Monday, March 18, 2019

ACTU – Change the Rules election campaign kicks off in Bass

18 March 2019

Change the Rules election campaign kicks off in BassWorking people and volunteers from in and around the electorate of Bass, which covers the north-east of Tasmania, will gather on Monday evening to kick off the Change the Rules election campaign.

Last year, working people took to the streets in record numbers to change the rules so that working people can win a fair go, fair pay rises, and jobs we can count on.

To Change the Rules, we need to change the government. This year we are moving from winning the argument to winning the fight.

What: Change the Rules election kick-off, Bass

Where: Launceston Workers Club, 66 Elizabeth St, Launceston

When: Monday 18 March, 5pm (Interviews) 5:30pm (Meeting, vision only)

Who: Working people from in and around Bass, Unions Tasmania Secretary Jessica Munday, ACTU President Michele O’Neil

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:

  • “People in Bass and across Tasmania need good, secure jobs and fair pay rises but the Morrison Government and big business are standing in the way of this. We are ready to restore the fair go.
  • “We are ready to take action to change the government and win more secure jobs and fair pay rises.
  • “Anyone who wants to live in a better, fairer country, who wants more secure jobs and fairer pay rises should attend these events and join the movement for change.”

Quotes attributable to Unions Tasmania Secretary Jessica Munday:

  • “Working people in Tasmania need more secure jobs and pay that keeps pace with costs of living.
  • “Across the state are people struggling with living costs and a state government hostile to our rights.
  • “Change the Rules volunteers in Bass and across Tasmania will be knocking on doors and hitting the streets between now and the Federal election to change the federal government, change the rules and restore a fair go for working people.”

ACOSS – Universal dental care more important, less expensive, than tax cuts

The Australian Council of Social Service is firmly opposed to more tax cuts in the upcoming budget, instead calling on government to invest in strengthening our income support system and delivering quality services, including dental care.

Australian Council of Social Service CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie, welcomed the Grattan Institute’s calls today for staged introduction of universal dental care, saying:

  • “The Grattan Institute’s plan for universal dental care would cost $5.6 billion a year. This is half of the cost of bringing forward the already-announced tax cuts for the top 20% of taxpayers, and half the cost of tax cuts modelled in today’s report by Deloitte Access Economics.
  • “Now is not the time for more tax cuts, as Deloitte also urges. This Government has already cut personal income tax cuts twice:
  • $4 billion per annum in personal income tax cuts for people on $80,000 or more; and
  • $140 billion over six years which, when fully implemented, will give the greatest benefit to the top 20%, and cost the budget $11 billion per annum for just the top 20%.
  • "These tax cuts are on top of the proposed $65 billion over 10 years in corporate tax cuts.  Tax cuts for corporations with turnover of $50 million or less have already been legislated.
  • "We need to give urgent priority to lifting up the incomes of people on the lowest and funding for quality essential services, including dental care, a major gap in our universal health system.
  • “Decent dental care in Australia is becoming restricted to people on high incomes. The Grattan Institute report released today warns that two million people on low to modest incomes are avoiding visits to the dentist for routine checkups. Even when someone has a dental health crisis, many languish on long public waiting lists.  
  •  “When people have major dental problems that go untreated, it impacts on their ability to live their lives, including to eat well, secure employment, and be engaged in their communities. People struggling from below the poverty line are the most acutely affected by the lack of universal dental care services.
  • “We should be able to enjoy the collective peace of mind that there is enough funding for the services we need, such as quality education, healthcare and a decent income support system. More tax cuts put this at great risk, as we know from the experience of tax cuts in the 2000s that led to harsh spending cuts a decade later.
  • “Along with Increasing Newstart Allowance and restoring cuts to other payments such as Family Tax Benefits, taking the first step towards a universal dental health scheme would cost less than planned high-end tax cuts and provide a greater boost to flagging economic growth,” Dr Goldie said.

Japan – Investors Back Renewables

Energy analysts forecast 'the end of coal' in Asia as Japanese investors back renewables
Australia’s largest export customer for thermal coal is scrapping plans to build power plants

An offshore wind turbine off the coast of Naraha in Fukushima, Japan. Across the country, 13 offshore wind projects are undergoing environmental impact assessments.

Major Japanese investors, including those most indebted to coal, are seeking to back large-scale renewables projects across Asia, marking a “monumental” shift that energy market analysts say is “the start of the end for thermal coal”.

At the same time, Japanese banks and trading houses are walking away from coal investments, selling out of Australian mines and scrapping plans to build coal-fired power.

Japan is Australia’s largest export customer for thermal coal. Of the proposed pipeline of coal power projects in Japan in 2015, figures from the Global Coal Plant tracker show three-quarters are now unlikely to proceed.

The most recent proposal likely to be shelved, a 1.3GW coal-fired power station in Akita, in Japan’s north-west coastal region, follows the cancellation of two others earlier this year. Sojitz Corporation this week announced further divestment from thermal coal, following Itochu announcing a coal exit last month, and Mitsui in November.

The RBA has sounded the climate change alarm. Time to sit up and take notice

Sources in the Asian renewable and energy finance sectors say Japanese banks, trading houses and two prominent state-backed enterprises – the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Japan International Cooperation Agency – have in recent months expressed their intention to invest more heavily in the renewables sector.

The increased interest in renewables comes, notably, from investors and companies with existing exposure to coal. Demand for electricity in Japan is declining, as the population declines. In that market, coal appears to be crowded out by additional capacity provided by nuclear restarts, solar and other renewables.

Other developers have their eyes on Akita, which is next to the Sea of Japan, as a site for offshore wind developments.

Across Japan, 13 offshore wind projects are undergoing environmental impact assessments, with the total investment opportunities worth up to 2 trillion yen (A$25bn), according to Mizuho Bank estimates published this week.

Kimiko Hirata, the international director of Japan’s Kiko Network, a climate action campaign group, said she had noticed a shift in sentiment among several big players in the Japanese business world.

“From last year we’ve seen some changes from the major banks and megabanks and also insurance companies as well as trading companies, their positions have changed on coal power policy,” she said.

“So we are clearly seeing that they’re thinking that continued support for coal power, both domestic and international, is no longer acceptable by the international community and also in Japan. We very much welcome the big change happening.”

Hirata cautioned, however, that many of these financiers’ policy changes related to entirely new coal projects, not ones already in the pipeline. Kiko’s own figures show plans for a total of 15GW of coal-fired power remained active, with some plants under construction and due to start operating next year.

Campaigners are awaiting the release of a long-term strategy to guide Japan’s approach to tackling climate change up to 2050, believing it will be a key test of the government’s seriousness.

The government is tipped to release it in the lead-up to June’s G20 summit in Osaka, where prime minister Shinzo Abe has signalled he wants to show leadership on climate change.

Some members of Abe’s cabinet have been pushing for stronger climate action.

Kono has argued this is too low, considering the sector already provides 24% of the global energy mix. “As Japanese foreign minister, I consider these circumstances lamentable,” he said last year.

The government’s latest energy plan suggests fossil fuels will still account for 56% of the energy mix in 2030, while nuclear will account for 20% to 22%.

The developers behind the Akita proposal are reviewing their plan and considering other options, including biomass and liquefied natural gas, according to local media reports. Comment has been sought from regional utility Kansai Electric Power and the investment company Marubeni, but sources familiar with the matter believe a decision is likely to be announced within weeks.

Asked about the review of the Akita project on Friday, Australia’s trade minister, Simon Birmingham, told ABC radio the government was aware there would be a transition in the global economy away from thermal coal.

“We do urge countries to make as ambitious commitments as they can, but the long-term projections are that the demand for Australian thermal coal in these markets remains very strong,” Birmingham said.

Tim Buckley, the director of energy finance studies for the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said any shift in Japan was monumental for the rest of Asia.

“This is the start of the end for thermal coal,” Buckley said. “When Japan moves, it’s not just Japan. It is … our number one thermal coal customer, but it’s also the funder of the growth agenda that the coal industry has been relying on.”

Most international projections – including those that envisage little action to address climate change – rely on an assumption that thermal coal demand from developed countries such as Japan will decline in the coming decades.

NYT – New Zealand grieves victims of mosque shootings

New Zealand tried to come to grips with grief and horror unlike anything in its modern history after a gunman targeted worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, killing at least 50. 

Twelve of the injured, including a 4-year-old girl, remained in critical condition.

The country’s small Muslim community grappled with the loss. And the police arrested a suspect, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, who has been charged with murder.

He posted a racist manifesto online and streamed live video of the killings on Facebook. Our tech correspondent called it a mass murder of, and for, the internet. Follow the latest updates here.
Interviews and videos suggest that a bystander and police preparedness may have helped limit the death toll.

Gun debate: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised stricter gun controls. But the issue could be divisive in New Zealand, where there are more than 1.2 million firearms among a population of 4.6 million. We compared the rules for buying a gun in 16 countries.

In Australia: A far-right senator who blamed the attacks on immigration was egged by a teenage boy, and responded with punches.

ACOSS – Not the time for more tax cuts: time to boost Newstart and minimum wages

Unlike tax cuts, raising Newstart and the minimum wage will effectively reduce poverty and boost the economy, argues The Australian Council of Social Service’s submission to the Fair Work Commission on the minimum wage.

CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, Cassandra Goldie, said: “Instead of handing out tax cuts as misguided election sweeteners, the government should take real action to tackle poverty and strengthen the economy.

  •  “Both an urgent $75 per week rise in Newstart and a substantial rise in minimum wages are the fundamental steps we must take in any serious effort to reducing poverty.
  •  “People on the lowest incomes – including Newstart and minimum wages – must spend the money they receive to cover the very basics like food and rent, so boosting their incomes is a far more effective way to bolster economic growth than more tax cuts.
  •  “A rise in Newstart would particularly benefit businesses in the regions struggling the most with high unemployment.
  •  “Increasing Newstart and the minimum wage would increase consumer spending, creating new jobs; while at the same time, a stronger Newstart would give people the support they need to get through tough times and into these jobs.
  •  “One in six children live in poverty in our wealthy country and in order to reduce child poverty we need to reverse government funding cuts to family payments and expressly consider these cuts in the setting of the minimum wage.
  •  “In the past decade, more than $12 billion has been cut from payments for individuals and families with low incomes, including by dumping all single parent families from the single parent payment on to the low Newstart Allowance once their youngest child turns eight.
  •  “We need government and business to both play their part to for people on the lowest 40% of incomes - both people relying on income support and wage earners, who in reality are often the same people at different stages of life, sometimes week to week,”
  •  “We are the richest country in the world and no one should live in poverty, whether they have paid work or not. This requires action from both government and business,” Dr Goldie said.

Twenty-five years ago, when Newstart Allowance was last increased, the minimum wage was around 60% of the median fulltime wage and Newstart Allowance was 25% of the minimum wage (before tax).

Up to the GFC in 2008, most incomes grew strongly, especially corporate profits. There was also a dramatic rise in housing costs. Yet Newstart and minimum wages (two of the main incomes of the lowest 40% of households by income) have barely grown above inflation.

In 2018, the minimum wage was just 49% of the median fulltime wage (a relative decline of 18%). Having been frozen in real terms since 1994, Newstart Allowance fell behind even further (by 24%), to 19% of the median wage.

Although this decline in the lowest incomes was partly compensated by lower unemployment and more paid working hours, those who lacked the opportunity to obtain employment or more working hours fell behind the rest of the community, increasing poverty and inequality.

Media contact:  Australian Council of Social Service, 0419 626 155