Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Perth low-sensory nightclubbing experience a hit for people with a disability

I am delighted to hear of this. Fortunately, I am a high-functioning autistic but I still did from an early age experience basic autism problems. I have never been able to tolerate nightclubs or big party scenes. I would have been glad of an alternative when I was young

Consider a packed, dimly lit nightclub full of loud raucous conversations and music.

It can cause sensory overload for neurodiverse people, prompting them to wonder if they should have stayed home because they find it incredibly difficult to acclimatise to an unaccommodating reality.

It is far more difficult to meet new people and form friendships when pubs, bars, and nightclubs do not accommodate disabled patrons.

But in Perth, there is a dedicated group working with young people to break that barrier. Community Access Squad (CAS) is specifically aimed at supporting people with a range of disabilities to build confidence through socialising, including in the local nightclub scene.

Tarkin Barker loves the group's low-sensory Dance Ability club nights in Fremantle. The 20-year-old, with autism and an intellectual disability, said he wouldn't have gone to a nightclub by himself without his support worker.

"At night I feel more vulnerable and do not go out without family or formal support," Mr Barker said. "In noisy and busy places, I require assistance, and I feel overwhelmed when faced with aggression."

Kelly Buckle, who organises the event, said it's a welcoming environment for people of all disabilities. "Lights are used but no strobes due to seizures, with the music starting low, but it does build," she said.

"We provide ear plugs and a quiet area to desensitise, there is also a garden bar which we also have access to.

"We have photo cards on the bar for those that are minimally verbal to show the bar staff what they would like to drink." Ms Buckle said she hires the whole of the nightclub and it's a private event.

Mr Barker said it's one of his favourite events on his social calendar. "It is a friendly environment and there is staff to make sure everything is safe," he said.

"Going to this nightclub event has allowed me to be part of the community and be independent from my family."

Michael Gray attended the one of the club nights last week and said it was a fun environment for everyone. "[I enjoyed the] music and dancing with all my friends and just being able to let loose and let my hair down and I don't get to do that often," he said. "So, it's just fun."

Mr Gray said it's a great way to get people together. "Kelly [Ms Buckle] has always been very open and allowed anyone with disabilities, anyone to come and express themselves and have fun," he said.

Professor Andrew Whitehouse from the Telethon Kids Institute said there were a range of challenges autistic people face in social situations.

"[These] can include difficulties in reading non-verbal cues and body language, sensory differences that can lead to overwhelming situations environments, and a preference for routine," he said.


Over 300 Threatened Eagles Killed or Injured by Wind Turbines in Tasmania: Study

Over the past decade, wind turbines and transmission lines have led to the deaths or injuries of 321 threatened eagles in Tasmania, according to a study.

More cases are believed to be unreported due to a lack of systemic research on wind farms and public information.

It found that from 2010-2022, wind farms caused the deaths of 268 eagles and injured 53, with state-owned power company TasNetworks reporting 139 deaths, and eagle rescuers witnessing 91 deaths and 50 injuries.

Study author Gregory Pullen said the number of eagle deaths was a “stark reminder” that an urgent solution was needed to mitigate further harm to the vulnerable species.

“The real number can only be higher since surveying at wind farms is incomplete,” Mr. Pullen noted in the study.

“Specifically, it is only close to turbines, is periodic, and does not involve all turbines or all habitat around each turbine, scrub often being excluded.”

Of great concern is that 272 deaths involved the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, and 49 of the vulnerable white-bellied sea eagles.

Both species could face further risk as the expansion of wind turbine construction continues amid the federal government’s net-zero push.

“Accelerated deaths of the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and white-bellied sea-eagle are a grim reality if thousands of new wind turbines and hundreds of kilometres of transmission lines are erected across Tasmania to meet a legislated doubling of renewable energy production by 2040,” Mr. Pullen said.

The study estimated that less than 1,000 Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles remain and emphasised ongoing monitoring to ensure the species does not become extinct.

It includes observing the number of eagles, stability of breeding pairs, nesting success and surviving chicks, presence of juvenile birds, and whether disruption to the natural habitat causes dislocation.

While the Tasmanian government has guidelines in place to protect threatened eagles, Mr. Pullen found that these have not contributed to real-life decisions regarding wind farm placement.

For instance, despite great differences in eagle densities across Tasmania, there are currently no designated "no turbine zones."

Some researchers have suggested Tasmanian eagles be fitted with GPS trackers, but the concept has been slow to establish and has yet to be used in wind farm planning.

The study comes as Tasmanian authorities continue their push towards net zero, recently inking a deal with the German city Bremen.

State Energy Minister Guy Barnett said the collaboration was evidence of the state's plan to become a leader in large-scale green hydrogen production by 2030 to meet both domestic and international demand.

“This joint declaration demonstrates the opportunity the rest of the world sees in Tasmania and confidence in the government’s renewable energy agenda,” Mr. Barnett said in a statement on Sept. 17.

“Tasmania is well placed, with our 100 percent renewable electricity, abundant water supplies, and excellent port infrastructure to seize these important opportunities with international partners.”

Scientist Questions Wind Power Reliability

There are concerns, however, over the viability of large-scale renewable energy generation. One Oxford University mathematician and physicist has criticised wind power saying it is historically and scientifically unreliable, noting that governments are prioritising "windfarm politics" over numerical evidence.

Professor Emeritus Wade Allison made the assertion in response to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where the “instinctive reaction” around the world was to embrace renewables.

“Today, modern technology is deployed to harvest these weak sources of energy. Vast ‘farms’ that monopolise the natural environment are built, to the detriment of other creatures,” Mr. Allison said in the report, published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

“Developments are made regardless of the damage wrought. Hydro-electric schemes, enormous turbines, and square miles of solar panels are constructed, despite being unreliable and ineffective.”


New Zealand's housing density experiment saw approvals for new builds in Auckland 'skyrocket' while house prices kept climbing

Deregulation works its usual magic

There is a place just a few hours from Australia's east coast where a change in policy has seen the number of approvals for new homes "skyrocket" while increases in rents and house prices have been kept to moderate levels.

In Auckland, the council has been running an experiment, and at the heart of it is a bold decision to remove restrictions around zoning, opening up suburban blocks to higher-density developments.

The test case went so well, New Zealand's national government adopted a version of it for the whole country, but recently the opposition withdrew its support, meaning the upcoming election could change things.

There are all kinds of arguments against the idea of opening up suburban blocks to higher-density housing, and often the debate is a hypothetical one.

But the Auckland up-zoning change happened in 2016.

Since then, blocks of land that were once the site of single-family homes have been developed into new medium and high-density housing projects all over the city — and now the data is in.

The top line is that building consents — or council approvals for new homes — started to increase the moment the new approach to zoning was proposed.

Then, the data shows, rents started to stabilise, with Auckland's rents now rising at a slower rate than New Zealand's other major cities.

House prices are still going up, just at a slower pace. And now indicators are showing housing affordability is slowly improving.

Research economist Matthew Maltman said: "I have seen very few economic phenomena like it." "The new plan came into place and just absolutely skyrocketed these dwelling consents," he said.

He said New Zealand was "broadly a pretty comparable country to Australia" and the experiment showed what was possible.

"And we have all these debates about how can we increase housing supply. How can we improve affordability?" Mr Maltman said. "And there's this place that's not far away from us that's actually done it and implemented these reforms that people have been talking about for years."

At the heart of the experiment is an ambition to use land inside the city of Auckland more efficiently — growing by densification, as opposed to sprawl.

That approach keeps new housing close to existing infrastructure such as transport, schools and employment hubs.

Ryan Greenaway-McGrevy, an associate professor in economics at the University of Auckland, said prior to the 2016 change, most of the city was zoned for buildings of no more than two storeys high and covering a maximum of 35 per cent of the block.

"Those are sort of typical, single-family detached policy settings, and so those restrictions were relaxed to various degrees," he said.

"In the residential zone that allows the most density, you can build five to seven storeys now and have a site-coverage ratio of 50 per cent."

Auckland's suburbs have been transforming. A space that was once quarantined for a small cottage now accommodates multiple families.

Not every project that is approved to be built actually is, but research suggests that in New Zealand more than 90 per cent of building consents turn into bricks and mortar projects.

Another caveat to keep in mind is that the data that shows how many new buildings are being approved does not factor in those old dwellings that were demolished to make way for the modern developments.

But five years after zoning regulations were relaxed across more than three-quarters of Auckland, Dr Greenaway-McGrevy's research has found the changes have resulted in more than 20,000 additional homes across the city.

"It's not just about developers," Dr Greenaway-McGrevy said.

"It enables the state to provide medium and high-density housing as well.


Surging migration, housing crisis leave door open for Coalition

You may have read about the migrant crisis engulfing the small Italian island of Lampedusa. Ten thousand uninvited arrivals reached its shores in one week, eventually to be relocated elsewhere in the EU.

Needless to say, 10,000 in one week sounds an awful lot but here’s the thing: in Australia there are now more than 10,000 migrants arriving by plane each week.

To be sure, they are coming here on visas, but the intention of many is to stay, at least for as long as possible. Close to 100,000 recent arrivals have now applied for humanitarian visas, which will involve many years of assessments and appeals.

According to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, net overseas migration (long-term arrivals minus long-term departures) reached 454,000 in the year ending March this year.

The largest component is student arrivals. The annual increase in Australia’s population was a massive 563,000 people or 2.2 per cent. The NOM made up 80 per cent of the increase. Most new migr­ants head for Melbourne or Sydney.

Illustrating the naivety of the Treasurer on this issue, Jim Chalmers has simply asserted “the migration numbers are recovering. That’s not a government target or policy. That’s the demand-driven part of the program. It largely reflects the fact that international students are coming back quicker. That’s why we’re seeing these slightly higher numbers.”

In fact, the current numbers are significantly ahead of Treasury’s forecasts of peak NOM of 400,000.

Migrant numbers of this magnitude are both ill-judged and unmanageable. And unlike Europe, where action is difficult, the Australian government could act to reduce the migrant intake but simply refuses to do so. The simplest route would be to put caps on uncapped temporary visas but there are a number of options.

Under Labor, resources in the Department of Home Affairs to process visas have been ramped up to speed up visa processing. Boasts are now made about the number of visa applications being approved and the short time involved. Close to 90 per cent of all student visa applications are approved. The figures are quite staggering. In December last year, for instance, 97,000 student visas were granted compared with 24,000 approved in the previous December.

If we extrapolate the figures we are already at a record number of student visa holders in Australia, eclipsing the previous record. There has been a massive shift in the source countries, with very strong growth from India, Colombia, Brazil, The Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Those on student visas no longer have to hide their real intentions – to stay in the country after they graduate – which has been made easier by the close-to-automatic issuing of lengthy post-graduation visas.

Earlier in the year the government also received a very unhelpful report chaired by former senior bureaucrat Martin Parkinson that recommended all temporary migrants be given a pathway to permanent residence.

However, even the most ardent supporters of a large migrant intake and the benefits of a big Australia recognise there are annual limits to the extent to which migrants can be absorbed without adverse consequences for the local population as well as the migrants themselves. There is no doubt that a NOM of more than 400,000 a year – indeed, more than 200,000 a year – is beyond the absorptive capacity of the country.

The argument that the government’s hands are tied because of the need to fill skilled job vacancies is totally misleading. The vast majority of the migrant intake is not skilled and even when they complete their qualifications, overseas-born graduates are much less likely to fill professional or managerial occupations than graduates born here.

Certainly, international students undertake unskilled and semi-skilled work, but the case for a large migrant intake has always been made on the basis of a strong skill bias.

To preference employers seeking workers because they can’t find locals or don’t want to bid up wages is a serious policy mistake. Just as a lack of capital can thwart the operation and development of businesses, so can the lack of workers.

The government should not be in the game of seeking to fill all these worker gaps through facilitating migration, just as it wouldn’t want to cover an insufficiency of capital.

The better alternative is to allow the labour market to allocate workers to their best use and to limit the use of migration. Some firms may just have to shrink.

It doesn’t take an economics degree to realise this surge in the population would put immense strain on the housing situation and this is exactly what is playing out, particularly in the cities to which the migrants are flocking.

The vacancy rates for rental properties are at historic lows and rents are rising very strongly, well above the rate of inflation. The fact federal ministers can express concern for those adversely affected by the housing crisis yet do nothing to curtail the size of the migrant intake underscores a wilful downplaying of the connection.

The reality is that all the government housing plans announced thus far, including the federal one, don’t touch the sides when it comes to closing the gap between demand for housing and the supply.

Setting meaningless targets is similarly unhelpful. The federal government has declared that 1.2 million homes will be built in the next five years even though Australia has never achieved anything close to that figure.

And wait for this: according to the most recent figures, annual housing starts have hit a decade-low of just under 60,000. Just in case you think the newly created Housing Australia Future Fund will make a difference, it is anticipated that a mere 30,000 new homes will be built over five years as a result of this initiative and it will not begin for at least another year.

The reality is that government plans have a nasty habit of coming up short and the only sustainable way to deal with the housing imbalance is via private supply responding to private demand.

In the meantime our urban landscapes will be transformed from the previous predominance of detached housing to clusters of poor-quality high-rise apartment buildings. Our cities are already rapidly changing and not for the better in the minds of many.

The consequences of the migrant surge do not stop at the housing market. Congestion, crowded schools and hospitals, deteriorating social amenity, more generally, are some of the impacts.

The federal government can kiss goodbye to its emissions reduction pledge given such strong population growth.

Survey after survey point to the lack of public support for high rates of immigration. The vast majority want a return to previous levels – NOM was around 100,000 a year in the earlier years of the century; some would even prefer a complete pause.

But the politicians would rather prioritise the wishes of the vested interests seeking more migrants – the property developers, big business, universities and, bizarrely, even state governments.

If we think of this issue in a global context, people are on the move, be it via legal or illegal channels. Europe, Britain and the US are being overwhelmed by migrants, in particular. Political parties that support restrictions on immigration are gaining momentum.

There is a real opportunity for the Coalition to differentiate itself from Labor on this topic and thereby break from the bipartisan endorsement of big Australia.

It may take some courage, but is likely to be rewarded by increased support from voters.


Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM -- daily)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


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