Sunday, July 16, 2023

In praise of NIMBYism

I am not sure that I completely agree with Judith Sloan (below). We have to put new settlers somewhere and the alternative to increased urban density is urban spawl. And urban sprawl means subjecting millions of people to hours in traffic every week day. There are surely better uses of people's time.

I heartily agree however that a house with a back yard is the ideal place to raise a family. I grew up in such places as did my son. But is a back yard two hours drive from your place of work worth it? The work from home movement may be the solution for some

A possible compromise might be to allow upward expansion in the more recently developed suburbs, which already have some taller buildings

NIMBYism is a term of unclear origin. The phrase ‘not in my backyard’ apparently first appeared in print in the Christian Science Monitor, a fact I just love. Initially, it had a narrow meaning, referring to a community’s understandable reluctance to have dangerous facilities located near their dwellings – think toxic waste dumps, in particular.

But it quickly morphed into a term of derision used by progressives to ram unwelcome and unsightly developments down the throats of those who have the temerity to prefer their neighbourhoods to retain their core features and character.

The uncontested argument is that well-heeled residents in leafy suburbs who object to the construction of multi-storey, dogbox apartment buildings located on every corner of their neighbourhood should be ignored. Their complaints can just be filed away; compulsory acquisitions can be used if required.

These left-wing types have even dreamt up a new term – YIMBism – yes, in my backyard. Oh, please! Mind you, I’m yet to see too many examples of YIMBism, with protestors out on the street passionately chanting away: what to do want? more high-rises/ when do we want them? now.

Let me put another spin on NIMBYism and suggest that protecting the nature of your local neighbourhood is a perfectly legitimate reaction to maniacal town-planners and lefty zealots. When you buy a property, it’s not just the actual dwelling you are purchasing, it’s also its location and the character of the precinct in which it is located. In other words, the property rights extend beyond the boundaries of the residence.

Of course, no one expects a neighbourhood to remain unchanged. There will always be changes, improvements even. But there is a completely reasonable expectation on the part of residents that the neighbourhood will alter only at the margin and its essential character – be it large family homes, cheek-by-jowl terrace houses or mixed accommodation – will stay relatively unchanged.

In the past, these broader property rights were supported by legally binding restrictive covenants that limited the type and number of developments that could occur in a neighbourhood. While these are no longer common, there are still plenty of examples of planning restrictions that meet the preferences of most residents.

In the Noosa region, for example, there are strict limits on apartment developments, with high-rise buildings not allowed. In nearby Peregian Beach, no apartments developments are permitted, with the rule being one dwelling per lot. In many parts of the Mornington Peninsular in Victoria, there are restrictions on the type of dwellings that can be constructed. Indeed, there are many, many examples of these restrictions right across the country.

The real problems arise in the big cities where newly arrived migrants tend to settle and there is clearly insufficient housing to accommodate the surge. Of course, an obvious solution is for governments to restrict the annual migrant intakes to ensure that there is some balance between demand for new housing and supply.

The point is often made that it’s the federal government that sets migrant numbers and the rules by which they enter. But it’s the state governments – and, it has to be admitted, local governments – that are responsible for planning and other housing-related regulations.

Having said this, in recent times, state governments have been wholly supportive of the migration policies of the federal government. There is scope for state governments to influence this policy, but the reality has been most have sought additional numbers under state-based visas. Any practical problems associated with massive numbers of migrants arriving at the same time are largely ignored. The lure of more voters and unskilled/semi-skilled workers is particularly strong for most state governments.

The induced housing shortage is fertile ground for illiberal types to trammel on the property rights of existing residents by claiming that any planning restrictions are simply selfish and unjustified. The good folk down at the Grattan Institute are noisy advocates of this approach. They want all planning restrictions in the desirable middle suburbs in the big cities lifted so high-rise buildings can be erected to accommodate the masses.

It’s only fair, they say. Everyone – OK, not quite everyone – should be able to live in these suburbs with their amenities and proximity to the CBD and good transport links.We can be like New York or Hong Kong. Even London would do. Of course, had large numbers of residents of Melbourne or Sydney wanted to live like New Yorkers, they could have always relocated to New York.

Our local council in Melbourne actually does a reasonable job at defending these broader property rights, but the state government has assumed all planning rights in respect of properties located on arterial roads as defined by the state government. (Cute, hey?)

The result has been that many of the larger homes on these arterial roads have been torn down and replaced by apartment buildings, admittedly with only two or three storeys. The developers just love it.

But here’s the thing: where the block of land once accommodated four or six people, it now accommodates at least twenty. Everything else has essentially stayed the same – roads, parking, services, schools and the like – but there are now many more people using the infrastructure. And just in case you think this policy offers up affordable housing, these newly constructed apartments cost a pretty penny. It’s hard to know what the point is.

Talking of developers getting their own way, you just have to take a look at what is happening in Sydney under the newly elected Minns Labor government. The Premier can’t get enough of high-rise building towers. In what is an unworkable approach, developers promise that a certain percentage of dwellings will be ‘affordable’, at which point the sky’s the limit (geddit?).

Whether or not people, particularly those with young families, want to live in these towers is another matter. But, of course, if that’s all that is available, they will take it.

This brings me to the other item I want to praise: the backyard. Given our temperate climate, there really is no better model for child-rearing than time spent in the backyard. Out the backdoor, playing with siblings and neighbours, a dash indoors for a drink and snack, back for more play. It’s the ideal life for young’uns.

But for those cooped up in apartments, mum or dad will need to accompany the kids to a nearby park (if there is one), even though they are very busy. The alternative is to bring out the screens and allow the children to play mindless (and potentially dangerous) virtual games all day. I vote for the backyard (along with the Hills Hoist) any day.


How to fix our schools: A new report identifies what needs to be cut

In 1992, during one of my early book launches in Melbourne, a chance comment made me question the state of Australia’s education systems. The book, titled So I Headed West, was a collection of written material left by my grandfather, W.G. Manners, whom I never had the chance to know. A reader who had delved into the book remarked that my grandfather appeared to be a well-educated person. Before I could respond, Professor Geoffrey Blainey AC interjected, stating, ‘They were all better educated in those days.’

It is a vice of the old to look back on their upbringing with rose-coloured glasses. Criticising younger generations is a recreational sport more popular than golf or bingo among older demographics. However, that event which took place 31 years ago, has never left me, and it sparked a growing concern within me regarding Australia’s educational standards.

In recent times I’ve noticed a dramatic escalation of this worrying trend. The Covid lockdowns shed light on the materials being served to students, as parents had the opportunity to witness first-hand what was being taught. Many would likely agree that much of this curriculum seemed far removed from what could be considered core educational material.

I am not alone in expressing concern over our education system and seeking ways to improve what transpires in our classrooms. At this year’s Sir John Downer oration in April held in Adelaide, Opposition leader Peter Dutton also highlighted Australia’s failing education system. He argued that,

ideologically driven advocates have too much influence over what is being taught to our children. We want our children to be educated, not indoctrinated. Our kids are being taught ‘what to think,’ not ‘how to think’.

Over the years, I have accumulated a vast collection of articles addressing the slipping educational standards in our country. Faced with this mountain of material, I realised that I would never be able to tackle this task alone. Thus I sought the assistance of two esteemed academics from Perth, who have fearlessly waded through this material and provided their insightful observations for a recently published discussion paper, ‘The Education Crisis in Australia’.

Dr. Rocco Loiacono, one of the authors of the paper, said,

We need to acknowledge the negative impact of an overloaded curriculum on teachers’ well-being and the overall education system. To improve academic standards, we must focus on teaching fewer topics with greater depth and curriculum integrity.

Furthermore, the research paper reveals the overwhelming administrative burden placed on teachers, hindering their ability to focus on lesson planning and effective teaching. Excessive documentation requirements and unnecessary reporting divert valuable teaching time, contributing to the rising costs of education while academic standards continue to decline.

Co-author of the discussion paper, Professor Matthew Ogilvie, writes of this administrative bloat in the university system,

If we look to the United Kingdom as an example that Australia seems to be following, most universities employ more administrative and professional staff than academic staff.

Let us collectively address the pressing issue of declining educational standards in Australia. By acknowledging the problem and engaging in constructive dialogue, we can work towards ensuring a brighter future for our children and the generations to come.


Protecting children takes courage: Just ask Dr Jillian Spencer, a child and adolescent psychiatrist

Julie Sladden

The announcement of the Labor Government’s proposed ‘misinformation’ Bill, while alarming, is not surprising. Anyone paying attention in recent years, especially the last three, will have noticed that our ‘freedom of speech’ has already been significantly curtailed through online censorship, government censorship (thank you, Department of Home Affairs), and self-censorship.

Nowhere has this been more palpable or alarming than the censorship of freedom of inquiry in science and medicine. During the Covid years, we discovered just how captured the medical profession is. Like lifting the lid on Pandora’s box, anyone who spoke out soon discovered the evil treasures in store for those who dared to question the narrative. The result was spectacular and tragic. Doctors who wanted to keep their jobs had to shut up, roll up their sleeves, and work on it. Those who spoke up or questioned the forced jab were marginalised, censored, sacked, or suspended. The message was clear, speak out at your peril. Despite the messaging, I was still shocked at how many capitulated. Surely this was the time we were meant to speak up and ask questions? Especially the hard ones. Isn’t this what we trained for?

Every so often, I meet someone who helps restore my hope in the medical profession. Last week that person was Dr Jillian Spencer, a senior staff Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who was recently suspended from clinical practice at the Queensland Children’s Hospital. She now faces serious threats to her position, professional career, and livelihood, including potential regulatory action. Her crime, it seems, is to question out loud the affirmation model of transgender care.

Spencer says she is not alone in her concerns, ‘I would say that the vast majority of Child and Adolescent psychiatrists hold very serious concerns about the affirmation model, but to speak up in the current climate or even to take a more cautious clinical approach puts their employment at risk,’ she shared at a recent forum.

If there is any doubt that questioning ‘the narrative’ is dangerous for medical professionals, Spencer can set the record straight. Her experience of raising concerns within the organisation through the ‘proper channels’ has not gone well.

‘The process is to raise concerns internally (within an organisation) so that you’re doing it professionally and appropriately, rather than having to speak out. But when I pushed that to the maximum internally, it went very badly. So now I’m in the position of speaking out (publicly). The majority of child psychiatrists (are silent) for good reasons and self-preservation. The good reasons being wanting to be available to help people and to not be perceived as biased. But also, a lot of it is fear. And I don’t think my case has helped either, as I’m at risk for my employment and my (registration). It’s very serious. And so, I can’t blame them.’

But the costs of speaking out extend beyond the doctor involved. Patient care and service delivery stand to suffer too.

‘The danger of speaking out is that you lose the capacity to help more people,’ Spencer shares. ‘For example, a gender-questioning young person might be reluctant to see me now that I’ve spoken out, and that’s not something I want because I want young people to feel comfortable with me. My job is to listen and understand and to do what I can to help them.’

Now, this job is on hold indefinitely. However, Spencer is undeterred. Rather than quietly waiting for the ‘powers that be’ to hand down judgment, she demonstrates a commitment to her convictions by continuing to speak out. Loudly and often. To an outsider, it would appear Spencer has reached a point of reluctant acceptance of her situation and that she might as well go ‘all in’. Arriving at this point has come through painful reflection, ‘dark times’, and the realisation that the organisation Spencer has served faithfully for decades has apparently abandoned her.

‘It’s a really difficult employment situation,’ says Spencer. ‘Some people say, “Well, if your organisation is doing something that you disagree with, then the appropriate pathway is to resign.” But if you’ve been with an organisation for 20 years, you feel a part of that organisation. I feel like part of the family and part of changing the culture internally. It’s part of my job.’

‘People say “You need to resign or accept it.” But it’s also a responsibility to try and help your organisation do the right thing and… ‘speak up for safety.’

Listening to her speeches, presentations, and interviews, it is hard to argue that Spencer is motivated by anything other than safety. Child safety appears at the core of her message time and again.

‘It’s a really hard situation for child and adolescent psychiatrists… and for any mental health clinicians who work with children. Because there’s a lot of organisational and social pressure to affirm children,’ Spencer shares. ‘But when we start to look at the evidence base behind the affirmation model, we find the studies have major flaws, and they don’t show sufficient benefit to outweigh the risks and the harms.’

‘Previously, our discipline always took a developmental approach, which means that the years of childhood and adolescence were understood to be a period of incredible growth and change. We didn’t label children with long-term conditions, such as personality disorders, because we knew that a lot of conditions would ease with maturity, and indeed, the eleven studies that were conducted before the affirmation model was in use when they used a watchful waiting approach found that 60 to 90 per cent of children with gender dysphoria became comfortable in their own bodies with maturity.’

‘I assure you that this is not part of a culture war. This is a really serious child protection issue. We entered our field to try to assist children to thrive, but the gender clinics have been set up, and psychiatrists are being forced to affirm the social transition of all children and go along with the idea that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones will lead to benefit.’

Spencer’s words highlight the dangerous waters our children are in. Treatment pathways and models of care are being imposed while the evidence is unclear, pathways that have modalities with irreversible and devastating consequences for children in terms of fertility, sexual and long-term health. Anyone who would step into these waters without a cautious approach does not understand the potential ramifications.

One of the arguments used to justify support for the use of cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers is mental distress and the risk of suicide in those experiencing gender dysphoria, as highlighted in a recent Four Corners report. However, Spencer paints a broader picture. ‘There’s no evidence to show that the social transition or the use of puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones reduces the death rate or improves psychological functioning.’

‘What we know from the eleven studies that were conducted before the affirmation model was in use – so that’s when they didn’t use puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones – is that the vast majority of (children with gender dysphoria) grew up to become comfortable with their body if they’re allowed to go through the full course of adolescence.’

‘My personal opinion is that we could disallow the prescription of puberty blockers… (and)… Australia aligned itself with all the European countries that have conducted systematic reviews of the evidence behind puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. From those systematic reviews, they realised that no child should be prescribed puberty blockers outside of a clinical research trial or in exceptional circumstances. And in the UK, they’ve even gone further in recommending caution around social transition.’

In voicing concerns at a recent rally, Spencer stumbled on another issue facing doctors who dare speak out. Soon after, the hospital told Spencer she allegedly broke the Queensland public services Code of Conduct through her public statements. It’s an allegation Spencer contests, saying she was speaking as a private citizen. In the speech, Spencer neither identifies herself as a doctor nor makes mention of her role or employer. The question is, where does a doctor’s autonomy begin and the employer’s jurisdiction end?

Have we already entered the era where the reach of our employers and regulatory authorities extends fully into our capacity to speak publicly anywhere?

The AHPRA Code of Conduct for medical professionals outlines several expectations of health professionals to question, examine and discuss the potential risks and benefits of treatment in addition to advocating for vulnerable communities, including children. It would seem, therefore, that Dr Spencer is simply doing her job.

‘We are not being allowed any professional discretion,’ she argues. ‘It is incredibly distressing to be forced into harming other people’s children, or otherwise face the potential loss of one’s career, livelihood or to be cast out of the workplace as has happened to me. But this is too important, so I will not be silenced.’

Dr Spencer is calling for an urgent Federal inquiry into the model of care for the treatment of children with gender dysphoria.


Why Qld construction code change will jack house prices up another $70k

Cost of living concern? The Leftist government is much more interested in telling people what to do than they are in controlling the cost of living. They are authoritarians, not compassionate

Building industry leaders are fuming following the government’s announcement that Queensland’s adoption of the National Construction Code changes will only add 2 per cent onto the price of new home builds, saying their own calculations put prices up as far as $70,000.

The Courier-Mail on Monday revealed the price of building an average Queensland home would go up roughly $20,000, which Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni quickly refuted, claiming prices would only increase about 2 per cent.

But after speaking with various builders including Metricon, Brighton Homes and Plantation Homes, as well as Master Builders Australia and the Housing Industry Australia, The Courier-Mail can confirm house price will actually increase between $10,000 and $70,000.

Plans which show material changes to meet higher energy efficiency standards and spatial modifications to increase accessibility indicate costs to make homes more accessible will sit far higher than government estimates.

Builders say insulation alone would add thousands onto home designs, with further money spent on things like window glazing, window framing and fans to bring homes up to the seven star energy rating.

Industry stakeholders have argued accessibility and liveability measures should go ahead on October 1, but energy efficiency measures should be delayed until next year to give builders time to prepare, but also to allow energy efficient products to be manufactured in high volumes, allowing them to be purchased cheaply in bulk.

Here is a breakdown explanation of exactly how the two significant changes coming in on October 1 will affect both builders and future homeowner builders - including what exactly will cost more, and how long Queenslanders have to buy old home designs before prices skyrocket or they disappear altogether.

Examples of modifications made to Metricon’s single storey Freedom home include:

-Increase passage ways to accommodate wider doorways

-Raising floors for flush transition, levelling the home throughout

-Accessible bathrooms and toilets large enough for circulation space

-Hinged doors replaced by cavity sliding doors, including pockets and gliders

-Reducing window sizes, while also maintaining light efficiency and safety, for example, having four protection screens in second storey windows allowing them to be opened fully

-Using better performing glass

-Window frames with less aluminium

-Loose fill insulation

-Ventilation and air movement strategies like additional ceiling fans

Price breakdown:

Brighton Homes chief executive Brad Collins said high costs in Queensland were coming from insulation, tinted glazing and “fans in every room”.

“Some homes depending on block orientation will require further enhancements and, in some cases will not be able to be built, as the home will be unable to meet energy requirements,” he said.

“As a guide we would expect single storey to start around $20,000 and doubles up to $40,000 or more.

Mr Collins argued that energy efficiency measures alone would add a “minimum cost” of $20,000 onto a new home build

“The costs come from increased cost of glazing windows and increased use of insulation for walls and ceiling,” he said.

“(It) will far outweigh the claimed energy efficiency the home will produce. When you look at interest rates alone on extra borrowings to meet the requirements the customer is further behind.”

Metricon design director, Adrian Popple said the additional costs for Metricon were averaging $20,000 with their luxury homes expected to increase by $35-$40,000.

He said costings were due to the finer details, which all homes needed, but some more than others depending on size

“For us to redesign our homes to accommodate those larger areas takes a lot of time and cost to us,” Mr Popple said.

“It’s massive and they don’t talk about this but this is where the cost comes from.

“A 50mm difference between door sizes doesn’t sound like a lot but it means new doors will have to be manufactured, and they will add costs until they become the new standard.

“Giving the industry time to adapt and get their heads around it and procure these materials in a high volume will help reduce costs.”

Metricon has been busy redesigning their national portfolio for two years, splitting up which homes would remain available in each state and territory based on individual climate cost efficiency to keep them there.

“We build thousands of homes around Australia every year and are probably better positioned than most but the cost is the cost - it’s the same for any other builder,” Mr Popple said.




No comments: