Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Scott Morrison & Co went on a spending spree at taxpayer expense after he became Australian Prime Minister


The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 April 2021:


Flying politicians and dignitaries around the country on VIP jets cost taxpayers almost $20 million in two years up to June 2020, new flight records show.


Federal politicians ordered 1940 VIP flights between July 2018 and June 2020, at a cost of $17,177,562, an analysis by The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald of RAAF flight data found. The governor-general and other dignitaries including Prince Harry pushed that bill up by $2 million to $19,577,402, adding 395 flights.


The new flight data shows during the peak of the 2020 black summer bushfires, then-defence minister Linda Reynolds travelled from Perth to Canberra twice in five days, costing taxpayers $69,000 for her flights alone.


Ms Reynolds returned early from a holiday in Bali on January 3, 2020, having departed Australia quietly a week after Prime Minister Scott Morrison came back from his Hawaiian holiday amid public outrage at his absence during the bushfires.


Ms Reynolds chartered a VIP plane that can carry 30 passengers to fly her and two others from Perth to Canberra on Saturday, January 4, 2020, for a press conference to announce the rollout of 3000 army reservists to help with the bushfire crisis…...






The use of VIP jets has been controversial recently as Mr Cormann was flown around Europe in a RAAF VIP jet that costs about $4000 an hour to operate as he campaigned (successfully) to be the new secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Prime Minister Morrison defended Mr Cormann clocking up more than 20,000 kilometres campaigning for the job at taxpayers’ expense.


In February, the Herald and The Age revealed then-home affairs minister Peter Dutton charged taxpayers more than $36,000 to charter a jet to Tasmania to announce $194,000 worth of grants for CCTV systems for two councils during the 2018 Braddon byelection campaign.


Mr Morrison, Mr Dutton, Stuart Robert and Josh Frydenberg billed taxpayers almost $5000 in December 2019, for a private jet trip to Sydney on the night of Lachlan Murdoch’s Christmas party, the Guardian reported in December last year.


The group left Canberra after 6pm, attended the party at Bellevue Hill then returned to Canberra before 9am the next day.


And during the last federal election campaign, Mr Morrison’s bus tour of Queensland was not as grounded as it seemed after it was revealed he and his staff were using VIP jets to cover large stretches of the journey to Townsville.


The election campaign bill for VIP jets for both parties, between April and May 2019, cost taxpayers $6,645,318 for 444 VIP flights.


Berejiklian Coalition Government washing its hands of any responsibility for the past 74 years of urban development on NSW floodplains?


Macleay River flooding from the air
IMAGE: Macleay Argus, 21 March 2021













In all but ruling out largescale buybacks of housing on NSW floodplains, a cynical Berejiklian Coalition Government is obviously feeling safely protected by the 1979 Environmental Planning and Assessment Act s2.28 liability exemption clause.


As well reassured there will be no blowback on local government due to protections for councils and staff inserted by a predecessor, the Fahey Coalition Government, in the 1993 NSW Local Government Act s731-s733 liability exemption clauses covering flooding and bushfires. Later helpfully reinforced by another predecessor the Keneally Labor Government in 2011, to cover indemnity against lack of action or planning decisions taken that were known to increase risks of climate change impacts.


In between these two pieces of legislation, the Carr Labor Government even tossed in the 2002 Civil Liability Act to add to the circumstances in which liability could generally be avoided.


The proof of the ease with which the Berejiklian Government is passing the buck back to homeowners for the past 74 years of urban development on floodplains is found in the current Coalition state government’s response to widespread flooding in New South Wales during March 2021.


Vulnerable communities in north-east NSW might think on the Berejiklian Government’s reluctance to seek genuine solutions to increasing floodplain risks due to climate change-induced alterations to seasonal weather patterns, the contribution to flooding made by erosive wave patterns with rising seas and, natural disaster events.


The Guardian, 10 April 2021:


Urban planners and water scientists have urged the New South Wales government to offer to buy back thousands of homes in flood-prone areas of western Sydney, as overdevelopment sets a trajectory for the number of uninsurable houses in the city to surge.


Infrastructure NSW has acknowledged residential property buybacks would be “effective” to mitigate flood risk in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley and across western Sydney, but the government agency has said such a scheme would incur “very significant social and economic costs”.


The call for buybacks, from the urban thinktank the Committee for Sydney, followed floods in March that inundated parts of western Sydney after Warragamba Dam spilled over, and wreaked havoc across NSW and south-east Queensland.


By Tuesday, the insurance bill for the floods had risen to $537m, from 35,845 claims, as affected residents continue to lodge damage with their insurers.


The Committee for Sydney’s resilience director, Sam Kernaghan, believes the insurance bill for March’s floods will rise to $2bn and says it will ultimately cost the NSW government too as it foots the bill for emergency services and recovery relief services as insurer of last resort.


The committee has issued a plea for the state’s recovery and rebuilding to seriously consider not “reestablishing homes, farms and businesses in this increasingly hazard prone location”.


The bill will be enormous… [instead] we have an opportunity to use that money differently to support western Sydney residents and businesses for the long term,” the committee said, calling for the billions to be spent rebuilding to focus on a voluntary home purchasing scheme “that supports residents to move out of the way of the floods”.


Funded by state government, this scheme would provide a mechanism for residents to sell flood risk properties to the government at market rates,” the committee said, noting a similar scheme put in place after the 2011 Queensland floods that saw Brisbane city council purchase $35m in flood-affected land, with properties transformed into parkland.


Kernaghan believes there is a strong argument to buy back about 5,000 to 7,000 homes in western Sydney – not all of the 55,000 to 77,000 that are estimated to need to evacuate during a one in 100-year flood event….


The committee is also calling for more thorough mapping of flood plains in Sydney to help long-term planning, as well as transferrable development rights similar to the model used in Norfolk, Virginia – a US city sinking more than 3.5mm a year – and strengthening evacuation routes to help existing communities in the Hawkesbury-Nepean floodplain…..


If nothing is done to address this escalating risk from extreme weather and climate change, by 2100 Sydney will have a projected 91,000“uninsurable” addresses — the most of any city — with over five times as many uninsurable properties in 2100 than in 2019,” he said.


Regardless of what Sydney decides to do, the question before western Sydney is this: do we really want to continue to put people in the flood plain? Previous governments ignored the science, hoping it would be all right. The result has been tragedy for thousands of people.


The recent floods should make it clear it is not responsible to put people where they will be exposed to this level of harm ... It’s time for Sydney to look at a long-term plan to reduce the cycle of disaster.”


Dr Ian Wright, a water scientist at Western Sydney University who previously worked as a scientist for Sydney Water studying the Sydney basin flows, also supports the concept of home buybacks.


Wright has been a vocal part of the chorus of water scientists warning of the impact overdevelopment had on the recent floods.


As large swathes of western Sydney that were previously bushland and soil – which absorb water before flooding – had been paved over and roads and hard surfaces built to support new suburbs in recent years, there is increased runoff and flood risk to communities lower down. Residents in western Sydney complained of this issue as their homes, which had seen out previous floods, succumbed to the recent deluge…..


The NSW planning minister, Rob Stokes, referred the Guardian’s inquiries to environment minister Matt Kean’s office, which referred it to Infrastructure NSW.


An Infrastructure NSW spokeswoman said the government had considered buybacks to mitigate flood risk, including in its Hawkesbury-Nepean flood strategy released in 2018.


However, in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley, large-scale compulsory acquisition across entire suburbs would be necessary for this to be effective and would have very significant social and economic costs,” she said. [my yellow highlighting]


Aerial shot of  the Hawkesbury River in flood
IMAGE: ABC News, 21 March 2021



Monday, 12 April 2021

Who is responsible for flood clean-up in the Clarence Valley?


The Daily Telegraph, 9 April 2021:


Almost three weeks have passed since major flooding impacted the Clarence Valley, isolating some communities and properties for several days. However, Cr Novak said since the water has receded, so too have efforts to help flood-affected residents.


We have now moved from a flood recovery to an extreme public health risk with rotting, flood decayed furniture on our streets,” she said.


This is simply not good enough for our community, we have failed them miserably on all levels in this natural disaster.”


Last week, Cr Novak posted a public apology to the Clarence Valley community on her Facebook page for the lack of critical flood recovery information and referred them to a March 25, 2021 EPA media release.


This was the only information I could find about flood support,” she said.


It’s also appalling that (Clarence Valley) Council have not had anything on their Facebook page or website to tell anybody what to do after the flood. I searched CVC’s website and Facebook page for a phone number to direct residents to but there was no information for the collection of household flood debris.


I’m still trying to find the right number to direct community members to.”


According to the Service NSW website, skip bins and dump trucks were to be provided, along with clean-up assistance, including the removal of debris, mud, and green waste, regardless of insurance status.


However, that has yet to eventuate, according to Cr Novak.


I received a phone call and text from a resident at Shark Creek seeking help to get his flood damaged furniture collected. He had flood waters go through his home ruining all his furniture,” she said.


The ADF came earlier in the week and assisted with his clean up and took all the small items to the tip. All the bigger items were left on the side of the road waiting collection.”


Cr Novak said she has contacted several government agencies to find out who was responsible, including the EPA, Clarence Valley Council, and the Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott. However, each one has deflected responsibility.


Will someone please tell me whose job it is to collect this flood rubbish?” Cr Novak said.


The level of incompetence for this flood recovery in the Lower Clarence continues to beggar disbelief.”


How the Morrison Government subverted and perverted an independent review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

 

The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 April 2021:


Secret documents have cast doubt on the independence of a wide-ranging review into the National Disability Insurance Scheme that recommended the most radical overhaul of the $25 billion program since it was established.


Emails and draft copies of the 2019 report, written by former senior public servant David Tune, show National Disability Insurance Agency officials inserted an entire chapter into the review of the scheme’s legislation, and made substantial changes to almost every part of the document.


The review was used by the Morrison government to introduce independent assessments for NDIS participants, where health professionals employed by one of eight providers paid by the government will review users’ eligibility for the scheme. Disability advocates have labelled the measure a cost-cutting measure to reduce the number of people in the program.


More than 900 pages of documents, released under freedom of information laws, show emails from NDIA officials and Department of Social Services staff prioritising the NDIA board’s topics, “talking points” and inserting a multitude of changes to the draft versions of Mr Tune’s report.


One email, from an NDIA official, apologised that the changes to the document were “hideous – almost unreadable”.


The tracked changes appear to show the entire chapter devoted to introducing independent assessments – which was initially recommended by the Productivity Commission in 2011 – was also inserted by a public servant…..


The government is pushing ahead with the plan despite the fact a parliamentary inquiry is still examining the policy…..


The parliamentary inquiry is expected to hold hearings this month where a wide array of critics will probably give evidence…..


Read the full article here.


The altered December 2019 David Tune Review Of The National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013: Removing Red Tape And Implementing The NDIS Participant Service Guarantee can be found at:

https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/01_2020/ndis-act-review-final-accessibility-and-prepared-publishing1.pdf


The last Australian Parliament Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s General issues around the implementation and performance of the NDIS report of December 2020 stated:


2.49 However, the majority of submitters to the inquiry opposed the introduction of mandatory independent assessments as part of access and planning processes.


In particular, submitters were concerned that assessments:


will add complexity, stress and trauma for people with disability;

will be of little utility in terms of understanding a person's disability and support needs; and

have been rolled out without proper consultation with the disability sector.


2.50 These concerns were reflected in a statement by the Australian Autism Alliance, and in an address by the National Manager, Government and Stakeholder Relations for OTA, to the 2020 OTA online conference.


2.51 Some submitters asserted that the rollout of mandatory independent assessments should be paused to allow time for deeper consultation with the sector and a more thorough investigation of the issues associated with the assessment framework. Other submitters went further, asserting that the scheme should be discarded entirely. For example, the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) stated:


The NDIA's proposed Independent Assessment process is conceptually flawed, unfit for purpose and needs to be scrapped and redesigned. It needs full collaboration and consultation with disabled people, their families, supporters and the disability sector, to ensure that confidence and safety in how the NDIS operates is restored….


2.59 As well as raising concerns about the potential for independent assessments to create stress and trauma for people with disability, submitters expressed doubt that independent assessments will be a reliable, accurate measure of a person's functional capacity. Consequently, submitters expressed concern that using the results of an assessment for access and planning decisions will lead to adverse outcomes for people with disability….


2.69 The First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) raised concern that the independent assessments model, including the time allocated to an assessment, will not allow assessors to build trust in communities or gain sufficient knowledge of the circumstances of the person being assessed. This is of particular concern to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, noting the importance of trust and relationship-building to positive care and support outcomes. The FPDN also expressed concern that the assessments will not provide equitable access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In this respect, the FPDN noted that:


there may be no access to the technology required to conduct the assessment or communicate with the NDIA—particularly in remote areas;

without an established relationship of trust, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with disability are more likely to disengage from the assessments process, or to choose not to pursue access at the outset; and

while the NDIA has advised that a person undergoing an independent assessment may have a support person present, this is not realistic for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with disability.


How one journalist sees behind the scenes reshaping of the independent report.....


Sunday, 11 April 2021

Netflix to drown Byron Bay in Tacky With Extra Syrup


ABC News, 9 April 2021:


Netflix has announced it is making a reality series based on the lives of "hot Instagrammers" in Byron Bay, but many locals say they will not be watching.


In a Netflix press release, the series Byron Baes is described as a "docu-soap following a feed of hot Instagrammers living their best lives, being their best selves, creating the best drama content, #nofilter guaranteed."


Executive producer Julian Morgans said he came up with the idea while on holiday in the Byron hinterland with a friend "who's in advertising".


"It was getting dark and I could see all these big mansions in the forest and I thought 'my god this place is changing'," Mr Morgans said.


"It felt like there was this influx of money and power in this place that had been famous for hippies.


"I've become aware publications like the Daily Mail like stories about Chris Hemsworth and living in Byron as their bread and butter, so I put two and two together and thought 'there should be a show about this'."





.Byron Shire comedian and Greens federal political candidate Mandy Nolan said the bay was not currently an attractive backdrop.


"Byron Bay doesn't need any more vacuous exposure, it needs housing, it needs urgent work on coastal erosion," she said.


"Reality show about influencers? How is that remotely authentic?


"This is just artifice. Byron will be a set."


Friday, 9 April 2021

Is Scott Morrison's response to the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces genuine? Or is it just busy work to hold the line until after the next federal election?


 The Australian Government has agreed to (in full, in-principle, or in-part) or noted all 55 recommendations in the Report.” [Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, media release, 8 April 2021]


are either agreed wholly in part or in principle, or noted where they are directed to governments or organisations other than the Australian government” [Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, quoted in Sky News online, 8 April 2021]



So after ignoring the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces Final Report for over 12 months, what do Morrison’s weasel words in the quotes above indicate?



Scott Morrison & Co say they are proceeding to:


* order a survey every four years to provide data on sexual harassment;


* provide educational resources for young people of working age on workplace rights and sexual harassment;


* educate and train staff at the Fair Work Ombudsman, Fair Work Commission, Safe Work Australia, WHS regulators and workers’ compensation bodies concerning sexual harassment;


* lead a new collaboration by government, unions, employers and employer associations called Respect@Work aka the Workplace Sexual Harassment Council; and


* the Workplace Sexual Harassment Council is charged with:

a. providing high-level advice on development of guidelines and resources to ensure that all services providing information, advice and support in relation to sexual harassment can provide accurate information, make appropriate cross-referrals, and collect consistent data

b. after three years, considering the need for a centralised, accessible service to provide information and advice in relation to workplace sexual harassment;


* develop a Respect@Work website to provide the general public, employers and workers with free information; and


* Advise all state governments that they should ensure that relevant bodies responsible for developing training, programs and resources for judges, magistrates and tribunal members make available education on sexual harassment. 


Somehow in this 7-item list I don't see any immediate, hands-on, practical actions by the Morrison Government that will see the rates of sexual harassment, sexual assault, physical assault and/or murder by a partner or former partner, of women and girls in any state or territory decrease in the next few years.


I sincerely hope I am wrong.