Hotel quarantine for returning Aussies and ‘hibernation’ assistance for businesses


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

All Australians arriving from overseas will be quarantined in hotels or other facilities under strict supervision for a fortnight, under the latest crackdown in the battle against the coronavirus.

Announcing the measure after Friday’s meeting of the national cabinet of federal and state leaders, Scott Morrison said people would be quarantined where they arrived, even if this was not their ultimate destination.

The current requirement has been for arrivals to self-isolate for two weeks.

The states will administer the quarantine and pay for it but the Australian Defence Force and Australian Border Force will assist, as the attempt to deal with imported cases tightens.

The ADF will bolster police efforts in visiting the homes of people who are in isolation and will report to local police on whether the person is at home.

But the ADF personnel will not have legal power to take action against people breaching conditions – that rests with state and territory police.

The ADF will be there “to put boots on the ground, to support [state authorities] in their enforcement efforts,” Morrison said.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Which leaders and health experts will be on the right side of history on COVID-19 policy?


The government has made the move – starting from Saturday night – to strongly-supervised quarantine because incoming travellers present the highest risk.

Figures before the national cabinet showed about 85% of cases in Australia were overseas-acquired or locally acquired contacts of a confirmed case.

Numbers of people arriving in Australia are drastically down. For example on Thursday there were 7,120 arrivals at airports around the country. This compared with 48,725 a year ago.

Morrison also flagged a third economic assistance package – to be announced as early as Sunday or Monday – which would aim to have companies “hibernate” so they could recommence operations after the crisis has passed.

This “means on the other side, the employees come back, the opportunities come back, the economy comes back,” Morrison said.

“This will underpin our strategy as we go to the third tranche of our economic plan,” he said.

“That will include support by states and territories on managing the very difficult issue of commercial tenancies and also dealing ultimately with residential tenancies as
well.”

States are now moving to tougher restrictions at different paces. NSW, where the situation is most serious, is closest to a more extensive form of shutdown, with Victoria not too far behind it.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews repeated that Victoria would at some point move from the present stage two to “stage three”.

There is not public clarity at either federal or state level precisely how the next stage would operate.

Morrison rejected the language of lockdown. “I would actually caution.
the media against using the word “lockdown”.

“I think it does create unnecessary anxiety. Because that is not an arrangement that is actually being considered in the way that term might suggest,” he said.

“We are battling this thing on two fronts and they are both important. We’re battling this virus with all the measures that we’re putting in place and we’re battling the economic crisis that has been caused as a result of the coronavirus.

“Both will take lives. Both will take livelihoods. And it’s incredibly important that we continue to focus on battling both of these enemies to Australia’s way of life.

“No decision that we’re taking on the health front that has these terrible economic impacts is being taken lightly. Every day someone is in a job, for just another day, is worth fighting for”, he said.

He said some businesses would have to close their doors and the government did not want them so saddled with debt, rent and other liabilities that they would not be able to reopen.

Morrison enthused about how Australians had responded to the tougher measures announced this week. “On behalf of all the premiers and chief ministers and myself, the members of the national cabinet, we simply want to say to you, Australia – thank you. Keep doing it. You’re saving lives and you’re saving livelihoods”.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty on the coronavirus crisis and the timeline for a vaccine


On schools, the states have now bypassed Morrison, who wanted children to keep attending them.

A statement from the national cabinet said: “We are now in a transition phase until the end of term as schools prepare for a new mode of operation following the school holidays.

“While the medical advice remains that it is safe for children to go to school, to assist with the transition underway in our schools to the new mode of operation we ask that only children of workers for whom no suitable care arrangements are available at home to support their learning, physically attend school.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The case for a rent holiday for businesses on the coronavirus economic frontline


Danielle Wood, Grattan Institute; Kate Griffiths, Grattan Institute, and Nathan Blane, Grattan Institute

As the public health response to supress the COVID-19 virus ramps up, so to does the economic fallout. Shutdowns and enforced spatial distancing are necessary to try to prevent hospital intensive care units becoming overwhelmed.

But businesses on the economic frontline – those shut or soon to be shut down by the public health restrictions – need immediate help to get through.

The necessary temporary hit to business incomes need not become a permanent hit to productive capacity. We should not risk a large swathe of shops, cafes, pubs, hotels, gyms, and hairdressers going to the wall.

Most of these frontline businesses have seen their income dry up overnight. Some have temporarily closed, others are finding creative ways to make some money in online retail or takeaway services, for example, but most will replace only a fraction of their pre-crisis income.

Rent is the biggest barrier to survival

Staff layoffs, or more hopefully stand downs, are the only option for most of these business. Even substantial wage subsidies won’t entice business owners to keep staff on when the business has shut its doors.

For businesses on the economic frontline, most of their variable costs such as wages and stock can be suspended during the shutdown. But their fixed costs – particularly rent – are substantial.

The average retailer pays almost A$12,000 in rent a month; the average gym, $10,000. Cafes and hairdressers are losing $3,000 to $4,000 each month in rent.




Read more:
Which jobs are most at risk from the coronavirus shutdown? 


For most exposed businesses, rent sits at less than 20% of operating costs under normal conditions, but while they hibernate through coronavirus, that figure will reach somewhere between 80% and 95%.

Some schemes have already been announced to help these businesses. The Commonwealth’s is the largest, and will pay small and medium businesses 100% of salary and wages withheld for tax purposes up to $100,000. For businesses to qualify for the full amount, they will need to withhold the same amount, so will need to be paying staff.


2019 data.
Grattan Institute analysis of IBISWorld industry reports

State governments have announced partial relief of tax, rates and fees, and access to loans. This will help, but rent is the big unavoidable cost for most of the frontline businesses.

Exposed businesses will be losing thousands of dollars, or more, each month. Many will have some cash reserves, but for most a shutdown of three months or more will be very difficult to absorb.

A rent holiday, or at least a significant rent discount, would give these businesses a fighting chance at preventing a temporary shutdown becoming a permanent closure.

Market rates are close to zero

Most shopfronts can’t be put to other uses. That means the market price for retail, food, and accommodation services, and personal services shopfronts will be very close to zero during the shutdown.

Some landlords have done the right thing and given their tenants a rent holiday while these restrictions are in place.

This is smart: keeping their tenants in business will give these landlords the best chance of having a rented property when restrictions are lifted.

In normal circumstances, the market would work this through. But the danger here is it will happen too slowly. Some landlords refuse to accept renting out their premises for nothing.




Read more:
Why housing evictions must be suspended to defend us against coronavirus


In Melbourne, Chadstone retailers just wrote to Chadstone management asking for a rent holiday to “save our businesses”.

The response from management was no.

That mindset could send many thousands of shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, cinemas, and tourism operators to the wall.

As of last week, more than 70% of businesses in these industries had already been hit by the COVID-19 crisis. That figure is expected to rise beyond 90% in the coming weeks.

“Closures” was the most common word used by business owners surveyed by the Bureau of Statistics about the future effect of COVID-19.


Source: ABS cat no. 5676.0.55.003 – Business Indicators, Business Impacts of COVID-19, March 2020

Preventing landlords from evicting commercial tenants, or requiring landlords to defer the rents, won’t help – businesses will still liquidate if they know they will be lumbered with many months of rent to pay back down the track.

While a short-term income hit for landlords isn’t insignificant, the damage to the economy will be much greater if a swathe of small and medium-sized businesses are lost.

Acting now will reduce the damage

The owners of some properties that need rental holidays still have to make monthly mortgage payments to banks. But the banks are offering loan holidays they might be able to take advantage of.

If there are gaps in the loan holiday arrangements, governments should work with the banks to ensure landlords are covered. Alternatively, governments themselves could offer partial compensation for lost rent.

Prosper Australia has suggested a uniform
subsidy that replaces 50% of lost commercial tenancy mortgage payments.




Read more:
We’re running out of time to use Endgame C to drive coronavirus infections down to zero


Right now, hundreds of thousands of businesses are crunching the numbers to see whether than can stay solvent. With rent on the expense side, those numbers won’t add up for long.

Every state and territory government ought to enact a rental holiday for the types of businesses on the frontline of this crisis. As the economic shockwave reverberates, state and territory ministers should have the power to add other vulnerable industries to that list.

The key is speed. For every day they wait, hundreds of businesses will fold.The Conversation

Danielle Wood, Program Director, Budget Policy and Institutional Reform, Grattan Institute; Kate Griffiths, Fellow, Grattan Institute, and Nathan Blane, Analyst, Grattan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Senate kills tax cuts for big business as Dutton canvasses for second leadership bid


File 20180822 149475 36pn9.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Senate defeat ends months of wrangling by Senate leader Mathias Cormann to get the tax measure through.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has finally lost its bid to give big companies tax cuts, after the Senate rejected a desperate compromise that would have excluded the big banks.

With the Liberals in free fall over the leadership crisis and Peter Dutton admitting he is shaping up for another tilt at Malcolm Turnbull, the Senate defeat of the tax cuts, by 36-30, although long expected, was yet another blow to a reeling government.

Earlier Dutton, on 3AW, said of his campaign for the prime ministership: “I’m speaking to colleagues, I’m not going to beat around the bush with that.”

“If I believe that a majority of colleagues support me then I would consider my position”.




Read more:
Fierravanti-Wells resigns from ministry, accusing Turnbull of ignoring Liberal party’s conservative base


Dutton said he did not think the government should persist with the business tax cuts to the election.

“I would support that money being applied either to households or to a tax cut for small or micro businesses to allow them to grow”.

His stand on the big business tax cuts is part of the highly populist policy pitch he is putting forward, which includes removing the GST from electricity bills and having a royal commission into power companies.

“One of the things that we could do straight away in this next billing cycle is take the GST off electricity bills for families. It would be an automatic reduction of 10% off electricity bills,” he said.

“We could set up a royal commission into the electricity companies and into the fuel companies. I think Australian consumers for way too long have been paying way too much for fuel and for electricity and something just isn’t right with these companies.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Malcolm Turnbull struggling to shore up his border


“Like we’ve done with the banks, I think the royal commission has the ability to get to the bottom of what is fundamentally wrong in the system, and what could help ease some of that pressure on families and potentially small businesses.”

The Senate defeat ends months of wrangling by Senate leader Mathias Cormann to get the tax measure through. Those against, apart from Labor and the Greens, were crossbenchers from One Nation and Centre Alliance, as well as Derryn Hinch and Tim Storer.

The government has already legislated phased-in cuts for companies with turnovers up to $50 million annually. The defeated legislation would have phased down the corporate rate for the big companies from 30% to 25% by 2026-27.

The proposal to exclude the banks was put by the government as a last roll of the dice. The debate was strung out this week as Cormann tried to swing the critical crossbench votes.

Cormann told the Senate the government understood the politics in relation to the banks, but as for other big companies, it was critical for Australia to have a competitive tax rate. Hinch unsuccessfully promoted a proposal to impose a ceiling of $500 million turnover.

During Wednesday morning’s debate, Labor made merry with the Liberal leadership chaos.

Labor frontbencher Doug Cameron said “The question is when is Senator Cormann going to join his great mate, Peter Dutton? When is he going to join him and when is the end of this government going to actually happen? I hear that it’s on again.” On Tuesday, Cormann declared his backing for Malcolm Turnbull.

The Business Council of Australia said: “The Senate’s failure to support a modest company tax cut over the next decade leaves Australia with the third highest company tax rate in the developed world, and at risk of having the highest.

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The Conversation

“It is extraordinary that Senators representing states where business investment is so vital have walked away from this for pure short-term political reasons.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

A new study should be the final nail for open-plan offices



File 20180717 44103 1ms7ein.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Who can concentrate under these conditions?
Shutterstock

Libby Sander, Bond University

Open-plan offices have taken off because of a desire to increase interaction and collaboration among workers. But an innovative new study has found that employees in open-plan offices spend 73% less time in face-to-face interactions. Email and messaging use shot up by over 67%.




Read more:
Get out of my face! We’re more antisocial in a shared office space


The study is the first to track the impacts of open-plan offices using objective measures of communication. It used electronic badges and microphones to monitor interactions among employees and tracked changes in email use.

The findings build on previous research, which has found, for instance, open-plan work environments compromise employees’ ability to focus and concentrate on their work.

Why go open plan?

Theoretically there are good reasons to move to an open-plan office. Our social environment plays a big role in our ability to be proactive and motivated.

And success in modern workplaces is often driven by how well individuals interact with each other and with the organisation.

Research has shown that the time employees spend on “collaborative activities” has “ballooned by 50% or more” in the past two decades.




Read more:
Open plan offices CAN actually work, under certain conditions


Workplaces that facilitate more frequent and higher-quality contact with others have been shown to have improved communication and collaboration on tasks, job satisfaction and social support.

The design of the workplace significantly influences this, by supporting or detracting from interdependent work.

Building a strong sense of community has been a key factor in the success of the coworking space provider WeWork. This has been largely achieved through the physical work environment – clean spaces, narrow hallways, communal kitchens and the like.

Privacy and concentration are critical

But despite the pursuit of collaboration in workplaces, the need for concentration and focused individual work is also increasing.

And research shows that when employees can’t concentrate, they tend to communicate less. They may even become indifferent to their coworkers.

Knowledge work requires employees to attend to specific tasks by gathering, analysing and making decisions using multiple sources of information. When any of these cognitive processes are interrupted, inefficiency and mistakes increase.




Read more:
Open plan offices attract highest levels of worker dissatisfaction: study


Being able to focus on a task without interruption or distraction is an essential foundation for effective work.

But research suggests that poor design can have unintended consequences – increasing the cognitive load on workers through high density or low privacy, both of which increase distraction.

Why open plan doesn’t necessarily lead to collaboration

In many open-plan offices, the drive for increased interaction and collaboration comes at the expense of the ability to focus and concentrate.

When distraction makes it hard for employees to focus, cognitive and emotional resources are depleted. The result is increasing stress and errors, undermining performance.

When employees can’t concentrate on their work, their desire to interact and collaborate with others is reduced.

In addition, new research suggests that increased crowding in the workplace and low levels of privacy lead to defensive behaviours and strain workplace relationships.




Read more:
The backlash against open-plan offices: segmented space


Other aspects of workplace design, such as views of nature or access to daylight, can replenish cognitive resources even in the presence of distractions.

An aesthetically pleasing environment may provide an experience that is restorative.

Additionally, research has shown that aesthetically pleasing workplaces can help create trust within organisations.

Getting the balance right

Emerging research has shown that individuals view similar work environments differently. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, as is traditional in open-plan design, work environments should provide various options that support employees working effectively.

Evolving models of workplace design are seeking to achieve this, by providing different zones for different types of work and different needs.

However, the effect of shared desk arrangements in these types of environments requires further investigation.




Read more:
The research on hot-desking and activity-based work isn’t so positive


Many employers are heavily focused on driving collaboration and interaction at the expense of privacy and concentration. This has negative outcomes for both productivity and work relationships.

Organisations should focus on providing workplaces that support the requirements for privacy and focus, as well as interaction and collaboration.

The ConversationTo achieve this, greater emphasis needs to be placed on both visual and auditory privacy, particularly the use of acoustic treatments, as well as the layout and appearance of the workplace as a whole.

Libby Sander, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Bond Business School, Bond University

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

Labor would quash tax cuts for businesses with $10-$50 million turnover


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Bill Shorten has said a Labor government would repeal already-legislated tax cuts for companies with an annual turnover between A$10 million and $50 million, but left its position up in the air for those between $2 million-$10 million.

The decision, announced in response to questions at a news conference on Tuesday, does not appear to have gone through shadow cabinet. Nor did Shorten mention it when he addressed caucus on Tuesday morning.

It opened the opposition leader to immediate attack from the government and business.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said it was Shorten’s “captain’s call”.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said there were 20,000 businesses between $10-50 million turnover, with an average of 75 employees in those businesses.

“This is terrible news for 1.5 million Australians who work in those businesses that will have to face higher taxes under Labor if Labor is elected,” Morrison said. Shorten had turned former leader Mark Latham’s “ladder of opportunity” into “the snake of envy”, Morrison said.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO, James Pearson said Labor had sent a “very bad signal to business today”.

The opposition has had a long-standing policy of leaving the cuts in place for the smallest businesses – with turnovers less than $2 million. But by failing to clarify its position for companies up to $10 million, Shorten has left uncertainty for many smallish businesses.

A spokesperson for Shorten said: “We’ve never supported these tax cuts for big businesses – we voted against them and we haven’t changed our position.

“We’ve always supported tax cuts for small businesses.

“As Bill said, we’re considering a threshold of $2 million or $10 million turnover. That will be decided by the shadow cabinet, in the normal way.”

Shorten’s announcement comes days after the speech by frontbencher Anthony Albanese in which he advocated the Labor strike a better relationship with business. The speech was seen as Albanese differentiating himself from Shorten on a number of fronts and positioning on leadership ahead of the Super Saturday byelections.




Read more:
Anthony Albanese sets out his blueprint for Labor


Asked about the decision apparently not having gone to shadow cabinet, ALP sources argued it had been generally known that a Labor government would not leave in place company tax cuts above the $10 million threshold.

But shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, asked in May how long Labor was going to wait to give certainty to middle-level companies, said for companies above $2 million turnover “it is right and proper that we take some time to carefully work that through. We will be announcing our position, which will be crystal clear, not only to the voters but to the businesses of Australia,” Bowen said.

Labor earlier committed to repealing the tax cuts for big business, now before the Senate, in the event the government manages to legislate them. There is still no indication it can do so.

Whether a Labor government could get any repeals through would depend on the attitude of the Senate of the day.

Shorten’s announcement also comes as he faces criticism over Labor’s controversial advertisement, running in the byelections, that targets Malcolm Turnbull’s personal wealth and how he would benefit from the tax cuts for large companies.




Read more:
Labor makes company tax fight all about Malcolm Turnbull’s money


Shorten doubled down on the attack in the caucus meeting, saying that Turnbull “has no clue about how people actually live, and I do believe his wealth is connected to that”.

The ConversationHe also told caucus that the Longman byelection was very close and Braddon was “very difficult”.

Business size in Australia.
Australian Taxation Office, Taxation statistics 2015/16

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

A closer look at business cases raises questions about ‘priority’ national infrastructure projects


Glen Searle, University of Sydney and Crystal Legacy, University of Melbourne

Infrastructure Australia’s latest infrastructure priority list has been criticised for being “too Sydney-centric” and for giving Melbourne’s East West Link, cancelled in 2014, “high priority” status. The cancelled Roe 8 project in Perth was removed from the list.

So how does a project get onto Infrastructure Australia’s list? This requires submission of a full business case, which then needs to be “positively assessed” to be given priority status.

But our research, yet to be published, has found these business cases leave out highly significant costs. This article looks at three prominent projects – the WestConnex and East West Link motorways in Sydney and Melbourne respectively, and Cross River Rail in Brisbane – to illustrate how business cases submitted to Infrastructure Australia do not follow its requirements in key respects. This casts serious doubt on the business cases used to justify major motorway projects, as well as on how priority projects are selected.


Read more: FOI reform needed in Victoria amid East West Link fallout

Read more: Roe 8 fails the tests of responsible 21st-century infrastructure planning


What do business cases assess?

Ensuring business cases are completed before investment decisions are finalised is critical to “good planning”. Part of Infrastructure Australia’s remit is to head off concerns that projects are committed to before business cases are fully evaluated. This can help minimise “optimism bias” and ensure investments deliver community benefit.




Read more:
WestConnex audit offers another $17b lesson in how not to fund infrastructure


But we must also examine what the business case is actually showing us. The main part of each business case is the cost-benefit analysis. This compares the money value of project benefits and project costs. Economically viable projects should have a benefit-to-cost ratio above 1:1.

Infrastructure Australia requires project business cases to consider non-monetised benefits and costs, including community impacts. These benefits and costs are required to be quantified in some other way, or at least described. The basis used to estimate “external costs” must also be provided.

The cost-benefit methodology requires any significant positive or negative impacts on third parties – externalities – to be included. Examples include air quality, carbon emissions, noise, biodiversity and climate adaptation.

Social impacts to be covered include equity or the distribution of benefits (which Infrastructure Australia says need to be identified since cost-benefit analysis does not explicitly take these into account), and affected local communities and other individuals/groups. The non-monetised benefit and cost categories listed as relevant are: social impacts, cultural impacts, visual amenity/landscape, biodiversity and heritage impacts.

In support of monetary estimates, proponents must “describe and provide supporting material that demonstrates how land use, population and employment projections are modelled”.

The guidelines stress that the supporting conditions for expected land use impacts will be in place – for instance, necessary infrastructure investment where densification is assumed. Factors that can hinder the realisation of such benefits (such as local opposition to increasing density) must also be included.

This process would seem to produce a rational prioritisation of national infrastructure projects. The problem is that the business cases submitted to Infrastructure Australia do not follow its requirements.

High-priority projects with problematic business cases

To illustrate this, we analysed the business cases of three projects designated as “high priority” for Commonwealth funding:

  • East West Link, to which the Commonwealth allocated A$1.5 billion before the new Victorian government cancelled the project

  • WestConnex, which has been allocated A$3.5 billion

  • Cross River Rail, which is yet to receive funding.

A key problem in these business cases is that significant project cost items have not been monetised. These include costs relating to environmental effects such as noise and visual amenity and to other impacts on businesses, households and property values.

For example, none of the three cases includes a valuation of the costs of lost business and disruption to household travel and amenity during construction. (This is a big issue with Sydney’s southeast light rail project.)

There is also no costing of the loss of property values along motorways, especially around exhaust emission vents. The East West Link and Cross River Rail business cases make some allowance for this by including the value of general changes in amenity from noise, urban landscape and visual amenity. None of these are costed in the WestConnex case.

Another significant omission relates to the costing of land use impacts. The WestConnex and East West Link business cases both forecast more, and longer, road trips across the network as a result of the projects.

The WestConnex scheme will increase vehicle kilometres by 600,000 per day and make outer suburbs more accessible relative to the inner city. The potential extra costs from greater sprawl are high, estimated at A$4.99 billion for Sydney over 25 years from 2011 if greenfield housing was 50% of new dwellings rather than 30%.

The opposite is the case for Cross River Rail. Increased higher-density development around rail stations would produce infrastructure savings, but the business case does not give these a value.

Furthermore, the valuation of changes in transport mode resulting from each project is inconsistent.

The Cross River Rail business case includes savings resulting from motorists switching from road to rail after the line is built.

The WestConnex project will have the reverse effect, with 45,000 public transport trips per day being switched to the motorway. But the business case does not put a value on the costs of this. These include bus and train revenue losses, or reduced service frequency and increased waiting time to reduce losses.

Debatable ‘wider economic benefits’

The most contentious business case component is wider economic benefits. These are productivity improvements arising from increased central city job density as a result of the projects improving access.

These benefits needed to be included to lift the East West Link benefit-cost ratio above one. But this is only achieved through sleight of hand – public transport improvements into central Melbourne are included as part of the full project cost. As the public transport component of the business case had low costs compared to its benefits, including these wider economic benefits was enough to push the overall ratio above 1.

Similar benefits are part of the WestConnex cost-benefit analysis. However, these benefits are to be achieved from extra car trips to the centre. This takes no account of the disincentives of road congestion and lack of parking.

Current central Sydney planning controls allow a maximum of one new parking space per 75 square metres of floor area for not-so-tall offices – or one space for about five new workers – and even fewer spaces relative to floor area for higher buildings. This means most increased job density will not come from people driving to work.

By contrast, the wider economic benefits of the Cross River Rail resulting from increased job density in central Brisbane are not valued for inclusion in the cost-benefit analysis.




Read more:
Brisbane’s Cross River Rail will feed the centre at the expense of people in the suburbs


Rethinking the business case

Our work points to several real concerns:

  • a lack of consistency in what is included in business cases
  • questions about how cases can be reasonably compared across projects
  • discretionary inclusion or exclusion of critical items that bias results in favour of projects.

The ConversationWe need more holistic and integrated analysis of projects. This will take into account not only the “nation-building” aspects – the jobs and growth projects might inspire – but also the disrupting and displacing effects they produce across transport modes, land uses and people’s experiences of the city.

Glen Searle, Honorary Associate Professor in Planning, University of Queensland and, University of Sydney and Crystal Legacy, Senior Lecturer in Urban Planning, University of Melbourne

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

Three (funny) charts on: 2017 in business and economics



File 20171215 17878 p6wc9i.png?ixlib=rb 1.1

The Conversation, CC BY-NC

Jenni Henderson, The Conversation; Josh Nicholas, The Conversation, and Wes Mountain, The Conversation

Here in the business and economy team at The Conversation, we love charts. This year we’ve made plenty of good ones with academics.

There were the charts that showed how the wealth gap between old and young was growing and how this was affecting mortgages and home ownership.

Then there were the ones on how our workforce is changing (and how we’re discriminating in it) and what this means for unions.

Charts have a way of showing us that we can be wrong about our thoughts on, say inequality in Australia and financial vulnerability.

But it would be wrong of us to finish the year without just a few more charts, three in fact.

Not so many jobs, maybe forget innovation

We’re hearing a lot less of the “jobs and growth” and the “innovation” mantras from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/4BQ31/4/

Maybe Jesse Stein was right when she suggested at the start of 2017 that it was time to ditch the spin around innovation. It got a very small mention in the Federal Budget, but it’s been hard for the government to make it stick to other policies too.

Speaking of other policies, there’s not much doing in jobs either. Despite the enthusiasm about recent unemployment figures, underemployment (where you can’t get enough hours despite having a job) remains high. For those who don’t have a full time job, like young people in the arts or services industry, it seems the pay off of casual work ain’t what it used to be either.

The Amazon apocalypse that didn’t happen

So far, Amazon’s Australian launch has been a bit of a fizzer. But tales of impending retail “decimination” were everywhere this year.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/cFnKb/2/

At The Conversation, Gary Mortimer correctly predicted that Amazon won’t be the end of shopping as you know it. At least so far.

But this isn’t the end of the story. The likes of JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman will likely feel the heat, considering Amazon’s scale. And shopping centres are already scrambling to offer customers something new.

More worrying are the implications for Australia’s tax system and industrial relations given Amazon’s business model.

Now that Amazon is finally here, it’s time to start thinking about what it means for our own habits. Should we “click and collect”? And what’s with everyone trying to sell you a subscription box?

Maybe I will invest in Bitcoin…

One Bitcoin, as of mid day on December 15, was worth about A$22,000. That could buy you more than 6,000 avocados (because who wants a house anyway), 1,375 kilograms of Vegemite, four Chinese crested dogs or a small to mid-sized car.

Although you’d have to have at least two Bitcoins to buy a Tesla Model 3 Roadster, but as Tesla is not yet ready to deliver this model in Australia, you may want to wait until you only need one Bitcoin.


https://cdn.theconversation.com/infographics/150/8fc5ed9d2a9dde01e982b970ad7862d6c5309a2f/site/index.html


But of course Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency so unless you exchange it for cash at the right time, all these comparisons are meaningless. In fact we’re not quite sure how to value Bitcoin even though we know why the price might be skyrocketing and how much energy it is guzzling.

The ConversationAll we can do is look back on bubbles and crashes of old and hope next year won’t see the worst case scenarios come true.

Jenni Henderson, Section Editor: Business + Economy, The Conversation; Josh Nicholas, Deputy Editor: Business + Economy, The Conversation, and Wes Mountain, Deputy Multimedia Editor, The Conversation

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

Australian IT Costs More – 50% More!!!


The link below is to an article that should have Aussies seeing red – we are paying up to 50% more than we should be for IT products, which is of little real surprise to most of us. Right across the board we have been paying more and there seems to be no real reason for it to be so other than the greed of big business.

For more visit:
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/australian-it/personal-tech/australians-pay-50-per-cent-more-for-tech-goods/story-e6frgazf-1226687429151

The Snuggery: Turning Hugging into a Business


  1. In what can only be described as a novel approach to employment, Jacqueline Samuel has turned hugging into a business. What other ‘odd’ and ‘crazy’ ideas can be turned into a business – I’m sure someone out there is thinking about doing it if they haven’t already done so.

Detained Pakistani Christian Released – But Two Others Held


Christian falsely accused of ‘blasphemy’ taken into custody, released – and detained again.

LAHORE, Pakistan, April 18 (CDN) — A Christian illegally detained in Faisalabad on false blasphemy charges was freed last night, while two other Christians in Gujranwala arrested on similar charges on Friday (April 15) were also released – until pressure from irate mullahs led police to detain them anew, sources said.

Masih and his family have relocated to a safe area, but just 10 days after he was falsely accused of desecrating the Quran in Faisalabad district of Punjab Province on April 5, in Gujranwala Mushtaq Gill and his son Farrukh Mushtaq were taken into “protective custody” on charges that the younger man had desecrated Islam’s holy book and blasphemed the religion’s prophet, Muhammad. A police official told Compass the charges were false.

Gill, an administrative employee of the Christian Technical Training Centre (CTTC) in Gujranwala in his late 60s, was resting when a Muslim mob gathered outside his home in Aziz Colony, Jinnah Road, Gujranwala, and began shouting slogans against the family. They accused his son, a business graduate working in the National Bank of Pakistan as a welfare officer and father of a little girl, of desecrating the Quran and blaspheming Muhammad.

The purported evidence against Farrukh were some burnt pages of the Quran and a handwritten note, allegedly in Farrukh’s handwriting, claiming that he had desecrated Islam’s holy book and used derogatory language against Muhammad. A Muslim youth allegedly found the pages and note outside the Gills’ residence.

Inspector Muhammad Nadeem Maalik, station house officer of the Jinnah Road police station, admitted that the charges against the accused were baseless.

“The initial investigation of the incident shows Mr. Gill and his son Farrukh are innocent,” he told Compass.

The two were kept at a safe-house, instead of the police station, out of fear that Islamist extremists might attack them; their subsequent release led to Islamic protests that compelled police to detain them anew today, sources said.

Despite police admitting that the two Christians were not guilty, a First Information Report (No. 171/2011) was registered against them under Sections 295-B and C in Jinnah Road Police Station early on Saturday (April 16).

“Yes, we have registered an FIR of the incident, yet we have sealed it until the completion of the investigation,” Inspector Maalik said, adding that the police had yet to formally arrest Gill and his son. “We registered the FIR for their own safety, otherwise the mob would have become extremely violent and things could have gone out of control.”

The police official said that after the Muslim youth made the accusation, he gathered area Muslims together.

“It seems to be a well thought-out scheme, because the perpetrators chose the time of the Friday prayers for carrying out their plan,” Maalik said. “They were sure that this news would spread quickly, and within no time people would come out of the mosques and react to the situation.”

He added that police were now inquiring of the Gills why they might suspect anyone of wanting to harm them.

“We are also looking for any signs of jealousy or old enmity,” Maalik said.

Soon after the Muslim youth found the alleged pages, announcements blared from the area’s mosques informing Muslims about the incident and asking them to gather at the “crime scene,” sources said.

There are about 300 Christian families residing in Aziz Colony, and news of the alleged desecration spread like jungle fire. Announcements from mosques sparked fear in the already shaken Christian families, and they started packing their things to leave the area, fearing the kind of carnage that ravaged Gojra on Aug. 1, 2009, killing at least seven Christians.

“It’s true…the news of the accusations against Gill and his son and the announcements being made from the mosque calling on Muslims to avenge the desecration sent shivers down our spines,” said Pastor Philip Dutt, who has known the Gill family for several years and lives in the same neighborhood. “The charges are completely baseless. I’m sure no person in his right frame of mind would even think of committing such a vile act. Someone has clearly conspired against the Gill family.”

He added that most of the area’s Christians had left their homes overnight, fearing an attack by Muslims.

Dutt said that a large police contingent arrived in time and took Gill and his son into custody after assuring the enraged mob that a case under the blasphemy laws would be registered against the two men. Police remained stationed in the area to provide protection to area Christians, but the atmosphere was tense.

According to some reports, a group of angry Muslims wanted to torch Gill’s house, but timely police intervention thwarted their plan.

At the same time, a group of Muslim extremists stormed into the house of Anwar Masih, a Christian factory owner in Aziz Colony, and started beating him and his son, sources said. The family managed to save themselves by calling the police and now they too are in “protective custody.”

The Rev. Arif Siraj, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan, which also oversees the functioning of the Christian Technical Training Centre in Gujranwala, said the accusations against Farrukh were yet another example of how the country’s blasphemy laws are misused against innocent people.

“We have been engaged with the police and local Muslim leaders throughout the day to resolve this issue amicably,” Siraj said. “An eight-member committee comprising six Muslims and two Christian pastors has been formed to probe the incident, and they will make a report on Friday.”

The names of the Christians of the eight-member committee are Pastor Sharif Alam of Presbyterian Church Ghakarmandi and the Rev. Joseph Julius.

A large number of Muslims, including members of religious parties and banned outfits, came out to the roads of Gujranwala on Saturday (April 16) to protest the alleged desecration of the Quran and pressure police to take action against Gill and his son. The protestors reportedly gelled into one large demonstration on Church Road and headed towards the CTTC. Siraj said that some participants threw stones at a church on the road, but that Muslim elders immediately halted the stone-throwing.

“The district administration and Muslim leaders have now assured us that no one will target Christian churches and institutions,” he said, adding that both communities were now waiting for the committee’s report.

Sohail Johnson of Sharing Life Ministry expressed concern over the accusations.

“This case is a classic example of how Christians and Muslims continue to be charged with blasphemy on false accusations,” he said. “Isn’t it ridiculous that the accuser is claiming that Farrukh has confessed to burning the Quran in his note and thrown the burnt pages in front of his house – what sane person would even think of saying anything against prophet Muhammad in a country where passions run so deep?”

Arif Masih, the falsely accused Christian released last night, has reportedly been relocated along with this family to a safe location.

The original blasphemy law, introduced in British India in 1860, imposed a prison term of up to two years for any damage to a place of worship or sacred object carried out “with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion…”

The current provision in the Pakistan Penal Code, as amended in 1986, introduces both the death penalty for insulting Muhammad and drops the concept of intent. According to Section 295-C of the Penal Code, “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also
be liable to fine.”

The laws have drawn condemnation across the world, and two senior government officials – Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, a liberal Muslim, and Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, have been assassinated this year for demanding a review of the legislation.

Report from Compass Direct News
http://www.compassdirect.org