Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

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My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for this week: Some good news in a dismal week

As last week’s news unfolded I thought it would demand a column excoriating our political leaders yet again for their wrong-footed decisions, but as time passed there were some very positive stories, for a welcome change.

But the bad news first. Peter Dutton continues to ramp up his authoritarian ambitions by moving to take over the power to revoke a migrant’s citizenship away from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, PM Turnbull launched his government’s new citizenship plans in the House of Representatives, and the NSW Government announced its plan to build a new “mini max” jail within the Goulburn’s Supermax facility at a cost of $47 million.

All the above are examples of the short-sighted and knee-jerk ‘tough’ approach to combatting terrorism adopted by the major parties, when what instead we need is a ‘smart’ response, including a cohesive strategy for countering violent extremism given that it is a social and political problem. It needs to be tackled by reaching out to Muslim communities and by including them in policy debates, especially the most vulnerable Muslim youth.

The Finkel energy policy review is stuck in limbo as the Liberal’s party room bickers over its downgrading the significance and cost of coal fired power generation. As electricity bills continue to rise feel free to point the finger at Mr. Abbott and his faction.

The bad news continued to roll in with Channel 10’s financial woes being used to talk up the government’s proposed new media ownership laws, which will allow for an increase in the concentration of ownership by a few companies. The last thing we need is the Murdoch Empire (Daily Telegraph, Fox TV, and the Australian) being allowed to also own Channel 10, but that is what is being proposed.

Now to the good news stories. First up, terminally ill patients will get faster access to medicinal marijuana and be able to import their own personal supply after the Greens teamed up with Labor and One Nation to deliver a shock Senate vote to kill off government restrictions.

The Senate vote means terminally ill patients with a doctor’s prescription will be able to personally import up to three months’ supply of the drug from regulated overseas markets.

Greens Leader Richard Di Natale spearheaded the motion, which failed when he first put it to the Senate in May.

The motion passed 40 votes to 30 this time, but that didn’t prevent a furious Health Minister Greg Hunt calling the move “reckless and irresponsible”, saying it would put lives at risk by paving the way for dodgy unregulated products, and also make it easier for criminals to get their hands on drugs. But he would, wouldn’t he

The second good news story was hearing that almost 2000 Manus Island detainees will receive $70 million in compensation after the Australian government agreed to settle a class action.

The detainees sought compensation for alleged physical and psychological injuries they claimed to have suffered as a result of the conditions in which they were held.

The Australian government and the companies that have managed the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre (G4S Australia and Broadspectrum, formerly Transfield Services) denied the claims.

A six-month trial was due to begin in the Victorian Supreme Court last Wednesday. The barrister for the detainees, David Curtain QC, told the court the parties had instead been able to reach agreement in the matter.

Settlement of class action is an admission by Peter Dutton, despite his strenuous denials, that he is responsible for the illegal detention and deliberate harm of people seeking asylum in Australia, Greens Immigration spokesperson Nick McKim quite correctly said.

He also added what many here believe, “Justice demands that these men now be brought to Australia.”

At the end of the week more good news as the government announced a gun amnesty, though it would probably be more effective if it included a buy back component.

My Op Ed column in today’s Daily Advertiser: Adani’s mine fails the public opinion test, let alone the pub test.

Last week Indian mining firm Adani announced that its board had decided to proceed with the controversial Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin

However it is still not known if Adani has actually obtained the finance to proceed with the A$16.5 billion project, or whether it has secured the necessary A$1.1 billion loan from the federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to build the mine’s railway.

That hasn’t stopped the Queensland’s state Labor government boasting that the announcement is an economic win for Queensland, on the basis of job creation and for the signals it provides to potential investors in the region. But this amounts to little more than short-sighted politics.

The government appears to be steadfastly ignoring the realities of both the current energy landscape and the contemporary economics of coalmining.

For example, it seems as though Qld Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and federal ALP leader Bill Shorten have fallen for the lie being peddled by US President Donald Trump that coal mining is a job intensive industry, or are simply busily promoting the same ‘alternative fact’ entirely of their own blinkered imagining.

In contrast it was pleasing to see Greens NSW MP Jeremy Buckingham mounting a strenuous camapign against the mine, and Qld Greens Senator Larissa Waters pointing out the ‘bleeding obvious’, which that there are many more jobs on the Great Barrier Reef, if we can save it from the consequences of global warming and industrial/agricultural run-off.

The truth is that due to increasing mechanisation and automation, mining is no longer the job rich industry it used to be. Far from it in fact. True, there will be a spike in employment created by the mine’s start-up and the building of the railway liner to the port, but after that very few jobs.

Now let’s examine coal mining in the constraints of a global carbon budget, which clearly demonstrates that it is not economically viable, while renewable energy production is rapidly expanding as the world moves to more sustainable investments. The result is that coal projects could become stranded assets, with price tags that may already exceed what would have been the costs of a timely implementation of climate action.

The ‘ownership’ of coal is another issue to be factored into this equation. As Samantha Hepburn of Deakin University pointed out in The Conversation last week, we the people in fact own the coal, though it’s rather complicated, so please bear with me.

The state government owns the coal resource, but it is a special type of ownership. This is “public resource” ownership, meaning that all decisions made by the state government to exploit it must be in the interest of the public as a whole.

Issuing resource titles that allow Adani to proceed with a vast coal mine, in defiance of the social, economic and environmental impacts of such a project within a carbon-constrained economy, in fact represents a dereliction of the state’s duty to act in the public interest.

It also ignores the fact that in order to have just a 50% chance of keeping global warming within 2℃, a key aim of the Paris climate agreement, 90% of Australia’s current coal reserves must stay in the ground.

So, noting that the economics of the Adani coal mine simply do not make sense, it also fails dismally on the public interest side of things. Whether it goes ahead or falls over consideration must be given to whether the government should be held accountable for breaching public interest responsibilities in issuing the resource titles in the first place.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 30 May 2017: Dutton and Bishop both busily spreading ‘fake’ news

Last week Ministers Peter Dutton and Julie Bishop demonstrated that ‘fake news’ isn’t confined to President Trump and his media minions.

Broadly, both Dutton and Bishop were doing their best to re-write our human rights practice. Let’s hope everyone isn’t fooled by such con jobs.

To Dutton first. Fresh from re-writing the news about the refugees we are incarcerating on Manus Island, this time in a blatant example of ‘fake news’ he adopted an alternative fact to justify our latest human rights violation

This involved the federal government setting an October 1 deadline for 7,500 people who arrived in Australia by boat between 2008 and 2013, but who have not yet lodged claims for refugee protection, to apply for a visa or face deportation.

He announced that “the game is up” for “fake refugees”, who he referred to as ‘Illegal maritime arrivals’, his media release reading “The Turnbull government has today set a deadline for thousands of Illegal Maritime Arrivals (IMAs) who flooded into Australia under the previous Labor government to prove they are genuine refugees and owed protection by Australia.”

This is a deliberately false and misleading statement as it reinforces prejudicial stereotypes that successive governments have used to demonise people seeking asylum in Australia. The subjects of the government’s announcement are not “people”, “individuals”, “human beings”, or even “asylum seekers”. Instead, they are “illegal maritime arrivals”. How many times do Dutton & Co need reminding that it not illegal to seek asylum, with or without papers?

These apparently non-people did not “travel to” or “arrive in” Australia. Instead, they “flooded into Australia”.

They are the latest group to suffer from the shameful practice of setting human beings apart from others in the community, being classed as a threatening peril or a menace.

Dutton’s condemnation of “fake refugees” is prejudicial. It suggests those people now subject to his deadline must not have genuine protection claims, or they would have been lodged already.

It is in fact ‘fake news’, for Department of Immigration statistics show people who travel to Australia by boat without a valid visa, seeking asylum, are more likely to be genuine refugees than people who travel by air with a visa and seek asylum on arrival. Over the years, between 70% and 100% of people arriving by boat have been assessed as eligible for refugee protection.

Furthermore his assertion that these people have failed or refused to apply for protection quite wrongly and very unfairly suggests that sufficient time has already been afforded, when the truth is that the Department of Immigration is unable to process the volume of asylum claims because in fact it is under-resourced.

Dutton’s demonising of asylum seekers is truly odious. So too is our human rights record, which didn’t stop Foreign Affairs minister Julie Bishop officially launching Australia’s bid for a 2018-20 seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

With a straight face Bishop managed this by describing Australia as the “standout candidate” for this position because “we are arguably the most successful, the most diverse, multicultural society on Earth”. Try telling that to those who seek asylum, those found to be genuine refugees but are languishing in the hell-holes we have put them in on Manus Island or Nauru, or our own First Nations people classed as being incapable of looking after themselves and so are made to suffer the paternal indignities of the ‘Intervention’.

My Daily Advertiser column for 23 May 2017: Bad news for our health on two counts during budget week

Last week my commentary on the 2017 budget focussed on its attack on young people, including cuts to university and how Gonski 2.00 represented a huge cut in schools funding compared to the Gillard government’s Gonski 1.0, but in budget week there were two attacks on the health system that need to be exposed.

One of these attacks was included in the budget itself, but another was a separate health issue that snuck up on us largely unnoticed because of the media’s focus on the budget, and so I’ll analyse it first.

What happened was that the Nick Xenophon Team and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation slammed the door on terminally ill patients fighting for faster access to the medical cannabis prescribed by their doctor, the Special Access Scheme would give faster access to medicinal cannabis for terminal patients.

Patients are currently waiting weeks and sometimes months for access to these treatments. This motion could have reduced that to a day or possibly hours. For some of these patients, speedy access to medicinal cannabis is the difference between being able to eat or wasting away.

These changes add time, stress, and difficulty for terminally ill patients accessing medicinal cannabis. Terminally ill patients who are using medicinal cannabis to alleviate their suffering have been let down.

As Australian Greens party room leader Richard Di Natale said, “I am so disappointed that these politicians couldn’t put the needs of terminally ill patients above their own political games”.

This was during the same week that the budget dealt yet another blow to health care, for it really failed Australian patients, had zero vision for the future of the system and was clearly a political fix. The Government’s plan to lift the Medicare freeze will have no impact for patients for at least a year, if not longer.

Indeed, Greg Hunt’s ‘road map’ for health lacks any vision for the future of healthcare in this country. It’s a U-turn that takes us back to where we were three years ago.

Taking the Medicare freeze off ice is an entirely political fix by this Government in response to a very successful campaign run by doctors. It unwinds part of their worst health policy while doing nothing to look to the future of our health system. Sure, they finally listened, but this ‘phased’ removal is meaningless for patients.

I’m left wondering whatever happened to Prime Minister Turnbull’s flagship health reform? This time last year he was out there spruiking his Health Care Homes initiative to revolutionise Medicare for chronic disease, yet last week we saw the funding for this initiative cut and kicked two years down the road while trial sites are delayed until October.

Not only are they unpicking their own reform program designed to treat people with chronic illnesses, there is next to nothing for programs to help prevent Australians developing debilitating chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease in the first place, particularly in children.

Also, in case there was any doubt, this budget also confirms this Government has no commitment to Closing the Gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health.

We all have every right to feel hugely let down, again, by this government on health. This budget is not about patients, for there is not one measure here, apart from cheaper medicine, that would improve health care for those who receive it, that is, patients.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 16 May 2017: What has this federal government got against young people?

Though much media commentary of last week’s federal budget has been generally favourable I can’t see for the life of me why, given that it so strongly penalises our young people, demonstrated by its attacks on education, welfare benefits, penalty rates and housing affordability.

More details of all on all the above below, but to start the ball rolling I was pleased to see that Australian Greens education spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young picked up on the same theme when she tweeted that the “Single biggest cut in the budget is a brutal attack on young people. Malcolm Turnbull has proven he has his priorities wrong if he thinks he can foster a clever country by cutting $3.8 billion from universities, while planning to loan $1 billion to Adani for a useless coalmine”.

Richard Di Natale picked up on the same theme, but then upped the ante then he noted the budget’s total lack of action on climate change. Quite.

If you are under the age of 35, this budget guarantees that you will be the one dealing with the climate mess that your parents and grandparents created and that this Government was too gutless to address.

Indeed, it’s not merely a lack of funds to tackle climate change that is one of the budget’s biggest problem, but rather that it commits $60 million for fracking. Lack of action on climate change is a sin of omission, but funding fracking is also a sin of commission. Wrong on both counts.

The young also miss out on the budget’s response to housing affordability. “The Coalition’s refusal to reform negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount means their plan for housing affordability is doomed. Continuing to allow investor tax concessions to supercharge the housing market is profoundly irresponsible,” Greens spokesperson for housing Senator Lee Rhiannon said.

With regards to welfare, the only thing that forcing welfare recipients who fail drug tests onto a cashless welfare card will do is further stigmatise people already at the margins and decrease their incentive to get help. It’s a perfect storm of ill-informed, mean-spirited policy.

Social media was predictively alive about the so-called random drug tests , the random-ness of which was soon exposed as a lie when it was discovered that the geo-social areas and types of people’s backgrounds to be subjected to these tests have already been chosen, in a blatant example of profiling, or ‘blame the victim’.

And why just drugs? What about alcohol? I rarely agree with Senator Jacqui Lambie, but having watched hours of MPs behaving badly at Question Time, immediately after what may well have been a ‘liquid lunch’, I’m inclined to agree with her that MPs should also be tested.

I wrote about the savage cuts to university and schools funding in last week’s column, so here just need to point out that they are of course yet another attack on young people.

In short this is a budget with no vision or direction for the country. It isn’t a roadmap for the future, it’s a highway to nowhere. The mean-spirited approach to welfare, demonising anyone unlucky enough to have had a bad break and making it that much harder for them to get back on track, tells you all you need to know about Malcolm Turnbull’s vision for Australia.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column forv today’s Daily Advertiser: A double whammy for education

Last week the pre-budget announcements were coming in thick and fast, no doubt to get thorny issues out of the way, and to soften us up for today’s bad news, and so early last week saw Messrs Turnbull & Co clear the decks of two thorny education issues, school and university funding.

Both were exercises in spin designed to fool the gullible, with the prize going to schools funding, though the propaganda that universities could afford the proposed cuts made it a close second. However, as the schools funding proposal seems vague and clouded in mystery until today’s budget is presented I’ll begin with and focus on university funding.

The government will cut university funding by 2.5 per cent, a decision they have based on the findings of a Deloitte report, which showed that between 2010-15 the cost of course delivery increased by 9.5 per cent, while revenue grew by 15 per cent. So many, but by no means all, universities are running healthy surpluses and, according to Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education, they can take a haircut.

This has been called an “efficiency dividend” but the system of higher education in Australia is anything but efficient.

Even though economic rationalism suggests that competition generates efficiency what passes for efficiency usually compromises the quality of education. It can mean giving students fewer curriculum choices, increasing class sizes, reducing face-to-face hours, teaching them with casual staff and substituting classroom teaching with “digital delivery”. All of these have happened and continue to do so at our own local Charles Sturt University (CSU).

One major problem is that taken individually such measures often provoke relatively little fuss. But in the light of Mr Birmingham’s claims, we all need to be taking notice and speaking out and making a big fuss, loudly and often.

If staff and undergraduates are being short-changed, where is the money going? I’m indebted to George Morgan, Associate Professor at the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University for suggesting three main avenues. In the first instance many universities cross subsidise research with the public money they receive for undergraduate teaching largely because the federal government underfunds research.

Secondly, some universities have undertaken ambitious capital works programs, erecting what are in effect “signature” buildings such as Frank Gehry designed building at UTS, no doubt to communicate the new university’s cultural and intellectual importance.

Thirdly, administrative costs continue to grow inexorably. Most universities employ more administrators than academics

Given all this, what the university system requires is political and economic change, not short term and crude fiscal shocks. The university community (including both students and staff) needs to be given more power over institutional affairs to provide more democratic checks and balances over the excesses, caprice and follies of managerialism.

We also need to reduce the huge discretionary budgets that senior managers currently control.

As to Malcolm Turnbull’s declaration last week that he will “bring the school funding wars to an end” in a stunning turnaround that will see the government pump an extra $19 billion into schools over the next decade, I’m tempted to agree with Greens Education spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young’s comment that “We’ll look at the detail of this announcement, but what we know is that Australia’s school funding system is broken. It’s time our children’s education was prioritised in Australia. It’s a sad reality that many of our kids are being left behind,” which will certainly be the case as the government’s proposal means that less than half of additional federal funding over the next ten years will go to public schools, compared to 80 per cent under the Gonski agreements.

My weekly Op Ed column for the Daily Advertiser: Has Turnbull forfeited what was left of his political integrity?

Last week saw some really worrying news as PM Turnbull & Co seemed to decide that if they couldn’t beat the likes of One Nation, Australia First and Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, they would join them by tightening up citizenship requirements and the 457 visa scheme. Indeed, one of the first reactions I saw was Pauline Hanson congratulating the PM for doing as she had told him to do!

Or was Mr Turnbull simply trying to head off the relentless sniping aimed at him by Tony Abbott?

Nick McKim, Greens Senator for Tasmania, whose portfolios include Immigration and Citizenship, appropriately commented that “Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull’s rolling citizenship announcements are a transparently desperate attempt to win back votes from Pauline Hanson and appease the far right of the Liberal Party”.

“We should be bringing people together, not dividing them through patronising citizenship tests and unnecessary waits for permanent residency and citizenship.

“The real problem here is that Peter Dutton’s values are not mainstream Australian values ” he said.

Journalist Michelle Grattan, writing in the Guardian Australia noted that “Malcolm Turnbull’s sudden elevation of “Australian values” raises questions about the Prime Minister’s own values. In particular, has he once again forfeited his political integrity?”

Given all the above, it’s worth looking a little more closely at last week’s targeting of foreign skilled workers and the new citizenship requirements, as they indicate a desperate effort to tap into community concerns and insecurities.

Many of the questions are at least superficially fair enough, though I can’t for the life of me figure out how they prevent problems such as ethnic crime gangs, or terrorism, two of the issues apparently they are designed to redress, as such crimes are perpetrated by native born Australians.

However, what I’d really like to address is what, by looking more closely at the proposed new citizenship test questions, seem designed to target one particular group of migrants. A demographic that incidentally Malcolm Turnbull until recently praised to the skies for their valuable contribution to Australian society. This process is known as ‘racial profiling’, which will no doubt delight the fans of Pauline Hanson, and so it goes by the name of ‘dog whistle’ politics.

The questions I am referring to are those that revealed the true intention of the government when it provided to the media four “sample” questions, though to be fair, it did say they were not necessarily the ones that would be in the test, and there will be some weeks of public consultation.

The “samples” were: “(1) Does Australia’s principle of freedom of religion mean that in some situations it is permissible to force children to marry? (2) In Australia’s multicultural society, under which circumstances is it permissible to cut female genitals? (3) While it is illegal to use violence in public under what circumstances can you strike your spouse in the privacy of your home? (4) Under what circumstances is it appropriate to prohibit girls from education?”

Are these questions not blatantly racist, and don’t they so obviously target migrants from Muslim countries?

Perhaps these questions are a more subtle way of weeding out immigrants the ‘white bread’ society objects to than are Donald Trump’s crude wholesale attempts to ban citizens from a select group of Muslim majority countries, but if so, only just.

Messrs Turnbull and Dutton also need reminding that many migrants to Australia are fleeing countries because such barbarities may be practiced there, and so have no intention of replicating them here.

Trump’s foreign policy proving to be dangerously unpredictable

Though the attack on the Syrian airbase ordered by Donald Trump appears to be an impulsive response to President Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons it also marks an abrupt departure from Trump’s ‘America First’ mantra that so dominated his Presidential campaign and inauguration.

So too does his belated support for NATO, his sudden demonising of Russia, and the sending a flotilla of US warships to the Korean peninsula.

Or the Cruise missile attack on the Syrian airbase could have been a smokescreen designed to draw our attention away from the fact (real. Not ‘alternative’) his meeting with the Chinese Premier last week achieve absolutely nothing – zero, zilch. No resolution to the South China Sea island building dispute, no Chinese currency reform, no end to the ‘One China’ policy, no reversal of the trade balance to make it more equitable, and no end to American industry (and jobs) being ‘exported’ to China.

Last week President Trump even did a total about face, declaring now, after all the bombastic rhetoric to the contrary, that  China is ’’Not a currency manipulator”! (BBC World News 13 April). Really?

And at the same time Mr Trump suddenly announced that NATO is worthwhile and should be supported, rather than abandoned.

Which may be due to another U turn, i.e. the rapidly deteriorating relationship with Russia. During the election campaign and in the first weeks of the Trump presidency there was much speculation and justifiable concern that Trump & Co were much too close to Putin & Co, and even that Russia had intervened in the American election. Best friends are now apparently worst enemies.

The Syria and North Korea interventions may be nothing more than Trump suddenly deciding to act ’Presidential’, or perhaps it is the same old tendency to ‘beat the drums of war’ when domestic policy goes belly up, but the impulsiveness in itself is also a cause for concern as it indicates a worrying level of instability. Just to prove that point came news on Good Friday of all days that he had dropped ‘the mother of all bombs’ on Afghanistan! Go

With regard to Syria specifically, Trump’s reactive response to the disputed use of chemical weapons could lead to that country’s civil war becoming at best a proxy war between the USA and Russia, and at worst a wider regional or even world-wide conflict.

“Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally bomb Syrian airbases with more than fifty Tomahawk cruise missiles is deeply fraught. The horror of the chemical weapons attack in Syria this week requires a credible, independent investigation, not a random barrage of missiles ordered by a clueless President,” Acting Australian Greens Leader Senator Scott Ludlam said.

Perhaps former Labor Foreign Minister Gareth Evans was right when he told the National Press Club last week that Trump is “the most ill-informed, ill prepared ethically challenged and psychologically ill- equipped president in US history”.

Yes indeed. This type of dangerous and impetuous action is exactly what the Greens have been concerned about since the election of Donald Trump. Here in Australia we are shackled to an ally which has no foresight, no strategy, and a deeply insecure and erratic President.

Which leads to the obvious point that it’s also time to ramp up the campaign that Parliament rather than the PM and Cabinet should decide whether or not Australia goes to war.

e response to the disputed use of chemical weapons could lead to that country’s civil war becoming at best a proxy war between the USA and Russia, and at worst a wider regional or even world-wide conflict.

“Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally bomb Syrian airbases with more than fifty Tomahawk cruise missiles is deeply fraught. The horror of the chemical weapons attack in Syria this week requires a credible, independent investigation, not a random barrage of missiles ordered by a clueless President,” Acting Australian Greens Leader Senator Scott Ludlam said.

Perhaps former Labor Foreign Minister Gareth Evans was right when he told the National Press Club last week that Trump is “the most ill-informed, ill prepared ethically challenged and psychologically ill- equipped president in US history”.

Yes indeed. This type of dangerous and impetuous action is exactly what the Greens have been concerned about since the election of Donald Trump. Here in Australia we are shackled to an ally which has no foresight, no strategy, and a deeply insecure and erratic President.

Which leads to the obvious point that it’s also time to ramp up the campaign that Parliament rather than the PM and Cabinet should decide whether or not Australia goes to war.

 

 

 

My weekly Op Ed column in today’s Daily Advertiser: Housing affordability crisis can and must be solved

It seems as though we are bombarded every day with stories about rising house prices in the east coast capital cities, with Sydney taking the prize. Though such stories may seem irrelevant to Riverina residents they do have implications for us.

To a much smaller degree the capital city price rises do trickle down to regional cities and towns, but that’s not their broader significance. Rather what we all need to be concerned about is its ramifications for social services such as the old age pension.

More of that later, but before examining it the reasons for the price rises and governmental lack of action to curb them need looking at.

Whether house prices have been inflated by the government’s extremely weak argument of limited supply or because of policies such as negative gearing and the current shape of the capital gains tax have created incentives to investors rather than family based homeowners, government policy is now trapped in a vicious cycle. The wealth accumulated in our houses has become a central part of the retirement system, and the government itself can’t afford for prices to fall.

Generous tax subsidies and asset test concessions on the family home have incentivised the accumulation of wealth in property and fuelled demand pressures in the housing market for decades.

As a result the family home has become a cornerstone of the Australian retirement system. Sustained house price increases have allowed government income support to be set at historically low levels, based on the assumption that the low-income elderly will be housing asset-rich, and can therefore get by on smaller pensions. That’s why our pensions are, compared with many other countries, so low.

Clearly we need to fix this very broken system. As Peter Wish-Wilson, Greens Treasury spokesperson said last week, the Government needs to end its reckless support for negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts that are fuelling a housing crisis.

Senator Whish-Wilson said, “It doesn’t seem to matter which expert comes out against negative gearing or what happens to house prices, the Government remains in denial about its role in the housing crisis.

“Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are culpable in locking an entire generation of young people out of home ownership simply to line the pockets of property speculators” he said.

In addition, Senator Lee Rhiannon, who has the Greens Housing portfolio, noted that we get a lot of rubbish from the government designed to blame the victims, “The rubbish that young people should save their money, the rubbish that young people should raid their superannuation accounts, and the rubbish that young people should get a higher paying job”. As the government cuts penalty rates, mind you.

Senator Rhiannon also added “Today the Turnbull government went over the top in terms of their own actions. They came up with the ugliest, most insulting idea on the housing crisis—an idea that not only distracts from the real problems of tax breaks and underinvestment in public housing but also scapegoats communities already under attack from the far right and, increasingly, all sections of the Liberal-National party. The headline in the Murdoch papers said it all: ‘Send migrants bush to ease house prices’.

“The Greens are not against stimulating regional cities”. Indeed they are not. As Wagga Wagga, Griffith and Albury demonstrate our regional cities welcome refugee and migrants. I am sure all of regional Australia would be equally welcoming if it was provided with the proper investment, more jobs, better transport links and improved infrastructure.

Cyclone Debbie the tip of the climate change iceberg

We are all concerned for the welfare of those who have suffered from the fury of Cyclone Debbie and its aftermath, and wish them all a speedy recovery, but our concern should not blind us to the link between extreme weather events, climate change, and the human activity largely responsible for global warming.

Mind you, last week US President Donald Trump exhibited such a trait when he signed yet another executive order, this time scrapping Obama-era climate change regulations that his administration says are costing jobs in the oil and coal industries. This is despite the fact that these industries say that even if deregulated they will produce very few jobs due to increased automation, which of course means larger profits.

If that’s not enough, President Trump’s executive order goes from bad to worse as it will also remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

Meanwhile, back in Australia it was pleasing to see Greens MP Adam Bandt, who has the party’s Climate Change portfolio, making the link when he connected Cyclone Debbie to a proposed new coal-fired power plant and climate change, saying more people will suffer with the burning of more coal.

The proposed new coal fired power station to which Mr Bandt is referring is a government backed scheme to use taxpayer funds allocated to a $5 billion fund to develop industries in Northern Australia to back a so-called new “clean coal” plant for Rockhampton in Queensland.

Predictably enough, and with the storm already having claimed one life, champions of fossil fuels such as Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg were quick to condemn the Greens’ comments, labelling them as “unconscionable and hysterical”, which itself sounded pretty hysterical when I heard him. He went on to say that any new coal-fired power station would produce “far lower emissions” than an existing plant because it would involve improved technology, which is far too close to the ‘clean coal’ myth championed by President Trump & Co for comfort.

Mr Bandt quite correctly pointed out that “The more coal we burn, the more intense extreme weather events like Cyclone Debbie will be. People will suffer”.

Progressive parties such as the Greens are of course not a lone voice. The Australia Climate Council warned in January that more intense and destructive cyclones were likely in Queensland as a result of climate change and rising global temperatures.

In January even China’s energy regulator told 11 provinces to stop more than 100 coal-fired projects, even though construction had already begun on some.  It follows similar initiatives last year and comes after the government said in November it would eliminate or delay at least 150 GW of coal-fired power projects between 2016 and 2020 and cap coal power generation at 1,100 GW.

A report prepared by the Sierra Club and Greenpeace published last week found there was a 48 per cent decline in the number of planned coal units in India and China and a further 62 per cent decline in construction starts with the drop mainly attributed to changed policies in China and India.

The government’s renewed embrace of coal also appears to be at odds with Australian voters. A Fairfax-IPSOS poll published on Tuesday found just 33 per cent of those surveyed believe Australia should continue backing coal. Clearly it is time for Mr Turnbull et al to listen to the people