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Frydenberg’s maths problem

By John Haly

The media on both ends of the political spectrum promote Australia’s Liberal Party as the party of economic management. Pandemics and recession have not slowed the recovery down. “Frydenberg spends the bounty to drive unemployment to new lows,” reads one title from the Conversation. The Australian says of their Treasurer: “Australia to aim for less than 5 per cent unemployment: Treasurer.

Mr Frydenberg said it was necessary for unemployment, which stands at 5.6 per cent, to drop before workers would see their wage rise,“ wrote McHugh of The Australian, in April 2021. In May, the ABS reported April’s unemployment was 5.5% or 756.2K people. The last time Australia saw 5.5% under a Labor government, according to the ABS, had been in March 2013, when the numbers were lower at 687K. In 2013, the workforce was smaller; therefore, 5.5% in 2020 is more significant than 5.5% was in 2013. Perhaps percentage comparisons with previous administrations or even different time periods are misleading.

Still, imagine Frydenberg’s delight when “The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 5.1 per cent in May as the number of people employed surged by 115,200.” according to the SBS. As historically comparative percentages may be inherently deceptive, it is more accurate to state that the ABS reported the seasonally adjusted unemployment figures for May 2021 to be 701,100.

 

ABS unemployment percent divergencies 2013 and 2020

 

So much for Treasury doom forecasters who said that as the JobKeeper wage subsidy was to expire at the end of March 2021, that thousands could lose jobs. Treasury estimated 100,000 to 150,000 JobKeeper recipients could lose employment when the scheme ended.

Despite this, Josh Frydenberg tweeted on the 1st of June that Treasury confirmed: “150,000 Australians have come off unemployment benefits since the end of JobKeeper.” As the Treasurer, Frydenberg had some advanced knowledge of the Jobseeker statistics ahead of the May figures being released to the public.

 

 

At the end of JobKeeper, the March Statistics for people on JobSeeker were 1,167,392, and later in June, the Jobseeker stats released for May were 1,021,880. The difference being 145.5K. To be fair to Frydenberg, he would have received early estimates, and that is pretty close. I am not going to quarrel over rounding up of figures. As far as I am concerned, that was a reasonable claim based on those figures. Mr Frydenberg advised Canberra reporters in mid-June, “Unemployment fell for the seventh consecutive month to 5.1%“. He maintained, “The Australian economy is roaring back- bigger, stronger & leading the world.” Not that other economic analysts agreed. Frydenberg was proud to boast of his government’s accomplishments based on these figures.

One more time by the numbers?

I want to point out that Josh Frydenberg is intimately aware of two specific sets of figures from May 2021.

  1. ABS unemployment figures (701,100) and
  2. JobSeeker figures (1,021,880).

These are 320K apart from one another. It almost seems that the Government was paying 320K more people JobSeeker than the ABS was claiming were unemployed. ABS is an estimate based on surveys, so perhaps it was a little out that month? The ABS statistics list as employed “the number of people working fewer (or no) hours in May 2021” or what Roy Morgan refers to as “Australians who were working zero hours for ‘economic reasons’.” If these non-workers (58,200) are added back, the ABS unemployment estimate for May increases to 759,300, and the unemployment rate rises to 5.5%. That still leaves a difference of 262K people.

Having mentioned Roy Morgan, it should be noted that Roy Morgan has their own reporting of unemployment which for May 2021 was 1,493,000 people. This is 733K above the figure ABS claims even if we add back in the zero-hours “workers” numbers.

The numbers go further awry in the “JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance recipients – monthly profile” figures in Government Data record Table 1. According to their spreadsheet, these figures reference only “payment for recipients aged between 22 years to Age Pension qualification age.” Payments to ages 15 to 22 are classified as “Youth Allowance.”

ABS unemployment figures are supposed to represent ages 15 to age pension qualifying age. If you add back in Youth Allowance to Job Seeker to make it cover the same age groups as ABS, then the figure for May increases to 1,132,478 people (see Table 3). Mathematically it is 373K larger than the ABS figures (even after adjusting it for zero-hour workers). This is 360K less than Roy Morgan’s figures.

Number patterns

However, Roy Morgan’s claims are not our government’s numbers. Frydenberg, (Treasurer of the Nation and the man responsible for the Federal Budget) seems oblivious to the mathematical difference between just the Government’s figures despite quoting other mathematical discrepancies, over different time periods. Perhaps it is some anomalous aberration of May 2021. With that in mind, I have charted the figures since the early recession. Included are Roy Morgan’s figures, Jobseeker (with and without Youth Allowance), ABS Seasonally adjusted and a dotted line representing the zero-hours worker’s discrepancy collected since June 2020 and noted by Roy Morgan.

The ABS stats were always much lower than the Government’s JobSeeker numbers. Although the ABS acknowledges that zero-hours workers are not paid, it dubiously recognised these people as “employed.” There is something unreliable about Frydenberg using ABS’s statistics to measure real domestic Australian unemployment.

 

Unemployment measurement variations

 

More on ABS methodology

Unemployment seems to have declined if you consider the most inaccurate statistical method for counting the unemployed. However, the ABS methodology is apparently flawed when you consider what is and is not evaluated when it comes to measuring employment:

ABS’s inaccuracies are highlighted by real numbers when you realise that the Government is currently paying more people on Jobseeker than they are contending are unemployed. So the question should be what statistical gathering methodology does incorporate the multitudes being paid JobSeeker, as well as those managing without welfare because:

The remaining evaluation?

That leaves us with Roy Morgan’s statistics that illustrate unemployment has increased in May after JobKeeper was discontinued. As JobKeeper stopped from April onwards, it was always unlikely that April’s statistics might reflect that. Unemployment layoffs would not have occurred instantly, nor would wage payments supported by JobKeeper evaporate immediately as processing these continued till mid-April. ABS has a one month delay requisite to its data collection, so it is no surprise unemployment appeared to fall in May. The Government rightly assumes that few follow why their claims about ABS numbers do not reflect our domestic unemployment. Nor, how only once, briefly, in the last year did unemployment fall below 10% in April (9%), and that in May, 10.3% is a more accurate assessment of Australian unemployment. Recall that Treasury suggested that unemployment might rise as much as 150K. Roy Morgan’s figure for April was 1,307K, and May was 1,493K generating an unemployment rise of 186K, which is far more consistent with Treasury’s expectations.

 

Roy Morgan unemployment vs IVI job vacancies

 

The question remains. Why does Josh Frydenberg promote these obviously fallacious numbers? He isn’t stupid, nor is he deceived or deluded. He is well aware of the numbers from these divergent sources as he has not only referenced them but made sound mathematical calculations based on subsets of these numbers. He is our Treasurer, and he has to be aware that the Commonwealth is paying more people on Jobseeker than the ABS is claiming are unemployed. There is, therefore, only one conclusion left about his economic assertions! I leave that to the reader to discern.

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches.

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The Forgotten Australian in Lockdown

By Maria Millers

While millions of Australians have been straining at the leash at the restrictions imposed by lockdowns across much of Australia there has been little thought (or for that matter media coverage) for one forgotten Australian still incarcerated in the notoriously harsh conditions of high security Bellmarsh prison, held for 22 hours a day in a 7 by 11-foot cell.

Julian Assange turns 50 today (3rd July) and his future – despite the January ruling against his extradition to the US – is still very uncertain.

The US under Joe Biden is no less inclined than previous administrations to punish Assange for the release of confidential information which exposed the wrongdoings of our closest ally.

Even though the US case against Assange has been discredited when Icelandic hacker, Ingi Thordarson who previously had claimed he had been recruited by Wikileaks to hack classified material from both public and private Icelandic entities for Wikileaks has now admitted that he had fabricated the evidence that was central to the US case against Assange.

It is distressing to see the indifference of Australians generally and our Government in particular towards Assange. PM Morrison had earlier bluntly dismissed intervening by making it clear that Assange could expect no special treatment. What Assange should expect is the support that is his right as an Australian Citizen.

Maybe the silence from fellow Australians around Assange’s fate is also because deep down we feel uncomfortable about facing the fact that we accept unquestionably the lies told to us by our leaders.

There is also the undeniable fact that Assange does not fit our image of an Australian hero with his paleness, blond hair and pale complexion all suggestive of someone whose youthful pastimes were not football, cricket or surfing but spent secluded before a screen acquiring the skills to carry out the journalism he is now suffering for.

While we all dream of unrestricted travel, parties, dinners in our favourite restaurants and all the other luxuries we have come to accept as our inalienable rights to enjoy, I hope we can spare some thoughts to a brave Australian who has been held in harsh lockdown for more than two years.

See also: Australian MPs call on US President Biden to drop charges against Assange, The Sydney Morning Herald, June 30, 2021.

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Seeking the Post-COVID Sunshine: Improved Access to More Equitable Healthcare?

By Denis Bright

Widening access to affordable healthcare and access to diagnostic services is the key imperative from the Medibank model from the Whitlam era (1972-75). This access to national health was reinstated in the Medicare model of 1984 after two regressive terms of federal LNP government. This era ended with double digit unemployment, high interest rates and inflation during the recession of 1981-82.

The Impact of Tax Changes on the Federal Government’s Revenue Base

Decades later under the Morrison Government, Commonwealth’s revenue base to offer sustainable Medicare benefits and to maintain support for the public hospitals of the states and territories is being challenged by those opportunistic changes to taxation schedules which assisted in the re-election of the LNP in 2019. There are the added financial burdens of support for public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The post-budget press release from the federal health minister places these costs at $25 billion since March 2020.

The revenue base for record levels of federal health expenditure has already been eroded in the delivery of Phase 2 of the LNP’s tax changes (ATO Data). These changes have extended the 37 per cent taxation schedule to taxable incomes of $180,000.

 

Taxable Income Tax On This Income
$0 to $18,200 Nil
$18,201 to $45,000 19c for each $1 over $18,200
$45,001 to $120,000 $5,092 plus 32.5c for each $1 over $45,000
$120,001 to $180,000 $29,467 plus 37c for each $1 over $120,000
$180,001 and over $51,667 plus 45c for each $1 over $180,000

 

Opinion polling from Newspoll and Resolve Strategic is still inconclusive about the fate of the Morrison Government. Primary votes for the LNP have plateaued around 41 per cent. Some protest votes from ONP and KAP have moved to the LNP. Other voters have drifted to Labor with a firming of its primary vote by approximately 3.5 per cent since the 2019 election.

If the LNP hesitates on plans for an early election from the feedback offered by any future negative trends in opinion polling, the appeal of Phase 3 tax changes will be there as a last resort to stoke up interest in a 2022 election campaign.

The LNP might even decide to give Scott Morrison a few months at the helm before the installation of a new prime minister with a vastly changed ministry. There is the outside chance of having another National Party leader installed if Barnaby Joyce’s come-back is a source of instability for the Coalition.

These still highly speculative scenarios will make the implementation of Phase 3 tax changes a very important component of the LNP’s forthcoming election strategies whenever the election date is announced. The forthcoming tax changed are summarized by data from SuperGuide:

Changes to Marginal Tax Rates

  • From 1 July 2018:Raising the lower threshold for the 37% tax bracket from $87,000 to $90,000
  • From 1 July 2020: Raising the upper threshold for the 19% tax bracket from $37,000 to $45,000, changing the 32.5% tax bracket from $37,001-$90,000 to $45,001-$120,000 and raising the lower threshold for the 37% tax bracket from $90,001 to $120,001
  • From 1 July 2024:Changing the 32.5% tax rate to 30%, raising the upper threshold for the 30% tax bracket from $90,000 to $120,000, removing the 37% tax bracket and raising the 45% lower threshold from $180,000 to $200,000

The Crawford School of Public Policy (ANU) estimates the costs of Phase 3 tax changes at $17 billion in lost revenue. Revenue losses for the delivery of affordable healthcare are also reinforced by easily accessible legalized tax minimization strategies to the 2 per cent Medicare levy on taxable incomes. Even the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset (LMITO) has been extended upwards to taxable incomes of $90,000 to tap into the LNP’s potential support base in disadvantaged outer suburban and regional electorates (SuperGuide data from ATO).

 

Low and middle income tax offset
Taxable income Offset
$37,000 or less $255
From $37,001 to $48,000 $255 plus 7.5 cents for every dollar above $37,000, up to a maximum of $1,080
From $48,001 to $90,000 $1,080
From $90,001 to $126,000 $1,080 minus 3 cents for every dollar of the amount above $90,000

 

Additional Hardship Imposed at Medical Clinics and Diagnostic Services

Underemployed workers with taxable incomes below $18,200 remain exempt from Medicare levies but are often subjected to gap fees at private clinics and for the receipt of diagnostic services at the discretion of health providers. Out of pocket expenses for non-bulk-billed clinical and diagnostic services usually amount to almost half of the over the counter fees for the services provided.

Out of pocket medical expenses add to the current wealth divide in Australian society and are reinforced by the financial burdens of bonds or daily schedules at nursing homes and backlogs for alternatives to home care packages for disabled or elderly patients.

Assessing the benefits and costs of legalized tax minimization strategies for comfortably off families and business networks is a less complicated investigative tasks. Data from ACOSS NSW provides an update on the wealth divide in Australia as the frightful possibility of a third term of federal LNP Government is still possible in a strategically timed early election:

 

 

It is an insult to medical service providers to offer Medicare rebates at current scheduled rates which short-change providers for both consultation fees and minor procedures performed by GPs and specialists. In the case of X-rays and ultra-sonic scans, the out of pocket expenses can be quite substantial. Tolerance of bulk-billing for disadvantaged patients varies within the medical provider community.

One eminent specialist in Brisbane even sends his patients off to YouGov Medicare offices for refunds on biopsies because of a personal ideological opposition to Medicare. Most specialists, however, have a working relationship with Medicare that requests credit card patients for those out of pocket expenses. Without such co-payments, current Medicare rebates are insufficient to maintain viable medical practices and diagnostic services.

The issue of out of pocket expenses for diagnostic services was covered in one of my previous articles for The AIMN (Rising Health Costs in the COVID-19 Era, 7 March 2020). The schedule of fees quoted in this article may have changed slightly but this article is still relevant. Mention was made of Sonic Healthcare Limited in this article. Queensland X-Ray is part of this Australian corporate network which has a vast global outreach particularly in the USA.

What has not changed since March 2020, is the company’s commitment to market ideology as summarized in its latest annual report for 2020.

The company’s chairman was up-beat about the performance of his company in difficult times at his annual address to shareholders on 12 November 2020:

“Another point to note about commitment of Sonic’s people was the willingness of Sonic’s Board, managers, doctors and other staff to take voluntary pay cuts, reduce hours, take leave or assist the company in other ways when the outlook was at its darkest is sure testament to the strength of our culture. Fortunately, we have since been able to repay and modestly reward our staff for their sacrifice and loyalty. Sonic reported a net profit of $528 million for the 2020 financial year. Revenue increased 10% to $6.8 billion. The strength of our balance sheet going into the pandemic and the recovery we saw in our base businesses enabled us to continue our progressive dividend policy, with a modest 1.2% increase, to 85 cents, in total dividends per share for the full year.”

Other providers such as CitiScan Radiology in Brisbane are more receptive to bulk-billing for patients with pension and healthcare cards on the written recommendations of GPs and specialists. CitiScan operates within Peloton Radiology Pty Ltd. I sought details from Peloton Radiology Pty Ltd. about its corporate profile. Should this information be forthcoming, I will pass the relevant web address onto readers in a comment in the replies section to this article.

When it comes to MRI scans however, pensioners and social security recipients must negotiate for fee reductions on compassionate grounds. MRI scans for private outpatients do not attract Medicare subsidy under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). The current over the counter rates for MRI scans to both knees costs $518. This includes the cost of injections for contrasting dyes. The company literally cannot generate bulk-billing schedules when they are not available through Medicare and no criticisms of its charges are intended.

The case of MRI scans is part of a wider review of MBS subsidies which were set to change on 1 July 2021. The scope of the changes to MBS subsidies has been reviewed by Melissa Davey from The Guardian (8 June 2021) and generated only passing coverage in the mainstream media:

“In one of the most significant changes to Medicare in its history, more than 900 health services and procedures eligible for government rebates are set to change on 1 July.

The changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items make a number of procedures significantly cheaper for consumers, but doctors and consumer health advocates say the government should hold off on implementing them.

Medical advances mean that over time, some procedures become quicker to carry out, far less complex, and the cost of medical devices and tools can come down too.”

MBS subsidies must of course be subjected to ongoing rationalizations based on best medical practice and financial accountability. Readers might take up the challenges of assessing the changes as explained on MBS Online.

In a more socially divided society with its patchy levels of national health coverage, the imperative is surely to stay healthy for as long as possible while being on guard against tax changes which further entrench less accessible healthcare services and negative impacts on funding for NDIS and care of the elderly through the preferred access to home care packages.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.

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Conservation concern as alien aphid detected on Kangaroo Island

University of South Australia Media Release

An invasive species of aphid could put some threatened plant species on Kangaroo Island at risk as researchers from the University of South Australia confirm Australia’s first sighting of Aphis lugentis on the Island’s Dudley Peninsula.

It is another blow for Kangaroo Island’s environment, especially following the Black Summer bushfires that decimated more than half the island and 96 per cent of Flinders Chase National Park.

Collected by wildlife ecologist Associate Professor Topa Petit and identified by colleagues from the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the black aphids were found feeding on seedlings of Senecio odoratus, a native species of daisy, commonly known as the scented groundsel.

Of 16 native Senecio species on the island, at least ten are of conservation concern.

Originating from North America, the sap-sucking black aphids have spread across multiple continents over the past 20 years. This first record of the pest in Australia.

Assoc Prof Petit says the alien aphid species could threaten plants in the Compositae (daisy) family.

“Aphids were tended by several species of native ants that were feeding on their honeydew, showing easy integration for the pest in its new environment,” Dr Petit says.

“The presence of Aphis lugentis on Kangaroo Island could have serious consequences on seedling survival of Senecio and related species – as well as unknown ones for native ant communities.”

Currently, 1,257 of Australia’s threatened and endangered species are directly affected by 207 invasive plants, 57 animals and three pathogens. The most recent estimates found the cost of controlling invasive species and economic losses to farmers in 2011-12 was A$13.6 billion.

Once established across Australia, invasive species can be very difficult to eradicate.

Entomology diagnostician, Cameron Brumley from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development in Western Australia, and geneticists Monica Kehoe and Cuiping Wang, examined the aphid and found matching DNA in a collection from Hurstville, NSW, indicating the greater spread of aphid across Australia. Authorities have been alerted.

“It is still unclear how some fragile species of Kangaroo Island are coping following last year’s bushfires, so I recommend that attention be paid to aphids present on plants related to daisies, on the island, but also on the mainland considering the likely presence of the aphid in other states. Its distribution needs to be mapped,” Dr Petit says.

“This aphid was probably introduced to Australia on ornamental plants. Locally native plants and native gardens offer better habitats for native wildlife and lower invasion risks. We need to learn to appreciate our remarkable native flora.”

Further Notes

Australia has a long history of invasive species, with more than 3000 species introduced to Australia since 1770. Some of the most notorious examples of invasive species include:

The CANE TOAD – Introduced to Australia in the 1930s as a biological control for sugar cane beetles, its population has grown from 102 to more than 200 million, wreaking havoc on the Australian ecosystem at a rate of 50km every year.

PATERSON’S CURSE (or Salvation Jane) – This purple-flowering plant was introduced to Australian gardens in the 1880s, but quickly became a rampant weed. Now a target for biological control, it costs the Australian economy more than $250 million annually through lost productivity in pastures, control costs, and wool contamination.

EUROPEAN RABBITS – Introduced for hunting and food in the 1850s, Australia’s new rabbit population exploded, destroying crops, native flora, and land. Biological controls including the Myxoma Virus and the Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus have helped control populations.

RED FIRE ANTS – Native to South America, these are highly invasive, aggressive ants that have a venomous and repetitive sting that can cause painful pustules, and anaphylaxis. The Federal Government now has a ten-year, $411 million plan to eradicate red fire ants from Southeast Queensland.

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Undersea features provide best protection targets for oceanic sharks

University of Western Australia Media Statement

Underwater footage of sea life from one of the world’s most remote marine parks has shown protected areas must include a range of ocean features to maximise marine biodiversity protection.

The footage was recorded as part of an international expedition, which included researchers from The University of Western Australia, working in collaboration with National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project, to help find and inspire the protection of the ocean’s last wild places.

The research, published in Frontiers in Marine Science, examined the effect of various geographical ocean features, including seamounts, islands and oceanographic fronts, on marine wildlife at Ascension Island, a remote and recently protected UK territory in the tropical Atlantic.

The researchers found these ocean features had a significant influence on the distribution, diversity, abundance, size, and composition of the marine communities observed there.

The types of marine life varied markedly among different physical and oceanographic features.

The waters close to the island were most important for turtles, dolphins, and smaller fishes, while seamounts – underwater mountains formed by volcanic activity – were particularly important for ocean predators, including several threatened species such as silky sharks.

In particular, two shallow seamounts in the south of the territory harboured large groups of sharks and large pelagic fishes like tuna and wahoo, making up more than 99 per cent of the amount of animals in that area.

Mr Chris Thompson

These congregations may be driven by opportunities to forage, clean and socialise.

Lead author, Research Fellow Christopher Thompson from UWA’s Marine Futures Lab, said the results showed that including multiple features in conservation efforts increased biodiversity protection.

“Our findings highlight the value of including features like seamounts and islands in our marine protected areas,” Mr Thompson said.

“Much of Australia’s marine parks network is located in offshore deep waters and it is important that we ensure that productive shelfs, canyons and seamounts are also protected.

“The marine park at Ascension Island sets a great example for marine protection efforts worldwide and our work provides a benchmark of marine wildlife status which can be used to track the changes moving forward.”

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Federal Government must act now to address challenges laid out in the 2021 Intergenerational Report: CEDA

CEDA Media Release

The 2021 Intergenerational Report (IGR) shows Australia can’t afford another lost decade of policy reform, says CEDA Chief Executive Melinda Cilento.

We must tackle the costs of climate change, our reliance on income tax, boost productivity and digitisation and fund essential services like health and aged care if we are to manage well the impacts of our ageing population.

“The report rightly highlights the costs of these challenges, and points out that with a solid and growing economy, we are better placed than most other countries to meet them,” Ms Cilento said.

“Now is the time to take serious action to address these challenges.”

Population

The IGR highlights the generational challenges posed by a population that is expected to grow more slowly, and age more rapidly, than previously expected, due to the pandemic population squeeze and our closed borders.

It warns the most enduring economic effect of COVID-19 is likely to be this smaller population: while the 2015 IGR projected Australia’s population would hit almost 40 million by 2054-55, this IGR projects it will only reach 38.8 million in 2060-61.

This is the first time there has been a downward revision of the long-term population projections in an intergenerational report.

“With our ageing population, and the population freeze caused by our closed borders, our future growth will rely on productivity,” Ms Cilento said.

“CEDA has been calling for Australia to re-open its borders sooner than mid-2022.

“The Federal Government should ramp up the vaccination program now, to help us on this path.

“Australia must also recalibrate its skilled migration program to attract not only the best and brightest migrants, but also those with the right skills and experience for the jobs we need to fill – and we need to start now.

“Right now, governments around the world are fine-tuning their migration programs to respond to greater competition in a post-pandemic world. We will fall behind if we don’t do the same.”

Productivity

The report makes clear that Australia faces an enormous productivity challenge.

It assumes labour productivity will return to 1.5 per cent per year, our 30-year average to 2018-19. But our productivity growth in 2019-20 was roughly one-third of that and averaged just 0.8 per cent in the five years to 2019-20, with GDP growth largely driven by population growth in the lead up to the pandemic.

“Lifting annual productivity growth to 1.5 per cent over the next decade will require sharp policy focus and depend on more Australian businesses performing at or close to world’s best,” Ms Cilento said.

“We can’t underestimate how tough this will be.

“Research by Federal Treasury before the pandemic showed leading Australian firms were not keeping up with leading global firms on productivity.

“Australia had its worst result in 25 years in the recent IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2021, a global ranking of the competitiveness of 64 nations.

“Business efficiency led Australia’s slide, driven by poor performance on management practices, company agility and entrepreneurship.”

“Our rapid digitisation through the pandemic brought opportunities, but moves to establish domestic supply chains may reduce competition and scale and specialisation benefits.

“On trade, we have also heard that seizing new market opportunities and maintaining relationships are getting harder the longer borders remain closed.

“The growing share of services in our economy – particularly personal services, which have traditionally shown low levels of productivity – will also create headwinds.”

Climate change

The impacts of climate change and the transition to carbon neutrality must factor into our longer-term thinking and planning.

The recent NSW IGR found climate risks would have a material impact on the state’s long-term economic and fiscal outlook. We would have liked to see a concrete effort from the Federal Government also to model these scenarios.

Ratings agencies such as S&P are increasingly considering climate risks in their long-term risk assessments.

Meanwhile, 60 per cent of Australia’s major trading partners have committed to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“The Federal Government should commit Australia to net-zero by 2050, and it should announce more ambitious policies to get us there, to provide greater certainty to business and the broader community,” Ms Cilento said.

“More than nearly any other country, Australia is ideally placed to be a renewables superpower. This is our new energy advantage.

“We have the sun, the wind and the minerals needed to build and power new renewable technologies. If we don’t take advantage of this, we will miss out on enormous job opportunities along the way.”

Digitisation

The 2021 IGR highlights the opportunities Australia must leverage through digitisation to boost productivity across the economy.

“Our success in adopting new technologies will determine whether Australian business can compete with the best in the world,” Ms Cilento said.

“Making the most of data and digitisation is also essential to improving the quality and efficiency of care services, amid rising costs and service expectations.

“Australia really must become a leading digital nation if it is to meet the challenges outlined in this report.

“While there were important initiatives in the recent Federal Budget, including the $1.2 billion digital economy strategy, greater clarity is needed on what it will take to achieve the Government’s aspiration to be a leading digital nation.

“A good way to start is by appointing a Chief Technologist to guide the implementation of digital and tech services, and communicate the opportunities and risks of these technologies, as CEDA has previously recommended.”

Tax

With a shrinking working-age population, this report shows Australia’s tax mix will rely mostly on income tax.

“This is not a realistic assumption,” Ms Cilento said.

“Comprehensive tax reform must be put back on the table, with a renewed resolve to reshape the system to sustain a strong and dynamic economy and pay for the essential services so important to our communities.”

Federal-state relations

This report reinforces that both federal and state governments face growing budget gaps and can only close those gaps and boost the tax base by working together.

“Australia should move to a whole-of-federation intergenerational report for National Cabinet,” Ms Cilento said.

“We need an authoritative baseline to examine future spending and revenue trends.

“A combined report would also provide a fuller picture of the challenges we face in the decades to come. Having that picture would make the opportunities for reform in areas such as tax more clear.”

The Federal Government should also ask the Productivity Commission to kick off its next five-yearly productivity review, which should focus on how to drive business-led productivity.

It is now nearly four years since the PC delivered its previous review.

About CEDA

CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development of Australia – is an independent, membership-based think tank.

CEDA’s purpose is to identify policy issues that matter for Australia’s future and pursue solutions that deliver better economic and social outcomes for the greater good.

CEDA has almost 700 members including leading Australian businesses, community organisations, government departments and academic institutions. Our cross-sector membership spans every state and territory.

CEDA was founded in 1960 by leading economist Sir Douglas Copland. His legacy of applying economic analysis to practical problems to aid the development of Australia continues to drive our work today.

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Where is our Greta?

By Ad astra

Here she is – looking at us, looking right into us, right into our soul, just as she was on the title page of the UK version of The Big Issue.

Writing in it, Adrian Lobb begins:

In August 2018, Greta Thunberg took a stand. One small act of defiance for a 15-year-old Swedish girl became one giant global leap forward for change. One simple act of refusal – skipping school and sitting in silence outside the Swedish Parliament with a homemade placard saying: School Strike for the Climate – Thunberg sparked schoolchildren around the world into action.

She was joined by hundreds of thousands of young people taking their first steps into activism, no longer able to tolerate the failure of a generation of politicians to act fast enough in response to the climate crisis.

”It’s just spiralled out of control”, Thunberg says, speaking from her home in Stockholm…”in one way it feels like it was yesterday. But on the other hand, it feels like it was 10 years ago…”

Here we have a schoolgirl doing what our politicians haven’t the guts to do – demand that we take immediate action to counter the climate change effects that we hear about from climate experts every day – on radio, on TV, on current affairs programmes, on commentaries that play all night on our radios. We would need to be deaf or have tin ears to avoid their dire messages.

Yet we have a PM who habitually seeks to avoid the issue, who refuses to commit to zero emissions by 2050, who bends to the demands of the array of climate change deniers that sit at his side, fearful of losing their conditional support – an obscene example of politically motivated cowardice.

Ahead of official G7 talks, PM Morrison travelled to Cornwall for dialogue with the leaders of South Africa, South Korea and India about ‘climate change, nature and open societies’. G7 environment ministers had already agreed to deliver climate change targets in line with the Paris Agreement, which limits the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees. But burdened by Australia’s indolent record on climate change, its unambitious targets, and its unenviable status of being a major fossil fuel producer and exporter, what could he, what did he, contribute?

On arrival there, in his typically grandiose style, Morrison announced: This is a very important place for Australia to be today as we touch down here in the United Kingdom to join the G7-plus dialogue.That was it!

In The price of arrogance: we asked if you were embarrassed by Morrison’s response to Biden’s strident message to the climate change forum he sponsored: “The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. But the cost of inaction keeps mounting.” Our PM shamed us by telling the world that he will run his own race irrespective of other countries and their opinions. With characteristic arrogance, he refused to bow to pressure from the US to use the summit to announce an increased target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He told an astonished summit: We are well on the way to meet our Paris commitments thereby exposing the enlarging gulf between Australia and its allies about how best to tackle the climate crisis. For good measure, Morrison added: “We’ll update our long-term emissions reduction strategy in time for the Glasgow COP26 climate action conference”, scheduled for November. Another ‘nothing to see here’ move.

So where is our steely-eyed Greta to refute Morrison? One of the Greens? A Labor politician? An independent, perhaps Zali Steggal, the one who ignominiously ejected Tony Abbott in Warringah to a state of irrelevance?

Please offer your own nomination. Who is your Greta? Readers will be interested. For me, the one most like Greta is Penny Wong. Strong, articulate, well-informed, outspoken, believable.

She’s my Greta!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Department of Education – Treatment of principals

In light of the very public Christina Holgate story, here’s another lesser known one that happens more often than you might think.

School principals in the NSW public education system sit in a very precarious seat. They are at the pinch point between students, staff, parents, the wider community and the upper levels of the Department of Education. Their job is to implement the policies and directives of the Department on the front line whilst guarding the welfare – academic and otherwise – of the staff and students. It is an enormous task, one in which the consequences frequently ripple through the community. Principals in the department are generally extremely hardworking, dedicated careerist educators. This a story of how they are treated when something goes wrong.

Like all government departments, the NSW Department of Education (DoE) has a section that monitors the conduct of its employees; Performance and Ethical Standards (PES), formerly known as Employee Performance and Conduct (EPAC). The name change occurred in the wake of the Tedeschi Review and departure of its long-time director. Should a staff teacher be brought to the attention of PES, the prevailing advice to principals was to manage the situation with the teacher remaining in their position. Should a principal be the subject of complaint, the remedy is very different – swift removal, often with career-killing effect.

Rebecca(1) is the principal of a reasonable sized school within Sydney with approximately 70 staff and 700 students. She has spent more than three decades employed by the DoE, from a new classroom teacher out of university, through Head Teacher, Deputy Principal and now, Principal. She has advanced her career through merit and dedication, for many years working with migrant students. She has diligently carried out DoE policies and has had an unblemished professional record. As a deputy principal she was positively mentioned in the NSW Parliament by the local member in reference to her efforts. As principal her school was officially commended as a high-performing school; an improvement under her stewardship. Rebecca believes in the benefit of education, and in particular, public education, being a product of public education herself. As her many cards from students over the years attested, she made a difference. Her working day as a principal would begin by leaving home before 6:00am and not returning until around 7:30pm. After an evening meal, school emails would be attended to until bedtime. Repeat every day. Add in school events, functions and P & C meetings. Emails, planning and documents would take up substantial amounts of weekend and school holiday time. Most principals are putting in this level of effort as standard practice.

One of Rebecca’s staff members had been removed by EPAC under a cloud for his own alleged misdeeds. Rebecca was subsequently called to a meeting with her director one afternoon four weeks later and was presented with a letter from EPAC asserting that there were unspecified allegations of ‘serious misconduct’ against herself. She was summarily marched from the premises, told to speak to no-one regarding the matter(2), and ordered to report as a classroom teacher in a school not 15 minutes up the road from her school community. The brutality of this sudden action shattered her. The shame, humiliation, isolation, and destruction of decades of reputation caused Rebecca to become deeply depressed and anxious. In the first few weeks after being stood aside, she was suicidal. She spent nights wandering the house, agitated and unable to sleep. Her doctor put her on long-term anti-depressant medication and prescribed pills for anxiety attacks. For two weeks she literally didn’t know what to do from moment to moment, so sharply uprooted and displaced was she. Rebecca was on sick leave for three months, and although it was agreed that the injury had been sustained in her place of work, her worker’s compensation claim was denied(3). Nobody outside Rebecca’s immediate family know what’s happened to her. It took months before her adult children were informed. Beyond that, no-one; her social world has collapsed.

This was just the beginning of a long damaging and unjust process. It took fifteen months to produce a single specific allegation. In contravention of the Department’s own published guidelines, Rebecca received no termly updates on the progress of her matter. There are several principals stood aside at the moment. The custom for EPAC/PES in the treatment of principals is to remove first and then construct a case. Sometimes the initiating complaint doesn’t even make it to the final allegations, but any hint of dirt unearthed during investigation – anything and everything – is piled on. The investigation is focussed on making the case for PES, an important bias to note. Its goal is not to find justice or even the truth of the matter. To me PES comes across like a kangaroo court. In Rebecca’s case, the investigation has concluded after eighteen months and PES wishes to demote her several levels. At her age, this decision is career-ending with a significant financial penalty. Rebecca has received a 600 page summation of the investigation and has 14 days to make a written response. She was not interviewed by anyone for the investigation(4). She was offered a choice of a written submission or an interview. She could have a support person at the interview but not legal advice. Even if an investigation finds nothing conclusive, PES is apparently entitled to prefer its own version of events(5).

There is not a single finding in the report of any instance of misconduct against Rebecca. There is supposition, ill-informed opinion, and at least one irrelevant witness. There are no witnesses for the defence. There are dubious statements that remain unchallenged. There is a conclusion by someone who hasn’t spoken to Rebecca, that ‘a threshold’ had been reached that deserves the ruination of her career. The case is complex. There is a third party involved, completely unknown to Rebecca, that has made no contribution to the investigation(6). It is clear that she is being made the scapegoat for the actions of others, including perhaps, the department itself. The department’s report admits that the practice at the heart of this matter pre-dates Rebecca’s time at the school. The previous principal has not been asked to contribute to the investigation. He is retired and therefore beyond the clutches of this apparent ‘hatchet job.’ The report appears in parts factually incorrect, incomplete, biased and lacking credibility. But there is no real opportunity for Rebecca to rebut.

Initially in this process Rebecca was under instruction from PES (then EPAC) not to speak about the matter, isolated from colleagues, or any professional support. She was not to discuss this with anyone. This aspect alone was hugely psychologically damaging. She did find a very good support person in her respective principals’ professional association, but his job was not to mount her defence, but metaphorically hold her hand through the process, walk her to the gallows if you will. A long-time observer of these processes noted that if you’ve become involved in a departmental investigation, the result has increasingly become guaranteed to be detrimental to you. The department can simply insist that a principal should have done more. No matter what the circumstance, the principal should have done more. Without ever defining what ‘more ’actually is, just as the magical ‘threshold’ remains unquantified.

After three decades of paying Teachers’ Federation fees, Rebecca turned to the union for assistance. What she found was a sad inert organization that has been in the same dance with the same partner for way too long. It appears that the DoE and the Federation know each other’s moves all too well, that there is an attitude of a tired shrug and throwing up the hands from the union. Rebecca’s first support officer was found to have a conflict of interest in her case, her second apparatchik refused point blank to ask for legal advice in considering her allegation. The Federation solicitor later asked Rebecca why she hadn’t sought legal advice at that point. There was only silence when it was explained that her union had blocked her. The Federation will drop any support from a member if they think that the member has sought legal advice elsewhere. (If you can’t afford your own legal advice then the Federation is the only organisation that can file in the Industrial Relations Commission should you wish to challenge the department’s decision). The union can have you stitched up as much as the department can.

When legal help was sought through the Federation the hope that a defence on behalf of Rebecca might be mounted was soon dashed. The focus was on mitigating the already decided penalty. This was a craven surrender in the face of a gross injustice. It’s agreed that the conduct of PES amounts to a denial of fairness of procedure, the length of investigation and the lack communication breaches PES’s own guidelines. Rebecca has no practical way to mount her own defence. The ban on communicating with anyone in regard to the matter denies her any chance to mount her own investigation or use her own witnesses. She is denied access to her work files. It is a flagrant denial of natural justice. All her legal help available amounts to ‘let me help you put that noose around your neck’.

The departmental thinking at the heart of this callousness is that the reputation of the department must be protected. In reality the result amounts to a failure of responsibility flowing up the ranks, ultimately to protect the minister. And it’s interesting to note that the brunt of responsibility is borne at the principals on the line between the frontline of education and the bureaucracy, an administration – one would suggest – peopled by predatory political animals unconcerned at who they damage in pursuit of their own ambition. The Department at these levels has forgotten the very purpose of its existence: to provide a quality education to the children of the state. PES is routinely taking some the most dedicated and accomplished educators and destroying their health, wellbeing and careers. The protection of reputation translates to a lack of transparency and silencing those with uncomfortable questions. The reputation of teachers however, is disposable.

Finally, in the interests of disclosure, I am not an employee of the Department nor subject to any departmental inquiries. Rebecca is my wife, and the family also pay a price for the gross injustice and damage perpetrated upon her. My wife was made suicidal. I’m just the guy who would find her gone from the bed in the middle of the night. I would look for her wondering what I might find. As we’re left to pick up the pieces of that accomplished and talented professional woman, I am left with a useless, seething rage at the unnecessary injustice and waste of it all.

There are other principals who are being subjected to the same crude destruction of their lives. A recent finding in the NSW Personal Injury Commission(7) found that the Department denied a principal procedural fairness. It wont be the last time.

Author’s name withheld for privacy reasons.

* * * * *

1 Name changed for anonymity.

2 Other than EPAC personnel.

3 This matter is currently still being disputed.

4 Rebecca made one written submission in response to the letter of formal allegation.

5 There is a story that mid-courtroom proceedings, EPAC once arbitrarily changed the allegation, thus side-stepping any accountability and leaving the aggrieved principal stranded.

6 It is understood that other legal activity is still current for the third party over this matter.

7 Loughran vs Secretary of Department of Education.

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We’re with you, Helen: We need an Integrity Commission

After decades as a nurse and midwife, one of the reasons I entered politics was to bring the standards I saw in my professional life, upheld by everyday people, into politics.

On Tuesday, I stood beside 59 eminent Australians who wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to immediately establish a strong, effective and independent integrity commission.

The letter was signed by some of Australia’s most formidable legal minds including former Justice of the High Court Mary Gaudron QC, Tony Fitzgerald AC of the famous Fitzgerald police corruption inquiry, as well as the former Member for Indi Cathy McGowan AO. When these people put their name to something, you’d be a fool to ignore it.

But that’s exactly what this government is doing.

The 8th of September 2021 will mark 1,000 days since the Prime Minister promised the Australian people that he would legislate an integrity commission. But still we’ve seen nothing.

I’ve had enough of the government’s stalling tactics, and I’ve been letting them know in Parliament House. While we’ve been waiting for them to deliver on their promise, scandal after scandal has been piling up.

Time’s up. Integrity can’t wait. Sign my petition to demand Scott Morrison establish a robust federal integrity commission now.

In Question Time yesterday, I asked the PM whether he would deliver an integrity commission before 8 September. In his answer, we saw the same obfuscation and delay he’s brought to getting this body established. A Government clearly not taking this issue seriously.

Tell our politicians that you expect better. Sign my petition to say time’s up and integrity can’t wait.

Last October I introduced the Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill into Parliament, to establish an integrity commission that could hold politicians and public servants to account.

So the PM has two choices. Deliver a robust integrity commission now. Or let Parliament vote on my Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill.

Yours faithfully


Helen Haines MP
Independent Federal Member for Indi

 

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How much did the AstraZeneca vaccine cost us, Scott Morrison?

By Matthew Reddin

With the government choosing to shelve the AstraZeneca vaccine, it’s time they tell us how much this failure cost the taxpayer.

The federal government has now decided to shelve the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine. It was announced last week that the vaccine will be restricted to those over 60 because of how it had links to an extremely rare blood clotting condition.

Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) is a rare syndrome which has been reported after being given the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. It involves blood clots (occurring in body sites like the brain or abdomen) together with low platelet levels. The clotting may occur in around four to six people in every million after being vaccinated.

The Guardian is reporting the government has announced plans to shelve the supposedly controversial vaccine by October, suggesting it will have enough supplies of other vaccines to meet ‘allocation horizons’ for vaccinating the population by year’s end.

It also seems to have enough supply of biz-speak weasel words like ‘allocation horizons’; we’ll soldier on.

To this day (Thursday 24 June), the Health Department website continues to bloviate on the A-Z’s bonafides:

“50 million doses will be manufactured in Australia by multinational biopharmaceutical company CSL, in partnership with the developer, international pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Distribution of these Australian-made CSL doses has commenced and will continue on an ongoing basis.”

Per the website, in July and August, AstraZeneca will continue to be administered, with up to 2.6m doses being doled out each week, mostly to those over 60, through state and territory clinics and the primary care network.

Show me the money

Canberra is being extremely tight-lipped about the detail of the A-Z contract, admitting the amount of doses it ordered, but not their cost. There’s nothing on the AusTender site, and there’s very little that’s been reported in the press about how much it all cost. The federal government is refusing to say how much it is paying the four companies it contracted to help distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, saying the information is “commercial in confidence.”

BioPharma-Reporter.com initially covered the deal last September, noting the Australian government had made a $A1.7 billion supply and production agreement for Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccines, with the first doses set to arrive in January 2021. At the time, the reporting was that 33.8 million doses were coming from AZ, an additional 30 million doses being manufactured by CSL, and 51 million doses to be secured from the now-abandoned University of Queensland operation.

Per the government’s own vaccine info on the Department of Health’s website:

“Australia has entered into 5 separate agreements to secure more than 195 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines if they prove to be safe and effective.” [The ‘if’ in that sentence doing a lot of the heavy lifting there].

The Australian Government has invested over $5 billion in these agreements (Pfizer, Moderna, University of Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax, and the Covax Facility). This will, according to the Health site, “strengthen Australia’s position to have safe and effective vaccines as they become available.”

Somewhere in there among the $5 billion is the $350 million invested:

“… to support vaccine research and development. The investment will contribute to the global effort to find successful vaccines and treatments to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Safety first

According to the University of Melbourne:

“Nearly all the world’s immunologists, virologists, medical professionals, and public health experts agree that COVID-19 vaccines, including AstraZeneca, have minimal risk to recommended subgroups and significant benefit.”

But enough cases of TTS, with a few fatalities, is not a good look for a government already pedalling fast to control the story. Pfizer is clearly the vaccine to have, but its available numbers are nowhere near meeting the demand.

Dr Norman Swan claimed on ABC Radio that Australia was offered the same preferential Pfizer vaccine access that Israel has enjoyed since late 2020, but the government took a different route.

“I’ve now had three sources telling me the same story, including from the United States, of what happened with Pfizer last June,” Swan told ABC Radio Melbourne’s Raf Epstein.

From what we can gather, the option was presented to the government to have enough Pfizer doses to vaccinate the entire (willing) population, but they seem to have gone all-in on the AZ instead – for whatever reason. Now that the AZ has been presenting with infinitesimally small, yet tangible enough statistics to take the sheen off the brand, they’re trying to quietly put the AZ in the too-hard basket and double-down on Pfizer, whose popularity vastly outweighs its availability.

Meanwhile, 177 million doses being administered in the US (53.9% of the population), and 5.5 million doses in Israel (60% of the population).

All up, 10.1% of the global population have been vaccinated. 6.72 million vaccine doses have been administered in Australia, with 1.09 million Australians fully vaccinated against COVID, constituting 4.3% of the population.

As NSW teeters on the precipice of another lockdown, feel free to insert one’s own ‘gold standard’ reference here.

This article was originally published on The Big Smoke.

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Australians concerned about effects of deforestation and its links to future pandemics

Rainforest Alliance Media Release

New research by the Rainforest Alliance reveals that 83% of Aussies are concerned about the global effects that the destruction of the world’s rainforests is having on the planet. This comes following reports that rates of deforestation have accelerated in recent years. With scientists also warning that the current rates of deforestation could make us more vulnerable to future pandemics, 79% of Australians say this is something they are worried about.

This World Rainforest Day, the Rainforest Alliance is reminding consumers that everyone can do something to help through their individual actions, no matter how small, and that there is power in the collective.

Melanie Mokken, Markets Transformation Manager Australia/New Zealand for the Rainforest Alliance said;

“Unfortunately, deforestation rates are accelerating – triggering a global chain reaction of increased greenhouse gas emissions, rising temperatures, and devastating forest fires. Nearly half of the Earth’s original forest cover has already been lost, and each year an additional 32 million acres are destroyed. In Australia alone, an area of forest and bushland the size of Melbourne Cricket Ground is destroyed every two minutes which is astounding.

“Deforestation puts not only the health of our planet at risk, it also puts human health at risk. This has been made even more apparent during the current COVID-19 pandemic, which leaders at the UN, WHO and WWF, amongst many others, agree is linked to deforestation. When forests are destroyed, it misplaces wildlife species, putting them in closer proximity to each other and also to humans. Scientists have been warning for years that this can increase human exposure to new infectious diseases and make us more vulnerable to pandemics similar to what we have experienced with COVID-19. By reducing deforestation of tropical forests and supporting the communities that live there, it is possible to reduce the risk of future pandemics,” said Ms Mokken.

Agriculture is one of the largest drivers of deforestation, responsible for over 80 % of tropical deforestation alone. With an exploding global population (projected to reach 9 billion by 2050), it is profitable for businesses to cut down forests to plant ‘cash crops’ such as soy and oil palm.

“The best thing we can do to fight climate change is keep forests standing. We often hear that our individual actions don’t matter, however that is not the case. Everyone can make a difference in the fight to save forests and it can be as simple as making informed daily choices. There is great power in the collective, and when we act together it is possible to make a difference. We can do this by amplifying each other’s voices and signalling to political and business leaders that sustainability is important to us and by making small changes in our everyday lives.

“The Rainforest Alliance works with farmers to advance a variety of strategies, such as increasing productivity (growing more food on less land), and with traditional forest-dwellers to develop livelihoods that protect forests and ecosystems. By looking for products with the Rainforest Alliance green frog seal consumers can be assured that the product is sourced from producers committed to using land management practices that protect nature while boosting rural livelihoods, said Ms Mokken.

The Rainforest Alliance also works with governments, companies, and local and international civil society organisations to advance far-reaching policies that support rural producers who invest substantial time, labour, and financial resources in sustainability transformation. Our work with both public and private-sector stakeholders aims to raise awareness and influence decision makers to support change.

An example of this is the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, of which Rainforest Alliance is a supporting partner: a multi-stakeholder initiative including the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and 35 leading cocoa and chocolate companies. This includes Australian favourites such as Haigh’s, Whittaker’s and Palmer’s, as well as international brands such as Mars, Ferrero and Nestlé who also source Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa. Together they aim to end deforestation and restore forest areas.

What you can do today to help

Purchase mindfully

By buying foods grown on Rainforest Alliance Certified farms and products which show the Rainforest Alliance’s green frog seal, consumers can be confident they are making choices that are better for people, and for nature. Coffee, tea, cocoa, bananas and other fresh fruit products that bear this seal all come from more sustainable farms where nature is protected and communities thrive.

The Rainforest Alliance has just launched its Take Action platform, Let’s Grow Together, providing consumers with the inspiration and tools they need to make more sustainable choices and changes every day on an individual, collective and global level. This practical platform provides guidance on a range of topics, including choosing certified products, sustainability at home and using your voice.

Note: An independently commissioned piece of research was conducted in June 2021 involving 1,001 respondents aged 18-65+ across all states in Australia.

About Rainforest Alliance:

The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit organisation working in more than 70 countries at the intersection of business, agriculture and forests. The Rainforest Alliance is creating a more sustainable world by using social and market forces to protect nature and improve the lives of farmers and forest communities. By bringing farmers, forest communities, companies and consumers together it addresses some of the most pressing social and environmental challenges of today. The organisation changes the way the world produces, sources and consumes, with a focus on cocoa, coffee, tea, bananas, forest products and palm oil through its certification program, tailored supply chain services, landscape and community work and advocacy. In 2019, more than five million hectares of land and more than two million​ farmers were certified according to the Rainforest Alliance or UTZ standards, which are designed to improve economic, environmental and social sustainability.

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Pants on fire

By 2353NM

It’s not only Crikey subscribers that have read the list of Prime Minster Morrison’s lies and falsehoods they published recently as it’s not paywalled. Crikey claims they applied a rigorous test to their claims and only ‘counted’ those lies and falsehoods they could provide evidence to validate. The criteria used for classification as a lie is intentionally misleading while falsehoods are those claims Morrison made that could have initially been a product of insufficient briefing albeit without correction when the facts were known. Crikey also claims they would do the same to any Prime Minister regardless of gender or political preference should the circumstances warrant.

So why is it important that those leading the country get called out for lying and promoting falsehoods? In the words of Denis Atkins, a veteran political commentator who these days writes for The New Daily and other online publications

While politicians like Mr Morrison fulfil – or even just appear to fulfil – those twin demands of keeping the community safe through proactive health policies and cushioning any economic fallout, the public seems to have otherwise unavailable reserves of tolerance and forgiveness.

Giving politicians a leave pass for bad behaviour – whether it is doing it or lying about it – carries a heavy price.

It tells those politicians they can get away with it and encourages them.

Morrison has a bit of work to do to catch up to ex-President Trump, who according to The Washington Post lied 30,537 times during his presidency. Trump’s average lie count per month grew as his presidency continued. Atkins is correct, not calling out the lies shows politicians that they can get away with it.

In comparison to the major media outlets in Australia, Crikey doesn’t have the reach, staffing or facilities to cross reference and fact check information quickly. Yet we don’t have any of the Nine or Newscorp papers regularly reporting information like the fact that the internal enquiry into the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins had been put on hold a few weeks before Morrison was still claiming in Parliament that the enquiry was continuing, until well after the event. If Crikey can do it, why can’t Channel 7 or even the Herald-Sun?

At least the ABC tries. In conjunction with the ‘Factcheck’ Unit at RMIT, ABC regularly publishes articles that report on reported claims and their accuracy. A recent claim by Morrison that Australia was outperforming other countries with the vaccine rollout was found to be ‘misleading’ which probably isn’t a surprise to anyone (maybe with the exception of those that believe that Morrison is the new messiah).

Every television network and the major newspaper outlet in Australia has reporters that are based at Parliament House. Each outlet will tell you that ‘their experienced expert’, be it Chris Uhlmann, David Speers, Mark Riley, Hugh Riminton or someone else will ensure politicians are held to account. It’s a sad commentary on the reporting or the editorial policy of the major media outlets in Australia when live to air generalist interviewers like Natalie Barr on Channel 7’s Sunrise, Karl Stefanovic on Channel 9’s Today or the panel on Channel 10’s ‘news done differently’ The Project can cut through the political spin far more successfully than the ‘seasoned and experienced’ political reporters. Even satirists like Sammy J, Charlie Pickering and Shaun Micallef seem to be able to hold politicians to account better than the ‘specialists’.

Every lie that Morrison doesn’t get challenged on is another nail in the coffin of democracy in Australia. If you have doubts, The New Yorker recently reported that the Republicans are stalling a proposed bipartisan Congressional investigation into the civil unrest by a pro-Trump lawless mob on the Capitol building last January which probably would make the link to Trump’s false claims of election rigging at a rally earlier the same day as the insurrection occurred. Effectively the Republicans are circumventing democracy to support the lies of a former US President. As The New Yorker reminds us in an earlier article,

on January 6th, “one hundred and forty officers were injured, and we need to care about that.” Many Republicans seem to have willed themselves into a state of not caring about it. One route to obliviousness is by disciplining any Republicans who won’t go along, as with the removal, last week, of Representative Liz Cheney from the Republican House Conference leadership. Another is to express outrage that the commission, and maybe everyone in America, would not, instead, be fixated on last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and any violence that accompanied them.

If our kids are caught out lying, there is most certainly a discussion on why the behaviour is unacceptable. If someone in a court of law is caught out lying, it is actually a crime called perjury. If you lie on an insurance claim or in an application for finance and it is found out, the company will void the contract. That Morrison seems to believe lying and deceit are acceptable is concerning enough – more concerning is that those with the ability to produce and promote the evidence that he is doing it have apparently chosen not to.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Australia’s competitiveness drops to lowest level in 25 years

CEDA Media Release

Australia’s competitiveness drops to lowest level in 25 years: WCY 2021

Australia has fallen four places to 22nd in a global ranking of the competitiveness of 64 nations released today. It is Australia’s worst result in 25 years.

CEDA Chief Economist Jarrod Ball said our performance in the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2021 showed we could not afford to stand still, despite our early success in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and recent strong economic recovery.

“Australia cannot waste any time getting match-fit for the post-pandemic era,” Mr Ball said.

“The rankings show business will need to do a lot of the heavy lifting, with business efficiency leading Australia’s slide in the rankings, driven by a lacklustre 58th place for management practices.

“We are among the lowest-ranked of 64 nations on company agility, entrepreneurship, customer satisfaction and credibility of managers.

“But it is not just our management practices that are deteriorating. Our heavy reliance on mineral resources and a narrow set of markets sees us rank in the 50s for our export sophistication.

“We will need to be a lot more dynamic, innovative and open up new markets for new goods and services in future to deliver another generation of solid economic growth, jobs and rising incomes.”

Mr Ball said Australia slipped 11 places on technological infrastructure and ranked just 44th for ICT services exports this year, showing we must lift our game on the digitisation of our economy.

“Governments also need to play their part,” Mr Ball said. “Australia’s tax regime is called out in the survey as a drag on competitiveness, with Australia ranking 54th and 57th respectively for its corporate and personal income tax burdens.”

Australia also continues to rank poorly on energy infrastructure (56).

“We must boost our climate resilience and regain our energy advantage,” Mr Ball said.

“The Federal Government should commit Australia to net-zero by 2050 and announce more ambitious policies to get us there.”

“On the positive side, Australia limited the economic damage of COVID-19 far more than other economies, which saw us move up the rankings on economic performance,” he said.

“Australia’s skilled workforce, policy stability, legal environment, healthcare and life expectancy are all strengths for the competitiveness of our economy.”

This year, Australia must speed up its COVID-19 vaccine rollout and build fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities to help in the safe reopening of our borders, so we can rebuild the competitiveness of our economy for future generations.

Overall, Switzerland rose to first place from third in 2020, while Sweden jumped from sixth to second and Denmark slipped one place to third. Rounding out the top five, the Netherlands remained in fourth place, while Singapore dropped from first to fifth in 2021.

The report found that globally, this year highlighted the importance of “innovation, digitalisation of the economy, welfare benefits and social cohesion”.

“Highly competitive countries have been able to tackle these challenges by strengthening their institutional and social frameworks,” the report found.

It also found that “trends in highly ranked economies show that the health and education systems remain at the core of competitiveness, contributing to having successfully endured the pandemic – so far.”

The rankings are part of the Swiss-based Institute for Management Development’s (IMD’s) World Competitiveness Yearbook 2021, which ranks the prosperity and competitiveness of 64 countries on more than 330 criteria.

The four main factors are economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure.

Two-thirds of the criteria are based on statistical indicators, and one-third on a survey of more than 5700 international executives taken from March to April this year. CEDA is the yearbook’s Australian partner.

Media can access the Australian results here.

The full results are available here.

About CEDA

CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development of Australia – is an independent, membership-based think tank.

CEDA’s purpose is to identify policy issues that matter for Australia’s future and pursue solutions that deliver better economic and social outcomes for the greater good.

CEDA has almost 700 members including leading Australian businesses, community organisations, government departments and academic institutions. Our cross-sector membership spans every state and territory.

CEDA was founded in 1960 by leading economist Sir Douglas Copland. His legacy of applying economic analysis to practical problems to aid the development of Australia continues to drive our work today.

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‘Band Together’: Refugees join stars from Midnight Oil, Youth Group, Celebrate Rifles, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra to mark Refugee Week

The City of Sydney, the Asylum Seekers Centre and Amnesty International Australia are coming together to host ‘Band Together’, an evening of music and conversation marking Refugee Week 2021.

Speakers include Craig Foster, Rosemary Kariuki and people who have recently received protection in Australia Roaa Ahmed and Mithat Unlu.

Refugees and artists Farhad Bandesh and Moz Azimi, recently released after almost eight years in detention, will also perform live with rock legends from Midnight Oil, as well as Youth Group, Celibate Rifles, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and more.

The event is a celebration but also a chance to share the stories of the many people seeking asylum whose lives are still in limbo; offshore and onshore in detention, as well as living in the community with no support from the government.

Farhad and Moz were detained in Papua New Guinea under Australia’s offshore detention regime. Eventually transferred to Australia for medical treatment, both have been released into community detention recently. Because they originally fled to Australia by boat in 2013, the Government will not allow them to settle permanently here.

Farhad, who has campaigned relentlessly for the rights of refugees in Australia, said: “My songs are protest songs – they are about our human rights and who has the power. When I hear or see what is happening I feel really heartbroken and I thought I had to write songs about this. All we ask for is humanity, for human rights, for decency and kindness.”

Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said: “The City supports Refugee Week each year and we encourage everyone to get involved in the many events taking place across Sydney. It is a great opportunity for communities to learn more about and celebrate the talents, skills, contributions, and cultural diversity of people from refugee backgrounds and people seeking asylum.”

Frances Rush OAM, Chief Executive Officer at the Asylum Seekers Centre, said: “People thrive when they are given the appropriate support while they look for work and find their place in our community. In Refugee Week we are going to celebrate the fantastic contribution of refugees and people seeking asylum.”

“However, the ongoing withdrawal of support from the government and long periods of waiting on temporary visas push people to impossible limits. The Sydney community is very generous, but it should not be up to charities to be people’s only option for their basic needs. Our government must provide sufficient support for vulnerable people seeking asylum living in our community including thousands of children.”

Roaa Ahmed and Mithat Unlu are both people who were supported by the Asylum Seekers Centre and now have refugee protection in Australia. Mithat is a business owner and now employs people seeking asylum in his business. Roaa is doing her HSC and has a bright future in media and psychology ahead of her. Roaa and Mithat will be in conversation with Cr Jess Scully. Their stories will highlight the challenges of seeking asylum and the joys of finding a new home.

Amnesty International Australia’s refugee coordinator, Dr Graham Thom, said: “Refugee Week offers us the opportunity to celebrate the amazing diversity and talent that refugees bring to the Australian community, but it’s also a time to reflect on our treatment of people who have sought safety and protection.

“After eight years, refugees like Farhad and Moz have no certainty regarding their futures. With a new Home Affairs Minister, we now have the chance to turn a new page and redeem refugee policy in Australia. The first step to this is officially accepting New Zealand’s resettlement offer to take 150 refugees trapped as a result of Australia’s offshore detention policy each year.”

‘Band Together’ will commence at 6.30pm AEST on Wednesday 23 June at the Sydney Town Hall. Media passes are available upon request.

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Mums For Refugees Urge All to join Home To Bilo rally in Sydney Saturday

Mums4Refugees is calling all families in Sydney to join us on Saturday 19th June at the Archibald Fountain at Hyde Park North for the family-friendly event as we urge all Parliamentarians to get behind the growing list of government MPs who are saying “enough is enough” and publicly calling on Minister Hawke to bring Priya, Nades and the girls home to Biloela.

QLD-born Tharnicaa won the nation’s heart when she was evacuated from a Christmas Island detention centre to a Perth Hospital with sepsis and pneumonia, days before her 4th birthday.

But instead of ending the cruelty once and for all and letting Tharni, her sister Kopika, Mum Priya, and Dad Nades come home to Biloela where they are loved, wanted, and needed, Minister Hawke has sent this family – in Priya’s words – “from jail to detention” in a Perth suburb, 4,300km from their Biloela home.

Public pressure has seen the government re-unite dad Nades and sister Kopi with Tharni and her mum Priya in Perth. but instead of letting them heal and recover in Queensland where their Biloela friends are waiting to welcome them home, Minister Hawke has once again thrust Kopi and Tharni into an uncertain and distressing environment.

With Nades and Priya and Nades denied the right to work or volunteer and their freedoms greatly limited, Mr Hawke is stopping this family from living the quiet life they had in Biloela.

“As a mum I can’t just wait for politicians to find their moral compass and act, I need to use my voice and call out this government to end the cruelty, the waiting and allowed this family to go back home.”

“If Covid has shown us something is that Australian community is powerful and resilient and we will get this family back to Bilo” – Dulce Muñoz National Convener, Mums4refugees.

COVID SAFETY: We ask everyone joining this family-friendly, COVID-safe event to show care and respect for each other and the healthcare workers caring for Tharni by wearing a mask and maintaining a safe social distance of 2 square metres per household group. Please help to minimise the risk of airborne/droplet transmission by showing your enthusiastic support for the family with creative signs and posters rather than chanting or shouting.

Image from ‘Mums 4 Refugees’ Facebook page

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