A new report finds that Australia’s housing crisis cannot be solved without a major slowing of population growth.
I knew it was my lucky day. Returning home from a walk this afternoon I removed the clutter of advertising material from my letter box. A rather subdued, tasteful card caught my eye as I shuffled through the assortment of catalogues and lost kitten notices. I noted the heading on a sage green coloured card - "Halcyon Close" - featuring a double storey, apparently newly built, modern styled townhouse complex. The verso showed the interior and outdoor living areas of one of these hallowed retreats, the living room suffused with light through floor- to -ceiling windows, onto neutral-coloured walls and soft furnishings, the outdoor living area dappled with sunlight, through a hint of greenery, on a neutral-tiled patio and beige outdoor furniture.
Oh, Halcyon days in the heart of Sorrey Hills, that could be mine for as little as $1.5 million!! I need never mow another lawn, never water another plant, or pull out another weed. I could close the door and temporarily forget "Halcyon," if, for some unexpected reason, I wanted to leave it for a short time.
At Halcyon Close I would feel as though I had died and gone to Heaven. Is this subdued green card in my letter box my ticket to eternal peace?
But oh, no, I can see complications at Halcyon Close! I think I will actually have to die to attain eternal peace after all.
Halcyon Close will have problems that are not evident from the controlled mood of the brochure. Alas, they have not mentioned the ceiling level windows that will be impossible to keep clean. There is no mention of the vexatious woman next door who complains about cooking odours, or the low frequency boom of the sound system in number 8, seeping through the poorly insulated walls. The details of the troublesome, high fee body corporate with its interminable meetings is not touched on. There is no hint of the cracks that will appear in the basement car park, putting the whole structure in jeopardy. The Saturday night hoons, doing donuts in the nearby cul de sac, do not feature, nor the planning permit for a nearby sixteen-storey apartment block, ready to cast an eternal shadow over Halcyon Close and its neighbours.
The cool headed accountant in me foresees that I might manage to salvage $200,000 from the transactions and fees, after selling house and garden to buy into "Halcyon's" tidy concrete time-saving confines. But this would soon be dissipated in lawyers fees, trying to get compensation for the structural nightmare in which I would now find myself!
In present day Melbourne, "Halcyon" is only an illusion.
A piece of clever advertising was placed in my letter box, transporting me to Heaven .... but only for five minutes.
A fundamentally flawed proposal to bust open super for first home buyers housing deposits could hike the nation’s five major capital city median property prices by between 8-16%, preliminary analysis from Industry Super Australia shows.
Allowing couples to take $40,000 from super would send property prices skyrocketing in all state capitals, but the impact would be most severe in Sydney, where the median property price could lift a staggering $134,000. (see table 1 below)
In most areas the price increases and extra property taxes would quickly surpass the amount of super a first home buyer could withdraw, so homebuyers would be paying more but at the expense of their super. In all cities but Hobart if a couple took out $40,000 from their super, nearly all would be lost through the price hikes the increased demand would fuel, in Sydney prices would spike by three times that amount.
The market would react quickly to the scheme becoming a reality, within a year the full price increases would likely be realised.
Many potential buyers would soon be locked out of the supercharged market, others would be lumped with far bigger mortgages – and would hit retirement with little savings and only the pension to rely on.
A big loser in this scheme, being pushed by a backbench MP, is the taxpayer, who would be forced to pay billions more into the aged pension, which could lead to higher taxes.
There is no free lunch in super and for every $1 taken out of super by someone in their 30s the taxpayer must pay up to $2.50 more in increased pension costs when they retire.
But the scheme is a real winner for the banks who would reap the windfall of the inflated mortgages.
Last week Superannuation Minister Jane Hume joined a chorus of economists, housing experts and a Retirement Income Review report author who have cautioned against raiding super for housing.
The findings of ISA’s preliminary analysis backs expert warnings that such a scheme would inflate prices and make affordability worse.
ISA will soon publish a detailed technical report on its findings, a briefing report on the proposal can be found here: https://www.industrysuper.com/media/super-bad-why-super-for-a-house-will-hurt-first-home-buyers/
Industry Super Australia Chief Executive Bernie Dean, commented as follows:
“This just confirms what experts have been saying for ages; that throwing super into the housing market would be like throwing petrol on a bonfire – it will jack up prices, inflate young people’s mortgages and add billions to the aged pension, which taxpayers will have to pay for. Politicians who own multiple investment properties and pocket 15% super might think price hikes are a ‘secondary’ consideration. They don’t care about locking young people into hugely inflated mortgages and a bleak future with hardly any savings to fall back on. We need sensible solutions – like boosting the supply of affordable housing which will bring prices down and get young people into a home without lumbering workers with higher taxes in the future. We welcomed the minister pouring cold water on this idea very publicly last week and would encourage the Treasurer and the PM to back her up and show that the government is not beholden to extreme elements within its ranks.”
On the nights of February 11, 12 and 13, 2020, the ABC has shown three related 15 minute pieces in its 7.30 Reports, on the subject of housing. These segments have stressed the cost of housing and the gulf that exists between those who are able to afford or who own their house, comparing the situation of people who cannot afford a house, and who are thus obliged to rent. These programs have, however, completely failed to talk about Australia's extremely rapid population growth, which now requires the construction of the equivalent of a Canberra every year, [corrected 15.2.20] just to preserve the ratio of housing supply to housing demand. Most flagrant omission of all, the ABC says nothing at all about the fact that this is intentional government policy. We publish a letter of complaint which was sent to the ABC on this matter.
Complaint to the ABC about its unfair and prejudicial reporting on population and housing affordability
I am one of the Renter underclass. The 7.30 series that you ran this week was biased and extremely cruel to someone like myself. I pay higher than average rent so am luckier than those lower down on the income spectrum, although I live extremely frugally. The problem is that because I don't yet have a deposit for a home loan, which I could easily be paying off instead of rent I am locked out of the property market while filling the pockets of my wealthy overseas landlord. Due to my mature age I may never have secure housing and the risk of homelessness is a glaring reality for me. You did not mention overpopulation as one of the major causes of high property prices. I'm not surprised because the ABC, as far as I can see, has a policy of never uttering the O word. Secondly why is it fair that someone who already has a home can be helped by the government to build their private wealth while those of us in the underclass are hindered from attaining housing security and endure every privation that accompanies that situation?
The property developers build housing and make sure that the government allows hundreds of thousands of non humanitarian immigrants in each year so that property prices don't fall. Furthermore one of your guests accused certain people of nimbyism. That is unjust. Many people who oppose overdevelopment and the environmental and social damage that it causes oppose overdevelopment everywhere. Another of your guests said that high rise buildings are the answer to more affordable housing because they are more environmentally friendly due to their smaller foot print and they are better socially. Wrong, high rise buildings are more energy intensive and damage the environment. Socially, they generally isolate residents from one another. The ABC needs to be more balanced in it's reporting because the consequence of being narrow in who you represent allows injustices to continue. Talking about overpopulation is not racist as is explained in Katherine Betts' book "The Great Divide".
B. Wildered (Not real name.)
Add up all the neglected costs of downsizing and retirees have good reason to be wary of making the move. It’s time to debunk the myth of zero housing costs in retirement if we want to understand why retirees resist downsizing. Retirees have at least five reasons to be wary of the costs of downsizing. [Article first published at https://theconversation.com/downsizing-cost-trap-awaits-retirees-five-reasons-to-be-wary-80895 on 31 July 2017.]
Retirees living in middle-ring suburbs face frequent calls to downsize into apartments to free up larger allotments in these suburbs for redevelopment. Retirees who fail to downsize into smaller units and apartments are viewed as being a greedy, baby-boomer elite, stealing financial security from younger generations.
It also makes sense to policymakers for retirees to move into less spacious accommodation and make way for high-density housing. Housing think-tank AHURI fosters this view. Yet seniors remain resistant to moving, in part because of the ongoing costs they would face.
The concept of zero housing costs in retirement is based on a 1940s view of a well-maintained, single dwelling on a single allotment of land where the mortgage has been paid off. This concept is incompatible with medium- and high-density housing and refusing to acknowledge ongoing housing costs may cause significant poverty for retirees.
Reason 1 – upfront moving costs are high
When a house is sold the owner receives the sale funds minus the real estate and legal fees. When the same person then buys a different property to live in, they pay legal fees plus stamp duty.
For cities such as Melbourne and Sydney, these costs are likely to exceed A$70,000.
These high transfer costs may mean it is not cost-effective for the person to move.
Reason 2 – levies are high
Because apartment owners pay body corporate levies, people often assume this is just the same as periodic payment of rates, water, insurance and other costs. It is not.
Fees remissions for low-income retirees for rates, power, insurance and water are difficult to apply within a body corporate environment. As a consequence, these are usually not applied to owners of apartments.
The costs of maintaining essential services, such as mandatory fire-alarm testing, yearly engineering certification, lift and air-conditioning inspections, significantly increase ownership costs.
When additional services are supplied, such as swimming pools, gyms and rooftop gardens, these also require periodic inspections. Garbage collection, cleaning, gardening, concierge and strata management services also must be paid.
Owners of standard suburban homes choose whether they want these services, with those on fixed incomes going without them.
Annual levies for apartment buildings vary, but expect to pay between $10,000 and $15,000. They may be more than this.
Reason 3 – costs of maintenance
Apartments are often sold as a maintenance-free solution for older people. The maintenance is not free. It needs to be paid for.
Maintenance costs are higher in an apartment than a standard suburban home because there are more items and services to be maintained and fixed. Lifts and air conditioning need periodic servicing and fixing. This is in addition to the mandatory inspections listed above.
Reason 4 – loss of financial security
It is a mistaken belief that the maintenance costs that form part of the body corporate fee include periodic property upgrades. This relates to items that are owned collectively with other apartment owners.
Major servicing at the ten-year mark and usually each five-to-seven years after that include painting, floor-covering replacement, and lift and air-conditioning repair or replacement.
Major upgrades may also include garden redesign or other external building enhancement including environmental upgrades. All owners share these upgrade costs.
Costs of upgrading the inside of an apartment (a bathroom disability upgrade, for example) are additional again.
Once the body corporate committee members pledge funds towards an upgrade, all owners are required to raise their share of the funds, whether they can afford it or not. Communal choice outweighs an individual owner’s need to delay upgrade costs.
Owners who buy apartments that are part of a body corporate effectively lose control of their future financial decisions.
Reason 5 – loss of security of tenure
Loss of security of tenure is usually associated with renters. However, the recent introduction of termination legislation in New South Wales gives other owners the right to vote to terminate a strata title scheme. When this occurs, all owners, including reluctant owners of apartments within that scheme, are compelled to sell.
There are valid reasons why termination legislation is desirable, as many older apartment complexes are reaching the end of their useful life.
Even so, as termination legislation is rolled out across the states, owner- occupiers effectively lose control of how long they will own a property for. They no longer have security of tenure, which means retirees may face an uncertain housing future in their old age.
Further reading: Why strata law shake-up won’t deliver cheaper housing
Downsizing raises poverty risks
Because current data sets do not adequately take account of ongoing costs associated with apartment living, the effect of downsizing on individual households is masked.
Downsizing retirees into the apartment sector creates ongoing financial stress for older people. Creating tax incentives to move does not tackle these ongoing costs.
Centrelink payments for of $404 per week are well below the poverty line. Yet we expect retirees to willingly downsize and to be able to cede most of their Centrelink payments to cover high body corporate costs.
Requiring retirees to downsize for the greater urban good will shift poverty onto retirees who could barely manage in their previously owned standard suburban home.
Failing to understand the effect of high ongoing costs associated with apartment living and reinforcing the myth of zero housing costs in retirement will continue to lead to poor policy outcomes.
Josh Frydenburgh, the minister for Energy and the Environment has belatedly released the greenhouse gas pollution data for the period up till the end of 2016. According to the report there has been a considerable improvement in the way the data is recorded allowing them to give more accurate estimates from individual sectors. The data show a total increase of GHG emissions of 0.7% for the last 2 quarters of that year but a considerable drop in emissions from the electricity sector. This could be due to more solar, hydro and wind use, the closure of big users like smelters but also the impact of high energy prices causing more restrained use. The new data also included historical figures going back to 2001 showing that emissions were higher than previously thought with most of these being attributed to what is called “fugitive emissions” - the GH gases like methane that escape from coal mines and gas facking. The worry from these is that methane is a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and that the emissions from a coal mine can continue long after the mine is closed as gases are released from the exposed overburden.
Interestingly the ministers press release: Quarterly Update of Australia's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: December 2016 (incorporating the Quarterly Update: September 2016 quarter) showed a more positive picture stating that:
Total emissions for Australia for the year to December 2016 (including Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) are estimated to be 543.3 Mt CO2-e. This figure is 2.0 per cent below emissions in 2000 (554.4 Mt CO2-e), and 10.2 per cent below emissions in the 2005 which were 605.0 Mt CO2-e.
The release also included a graph which showed declining emissions in terms of per capita and in per dollar of GDP growth, a process of data presentation know as decoupling, which attempts to show the best possible outcome for bad news. Decoupling also popped up in the latest State of the Environment report showing environmental damage is independent of population growth. (Apart from things like land clearing, pollution and a few others) The graph-image below will probably win a gold medal at the next Spin Doctors convention.
In this case the apparent good news is achieved by a thimble and pea trick - climate change is a function of absolute values of CO2-e increase and is unrelated to GDP movements. When it comes to our population's impact on GHG emissions the apparent falling line on the graph obscures that fact that our population is simply growing faster than our emissions, scarcely anything to celebrate. For a better understanding there is an article on the ministers release of GHG data in the Guardian which includes a graph of the changes in our absolute emissions showing the spikes and troughs over the period from1990 till the present which explains how the minister can make the bad news look good;
After all its not just that our emissions increased by about 6Mt, its the huge gap that exists between where we are now and where we should be if we are to meet our international requirements made as part of the Paris agreement. These require emissions to fall to at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2030 and commit us to ratchet up that ambition over time, in line with the goal of keeping global warming to well below 2deg C. In a related media interview the minister suggested that the increase in emissions could have been due to the higher number of cattle and their considerable flatulence. There is very likely some truth in this, after all more cows or cars, (and there were 1,178,133 new cars in 2016) will increase emissions, its a feature of a growth economy. We are getting cleaner cars but they will still need more roads and 50 million tires every year, just as more cows mean more land clearing, its all part of our ecological footprint which is estimated to be 7.7Ha/person.
(The ecological footprint is a number expressed in global hectares/person that measures the amount of land required to support the demand for goods and services and absorb its waste including greenhouse gasses.)
Using the concept of a global “footprint” might be a better way to gauge our GHG emissions since under the present system we do not record the impact of the GHG we export in the form of coal and gas. If we did then the graphs shown above would be highly skewed in the opposite direction. Surprisingly there has been considerable work done by the CSIRO as well as in other countries on what has been labelled as “embodied energy” which is the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a building, regardless of where it occurred. This includes the mining and processing of natural resources, manufacturing, transport and product delivery, but not the operation and disposal of the building material, which would be considered in a life cycle approach.
An early study conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that, taking embodied emissions into account, construction was the fourth largest indirect emitting sector (excluding direct residential emissions) behind manufacturing , electricity, gas, water & waste services and transport. Other research by the Federal Government (Australian Federal Department of Industry Science and Tourism ). found that buildings are responsible for significant environmental impacts (30 % of the raw materials used, 42% of the energy, 25% of water used, 12% of land use, 40% of atmospheric emissions, 20% of water effluents, 25% of solid waste and 13% of other releases)
If we look at the broader infrastructure, including bridges, roads and so forth, materials account for upwards of 70% of total materials flows globally, a figure believed to be similar in Australia where in 2013 imported goods and services contributed 23.6% of our national carbon footprint. In the UK a study found that energy used in constructing, occupying and operating buildings represents approximately 50% of greenhouse gas emissions. They also did a study to examine the climate change implications of housing, whether it was better to refurbish an old house or build a new one to meet new efficiency targets. It found that building a new 2 bedroom house created 80 tonnes CO2e - a huge amount - while refurbishing was only 8 tonnes.
hat's the carbon footprint of ... a hoWuse | Environment | The Guardian
What's the carbon footprint of a house? (Guardian article)
The carbon footprint of building a house depends on all kinds of things – including, of course, the size of the house and the types of materials chosen. Concrete is by far the worst offender because it is used in large quantities while steel has almost the same embodied energy as plastics. Applying that modest estimate of 80 tonnes of CO2e to the Australian building industry, where in 2016 there were 200,000 houses built we get a figure of 16M tonnes of CO2e being produced every year. The large number of houses was the result of a building program to meet our population growth of some 372,800 mostly due to the high immigration policies introduced by John Howard. Had we kept to the previous immigration levels of around 70,000/year we would not have had a blow out in our GHG emissions, nor would we have around 3 million residents, many of them migrants, who are either unemployed or underemployed.
There would be other benefits as well, with less urban sprawl cities like Sydney could retain their farmland which at present supplies 20% of its food requirements as well as employment in the food industry.
There certainly would be less congestion, cleaner air, more green spaces and less infrastructure shortages. With lower demand housing would more affordable, better quality and there would be less developer-related corruption which has now extended to money laundering. Unfortunately this is not an option that will appeal to the major parties who are driven by a growth fetish nor strangely enough, will it be accepted by the Greens.
During a recent conversation with a rather misguided friend, he remarked on the pleasure he claimed to experience at a glimpse via the window of a magpie feeding its young in his backyard. I have never actually seen his house but he described it as a wide bungalow running east-west along his outer suburban property, designed to catch the north sun. He also admitted to owning vacant bush land with wildlife on either side of his house.
During a recent conversation with a rather misguided friend, he remarked on the pleasure he claimed to experience at a glimpse via the window of a magpie feeding its young in his backyard. I have never actually seen his house but he described it as a wide bungalow running east-west along his outer suburban property, designed to catch the north sun. He also admitted to owning vacant bush land with wildlife on either side of his house.
He went on to say regretfully that when he and his wife move on to eternal life, the blocks where they now live will be filled with units and the bush land setting will be gone.
I did not have the heart to tell him that I think the sooner his current selfishly uneconomical situation is remedied, the better. Goodness, he is occupying land that could be filled with people and contribute to economic growth! In terms of bird life, admittedly there would be virtually no room for much more than a sparrow when the land is fully utilized, but one must be practical about land around Melbourne. There is still a zoo and people can always watch the nature channel.
A sun-catching urban bungalow
Let's face it, gone are the Alistair Knox (http://alistairknox.org/) days of windows to the floor catching sunshine unimpeded by nearby buildings and people living amongst Australian wildlife. No, this piece of nationalistic iconery needs to be put resolutely in the nostalgia basket. Thank goodness the artist colony on acres surrounded by orchards with 5 Alistair Knox designed houses that I used to visit in Templestowe has made way for a denser but more opulently material suburb packed with modern draftsman designed mansions amid properly paved streets.
My rueful friend is an anachronism, facing extinction, a proper target for developers, if I do say myself. He should make a clean break and just "get over it!" He must realise that the way to live is in modern units adjoining each other fitting in together, maximizing space like a sophisticated Lego set. It's very practical and people soon get used to the density, especially when they realise they don't have a choice. You will notice an allusion to vegetation in the foreground of the illustrated example so we know nature is not forgotten but it takes up very little space and may not even be real or need watering!
Now I must add, in all honesty that this type of medium density living has its drawbacks from the point of view of the individual and for sustainability but we must go through this to come out the other side! What I mean is that, although we must eventfully rediscover and return to optimizing energy availability in our living arrangements, if we don't get away from it and go through the "urban density transition", how can we rediscover and return to what we once enjoyed and expected?
For a few diehards, like my friend and his wife who claim to dread the disruption, it can be what you might call a painful process. Once the bush is gone though, no-one will be able to imagine the dead quiet that once reigned , let alone regret it. So many more people will be accommodated in more vibrant human circumstances! Perhaps 60 people will be able to live on my friend's land, without the same space, but with far more action. Are these 60 people going to be 30 times less happy than the current occupants? I doubt it. John Stuart Mill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism_(book)) would commend me for my reasoning . Furthermore, happiness will be increased on the numeric level as people are brought in from more overcrowded places, so that by comparison, the medium density living that replaces the bush block actually increases their happiness although it makes my friends miserable.
High rise apartments in Jangandong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Enough of individual happiness! The other downside is that whilst the low slung bungalow on the bush block took advantage of winter sun with the longest wall and windows facing north, this will no longer be possible with medium density living. Some units will capture north sun but obviously the majority will have to take what they get and in the interests of maximum number of units, some of them will have to be satisfied with "borrowed light". This won't matter too much because the occupants will be at work all day and won't be able to enjoy it, anyway. The unit will also require more artificial heating because it will be very cold in winter without direct sunlight. There will be a similar requirement for more lighting as "borrowed light" is not very ...er light.
On a very domestic note, every unit will require an electric clothes dryer as there will not be room for the residents to festoon their washing on lines outside. This is a small inconvenience but I have to admit is a greenhouse gas emitter. In any case the people who live in the units may have come from even higher density living where they would have been emitting like crazy to dry clothes in an even more cramped situation.
I've put a lot of thought into this and I think my friend can make a killing out of population growth in a once in a lifetime opportunity. He can live in one of the units, even pick the best. Although he won't have the months long winter sun streaming through and he will have to bid adieu to the bird life, but it's about time he grew up anyway.
It's all for a greater good.
What might put the wind up him and get him moving would be a land tax. He tells me his house is now valued at $0.00 but what about the land?
A high-rise apartment building in Chile, which collapsed
on 27 Feb 2010 as a result of an earthquake ...
We are all here for a limited time, but when we have to work harder and harder to stay in one place, that is not really living. Who is stealing our time? Were it not for the cost of housing, Australians would need to work only half the hours they have to and manufacturers would halve their costs! We have only to consider how, in two generations, Australians have gone from needing one income to purchase a house to a situation where both spouses must work and pay for others to bring up any children they may find a brief instant to produce. The writer reviews two works on time-poverty: one a heavyweight and the other a lightweight and remarks that time is money. Time is life. See the film or watch the trailer; feel the truth: spot the enemy.
Pocock et al Time Bomb book disappointingly shallow
I rushed out and bought Barbara Pocock, Natalie Skinner and Philiippa Williams' book, Time Bomb, NewSouth, NSWU Press, 2012, because it seemed like such a great title and subject. I should have been warned off by the fact that it was recommended by Geraldine Doogue, a great apologist for growth and economic neo-liberalism.
Disappointingly, Pocock et al's book fails to make some blindingly obvious points. It phaffs around the edges. I wonder if the authors simply did not see beyond the superficial or they thought that the publishing market could not take the heat. Are they somehow placed in the eye of the storm where all is quiet whilst the damage rages all around them. The book is published by the University of New South Wales, which makes me wonder again why universities these days turn out such dross. Is polite comment and a few boring graphs a prerequisite for a doctoral thesis these days? What's the market? The anguished New Class?
What really got to me was the fact that the authors don't ever link the ridiculously rising cost of living to the time-poorness of Australians. They don't even mention the cost of housing, which is easily the greatest thief of time. Okay, they give two pages (pp. 130-131) to the idea that 'for a minority of young people, housing is a significant issue.'
Housing is the Number One issue! Were it not for the cost of housing, Australians would need to work only half the hours they have to and manufacturers would halve their costs! We have only to consider how, in two generations, Australians have gone from needing one income to purchase a house to a situation where both spouses must work and pay for others to bring up any children they may find a brief instant to produce. And then there are the other Australians, who live on the streets, sell drugs and beg on trains to survive.
Why do people publish this kind of much ado about nothing? Are they just marketing titles at airports which people buy, read the first chapter of, and bin on their way out of the arrivals door?
In Time - the movie - very deep, very true, very intelligent
In contrast, the movie In Time was a (for lack of a new word) brilliant dramatization of how the parasitic rich are thieves of time and that life is measured out in money. In Time is about a world just like ours where the poor die young and spend their precious lives hanging around begging for work or for credit from a rarer class of landlords by any other name that owns the means of production and all the assets.
"Four minutes for a cup of coffee? Yesterday it was only three!" a customer exclaims in a down-market take away shop.
Time is money. Money is time. Time is life.
People might recognise the metaphor more easily if the short-lived class were from the traditional poor and overcrowded countries but the poor in this film are mostly unremarkable by their colour or their accent. They could be Americans, Australians, Canadians, British. The wealthy live almost indefinitely in this film, while the poor must pay by the hour for their lives after the age of 21. Most people accept an ideology called the Demographic Transition where peoples of 'undeveloped countries' are supposed to normally not live past 35 or so, until 'we' bring development to them. So if the film had been made on the edges of the Ganges River, perhaps no-one would have been startled. But this was a film about the future that many candobetter readers would recognise as Now. In Australia.
This is a short article because I don't have much time - frankly. Maybe readers can add to this with their experiences and their responses to In Time.
Public housing’s operating model is unsustainable. Costs are outstripping rental income and the division is forecast to be in deficit in 2012–13. Full report here.
Ed. Never have we had more developers and more draconian laws passed to interfere with citizens environments and rights to shelter. We are working harder and harder for less and less. Where once one wage would buy a home for a family, these days two people working full time are more likely to leave their home to the bank than to their children. Workers cottages with gardens are now the goals of socially aspiring professionals. Workers and the unemployed have fewer and fewer choices and more and more sleep rough. That public housing has been allowed to get into such a mess while the private sector runs the country is another piece of evidence - if you needed it - that Victoria is corrupt and a democracy in name only. This has been so since Kennett and did not improve with Labor and will not improve with the Liberals. We need many independents and a free (non-corporate) press to promote them.
The state and future of public housing
Public housing is facing major challenges, including growing demand due to reduced housing affordability, more tenants with complex needs, ageing infrastructure and high maintenance costs. Meeting these challenges to provide access to public housing now and into the future requires decisive direction and a sustainable operating model.
Public housing is operating unsustainably and without direction. The Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Housing and Community Building Division (the division) has been slow and short-sighted in responding to a changing operating environment. Despite DHS and the departments of Treasury and Finance and Premier and Cabinet awareness of the problem for at least six years, sustainable solutions are yet to materialise. New directions now being developed through the housing framework must innovate and unlock portfolio value to assure viable public housing in the future.
Public housing’s operating model is unsustainable. Costs are outstripping rental income and the division is forecast to be in deficit in 2012–13.
The division’s short-term strategies to address the financial position have deferred and compounded the problem.
The asset base is deteriorating, with an estimated 10 000 properties reaching obsolescence.
The division has not articulated long-term objectives or plans for public housing.
A housing framework is being developed but it is not yet clear how it will support public housing sustainability.
The Department of Human Services should:
develop and apply options to overcome the unsustainable operating model
assess its operational efficiency and role in public housing
develop a long-term plan for public housing with clear objectives.
Source: Victorian Auditor General:
"Access to Public Housing."
Planning Minister Matthew Guy has told the Surf Coast Shire Council that ''ministerial amendment'' to planning controls for the land is warranted to ''respond to the urgent need to address housing affordability....and proactively manage growth for Torquay-Jan Juc''. In other words, the Surf Coast Shire Council must cave into State government demands, or they will be forced to! ("proactively"!) It will become another ubiquitous part of Melbourne's sprawling housing estates. It's an attack on democracy, public opinion, and is ecologically destructive.
Matthew Guy's Ministerial Amendment to override Torquay Council
Mr Guy has told the Surf Coast Shire Council that ''ministerial amendment'' to planning controls for the land is warranted to ''respond to the urgent need to address housing affordability, facilitate the establishment of new schools, and proactively manage growth for Torquay-Jan Juc''. In other words, the Surf Coast Shire Council must cave into State government demands, or they will be forced to! ("proactively"!) It will become another ubiquitous part of Melbourne's sprawling housing estates. It's an attack on democracy, public opinion, and is ecologically destructive.
Mr Guy plans to rezone about 240 hectares of farmland west of Torquay for housing. The council estimates the land near Spring Creek could provide 1900 new homes with an expected population of 4500 people.
Releasing land from agriculture is short-term foolishness when we in Australia have only 6% arable land, and will be harder to produce food without artificial fertilizers. Mr Guy's feigned concern about providing “afffordable housing” is all spin, and something that nobody could argue about. However, it's all deliberately manipulated so that population growth will continually outstrip available housing, and land.
This takeover of land, and the land rezoning process in Torquay is not about being sustainable or ecologically sound. Developments will mean bulldozing farmland and sensitive coastal areas. It's about more urban sprawl, something that the Liberals said they would curb.
2008 Torquay's growth planned
(Sunset at Torquay - there are some places that should be reserved for special occasions such as reflection, holidays and recreation- not for everyday living!)
The pressures for coastal development are increasing, with the number of applications for consent under the Act increasing by 32 % since 2003/04
A draft urban development plan for up to
6400 houses on a 600-hectare site west of Torquay, known as Spring Creek, has ignited a furious local response, with more than 1000 submissions sent to the Surf Coast Shire.
The plan could mean that Torquay more than double in size, with 14,000 residents moving in to the development area in the next 20 to 30 years.
All these submissions and objections are simply so that planners can tick the box “public consultation” and do what they like!
Growth outstrips schools
Back in April this year, the government with its election promise to build a new $20 million secondary college at Torquay North - said the plan to convert the existing school into a prep-to-year six school would go ahead despite public opinion to the contrary. Without a second primary school, Torquay College would swell to about 1300 students by 2015, leading to overcrowding, traffic congestion and a lack of playgrounds.
A housing development at North Torquay was expected to attract another 14,000 people to the area.
2009 Submissions dismissed
The council received 2843 submissions on the Spring Creek Urban Growth Framework Plan, with only about 20 in support. As each councillor rose to reject the plan the crowd burst into applause. The Surf Coast Shire voted overwhelmingly to reject the proposal covering 600 hectares west of Torquay and to review future development policy.
Surf Coast Mayor Libby Mears said that
residents were concerned about how their quality of life and amenity would be affected by Torquay's growth. As a growth area, rates would inevitably increase to pay for the extra services needed to be delivered, and the infrastructure for swelling numbers of people.
Our coastlines are valuable
People enjoy our coastlines for their intrinsic and recreational value. This is an example of a government bereft of economic and productive ideas. Grabbing land, and developing it, brings short-term profits, but long term implication and destruction. Any "vacant" land is now under threat. Without housing or other structures, it will be vyed for "development", for economic short-term gain.
This is not a nimby issue, but one for the greater community of Melbourne, and Victoria. There is no end to urban sprawl and land grabs while our population is being pumped up continually. The housing and land "shortages" will never be solved while our government take the easy route to economic growth - via population growth.
Torquay has been a popular destination for day-trippers and sight-seeing and picnics from the days of Cobb and Co in the 1800s.
It is thought that the Wathaurung Aborigines occupied the area prior to European settlement. Picnickers began to frequent the spot from the 1860s. When the first land was sold in the mid-1880s the locality was known to Europeans as Spring Creek,
It will become a generic sea of roofs, housing estates and towers, thanks to successive State Government “planning” regimes! Plans for overdevelopment along Spring Creek in Torquay could lead to multiple sets of traffic lights along the first 2 kms of the Great Ocean Road! This will kill tourism and destroy any sense of community residents have in Jan Juc/Torquay and Bellbrae.
Environmental Threats of developments
Invasive weeds as the greatest threat to the coast's natural values - dwarfing all other biodiversity management issues combined -and developments will bring more people to the area, more weeks, more traffic and threats to coastal birds and marine wildlife.
The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) Nature Conservation Review: Marine Conservation Priorities and Issue for Victoria. (April 2010)
Development and urbanisation is a major threat to intertidal and coastal environments.
Subdivision and urbanization of coastal areas is increasing in accordance with population growth. This is largely occurring around the fringes of existing coastal towns. An immediate consequence has been the reduction of coastal vegetation communities, however there are also direct implications for water quality (storm water, commercial wastes and sewage) and visitation to shore habitats.
Shipping transport tonnage is continually increasing, in accordance with population and economic growth. Some of the increase in international shipping may be negated through the use of bigger vessels. Associated threatening processes include oil spills, groundings, litter/rubbish and effluent dumping at sea, translocation of marine pests and release of toxic antifouling substances, including tributyl tin. Higher density shipping lanes are within Port Phillip Bay, as well as between Port Phillip Heads and Cape Otway, Wilsons Promontory and northern Tasmania.
With our manufacturing industries largely gone overseas, Victoria depends on service industries and commerce. It means we rely heavily on imports, and shipping goods via shipping.
Marine pests and climate change have the potential to catastrophically impact marine and coastal values in the future. As human populations increase in coastal areas, coastal vegetation is under increasing pressure from urban sprawl, coast developments, weed invasion, disease, ecreational activities and changing fire regimes. Many habitats have become highly fragmented and some, such as coastal moonah woodland, exist only in a small portion of their pre- settlement range.
The economic model based on perpetual and destructive growth
With priorities based on cash-flow and immediate economic benefits, the non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experience, social relations, and aesthetic values are being denied and destroyed.
While our economic growth is based on population growth, the wave of land takeovers will destroy Victoria's precious Great Ocean Road coastlines - all justified under the smokescreen of the need for "affordable housing" - something that our government could easily solve if they stopped pumping up our population!
An economy based on a reliance on population growth is totally flawed, environmentally destructive, economically and ecologically unsustainable and fatalistic.
(Torquay surf beach - the way it should be)
Land sales slump but prices hit new heights
News that the median price has hit $190,000 a block comes as the development industry celebrates three Baillieu government policies aimed at increasing land supply on the urban fringe, reducing the burden of infrastructure levies and making it cheaper to hold land. As a result, sales of Melbourne house blocks have slumped by three-quarters in a year. (The Age report 18th January).
Planning Minister Matthew Guy told The Age the Coalition would also change the controversial infrastructure levy of $95,000 a hectare in Parliament, so that landowners have to pay only when they are ready to develop a new estate - not at the point of purchasing land for development.
Due to greed, favouritism towards developers and population growth, it sounds like land prices may have actually peaked.
The “chronic shortages of land” is being blamed, not boosted demand due to population growth.
Limits of growth
There are limits to growth, including prices. Once prices peak, they will find sales go downwards. It just becomes unaffordable for the average family to buy.
Speaking at a rally held in Melbourne last year to oppose the adoption of Planning Scheme Amendment VC67, Green Wedge Coalition joint co-ordinator Rosemary West said the changes would see 43,600 hectares taken out of the green wedges for urban sprawl.
The urban growth boundary expansion will clear for urban development 5000 hectares of environmentally significant Western Basalt Plains grasslands, the grassy woodlands of the Maribyrnong and Merri Creek catchments with their giant red gums and 4000 hectares of the south east food-bowl where highly productive market gardens using recycled water double as southern brown bandicoot habitat, she said.
Food bowls bulldozed for housing
Melbourne’s South East contains some of Australia’s most fertile agriculture land and produces fresh food for Melbourne’s rapidly growing population. As urban growth takes over existing farmland, new food production areas will need to be developed.
The project planned would see the development an intensive irrigated food production zone on Melbourne’s south-eastern fringe, to be known as the ‘Bunyip Food Belt’.
Media Release - July 2010
However, with the State Government able to achieve its population estimates for Casey within a more contained boundary, City of Casey Mayor Cr Lorraine Wreford couldn't understand why Planning Minister Justin Madden abandoned a critical part of the Bunyip Food Belt in favour of urban expansion.
The State Government’s decision to allow the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) to encroach on the highly fertile, valuable and sustainable farming lands in Casey is a huge blow to the entire state.
The agricultural lands of the Bunyip Food Belt have the potential to not only supply abundant and fresh produce to the people of Casey, but to the whole State, so this decision will impact all Victorians.
Once this land is built on, it is gone forever. The State Government’s decision to allow the further expansion of the UGB into an area Council has fought hard to conserve for agriculture, is a bitter disappointment , said Cr Wreford.
Obviously, profits for developers and State coffers are more important than food security.
Land is not a limitless resource
Land is not a limitless resource. We can't have urban sprawl destroying more of the most devastated State in Australia.
We already know the impacts of floods in Brazil due to massive deforestation.
According to the 2008 State of the Environment damning report, Victoria's historic use of land has left a legacy of highly cleared and fragmented native vegetation over much of the State. Current patterns of resource use in Victoria are unsustainable.
High levels of vegetation clearing may constitute the crossing of an ecological threshold, beyond which rapid change occurs and ecosystems may not recover. Development in peri-urban regions is driving loss of natural habitat and biodiversity, as well as agricultural land.
Victoria is already the most heavily cleared state. In Victoria, relatively stringent controls were introduced in 1987, but in the 15 years before that time, land in private hands was cleared at a rate of about 1% per year (CSIRO). Native grasslands are a highly endangered ecological community in Victoria, and have been reduced to less than 1% of their original extent.
We can't keep clearing land and bulldozing ecosystems for housing or we continue to reap the disasters of bushfires, climate change and species losses.
Photo: An Australian housing estate before construction in 2001. This estate is in Narre Warren, Victoria.
Victoria too reliant on property development
In his first interview since assuming the role of Victoria's Treasurer, Mr Wells said Victoria needed to broaden its economic base by rebuilding the neglected areas of agriculture and manufacturing.
It is reliant on population and migration and if one of those two factors flattens then part of the economic base will suffer.
So, our we are embedded in an economy that depends on population growth? Mr Wells also slammed what he branded the unsustainable level of government debt under Labor.
The elephant in the room, as usual, is politically-driven population growth. With Victoria's economy based on land and property development, and service industries, there is little else to support our booming growth. We don't need a big population as we do not rely on resource mining, and agriculture doesn't require much either. Our politicians are basing their policies on short-term benefits at the cost of long-term sustainability. That's the bottom-line - political lives are short and political donations drive their policies.
The Baillieus are some of the most prominent land developers around Melbourne. As such, strategies are unlikely to change. With this affordability impasse, they'll look to hand people more hand-outs, "open" more land for developers, and wealth will ultimately find its way back into their pockets. It is a legalised wealth transfer of public money.
Although we like to think of ourselves as civilised, we're subconsciously still driven by an evolutionary impulse for survival, domination and expansion. This is an impulse which now finds expression in the idea that inexorable economic growth is the answer to everything, and, given time, we will naturally redress all the world's existing inequalities.
However, this logic fails to recognise that the physical resources to fuel this growth are finite. We're still driven by growing and expanding, so we will use up all the oil, we will use up all the coal, “vacant” land and we will keep going till we fill the allegorical Petri dish and pollute ourselves out of existence.
Republished here to give background to Sheila Newman's remarks in her debate with Steve Bracks on the Jon Faine show 19-4-2010. You can comment on Jon Faine's "Population Forum" about the debate here and you can listen to the podcast here. The sector in Australia that has the most costly dependency ratio must be the property sector, since it costs all Australians an enormous and unreasonable amount just to cover the cost of land for housing, business and agriculture. Most of the very high costs involved are completely unnecessary, except in the eyes of greedy developers and their hangers-on
Mr Salt, wrong again
Yesterday (4 Feb, 2010) the Australian had Bernard Salt raising the alarm about the dependency ratio (again). But the man is hopelessly misinformed. Elderly people are not the big problem. And children (who are more dependent and for longer and who outnumber elderly people) are not the problem either.
The sector in Australia that has the most costly dependency ratio must be the property sector, since it costs all Australians an enormous and unreasonable amount just to cover the cost of land for housing, business and agriculture. Most of the very high costs involved are completely unnecessary, except in the eyes of greedy developers and their hangers-on. The only reason that the costs are so high is that the industry wants it that way and our state and federal governments are in cahoots with it.
The housing industry is making life in Australia miserable
Australians pay these monstrous costs first and must deduct them from their disposable income. These unnecessary costs affect the amount of hours we must work and how hard we must work and whether we can afford to take holidays. They affect our health and happiness. The high prices affect the cost of doing business, of manufacturing, of storage, garaging etc. When these costs are inflated they take away from other economic and social obligations, which are to provide education, hospitals, child support and retirement funding in the form of pensions and superannuation. Yes, even for self-funded retirees, the cost of doing business is inflated by the cost of land and is deducted as a variety of costs from any profits which devolve to shareholders.
Australia's inflated land-costs
Australia's inflated land-costs mean that small business has had increasing difficulty surviving and that for an increasing number of Australians, survival itself - in terms of accessing shelter and having enough money left over for food and clothing - has become difficult and sometimes impossible. For more Australians each year, transport to get to work or education to train for employment, are luxuries. Yet all this could be changed if property development and housing were no longer considered as private profits but as public expenses and the factors that contribute to their inflation were adjusted accordingly. These factors are those which drive up demand. Demand is affected by births, deaths and immigration and, to a lesser extent, by household size, location and position, which may all be to some extent discretionary.
What drives the high cost of land in Australia?
The most noticeable adjustable drivers of demand are overseas and interstate immigration. Interstate immigration can be dealt with by adjusting building permits at local levels. Overseas immigration can be dealt with by State Governments ceasing advertising for new immigrants and by National Government revising immigration quotas downwards. For maximum reduction of costs, land and housing availability should be exactly equal to demand.
In a steady state society, houses would become available as people died, with some overlap, at very little cost.
It is Australia's housing industry which is responsible for elderly people being scapegoated instead of honoured and supported to enjoy the long and happy lives that we should all be able to look forward to.
"For most Australians, whether buying or renting their home, the provision of adequate housing for themselves and their families involves substantial ongoing expenditure throughout much of their lives. Housing costs are often the largest regular expenses to be met from a household's current income.
The housing costs measure compiled from the Survey of Income and Housing is defined as the sum of:
* rent payments,
* rates payments (general and water), and
* mortgage or unsecured loan payments, if the initial purpose was primarily to buy, add or alter the dwelling."
Source: 1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2008
It is always very difficult to get information from public sources on how the cost of land affects the cost of living in Australia because the Australian Bureau of Statistics refuses to treat land as a 'commodity' and our cost of living measure, the consumer price index, only factors in the cost of 'commodities' - other things you buy.
This kind of information is about the best we can get from the ABS (see below). It doesn't tell us very much. Most of the information is in the private sector and costs a lot to see.
It also doesn't tell us how much people who have businesses pay for rent and buildings on top of the money they pay for their own housing.
The ABS doesn't admit that land is like a commodity in Australia
Yet land is treated like a commodity in Australia, and we know for sure that for many of us it is our greatest burden:
“The development of stock mortgages and wool and crop liens in Australia represented legal ingenuity in that on traditional analysis, a property transfer was taking place with respect to something which would only come into existence in the future – the crop or wool to be grown.
In Australia land was not in itself a source of power but an asset capable of producing wealth. Improvements, particularly fencing, represented a high proportion of the value of real estate and borrowings on the land seem to have been greater than in England. It is thus argued that land in Australia was always viewed as a commodity, see Davidson and Wells, “The Land, the Law and The State: Colonial Australia 1788-1890” (1982) 2 Law in Context 89 AND Whalan, D., The Torrens System in Australia p.98.” Source: Adrian J Bradbrook, Susan V MacCallum, Anthony P Moore, Australian Property Law, LBC Information services, 1996, p.1.103:
Is the Property Development industry becoming an embarassment to its members?
Mr Salt recently argued that the property sector was being too timid. He implied that they had become somewhat embarrassed by bloggers highlighting the industry's reasons for promoting high immigration. He urged them to weigh into public debate and wondered why usually high profile growth lobbyists were acting like such wall-flowers.
"... I must say the “growth vs no growth” issue is ascendant and is likely to remain so during 2010. What disappointed me about this debate was the lack of supporting comment emanating from the property industry. No-one that I could see was out there putting the case for growth.
And I suspect the reason is that “big (property) business” doesn’t want to draw attention to itself on a contentious public issue. There seems to me to be almost a timidity in property individuals getting involved in public debate about growth. The logic seems to be don’t rock the boat."
Who would want to admit they are in this industry?
Well, maybe, the property industry is becoming a little more self-aware and less inclined to shoot from the mouth. Perhaps some of the younger people in the industry are becoming ashamed of the role the industry plays in creating and increasing poverty and inequality. Perhaps some of the young planners and builders aren't too keen on trashing the countryside. Maybe when young property developers, engineers, planners and developers you go to parties these days, their mouths go dry and they blush when some nice girl or bloke asks them what they do for a living.
I mean, what do you say? "I make my money out of unaffordable housing." "My boss is a land-speculator." "I serve the land-lords of the world." "We're in the business of overpopulation. It's good for our profits." "Oh, your mother protested on the steps of parliament last week?" "You hate people who bulldoze trees?" "Um, you think we cause most of the carbon gas increases in Australia?" "Well, I didn't choose to have small animals flee at my approach." "Gee, I might be responsible for people dying of thirst in a few decades, and I'm already responsible for animals dying of starvation, but hey, it's a job."
"The only way to offset the impact of the baby bust next decade is to grow the tax base through immigration. That’s why we need a big Australia, at least in the short term. And, make no mistake, this trajectory is good news for the property industry," writes Bernard Salt.
Well, no, Bernard. There is another way and it involves downsizing the property development industry so that we can afford what any normal functioning society can expect to provide for its children and elderly.
I look forward to some intelligent and responsible leadership from those young people who are currently embarrassed by their industry.
Anticipating the counter-argument
Basic economics requires profit to be made from land so that society can have publicly available infrastructure. Land commodifiers and speculators use the need for a profit margin to justify the buying and selling of land at unreasonable prices and for government and business conspiring to inflate those prices. But, when the costs of land are so high that they make business impossible, the time has come to say good-bye to the private housing and development industries.
First published here 2/6/2010 but republished to give background to my remarks on Jon Faine Show - 19-4-2010
Green taxes are well accepted in Scandinavian countries.
Since 1991 Sweden has had a carbon tax of 103 Euros per tonne per taxpayer
It is not compensated in any way and it is not a focus of political protest.
Sweden is proud of the way its towns and cities open out onto green and wild natural spaces.
The tax represents one quarter of the price of petrol and diesel, but most Swedes do not realise this, since the tax is not stated at the pumps.
A litre of diesel costs 1.11 Euros of which 30 centimes is carbon tax.
Driving habits have not changed so much, but domestic heating systems have.
Fuel heating is often swapped for electric heating, with one third subsidised by the state.
The cost of electricity, however, has risen.
Families pay 4 times as much for carbon emissions than industry does, but housing rights are guaranteed and workers have good industrial and unemployment protection and guaranteed rights to free health care.
The government believes that carbon emissions have been reduced by 9% in Sweden due to the tax.
At the same time their economic growth has increased by 40% in 18 years.
Now the average Swedish person emits one tonne less of carbon than a French person, and 16 tonnes less than an American.
Swedish reality is a challenge to the very inferior future that US, British, Canadian and Australian governments and media market to their own populations. Why do we put up with it? Perhaps because we are told that no other way exists.
(Source: France 2 News 26 October 2009)
Population numbers in Sweden
Sweden's population was 8 million in 1974 and reached 9 million in 2004, at a rate which would lead to 10 million in 23 years.
In fact Sweden's population has not increased significantly since 1995, when it began to level out after a steep growth curve.
Most of the increase over deaths is due to immigration from within Western Europe. (Radio Sweden 12 August).
Unlike Australia, the Swedes have learned not to overshoot their carrying capacity and to retain democracy through protecting the established population's networks.
Australia, to the contrary, practices demographic splintering and top-down government, based on an unsustainable extractive commodity and land-speculation economy.
Sweden is able to have a healthy economy and good multi-party democracy where it provides far superior rights to its citizens than Australia does, and in the context of trends to population stability! Compare this actuality to the ideology promoted by the Australian government and the Murdoch media.
In the 19th century, Sweden's yearly population growth rate peaked at 1.2% (i.e. it doubled in less than 60 years), compared to 1% today (migration excluded). This considerable population growth rate led, before the Industrial Revolution, to a pauperization of the rural population, for each generation inherited smaller and smaller shares. Due to years of crop failure in the 1840s and 1860s, the U.S. Homestead Act of 1862, and to a lesser extent religious persecution, emigration started and grew. Between 1850 and 1930 1,050,000 Swedes emigrated (re-migration excluded), chiefly to Canada, U.S. and to Denmark. If they had not left, Sweden's population would have been about 2,000,000 higher today, given that famine and civil war hadn't been the outcome of their staying. (After 1929 the net-migration has been directed towards Sweden.) Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Sweden
Sweden has a strictly regulated rental market, with laws and taxes that prohibit speculation. (The Australian housing industry would not last a minute there.)
Housing rights are legally guaranteed in Sweden for citizens or legal immigrants. This is also the case in EU countries. (Britain, with an exploitative private housing dominated market similar to Australia's, is going to have a very hard time conforming to this requirement of EU participation.)
Work and standard of living
There is no national minimum wage law. Wages were set by collective bargaining contracts every year. Nonunion establishments generally observe these contracts. Substantial benefits (e.g., housing, childcare) provided by social welfare entitlement programs assured even the lowest-paid workers and their families a decent standard of living. Foreign companies employing workers from their country of origin at wage levels below minimums stipulated in domestic collective-bargaining contracts created frictions in the labor market. For example, in one case, Swedish workers blocked a work site in the city of Vaxholm because construction workers from Latvia, who had been contracted to build a school, did not have collective agreements with a Swedish union.
The legal standard workweek is 40 hours or less. Both the law and collective bargaining agreements regulate overtime and rest periods. The maximum allowable overtime per year is two hundred hours. The law requires a minimum period of 36 consecutive hours of rest, preferably on weekends, during a period of 7 days. The law also provides employees with a minimum of five weeks' paid annual leave. The government effectively enforced these standards.
The work environment authority, a government?appointed board, issued occupational health and safety regulations; trained union stewards, safety ombudsmen, and government inspectors monitored them. Safety ombudsmen have the authority to stop unsafe activity immediately and to call in an inspector. These rules were effectively enforced. Work places were generally safe and healthy. In law and practice, workers could remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardizing their future employment.
Illustration source was http://www.connectinghistories.org.uk/Learning%20Packages/Social%20Justice/social_justice_lp_03a.asp
September 23, 2009
Uncontrolled immigration blocks social housing for native-born
New research by Migrationwatch, based on official figures, shows the pressure that uncontrolled immigration has placed – and will place – on social housing.
Speaking at the annual conference of the National Housing Federation in London on September 23, Migrationwatch chairman, Sir Andrew Green, said that in the last ten years, the number of UK born tenants in social housing in the UK has fallen by about 1.2 million while non UK-born tenants have increased by 300,000. As a result, the proportion of foreign born has increased from 7.2% to 11.1% - an increase of 54%.
Migrants who arrived here in the last five years and are not refugees are not yet eligible to apply for social housing but could become so in future years if they are granted settlement. Grants of settlement for non-EEA nationals are running at about 160,000 a year, giving a potential pool of 800,000 although, of course, by no means all will apply.
The rise in the proportion of foreign born in social housing is greater because the supply of social housing has not merely failed to meet the demand in a period of very high immigration, but the stock of social housing has actually fallen over the last ten years.
In England, the number of social housing units has fallen from 4.4 to 3.9 million in the last ten years.
Immigration has added nearly three million to the population of the UK over the same period, mainly in England.
The waiting list for social housing in England has risen by 80% in the six years 2002-8, up to 1.8 million, with a sharp peak in 2003-4. Recent research by the National Housing Federation, published in March, suggests that the waiting list could approach two million in 2011.
Earlier this month the Government announced plans to build 2,000 homes in England – which it described as the biggest social housing building project in England for "over 20 years".
By way of comparison, this would be enough to meet the projected household formation of new immigrants for just over a week.
The pressure on social housing is set to continue:
The population of the UK is growing rapidly - twice as fast as in the 1990's and three times as fast as in the 1980's. By 2028 it is set to reach and then exceed 70 million.
70% of this increase is due to immigration. In other words, unless it is controlled, immigration will add the equivalent of 7 cities the size of Birmingham over the next 20 years or so.
Immigration is the major factor in household formation – 40% or, on average, nearly 2,000 new households a week - and it is the only one that can be influenced by government. Unless immigration is brought under control, we will need to build one home every six minutes for new immigrants for the next 25 years.
Commenting on the research, Sir Andrew said:
`In the debate about housing, immigration is a huge elephant in the room. Pressures on the green belt, the need for more affordable housing, overcrowding – all of these are made worse by large scale, uncontrolled immigration. Unless the next Government makes a clear commitment not to allow the population to hit 70 million, and to build its immigration policies around that commitment, we will need to find the money and space to build seven cities the size of Birmingham in the next 25 years just to house new immigrants. We are sitting on top of a population timebomb. It must be a major priority of the next Government to defuse it.'
Commenting on this press release, Australian population sociologist, Sheila Newman, said,
"These trends are relevant to most English speaking countries since most have inherited from the United Kingdom housing and population and citizenship policies and laws. She said that many English-speaking writers commenting on population growth in anglophone countries remain unaware that on the Continent - western Europe - the roman-based Napoleonic system means that immigration is rarely 'permanent' and housing of all kinds is seen as a social obligation and cost, rather than a private profit industry. This means that in non-anglophone Europe housing is a constraint on population growth."
"It is important for the people in the English speaking settlement countries to realise that there is a much better system elsewhere."
For more on that other system see The Growth Lobby and its Absence, particularly Chapter 7 and the submission to the Productivity Commission's First Home Buyers affordability Inquiry (which quickly covers many different housing systems) which are all available on-line here, plus further discussions such as this one.
Observations on how we are being backed into a corner
The propaganda against the 1/4 acre block started a few decades ago. - appearing as opinion pieces in newpapers. I believe this propaganda was aimed at very ordinary people in or suburbs with traditional blocks. It was to prepare them to relinquish their lifestyle and for their children not to expect it in the normal course of events. I don't think it was aimed at rich people as they are different - a special case. The very rich can actually do the opposite to "urban consolidation." The rich can buy the next door property in Toorak, bulldoze the house and annexe the land for their own pleasure in the form of a tennis court or swimming pool.
The propaganda seems to have been on behalf of those who wanted to effect radical change in values and rights for the sake of population growth, which for various reasons they derived benefit from - usually financial.
Why this is important
The 1/4 acre block affords some local self sufficiency to the ordinary person. 50 years ago it was quite common for people to keep chickens in the suburbs- some still do but I don't think it's as usual. There is probably an economic reason for this . Vegetable gardens were common then and they may be trying to make a return now.
Recently in Sydney I visited a cousin who has built her eco friendly dream home in the suburb of Ryde. The garden was for low rainfall, the house worked on passive temperature control and in the corner of this living arrangement was a chicken house with inhabitants. Area of block- 1/4 acre approx.
As oil depletion continues I believe self sufficiency will become more important. The more land per family we lose the less self sufficient we can be.
How dare we be talked into denying children the rights that we grew up with?
I believe the people of Melbourne are losing their land by stealth and propaganda. I also wonder how people can, on the one hand, be talked into having more children, and, on the other hand, talked into letting go of those children's rights.
In 2007 I made a submission to the Melbourne 2030 review. I made some of the points below. (Now Melbourne 2030 is out of date, of course. They are trying to bring in something even worse. )
Urban temperatures rising, trees and water disappearing
Urban temperatures are higher than those in the country, and made worse by air conditioners. I worry about the reduced ability of land to absorb water with increased concrete bitumen, housing and impermeable surfaces in general. I can see this affecting the water table and possibly having ramifications with regard to street trees and other trees and vegetation on public land. We should be preserving trees to keep the city cool and moist instead of infilling and concreting everything.
I would have thought with all the apartments and townhouses shooting up in the bastardized process known as suburban infill, that we would want to keep backyards full of trees etc. Never mind that I'll never own a $1.8M 3BR house in Hawthorn East, I'm just glad someone owns it so that there aren't twenty people in 6 townhouses there instead.
So God bless those rich people in their big houses!! (Unless of course they are developers and politicians telling the rest of us to go and live in high-rise infills.)
Even if I have hardly any garden at all, I want to protect other people's gardens. They are part of the environment and even if the garden is not mine- I benefit if I walk past or live near it. I breathe the oxygen that its greenery exudes. I am cooled by the transpiration of the leaves. Even if I live in a one bedroom apartment in the same street, I am better off if this house and garden remain than if this house in turn is bulldozed for another block of apartments. I can see what the obvious counter argument is to this - homelessness - but that problem is circular; the root cause of homelessness is rapid population growth.
Urban wildlife is yet another issue - one I feel so deeply about that I can hardly even write of it. Gardens provide some habitat for native animals, birds reptiles, and insects. The more the city is consolidated, the more predictable every space within it becomes and there will be little room for any species other than humans, dogs and cats. And, even then, the dogs must be on leads and the cats must be kept indoors. It would make more sense if we made friends with the neighbourhood possums, but the government has designated them as pests.
If we continue with population growth at 2% per annum- we stand to lose the few advantages we still have very quickly. If we have a population growth rate of 1% per annum we will still lose it but at half the speed.
I do not think that Australian politicians have a moral or any other right to do this to us.
Now in Southern California, soon in place near you
The link http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/702.html provides two short videos that starkly illustrate the ultimate results of unsustainable growth, as it is unfolding right now in Southern California, and as it is likely to unravel anywhere that continues too far with an economy based predominantly upon land speculation, urban construction and retail.
Extensive areas riddled with debt and without productive function or options
This growth model produces extensive areas that are riddled with debt and have no genuinely productive function or options by which to repay that debt. The extremity of circumstance shown in these videos also presents a new, terribly real, but currently unreported wave of refugees - the repossessed homeless.
The same situation developing and compounding in Australia
It can happen anywhere in Australia, but I will talk about a situation near my area, Rainbow Beach in Queensland. A world heritage area, and the last small town on the coast, it has been subjected to waves of developer proposals and attempts to massage opinion now for several years.
Bringing the issue closer to home in Cooloola (an obsolete term since Council amalgamation but how else do you quickly describe the region around Gympie, Queensland, Australia), what will happen to the many local families whose debt makes up the rapidly escalating amount of unpaid Council rates? Just prior to the recent rate rise this figure was $3m, up after last year's rate rise from $1.8m only two years ago. The new rate rise of 15-25% plus levies, a 30% increase in electricity costs, fuel on the rise, etc. will all combine to make this situation even harder. Yet local jobs, and all plans to 'increase' them, are focussed on land development and the retail that spins off of it.
Councils have no business getting their constituents into debt
How is Council prepared to deal with these contingencies? It couldn't happen here? That's exactly what they thought in California only two years ago. Denying physical reality didn't help them avoid it. Fringe and regional suburban areas in Australia are structurally very similar to the depicted Californian situation.
The last thing Rainbow Beach (or any other small town) needs is to become a regional suburb. That is not development. In the light of current knowledge, it is socio-economic suicide.
The second last thing we need is for our Council to continue taking the region down this doomed urban development pathway to increasing debt, under-employment and overall infrastructure deficiency.
It's all a hard message to grapple with for some of us but we ignore it at our peril.
Full text of this submission may be downloaded here in a pdf file 293.43kb.
Kelvin Thompson, ALP, Federal Member for Wills, (a House of Representatives seat.) Wills is located in the north-west of Melbourne, Victoria, comprising Coburg, Coburg North, Gowanbrae, Hadfield, Oak Park, Pascoe Vale, and Strathmore, extending as far north as Fawkner, Glenroy and the Western Ring Road and south to include most of Brunswick and Brunswick East and containing parts of the State electorates of Pascoe Vale, Brunswick, Broadmeadows, Thomastown and Essendon. At a local Government level it shares most of its borders with Moreland, but includes Strathmore from the municipality of Moonee Valley and the Essendon Airport.)
It is indeed cheering to hear a member of the Federal Government criticise the policies of the Growth Lobbyists in Australia. The speech quoted at length below was in Labor MP attacks Melbourne's expansion plan ( July 20 2009) misreported in the Age where it was conflated with statements from the Committee of Melbourne. This conflation misled me and others to believe that Kelvin Thompson was against expansion into the Green Wedges, but was calling for open slather along the main arteries of Melbourne. If you read his submission or the quotes below, you will see that he is actually stating that more population growth in Melbourne is environmentally and socially unsustainable. He is critical of arguments for expansion or infilling. He also exposes the related hypocrisy and nonsensicality of the Government's climate change policies in the light of continuous population growth. He even exposes the fact that the Victorian State Government advertises for high immigration, a fact that they constantly avoid making clear to the long-suffering public.
I have to say: Bravo Kelvin Thompson! You show leadership in a government apparently composed mostly of cowards and ignoramuses who take orders from big business against the interests of their electorates. The only thing you have left out is the role that the Federal Government plays in granting the states the numbers they so vociferously demand of it.
Headings are by the candobetter editor:
"Our city is forecast to have 4 million people living in it by the end of this year, with annual population growth rates reaching 2% (Colebatch 2009). The outer fringe of Melbourne is currently taking 61% of our population growth (Buckley 2009). This is placing pressure on the existing Urban Growth Boundary.
Climate change is the biggest moral issue of our time
Climate change is the biggest moral issue of our time and addressing it must be at the forefront of our public policy planning. Compared to other major cities throughout the developed world, Melbourne has one of the highest rates of carbon emissions per capita. Our city’s cars, trucks, motorcycles and public transport services were recently recorded to generate 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, compared with just 8.5 million tonnes in London. This equates to 3.1 tonnes of carbon per person in Melbourne compared with 1.2 tonnes per person in Greater London. One of the key reasons for our significantly higher rate of emissions per person is because of Melbourne’s larger geographic area, which means journeys tend to be longer and heavily reliant on cars (Lucas & Millar 2008).
Twice the number of people in Melbourne will mean twice the amount of carbon emissions, congestion and pollution.
Existing Government policies are encouraging an expansion of up to 75,000 people a year. If we continue down this public policy path we will need to accommodate another 1 million people before 2025 (Buckley 2009). By 2036 Melbourne is predicted to have a further 1.8 million people, nearly twice the number forecast in Melbourne 2030 (Moncrief 2008). Twice the number of people in Melbourne will mean twice the amount of carbon emissions, congestion and pollution.
Submission to the Urban Growth Boundary Review
1. Executive Summary
Our city has reached the point where we need to change direction or risk our social and environmental future.
Melbourne is at a fork in the road. For a long time our city, its way of life and the opportunities it offers to all who come here has been the envy of cities around the world. To maintain this desirable situation we must act decisively to address the issues that threaten Melbourne with becoming another crowded, over populated, congested and polluted metropolis. Our city has reached the point where we need to change direction or risk our social and environmental future.
The Urban Growth Boundary Melbourne@ 5 million review provides the opportunity to investigate the issues currently facing our city and the options we still have to address them. This submission will identify the ecological issues associated with expanding the northern, western and southern Urban Growth Boundaries and discuss the long term consequences for Melbourne of the proposed expansion. I am making recommendations which will protect Melbourne’s social and economic
growth, local amenity, transport system and reduce our carbon footprint. I have put forward an alternative plan to that of an ever expanding urban fringe.
Melbourne is one of the world’s most liveable cities. This year it was ranked third out of 140 cities as being the most liveable city. Our lifestyle, employment opportunities, health system, education system, infrastructure and environment are all aspects of a community that is the envy of many around the world (The Age 2009).
Melbourne is now the fastest growing city in Australia, with thousands flocking to live here on a never before seen scale. Melbourne’s population is growing on a scale not seen in Australia before, swelling by almost 150,000 people in two years (Colebatch 2009). The 2001 Census recorded Melbourne’s population at 3.3 million people (ABS 2001). In 2006 our population reached 3.6 million (ABS 2006). It has continued to grow faster than that of any other city in the country.
Melbourne’s population grew by 74,713 in the year to last June and by 74, 791 during the previous year. Melbourne’s population is growing by more than 200 people a day, or almost 1500 per week. Melbourne’s population growth last year far outpaced all other major Australian cities. Sydney grew by 55,047 (1.35%), Brisbane by 43,404 (2.3%) and Perth by 43,381 (2.8%) (Colebatch 2009).
In response to revised population projections showing that Melbourne will reach five million people faster than anticipated, the Victorian Government announced its intention to review the Urban Growth Boundary in December 2008 (DoPCD 2009:i). The Urban Growth Boundary was introduced in 2002 as part of Melbourne 2030 (DoPCD 2009A). The boundary was expressly put in place to contain urban sprawl. It was expressly designed to prevent ongoing urban expansion into rural land surrounding metropolitan Melbourne and its fringe (DoSE 2005). It set out to place a clear limit to metropolitan Melbourne’s development. It sought to concentrate urban expansion into growth areas that are served by high capacity public transport (DoSE 2005A).
The most recent review of Melbourne @ 5 million forecasts an additional 600,000 new dwellings in Melbourne with 284,000 of these needing to be located in growth areas. Most of this future growth will be in the north and west of Melbourne (DoPCD 2009:i).
The State Government is investigating changes to the Urban Growth Boundary in response to updated population forecasts and revised longer term growth issues (DoPCD:6). Areas under consideration for urban expansion include 20,448
hectares in Melbourne’s west around Caroline Springs, Melton and Werribee; 25,385 hectares around Sunbury, Craigieburn and Donnybrook and 5560 hectares east of Cranbourne.
Under the plan Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary would be allowed to grow another 41,000 hectares to accommodate an extra 415,000 people. Development of these areas would lead to a loss of some of the most valuable grasslands on the city’s fringe (Dowling & Lahey 2009).
Around the urban fringe, we have a concentration of some of the most endangered ecosystems in Australia, including Western Basalt Plains Grassland and Grassy Woodland, and a diverse range of other vegetation types and threatened species (Environment Victoria 2009). It is vital we do everything we can to protect these ecologically sensitive and important areas from being overrun by high density development.
The Victorian Government is now seeking public feedback on the proposals regarding the proposed changes to the Urban Growth Boundary before a final decision is made (DoPCD 2009:3). In making a final decision, I encourage the Victorian Government to consider the issues of population, local amenity and liveability, climate change, economic growth and transport. I have put forward recommendations that are designed to tackle urban sprawl and that will continue to protect the
things that make Melbourne great.
Everything that makes our city the great place to live, work and raise a family, is potentially under threat if population growth and urban sprawl continue at the current rate.
Everything that makes our city the great place to live, work and raise a family, is potentially under threat if population growth and urban sprawl continue at the current rate. We must implement a strategy to control population growth, urban expansion and development. Our way of life, open spaces and infrastructure cannot be sacrificed on the altar of ever expanding population. We have a responsibility to secure our city’s future through thorough, thoughtful and detailed planning. This
planning should not include an expanding Melbourne waistline.
Encouraging urban sprawl and ever increasing high density developments will lead to a more
polluted, congested and unsustainable Melbourne. Bringing millions of people in to Melbourne will increase the stress on water supplies that are already strained, increase reliance on fossil fuels by communities that are on our urban fringe, and it will increase Melbourne’s carbon footprint when we must be reducing it.
Regrettably the planning process in Melbourne is not being used to achieve environmental sustainability. Melbourne is generating more greenhouse emissions, using more water, losing open space and turning into a high rise steel and concrete jungle. Planners and policy makers talk the talk of protecting Melbourne’s environment, but their actions have the opposite effect. They behave as Gough Whitlam once described rowers facing in one direction but heading in the opposite one.
The promise of Green Wedges to give Melbourne lungs of open space in which to breathe has been broken
A fundamental component of planning for Melbourne’s growth during the 1970s was the concept of
urban growth corridors radiating outwards, separated by wedges of non-urban land (Friends of Merri Creek 2009:3). But the promise of Green Wedges to give Melbourne lungs of open space in which to breathe has been broken, and is proposed to be broken yet again. We need to retain Green Wedges as permanent wedges between growth corridors, not as potential urban land supply that is bulldozed as soon as there is a demand for it.
Original Source: http://www.climate4you.com/images/OperationBarbarossa1941.jpg
Submission by Jill Quirk, headlines and teaser by Admin, candobetter
Growth is discretionary but the Government doesn't want Victorians to realise this
We have just learned from a newly issued State Government report that building on the outer urban fringes -taking into consideration the infrastructure needs for making new suburbs from scratch- costs more than twice as much as building within established areas.
The hackneyed arguments about urban sprawl vs. urban densification are usually presented and reported as either forced choices or choices of the most suitable recipe of proportions of one or the other.
What is rarely questioned is the actual need to have the rate of population growth that forces these dilemmas on us.
The State Government and planning authorities as well as developers and all those who lobby for higher population growth must be well aware of the extent to which the level of population growth in Victoria is discretionary. These aforementioned must also be well aware that logically, growth at the present rate or indeed at any rate is not possible into the indefinite future.
http://www.liveinvictoria.com.au is a Government website to drive population growth upwards
Even without the State Government recklessly inviting people from overseas and interstate to join us in our water depleted state e.g. via the website http://www.liveinvictoria.vic.gov.au, Victoria would still experience population growth- but at a far more manageable level- roughly 30-40,000 per annum as opposed to the present nearer 100,000 p.a. increase . Eventually with a balanced level of incomings and outgoings and our natural birth and death rate , Victoria's population would level off in the next 40 odd years.
Victoria now in ecological overshoot
Victoria is now in ecological overshoot-as clearly demonstrated by the need to industrialise our water supply with a desalination plant and by the parlous state of our environment as described in the State of the Environment report 2008.
That is why we need to stabilise and then allow natural attrition
This is why Victoria, for a secure future needs to look towards stabilising its population in future decades. As long as our population increases, our environment will be in decline. The present scenario of high population growth guarantees a poorer existence for future citizens than that of present citizens just as the present residents are poorer than those of 40 years ago when the environment was in much better shape and we had adequate water supplies.
As Victoria is in overshoot in 2009, imagine what it will be like in 10 years with 1 million more people,many of them living on the Melbourne outer fringe in large poorly designed houses on small blocks of land with few transport options. 10 years from now, more of our agricultural land close to the city will be either built on or earmarked for development. At the same time we will be further down the one way road towards oil depletion which will adversley affect car travel economy, agricultural output and transport of goods.
In ten years people on the outer edges will be much closer to the edges of survival - food, water, petrol
The people of Melbourne especially those in the suburbs of the urban fringes will be much closer to the edges of survival. Their lives will be more difficult as they struggle to find economical transport and their opportunities for self sufficiency in a climate of rising food prices will be limited by lack of land and time.
These are all arguments against a mindset of continual population growth and expansion of our city which has so many unwanted consequences right now for the bulk the population.
Higher urban density not the answer; we are already going upwards and outwards
The alternative to extending the urban growth boundary given continued population growth is the densification of the established parts of the city which the State Government report says is the cheaper option for accommodating population growth. Unfortunately, at a massive 2% socially engineered p.a growth rate, we will get both more urban sprawl and urban densification . Urban densification has distinctly negative consequences for affected residents- overcrowding , uncertainty of what will be built next and where, loss of natural light in houses, loss of gardens and of open space and increased traffic. Eventually everyone will be adversely affected except those with enormous property buffers within the city i.e the very rich.
Apart from major conservation and wildlife considerations on which other organisations will be making separate submissions especially as extension of UGB affects the Green Wedges, the proposal to extend the UGB totally lacks vision and any will to make a different future in the interests of Victoria's citizens.
The Victorian Government should totally revise its modis operandi with regard to its own part in population growth in Victoria and work towards a sustainable future with first a future stable population and then inevitably a smaller one after mid century. This kind of foresight is needed if we are to have a future and not ecological collapse.
(Submission by Jill Quirk, on behalf of Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) Victorian Branch)
If you want to contact Jill, send her a message to [email protected]
See also on the financial cost alone:Jason Dowling and Clay Lucas, "Suburban sprawl costs billions more," The Age, July 17, 2009
"PLANS to build thousands of homes on Melbourne's fringes will cost Victorians around $40 billion more than if they were built in existing suburbs, a new State Government report shows.
In an embarrassment for the Government on the day that submissions close on its plans to further expand Melbourne's urban growth boundary, the report released on Wednesday shows the total cost of building homes in new outer suburbs is more than double that of building in existing areas.[...]"
Ed. But don't believe that writing to the Age will save you or even that the Age owners care - the Fairfax Press and the Murdoch Press would be backing this growth to the hilt, since they have corporate investments in property development and its marketing throughout the world, as indicated by, for instance, www.domain.com.au and www.realestate.com.au
The Victorian Premier Brumby's Royal Commission into the January-February 2009 bushfires is a mere incident review. If Victoria is to be protected from firestorms in future, it should undertake a root cause analysis, including the numerous past investigations into bushfires, with a view to achieving a cultural shift in rural fire fighting methods, resourcing and emergency management and into ecology management, housing approvals in bushfire prone areas, building design in bushfire prone areas, bush arson criminology and into serious resourcing of rural fire management.
Indeed, given the repeated history of bushfires across Australia and the repeated uncontrolled nature of many of these leading to extensive property damage, the loss of thousands of livestock, widespread ecological destruction, the human lives lost and injuries, and the massive costs incurred every year, the scope of the enquiry should be escalated to a national level.
But the Victorian Commission's terms of reference focuses on the immediate causes and circumstances of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires. It focuses on the immediate management, response and recovery. This is a start, but the real start occurred in 1939 with the shock of Black Friday. It lead to the Stretton Enquiry, but many large and damaging firestorms have occurred since - so the Stretton Enquiry showed that lessons were either ignored or the application of those lessons were ineffective. The Esplin Inquiry of 2003 identified striking parallels between 1939 and 2002-3 bushfires. Now we have the 2009 Bushfires, but each investigation is disconnected from the previous one, almost as if to intentionally ignore history and any prior lessons learnt. Interstate and overseas, many major bushfires and their subsequent investigations have amassed research, insight and lessons. Why limit the investigation to one event?
Incident investigation will uncover causes and flaws and will likely make specific recommendations in the hope of preventing similar incidents. But root cause analysis goes beyond identifying the symptoms of a problem. But the Commission has not started with identifying the problem. Let's say that that at the core is the problem of preventing ignitions becoming firestorms. What are the causes of uncontrolled ignitions in the bush. Where are they typically lit? How are ignitions detected by fire authorities? What is the time lapse between ignition and detection? What is the time lapse between detection and response and eventual suppression? Which causes and interventions would mitigate the risk of these ignitions developing into uncontrollable firestorms? Are the ignition detection tools adequate? Are the communications tools adequate? Do we have the right tools and trained personnel in the right places to effectively respond? Is the entire detection, response and suppression system sufficiently integrated to deal with multiple igntitions in extreme conditions across the State at the same time? How would this be achieved? What budget would be required to have such resources and technology in place to achieve this standard? Is the problem indeed too big for Victoria by itself to adequately deal with and so is the problem in fact a national one?
How would a satisfactory solution be achieved without causing other problems like ecological damage and local wildlife extinctions? Then implement the recommendations and scientifically monitor their effectiveness. But the Commission is looking at what caused the specific ignitions, what damage the specific bushfires caused and specific responses. It will conclude what specifically should have been done in these specific incidents. It will lead to a blame game that will solve nothing. Subsequent ignitions if not predicted, detected, responded to and suppressed to prevent firestorms, will likely have different circumstances in different locations. So how will the problem have been solved by this Royal Commission? How will the Victorian Royal Commission prevent bushfire history repeating itself?
Australians are losing their human rights to power, water, affordable housing, agricultural land, wild healthy biodiverse landscapes, self-government, education, and sustainable population very very fast.
Do you all know about the current Human Rights Consultation in Australia? You can register your concerns. Deadline is 15 June. Format is not limited to filling out the form; you may express yourself freely.
Please strongly consider writing your concerns about what is happening to human rights in Australia through commercially driven population growth, development, media and government. Circulate this article as widely as you can. Print it out and help elderly people, homeless people and others not able to access the internet to contribute to this consultation. The mailing address is lower down in this article.
This consultation provides avenues for people to record their concerns about the government's big population policy and its effect on human rights.
Examples of rights impacted and diminished by government policy and its coalition with the commercial Growth Lobby include:
- safe clean natural affordable water
- healthy river and soil and forest systems
- beautiful natural landscapes
- a healthy wild biodiverse envelope
- a kind and respectful treatment of farm animals and wildlife, with land-use planning for their welfare
- functioning democracy not overwhelmed by commercial interests fed by population growth
- the right to local self-government
- affordable housing
Towards protecting or retrieving these rights, we suggest that you demand:
- an end to the tendency towards monopoly of ownership, outlets and delivery by the mainstream press
- an end to commercial representation on the boards of the ABC and other public media
- the right to demand that the owners of the commercial press daily declare their commercial and corporate interests and associations to the public in an accessible manner
- public ownership of institutions and assets
- proper consultation about privatisation
- limitation of corporate rights
- add your own (The highlighted areas above may give you some ideas and material.)
The National Human Rights Consultation is seeking views about human rights in Australia on the following, but not limited to the following:
1. Which human rights and responsibilities should be protected and promoted?
2. Are these human rights currently sufficiently protected and promoted?
3. How could Australia better protect and promote human rights?
You can send an electronic submission via the submissions page or send it by mail to
National Human Rights Consultation Secretariat
Robert Garran Offices
BARTON ACT 2600
or register to attend a community roundtable discussion in your state. The Consultation will run from 10 December 2008 until August 2009. The last date submissions can be accepted is 15 June 2009. After listening to the views and ideas of the Australian people, the Consultation Committee has been asked to report to Government on what they have heard by 31 August 2009.
Help http://candobetter.org to amplify your concerns and help you organise
We here at candobetter.org would also appreciate your contributing your submissions or to discussion at http://candobetter.org where we can amplify any ideas. There is no guarantee that the people appointed to represent the submissions will do this adequately without public pressure. Please help us to stimulate and organise this public pressure by sending your submissions to us as well, via the comments section, so that we can keep a public record and promote your concerns, show where others shared your concerns, and publish your views.
Population, Environment and Energy Sociologist
Sheila Newman (Ed.) The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Edition, Pluto Press, UK, 2008
The National Human Rights Consultation is seeking views about human rights in Australia on the following:
1. Which human rights and responsibilities should be protected and promoted?
2. Are these human rights currently sufficiently protected and promoted?
3. How could Australia better protect and promote human rights?
You can send a written submission via the submissions page or send it by mail or register to attend a community roundtable discussion in your state. The Consultation will run from 10 December 2008 until August 2009. The last date submissions can be accepted is 15 June 2009. After listening to the views and ideas of the Australian people, the Consultation Committee has been asked to report to Government on what they have heard by 31 August 2009.
Below is an excellent submission, by Sally Richardson, which I found on the site for public submissions:
Which human rights and responsibilities should be protected and promoted?
Housing is a fundamental human right. Through the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Australia has made a commitment with other Nations of the world to work towards ensuring adequate housing for its citizens.
Article 11 of the Covenant begins:
The States Par ties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living…including adequate food, clothing and housing and the continuous improvement of living conditions…
The intent of this Covenant is further explained through detailed Comments, which state:
The right to housing should not be interpreted in a narrower, restrictive sense which equates it with, for example, the shelter provided by merely having a roof over ones head ...rather it should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security peace and dignity.
Adequate housing is defined to compromise security of tenure, availability of services, affordability, habitability, accessibility, location and cultural adequacy.
Are human rights sufficiently protected and promoted?
No, in relation to housing and homelessness, human rights are not sufficiently protected and promoted in Australia.
Australia is experiencing a growing housing crisis. Australia is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Yet in 2009 there are an increasing number of homeless people, less adequate housing available and a small safety net. There are limited options for people experiencing homeless and this is an area of concern for Australia.
Some of the issues arising in housing are:
Private Rental Market
Rents have sharply risen in the private rental market causing housing stress and a lack of available affordable rental properties. In Queensland the private rental market continues to offer a relatively low security of tenure and provide for without ground eviction of households. There is currently no maximum threshold on rent increases legislated in the Residential Tenancies Act 1994; the Lessor can increase rent above median prices. According to the Residential Tenancies Authority the median rent for a 4 bedroom property in the Inner Southern Suburbs Brisbane in the March quarter 2004 was $290 per week. On March10th 2009 properties advertised on real-estate.com 4 bedroom properties in the Inner Sothern Suburbs range from $650 to $1400.
Levels of income for Centrelink and rent assistance are low, private market rents are not affordable for people on these payments. Housing needs to be acknowledged as a human right and affordable housing made available for people on low incomes.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to buy your own home, due to inflated house prices across Australia. In the current financial climate these difficulties are on the increase, with people from all backgrounds experiencing unemployment and financial stress.
In Public and Social Housing there is a limited supply of housing with people waiting for many years to obtain Public Housing with no guarantee of being placed in housing. Currently, in Queensland there has been a shift to the One Social Housing system, this new system is needs based, focusing on priority housing and merges Public and Social Housing. A focus on priority and needs based assessments is disempowering and rigid for people in the system. People are required to draw out all their difficulties and hardships to get housed in a priority based system, yet there is no guarantee for people to be housed. This system based on priority and needs compromises people’s dignity. The system needs to shift to a human rights based assessment. This shift to a priority housing system reflects a housing assistance program that has given up on housing the majority of people and focusing on the people in the most need. This indicates we cannot meet our obligations to provide all people with the right to housing.
Emergency accommodation is limited and short term for people experiencing homelessness in Australia. Often emergency accommodation is not suitable or available for people with children or people with disabilities.
Homeless People and Public Space
In a climate of increasing homelessness there are many people sleeping rough in public spaces. Currently, there is a lack of awareness and understanding around the visibility of homelessness in public spaces. In July 2006, the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000(Qld) was amended to make move on powers available to police in all public places in Queensland (s.44). These laws affect homeless people negatively using public spaces. As people can be moved on to another place for 24 hours for making people anxious, disrupting an event, offending or threatening people, interfering with trade or business or being in a prescribed place.
These powers effectively move the problem of homelessness to another place and targets homeless people. Australia needs to ensure that homeless people are protected from discrimination and move on powers. In establishing a Bill of Human Rights in Australia there is need to acknowledge and understand that homeless people do co-exist in public space and that this space is their home until they are able to secure housing.
How could Australia better protect and promote human rights?
Australia could better protect human rights by creating a National Charter of Human Rights. This Charter should clarify rights of people experiencing homelessness and highlight the responsibility of the community to protect citizens experiencing homelessness from the discrimination of move on powers and clarify that people have a right to access public space.
Create a National Bill of Human Rights that is actively monitored similar to the UN Convention on Human Rights and legislate around this for an increased level of protection. This can identify gaps and work on solutions to housing in Australia.
Actively work towards a flexible system that ensures all people can access appropriate housing and people are not locked in a cycle of homelessness because of rigid, inflexible systems. Ensure the system is empowering and supportive for people in need and does not further disempower people experiencing hardship. This involves shift towards a human rights based system for the Department of Housing to house all Australians in need.
Promote a human rights culture and discourse in Australia with all citizens. Encourage ideas and how this human rights discourse can be implemented to ensure all Australians have access to affordable, appropriate housing.
Cumulatively worse than bushfires: Destruction by development, all year round.
On the outskirts of a north eastern Victorian town there is a nursing home nestled beside a golf course which is framed by ancient eucalypts.
The nursing home is quite expensive and even more so if your room looks out on a restful view of the golf course.
An elderly relative after breaking her leg in July was admitted to this nursing home- the best available it seemed after exhaustive searches in the area. The main feature of this new living situation for my relative was the wonderful setting which she could enjoy from the common living area that she inhabits by day.
I visited her recently en route to Canberra and found her to be well cared for in a light and airy place. She ruefully said to me, though "Isn't it a shame that they're getting rid of the golf course to build houses?" My heart sank as she had been there for less than half a year and already here was a massive change! I checked with a few people and found that the golf course would in fact remain but that it would soon fringe a new housing estate replacing a treed area.
When I returned from Canberra 3 days later, there was a pile of tree trunks lying in the middle of the view from the window. How many birds had lost their habitat in that exercise? I was told that the trees had been chopped down that day and the residents of the nursing home were naturally were very unhappy about. One lady said sadly "I suppose people have to live somewhere."
How quickly our environment is being destroyed! This kind of loss of nature happens every day, it happens in many places in Australia on the same day. Is there another way of describing this apart from "environmental destruction"?
Editor: I assume that the author of this article has left the geographic identifiers out because she is afraid of repercussions for her elderly relative. It's a nice world we are making for ourselves by passively accepting the dictates of the growth lobby. That governments at local and state level actually facilitate this kind of anti-social system is cause for alarm.
[The original title was "With governments like this, who needs enemies" - changed for a more indicative one.]
At Rudd to announce rescue package for homeowners, we can read that the Federal Government says that the Commonwealth, NAB, Westpac and the ANZ banks are postponing mortgage repayments for up to one year for people in financial difficulty.
The interest, however, will be added to the total amount of the loan.
Mike Stasse of Running on Empty Oz, (Australia's peak-oil list) says, "Let's analyse this. You have a $400,000 mortgage and lose your job.
The payments are ~$2500 a month (round figures over 25 years) or $30,000 a year. So 12 months later, if you still don't have a job, you now owe the bank $430,000...... and the repayments are now $2700!"
"Plus there's the distinct possibility that if/when inflation kicks in from all the money printing. or oil prices going back up, interest rates will also go back up."
"If interest rates go up 0.5%, the repayments are now $2830
If they go up a full % repayments would be $2970"
"This is no solution!" he says.
Editor: Debt and house prices are what is keeping people poor and production expensive and working hours long and wages down. Who cares about the banks - which have become nothing much more than growth-lobbyist home loan merchants? They have been having their cake and eating it for years. They need the chop, like Marie-Antoinette.
Economic house of cards, ecological devastation
That the home building industry is the prime mover and catalyst of our ecological ruin was never more clearly illustrated than by statements recently made by University of West Florida economist Rick Harper, director of the UWF’s Haas Centre for Business Research. Harper argued that the real estate market would never recover from the current recession until population growth soaks up existing housing inventory and prices consequently begin to appreciate. “If we don’t stimulate population growth…we are going to take 10 years or more to recover from this recession”, he said, “we’ve had a huge overbuilding of the housing sector, there was just too much investment in residential structures.” He therefore advocates an easing of immigration standards to allow more people of higher education and net worth into the country.
The former Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, once offered Australia a choice. It could sustain jobs and economic security by using its brains, by being a smart economy, by adding value to the products it produces and by transforming manufacturing. Or it could continue to be a “lazy Australia” that depends on job growth simply by driving up population numbers and depending on the growth you get by building homes and shopping malls. And that is indeed what is it has done, adding a third to its population in less than three decades.
The Bush administration followed a similar course. By outsourcing decent working class jobs and tolerating the blatant mass employment of millions of low wage “undocumented” service sector workers they not only relegated 5 million Americans from the middle class but eviscerated what was left of the manufacturing sector. Land speculation and homebuilding assumed a greater importance in this new economy with a hollow core. Like a drug addict who has forsaken proper nutrition for energy, the new economy of real estate growthism relies on an immigration fix (and birth incentives to a lesser degree) for energy.
One fix never enough for an addict
But each succeeding fix requires greater injections to achieve the same jump start, and the cycle of boom and bust plays out with greater and greater consequences. More severe labour shortages, that call for more foreign injections, and the devastating ecological results, largely unsung, manifested in massive losses in prime farmland at a frightening pace and a cost in wildlife habitat that lies at the perimeter of expanding urban boundaries. Not to mention the greater energy consumption, waste disposal and pollution involved with never-ending urbanization. North American studies reveal that at most, rational land use planning could only mitigate half these problems. The other half are the inevitable consequence of largely immigrant-driven population growth.
Never enough fuel, never enough money
But real estate development itself requires fuel. It requires a favourable interest rate climate, and local governments bought and paid for together with their planning departments, staffed with growth managers who can converse in “greenspeak” and greenwash to assuage anxieties about their development plans. And of course it requires home buyers. People. The more the merrier. And where do people come from? Through the airport or the maternity ward, and the federal government is the gatekeeper at the first and most important port of entry, and quite influential in manipulating the volume at the other port too. Home buyers, in turn, have a requirement too. Financing. This holds the key, at least in Canada, to the demographic pyramid scam of the immigrant-propelled economy. For the big Canadian banks and credit institutions are not only the essential lubricants of home purchase and land development, but potent immigration lobbyists and influence peddlers as well.
Royal Bank of Canada
In fact the president and CEO of Canada’s dominant Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in 2008 reiterated the position taken by an October 2005 RBC report that the government should hike its annual immigration intake from its present approximately 240,000 to some 400,000. No doubt he would be speaking on behalf of his competitors in that ambition. What is most impressive about Mr. Gordon Nixon’s political strategy is that is conducted on a broad front. RBC realizes that the federal government may be the gatekeeper, but the environmental movement is the barking dog which must be silenced if the gate is to be left open wide for the avalanche of consumers that it wants.
So RBC laid out a Machiavellian plan. To cover their quest to underwrite the conversion of Canada’s best farmland to sprawling subdivisions and hundreds upon hundreds of species at risk to extinction in the process, they concocted an “Environmental Blueprint” that would signal to the environmental movement that “(they) support environmental sustainability”. They declared that would not for example“engage in new financing activities with corporations operating unsustainably in tropical rainforests or High Conservation Forests”. But the trees of urban Canada were presumably fair game, as are the rich fields of BC’s Fraser Valley and the Class 1 farmland of Ontario that is being developed at a pace of perhaps 60,000 acres per year. One might think that this kind of ecological damage, not to mention this threat to our national food security, would meet with the outrage of our environmental NGOs. Apparently RBC thought so too. That is why they bought their silence.
Silencing the barking dog
To prove their determination to “direct a significant portion of our philanthropic efforts to environmental causes”, they arranged to steer money to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) for each client who switched to electronic bank statements. A cute deal for both parties. NCC, always thirsty for dough, got a corporate bag man, and RBC got to wear a green cloak over its mercenary endeavours. It was not done for the environment, it was a strictly commercial transaction, ecological dispensation for suburban sprawl in return for cash and acquiescence.
Failure of environmental flagships
Many of us have been dumbfounded by the failure of flagship environmental NGOs like the Sierra Club of Canada or the David Suzuki Foundation to publicly contest the federal government’s mass immigration policy. NCC not surprisingly has been silent too, even though population growth is an obvious culprit in habitat loss. How could environmentalists ignore the Elephant in the Room? How could they ignore the obvious ecological impact of immigrant-driven population growth in Canada? Why didn’t they take the release of the Census report of March 2007, which revealed that Canada had the fastest growing population of all G8 countries, as an opportunity to attack government policy on this issue, and to educate people that population growth is a key variable of environmental degradation? That reducing per capita consumption without containing population is a futile enterprise.
Ideological myopia and donor bases
The answer was not to be found primarily in their ideological myopia, but in the examination of their carefully guarded donor base, which should, but isn’t, made easily available for public scrutiny. A look at the accounts of the David Suzuki Foundation reveals that the Royal Bank of Canada not only gave an award to the good Doctor, but is a significant contributor to his foundation. No wonder that Dr. Suzuki will not publicly say what he says privately. That the importation of people from low consuming third world countries to Canada so as to convert them to “hyper-consumers” is, in his words, “nuts”, and that industrialized countries are already overpopulated.
The Sierra Club is equally gripped with demographic lockjaw. The 2005 Report of the BC Sierra Club, the country’s largest, showed that the Toronto Dominion Bank and the Van City Credit Union empire, both big real estate lenders, were prominent contributors to their “environmental” organization. Given these contributions, to paraphrase Upton Sinclair, it is retrospectively clear why it has been difficult to make Sierra Club directors understand the environmental significance of mass immigration “if their salary depends on not understanding it.” Or is it that they understand it, but they tell “the silent lie”. The lie of knowing that something of vital importance is true and needs to be told, but deciding not to tell it. In this case, to protect a donor base at the cost of the raison d’etre of the organization, and the environment itself. Bureaucratic self-preservation seems to take on a life of its own. Truth, integrity and courage are its casualties.
Arguably then, homebuilding is not the prime mover of ecological ruin after all. Nor is it the greed of developers or the banks that finance them, or the dreams of the people that flood in to buy houses. It is, in my judgment, the ‘green’ watchdogs who haven’t barked because big money has thrown them a bone.
Quadra Island, BC
Low birth rate, its dangers and remedies
My last article didn’t even attempt to expand on this: it was just a satirical gibe on a serious subject. And it mentioned immigration only as one of the solutions envisaged by demographers and urged by economists, to remedy the European reluctance to produce more babies. Meanwhile couples are cajoled and enticed with prizes, bonuses, Christmas boxes, allowances, trinkets, anything, that could lure them to do their duty for their Country.
Italians are doomed to extinction, indicated by the low rate of birth (1,34 babies in 2007)? The Maternity and Fertility Centre Studies confirmed that we are behind the European optimum ideal of 2,1 children per woman, (suggested by a Lisbon document of 2000) in order to avoid the Old Continent disappearing in this century. In this demographic Olympic race Italy is sadly behind every other European nation, of which the Champions are France, with Great Britain and Finland close behind. So, the country of “Amore e Bambini” is being paradoxically defeated by countries with a higher rate of divorce, contraception use, and women at work.
At the moment ,an oppressive pro-natalist propaganda sweeps Italy, fuelled by demographers and the fear of economic stagnation.
Take the well-known Massimo Livi Bacci, who is a robust and insistent pusher for economic incentives for newborns.
Livi Bacci began by defining migrations as the most important means to combat poverty, based on studies that forecast a 20% decline in the labor force in rich countries and a 60% increase in the poor countries by the year 2025.
On examining the consequences of Italian low fertility rate, he admits that:
“In a few years the new entries in the labour market will be substantially fewer than they are today …with very beneficial effects on the high unemployment of the young; the fewer entries, if more productive (as they must be), will also earn more. …”
Well? This is a philosophical issue as to what should be the basis for society decisions as to the type of future we prefer.
Livi Bacci , the demographer, is only worried because the current fertility rate implies the halving of the Italian population every forty years.
The issue of promoting an increase in natality has become the leit-motif of every Italian electoral programme, and, under the last Prodi government, was one of the most important objectives of his government.
Illegal Immigration and Criminality, twin issues
But Prodi may have disregarded the real preoccupation of the electorate, which was understood by Berlusconi, his successor, whose recent third ascent to power, by an overwhelming majority, was due to his recognition that the “people” wanted Security (Sicurezza). According to the figures of ISTAT, criminality is the major source of preoccupation ( 58,7 % ) especially in Puglia, Campanla and Sicily, and is often connected with massive waves of illegal immigration that regularly sweeps the Southern coasts facing North Africa.
TV and newspaper propose the same menu day after day:
Tons of rubbish left to rot in the streets of Naples, road pirates that kill pedestrians and run away, Roma or Roms (gypsies) that force their children to steal, honest citizens revolting against the numerous nomad camps, citizen’s patrols against mounting crime, illegal immigrants, more immigrants for whom, let’s face it, we don’t have jobs.
Here we have contrasting points of view, someone is telling lies and it is not clear why:
“Unemployment rises!( Corriere della Sera, June 2008). No joke, so why do we need more workingwomen + more babies and what are we going to do with the immigrants who reach our chores almost daily?
Why, one should ask, have Italian governments, of every shade, closed their eyes for years when faced with such ever-growing disorder?
It is not a mystery that criminality is more diffuse today in our world than when I was a child. England, for example, has the deplorable record of teenage gang’s and knife-related murder. Sociologists, historians, psychologists have been studying for years the reasons why. No consensus has prevailed.
Italy boasts an endemic ancient type of criminality that is family- and clan- related.: the Mafia and the Camorra. There is of course a relation between this home-grown criminality and an international business base that exploits vulnerable people by a heinous illegal traffic across the Mediterranean Sea.
Our frontiers have become porous
Thousands of “carrette del mare” ( sea-carts), hopelessly overloaded with immigrants are continually leaving Libya for Italy. Many of them end up on the bottom of the sea, tombs for lives and hopes. Reports of clandestine immigrants that reach the island of Lampedusa (a favourite spot for such adventurous passage from North Africa) are so common that it needs a shipwreck or some other tragedy to overcome the lethargy of a public overfed by the media. In the jargon borrowed from the unfortunate destiny of whales and dolphins, these cargoes are called “ beached”. According to figures released by the local Welcome Centre, more than 5,900 clandestine immigrants have reached Lampedusa this year alone.
In the national newspaper coloured ads declare: “LAMPEDUSA, the Pearl of the Mediterranean, From 490 €. Children gratis.”
The island is a tourist destination and in summer a vagrant crowd repeats the transhumance ritual.
With the high decibel of clubs, nobody seems to notice the presence of the new hungry arrivals. We think of them as wretched, they think of themselves lucky. Points of view change as the view from the shores points south or north.
What is the answer to these massive movements of people to this southern Italian outpost? Being Italians, can only be a… Work of Art! Which means: Escapism. You won’t believe this: to commemorate the deaths of thousands of victims at sea due to an ignoble trade with the connivance of General Gheddafi of Libya, the local Major commissioned a monument by a certain Mimmo Paladino, an artist in need of exposure with a politically correct cause. It is a door, which looks out to the sea and should symbolize “ a secular sanctuary”. It will be called “Door of Lampedusa, Door to Europe”.
EU closes the stable doors after the horse has bolted, but…
The wishful thinking by a foolish administrator clashes with the Parliament of the European Union’s decision to harmonize throughout the EU the rules of return to their homeland of these sans papiers (undocumented people). The new stricter law has became necessary- and came far too late – because the sages of the EU have suddenly realized that illegal immigration was choking their welfare system and feeding an already florid criminality.
But nothing is simple in Italy,the land of contradictions, where the old divisions between Right and Left, Secularism and Catholicism, dominate every aspect of life. The European religious bodies are up in arms: the Conference of European Churches, Caritas Europe, and the Commission for Migrants protest against the idea of forced return. “To migrate is not a crime, the real crime is an economic-financial system which allows 11% of world population to consume 88% of resources while the rest live in poverty.”
There you are: the social mission of the Church meets Communist internationalism, both denying the idea of borders.
But the Church’s criticism has a point, although we cannot force poor Italians (they exist) to pay for an unjust economic-financial system of which they too are victims.
We are at a stage where we cannot ignore the “other” “inconvenient truth”: the unmentionable reason of this irrepressible migration: overpopulation.
The flow of migrants comes mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes the 40 poorest countries in the world. To migrate is a necessity. The median age of population varies from 15 (Niger) and 19 (Gambia) and the demographic growth is the highest in the world. The Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mauritania and Nigeria registered a rate of growth greater than 3% per year, which means a doubling of the population every 23 years. Fertility is high and every woman gives birth to 5,5 children, against 3 per woman in other developing countries. The record belongs to Niger (7,9), Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Liberia (6), greater than the birth-rates of European countries in the 18th and 19th centuries.
According to previsions by the UN , the entire region will grow from 309 million to 730 million in 2050, resulting in a scarcity of resources and need for cultivable land which the very density of a young population will not be able to satisfy and will lead to an enormous migration pressure. (Source: Neodemos, Dove emigrare è una necessità, by Letizia Mencarini)
This is the obvious sign that Europe should - before anything else- for the good of the poor and its own good, encourage birth control in these wretched countries by every appropriate means: education, economic incentives, media propaganda, but especially the diffusion of family planning clinics.
Failing this, the future scenario will be more famine, more wars, more suffering, more expensive but ineffectual Western aid. We will not halt the biblical invasion. Italy, its demographers and economists point out, needs young blood to do the jobs that the new generation doesn’t want to do . Or is there something else at work?
What is the role of the Mafia or the Camorra, the two main criminal organizations ? And what is the Berlusconi government prepared to do ?
All Italian society is indirectly involved in the consequences of human traffic, not just criminal organizations.
Take the “caporalato”, a new term to indicate the ringleader of a pool of immigrants, who supplies the industry large and small scale, with labourers at knockdown prices. These pools are formed as cooperatives that have an inbuilt existential volatility: they are born, prosper, die and then spring up again with a different identity. Some of them are manned by immigrants themselves and, for every worker they find, they will receive a financial cut. The immigrants who are victims and accomplices of such illegal transactions do not complain, even if the salary is so low that it doesn’t permit them to rent a habitable accommodation, but forces them to live heaped up sub-human misery.
Most of the illegal labour is used by:
1)the construction industry;
We shouldn’t build too many houses. Once the sans papiers get their papiers – which they will finally get – they finally can occupy the very houses that they have built, this time at subsidised rent. A friend of mine who works for the Assisi City Council, providing accommodation for poor families, explains that the more children in a family, the more likely they are to jump the queue for subsidised housing. Italian families, which have one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, do not have right to accommodation, even considering that the statistical reality (1,35 child per woman) is a numerical fiction, as families have more than one child. Moreover, the median dimension of a family nucleus is 2,5 persons per family, including other, often elderly, relatives.
But what will happen, when, according to last international news, the housing bust reaches us, as it already has in Spain and Denmark, where the construction industry has over-built ? "What will happen when the construction industry realizes that a shrinking and aging population won't need new houses?" asks Joseph Chamie director of the UN Population Division. Yes, what will happen ? What will we do with the excessive uneducated workforce of immigrants ?
The South of Italy is full of illegal immigrants from Morocco and other parts of Africa, who never heard of a contract and if they see one, they wouldn’t be able to read it. Some of the most celebrated Sicilian wines are the fruit of their labour. The tomatoes, the olive oil and wines that we eat and drink, and that are exported to markets in far away countries like Canada or England, are grown by seasonal and illegal immigrants, who have been paid next to nothing to enrich some producers and middle-men, of whom even Scrooge would be ashamed.
But the ones who work full time, even in horrible conditions, are the lucky ones: a substantial number roams from town to town, sleeping in stations, parks, a “via crucis” of day jobs, sometimes not paid by a landowner who acts more like a criminal himself. ( Source “Una stagione all’inferno” by Medecin sans frontiers, www.terrelibere.org/?x=completa&riga=260 )
Sometimes hope but more often shame impedes these young men from returning home, where prospects are not much better anyway.
The Mafia has a role in this human trafficking. Its formidable power is embedded in the territory where it has social acceptance and cooperation. It is a compound of families and “cosche” or clans, which operate as legal enterprises, with above-ground businesses that hide more sinister underworld activities.
Ultimately the Mafia has diversified by forming pacts with various criminal groups from East Europe and North Africa, which handle the most profitable, meanest tasks, such as drug trafficking, prostitution and illegal immigration. The foreign Mafia controls 50% of the prostitutes in Sicily while cocaine and marijuana are in the hands of Albanian clans. Immigrants sell their lives to the Mafia to pay for the trip to Italy.
One hears every single day of scandals involving either inhuman treatment of immigrants by Italian criminals, or crimes committed by immigrants, especially Roms, who have become the latest Italian obsession:
Another unresolved problem: nomads
The Roms are one of the manifold tribes of nomads who came originally from India and have taken up mobile residence in the heart of Europe, always refusing integration and assimilation. Once silversmiths, bear-trainers. fortune tellers, horse traders and other itinerant casual labour, they cannot cope with the changes of a modern world that has no need of their skills. However, their shabby settlements have all the modern tokens of consumption: mainly satellite TV cables, Nike shoes, Mercedes and other luxury cars. Italians fear the vicinity of their 700 camps, scattered among the peripheries of Italian cities. Famous for instructing their children in Dickensian-style pick pocketing, their mores are more brutal than anything old Fagin ever dreamed of. Wire tapping from the police has revealed their cruel lives: parents threaten small children with sexual abuse and beatings if they didn’t follow the orders given through a cellular phone, to rob apartments. Popular reaction was swift and unusually violent:
In May 2008 Roma camps around Naples were attacked and set on fire by local residents.
Journalists were accused of fomenting the xenophobic ire of the Italian populace, by daring to report the criminal acts committed by “foreigners”…So much for freedom of the press.
The Berlusconi government responded immediately by threatening controversial measures. They wanted to fingerprint all the Roma children, to protect them from mistreatment and a life of delinquency and lack of education. In Italy, there are about 35,000 Roma children between 6 and 14 years of age, but only 1,200 are actually enrolled in school.
The Lega Nord (Northern League), a party that represents the richer more industrious North and lobbies for fiscal independence applauded. The left claimed, “discrimination!” The Catholic hierarchy bled for the little children....
But a recent survey has established that 67% of Italians approve the idea of fingerprinting, as nobody has offered an alternative way to avoid the children’s scandalous exploitation by their own parents. The proposed measures have been criticised as racist by foreign observers. On the other hand, apparently, in France, children from 13 years onwards are registered by the police even in the absence of any punishable offence, but thought to be a nuisance for public order…
Is Italian society disintegrating ?
Journalistic ethos and the polite fiction of hopeful environmentalism require that, after describing disturbing scenarios, one should end with a note of optimism.
Unfortunately, I cannot see things getting better. The hopes which Berlusconi has aroused, the changes that his Cabinet of mediocre and inexperienced ministers have been instructed to carry out, are not going to produce a revolutionary reversal of national decline.
Italy is now more than ever divided by the forces of single-issue pressure groups. The leftist mantra is multiculturalism; the right is sticking to nationalism. Italians won’t suddenly metamorphose into law-abiding citizens. National character doesn’t change in a day. The proposed laws to stop illegal immigration are half-hearted attempts to satisfy a momentary anger, but the reality is that the country as a whole uses immigrants to carry out the growth that law-makers and citizens aspire to. Everybody lives on the back of immigrants, legal or illegal. Antonio Golini, professor of demography at the University La Sapienza in Rome, said that immigration is necessary, especially for countries like Italy, to meet the exigencies of the labour market. "But it cannot be massive," he said, "because of the presence in Europe of old minorities."
An aura of hypocrisy permeates the whole thing.
Through a recent survey we find out that 73% of the participants declared that migratory phenomena is dangerous for public order, while at the same time they employed illegal immigrants themselves, as black-market labour.
In the moral vacuum that is the hallmark of our decadent Western societies, the only voice that has any position on social and ethical issues is unfortunately the Catholic Church. And its position is, as to be expected, the defence of the meek, the poor and the slave. In its universalism, it has no voice to defend the national interest. Because it believes that man is made in image of God, it neglects and sometimes despises nature, if nature doesn’t serve unknown “higher” interest of mankind.
In a funny way, the Churchmen have become the defenders of an old vision of economic interests, and their language is laced with market jargon. Thus, the all-out defence of immigration, to replenish the empty pension trunks of the State and be called upon to fill the empty cradles. “Replacement Migration” (Is it a Solution to Declining and Aging Population?“ a subtitle title of a 2000 draft report by the UN Population Division) has been called a buzzword for Italian growth economy.
In a report by the Catholic Foundation, Migrantes (http://www.migrantes.com), with the theme of “Young Migrants: a resource and a provocation,” we may glimpse a Catholic vision of our future as a nation. The schools of tomorrow, let’s say by 2050, will have more foreign students than Italians. They will be sons and daughters of immigrants, and obviously the teaching profession welcomes this possibility, otherwise what will we do with all our teachers ?
According to a priest, the outcome will be positive, because Italian education has already chosen an intercultural approach, where differences are an enriching element.
Pupils from 192 nations are already present with a multiplicity of languages, customs and even traditions, including food, in the Italian schools. According to the Report, the school MUST recognise this reality and renounce the selfishness of mono culturalism.
Some teachers, swamped by the extra work included in an colossal influx of children in big cities, without the minimum knowledge of the Italian language, are starting to rebel, led by a determined group of parents. No need to wait till 2050: In Milano’s suburbs there are nursery classes with only one Italian bambino! The audacious proposal is to institute a maximum limit to the admission of children of other ethnic groups, let’s say, no more than three per class.
We know that the deterioration of Italian civilisation is not just the fault of immigration. But illegal immigration has added to the existent chaos and to the aggravated population pressures. It is suffered passively with a mixture of incompetence and resignation.
The Sicilian author Lampedusa in his book “The Leopard” expounds this revealing political truth: “ We will make changes so that nothing will change.”
Is this the destiny of our democracies?
Some Italian political commentators have risked their reputation by affirming that Italy is governed by thieves, by self-important idiots, by wind-bags or by ineffectual turn-coats. It may be that most political power attracts the wrong sort of personality. The difference lies in an incurable, seemingly invisible sickness, afflicting Italian society. This sickness manifests in the impossibility of indicting and calling to account whoever is responsible for unlawfulness or foul play. An impenetrable smoke screen covers the truth and offers impunity. Whoever knows something, won’t divulge it, or the accused ping-pong the responsibility to each other. Nobody ever can know the truth. Omertà is an Italian word for the conspiracy of silence concerning crimes, usually practised by Mafia members.
And so it goes: thefts, abuses, embezzlement, fraud, negligence of duty, go unpunished and the malpractice lasts forever and ever.
The battle so far seems lost.
We can no longer preserve our neglected cultural heritage, and alas, our quickly fading natural beauty, which, who has grown in this much-loved country, should appreciate and defend. But the greed of the few is spoiling and transforming our age-old landscape. Who will inherit all this ?
This doesn't mean the same thing in France as it would in the US or Australia. France has no major dependency on the housing market. It is not an economy geared to growth in population and rapid turnover. Land speculation is severely taxed and so are inheritances outside direct family. In Paris there are unclaimed buildings because those who would inherit them do not want to pay accumulated taxes. This is a far better system than the one that the Anglophone countries share versions of.
Nonetheless, the news is that sales are down by 27.9% this year and that lots of new investors are unable to find renters. Prices are predicted to decline another 4% this year and then another 6% next year.
The first time there was a housing bubble in France was between about 1989 and 1999. Something like 12,000 realtors went out of business when it crashed.
Graph: "Index of price of dwelling in ratio to disposable Income, using 1965 francs."
Source: L'Observateur de l'Immobilier, No. 43, paris, 1999. The original data source is "Marché immobilier des notaires" (Notaries' property market) and INSEE Annuaire statistique de la France, ed. 2001
This graph was photocopied in black and white so the colour distinctions have disappeared. The top line, indicating higher prices, is always for Paris. The second line is for other French urban centres, and the lowest line, "Province" is for Other Areas, including non-urban.
The graph shows the ratio of disposable income to domestic property prices per square meter from 1979 to the year 2000. Affordability was highest in 1981. Between 1987 and 1996, however, France, mainly Paris, was affected by the same period of global property speculation that affected Australia.
In 2001 I wrote the following in Chapter 8 of my thesis (The Growth Lobby and its Absence) under the heading, "Dwelling Prices and Affordability in France":
"This was the first time France had undergone such a phenomenon [as a housing bubble]. In contrast to Australia, however, the prices returned to the level preceding the speculation bubble. We can observe here that dwelling prices in France, according to this measure of affordability, have risen and fallen quite steeply, but there appears to have been an overall stability, since 1965, when they stopped rising in real terms."
I am not surprised to see that, even though a second bubble followed quickly on the first, prices have come right down again.
Because professional property development speculators do not have much control over the French market, it is actually possible for ordinary citizens to simply hold off buying until prices fall. In contrast, in the US, Canada, Australia, England, where property moguls and their upstream and downstream dependents lobby successfully for high immigration, it doesn't matter if locals stop buying, because the governments will bring in more people. This is totally inimical for civil order and our governments should be covered in shame and thrown out for promoting this horror. Unfortunately, as we often mention on candobetter.org the media control information in the anglophone countries and they also control the global real-estate market to a large extent and they control perception of government and, I fear, government perception. So it is really hard for the public (a) to realise what is happening (b) to organise against it.
In France, although it is possible for foreigners to purchase property, they only obtain work permits if they are Europeans, except in very rare circumstances. So there is not much point in zillions of people jumping in planes and coming over to buy cheap houses and live in France. They would not survive.
Of EU countries, the United Kingdom has terribly costly housing and the English do tend to come and buy cheaper land and housing in France and other EU countries, driving the prices up there. So do some other countries with higher housing prices, such as the Dutch. However these migrants cannot have nearly the same impact as they have, for instance, in Australia. Foreign property buyers find that they also cannot leave their properties to anyone except their children unless they are prepared to be very heavily taxed, so spouses cannot gold-dig so successfully. And, after your first house, you have to wait years to purchase another if you want to avoid the speculative taxes.
On December 4, 2003, Australia’s population was estimated at 20 million and projected to reach about 30 million by 2050. Slightly less than 50 per cent of this growth rate resulted from net overseas immigration. By 5 November 2007, Australia’s population had ballooned by more than one twentieth of itself (or 5.66 per cent) to 21,131,216 and was projected to reach 34 million by 2050.#fn_i">[i] In fact, with that growth rate of 1.5 per cent per annum, it is on course to double within less than 50 years. Annual immigration has been responsible for more than half this growth, even though the birth-rate had increased in a context of misleading pronatalist propaganda.
Before British colonization in 1788 the peoples of Terra Australis managed to conserve an almost exclusively hunter-gatherer nomadic lifestyle. Art#fn_ii">[ii] but no written history, has been found, and reconstruction of their impact relies on anthropological, archeological and ecological studies. “Australia” was transplanted and adapted from a British society which was on the cusp of industrialisation. Pre 1788, Australia’s aboriginal population averaged continent-wide less than one person per 8.5 square kilometers – possibly as few as one person per 51 square kilometers.#fn_iii">[iii] Numerous clans inhabited the continent at different population densities, reflecting regional rainfall, soils and climate.#fn_iv">[iv] Also patterned by climate and soils, the fossil-fuel-era population distribution is similar, but much denser.
Early attempts to establish agriculture failed with some unintensive exceptions recently uncovered.#fn_v">[v] The British managed to gain an agricultural foothold using ‘white’ slaves in the form of convicts drawn mostly from the ragged army of their dispossessed. Their number was later supplemented by indentured labour, displaced aboriginals, and, until Federation, ‘black-birding’ – the practice of kidnapping Pacific Islanders and bringing them to work in Australia, principally for the Colonial Sugar Refinery Company. There is thus no history or tradition of an established pre-fossil fuel agricultural society. The gold-rushes of the 1850s attracted capital, finance and economic migrants, resulting in a rapidly morphing population and economy and formation of a working class. This class made a national wage-fixing pact with capital at Federation in 1904 and also obtained the agreement of CSR to outlaw black-birding #fn_vi">[vi] and the importation of other 'non-white' labour, widely perceived as synonymous with slaving.#fn_vii">[vii]
The economy intensified after World War II, but much land was cleared and divided up for development by land speculators from the time of the gold rushes of the mid 19th and early 20th century. When the gold ran out, there was a massive depression, which probably assisted the formation of the above industrial laws.
After WW2 business promoted a fear of population implosion among politicians and a policy for mass immigration came in. High immigration, combined with the unforeseen baby-boom that accompanied the petroleum era, made the newly privatized housing industry very powerful and consolidated an economic addiction to population growth. Although the ‘white-Australia’ policy was dismantled, wages and conditions legislation under the 1904 constitution protected workers and made it unprofitable to import labor simply to undercut wages. However, in 2006-7, the conservative government found a way around this - (Workchoices).#fn_viii">[viii] At the same time net immigration was encouraged to increase from an average of around 75-80,000 per annum to upwards of 160,000 per annum,#fn_ix">[ix] at the behest of the development, housing, mining and financial lobbies. All this took place in the context of a huge increase in mining and construction, including massive engineering projects in most states which have drawn angry but useless protests from Australians. These circumstances underpin Australia’s demographic and material overshoot.
The ideology of multiculturalism has been useful for suppressing protest against this massive population growth by tarring as 'racist' any protest against immigration for whatever reason. It is ironic that the White Australia policy, which was introduced to combat the kind of slavery which the USA was built on, has been replaced with a much nicer-sounding Multiculturalism, which allows the importation of low-wage labour and the flooding of the housing market to benefit speculators, in the context of rising land prices and rising homelessness.
#fn_ii" id="fn_ii">[ii] Much of which functioned as maps of areas of land with markers for water, game, people and landmarks.
#fn_iii" id="fn_iii">[iii] Total land stock is 770 million ha of 7,700,000 square km. Estimates of population range between 150,000 through 300,000 to 900,000.
#fn_iv" id="fn_iv">[iv] Joseph B. Birdsell, “Australia: Ecology, spacing mechanisms and adaptive behaviour in aboriginal land tenure”, in Ron Crocombe, (Ed.), Land Tenure in the Pacific, OUP/MUP 1971, pp.334-361
#fn_v" id="fn_v">[v] Jennifer Macey, “Vic bushfires uncover ancient Aboriginal stone houses”, The World Today, 3 Feb. 2006 12:45:00, www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2006/s1561665.htm
#fn_vi" id="fn_vi">[vi] “With Federation, the Commonwealth Parliament became dominated by spokesmen for ‘White Australia’. In October 1901 legislation was passed prohibiting the introduction of Pacific Islanders after 31 March 1904.”, McKillop, R.F., referring to Bolton, G.C., A Thousand miles away: A History of North Queensland to 1920, ANU Press, 1972, p. 239, in “Australia’s Sugar Industry” on the Light Railway Research Society of Australia site, www.lrrsa.org.au/LRR_SGRa.htm
#fn_vii" id="fn_vii">[vii] The Colonial Sugar Company aroused similar responses among indigenous Fijians who also objected to black-birding as well as to the importing of Indian indentured labour. “The Indian Connection”, Frontline, Volume 17 - Issue 12, June 10 - 23, 2000, www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1712/17120130.htm
#fn_ix" id="fn_ix">[ix] “Largest population increase ever: ABS,” Media Release, September 24, 2007, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Latestproducts/3101.0, “Net overseas migration contributed 54% (162,600 people) to this growth, which was more than the natural increase of 46% (138,100 people or 273,500 births minus 135,400 deaths).” This occurred with confusing changes to statistical methods plus new ease of transfer from temporary to permanent migrant (largely equivalent to European citizenship).
According to the Bayside Bulletin Newspaper (see below), the vote of two councillors who had formerly favoured approving the expansion of the existing Mount Cotton Quarry into a rainforest-destroying superquarry, may change in response to concerted community oppostion. Nevertheless it is still important that the pressure be maintained.
Protest outside Redland Shire Council chambers against plans to destroy Rainforest and Mount Cotton community with a giant quarry.
Where: Redland Shire Council Chambers, Bloomfield St., Cleveland
When: 9.00AM Wed 8 Aug 2007
Also please attend the protest on Sunday 12 August.
Thanks Professor Quiggin from supplying that quote#fn1">1 from our PM. It confirmed that renters do not count amongst John Howard's concerns and that is why they are forced to subsidise, with their taxes, the cost of private home ownership. This includes, amongst many other things, the first home owners' grant and rental assistance for welfare recipients. In both cases the money simply helps further fuel the housing hyper-inflation rather than help to make housing affordable.
I think this debate largely misses two other key factors which have been even more critical in forcing up the cost of housing in recent decades.
1. Much of the cost of housing is in fact the result of the privatisation of the housing market begun by Menzies.
The government-owned Housing Trust of South Australia never cost South Australian taxpayers a cent, yet for decades was able to provide affordable good quality housing to all sectors of South Australian society. Money that would have been unproductively invested in property speculation in the Eastern states was, instead, directed towards establishing viable manufacturing industries in South Australia.
2. That high housing costs are a consequence of high immigration
High immigration now at unofficial, but real and stratospheric href="http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/backscratching-at-a-national-level/2007/06/12/1181414298095.html">300,000 per annum deliberately brought about by the supposedly 'strong border control' Howard Government to suit the needs of property speculators, property developers and dependant industries. There is abundant evidence for this coming out of the mouths of the land speculators themselves. For example read www.realestate.com.au or read this from a 1973 submission by a property developer to the National Population Inquiry:
A large number of industries, including the building industry could not have developed to their present size without the immigration policy ... Population growth promotes expansion in building activity.
This is the mainstay of our economy, which as opposed to that of Japan, is substantially concentrate on national infrastructure rather than purely on export industries.
- cited in "The Growth Lobby and its Absence : The Relationship between the Property Development and Housing Industries and Immigration Policy in Australia and France" p114 of Sheila Newman's Master's thesis of 2002 downloadable from candobetter.org/sheila
As Queensland Deputy Premier Anna Bligh recently put it :
"The only way we could really (stop population growth) is to put a fence up at the (Queensland) border, or to cancel or freeze all new home building approvals," she said.
"That would have a very serious impact on the construction industry that a lot people rely on for jobs."
Remember, this is the 'left wing' female ex-student-activist Deputy Premier of the 'Smart' State speaking.
So we need to grow population in order to provide jobs for those already living here. And of course, tomorrow all of today's new arrivals will depend upon yet more new arrivals in order to create jobs for them. And the day after tomorrow all those newer arrivals will depend upon yet more new arrivals to create jobs for them, and so on until we are all only permitted to consume 5 litres of water a day each and are living stacked on on top of each other all the way up to the mesosphere in concrete boxes.
And, of course, as Professor Quiggin has pointed out, those who have invested in the hyper-inflated housing market expect the value of their investment to be at least maintained, if not increased. How else is this to be achieved without a constant flow of immigration?
How could anyone possibly question the economic capabilities of the various Governments which have brought about these circumstances?
I haven’t met anybody yet who’s stopped me in the street and shaken their fist and said: "Howard, I’m angry with you, my house has got more valuable."