Showing posts with label costs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label costs. Show all posts

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Morrison Government's class warfare sees this hard right group closing the door to students from low income families and cutting funding to universities


SBS News, 20 June 2020:

Mr Tehan outlined the coalition's latest plan for rejigging university funding in a speech to the National Press Club on Friday afternoon. He is offering to increase the number of university places by 39,000 over the next three years, rising to 100,000 more by 2030. 

The coalition had effectively capped places over the past couple of years by freezing its funding at 2018 levels. 

The trade-off in the new deal is changing what students and taxpayers pay. 

A three-year humanities degree would more than double in cost for students, from about $20,000 now to $43,500. The government's contribution would drop to $3300. 

 Fees for law degrees, typically four years, would jump from $44,620 now to $58,000. 

Conversely, the government would contribute more and charge students less for courses it says are more likely to lead to jobs. 

Agriculture and maths fees would drop from nearly $28,600 over three years to $11,100. 

Fees would also be cut for teaching, nursing, clinical psychology, science, health, architecture, IT, engineering and English courses.....


From January 2021 students entering Humanities courses such as Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts & Business, Bachelor of International Studies, Bachelor of Politics Philosophy & Economics, Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications), Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Arts/
Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Languages), fees will more than double, putting them alongside law and commerce in the highest price band of $14,500 a year or est. $43,500 for a completed degree. Making these courses more expensive than studying medicine.

The Australian, 22 June 2020:

Universities will be paid less to teach courses such as maths and engineering under the Morrison government’s overhaul of higher education funding — despite those programs being promoted by Education Minister Dan Tehan as post-pandemic job creators. 

Education Department data shows the commonwealth will cut university funding for each enrolment in those courses while also cutting how much those students pay to study. 

The reforms are intended to push students towards high-­priority courses such as maths, teaching, science and engineering by lowering how much students, through the HECS-HELP loan scheme, pay. 

Universities currently receive $28,958 a year for each science course enrolment, made up of $19,260 paid by the student through the HECS-HELP loan scheme and $9698 from the commonwealth. 

Under the new system, however, students will contribute $7700 and the commonwealth will pay $16,500, leaving universities with $4758 less revenue for each science student enrolled. 

Universities will lose a similar amount for each student enrolled in an engineering course under the reforms announced by Mr Tehan on Friday, and lose $3444 per student in an agriculture subject, one of the key areas where the government is hoping to drive enrolment growth. 

That’s because while the commonwealth is increasing its payment per student from $24,446 to $27,000, that does not compensate for the fall in student contributions from $9698 to $3700. 

Frank Larkins, a researcher at Melbourne University’s Centre for Higher Education, said the fall in overall revenues per student in high-priority areas was likely to make it more difficult for universities to teach more students in those job-creating subjects. 

“It appears there are two mess­ages here. The government wants students to go into nursing, teaching and STEM subjects, but they also think those courses are overfunded,” Professor Larkins told The Australian on Sunday. 

“Agriculture — one of the areas they want more students — would retain its funding in the present scheme, but it’s cut by 17 per cent in this new one. It’s a curious situation. 

“The areas of study we are touting as the national interest are actually diminishing under these changes. 

Every university will have a different reaction, but these changes are almost disguising a cut in funding for some of these courses the government is promoting.”....


ABC News, 21 June 2020: 

If you were thinking about starting a university degree in the future, you've got a new fee structure to take into account. The Government has announced an overhaul of the university fee system, slashing the price of courses it says are more likely to get you a job and hiking up fees for courses in the humanities. 

The changes will mainly apply to future students, with no current student to pay increased fees for the duration of their degree. 

However, if you're a current student enrolled in a course that is getting cheaper, you'll pay less from next year. 

Many of you told us the changes will affect your choice of study, and for some it will deter you from going to university altogether.... 

Robert H: "My son is in grade 11 and he picked his subjects for grades 10 to 12 at the end of grade 9. So even if he wanted to pivot towards the cheaper STEM degrees, he would need to go back in time to the end of year 9 to reselect his subjects. So much for a fair go." 

Monika O: "This is terrible. We need to encourage a variety of careers as we all have different gifts and abilities. It's not justified to discriminate and "punish" people who choose to study arts and humanities. These topics encourage critical thinking skills and communications skills — all much needed abilities. 

David D: "This an appalling idea. Prejudicing young people because their ability and passion are in the humanities, and rewarding those whose ability and passion just happens to be what business thinks they require now for jobs … Many businesses are actually crying out for workers with critical thinking and creative skills.".... 

Emma J: "Doubling humanities degree costs is appalling. These are the only degrees where you are taught to think for yourselves and where ideas and innovation are encouraged. Without social and political sciences and history and Indigenous studies, we're going to have a workforce which can only follow rules and can't think for themselves." Shane H: "Two of the most valued skills employers want is the ability to think critically and emotional intelligence. How many STEM subjects teach that?" 

Carolyn J: "Humanities subjects are foundational and help to produce people who understand the history and nuances of our society. They teach people how to communicate ideas, how to analyse language, image and thought. The arts themselves provide beauty, expression, reflection, critique, examination. They are vocations — sometimes compulsions — not job choices." 

Johny M: "More than doubling the cost of humanities degrees is not only sad, but grossly unfair. They teach critical thinking, research skills, and broaden our worldview. It is easy to rip into them for not being 'job specific', but that ignores they are the scaffold to everything we know about our society." Stefan P: This is absolutely tragic. The choice of which course to pursue within higher education should be entirely dependent on a student's desires, not their financial situation and the whims of the economy. Besides which, if the Federal Government acknowledges the difficulty of finding work as an arts student, then saddling them with even more debt is simply counterintuitive." 

Matt B: "I'm a Medsci student progressing into medicine, arguably an 'in demand' degree. However … the arts/humanities allows scientists to put the research in perspective of humanity and thus allows us to better communicate to the public and (science-ignorant) governments why we do what we do. Arts isn't a second thought; it's a priority, more so than learning chemistry and biology is for a doctor, because without the arts, we cannot communicate and appreciate the meaning of cancer beyond it being a mutation of cells.".... 

Lili K: "I'm just about to finish my honours degree in politics, and it has been the most rewarding and interesting years of my life. I know if this price hike happened when I was at my poor public country high school, I would have had to take a different path."....

 Anna G: "I have an arts degree. I work for the Government in a relatively senior role. My degree gave me essential critical-thinking, analytical and writing skills that equip me to do my job daily. It's frustrating to know that the Government thinks that my degree isn't 'job focused' when I use it to support and deliver its policies and programs.".... 

 Lana G: I am a business/politics (humanities) student. I am the first in my family to attend university, and all this does is make university (for the most part) unattainable. My degree is now going to be on par with the cost of a medical degree … Poorer kids are going to move away from economics, humanities and law."..... 

The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 June 2020: 

 The government will fund an extra 39,000 places by 2023 – an increase of about 6 per cent – as the recession prompts more school leavers to stay on in education (and avoid taking a gap year), but will compensate for this by cutting the amount of its funding per student. 

 According to calculations by Professor David Peetz, of Griffith University (whose former job as a senior federal bureaucrat helps him find where the bodies are buried), the government will cut its funding by an annual $1883 per student, with the average increase in tuition fees of $675 per student reducing the net loss to universities to $1208 per student. (The fee changes won't apply to existing students, however.).... 

Professor Ian Jacobs, boss of UNSW, who points to the perverse incentives the changes will create (assuming the Senate is mad enough to pass them). Unis will be tempted to offer most places in those courses with the widest gap between the high government-set tuition fee and the cost of running the course. They'll be pushing BAs harder than ever. 

This, of course, is exactly the way you'd expect the vice-chancellors to behave when you've taken government-owned and regulated agencies, spent 30 years pursuing a bipartisan policy of cutting their federal funding (from 86 per cent to 28 per cent of total receipts, in the case of Sydney University) and pretending they've been privatised.

Friday, 28 February 2020

According to media reports there are still 3,544 First Home Loan Deposit Scheme places left, before another 10,000 places are opened up on 1 July 2020

According to the Commonwealth Bank, the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme is a “new initiative from the Australian Government designed to support eligible first home buyers purchase a home sooner”.

The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) will provide a guarantee for eligible first home buyers on low and middle incomes so that they can purchase a home with a deposit of as little as 5%.

In Yamba, Maclean and Grafton in the Clarence Valley the loan eligibility cap is a residential property valued at $450k. This same cap appears to apply to all of the NSW Northern Rivers region.

This cap deliberately limits the type of property which can be purchaed under the Scheme because it is only available for the purchase of a modest home, or the purchase of land and construction of a modest home”.

In certain areas there may be a small problem attached to having such a low property value limit to eligibility for the scheme. A residential property at $450k or less in the Northern Rivers regions is usually only a two bedroom freestanding house or unit/duplex - hardly suitable for a family with more than one child.

The sheme is available to low to middle income eaners over 18 years of age. There is no upper age limit restriction, so an applicant could easily be in their late 50s.

The upper income limit before a person becomes ineligible to apply for this concession is $125k for singles and $200k for a couple.

The scheme will support up to 10,000 home loans each financial year, starting from 1 January 2020, through a panel of participating lenders including the Commonwealth Bank.”

According to media reports there are still 3,544 First Home Loan Deposit places left, before another 10,000 places are opened up on 1 July 2020.

Friday, 14 February 2020

NSW Northern Rivers learning the hard way that state-owned Forestry Corporation of NSW is a bad neighbour

ABC News, 11 February 2020: 

When the Busby's Flat Road fire ripped through Wendy Pannach's Rappville farm in northern New South Wales last October she assumed that neighbours would share in the cost of replacing boundary fencing. 

Two neighbours — a private landholder and a company — did agree to work together, but the state-owned Forestry Corporation of NSW has refused to contribute anything despite her desperate pleas. 

Ms Pannach initially thought that it may cost her up to $100,000 to repair and replace all the fire damaged and destroyed internal and boundary fencing. 

But now, with support from charity BlazeAid, it is expected to be far less, and the shared cost of the 1.3-kilometre boundary fencing with Forestry Corp would be minimal. 

"I am working to design the fencing to maximize how much BlazeAid can do in terms of supplying labour," she said. 

"Originally it was looking at $20,000, probably Forest Corp's share would probably now be about $5,000. It's not a lot of money. 

"But if there was no other support, and with the added cost of all of the other boundary and internal fences I have to replace it, it makes a difference." 

Ms Pannach is hoping that a Commonwealth natural disaster recovery grant of up to $75,000 will help cover costs as she is ineligible for NSW disaster relief. 

But she is concerned that farmers affected by future disasters may not receive access to similar funding....

MP admits NSW Govt not 'very good neighbour' 

The state Member for Clarence, Nationals' MP Chris Gulaptis, who met Ms Pannach at a food industry group meeting in Grafton, agreed that his Government needs to do a better job at managing its forestry estate. 

"It's a legitimate concern that she has, and other landowners have, who share boundaries with government land, whether it be national parks or state forests," Mr Gulaptis said. 

"The Government isn't very good neighbour, to put it quite bluntly, and it needs to be a better neighbour. I think that Forest Corp needs to look at managing its estate a lot better than what it does.".....

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Shorter Residential Aged Care Industry Message in 2020: If you personally pay us more we will treat you better

"If we expect people to pay more [in the future], we have to deliver much better care" [Catholic Health Australia chief executive Pat Garcia quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 February 2020]

ABC News, 9 February 2020:

Sydney's streets were thick with smoke as the blazes took hold on December 5 last year. 

That may explain why few noticed or cared about the final sitting day in Canberra.

But what happened in the Senate that day shows just how strong the ties that bind the aged care lobby and government really are.

At 9.30 that day, some crucial amendments to aged care legislation were introduced which would force nursing home to reveal how they spent their $20 billion of taxpayer funds each year — specifically, how much went to staff, food and "the amounts paid out to parent bodies".

Unlike hospital and child care centres, aged care facilities can employ as few staff as they like because there are no staff-to-resident ratios in nursing homes.

When it comes to food, a study of 800 nursing homes shows the average spend is just $6 a day.

The Senate vote was taking place just five weeks after 
the scathing interim report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

Among its findings of a "sad and shocking" system which was 
"inhumane, abusive and unjustified", the commissioners also commented on the lack of transparency in aged care, with the numbers of complaints, assaults and staff numbers all kept secret from the public.

"My amendments are all about transparency and accountability — 
and, boy, do we need more of this," said Senator Stirling Griff from Centre Alliance, who proposed the amendments.

When the crucial vote came, Labor, the Greens, Centre Alliance and Jacqui Lambie supported it. But the Government voted against it and, with the help of Pauline Hanson, the reform was defeated.

It might seem an odd choice for Pauline Hanson, who has previously rallied against the aged care sector for "rorting and malpractice", but it shouldn't be surprising that the Government voted it down.

The influence of lobbyists

The aged care industry has been successfully lobbying governments for years. The influence of the industry through government committees, think tanks and policies is well known and is being rightly questioned at the royal commission.

For example, when the Queensland Government proposed laws requiring nursing homes to publish their staff numbers last year, the federal Department of Health sent a six-page document arguing against it, saying it might "confuse or mislead" families and "appears to create a reporting burden on providers with no clear benefits to consumers".

If you think the Federal Government's objections sound a lot like those of the aged care lobby, you wouldn't be wrong.

In fact, the industry group Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) argued in its own submission that few families would be interested in accessing a website with such information and that the numbers could be used "to push a particular medically based care model (which may be contrary to the preferences of residents)".

That's an argument LASA has been using for years. It's code for arguing against more registered nurses for fear it spoils the "home-like" atmosphere of an aged care facility.

Others might argue that the hundreds of stories told to the royal commission of poor wound care, misdiagnosis and failure to send sick residents to hospital may have something to do with that lack of a "medical model".

Currently there's no requirement, except in Victorian state run facilities, for an RN to be employed at a nursing home.

The aged care lobby doesn't want that to become a national trend.

Why can't we know how many staff there are?'

The industry and Federal Government's opposition to the argument against making the staff numbers public didn't wash with the Queensland Government.

"We report the number of teachers to students in classes, educators to children in child care, why the hell can't we know how many staff there are in aged care facilities?," said Queensland Health Minister Stephen Mills, who successfully passed the legislation and says he will "name and shame" nursing homes which refuse to make staff numbers public.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will argue that the Government voted against the federal moves for financial transparency because it doesn't want to introduce any major reforms before the final report from the royal commission.

However, that excuse didn't stop the Federal Government from its massive reform of putting the publicly funded Aged Care Assessment system out to tender last year.

The move to privatise it was widely denounced by state ministers (including from the NSW Liberal Government), advocates and the medical profession.

But the aged care lobby groups are big supporters of the change…...

Read the full article here.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 February 2020:

...the federal Health Department revealed it was yet to implement key recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission's 2017 report on elder abuse. 

Responding to a question taken on notice at a Senate estimates hearing, Health Department bureaucrats this week said a "scoping study" was being done on a register of aged care workers, while "preparatory work" was under way on a serious incident response scheme for assaults in care. 

Labor's aged care spokeswoman, Julie Collins, said older Australians at risk of abuse deserved "immediate action, not years of inaction and delays". 

Official data shows there were 5233 assaults in residential aged care facilities in 2018-19. 

Catholic Health Australia outlined its proposed new means-testing rules in a pre-budget submission to the federal government.

There is a question begging to be answered here. 

If Scott Morrison and his Lib-Nats cronies go down the path of attempting to permanenltly conceal what amounts to institutionalised elder abuse, allows residential aged care providers to further entrench differing levels of care based on an ability of the frail aged to pay and goes ahead with further aged care services privatisation in order to avoid accountability - has Morrison himself calculated just how many elderly Australians will be likely to commit suicide soon after being told they will be entering residential aged care?

Monday, 10 February 2020

Renewable energy power generation continues to be predicted as cheaper than Morrison Government's favoured fossil fuel alternatives

Renew Economy, 6 February 2010:

An updated study on current and future generation costs by the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator confirms that wind, solar and storage technologies are by far the cheapest form of low carbon options for Australia, and are likely to dominate the global energy mix in coming decades.

The first report, GenCost 2018, identified that wind and solar were by far the cheapest forms of new generation technologies, clearly cheaper than coal, and even when combined with storage, remained easily the cheapest form low carbon electricity options.

A draft of the updated study, GenCost 2019-20, has been quietly posted on the AEMO website and confirms that wind and solar and storage remain the cheapest technologies, now and into the future, and much cheaper than the technologies promoted by the Australian government – gas, carbon capture, and nuclear.

The study is jointly funded by the CSIRO and AEMO, although CSIRO took carriage of the report, along with advisors Aurecon, who succeeded GHD which did the first version.

Its capital cost estimates – which assume continue cost reductions for solar, wind and dramatic falls for batteries, remain little changed from the 2018 version, although wind cost reductions are lower than expected last year…..

Read the full draft report:

GenCost 2019-20: preliminary results for stakeholder review Draft for review, Paul Graham, Jenny Hayward, James Foster and Lisa Havas December 2019.

That neither expert opinion nor the Australian Government's international obligations matter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his hard right cronies is demonstrated by the fact that they are prepared to spend up to $4 million on a feasibility study for a 1GW coal-fired power plant at Collinsville in Queensland, with coal presumably sourced from a nearby open-cut coal mine owned by Glencore.

Glencore stategically places most of its political donations with state governments of the day. 

Friday, 26 July 2019

Australian Education Minister Dan Tehan gives working parents in rural and regional areas unrealistic advice

"Nearly 300,000 children in regional and remote areas receive formal childcare. However, unlike capital cities where a glut of childcare centres is reported, access to childcare continues to be a problem in regional areas.” [Centre for Independent Studies, 23 September 2018]

City centrism is alive and well in the Morrison Government.

Photograph: ABC
Here is the Minister for Education and Liberal MP for Wannon Dan Tehan  (pictured left) blithely assuming that every town across Australia not only has a chilcare centre it has more than one.

In Dan's world parents in rural and regional areas are apparently able to shop around for competitively priced childcare.

[cue cynical laughter]

The Daily Examiner, 22 July 2019, p.5:

Greedy childcare centres have gobbled up almost half the money parents were meant to save from new subsidies by raising their fees.

A subsidy system which began on July 2 last year was meant to save the average family $1300 in childcare fees a year.

But new data shows that in the year leading up to the subsidy’s introduction, the average parent with a child in care 48 weeks of the year is paying $622 more than they were 12 months ago.

Of this $276.50 of that came from cost increases between July and September 2018, after the subsidy was introduced.

Labor’s childcare spokes-woman Amanda Rishworth said the government should be “naming and shaming” centres who lifted fees to take advantage of the subsidies.

But Education Minister Dan Tehan said out-of-pocket costs for child care had still fallen almost 9 per cent, and urged those getting a raw deal to “vote with their feet and find a new service”.

Education Department data recording costs in September 2018, the first released since the subsidies came into place, revealed the increased costs.

It showed the average family, which pays for 28.8 hours a week, had fees increase by $13 a week between September 2017 and September 2018, including $5.80 a week increase in the quarter the subsidies were introduced….

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

So much for Liberal-Nationals boasts concerning regional jobs growth in 2019

After Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison abandoned the Coalition's proposed National Energy Guarantee which would allegedly reduce polluting emissions and lower electricity retail costs, the energy sector remains in disarray.

One hundred and sixty-five jobs are at risk across regional News South Wales as Essential Energywhose operational footprint covers 95 percent of the state apparently considers downsizing employee numbers as a cost-cutting measure is the best way to gain the Morrison Government’s approval.

In all probability hoping that this move will appease Morrison and he will then decide to forget his promise to force all energy companies to lower their prices.

Sadly, this is just the sort of short-sighted approach to cost cutting which ‘The Liar From The Shire’ would approve.

Though how downsizing staff leads to better customer service under The Energy Charter I am at a loss to understand.

The Daily Examiner, 4 July 2019, p.1:

Methods used to determine who stays in a job at Essential Energy have been likened to the battle for survival in sci-fi film Hunger Games.

The Electrical Trade Union claims workers will be pitted against each other to save their own job and asserts that the company has told workers Grafton will be one of the hardest hit in a plan to slash 165 jobs across regional NSW.

The Daily Examiner was told of workers being asked to write letters to state why they should keep their job.

ETU secretary Justin Paige slammed the announcement of cuts, saying the use of forced redundancies along with a “Hunger Games” style competition between workers was causing unnecessary hardship.

Workers have been given less than a week to respond to the plan, with the first staff to be made forcibly redundant as early as July 10, but we are examining every legal and industrial avenue available to stop them,” Mr Paige said.

The worst part is many of these cuts will be undertaken through what management have called a ‘merit selection process’, which will essentially pit workers against each other to save their own job.

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and Deputy Premier John Barilaro poured scorn on the proposed job losses…...

The Daily Examiner, 5 July 2019, p.3:

The ALP has accused Nationals MPs of hypocrisy over their response to Essential Energy sacking 182 employees.

Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin said it was the height of hypocrisy for Nationals MPs like John Barilaro and Chris Gulaptis to claim they are fighting against Essential Energy’s regional job cuts.

Ms Saffin said the Nationals allowed Essential Energy to be corporatised so they could bleat all they like but lost their say in the matter when they agreed to the sell-off.

The Nationals’ excuse was that a Restart fund would be set up from the proceeds of the sale and that regional and rural NSW would get 30 per cent of the proceeds annually,” Ms Saffin said. “They never even delivered and failed regional NSW. The Auditor General has showed year after year since 2011 that Restart has not met the Nationals’ 30 per cent target – it was 17 per cent last year.

The Nationals lost three seats at the recent State election, which is why John Barilaro is now posturing that his hapless party is suddenly independent of the Liberals.”

Ms Saffin said she was saddened to hear of Essential Energy’s plan to sack more workers as it was a cruel blow to them and their families, and would make it harder on remaining workers maintaining or upgrading infrastructure.

Essential Energy, which operates electricity poles and wires across 95 per cent of the state, has gutted more than 2000 jobs from their ranks since 2015,” Ms Saffin said.

It is hard enough to get permanent roles in the regions and while jobs have grown in the city it has been slow here…..

The Daily Examiner, 8 July 2019, p.3:

Essential Energy has hit the pause button on its moves to cut 182 job across Northern NSW after a Fair Work Commission meeting which called for the company to provide further information to its workers.

On Friday power industry unions reached an in-principle agreement with Essential Energy in the Fair Work Commission that paused planned job cuts until additional consultation took place.
The agreement means no jobs will be lost before mid-August, with unions given an opportunity to propose alternative cost saving measures and initiatives that could avert the need for redundancies.
Essential Energy committed to distributing information to all employees by July 19 that includes: the justification for role reductions, the specific impacts of cuts on remaining team members, and details of the tasks or functions that will cease to be performed.
Essential Energy also committed to consider alternative savings measures before redundancy decisions.
Electrical Trades Union secretary Justin Page welcomed the outcome, saying it was vital workers could identify alternatives to regional job cuts.
This is a tough time for Essential Energy workers, their families and colleagues,” Mr Page said.
After four years of deep staffing cuts at Essential Energy – which has not only devastated those workers directly impacted, but has had profound impacts on service delivery and regional communities – today’s reprieve is extremely welcome, but is just the start…..