Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Gas Reservation Policy

On September 19 I wrote in support of a gas reservation policy and the Australian Workers Union’s campaign to establish one.

Now a study by BIS Shrapnel warns that one in five manufacturers could shut down over the next five years because of spiralling gas prices. This confirms my view that we should establish a gas reserve in Australia in order to reduce costs for manufacturing and consumers. I welcome the support of National Party MP Andrew Broad for a gas reservation policy.

The AWU 'Reserve Our Gas' campaign comes amid reports that Australian gas prices will triple from July next year as LNG exports ramp up. Our resources should not be a zero-sum game where domestic needs are sacrificed on the altar of free-market ideology.

It is economic madness that we have a situation in which our abundant gas reserves are hurting Australian jobs and households instead of helping them, where we are giving up a national competitive advantage so gas exporters can make more profits while trashing our manufacturing sector.

I agree with AWU national secretary Scott McDine that Australia is out of step with other major nations, such as the United States, that reserve a percentage of gas for domestic use. Mr McDine is right when he says:
"Australians have a right to know their rapidly rising gas bills are actually completely preventable. We just need to do what every other gas-exporting nation does and bring in laws to look after the local population.”

Australia should embrace are more practical economic policy where we have both a prosperous gas export industry and a competitive advantage for our local industry.

Victorian Liberal Government Should Be Ashamed to Sign East-West Link Contracts

The Victorian Liberal Government should be ashamed that it last night signed the contracts for the East-West Link Road Tunnel, the Royal Park Freeway. In signing the contracts, the Victorian Liberals have ignored the calls of many in our community who oppose this white elephant of a project, and which will cause severe economic, social and environmental damage.

I urge the contractors to take note while the ink is still wet, that the contract is not worth the paper it is written on. Victorian Labor has made it clear that it wants this election to be about better public transport, and should it win office in November, it will support the Moreland and Yarra Councils legal challenge against the project. Signing the contracts now is a reckless and clear act of arrogance on the part of the Victorian Liberals who should hang their heads in shame for promising not to build the tunnel before an election, and doing the opposite after.

The Victorian Liberal Government should have the integrity to take the East-West Link proposal to the Victorian people at the November Election. This election should decide whether the people of Victorian want an $8 billion East-West Road Tunnel being built through Royal Park. It will not solve Melbourne’s traffic congestion issues, it will increase carbon emissions, it will increase motor vehicle dependency, it will damage the beautiful open space fauna and flora at Royal Park and along the Moonee Ponds Creek, it will see residential homes compulsorily acquired; and it will consume much of the Victorian State Government transport budget for many years to come, and prejudice the ability for our outer urban communities to meet their legitimate transport needs.

As I told the Parliament last week, the Australian and Victorian Liberal Government’s should undertake a publicly transparent full economic, social and environmental analysis before committing billions of taxpayers’ dollars. However the known evidence demonstrates that economically the project does not stack up- it will reach capacity within a matter of years of being finalised, it is based on misleading assumptions regarding fuel prices, car prices and parking prices, it has a negative cost benefit ratio return for taxpayers, and it does not have the support of the Moreland or Yarra communities.
This issue should be turned over to the Victorian people to decide in November. The urgency behind getting the contracts signed represents a contempt for the democratic process. It is a clear sign the Victorian Liberals know that the Victorian people are wised up to this white elephant proposal, and will not support it at the ballot box. Let’s invest precious taxpayer dollars on projects Victorians actually want and need.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Local Government Reform

Having been a Councillor in the City of Coburg, State Member for Pascoe Vale, and now a Federal MP, I have seen a steady erosion in our local government democratic system and its ability to effectively represent local communities.

The present local government system is a recipe for corruption. Councillors have a lot of power, a high workload, low salary, and courtesy of proportional representation, low accountability. These arrangements have created a perfect storm in which residents ultimately lose out.

The Local Government Electoral Review was generated following an unprecedented number of complaints, 456, received following the 2012 local council elections. The Review made several recommendations including capping campaign donations at $1,000, postal voting for all municipalities, candidates nominating in person and a review of local councillor allowances.

Candidates nominating in person and having to show they have a minimum number of supporters makes eminent sense.

Current councillor allowances should be reviewed in the context of population growth, resident expectations, councillor workloads and attracting better quality candidates. Councillors in Victoria are paid between $7,730 and $27,514 a year. Low pay, and high workload and pressure are not good variables if we want to weed out corruption and attract high calibre candidates.

Councillor workloads are becoming increasingly more difficult and challenging given Melbourne’s rapid population growth. As of 2014, the City of Moreland has 163,217 residents and 11 Councillors representing 3 wards. With Council Multi Wards now almost the size of some state electorates, containing 30,000 to 50,000 residents, the workload is too high for what is at best a part time job.

When I was a Councillor, we had single member wards with around 8,000 to 10,000 residents per ward. The ward was small enough that as a Councillor you had time to virtually get to know everyone in your neighbourhood, and to be more proactive on emerging issues. Under this system residents could build a personal relationship with their local councillor, and councillors were more accountable and could not hide their decisions or work ethic. Under the multi member ward system, we have a situation where some councillors work harder than others, and councillors who do not put in the same effort, not turn up to meetings, vote against the interest of their communities, and who show disregard for the position they were elected to, are less accountable to their communities.

We would be a lot better off moving back to single member wards for councils. This would improve Councillors ability to represent their communities, improve residents access to their representatives, and reduce the risk of corruption, inappropriate behaviour, and low accountability.
Local Government is the closest level of government to the people. The VEC, Local Government Electoral Review and the Ministers responsible, should be working to better connect residents with councillors, and encourage good quality council representatives.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Moreland and Moonee Valley Suffer Population and Planning Consequences, while Leafy Liberal Eastern Suburbs are Protected

It is an absolute disgrace that the Victorian Liberal Government is willing to protect its Liberal voting areas from the consequences of Melbourne’s rapid population growth- high rise developments, multi unit developments, traffic congestion, bottlenecks, overcrowded public transport and pressure on infrastructure and services, but will not extend the same courtesy to Moreland and Moonee Valley.

After a great deal of public debate, discussion and consideration, Moreland and Moonee Valley Councils submitted their draft new residential zones to the Victorian Government, following that Government’s requirement under Plan Melbourne, for new residential zones to be developed.

Moonee Valley recommended the neighbourhood residential zone, which encourages the lowest rate of growth across 75.5% of the municipality. Moreland Council suggested approximately 60% of the municipality be overlaid by the lowest rate of growth.

Glen Eira, Boroondara, and Bayside successfully recommended and had approved by the Minister that around 75%, 76%, and 83% of their municipalities, respectively, be covered by the lowest residential growth zones, the Neighbourhood Residential Zone. This had been recommended and supported by their respective residents and communities. If it is good enough for Glen Eira, Boroondara, and Bayside then it should also be good enough for Moreland and Moonee Valley.

Why is it that Melbourne’s Liberal supporting suburbs like Kew, Hawthorn, Camberwell, Brighton, Sandringham and Black Rock get two storey height limits, yet the sky is the limit in suburbs like Brunswick, Coburg, Pascoe Vale and Strathmore?

Rather than determine residential planning and growth zones based on party political considerations, the Planning Minister should be respecting and adhering to the views of local communities in Moreland and Moonee Valley.

The Minister has labelled the draft plans by Moonee Valley and Moreland as “fatally flawed”, and ‘anticipated growth rates will have significant implications; yet earlier this year he approved, virtually untouched, the draft plans put to him by Glen Eira, Boroondara and Bayside.

If it is good enough for these municipalities to have their residential zones supported, it also ought to be good enough for the northern suburbs.

The Victorian Liberal Government is mandating Moreland and Moonee Valley absorb an unfair share of Melbourne’s rapid population growth. Why should Moreland and Moonee Valley have more high rise developments, when our communities have made it abundantly clear we prefer sustainable development in line with community expectations, infrastructure and services.

I urge the Victorian Liberal Government to respect and adhere to the views of our local residents, just as they have done in some of Melbourne’s leafy eastern suburbs, and to not see Melbourne’s northern suburbs as a dumping ground for Melbourne’s rapid population growth which is fuelling congestion, house prices, cost of living issues and infrastructure stress.
As reported in these weeks Moreland Leader, house prices are surging across Moreland, with increases of 22.1% in Pascoe Vale South in the median house price alone. Encouraging more population growth by implementing high density development policies will continue fuelling housing unaffordability. The Victorian Government should be seeking to make housing more affordable through implementing a sustainable population and planning strategy.

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:

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: