Monday, August 18, 2014

Police Association Links Crime to Population Growth

The Victorian Police Association has called for an extra 1880 first response officers to deal with rapidly rising demand on a stretched Police Force. The Sunday Herald Sun has reported police force fears that ghettos and no-go zones could emerge unless Victoria Police gets more police.

Police Association Secretary Detective Ron Iddles said that population growth and crime went hand-in-hand. He said "Population is the main driver of demand for police resources and it is no surprise that crime rates are rising when Victoria's population is growing at the fastest rate in decades".

He is absolutely right. There would not be the increasing levels of crime and the need for more and more police if Victoria was not running such rapid population growth. Furthermore it is unfair that ordinary Victorians, who have not asked for and are not the beneficiaries of rapid population growth, should be expected to pay for its consequences, such as a big increase in police numbers.

It is the population boosters such as the Housing Industry Association, and the property developers who make a killing through population driven rising land prices, who should pay for these costs, not ordinary Victorians.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Reduce Unemployment

Reports today that the Australian Government will make it easier for employers across Northern Australia to import workers for a $34 billion gas project betrays a total lack of understanding of the seriousness of current local unemployment levels, and a tin ear when it comes to responding to the last week’s revelations of fraud in our migrant worker programs.
Only last week the national jobless rate jumped to 6.4 per cent, the highest point since August 2002. 789,000 Australians are now out of work. Our unemployment rate is now higher than that of the United States – 6.4 compared with 6.2 – for the first time since 2007. Youth unemployment is particularly troubling. Unemployment for 15-24 year olds is now over sixteen percent – 16.1 – the highest level since 2001. In my home state of Victoria unemployment is an unacceptable 7 percent, the highest level for nearly 13 years.

Unemployment can feed on itself, damaging confidence and inducing a downward spiral. The Reserve Bank has signalled that Australia's jobless rate could remain high for the next two years, saying in its quarterly update on the Australian economy that it will be "elevated for some time yet". Yet despite all this the Liberal Government apparently wants to introduce a scheme where employers will be able to water down English-language requirements, skills benchmarks and minimum salaries. This represents a race to the bottom in employment standards, and a slap in the face to unemployed Australians.

In Australia we have over 1 million people from other countries on temporary visas who have work rights. I am even more strongly of the view that we need to cut back the migrant worker programs given last week’s revelations of widespread visa fraud in recent years. Anything up to 90 per cent of Skilled Migration visa applications could contain fraudulent claims about qualifications, or work experience etc.

The proposed scheme will exacerbate existing problems as employers will be able to hire semi-skilled workers without having to meet strict language, salary and training requirements.

If the Australian Government was sincere about reducing unemployment, it would not make it easy for employers to bring in overseas workers. It would urge them to employ unemployed Australians.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dental Health Week

4 to 10 August is Dental Health Week. The Australian Dentists Association is using Dental Health Week to draw attention to healthy eating and the importance of stopping tooth decay. The number one cause of tooth decay is the frequent consumption of sugary foods and drinks.

The Australian Dental Association says many snacks that are marketed as healthy are actually high in sugar and get stuck to kids teeth, resulting in acid attacks which cause decay. Some of the major culprits are dried fruit, sweet and savoury biscuits, fruit juice, muesli bars, crackers, children's cereals, flavoured milk, sweetened yoghurt, fruit bars, fruit slices, and flavoured popcorn.
The Dental Association urges tighter advertising standards such as a ban on unhealthy television food advertising during broadcast periods when high numbers of children are watching TV. This is because the Dental Association has found that 33 per cent of Australian parents admit to allowing their children to have soft drinks, fruit juice and energy drinks four or more times a week, and 72 per cent of parents find it difficult to get their children to eat less sugary foods.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Treaties Committee Hearing Canberra 5 August 2014 – Korean Bilateral Trade Deal

During the Labor Government period Australia refused to agree to a deal with Korea that included an investor state dispute settlement clause. Why have we agreed to one now? We are not some banana republic that runs around confiscating foreign property.

Doesn't the ISDS give foreign investors rights that domestic investors don't have?

Didn't the Productivity Commission find in its 2010 Report on Bilateral Trade Agreements that foreign investors have greater legal rights than domestic businesses because ISDS gives them access to third party arbitration?

Isn't ISDS inherently anti-democratic – it means that governments that want to take actions that they believe are in the public interest, in the best interests of the nation, can find themselves being sued by multinational corporations and brought before arbitrators who in fact before or after the case might be hired by those same multinational corporations?

Isn't the case being brought by Philip Morris against the Australian Government over its plain packaging regulation, using the ISDS clause in the Hong Kong trade treaty, inherently undemocratic?

Given that a 2009 survey of ISDS found 33 cases with claims over $1 billion US, and more than 100 cases with claims between US $100 million and US $ 900 million, it's not right that the Philip Morris case is an isolated one.

Why does this Treaty have an ISDS clause and the Japanese treaty not have one? If the Japanese were happy enough to sign a Trade Agreement without an ISDS clause, why weren't the Koreans?

What did we get out of the Korean deal, as compared with the Japanese deal, that made this handcuff on our democracy worthwhile?

What modelling has been done to establish the likely impact of KAFTA on Australian manufacturing?

When you were negotiating the Korean deal, did you ask the Australian motor vehicle manufacturers Ford Holden and Toyota whether a bilateral Trade Agreement with Korea could risk bringing forward their closure date?

We have had evidence that there is a risk that one or more of these companies could bring forward their closure date. This would be terrible if it were true. It is absolutely imperative that the automotive parts suppliers that presently depend on these manufacturers get as much time as possible to find other markets or other products, and imperative that the workers at these factories have as much time as possible to find other jobs and develop other skills. The market theory is that these workers and businesses can move to other parts of the economy, but the market reality is that will not happen unless there is time. Ford is not scheduled to close till October 2016, and Holden and Toyota say they will motor on until 2017. Don't we need to hang on to this, rather than walk away from it?

During the course of the negotiations, who did you consult and in what detail?

The reason I ask is that the question of consultation has been highly controversial in evidence before the committee. On the one hand we have unions and civil society saying the se bilateral trade agreements are a closed book. No-one sees them till they are signed and they are then presented to the Parliament on a take it or leave it basis. They say there is nowhere near enough consultation or transparency. Then on the other hand we have the agribusinesses who give completely opposite evidence saying they couldn't be happier with the consultation and give the Department absolutely glowing reports. Now I think you would agree that all sorts of people have vested interests in these Trade Agreements – agribusinesses, manufacturers, unions, farmers, internet service providers, copyright holders, consumers and so on. Am I right in thinking that there is a double standard at work – that some people are kept in the loop, while others are kept in the dark?