Friday, 20 May 2022

Australian Federal Election 2022: giving Wilcox, Moir and Rowe the last word before polling day



Cathy Wilcox



Alan Moir

 

David Rowe




Climate change impacts even affect official labour force statistics in 2022


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 19 May 2021:

Impacts from floods in New South Wales and Queensland 

Flooding in New South Wales and Queensland in late February 2022 resulted in a major disruption to the operation of the Labour Force Survey. As a result, there was lower than usual numbers of responding households in some of the affected regions in March 2022

Given the severity of these disruptions and to ensure this loss of sample did not affect data for Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, the ABS imputed some sample within 15 statistical area level 4 (SA4s) regions for March 2022. This imputation approach drew upon previous information that had recently been collected from people in the affected areas, following the approach used for February 2019 for the Townsville Flood. 

The ABS has re-assessed this imputation, with reference to April 2022 data for the affected areas, and has not revised the imputed data for March. The ABS will continue to monitor the data over coming months and undertake additional analysis of the imputed data as further data becomes available. Data for all SA4s will be published in Labour Force, Australia, Detailed on 26 May 2022. 

[my yellow highlighting]

What the Australian Bureau of Statistics is politely saying is that Labour Force, Australia for April 2022, released on 19 May 2022 – containing headline estimates of employment, unemployment, underemployment, participation and hours worked from the monthly Labour Force Survey – is educated guesswork and voters won’t know if the figures and percentage changes hold until 5 days after the federal general election at the earliest.


From Sept 2013 to March 2022 the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Coalition Government's Political Appointments to Federal Government Agencies were as High as 1 in 3


 

Make no mistake, a returned Morrison Government will take victory as an endorsement of every corrupt and corrupting thing they have done, and they will double down.” [Writer, academic, author Tim Dunlop, Death of a Salesman?” , 19 May 2022]



The Australia Institute, media release, 16 May 2022:


A new report from the Australia Institute’s Democracy & Accountability Program represents the largest and most comprehensive domestic study of the practice of cronyism in relation to appointments to a government agency ever conducted in Australia.


This detailed deep dive report has investigated every single appointment made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) since 1996 – almost 1,000 appointments in total, and reveals that the proportion of political appointments to the AAT has skyrocketed from ~5-6% under the Howard, Rudd and Gillard Governments, to almost one in three appointments (32%) across the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Governments, and two in every five appointments (40%) under the current government alone.


Key Findings:


  • The research analyses every single appointment (974 appointments in total) to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and its precursors between 1996 and 2022.


  • The share of political appointments to the AAT has skyrocketed from 6% under the Howard Government and 5% under the Rudd/Gillard Government to 32% under the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison term of government.


  • Under John Howard political appointments were 6 in 100, current Government 2 in 5.


  • Under the current Government, the share of political appointments has surged from 23% in 2013–2016 to 40% in 2019–2022.


  • AAT Senior Members who are political appointments are much more likely to have no legal qualifications than Senior Members who are non-political appointments (26% vs 1%).


  • Political appointees were more likely to be appointed on a full-time basis (47% of political appointees) than non-political appointees (22%).


  • Most political appointees had served the party or parties that appointed them.


  • 10% of political appointees had education levels below the level of a bachelor’s degree, compared with 2% of non-political appointees.


  • Since 2016, the current Coalition Government has appointed seven Senior Members without legal qualifications, and all were political appointments.


  • Of the 61 Senior Members appointed by the Coalition Government since 2013, 22 were political appointees.


  • The report makes 10 recommendations for improving the AAT selection process.




Across almost 1,000 appointments to the AAT since 1996, a worrying pattern emerges: appointments have become increasingly political under the current government,” said Ben Oquist, executive director of the Australia Institute.


When John Howard was Prime Minister, only 6% of appointments to the AAT were political, but in the most recent term of the current Government 40% of appointments were political.


These political appointments are much more likely to have no legal qualifications than non-political appointments, even though AAT decisions must consider facts, laws, and policy.


The AAT is responsible for reviewing life-changing decisions by the federal government including deportations, migration visas, NDIS payments, welfare payments, workers’ compensation, and veterans’ entitlements.


Members of the public should be able to trust that their case will be heard by a tribunal member who is qualified and not appointed for political reasons.


A complete overhaul is needed to ensure that the AAT selection process is open and transparent, and not subject to political manipulation. This is now not only important for the AAT but is essential to fix integrity, accountability in government and protect democracy itself.”


Lead author of the report, Deb Wilkinson is an expert in the study of cronyism and is completing her doctorate at the Australian National University.


RELATED RESEARCH

Cronyism in appointments to the AAT

FULL REPORT


Besides political appointments, there are other ways of perverting the function of government agencies and influencing decisions/outcomes.


This was Morrison & Co's response to the Australian National Audit Office fulfilling its legislated brief.


ABC News, 19 February 2021:


The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) runs the rule over the operations of government department and agencies, checking whether taxpayer funds are being used appropriately.


The profile of the agency has risen considerably in the last year after it uncovered the so-called "sports rorts" saga in early 2020 — revealing the Coalition disproportionately awarded community grants to sports clubs in marginal Liberal and National seats ahead of the 2019 election.


The ANAO also uncovered flaws with the purchase of a plot of land at the site of the new Western Sydney airport, called the "Leppington Triangle".


The Commonwealth paid close to $30 million for a 12-hectare parcel worth just $3 million, with Auditor-General Grant Hehir ultimately referring the land deal to the Australian Federal Police for investigation.….


The October 2020 budget showed a cut of $14 million to the ANAO's yearly funding, something the Auditor-General described as "uncomfortable".


Appearing before a parliamentary committee on Friday, Mr Hehir said his team would have to cut the number of major performance audits it undertook each year to deal with those constraints.


"Historically, for the last two decades, the ANAO has provided the Parliament with an average of 47 performance audit reports per year," he said in his opening statement…...


Thursday, 19 May 2022

State of Play COVID-19 Pandemic 2022: fewer Australians taking COVID-19 precautions by April 2022


www.covid19data.com.au
11am 18 May 2022



Cumulative Deaths from COVID-19 by Age Group & Gender




Australian Dept. of Health
18 May 2022





















On Saturday 14 May 2022 there were est. 52 COVID-19 deaths in the previous 24 hours across Australia, on Sunday 15 May est. 21 deaths, on Monday 16 May est. 13 deaths, on Tuesday 17 May est. 66 deaths and on Wednesday 18 May est. 53 deaths. 


Australia is experiencing daily COVID-19 death numbers never seen in 2020 or 2021. According to the Australian Bureau of StatisticsAfter cancers, doctor-certified deaths due to COVID-19 were the second most common cause of death in January 2022.


And yet governments urged on by Prime Minister Scott Morrison have all but abandoned public health measures and, he is currently framing the narrative that Australia has entered the post-pandemic phase and that deaths occurring are in men and women whose COVID-19 diagnosis was merely incidental to their deaths - and in almost the same breath saying that COVID-19 deaths are occurring as expected.


This is a gross misrepresentation by Morrison.


The Australian Bureau of Statistics clearly reported that between January 2020 and March 2022 COVID-19 was the underlying cause of death in 90.8% of all deaths having a COVID-19 diagnosis


On 16 May 2022 the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners observed that; COVID-19 cases and deaths are many times the amount modelled ahead of Australia’s re-opening. Further stating that; In the past six months from mid-November 2021 – when inter-state travel restrictions began to be lifted – there have been 5,906 deaths attributed to COVID-19, more than quadruple the amount that was predicted by the Doherty Institute modelling.


However, with publicly available information on official COVID-19 infection numbers, transmission rates, locations and deaths now being deliberately redefined, fragmented, less frequent or ceasing entirely, most people now only have a vague awareness of how the pandemic continues to play out in their local government area.


This is the result.....


Australian Bureau of Statistics, media release, 17 May 2022:


Fewer Australians taking COVID-19 precautions

Source Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, April 2022


More Australians reported household members returning positive COVID-19 tests in April, but fewer reported taking precautions against the spread of COVID-19, according to survey results released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).


ABS Head of Household Surveys, David Zago, said: “Our latest Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, conducted between 19 and 28 April 2022, showed 62 per cent of households had a COVID-19 test in the past four weeks, up from 46 per cent in March 2022.”


Of those households where someone had a COVID-19 test, 23 per cent reported one or more household members had tested positive in April, up from 14 per cent in March.


However, only 78 per cent of Australians in April reported wearing a face mask in the previous week, down from 98 per cent in February.


In April, Australians were also less likely in the week before the survey was conducted to have taken precautions by washing their hands or using hand sanitiser regularly (92 per cent down from 95 per cent in February), and physically distancing themselves from other people (75 per cent down from 85 per cent),” said Mr Zago.


The results, released as part of a suite of ABS products to measure the impacts of COVID-19 on households from 2020 to 2022, also provide insight into social activities and working from home arrangements of people compared with before COVID-19 restrictions were introduced in Australia.


Almost twice as many employed Australians worked from home one or more times a week in April compared to before COVID-19 restrictions were introduced in March 2020 (46 per cent up from 24 per cent). Meanwhile, fewer Australians exercised at a gym or played sport in April compared to March 2020 (29 per cent down from 38 per cent).”


Australians in April were also less likely to attended social gatherings one or more times a week than before restrictions were introduced (20 per cent down from 27 per cent).


The ABS would like to thank the Australian households that contributed to results for the duration of this survey.


Media notes

  • COVID-19 tests refer to both Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests.


Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Australian Federal Election May 2022: there is no new version of the Liberal MP for Cook Scott John Morrison, he has signalled an intention to put a blow torch to the bellies of the poor and vulnerable if the Coalition retains government


Four days out from the 21 May 2022 federal general election Liberal MP for Kooyong & Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced that after the election a Morrison Government would continue applying the knife to funding of federal government services to the tune of $3.3 billion. 


A total of $2.7 billion will be returning to the Treasury coffers by way of across the board annual savings it expects from increasing the current 1.5 per cent efficiency savings requirement to 2 per cent over the next three years.


The Guardian quoted Prime Minister Morrison on 17 May 2022: That is something that I think is entirely sensible and, frankly, taxpayers would be demanding, that these types of sensible efficiencies are achieved and that is part of the process of managing a good budget,” the prime minister said while campaigning in Darwin on Tuesday. “It doesn’t impact on programs or services at all. It never has.”


According to Prime Minister Morrison and the Treasurer this increased cost cutting by way of efficiency dividends does not apply to the National Disability Insurance Agency, Safe Work Australia, Emergency Management Australia, the National Recovery and Resilience Agency, the ABC, the SBS, or small entities with fewer than 200 staff.


However it does appears to include in Morrison's own words "management of staffing arrangements" over the next three years.


On 17 May ABC News reported that: Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked what agencies would be forced to tighten their belts and whether, given his praise for the public service over the way it helped Australians during the pandemic, it was a "mean spirited" way of rewarding people for their hard work.

"This is responsible budgetary management. We've made commitments in this election and we ensure that we pay for them," he said.

"That's how you manage your budget, you live within your means."


So where will this $3.3 billion be coming from? Especially the est. $600 million in savings which appears to stand outside three years of efficiency dividend savings.


It isn't hard to imagine that Scott Morrison, with another three years in front of him before having to face the national electorate again will return to his perennial favourites - further reducing the actual number of staff or hours worked in government departments and agencies by starving them of real funding increases, as well as further restricting eligibility for social service/welfare programs and removing more treatment items from Medicare rebates/bulkbilling & from the universal free public hospital system.


Individuals and families are already impacted by changes to eligibility and/or rebates for an estimated 188 cardiac surgery, 150 general surgery, 594 orthopaedic items, including hip, shoulder, hand & cardiac surgeries and a number of diagnostic imaging procedures. 


According to National Seniors Australia by 1 June 2021; Nine procedures have been deleted from the MBS entirely, and other changes may include tweaking the definitions of certain services.


Then there is the possibility of sudden removal of bulkbilling or enhanced bulking billing for certain specialist consultations

such as the one playing out right now in a mental health program which inordinately impacts on regional and remote Australia.


ABC News, 16 May 2022:


..Psychiatrists say the Medicare cut has forced hundreds of patients to cancel or scale back their appointments, leading to the worst outcomes for patients some say they have ever seen.


Ms Pomeroy from Mackay had seen her psychiatrist on an almost monthly basis for the last three years for chronic anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


But like other patients across rural and regional Australia, she said she was sprung with the news she would no longer have access to bulk-billed psychiatry appointments over telehealth.


"I went into shock," she said.


"It put me in a tailspin where I thought, 'What am I going to do now?'"


'It's almost like Noah's ark'


In January, a 50 per cent loading — known as item 288 — for psychiatrist video consultations for rural and regional patients was cut from the Medical Benefits Scheme (MBS).


The ABC understands about 45,000 patients claimed the item across 2020-21.


Brisbane-based psychiatrist Dr Bawani Marsden said the last five months had been devastating for patients as psychiatrists were left to choose who, if anyone, they could bulk-bill without the extra loading.


"It's almost like Noah's ark where you're deciding who you want to take with you and who you don't mind sinking and drowning," he said.


The option to bulk-bill patients remains. But without the extra loading, practices say it is unviable to provide to everyone.


A rebate for patients was still available, but Dr Marsden said about half of her rural and regional patients had cancelled because they now could not afford care.


"Almost a decade we've had that support and within a couple of weeks there was an announcement that it's going to be removed," she said.


"We're talking about a peak time here, we're coming out of COVID … and they've taken away a lifeline."…..


Credentialed mental health nurse Michelle Eastwell shakes her head.


"For our patients, it's gone from this seamless, private, de-stigmatised way of accessing mental health services to now … 'what's available?'" she said……


the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has campaigned against the move and said the taskforce recommended finding an alternative solution which had not been done.


"We have put forward a number of solutions including a bulk-billing incentive … for people with affordability issues," said RANZCP's president Associate Professor Vinay Makra.


"Some of our patients are the most vulnerable in society and the government must look at that vulnerability factor."


"If they do not receive that support from a psychiatrist … some will become unwell, and needing admissions to hospital [would] put additional impost on health and hospital systems that are already stressed."


Labor has pledged to reintroduce Item 288 if it gets elected on 21 May 2022.


In March 2022 it was reported that the Morrison Government is considering removing nursing home residents' access to professionally trained allied health services as a way of reducing Medicare costs.


In a media release on 17 May 2022 the ACTU estimated that the announced cost cutting would result in the loss of 5,500 public service jobs.



Tuesday, 17 May 2022

The Perrottet Coalition Government just won't give up on a bad tourism idea for the Clarence River estuary


North Coast Voices readers may recall that in March 2017 Lower Clarence River communities became aware that Liberal MLA for Willoughby and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and members of her Cabinet were considering expanding the uses that the Clarence River estuary and the Port of Yamba could be put to.


By November of that year it had firmed into future plans for Yamba to become a cruise ship port and destination with a waterborne trojan horse to be delivered into the estuary in October 2018.


The Yamba and Iluka communities were not amused by both the NSW Government's plans and its lack of consultation.


These communities got loud. The Berejiklian Government went quiet and the named international cruise ship company decided to bypass the Port of Yamba. 


There appeared to have been no specific development activities in 2019 or in 2020 when the global pandemic reached Australia.


However, this was, and under Liberal MP for Epping NSW Premier Dominic Perrott still is, a government which doesn't like taking a decided "No" for an answer.


So this is still appearing on a current tourism website set up under the auspices of the NSW Government.









Note: All webpage snapshots were taken on 16 May 2022 at

https://www.visitnsw.com/travel-information/cruise/yamba


Monday, 16 May 2022

Nightcap Oak (Eidothea hardeniana): seeds of hope being planted in the Nightcap & Jerusalem districts

 

 


BACKGROUND



ABC News, 15 June 2020:

A stand of Gondwana-era trees ravaged by bushfire last year is showing what it takes to be one of nature's great survivors.

The critically endangered nightcap oak has survived in the rainforests of northern New South Wales since the Eocene epoch, about 40 million years ago. The species Eidothea hardeniana first emerged when Australia and Antarctica were a single land mass and it has thrived through climatic extremes and across the aeons as its habitat drifted slowly northwards. But late last year its damp forest home experienced something new. After a prolonged period without rain, lightning strikes set fire to the rainforest around Mount Nardi in the Nightcap National Park, eventually burning a total of more than 6,000 hectares.....

There are only 125 fully grown nightcap oaks, all located in a small area of rainforest in northern New South Wales......

Official numbers from the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service record less than a fifth of the total population was killed by the bushfire.....

Dr Kooyman said despite the positive signs, only time would tell whether Eidothea hardeniana's initial response to fire would result in its long-term future survival. 

He said a drying landscape and increased risks of fire were now the biggest threats to the trees.....