Showing posts with label costs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label costs. Show all posts

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Tweets of the Week




Friday, 2 February 2018

How we see the cost of living in Australia in 2018


Essential Report, 30 January 2018:


A substantial majority believe that, in the last 12 months, cost of living (73%) and electricity costs (75%) have all got worse. The only economic measure that has got better is company profits (42% better/12% worse).
Compared the last time this question was asked in February 2016, there has been an increase in the percentage that think electricity costs (up 13% to 75%) have got worse. However, there has also been an increase in the percentage that think company profits (+12), unemployment (+19) and the economy overall (+18) have got better.


51% (down 2% since August) believe that, in the last two years, their income has fallen behind the cost of living. 28% (up 3%) think it has stayed even with the cost of living and 14% (down 1%) think it has gone up more.

64% of those earning under $600 pw and 58% of those earning $600-1,000 pw think their income has fallen behind while 54% of those earning over $2,000 pw think it has stayed the same or gone up.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)media release, 31 January 2018:



Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 1 November 2018:




According to the ABS, over the last twelve months up to end September 2017 the Living Cost Index* rose:

2.0% for Pensioner and Beneficiary Households
2.1% for Other Government Transfer Recipient Households
1.7% for Age Pensioner Households
1.6% for Self-Funded Retiree Households
1.5% for Employee Households 

One of the principal drivers to the rise in costs for these groups has been the rise in housing costs due to the rise in wholesale electricity costs.


Thursday, 23 November 2017

Will you be able to afford your electricity bill this summer?


The Daily Examiner, 22 November 2017, p.5:

Power price hikes have tripled wage growth in the past decade and experts fear more NSW families could have their electricity disconnected this summer.

New data shows the average electricity bill has jumped a whopping 116 per cent from $1282 in 2007 to $2770 in 2017, while the median wage has grown just 35 per cent from $59,723 to $80,382.

The figures, compiled exclusively for The Daily Telegraph by price comparison firm Finder, reveal the average bill jumped 10.5 per cent in the past year alone, while wages grew just 2.2 per cent.

Analysis shows the portion of their wages workers are spending on their bills has grown more than 60 per cent in those 10 years.

Experts are now worried that residents forced to spend a bigger chunk of their wages on electricity could risk disconnections this summer as airconditioner use pushes bills even higher.

While state and federal politicians remain divided on how to tackle soaring power prices, figures from the Australian Energy Regulator show that from 2014 to 2017 the number of customers on hardship programs has risen from 18,293 to 24,921. The number of customers with bill debt has also jumped almost 20,000 in the past year, with 85,801 customers now in debt compared with 68,487 last year.

In the most recent financial quarter there were 7775 electricity disconnections in NSW and 1908 households with their gas cut off.

To put this in perspective, a careful aged pensioner living alone in New South Wales would have easily faced an annual electricity bill in 2016-17 in the vicinity of $1,300-$1,500.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Is the NSW Berejiklian Coalition Government taking the Norther Rivers bushfire risk level seriously?


The NSW Nationals Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) manages more than 870 national parks and reserves totalling over 7 million hectares.

With 22 per cent of the Clarence Valley covered by heavily timbered national parks and the entire NSW Northern Rivers region having 10 national parks, at least 9 nature reserves and 2 state forests, the risk of bushfires has always been high.

With climate change raising the fire risk and the NSW Berejiklian Coalition Government stripping the NWPS of personnel and funding, many local residents are beginning to worry.


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

This is what privatisation did to Australia's household electricity bills


When three eastern and one southern state formed the National Electricity Market in December 1998 Australia had the lowest retail prices in the world along with the United States and Canada.

The rules which underpin this National Electricity Market are created by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) set up by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) - through the COAG Energy Council - for that purpose and to advise federal & state governments on how best to develop energy markets over time.

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) sets the amount of revenue that network businesses can recover from customers for using networks (electricity poles and wires and gas pipelines) that transport energy.

So far so good. There's a defined market and there are rules.

Then the privatisation of electricity supply and infrastructure began in earnest.

It should come as no surprise that this push towards full privatisation, with its downhill spiral in service delivery and uphill climb in cost to retail customers, began and was progressed during the term of Liberal Prime Minister John Howard.

By 2017 the NSW Berejiklian Coalition Government has almost completed its three-stage privatisation of state power infrastructure by selling off poles and wires and, it goes without saying that the retail cost of electricity is expected to rise again next year.

This is where we stand today……………………

[Graphs in Financial Review, 4 August 2017]
The Financial Review, 4 Augut 2017:

The annual cost to households of accepting a standing offer from one of the big three retailers instead of the best offer in the market has been estimated at $830 in Victoria, $900 in Queensland and $1400-$1500 in NSW and SA by the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Mr Mountain said power bills are constructed in such a complex way that ordinary customers without sophisticated spreadsheet and analytical skills have little hope of analysing competing offers to work out which offers them the best deal.

Private comparison websites do not include all market offers and charge retailers for switching customers, while the websites offered by the Australian Energy Regulator and the Victorian government do not provide the tools customers need to discriminate among offers.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ordered the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to conduct an inquiry into electricity supply, costs and pricing, including retail pricing.

The Treasurer should have a preliminary report from the ACCC in his hands by the end of September this year, however this body does not submit a final report until 30 June 2018 with no guarantee that any recommendations will be adopted by government and industry.

Quite frankly, it appears the privatisation train left the platform some time ago and there is no way to halt or divert it in order to genuinely benefit household consumers.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Blind ignorance and political opportunism continue to rule the federal corridors of power


“Some MPs are also concerned that a CET would be too similar to Labor's climate policy and would see the Government lose its edge over the Opposition.” [ABC News, 13 June 2016]

The National Electricity Market (NEM) is said to be the longest geographically connected power system in the world, supplying five of Australia’s eight states and territories with electricity for homes, businesses and industries. It generates around 200 terawatt hours of electricity annually, accounting for around 80 per cent of Australia’s electricity consumption, according to the Australian Chief Scientist Alan Finkel.

In December 2016 the Australian Chief Scientist presented the Expert Panel’s Preliminary Report of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market to the Council Of Australian Governments (COAG).

Six months and one Final Report later, as electricity prices continued to climb and low income households across Australia worry about how they will meet the next power bill, the governing Liberal and National parties are still fighting crazy ideological battles and worrying about their own chances at the next federal election - instead of facing up to the fact that the NEM became highly dysfunctional once the system was essentially privatised as well as the fact that Coalition energy policies are spectacularly failing to meet Australia’s international obligations with regard to climate change mitigation.

I for one am unimpressed with and angered by this display of blind ignorance and political opportunism as I try to hoard my pennies against this winter’s power bill………

Malcolm Turnbull has been hit with a stronger-than-anticipated backlash over plans to introduce a Clean Energy Target in a battle which is fast becoming a test of his leadership, Liberal sources say.
Despite the CET having the support of senior conservatives and other ministers, it did not translate into backbench support late on Tuesday as Coalition MPs at a special meeting discussed the findings of Chief Scientist Alan Finkel and his main recommendation for a CET to be adopted post-2020.
By early evening, sources inside the meeting said only four MPs had so far spoken in favour of Dr Finkel's key recommendation while about 20, including Tony Abbott and junior minister Angus Taylor, were against, and four more unclear.
"It's a slaughter," said an MP inside the meeting "and a lot of the usual suspects haven't spoken yet".
As the meeting rolled on, it was apparent the government would, at the very least, have to design a scheme that enabled so-called clean coal to be designated, in part, as a low emissions energy source. Even so, this is unlikely to placate all the backbench rebels and also runs the risk of Labor withdrawing its offer of bipartisan support because it cannot accept a policy that designates coal as a clean emissions source.
The prospect of doing anything at all is now in serious doubt. Both Nationals and Liberals spoke against the plan, despite it promising to lower electricity prices and the government yet to do any design work.
With Mr Abbott leading a determined group of MPs who believe the government should either do nothing at all, or adopt a scheme giving so-called clean coal equal treatment to renewable energy, senior Liberals said Mr Turnbull cannot risk losing control of the policy process to his nemesis.
Mr Abbott, who had not read the Finkel report, slammed the CET on Monday as a "magic pudding" and "a tax on coal"…..
Labor resolved to oppose the government trying to allow the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in carbon capture storage technology, saying it was "nothing but a hollow gesture to appease extreme right MPs".
Under a CET, existing generators would see out their natural lives and coal use would only fall slightly under a CET.
Climate-change policy has ignited tensions within the federal government, with a group of backbench MPs led by Tony Abbott confronting Malcolm Turnbull over the proposed Clean Energy Target in a special party room meeting.
As one MP in the room put it afterwards: "Malcolm could lose his leadership over this if he doesn't listen to us."….
The disquiet means that Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg is likely to have little choice but to significantly modify the CET, as proposed in the Finkel review, to keep the backbench on-side as he finalises the Coalition's policy response, which is expected as soon as the end of July.
The length of the meeting and depth of feeling is likely to cause a re-think by the Turnbull government as it looks to implement a CET, with coal and gas likely to be given more favourable treatment.
ABC News,13 June 2017:
Tensions between Liberal factional rivals Tony Abbott and Craig Laundy boiled over at the conclusion of Tuesday's party room meeting, in which dozens of Coalition backbenchers raised concerns about Alan Finkel's energy report.
The special meeting was called to give Liberal and National MPs more time to debate the chief scientist's recommendations, including the introduction of a Clean Energy Target [CET] to encourage the development of low emission generators.
While the three-hour meeting was described as "positive" and "constructive", the ABC has been told Mr Abbott and Mr Laundy had a "very heated exchange" that lasted around 15 minutes after MPs and Senators filed out of the meeting.
It is understood it followed a minor altercation during the meeting when Mr Laundy took issue with Mr Abbott for interjecting while he was on his feet.
The former Prime Minister was one of about 10 MPs who expressed "serious misgivings" about the introduction of a CET, while a handful spoke in favour of the policy.
The Sydney Morning Herald,  13 June 2017:
The evening's first questioner had nearly summed things up.
"I think many of us will remember four years ago we had an election and saw the Coalition more or less win on the promise that by slashing the carbon tax every family in this country would get $500 back. 
"I don't know about you, but in our family we didn't see this $500. I have seen prices of electricity rising every year since then. And, you know, actually experts around the world are telling us that putting a price on carbon, on pollution, is the most efficient way that we can deal with the challenge of climate change. 
"It actually works, it's very simple - people who want to pollute, that's fine, you want to pollute, but then you pay. Then you reward those who don't. Simple. My children understand that system."
The Australian, 14 June 2017:

The federal Coalition has put its dysfunction on display again.

Always up for a brawl on climate change, Liberals and Nationals MPs have thrown themselves into an internal row that tells Australians to look elsewhere for leadership.

In public, MPs assure voters they have a way to keep power bills down. In private they rip each other to shreds because they do not know what to do.

Tony Abbott interjected so often throughout the meeting that Craig Laundy, a frontbench ally of Malcolm Turnbull, called the former prime minister out and asked that he show respect to those who wanted to speak.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

As utility bills get harder and harder to manage for those on low incomes, this comes as a slap in the face


In roughly five to six weeks time electricity prices are expected to rise for many people in Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania.

Households are expected to pay up to $300-$400 more a year, with the rise in wholesale electricity prices making up est. 45 per cent of a domestic supply bill.

As low-income renters, pensioners and the unemployed struggle this winter with the choice of trying to stay warm without heating or face an impossibly large electricity bill, they might like to remember that all this was very avoidable.

First Prime Minister Abbott and then Prime Minister Turnbull (along with all their MPs and senators) had the chance to keep energy costs lower - but blinded by ideology they refused to do so.

This was The Sydney Morning Herald reporting the Turnbull Government's failure on 8 December 2016:

The Turnbull government has been sitting on advice that an emissions intensity scheme - the carbon policy it put on the table only to rule out just 36 hours later - would save households and businesses up to $15 billion in electricity bills over a decade.

While Malcolm Turnbull has rejected this sort of scheme by claiming it would push up prices, analysis in an Australian Electricity Market Commission report handed to the government months ago finds it would actually cost consumers far less than other approaches, including doing nothing.

It finds that would still be the case even if the government boosted its climate target to a 50 per cent cut in emissions by 2030.

Depending on the level of electricity use and the target adopted, modelling by Danny Price of Frontier Economics found costs would be between $3.4 billion and $15 billion lower over the decade to 2030.  Costs would be $11.2 billion lower over this time assuming average electricity use and the existing climate target.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Australia's national gas shortage mirage


It is a case of now you see it now you don’t, courtesy of a rapacious gas industry and the governments which blindly support it............

SHORTAGE!

Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) , media release, 28 February 2017:

Australia urgently needs more gas supply and more gas suppliers to head off a supply shortfall forecast for 2019.
APPEA Chief Executive Dr Malcolm Roberts said the report released today by AiGroup shows customers will pay a heavy price for government bans on developing new gas supply.
“Gas is no different to any other commodity – you restrict supply, you push up prices,” Dr Roberts said.
“We have the bizarre situation of State governments banning new gas projects and then complaining about higher gas prices.
“The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Productivity Commission and a host of independent commentators all agree that stifling supply can only lead to higher prices.
“Yesterday, the ABS released data showing gas exploration is at its lowest level since 2005.
“Today, the AWU is calling for the Commonwealth to force Australian gas producers to tear up their contracts.  We need billions in investment to unlock new gas supplies but the AWU’s approach would kill investment overnight.
“There is no shortage of gas which can be developed to supply all of our local and export customers.
“Just as our agricultural industries have the capacity to supply export and domestic markets, so does Australia’s east coast gas industry.  Our LNG exporters are also the major suppliers to the domestic market.
“People concerned by the impact of higher gas prices on local customers should be arguing for the removal of unnecessary restrictions on developing new resources, not more heavy-handed regulation.
“The AiGroup report simply reinforces what APPEA has been saying for years – that gas customers will pay higher-than-necessary prices if restrictions on developing new gas projects continue.
Dr Roberts said it was ironic the AWU’s call for intervention to renegotiate export contracts came on the same day that domestically‑focused Cooper Energy and the APA Group announced a $605 million investment in developing the Sole Project to supply east coast gas market.
“Changes that increase the cost of exploration and production in Australia will place future investment – like that required for projects such as Sole – at risk,” he said.

WHAT SHORTAGE?

We find that although a “gas-price crisis” exists in eastern-Australia, a gas-supply shortfall is very unlikely to occur. Our review finds that the size of AEMO’s forecast shortfall is very small, amounting to no more than around 0.2% of annual supply.
In addition, only eleven days after announcing its supply-gap concerns, AEMO essentially closed the gap when it published, on its website, updated (lower) electricity-demand forecasts that therefore lead to less demand for electricity generated by burning gas. [University of Melbourne, Australian-German Climate and Energy College, Tim Forcey and Dylan McConnell, 2017, A short-lived gas shortfall]

However, it is also important to note that the total gas supply in Eastern Australia has expanded rapidly in recent years, and the key domestic issue is more to do with the gas price that is now dictated by linkages to international trade, than the supply.
In addition the combination of falling renewable and storage costs means alternative options for the electricity sector will be cheaper than developing relatively expensive unconventional gas resources such as coal seam gas. [University of Melbourne, Australian-German Climate and Energy College, Dylan McConnell, 2017, IS THE AUSTRALIAN GAS SHORTFALL A MYTH?]

The Guardian, 18 May 2017:

A predicted shortage of gas for electricity generation in Australia from 2018 will not eventuate, and the recent surge in domestic prices will not be mitigated by opening up new coal seam gas fields, according to a new report.

In March, the Australian Energy Market Operator (Aemo) predicted that without national reform, Australia would face gas shortages, which would drive power outages, in 2018 and 2019.

“If we do nothing, we’re going to see shortfalls in gas, we’re going to see shortfalls in electricity,” Aemo’s chief operating officer, Mike Cleary, told the ABC at the time.

Despite being described by some as “major”, the actual shortfall of electricity from the gas shortage amounted to the equivalent of less than 24 hours over a 13-year period, according to the new report by Tim Forcey and Dylan McConnell at Melbourne University’s Australian-German climate and energy college.

In any case, less than two weeks after Aemo predicted the shortfall, it published an updated forecast of how much electricity would be needed in the period. It downgraded the previous forecast and completely wiped out the predicted shortage.

The Melbourne University report, which was commissioned by the Wilderness Society and Lock the Gate, also noted that later in March Shell announced it was proceeding with its “Project Ruby” that involved 161 gas wells in Queensland, and also would have closed the shortage, if it were real.

Monday, 22 May 2017

The Turnbull Government has been offering half-truths to voters once gain


In its 2017-18 Budget the Turnbull Government announced it would commence the phased re-introduction of Medicare Benefits Schedule rebates indexation.

Treasurer and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison stated in his Budget Night speech that “We are lifting the freeze on the indexation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule. We are also reversing the removal of the bulk-billing incentive for diagnostic imaging and pathology services and the increase in the PBS co-payment and related changes.”

It now appears that it was premature to expect that out-of-pocket expenses for a number of radiology and diagnostic imaging services might be contained after the rebate freeze was lifted for these services in three years time.


The Medicare rebate thaw will not apply to 93 per cent of scans, including the X-rays, MRIs and ultrasounds used to diagnose some of the most common forms of cancer.

Health Minister Greg Hunt's staged four-year thaw has been widely welcomed by doctors' groups such as the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of GPs. Under the plan, indexation will gradually be reapplied to bulk-billing incentives, visits to the doctor and allied health services.

On budget night, the Turnbull government said the final stage of the thaw, due in July 2020, would lift the freeze on "targeted" radiology and diagnostic imaging services - the first indexation since 2004.

Prime Minister Turnbull puts pressure on the Senate to back the increase to the Medicare levy after the release of two new opinion polls. Vision courtesy Seven News Melbourne.

But new Department of Health figures reveal precisely how "targeted" the changes will be: the freeze will be lifted on 59 of the 891 radiology items listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule - just 7 per cent.

While mammograms and a number of CT scans will be indexed under the plan, X-rays, MRIs, PETs and ultrasounds for such common conditions as brain, lung, breast and ovarian cancer will not. The rebate on common scans for arthritis and nuclear medicine will also remain frozen. [my yellow highlighting]

As for the promised reversing of the increase in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), this is only the potential for a flow-on effect from other changes in the PBS and is in no way guaranteed to occur.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Turnbull Government identifies a new source of revenue and there are no prizes for guessing from whom


Now that the Turnbull Government has embraced big data and begun collecting and collating information on all citizens across multiple agency platforms, there is a temptation to explore all the money-making potential of this data.

In March 2016 Treasurer Scott Morrison requested that the Productivity Commission:

Examine the benefits and costs of options for increasing availability of public sector data to other public sector agencies (including between the different levels of government), the private sector, research sector, academics and the community. Where there are clear benefits, recommend ways to increase and improve data linking and availability.

Upfront the aim to gather more information, limit ownership rights of citizens with regard to their own personal information and to sell-on data it collects on citizens is apparent, however it takes a few pages of the Commission’s report to discover that it probably also intends to make additional money out of the ordinary individuals who have been forced to supply government agencies with this same detailed data.

If the Commission recommendation (that a charge can levied by an agency when a citizen requests access to their data) is accepted then, by way of example, the door will have been opened to charge a cost to welfare recipients who request Centrelink statements of income required twice-yearly by social housing agencies, or who request their Basic Card transaction records for a specific period if there is a concern relating to a pension/benefit/allowance periodic payment or who request that data held in e-Health records be edited/corrected if it contains erroneous information.

Of course, this being a report whose terms of reference reflect the wishes of a right-wing federal government - the intention appears to be that all business or government agency charges to supply the individual with his or her own data will be set by those same businesses or agencies with little or no limit on the size these fees.

Australian Government Productivity Commission, Inquiry Report, Data Availability and Use: Overview & Recommendations, 31 March 2017:

Knowing when your data has been sold
One of the most potentially pernicious practices with data is the onward trade or disclosure of data to third parties, leaving consumers unaware of who knows what about them. The damage is often not so much in monetary terms but in the feeling of exploitation. This has great capacity to undermine social licence over time, if misused. Around half of all Australians surveyed by Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) have expressed concern about unknown organisations having obtained their personal information.
We do not propose that consumers be advised on each occasion data is traded or otherwise disclosed to a third party — the burden on businesses using contractors and outsourcing aspects of their operations could be enormous. Moreover, consumers in some areas could be inundated. But advising on which organisations data has been traded or disclosed to is a reasonable expectation of what is, after all, a joint right to data. You should surely be informed that something in which you now have a joint right is traded or disclosed to a third party.
Accordingly, entities should inform consumers about their data being traded or disclosed by including in their privacy policies, terms and conditions or on their websites, a list of parties to whom consumer data has been traded or otherwise disclosed over the past 12 months. Such lists should easily accessible to consumers and updated in a timely manner.
Consumers may also be at risk of loss of data access on the wind up of a firm. In such circumstances, consumers should always be advised of who now holds their data if it is transferred (as an asset) by the insolvency practitioner; or dataset owner if the data is separately sold.
Costs, timeliness and transition
We recognise that there may be costs to business associated with their adherence to the Right. There are a number of aspects of the recommendation that seek to ensure these are manageable.
First, as noted above, it is expected that industry sectors themselves would determine the scope of data to be transferred, subject to approval by the ACCC.
Second, businesses and government data holders would be able to charge for costs reasonably incurred in transferring consumer data. We fully expect that there may be a tiered approach to such charges, namely that some digital data that is of high quality, readily available, and clearly identifiable with a particular individual (such as transactions data), should be made available at low or no cost and at relatively short notice. Data stored on different (yet still digital) systems, or that is of lesser quality may require additional effort to provide in a usable format and therefore could attract a higher charge and take longer. This would be for data holders themselves to determine and explain.
Our intention in recommending the creation of this Right is to enhance consumer outcomes, as a contribution to sustaining community support for the role data will play in the future. Business and governments as data holders would need to adjust to this Right. Neither should have interests in creating a process that was so costly as to prohibit its take up by most if not all consumers, as this would be counter to enhancing consumer outcomes and may eventually undermine the quality of data collections.
To make the process manageable, it is surely preferable to offer the parties affected in incurring expense the chance to meet the intent of the Right, namely enabling consumers to use their data. This is likely to involve degrees of iteration and transition. But the clear expectation is that there would be transparency on the part of businesses and agencies. Over time as systems evolve, the time taken and the cost involved should fall as these processes become part of each firm growing its business or government agency keeping faith with its clients, and while volume of data transferred might reasonably be expected to grow.
Similarly, it is expected that businesses and government data holders themselves would likely reap benefits from system transformation and better data management, such that all of the costs would not reasonably fall to consumers availing themselves of the Right.
Support for consumers in exercising their new Right
The ACCC would be the primary government entity charged with ensuring consumers are able to transfer their data and exercise their new rights. Specifically, any charges levied by data holders for access, editing, copying and/or transferring of data should be monitored, with the methodology used by a data holder recorded, transparent (such as on the data holder’s web page) and reviewable on request by the ACCC.
While recourse for consumers not satisfied with the way their new Comprehensive Right can be exercised could primarily be through the ACCC, we recognise there are other bodies — industry-specific ombudsmen, State and Territory fair trading offices, and the OAIC — that may have industry-specific skills and knowledge to deal with particular complaints. There should be a ‘no wrong door’ approach to this. This means the key regulators need to implement systems that enable consumer concerns to be handled with efficacy — not leave the consumer straddling a regulator abyss.
While the changes proposed aim to enable consumers to exercise more control over the collection and use of their data, the onus remains on individuals to make responsible choices regarding to whom they provide personal information in the first instance and for what purposes.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Rental housing affordability in regional Australia, 2017


Anglicare Australia’s latest Rental Affordability Snapshot, April 2017, does not offer good news for individuals, couples and families in regional areas who cannot afford to purchase their own home:


Single income households

Single people in regional areas are still hard hit by housing unaffordability. Regional areas generally have fewer services and higher unemployment rates, raising the dilemma of “if you can afford to live there, there are no jobs and if there are jobs, you can’t afford to live there!”

Of the 13,739 regional properties analysed on the collection weekend, there were fewer than five properties that would be suitable for a single person on Youth Allowance (#9 or #10) (n=2 & 3). For those on Newstart, the appropriate properties ranged from 0.1% for singles on Newstart (#8) (n=18), increasing to 1.7% (n=235) for a single parent on Newstart (#5). Singles on the Disability Support Pension (#7) could access 3.49% (n=542) of properties surveyed. An age pensioner (#6) could access 5.0% (n=687) of properties surveyed, however, many of these properties were share houses so there are questions about how successful an application by an age pensioner for this property type would be.
Singles living on the Parenting Payment with one child (#4) could access 7.2% of rentals (n=986), while those on the same payment with two children (#2) could access 5.5% (n=751).
Singles living on the minimum wage might apply for 1,207 properties (8.8%) if on their own (#13) or 2,534 properties (18.4%) if they have two children (#12).
Double income households
A couple living in regional area with two children on the minimum wage (#11) might access 46.7% of all rentals (n=6,422). However, the same family living on Newstart (#1) might only access 8.2% (n=1,133).
An Age Pension couple (#3) could afford 16.7% (n=2,295) of the 13,739 properties.
Couple households living with two children on minimum wage and parenting payment (#14) might access 28.1% of the rentals (n=3,854).

Monday, 1 May 2017

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.

It defies belief that the NSW Coalition Government would believe that just building more private housing for investors to warehouse for financial gain is a solution to rising house prices and limited availability.


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.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Healthy Welfare Card: Dear Indue Ltd.....


Unhappy voters on the subject of the cashless debit card also known as the Heathy Welfare Card......

AIM Network, 5 March 2017:
Indue Ltd
C/- Stargroup Ltd
(Formerly ICash Payment Systems, Formerly Reef Mining).
PO Box 523 Toowong
QLD 4066 Australia
P: +61 7 3258 4222
F: +61 7 3258 4211
E: indue@indue.com.au
5 March 2017
Re the ‘Healthy’ Welfare Card.
Dear Indue Ltd – its Board, Directors and Shareholders,
I am aware that the Commonwealth Human Services Minister in the Turnbull government, Alan Tudge, is intending to transfer all welfare recipients to the ‘Healthy Welfare Card’ for income management purposes in the near future. As an Australian citizen I am aware that levels of unemployment in Australia are high and unlikely to fall soon due to the policies of the Turnbull government and that, therefore, there is a high risk that I may become unemployed in the near future and, hence, subject to the income management welfare card scheme initiated by the LNP government and, specifically, by the Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and the Social Services Minister Christian Porter.
I am also aware that Indue and its owners are to be paid between $4000 and $7000 from the Australian budget as fees for each person on the income management card system including possibly for myself in the future. I understand that how much Indue actually receives of tax payer’s money for each person in its management scheme as an administrative fee, including possibly for myself in the future, will depend upon whether the person resides in an urban or regional location. However, given that the Turnbull government intends to extend the operation of the income management welfare card scheme to all welfare recipients soon then the profit Indue can anticipate making from the scheme is in the region of $4.6 billion dollars. I note this amount is an additional amount of expenditure on top of the existing welfare budget as I understand the implementation of the welfare card system does not create any savings for the government that can be accredited against the alleged budget deficit. In my view this money would be better spent on reducing the alleged debt or on the people of Australia as a whole and not on creating profits for a private company with political connections such as Indue.
I am further aware that those amounts are to be paid to Indue as fees from the Department of Human Services budget which departmental budget is itself obtained entirely from the Australian Consolidated Revenue Fund that belongs to all the Australian people. I am aware that the fee amounts Indue is to receive, or that it has already received so far, for performing its income management duties to welfare recipients, have been, or will be, appropriated by the Department of Human Services from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purported purpose of providing welfare for the Australian people and not for misuse as payment of profits to a private company such as Indue.
I consider that if I am compelled to participate in the card scheme and become subject to Indue’s income management scheme in the future then Indue would become my fiduciary. In the case Hospital Products Ltd v United States Surgical Corps Justice Mason of the High Court of Australia said the following:
The accepted fiduciary relationships are sometimes referred to as relationships of trust and confidence or confidential relations …The critical feature of these relationships is that the fiduciary undertakes or agrees to act for or on behalf of or in the interests of another person in the exercise of a power or discretion which will affect the interests of that other person in a legal or practical sense. The relationship between the parties is therefore one which gives the fiduciary a special opportunity to exercise the power or discretion to the detriment of that other person who is accordingly vulnerable to abuse by the fiduciary of his position. The expressions “for”, “on behalf of” and “in the interests of” signify that the fiduciary acts in a “representative” character in the exercise of his responsibility…
Given that the Turnbull government is intending to transfer all welfare recipients to the income management welfare card scheme in the near future and given that I am likely to become unemployed in the future, it is almost certain that Indue will manage my income in the future and that it will do so purportedly in my interests and on my behalf as my fiduciary. On that basis, Indue would owe me the duties and obligations that usually accompany fiduciaries. Those duties would include, but would not be limited to, the obligation of complete disclosure to me, the prohibition against personally profiting from the performance of its duties to me, the obligation to avoid a conflict of interests and duties and a duty to protect me from any possible or actual losses from its management of my income. Losses that I would likely sustain from the income management welfare card scheme would include losses of opportunities to buy cheap goods or services at a cash price that I could not obtain by use of the card due to the restrictions on access to cash in the card system. Anticipated losses would also extend to any additional financial service fees I will incur due to me being forced to use the card in being denied access to cash. In those circumstances, in its capacity as my fiduciary, I would be entitled to hold Indue liable for those and any other possible losses I incur due to the operation of the card and Indue’s management of my income.
I also note that in the Hospital Products case his Honour Chief Justice Gibbs said:
A person who occupies a fiduciary position may not use that position to gain a profit or advantage for himself, nor may he obtain a benefit by entering into a transaction in conflict with his fiduciary duty, without the informed consent of the person to whom he owes the duty.
By this correspondence then, and on the basis that Indue will likely seek to become my fiduciary in the near future and stands to gain from that capacity, as it has already done with the huge profits it has already obtained from the income management welfare card scheme so far, I give notice that I do not consent to Indue managing my income or becoming my fiduciary at any time or of obtaining fees from anyone, including from the Government, for any income management services it purports to undertake for me or on my behalf.
I give further notice that if I am compelled to participate in the card programme I will hold Indue and its owners liable for any and all losses or liabilities I sustain due to the operation of the welfare card and of the income management system. Those losses and liabilities will extend to any legal costs I incur in challenging or remedying Indue’s management of my income without my consent.
Regards,
An Australian Citizen 2017

Facebook, Tina Clausen to Milton Dick MP

I am really angry about the proposed expansion of the Cashless Welfare Card:
After having worked as a professional Social Worker for twenty years including in agency management and interdisciplinary team leader positions, then having to leave the workforce due to illness, how dare the LNP government assume that I am suddenly incapable of managing my own income and decide that I should be treated like a child and a criminal?
LNP are taking away my basic Human Rights of dignity, self-determination and social freedom. They are also illegally disadvantaging me by letting Indue retain interest earned on money in my account as well as forcing me to access goods and services that are more expensive than I get them for now. Money is tight and I'm managing my budget accordingly, they and private for profit company Indue will blow my budget out the window.
Logistically and practically the card is not working and is a nightmare for the general public, whom they are employed to serve in their best interest. This is in no ones best interest except Indue and its shareholders. The $4000 or more the scheme costs to manage per person could be better spent on increasing beneficiary payments, at least that way the money would be funneled back into local communities and thereby stimulating the economy.
The card was initially brought in to support people that had difficulties managing their income appropriately due to addiction issues. That is where it can be targeted, at an individual level for people identified within existing frameworks as being at risk eg via police, child safety services etc.
It is not appropriate to bring the card in wholesale across entire communities and eventually across the nation. We all have the right to live without excessive government interference in our day to day lives. This card only benefits Indue and the big chain stores especially. It is big brother in full action.  
Another issue is that whereas New Start recipients can leave the scheme when they find employment, people with chronic illnesses or disabilities will be stuck on it for life. They already have a hard time and now they want to punish them further?
I would not be able to continue my cheap insurance with Budget Direct, I would have to go to more expensive insurance providers. People can't shop at cheap fresh food markets or garage sales but can go to Woolworths or the very expensive David Jones. 20% cash does not come close to meeting costs where you are unable to use the card, can't even pay off a credit card debt or a mortgage with a re-draw facility if some people have those loans as you are not allowed to transfer money to those.
Unscrupulous individuals as well as shop owners are already taking advantage of people on the card and ripping off the most vulnerable in our society. They do this by taking a percentage of desperate peoples money in return for a cash exchange and shops in areas with little competition massively increase their prices. We are talking 200-400% price hikes.
The sad thing is the card doesn't even address the initial issue the card was brought in for - those few who might actually need such assistance have found ways around it out of sheer desperation or embark on crime sprees to make up their shortfall.
We are a free country and as politicians there to serve the people they have no right to impose such a punitive and draconian scheme on unwilling Citizens. We NEVER voted for or said 'yes' to such a scheme.
Faithfully,
Tina Clausen.
PS. Many people are not aware that the card is not only for people on unemployment benefits but for all people who receive any kind of government benefits including carers pension, family income support, parenting allowance, disability support, youth allowance, sickness benefits and so on, only aged pensioners are excluded (for now).