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

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…..

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The bad news for NSW North Coast regional communities just never ends


According to the Berejiklian Coalition Government’s Transport for NSW  website: The Community Transport Program (CTP) assists individuals who are transport disadvantaged owing to physical, social, cultural and / or geographic factors.  Individuals who do not qualify for other support programs may be eligible for community transport. CTP is funded by the NSW Government and aims to address transport disadvantage at the local level via community transport organisations.

In the Clarence Valley medical specialist services are rather thin on the ground and residents are frequently referred to medical practices and hospital clinics hundreds of miles away.

For communities in the Lower Clarence where a high percentage of the population are elderly people on low incomes this can frequently present a transport problem, as often there is no family member living close by to assist or the person’s peer friendship group doesn’t include anyone capable of driving long distances.

Community transport has been the only option for a good many people.

Until now…..

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

The thought of paying $200 for a trip to see her specialist about her medical condition made Yamba pensioner Gloria George glad she was sitting down when she made the call.

The 80-year-old said when she contacted Clarence Community Transport and was told the price to be taken by car to the Gold Coast for a Wednesday appointment, it could have brought on a heart attack.

Mrs George said CCT told her there was a bus service to the Gold Coast that ran on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for $70.

“My appointment was on Tuesday and the clinic I was booked into was not available on the other days,” she said.

“They said they had made cutbacks and the price to be driven to the appointment was $200.

“I’ve got a bad heart problem and I nearly fell over when they told me.
“Who can afford $200 to go to an appointment?”

Mrs George said she still has a licence, but would not feel safe driving to her appointment.

“I think I’ll be able to get a friend to drive me there and take me home again. I hope so,” she said.

The manager of CCT, Warwick Foster, said the price rise for services had come in when the government cut $250,000 from CCT’s funding when the NDIS came in last year.

“We could no longer afford to operate the bus five days a week,” he said. “And we can’t afford to drive people to appointments for the same fee we charge for the bus service.”

Mr Foster said the government subsidy for transport of $31 a trip created a juggling act for CCT to afford its services.

“Each trip, no matter the distance, is subsidised at $31,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter if the trip is across town or to Brisbane, the subsidy is the same....


Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert follows unofficial Liberal Party guideline: Don't get caught but if you do pay it back


Image: The Sydney Morning Herald 2017
Assistant Treasurer and Liberal MP for Fadden Stuart Rowland Robert (right) is in the news once more.

This time over the excessive costs associated with his taxpayer-funded 4G home Internet connection.

He has been charging taxpayers more than a $1,000 a month for Internet access since 2016 and by 2018 the cost had risen to over $2,000 a month.


The reasons being given by Robert for why he didn’t avail himself of cheaper alternatives don’t really stand close scrutiny.

Given this Liberal MP’s history (see below) one immediately wonders if a third party individual/ corporation signed his contact with the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and this increased the cost to taxpayers or whether Robert has a pecuniary interest in that particular ISP.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has requested that these expense claims be investigated by Special Minister for State Alex Hawke who himself is under a cloud when it comes to parliamentary expense claims.

Once his parliamentary expenses drew media attention Robert was quick to commit to paying back Internet charges reimbursed by the Dept. of Finance. At a quick estimate that would be somewhere in the vicinity of $25,000, although reportedly he puts the estimate as a little over $20,000.

Parliamentary expense claims are not the only issue for the Member for Fadden.

On 6 October 2018 The West Australian reported that:
A company run by a Federal minister who charged taxpayers $2000 a month for internet access lodged documents removing him as its director only after the matter was queried by The Weekend West.

Until late yesterday ASIC records showed Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert was a director of an alternative health franchise business, despite Mr Robert telling Parliament a month ago he quit the board of Cryo Australia when he returned to the ministry.

In February 2016 Stuart Robert was sent to the backbench in disgrace after just three years as a federal government minister. 

It is barely six weeks since he returned to the ministry on the back of Scott Morrison’s politically bloody ascendancy and it appears that there has been no lesson learned.

A Brief History







Thursday, 9 August 2018

Is Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton value for money?


Australia's millionaire Minister for Home Affairs and Liberal MP for Dickson Peter Dutton has gathered to himself a lucrative salary worth in the vicinity of $478,068 per annum, before any parliamentary entitlements are realised.

The Prime Minister's annual salary is only a little under $50,000 more than this, while the U.S, President's annual salary is apparently around AU$70,000 less than Dutton's annual payment for services rendered.

So is Peter Dutton giving taxpayers value for the revenue dollars they supply.

It honestly doesn't appear to be the case if this audit is any indication.


On 18 July 2017, the Prime Minister announced that the government had decided to establish a Home Affairs portfolio which would have responsibility for:

federal law enforcement;
national security;
transport security;
criminal justice;
emergency management;
immigration and multicultural affairs; and
border-related functions.

The Department of Home Affairs has assumed all of the department’s functions (including the ABF) in addition to functions from each of the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet; Social Services; Infrastructure and Regional Development and the Attorney-General’s department.

In addition to the ABF, the Home Affairs portfolio also includes the following entities:

the Australian Federal Police;
the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission;
the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre; and
the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. …..

Conclusion

10. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection achieved the integration of DIBP and ACBPS and the creation of the Australian Border Force in a structural sense and is also progressing with the implementation of a suite of reform projects. However, it is not achieving commitments made to government in relation to additional revenue, and is not in a position to provide the government with assurance that the claimed benefits of integration have been achieved.

11. The department established largely effective governance arrangements which were revised over time in response to emerging issues.

12. The department’s record keeping continues to be poor.

13. The department is effectively managing a suite of 38 capability reform projects and has developed sound monitoring arrangements, although the Executive Committee does not have visibility of the overall status of individual projects.

14. The efficiency savings committed to by the department were removed from its forward estimates and have thus been incorporated in the budget. However, the department has not verified whether efficiencies have been delivered in the specific areas which were nominated in the Integration Business Case.

15. Based on progress to the end of December 2017, if collections continue at the current rate the department will only collect 31.6 per cent of the additional customs duty revenue to which it committed in the Integration Business Case.

16. In the Integration Business Case, the department committed to a detailed Benefits Realisation Plan. The plan was not implemented despite several reviews identifying this omission. As a result, the department cannot demonstrate to the government that the claimed benefits of integration have been achieved….

18. Reporting to the Executive focused primarily on integration and organisational reform, with minimal coverage of progress in delivery of the suite of 38 capability reform projects. Following the identification of this as a gap in the 2017 Gateway Review, an Enterprise Transformation Blueprint was established to provide the Executive Committee with greater visibility over the progress of activity across the department.

19. There was no evidence identified to indicate that written briefings were provided to the Minister on progress throughout the implementation process.

20. Detailed communication plans were established and implemented to support the integration process. ‘Pulse Check’ surveys were regularly taken to evaluate staff satisfaction and engagement with the process.

21. The audit found that the department did not maintain adequate records of the integration process. This finding repeats the outcomes of a substantial number of audits and reviews going back to 2005. The department’s own assessment is that its records and information management is in a critically poor state. The problems and their solutions are known to the department, and it has an action plan to address them, although numerous previous attempts to do so have not been successful.

22. The department also experienced a loss of corporate memory due to the level of turn-over of SES staff, with almost half of SES officers present in July 2015 no longer in the department at July 2017.

23. The department initially identified possible risks to effective integration. However, regular reporting against those risks ceased when the Reform and Integration Task Force was disbanded.

24. The department made extensive use of consultants to assist it with the integration process. Despite a requirement to evaluate contracts upon completion, this did not occur in 31 out of 33 (94 per cent) of contracts with a value of more than $1 million examined by the ANAO, and therefore it is unclear whether these services represented value for money…..

The Assurance Partner [Third Horizon] was engaged by DIBP as a consultant for the period 19 June 2014 to 18 June 2016 with a contract value of $2 million The total paid to the consultant was $1.6 million. Due to the department’s concerns with the Assurance Partner’s performance, the engagement ended early in August 2015……


The initial allocation of funds for the Portfolio Reform Program in the 2014–15 budget was $710.4 million.5 Additional funds were approved in successive budgets which brought the total funding for the Program to $977.8 million. [my yellow highlighting]

BRIEF BACKGROUND

North Coast Voices, 26 June 2018, Australia’s Border Farce lives down to its nickname