Monday, September 22, 2014

East West Hypocrisy

It is a disgrace that Victorian Liberal Treasurer Michael O’Brien says the government is determined to sign the East West contracts before the onset of the pre-election caretaker period.

Remember that the Liberal Party said before the election that it would NOT build the East West Link. It did NOT take the issue to the voters. Now it is shamelessly trying to lock Victorian taxpayers into billions and billions of dollars on a freeway through Royal Park. This project is so big it will eat up both Victoria’s road budget and public transport budget for years. It kills off the legitimate aspirations of communities from all parts of Melbourne for improvements to their local roads, railway crossings and the like.

And this fraud on the voters – trying to lock taxpayers into the this lemon before the election can be held – comes from the same political party that talked up such a storm, and became positively apoplectic over Julia Gillard’s “no carbon tax” pre-election statement.

Where is the Convoy of No Confidence when you need it?

Friday, September 19, 2014

World Population Unlikely to Stabilise

Damien Carrington reports in The Guardian today that an international research team led by Professor Adrian Raftery at the University of Washington overturns 20 years of thinking that the world’s population would peak at 9 billion at around 2050.

The research concludes that there is a 70% chance that the number of people on the planet will rise continuously from the 7 billion it is now to 11 billion by 2100.

Much of this rise will occur in Africa, with population rocketing from 1 billion today to over 3.5 billion by 2100. The predicted fall in fertility rates in Africa has not happened. In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, the birthrate has stalled, with the average woman bearing six children. Nigeria’s population is expected to soar from 200 million today to 900 million by 2100.

Professor Raftery says that “The previous projections said this problem was going to go away so it took the focus off the population issue… There is now a strong argument that population should return to the top of the international agenda. Population is the driver of just about everything else and rapid population growth can exacerbate all kinds of challenges”. He says that lack of healthcare, poverty, pollution and rising unrest and crime are all problems linked to booming populations.

The full Guardian report can be found at:
 
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/18/world-population-new-study-11bn-2100

We Need Action on Gas to Help Manufacturing and Consumers

I support the campaign of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) to establish a gas reserve in Australia in order to reduce costs for manufacturing and consumers.

According to the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre, in Victoria gas bills will surge by 24 per cent by 2015, adding about $300 to the average $1200 yearly gas bill. It is claimed that reserving gas would be an encroachment on the free market.

Yet the home of the free market, the United States, will not allow LNG exports unless gas producers ensure supply and affordable prices for US industry. This has delivered US gas prices of around $2 per gigajoule. There is no policy outside Western Australia to ensure our gas resources are prioritised to supply Australian industry and households. Every other large gas producing country puts measures in place to ensure domestic consumers benefit from, rather than suffer from, their natural wealth.

The Dom Gas Alliance says a 15% domestic gas reservation policy would be in Australia’s national interest which is similar to the proposal of the AWU, and which is also backed by the ACTU. Ged Kearney, ACTU President, believes Australian workers have an enormous amount to lose from projected gas price rises from both an employment, and a cost of living, perspective.

Manufacturing has been struggling for years under the high Australian dollar with the expected spike in gas prices set to exacerbate this. Deloitte Access Economics estimates that a doubling of wholesale prices to $8 to $9 gigajoule, or even higher to $10 to $12, will destroy $118 billion of value in manufacturing over the next seven years and cost 14,600 jobs.
 
The fact that Australia is now increasing its gas production should be a benefit for gas customers and manufacturers, not a hardship. Consumers are already struggling under the weight of electricity bills which have more than doubled in 10 years. Gas bills should not be allowed to do the same. Australia's gas reserves should be used not only to generate export income but also to help build domestic industry. Securing access to some of Australia's energy resources in this way would help retain and create jobs.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Numbers of Accounting Students and Available Jobs Don’t Add Up

Australia’s large spike in the accounting overseas students program is placing unprecedented pressure on local accounting graduates.

As reported by Edmund Tadros in today’s Australian Financial Review, international students now dominate accounting courses, making up a record 79% of the 17,600 enrolled postgraduate students in 2013. At the undergraduate level international students made up 55% of more than 25,400 enrolled students. This is despite modest accounting job prospects for both international and domestic students, with today’s report showing local accounting firms inundated with applications for graduateships and job vacancies.

Accountants should not be on our skilled migration list. The claim that Australia is short of accountants is laughable. The level of applicants for each accounting job is the highest of any profession tracked by the Department of Employment.

According to the International Students Strategy for Australia (2010-14), the international education sector has undergone significant change in recent decades. The number of students has grown substantially. The Strategy shows that in 1990 there were 47,000 international students that came to Australia. By 2000 this number had skyrocketed to 188,000. In 2009, nearly 500,000 students were studying in Australia with more than 360,000 starting their courses in that year.

The number of overseas accounting students is making it difficult for young Australian accounting students to find work. The Department of Employment has recommended that accountants be removed from the skilled occupation list, having concluded there is a surplus of accountants and “deteriorating outcomes for graduates…relatively low pay rates for bachelor graduates and weak employment outcomes for masters graduates”.

In 2012, there were 7,200 domestic students that completed a bachelor or higher degree in accounting, with the Commonwealth Department of Employment declaring that “a more than adequate supply of accountants existed in Australia”. In 2009 one immigration Department report identified “significant concerns” in Victoria’s international education sector and “in particular, related pathways to permanent residence”.

Academics from Newcastle Business School, the University of Wollongong and Monash University all point to a surplus of accounting graduates who are struggling to find work. Dr Bob Birrell says there has been no increase in employment in the level of accountants for the past 6 years.

Past predictions that the number will rise have turned out to be wrong, so we would be foolish to take any notice of predictions that the number will rise in future.

The maths are simple here; Australia is encouraging too many foreign accounting students to come and study here through our Skilled Occupation List, when the number of accounting job opportunities, along with infrastructure and services, are simply not adequate to meet this unsustainable growth. The Government should remove accounting from the Skilled Occupation List, which will provide more Australian accounting students with the opportunity to study, find work and have a career in their chosen field.

Original Edmund Tadros AFR Story at:

http://www.afr.com/p/national/professional_services/accounting_still_popular_with_overseas_UKYGjP6Ki7fJgPRfAmCPXJ

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.