australia’s overall migration intake, saying it would depend on the state of the economy and decisions by government and business.

The reassurance that this is not a “big Australia” 2.0 comes at a politically sensitive time, as the strains of a post-pandemic resurgence in migration emerge via housing shortages and a jump in rents for tenants.

After net overseas migration went backwards during the COVID-19 border closure, a net flow of about 400,000 migrants settled in Australia last calendar year and, according to Westpac economists, a further 350,000 people are expected in 2023 – about double pre-pandemic trends.

It’s a big turnaround from the closed borders during the pandemic, when business leaders and some policymakers feared “fortress Australia” would deter foreigners from returning to Australia for years to come.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe said this month it turned out those fears were wrong.

“People love coming here,” he told the National Press Club. “They want to come here and work and to study and enjoy the fantastic standard of living we’re all lucky enough to enjoy.

“So, people are coming here again and they’re coming in large numbers, they’re providing workers for firms, and we have to find somewhere for them to live.”

Suburban ‘barbecue stopper’

High migration numbers are once again becoming a “barbecue stopper” in suburban Australia, with obvious political risks for the government.

The intake has sparked warnings from Coalition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan that Australia has returned to a big Australia policy by stealth.

Acutely aware of the government’s delicate balancing act on immigration, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met state and territory leaders at a national cabinet meeting on Friday. The agenda included working together to improve housing, infrastructure and services supply for a growing population.

“You’ve got to maintain social cohesion and public trust,” Parkinson says. “Yet the numbers of migrants coming in, if the system isn’t planned properly, puts strain on infrastructure and housing or service provision.

“So, if you don’t actually plan better and engage the states in this process, you’re always going to be running to catch up to the population.”

Moreover, getting the states on board to actually deliver more housing supply, infrastructure and services will be easier said than done.

More homes needed

To avoid migration exacerbating a housing shortage and rental crisis, a government source says the states will need to increase and speed up approvals for zoning, planning and development.

That includes overcoming the NIMBY (not in my backyard) mentality of local politicians and residents to build more medium density housing in inner and middle-ring suburbs.

“Immigration and population growth is strong and rents are going up, so that does present some challenges for governments,” says Sally Auld, chief investment officer at JBWere.

People like the idea of more homes being built, just not in their neighbourhood.

Seventy-two per cent of people support encouraging more homes to be built in new suburbs outside city centres, according to a Resolve Political Monitor poll published this week by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Support fell to 51 per cent to relax planning rules to allow more homes outside a person’s local area. This dropped to 41 per cent if laws were eased to allow more homes in a person’s own suburb.

Maintaining public confidence in the migration system also extends to ensuring that lower income workers don’t feel their wages are being suppressed by cheaper migrant workers and risk-based compliance program that tackle the “exploitation” of migrant workers by a minority of employers, Parkinson says.

One of the most immediate changes, effective from July 1, will be lifting the minimum pay threshold for temporary skilled migrant workers to $70,000. It has been frozen at $53,900 since 2013.

The new higher Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold reflects what the cut-off would be if it had been indexed to wages over the last decade. O’Neill says this will stop the so-called “skilled” program being a “guest worker” program.

Up to 21,000 foreign workers already here will either need to get a substantial pay rise to meet the $70,000 test, or face losing their right to work and live in Australia as their current visas progressively expire from July 1.

Labor and the unions – who wanted a $90,000 TSMIT – hope the higher minium pay for temporary skilled workers sponsored by employers will boost wages – not only of migrants, but also of domestic workers competing in lower-paying jobs.

The flipside is that hospitality and retail businesses will face higher wage costs, making it harder for some marginal businesses to survive or forcing them to raise prices for customers.

There remains an open question if Australians are prepared to fill roles such as cooks, chefs, retail and hospitality managers, and some modest-paid automotive and construction jobs.

Restaurant & Catering Australia chief executive Suresh Manickam says the change will worsen the “skills shortage crisis faced by small businesses in the hospitality industry”.

The government says there will still be foreign visa holders who will be permitted to work in crucial lower-paid industries such as aged care and childcare where there are severe shortages of workers. Students and backpackers will also retain part-time work rights.

But O’Neill wants to raise the barriers to entry and lift the minimum standards for foreign workers. International students and education agents have used study as a backdoor way to permanently reside in Australia in lower-end jobs.


Australia closes oldest coal plant, pivots to renewables

Here come blackouts on windless nights

Australia's oldest coal-fired power plant was shuttered Friday, as the country -- a once-notorious climate straggler -- prepares for a seismic shift towards renewable energy.

The Liddell power station, a three-hour drive north of Sydney, was one in a series of ageing coal-fired plants slated to close in the coming years.

Built in 1971, Liddell provided about 10 percent of the electricity used in New South Wales, Australia's most populous state.

Liddell's owner AGL said it would take about two years to demolish the hulking facility, which would free up the site for new clean energy projects such as a hydrogen power plant.

"More than 90 per cent of the materials in the power station will be recycled, including 70,000 tonnes of steel -- which is more steel than there is in the Sydney Harbour Bridge," the company said.

For decades, coal has provided the bulk of Australia's electricity, but University of New South Wales renewable energy expert Mark Diesendorf told AFP that stations such as Liddell were fast becoming unreliable "clunkers".

Besides being inefficient, highly polluting and expensive to repair, the continued widespread use of coal-fired power plants would make Australia's climate targets almost impossible to meet.

Australia has long been one of the world's largest coal producers and exporters, and a series of governments have resisted pressure to scale back the industry.

But the centre-left Labor Party elected last year on the promise of climate action has pledged that 82 percent of the country's electricity will come from renewable sources by 2030.

This demands a drastic overhaul -- while world leaders such as Norway produce more than 90 percent of their power through renewables, Australia currently sits around 30 percent.

"The plans are for a fairly rapid phase-out," Diesendorf told AFP. "These stations are overdue for retirement and there's no economic argument for replacing them with new coal."

- 'Right direction' -

Under growing public pressure to address the climate crisis, many Australian fossil fuel companies increasingly prefer to shutter old coal plants than keep them online.

Australia's largest coal-fired power station, the Eraring facility in New South Wales, is scheduled to close in 2025 and a handful more will follow over the next decade.

While these closures will test whether renewables are ready to fill the gap, a government report released Friday indicated Australia was heading in the right direction.

The Australian Energy Market Operator found that record levels of renewable electricity -- mostly solar power -- were already driving down both emissions and household power prices.




Thursday, April 27, 2023

Federal MP Marion Scrymgour backs ‘safe school’ for Indigenous children in Alice Springs

A realistic proposal at last

Northern Territory federal Labor MP Marion Scrymgour has backed moves by Alice Springs principal Gavin Morris to get Indigenous children off the streets and into the classroom by providing safe accommodation for them at school.

Ms Scrymgour will meet Dr Morris as early as Saturday to work through issues needed to fast-track the groundbreaking proposal for a residential facility – part of it secure – for students and says she will push federal Education Minister Jason Clare to consider using funding earmarked for education in Central Australia.

A proposal commissioned by Dr Morris for his Yipirinya School by building consultants Donald Cant Watts Corke estimates a total building cost of $12m for four cottages housing 24 students with staff accommodation in the same units.

Ms Scrymgour said the plans were essential in order to get youth “re-engaged” in the education system.

“We can’t have another generation that becomes illiterate and disengaged from the system and then just ends up on the scrap heap,” she said. “We’ve got to give young people some hope that they can live somewhere safely but they need to re-engage in the school system.”

The development comes after Dr Morris revealed in The Australian how children are sometimes returned to school in handcuffs or wearing ankle bracelets and how a 12-year-old and his mates led teachers on a wild pursuit through the town in a stolen minibus.

NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles declined to respond directly to questions about Dr Morris’s proposal but said the Territory government would “stand up two facilities that families can go to when they are displaced and in need of support services. This is to ensure we can get these families back on their feet, back to community or into longer-term accommodation and kids back to school.”

Yipirinya School has more than 200 Indigenous students from the town camps and outstations of Alice Springs, catering for some of the most disadvantaged students in the nation.

The school was founded by Indigenous elders and teaches in four Indigenous languages.

Ms Scrymgour said that what Dr Morris was proposing should be supported but called for the accommodation to be built in a separate location than the grounds of Yipirinya, accessible to all students in Alice Springs.

She proposed a central facility that other high schools could “feed into”, and allowing it to be resourced with government and non-government agencies.

“Centralian High in Alice Springs (also) has issues with kids needing somewhere to stay,” she said. “If you’re going to have a boarding facility for some of these kids I think it shouldn’t be attached to any one school … there’s a real need in Alice Springs.”

Dr Morris said he would be delighted to work with Ms Scrymgour to come up with a viable proposal,” he said. “I’m very flexible in making sure that we work with people like Marion to ensure that we get a solution and we get action.

“I’m happy to explore actions that might not necessarily be on the Yipirinya school site, but also acknowledging this request has come from our key Elders, from community, it’s not my idea.”

Yipirinya School Principal Gavin Morris says what’s being seen more of is a crisis in the community around young… children participating in anti-social behaviour as a result of what’s going on in their surroundings. “There’s a growing cohort, a growing number of families in crisis – they’re at More
Ms Scrymgour said she would also support a secure facility in Alice Springs for young people as an alternative to the controversial Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin.

“When we’re talking about youth crime, if the kids aren’t going to be sent to Don Dale, but to get them off the streets and as part of their bail conditions, they need to go into a secure facility,” she said. “There is no facility in Alice Springs for that to happen.”

Ms Scrymgour said she would meet with Dr Morris “as early as Saturday” to come to a solution.

“The one minister I’d like to bring in on this is (federal education minister) Jason Clare … there was some money that was earmarked for education in the central Australian plains, so I want to just talk through some stuff with Gavin, and then maybe have a chat with Jason Clare ...” She also called for a similar project to be looked at in Katherine, three hours southeast of Darwin


Class action lawsuit over Covid vaccine injuries targets the Australian government: 'There has been a cover-up'

A landmark Covid-19 vaccine injury class action lawsuit has been filed against the Australian government and the medicines regulator.

The nation-wide suit, which reportedly has 500 members including three named applicants, seeks redress for those allegedly left injured or bereaved by the Covid-19 vaccines.

One of the applicants who suffered a severe heart condition after getting the Pfizer jab is even claiming there was 'cover-up' during the vaccine rollout which hid the potential risks.

The federal government, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Department of Health - in addition to a number of senior public servants - are all named as parties to the class action, which was filed in the New South Wales Federal Court on Wednesday.

The named parties are accused of negligence in their approval and monitoring of Covid-19 vaccines, breach of statutory duty and misfeasance in public office.

The lawsuit was organised by Queensland GP Dr Melissa McCann who raised over $105,000 through crowd funding. 'These injured and bereaved have suffered immense loss, pain and grief,' Dr McCann tweeted.

'Just as heartbreaking has been the gaslighting and silence, which has left them feeling abandoned. We cannot simply 'move on' from covid and leave them behind.'

Dr McCann has been critical of the existing compensation scheme, claiming it was 'not fit for purpose'.

'Many vaccine-injured Australians who cannot access compensation through the Services Australia scheme now find themselves abandoned, with no support,' Dr McCann said.

The size of the compensation claim being sought is not yet clear.

The TGA has been contacted for comment.

The TGA’s latest health safety report, published on 20 April, reveals that adverse risks are extremely low. here were 138,307 total adverse event reports from nearly 66 million vaccine doses administered - a rate of just 0.2 per cent.

'The protective benefits of vaccination far outweigh the potential risks,' the report states.

The medicines regulator has identified a total of 14 reports where the cause of death was linked to vaccination and said there was no new vaccine-related deaths identified since 2022.

'The TGA closely monitors reports of suspected side effects (also known as adverse events) to the COVID-19 vaccines,' it said.

'This is the most intensive safety monitoring ever conducted of any vaccines in Australia.'

But instructing solicitor Natalie Strijland, of Brisbane law firm NR Barbi, said the action would argue the TGA caused considerable harm and damage by failing to regulate the COVID-19 vaccinations properly.

The class action names three applicants, one of whom is 41-year old father-of-two Gareth O'Gradie.

Mr O'Gradie, a teacher from Melbourne, was left with a 20-centimetre scar down his chest after developing severe pericarditis — inflammation of the lining around the heart — following his first Pfizer vaccination in July 2021.

He did not respond to various medications and therapies and in February 2022 doctors performed open heart surgery to remove his the pericardial sac lining his heart.

The TGA said myocarditis and pericarditis were 'usually temporary conditions, with most people getting better within a few days', noting that the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) 'continues to emphasise that the protective benefits of the vaccines far outweigh the rare risk of these side effects'.

But Mr O'Gradie believes there has been 'misinformation about the safety' of the vaccines from the government. 'I think there has been some cover-up,' he told

'There was a lot of, you know, 'We need to not scare the public as part of the vaccine rollout, so let's not publicise these things.' There was a large, intentional withholding of information — that doesn't give people informed consent.'

He claimed that he was 'totally not or never have been anti-vaccine'. 'I'm pro-science, I'm well educated,' he said.

Mr O'Gradie told The Australian that he was worried about the 'anti-vaccine lobby piggybacking' on the class action.

He is joined by two other lead claimants: Antonio Derose, 66, who developed encephalomyelitis (inflammation in the brain and spinal cord) following his AstraZeneca jab and Anthony Rose, 47, who claims severe cognitive impairment and chronic fatigue following his Moderna vaccination.

The existing compensation scheme, which is open to Australians who 'suffer a moderate to severe impact following an adverse reaction to a TGA-approved COVID-19 vaccine', has been heavily criticised for being difficult to access and too narrowly focused.

As of April 12, Services Australia had received 3501 applications and paid 137 claims totalling more than $7.3 million. Another 2263 claims are still in progress, while 405 have been withdrawn and 696 deemed not payable.


Queensland’s top 150 high schools ranked by Better Education

Note that of all schools that got ratings of 99 or 100 only 2 out of 25 were State schools and both of those had selective admission

More than 30 public schools have been named alongside some of the state’s powerhouse colleges to be ranked in Queensland’s top 150.

Independent schools specialist website Better Education has revealed Queensland’s best schools a compilation of both government and private schools between years 7-10.

The selective Queensland Academy for Science, Mathematics and Technology retained the top spot in 2022 with a perfect score of 100. The Toowong-based school had full marks for English and Maths.

It was closely followed by Brisbane Grammar School, Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Brisbane State High School, Somerset College, Ormiston College, Whitsunday Anglican School and St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School all with perfect scores.

Whitsunday Anglican School, which charges about $12,000 at a fraction of those in the top 10, was the only school from outside of the South East pocket.

Some of the top public schools included Mansfield State High School, Indooroopilly State High School and Brisbane and Cairns schools of distance education.

Some of the most improved schools included Ipswich Grammar School which went from 28 to 13, Redeemer Lutheran College (39 to 22) and the Brisbane School of Distance Education (111 to 37).

Cairns School of Distance Education, Mount Gravatt State High School, Northpine Christian College and Coolum State High School were all new entries for 2022.

Better Education’s list is based on Year 9 results with English and Maths rated out of five and the overall academic performance with three rating scales.

Better Education is an independently-run site that aims to provide “informative and comparative school performance … to parents wanting to make ­choices about schooling for their children”.


Warren Mundine: The Voice to Parliament isn’t what Aboriginal people want

People campaigning for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Voice will tell you Aboriginals overwhelmingly support it.

This argument works because it tugs at the heartstrings of well-meaning Australians who feel voting ‘Yes’ is what Aboriginals want.

It also discourages debate, implies voting ‘No’ is ignoring Aboriginal people, possibly racist, and wrongly conflates a ‘Yes’ vote with ‘doing the right thing’. I don’t believe this claim.

Let’s start with the supposed claim that 80 per cent of Aboriginals support the Voice based on an Ipsos poll in January. The poll was commissioned by the Uluru Dialogue, the lobby group for the Uluru Statement. And it surveyed only 300 people.

I guess it depends which 300 people you speak to.

I’ve personally spoken to well over 300 Aboriginals from all over Australia, including from remote and regional Australia. Almost without exception, all have told me they either oppose the Voice, don’t understand it (or haven’t even heard of it) or are deeply cynical about it.

The only Aboriginals I know who support it are academics and lawyers, people from the organisations campaigning for it and some city-based, affluent Aboriginals whose views usually mirror other city-based, affluent Australians, so that’s hardly a surprise.

Last month ABC reporters travelled to three remote Aboriginal communities, Kaltukatjara, Warakurna and Cosmo Newbury, who have a combined Aboriginal population of 474 according to the last census.

Most people in those communities had no idea about the Voice or whether it would really help them.

One community leader said they “got a shock” when the ABC arrived because they’d never heard of the Voice.

Another said “What I’m really asking is: if they will come and talk to us and if they will explain?”

So, it’s unlikely his community will have a direct line to anything, except more bureaucrats.

Voice supporters also cite consultations for the Uluru Statement and the Co-Design Report. On its first day, the Joint Select Committee on the Voice Referendum heard this was “the most proportionately significant consultation process that has ever been undertaken with First Peoples”.

I believe this consultation was fundamentally flawed and designed to exclude dissenting views.

The so-called Uluru Statement was adopted at a gathering of 250 delegates at a Yulara Resort. I and others have spoken to AŠĻČangu elders angry it was named for their country saying it’s not their culture. Some delegates walked out saying, “It’s not a dialogue, it’s a one-way conversation. Every time we try and raise an issue, our voices are silenced”.

Delegates were hand-picked from 12 ‘Dialogues’ and one ‘Information Day’ over the previous 6 months. The Referendum Council says attendance was by invitation only which “ensured” each session reached consensus.

I take this to mean dissenting opinions were deliberately avoided. Referendum Council Co-Chair, Pat Anderson, reinforced my view recently when she said “naysayers” were intentionally excluded.

Over half the sessions were in capital cities even though only 37% of Indigenous people live in capital cities (in the NT, only 24%). Sessions were capped at 100 attendees: 60% for First Nations/traditional owner groups and another 40% for community organisations and “key individuals”. We don’t know how many of the 40% were Indigenous. But we do know that, at most, fewer than 0.25% of Indigenous adults were consulted in group discussion settings mostly held in locations where most Indigenous Australians don’t live.

The original remit of the Referendum Council was to advise on constitutional recognition. Attendees thought that’s what they’d been invited to discuss. A national representative advisory body isn’t what most people think of when they think about constitutional recognition. We’ve no idea when or how the idea of a “Voice” emerged in those sessions with no published transcripts or minutes. I’m aware of some attendees who don’t recall it being discussed at all.




Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Aussie EV drivers will soon benefit from nation-wide fast charging program

This is amusing. It's like a dog chasing its tail. It never catches up. The facility will entice more people to go electric, which will heighten the chance that when you roll up to recharge there will always be someone there recharging ahead of you. Frequently spending hours waiting to refuel will not tbe attractive. Electric cars are ok as suburban runabouts but are a pain for long trips

Electric car owners will be able to drive from Adelaide to Alice Springs, cross the Nullarbor, and run from Tasmania to Far North Queensland without stressing about charging, thanks to a new network coming to Australian roads.

A Federally funded program working with the NRMA to put 117 fast chargers on Australian highways will bring an end to “range anxiety”, according to Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen.

“EVs aren’t just for the cities, and Australians who drive long distances either for work or for holidays should be able to reap the benefits of cars that are cheaper and cleaner to run,” he said.

“We’re making range anxiety a thing of the past. This project will help close the gaps and known black spots in the network and make it possible to drive from Darwin to Perth, Broken Hill to Adelaide, and from Brisbane to Tennant Creek in the NT.

“This national rollout will help put more Australians in the driver’s seat of cheaper and cleaner cars.”

The Federal Government’s “Driving the Nation” fund will spend $39.3 million ensuring electric car chargers are placed at 150 kilometre intervals on national highways.

Full technical details – including the charging speed of the network – have not been released.

The NRMA will be using purpose built charger models for various public charging locations depending upon environmental conditions, location and power availability, sourcing chargers from manufacturers including Tritium, Kempower and ABB.

A spokesman for the organisation said plug power for the public charging locations “will initially range from 75kW to around 300kW”.

The fastest chargers currently used in Australia can add around 300 kilometres of range in about 20 minutes to high-end electric cars with more than 500 kilometres of range.

Cheaper models such as the Nissan Leaf, that can’t handle the flow of energy at need about an hour to add around 200 kilometres of range.

Mr Bowen drives a Tesla Model 3 – Australia’s most popular electric car.

Priced from about $64,000 drive-away, the Tesla offers around 491 kilometres of driving range.

Tesla has a widespread “Supercharger” network that is not available to owners of other electric cars.

Carly Irving-Dolan, NRMA chief executive for energy and infrastructure, said the network would be the charging backbone of Australia.

“The NRMA is excited to be partnering with the Australian Government to grow our regional network of fast charging stations across the country because we fundamentally believe that regional Australia should not be left behind,” she said.

“Australia’s expansive landscape presents some unique and local challenges to ensure that we are ready for more electric vehicles on our roads.

“NRMA has over 100 years’ experience helping Australia address transport challenges and we are committed to building on this work through this national charging network.”


Tradesmen happier, richer in their 20s than university grads

New research from the Ai Group shows that nearly half of all 25 year olds have a degree level qualification but are less likely to be in full-time employment.

Bachelor's degrees are a popular option among young students, but new data claims university might not be the best option for those seeking happiness and wealth in the early years of employment.

Almost 3,000 young people were surveyed as part of Australian Industry (Ai) Group's research into the "real trajectories and early career pathways" of 25-year-olds, with nearly half holding a Bachelor or postgraduate degree.

Tradies performed better than their tertiary-educated counterparts, with a difference of 16 per cent between the groups' wages at that age.

Feeling like the grass – and hip pocket – was greener on the other side, Braidan Quinlan dropped his teaching studies to undertake a carpentry trade.

It's a path he almost never explored, having been pressured in high school to attend university. "When I was in year 12, there wasn't really any talk of a trade or TAFE – it was more just pushing for university," Mr Quinlan said.

"Everyone wanted to go to university, everyone thought it was the right way to go, but if I could go back I would've started an apprenticeship when I was [a teenager]. "It would've been a good way to get ahead, I think."

The third-year apprentice was fed up with the narrative he needed a degree to "get forward in life". "I went [to university] for a few years … but found it really wasn't for me," Mr Quinlan said.

"I got offered this great apprenticeship at HNT Builders and have been enjoying it ever since."

One of the key findings in Ai Group's report was the benefit of "learning in a real-world setting", with almost all postgraduates and apprentices reporting full employment by 25 – meanwhile, only 92 per cent of those holding a Bachelor are employed at this age.

Postgraduates and apprentices also recorded the highest levels of job satisfaction, with respondents particularly pleased with the opportunities for further training as well as the chance to use their skills and experience on the job.

"I'm loving it," Mr Quinlan said. "The skills I've developed, both from trade school and on-the-job, have been phenomenal."

Although he admits a teaching salary would've been "a lot nicer" than the apprentice wages he started on, Mr Quinlan has his eyes set on the big picture. "Long-term, I feel there's so many more avenues to potentially make more money [as a tradie]," he said. "You can start your own business or jump over to the commercial sector.

"There's just more opportunity to make a better living, and that's part of why I moved away from [studying to be a teacher]."

Putting in the hours

The data shows, although tradies are raking in the cash, they also work the most hours. Apprentices undertake an average of seven additional hours, increasing their work week to 42 hours.

"These findings are a strong endorsement of the apprentice/trainee pathway and the many benefits that can follow, including higher pay," Ai Group said.

In the long run

"We should exercise some caution in drawing conclusions comparing pay at age 25 [as] other evidence suggests higher-qualified workers are likely to have stronger wage growth over their careers," the report notes.

But, in those early career years, the job satisfaction of university graduates often suffers as a result of being over-qualified for the positions they hold.

"A total of 36 per cent of Bachelor's degree holders [are] working in jobs below the skill level aligned with their qualification," Ai Group reported.

"Higher education students likely need to combine the deep knowledge of a degree with other types of learning and experience to forge a career.

"This suggests we need a more flexible education and training system that allows young people to acquire knowledge, skills and capabilities throughout their time 'learning' and to continue while they are 'earning and learning'."


Energy Minister Chris Bowen’s price caps won’t get more gas out of the ground

The one consistency in Chris Bowen’s attempt to force down gas prices is that the planned $12 cap will be in place in time for the next federal election that is due by 2025.

That’s the reality about today’s energy market, which is more about politics than getting more gas out of the ground and into the domestic market.

The second round of proposals for the mandatory code of conduct for the east coast gas market doubles down on pricing caps, extending them to more than two years. But the Albanese government and Climate Change and Energy minister Bowen is offering little in the way of a solution to create a sustainable longer-term gas market after nearly a decade of energy dysfunction across all levels of government. Bowen’s intervention is a heavy handed attempt to fix the outcome of the dysfunction, not the cause of it.

A price cap for another two years is a hard swallow for an industry that plans and builds cycles that range from five to 10 years. That and a myriad of subjective exemptions for smaller producers has added more uncertainty. Bowen argues the cap will ensure domestic prices are reasonable by establishing a price anchor.

But it is paving the way for more damage. There is little incentive for big producers to get more gas out of the ground and send it into Victoria and NSW, where it is badly needed. That will only serve to compound credible forecasts of gas market shortages.

Players like Woodside have effectively put on hold efforts to unlock more gas from the vast but rapidly maturing Bass Strait field that would be earmarked for the domestic market.

In a recent investor briefing Woodside chief Meg O’Neill confirmed their study of an LNG import terminal on the east coast had been “paused” as a result of the gas market intervention. At the same time the Bass Strait joint venture with Woodside and ExxonMobil was operating under six-month budget cycles. That’s not a lot of long-term planning there.

Other projects from other companies from Santos to Cooper Energy, as well as Queensland onshore development, remain in limbo.

“It’s very difficult to make investment decisions when there’s this residual uncertainty around the prices that we will be able to get for our commodities,” O’Neill said in February.

She also highlighted how many alternative growth projects including hydrogen were available to the energy major – which will require big spending but are set to deliver energy to international markets.

It was the global tensions of the Ukraine war that was the trigger for sending global gas prices soaring as Russian gas no longer flowed into Europe. Prices were already falling fast as the global market adjusted and Europe had a mild winter highlighted the unnecessary nature of the intervention.

Still the price is already skirting the price cap which could risk having the unintended effect of also putting a floor around prices. Figures from the Australian Energy Market regulator show in early December spot gas prices were averaging $15/GJ and then have fallen further to be stuck at the $12/GJ figure into the new year with several domestic deals struck at the price. There will be pressure for prices to rise in coming months as demand for heating increases, delivering the first winter test for the gas price caps.

From a hard gas price cap, to expected overhaul of the PRRT in Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ upcoming budget and so far lack of interest in a response to a US-style Inflation Reduction Act all add up to be a collective disincentive for energy operators to spend money here where it is needed.

And the bigger threat to Australia is the loss of export capacity where emerging players such as the US are eyeing export contracts to Asia and PNG is fast developing its own industry.

The gas industry is desperate for a sign to work with the government in order to fix the supply logjam to feed the domestic market. But that is unlikely to make for great politics.


Three cheers for Jacinta!

Three cheers for Jacinta! Her promotion is good for Dutton, good for the Coalition, and good for the country.

The rise and rise of Jacinta Nampijinpa Price from deputy mayor of Alice Springs to Country Liberal Senator for the Northern Territory, and from there to Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians is one of those rare rapid ascents in political life that promises to be good for the Liberal party, good for Opposition leader Peter Dutton, and good for the country.

Prime Minister Albanese’s brazen request for a blank cheque to create a disembodied Indigenous Voice to Parliament is disingenuous, dangerous, and many would add racist. Price’s opposition to Albanese’s half-baked plan is deeply personal. She is the living incarnation of reconciliation with a Warlpiri mum and an Anglo-Celtic dad. She went on create her own ‘blended family’ with her musician husband who is not Indigenous. As she says in the ‘No’ campaign ad, which is being run by Fair Australia, it was love that brought her parents together and love that brought she and her partner together and none of them want to see the family divided along the lines of race.

Price is a gifted speaker. At the CPAC conference in Sydney last year she and Warren Mundine provided a hilarious double act, brimming with good humour and incisive commentary. They plan to go on tour across the country reminding Australians that there is more to unite us than divide us. The pair will provide ‘Yes’ campaigners with a formidable challenge.

Labor has turned smearing Liberals as racist and sexist into an art form, but the promotion Price makes that task a whole lot harder. Leftists looked stupid, vicious, and paternalistic when they tried to claim that she was providing cover for racists.

Price has been a godsend for Dutton. His new Clark Kent-style black glasses have helped him shed the Voldemort look and with Price at his side, Labor has been put on the back foot in its campaign of character assassination that it perfected in relentless attacks on Scott Morrison. And to Labor’s chagrin Price has been joined at the hip to Dutton on his frequent trips to Alice Springs.

Price has been equally helpful to Dutton within his party. He has been faced with the same rancorous divisions that poisoned the prime ministerial tenure of the last three Liberal leaders. The Voice threatened the usual tectonic divide between the Woke, wet left, and the dry right. After the dismal drubbing in the Aston by-election, Price is the inspirational figure the Coalition needs to bring its warring tribes together. Perhaps not Julian Leeser, who quit the shadow front bench to campaign for the Voice, but Price, a Country National, was backed by the majority of Liberals even though it meant the Nationals have exceeded their quota on the front bench.

Leeser’s departure has also allowed Dutton to promote the very capable Kerrynne Liddle to Shadow Assistant Minister for Child Protection and the Prevention of Family Violence and make the battle-hardened former attorney-general Michaelia Cash the new shadow attorney-general.

And just like that, Dutton has added three impressive women to the ministry making Labor’s stereotypical attacks that much harder.

The announcement by Karen Andrews, the former and then Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, that she will quit the front bench and not contest the next election opened the way for Dutton to promote talented China hawk Senator James Paterson to Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and cyber security.

Paterson did an impressive job when he was chair of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security. He scored a major hit on the government in February when he raised the alarm about the threat posed by almost a thousand Chinese-made cameras in Commonwealth buildings.

He joins Andrew Hastie, Shadow Minister for Defence, who gets kudos for being attacked by the overtly pro-China Premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, this week. McGowan, either accidentally or on purpose, announced over a hot microphone at a China-Australia Chamber of Commerce lunch during his first trip to China since the pandemic that Hastie had ‘swallowed some sort of Cold War pills back … when he was born, and he couldn’t get his mindset out of that’. Who knows what was going on. What is certain is that most Australians share Hastie’s concerns about the CCP and would see McGowan’s comments in an unimpressed light within the context of his visit to China.

Price, Liddle, Paterson, and Hastie are all part of a younger generation that will eventually carry the Liberals back onto the government benches. A successful campaign against the Voice is a critical first battle and Price is the best person to lead them to victory in that campaign.




Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Sydney statue defaced in Anzac Day protest

So much hate. Why does something that happened in 1826 still matter? Leftists are just using it to keep their hate alive

The article below closes with a reference to the Appin massacre, which was part of a war between Aborigines and settlers. Unmentioned is that Governor Macquarie was initially a peacemaker and that his orders were to capture, not kill Aborigines. The campaign he ordered was out of frustration with attacks on settlers

A community in Sydney’s north-west is angry after a statue was defaced with red paint ahead of a local Anzac Day dawn service.

The Lachlan Macquarie statue in Windsor’s McQuade Park was doused in red paint and handprints alongside the phrases “here stands a mass murderer who ordered the genocide” and “no pride in genocide”.

Mayor Sarah McMahon said she was alerted to the incident after the dawn service and said upon inspection, the paint was still “significantly wet”.

“To me, it had been done quite recently,” she said. “I am really saddened there are members of our community out there that think this is the appropriate way to get their message across.”

McMahon arranged for council staff to clean the statue and police were also called to the scene.

“We are a military community here in the Hawkesbury and to have this done on a day of such national and local significance to me is appalling,” she said. “I expect the police will do their job thoroughly.”

Local resident Tim Kelly took to Facebook to share an image of the defaced statue, receiving hundreds of horrified comments in response.

“The day was about our servicemen, not about any other agenda,” he said. “Everyone is absolutely disgusted.”

The statue has been the target of protests before. In 2017, the statue was graffitied with the words “murderer” as part of an Australia Day protest.

Monument Australia, an organisation that records monuments throughout Australia, states on their website the statue was commissioned during the bicentenary celebrations in 1994 of European settlement in the Hawkesbury.

“There is controversy around Macquarie’s treatment of Indigenous people,” the website states.

“In April 1816, Macquarie ordered soldiers under his command to kill or capture any Aboriginal people they encountered during a military operation aimed at creating a sense of terror. At least 14 men, women and children were brutally killed, some shot, others driven over a cliff.”


Queensland to decriminalise sex work as review recommends new advertising rules

Queensland will decriminalise sex work after a long-awaited review recommended sweeping changes to the industry to combat violence, discrimination and exploitation.

A landmark review into sex work by the Queensland Law Reform Commission has made 47 recommendations, including scrapping the Prostitution Licensing Authority, repealing some police powers and allowing services to be advertised on radio and TV.

The QLRC also recommended that sex workers not be singled out for public soliciting or street-based sex work, and said planning rules should allow services to operate away from industrial zones.

While sex work is under a licensing framework in Queensland, about 90% of sex workers are in the “unlawful sector” privately or at unlicensed businesses.

Sex workers have long rallied against the laws that prohibit them from employing a receptionist, working with others or texting other sex workers before and after a booking to make sure they’re safe.

In Queensland, police can currently also pose as clients and entrap workers by pressuring them to offer blacklisted services.

The attorney-general, Shannon Fentiman, said the government was “broadly supportive” of recommendations and supported decriminalising sex work.

Fentiman said decriminalisation of sex work would “ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in our community have legal protections at work”.

She confirmed this would mean abolishing the Prostitution Licensing Authority, which regulates the state’s 20 brothels.

“The sex-work industry will be regulated by workplace health and safety laws, planning laws, advertising codes and standards, and public amenity and public nuisance laws,” she told reporters on Monday.

Fentiman said the government hoped to introduce legislation before the end of the year after consulting key stakeholders.

“We will need to work through each of the recommendations to work out how best to implement the intent of the law reform commission,” she said.

The report found the current framework undermined the health, safety and justice of sex workers. Those interviewed said they were reluctant to report crimes to police for fear of arrest or not being believed.

The QLRC said the law should respond to “reality, not myths”.

“Stereotypes about most sex workers being street workers, victims of exploitation or trafficking, or ‘vectors of disease’ are not supported by the evidence or reflected in the diversity of the sex-work industry,” the report said.

“The assumption that decriminalising sex work will increase the size of the industry is also unsupported.”

Sex worker and state coordinator of Respect Inc, Lulu Holiday, said decriminalisation will be a “life-changing policy shift”.

“Decriminalisation would mean I wouldn’t have to worry every time a client contacts me that it might be a police officer. I’d be able to work in a way that feels safe for me without being worried that I’m at risk of arrest,” Holiday told Guardian Australia.

“While it’s going to have a huge impact for us, it’s really not going to have any noticeable impact on the rest of the Queensland community.”

The chief executive of the Scarlet Alliance, Mish Pony, said the announcement “brings Queensland in line with domestic and international best practice”.

“Decriminalisation is a cost-effective, high compliance model for government and supports workplace health, safety and rights for sex workers,” Pony said.

The Queensland government confirmed last month it will also move to scrap an exemption of the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act which allows employers to discriminate against sex workers and gender-diverse and transgender people when working with children.

The exemption will be repealed, along with another clause that allows accommodation providers to lawfully discriminate against sex workers if there is a “reasonable belief” that they are engaging in sex work on the premises.


$400 a week for a flat that smells of old milk: The tsunami coming for renters

When are governments going to twig that they need to stop persecuting landlords and start encouraging them?

The six months Emersyn Wood spent searching for a home was a period of chronic stress.

Her search started in Sydney’s inner west but later widened out, and she was forced to lift her budget from $250 to $350 a week. Even then, the options were limited, and terrible.

“Most of them were very gross,” the 21-year-old says. “Even if it was like $400 … you would go to an inspection and it smells like old milk or smells like pee.”

“I was like, ‘OK, this is kind of disgusting.’ But I got to a point where [I thought] maybe I would have to put up with it.”

Being a renter in Australia has never been more difficult, thanks to record low vacancy rates and skyrocketing rents.

The entire rental market is in serious trouble, and that’s also because it is increasingly difficult to be an investor. But without more “mum and dad” investors or an influx of larger institutional funding, as well as improvements to rental security, the rental crisis will only get worse and continue to fuel class divides.

“The gap between rich and poor is going to grow, and it’s largely going to grow between those who have a home and those who don’t,” says the Grattan Institute’s director of economic policy, Brendan Coates.

About a third of Australian households rent, and the number is growing. Renters are also becoming older and wealthier as the great Australian dream of home ownership moves further from reach.

Gianni la Cava, research director for think tank e61, says renting is seen as a perfectly acceptable way to live in many countries, but not here. “Renting seems to be seen as something inferior in Australia. There’s just a real focus on owning a house,” he says.

That might be because for many people, renting is inferior. A recent report by online property settlement platform PEXA and property business Longview found Australia is one of the worst countries in the developed world to be a renter, due to insecure tenure and an inability for renters to make the house a home, through having pets or making minor alterations.

Renting is not just insecure and unaffordable – for many, just finding a property to lease is increasingly difficult. Even some federal politicians, despite their salaries and clout, are not immune to those struggles.

Kylea Tink, the independent federal member for North Sydney, has been searching for a rental home for herself and her three children all over her electorate, but says there are few properties on the market and the ones that are available are eye-wateringly expensive.

“It’s pretty soul-destroying,” she says. “I’ve been looking from Chatswood, to Longueville, to Greenwich, you name it. I’m very open to the opportunities of where to go, but there just doesn’t seem to be the market supply there.

“And it’s not just me, there are tens of families lining up, going through these properties, trying to see if they’re going to be places that they want to help continue to raise their family.”

The proportion of households that rent is growing, and it is growing across all age groups, according to the last census, while the proportion of people buying homes falls.

Nearly 28 per cent of people aged 45 to 54 rent today, compared with fewer than 20 per cent in 2001. Among those aged 55 to 64, 21.6 per cent are renters, compared with 15.7 per cent more than two decades ago.

The proportion of renters is swelling because more people are being priced out of home ownership, while fewer people can access social and affordable housing.

While the PEXA and Longview report focuses on private rentals, it notes the chronic shortage of social housing is adding to pressures.

Social housing made up 6 per cent of all homes in 1996, but now makes up 4 per cent, according to the Give Me Shelter report from business-led advocacy group Housing All Australians.

The group says this lack of affordable housing could cost taxpayers $25 billion a year through increased spending on health, policing and lost education and productivity because critical workers will not be able to find adequate accommodation anywhere near work.

The lack of social housing has forced more people into the private rental market, leading to a rapid rise in rents and a dramatic constriction of supply as renters compete for properties. Over 2022 rents grew by 4 per cent, the biggest rate in a decade.

This year, rental inflation has reached 4.8 per cent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics measure, and skyrocketing increases in asking rents – Domain data shows that over the year to March, asking rents for units have jumped by 24 per cent in Sydney and 23.1 per cent in Melbourne – mean renters will face higher prices for some time to come.

This is also pushing more renters into rental stress, spending 30 per cent or more of their income on housing. According to the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, more than a third of renting households – about 331,000 households – are now at that crisis point.

For low-income renters, the problem is even worse. Two-thirds of those households spend 30 per cent or more of their income on rent, according to PEXA and Longview.

Despite the soaring rental prices, the market is also dysfunctional for the ordinary Australians who make up the bulk of the country’s landlords. Most of them only own one or two properties, says Pexa chief economist Julie Toth.

“They’re not particularly experienced, and it’s not necessarily their main income or profession; it’s a hobby or sideline,” she says.

There is a cultural perception that property will always be safe, Toth says, but the return on investment is not as bulletproof or guaranteed as investors generally think.

That feeds into the insecurity inherent in renting. If those investors need access to money for something else, Toth says, their funds are not liquid and they would need to sell the investment property to get cash, creating more turnover and uncertainty in the rental market.

“Half of all investment properties are taken in or out of the rental market within five years. So that’s another source of insecurity,” Toth says.

Again, Australia is unusual here. In other countries, institutional investors such as retirement funds make up the bulk of landlords, says Housing Industry Association chief economist Tim Reardon.

“If we look overseas, in France, around about 97 per cent of rental accommodation is provided by institutional investors such as superannuation companies. In the US that figure is about 87 per cent. In Australia, we’re very close to zero,” he says.

“It’s evident that there is a problem there that we’re not attracting enough investment into building residential homes.”

Institutional investors such as super funds might be dissuaded from investing in rentals due to the poor returns and minimal incentives on offer.

PEXA and Longview’s recent research also found that the rental market was not functioning very well for landlords and most of them would get better returns if they put their money into superannuation.


Call for national approach to phone ban by federal Education Minister

Rules around mobile phone use in schools could be implemented in every state in Australia with growing calls for a national policy.

Queensland is the only state not to have implemented phone rules for state schools, with other jurisdictions either imposing a ban or asking students to turn them off.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare says that he will meet with his state and territory counterparts in the coming months to discuss implementing a national policy.

“I think the time has come for a national approach to the banning or the restriction, the use of mobile phones by students in schools,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane.

“I think there is a good argument that we should be moving to a national best practice approach. And I’m intending to put this on the agenda when education ministers meet again in the middle of this year.

“But also not make the decision on our own, talk to parents, talk to principals, talk to teachers about what‘s the best approach to take.”

NSW is the latest state to introduce rules around mobile phones, banning their use in public secondary schools from Term 4 2023 with the ban was already in place in NSW public primary schools.

The ban will apply during class, as well as during recess and lunch times.

“I know many parents who are anxious about the pervasiveness of phones and technology in our children’s learning environments,” NSW Premier Chris Minns said.

“It’s time to clear our classrooms of unnecessary distractions and create better environments for learning.”

There are also blanket bans for phones in public schools in Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania.

South Australia is trailing phone restrictions with a ban in place in 44 government schools, while mobiles aren’t allowed at Northern Territory primary schools and high school students must turn them off during the day.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that her state would “step up to the plate” if Mr Clare’s desire for a national phone policy comes into place.