Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Back to the Future: Stop the Supertrawlers!

Less than two years ago, Labor put a stop to the Supertrawler with a ban which turned it around before it had even starting trawling Australia’s oceans.

Because of what's called a "sunset clause" in the legislation, it means we cannot stop future supertrawlers doing damage to the sustainability of our fisheries and our precious marine life.

That’s why Labor is moving legislation to remove this sunset clause so new supertrawlers can be banned. It’s being debated this week, but we don’t yet know how the Coalition will vote.

The public was clear it wanted the Supertrawler banned in 2012 and we need to see that kind of support again to make sure we can keep other supertrawlers out of our waters.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The National Rental Affordability Scheme

The revelations concerning the National Rental Affordability Scheme are a spectacular, but in many respects textbook, example of how migration driven population growth undermines government efforts to solve social problems in general, and meet infrastructure needs in particular.

The National Rental Affordability Scheme was established to help low-income or disadvantaged people who were being financially crippled by high rents. It was, and still is, a worthy objective, though it is regrettable that Australia’s rapid population growth has pushed up housing prices, damaging housing affordability and having knock on consequences for rents, helping create the problem in the first place.

The scheme provides incentives of $10,000 a year to unit developers who agree to charge rent at 20% below market rates. Some 20,000 units have been built under the scheme, but it turns out that 40% of them have gone to students, in many cases from overseas. One in two student units constructed under the scheme has been let to foreign students. In Victoria the picture is even more dramatic, with seven out of ten units being let to foreign students.

The theory behind bringing in and educating overseas students is that it brings in revenue, a kind of export income. In practice, as we see here, taxpayers are subsidising it in a major way – the total cost of the scheme is $4.5 billion – and poor Australians struggling to pay the rent miss out.

This is unfortunately all too typical of the impact of population growth on infrastructure provision, particularly in our cities. Money which should be solving infrastructure problems gets diverted into capacity expansion, so our housing, transport, schools and health services never seem to be able to keep up.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Temporary Migrant Worker Rorts

The decision by the Federal Government to allow employers to bring in unlimited numbers of foreign workers under temporary work visas (457s) is a lunatic move which will cost Australian jobs and will bring back the rorts which took place before this loophole was closed.

We already have over one million temporary entrants in Australia who have work rights. We already have well over 700,000 people out of work. We already have a workforce participation rate at its lowest level for years. In my home state of Victoria the unemployment rate of 6.4 percent is the worst since January 2002. In the City of Hume, just north of my electorate, unemployment has risen 25 percent in the six months since the change of government and is well into double figures.

Against this background it is plain crazy to increase the 457 visa program. This program is already way too high. In 2009-10 there were 68,000 457 visas granted. Last year the figure had risen to over 126,000 temporary migrant worker visas. If you allow employers to bring in as many 457 workers as they like once a sponsorship is approved this figure will continue to skyrocket.

These workers are prepared to work for less than Australian workers, which suits employers. But the 457 visa program is a dagger at the heart of Australian workers, who end up working for less than decent wages and conditions, or languishing indefinitely without any work at all.