Monday, 1 May 2017

Left unchecked the gas & coal mining sectors will be the death of the Great Artesian Basin and what is left of the Great Barrier Reef


According to an August 2016 Report Commissioned By The Australian Government And Great Artesian Basin Jurisdictions Based On Advice From The Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) is one of the largest underground freshwater reservoirs in the world. It underlies approximately 22% of Australia – occupying an area of over 1.7 million square kilometres beneath arid and semi-arid parts of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory. Approximately 70% of the GAB lies within Queensland…..

The first people to make use of GAB water were Indigenous tribes for whom it was critical to survival. Indeed, there is evidence that the GAB sustained Aboriginal people for thousands of years prior to European settlement.

The natural springs of the GAB provided a critical source of fresh water, and supported valuable food sources including birds, mammals, reptiles, crustaceans and insects, creating an abundant hunting ground for local tribes. The plants and trees around the artesian springs were used for food, medicine, materials and shelter.

The springs provided semi-permanent oases in the desert and supported trade and travel routes which evolved around them. The springs also played a key part in the spiritual and cultural beliefs of Aboriginal people. Ceremonies and other events were held at spring wetland areas which remain precious cultural and sacred sites. Numerous Creation stories feature a connection to groundwater.

This underground freshwater reservoir holds 65,000 million megalitres much of which fell as rain 1 to 2 million years ago, but not all of this water is in accessible layers.

For assessment purposes the GAB is divided into four regions – Carpentaria, Central Eromanga, Western Eromanga and the Surat Basin.

In 1878 the first bore was sunk to draw water from the Great Artesian Basin.

In modern Australia its economic values are shared by towns, agriculture, cattle & sheep grazing and industry/mining across the four basin regions.

The Courier map based on a 22 August 2016 report
                                                                                                                                              
The report points out that Water has historically been extracted from the GAB at a greater rate than recharge and this creates a problem for 21st Century Australia.

Professor of Environmental Sciences Derek Eamus, University of Technology, 18 June 2015:

As the pressure in the GAB has declined and the water table drops, mound springs (where groundwater is pushed to the ground surface under pressure) have begun to dry up in South Australia and Queensland. Associated paperbark swamps and wetlands are also being lost and it gets more and more expensive to extract the groundwater for irrigation and other commercial applications.

On average, rates of groundwater extraction across Australia has increased by about 100 per cent between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, reflecting both the increased population size and commercial usage of groundwater stores.

Despite the strain on water resources, the gas and coal mining industries are allowed virtually unlimited water extraction from within the Great Artesian Basin and where the few limits are placed on extraction it is poorly policed by government agencies.

This is a graph of coal seam gas, conventional gas and petroleum industry water use 1995-2015:

Source:.DNRM 2016, p. 62.

The Adani Group’s most recent water licence for the Carmichael coal project issued in April 2017 allows it to take a virtually unlimited volume of groundwater each year for the next 60 years, plus surface water – with minimum oversight.

The Environmental Defender’s Office (Qld) states that: It is expected that Adani may require up to 9.5 billion litres of groundwater every year for the Carmichael project.

Poor management by Adani of its Abbot’s Point coal waste has already led to a smothering of the vibrant, nationally important Caley Wetlands with run-off via its estuarine system expected to reach adjacent waters of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Satellite image of Caley Wetlands after emergency water release by Adani - now covered in coal waste.
A picture of the Abbot Point coal loading facility showing coal water run-off moving north-west into the wetlands and coal dust on the beaches. The Age, 12 April 2017, Photo: Dean Sewell
Coal dust on the beaches next to the Abbot Point coal loading facility  Photo: Dean Sewell/Oculi


On 10 March 2015 ABC News reported:

Hundreds of square kilometres of prime agricultural land in southeast Queensland are at risk from a cocktail of toxic chemicals and explosive gases, according to a secret State Government report.

A study commissioned by Queensland's environment department says an experimental plant operated by mining company Linc Energy at Chinchilla, west of Brisbane, is to blame and has already caused "irreversible" damage to strategic cropping land.

The department, which has launched a $6.5 million criminal prosecution of the company, alleges Linc is responsible for "gross interference" to the health and wellbeing of former workers at the plant as well as "serious environmental harm".

The 335-page experts' report, obtained by the ABC, has been disclosed to Linc but not to landholders.

It says gases released by Linc's activities at its underground coal gasification plant at Hopeland have caused the permanent acidification of the soil near the site.

Experts also found concentrations of hydrogen in the soil at explosive levels and abnormal amounts of methane, which they say is being artificially generated underground, over a wide area.

The region is a fertile part of the Western Darling Downs and is used to grow wheat, barley and cotton and for cattle grazing, with some organic producers.

Other documents, released to the ABC by the magistrate in charge of the criminal case, show four departmental investigators were hospitalised with suspected gas poisoning during soil testing at the site in March.

"My nausea lasted for several hours. I was also informed by the treating doctor that my blood tests showed elevated carbon monoxide levels (above what was normal)," one of the investigators said.

High levels of cancer-causing benzene were detected at the site afterwards.

On 9 February 2017 ABC News was still reporting on the contamination:

Flammable levels of hydrogen have been found at a number of locations near the site of a controversial gas project that has been blamed for contaminating huge swathes of prime Queensland farm land.

The ABC understands an ongoing Environment Department investigation has confirmed that the contamination is much more widespread than previously thought.

The Queensland Government has dispatched Environment Department officers to the Hopeland community, near Chinchilla in the state's south, and is setting up a call centre to help explain the situation to landholders…..

Due to fears about possible hydrogen explosions, the Government has been enforcing a 314-square kilometre "excavation caution zone" around the Linc plant, with landholders banned from digging any hole deeper than two metres.

The ABC understands further investigation by the Environment Department has now found flammable levels of hydrogen at locations outside the current caution zone.

The hydrogen has been detected underground and the department says it dissipates quickly in the open air.

Government sources have stressed the gas is not of an explosive concentration but landholders will be encouraged to exercise caution.

Left unchecked the mining industry will bring the Great Artesian Basin closer to collapse.

It is not as if either federal or state governments ever fully realise the supposed financial gains allowing this environmental degradation was supposed to bring to their treasuries.

In 2007-08 the Australian Taxation Office released taxation data which showed that 68.8 per cent of all mining companies on its books paid no tax in that financial year. In 2009-10 the percentage of mining companies paying no tax had risen to 73.1 per cent and in in 2010-11 the percentage of mining companies paying no tax was 72.2 per cent. By 2013-14 a total of 60 per cent of publicly listed energy and resources companies did not pay tax and again in 2014-15 60 per cent of all energy and resources companies paid no tax.

Add to this the fact that Adani in Australia in estimated to have paid only 0.008 percent in tax on their total income in 2014-2015 and is structured in such a way that its tax burden is artificially lowered and a significant proportion of its profits move offshore to the Cayman Islands tax haven.

It isn’t hard to see a pattern developing here.

Maximum environmental, cultural, social and economic risk for Australia with minimal financial return on risk.

Looking for all those vacant residential dwelling being deliberately kept out of the Australian housing market


In the 2011 Census there were 2,297,460 rented private dwellings recorded. This was 29.6 per cent of the 7,760,322 private dwellings declared covering an est. 8,420,000 households.


Simple maths shows there was possibly around 534,000 private dwellings for which there were unlikely to be tenants and which were potentially available for sale.

Given these excess dwellings are likely to be unevenly spatially distributed, a number of metropolitan suburbs and regional urban areas would still be experiencing limited availability of housing stock for rent or sale and therefore demand may be unmet.

However, according to BIS Sharpnel; In 2017After a record breaking building boom in most capitals, Australia will have 24,039 extra homes above what are needed and will be oversupplied for the first time in more than a decade, a new report shows.

So why is it so hard to find a place to rent in large metropolitan areas and why is housing for sale so expensive?

It appears there is an artificial drought which can only be explained by the high percentage of investment properties in the housing stock mix which had reached 23 per cent by 2015, comprising one quarter of all house stock and two-thirds of apartment stock.

Domain.com.au released a ball park estimate of all vacant properties on 4 April 2017, based on Prosper Australia  research:

QUEENSLAND

An estimated 59,000 properties are standing empty in Queensland.

NEW SOUTH WALES

There are an estimated 121,000 properties vacant across New South Wales (with up to 90,000 properties standing empty in Sydney suburbs).

VICTORIA

The president of Prosper Australia, Catherine Cashmore, who has collected data on water usage to show there are 80,000 empty homes in Melbourne, said an empty home tax was an intuitively appealing policy that could pave the way for greater reforms.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

There are an estimated 23,000 properties vacant in South Australia.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

An estimated 21,000 vacant properties.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

There are an estimated 2,000 vacant properties in the Territory.

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRIOTORY

An estimated 5,000 vacant properties.

TASMANIA

An estimated 7,000 vacant properties.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 28 March 2016:

Vacant properties were among the "perverse outcomes" of tax incentives that encouraged some investors to favour capital growth over rental returns, according to the analysis by the UNSW's City Futures Research Centre.

"Leaving housing empty is both profitable and subsidised by government," researchers Bill Randolph and Laurence Troy said. "This is taxation lunacy and a national scandal."

The ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods analysed Australian Taxation Office data and found at least 4,204 “legislators” who owned investment properties of which more than 13.87 per cent appear to negatively gear their properties.


So it is not hard to see why the Turnbull Government is dragging its heels when faced with the “perverse outcomes” arising from negative gearing and capital gain tax concessions.

Or why a Coalition state government like the NSW Government would decide that the best way to address a perceived housing shortage is to give its political supporters free rein.

Sky News, 9 January 2017:

The NSW government will be able to fast-track developments under a massive shake-up of the state's planning system aimed at tackling Sydney's chronic housing shortage.
Councils will determine fewer development applications under the proposed changes but will be responsible for devising more planning strategies with local communities.
Other proposals include providing incentives for developers if they consult with neighbours and the community before lodging development applications and simplifying building regulations.


Realestate.com.au calculates that it requires at least one person in a marriage/
partnership, presumably without children, to be in full-time employment - and earning more in wages each week than half the current workforce - for the couple to have any hope of saving for a deposit within a reasonable time period:


So if our multimillionaire prime minister, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, and his parliamentary fellow travellers won’t act to ease housing affordability by removing taxation loopholes which allow the greedy to manipulate the housing market to their advantage, then it is up to voters to apply a cattle prod to their privileged haunches – and vote them out in 2018-19.

And if state governments won’t move to penalise investors who deliberately leave residential dwellings vacant for a trouble-free capital gain as well as a tax deduction, then voters with an eye to the future of their children and grandchildren might consider letting them know how they feel about the situation.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

How the average person experiences watching the nightly news in 2017?

Women are still the majority of the low paid workers in Australia - a fact that is conveniently ignored by government


The Australian Taxation Office publishes a range of statistics which, despite the time lag, state and federal governments and their agencies rely on for a financial profile of the nation.

This April the data release covers the financial year 2014-15.

Table 3: Individuals – selected income items, 2013–14 to 2014–15 income years 
Income item
2013–14
2014–15

Individuals (no.)
Average ($)
Median ($)
Individuals (no.)
Average ($)
Median ($)
Salary or wages
10,304,687
56,689
46,656
10,469,919
57,576
47,502
Gross interest
7,335,773
1,821
162
7,659,362
1,622
138
Dividends – franked amount
2,861,982
7,971
506
2,849,504
7,776
549
Dividends – franking credit
2,855,343
3,422
218
2,843,250
3,338
237
Allowances, earnings, tips, director's fees etc
2,297,379
3,801
463
2,344,140
3,778
453
Net rent
2,033,973
−1,828
−1,675
2,077,235
−1,749
−1,624
Net non-primary production amount
1,748,849
28,993
5,122
1,786,937
28,582
4,927
Net income or loss from business – non-primary production transferred from item P8
1,078,383
26,269
12,095
1,122,260
26,192
12,221
Dividends – unfranked amount
1,060,280
887
78
1,064,264
942
84
Australian Government allowances and payments like Newstart, Youth Allowance and Austudy payment
922,538
5,664
4,942
966,709
5,906
5,178
Australian Government pensions and allowances
645,097
10,127
10,250
676,083
10,318
10,368
Net capital gain
609,678
23,585
1,901
672,484
25,944
2,137
Total income or loss
12,964,285
59,851
44,697
13,213,814
60,714
45,471
Note Total income or loss: components do not add to the total number of taxpayers because taxpayers may declare more than one type of income. Some components of total income are not listed in this table. The count, average and median for total income or loss are calculated including zeroes.

Whichever way one looks at salary/wage line in this table it clearly shows that ordinary Australian workers are not doing well, with half having annual incomes below $47,502. That's 5.1 million people earning far less than the $195,130 base salary enjoyed by 
members of the Turnbull Government who are even now looking for ways to reduce the takehome pay of such workers. 

Of the 13.21 million individuals who lodged a tax return in 2015, 6.85 million were males and 6.35 million were females. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2013-14 there were also an est. 1.22 million people of working age lived alone with a significant number of these individuals having incomes below the median annual salary/wage, so it is likely that a similar situation existed in 2014-15.

If one divides the ATO tax returns by gender it is not hard to see that more women than men would be found in the group earning less than $47,502.

This is not just a passing phase in wages growth – women have consistently been on the bottom of the wage ladder this century. This despite the fact that they are better educated now than in centuries past and so many are in paid employment.

The Guardian helpfully published a breakdown on 18 April 2017 from which I selected three graphs to illustrate the point:


In the article Greg Jericho concluded: Women made up 45% of all people earning a taxable income in 2014-15, and yet they accounted for just 25% of those in the richest 10% but 57% of those in the poorest decile……It goes without saying that if you earn a large income you are more likely to be a man and if you earn a small income you are most likely to be a woman – and it really does not matter what your job is.

The Australian Government Workplace and Gender Equality Agency stated in August 2016:

The full-time average weekly ordinary earnings for women are 16.2% less than for men.
Among non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees, the gender pay gap for full-time annualised base salary is 19.1%, and for full-time annualised total remuneration is 24.0%.
The full-time average hourly earnings for women are 13.9% less than men's full-time average hourly earnings.
The gender pay gap in ASX 200 organisations is 28.7%.
Average graduate salaries for women are 9.4% less than for men. When factors such as personal characteristics, occupation, industry and education are accounted for, average graduate salaries for women are 4.4% less than for men.
Average superannuation balances for women at retirement are 52.8% less than those for men.
Of people aged 65 years and older receiving the aged pension, 55.6% are women.

This agency also pointed out that:

Of all women aged 20-24, 90.1% have attained year 12 qualifications or above, compared to 86.3% of men in the same age bracket.
Of all women aged 25-29, 39.6% have achieved a bachelor degree or above, compared to 30.4% of men of the same age bracket.
A slightly higher proportion of men (6.1%) aged 15-74 years attained a postgraduate degree than women (5.7%) of the same age bracket.

The reality is that women have never enjoyed equal pay across all industries and occupations and the national economy relies on them supplying cheaper labour.

So the next time your local MP tells you that he or she understands how "middle Australia" is feeling or attempts to position their family there – openly scoff at such a nonsensical viewpoint.

If your MP tells you that he/she supports the right to equal pay - walk away whilst raising a middle finger in disgust.