Monday, 21 January 2019

Australian Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety now underway


Commencing in 2016-17 when Australian Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison was then just the Federal Treasurer he cut $472.4 million from Aged Care funding over four years, then followed that up with a $1.2 billion cut over the same time span.

When deteriorating conditions in nursing homes around the country began to be reported in the media and the Oakden scandal came to light in 2017, concerned citizens began to call for a royal commission.

The Liberal Minister for Aged Care and Liberal MP for Hasluck Ken Wyatt was of the opinion that such an inquiry would be “a waste of time and money”.

Once Scott Morrison realised that ABC Four Corners was about to air an exposé on aged care provision he quickly changed his mind and announced the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety on 16 September 2018.


The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was established on 8 October 2018 by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd).

The Honourable Richard Tracey AM RFD QC and Ms Lynelle Briggs AO have been appointed as Royal Commissioners…

The Commissioners are required to provide an interim report by 31 October 2019, and a final report by 30 April 2020…
The Commissioners were appointed to be a Commission of inquiry, and required and authorised to inquire into the following matters:
a.    the quality of aged care services provided to Australians, the extent to which those services meet the needs of the people accessing them, the extent of substandard care being provided, including mistreatment and all forms of abuse, the causes of any systemic failures, and any actions that should be taken in response;
b.    how best to deliver aged care services to:
                i.        people with disabilities residing in aged care facilities, including younger people; and
               ii.        the increasing number of Australians living with dementia, having regard to the importance of dementia care for the future of aged care services;
c.    the future challenges and opportunities for delivering accessible, affordable and high quality aged care services in Australia, including:
                i.        in the context of changing demographics and preferences, in particular people's desire to remain living at home as they age; and
               ii.        in remote, rural and regional Australia;
d.    what the Australian Government, aged care industry, Australian families and the wider community can do to strengthen the system of aged care services to ensure that the services provided are of high quality and safe;
e.    how to ensure that aged care services are person‑centred, including through allowing people to exercise greater choice, control and independence in relation to their care, and improving engagement with families and carers on care‑related matters;
f.     how best to deliver aged care services in a sustainable way, including through innovative models of care, increased use of technology, and investment in the aged care workforce and capital infrastructure;
g.    any matter reasonably incidental to a matter referred to in paragraphs (a) to (f) or that [the Commissioners] believe is reasonably relevant to the inquiry.

A preliminary hearing was held in Adelaide on 18 January 2019.

At this hearing the Commissioner Tracy stated in part:

The terms direct our attention to the interface between health, aged care and disability services in urban, regional and rural areas. These issues necessarily arise because of Australia’s changing demography. We are also required to look at young people with disabilities residing in aged care facilities and do our best to deliver aged care services to the increasing number of Australians living with dementia. Part of our task is to examine substandard care and the causes of any systemic failures that have, in the past, affected the quality or safety of aged care services. We will consider any actions which should be taken in response to such shortcomings in order to avoid any repetition. This will necessarily involve us in looking at past 25 events. There have been a number of inquiries which have considered matters that, in certain respects, fall within our terms of reference. We are not required by the Letters Patent to inquire into matters which we are satisfied that have been, is being or will be 30 sufficiently and appropriately dealt with by another inquiry or investigation or a criminal or civil proceeding. As a general rule, we do not intend to re-examine matters which have been specifically examined in previous inquiries. We do, however, expect to examine the changes and developments which have followed previous inquiries, as well as the extent to which there has been implementation of recommendations from those inquiries. Where we have different views, they will be made known.

According to ABC News on 18 January 2018: Out of almost 2,000 Australian aged care providers invited to shed light on the sector ahead of the royal commission, only 83 have been forthcoming with information, the Adelaide inquiry was told.

The Guardian on 18 January reported: Counsel assisting Peter Gray said the commission had received more than 300 public submissions since Christmas Eve and 81% concerned provision of care in residential facilities, with staff ratios and substandard care the most common themes. The federal health department has also passed on 5,000 submissions it received before the commission’s terms of reference were set.

Interested members of the public can still make submissions as the Royal 
Commission will continue to accept submissions until at least the end of June 2019.

Details on how to make a submission can be found here.

USA 2019: crazy continues to be order of the day (Part Three)


A look at the US politician so many Australian Liberal and Nationals MPs and senators admire and seek to emulate....


Daily Kos, 12 January 2019:

Most of Donald Trump's $35 million in real estate deals in 2018 came with a huge political footnote attached to them. A Forbes analysis found the largest deal, yielding $20 million to Trump, came from the sale of a $900 million federally subsidized housing complex in Brooklyn in which the Trump Organization had a 4 percent stake. 

The Department of Housing & Urban Development had to approve the sale. In other words, the Trump Organization, which is still owned by Trump, needed permission from HUD, which reports to Trump as pr*sident, to turn a profit through a Brooklyn real estate deal. And guess what: HUD greenlit the deal.

Trump also took in another $5.5 million from 36 units sold in a 64-story Las Vegas tower. The catch? About a third of those units were bought by buyers hiding behind limited liability companies so they wouldn't have to disclose their identities. In 2017, USA Today reported that during the two years before Trump became the GOP nominee, only 4 percent of Trump’s building units were acquired by LLCs. So now that Trump's pr*sident, anonymous people are lining his pockets with real estate purchases cloaked through LLCs.

Remember when Trump made a big show of stacking up all the paperwork he was signing in order to supposedly clear up his conflicts of interest and forfeit management of his businesses? Yeah, he's still getting that money.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

South Australian Liberal Government attempting to erase state Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling Basin from memory




However this Royal Commission did not convene until after the March 2018 South Australian general election at which time a Liberal Government was in power.

This same Liberal Government headed by SA Premier and Liberal MP for Dunstan Steven Marshall is now trying to come to the aid of the beleaguered Berejiklian and Morrison governments (facing their own elections in March and May 2019) by attempting to make Royal Commission correspondence, hearing transcripts and final report fade from view as soon as possible.

This move is not going down well with the Royal Commission.......

Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission Report update

18 January 2019

The Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission report is being finalised to deliver to the South Australian Governor by 1 February, 2019.

There has been an exchange between the Commissioner, Bret Walker SC, and the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) in relation to the public release of the report.

The AGD indicated on 17 January 2019 that the Commissioner’s report will be made available on the website for the Department for Environment and Water. The Commission has also been advised that the Commission’s website (containing transcripts of hearings, Commission exhibits, and other documents) will remain “live” until 30 March 2019, following which an archived copy of the website will be held by the National Library.

By way of response dated 18 January 2019, the Commissioner:

ADVISED that the report should be released immediately after delivery to the Governor as the “public interest demands it”;

CALLED for the Commission’s website to remain available to the public for a year after release of the report to provide key background information and permit full understanding of the Commission’s report, and

ADVISED he would be willing to accept a limited extension of time for the Commission to consider and report on the recent issues concerning fish kills in the Lower Darling River.

The Commissioner said that “the public expenditure on the Basin Plan (and this Commission) is such that the only legitimate expectation is that my findings, conclusions, recommendations and the reasons for them should all be available to be read, considered and criticised, once I have delivered the report ... The national implications of the report’s subject matter are also a reason for the report to be made available for consideration and criticism without delay”.

The relevant correspondence is attached.

Level 9 East, 50 Grenfell Street, Adelaide SA 5000
For more information please contact:
GPO Box 1445, Adelaide SA 5001
Catherine Hockley Email: mdbroyalcommission@mdbrc.sa.gov.au
Media/Communications Adviser Telephone: 8207 1483
Email: Catherine.hockley@mdbrc.sa.gov.au Toll free: (from landlines) 1800 842 817

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

See the correspondence here
South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman has responded to the Commissioner's letter. See the correspondence here

Australian Federal Election Campaign 2018-2019: the lying continues......



Trump acolyte Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised a presidential-style election campaign and he is delivering .

Like US President Donald Trump, Morrison is lying shamelessly……..

The Guardian, 14 January 2019:

Scott Morrison has elevated an obscure bill to ban cosmetic testing on animals to one of the top two legislative priorities for the Coalition in 2019, according to his office.

Speaking to ABC News Breakfast on Monday, the prime minister cited “environmental legislation … [that] is important for native species” as among the government’s priorities for the new year, second only to national security.

There is no major environmental legislation before parliament and the prime minister’s office was unable to immediately identify what he was referring to.

Morrison’s comments also caught conservation groups offguard.

Five hours later, a spokesman for Morrison told Guardian Australia the prime minister was “referring to the agricultural and veterinary chemicals legislation amendment”.

The bill – introduced by the agriculture minister, David Littleproud, in October – makes minor changes to the regulatory scheme for agricultural and veterinary chemicals to provide simpler processes for chemicals of low concern.

The federal policy director of the Wilderness Society, Tim Beshara, told Guardian Australia the bill had “stuff-all to do with native species”, a sentiment echoed bythe Australian Conservation Foundation nature campaigner, Jess Abrahams.

An hour after this story was published, the prime minister’s office clarified the first statement was in error and claimed Morrison had in fact been referring to the Industrial Chemicals Bill 2017.

That bill establishes a new regulatory scheme including banning animal testing for new chemical ingredients of cosmetics from 1 July 2018. It passed the lower house and was introduced to the Senate in October 2017 but appears not to have been debated since then.

Abrahams said: “As far as we are aware, the main government policy relating to native species is the plan for a one-stop shop for environmental approvals, which would have the effect of weakening environmental protection.”

“The government also has a targeted review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act for farmers, which could also weaken protection of the environment.”......

In September a Senate inquiry investigating fauna extinctions heard that a large proportion of staff working in threatened species management rated the government’s performance as “poor or very poor”.

The union representing staff said 91.3% of those who responded to a survey said the government was doing poorly or very poorly in fulfilling domestic and international obligations to conserve threatened fauna and 87% believed the adequacy of Australia’s national environment laws – the EPBC act – was poor or very poor.

Beshara accused the government of failing its statutory responsibility to fund and implement endangered species recovery plans. He called on the government to put “some serious funding towards saving some endangered critters and plants”.

“I am more than happy to brief the prime minister on what the government needs to do for native species if he would like.

“He might be surprised to know that the Darling River crisis is only one of many ecological crises happening in Australia right now on his watch. It’s a real mess out there.”

Friday, 18 January 2019

State of Play: Australian Water Wars in 2019


Time lapse images of part of the Lake Menindee system in the Murray Darling Basin drying up through mismanagement, 2016 to 2018.

It won't be long before multiple talking heads from the Liberal and National parties will be penning opinion pieces in national newspapers and popping up as guests on radio or television accusing those who are acutely concerned, about water sustainability and the plight of the Murray-Darling Basin, of bashing the poor hardworking farmer and telling us that all irrigators are ethical individuals who are only trying to feed the nation.

Now that may be true of some, it probably isn't true of many and it is definitely not true of all irrigators.

The amount of water being taken from Murray-Darling Basin rivers is eye watering.

According to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA); Irrigated agriculture in the Basin consumes about 60% of Australia’s available water.1

Again according to the MDBA, by 2017-18 this 60% was being harvested by only 9,200 irrigated agricultural businesses

In 2017 the National Water Account stated that total surface water and groundwater entitlements in the Basin equalled 19,374 gigalitres.

The whole Murray-Darling Basin receives just 6.1 per cent of Australia’s distribution of water run-off and the MDBA admits that approximately 42% of this surface water run-off is diverted from Basin river systems primarily by irrigators.

Professor Sheldon of the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University states that more than 50% of average water inflows into the Murray and Darling rivers are extracted for irrigation.

Overall, the Murray-Darling Basin contains 77,000 km of rivers, with flows said to total some 35,000 gigalitres on average.2  A figure which now appears unreliable. 

At the beginning of the 2017–18 water year, the total volume of held water for the environment was nominally about 2,871 gigalitres (in long-term available water terms).3

Science has been telling the Federal Government and the governments of Qld, NSW, Vic and SA that Murray-Darling Basin rivers cannot sustain the rates of water extraction they have been experiencing since the second half of last century and more water needs to be returned to the rivers as environmental flows.

Government does not appear to be listening. Probably because implementing an effective response to years of mismanagement of Basin water resources would mean reducing the over allocation of water rights by commencing a policy of permanently buying back at least 7,000 gigalitres of water entitlements from irrigators and reducing the annual amount of water their remaining water entitlements represent.

Here are just three examples of excessive water consumption in the face of declining national water security.

WEBSTER

Webster Ltd (WBA): “Webster owns a diverse portfolio of over 200,000 megalitres of water entitlements, stretching from southern Queensland, through New South Wales to northern Victoria and Tasmania. It’s also fundamental to our strategy of streaming water to areas where we can generate greatest return for each megalitre of water applied…..  we are able to extract further value by exploiting opportunities in water markets. A significant component of this entitlement holding resulted from the acquisition of Kooba along the Murrumbidgee and the subsequent acquisitions of Tandou and Bengerang with significant water entitlements in the Murray Darling Basin. Our portfolio is a complementary mix of high and general security water with supplementary and groundwater entitlements. This scale, diversity and surety of our water holdings underpins our competitive advantage…”

Webster states that its primary crop focus is on cotton, using technology and expertise to maximise yield and water efficiency, with capability to produce over 200,000 bales of cotton annually”.

Chris Corrigan is the Chairman Webster Ltd and Joseph Corrigan is the Alternate for Chris Corrigan.

Corrigan (formerly Managing Director of Patricks Corporation Ltd who colluded with the Howard Government's attempt to break a union) became chairman of the ASX listed agribusiness in March 2016, soon after it had completed a major takeover. In that play, Webster bought land and water company Tandou, assembling the nation’s top private water rights portfolio, according to Irrigation Australia.

Webster Ltd landholdings include 40,000 irrigable hectares as well as extensive grazing farmland. 

Webster holds its most of its water rights in perpetuity. As at 30 September 2018 the company listed the value of its water rights as $161.9 million.

In 2017 the company sold the water rights at its Tandou property to the Turnbull Government for $78 million which was reportedly almost twice the recommended value of the water.

Current WBA share price is in the vicinity of $1.565. In 2018 the company listed its assets value as $760.44 million. Combined salary & fees received by Webster directors exceeded $1.49 million in that year.

Its substantial shareholders in 2017-2018 were: AFF Properties No 1 Pty Ltd ATF The AFF Operations Trust (14.41%), Verolot Limited (8.92%), Mr Peter Robin Joy (8.43%), Belfort Investment Advisors Limited (5.89%) and Mr Bevan David Cushing as trustee of the KD Cushing Family Trust (5.60%).

CUBBIE

Cubbie Station is an aggregate of three properties owned by CS Agriculture Pty Ltd, which in turn is 20% owned by RF CSAG & 80% Chinese-owned through Shandong Ruyi Technology Group Co.5

Cubbie Station is 93,000 ha in size and sources its water from the from the Condamine and Balonne river systems in the upper reaches of the Murray-Darling Basin. 

Cubbie has annual water entitlements of 460,000 megalitres. In addition it holds back in off-river storage up to 45,000 megalitres of surface water from the flood plain

Its water storage area covers 12,000ha configured in a cell arrangements with an estimated capacity of 540,000 megalitres. It is reportedly the largest irrigation property in the Southern Hemisphere.

The company’s water storage dams are said to stretch for more than 28 kilometres along the Culgoa River.

Cubbie's principal crop appears to be cotton.6

In 2017 the Australian Taxation Office listed the company’s total annual income as $161,911,344.

The value of the Cubbie Station aggregate is est. $350 million.

NORMAN FARMING

Norman Farming Trust trading as Norman Farming has a combined land area of over 18,000 ha across two properties in the Macintyre River delta of the Border Rivers region.

The company has an entitlement of 76,000 megalitres of annual water diversion capable of being pumped at 7,000 megalitres take-per-day, with the potential for 500 megalitres per day of additional water harvesting from rainfall/runoff without an annual limit. An est.1,218ha are used for water storage.

Norman Farming's principal crop is cotton.

Estimated value of the company is $100 million. 

The owner is currently charged with defrauding the Australian Government of $20 million in Murray-Darling Basin water funding.

Webster, Cubbie and Norman Farming between them have annual water entitlements which exceed the volume of water in Sydney Harbour.

Footnotes

1. MDBA, Water markets and trade:
Water in the Murray–Darling Basin can be bought and sold, either permanently or temporarily.
This water is traded on markets – within catchments, between catchments (where possible) or along river systems. This form of trading allows water users to buy and sell water in response to their individual needs. Water trading has become a vital business tool for many irrigators.
The majority of water traded in the Murray–Darling Basin is surface water, however some groundwater also changes hands.
Irrigated agriculture in the Basin consumes about 60% of Australia’s available water….
There are more than 150 classes of water entitlement in the Basin….
Water trading in the Basin is worth about $2 billion annually.
The New South Wales, Queensland, South Australian and Victorian governments are primarily responsible for managing water markets, and each state has its own process and rules for allocating water.
Irrigation infrastructure operators create and maintain trading rules within their networks.
In November 2018 in the NSW section of the Murray-Darling Basin est. 2,988 megalitres of water was transferred between trading parties.

2. For comparison Sydney Harbour is estimated to hold 500 gigalitres.1 giglitre of water equals 1,000 megalitre. 


3. Water theft appears to be an ongoing issue. In 2018 one NSW irrigator pleading guilty to the theft potentially involving billions of litres at a Mungindi property near the NSW-Queensland border, while another at Brewarrina has been charged with taking water when the flow conditions did not permit it, and breaching licence and approval conditions.


4. Initially a scientific assessment by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority identified that 6,000-7,000 GL per year would be required to return the environmental assets of the Murray-Darling Basin to sustainable ecological health. This was reduced by almost half to 3,000-4,000 GL per year in the Basin Guide. Eventually, the Australian Government considered 2,800 GL, even lower than the minimum proposed, was a reasonable target. This was further reduced to 2,750 GL before the Queensland Government agreed to sign up to the Basin Plan, a reduction from the Northern Basin. Reduction of the target by another 70 GL represents a further significant reduction in environmental flows which will exacerbate environmental decline. [Professor Richard Kingsford, Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW, submission]

In 2018, the Turnbull government won support from Labor to amend the amount of environmental water allocated to the system, while the Greens and some senators were opposed. The amendments cut 605 billion litres a year that were allocated from the southern basin's environmental water flows, and 70 billion litres a year from the northern basin's flows. [ABC News, 17 January 2019]

5. The volume of water entitlements owned by businesses with some level of foreign ownership was 1.9 million megalitres at 30 June 2016 or 12.5% of the total volume of water entitlements for agricultural purposes in Australia. Of the water entitlements with some level of foreign ownership, the majority (1.6 million megalitres or 83%) was held by businesses that were more than 50% foreign owned. [Australian Bureau of Statistics, 7127.0 - Agricultural Land and Water Ownership, 2015-16] 
In 2016 in New South Wales in 847,250 megalitres of water entitlements were 100% foreign owned and in Queensland 744,957 megalitres were totally foreign owned.

6. According to the Dept of Agriculture and Water Resources ABARES, the Murray–Darling Basin accounts for around 91 per cent of Australia’s total cotton farms and cotton area. It is estimated that the total area in the Basin under cotton production is 490,000 hectares.If all of this land was planted for cotton in a given year then it is likely that the crops would require somewhere between 2.19 million to 3.82 million megalitres of water.