Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Australia - where the rich get richer as wealth & income inequality grows (interactive mapping)


The Guardian, 12 October 2017

Australia is among countries with the highest growth in income inequality in the world over the past 30 years, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Vitor Gaspar, the IMF’s director of fiscal affairs, has told an audience at the launch of the IMF’s latest Fiscal Monitor that Australia’s income inequality growth has been similar to the US, South Africa, India, China, Spain and the UK since the 1980s.

Last month the treasurer, Scott Morrison, said that income inequality was not getting worse in Australia.

Morrison told the Business Council of Australia in late September that Treasury and the Reserve Bank had found, in specific analysis of current wage fundamentals, that Australian wages were growing slowly across most industries in the economy, and most regions of the country, so the slow growth was evenly shared.

However, he would not release the Treasury analysis.

Graph showing inequality by country by the IMF. Illustration: IMF

Gaspar said IMF staff had used the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s income distribution database, Eurostat, and the World Bank’s Povcalnet data, among other sources, to calculate that income inequality had increased in nearly half of the world’s countries in the past three decades, and Australia had experienced a “large increase” in that time.

“Most people around the world live in countries where inequality has increased,” he said.

The IMF’s latest Fiscal Monitor, released overnight, is dedicated to the global growth in income inequality. It warns that while some inequality is inevitable in a market-based economic system as a result of “differences in talent, effort, and luck”, excessive inequality could “erode social cohesion, lead to political polarisation, and ultimately lower economic growth”. 

It also warns that income inequality tends to be “highly correlated” with wealth inequality, inequality of opportunity, and gender inequality……

Earlier this year, the OECD economic survey of Australia in April found “inclusiveness has been eroded” in the past two decades.

“The Gini coefficient has been drifting up and households in upper-income brackets have benefited disproportionally from Australia’s long period of economic growth,” the report said.

“Real incomes for the top quintile of households grew by more than 40% between 2004 and 2014, while those for the lowest quintile only grew by about 25%.”

In July the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, when asked about his views on inequality at a charity lunch in Sydney, said it had grown “quite a lot” in the 1980s and 1990s and had risen “a little bit” recently, but it was important to make a distinction between income and wealth inequality.

“Wealth inequality has become more pronounced particularly in the last five or six years because there’s been big gains in asset prices,” Lowe said. “So the people who own assets, which are usually wealthy people, have seen their wealth go up.”

He said income inequality had increased slightly in recent years, but wealth inequality was more pronounced because of rising asset prices.

So how do individual regions across Australia fare?

The Guardian on 4 February 2016 published this Australia-wide interactive graphic:



Income Distribution in NSW Northern Rivers Region (based on Australian Taxation Office data for 2012-13)

Byron – top 10%  of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 38.5% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.544

Kyogle – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 33.9% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.554

Ballina – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 33.2% of income – Gini coefficient 0.495

Tweed – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 31.7% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.473

Clarence Valley – top 10%  of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 31.1% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.493

Lismore – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 29.7% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.459

Richmond Valley – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 28.1% of total income  – Gini coefficient 0.448

*  Some low income earners, eg. those receiving Government pensions/allowances or earning below the tax free threshold may not be present in the data, as they may not be required to lodge personal tax forms. [Australian Bureau of Statistics, Estimates of Personal Income for Small Areas, Total Income, 2012-13]

Australian Human Rights Commission does not support expansion of the Cashless Debit Card Trial


Excerpts from Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs Senate Inquiry into Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017:

Human rights concerns
As a form of income management, the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 raises a number of human rights concerns, specifically around the right to social security, the right to a private life and the right to equality and non-discrimination. [my yellow highlighting]
The Commission has previously reported its concerns about the cashless debit card (also known as the Healthy Welfare Card) in our submission to the Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015 and in the Social Justice and Native Title reports for 2015 and 2016. 2
The Commission has particularly been concerned about the effects of these income management measures in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, whom we have previously identified to be a group that are disproportionately impacted by such measures.3 As at September 2016, 75% of trial participants in Ceduna and 82% of trial participants in the East Kimberley were Indigenous.4
Whilst the Explanatory Memorandum acknowledges that trials of the cashless debit card are already underway in areas with high Indigenous populations, it proposes that future sites will give priority to locations with lower proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.5
The Commission remains concerned that the measures will continue to disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not just in the existing locations of the East Kimberley and Ceduna where Indigenous populations are high, but also in future locations.
This is the case because the measures proposed in the Bill target a section of the population who are receiving income support payments.
Hence, whilst the measures may not directly target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their practical effect will unduly impact upon them, as government pensions and allowances are a main source of income for approximately 46.9% of this group.6
There are therefore concerns about whether the measures are inconsistent with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) and guarantee Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples equality before the law.
The Commission considers that the measures are not proportionate to the benefits sought by the Bill because their purpose could be achieved through other, less restrictive means and emphasises what it considers to be the preferred features of a system of income management:
* an approach that enables participants to voluntarily opt-in, rather than an automatic quarantining model (which then relies upon individual applications for exemptions)
* an approach that utilises income management as a ‘last resort’, particularly for targeted risk areas such as child protection (that is supported by case management and support services), similar to the Family Responsibilities Commission model in Queensland
* measures that are applied for a defined period and in a manner proportionate to the context.7
The Commission does not accept the arguments in the Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights that the measures justifiably limit the right to social security, privacy and non-discrimination and equality in pursuit of the objectives of Part 3D of the Act.8
As non-voluntary measures, they are applied to all income support recipients of working age in the trial areas,9 including those who do not have any issues with drugs, alcohol or gambling.
For the reasons outlined above and in the Commission’s previous submissions, the Commission does not agree with the assessment that the Bill or existing cashless debit card measures are compatible with human rights standards.10……
It is difficult to attribute the reported positive effects to the current trials as distinct from other factors such as increased support services, and other policy interventions.15 This is further exacerbated by the self-reporting nature of the report’s findings, which the evaluation itself states should be interpreted with caution and are subject to desirability bias.16
However, it is important to consider that where people have experienced modest benefits as a result of income management, when compared to its stated objectives,17 that these need to be weighed against its significant drawbacks.
The Commission does not accept that it is appropriate to extend these measures to additional sites in order to “build on these positive findings, and offer an opportunity to continue to test the card’s effectiveness in different settings and on a larger scale”.18 There is limited evidence to demonstrate that previous income management efforts have been effective and this is confirmed by the findings from the Orima report.
The Commission is therefore of the view that these measures unjustifiably impinge on the rights of trial participants, for little substantive benefit…..
Conclusion
Human rights protections are inadequately addressed in the Bill, the Explanatory Memorandum and in the Statement of Compatibility. The Commission is particularly concerned about the non-voluntary nature of the measures, and the disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and those income support recipients who do not have drug, alcohol or gambling concerns.  [my yellow highlighting]
The Commission is of the view that income management measures which are imposed and not community-driven lack efficacy.
The Commission is of the view that less intrusive measures aimed at changing behaviour rather than limiting access to and use of income will be more effective. It is for this reason that the Commission welcomes the investment of support services into these communities, but hopes that the appropriateness and level of engagement with such services improves.19
In light of these views, the Commission does not support the expansion of these measures as outlined in the Bill.
_______________________________________________________________________
2 Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015, 6 October 2015, At http://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=14a9925c-245c-4a2e-9bfa-eeb6c843e505&subId=403485; Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2016, 88-97, At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/AHRC_SJNTR_2016.pdf; Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2015, 55-58, At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/SJRNTR2015.pdf.
3 Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015, 6 October 2015, 5.
4 Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2016, 91-92. See also Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’ (Department of Social Services, 2017), 38, showing similar proportions as at June 2017.
5 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 4, 7. 
7 Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission No 76 to Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of Racial Discrimination Act Bill 2009 and other Bills (10 February 2010), 26.
8 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 7-8.
9 Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’, (Department of Social Services, 2017) 3.
10 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 8. 
16 Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’, (Department of Social Services, 2017) 118.
17 Department of Social Services, Guide to Social Security Law [11.1.1.30] http://guides.dss.gov.au/guide-social-security-law/11/1/1/30
18 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 3.
19 According to the Orima report, only 19% of those surveyed indicated that they used the drug and alcohol support services provided. Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’, (Department of Social Services, 2017) 8. 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Question Time in the Australian House of Representatives reveals the arbitrary nature and downright absurdity of the National Broadband Network rollout


In Australia where the dead have better Internet access than the living……

Hansard, 16 October 2017:

Ms McBRIDE (Dobell) (14:53): My question is to the Prime Minister. We are now in the fifth year of this Prime Minister's mismanagement of the NBN. Is the Prime Minister aware that students at the Central Coast Rudolf Steiner School in Fountaindale can't connect to the NBN, even though Fountaindale has supposedly had the NBN since September last year? What sort of incompetence means that the cemetery behind the school has an NBN connection but the school doesn't? [my yellow highlighting]

Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth—Prime Minister) (14:54): I thank the honourable member for her question. I'm certainly happy, if she's able to raise the specific customer's details with me, to make sure it goes to the minister and to NBN Co. What I can say, if honourable members care to pay attention to the NBN's weekly rollout report, which I do—an example of transparency on the part of my government which had no counterpart under the Labor Party, I might say—is that every week the numbers go up, and there are currently over six million premises that are able to connect, and just under three million have services that are connected. So the rollout is going at great pace, and I'm sure the matter that the honourable member has raised will be able to be dealt with.

This is how Nationals MP for Dawson is using your tax dollars


Almost every person is Australia pays some form of taxation, even if payment is confined to the Goods & Services Tax (GST).

These taxes can result in a little or a lot of dollars ending up in government coffers rather than finding a home in the household kitty .

So I’m sure readers in the Northern Rivers region where household incomes are on the lower end of the national scale will be really impressed with the fact that yet another Turnbull Government MP is spending taxpayer dollars on publicly attacking the Australian Broadcasting Commission – this time in defence of a foreign multinational of dubious repute.

I give you George Robert Christensen, former local government councillor, former journalist/newspaper editor and current Chair of the Joint Committee On Publications…….


5 OCTOBER 2017: I am publishing (in North Queensland newspapers) an open letter to the Head of Current Affairs at the ABC. Monday’s attack on jobs with a program called “Digging into Adani” demonstrated beyond doubt the national broadcaster is overly influenced by the extreme green movement. On behalf of North Queensland families desperate for jobs, I have demanded the ABC provide balance with another story focusing on the Townsville, Bowen and Mackay communities relying on the Carmichael Coal Project going ahead.

The program avoided facts, preferring the green movement’s stock-in-trade: allegations, accusations, and unsubstantiated claims. But no matter how many activists the ABC turns to for comment, repeating the same misinformation does not turn it into fact.

Monday’s episode relied almost exclusively on commentary from other journalists and green activists, including the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, which is funded by big (green left) money from the United States, including the Rockefellers. Their stated mission is “to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy and to reduce dependence on coal and other non-renewable energy resources”.

Even lightly scratching the surface of the experts and organisations reveals strong links with the green movement and funding from other activist organisations such as Greenpeace. The lack of credible sources and repetition of the same old allegations, many of which are demonstrably false, indicate a disregard for objectivity. Monday’s episode contained nothing new of any substance, just a continuation of the ABC’s sustained attack on Adani, whose Carmichael Coal Project, when complete, will represent only 17 per cent of Queensland’s coal production.

By allowing itself to become a mouthpiece for green extremists, the ABC has distanced itself from the regional audience, who fund the broadcaster with their taxes. Regional-based journalists continue to engage with their local community but they are increasingly at odds with the Sydney-centric national programs.  The national broadcaster still has an important role to play in regional and remote areas where options are limited. However, the Four Corners story is a clear example of capital city media elites talking amongst themselves and demonstrating a disdain for anyone outside their circle.

High Court of Australia sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns ends federal parliamentarians eligibility to stand hearings and considers its judgment


“The Court reserves its decisions in these matters. It is hardly necessary to say that the Court is aware of the need to give its answers to these references with or without reasons as soon as possible. As counsel and instructing solicitors would appreciate, it is not always possible for the Court to do so immediately. No doubt, they will explain this to their clients.”  [Chief Justice of Australia Susan Mary Kiefel AC, 12 October 2017]

On 10-12 October 2017 the full High Court of Australia sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns heard arguments as to why five members and two former members of the Parliament of Australia should or shouldn’t be found to have been ineligible to stand for election prior to the 2016 general election and sit as an elected members thereafter.

While the country waits on the resolution of this matter, here are links to relevant documents and transcripts.

High Court of Australia Justices

KIEFEL CJ
BELL J
GAGELER J
KEANE J
NETTLE J
GORDON J
EDELMAN
J

Notices

High Court of Australia Transcripts






Self-styled “bounty hunter” issues penalty writs


David Barrow at http://andrewboltparty.com:

On 27 September 2017, I sued 6 current and former Senators and Mr Barnaby Joyce MP under the Common Informers (Parliamentary Disqualifications) Act 1975 (Cth).

This provides a bounty for citizens ‘hunting down’ any Parliamentarian who has sat when disqualified.

$200 is paid for proving the Parliamentarian is caught out during the 12 months before being served with a lawsuit; and $200 is paid for every subsequent day on which he or she sat.

Any penalties I receive and personal tax benefit, I will donate to the The Fred Hollows Foundation…..

Monday, 16 October 2017

Destroy the Joint turned 5 this month

Update on the proposed 140 lot community title residential subdivision in Hickey Street, Iluka, NSW


Hickey Street and environs in Iluka at the mouth of the Clarence River

The proposed 140 lot community title residential subdivision in Hickey Street, Iluka, NSW was declared a controlled action on 6 October 2017 and, as such, requires assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and ministerial approval before it can proceed.

According to Australian Government Dept. of  Environment and Energy the relevant controlling provisions are:

World Heritage properties (sections 12 & 15A)
National Heritage places (sections 15B & 15C)
Listed threatened species and communities (sections 18 & 18A)

There are five levels of controlled action assessment provided under the Act and the development proposal assessment for this subdivision will be by preliminary documentation, due to it being considered a proposal where the impacts are localised, easily predicted or where the impacts have already been adequately assessed under other legislation.

It is the responsibility of the development applicant, Stevens Holdings Pty Limited, to prepare documentation to support the assessment process.

Preliminary documentation assessment is one of the four levels requiring a public comment phase as part of the process. The availability of assessment documentation for public comment will be advertised in the relevant press and on the Department's website.