Australian Politics 2019-01-20 15:41:00

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Pacific nations spooked by climate scare

Bainimarama and Rabuka are the leading figures in Fiji politics and both are fine and reasonable men.  Both have led military coups during their path to power but on all occasions did so bloodlessly.  They both now hold democratically elected posts.  But they are military men, not exactly steeped in world politics, so have understandably taken seriously all the Greenie shrieks about sea-level rise swamping Pacific atolls.

Most of the Fiji islands are volcanic in origin but there are a few lightly populated outlying coral atolls.  The volcanic islands, where almost all the people live, are too elevated to be affected to any significan extent by the Warmist projections of sea-level rise

And sea-level rise is largely a snark anyway.  As Nils Axel Morner peskily points out, it is mainly a product of "adjustments".  And some atolls are actually gaining in area anyway.  See Morner on Fiji here



Australia must not put the interests of a single industry above the lives of Pacific nations battling climate change, Scott Morrison has been firmly told.

At an official dinner in Fiji to mark a newly announced partnership between the two nations, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama explicitly told Australia to do better.

He said the only way to guarantee the survival of Pacific island countries was for Australia to shift away from fossil fuels.

"I urged your predecessor repeatedly to honour his commitment to clean energy," Mr Bainimarama said on Thursday night in Suva.

"From where we are sitting, we cannot imagine how the interests of any single industry can be placed above the welfare of Pacific peoples and vulnerable people in the world over.

"Rising seas threaten whole communities, forcing them to endure the trauma of relocating from land they've endured for generations.

"Fijian farmers are watching their crops perish in soil that has been spoiled by the heightened salinity that is associated with sea level rise."

Mr Bainimarama said the evidence of climate change was clear in the disappearing coastlines in Bangladesh and worsening flooding in the United States.

"And in Australia as well, where soaring temperatures have reached record highs in several major cities just this week," he said.

"This cannot be written off as a difference of opinion.

"Consensus from the scientific community is clear and the existential threat posed to Pacific island countries is certain."

Mr Morrison responded in his speech, praising Mr Bainimarama for Fiji's global leadership on climate change.

"I pay respect in particular to Mr Bainimarama's international leadership on climate change and oceans," Mr Morrison said.

"You have heard him speak passionately about this this evening and it was that same passion he took into the leadership of the COP process over the past 12 months."

In Vanuatu on Wednesday, Mr Morrison promised Pacific nations Australia would directly fund projects tackling the impact of climate change.

But he said Vanuatu's leaders had not asked Australia to do more to curb emissions.

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We need to care, but what will it cost?

More government involvement in care for the aged will be demanded but, with all its inefficiencies and bureaucracy, may not be affordable.  There are so many oldies with little or no family support

It is said that old things, particularly heirlooms, tie us to our ancestors and anchor us to our past. They remind us of who we are, individually or collectively, and where we stand in the world. Yet in this country, old objects generally don’t have a high value: old furniture, old clocks, old china, old silver and old people.

In September last year, when announcing the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, Scott Morrison told us all to “brace ourselves for some pretty bruising information” about the way aged-care residents are treated. Clearly, this royal commission is going to shock, horrify and devastate.

It will be tempting to place all the blame on the care providers and their staff, and in some instances this will be justified. But before we all start baying for blood and making demands of “bizness” and “gummint”, let’s look inward.

Brace yourselves for what this royal commission will tell us about Australian culture. It will reveal as much about us as it does about a sector. It should make us look in the mirror and examine our attitudes towards the elderly, the strength of our families and our expectations of everyone else, via government.

As a society, do we venerate our seniors? Speak to a newcomer and they will likely say that Christmas is the one day of the year that Australians remember they have a family. They will say we expect the government to look after our children while we go to work, and our parents when they get old, and that we will be the first to complain when the care is substandard, even though we are not prepared to provide the care ourselves.

This is not to say that there are not strong families out there, or that all residents in aged care have been disregarded. Many have no option but to place their parents in aged care, and they make great efforts to watch over them, and have helped bring this royal commission about.

Still, according to Senior Australians and Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, up to 40 per cent of aged-care residents receive no visitors, ever. Let’s account for all those with no living relatives and those who have been terrible parents and, still, 40 per cent seems a large number.

This royal commission will result in the display of another unfortunate Australian mindset — that something will be done to fix a problem, and hang the cost because, after all, someone else can be taxed to pay.

After it all blows over, be prepared for the cost of aged care to rise exponentially. Increased regulation, more medical staff, pay rises for workers, staff-to-patient ratios, improvements to facilities, greater monitoring by government — all of this won’t come cheap.

Think of childcare — er sorry, early childhood education — and what it cost a decade or two ago, and think of the cost now, and then you may have an inkling. Aged care is the new childcare, and the elephant in the room is the family home and whether it will remain financially quarantined from the equation.

Finally, this royal commission may cause us to reflect on another issue. Australians are world champions at providing a poor service that ignores the consumer’s needs and wants, for a criminally high price. We need to understand why in this country it is beyond our capacity to deliver a fantastic consumer-focused service, of excellent standard, quickly, efficiently and cost effectively, even when our most vulnerable are the ones at stake.

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Dying with their Rights On: The Myths and Realities of Ending Homelessness in Australia

Dr Carlos d’Abrera, psychiatrist, makes points below that extend well beyond Australia.  The problem is far from one of housing only

A growing problem or a misplaced definition?  If you were to ask the average Australian what they understand by the term ‘homeless’, the most common answer would be ‘a person who sleeps rough, and usually on the streets’.

Despite this common perception, only 7% (8200) of the 116,427 homeless persons counted nationally on census night 2016 met this definition of homelessness. This percentage is unchanged from 2011, although the numbers of people sleeping rough increased by approximately 2000 persons nationally between 2011 and 2016.

This is despite governmental spending on homelessness exceeding $817.4 million in 2016-17, an increase of 29% from $634.2 million in 2012-13. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data indicates that the total number of homeless persons has grown from 89,728 in 2006 to 116,427 in 2016 — an increase of 30% over the decade.

These inflated figures are based on a questionable official definition of homelessness adopted by the ABS in 2012 that includes the ‘housed homeless’ (such as those living in supported accommodation) and people living in overcrowded accommodation. Prior to this, a so-called ‘cultural’ definition of homelessness was used.

The revised ‘ABS definition’ worsened the apparent extent of the homelessness problem overnight. People living in severely overcrowded accommodation represent both the largest and most rapidly growing proportion of the officially homeless. Homeless rates in the other categories have remained largely unchanged over the past decade.

According to the ABS Census data, people living in severely overcrowded dwellings rose from 31,531 in 2006 to 51,088 in 2016. Most of the increase over that period is in NSW — where the jump has been from 27% to 45% of the total homeless population in that state. Overcrowding has increased most in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne where rates of net overseas migration have been the highest.

For some groups, such as recent migrants, living in crowded dwellings is a rational economic decision, while for others it may reflect cultural preferences for shared living spaces of people who would never consider themselves homeless.

‘Homelessness industry’ obscures the small subset of those most in need

It is in the interest of the ‘homelessness industry’ — the academics, charities and NGOS that undertake research, conduct advocacy, and lobby government for more taxpayerfunded spending on the alleged problems and solutions — for the numbers of homeless to be artificially high.

The orthodox understanding of the causes of homelessness promoted by the industry overemphasises the role of economic and social structures (structuralism). Solutions based on structuralist explanations — such as increasingly the supply of affordable social housing — are insufficient to reduce genuine homelessness. Such approaches dilute out those most at risk and most in need; chronic rough sleepers. They also minimise the role of, and fail to address, the individual characteristics, choices, and behaviours — especially the high rates of mental illness and drug abuse — that afflict rough sleepers.

Structural ‘solutions’ with respect to current public housing policy also exacerbate the problems they are designed to solve by maintaining people on the margins of homelessness. Breakdowns in social housing tenancies are often related to the antisocial behaviours and criminal activities associated with drug use (especially methamphetamines). While tenancy support provides an opportunity for vulnerable individuals with complex needs to maintain housing, there is too much scope for such persons to refuse support and to potentially face eviction.

Policy Recommendations: Benign and enlightened paternalism

An inverse moral panic — an ideological fear of being perceived to support ‘moralistic’ policies that violate the autonomy of rough sleepers — has paralysed our treatment of the most severely homeless in recent decades. Homelessness services have proved unable to reduce the numbers of rough sleepers because of an unwillingness to implement the necessarily assertive strategies that are required to help the most vulnerable exit the streets.

A truly compassionate community should not fail to intervene to stop the poor choices and wide range of health, social, and physical harms that are linked to the cognitive impairments — such as mental illness and substance abuse problems — that lead to rough sleeping.

To effectively reduce genuine homelessness and stop those who sleep rough on our streets from ‘dying with their rights on’, the following benign and enlightened paternalistic policies should be implemented:

* Underpinning assertive outreach programs for rough sleepers with a non-opt-out triage process to reduce non-participation and ensure those who mentally ill are referred to mental health services and treated assertively.

* Appointing public guardians to help make decisions on behalf of rough sleepers who lack decision-making capacity.

* Expanding mandatory drug treatment for individuals who are homeless or at high risk of homelessness to improve the chances of maintaining stable accommodation.

* Requiring occupants of public housing referred to mental health services to accept mandatory psychosocial support as a condition of ongoing tenancy (consistent with the principle of mutual obligation).

* Re-establishing long term institutional care facilities for that proportion of chronically homeless people, particularly those with mental illness and complex needs who would benefit from high levels of support

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The subjects kids SHOULD be studying: One of Australia's smartest people reveals the skills teenagers need to get high-paying jobs - and why part-time work at McDonald's is crucial to their success

One of Australia's most intelligent men has shared some advice on which skills schoolchildren need in order to clinch a lucrative career later in life.

Dr Alan Finkel, Australia's Chief Scientist, said the key to kick-starting a first-rate career was by studying challenging subjects alongside a part-time job at McDonald's.

He said a solid academic background coupled with essential life skills was critical for ensuring a high-flying career path.  

The 65-year-old explained that English and maths were crucial subjects of study when it came to ensuring the employment 'door of opportunity' stays open.

'Mastery of language is crucial to succeeding in whatever you do — whether it's writing a report to advise the government on electricity markets or a job application,' Dr Finkel told Cosmos magazine.

'Your ability to 'win friends and influence people' will only be as good as your language skills. The best way to hone them is to read a lot, and read some more. Novels, histories, science-fiction — it doesn't matter, just read!'

He added that maths is the language of science and business based jobs, and emphasised the importance of having a solid understanding of the subject when it came to pursuing a career in the medicine, engineering or economic fields.

Reiterating the significance of a strong academic background, he told the publication: 'Every time you drop an enabling subject — bang! A door of opportunity slams shut.'

The former Chancellor of Monash University, in Melbourne, also added that life skills such as resilience, clear thinking and collaboration were of value, and can be achieved by working a part time job at a fast food chain such as McDonald's or volunteering.

However, he noted life skills weren't of much use unless accompanied by strong academic results. 'They are useless unless you study demanding subjects through which you can practise these skills,' Dr Finkel told the publication.

'There is no substitute for raw knowledge, even in the age of internet search. After all, there is no use learning to collaborate if you don't have anything distinctive to contribute,' he added.

But while he advised studying well-regarded subjects such as maths and sciences was highly advantageous, he acknowledged that which subjects students chose wouldn't dictate their career paths for the rest of their lives.

The neuroscientist, engineer and entrepreneur said it was 'critical' to ensure initial tertiary studies were done really well, but once established in the workforce, it was easy enough to switch from one job to another.  

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 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here