Thursday, 19 October 2017

Be a hero - save an endangered Swift Parrot family today


Swift Parrot
Lathamus discolor
Psittacidae
Critically endangered (Australian federal listing)
IUCN Red List
Image: Geoffrey Dabb/ Canberra Birds

Swift Parrots breed only in Tasmania and then fly across Bass Strait to forage on the flowering eucalypts in open box–ironbark forests of the Australian mainland. While on the mainland, they are nomadic, spending weeks or months at some sites and only a few hours at others, determined by the supply of nectar. [Birdlife Australia]

                                     

Go to https://pozible.com/project/operation-pko to donate

ABC News, 18 October 2017:

The parrots are nomadic and eat nectar, travelling in flocks to nest near flowering eucalypts.
"This year, all their food is on the east coast of Tasmania, and that area is full of sugar gliders," Dr Stojanovic said.
"We're very concerned that all the birds we bred on predator-free islands last year, will end up nesting on the mainland in sugar glider habitat and be eaten."
With the help of an electrician, Dr Stojanovic has designed "a possum-keeper-outer" nest boxes, with a door to close behind the parrot once darkness fell.
"Effectively, it's just a little motor and a light sensor," he said.
"As soon as it's daytime the sensor automatically detects that there's ambient light and it will open to release the parrot to go about their business….
Dr Stojanovic said previous research had shown the possums could eat parrots "within a couple of days" of the bird laying its eggs.
"About half of the female swift parrots that nest on the mainland of Tasmania each year end up being eaten by sugar gliders," he said.
"It can be a really severe rate of predation."
Dr Stojanovic said the crowd-funding protection measures were needed due to ongoing deforestation of the swift parrot habitat, by logging.

"Want to clear the pool of sharks? Ask the little lady. The sheilas are tough in Australia."


“Want to clear the pool of sharks? Ask the little lady. The sheilas are tough in Australia” I’m sure the North Coast Voices reader who sent me a link to this video along with that comment was boasting a bit as he said it.

Meet Melissa Hatheier of Cronulla……

Image from ABC News, 11 October 2016

And this is Melissa tidying away “a little Port Jackson shark” at Oak Park Sea Pool, Cronulla, NSW………





So troubled multinational Serco's staff are going to answer phone calls made to Centrelink in a Turnbull Government pilot program?


Multinational Serco Group plc registered in England and Wales, with revenue in 2016 of an est. $5 billion and an underlying trading profit of est. $139 million, has made the news again.

One of its subsidiaries, SERCO CITIZEN SERVICES PTY LTD1 ABN:89 062 943 640, won this $53.75 million federal government contract commencing 7 September 2017:

CN ID: CN3460117
Agency: Department of Human Services
Publish Date: 11-Oct-2017
Category: Temporary personnel services
Contract Period:
7-Sep-2017 to 29-Oct-2019
Contract Value (AUD): $53,752,454.80
Description: Centrelink Call Centre Enhancements Initiative

On 11 October 2017 it was reported that the Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge stated this contract was for a pilot commencing in late October 2017 would help reduce Centrelink call wait times.

An est. 250 Melbourne-based Serco staff will take calls about welfare payments in the three-year pilot program.


Of course Serco will comply, Minister.

Just as it has on every single contract in the past......

Stolen Laptop Exposes Personal Data on 207,000 Army Reservists. Serco held the data on reservists as part of its contract with the U.S. Army’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation division. As a result, Dahms said, some of the data on the missing laptop may belong to dependents and spouses of U.S. Army reservists, 13 May 2010

Serco's paper trailer raises accountability questions. Crikey has taken a closer look at the extent that Serco contracts outsources to other companies and can reveal that millions of dollars from the detention contract has ended up in some startling places, 1 November 2010

Serco employee suspected of Victoria Police breach. Man accused of adjusting 67,541 traffic infringement records, 15 April 2011


Serco operates and maintains a surprisingly large and diverse range of services in both the UK and Australia, as well as in several other countries. Its website lists some examples of the scale of its operations including: traffic management systems covering more than 17,500kms of roads worldwide, managing 192,000 square miles of airspace in five countries, managing education authorities on behalf of local governments, and providing defence support services worldwide.[2] Serco also manages a number of hospitals, prisons and detention centres, and is involved in a host of other services.[3]…..Focussing on the company Serco, there have been numerous reports of instances where its service provision has been sub-standard, high-cost, has eliminated diversity, or has lacked accountability. Putting this focus on Serco’s faults is not to say that it is any more prone to failures than other corporations in this area, or that it is always unsuccessful in its service provision. Rather, the point is to show clearly the dangers of privatisation, and why it must not be accepted as a universal good, 7 March 2012



Sources in the justice system blamed the foul-up on staffing issues at Serco. One said: "This sort of thing happens every week." The seven-year PECS deal has turned into a horror show for Serco. It faces allegations that it doctored transfer records to flatter its performance, with five Serco staff under investigation by the City of London police. That is not its only problem contract. There are separate claims that, along with rival outsourcer G4S, it overcharged taxpayers on a deal to put electronic tags on criminals, 17 October 2013

Private contractors Serco has agreed to repay £68.5million to the taxpayer after over-charging for tagging criminals. The firm was investigated by the Ministry of Justice over claims that together with rival company G4S it over-charged for tens of thousands of criminals, including those who had left the country, been returned to prison or even died, 19 December 2013

Outsourcing giant Serco is embroiled in a fresh misuse of public funds scandal after a company it set up overcharged NHS hospitals millions of pounds, 27 August 2014

Serco is failing, but is kept afloat thanks to Australia's refugee policy. It’s a sign of the times that a company like Serco, with murky financial statements masking its true economic shape, is continually rewarded for failure by new and larger contracts, 11 November 2014

Serco turned 'blind eye' to corruption in UK immigration jail, court hears, 26 February 2015

Serco has brought a culture of profiteering, bullying, intimidation and corruption to Mt Eden prison, a Whangarei barrister says.The comments come as controversy surrounds the private company that operates the prison, and with Corrections boss Ray Smith revealing a third incident at the facility has left him no choice but to seek legal advice in regards to the contract, 24 July 2015

On Monday, Serco was fined $NZ500,000 ($A328,750) and was prohibited from overseeing operations at the correctional facility while an internal investigation took place. The fine came after six disturbing videos — shot on a smartphone and smuggled inside the prison — surfaced on YouTube earlier this month. The videos showed prisoners participating in organised ‘fight clubs’ as large groups of fellow inmates watch on. Inmates were also seen blatantly smoking and drinking alcohol in the videos, which were captured without the knowledge of staff. However, the NZ prison officers union said bosses knew about the fight club for up to 18 months, but did nothing about it, 29 July 2015

A GUARD at the Wickham Point Detention Centre in Darwin has been fired after it was found he was trying to coerce female detainees into having sex with him. Serco, the company contracted to run Australia’s immigration facilities, said in a statement to the NT News that a detainee services officer from Wickham Point was dismissed in late May following two separate complaints from female detainees, 6 August 2015





Serco targets further cost cutting as it seeks to keep its profits on track. Serco boss Rupert Soames has said the company still has costs to cut before it is trading at full strength, as the firm enters the middle stage of its five-year turnaround plan. He said that there were plans to further reduce overheads and make Serco’s processes more efficient, as well as bringing down some of its IT costs. “We’ve still got a lot of costs that we have to get out of the business,” he said, 3 August 2017.



Footnotes

1. Serco provides care and welfare services, on behalf of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, to people living in Australian onshore immigration centres whilst their visa status is resolved. Since 2009, more than 61,000 individuals have been in our care, representing more than 20 different cultural and linguistically diverse communities. Within the Australian justice system, Serco operates three prisons: the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre (Queensland) with 400 beds, Acacia Prison (Western Australia) with 1400 beds and the Wandoo Reintegration Facility (Western Australia) with 80 beds.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Australia - where the rich get richer as wealth & income inequality grows (interactive mapping)


The Guardian, 12 October 2017

Australia is among countries with the highest growth in income inequality in the world over the past 30 years, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Vitor Gaspar, the IMF’s director of fiscal affairs, has told an audience at the launch of the IMF’s latest Fiscal Monitor that Australia’s income inequality growth has been similar to the US, South Africa, India, China, Spain and the UK since the 1980s.

Last month the treasurer, Scott Morrison, said that income inequality was not getting worse in Australia.

Morrison told the Business Council of Australia in late September that Treasury and the Reserve Bank had found, in specific analysis of current wage fundamentals, that Australian wages were growing slowly across most industries in the economy, and most regions of the country, so the slow growth was evenly shared.

However, he would not release the Treasury analysis.

Graph showing inequality by country by the IMF. Illustration: IMF

Gaspar said IMF staff had used the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s income distribution database, Eurostat, and the World Bank’s Povcalnet data, among other sources, to calculate that income inequality had increased in nearly half of the world’s countries in the past three decades, and Australia had experienced a “large increase” in that time.

“Most people around the world live in countries where inequality has increased,” he said.

The IMF’s latest Fiscal Monitor, released overnight, is dedicated to the global growth in income inequality. It warns that while some inequality is inevitable in a market-based economic system as a result of “differences in talent, effort, and luck”, excessive inequality could “erode social cohesion, lead to political polarisation, and ultimately lower economic growth”. 

It also warns that income inequality tends to be “highly correlated” with wealth inequality, inequality of opportunity, and gender inequality……

Earlier this year, the OECD economic survey of Australia in April found “inclusiveness has been eroded” in the past two decades.

“The Gini coefficient has been drifting up and households in upper-income brackets have benefited disproportionally from Australia’s long period of economic growth,” the report said.

“Real incomes for the top quintile of households grew by more than 40% between 2004 and 2014, while those for the lowest quintile only grew by about 25%.”

In July the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, when asked about his views on inequality at a charity lunch in Sydney, said it had grown “quite a lot” in the 1980s and 1990s and had risen “a little bit” recently, but it was important to make a distinction between income and wealth inequality.

“Wealth inequality has become more pronounced particularly in the last five or six years because there’s been big gains in asset prices,” Lowe said. “So the people who own assets, which are usually wealthy people, have seen their wealth go up.”

He said income inequality had increased slightly in recent years, but wealth inequality was more pronounced because of rising asset prices.

So how do individual regions across Australia fare?

The Guardian on 4 February 2016 published this Australia-wide interactive graphic:



Income Distribution in NSW Northern Rivers Region (based on Australian Taxation Office data for 2012-13)

Byron – top 10%  of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 38.5% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.544

Kyogle – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 33.9% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.554

Ballina – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 33.2% of income – Gini coefficient 0.495

Tweed – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 31.7% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.473

Clarence Valley – top 10%  of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 31.1% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.493

Lismore – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 29.7% of total income – Gini coefficient 0.459

Richmond Valley – top 10% of individuals lodging personal tax forms held 28.1% of total income  – Gini coefficient 0.448

*  Some low income earners, eg. those receiving Government pensions/allowances or earning below the tax free threshold may not be present in the data, as they may not be required to lodge personal tax forms. [Australian Bureau of Statistics, Estimates of Personal Income for Small Areas, Total Income, 2012-13]

Australian Human Rights Commission does not support expansion of the Cashless Debit Card Trial


Excerpts from Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs Senate Inquiry into Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017:

Human rights concerns
As a form of income management, the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 raises a number of human rights concerns, specifically around the right to social security, the right to a private life and the right to equality and non-discrimination. [my yellow highlighting]
The Commission has previously reported its concerns about the cashless debit card (also known as the Healthy Welfare Card) in our submission to the Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015 and in the Social Justice and Native Title reports for 2015 and 2016. 2
The Commission has particularly been concerned about the effects of these income management measures in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, whom we have previously identified to be a group that are disproportionately impacted by such measures.3 As at September 2016, 75% of trial participants in Ceduna and 82% of trial participants in the East Kimberley were Indigenous.4
Whilst the Explanatory Memorandum acknowledges that trials of the cashless debit card are already underway in areas with high Indigenous populations, it proposes that future sites will give priority to locations with lower proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.5
The Commission remains concerned that the measures will continue to disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not just in the existing locations of the East Kimberley and Ceduna where Indigenous populations are high, but also in future locations.
This is the case because the measures proposed in the Bill target a section of the population who are receiving income support payments.
Hence, whilst the measures may not directly target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their practical effect will unduly impact upon them, as government pensions and allowances are a main source of income for approximately 46.9% of this group.6
There are therefore concerns about whether the measures are inconsistent with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) and guarantee Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples equality before the law.
The Commission considers that the measures are not proportionate to the benefits sought by the Bill because their purpose could be achieved through other, less restrictive means and emphasises what it considers to be the preferred features of a system of income management:
* an approach that enables participants to voluntarily opt-in, rather than an automatic quarantining model (which then relies upon individual applications for exemptions)
* an approach that utilises income management as a ‘last resort’, particularly for targeted risk areas such as child protection (that is supported by case management and support services), similar to the Family Responsibilities Commission model in Queensland
* measures that are applied for a defined period and in a manner proportionate to the context.7
The Commission does not accept the arguments in the Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights that the measures justifiably limit the right to social security, privacy and non-discrimination and equality in pursuit of the objectives of Part 3D of the Act.8
As non-voluntary measures, they are applied to all income support recipients of working age in the trial areas,9 including those who do not have any issues with drugs, alcohol or gambling.
For the reasons outlined above and in the Commission’s previous submissions, the Commission does not agree with the assessment that the Bill or existing cashless debit card measures are compatible with human rights standards.10……
It is difficult to attribute the reported positive effects to the current trials as distinct from other factors such as increased support services, and other policy interventions.15 This is further exacerbated by the self-reporting nature of the report’s findings, which the evaluation itself states should be interpreted with caution and are subject to desirability bias.16
However, it is important to consider that where people have experienced modest benefits as a result of income management, when compared to its stated objectives,17 that these need to be weighed against its significant drawbacks.
The Commission does not accept that it is appropriate to extend these measures to additional sites in order to “build on these positive findings, and offer an opportunity to continue to test the card’s effectiveness in different settings and on a larger scale”.18 There is limited evidence to demonstrate that previous income management efforts have been effective and this is confirmed by the findings from the Orima report.
The Commission is therefore of the view that these measures unjustifiably impinge on the rights of trial participants, for little substantive benefit…..
Conclusion
Human rights protections are inadequately addressed in the Bill, the Explanatory Memorandum and in the Statement of Compatibility. The Commission is particularly concerned about the non-voluntary nature of the measures, and the disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and those income support recipients who do not have drug, alcohol or gambling concerns.  [my yellow highlighting]
The Commission is of the view that income management measures which are imposed and not community-driven lack efficacy.
The Commission is of the view that less intrusive measures aimed at changing behaviour rather than limiting access to and use of income will be more effective. It is for this reason that the Commission welcomes the investment of support services into these communities, but hopes that the appropriateness and level of engagement with such services improves.19
In light of these views, the Commission does not support the expansion of these measures as outlined in the Bill.
_______________________________________________________________________
2 Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015, 6 October 2015, At http://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=14a9925c-245c-4a2e-9bfa-eeb6c843e505&subId=403485; Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2016, 88-97, At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/AHRC_SJNTR_2016.pdf; Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2015, 55-58, At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/SJRNTR2015.pdf.
3 Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015, 6 October 2015, 5.
4 Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2016, 91-92. See also Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’ (Department of Social Services, 2017), 38, showing similar proportions as at June 2017.
5 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 4, 7. 
7 Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission No 76 to Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of Racial Discrimination Act Bill 2009 and other Bills (10 February 2010), 26.
8 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 7-8.
9 Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’, (Department of Social Services, 2017) 3.
10 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 8. 
16 Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’, (Department of Social Services, 2017) 118.
17 Department of Social Services, Guide to Social Security Law [11.1.1.30] http://guides.dss.gov.au/guide-social-security-law/11/1/1/30
18 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 3.
19 According to the Orima report, only 19% of those surveyed indicated that they used the drug and alcohol support services provided. Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’, (Department of Social Services, 2017) 8. 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Question Time in the Australian House of Representatives reveals the arbitrary nature and downright absurdity of the National Broadband Network rollout


In Australia where the dead have better Internet access than the living……

Hansard, 16 October 2017:

Ms McBRIDE (Dobell) (14:53): My question is to the Prime Minister. We are now in the fifth year of this Prime Minister's mismanagement of the NBN. Is the Prime Minister aware that students at the Central Coast Rudolf Steiner School in Fountaindale can't connect to the NBN, even though Fountaindale has supposedly had the NBN since September last year? What sort of incompetence means that the cemetery behind the school has an NBN connection but the school doesn't? [my yellow highlighting]

Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth—Prime Minister) (14:54): I thank the honourable member for her question. I'm certainly happy, if she's able to raise the specific customer's details with me, to make sure it goes to the minister and to NBN Co. What I can say, if honourable members care to pay attention to the NBN's weekly rollout report, which I do—an example of transparency on the part of my government which had no counterpart under the Labor Party, I might say—is that every week the numbers go up, and there are currently over six million premises that are able to connect, and just under three million have services that are connected. So the rollout is going at great pace, and I'm sure the matter that the honourable member has raised will be able to be dealt with.

This is how Nationals MP for Dawson is using your tax dollars


Almost every person is Australia pays some form of taxation, even if payment is confined to the Goods & Services Tax (GST).

These taxes can result in a little or a lot of dollars ending up in government coffers rather than finding a home in the household kitty .

So I’m sure readers in the Northern Rivers region where household incomes are on the lower end of the national scale will be really impressed with the fact that yet another Turnbull Government MP is spending taxpayer dollars on publicly attacking the Australian Broadcasting Commission – this time in defence of a foreign multinational of dubious repute.

I give you George Robert Christensen, former local government councillor, former journalist/newspaper editor and current Chair of the Joint Committee On Publications…….


5 OCTOBER 2017: I am publishing (in North Queensland newspapers) an open letter to the Head of Current Affairs at the ABC. Monday’s attack on jobs with a program called “Digging into Adani” demonstrated beyond doubt the national broadcaster is overly influenced by the extreme green movement. On behalf of North Queensland families desperate for jobs, I have demanded the ABC provide balance with another story focusing on the Townsville, Bowen and Mackay communities relying on the Carmichael Coal Project going ahead.

The program avoided facts, preferring the green movement’s stock-in-trade: allegations, accusations, and unsubstantiated claims. But no matter how many activists the ABC turns to for comment, repeating the same misinformation does not turn it into fact.

Monday’s episode relied almost exclusively on commentary from other journalists and green activists, including the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, which is funded by big (green left) money from the United States, including the Rockefellers. Their stated mission is “to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy and to reduce dependence on coal and other non-renewable energy resources”.

Even lightly scratching the surface of the experts and organisations reveals strong links with the green movement and funding from other activist organisations such as Greenpeace. The lack of credible sources and repetition of the same old allegations, many of which are demonstrably false, indicate a disregard for objectivity. Monday’s episode contained nothing new of any substance, just a continuation of the ABC’s sustained attack on Adani, whose Carmichael Coal Project, when complete, will represent only 17 per cent of Queensland’s coal production.

By allowing itself to become a mouthpiece for green extremists, the ABC has distanced itself from the regional audience, who fund the broadcaster with their taxes. Regional-based journalists continue to engage with their local community but they are increasingly at odds with the Sydney-centric national programs.  The national broadcaster still has an important role to play in regional and remote areas where options are limited. However, the Four Corners story is a clear example of capital city media elites talking amongst themselves and demonstrating a disdain for anyone outside their circle.