Clearing homeless camps compounds the violation of human rights and entrenches the problem


Cristy Clark, Southern Cross University

On Wednesday evening, the New South Wales state government passed legislation empowering police to dismantle the Martin Place homeless camp in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. This follows similar actions in Victoria, where police cleared a homeless camp outside Flinders Street Station. Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle proposed a bylaw to ban rough sleeping in the city.

In March, the UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, censured the City of Melbourne’s actions, stating that:

… the criminalisation of homelessness is deeply concerning and violates international human rights law.

As the special rapporteur highlighted, homelessness is already “a gross violation of the right to adequate housing”. To further discriminate against people rendered homeless by systemic injustice is prohibited under international human rights law.


Further reading: Ban on sleeping rough does nothing to fix the problems of homelessness


Real problem is lack of affordable housing

In contrast to her Melbourne counterpart, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had been adopting a more human-rights-based approach to resolving the challenges presented by the Martin Place camp.

After negotiating with camp organisers, Moore made it clear her council would not disperse the camp until permanent housing was found for all of the residents. As she pointed out:

You can’t solve homelessness without housing — what we urgently need is more affordable housing and we urgently need the New South Wales government to step up and do their bit.

It’s no secret that housing affordability in both Sydney and Melbourne has reached crisis point. And homelessness is an inevitable consequence of this. But we have seen little real action from government to resolve these issues.

The NSW government has been offering people temporary crisis accommodation or accommodation on the outskirts of the city. This leaves them isolated from community and without access to services.

In contrast, these inner-city camps don’t just provide shelter, food, safety and community; they also send a powerful political message to government that it must act to resolve the housing affordability crisis.

Having established well-defined rules of conduct, a pool of shared resources and access to free shelter and food, the Martin Place camp can be seen as part of the commons movement.

This movement seeks to create alternative models of social organisation to challenge the prevailing market-centric approaches imposed by neoliberalism and to reclaim the Right to the City.


Further reading: Suburbanising the centre: the government’s anti-urban agenda for Sydney


We should be uncomfortable

It is not surprising that right-wing pundits have described these camps as “eyesores” or that they make NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian “completely uncomfortable”. The breach of human rights these camps represent, and the challenge they pose to the current system, should make people uncomfortable.

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Unlike most comparable nations, Australia has very limited legal protections for human rights. In this context, actions like the Martin Place and Flinders Street camps are one of the few options available to victims of systemic injustice to exercise their democratic right to hold government to account.

In seeking to sweep this issue under the carpet, both the City of Melbourne and the NSW government are not only further breaching the right to adequate housing, they are also trying to silence political protest.

It is clear from Moore’s demands, and the NSW government’s own actions, that the Martin Place camp is working to create pressure for action. What will motivate the government to resolve this crisis once the camps have been dispersed?

As Nelson Mandela argued in 1991 at the ANC’s Bill of Rights Conference:

A simple vote, without food, shelter and health care, is to use first-generation rights as a smokescreen to obscure the deep underlying forces which dehumanise people. It is to create an appearance of equality and justice, while by implication socioeconomic inequality is entrenched.

We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom. We must provide for all the fundamental rights and freedoms associated with a democratic society.

Mandela’s words were hugely relevant to apartheid South Africa, where a ruling elite had established a deeply racist and unjust system that linked political disenfranchisement and material deprivation. But they also resonate today in Australia where inequality is on the rise – driven in large part by disparities in property ownership.

The ConversationHomelessness is a deeply dehumanising force that strips people of access to fundamental rights. The policies that are creating this crisis must be seen as unacceptable breaches of human rights. We need to start asking whether our current economic system is compatible with a truly democratic society.

Cristy Clark, Lecturer in Law, Southern Cross University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

On North Korea, Turnbull locks Australia into the unpredictability of unpredictable players



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Donald Trump’s presidency is unlike any of its modern predecessors.
Michael Reynolds/EPA

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A week ago, the leaked transcript of the January telephone call between Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump revealed Turnbull had told the president, “You can count on me. I will be there again and again.”

Now, as the US-North Korea verbal war intensifies, with fears it could run into a military conflict, Turnbull has made specific that general pledge.

In extended comments on Melbourne’s 3AW on Friday, Turnbull declared: “Be under no misapprehension – in terms of defence we [Australia and US] are joined at the hip”.

“Let’s be very clear … If there is an attack on the United States by North Korea, then the ANZUS treaty will be invoked and Australia will come to the aid of the United States, just as if there was an attack on Australia, the United States would come to our aid.”

Asked what would happen in the event of an attack on the US territory of Guam, Turnbull said: “We would come to the aid of the United States. Now, how that manifests itself will obviously depend on the circumstances and the consultations with our allies.”

North Korea is threatening to launch missiles not at Guam itself but in the ocean nearby.

Ahead of a Friday briefing from military chiefs and intelligence and foreign policy experts, Turnbull underlined his point: “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States”. The worsening crisis was among topics discussed in a Thursday night telephone conversation between Turnbull and US vice-president Mike Pence.

The 1951 ANZUS treaty says: “The Parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific”. (Article III)

“Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.” (Article IV)

Despite the tight alliance, only once has ANZUS been invoked – by John Howard after the September 11 2001 attacks.

Mostly, when Australia has stood with the US militarily, the treaty has been not relevant or not needed.

Nor has ANZUS or the wider American alliance meant the US automatically supports Australia. Australian efforts to get America involved in regional clashes, notably Indonesia’s claims to West New Guinea, and the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation of the 1960s, were met with resistance.

Geoffrey Barker wrote in 2015, “In fact the US commitment to ANZUS has never been as strong as the Australian commitment”.

While Turnbull has trumpeted the message that Australia would support the US in a conflict with North Korea, Hugh White, professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, believes he has given a narrow, literal interpretation of the treaty and gone further than he had to.

“He’s missed the point that we have the right to judge our interests”, White says.
“Under article IV there is an obligation to act – there’s no obligation to act by contributing military forces. It’s always acknowledged that each side has the right to make a judgement about the kind of response it makes.”

The judgement, White argues, would depend on the particular circumstances. He outlines four scenarios of military conflict.

– an attack by the United States on North Korea, which some believed Trump was building up to in his words earlier this week, when he said continued threats to the US "will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen";

– an attack by North Korea on the US;

– North Korea firing its missiles to near Guam, but not on Guam;

– A pre-emptive strike by the US to prevent North Korea completing the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability.

White says that Turnbull has walked past the complexities of what might happen, and asks: “Is it in Australia’s interests to encourage the US by saying we’d support it unconditionally”?

Foreign minister Julie Bishop had been more circumspect. When it was put to her this week that we would be in the fight, if it came to that, given both ANZUS and Australia’s being a party to the Korean War ceasefire, she said: “In fact we were not a party in the legal sense to the armistice so there is no automatic trigger for Australia to be involved. As far as the ANZUS alliance is concerned, that is an obligation to consult. But of course we have been in constant discussion with our friends in the United States”.

Bishop carefully kept options open.

It is worth noting, however, that Kim Beazley, a former defence minister, has a different view of the ceasefire agreement. He wrote in The Strategist: “At the signing of the armistice in Korea in 1953 we agreed, with South Korea’s allies, that we would defend the South in the event of an attack by the North.”

If Australia became involved in a military conflict, it would be a limited contribution. It would be presence, rather than capability, that (as usual) would be important to the Americans.

As has become evident, Trump’s presidency presents Australia with serious management challenges in the alliance relationship, which is built into the foundations of Australian security policy.

This presidency is unlike any of its modern predecessors, and judging how to handle it is extremely difficult for the government. It’s interesting to note the new administration hasn’t yet even posted an ambassador to Australia.

Turnbull, with his personalised style of operating, has chosen to try to get up close and personal, talking as one businessman to another. Hence the “you can count on me” sort of line.

The ConversationTurnbull may later nuance his Friday comments, but as they stand, they lock Australia into the unpredictability of unpredictable players. They also reflect, unvarnished, the reality that Australia always answers America’s call.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Turnbull’s North Korea intervention could be his own ‘all the way with LBJ’ moment



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EPA/How Hwee Young

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has dealt Australia into the argument over how to respond to North Korea’s brinkmanship over its nuclear weapons program.

Speaking on Melbourne radio on Friday morning Turnbull invoked the ANZUS Treaty, which obliges Australia and the US to come to each other’s defence in the event either is attacked.

Debate persists over whether this is an absolute guarantee, but Turnbull left no wiggle room in his declaration that Australia would regard an attack on the US as a casus belli. He said:

America stands by its allies, including Australia, and we stand by the United States. So be very clear on that. If there’s an attack on the US, the ANZUS Treaty would be invoked and Australia would come to the aid of the United States, as America would come to our aid if we were attacked.

Turnbull’s forthright intervention might be regarded as fairly unexceptional were it not for the fact it aligns Australia with a US president untested in a crisis, and one who has shown a predisposition to shoot from the lip.

In effect, Turnbull is mortgaging Australian security policy to an unpredictable commander-in-chief whose instincts may be to take the safety catch off first and ask questions later.

Turnbull should remind himself that recent experience in which an Australian predecessor followed the US precipitately into the sands of Mesopotamia did not end well.

In his interview Turnbull might have calibrated his remarks more carefully when he said that: “In terms of defence, we are joined at the hip”.

This recalls unfortunate prime ministerial contributions such as Harold Holt’s “all the way with LBJ” at the time of Vietnam, or John Howard’s characterisation of Australia as America’s “deputy sheriff” in the Asia-Pacific. We can do without these sorts of glib statements.

Turnbull’s undertaking to apply the ANZUS Treaty should the US be attacked recalls Howard’s decision in September 2001 to invoke the treaty’s mutual defence elements after the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

This activation of Australia’s security obligations under ANZUS was largely pro forma. No follow-up ensued that could be described as action under the treaty itself. Australia’s support for the US in Afghanistan was part of a NATO deployment.

The question then becomes: how seriously should we regard an escalating war of words between a US president and North Korea in which Donald Trump has doubled down on his earlier “fire and fury” threats?

No-one should make light of the risks involved of a conflagration on the Korean Peninsula, which remains potentially the epicentre of the world’s most-destructive conflict. Nor should threats by North Korea’s idiosyncratic leader Kim Jong-un to fire a missile toward the American Pacific territory of Guam be dismissed as a stunt.

Where the real risks lie in a volatile environment is a miscalculation that could precipitate conflict that spirals out of control with unpredictable – possibly terrible – consequences.

South Korea’s vulnerability to a North Korea first – or retaliatory – strike cannot be overstated. The South Korean capital, Seoul, is within range of North Korean artillery, leaving aside a nuclear threat.

This raises the question of the extent to which North Korea has acquired the ability to arm its missile systems with a nuclear warhead, and whether intelligence reports of its development of a “miniaturised” nuclear device are correct.

It is not clear that North Korea has achieved this level of sophistication. However, no responsible leader can afford to exclude the possibility that North Korea is further advanced in its nuclear program than had been assumed.

In an analysis on the war of words that has erupted between Trump and Kim, the Council on Foreign Relations put it this way:

The war of words underscores both the American rejection of the idea of vulnerability to a nuclear-armed Kim and the increasing dangers of miscalculation that would accompany a North Korean capability to follow through on its past offensive threats to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon.

The intensity of the rhetorical escalation underscores the fact that North Korea is on a trajectory of confrontation with Washington that Defence Secretary James Mattis characterised as “catastrophic”.

Since there is no chance of Kim giving up his nuclear capability short of ironclad US guarantees of his regime’s survival, the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear pretensions will likely remain intractable. What represents the best outcome is a de-escalation of tensions, an end to the war of words, and some prospect of negotiations that would rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

If there is a model for such an arrangement it lies in the Obama administration’s agreement with Iran that led to an effective freezing of its nuclear program. Unhelpfully, the Trump administration persists in claiming Iran is breaching this agreement – without supporting evidence.

This is especially destructive at a moment when the US and its allies need to reduce tensions, not add to them.

In all of this, the best outcome is for North Korea to be drawn back into negotiations on its nuclear program under the threat of escalating sanctions to which China and Russia are party.

In the meantime, as the Council on Foreign Relations puts it:

The more the crisis escalates, the greater the dangers of miscalculation, and the harder it will be for either side to find an exit ramp from a high-stakes crisis.

The ConversationTalk of the next Cuban missile crisis may be premature, but the risks of a destructive conflict in which nuclear weapons are deployed cannot be disregarded. This is shaping as the Trump administration’s first big security policy crisis.

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Hanson set to refer Malcolm Roberts to the High Court over dual citizenship questions



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Pauline Hanson said Malcolm Roberts has her full backing.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Pauline Hanson is set to move that the High Court consider the eligibility of One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts. There is a question mark over whether Roberts was a dual British citizen when he nominated for parliament.

Hanson’s announcement came after it was obvious a Greens move for a referral would be successful. This followed BuzzFeed News on Tuesday posting online Roberts’ signed application for Australian citizenship, in which he declared he was a British citizen at age 19 in 1974.

Whether Roberts was a dual national has been a long-running issue, with Roberts changing his story, from saying he was never a British citizen to most recently claiming he had renounced his British citizenship but refusing to make public the documentation. Under Section 44 of the Constitution a dual citizen is ineligible to stand for federal parliament.

Hanson and Roberts appeared at an often heated joint news conference, at which she declared he had been “eligible to stand at the time of nomination”.

In a statement, Hanson said that One Nation would be supporting Roberts “in his plan to refer himself to the High Court”. Later the statement was revised to say Hanson would move the referral.

She said it had always been Roberts’ “intention to submit his citizenship documents for public scrutiny”.

“In light of the major parties’ decision not to hold a full inquiry into the citizenships of senators, it was deemed that the High Court would provide senator Roberts the best opportunity to prove he has complied with the Australian Constitution and is lawfully elected,” she said.

“Senator Roberts has my full backing and total support from his fellow One Nation senators.”

Hanson told reporters Roberts’ case was “not straightforward” but “very complex”. “You don’t understand the full situation.”

Asked about what he had said on his application form, Roberts said: “I was a citizen of the UK and colonies … We all know that back then we were very strong members of the Commonwealth, we still are, we sang God Save The Queen until not long before then, I always thought that I was Australian, always thought I was Australian.”

The referral will have general agreement in the Senate. Earlier the government had resisted action against Roberts, with its Senate leader, George Brandis, saying on Tuesday that: “A person lodges an apparently regular nomination for an election, and they are declared to have been elected, then the onus of proof … lies on those who seek to prove that they weren’t validly elected to demonstrate that that is the case”.

The referral of Roberts is the latest in a dramatic series of events that has thrown the Senate’s membership into turmoil and given the High Court an extraordinary number of cases to deal with.

Apart from Roberts’ future, these include ruling on the filling of the places of two Greens senators, Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam, who resigned because they discovered they were dual nationals, and considering the eligibility of the Nationals’ Matt Canavan, whose mother signed him up as an Italian citizen.

The Senate is also awaiting the arrival of the replacement for former Western Australian Liberal senator Chris Back, who recently retired. As well, Special Minister of State Scott Ryan is on extended medical leave.

The ConversationBut arrangements between the parties are in place to ensure the various court cases and gaps do not affect the voting numbers.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Explainer: how do Australia’s proposed citizenship laws compare internationally?


Sangeetha Pillai, UNSW

Debate will resume in parliament this week over the government’s proposed changes to Australian citizenship laws. Among the reforms is a requirement for migrants to be permanent residents of Australia for four years before applying for citizenship – an increase from the current requirement of one year.

In a doorstop interview in June, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said such an increase:

… brings us short of where Germany is at eight years for example, in Canada it’s something like four or five years, the United Kingdom four years as well.

It’s not entirely clear whether he was referring to the time a prospective citizen must have spent as a permanent resident in those countries before being eligible to apply for citizenship, or the total time they must have lived in the country before being eligible. But how would the proposed changes to Australian citizenship compare on both measures?


Further reading: Explainer: the proposed changes to Australian citizenship


Permanent residency and citizenship requirements in Australia

The changes would affect different groups of migrants in different ways. This is because there are big variations in the time it takes for a person to be eligible to apply for permanent residency after they come to Australia.

The quickest path to permanent residency does not require a person to have lived in Australia at all. For example, foreign workers who work in jobs listed on Australia’s skilled occupations list may apply for permanent residency from outside Australia, where they are invited to do so by the government, or nominated by an approved Australian employer.

But most skilled migrants apply from within Australia, and they face longer wait times. For example, a person on a temporary skilled 457 visa can apply for permanent residency after working in Australia for two years, provided their employer wants to offer them a permanent position.

Refugees who arrived in Australia by boat have the longest wait. They must first apply for a temporary Safe Haven Enterprise Visa, which allows them to apply for permanent residency after three-and-a-half years working or studying in regional Australia, provided they can also meet the eligibility criteria for a permanent visa.

So, the minimum time that migrants in these three groups must live in Australia before becoming eligible for permanent residency ranges from zero to three-and-a-half years.

Despite this, under current law, the minimum time in which different groups of migrants can become eligible for citizenship is actually pretty even: four years for skilled workers in either category, and four-and-a-half years for refugees who arrive by boat. This is because the current requirements take into account the time a person has spent living in Australia before becoming a permanent resident.

Under the proposed changes, things will get much more uneven, because the time a person spends in Australia before gaining permanent residency will no longer count. Migrants that face longer roads to permanent residency will be hardest hit by the changes. For example:

  • Things stay the same for skilled workers with immediate access to permanent residency. They will need to live in Australia for at least four years before they can apply for citizenship.

  • Skilled workers who start out on 457 visas will need to live in Australia for at least six years before they can apply for citizenship. That’s two years longer than under current law.

  • Refugees who arrive by boat will need to live in Australia for at least seven-and-a-half years. That’s three years longer than under current law.


Further reading: Minister to get unprecedented power if Australia’s new citizenship bill is passed


Requirements in Germany

Migrants who live in Germany are usually entitled to permanent residency (known as a “settlement permit”) after five years, provided they can meet particular conditions.

However, it is possible for some people to become permanent residents in less than five years. For instance, spouses of German citizens can acquire permanent residency in three years. Reduced periods also apply for graduates of German universities.

A person must be a permanent resident to become a citizen. But there’s no legal requirement to have held permanent residency for any particular length of time.

To be eligible for citizenship, migrants must generally have lived in Germany for at least eight years. But this rule is relaxed in certain circumstances:

  • People who complete a German integration course can apply for citizenship after seven years – or six years if they can prove a higher level of integration.

  • Families can apply together – even if only one parent has met the eight-year residence requirement.

  • Refugees can apply after six years.

  • Spouses of German citizens can do so after three years.

German authorities also have the discretion to grant citizenship to a person who has lived in Germany for less than eight years but who doesn’t fall into any of these categories.

Requirements in Canada

In Canada, migrants applying for citizenship must have been present in Canada as a permanent resident for 1,460 days – or four years – in the six years leading up to their citizenship application. But this is expected to change in coming months.

Canada recently passed a law reducing the permanent residency requirements for prospective citizens. When the law comes into effect, people will need to have been present in Canada as a permanent resident for 1,095 days – or three years – in the five years before their application.

Canada’s requirements are similar to the proposed Australian requirements in that a migrant must be a permanent resident for several years before they can apply for citizenship. But it is often possible to apply for permanent residence from outside Canada, or after relatively short residency periods.

For example, experienced skilled foreign workers, family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, and refugees can all apply for immediate permanent residence. Temporary foreign workers can apply for permanent residence after gaining one year of work experience in Canada.

Requirements in the UK

Prospective UK citizens must generally have lived in the UK for at least five years, and been a permanent resident for at least one year leading up to their application.

It usually takes five years for a migrant to become eligible for permanent residency. This means it’s generally necessary for an applicant to live in the UK for six years before they can apply for citizenship.

Some migrants can gain permanent residency in less than five years. For example, some entrepreneurs and investors become eligible after two-to-three years. People who take advantage of these shorter routes to permanent residency can apply for citizenship after five years.

The road to citizenship is much shorter for spouses of UK citizens, who can apply after living in the UK for three years, provided they have acquired permanent residency at any point during this time. Permanent residency timeframes are also relaxed: spouses of UK citizens or permanent residents need only have lived in the UK for two years.

How would Australia compare?

So, the proposed Australian timeframe of four years’ permanent residency before citizenship is:

  • longer than Germany’s requirements, which do not specify a minimum permanent residency period;

  • the same as Canada’s current requirement of four years, but longer than Canada’s incoming requirement of three years; and

  • longer than the UK’s requirement of one year.

In terms of the total time it would take before being eligible to apply for citizenship in Australia (ranging from four years to up to seven-and-a-half years for refugees who arrive by boat), the proposed changes would be:

  • similar to the German period of three to eight years;

  • generally longer than both the current Canadian period of four to five years and the new period of three to four years; and

  • similar to the UK period of three to six years.

Whether or not a prospective citizen would face a longer wait in Australia compared to Germany, Canada or the UK comes down to their individual circumstances.

The ConversationFor example, some skilled migrants who can gain Australian permanent residency immediately and citizenship in four years may face longer waits in Germany and the UK. But that’s untrue for other individuals and groups, such as refugees, who would face a longer wait in Australia.

Sangeetha Pillai, Senior Research Associate, Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW Law School, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Newspoll 53-47 to Labor, but Turnbull’s ratings jump


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted 3-6 August from a sample of 1640, gave Labor its sixth consecutive 53-47 lead. Primary votes were 36% Coalition (steady since last fortnight), 36% Labor (down 1), 11% Greens (up 2) and 8% One Nation (down 1). This is the Coalition’s 17th consecutive Newspoll loss under Turnbull; Abbott lost 30 in a row before he was ousted.

38% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (up 4) and 50% were dissatisfied (down 4), for a net approval of -12, up eight points. According to Kevin Bonham, this is Turnbull’s best net approval since the 2016 election. Shorten’s net approval was up five points to -15, his best since November 2016.

Turnbull’s ratings jump is likely to be related to the recent terrorist incident where an attempted bombing of an aeroplane was thwarted. If Turnbull’s ratings improvement is a polling blip, Labor should not worry. However, a sustained rise in Turnbull’s ratings would probably lead to better voting intentions for the Coalition.

It appears that the Greens have had 9-10% support in all Newspolls since May 2016. This Newspoll is the first time since then that the Greens have broken out of that range, despite a shocking July. This Newspoll has One Nation’s lowest vote since February.

Some people who support One Nation and similar global parties do so from the left, in an attempt to shake up the established order. As the appeal of populist right parties has faded closer to the election, left-wing parties have surprisingly benefited. At the March WA election, the Greens and Labor overperformed and One Nation underperformed final polls. At the June UK election, Labour overperformed and the UK Independence Party underperformed.

Despite being told that high-income earners paid 50% of all income taxes, voters thought by 61-29 that the tax burden did not fall too heavily on high-income earners. By 57-29, voters thought there were not enough incentives in the tax system for those who want to work hard to earn more. 43% both favoured and opposed Labor’s policy to increase the top marginal tax rate from 47.5% to 49.5%.

Essential at 54-46 to Labor, plus Federal Queensland Galaxy and YouGov

In this week’s Essential, Labor held a 54-46 lead, a two point gain for Labor since last week and a one point gain since last fortnight. Primary votes were 39% Labor, 37% Coalition, 9% Greens, 8% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. Labor’s primary vote is up three since last week, and its highest in Essential since April 2016.

Essential uses a two-week rolling average, with a total sample of 1805. The Poll Bludger has said that the one-week sample last fortnight was pro-Coalition, and this has been replaced by a pro-Labor sample, causing the big shift. Additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

In agreement with Newspoll, both leaders gained on net approval since July, with Turnbull up four points to -8 and Shorten up one point to -7.

On resolving same sex marriage, voters favoured a voluntary postal plebiscite followed by a parliamentary vote 43-38. A parliamentary vote with attempts to persuade Liberal members to cross the floor was favoured 43-31. A plebiscite held with the next election was favoured 46-34. Delaying a decision until after the next election was opposed 55-22.

39% thought current industrial laws favoured employers, 12% employees and 29% thought they balanced the interests of both. By 41-30, voters approved of Labor’s proposal to tax family trusts at a 30% rate. 28% thought the Coalition government had increased school funding, 22% decreased and 22% thought school funding had not been changed much.

From the same sample that produced Sunday’s 51-49 result to state Queensland Labor, the Federal Queensland Galaxy poll is 51-49 to the Coalition, a one point gain for the Coalition since late April. Primary votes are 37% Coalition (up 2), 32% Labor (down 1), 12% One Nation (down 3), 7% Greens (steady) and a surprisingly strong 6% for Cory Bernardi’s Conservatives. By 48-35, Queenslanders opposed an Australian republic.

The fortnightly Australian YouGov, conducted 3-7 August from a sample of 1005, had a 50-50 tie by respondent allocated preferences, unchanged on last fortnight. Primary votes were 34% Coalition (down 2), 32% Labor (down 1), 11% Greens (up 1) and 9% One Nation (up 1). Primary votes are very different from Essential and Newspoll, with YouGov’s lean to the Coalition continuing.

Section 44 potential disqualifications

Since two Greens were disqualified in late July, questions have been raised about the Constitutional eligibility of LNP Senator Matt Canavan, One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, Labor House member Justine Keay, Greens Senator Nick McKim and Liberal House member Julia Banks.

These eligibility questions are covered in detail by Kevin Bonham. It appears that Canavan and Roberts are in the most trouble. Canavan’s story that his mother took out Italian citizenship on his behalf in 2005 when Canavan was 25, and that he never knew, is difficult to believe, especially as Italian voting forms were sent to his mother’s address.

Roberts has claimed he emailed the British consulate on 6 June 2016, three days before nominations for the 2 July election closed, advising that if he was a British citizen, he renounced it. After further correspondence, his citizenship was renounced in December 2016. As Roberts is an extreme climate change denier who demands empirical evidence, what he says may not be credible. Even if what he says is true, the High Court may not think he took “reasonable steps” to renounce before the election.

Less than two months before election, NZ Labour leader resigns

The next New Zealand election will be held on 23 September. NZ elects its 120 members effectively using proportional representation with a 5% threshold. The current conservative National government has held office since 2008. Labour was soundly beaten in 2008, and their vote declined further at the 2011 and 2014 elections; they won just 25.1% in 2014.

The ConversationOn 1 August, following the release of two dreadful polls that gave Labour just 24%, Labour leader Andrew Little resigned, and was replaced by Jacinda Ardern, who was unanimously elected by the Labour caucus. Ardern appears to be a genuine progressive, and she will appeal to the Greens.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

This is how regional rail can help ease our big cities’ commuter crush



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Rail investments have brought Ballarat, Geelong and other regional centres closer in travel time to Melbourne than many outer suburbs.
Tony & Wayne/flickr, CC BY-NC

Michael Buxton, RMIT University

In Sydney and Melbourne, the squeeze is on. Population is booming; house prices are still rising; roads and trains are congested. Australian governments generally have ignored the benefits of relating metropolitan and regional planning.

However, some state governments are now investigating more integrated sectoral and spatial planning strategies, initially through shifting public sector jobs to regional centres.

In particular, improved regional rail connections do work. Already rail investments have brought Ballarat, Geelong and other regional centres closer in travel time to Melbourne than many outer suburbs, and this trend will continue.


Further reading: Commuters help regions tap into city-driven growth


Sydney has similar opportunities with regional rail connections, but has not yet exercised them. Rail services to and from Gosford, Newcastle and Wollongong have improved little over recent decades.

Rail bypasses clogged arteries

For decades, policymakers’ preferred solution to congestion has been adding and widening freeways. But promises of faster travel times and freer movement have been illusory. New roads and freeway lanes induce more traffic and will provide short-lived solutions in our biggest cities.


Further reading: Traffic congestion: is there a miracle cure? (Hint: it’s not roads)


These cities are the main drivers of Australia’s national economy, attracting advanced business service professionals and knowledge providers.

Access to high-value jobs, transport arteries that function well, and better-managed population growth will become critically important to urban economies as these cities move towards populations of 8 million people.

In Sydney and Melbourne, critics are claiming that major new road projects such as WestConnex and the Western Distributor will increase central city traffic congestion, particularly for work-related journeys.


Further reading: Modelling for major road projects is at odds with driver behaviour


Victoria proves regional rail works

Contrast that with the success of regional rail development. Victoria has invested several billion dollars in a series of projects. These have raised maximum regional train speeds to provincial cities to 160kph, increased reliability, provided new and much faster trains and transformed frequency.

Victoria’s investment in regional rail has quadrupled train services and almost halved travel time between Ballarat and Melbourne.
Hugh Llewelyn/flickr, CC BY-SA

The 119km peak-hour trip from Ballarat to Melbourne before these investments took two hours, with four trains a day on offer. Today 22 daily trains operate in each direction between Melbourne and Ballarat. Boarding the 4.33pm from Southern Cross delivers passengers to Ballarat 65 minutes later.

From Geelong, the transformation has been even greater. The recently completed Regional Rail Link runs 55 daily trains each way. The project was the first to be approved by Infrastructure Australia, backed by A$3.8 billion in state and Commonwealth funding.

Patronage boom calls for more work

These upgrades, however, have become victims of their own success. Some lines have recorded a 300% increase in patronage. Similar increases are projected for the next decade.

Remarkably, within two years of opening, patronage growth has already reached capacity on the inner part of the Regional Rail Link (which segregates metropolitan from country trains for travel to and from central Melbourne). There is little or no capacity for extra trains to be run in peak times.

Trains are becoming ever more crowded. Long-distance commuters have valued their ability to work, read or sleep on these trains, especially during their homeward journeys. They must now compete for seats with others from rapidly expanding western suburbs, which are yet to gain their own suburban train services.

A short-term fix would create longer trains of eight carriages instead of six. A medium-term fix would electrify and provide separate services to the part of the Geelong line that serves the new dormitory suburbs.

These changes need to be complemented by more frequent and better co-ordinated feeder bus services to stations. In addition, easily accessed large commuter carparks need to be built on vacant land on the Melbourne side of the major regional centres.

In the longer term, the answer lies in providing more multiple tracks to fully segregate suburban and regional trains in suburban areas. Providing robust double-line railways in each corridor will prevent the cascade effect that occurs when trains delay each other on single lines.

The completion of level-crossing removals will also allow higher operating speeds and safer operations. Trains will be able to move progressively to maximum speeds of 200kph where feasible rather than 160kph.

Regional cities must avoid past mistakes

These rail investments will further promote population growth in regional cities. Already, regionally developed services, more affordable housing stock and less frantic lifestyles are acting as attractors.

It is essential to integrate the planning of major regional transport projects with spatial planning to avoid the undesirable results of fragmented policy.

Some regional centres are repeating the worst mistakes of metropolitan low-density urban sprawl by expanding on greenfield sites far from town centres. Modelling of Victorian regional towns has shown that they contain in-fill opportunities to at least double existing populations and provide a range of affordable housing options.

To maintain liveability for expected high population growth, heavy rail investment is vital. Carefully targeted regional rail investment can shrink distance, provide access to more jobs and better lifestyles, and contribute to wider housing choices.

This investment is a critical requirement for continued prosperity in Australia’s largest urban centres.


This article was co-authored by Bill Russell of the Rail Futures Institute, Melbourne.

The ConversationFind out more about what Victoria can do to overcome the commuter crush at Railway Remedies: Cutting the Crush on Geelong Trains, hosted by the RMIT Centre for Urban Research (CUR) and Deakin University at the Percy Baxter Theatre, Deakin Geelong campus, on Wednesday, August 9.

Michael Buxton, Professor of Environment and Planning, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Egalitarian or Edwardian? The rising wealth inequality in Australia



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Perceptions of the levels of both income and wealth inequality are derived from our day-to-day experiences.
AAP/Dean Lewins

Jennifer Chesters, University of Melbourne

Recent commentary on levels of inequality exposes the myth that Australia is an egalitarian society in which the privileges of birth have little currency.

Focusing on inequality in the distribution of incomes ignores an equally important dimension of inequality: wealth. Wealth is much more unequally distributed than income. Therefore, ignoring wealth inequality skews perceptions of social inequality.

Perceptions of the levels of income and wealth inequality are derived from our day-to-day experiences. This means that not mixing with people from the other end of the wealth distribution can colour our perceptions of inequality.


Further reading: Here’s why it’s so hard to say whether inequality is going up or down


The lack of official data on the wealth holdings of Australians hampers research into trends in wealth inequality. Between 1915 and 2003-04, there is almost no official wealth data to examine.

In 2003-04, the wealthiest 20% of Australian households held 58.6% of total household wealth, and the poorest 20% of households held just 1.4% of total household wealth. In 2013-14, the wealthiest 20% of households held 61% of total household wealth, and the poorest 20% of households held just 1% of total household wealth.

These figures indicate that wealth inequality increased over the decade to 2013-14.

The table below details trends over time in various measures of wealth inequality. The P90 to P10 ratio compares the wealth of households at the 90th percentile with that of households at the tenth percentile. A larger ratio indicates greater levels of inequality.

In 2003-04, households at the 90th percentile held 45 times as much wealth as households at the tenth percentile. In 2013-14, households at the 90th percentile of the distribution held 52 times as much wealth as households at the tenth percentile. This indicates that wealth inequality increased in that decade.

Using the mean and median household wealth figures, it is possible to calculate the ratio of median to mean wealth.

The closer this ratio is to one, the lower the level of inequality. In 2003-04, the ratio was 0.63. In 2013-14, it was 0.57. This also indicates that wealth inequality increased.

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The distribution of household wealth also varies between Australia’s state and territories, and by location within states and territories.

Households in the ACT recorded the highest mean household wealth (A$890,100). Households in Tasmania recorded the lowest mean household wealth ($595,600).

When these figures are disaggregated by location into capital city households and households located in the rest of the state, the largest wealth gap occurs in New South Wales. The mean wealth of households in Sydney was $971,700, whereas the mean wealth of households in the rest of NSW was $534,700.

The median-to-mean-wealth ratios show wealth was most unequally distributed in Brisbane and Perth.

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Given a relatively large proportion of household wealth is held in the form of property assets, the recently released Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey report identifies property as the key driver of increasing wealth inequality.

The percentage of 18-to-39-year-olds with property declined by 10.5 percentage points between 2002 and 2014. And the level of debt of those with a mortgage doubled in real terms.

So, fewer young adults have mortgages now compared to a decade ago, and those who do have mortgages have higher levels of debt.

Two other sources of publicly available data on wealth are the lists of the super-wealthy published annually by the Business Review Weekly in Australia and Forbes in the US.

Figures published in the Business Review Weekly show that, after adjusting for inflation, in 1984 the wealthiest 20 Australians held $8.25 billion in assets. In 2017, the wealthiest 20 Australians held $104 billion.

Forbes’ lists of billionaires (in $US) show that the number of billionaires living in Australia increased from two to 26 between 1987 and 2014.

Having an increasing number of billionaires would not be an issue if all Australians’ wealth was increasing at a similar rate. However, if the gap between the wealth of the billionaires and that of the average residents increases dramatically, there is likely to be discontent.


Further reading: Don’t listen to the rich: inequality is bad for everyone


Drawing on figures published in the Credit Suisse Wealth Report, it is possible to compare the wealth of the billionaires with that of average Australians.

In 2014, the wealth of the 26 Australian billionaires was equivalent to 214,914 adults with average wealth.

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Recent turmoil in the UK and the US may be an indicator that the “peasants are revolting” and are not willing to return to the 19th century, when the very rich lorded over the masses.

The ConversationAustralia has yet to experience mass demonstrations and voter backlashes. But events overseas should be ringing alarm bells among our politicians in Canberra.

Jennifer Chesters, Research Fellow, Youth Research Centre, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Don’t listen to the rich: inequality is bad for everyone



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Having only a few people with most of the wealth, motivates others. This theory is actually wrong according to research.
Aakkosia sosialistien lapsille (1912)/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Chris Doucouliagos, Deakin University

A world where a few people have most of the wealth motivates others who are poor to strive to earn more. And when they do, they’ll invest in businesses and other areas of the economy. That’s the argument for inequality. But it’s wrong.

Our study of 21 OECD countries over more than a 100 years shows income inequality actually restricts people from earning more, educating themselves and becoming entrepreneurs. That flows on to businesses who in turn invest less in things like plant and equipment.

Inequality makes it harder for economies to benefit from innovation. However, if people have access to credit or the money to move up, it can offset this effect.

We measured the impact of this by looking at the number of patents for new inventions and then also looking at the Gini coefficient and the income share of the top 10%. The Gini coefficient is a measure of the distribution of income or wealth within a nation.

How inequality reduces innovation

From 1870 to 1977, inequality measured by the Gini coefficient fell by about 40%. During this time people actually got more innovative and productivity increased, incomes also increased.

But inequality has increased in recent decades and it’s having the opposite effect.



Author provided/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Inequality is preventing people with less income and wealth from reaching their potential in terms of education and invention. There’s also less entrepreneurship.

Inequality also means the market for new goods shrinks. One study shows that if incomes are more equal among people, people who are less well off, buy more. Having this larger market for new products, incentivises companies to create new things to sell.

If wealth is concentrated among only a small group of people, it actually increases demand for imported luxuries and handmade products. In contrast to this, distributed incomes means more mass produced goods are manufactured.

What’s been driving inequality since the 1980s is changes to economies – countries trading more with each other and advances in technology. As this happens old products and industries fade while new ones take their place.

These changes have delivered significant net benefits to society. Reducing trade and innovation will only make everyone poorer.

The declining number of people in unions has also contributed to inequality, as workers lose collective bargaining power and some rights. At the same time, unions can adversely affect innovation within firms.

Unions discourage innovation when they resist the adoption of new technology in the workplace. Also if innovation creates profits for firms but some of these are taken up by higher wages (lobbied for by unions), these reduced profits provide less incentive for firms to innovate.

Where workers’ jobs are protected, for example with union membership, there’s often less resistance to innovation and technological change.



Author provided/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Giving people access to credit could change this

Most countries have much higher levels of inequality than the OECD average. This combination of high inequality and low financial development is a major obstacle to economic prosperity.

When financial markets work well, everyone gets access to the amount of credit they can afford and can invest as much as they need. We found that for a nation with a credit-to-GDP ratio of more than 108%, low income earners are less discouraged by not having a share of the wealth. There’s less of a dampening affect on innovation.

Unfortunately, most countries (including many in the OECD) are far from this threshold. In 2016, the credit-to-GDP ratio averaged 56% across all countries, and only 28% for the least developed. Until 2005, Australia was also below this threshold.

This means governments should look at providing more people with more access to credit, especially to the poor, to stimulate growth.

For financially developed nations like Australia, increased inequality actually has less of an effect on innovation and growth. So tackling inequality might not be as easy as increasing access to credit.

Spending and taxing are already historically high and growing inequality makes it harder to further raise taxes. Countries like Australia are not unequal societies in the sense of having significant barriers to people improving their income.

Australia is a relatively egalitarian nation. In 2016, the top 1% owned 22% of the wealth in Australia, compared to 42% in the USA, and 74% in Russia.

The ConversationGovernments in more developed nations can instead try to maintain a stable financial sector to improve growth or by training and education.

Chris Doucouliagos, Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, Deakin Business School and Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How a charter of rights could protect Australians’ fundamental freedoms



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Concerns have been raised about whether Australia adequately protects human rights given multiple reports of abuses, including mistreatment of juvenile detainees.
AAP/Lucy Hughes Jones

George Williams, UNSW and Daniel Reynolds, UNSW

Australia’s record of human rights protection in areas such as Indigenous people, asylum seekers and freedom of speech are perennial topics of debate. The focus of these discussions is now shifting to whether Australia can take steps to establish a stronger legal framework for protecting human rights.

One reason for this is Australia is in the final stages of defending its record in a bid to secure a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Another is that Australia’s recent experience on human rights is beset with deep flaws and inconsistencies.

Matters of concern

Concerns have been raised about whether human rights are adequately protected in the wake of reports of mistreatment of juvenile detainees in the Northern Territory, the endemic issue of elder abuse, and the startling prevalence of modern slavery in Australia.

Each of these issues has prompted federal inquiries. And there are still many more human rights issues that have not moved the government to act. These include the treatment of asylum seekers at regional processing centres, and the inexplicable jailing, sometimes for up to ten years, of people charged with crimes for which they are deemed unfit to stand trial because they suffer from mental illness.

The outgoing president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, was right when she said Australia’s human rights record is “regressing on almost every front”.

Another disturbing trend is the speed with which Australian parliaments are enacting laws that diminish human rights.

In 2016, the chief justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court, Tom Bathurst, found 52 examples of laws in that state alone that impinged on the presumption of innocence.

In February this year, the Institute of Public Affairs think-tank identified 307 laws that infringed just four rights: the presumption of innocence, natural justice, the right to silence, and the privilege against self-incrimination.

Another 2016 study found 350 current laws that infringe democratic rights such as freedom of speech.


Further reading: Australia doesn’t have a constitutional right protecting freedom of the person – it needs one


How a charter might work

Against this backdrop, many argue the time has come for Australia to adopt a national charter of rights. Australia is the only democratic nation in the world without such a national law.

The idea has been gaining traction, particularly at the state and territory level. The Queensland government recently announced it would enact a human rights act, based on the ACT and Victorian models, which have been in force for 13 and 11 years respectively. There are also pushes for NSW and Tasmania to adopt such legislation.

These developments raise the questions: if a charter or human rights act was to be enacted at the national level, what would it look like? And how would it protect human rights?

Our new book, A Charter of Rights for Australia, discusses what such a charter would look like at the national level, and explains how it could benefit Australians.

The starting point should not be a constitutionally entrenched bill of rights in the vein of the US Bill of Rights.

Instead, a charter of rights for Australia should be enacted by parliament as ordinary legislation. This would have the advantage of flexibility: future parliaments would be able to update the charter as needed to match changing community values and expectations.

A charter of rights in this form would not transfer sovereignty from parliament to the courts, and would not give courts the power to strike down laws.

Rather, following the models adopted in the ACT, Victoria and the UK, the courts’ role should be modest, limited to functions such as endeavouring to interpret legislation consistently with human rights, and identifying laws that breach human rights and which parliament should consider again.

This model puts the focus on improving human rights protection by way of parliament making good laws and government agencies applying those laws fairly.

One useful feature of the ACT and Victoria charters is that parliamentary committees scrutinise proposed laws for compatibility with human rights prior to being passed. For example, in 2014 alone, the ACT government moved almost 100 amendments to seven bills in response to comments and suggestions made by its human rights parliamentary committee.

The existence of a charter of rights can make it more likely that human rights concerns are raised – and fixed – before a law is passed.

The primary responsibility for ensuring human rights are protected under a charter should fall to the government, rather than the courts. The Australian Federal Police, for example, would have day-to-day responsibility for applying human rights in protecting the community from crime and safeguarding the rights of the accused.

This would mean that if the police chose to detain you as part of an anti-terrorism operation, it would be their responsibility to ensure you are treated humanely while detained. And the charter would provide for consequences should they fall short.

Finally, like instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a charter of rights could also have a symbolic force that would promote important values like freedom, community responsibility and cultural diversity.

The ConversationOne of the most important contributions a charter of rights can make is not the benefit it brings to the small number of people who succeed in invoking rights in court. Rather, its main value lies in how it can be used to educate, shape attitudes and bring hope and recognition to people who are otherwise powerless.

George Williams, Dean, Anthony Mason Professor and Scientia Professor, UNSW Law School, UNSW and Daniel Reynolds, Legal Researcher, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.