Daily Archives: January 30, 2015

Premier vows to save Bleak House

Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of 
a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated 
that no man alive knows what it means. 

The parties to it understand it least, but it has 
been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can 
talk about it for five minutes without coming to 
a total disagreement as to all the premises. 
Innumerable children have been born into the cause; 
innumerable young people have married into it; 
innumerable old people have died out of it. 

Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves 
made parties inJarndyce and Jarndyce without knowing 
how or why; whole families have inherited legendary 
hatreds with the suit.
                   -- Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Today (31 January 2015) my friend, Bernie Neville, was at his local polling booth in the seat of Ashgrove. Campbell Newman came up to him and asked: ‘how is that friend of yours, Xxxx? The Premier used the person’s name perhaps dumb to the prohibition of its publication under the Guardianship legislation.

Bernie gave Campbell Newman an update. Xxxx is still locked up in a high care dementia unit even though we have been to QCAT three times since 16 October 2014 when they abducted him from his home.

Campbell Newman responded that if he wins today he will make sure he will look after Xxxx. My friend gave the Premier the benefit of the doubt and cast his vote for his friend Xxxx and others in the same predicament, cast out of society and locked in a facility. It is not the first time Campbell Newman has given an undertaking to to support Xxxx. He gave it to me late last year.

So Bernie Neville voted for Xxxx and for people in Xxxx’s predicament and put 1 beside Campbell Newman’s name … note that Bernie, like many other workers, always voted ALP till Hawke & Keating sold out rank and file unionists … since then, many like Bernie  have voted green or independent, some have even crossed to the darkside and voted LNP … in 2012 Bernie went and asked for support from then Premier Anna Bligh who refused to meet with him … so he and a friend set up a stall at the West End markets by getting up at 3 am in the morning and claiming a spot – stalls are allocated on a first come first served basis – and asked for people’s support for AHIMSA house and for Xxxx.

After months of canvassing at the markets every week, they got over 600 signatures from the local community … only then did the local member and Premier Anna Bligh give her support and present the petition in the parliament in her last day in office.

In 2014 Bernie went back to the current member Jackie Trad but Jackie fobbed him off … today Campbell Newman, clearly desperate for votes, came up and asked Bernie about Xxxx by name (without prompting) and offered his support if elected.

This whole situation of starting a community centre (AHIMSA House) based on the earnings one worker’s accumulated savings was wrong, from the outset in 2003. Xxxx was poorly advised. He should have provided firstly for his own financial security in his retirement. Professional advice failed him. His own accountant stole his family home of 30 yars that he had slaved for.

Xxxx should never have got involved with Laver. It was political and financial suicide.

Laver had a group around him who were not capable of challenging the financial mistakes he made.  Ironically the one person who had sufficient nous to stop Laver from squandering Xxxx’s money … this person had given some good advice at the beginning  but then backed off and did not ensure that his good advice was followed by Laver. Never leave the details to ideologues.

Eventually it was another friend M. who saw through Laver and told Bernie. Bernie acted immediately and locked Laver out of AHIMSA house and set about trying to recover financially … but, by then, it was too late, the debt to the bank was too great.

A community centre resourced by one individual could never work … a community centre requires organization and participation by many and should not be left to the grandiose plans of the Lavers of this world. A sad lesson.

Bernie Neville submitted this statement to Qld Civil Administration Tribunal (QCAT) on Friday 30 January 2015 in support of the the rights of Xxxx. Bernie said:

Xxxx must be allowed to return to the life he lived before been taken into care at the RSL centre at Alexandra Headland, a life he enjoyed in the general community at Sunnybank. Xxxx will be able to enjoy and take part in activities in the general community with the support of his friends.

On 30th January 2015 Mr Les Clarkson and Ms Julie Ford both presiding members of QCAT refused Mr Neville’s application in support of his friend ordering that a needs assessment of Xxxx’s accommodation be done by the Public Guardian within the next three months.

That means Xxxx is locked up for over 6 months  just because Xxxx got ripped off by self-appointed libertarian Brian Laver and architect Will Marcus (who will be whoever he wants to be).

Not a single state institution was willing to help – the Public Trustee gave up, the Crime and Corruption Commission refused to deal with iOPG Fact sheet headerst as did the Qld Police Force and the Ombudsman, the Attorney General, QCAT and even the Supreme Court. All this was predictable.

 

Result: No Justice for the Vulnerable
This submission was prepared for but not heard by Queensland Civil Administration Tribunal  [QCAT]. The Presiding members, Clarkson and Ford, did not give time for this submission and ruled that any discussion of Xxxx’s finances to be irrelevant even though they relate directly to where Xxxx lives . In its judgement QCAT gave the Public Guardian three months to prepare a needs analysis concerning Xxxx’s accommodation. So Xxxx remains locked up. The Guardianship and Administration Act places a prohibition on the publication of the person’s name. In his judgement, Presiding Member Clarkson unilaterally upgraded Xxxx’s medical condition to Alzheimers without any consultation with medical opinion. Here is the submission that I did not get a chance to give. Here is the submission

We (Xxxx’s friends) have been coming here to Queensland Civil Administration Tribunal [QCAT] since 2009, that’s six years. How many times has QCAT ruled on matters relating to Xxxx [publication prohibited]? This is not the first time, not the second time … Ms Claire Endicott and Mr Les Clarkson have ruled on this matter. Ms Endicott refused our application for a stay of the decision to remove Xxxx and place him in a high care dementia facility. Ms Endicott put Xxxx at risk and he fell in the toilet at the facility breaking a vertebrae and causing a disc to bulge. From the outset, Mr Clarkson was disinterested in the theft of $168,032 by Mr Will Marcus of West End. Clarkson shut Bernie down when he raised the issue at the first QCAT hearing in 2009.

Still no fairness, still no justice for Xxxx in this place. The process in this place (QCAT) is unfair. We put in sworn affidavits and the Public Guardian responds with one hundred and fifty three pages (153) of innuendo, covert recordings of private conversations, and gossip. We are required to lodge our material first so that the Public Guardian can respond with lies. We were given little time. We are unrepresented but the Public Guardian and the Public Trustee have a building full of lawyers at their disposal.You cannot trust the public trustee

The Public Guardian locked Xxxx up in a high care dementia unit on the 16 October 2014 … at the time, it did not ask Xxxx, the Public Guardian consulted none of Xxxx’s friends … the Public Guardian claimed it was for a month but three months later [Xxxx] is still locked up … not even permitted to go out with friends on his birthday on the 21 January 2015. After Xxxx’s friends, P, M, Bernie, Mh and myself visited him on his birthday last week … on our departure, when we were hugging Xxxx and saying our goodbyes the security staff were heard to say: “Watch him, in case he tries to make a run for it.”

The two faces of Hassen Sabdia

The two faces of Hassen Sabdia

Even a cursory look at the quite voluminous QCAT file reveals that Xxxx’s incarceration at Alexander Headlands over 100 kilometres from his nearest friends has nothing to do with dementia but a lot to do with property. In 2009 Bernie Neville and Xxxx went to Caxton Legal Aid asking for pro bono legal advice about how to recover jewellery that belonged to Xxxx’s wife Ellen from Brian Laver.

They ended up having all Xxxx’s legal and financial affairs being dealt with by the Public Trustee, who charged him fees to mismanage his properties. The architect Will Marcus exacerbated this by making his own application to QCAT to have Xxxx declared to lack legal capacity … but only after Xxxx had gifted Marcus a sixth interest in the building at 26 Horan Street West End.

In an extraordinary transaction Xxxx’s accountant Suliman Sabdia (President of the Islamic Council of Queensland) had taken Xxxx’s freehold title to his family home at Sunnybank and placed it in the Sabdia Family Trust.

Sabdia claims that Xxxx had gifted the property to him.

But why would Xxxx give up his family home to an accountant? It beggars belief that an accountant would be allowed get away with such a transaction.

In an even more bizaare transaction, acting upon the sage but undisclosed advice of Queen’s Counsel, the public trustee cut a deal with Sabdia sanctioning the theft of Xxxx’s family home by Sabdia so long as Xxxx be permitted stay in his house.

No mention in the sage advice by Queen’s Counsel that Xxxx may need the assistance of a carer to live with him in the house.

Acting as Xxxx’s de facto guardian, this is exactly what Bernie Neville put in place, a responsible carer. Not the Public Guardian, not their outsourcing entity Centacare, Bernie Neville did this.

I immediately noticed the improvement in the house at Mains Road and in Xxxx after Rosslyn came to live there. No longer was the laundry lying on the floor, no longer were food parcels organised by the public guardian filling the refrigerator. The house was tidy, a proper regime of cooking was commenced with Xxxx’s full participation. The yard was cleaned up, and Rosslyn’s goat Billy was keeping the grass down. The appointed mower man at $100 a pop was a waste of Xxxx’s money.

Of course it did not take long for Centacare, the Lawsons and the Public Guardian gossip mill to start up. The one hundred and fifty-three page submission by the Public Guardian to this tribunal is full of it. The case officer Tim Brown had never met Xxxx, his then boss Therese Craig had not ether.

In the Public Guardian’s report it to QCAT [Lisa Pool, Principal Guardian, Office of the Public Guardian, Date report completed: 9/01/15] it states that:

In writing this report, the Guardian has attempted to gain the views of all key parties which are listed below in accordance with the General Principles and in accordance with the rules of natural justice.

In the same report it includes the following people as key parties:

Mr Mh T, Mr Ian Curr, Mr Bernie Neville, Ms R M, Ms M B.

Yet none of these people were consulted in the decision to remove Xxxx from his home to the RSL Care facility on 16 October 2014.

Section 8 of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992. says:

“This Act applies in relation to having a carer, assistant, assistance animal or disability aid in the same way as it applies in relation to having a disability.”

The public guardian says that it made a decision not to tell the support people listed about the decision to remove Xxxx because they would oppose the decision. No other reason was given.

For the past three and a half months while he has been locked up in the RSL Care, Xxxx has been deprived of his carers (his support network of Bernie, M, R, Mh, P and myself) by the public guardian.

It seems to me that Xxxx has been discriminated against by the public guardian in the terms laid down by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Xxxx needs support – not just for personal care but more importantly in this case for advocacy and decision making.

Both the Public Guardian and the Public Trustee refuse to deal with us.

When we asked them to act to save Xxxx’s property they ignored us.

When we told the police that people were stealing Xxxx’s property, they refused to listen to our complaints.

When we told the Public Trustee that Sabdia, Laver and Marcus had de-frauded Xxxx out of his home and his rental properties, the Public Trustee claimed legal privilege from his client (Xxxx and his support group). The PT took the matter to the Supreme Court so that they did not have to act against the fraudsters.

Wouldn’t Xxxx be better off without the public guardian and without the public trustee?

Why did you think it necessary that Bernie put up his hand to be Xxxx’s guardian?

Wouldn’t it be better if the presiding member revoked the appointment of the Public Guardian and instruct the Public Trustee to deal with Xxxx’s support group?

We have never had support from the Public Guardian or the Public trustee.

They have discriminated against Xxxx by refusing to support people who care for him.

Will QCAT stop the discrimination?
We met with Natasha from Centacare after we went to the Supreme Court to get Xxxx’s home back. The Public Guardian officers Tim Brown and Therese Craig were using Centacare as their eyes and ears but they had never met Xxxx. Everything was being handled remotely through an outsourced entity that seemed oblivious to Xxxx’s real needs. It was left to Bernie Neville to pick up the pieces yet again after the relevant appointees had mismanaged both Xxxx’s finances and accommodation. The Public Trustee did not even have Xxxx on a full pension when we first came to this place asking for a review back in 2011.

I noticed a marked improvement in Xxxx and in his situation at Sunnybank. He was beginning to recover from the terrible loss of his beloved Ellen. Rosslyn was prompting him to look after himself.

What was the response from the Public Guardian? Order an ACAT assessment. This cursory examination lasting 45 minutes looks the same as the ones done previously … they could have been copied from one another … the main difference was a recommendation that Xxxx is high care. Xxxx is not high care, he does not wander, he does not fall over (excepting when placed on an unsafe slippery surface in a high care dementia unit), Xxxx is aware of time and place, he can cook light meals, he can visit his friends using public transport, he can walk to Garden City once a week. Xxxx has not changed in that respect in the past 10 years. Xxxx does have memory loss, he is confused by complex financial and legal transactions.

Yes Mr Manwaring, Xxxx’s concentration does waiver after 75 minutes of interview. Mine waivers after five minutes, it does not mean I am high care dementia sufferer. How do I know this? I have participated in the care of my mother and my aunty until they both passed away not so long ago. I have been through the ACAT assessments with my mother. I have been present in the room, I was forced to take Mum to a gerontologist because of the facile nature of the ACAT assessment to determine Mum’s ongoing care. I have seen the people that are housed with Xxxx in the RSL facility at Alexandra Headlands. It is a disrespect and a distortion of the language to say that Xxxx  is high care dementia sufferer. Xxxx came here today on the train from Landsborough. He has conversed with the people present, he knows what is going on. He wants to go home, this tribunal should respect that and order that the necessary arrangements are made by the public guardian to ensure it happens, now. Three months incarceration in that facility is long enough. Xxxx  has a right to reside in his house at Xxxx Road. He is entitled to have someone stay with him. Rosslyn has put her hand up. No one else has. Round the clock professional carers would cost a fortune.

Claims by Sabdia and the Public Trustee that only Xxxx is entitled to live in his home (i.e. without a carer) are absurd. And no tribunal properly instructed should sanction it.

Needless to say, Campbell-Newman never lived up to his word.

Ian Curr
30 Jan 2015

Please Note – xxxx is Ross Taylor

Gallery

In Australia, there is the Aboriginal rights struggle

In Australia there is no greater rights struggle than the Aboriginal rights struggle. It is a human rights struggle where not only the First Peoples of this continent were violently and murderously dispossessed of their lands but since the advent … Continue reading

Stranger Choices: Getting ready for the hangover

[Publisher’s Note: Public Assets vs Private Assets – which is better – Queensland State Election …. see also Julia could, Annastacia can]

The Word From Struggle Street

voted-for-kodos

In part four of our three part series on the Qld election we talk about what can we expect after the votes have been counted and what does this mean for emancipatory politics, where can we draw our hope and power from and what do we mean by ‘we’ anyway?

Music by Razar

You can listen here or

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8 little children on the streets; youngest less than 30 days old

This little bub and her 7 siblings and their mum deserve a home

On New Year’s Day a little girl was born, opening her eyes to the world, but to what kind of a world? Compassionate or merciless? By this Thursday, only 28 days old this little baby will be homeless. It is bullshit a 28 day old baby should be homeless. Not just this little baby but also her six sisters and her brother. A whole family is about to be evicted and they have not put a single foot wrong. What sort of society are we? Their mum is a good mum, who circumstance has betrayed. Where is society’s compassion? Where are all these government departments and agencies, and government funded support groups, including the government funded church run agencies. For many, like this mum and her 8 children, you learn that they are not there – not when you need them.

But where are ‘we’ in all this? We can do the blame game and the self-responsibility mantras but what we should recognise is the obligation of our shared responsibilities. We need to look out for one another.

This young bub’s seven siblings are 20 months old, 3 years old, 4 years old, 6 years old, 8 years old, 9 years old, 11 years old.

The family has gone through hard times but mum has kept all of them together. There is a lot of love among these children. My partner and I have spent time with them all. We see the good care that the mum has given them despite bouts of homelessness. We have seen the love that bonds and the hope in their eyes despite their terrible downs, which for many of us is unimaginable.

Mid last year this family was homeless. The mother, pregnant, taking care of her seven children – this is love. They were, and still are, on the Department of Housing priority waiting list. So are 3,000 other applicants, most of them families. If only you knew how many large homeless families are on our streets. It should be a shock to most Australians to know that there are 20,000 children under 12 years of age who are homeless. This inexcusable tragedy occurs in the world’s 12th largest economy, 2nd wealthiest nation per capita and with the world’s highest median wages. Damn you Australia. Damn our Governments. It is a shame job. But in blame is not where we should rest.

There is no urgency among our parliamentarians, no urgency among the ‘privileged’, no urgency among far too many for all those who in turn we leave behind.

Over many years we have been able to assist families find interim accommodation, and in a number of cases permanent accommodation. But this is a straw in the bale of what is homelessness. Last year we matched several families with accommodation.

My partner and I found interim accommodation for one family – the pregnant mum and her seven children. They were put up in a rental nearby a school that has benefited the children. The mum met the rent week in week out and the property was kept well.

Just before Christmas, the mum said, “Thank you. You have turned our lives around.”

“The children are doing well at school. They are happy.”

She was happy, looking forward to the birth of her young baby, and comforted by the love her children exude. Nothing, not even the fact of living below the Henderson Poverty line could get in the way. They appreciated everything they had.

But then the landlord instructed for the house to be vacated. The Department of Housing still has the family on the priority housing waiting list but the wait still carries on. Through the property manager, the landlord gave them notice – 14 days – to vacate. What a scumbag. There was no lease. They had rebuilt a life, nine months old, but now they are being up ended again. And what of the Department of Housing who push the line that it takes about a year or so to secure a home on the priority waiting list? Well it has been more than a year.

The mum and my partner have been frantically looking around for alternative interim accommodation. They have also completed one private rental application after another – but so far they have been knocked back at every twist and turn.

I am stating here, for anyone who may wish to be cynical or a know it all, that this is a very good family, a solid family, a loving family. I am stating here that this is a responsible mum, a great mum, an honourable person. There have been no issues with disorderly behaviour or rent arrears if some of you are thinking this.

This article is a call to all of you; let us help this family. Sometimes we have to do the work of Governments ourselves. Sometimes we have to do the work of those institutions that we suppose so much of and far too often are let down by them. We may not be able to change the world but we can change the lives of those who we come across, who need our help, who may need us to be there for them. This matters because we know it matters to those whom we come across, such as to this little newborn bub, to her seven siblings, to this decent mother.

The mum said to us, “I have tried to be strong for my kids but I’m a failure.”

No you are not. You have the love of your children, this makes you everything. Society has failed you but you are not a failure. You are a great mother. You give so much love and stability to your children. Love is everything and in that love is founded true stability.

“My kids settled in at the school and rebuilt their life. We are about to lose everything. School restarts next week and we are about to be kicked out this week.”

The baby was ill at birth and needs at this time constant monitoring and medical attention. But the landlord flatly refuses to give them a break, cannot even give them two months respite so we can look around for other accommodation.

This young mum is one of the most honourable people I have ever met. She was a victim of sexual abuse and violence, on the streets from the age of 15. Life dealt her a tough hand but she has always been able to keep her family together. The last thing that should happen to this family is that they are torn apart. The first thing that should happen is someone somewhere should put up their hand and say I have a vacant property you can rent.

They can pay up to $500 per week. They are good for it. They have always paid their way. Money is not the issue here, decency is. I do not want the responses to this article to be distracted by whipping cracks at our often useless Governments and at the many heavily funded agencies that claim they do more than they do. I have already had an adequate crack at them. Nor should we be distracted as to why the landlord is turfing them out. They are being evicted based on nothing but senseless prejudice. However do not distract with blame but instead let us rather focus on the ways forward. We may not be able to change the world here but we can change the course of life for this mum and her 8 children. Please someone come forward with a home for these people. There are vacant homes out there. Western Australia should be ashamed if it allows this young family to go homeless.

If we can find them a home in Perth, preferably north of the river, so the children can continue on at the school they have settled into this will be best. But, the mum is prepared to move to anywhere in Australia in order to keep her family together. So please contact us if you can assist. Society has got to start scrubbing up, being there, for one another. We cannot put any of our interests or strivings ahead of those of our most vulnerable.

by Gerry Georgatos
January 24th, 2015

http://thestringer.com.au/8-little-children-on-the-streets-youngest-less-than-30-days-old-9410#.VMv8dcbkIh1

In reference to accommodation for this family contact urgently my partner, Jenny at contact@thestringer.com.au

For any other inquiries contact me at 0430657309

Aboriginal children 10 times more likely to be in care

Aboriginal kids more likely to be in care

Indigenous children now make up more than a third of children in out-of-home care. Source: News Corp Australia

ABORIGINAL children are more than 10 times as likely as non-­Aboriginal children to be removed from their parents and taken into out-of-home care, and that gap is increasing, new figures reveal.

The Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services, to be released today, will show that 5.7 per cent of all indigenous children were living in out-of-home care as at June 30, 2103, compared to just 0.5 per cent of non-indigenous children.

Indigenous children made up more than a third of all children in out-of-home care — 13,914 out of a total 40,624 children in care.

The figures show that the number and rate of children being taken into care across the nation has been increasing since 2009, but for indigenous children those figures have been increasing at a faster rate.

In 2009, the rate of non-indigenous children living in care was 4.9 per 1000 children — a figure that increased to 5.3 per 1000 children in 2013. The rate for all children was 7.7 per 1000 children.

However, for indigenous children, that rate has jumped from 44.8 per 1000 children in 2009 to 56.9 per 1000 children in 2013.

Indigenous children are also far more likely to be the subject of a child protection notification.

Nationally, 14 per cent of all Aboriginal children were the subject of a child protection notification in 2012-13. This compared to just 3 per cent of non-indigenous children.

NSW has by far the highest rate of Aboriginal children being removed from their families. As at June 30, 2013, 8.5 per cent of indigenous children were living in out-of-home care.

This was followed by the ACT, which had 6.3 per cent of Aboriginal children in care, South Australia with 6.1 per cent, Victoria with 5.9 per cent, Western Australia with 5.7 per cent, Queensland with 4.4 per cent and Tasmania with 2.8 per cent.

The Northern Territory had the lowest rate, with 2.2 per cent of Aboriginal children in care.

However, NSW had the best rate of placing indigenous children with relatives or kin, at more than 60 per cent.

This compared to a national ­average of just 52.5 per cent. A further 16.3 per cent of indigenous children in out-of-home care ­nationally were placed with other indigenous carers.

Nicola Berkovic
Reporter
The Australian
Sydney
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/indigenous/aboriginal-children-10-times-more-likely-to-be-in-care/story-fn9hm1pm-1227198855742

Queensland politicians’ $91 million property portfolios

[Publisher’s Note: If you think the ALP is the party of the working class, think again. The report below shows that average number properties per Labor member is 2.8, compared to 2.2 for LNP members. Labor’s Anthony Lynham owns 7 properties, but he is not in the same league as the LNPs Marguerete Maddern who owns 14 properties.. Compare this with the people who have been kicked out of their housing commission home because the LNP has decided to sell off half the housing commission houses, effectively privatising public housing and making way for slum lords.]

A new study by Paul Egan, Philip Soos and Lindsay David reveals the 89 members of Queensland’s legislative assembly have stake in a total of 195 properties, valued at around $91 million — so how does that affect their decision making?
IntroductionFollowing our analysis of Federal and Victorian Parliamentarians’ real estate holdings, attention turns to Queensland, where Premier Campbell Newman has called a snap early election for 31st January, 2015.

Australia, including Queensland, is facing a chronic housing affordability crisis. Housing price inflation has outstripped both rents and household incomes since 1996, leading to a residential property market that is unaffordable by both historic and international comparison. Queensland’s elected representatives, like their federal, state and territory counterparts have failed to address the root causes of the crisis. Policies appear purposefully designed to encourage speculation and rapid price appreciation, in spite of the skyrocketing household debt burden and the harsh economic impacts of expensive land.

The public should critically consider whether state politicians’ property holdings are negatively influencing their decision-making processes and causing them to ignore impartial evidence when formulating housing and state taxation policies. The parliamentary register of members’ interests provides a detailed report of the real estate holdings of Queensland state politicians; a small window into the potential conflicts of interest bedevilling our honourable members.

Real estate assets are often jointly owned with a spouse instead of being in the sole ownership of the registered member. Properties can form part of a family or business trust, or private superannuation fund, with control over these entities exerted by either the beneficiary or beneficiaries directly, or via a third party. Similarly, a politician may have a minority, equal or majority share of the property asset within established entities.

Analysis

Queensland parliamentarians are heavily invested in the property game. The 89 members of Australia’s only unicameral legislative assembly have stake in a total of 195 properties — an average of 2.2 properties per member, conservatively valued at around $91 million, calculated by multiplying the Brisbane median residential dwelling price of $466,500 (as at December 2014) by 195 properties.1

ScreenHunter_5776 Jan. 29 06.46

The actual value is probably significantly higher, for the Queensland register allows for fine-grained analysis of the total lot size (m2) for each politician, separated into the categories of residential, investment and farm/commercial/vacant/other properties (see Appendix B).

As hypothesised in previous reports, politicians:

  • generally have a principal place of residence on a large lot relative to the public average (often exceeding 1,000m2 in size) — nine Queensland parliamentarians live on a property exceeding 10,000m2;
  • have substantial commercial, retail and industrial property interests;
  • purchase a greater number of properties in prestige or premium locations, such as desirable inner-city and coastal areas;
  • have significant interests in vacant land (some already approved for large sub-divisions) and large grazing and cane farms — some individual farm holdings exceed 10,000 hectares (ha) in size (100,000,000m2);
  • regularly embed property assets in family and business trusts, and less often, private superannuation funds; and
  • possess a number of surplus and holiday homes, some in desirable international locations, such as Thailand.

Property investment has again proven to be popular right across the political spectrum.

ScreenHunter_5777 Jan. 29 06.50

Queensland’s political class possess a substantial property portfolio, with only 2 of the 89 members (2%) not owning any real estate. Only a minority of holdings appear incomplete or mistakenly undeclared in some register entries, usually for the lot size of investment properties.

ScreenHunter_5779 Jan. 29 06.51

The data demonstrates the majority of politicians have a vested interest in maintaining high housing and land prices, particularly the 76% of members with one or more mortgages over their own investments. It would be naïve to assume politicians will put the common good before their own self-interest, if it means the difference between a moderately comfortable or a highly secure future retirement, or there are significant family interests to consider. The risk of a sharp correction in real estate prices and negative equity are just as real for those three-quarters of parliamentarians in bondage to lenders, particularly if they have multiple investments or are highly leveraged.

Queenslanders should be very sceptical about the supposed good intentions of many of their elected members in addressing housing affordability. Cynicism is warranted, for nationwide, politicians regularly enact legislative and regulatory ‘reforms’ in direct contravention of objective evidence, accelerating price growth and enriching a multitude of land owners in the process.

Contrary to reason, parliamentarians assume heavy debt burdens and record-low first home buyers are the new market normal. The urgent entreaties from a series of Productivity Commission and Senate reports to reform broken tax systems at the state level have gone unheard, even though economic efficiencies and greater competitiveness would arise from a shift of the taxation base onto those appropriating geo-rent (the economic rent of land) and off labour and business.2

The property-rich Queensland Parliament cannot be trusted to act in good faith on matters concerning real estate. Aversion to guiding housing policy with firm evidence has a long history in many jurisdictions, notably influenced by the projected future value of a politician’s collective real estate holdings and corrosive lobbying by the FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) sector. A voter backlash is also feared following any substantive reforms that reduce prices, with large pockets of the citizenry having also gone ‘all in’ on enormous property bets.

State and federal parliamentarians’ indifference to sound housing policy suggests an unrepresentative parliament is consciously ignoring the profound and negative outcomes of declining affordability upon social justice and economic efficiency. A two-decade long blind-spot is only possible if successive administrations have consistently disregarded empirical evidence and sound research in favour of lobby groups, populist measures and their own real estate portfolios.

Brisbane’s housing prices surged by 134% between the trough in 2000 and apparent peak in 2010. Prices softened after 2010, but rebounded slightly from 2013 onwards. As of 2014, prices are 6% below the peak set in 2010.3

ScreenHunter_5780 Jan. 29 06.53

Total Queensland land prices have similarly ballooned, with the prices to Gross State Product (GSP) ratio climbing from 141 to 304% between 2001 and 2010, a relative increase of 116%. While Queensland does not have the most inflated prices nationwide (which is Victoria), prices have still reached lofty heights, principally from a sharp rise in residential prices, rather than commercial, rural or other categories of land. The ratio has since fallen to 235% as of 2014, though still far above the long-run average.

ScreenHunter_5781 Jan. 29 06.55

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Real housing prices have risen substantially in every Australian capital, though Brisbane is in the middle of the pack when considering the size of the increase.

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Debt-financed speculation has divorced skyrocketing land prices from technical fundamentals, such as rents and household incomes. As a result, gross yields have been compacted to 4.4 and 5.5% for houses and units respectively as of December 2014.4 Net yields are around half of gross yields, reinforcing claims that Brisbane’s property investment model is strongly predicated on potential future capital gains instead of sound cash flows.

The long-term trend in the price to income ratio demonstrates a median-priced Brisbane dwelling could be purchased for around four times household income until the early 2000s, but has since risen by 50% to around six times in 2010.

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Recommendations

A range of matters influencing housing affordability are outside the remit of Queensland parliamentarians, for instance, population growth, broad economic settings and the provision of finance. Nevertheless, state and territory governments are not powerless, wielding control over an array of policy areas that can help prevent rapid price inflation and reduce land prices.

What practical measures can Queensland politicians take to improve housing affordability?

Recommendation #1: More efficient use of the State Land Tax (SLT)

The SLT is an ideal tool to moderate both land price bubbles and their subsequent devastating busts, and is already in the toolkit of state and territory governments. Unfortunately, this tax has been rendered comatose by a host of exemptions and concessional treatments. The SLT requires broadening to include owner-occupied housing and agricultural land, calculated on a per-square-metre value basis. The narrow existing base and progressivity of the SLT incurs only a small deadweight loss; the complete removal of exemptions and concessions would reduce this deadweight loss to zero. The SLT should apply per land holding, but not on an entity’s total holdings to encourage development.

Recommendation #2: Changes to municipal rates calculations

Queensland local government rates correctly using site value (SV) rating, which taxes the underlying land only. However, they are to be condemned for the widespread use of minimum rates which provides a direct subsidy to those owning more valuable sites. Ratepayers should be outraged by this wealth transfer — an impost on their capital values as well as annual charges.

Recommendation #3: Abolition of Stamp Duty tax

Conveyencing stamp duties should be removed, with the revenue shortfall met from an improved SLT.

Recommendation #4: Removal of the first home owners grant and boost

All housing grants act as a demand-side stimulus that further erodes affordability. When combined with highly-leveraged mortgage loans, the result is rapid price inflation that substantially outstrips the size of the grant. These grants are a gift to vendors, not FHBs.

Recommendation #5: Greater investment in public housing

A substantial increase in funding for public housing would assist long-term, low-income individuals and families reliant on social welfare to exit the private rental market, ameliorating their financial stress. We have an obligation to look after those who have difficulty managing their affairs.

Recommendation #6: Tenancy law reform

Australian tenancy laws should adopt the higher standards enjoyed by other Western nations. Queensland tenants’ limited rights include less stability and security in tenure due to shorter lease terms (6 to 12 months on average), lower rental vacancy rates favouring landlords during contractual negotiations, termination of leases for no reason, and requisite landlord permission for minor alterations and pet ownership.6

Recommendation #7: The adoption of ‘right to build’ laws

This policy encourages timely development of residential and commercial property. Planning delays and uncertainties may raise land costs, thus, this effect is negated by a right (positive presumption) for developers and home builders to undertake activity, within specified local and state government guidelines. If a development is opposed, then the onus is upon the aggrieved party to take the developer to the civil tribunal to prevent construction.

Recommendation #8: Elimination of state/local government infrastructure charges and levies

Government should reverse their preference for imposing direct charges on developers to finance local infrastructure, resulting in lower land costs. Governments can either adopt the Texan Municipal Utility District (MUD) model or return to the original system of issuing municipal bonds to finance local infrastructure and paying down debts through council rates.

Recommendation #9: Streamlining of zoning processes

Land subdivision and zoning vacant land for residential use in capital cities takes too long, generating considerable costs, uncertainty and reducing developer competition. Comprehensive betterment taxes should be applied to agricultural land that is rezoned for commercial and residential purposes.

Recommendation #10: Removal of most urban growth boundaries (UGBs)

Except for ecologically or culturally sensitive regions of land, there is no sound rationale for UGBs, as only a tiny fraction of Queensland’s land mass is urbanised. Building further out on the fringe may lower housing costs, but this may be more than offset by the rise in transport costs.

Conclusions

A wide range of practical policies are available to policymakers to lower housing and land costs, improving the lives of all Queenslanders. Sadly, the aforementioned recommendations are not in the financial interests of the political class and their ultimate constituents: concentrations of capital, especially the FIRE sector. The sizeable percentage of Queenslanders living as public (3%) and private tenants (33%) are generally treated with contempt.7

State governments have squandered the opportunity to independently pursue constructive, competitive federalism by simultaneously increasing land value taxes and reducing inefficient, damaging payroll, insurance, motor vehicle and stamp duty taxes. Similarly, councils were able to lower construction costs by financing infrastructure through municipal rates rather than developer charges, but chose not to do so.

Poor government decisions are attributable to the FIRE sector’s deleterious effect on democratic processes, a stacked parliamentary deck, and extensive lobbying and soft corruption that undermines the public good. The political parties and rentier class have an unspoken accord to preserve privilege for the rich and to further redistribute wealth and income upwards in a ‘flood up’ effect. The degenerate state of contemporary politics means voters generally do not understand the rampant inefficiencies wrought by the FIRE sector.

Substantive reforms are not certain even if politicians were aware of the economic harm unfolding, because they lack courage to confront the powerful FIRE sector. The stranglehold over democratic processes virtually guarantees maintenance of the status quo, unless a fresh reform movement challenges unjustified privilege. Honest public discourse, genuine taxation reform, decentralisation of political power and a complete reconstruction of the FIRE sector is essential to Queensland moving to a more efficient, productive and meaningful economy that serves the common interest.

Paul Egan, Philip Soos and Lindsay David 29 January 2015, 

This is the complete version of an abridged article by the authors published by Fairfax Media earlier today.

Endnotes

1 RP Data (2015). See Appendix A for each individual Parliamentarian’s holdings.

2 PC (2004); Senate (2008).

3 The ABS measure of housing prices is not quality-adjusted, so the index overstates the trend.

4 RP Data (2015).

5 Fox and Finlay (2012: 18 – Graph 4).

6 Kelly (2013).

7 HPW (2013: 4).

References

  • Fox, Ryan and Richard Finlay. (2012). ‘Dwelling Prices and Household Income’, Bulletin December Quarter, Reserve Bank of Australia, Sydney.
  • HPW. (2013). ‘Housing 2020 Strategy’, Department of Housing and Public Works, Queensland Government, Brisbane.
  • Kelly, Jane-Frances. (2013). ‘Renovating housing policy’, Grattan Institute, Melbourne.
  • PC. (2004). ‘First Home Ownership’, Productivity Commission, Melbourne.
  • RP Data (2015). ‘RP Data CoreLogic December Hedonic Home Value Index Results‘, RP Data
  • Senate. (2008). ‘A good house is hard to find: Housing affordability in Australia’, Select Committee on Housing Affordability in Australia, Canberra.
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