Showing posts with label government policy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label government policy. Show all posts

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Did Morrison & Co send your chance of getting a decent pay rise up in smoke?

“Brace yourselves Australia — everyday things are about to cost more, and your chance of a pay rise has gone up in smoke[News Corp Journalist David Ross writing in news,com,au, 8 March 2019]

Well it had to happen. After five and a half years of an Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Coalition Government the nation has reached what is known as a per capita recession.

This hasn’t occurred since the Howard Government’s last full year in power.

Almost sixty per cent of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product comes from consumer spending and five and a half years of deliberate wage suppression by both the federal government and the business sector means the majority of consumers have little to spend.

The economy has been markedly slowing under Scott Morrison’s economic policies, first as federal treasurer then as prime minister.

Annual growth has now fallen to just 2.3 per cent according to the Reserve Bank.

This slowing has a cascade effect.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Twenty-eight climate scientists, academics & former heads of energy companies tell the world that Morrison and Co are lying to the Australian people

Proud to be a signatory to this statement from @climatecouncil. Between us, we have devoted 600 years to this issue. Last week's announcements are not enough to get us to meet our lousy Paris Target. That target, by the way, isn't even nearly enough to ensure a safe climate.”  [Tim Baxter, Twitter, 4 March 2019]

Climate Council, 4 March 2019:

Dozens of the country’s leading climate and energy experts – including climate scientists, academics and former heads of energy companies – have signed a joint statement stressing that without further action Australia will not meet its 2030 pollution reduction target.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

What one woman from Australia intends to tell the United Nations about the Morrison Government's war on low income women with young children

“We know that poverty is unpleasant; in fact, since it is so remote, we rather enjoy harrowing ourselves with the thought of its unpleasantness, but don't expect us to do anything about it. We are sorry for you lower classes, just as we are sorry for a cat with the mange, but we will fight like devils against any improvement of your condition. We feel that you are much safer as you are. [George Orwell, 1933, “Down and Out inParis and London”]

If ever Australia’s captains of industry and, those elected members of the two conservative political parties they support. ever knew a period of poverty it is now so long ago that an abundance of personal income has driven all thought of it from their memories.

Thus it takes a lone woman to bring to the notice of the United Nations some of the economic and human rights injustices perpetrated by Prime Minister Scott Morrison & Co on single mothers with young children. 

Imagine having to get someone else to provide proof you aren’t shagging anyone on a regular basis and that even if you are, you aren't getting financial support. Your own word isn't good enough any more.

That’s what happens to single mothers in Australia if they want to be eligible for welfare.

There’s a lot that goes wrong for single mums in Australia. They already have difficult lives, managing kids, jobs and life on their own. And on top of all that, there are a whole range of compliance tasks in order to get benefits, from signing endless forms to applying for a ridiculous number of jobs, a huge task all on its own.

It's a miserable life for a single mother on welfare in Australia, so hard that one woman, Juanita McLaren, has decided to take her complaint all the way to the United Nations. She says the way Australia treats single mums breaches human rights and now, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, will be hearing from her directly at a UN Women’s conference in New York next week.

In fact, he will be presenting by her side. Huge honour and some of us might have put that on our credit cards. She had to crowdfund to get there.

McLaren, who has also had to get proof she’s not in a financially-bound relationship in order to be eligible for Newstart, worked full-time when her kids were little. Then her husband, who was the primary carer, left the family and now lives overseas.

“I just hit a wall and headed into casual work because there was always something happening with the kids.”

She had to ditch her part-time studies because she couldn’t manage financially on Newstart even though her studies were a pathway to getting better work.

Benefits were erratic and in one case, took eight weeks to arrive – finally some money arrived on Christmas Eve. She entered the wrong year on a form (who else has mixed up their birth year with the current year?) and was told it couldn’t be corrected over the phone.

It was all the little things on top of the poverty that motivated her to make a complaint.

In some respects, McLaren is fortunate. She’s had steady part-time work for a couple of years now, which is slightly seasonal. She remains registered for Newstart because of the off-season.

But it’s the constant battle with Centrelink, with managing her family and money, with being forced to apply for hopeless work she doesn’t want, that forced McLaren to turn to the UN. So far, it’s the Australian government and the UN in a deadlock about what’s harmful to single mothers.

For years now, Terese Edwards, the CEO of the National Council for Single Mothers, has campaigned for better financial support for her members. Edwards helped McLaren write her complaint, which was the first individual complaint using the optional protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; and will be at her side when she speaks at the conference…..

Cassandra Goldie, the CEO of the Australian Council of Social Services, says single mothers are easy to target and easy to vilify.

She says it’s not just impoverishment that has been relentless, it is the way in which both autonomy and agency have been removed from single mothers in direct contrast to what’s happening in the aged care sector. And she’s not just talking about the ridiculous requirement to get someone else to guarantee your relationship status.

Here’s some shocking news: One in three sole parents and their children are living in poverty according to the latest ACOSS-UNSW Poverty report. In just two years, the rate of poverty amongst unemployed single parents rose from 35 per cent to 59 per cent.

Hopefully, the United Nations will also examine the Morrison Coalition Government's punitive ParentsNext policy.

Canberra Times, 3 March 2019:

“I don’t know how you do it!” we say to them, and in the next breath: “Here, let me make it harder for you.”

This attitude is stitched into the heart of a welfare program called ParentsNext, which can require some single parents on the parenting payment to report to the state that they have taken their children to improving activities, such as swimming lessons or story time at the local library.

If they don’t comply, they can have their payments cut off, often with no notice, and no clear line of appeal. The arbiter of complaints is also the provider, the company privately contracted by the government to administer the program.

Some mothers have reported being asked to provide photographs as proof they have attended the child-focused activities. Others report the provider phoning the library, or the local pool, to verify their attendance.

Librarians as monitors, swimming instructors as social police: it’s a level of surveillance and control that would make Orwell twitch.

The program has faced a barrage of criticism from welfare groups, and was the subject of a Senate inquiry last week.

Peter Davidson, senior adviser to the Australian Council of Social Service, says the program was previously "less heavy handed”.

I spoke to one single mother-of-three this week, 32-year-old Sarah, who had a positive experience of the program in its previous incarnation. She had a good case worker who helped her into a small business course, assisting her to set up her own florist’s business. Now she is earning some income and intends to get off the parenting payment as soon as possible.

But in July 2018, the Coalition government (then led by Malcolm Turnbull) extended the program from a smaller pilot to about 70,000 single parents, 95 per cent of them women. In its expanded form, the “targeted compliance framework”, which applies to other payments such as Newstart, was imposed on ParentsNext. It is language that would make Orwell’s fingers itch.

Davidson says about a fifth of single parents on the program have had their payments suspended.

Parents are put on participation plans, ranging from vocational training to taking their children to a playgroup or "story time". This muddies the waters between the practical objective of helping women back into work after the child-rearing and the insidious policing of their parenting.

The result is bureaucrats invigilating parents from a moral, child-welfare stance, making payments dependent on proof that parenting is being done correctly.

This is a qualitative difference from other “mutual obligation” welfare requirements, because it is not about getting people off taxpayer money. It is predicated on the assumption that parents (read: mothers) on welfare must not be as “good” as other parents.

These measures assume that the poor have different social standards than the middle class, who know the correct way to nurture children, with story time and swimming classes.

They are also cruelly detached from the chaotic reality of raising small children, where leaving the house with everyone fed and clothed is itself an achievement, but one that almost never runs to time. Some days, the bad days, it doesn’t happen at all.

This kind of compliance-and-penalty system stems from the belief that the poor are not just unlucky, but they are fundamentally different from other people; that they lack the correct values, and the rectitude to pull themselves up. This is not so far from the Victorian-era belief that Orwell upturned with his memoir: that poverty is a moral failing.

This attitude can exist only when you wilfully ignore the fact that the majority of Australians will rely on government support at some stage in their lives, with millions of us slipping in and out of the safety net as our circumstances change.....

Australian Parliament, Senate Community Affairs References Committee, Inquiry into ParentsNext, including its trial and subsequent broader rollout, public hearing, Melbourne, 27 February 2019, excerpts:

Ms Edwards [Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Single Mothers and their Children]: It is unfettered power. It is shown up in a lot of ways, even as to participants' knowledge about signing a participation plan. The participation plan is like the blueprint for the engagement. You have your goals on your participation plan and then, from that, you have the flow of your activities that are meant to support those participation goals. In theory, you're allowed 10 thinking days after meeting and developing your participation plan. What we discovered in our survey which supported what women were telling us was that they would sign it in that meeting, and they would sign it because they were so compliant because the person they were sitting in front of had the power to affect their life, in terms of their payment but also in terms of their commitments. What is not well known by participants is: there is no minimum weekly activity requirement, like mutual obligations. But, because women are so aware of those mutual obligations, they start thinking that they have a similar sort of level that they must do, and they won't upset the provider because the provider can determine the activities; they can breach them—and, as Jenny said, in the blink of an eye they can breach. If the participant disagrees with the breach, the person who umpires that is the provider—they decide whether they have operated appropriately or not. There is not one independent body that manages or oversees that process. So that is why women are compliant—they're in this, and it's like they've gone down this slippery slope into hell and the only way they can come out is if they sign and do what's required. They won't upset a provider.

Ms Davidson: They don't even know about that 10-day period. With the lack of information that people are provided, they don't know about the 10-day thinking period.

Senator WATT: The way the system is supposed to work is that people are supposed to have 10 days to have a think about the proposed plan before they commit to it.

Ms Edwards: Which implies that it's two people having a mutually equal conversation about: 'What would actually help you get to where you need to go?'

Senator WATT: Yes, but, in fact, many people feel pressured to sign there and then?

 Ms Edwards: Yes, and then what else is happening, which is where the providers are working outside of their guidelines, is that they will unilaterally change activities and times. 

Senator WATT: The providers will?

Ms Edwards: Yes. And they will do that in writing, they will do that in phone calls and they will do that in texts......

Ms Buckland [Private capacity]: I'll give you an example, and it's a complicated one, because there are many issues with it, but I was contacted by a woman who had a newborn baby—she'd had it the day before. She should be exempt from ParentsNext—

CHAIR: It's supposed to apply at the very most when the baby's six months.

Ms Buckland: Yes. So it's from 34 weeks pregnant to the child being six months that there's an exemption. She wasn't able to speak to anyone about her exemption. She was still expected to mark her attendance at an activity; she was expected to attend an appointment one-week post birth. I think that there are obviously inherent issues with that kind of system. Her payments were suspended.

CHAIR: With a newborn?

Ms Buckland: With a newborn baby......

Prof. Croucher [President, Australian Human Rights Commission]:….

The commission's submission identifies five key problems with the compliance framework of ParentsNext. I will briefly remark on two of these problems. First, the detrimental effect of punitive compliance can be unjustifiably harsh. Many of Australia's most valuable parents and children rely on the parenting payment to afford basic day-to-day essentials. This includes single mothers living on or below the poverty line. Yet, under ParentsNext, these struggling families face automatic payment suspensions. This can happen for a single instance of noncompliance with a program requirement, despite having a reasonable excuse like a sick child. In the worst cases, their parenting payment can be reduced or cancelled.

Without money to provide adequate food, clothing and shelter for your family, how can human rights be realised? How can there be human dignity? Poverty erodes the enjoyment of many human rights, such as access to education, health care and participation in public life. The current operation of ParentsNext risks further entrenching poverty and inequality in Australia. It already risks reducing a parent's resilience to the complex challenges they already face, including homelessness, domestic violence and mental illness.

The commission is also concerned that there are insufficient safeguards to prevent inappropriate compliance action. For example, some punitive financial measures are automatic. Others can be made by private commercial service providers rather than by public officials.

Secondly, the claimed success of ParentsNext is not appropriately evidence based. On the basis of the evaluation of the program to date, it is not possible to conclude that the program is achieving its aims or that it has had a positive effect which outweighs the detriment of undermining the right to social security. For example, the department's evaluation of the trial program relied heavily on a survey of participants, but it didn't disclose how many people participated in the relevant survey, and it's unclear whether the sample size was statistically significant. The design and methodology of the survey were not disclosed. The department's evaluation also draws many positive conclusions about the efficacy of the program—for example, that it increases chances of employment. However, many of these conclusions are based on the opinions of survey participants rather than on objective data.

Lastly, the commission is seriously concerned about the discriminatory impacts of the program. ParentsNext is only applied to a small and targeted proportion of people receiving the parenting payment. Women and Indigenous Australians are disproportionately affected, with women comprising approximately 96 per cent of the 68,000 participants and Aboriginal and Torres Islander people approximately 19 per cent.

The human right to social security should be enjoyed equally by all, regardless of sex, race or age. Australia's domestic legislation, such as the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 at the Commonwealth level, also protects the right to equality and nondiscrimination. It is unfair that the parents who are required to participate in ParentsNext are at risk of losing essential support, while the majority of parenting payment recipients can access their social security without meeting the additional onerous obligations of ParentsNext.....

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

The graphs that expose Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's climate change policy propaganda

Australia has a monumental problem. 

Since September 2013 the Australian Government, first under Liberal prime ministers Abbott and Turnbull and then under current Australian Prime Minster and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison, has failed to implement effective national climate change mitigation measures.

This has left the nation with an est. 695 million tonnes (or 2.9 billion tonnes) of greenhouse gas emissions it has to reduce/abate by 2021-2030 in order to meet its international obligations.

Ever since he successfully ousted the last Liberal prime minister in a 'palace coup' Morrison has been telling the world that this country will meet its Paris Agreement targets "at a canter" and that national greenhouse gas annual emissions are falling.

Both he and his ministers talk of greenhouse gas emission levels falling per capita or per head of population. All that means is that the Australian population is growing at a slightly faster rate than national emission levels are rising. It doesn't mean greenhouse gas emissions are falling.

On 25 February 2019 Morrison announced his Climate Solutions Package - mostly a rehash of old Liberal-Nationals climate policies and as yet unrealised infrastructure projects - which he rather misleadingly states will "reduce greenhouse gases across the economy".

After this 'solutions' initiatives announcement the Minister for Energy and Liberal MP for Hume Angus Taylor went on national television claiming Australia's national greenhouse gas emissions had fallen by "over 1 per cent" - omitting to point out that this quarter to quarter seasonally adjusted weather normalised change did not result in an overall decrease in total greenhouse gas emissions for the year to September 2018. 

In August 2015 the then Abbott Government, in which Scott Morrison was a cabinet minister, also misspoke when it told the United Nations that its "direct action" plan was successful and that:

The target is a significant progression beyond Australia’s 2020 commitment to cut emissions by five per cent below 2000 levels (equivalent to 13 per cent below 2005 levels). The target approximately doubles Australia’s rate of emissions reductions, and significantly reduces emissions per capita and per unit of GDP, when compared to the 2020 target. Across a range of metrics, Australia’s target is comparable to the targets of other advanced economies. Against 2005 levels, Australia’s target represents projected cuts of 50 to 52 per cent in emissions per capita by 2030 and 64 to 65 per cent per unit of GDP by 2030. [my yellow highlighting]

For this to be a genuine reduction which will help alleviate the effects of climate change it means this 695 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions that are in the earth's atmosphere right now have to be removed by abatement action on Australia's part between 2019 and 2030.

At the United Nations 2018 Climate Action Summit (COP24) it was pointed out to all member countries that attempting to use old credits from the Kyoto Protocol as carryovers when accounting for ongoing emission rates will not actually bring down current global emissions levels. 

However, the Morrison Government is using old carryover credits from the Labor Government years 2008-2012 to reduce Australia's own abatement commitment by est. 368 million tonnes - bringing it down to only a 328 million tonnes reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. Less than half of what the Australian Government actually committed to under the Paris Agreement.

The federal Dept of Environment and Energy's own data gives a more honest picture of where Australia stands on bringing down greenhouse gas emissions since 2013 than does Morrison's dodgy accounting tricks.

4. Trend emissions levels are inclusive of all sectors of the economy, including Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). Removing LULUCF from caluclations will result in higher trend levels.

Only three of the eight sectors in this graph show any real improvement since 1990 and even these become somewhat static after 2013.

When it comes to the year 2018 from 1 January to 30 September, the Financial Review reported on 28 February 2019 that:

Increases in greenhouse gas emissions from growing liquefied natural gas exports, although offset by lower emissions from electricity, pushed Australia's overall carbon pollution up by nearly 1 per cent in the year to September….

Greenhouse gas emissions were up by 4.6 millon tonnes, or 0.9 per cent, in the year to September last year to 536 million tonnes, according to the quarterly update of Australia's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

The gains from big declines in emissions from the electricity sector (3.2 per cent) and agriculture (3 per cent) were negated by the 5.8 per cent increase in mining and manufacturing, especially LNG exports (up 19.7 per cent), steel production (up 10 per cent) and aluminium production (up 5.5 per cent).

"Growth in LNG also strongly impacted fugitive emissions due to the flaring and venting of methane and carbon dioxide. An increase in 10 per cent in steel production in particular affected industrial process emissions," the report said…..

The bottom line is that in September 2013 Australia's greenhouse gas emissions stood at 515.1 Mt of CO2-e, having fallen from a high of 617.5 Mt of CO2-e in March 2007. 

However, emissions have steadily risen in the years following 2013 until in September 2016 they had reached 527.2 Mt of CO2-e, by September 2017 533.3 Mt of CO2-e, by March 2018 535.8 Mt of CO2-e and by September 2018 our national emissions were 536 Mt CO2-e.

No matter how many ways Morrison Government spokespersons attempt to present the figures, the fact remains that Australia's national greenhouse gas emissions began to fall steadily between 2007 and 2013 but once the Abbott Government removed the price on carbon and altered other Labor climate change policies they began to rise again and they are still rising.

To date the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has marched this country backwards towards national greenhouse gas emission levels not found since the end of 2012. 

How much further will they send us back in time if they govern for another three years? Will the national emissions total in 2022 be in excess of 545 million tonnes? A higher national total than that of the year the Abbott Government promised the United Nations it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: September 2018 Incorporating emissions from the NEM up to December 2018 can be found here.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Australian Tax Office Excess Franking Credits: “When people next receive their dividend refund cheque from the government, remember the government has had to borrow that money”

The Australian Government's public debt stood at an estimated $541.73 billion and growing on 8 February 2019.

On 8 February 2019 in Sydney economist Stephen Koukoulas made a short three minute statement before the House of Representatives Economics Committee ‘inquiry’ into the Labor Federal Opposition’s policy to eliminate excess franking credits.

Excess franking credits are refundable to a shareholder who receives a dividend but has no tax liability to use those franking credits against. 

It is free money - money for jam - granted to shareholders for the last eighteen years under a Liberal-Nationals federal government tax policy.

By 30 June 2015 these excess franking credit refunds were costing the federal government an est. $2.54 billion annually and, are currently estimated to be costing the Australian Government well in excess of $5.9 billion each year.

Below are the notes Koukoulas used for that oral Statement which boiled down to two issues, the cost to the budget and how the policy is distorting investment decisions from investors and lazy financial planners.


Tax policy is always riddled with trade offs.

No government wants to tax anyone more than it needs to, nor should it impose a tax regime that is unfair if it means cuts to services, a heavy tax impost on others in the community or adds unnecessarily to the budget deficit and government debt.

Labor’s policy on refundable franking credits will impact the budget bottom line by more than $5 billion a year.

Without the change, this $5 billion, or $100 million a week, means less money is available for the government to provide health care, roads, education, disability assistance and defence.

It is disconcerting that every dollar of refundable franking credits is currently borrowed by the government.

When people next receive their dividend refund cheque from the government, remember the government has had to borrow that money:

… every cent of it.

… this adds to government debt that will have to be repaid one day in the future by our children and our grandchildren.

I think this is unfair.

The policy also distorts the way we Australians invest our savings.

Many investors put money into companies that pay high, fully franked dividends regardless of the underlying strength or potential of that business.

Look at Telstra. The banks.

It is blind, uneducated and lazy investing recommended by lazy financial planners.

It is only the dividend, not the underlying strength of the business, that guides the investment decision.

This is one reason why the Australian stock market is still 15 per cent below the 2007 peak, while the US, German and Canadian stock markets are substantially higher.

None of these countries have refundable franking credits.

Investors in those countries provide finance to dynamic growth companies and strong businesses.

In Australia, such companies are often shunned by investors because they pay no or low dividends.

Investors instead place their money with what are average firms that structure their businesses according to tax policy distortions.

Imagine if the ASX was at 10,000 points, not the 6,000 point level prevailing today?

I suspect the concerns about dividend refunds would be trivial.

The Australian tax distortions mean that local entrepreneurial firms have less access to local capital.

The money is instead tied up in dinosaur companies paying high dividends.

It is one reason why so many of the 21st century technology and start up firms in Australia head overseas to pursue their business models.
This costs the Australian economy growth and jobs.

With the policy change on refundable franking credits, there will be a greater incentive to invest in companies and other assets for reasons of growth and entrepreneurial flair…

… which will be a positive for the economy and jobs …

… and it will be good for the long term future of Australia.

Thank you

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

The lies Liberals tell on the subject of aged care

The Australian, 7 February 2019:

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt was handed a departmental briefing report showing the “winners and losers” from the Coalition’s $2 billion savings drive in the aged-care sector shortly after Scott Morrison announced a royal commission and denied funding cuts.

Documents obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws show the proportion of “losers” almost tripled to 53 per cent following the budget savings revealed in late 2015.

In the three-year period to 2018, aged-care services that had been classified as “winners” almost halved to 47 per cent, according to the brief sent to Mr Wyatt.
A series of “hot issue briefs, question time briefs and general briefs” sent to Mr Wyatt last year acknowledged the budget hit to the Aged Care Funding Instrument — which is the basic taxpayer care subsidy paid to all nursing homes — together with “increasing cost pressures will be putting pressure on the sector”.

Mr Wyatt was also made aware of reports of “cut backs to staffing”. At a press conference announcing the royal commission into aged care in September, the Prime Minister was questioned about two cuts to the ACFI in the 2015 mid-year economic update and the 2016 budget but denied any had been made.

“No, no, the Labor Party said that. I don’t accept that,” he said. Two days later, a question time brief prepared for Mr Wyatt offered advice on what to say if asked about funding cuts to ACFI.

The ministerial brief also contains a breakdown of funding changes by domain, revealing that average annual taxpayer subsidies per resident increased by just $400 between 2016-17 and 2017-18 despite the growing frailty and complexity of Australians as they enter residential aged care older than ever before.

For the first time, funding for the two areas that provide extra boosts for nursing home residents with significant behavioural problems and complex healthcare requirements went backwards by $300 a person.

The peak body for aged-care providers, ahead of the April 2 budget, has urged the Coalition to include an additional payment of almost $700 million each year.

“This estimate reflects a range of factors, including the value of foregone indexation (through ACFI),” Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) says in its pre-budget submission, seen by The Australian. “This is approximately a 5.2 per cent increase in residential care funding in 2019-20, noting that this is difficult to calculate as forward estimates for residential and home care are no longer separately reported.” LASA said it considered the money to be a “down payment” and a notably larger funding boost might be needed following the findings of the royal ­commission.” The commission, which is due to release its interim report in Oct­ober and the final version by the end of April 2020, has already highlighted the widespread industry practice of “doping” nursing home residents, which doctors, nurses and consumer groups attribute to overworked staff. [my yellow highlighting]

Monday, 14 January 2019

Four months out from a federal election Australian PM Scott Morrison decides to irritate 537 local government councils & their ratepayers

The timing of the announcement by Australian Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison concerning a new code for citizenship ceremonies was probably was probably meant to distract the national electorate from the sight of the ecological disaster occurring along the Murray-Darling Basin river systems.

Instead it irritated a great many voters four months out from the federal election and reminded ratepayers that he expected them to foot the bill for mandatory citizenship ceremonies to be held on 26 January every year from 2020 onwards.

Australian Local Government Association, media release, 13 January 2018:


Today’s announcement by the Federal Government to force councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day as a response to the debate to change the date of this national holiday is heavy-handed and odd, according to the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), the peak body representing local government and councils Australia-wide.

ALGA President, Mayor David O’Loughlin, said that most councils likely won’t be opposed to the Federal Government’s proposed changes to the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code but councils will have valid concerns, not excuses, that will need to be addressed.

“The priviledge of Australian citizenship is highly respected by the Australian community and councils value their role in holding citizenship ceremonies and being a part of this important commitment,” Mayor O’Loughlin said.

“However, most councils hold more than one citizenship ceremony a year, some as often as monthly. The Federal Government’s strong focus on drawing a link between Australia Day and citizenship ceremonies is bizarre.

“If the Federal Government had bothered to consult with us in the development of this policy, they would have heard that in some locations, it’s simply too hot for councils to hold ceremonies during the day, so they do it the evening before, just as the Federal Government does with its Australian of the Year Ceremony.

“Other councils combine their citizenship ceremonies with their local Australia Day Citizen of the Year Awards which are often held in the week before Australia Day, just as many of the State and Territory Governor’s do with their Australia Day Awards ceremonies.

“It would make more sense for the Federal Government to insist on local, state and their own level of government holding events to celebrate Australia Day Honours and Citizens of the Year on Australia Day, rather than only insisting on local councils holding a citizenship ceremony on the 26th of January, especially given Citizenship Day is the 17th of September, months after Australia Day.

“We do acknowledge that a small number of councils are in discussions with their communities about whether the 26th of January is the appropriate day to celebrate Australia Day.

“However, councils cannot move Australia Day - this is ultimately up to the Federal Government – but it is our job to be responsive to our communities, including to their calls for prudence and advocacy.”

ALGA has responded to the Federal Government’s strong commitment to change the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code with calls for it to show an equally strong commitment to assist councils with issues – such as cost – that may come with holding the ceremonies on Australia Day.

“There are significant additional event and staff costs associated with holding citizenship ceremonies on a public holiday, which is why some councils sensibly choose to hold it on a weekday instead,” Mayor O’Loughlin said.

“Interestingly, the Federal Government has made no mention of any financial contribution towards the additional costs involved in running these ceremonies - ceremonies conducted on behalf of the Federal Government - instead opting to continue a pattern of cost-shifting to councils.

“There is very real pressure on council budgets nationally and the Federal Government must put their money where their mouth is if they are serious about their proposal.

“The Federal Government must lift its core funding to local government, Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs), back to 1% of Commonwealth Taxation Revenue (CTR) – levels last seen in 1996.

“This funding has been in steady decline for the past 20 years and, unless the Federal Government does something to fix it, today’s announcement will be seen as just another cost-shifting tactic.

“Our local and diverse communities matter, and so do their pools, beaches, libraries, sporting grounds, parks and the safety of their local roads. Therefore the 1% funding to local governments and local communities should be of far more importance to the Federal Government.”

Further information about ALGA’s call to restore Financial Assistance Grants to 1% of CTR is available on [my yellow highlighting]

Thursday, 3 January 2019

The Liberal Party of Australia: fighting to suppress climate science & avoiding responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions since 1996

The Age, 1 January 2019:

The Howard government was urged more than 20 years ago to consider an emissions trading scheme, while its signature plans to deal with Australia's greenhouse gas emissions were considered by its own departments to be merely aimed at deflecting global criticism.

As the Morrison government continues to fight a debilitating internal battle over how to deal with climate change, previously secret papers from the 1990s reveal a suite of major government departments said the most effective and efficient way to deal with greenhouse gases was to impose a carbon price.

Cabinet papers from 1996 and 1997 released on Tuesday by the National Archives reveal the beginnings of the Howard government's drawn-out response to the threat posed by rising greenhouse gas emissions and the way some of those issues are still playing out in the Morrison government…….

Government departments headed by Prime Minister and Cabinet, Treasury and Foreign Affairs fleshed out the details of a series of proposals backed by the government in September 1997 in a bid to deal with Australia's emissions.
The co-ordinating document produced by the departments, which were aiming to finalise a package discussed at cabinet earlier in the month, made clear the bureaucracy did not believe the government's plans would go nearly far enough in cutting emissions but may be sufficient to deflect international criticism.

"None of the packages presented here would achieve the stabilisation of emissions at 1990 levels," they said.

"Rather, they are aimed at deflecting criticism that Australia is not fully committed to reducing its emissions."

The departments costed a series of proposals which would ultimately become part of the government's official response to climate change.

These included a focus on tree plantations, encouragement for businesses to slice their emissions, the introduction of ethanol into petrol and subsidies to boost investment in renewable energy.

They noted Australia had a "poor international reputation for driving fuel efficient cars", arguing significant gains could be made by improving the nation's car fleet.
Building codes, reform of the energy market and investment in climate research were all encouraged.

But the departments, which acknowledged the government's opposition to a price signal, said these would ultimately be expensive initiatives which would not deliver a real impact on the nation's overall emissions profile.

"The most effective way to reduce emissions would be to combine significant price signals (either general or sectoral increases in taxes on greenhouse producing activities), information so firms and individuals can reduce greenhouse production, opportunities to invest in carbon sinks and some degree of compulsion to address areas where markets cannot be made to work effectively," they said.

"It is generally agreed that reductions will not happen without significant persuasion, incentives or leadership from government."

In late 2006, Mr Howard announced a panel would investigate an emissions trading scheme. Both the Howard government and the Kevin Rudd-led ALP would take a trading scheme policy to the following year's election.

But in 1997, the government's most esteemed departments told cabinet it should consider an ETS even if the results of the study were kept hidden from the public.

"A study of possible emissions trading mechanisms and regulations would help position Australia in the event that emissions trading is introduced internationally," they said.

"This study would not be for public announcement since it may not help our international negotiating position if it became public knowledge."....

The Guardian, 1 January 2018:

In June 1996, cabinet agreed that “Australia’s overall objective in climate change negotiations should be to safeguard our national trade and economic interests while advancing compatible outcomes that are environmentally and economically effective”.

While Australia recognised “the need for effective global action on climate change”, it vowed to pursue an international agreement that “does not contain targets which are legally binding” and argued for differentiated, rather than uniform, reduction targets.

The then environment minister, Robert Hill, reported to cabinet that for the first time the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientific report had said that the balance of scientific evidence supported the view that the changes in climate and greenhouse gas concentrations were due to human activity.

Small island states were proposing a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 levels by 2005. While other time frames were being discussed, all were potentially problematic for Australia because of its carbon-intensive economy.

Hill told the cabinet that modelling showed Australia’s emissions from the energy sector – accounting for half of national emissions – were projected to be 30% above 1990 levels by 2010…..

The consternation grew further by mid-1997. A joint submission to cabinet warned of the prospect of an “EU–US bilateral understanding for progressing climate change” at a forthcoming G7 summit…..

The cabinet actively considered walking away from Kyoto altogether.

It was facing publishing its future emissions as part of the Kyoto process but modelling was now showing that emissions from the energy sector would be 40% to 50% above 1990 levels by 2010…

The cabinet also agreed in July to establish a climate change taskforce to advance Australia’s domestic greenhouse gas strategies, to strengthen its bargaining stance. One option to be explored was “domestic and international emissions trading”.

In the following months, Treasury modelled various measures for reducing domestic emissions.

The memorandum warned that none of its scenarios would cap carbon emissions at 1990 levels but would achieve potential cuts of 22%.

And so began Australia’s long and tortured debate over carbon trading schemes.
A proposal was put forward by the Australian Greenhouse Office in 2000, but was scuttled in cabinet; another came forward in 2003, but was vetoed by Howard.

Finally, in the dying days of his government in December 2006, Howard announced an emissions trading scheme, after bureaucrats convinced him it was the most efficient way to meet Australia’s commitments.


National Archives of Australia, 1996 and 1997 – Keating and Howard governments, Cabinet Papers, released 1 January 2018.

The Howard Government fight against taking responsibility for Australia's own domestic greenhouse gas missions.....

See: My apologies for not posting this document but current slow upload times have meant that I cannot yet display this document here.