In politics, “perception” is reality and if you can create a perception that distorts or defies reality, you are up and away.
Every politician knows this and they work tirelessly spending enormous, time, effort and dollars to convince voters they are trustworthy or competent enough to support.
At face value Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been enormously successful in creating the impression he is winning the campaign and, with it, close to winning the election.
Even seasoned politics watchers who inhabited the weekend couch on the nation’s most watched political panel programInsiders joined the cheering underlings in the stalls.
Watching the campaign was like watching Charlie Chuckles (Morrison) versus the Grim Reaper (Bill Shorten) was one view.
Politicians know the nightly TV news bulletins are hungry for pictures – the more bizarre will always get a run but that should not be confused with success.
Tony Abbott’s raw onion eating is a good example, but does having a go at sheep shearing prove anything?
Are Australians electing a champion sheep shearer, a skilled sports player or are they electing a leader of a government team that is promising to deliver policies that will serve the nation well?
Mr Shorten says he’s not going to let Mr Morrison run around the country taking his happy pills and getting away without serious scrutiny.
The past three Newspolls show the PM’s satisfaction has plateaued on 45 per cent. His dissatisfaction has climbed three points to 46 per cent.
These results coincide with the election campaign and are mirrored by findings in Labor focus groups, with reactions to Mr Morrison like “immature”, “shrill”, “smug” and “arrogant”.
The emergence of Clive Palmer is literally the joker in the pack, a desperate Mr Morrison has thrown caution to the wind and signed off on the Liberals doing a formal preference deal with the billionaire eccentric.
Mr Palmer – in the view of senior Liberals like WA’s former premier Colin Barnett and the former member of the ultra-marginal Townsville seat of Herbert Ewen Jones – will cause the party more damage than good.
Already Mr Palmer has seriously compromised the Prime Minister, who refuses to condemn the billionaire for not reimbursing taxpayers for the $70 million spent paying his workers’ entitlements.
Nor was Mr Morrison willing to even question whether Mr Palmer’s assurances were real that he has put aside $7 million to pay the workers the rest they are owed.
It seems the media puts a premium on politics as entertainment.
After asking Mr Palmer some tough questions on the Today show, Deb Knight thanked him for enlivening a boring election campaign.
In that interview he claimed his United Australia Party would win the election and govern the country.
If he even half believed it, he would be running for the House of Representatives where prime ministers reside, rather than squibbing Herbert – a seat he boldly proclaimed he would contest up until two weeks ago.
In June Mr Morrison was more dismissive of Mr Palmer, saying Australians would say “the circus doesn’t need another side show”.
But the prime minister is turning his own campaign into a side show spectacle – a point made forcefully by former Liberal leader John Hewson in an opinion piece last week.
Dr Hewson wrote “facing electoral defeat (the Coalition government) is easily characterised as stubborn and prejudiced on key policy issues, a team of (mostly) men of the past lacking a vision or the policies to back it up”.
According to analyst William Bowe, the influence of the Palmer preference flow in the latest Newspoll to see a point improvement for the Coalition two-party preferred, is a problematic guess and not supported in the polling.
The Coalition will be hoping any perception of momentum it has created will be rewarded come May 18.
Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics
If the likes of Exxon and EnergyAustralia – ranked first and second on the MW Top 40 Tax Dodgers chart are the heaviest ‘leaners’ – who are the nation’s heavy lifters?
It’s also fitting to recognise those companies who contribute most to the society in which they operate.
We are publishing two lists here, two top 40s: the Tax Heroes and the Biggest Taxpayers. Heading up the Biggest list are the big four banks, the supermarket duo, BHP, Telstra and Rio Tinto.
These are the biggest taxpayers by virtue of their sheer size, but they are not the best if you consider the size of their income.
We have done some calculations, therefore, around the 2000 biggest companies in Australia to work out which ones did the least to minimise their taxable income and did the most to contribute to the tax base.
Topping the list of Tax Heroes again this year is Kerr Neilson’s Platinum Asset Management. Rising to second place we have the ASX and then Magellan Financial Services in third. There are some interesting things to consider.
There is an element of good fortune, not just good nature, in these rankings. Being a good taxpayer is about being in the right sector at the right time in history.
There are no low-margin businesses in the table above; just well-run financial services businesses and miners whose assets are in a mature stage and spitting out plenty of cash.
This is a super high-margin business, in part because of what it does – invests other people’s money – but it also comes down to Platinum’s investment performance and reputation over the years.
There are very few businesses that can produce a profit of $1 billion on $1.36 billion of revenue. That’s a margin of 78 per cent. If you look at the table below of the top taxpayers, the big banks’ margins are still nice and chunky, at 25 to 30 per cent.
But Woolworths and Wesfarmers (which owns Coles) have margins of just over 5 per cent, meaning they soak up 95c in the dollar in costs to run the business.
These are huge-volume businesses that only get to keep a fraction of the revenue they make.
Among other patterns in the data:
As with the Top 40 Tax Dodgers, more than 95 per cent of these companies are audited by Big Four global accounting firms EY, PwC, KPMG and Deloitte
The Big Four, despite their fabulous profitability, are absent from the heroes list. They are housed in arcane partnership vehicles and so don’t have to report
There are not many foreign-controlled multinationals on the lists, indicative of the general global trend for multinationals to be more aggressive in their tax practices away from home
The Heroes list is well represented in financial services thanks to high margins. Such as Platinum, Magellan, ASX, Perpetual, Argo, UBS, Credit Agricole, Credit Corp and Future Fund
Internet stocks domiciled in Australia, Carsales.com.au, Realestate.com.au and Seek make the Heroes list, which demonstrates some new-economy stocks are making a contribution
In contrast, the Australian offshoots of global tech giants Apple, Google, Booking.com and Amazon appear on neither list despite the billions of dollars they make from their Australian operations
Most of the companies on these good taxpayer lists file General Purpose financial statements, rather than the inadequate Special Purpose accounts typical of the Top 40 Tax Dodgers
For all their sins – the rampant, systemic fraud exposed by the banking royal commission – the banks are the biggest taxpayers in the country.
Commonwealth Bank is Australia’s biggest taxpayer.
According to the four years of Australian Tax Office transparency data, the CBA showed tax payable of $13.2 billion.
Interestingly, as close observers of the franking credits debate will have noticed, not all of this $13.2 billion goes to the government to pay for defence, infrastructure, the public service and so forth.
The amount that goes to the national coffers excludes these franking credit payments, which go to those who have reduced their taxable income. Billions of dollars therefore in tax payments do not end up in the tax base.
To the sectors
Although there are some notorious dodgers in the resources sector, such as the oil and gas majors and Glencore, some mining companies make a large contribution. Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting comes in at #12 on the Heroes chart, with $1.4 billion payable over four years, and Rio’s partner Robe River, Nippon Steel and Baosteel also appear.
Ramsay Health Care turns up in the Biggest rankings, while Healthscope appears on the Dodgers. Likewise Allianz and QBE, the insurers on the Biggest, while Swiss Re and Hannover Life are on the Dodgers list. Again, Toyota is on the biggest, but a slew of other carmakers feature among the Dodgers.
UBS, Citibank, OCB and Bank of China are on the Heroes, while Goldman Sachs paid not one red cent over four years and joined BNP Paribas and ING on the Dodgers.
Another feature of the contrasting lists is companies who require more a social licence to operate, tend to pay more tax. Hence tobacco companies, British American Tobacco features on the Heroes, and Phillip Morris on the Biggest list.
The ASX, which is a virtual monopoly ranks #3 on the Heroes chart, while the local banks, which enjoy taxpayer protection – a bail-out fund – rank highly on the Biggest table.
Builders warn global workers critical amid skills shortage
Australia’s home building sector says it’s highly vulnerable to a looming skills shortage and needs further support to find building talent from overseas.
“The issue we have now is that the bar is being set a bit higher in terms of qualifying to bring in skilled labor,” Housing Industry Association‘s Harley Dale says.
*The peak body for the home building industry put out calls on Friday for a separate contractor visa that could be used to bring in-demand workers like bricklayers and tilers into Australia for building construction projects.
A number of construction worker categories, including bricklayers, carpenters and joiners and electricians, are on the list of occupations for the ‘medium term’ temporary skills shortage visa, the 482 class visa.
“We have 12-15 years of our own survey evidence that shows even in a downturn, bricklayers and ceramic tilers remain in shortage,” he says.
Across a range of small businesses, skills shortages are a common concern. The most recent ‘Canary in the Coalmine’ report from Prushka Fast Debt Recovery, released last week, found 16 per cent of small businesses said shortage of talent had stopped them growing in the past year.
Labour market reports from the department of jobs and small business show that in 2018, 36 per cent of construction vacancies were filled in Victoria and there were 0.6 qualified applicants per vacancy.
In New South Wales, 38 per cent of vacancies were filled and there was 0.5 qualified candidates per advertised vacant job on average.
*A Labor Party spokesperson said its policy on skilled worker visas was aimed at preventing overseas workers from being paid less than local workers, with four out of five skilled visas granted where there was no recognised skills shortage.
The visa system would continue to operate to address genuine skills shortages, the party said.
*”Labor believes there is no excuse for a skills shortage to last one day longer that it takes to train an Australian to do that job – especially if a particular industry is booming – and we’ll train local workers with our plans to invest in TAFE and higher education,” the spokesperson said.
Apprentices also costing resources
The struggle to find talent is occurring as building companies pour resources into finding and keeping apprentices, Dale says.
Master Builders Australia has talent front of mind too, arguing the incoming government must work to deliver 300,000 skilled construction workers in the next five years to meet demand.
The major parties have both pledged to overhaul apprenticeships and training in competing policy announcements.
Labor has committed to a $1 billion policy suite to roll out in years to come including incentives for 150,000 apprentices in areas deemed to have skills shortages.
WITH the current regulatory environment having entrenched the power imbalance and facilitated exploitation of these workers … failing to record time worked by staff … underpayment of staff … and payment by cash … so there is no paper trail … with all workers being foreign …
IS it any wonder Visa workers are so sought after by so many employers … suggesting that ‘Australian workers don’t want to work’ … the usual condemnation …
Chatime’s franchisees embroiled in underpayment scandal
A wages scandal engulfing international beverage powerhouse Chatime has widened to its franchise network, with an internal audit exposing widespread underpayment of workers.
An audit of more than 20 stores in the franchise network last year found 86 per cent were underpaying workers. Other audits in late 2016 flagged potential “systemic” underpayment issues through the franchise network.
An investigation by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age into the bubble tea operator found that head office had underpaid workers in its corporate stores as far back as 2009 by as much as $6 million.
It revealed the Fair Work Ombudsman investigated the organisation and requested it repay $175,000 to underpaid workers. It said the investigation was ongoing.
The wages rip-off within the franchise network, which makes up more than 90 of the 111 stores operating under the Chatime banner, brings the total owed to workers to more than $10 million.
*The Chatime scandal is the latest to hit the $170 billion franchising sector and follows a damning parliamentary report into the industry. That report said the current regulatory environment had “manifestly failed to deter systemic poor conduct and exploitative behaviour and has entrenched the power imbalance”.
Labor has committed to setting up a taskforce to examine the recommendations while the government is yet to release a response.
An internal audit of more than 20 stores took place more than six months after Chatime’s head office had introduced a new payroll system to the franchise network to ensure workers were being paid the legal rate.
Part of the explanation, say insiders, is greed, in some cases it is desperation.
The average franchise costs $300,000 for a five-year-contract.
The business model is based on franchisees growing sales, not profit, with head office taking a 6 per cent royalty from every sale as Australians slurp on a growing variety of bubble tea. Outgoings include rent, wages, royalties, 3.5 per cent to a marketing fund, payroll system fees, music and mystery shopper costs, cups, syrup, tea leaves, pearls and toppings sourced from the franchisor and refurbishment costs of up to $150,000.
Deepak Shankar, a lawyer at Litigation Specialists, who specialises in the franchise sector, examined a Chatime disclosure document. He found it lacked enough detail to make an informed decision before purchase.
“The aim of a disclosure document is to assist a potential franchisee to decide whether to buy the franchise,” he said. “The Chatime disclosure document, like others in the franchise industry, is so wide-ranging, vague and opaque that it can in no way assist in understanding the expenses involved when operating the franchise.”
Chatime declined to answer a series of questions, including about an investigation by the ombudsman into corporate stores owned by head office.
In a statement it said it recognised underpayments were a serious issue in the franchise industry. It said it was committed to paying people correctly and if underpayments were identified, it was committed to rectifying them.
It said that in the past some of its business systems and payroll capabilities had not kept pace with the rapid growth of the Chatime brand in Australia and the complexities of the Australian regulatory environment. It said it had taken proactive steps to get it right.
Last month the ombudsman took legal action in the Federal Circuit Court against a former Chatime franchisee in Sydney, alleging it underpaid 17 staff – mostly international students on visas – $46,000 between January and November 2017.
The ombudsman said it was part of a wider investigation into other bubble tea operators, including GongCha, which has more than 55 stores in Australia, and smaller operator Sharetea.
Leaked documents show the ombudsman has audited a number of franchisees across the country.
In 2016 Chatime, hired an external workplace relations company to conduct a series of store audits, which uncovered underpayment issues. In a document in February 2017 it said: “The findings of the audit to date highlighted concerningly high levels of non compliance matters which potentially is systemic through the franchise network.”
*One audit document describes the franchisee as failing to have any procedures in place to record time worked by staff. One audit of 10 staff notes “significant underpayment of staff during audit period”. It says the franchisee pays staff by cash. “There is therefore essentially no paper trail evidence to show that staff have been paid (no payslips, no bank account statements showing deposits.” It says all workers were foreign and the franchisee has an unsatisfactory system for identifying and monitoring visa workers’ rights.
*Another store audit in Melbourne conducted in December 2016, covering nine staff, found payslips did not include employees’ super funds and that staff were not given proper paid breaks.
All workers were foreign, yet there was no system of identifying and monitoring visa working conditions. The audit found the “franchisee does not have a satisfactory procedure for recording time actually worked by staff”. Anonymous online employer ratings website forum Glassdoor includes posts written by anonymous workers, some complaining of underpayment at Chatime franchised stores.
One former worker described a franchisee as unprofessional and suffocating. “Imagine working with Gordon Ramsay, but he doesn’t do anything Gordon Ramsay does other than swearing and publicly humiliating you. Then combine that thought with Kevin Spacey from Horrible Bosses, that is what Chatime management is… Fake superannuation accounts, hires you as part-time but without the benefits until Fair Work is on them.”
-as for candidate Gladys Liu, well ask the questions:
.does she have something to explain?
.is she the sort of person voters can trust?
.does she deserve to be in Parliament?
Liberal candidate’s claim of ‘fake’ report prompts release of audio interview
And Clive Palmer … The mining mogul, who had a three-year stint in parliament before being turfed out in 2016, is trying his luck again under the banner of his new United Australia Party.
THIS, it would seem, may be worth exploring?
IS our society under stress from competing interests, less and less reasons to be a part of a big picture as a country?
.are we a more dispirited lot?
.are there less reasons to be … beyond sectional interests?
.is it the case that encouraging differences has a down side?
IT seems our society faces yet more challenges, whether in how it conducts the mechanisms of a modern democracy, or how it facilitates a functional society that has evolved rather than been the outcome of good policy and consensus!
During a federal election there is a large amount of information being distributed, much of it online, which is seeking to influence your vote. Some of this may be disinformation, or false information.
The Stop and consider campaign is about helping you to check the source of information so you can cast an informed vote this federal election.
A federal election is a contest of ideas and electoral laws do not regulate the truth of electoral communications.
It’s important that you consider what you see, hear or read. If you have doubts about the source of information there are questions you can ask to help you form your own opinion and make a decision.
Your role as a voter
Take the time to consider if the information is:
Is it from a reliable or recognisable source?
Do you know the source of the information? Has it come from an accredited media outlet or verified social media account?
Just because a post/article was shared today does not mean it is current. Always check the original source and publication date.
Could it be a scam?
If you are suspicious of the source or content of information being communicated on social media or other digital platforms, it is important to think carefully before engaging.
Where possible, you should check the contact details of the source of the information.
The AEC’s role
The AEC is the independent agency tasked with running the 2019 federal election.
The AEC’s role is to:
Provide reliable information on the electoral process
The AEC will provide easy access to information regarding how to enrol, vote or run as a candidate through our advertising campaign, website, contact centre and social media accounts.
If there is any incorrect information about these election processes, the AEC will act to correct the record.
Outside these election processes – the AEC does not have any role in checking the truth of electoral communication.
Investigate the authorisation of electoral communications
Certain electoral communications are required to be authorised to help you to know the source of that information. On receipt of complaints, the AEC will investigate electoral communications that are not properly authorised.
ACORN (Australian Cybercrime Online Network) – enables you to report cybercrime (e.g. hacking, scams, fraud, identity theft, attacks on computer systems and illegal or prohibited online content) and online incidents that may be in breach of Australian law.
The role of communicators
It is the responsibility of each candidate, party or other person or organisation making communications about the federal election to ensure their electoral communications contribute to the federal election and comply with relevant laws, including ensuring that they are appropriately authorised.
The role of media channels
Media representatives and social media organisations have a role to play, in both the appropriate creation and distribution of electoral communication. Television and radio broadcasters have obligations in relation to political communications under the broadcasting laws.
Social media companies have resources that can help you to ask question about electoral information.
April 2019 marks the tenth anniversary of Australia first achieving “world’s best economy” status. Alan Austin concludes his two-part retrospective which seeks to counter the myth of the Coalition as “best economic managers” mantra.
THE COLD, hard facts show Australia’s economy in April 2009 was the world’s best. Observers worldwide have affirmed this. In 2016, IAquoted 14 authorities hailing Australia’s extraordinary success in managing the global financial crisis.
Here, by way of wrapping up the tenth birthday of the world’s best-performed economy, are several more acute observations. These provide a timely antidote to mendacious media claims that continue to denigrate Labor’s record and cover up the failures of the Coalition.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan … saved the country. Australia was the only developed nation not to go into recession during the global financial crisis but the ignoble response from Opposition leaders Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott (who soon replaced him) to the stimulus and borrowing required sowed the seeds for the difficult times the country now faces.
The great merit of the (Labor) government was to adopt a strongly counter-cyclical fiscal policy stance. The fiscal expansion that started in 2008 was the right move at the right time … There are simply no empirical foundations to the statement that Rudd and Gillard mismanaged the economy. In fact, the data tell exactly the opposite story.
‘Australia has navigated the global recession brilliantly … there’s no other developed country that’s done half as well. If you made a list of the developed countries that have done well in this recession, Australia is at the top.’
‘Is it a waste if people use the stimulus money to pay down debt instead of rushing to the shop? No, it’s a helpful step because it allows people to repair their personal finances so they are closer to being able to start spending again … In other words, the money was well timed and was indeed offsetting the downturn.’
~ Deutsche Bank’s chief economist, Tony Meer, 2009
‘Although some of the details of these fiscal stimulus packages have since been the subject of domestic political criticism, international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have praised Canberra’s response.’
~ Lowy Institute for International Policy director Mark Thirlwell, 2017
‘Even though many countries moved quickly to enact large fiscal stimulus packages, these packages generally have not had a strong effect in cushioning the initial decline in employment caused by the crisis, although Australia is a notable exception.’
‘Too few of the people blathering on about the stimulus spending understand that need for compromise and the clever way Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan tackled it … it is not surprising that, in the OECD’s review of the stimulus applied by the developed countries, it judged our efforts as among the most effective.’
‘The effectiveness of our stimulus was due to both the size of its measures and the speed with which they were introduced. The targeting of households and schools (on which work can be undertaken rapidly) also contributed to the speed of its effect. So it seems the design of the stimulus is critical.’
… the decisions that Swan has made as treasurer, before during and after the global financial crisis was officially over certainly contributed to Australia’s good records. If Australia’s performance had been as bad as other economies, Swan would have certainly copped the blame for it. So the fact that we avoided dashing ourselves on the rocks, he’s entitled to claim some of the credit.
~ Saul Eslake, Grattan Institute program director, 2011
‘The Australian Treasury estimates that without the stimulus packages the unemployment rate would have been forecast to peak at 10 per cent rather than 8½ per cent. With the stimulus, there are estimated to be up to 210,000 more people with jobs.’
‘Had the stimulus measures been poorly targeted, no amount of surplus would have helped. And the reality is the stimulus measures worked pretty much as they were expected to … you had Australia’s economy continuing to grow while the rest of the world was on the on the floor wondering if anyone got the number of the truck that had just hit it.’
It’s now been 25 years since Australia had a recession. We came damn close in 2009 but avoided one thanks to the timely actions of the Reserve Bank, Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan. We like to bag our politicians, but a quarter century without knowing the misery, the dislocation and waste of human life that comes from high unemployment is something to be very proud of.
‘Australia’s high level of political stability and governance is maintained, which supports the country’s attractive business climate … Australia has remained one of the strongest performing economies in the AAA universe since the global financial crisis began’.
Scott Morrison has no grand vision about where the country should go, writes Gareth Parker.
See lynlinking’s other Tweets
Stand up for human rights! Read about Alan Austin’s current situation HERE and help out by contributing to the crowd-funding campaign HERE. You can follow Alan Austin on Twitter @AlanAustin001.
Sky News Australia
.@JimMolan: This whole game is to beat Labor and the Greens. And if we have to form a preference deal with Clive Palmer, then I’m prepared to back that to the hilt. Because the greatest evil we’ve got in Australia is the Greens.
Yep – I remember the last “evil” greens/labor gov.
The one where we had the best performing economy in the world…..
PLEASE bring it back.
Lets end LNP Cuts and Chaos #ausvotespic.twitter.com/zKTs2XmxCJ
‘with clear evidence of increasing illegal dwelling production in parts of Sydney … a rise in informal and insecure rental agreements … A lack of data about it means it’s a policy blindspot’
HOW can a ’roundtable on overcrowding’ lead to a good outcome?
WHICH Lobbyist organisation is behind this? It was said to have been held in September 2018 … yet we cannot find any information about it … is this what happens behind closed doors in the NSW Parliament?
The new Minister for Housing Melinda Pavey was unavailable to provide an update 7 months on!
WHAT lays behind this MESS are the Federal Liberal Coalition policies with the International Student scam and exploitation of Visa Workers … the FIRB ruling allowing developers to sell 100% of ‘new homes’ to foreign buyers, and Australian Real Estate awash with Black Money … RE Sector exempt from Anti-Money Laundering legislation as recently as October 2018!
DID Prue Goward retirehaving killed off Public Housing in NSW by handing over much of it to ‘Link Housing’ and others … Link Housing which partners with property owners, investors, property developers, local government and charitable organisations?
Overcrowded, illegal housing on the rise in Sydney due to poor affordability, report finds
An increasing number of people are turning to overcrowded or illegal housing, due to a lack of affordable options. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Overcrowded, illegal housing on the rise in Sydney due to poor affordability, report finds
Sydney councils are being flooded with complaints about illegal and overcrowded housing, as a lack of affordable homes pushes people into substandard living conditions, new research shows.
Illegal granny flats, subdivided garages and severely overcrowded properties with more tenants than beds, are what cash-strapped Sydneysiders are increasingly turning to, according to a new report released on Monday by the Sydney Policy Lab at the University of Sydney.
“Leaving affordable housing to the market hasn’t worked and doesn’t work. This is what the market produces,” Dr Gurran said.
The number of people living in severely crowded dwellings — classed as homelessness — more than doubled in metropolitan Sydney between the 2011 and 2016 census, Dr Gurran said. Meanwhile, complaints about illegal dwellings have risen markedly over the past two years, the report found.
Dr Gurran said complaints about illegal dwellings across council areas involved in the study ranged from 10 per month to 80, with the majority found to be valid. She noted there were different approaches across the city – illegal granny flats were a top concern in Fairfield, but overcrowding of apartments was the issue in Waverley.
Although some of the dwellings complied with the planning system, many did not, raising significant health and safety risks to occupants. They were also increasingly being used as long-term solutions, did not come cheap and left tenants in a vulnerable position, the report found.
While development control officers were reported to have been flooded with complaints about illegal dwellings, they felt they were just scratching the surface – with interviewees estimating about 10 per cent of unlawful dwellings were being brought to their attention.
“Councils are not resourced to do proactive inspections,” said Dr Gurran. “And] there’s no point in identifying and prosecuting an illegally overcrowded boarding house or dwelling if there is no alternative for people.
That places building inspectors in a really tough position.”
Tenants in informal housing have little protection under current regulations, according to Leo Patterson Ross, senior policy officer at the Tenants’ Union of NSW.
“Big issues that come up are the quality of homes, a lack of repairs and maintenance, and then exploitative practices around bonds – where it doesn’t get lodged, and tenants never see it again – and pretty sudden evictions,” Mr Patterson Ross said.
He added international students and new migrants with little understanding of their rights were particularly exposed, giving examples of tenants having their passport confiscated by landlords who said they had the power to deport them if they did anything wrong.
Mr Patterson Ross said tenancy reform was needed to ensure rental protections for everyone.
Both he and Dr Gurran added that boosting the supply of social and affordable housing was vital, as was better support for local governments to strengthen and enforce regulations.
Improved tenant and specialist housing support and advice services, better education around rules and regulation were also urgently needed.
Recent research in the US estimated around 5 per cent of new housing was produced without planning permission, Dr Gurran said. With clear evidence of increasing illegal dwelling production in parts of Sydney, as well as a rise in informal and insecure rental agreements, she said further research was needed to determine the scale of the problem in Australia.
*A lack of data about it means it’s also a policy blindspot,” Dr Gurran said.
State government acknowledged the severity of Sydney’s hidden housing problem last year, when the former minister for family and community services and social housing, *Pru Goward, held the state’s first roundtable on overcrowding. However, some experts were doubtful it would lead to action.*
*More than seven months on, new housing minister Melinda Pavey was unavailable to provide an update, but a NSW government spokesperson said the new minister was being briefed on several matters, including the round table outcomes.
The NSW Data Analytics Centre (DAC) project was announced almost three years ago by the Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello, who was then the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation.
A spokesperson for the minister said the centre had been working closely with several state and federal government agencies to collect and analyse information, that is currently being reviewed by relevant agencies.
It is understood the centre worked with family and community services, Revenue NSW and Land and Property Information, on a project focused on overcrowding, that was overseen by Fair Trading.
Home Buyers in Driver’s Seat in Current Housing Markets
Lower housing values are becoming increasingly attractive to first home and prospective buyers previously priced out of the market.
Online bank ING, Australia’s fifth largest home loan lender, is the latest to cut rates on several fixed home loans for owner-occupier customers paying principal and interest, following recent cuts made by CBA, NAB and Westpac.
The move follows a recent report from credit ratings agency Moody’s analytics forecasting increasing competition amongst banks scrambling to seduce home loan customers with lower interest rates amid the slowing housing market.
In the coming months Corelogic research analyst Cameron Kusher expects declines will lead to further falls in asset values.
Kusher says the lower dwelling values will be attractive to first home buyers and would-be buyers who might’ve been priced out of the market.
“With advertised stock levels remaining high and mortgage rates tracking around the lowest level since the 1960s, and potentially moving even lower later this year, active buyers are back in the drivers seat to take advantage of improved housing affordability and the low cost of debt,” Kusher said.
National dwelling values have now recorded a 7.4 per cent fall since their 2017 peak, Kusher says this translates approximately into a $40,590 decline.
Cooling property prices have resulted in increased interest in premium suburbs, with Sydney’s northern beaches, inner eastand Melbourne’s Middle Park and Toorak seeing high numbers of views per listing according to property search website realesate.com.au
But while national dwelling values have now fallen 7.4 per cent from their October 2017 peak through to the end of March, Kusher says it’s important to understand the context in terms of how much this equates to in dollars.
“Based on the median dwelling value at the time of the market peak, a 7.4 per cent fall in national dwelling values translates approximately into a $40,590 decline in dwelling values,” he said.
Across the capitals…
Sydney values are now 13.9 per cent lower than their peak, or down $124,739.
Melbourne dwelling values have fallen by 10.3 per cent, equating to $71,404, from their peak.
Brisbane dwelling values are down $7,796 or 1.6 per cent lower than they were at their peak.
Adelaide dwelling values are down a slight 0.5 per cent, or $2,307, lower.
While Perth dwelling values, which peaked in mid-2014, are now currently 18.1 per cent, or $97,797, lower.
Hobart and regional Tasmania are the only two major regions of the country where values are yet to have fallen from peak.
Darwin dwelling values are down 27.5 per cent, or $145,980 lower.
And Canberra Values are a slight 0.2 per cent lower, or $1,071 down from their peak.
… ARE those Words echoing in your head? The lifeblood of Australia’s most important food growing region … its people have been driven to despair … they cannot afford water at $600 a megalitre to keep farming …
Regulators tell them they can’t gain access to water that is flowing past their land … yet we have the Fed LNP Coalition boasting of its deregulation and cutting red tape?
Across the strong-flowing river to Victoria … farmers are on 60 per cent of their entitled allocation … downstream in South Australia, they enjoy 100 per cent of their allocations.
Then on the northern NSW side of the Murray the Publican lets it slip … ‘they’ve cut the water off to the farms, they’ve sold it to OVERSEAS interests and no-one seems to care!’
Another day’s heartless sun is sinking to the horizon, not a cloud in the sky, and Mick Clark’s nuggety body is throwing a long shadow over his parched land north of Deniliquin.
The feedlot that not so long ago held 1000 fat lambs is empty. There is no crop planted on the property that has been in his family’s hands for three generations.
“I’ve parked all the farm equipment up in the sheds and I’ve gone and got myself a job driving a tractor for a bloke,” he says.
Mick Clark has made a vow.
*“So far as I’m concerned, the supermarket shelves in the city can go empty,” he says. “I’m not going to spend $600 a megalitre of water to keep farming just to go broke.”
*Clark is among an army of farmers across what has long been called Australia’s food bowl who say they can no longer afford to grow food.
It is not as simple as a lack of rain, though this country is in its second dry year.
Farmers in the Riverina know about dry periods. They will almost forgive the sky when it withholds its mercy.
*But when regulators tell them they can’t gain access to water that is flowing past their land, and when the authorities charge them for the right to that waterthey can’t use, and then charge them more for “delivery” of the water that isn’t delivered, they get very angry indeed.
And then, when their last desperate option is to buy water on the open market and the equation is 11 megalitres to grow a single hectare of corn, or 13 to 15 megs per hectare for rice, and water is $600 a meg … why, they get mad.
Dairy farmers in the region who haven’t folded are spending huge money they don’t have to maintain their herds, I’m told, knowing that if there is no spring rain this year, they’ll be lucky to drive away in an old ute.
Up and down the dry irrigation country people are declaring themselves angry enough to turn their backs on the National and Liberal parties that have always held political sway in this slice of the country.
“I’ve been a Liberal and Nationals voter for 18 years,” says Clark. “I won’t vote for either of them again. The only way I’d go back is if they said they’d stop sending fresh water out to sea.”
His conviction is proving infectious.
The electorate of Farrer, which runs the length of the Murray to the South Australian border, has been held easily by the Liberal’s Sussan Ley since 2001. Before that it was Tim Fischer’s kingdom.
The online bookies just six weeks ago had Ley at short odds of $1.25 to hold the seat against the outsider, Albury mayor and independent candidate Kevin Mack, at $8.
This week, Mack became the favourite: $1.55 to Ley on $2.10.
One of Clark’s neighbouring farmers, Andrew Crossley, whose family normally farms 2000 irrigated acres, says the entire Murray-Darling Basin Plan should be “paused, reviewed and re-set”.
“We’re just sick of what’s been happening,” he says. “It can’t go on.”
Water politics and regulations in Australia’s irrigation districts, which are supposed to balance the competing needs of farmers, towns and the environment, have become so dizzying they might have been a creation of Franz Kafka, the master of socio-bureaucratic absurdity.
*Clark, Crossley and all their fellow farmers on the northern, NSW side, of the Murray River are on what is called “zero allocation” of irrigation water.
*Yet they can look 100 metres across the strong-flowing river to Victoria, where farmers are on 60 per cent of their entitled allocation. And they know, with furious envy, that if they were downstream in South Australia, they would be enjoying 100 per cent of their allocations.
My motorcycle has taken me more than 1000 kilometres through the flatlands of Victoria’s north-west and the featureless plains of southern NSW over the last few days, grain silos cutting horizons like church spires.
At every stop, the sound that replaces the thump of the motor is that of country people expressing disbelief at what they see is a political system that has delivered many of them a weariness that is approaching despair.
The closer I ride towards the Murray, the lifeblood of Australia’s most important food-growing region, the despair – and in some cases, utter disconnection – becomes more apparent.
Bill McDonald, the publican of the Grand Hotel at the tiny town of Nyah West, in the far north of Victoria’s Mallee, is perfectly blunt.
“Don’t ask me about politics,” he says when I tell him I’m seeking views about the coming federal election. “If politics comes on the TV on the wall there, everyone calls for it to be turned off straight away.
“They’ve just had a gut full.”
And yet the electorate of Mallee shapes as one of the more interesting of the contests in rural Australia.
Held by the Nationals (formerly the Country Party) since its creation in 1949, its future was thrown into confusion when the sitting member, Andrew Broad, sensationally blew away his political career last year by an indiscretion with a so-called “sugar babe” in Hong Kong.
No less than 13 candidates – more than ever before – have nominated for election.
Every one of those candidates lists water as high on their lists of concerns.
The vast dimensions of Mallee – a third of Victoria – means the troubled Murray isn’t necessarily a shared concern, however. A couple of hours south west of McDonald’s hotel, in the town of Jeparit, I came across the town’s oracles, Ron Smith, 90, and George Allitt, 83.
Lifetime grain and sheep farmers, they meet every morning for a natter in a cafe in the little town’s supermarket. The “big town” in their world is Horsham, 75 kilometres to the south. Mildura, Mallee’s main population centre, and the Murray river and its mysteries, are 270 kilometres north. Jeparit’s water, the Wimmera Rivera, flows from the south.
They’re discussing the attributes of the town’s doctor, a fellow named Mohammed, when I pull up.
Ron says he doesn’t care about politics at all, though he doesn’t want to see “that bloke Shorten” running the country.
George says he’d be happy if Scott Morrison continued as prime minister. He says he doesn’t see any difference between Liberal or National, and though neither Ron nor George can name a Mallee candidate, George says he wouldn’t mind an independent “so long has he was on the right [conservative] side”.
In fact, the Nationals’ Dr Anne Webster – the founder of Zoe Support, a community organisation that helps young mothers reconnect with studying and training – is favourite, but four independents are offering a red-hot challenge.
*Up in Nyah West, publican McDonald agrees that water is the big topic around the bar.
*“They’ve cut the water off to the farms, they’ve sold it to overseas interests and no-one seems to care,” he says.
One of his customers, Kevin Lee-Jones, says he no longer farms his own land.
*“I’ve got land with water rights, but it’s too expensive to farm it,” he says. He never turns on the water, but he still has to pay Goulburn-Murray Water $2000 a year just in case he decides he needs it one day.
*Instead, he leases out his water rights to anyone willing to pay between $300 and $500 a megalitre, and has swapped sheep farming for spray painting for a living.
I cross the Murray and the state border at the wonderfully named Tooleybuc, the river flowing beneath the span. You’d never imagine this wide stretch of brown water would cause so much heartache.
Two hours of straight empty road bordered by struggling saltbush and bare earth later, I motor in to * Deniliquin.
Next morning, there are 2000 people at the Anzac commemorative ceremony on the corner of the town’s park – a chain of billabongs running through it, the lawns startlingly green.
*I find myself almost mobbed by locals wanting to vent about what zero water allocations mean to Deniliquin.
Mayor Norm Brennan says he’s worried for his town. The local rice mill had put off 100 workers at Christmas, because “you can only grow rice when you’ve got water”.
*Brianna Holden, who manages the accounts at a local fertiliser company, says the flow-on effect of plunging agriculture income is obvious to everyone. Transport companies weren’t bringing in so much grain; farm machinery companies were laying off staff; small shops were closing; rental properties were vacant because shift workers from the rice mill were leaving town.
*So far as politics went: “People are saying you can’t expect change if you keep things the same, so they may as well give someone else a go”.
North of town, Andrew Crossley, with his two sons who will become the fourth generation on his family’s farm if it survives, peers at the Mulwala Canal, a Murray diversion stream full of water destined for South Australia and denied to the Riverina’s farmers.
“We’ve been sold down the river,” he says. There is no hint of irony.