Monday, 29 February 2016

Exclusive: Land-clearing surge in QLD set to wipe out Direct Action gains – report

Extract from The Guardian

In just three years the rate of land clearing will create enough additional carbon dioxide emissions to cancel out emissions savings the government says it will make by paying farmers $670m to stop cutting down trees.

Lenore Taylor Political editor
Monday 29 February 2016 00.01 AEDT

A land-clearing surge in Queensland is set to create additional carbon dioxide emissions in just three years that are equivalent to those the federal government claims it is avoiding by paying other farmers over $670m to stop cutting down trees, according to a new analysis.
The Queensland land clearing along with weakening land clearing laws in several other states are threatening Australia’s chances of meeting the climate change targets it pledged in Paris last year and raising questions about the coalition’s “Direct Action” climate policy.
A new study of Australian tree-clearing by environmental services company CO2 Australia – obtained by Guardian Australia – has quantified the recent blow-out in greenhouse emissions from the weakened laws, after a decade in which declining tree clearing played a key role in Australia meeting its climate change commitments.
The Queensland Labor government wants to repeal laws passed by Campbell Newman’s government that led to the sudden rise in tree clearing, but may not succeed in doing so and is facing fierce resistance from the Liberal National party and others.
Land clearing in Queensland, along with weakening land clearing laws in several other states, is threatening Australia’s chances of meeting the climate change targets it pledged in Paris last year.
Tentative moves by federal environment minister Greg Hunt’s department to assess whether the clearing contravenes federal laws have also prompted a backlash - particularly from his own National party colleagues.
But the CO2 study, commissioned by the Wilderness Society, shows the turnaround in clearing threatens to wipe out emission reductions bought by the Turnbull Government’s Direct Action scheme and jeopardise Australia’s chances of meeting its promise to reduce greenhouse emissions by 26-28% by 2030.
The study quantifies the impact on emissions of the discrepancy between the federal government’s data on Queensland land clearing and state government data, as well as the absence of accurate national data to predict land clearing emissions as NSW and Western Australia also move to relax their rules.
Part of the blow-out in emissions from land use and tree clearing was quietly acknowledged in the federal government’s latest report on Australia’s greenhouse emissions, released a few days before Christmas, which projected that emissions from land clearing would rise 24% from 2013 levels, from an average 37m tonnes to an average 46m tonnes a year up to 2020 and 44m tonnes a year between 2020 and 2030.
In 2013-14, 300,000 hectares were cleared in Queensland alone, double the rate in 2011-12. Between 2012 and 2015 land clearing emissions in Australia rose 11 times faster than any other sector.
Between 2012 and 2015 land clearing emissions in Australia rose 11 times faster than any other sector.
But Queensland government data also released last year revealed a far higher rate of clearing than the federal data would suggests, a rate that would take national land clearings emissions to 55m tonnes a year between 2020 and 2030.
At that rate land clearing would emit an additional 118m tonnes of carbon dioxide over that decade – on top of the higher rates the federal government is already factoring in – a blow out of over 10% on the reductions the government pledged to make by 2030 in the agreement forged last December in Paris. Queensland government data shows a far higher rate of land clearing than federal data suggests.
Professor Stuart Phinn, director of the remote sensing research centre at the University of Queensland, said Queensland’s approach was “world’s best practice.”
“The Queensland approach is based on a long time series of satellite imagery, tied to field measurements of the amount of vegetation on the ground,” he said. “It’s been developed over 15 years.”
Both studies use Landsat satellite imagery, but in Queensland field officers drive out to check that changes in the satellite images are being correctly interpreted.
The federal government insists its national data collection system has been ticked off as compatible with the United Nations climate change accounting process.
Hunt’s office has been contacted for comment.
But Lyndon Schneiders, national campaigns director of the Wilderness Society, says the new data shows Australia is “lying to the world and lying to ourselves” about the true state of greenhouse emissions.
“Land clearing across the country has spiralled out of control in the last three years ... at exactly the same time as the national government is spending up to $2.7bn, in large part by trying to reduce land clearing,” he said.
“... the state governments, particularly in Queensland and also in NSW, are handing out tree clearing permits like confetti.
“The whole system is in disrepair. We are making commitments a nation ... yet we are relying on data that is completely different to the data that is being generated out of the states, so we are lying to the international community and we are lying to ourselves.”
The CO2 report confirms that at the same time land clearing laws are also being weakened around the country and in many states, there is patchy data to quantify the increase in tree clearing or its impact on greenhouse emissions. It says there is no connection between what the states are doing with vegetation management laws and what the federal government is promising to achieve in reducing greenhouse emissions.
“There is a conflict between the emission reduction objectives of the Australian government ... and the recent trend for state and territory regulatory reform that has, in a number of cases, reduced barriers to vegetation clearing,” the CO2 report says.
“There currently appears to be little incentive for state and territory governments to seriously consider the greenhouse gas implications associated with vegetation management ... reform.”
In New South Wales, the Baird government is scrapping the Native Vegetation Act, which prevents the broad-scale clearing of native vegetation. Conservation groups have walked out of talks on replacement legislation because it offers what they consider to be unacceptably weak protections.
In 2013, the Western Australian native vegetation regulations were relaxed to allow up to five hectares of clearing at a time, without a permit, and the re-clearing of regrowing forests up to 20 years old.
The Queensland government, concerned about the land clearing rates, also requested that Hunt’s department write to some landholders with land clearing permits asking for information about possible breaches of the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, but those letters prompted a fierce backlash from agricultural groups and from National Party senator Barry O’Sullivan who attacked the “green activist inclinations” of the federal department.
In late December, the federal environment department wrote to the landholders saying it was “concerned” that some of the clearing could have an impact on one of the “matters of national environmental significance” the EPBC act is designed to protect. These include nationally-listed threatened species, migratory species, and the Great Barrier Reef marine park, but not greenhouse emissions.
The federal department then sent another letter to the landholders three weeks ago expressing “deep regret” if the previous letter had caused them distress.
“We are keen to ensure, at the minister’s direct request, that all assistance is provided to ensure you are able to continue your business as soon as possible, in accordance with the law,” the February 5 letter states.
Up until 2013 land clearing rates in Australia were declining and that was the primary reason Australia had been able to meet climate change goals.
Australia “overshot” the greenhouse gas reductions it promised under the Kyoto Protocol largely because of land clearing restrictions in Queensland that had already been agreed at the time. This allowed Australia to “carry over” 128m tonnes of emissions reductions into the second stage of the international process, which ends in 2020, and meant we could easily meet the target we had promised for that date. Five other big developed countries announced in Paris that they had voluntarily cancelled emission reduction “credits” achieved by overshooting their first Kyoto protocol greenhouse targets, but Australia refused to follow suit.
Over its first two auctions the emissions reduction fund has paid around $670m to buy 51m tonnes of land sector greenhouse gas abatement, according to the Clean Energy Regulator. Much of that - but not all of it - was avoided tree clearing. The blow-out in land clearing emissions contained in the national figures, but using the Queensland government figures for that state, adds 18m tonnes of emissions each year, undoing the ERF-purchased land sector emissions reductions in just three years.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Boot Trade Dispute June 22, 1895.

BRISBANE, JUNE 22, 1895.

Boot Trade Dispute.

The masters' delegates appointed to recruit scabs from the South returned last week Neddy Neighbour arrived on the Aramac on Thursday last. Scheenheimer, the other recruiter, returned by rail. It was known that Neighbour was returning by boat, and about 200 of the men on strike went down to the wharf. A strong force of police was present, but the orderliness of the strikers rendered their presence unnecessary. In fact, the men had turned out more to give Neddy a welcome home than to make any hostile demonstration against the five scabs he had brought with him. The small number of scabs was too insignificant to arouse much feeling in the minds of the men they had come to rob of a living and help to crush.
Admittance to the wharf was refused to any of the known strikers. Several who managed to pass the gate were spotted by Joe Collings, the energetic secretary of the Boot Manufacturers' Association, and pointed out to officials who quickly put them out. In spite of this several members of the union managed to get on the wharf. The whole of the manufacturers were allowed on the wharf (privilege again) ready to shake hands and welcome their confreres, and embrace the men who had come to save them The scene was quite affecting. The blacklegs were smuggled out of the gates, bundled into waggonettes, and driven to Scheenheimers' factory. Wonder how some of the employers enjoyed the company they were in?
The trip of the scab recruiters turned out a miserable failure. Their arrival in Sydney was known to Bob Harris, the boot trade secretary down there, who worked splendidly on behalf of his mates in Brisbane. In response to an advertisement, about a hundred men turned up, ostensibly to engage for Brisbane, and results seemed so promising that a wire was sent by the recruiters informing the bosses in Brisbane, “Plenty of men. Soon return.” This was followed by a letter, which our reliable dailies published: “Hundreds of hands engaged. This will virtually end the strike.” Things by this looked gloomy. Observe the sequel. The Aramac returned with only five scabs on board (except the two employers). High hopes at starting; gloomy disappointment at the end, and only five rats cajoled to take the places of four hundred men.
Too much praise cannot be bestowed on the men down South (especially Secretary Harris) for the energetic manner in which they worked, and in spite of so many of them being out of employment. None of the union men could be prevailed upon to come up and help to down their mates here. The five non-unionists, who came up in the Peregrine, soon joined the union, and a summons was issued against one for breach of agreement. But the authorities didn't get him. Two of the employers, accompanied by a policeman, actually came round to the Trades Hall, and asked the secretary of the union where the man was. They must have taken Strickland for a fool. The required information was not forthcoming. The employers didn't get the man, so the summons was generously withdrawn a few days after.
Melbourne was well looked after in order that any efforts on the part of the two masters to secure labour down there should be frustrated. The Melbourne secretary had been fully posted with all news in connection with the strike, and Melbourne men were in sympathy with the stand the Brisbane men were making against the unjustifiable demands of the employers. They had been through the mill themselves, and were now suffering from disorganisation. To strengthen the efforts being put forth Mat Reid, member for Toowong, went to Melbourne on behalf of the men in Brisbane, and was so well up in the details of the dispute that the men in Melbourne actually thought him a bootmaker. With such a strong ally it need hardly be said that up to the present not one scab has been obtained from Melbourne. While in Melbourne Mr. Reid addressed a meeting in the open air on Sunday the 9th met, and told his audience that Melbourne had in the past been a happy hunting ground for scab labour, but hoped it would not be so in the present case. Mr. Reid also addressed one of the largest meetings of the boot trade held for some time, and laid the case before the trade with an earnestness that soon convinced the men of the injustice of the employers' demands. It was resolved by the meeting to thoroughly canvas all shops on payday and render all financial assistance to the men on strike. The loyalty displayed by the men in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide to their fellow craftsman in Brisbane will never be forgotten in Queensland.
Some of the house to house visitors, masters and managers, have received some severe rebukes in response to their endeavours to induce men to break away from their mates and return to work. In one instance-there's no need to mention names for fear of injuring those visited-the boss entered the house, took note of the scanty furniture, the lack of food, and looking round said to the wife: “Things don't look too well here. Now don't you think it would be better for your husband to come to work? See how much more comfortable it would be for you!” The woman nobly replied; “I'll bear all this and more. Rather than see my husband scab I'll take to the washtub.”
In another case two managers drove up in a buggy. The husband happened to be out and the wife was asked when he was likely to return as they would call again. Divining their errand the wife asked the managers' names. Upon being answered she said “What! Do you want him to go to work as a white man or a scab, because if you want him as a scab you needn't trouble to call again.” These are only two instances to show the manufacturers are leaving no stone unturned to wean the men from their allegiance to their mates, and are resorting to every mean trick to win a fight they virtually lost two weeks ago, and which only folly prompts them to prolong.
A certain landlady not many miles away from Freudenburg's in Boundary street, who had as a bootmaker on strike, waited upon him for the rent due. The striker said he could not pay just then, but expected to be able soon to do so. The landlady immediately increased the rent of the cottage to 9s. per week. Friends of the tenant in question at once raised the few shillings rent due, and he left the house, which is in Issac-street. The landlady in question made a bad stroke, for the tenant next door to the one she victimised gave a week's notice on hearing of her action.

The bootmakers intend holding another concert and dance on Monday, July 1st, at the Centennial Hall. The last concert held was a success financially and gave everyone who attended such satisfaction, that at the request of a number of people it has been decided to hold another. The same charge to enjoy a good evening's entertainment. The St. Crispin's minstrels will make their first appearance in negro melodies. People should secure tickets at once, as a bumper house is expected. 

Nearly half of Australia's workforce at risk of computerisation and automation, CSIRO report finds

Extract from ABC News

Updated about 6 hours ago

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Nearly half of Australian jobs are at risk of computerisation and automation, the Federal Government's latest report on the future of the workforce has found.
In 20 years, you will probably be a casual worker and your office will be shared with strangers — that is if a robot is not doing your job.

Report findings:

  • In the next 20 years, 44 per cent of Australian jobs are at risk of computerisation and automation
  • All industries will be affected by automation
  • More people will work in shared "co-working" spaces
  • There will be even more casualisation of the workforce
  • Careers in the service industry will grow with the ageing population
  • Generation Z will need to be creative and entrepreneurial
Minister for Employment Michaela Cash launched the report in Sydney yesterday, which found 44 per cent of Australian jobs were under threat.
She said it was time to "embrace the change".
"We can either be dumped off our surfboards into the sea by future waves of innovation, or we can aim to catch the crest of each wave and surf it into an exciting and prosperous future," Senator Cash said.
The CSIRO and the Australian Computer Society wrote the report, Tomorrow's Digitally Enabled Workforce, and one of the paper's authors — Andrew Johnson, the CEO of the Australian Computer Society — said all industries were going to be affected by automation.
"We have an economy in transition and we need to upskill our current workforce to they can anticipate the jobs of the future," he said.
The report found there would be more demand for people with science, technology, engineering and mathematics knowledge in future.
They are the sectors with the biggest increases in job numbers and wages.
But the supply of Australian students interested in those subjects is not meeting demand.
"One of the key findings of the report is we need to focus on entrepreneurism, innovation, giving our kids the ability to go and create their own jobs in the future, rather than having the expectation that big business will be there when you leave university or leave school," Mr Johnson said.

Gen Z encouraged to be creative, entrepreneurial

The report predicted more people would work in shared "co-working" spaces.
It also said there would also be even more casualisation of the workforce.
In the US, a third of people are independent or freelance workers, and the report suggested that trend would be mirrored in Australia.
Andrew Maynard, the director at the Risk Innovation lab Arizona State University, said the report's findings were nothing new.
"It's important, but we've seen both this trend in an emphasis on innovation and especially an emphasis on digital technologies for some time now," Mr Maynard said.
"So in the States there's been a very heavy emphasis there.

"Most 15 year olds are going to have up to 17 different jobs in five different industries ... and in order to be prepared for that kind of working life ... they're going to need to ... have a very broad based, what we describe as enterprising skill set." 

Foundation for Young Australians CEO Jan Owens

"The World Economic Forum recently focused on what they're calling the fourth industrial revolution, which captures this, but they've been looking at trends in job markets in particular as a result of this changing technology landscape."
With the growth in the ageing population, careers in the service industry are expected to grow.
There will be a bigger demand for health care and social assistance jobs, as well as in the education, training and the creative sectors.
Nearly two thirds of Australia will become dependent on the labour force by 2046.
Neer Korn, a social trends researcher, said employers needed to be more open to taking on older workers.
"The older employees that are coming forward, about one in five employees, workers, will be over the age of 65," he said.
"And the older employees recognise this and they want to remain useful and talented and work, however we've got a problem in terms of convincing employers to give them a go."
As for the kids in Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2009, the report said they were going to need to be creative and entrepreneurial.
The non-profit group Foundation for Young Australians recently found that 60 per cent of Australian students were training for jobs that would not exist in the future.
Chief executive Jan Owens said there was a disconnect between the skills young people are training for and what the market wants.
"Most 15 year olds are going to have up to 17 different jobs in five different industries," he said.
"And in order to be prepared for that kind of working life, which is very, very different to their parents or their grandparents, they're going to need to ... have a very broad-based, what we describe as enterprising skill set."

Turnbull's policy void risks being filled by Labor's shock-and-awe strategy

In the background this week, like a bass beat behind rhetorical noise that was dialled up to a Spinal-Tap-style “eleven”, we heard some defining things about this election year.
Stage right, Malcolm Turnbull is deliberately running a small(ish) target strategy, based in large part around his own popularity, which remains streets ahead of Bill Shorten’s.
The expectations that he would be big and bold were so strong some assumed the sudden shrinking scope of the Coalition’s tax policy was a sign of chicken heartedness in the face of political attack. And perhaps that was part of it.
Some, including me, saw evidence the prime minister had abandoned his lofty promises about evidence-based political debate in favour of a scare campaign that would do his predecessor proud. It was hard to conclude otherwise, with all the talk about Labor’s negative gearing policy “smashing” house prices and the new slogan, “vote Labor get poorer”, when the scant available evidence suggested a one-off reduction of between 1% and 2%.
But the abandonment of the GST hike coincided with a very deliberate decision about the Coalition’s re-election plan. They are calculating that at a time when voters are uncertain about the economy and weary of political dysfunction and upheaval they don’t want big change or grand plans, they just want competent, sensible government. They want smart ideas and careful management. Or “modest, incremental reform” as cabinet secretary Arthur Sinodinos put it this week. They want Malcolm Turnbull to give them enough of a reason to confirm their inclination to vote for them, the inclination they have been expressing to every pollster since he became prime minister.
Now you might say the past few weeks haven’t looked a lot like competent, sensible government, and you’d be right. And you might say we haven’t seen all that many smart ideas from the government lately and that would be right too. And it’s going to take all of the prime minister’s oratorical abilities to present “modest, incremental reform” as a reason for people to accept there has never been a more exciting time in the whole of history to be alive, especially when their wages are rising more slowly than they have for 18 years.
But it would be foolish for their opponents to bank on the Coalition being this bumbling for long. Behind the scenes they are working hard to fill the policy void, with the head of prime minister and cabinet, Dr Martin Parkinson, taking on the role of coordinating tax policies around about the time the goods and services tax hike was abandoned and strong signs at least some of those policies will be announced sooner rather than later.
The prime minister has reassured the states that, contrary to his treasurer’s indications, they will be getting some interim funding for hospitals. Loud complaints from states – including Liberal-led ones – about an imminent crisis in public hospitals would not be consistent with a safe-pair-of-hands federal campaign. Obviously the substance of these assurances is yet to be tested, that will happen when the detail is revealed at the April meeting of the Council of Australian Governments, but the political intent is clear. A small target, a number of cautious but “smart” policies between now and the election, and the overriding message, don’t risk Labor, there’s no good reason to change.
Stage left, Bill Shorten is running a high-risk campaign, using values-based policy to overcome his shortcomings in a head-to-head popularity battle, and to address the same sense of economic insecurity to convince the electorate that a change would be worth it, that there are very good reasons to switch, policy reasons critical to their well-being and to Australia’s sense of social equity, policies diametrically opposite to those in Tony Abbott’s first budget, which they rejected with such vehemence but which in some part the Coalition has not abandoned.
In 1993, the first election I covered properly and by far still my favourite, John Hewson risked bold policy in an election nobody thought he could lose. It was a high-wire campaign, balancing on policy detail, sometimes stumbling over it (remember the birthday cake, and also the pie shop). But it was a contest between leaders advocating things they really believed.
In 2016, Bill Shorten is risking bold policy in an election nobody really thinks he can win.
He’s had to take risks with tax policy, proposing negative gearing and capital gains tax changes that will have some impact on the value of housing, and other tax changes that create real categories of losers, in order to credibly fund the “Labor values” policies he hopes will jolt the electorate into paying attention – policies on health and hospitals and education and training and protecting jobs.
Shorten knows he has to surprise voters, shock them even, he has to change people’s minds, he has to give people an overwhelming reason to take the risk of change, make them reconsider their poor opinion of him, convince them he stands for something and there is a reason to return to Labor despite the utterly destructive, self-interested, inward-looking spectacle they made of themselves the last time the Australian people trusted them to run things.
Turnbull’s negative campaign on negative gearing is all part of the plan to paint Shorten as the risk. He overdid it this week but the direction is clear.
Shorten’s negative strategy is to paint Turnbull as a fraud, someone who claimed to be different but has the same policies and baggage they disliked in Tony Abbott. Every time the right wing of the Liberal party takes on Turnbull over things such as a Safe Schools campaign or climate policy and forces some kind of internal compromise, or awkward paper-over backdown, Labor HQ gives a quiet cheer.
Liberals argue those issues are of secondary importance to most swinging voters, that they matter to the media and the opinion “elites”, but Labor argues they just matter, and that they also go to trust and authenticity, and if a leader is judged harshly on those attributes, it can be lethal.
And as we saw this week, if the electoral fight is around Labor’s risks – whether their policy is credible, whether their values are sound – by definition the debate is on Labor’s turf, and the prime minister can look curiously like an opposition leader. Talking about the other guy’s ideas all the time depletes the authority of office.
So that’s the backbeat of election 2016, one side appealing to values and one to hope and natural hesitation, one trying to turn scepticism into inspiration and one to reassure and explain, the Coalition saying Labor is a risk and Labor announcing risky policies anyway, ones they’ll defend because they believe the social services they fund are needed, and worth it, risks they’re prepared to take because, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Despite Monday’s 50:50 Newspoll, Labor’s primary vote is 35% – far too low to even think about victory. Bill Shorten has sounded a bit confident, more like he believes in what he is saying, but he’s still some way short of inspiring – which is what he needs to be to pull a campaign like this off. Turnbull is trusted and liked, has the advantage of incumbency and shouldn’t be under-estimated as a campaigner.
But then again, internationally, candidates who are seen as authentic and risky are doing shockingly well against candidates who are running more conventional campaigns and playing it safe.
2016 might turn out to be more fascinating even than 1993.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Bill Shorten and Kate Ellis, Doorstop: Canberra – Labor’s ‘Your child. Our future’ plan for Australian education; Senate voting reforms



SUBJECT/S: Labor’s ‘Your child. Our future’ plan for Australian education; Senate voting reforms; Safe Schools; Defence White Paper; ABC and SBS

KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Well good morning all, and can I begin by thanking Louise Owens the Principal here as well as the school captains Sally and Henry for welcoming us to their beautiful school here at Red Hill this morning. It’s great to join Bill Shorten to have a look at what is happening in the classrooms here and to talk about the future of school education in Australia.
Now this week we’ve seen some members of the Government claim that they care about what happens in our classrooms, and in our schools. But let’s just be very clear – if any member of the Government cared about what was happening in our school education system there is one issue that they would be speaking up against, and that is Malcolm Turnbull’s plan to rip $30 billion out of the classrooms of schools across Australia.
Now what the Government’s education policy would mean is that on average this school and every school across Australia would be $3.2 million worse off. That is why it is so important that we stand up for Labor’s ‘Your Child.Our Future’ policy which will reverse Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts, but also ensure that we have the resources in every classroom in every school across Australia to ensure that Australian students are getting the best education that they need, to ensure that every child is receiving individual attention and to see that we have more of a focus on literacy, numeracy and the programs that we know make a difference.
Now I am not surprised that this week we have seen the Prime Minister refuse to stand up for our education system, because the truth is that is what he has been doing since the moment he came to office, when he has kept in place Tony Abbott’s $30 billion cuts to our schools, and at the moment the Government has just one policy when it comes to education, and that is to absolutely tear the funding out of each and every school and leave all of our students worse off. We’re very proud to offer a strong alternative and I will hand over to Bill Shorten.

SHORTEN: Thanks Kate and good morning everyone. There is nothing more important than investing in the future of our children. Only Labor has a fully funded plan to make sure every child in every school gets every opportunity. And having a plan for education isn’t just about the education of our children; it is about the economy and the plans for the economy of Australia’s future. We want to make sure that our children have the skills to be able to compete with the rest of the world for the jobs of the future.
Labor, by 2025, wants to ensure that Australian school results are in the top five in the world. We want to make sure that by 2020, 95 per cent of Year 12 children are completing school. So Labor has an education plan which is also a national economic reform plan. I think this contrasts very much to the week that we have seen with Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberals. It has been nearly six months since Malcolm Turnbull promised new economic leadership, and we’re certainly not seeing any leadership. We certainly haven’t seen any leadership with the Government prepared to cut funding to schools in the future which will mean that Australian children fall behind the rest of the world, and we are certainly no clearer to knowing what Mr Turnbull’s plans are for tax reform, another economic issue. It is clear that Mr Turnbull has abandoned any serious tax reform, indeed he has abandoned any serious economic reform and arguably, he is not showing any leadership at all. What we see is instead hysterical scare campaigns from the Government. I think it is fair to say that with the division and chaos that we have seen from Mr Turnbull’s Government, the Prime Minister is shrinking into his job. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: How bad of a look is it that Gary Gray is speaking out against Senate reform and Labor’s position on Senate reform. This isn’t your opposition, this isn’t a commentator, this is someone within your own party speaking out against your position on this?

SHORTEN: The Labor Party doesn’t believe that simply because something is badged reform that it constitutes reform. I am deeply sceptical when I see the Liberals and the Greens announcing a deal which will favour Green Party politicians and Liberal Party politicians that this is in the best interests of Australians. Imagine if the Liberals had controlled the Senate when Tony Abbott was Prime Minister? We would have seen the harsh $100,000 university degrees, we would have seen the cuts to Medicare and the GP Tax get through. We would see further cuts to family payments. So Labor is most committed, when we looked at reform, we want to make sure that the reform doesn’t harm the interests of the Australian people.

JOURNALIST: What would you say to Mr Gray, he is disappointed, he has looked at this issue for a long time?

SHORTEN: Fair enough. But what I’d say is the Labor Party, and what I’ll say to Australians is the Labor Party is up for reform. But reform which entrenches the control of the right wing of the Liberal Party, reform which entrenches control of the balance of power to the Greens political party. That is not reform. That is a recipe for economic problems and gridlock in Australian politics.

JOURNALIST: Was your criticism of Cory Bernardi, your Mark Latham moment?

SHORTEN: I think that my criticism of Malcolm Turnbull and anyone who has pushed Malcolm Turnbull to the following position is this – why are you taking the side of people who would bully and victimise kids who are grappling with their sexual identity in their teenage years? I do not understand why the Liberal Party is turning itself inside out over an $8 million program over four years, $2 million a year, when the Federal Liberal Government run a budget of nearly $400 billion. You’ve got to ask yourself, why are so many of the right wing of the Liberal Party obsessed about these issues, when in fact we need to see a tax reform plan, we need to see a plan for the education of our children. These people on the right wing of the Liberal Party, they seem to, you know, worry about this particular program but they’re not worried about cutting $30 billion to schools over the next number of years? I mean, their priorities are all wrong. The other thing which really disturbs me about this is that Malcolm Turnbull we all knew when he wasn’t the Prime Minister, he wouldn’t have had any time for this. Malcolm Turnbull’s left it up to me to show leadership to his party. The vast bulk of Australian parents want to make sure that their kids are dealing with issues, that they’re not being bullied at school. All the evidence shows, that if you’ve got a child who is gay at school, the chances of them being bullied are very intense. I think it’s really important that we just send out a message to teenagers, not just kids in this category, but all of our teenagers that it’s okay to ask for help. That you’re not going to be stigmatised, that every day isn’t going to be a good day. So, when I stand up on these issues, I just wish we had Malcolm Turnbull standing up on these issues. The old Malcolm Turnbull would have. The new Malcolm Turnbull who keeps doing deals to keep the right wing of his political party happy, the truth is he is shrinking in his job.

JOURNALIST:  Joe Bullock in your party says it is a terrible program, what would you say to Joe?

SHORTEN: Labor funded this program, if we were so fortunate as to form a Government, we will support programs which ensure that children can go to school in a bully-free and harassment-free environment.

JOURNALIST: Would it be rich to be talking about a bully-free environment when you’ve just displayed that by bullying Cory Bernardi in a sense?

SHORTEN: I don’t know if you were at the press conference yesterday, were you? I just wanted to check because then I could understand why you asked the question. Speak to your 30 colleagues who were there. When you’ve got a Senator walking past acting like he is in the outer of the football yelling out free advice at a press conference and then he has a sook about someone who is just going to stand up to him. I did in five seconds what Malcolm Turnbull hasn’t done in five months.

JOURNALIST: Do you regret the language that you used?

SHORTEN: I regret that the Government is cutting programs which are going to make the lives of teenage kids harder. I regret that the Liberal Party is spending so much time on this issue. I regret that the Liberal Party would rather talk about this than talk about tax reform, talk about proper funding of schools, talk about not cutting bulk-billing incentives for patients who have diagnosis of cancer and will be discouraged from going to get the treatment they need. That’s what I think is really important.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Defence White Paper is being released today and the Government is suggesting an extra $30 billion will be spent on defence, building new equipment and hiring more troops, all that sort of stuff. Does Labor support this extra spend of $30 billion?

SHORTEN: Well first of all, we haven’t seen the White Paper. Labor is up for a bipartisan approach on defence. In fact it was Labor who has led the successful opposition to the Government building the submarines offshore which means it is still a chance that Australians will get the chance to build Australian submarines in Australia. We’ll be looking at the White Paper for all the detail. You raise good issues about is there a sensible trajectory to get to 2 per cent of GDP expenditure. But in particular, one of the first things which I’ll be going to in the report is has Malcolm Turnbull guaranteed that the 12 submarines will be built in Australia? That is a key question. Has he guaranteed that Australian taxpayer money will be spent building the best defence equipment in the world for our Australian Defence Forces and is that money being spent in Australia? If the Government doesn’t articulate in this White Paper that the taxpayers’ money will be spent building defence equipment in Australia and particularly the 12 submarines and other warships, well then the White Paper will have failed.

JOURNALIST: What do you mean by credible or sensible trajectory? What do you want to see there is it a staged approach, is the money set aside or the spending needs to be credible and sensible?

SHORTEN: Well, we need to see the White Paper to answer that question. Specifically, if the Government says we want 2 per cent of GDP on defence but don’t explain how they are going to ramp up to that expenditure, it’s not credible, is it?

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you a few questions on negative gearing, I just wanted to get a few things clarified. With your policy, will people buying new property, will they be able to buy as many properties as they want or is it just one?

SHORTEN: With our negative gearing policy, I will just explain the purpose of it and then go to the specific question. We want to see Budget repair. We don’t think we can keep spending billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies on negative gearing in the future.
We also want to make sure first home owners are able to get into the market and get their first home. I am not a person who thinks the Australian dream is to negatively gear your seventh house. I am a person who believes the Australian dream is for our kids to be able to buy their first house. In addition, we are here at a school talking about school’s funding. It is important that we prioritise scarce taxpayer dollars. I would rather see money going to schools and hospitals, giving our kids the best chance, giving the vulnerable and sick the best care than necessarily perpetuating investor rewards for some people who are already very well off. In terms of the specifics, we are not capping what can be done in negative gearing. We are saying we would prioritise new housing stock for negative gearing, not existing houses.

JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, that means someone buying an investment property, as long as it is new, they can buy as many as they want?

SHORTEN: We are saying that the existing negative gearing rules would still be in place for a new housing stock full stop.

JOURNALIST: It doesn’t matter how many they buy, as long as it is new housing stock?

SHORTEN: You know the rules as well as I do.

JOURNALIST: On housing supply, have you spoken to the states and Premiers about releasing more land to build new properties?

SHORTEN: You’re spot on. The key issue is not just tax reform, although tax reform is really important. We would sit down and work with the states to make sure there is a better supply of land because there is no doubt that we have to work on that side of the equation too. The Liberals have been very cheeky in the way they have tried to demonise what we have said. Chris Bowen and I made very clear, you have to work with the states. Housing affordability is not solved by a silver bullet. But one thing is for sure, we are making clear that if you have currently invested under the current tax laws, there will be no change. But what we are saying is that we are prepared to tackle an issue which everyone knows needs to be tackled.  Mr Turnbull squibbed the chance over the last 5.5 months to do anything, so it is left to Labor to provide the tax reform plans, to provide the economic plans, to provide the education plans because Mr Turnbull, as Prime Minister, is shrinking in the job.

JOURNALIST: If we could just return to defence quickly, will you commit Labor to 12 submarines if you win at the election even if the Budget can’t afford it?

SHORTEN: Well, you have put a couple of hypotheticals there. Let me just say to you, once we have read the White Paper, we will know what the Government is doing. I can tell you what I can commit us to, building our submarines in Australia. I think it beggars belief that after 25 years of successful submarine building, that the current Liberal Government just wants to wave goodbye to all that ingenuity, innovation and jobs. We have already lost 1,500 jobs in naval ship building whilst the Liberals have been in power. I have been down to the gates at Forgacs in Newcastle, Osborne in South Australia, Williamstown in Melbourne, where I have seen people who are skilled blue collar workers just get forgotten by Malcolm Turnbull and thrown on the scrap heap.
We will make sure we build our defence equipment, our submarines in Australia. In terms of the rest of it, we are going to have to see what the White Paper is but one thing also, that can be counted upon, when it comes to keeping promises, Labor has fought hard for Australian build of submarines from day one and we are winning that battle. I just hope the Government finally, finally comes clean with their plans in the White Paper.

JOURNALIST: Would Labor ever support merging the ABC and SBS?

SHORTEN: We saw Mark Scott’s discussion on that. We haven’t got a final view on that. I think SBS does an excellent job, I think the ABC does a really good job too. What I do think is that we have got to make sure we properly fund the ABC. I have been shocked at the cuts that the Liberal Government have made to the ABC. I mean, when it is all said and done, before Mr Turnbull became the Prime Minister, he was the best friend the ABC had ever had. He would appear on the Q&A show, he’d get the vibe and would be right into it with the ABC. Now he is Prime Minister, he doesn’t – he is supporting the cuts to the ABC that his Government have made.

That is the real challenge today, isn’t it? Before Mr Turnbull became leader, he said there would be new economic leadership. We haven’t seen a tax plan. Before he became leader, he would have slapped down the far right of his party. We saw this Dennis Jensen chap say things which I am sure Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t personally believe but he has been deafly silent. Mr Turnbull before his election would have stood up to the right wing of his party. But now he is appointing them to key committees, he is indulging their ideological obsessions with Government inquiries. When all is said and done, Malcolm Turnbull needs to start making some decisions. He needs to start vindicating the trust of Australians that they are willing to give him, he needs to start standing up for Australians rather than the right wing of his party.

Thanks everyone.

Australia's biggest banks pump billions into fossil fuels despite climate pledges

Extract from The Guardian

Amid dire warnings for the future of coal, the lenders signed off on $5.5bn worth of deals for the sector in 2015, according to analysis by activist group

Coal stockpiles at the Port of Newcastle. Banks’ continued lending to the industry showed they were ‘desperate’, said Julien Vincent of Market Forces. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Friday 26 February 2016 06.00 AEDT

Australia’s big four banks are continuing to finance fossil fuel projects despite embracing a 2C or better global warming target, according to figures from financial activists Market Forces.
The Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ and National Australia Bank signed off on loans totalling $5.5bn to coal, oil, gas and liquefied natural gas projects in 2015, a figure that is higher than three of the preceding eight years.
Among the deals were eight loans for coal projects signed in Australia in 2015, with a total value of $4bn, including for struggling Whitehaven Coal, operator of the controversial Maules Creek mine. All of the projects had some financing from the big four banks, with their contributions totalling $995m.
“It’s pretty much business as usual for the big four,” said Julien Vincent from Market Forces.
It comes amid a series of dire warnings for the future of coal, with consumption declining in major economies such as the US and China. Last week, Goldman Sachs forecast that coal may be in terminal decline, with the fall in demand possibly being irreversible.
All big four banks have made statements supporting a 2C target and they have acknowledged the need to play a role in achieving a shift away from fossil fuels.

After the Paris climate accord of December 2015, Westpac went so far as saying it would take “concrete action to ensure our lending and investing activities support an economy that limits global warming to less than two degrees”.
ANZ’s statement acknowledged worries that lending to fossil fuels was in conflict with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It committed to not lend to any new coal-fired power plants that didn’t use high-quality coal.
The data was collected from public announcements made by the banks since 2008 and shared with Guardian Australia by Market Forces.
Vincent said it showed the banks’ actions were not consistent with statements about climate change because continuing to exploit fossil fuels would blow the carbon budget, increasing warming beyond 2C.
Among the $5.5bn of financing from the big four banks, there were 21 fossil fuel projects, including $300m for the struggling Whitehaven Coal, which had its loan refinanced by ANZ, Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank.
Under the new terms, Whitehaven Coal was given a lower interest rate, despite its share price plummeting to a quarter of what it was when its controversial Maules Creek mine was first approved in July 2013.
When the refinancing was announced last year, Whitehaven Coal’s chief executive, Paul Flynn, was quoted in Fairfax Media trumpeting the support from the banks as a mark of confidence in the coal industry.
“For those who think the coal industry is part of the past, they may need to rethink their views, because that is certainly not the view of those who have just funded the deal,” Flynn said.
“To have all the major banks represented in our syndicate and for them to sign up again, on even better terms than what we had before, obviously their belief in our business and our industry is very strong.”
Since that deal was announced less than a year ago, the company’s share price has fallen 65%. Tim Buckley, an analyst from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told Guardian Australia the banks immediately started trading the debt in secondary markets and lost 20% on it in the first few months.
Buckley said the bad performance of that loan was an “a-ha moment” for the banking industry. He said he was sure that next year similar analysis would show a drop in fossil fuel lending but not because of environmental concerns – simply because they are realising fossil fuels are a bad bet.
“The financial markets have realised that [the Paris accord] was a massive aha-moment for everyone … They are saying, ‘Look, we know that policy action globally is inevitable,” Buckley said. As a result they were beginning to be more cautious about financing fossil fuels and that would be reflected at the end of this year, he said.
In response to the Market Forces figures, the big four banks all sent statements to Guardian Australia emphasising their lending to renewable energy projects.
Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank provided links to some publicly available data on their exposure to the fossil fuel industry but it was not possible to compare the figures over time or against other banks. ANZ has similar data available.
ANZ said that since 40% of the world’s energy comes from coal and it remains the cheapest fuel, a transition from coal needed to be “managed responsibly over time”.
NAB said that, to secure Australia’s energy needs, renewable energy will play an increasing role but “fossil fuel will continue to be a major energy source for the foreseeable future”.
The big four Australian banks were involved in 70% of the deals but were not alone in financing coal, gas and LNG projects. Their deals made up a quarter of the $22bn in loans to fossil fuel projects that were signed-off on in 2015 from both Australian and international banks.
The biggest lenders to fossil fuel projects in Australia were Japanese banks, with three closing deals with combined values of between $2.2bn and $2.9bn in 2015, pushing the big four lower in list of top 10 lenders to fossil fuels.The figures do not give a complete picture of how much the banks are lending to fossil fuels overall – their “exposure” – because many of the deals that were signed were refinancing, so are not necessarily increasing the amount of money lent to fossil fuel companies. Refinancing is a process where one loan is replaced with another under new terms.
But Vincent said while banks were starting to become more transparent, they still did not provide enough information for shareholders and other stakeholders to calculate their overall exposure to fossil fuels over time and compare them.
Vincent said that refinancing can also extend the length of a loan, or improve its terms, so refinanced deals are not always simply a continuation of the status quo.
“And in light of statements supporting a move away from fossil fuels, banks could always choose not to refinance a loan,” he said. “The Whitehaven deal is a good example. Any of the big four could have turned around and said ‘all those activists climbing on your project and delaying it, and the decline in share price, it’s just too hot to handle and we’re going to exit this’.”
“The banks are desperate to stay in a position of business as usual. What this shows is an intent and a willingness to stay involved in the industry and to be exposed to it.”
Vincent pointed out some banks have done exactly that on Abbot Point, leaving continuing doubts about whether the project could receive the loans it needs to proceed.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Malcolm Turnbull throws down but Labor's housing 'smash' is overrated

Extract from The Guardian

PM embraces Tony Abbott-style rhetoric in a evidence-free fight with Labor. Here’s what we actually know about the potential impact of Labor’s negative gearing policy

Malcolm Turnbull goes on the attack during question time.
Malcolm Turnbull goes on the attack during question time. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Malcolm Turnbull – channelling his inner Tony Abbott – is claiming Labor’s plans to wind back negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts will “smash” the value of everyone’s house.
The only problem for the prime minister who promised evidence-based policy making is that there’s no evidence to support his claim. Even those who agree there might be some reduction in house prices, say the impacts would be one-off and small.
And the property industry – which hates Labor’s changes – has modelling that says removing negative gearing could actually push house prices up and that the exact impact is hard to know. Either way, no smashing.
Except in the House of Representatives.
“They want the price of your home to go down, that is their objective and if they win the election they will succeed in smashing home values ... vote Labor and be poorer. Vote Labor and see your house price go down,” Turnbull said in a hyperbolic question time attack almost worthy of the $100 lamb roast.
“Every single home owner in every single electorate represented in this House will be poorer if the Labor party is elected to government,” he claimed.
Labor says its policy would improve housing affordability over time, so presumably it believes its policy will cause house prices to be somewhat lower than they would have been without the change. It has released some analysis to back that contention, but no detailed quantification.
So here we are, back in the throes of a full-voiced evidence-free “he said, she said” fight. Feels like we’ve never been away. Still, let’s look at the evidence that does exist.
The closest thing to a quantification comes in the Grattan Institute’s submission to a Senate inquiry on tax deductions, which finds that limiting negative gearing could have a one-off impact on house prices of between 1% and 2%. Whether that translates into a slightly slower increase in prices than would otherwise have been the case or a small absolute price reduction depends on the property market in a particular area when the change comes in.
Curiously, actual modelling conducted by the Housing Industry Association suggests that limiting negative gearing could actually cause house prices to go up. That contradicts both Turnbull’s “house prices smashed” argument and Labor’s housing affordability claims.
Housing would become “more expensive”, the modelling report, by Independent Economics, said.
“Under current policy settings, discounting residential negative gearing in isolation is a retrograde step for tax reform, in terms of both efficiency and equity. By adding to the existing high tax burden in the housing market, it would reduce Australian living standards. By reducing the supply of housing, it would erode housing affordability for both renters and owner-occupiers,” it found.
And the Property Council – which has already started a campaign against Labor’s changes – said it didn’t know what the impact would be.
“We haven’t made any claims about the impact of their policy on residential house prices ... We haven’t undertaken any modelling on the impact of the opposition’s proposed changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax on house prices – in fact, we would like to see the opposition’s modelling,” said the council’s chief executive, Ken Morrison.
An Acil-Allen Consulting report prepared for the council found it was very difficult to know the impact of winding back capital gains tax discounts and negative gearing but also suggested prices could rise.
“Removing negative gearing or the CGT discount altogether for property will dampen investment, diminish rental supply and make it more likely that in the short to medium-term rents and property prices will increase,” the report said.
But it warned “it is not sound analysis to simply consider the effects of taxation arrangements on house prices. The cost of housing is shaped by a range of factors influencing demand and supply and hence it is hard to analyse the housing market in isolation from other markets and without considering the local, national and international interconnections. Furthermore, the evidence in this report shows that quantifying the effects of negative gearing on housing prices is a difficult task that would require modelling of complex investors’ capital movements and secondary behavioural impacts as well as their effects on the macroeconomy.
“While negative gearing arrangements are unlikely to singlehandedly change the fundamentals of housing demand and supply, they do influence investment decisions (including the decision to invest in housing and the rental prices charged for an investment property). Given the complex interaction of factors affecting supply and demand for housing, the outcomes of significant changes to negative gearing on the housing market are uncertain.”
A report by the progressive McKell Institute, which Labor drew upon when developing its policy found it was “unlikely that the changes to negative gearing proposed in this report would have a material effect on prices in the near term”.
“Over time it is expected that these reforms would improve housing affordability. As other reports, including the Henry Review, have noted tax settings play a relatively minor role in the price of housing. Other factors such as market fundamentals, zoning and building regulations and interest rates have a more material impact on house prices than tax settings.”
Presumably, the parliamentary budget office also made some assumptions about the impact of the policy when it costed it for Labor, but Labor has not released those detailed costings.
No evidence then, and certainly nothing to suggest our house prices are in for a smashing.