The year of living feebly: how did we all become so pathetic?

BY NOW … it should be obvious that those in charge are not going to step up unless we step up too.

IN the lead up to new-year’s-resolution time, perhaps ask yourself:

When was the last time you went to a protest?

-When was the last time you called your local MP?

Do you have investments, and if so, have you considered their impact on the issues that you care about? –

Of course, none of these acts by themselves will change the world. But if we all think that way, the world won’t change.

The year of living feebly: how did we all become so pathetic?

Sean Kelly
Sean Kelly

Columnist and former adviser to Labor prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

December 28, 2019

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And so a new year is about to begin. Scandals will come. Public figures will lose their jobs. Policy debates will flare and disappear.

At the end, will anything be very different?

Let’s backtrack first. The week before Christmas was a busy time for political observers. The American President was impeached. Boris Johnson passed his Brexit bill.

Scott Morrison returned from Hawaii. So it took a lot to turn my head.

Illustration: John Shakespeare
Illustration: John ShakespeareCREDIT:

And yet still I found my head turned, and my eyes widened, at one comparatively minor item.

The Business Council of Australia was about to lodge its submission ahead of next year’s federal budget, and had decided to call, again, for cuts to the company tax rate.

*I’m sorry, what? Just that week, hadn’t Google agreed to pay almost half a billion dollars in back taxes, some of them dating back to 2008? And wasn’t this the latest in a string of similar cases? At the end of a year in which we’d discovered that some of Australia’s largest, richest companies – like Woolworths – had been stealing wages from their employees?

*Had it even been a month since the CEO of Westpac was forced to resign after allegations that his bank had effectively facilitated child abuse? I checked. Respectively: yep, yep, yep, and no it hadn’t even been a month.

Impressive hubris, huh? Now, I understand this is a budget submission, and the whole point is to suggest what government might do differently. But even if I could see my way clear to ignoring the hubris, as well as the evidence suggesting a company tax cut won’t do any of the things business says it will, what I can’t get out of my mind is how utterly feeble this is.

At the end of a year in which it became obvious that many of Australia’s largest businesses are not running what you’d call a tight ship – or even what you’d call a moderately loose dinghy their response was to ask government to fix their problems for them.

*Now, let me take a swerve that’s not really a swerve. A lot has been written recently about the prime minister’s insistence that Australia’s contribution to global emissions is small, and therefore unimportant. A lot of analogies have been marshalled – imagine if we all said the same thing about picking up rubbish etc – and underpinning them all is the suggestion that Morrison’s stance is the very definition of selfish.

It is, but it’s also worse than that. Recently, the former High Court judge Kenneth Hayne described such attitudes as “helplessness”, and I think that’s a good start. But increasingly I’ve found myself thinking it’s worse still.

The government admits Australia has a problem in the form of climate change. It concedes – sometimes – the havoc that climate change is causing.

In other words, it’s not just that it can’t fix the problem. The inevitable conclusion to the government’s logic is that it desperately wants someone else to fix it. By doing nothing, Australia is not just being selfish, or helpless. Instead, it’s some awful combination of both, entitled and pathetic at once. We can’t fix this on our own, boohoo, don’t expect us to do anything, now hurry up the rest of you and fix this mess.

While we’re on climate change, here’s another argument that keeps popping up. Energy minister Angus Taylor recently returned from Madrid, where he helped derail the chance of an international climate agreement.

Specifically, he spent his time there arguing that the loophole Australia has been using to argue it’s doing its bit on climate change – it’s not – should be kept in place. Or in other words: we got away with it last time, we should be able to get away with it again.

By now, Scott Morrison has said an awful lot about his trip to Hawaii, so you probably missed what for me was the most stunning moment in his apology tour. The problem, as you know, was not just that he left the country, but that he tried to keep it secret. Here was one of his attempts at justification: “I took leave in June as well and we did follow exactly the same practice.” But this was really just another way of making Taylor’s argument: “I got away with it last time, so you can’t really blame me for expecting to get away with it again.”


Hillville fire reflects on water during NSW bushfire emergency. 12 November 2019. Photo Dean Sewell

East coast bushfires: ‘a mongrel of a thing’

If that sounds familiar, it might be because it’s the same argument the government has been using to justify the fact it’s done very little since being re-elected. When the government is asked what else it might be planning, its routine response – presented as a matter of honour – is that it will do exactly what it said before the election, no less and certainly no more.

In July, when MPs were pushing for a change to Newstart, Morrison told them to be “mindful of what we took to the election and what we didn’t take to the election”. Just after his ‘miracle win’, he said this on energy: “There’s no change to our policies there. What I took to the election is what I’m going to do.”

In other words: we got away with it in 2019, we’ll get away with it again. The biggest question after the election was whether the prime minister really believed that. Seven months on, we’re still wondering.

I wonder if one clue to our future might come from Britain. The soundly defeated Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, recently wrote that his party had “won the argument” even though it lost the election. At first I thought this idiotic. But on reflection I found myself agreeing with my former colleague, John McTernan – no Corbyn fan – who wrote in the Financial Times that Corbyn had a point. On austerity, and particularly on health spending, the Tories ended up moving a long way in Labour’s direction.

British Labour might take heart from this. But it should also be terrified, because if the Tories manage to steal its political territory, while retaining their traditional strengths, then Labour won’t be left with many moves.

In Australia, there’s much speculation about whether Morrison will act on climate next year. I suspect he will, and the fairly weak action he takes (presented as a “balanced” approach) will box Labor in ever more tightly – though there is also a chance he’ll leave climate alone, and follow Johnson more directly on health and education.

And what about Labor’s direction next year? Here, too, international events might provide a model. If the US Democrats choose Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders as their presidential candidate, and one of them loses to Donald Trump, then Labor’s resolve to tack towards the centre will be strengthened.

Some Labor MPs, home for Christmas, will no doubt have heard complaints that the newish leader has not cut through. My feeling is that such complaints, this early, are not cause for concern. I wrote recently that Albanese seems to have settled into his role, and his decisions during the Hawaiian boilover – when to attack and when not to – were well pitched.

CAAN: WATCH ABC AND SBS NEWS REPORTS TO FOLLOW WHAT IS HAPPENING … to view what the Labor Opposition including Albo have to say … Today Albo questioned why the Scomo and Berejiklian Govts response has been so poor concerning the continuing Fire Crisis across the Nation!

Albanese questioned the ‘ethos’ of volunteering when

-these firefighters have to put food on the table; pay their mortgage/rent etc with fire storms happening since August 2019!

-that they must be paid

-that more funds need to be found urgently to provide the equipment to fight the fires

IS THAT WHY … there was no video on the ABC NEWS OR SBS NEWS FACEBOOK PAGES?

SK: Still, the most important factor will be whether Morrison gives him material to oppose. Either way, I’m expecting the contest between the two men to become more personal. Labor seems recently to have realised it is up against the prime minister, not his party.

I began this column by calling out both business and government for their feebleness. I’m sure many of you spent at least some time over your prawns or turkey expressing frustration at our leaders. That’s fair enough. But it also risks repeating their mistakes: blindly hoping someone else will fix things for us.


Scott Marsh painted this mural of Scott Morrison on a wall in the Sydney suburb of Chippendale.

A look back the darkness and din that was 2019

*This is tricky ground, I know, because by focusing on ordinary citizens you risk letting those with power off the hook. And so perhaps the answer lies in combining the two, by asking what the rest of us can do to hold those with power responsible.

*And so, in the lead up to new-year’s-resolution time, perhaps ask yourself: when was the last time you went to a protest? When was the last time you called your local MP? Do you have investments, and if so, have you considered their impact on the issues that you care about? Of course, none of these acts by themselves will change the world. But if we all think that way, the world won’t change.

I don’t write this from moral high ground. I could do much more. I write this partly to remind myself. But we have to face the fact that Australia has had a long, long run of luck. That has allowed us to get away with a lot, but the fact we got away with things in the past doesn’t mean we’ll get away with them forever.

At the end of this year, will anything be different? Business pretends it’s up to government. Government pretends it’s up to the rest of the world. And us? By now, it should be obvious that those in charge are not going to step up unless we step up too.

Sean Kelly is a former adviser to Labor prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. He is currently working from London.

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is a columnist for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald and a former adviser to Labor prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard

Illustration: John Shakespeare




RESORT Confirms PM SMOCO Upgraded to $3174 a Night Villa on FIJI Holiday

The same PM and family, who in a short time have been the recipients of much largesse and yet … until a day ago …

Scott Morrison had so far resisted paying all volunteer firefighters tackling Australia’s raging bushfires – that have been ongoing NOW for Months!

PERHAPS fighting fire storms across Australia would come under ‘Other Responsibilities for the PM?

Anthony Albanese said: … ‘the Prime Minister, if he is going to make an announcement should make it immediately’ ABC TV NEWS 28 December 2019 NEWS report at 2.00 p.m.

Rather than talk about the ethos of volunteerism …

Unfortunately we have not been able to obtain a current copy of a video or news report concerning the Opposition Leader’s response … nor on some other issues … hm …

Resort confirms PM Scott Morrison upgraded to $3174-a-night villa on Fiji holiday

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared the free upgrades for his Fijian holiday in June.EXCLUSIVE

Samantha Maiden

Samantha Maiden


Prime Minister Scott Morrison scored a free upgrade worth thousands of dollars at the Fijian resort of Turtle Island in June to secure a $3000-a-night luxury bure with a private beach and a personal butler.

The world-famous resort, which offers just 14 villas and 12 private beaches, has hosted media mogul Rupert Murdoch and pop star Britney Spears.

It boasts that guests are sometimes “close to tears” when it’s time to go home.

Just days after revelations the PM enjoyed an overseas getaway to Hawaii with his family during a national bushfire emergency, fresh details of his first overseas family trip to Fiji in July have emerged.

Turtle Island told The New Daily it upgraded the Morrison family from the $2500-a-night Water’s Edge Villa to the $3174-a-night Grand Villa.

Blue Lagoon, starring Brooke Shields, was filmed at the resort. Photo: Film Affinity

The resort was founded by American entrepreneur Richard Evanson.

*The Australian has reported one of its part-owners is Andrew Fairley, a superannuation law expert and chairman of the $15 billion industry fund Equipsuper, and one-time deputy chairman of Tourism Australia, where Mr Morrison earlier worked on the ‘Where the Bloody Hell Are You?’ campaign featuring Lara Bingle.

*The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to questions over whether taxpayers footed the bill for Mr Morrison’s AFP security team to stay at a separate $3000-a-night bure.

If the Morrison family stayed five nights on the island, the freebie was worth $3370 or $4718 for seven nights.

The family also accepted free upgrades on flights during the same trip, suggesting the Prime Minister enjoyed thousands of dollars in freebies and upgrades during the trip.

The resort boasts, ‘At Turtle Island, the world is yours to explore’. Photo: Facebook

It’s a far cry from the more modest family road trip to the Shoalhaven that the PM the highlighted on Facebook earlier this year when he drove down the coast with a trailer.

The resort’s $4000-a-night Vonu Point Villa was booked out. The most luxurious villa is at the north end of the Blue Lagoon.

According to Turtle Island’s website, “Vonu Point offers unbroken views of powder-white beaches, the sea and nearby islands. Inside, an inviting spa bath overlooks the archipelago. The villa opens onto a private garden, where you can enjoy 300-degree sweeping views from the day bed or the hammock”.

The Morrison family has established a tradition of jetting out to the five-star Turtle Island resort after the past two federal elections in July 2016 and June 2019.

PM Scott Morrison hams it up with holidaymakers in Hawaii.

The Prime Minister’s register of interests to Parliament also confirms that the Morrison family was given a free upgrade to more luxurious accommodation on the island.

The purpose of the Register of Members’ Interests is to place on the public record any gifts, freebies or memberships that “may conflict, or may be seen to conflict, with their public duty”.

Turtle Island prides itself on encouraging guests to wind down by not offering wi-fi in the villas.

Meals are served communally at one long table and include Indian spiced eggs, shrimp omelette or parfait cinnamon yoghurt with papaya compote for breakfast.

The private beaches include a sign that can be flipped from Vacant to Occupied to warn other holidaymakers to steer clear of your private beach.

Last Sunday, Mr Morrison said he regretted his Hawaii trip and if he had his time again he would do it differently.

“I’m sure Australians are fair-minded and understand that when you make a promise to your kids you try and keep it,” he said.

“As Prime Minister, you have other responsibilities and I accept the criticism.”




Is NSW deliberating shutting down towns to mine underground?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Water4rivers%20Menindee%20copy13.jpg

People in Menindee are being forced to leave as the jobs dry up along with the river and lakebeds.

CAAN has highlighted what everyone needs to know about what has been happening to Our Darling (Baaka) River

“In my opinion everyone involved in this obviously detrimental and destructive conspiracy ought to be charged in our federal courts for misleading the public, treason, ecocide and bastardry of the highest order.”

Is NSW deliberating shutting down towns to mine underground?

Coral WynterWilcanniaOctober 18, 2019

Issue 1241AustraliaTwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrint

“It seems that towns in western New South Wales are being shut down and nobody is listening,” local resident Mark Merritt told Green Left Weekly on the banks of a non-existent river.

Together with Susie Peake and Cath Eaglesham from Earthling Studios, Merritt attended an event organised on the Baaka River (the local Aboriginal name for the Darling River) as part of the Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroborree Festival tour held between September 29 and October 4.

See also

NSW rivers crisis: A ‘perfect storm’ of drought, theft and corruptionRivers in crisis: Redesigning river systems for profits

The tour was organised by Uncle Bruce Shillingsworth to expose the state of the Baaka.

Broken Hill’s water has always come from the Menindee Lakes, a gigantic lake system in the middle of a semi-arid desert that contains water bodies more than 15 kilometres wide.

*In 1949, infrastructure works modified the lakes to act as huge water storages to mitigate flooding and hold water supplies for South Australia.

*A more than 30-kilometre long levy was built along the eastern bank of the Baaka to form a human-made lake, named Lake Wetherell, as an additional water storage to supply the townships of Menindee, Sunset Strip and Broken Hill.

In the past 60 years Broken Hill has never run out of water.

Cutting off water

*Then, at a cost of more than $500 million, the state government rammed through a pipeline project to take water from the already struggling Murray River near Wentworth, on the border of NSW and Victoria, and pump it uphill for 270 kilometres to Broken Hill.

*There was no tender for the construction of the new pipeline; it was simply signed off by then-premier Mike Baird. Broken Hill Mayor Darriea Turley tried in vain to see the business plan for the pipeline but was blocked by successive water ministers. The government was finally force to release it in June. 

*No doubt someone has made a fortune out of the construction of the pipeline, which runs through old-growth desert vegetation and sacred Aboriginal sites. The pipeline is also set to supply water to two new mine sites. *

People in the towns of Menindee, Sunset Strip, Wilcannia, Tilpa and Louth are now reliant on bottled water. They are surviving largely due to donations from people in Victoria, NSW and South Australia.

Meanwhile, the state government continues to ignore the plight of the people in Menindee, who have to deal with putrid water that the water authority has declared fit for consumption.

*Menindee used to have a population of 1200 residents and a casual population of another 500 during the grape and fruit picking seasons. People in Menindee had full employment because of the horticultural and tourist industry.

Now there are only about 500 permanent residents and zero casual workers. People are forced to leave as the jobs dry up along with the river and lakebeds.

*Some say it is all part of a long-term plan to depopulate the Lower Darling and Menindee Lakes and clear the way for rare earth mineral extraction.

Profits before people

On the last night of the bus tour, participants camped in Menindee, on the banks of Lake Pamamaroo. Locals use to refer to the Menindee Lakes system as “Mini-Kakadu”, with its more than 100 species of birds and rich vegetation.

Broken Hill shire is attempting to have the entire lake system listed under the Ramsar Convention on wetlands and protected as an important and vital bird habitat.

Today, the water is gone and the river red gums are struggling to stay alive as the salt and the lack of river-flows take its toll. This is all due to the over allocation of pumping licences in the upper Baaka catchment, mostly for cotton.

About 8 years ago, Merritt was organising tours to Lake Mungo, working out of Wentworth.

*One evening he noticed the river flowing backwards, upstream, as irrigation pumps were switched on for the nightly watering of nearby orchards and vineyards.

Confused, he asked about the situation and was told: “That’s the way it is, when the pumps go on the river goes in reverse.”  It was at that point he knew something was dreadfully wrong with water management in NSW.

Merritt started talking to people and travelled to Menindee to start compiling interviews. Merritt, Eaglesham, Peake and Sally Hook have worked relentlessly as Earthling Studios to get voices from western NSW heard.

Merritt said: “It is ordinary people we need to make aware that fresh water is largely controlled by the big banks and multinational water merchants.

*“These merchants and their marketing processes are pricing Australian irrigators out of the water market, allowing global capital interests to determine what will happen to our inland waters and waterways.

*“In the twenty years since the beginning of water-trading we have gone from a country that shared our water, a common and vital resource, to one where capitalists are deliberately diverting entire river systems to make fast bucks.

*“They are polluting our waterways too. Our independent water analysis has shown that the entire Baaka is thick with farm chemical runoff, mainly in the form of salts (probably Glyphosate residue), sulphur and phosphorus. It is these chemicals that are likely to be the real cause of the cyno-bacterial blooms known as blue-green algae outbreaks.

“Our once beautiful river is now a stream of bacteria, thanks to unbridled capitalism, chemical companies and politicians that can’t see the living world, because of the dollars obstructing their view.

“The people along the Baaka have been crying out for help for decades. They have been ignored by just about everyone until the fish kill in the Menindee weir pool alerted the world to the catastrophe occurring there.”

Rare earth minerals

*The state government has drained the Menindee Lakes twice in a three-year period. Meanwhile, a company has been drilling for rare earth metals in the dry bed of Lake Menindee.

There has been an explosion in demand for rare earth metals as they are used in numerous everyday gadgets and items such as computers, DVDs, batteries, mobile phones, catalytic converters, magnets and fluorescent lighting.

*Recently, after the lake was mysteriously drained during a flood on the Murray, some 43 holes were drilled in the bed of the Menindee Lakes, with core samples put in refrigerated chests and flown out by helicopter.

The company told locals and workers they were drilling to find water but locals know there is no water there worth having because this had already been tried.

*“This seems to have been a long-term conspiracy of mining companies and government for years, decades,” Merritt said. “It’s like they want to get rid of people and communities downstream of Bourke.

“Killing the river would be a good way to do that.”

“There is clearly an unstated intention by our governments to mislead the public, destroy regions and the towns, impact the health and lifespans of Australians, and cause social, ecological and geological collapse, just to allow mining and irrigation corporations to increase their profits.

*“In my opinion everyone involved in this obviously detrimental and destructive conspiracy ought to be charged in our federal courts for misleading the public, treason, ecocide and bastardry of the highest order,” Merritt said.

[The interview Merritt collected can be found on the Earthling Studio website]Related content NSW rivers crisis: A ‘perfect storm’ of drought, theft and corruptionRivers in crisis: Redesigning river systems for profitsenvironmentRivers in crisiswater

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Link Michael West: Secrets and Lies: how FRANKING CREDITS stole the TAX Bonanza

*As for franking credits; in the long term the current regime is untenable.

*It entrenches a subsidy from all taxpayers to share owners. Many of these depend on this income for retirement and those less wealthy retirees should be protected by a cap but clearly the likes of $250,000 hand-outs to the likes of Dick Smith are impossible to justify.

(Dick Smith highlighted this in the media)

Secrets and Lies: how franking credits stole the tax bonanza

by Michael West — 26 December 2019 — FeaturedTax

‘Thanks to franking credits, the $52 billion in tax paid by Australia’s largest corporations is not actually received by the Tax Office. 

Michael West reports on one number everybody seems to have missed.

For five years now, the Tax Office has issued its Corporate Tax Transparency Report which shows how much tax Australia’s largest companies pay, or don’t pay. The latest report was released earlier this month. The data showed the biggest companies operating in this country paid collectively $52.3 billion in 2017-2018.

Surely this was good news. Then why was nobody crowing about it? Well, almost nobody.

Upon releasing its report, the ATO’s Deputy Commissioner Rebecca Saint did note the “significant increase of $6.6 billion in tax payable” by large corporations.

But where were the eulogies from government ministers and peak business groups? Why the deafening silence? No press release from the office of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, or from Finance Minister Mathias Cormann for that matter.

Nothing from powerful peak body the Business Council of Australia either. Even though the Tax Office press release said the rise in tax revenue was “primarily due to strong commodity prices”, there were no proud words from the mining lobby, the Minerals Council of Australia.

Perhaps it was because a slew of the world’s largest corporations were still paying zero income tax in Australia.



Fleecing Australia: Tax Office data dump shows the usual large culprits paying no tax

December 12, 2019

Trump’s tax cuts two years on: yes, we have a verdict

December 13, 2019

Australian Defence contracts pass from Russian with money-laundering links to shady US military contractor Dyncorp

December 27, 2019

OGNAP: how the Government protects its donors and tax dodgers

December 17, 2019



WARRAGAMBA DAM Water Level falls to Lowest Point in 15 Years Amid Crippling DROUGHT and GROWING POPULATION


‘I was in ‘THE PONDS’ just today, and some idiots have the lawn sprinklers going with most of the water hitting a fence and the road.

None of these homes were ever mandated for grey water.

Yet just up the road in VINEYARD the Liberal Coalition Government are hell bent rezoning more farmland and ground covers into water intensive high thermal mass wastelands.

We will have no water left in 6 months if they keep this up.

Sorry we are 100% full until the resources and energy and water efficiencies are fixed up.

Stop all slum building and dodgy property airports and privatised metros for slum building now!’

Water level at a vital dam providing most of Sydney’s drinking water falls to its lowest point in 15 years amid crippling drought and growing population

  • Level at dam supplying 80 per cent of Sydney’s drinking water lowest in 15 years
  • Warragamba Dam is at 43.9 per cent capacity – unmatched as far back as 2004
  • Just 0.1mm of rain in dam’s 9,000sq km catchment has fallen in the past week 
  • Worrying readings comes as NSW battles one of the worst droughts on record 



The water level at a vital dam supplying 80 per cent of Sydney’s drinking water has dropped to its lowest point in 15 years.

The Warragamba Dam, 65km south-west of the city’s CBD, is at 43.9 per cent capacity after only 0.1mm of rain fell in its 9,000sq km catchment in the past week. 

Warragamba’s water level is 19 per cent lower than last year – and unmatched as far back as 2004 when the Millenium Drought gripped the Murray-Darling basin.

The water level at the Warragamba Dam (pictured in October) - which supplies 80 per cent of Sydney's drinking water - has dropped to its lowest point in 15 years

The water level at the Warragamba Dam (pictured in October) – which supplies 80 per cent of Sydney’s drinking water – has dropped to its lowest point in 15 years

That year the level fell to a record 38.8 per cent of capacity.

The worrying readings released by Water NSW on Thursday come as the state battles one of the worst droughts on record.

Earlier this month, water restrictions in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Illawarra were upgraded to level two – the lowest levels since the Millennium Drought took hold in 2003.


The harsher restrictions see a complete ban on hoses, requiring residents to use a bucket and sponge to wash their cars or a watering can to tend to their gardens.  

Warragamba’s water reserves were this month the source of concern as experts feared its already-depleted water supply could be contaminated with bushfire ash.

The raging bushfire at Green Wattle Creek had incinerated vast tracts of important forest around Lake Burragorang and the lake’s water reserves were exposed. 

Warragamba's water level is 19 per cent lower than last year (pictured in 2016) and just 0.1mm of rain has fallen its 9,000sq km catchment in the past week

Warragamba’s water level is 19 per cent lower than last year (pictured in 2016) and just 0.1mm of rain has fallen its 9,000sq km catchment in the past week

‘The worst case scenario would be a very intense rainfall event – 50-60 or maybe 100mm – falling within a few hours,’ researcher Stefan Doerr told the Sydney Morning Herald

‘It really depends now on when it rains and how it rains. This is the key for contamination.’ 

The bushfire ash surrounding the lake contains concentrated nutrients including phosphorous and nitrogen.

Warragamba's water reserves were this month the source of concern as experts feared its already-depleted water supply could be contaminated with bushfire ash

Warragamba’s water reserves were this month the source of concern as experts feared its already-depleted water supply could be contaminated with bushfire ash

If a quick, heavy downpour occurred, it could push the chemicals into the water kept behind Warragamba dam – Sydney’s primary water supply.

While water treatment options are available and it won’t reach homes contaminated, it will prove difficult.

The area is suffering drought, but it could still suffer an isolated downpour during a storm, which can be common near Warragamba in December. 

VIDEO: How Sydney Water filters water to make it safe to drink




Combustible cladding removal costs leave Melbourne apartment owners in a bind

THE Victorian Government has coughed up with a $600M package to fix buildings with combustible cladding … but its hands are tied … its means are restricted … how can it surmount an OBSTACLE not of its creation … but one from a greater height … ?

IS this CLADDING CRISIS, a consequence of DEREGULATION … the loss of Australian Standardscutting ‘Red Tape’ …. and Federal Government Policies … a Building Boom that was unable to keep up with the supply for its Foreign Demand … so industry-wide they fast-tracked by the use of cheap combustible cladding … to make a Motzer … ?

AND in order to maintain their coffers … to ensure the foreign demand … and the ‘hot money’ … the Property Titans annointed the author of their Property Council of Australia (the PCA) Policy to the highest office in the Land

*AND that’s perhaps WHY the deviloper crims have got off Scott-free from the cost of removal and replacement of the dangerous dodgy combustible material thousands of ’em across Australia … as they continue to Phoenix their companies too! …

Combustible cladding removal costs leave Melbourne apartment owners in a bind

By state political reporter Bridget Rollason

26 DECEMBER 2019

Anais Wood in her kitchen preparing to pour water into two glasses.

PHOTO: Anais Wood did not even know what cladding was until she received her notice from the council. (ABC News)

RELATED STORY: This plumber’s empty pool is just one small part of a building industry crisis

RELATED STORY: Victoria to spend $600m to strip flammable cladding from hundreds of buildings

RELATED STORY: Melbourne apartment buildings to be re-checked for flammable cladding in wake of tower fire

Anais Wood saved up for years to buy her dream home, but it quickly became one of the worst decisions of her life.

Key points:

  • Ms Wood will have to foot a huge bill to remove combustible cladding
  • She, like many other property owners, faces prosecution if she does not comply
  • An agency set up to support building owners says there is too little money to help them all

The 26-year-old moved into her apartment in Melbourne’s south-east last year, but two months later she was told the building was covered in combustible cladding, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove.

Months after the Victorian Government set up a new body to foot the bill for cladding rectification works, Ms Wood will have to get rid of the dangerous material at her own expense.

She received a letter from her local council that stated she had five months to remove the cladding it described as a “danger to life”, or she faced criminal conviction.

Michelle Wood (left) and Anais Wood (right) stand close together outside Anais Wood's apartment building.

PHOTO: Michelle and Anais Wood are shocked at how much money they must now find. (ABC News: Bridget Rollason)

But the organisation set up to support building owners in her position, Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV), said Ms Wood’s situation was not dangerous enough to qualify her for compensation.

“I didn’t even know what cladding actually meant when I received the notice,” Ms Wood said.

“It took me years to find what I was looking for, I finally found my perfect home but basically from day dot it’s been a nightmare.”

Ms Wood’s mother, Michelle, has been trying to help her daughter deal with the stress and confusion.

“It was pretty upsetting for her having bought her first apartment and to be faced with something like this — we had absolutely no idea of the costs or to what extent the building was covered in cladding,” she said.

“We are going to have to come up with the funds to have this cladding removed because we’ve been told we’ll get absolutely no funding at all, because there just isn’t enough money to cover everybody.”

The outside of an apartment building with combustible cladding.

PHOTO: A local council called the cladding on this building a “danger to life”. (ABC News)

Michelle Wood said they had received one quote for $40,000 for the removal, and another quote for the same project for more than $200,000.

“It’s very stressful because we don’t know if we are going to be ripped off,” she said.

“Morally we don’t believe we should have to fund it, it’s not the owner’s problem that the cladding was put on there — you rely on the correct authorities to make the right decisions in relation to the building and building materials.”

Retiree faces loss of super to fix cladding

In July, the Victorian Government announced a $600 million package to fix buildings with dodgy cladding.

It set up CSV to oversee the process.

A new building levy, which could see permit costs for apartment developments in Melbourne rise significantly, will come into force on January 1 to cover the costs of the cladding removal program.

But many homeowners still cannot get compensation, with councils threatening court action if they do not fork out for the repairs.

*CAAN: ALERT for Boomers/Retirees looking to ‘DOWNSIZE’ …not only are you giving devilopers more opportunities to ‘house bank’ our streets to build for money launderers … but you may end up far worse off … Read more! *

*Graham Arvidson sold his family home of 37 years to retire to a townhouse near the beach at Carrum, in Melbourne’s south-east.

A few months later, he learnt it was covered with combustible cladding and was assessed to be a high-risk building.

“It’s greatly devalued our property,” Mr Arvidson said.

“Rather than the superannuation we have worked hard for to be used to live, we’re going to have to pay for the replacement of the cladding.”

Graham Arvidson stands in front of a wall outside his property wearing a t-shirt and cap.

PHOTO: Graham Arvidson thinks it is unlikely he will receive compensation. (ABC News: Bridget Rollason)

Mr Arvidson received a letter from his local council demanding the cladding be removed by December 22, or he would face huge fines.

He has requested an extension because he is yet to hear whether CSV will cover the costs — which he said was unlikely given his building was not in the highest risk category.

He is particularly worried about his safety during summer, as many neighbouring properties host barbeques over the festive season.

Victorians with lower-risk cladding told to sort it themselves

CSV plans to remove combustible cladding from 100 buildings a year, for the next five years.

Chief executive officer Dan O’Brien said there simply was not enough money to go around to cover every building in Victoria that has the cladding.

“We can’t deal with all buildings, so we are dealing with the highest-risk buildings,” Mr O’Brien said.

“The intention for us at this point in time is to focus on financial assistance for the higher-risk buildings.

“Those in the lower-risk categories are expected to undertake the works and fund it themselves.”

The Government has identified 15 buildings to be fixed first using the taxpayer funds, but has not revealed which ones.

“Those who don’t have buildings listed as extreme should work with their local council to see what needs to be done to meet the terms of the building notice,” Mr O’Brien said.

“It’s a difficult situation, but if it’s lower risk it probably means less needs to be done to make the building safer.”

VIDEO: Fire raced up flammable cladding on Melbourne’s Neo200 complex in February. (ABC News)

It is not known how many buildings with the cladding will not qualify for compensation funding, but a statewide audit has identified more than 850 properties deemed to be between extreme and moderate risk.

The Opposition’s planning spokesman Tim Smith said it was unfair homeowners had been left in limbo over Christmas.

“These people, through no fault of their own, are caught up in this terrible situation and now they’re being told that they can’t be helped by the Government,” Mr Smith said.

“Despite the fact the councils are telling them the building they live in is a danger to life, CSV and the Andrews Government say it’s not dangerous enough and you have to pay.

“I just don’t think that’s fair.”

Mr Smith said $600 million was not enough funding and the real cost of removing cladding from buildings in Victoria was more like $2.2 billion.

“The Government said they’d help everyone that was caught up in the cladding crisis,” he said.

“Instead they’ve said ‘you’re on your own’.”

Housing and Planning Minister Richard Wynne referred the ABC’s enquiries back to CSV.




Josh Frydenberg, Gladys Liu keep seats after court challenge over election signs

Bad smelling fish poop in aquarium next to goldfish

Photo: Fishlab


Antony Green …

‘It’s unusual to get an important judgement like this before Christmas Eve …potentially this is a Prosecution which could flow from this a bit later in the day just before Christmas ‘

-potentially it is a bit embarrassing for the AEC

PERHAPS some would think and even say such a judgment reeks …

Was it handed down on the eve of Christmas hoping we would not notice?

Josh Frydenberg, Gladys Liu keep seats after court challenge over election signs

VIDEO: ABC election analyst Antony Green says the decision is embarrassing for the Liberal Party. (ABC News)

Liberal MPs Josh Frydenberg and Gladys Liu will keep their seats after a court dismissed a challenge to their election wins — but a senior party official could still face further action for authorising misleading election signage in their seats.

Key points:

  • The court dismissed the applications to declare the victories void but did find the signs were misleading
  • The court has asked former Liberal Party acting state director Simon Frost to explain why further action should not be taken
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared the case a “smear job”

The Federal Court found the election result was not influenced by the Chinese-language signs, which used similar colours to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and told voters “the correct way to vote” was to put a “1” by the Liberal candidate’s name.

But the court has asked the party’s former state director, Simon Frost, to explain why he should not be referred to the High Court for “the committal of an illegal practice under … the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918”.

“The AEC occupies an independent place and role under the Act of some importance,” the court judgement says.

A composite image of Josh Frydenberg, wearing suit and tie, and Gladys Liu, wearing glasses and white blazer

PHOTO: Josh Frydenberg and Gladys Liu had their election results challenged in court. (ABC News)

“Its independence should not be appropriated or undermined by trickery or misleading or deceptive material whereby the AEC is, in effect, impersonated.”

The court found that even though Mr Frost “did not have knowledge of the translation of the final version of the corflute … he had full knowledge of the essence of the misrepresentation that the corflute appeared to be a sign of the AEC“.

*The court, however, found only a “handful” of people were likely to have been influenced to change their votes by the signs, which were posted at 13 polling stations in Mr Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong and 29 polling booths in Ms Liu’s seat of Chisholm.

The case was brought against Ms Liu and Mr Frydenberg, who is the Treasurer, by defeated independent Kooyong candidate Oliver Yates and Chisholm voter Vanessa Garbett.

A poster in purple and white is attached to a fence next to an official AEC polling poster.

PHOTO: The posters used similar colours to those used by the AEC. (ABC News: Gemma Hall)

Ms Garbett and Mr Yates had petitioned for the results of the election to be declared void.

Mr Frost would not comment when he left court in Melbourne.

He has until February 7 to make submissions to the court.

Prime Minister criticises ‘smear job’

Mr Yates’s lawyer, Michael Bradley, said his client was extremely happy with the outcome.

“His intent was that this issue be exposed and resolved and there be a line in the sand by the courts,” Mr Bradley said.

“There was a lot of behaviour in the most recent federal election that was appalling, both on social media and in terms of what was happening at polling booths.

“This particular incident was among the worst, and it was indicative of a trend that was anti-democratic.”

Simon Frost walking to his car.

PHOTO: Simon Frost admitted in court the signs were designed to look like official AEC material. (ABC News)

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he did not have any concerns about the Liberal Party’s conduct.

“I mean it was a smear job and it’s been chucked out,” Mr Morrison said.

In the seat of Chisholm, one in five residents claims Chinese ancestry and more than a quarter of the population speak Mandarin or Cantonese.

Ms Liu defeated Labor’s Jennifer Yang in Chisholm by 1,090 votes on a two-party preferred basis — 48,005 votes to 46,915.

Her victory in Chisholm made her the first female Chinese-Australian member of the Federal Parliament.

Mr Frydenberg won his seat easily — 55,159 compared to 43,870 votes for Greens candidate Julian Burnside — but he did not win on first preferences.

The case was heard by Justices James Allsop, Anthony Besanko and Andrew Greenwood.

Read the judgement in Garbett v Liu:


«Page 1 of  56»




Little Scotty from Marketing … is it resurrection you are Looking for?

scott morrison richard flanagan gaslighting

Richard Flanagan has called out Australia’s “gaslighter in chief”. Photo: TNDANALYSIS

By taking his holidays in the middle of a National Emergency …

It symbolises a contempt for all Australians

Forced to pay lip service that climate change was part of the problem … he continued to mouth the now very stale lie that Australia will meet its Paris targets … that emissions are falling … then the ‘creepy gaslighter-in-chief was trying to guilt the Nation over denying Jenny and the kids a family holiday …

NEXT … the Scomo Guvmnt in one act of supreme bastardry played a leading role in scuppering any significant agreement at this year’s international meeting on climate change action in Madrid

Who better for the task … but Angus Taylor to discredit our nation by being in cahoots with medieval butchers, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, a nation led by a latter-day vivisector

WHY are the highest officers in Our Land knowingly complicit in destroying lives, homes and livelihoods?

ARE they criminal in their dereliction of responsibility?

In January he goes to India, where he will meet Gautam Adani … what promises will be made there?

The creepy gaslighter-in-chief has been fired before …


Richard Flanagan: Aloha, little Scotty from Marketing, is it resurrection you’re looking for?

Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan


The return of Nero was scripted by Scotty from Marketing and embellished and blown up by his colleagues in Publicity over at News Corp.

Admittedly, as some may have whispered at his office’s Xmas drinks, Scott really only had one line in copywriting, but it had in the past worked well – or well enough.

These days though all his old lines were becoming national jokes so well known even Lara Bingle was in on them.

And no matter how many cuddles would be splashed in coming days over every News Corp paper as our Prime Minister would be photographed with the bereaved and the exhausted, the soot smeared and the tear stained, none of it seemed to quite paper over the growing sense of moral failure at our nation’s centre.

The worry was Scott – who had worked so hard on his image, even inventing his own bizarre moniker, ScoMo – might now be on the way to becoming the national joke himself.

Engadine Scott. Smoko. Scummo. Sooty. Smirko. The quiet Hawaiian.

Aloha? Was anyone home?

No. Australia’s answer to the Griswolds had been on Christmas vacation in Hawaii, inadvertently feeding the nation some of the most insulting images it has suffered since the days of Aboriginal ash trays: Scott in boardies, arms around some beery mates, throwing a hang loose shaka while homes burnt and people died.

Scott and Jenny at a beachside café, checking, yes, their phones. Scott, alone.

And it was this last image that perhaps reveals more about where Scott was and where we had got to as a nation.

Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison at a cafe in Hawaii on the weekend after saying he’d rush home.

The café looked joyless and Scott looked overwhelmingly sad and lost.

At some point, a leader and his nation had lost sight of each other. Scott was texting, not waving; for reasons that escaped him for much of the week away the nation was burning, not cheering.

It was a problem. It was, it had to be said, a growing problem.

His return – what should have been a triumph, what should have been moving, what should have been a victory of faux humility the likes of which hadn’t been witnessed since his comrade-in-flames Rupert Murdoch fronted an English parliamentary committee investigating the horrors of his journalists’ phone hacking, and declared that it was the humblest day of his life – wasn’t working.

Scott was similarly sorry.

He invoked his wife more, one suspects, as protection so any who criticised his decision to take a holiday was criticising his family who were, of course, private and off bounds except for when Scott made them public and in bounds – just like his religion.

It was confusing, one thing meaning another thing and nothing all at the same time. That was Scotty from Marketing though. He and Jenny were sorry. He understood. And so on.

Somehow it felt as hollow as did a nation that had slowly been brought to the realisation by Scott’s holiday that it was led by people who seemed to care little about the national tragedy that was affecting millions, to say nothing of the dead, the newly homeless, the devastated business and lives, the continuing terror that still has months to be endured and hopefully survived.

His ‘everybloke’ lines were beginning to approach panicked derangement (going to Hawaii was like taking a plumbing contract on a Friday afternoon?) and every second item trending on social media seemed to involve some further humiliating take down of the Prime Minister. 

There was something vaguely Ceausescu-like about a complacent leader coming out on a platform to be cheered, only to be met with boos.

His masks of concern and compassion couldn’t hold a candle to the grief and rage that was everywhere.

Almost every journalist had got the holiday to Hawaii wrong. It wasn’t the issue, they told Australia.

Australia begged to disagree.

It was the very heart of the issue.

Was the country run by leaders or by perk bludgers permanently on undeclared leave? It humiliated people to be reminded that no matter what they suffered and what they felt, no matter what they feared nor what greater horrors today awaited tomorrow, there now seemed only one certainty: Your government had abandoned you.

*By the time Gretel Killeen stole the Sunrise show by stating what almost every journalist seemed to have missed, that in times of national emergency our leaders were meant to lead, Scott’s Big Hawaiian Adventure was its own bushfire.

And now, like the real thing, it was not so easily put out.


Scott Morrison has received heavy criticism for leaving the country while the rest of Australia faces devastating bushfires.5,1698:33 AM – Dec 21, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy3,526 people are talking about this

Not content with not being there, not satisfied with his office having lied about where he was for some days, and determined to remind everyone back in the country he ostensibly led that not a word he said had any meaning on this or any other planet, he promised on Friday morning he would return as a matter of urgency only to not make it back until Saturday evening. It was just one day before he was going to come home anyway.

Morrison has never been accused of lacking political calculation in his decisions.

And by taking his holidays in the middle of a national emergency, wasn’t he saying that this too was normal, as bushfires have always been with us and always will be? It was a supreme act of show, not tell.

The problem was that it showed something other than what, we can only presume, he intended: It revealed that Morrison is wholly indifferent both to the immediate crisis and more fundamentally to its root causes, climate change.

*It symbolised a contempt for all Australians.*

In one sense, politics is only symbols, but symbols become reality. By showing he didn’t care, he was showing he wouldn’t act.

It may be our problem – our homes, our lives, our futures – but it was *not the problem of his government.

Having on Sunday been finally forced to pay lip service to the notion that climate change was part of the problem, he immediately doubled down on the government’s complete dereliction of responsibility to act on climate change, *continuing to mouth the now very stale lie that Australia will meet its Paris targets, that emissions are falling, and then seeking to bring the story back to one he could control, one of Just Another Bloke.

*The creepy gaslighter-in-chief was soon in full pitiful mode, trying to guilt the nation over denying Jenny and the kids a family holiday just because of an unprecedented global catastrophe.

Still, he was comforted by the fact:

… that Australians would like me to be here simply so I can be here alongside them as they go through this terrible time.’’

Scott Morrison

Really, Scott?

*Don’t be scared, he had told us when he had so infamously brandished a lump of coal in Parliament.

*But the nation was terrified, he had no answers, he was another door-to-door salesman selling his sham evangelism.

No, he said repeatedly, he wouldn’t hold a hosebut he would, one feared, arrive at where your front door had been until yesterday wanting to hold your hand.

*“I don’t expect him on the hose, he’s pathetic at everything. He would be useless at it,” Susan Alexander told ABC News in front of the smouldering ruins of her home.

“I don’t expect him on the comms, but I do expect him to lead.”

*Back at the RFS headquarters, in the absence of rain, Scott from Marketing continued to rain down the sort of patronising nonsense that offended almost everybody.

“You may want to think of dropping off some toys for the children of the firefighters,” he was now saying, “who may not have had time to go out and buy some this Christmas because they have been too busy.

“These are things that people can do constructively. Australians, we need to rally together. The time for argument is not now.

Certainly, from Scott’s point of view, it wasn’t the best of times for reflection on what his government had done constructively about the crisis these past few weeks.

*Other than being absent, other than Michael McCormack suggesting that exploding horse sh-t was also to blame for the fires (which, in a sense, every time I hear Michael McCormack speak, I am inclined to think may well be the case), there was one supreme act of bastardry that was best avoided.

*Morrison’s government had only the week before played a leading role in scuppering any significant agreement at this year’s international meeting on climate change action in Madrid.

*It was no small achievement, one even meriting global criticism –strange, really, given we are frequently told by Scott from Marketing that we are the Little Nation that Can’t.

But it had – at this moment of, as everyone acknowledged, unprecedented catastrophe – been doing all it could to ensure the next catastrophe would be that much worse and that much more unprecedented.

And who better for the task than a man whose entire political career has been serial head on collisions with reality, the boy who cried Woolf himself, Angus Taylor?

*For the hapless energy minister had managed in Madrid the one success of his ministerial career to date and that was to discredit our nation in the eyes of the world by being in cahoots with such colleagues as a nation led by medieval butchers, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, a nation led by a latter-day vivisector, exactly the sort of pariah states any democratic country feels proud to have as allies.

“That is why,” Scott from Marketing continued, “Australia is the best country in the world and that is the country I am proud to lead.” 


Actually, out of 57 countries recently rated on climate change action Australia is ranked 57th. Which is not best. Which is last. Which gives us the claim to be the worst country in the world on the most important problem facing mankind. Thanks Nero. Thanks Angus.

And, in any case, is it the best country for those people whose towns ran out of water months ago? Whose insurance premiums are about to become unaffordable? Whose farms are now, according to a recent report, 22 per cent less profitable because of climate change? For those millions fearful for their children’s health, or, for that matter, their own as the smog continues?

For the hundreds of thousands more who have several more months of fear as to whether their home might be next, before the ever-shrinking respite of winter and then the return of the next and now inevitably worse fire season?

The fire season is well and truly here – and it’s just the beginning. Photo: Getty

*Celebrating the resilience and strength of individual Australians is the cruellest insult if our government’s only policy is leave them to perish, to choke, to burn and, if fighting the fires, having to crowd fund such basic equipment as face masks.

*The science is long in as to what is happening, why it is happening, and how to resolve it. And given this knowledge, why do the highest officers in our land, charged by us to act in our interest, continue to act in defiance of that knowledge, knowingly complicit in destroying lives, homes, and livelihoods?

*Are they criminal in their dereliction of responsibility? As the law stands they are not. But the law needs to change.

Before this cruellest of summers is over more innocent people will be dead. More homes will be lost. More families and friends will be grieving. More towns and farmers will have no water. More people will have lost their livelihoods.

Australia will have become become Ground Zero for global heating and Scott from Marketing will have moved on to booking his next family holiday with Jenny and the kids.

Morrison’s Pentecostal faith teaches that the end of days is signalled by a time of fire, flood and famine, known as the Tribulation. This is a wonderful time for the elect, who ascend to heaven in the Rapture.

*If Morrison is genuine in such beliefs, is he in any way a fit person to lead our country at this time of crisis that his religion sees as a joyous moment?

Either he is sincere in his faith or he is sincere in his oath to office, but he cannot be both.

Which is it, Prime Minister? *

This fundamental question matters and cannot be fobbed off with the line that religion is private. When an election was in full flight and votes were needed, his religion was very public.

Award-winning author Richard Flanagan: ‘Scott Morrison is no leader’. Photo: Getty

Anyone who thinks Morrison will change, that he will genuinely address Australia’s grave climate crisis, is grievously mistaken.

*In January he goes to India, where he will meet Gautam Adani.

*What promises will be made there, what further subsidies of our money offered, in order that our fires grow bigger and our droughts worse?

*His government will not change its criminal course of inaction on climate change. It can’t and it won’t, in part because many of its leaders are climate change denialists, in part because of the curious, inexplicable hold the fossil fuel industry has over it, and in part because it owes Clive Palmer big time, and he wants his giant Galilee Basin coal mine in return for buying Morrison his one-seat majority.

And in part because, when all is said and done, it’s winning.

Labor appears Morrison-lite, and there is no effective political expression for the growing national anger about the climate catastrophe and our political leaders’ determination to make it worse.

When they are up against a megafire, firefighters don’t say I’m only one man or one woman, or that our crew are only six people. They do their bit. They stand up. They fight. They make a difference. Where’s the fight in Scott Morrison?

He’s a small man, a man who uses his wife and children as cover for his own bad decisions, who runs away when the heat is on. *

He’s no more or less than a shill for the coal industry. When they gave him the only clean coal on the planet, a carefully varnished piece of black rock, he was a big man in Parliament waving it in all our faces: His dark master, our black future.

But when the gates of hell opened, he was in Hawaii, a little man making hang loose signs, reportedly saying fires were a state, not federal, issue.

He may be our elected Prime Minister. But he is no leader. And no matter how many die this summer his position will not change.

It is we who must.

  • Richard Flanagan is an award-winning Australian writer. His achievements include journalism prizes for his essays and the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. This is his first piece for The New Daily

Photo: SBS News. Which PR/Media company on the dark side groomed ’em for this? How sincere … cough … cough … 25 December 2019




Rent reforms: What new rules will mean for tenants across Australia

A ‘bleak’ bar has been set for rental properties across the country, with minimum standards among a raft or regulations states and territories are pushing. Photo: Louise KennerleyANALYSIS

Rent reforms: What new rules will mean for tenants across Australia




A working toilet, running electricity and cold and hot water don’t seem too much to ask for in a home, but it’s not always a given that a renter would have them.

Minimum standards clarifying what makes a home habitable are among regulations unveiled across Australia in recent years, as governments say they want to make life better for the growing number who rent (31 per cent at the last census).

Leo Patterson Ross, senior policy officer at the Tenants’ Union of NSW, sums it up: “It is bleak. But it is a bit useful, because essentially [some] landlords will claim everything is liveable.”

NSW, Victoria and the ACT have all recently legislated changes, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are in the process of reviewing their regulations, and South Australia and Tasmania made changes several years ago.

Chris Martin, of the City Futures Research Centre at the University of NSW, said the long-overdue reforms resulted in greater protections for domestic violence victims, but are otherwise “a bit vanilla”.

Limiting the frequency of rent increases, making it easier for tenants to get repairs and allowing pets by default are among changes governments have pushed, alongside caps on bonds, set fees for breaking a lease and allowing tenants to make minor modifications to a property without consent – so they can nail a picture hook into a wall or install extra security measures.

Allowing pets in rental properties by default are one reform multiple states are looking to. Photo: iStock

New minimum standards also guarantee tenants (wait for it) a structurally sound property, adequate lighting and ventilation and plumbing and drainage.

The big concern amongst experts is that remaining “no-grounds” evictions – which allow landlords to evict a tenant without a reason – will undermine any changes aiming to improve rights.

While there is already legislation to ensure homes are habitable, Dr Martin said, tenants often feel so insecure in their tenancy that they don’t enforce the rights they have.

Queensland is the only state which has proposed to scrap no-grounds evictions, while Victoria has legislated restricting their use to the end of the first fixed-term.

For Lease
With no grounds evictions in play, renters feel little security in their homes, experts said.

This created a risk for more churn of rental properties, Mr Patterson Ross said, particularly in high-demand areas, if landlords looked to change tenants regularly to hold onto no-grounds evictions.

But he notes Victoria and Queensland had overtaken NSW with their bolder reforms. He is sceptical of how much change reforms would bring while such evictions remained.

Seven in 10 renters fear making a repairs request could result in a rent rise, according to a 2018 survey by Choice and leading tenancy groups. Almost half fear it could get them kicked out, while nearly one in 10 have been evicted “without grounds”.

“People are fearful of being asked to move, scared to ask for repairs or [complain],” said Penny Carr, chief executive of Tenants Queensland. “You can be evicted without any reason … [it] masks discriminatory and retaliatory behaviour.”

Under the proposed Queensland changes owners would need to give a valid reason to end a tenancy, and the list of reasons would be extended and enhanced. “There’s no change to how [tenants who] are doing the wrong thing can be managed,” said Ms Carr.

This hasn’t stopped the powerful real estate industry from slamming the changes. The Real Estate Institute of Queensland recently described proposed reforms as “a slap in the face” to mum and dad landlords. Chief executive Antonia Mercorella said the changes would erode the rights of landlords and make property investment far less appealing – resulting in a drop in investment and subsequent rent increases.

Propertyology head of research Simon Pressley said reforms could cause rents to skyrocket by $100 a week and investors to desert the market due to “draconian laws”.

307 Highett st Richmond where a rental open inspection is being held  Pic By Craig Sillitoe  20071031
More supply or tougher regulation are key to ensuring better quality rental properties, Mr Patterson Ross said.

But Dr Martin – who in July released research showing the stereotype of “mum and dad” investors was bogus because investors were largely mid-life, older, wealthy households – said reforms were unlikely to drive investors away. He noted separate research showed tenancy law was rarely a factor in investment decisions, with activity primarily driven by the availability of finance, tax settings and local market changes such as infrastructure announcements.

Dr Martin said though the cost of property improvements could potentially flow through to slightly increased rents, anyone deterred from investing because of reforms was unlikely to be missed.

“It would stop the discriminators and the retaliators. That’s why it’s so disappointing when the property or real estate lobby goes into bat for the worst [landlords]. That sort of landlord and that sort of property that can’t deliver a reasonable standard of housing to people – we are well rid of them.”

Mr Patterson Ross says Australia trails behind other OECD countries in failing to regulate how landlords choose a tenant or the information they request. Viability tests to ensure landlords could afford a property’s upkeep, training and licensing, and penalties for landlords withholding repairs were measures in place or under review in other countries.

With buying a house out of reach for many, governments need to take further action if they want to make renting a viable, long-term alternative, Mr Patterson Ross said.

“Either you have a lot of supply that provides real competition, and that’s what drives a better experience, or you have really strong regulation. At the moment in NSW, we have neither of those things, so we have to lift one of those.”

For now, tenants across most of the country could be given the boot from their home without reason before next Christmas. But at least they can hang a picture up until then.


Another big developer bites the dust

Photo: Verve was building Coburg Quarter for Future Estate before its collapse at the end of October. 

Melbourne builder Verve Construction has joined apartment developers Ralan and Steller and and national building supplier SWC as a big property development casualty of 2019.

AT MACRO BUSINESS they are skeptical that a strong bounce in dwelling values will lift dwelling construction …

DUE to the extraordinary “defect crisis” that has swept east coast apartment markets with …

-the use of combustible cladding

-the rise of dodgy Chinese builders

phoenixing contruction firms

THE sheer unbridled pace of the last boom, has left a legacy of cracked foundations, towering infernos and shoddy workmanship across the sector.

-estimated remediation Bill $1 TRILLION

WITH SUCH A LEGACY of stalled buyer interest and suppressed lending into the apartment sector … S H A R E! … to maintain the RAGE to STOP the overdevelopment of Where We Live for Foreign Buyers with …

high-rise Precincts

-medium-density housing code of rows of terraces, townhouses, Manor Houses, villas, triplex, duplex …


Another big developer bites the dust

24 DECEMBER 2019

By David Llewellyn-Smith in Australian Economy

Via AFR:

Melbourne builder Verve Construction has joined apartment developers Ralan and Steller and and national building supplier SWC as a big property development casualty of 2019.

The Abbotsford-based company, owned by Robert Magdziarz, kept a relatively low profile but was undertaking several big apartment projects across Melbourne this year.

Adam Nikitins and Stewart McCallum of Ernst & Young were appointed joint liquidators at the end of October after Verve ran into financial and legal difficulties.

*It will get a lot worse before it gets better. The biggest single downside risk to the Australian economy is the downturn in construction activity.

Gross fixed capital formation (GFCF), basically net investment, was already falling in the year to September 2019, down 3.6% in total driven by a 4.7% decline across the private sector:

The main driver of the fall in private GFCF was dwelling construction, which fell by 10.6% year-over-year in the September quarter:

The outlook for residential construction remains dire in 2020, given both dwelling approvals and commencements have collapsed and completions have only just peaked:

Annual dwelling commencements are running 15% below their 2018 peak, whereas approvals are down 24%.  Both guarantee that dwelling construction will fall heavily into 2021.

Adding to the pain, infrastructure investment is also projected to decline in 2020 as the National Broadband Network (NBN) rolls-off:

Indeed, the latest Performance of Construction Index from the Australian Industry Group was a wipe-out, with all areas in deep contraction (i.e. below 50 points):

Yet to date, the construction bust (residential, in particular) has not translated into job losses.

In the year to August 2018, the number of Australians employed directly in construction increased to a near record high 1.2 million, accounting for 9.1% of total Australian jobs:

*However, as shown in the next chart from UBS, construction job ads have declined by around 30% commensurate with the decline in dwelling approvals – resulting in a “material drop in construction employment ahead”:

Australia’s authorities are hoping that the strong bounce in dwelling values will lift dwelling construction in due course. However we are skeptical that it can do so quickly or with any great substance.

The reason is the extraordinary “defect crisis” that has swept east coast apartment markets.

The use of flammable cladding, the rise of dodgy Chinese builders and “phoenixing” construction firms, and the shear unbridled pace of the last boom, has left a legacy of cracked foundations, towering infernos and shoddy workmanship across the sector.

*Estimates of the remediation bill for these defects run as high as $1 trillion.

This will leave a legacy of stalled buyer interest and suppressed lending into the apartment sector, and it was this segment that boomed so powerfully during the last cycle.

David Llewellyn-Smith

David Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the founding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal.

He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.

Apartments around the train station at Carlingford. Picture: Carmela Roche

Photo: Daily Telegraph: Carlingford near the railway station