(Cairns... Far North Queensland)
CAIRNS COMMUNITY FORUM
Presented by Selwyn Johnston,
8 August 2007
me start off by saying that probably one of the greatest factors facing our
so-called egalitarian society is the growing disparity in the distribution of
income…and consequently wealth. Our society believes that every person should
have adequate food and shelter as a minimum and sadly that minimum is
increasingly not being met.
years ago it was possible for a family to have a one-income earner, be able to
pay off a house and raise a family at the same time, and, have what I would
describe as a high happiness level. Jobs were generally permanent, wage rises
were gauged to maintain this position and education for the family was not only
free but also compulsory and beneficial.
progress many people are worse off, not marginally but, considerably worse off.
We have now reached the point where, for vast numbers of Australians, the choice
is between a house and a family, and, for just as many, the daily food simply
cannot be taken for granted. What is even more alarming is that people’s
“margin of safety” has decreased, which means that you can be going well
today but with just one bad event… you are in trouble.
ask anyone who works with any of the charities and they will tell you that not
only are the numbers seeking help on the rise but the kind of people turning up
is also changing.
and more previously self-sufficient people have now fallen on harder times and
are seeking help. Unfortunately the situation can only deteriorate, as we all
know following today’s .25% interest rates increase, will bring more grief to
those in debt. In addition, there is a real possibility of another .25% increase
[with 12.9%] presently has the record of being second only to the United States
of America for the percentage of people below the income poverty line [US at
19.1%] with Canada a close third at 11.7%.
Lowest is Norway at 6.6% and Sweden 6.7%.
question is what do we do about it or more importantly what can we do about it.
Given that the situation is worsening, not improving, things need to be done to
minimise the immediate harm.
are rapidly moving to the “American situation” where most things are done by
private enterprise and the rest is picked up by charity. If many publications
are correct the American social welfare system will be unfunded within about a
decade and that is a frightening situation. As it is in Australia a couple need
an income of the order of $70,000 to undertake any sort of housing loan and we
all know that credit card debt is at record levels.
and immediately there has to be additional resources made available by
Governments to assist those worst off. This is particularly the case with regard
to housing. There is a need for Governments to do more with the availability of
lower cost housing and to ensure that that housing is available close to either
work or public transport.
are presently too many Governments engaged in housing and dodging
responsibility, and costs have become a major objective rather than dealing with
the supply of housing. Area planning has to be global in that it provides for
infrastructure such as health care, transport, sport and culture and community.
The days where developers can develop an area with a minimum of services and
growth provisions are, or should be, well and truly over. It is no longer
acceptable that developers build houses and expect the ratepayers and/or
taxpayers to pick up the infrastructure and services tab.
all these things are just to relieve the present and most obvious pain. By now
most people will know that in America the housing boom has ended and is very
close to crashing totally. The money poured into the American housing market to
sustain the economy after the “2001 tech bubble” has now also ran out of
road and without wishing to present as a pessimist the August to December period
of 2007 could be a worrying time.
of the money invested in what is called variable rate “sub prime housing
loans” in America [that is loans given to people who had little prospect of
being able to meet repayments] has come from Super Funds and other investment
vehicles so in the end someone, many in fact, will share these future losses
which are more likely to fall on investors and their funds rather than the
larger bankers who sold the mortgages early in the piece.
the Australian economy closely follows the American economy and we are now
experiencing a minerals boom, as we have before, our future is somewhat obscure.
the longer term the objective should be to shrink the gap between the wealthiest
and the poorest. Figures on this vary but some estimates on the American
situation put 95% of the wealth and income with the top 5% of the population.
fortunately is not nearly as bad but it is still worrying. To correct the
situation two aspects need to be addressed and both very carefully.
there has to be a taxation transfer concept put in place as there was years ago
whereby first homebuyers got not lump sums of money but rather long term
concessional loans. This not only assisted homebuyers but also had a sobering
effect on the rest of the market.
second aspect that has to be addressed is that the Government has to firstly
stop selling government, or rather public assets, and it has to, in a serious
way, re-enter the banking field. In other words the control and creation of
housing credit must again become a government function.
we address these macro problems we will not solve the social ills that are
developing in Australia.
the meantime the State government should not be selling land for “housing”
but should be using it for the provision of subsidised housing. Where large
tracts of Government land is involved the matter should be dealt with in
conjunction with private developers on a “land block swap” basis. In other
words maintain an integrated society.
Governments to rely on the private sector totally to resolve the problem is not
only impractical but also unfair to developers and eventual homeowners.
planning and quicker approvals would be a great help but we have lost the art or
science here. Our original surveyors provided for public lands, roads, stock
routes, reserves of every type including recreational and water. Since then all
subsequent land managers have just depreciated the situation as population
problem is growing and serious. There has to be a dual approach involving
immediate emergency relief while a long-term durable government assisted plan
until this happens the misery and suffering will continue.
6 December 2003, a leading political foundation announced, ‘… in Australia
poverty is more widespread than ever before:
is interesting to note that this appraisal was made some six (6) years after the
1987 public scepticism with the announcement by then Labor Prime Minister, Bob
Hawke who said, "... by 1990 no Australian child will be living in
what about the incumbent Coalition Government...
Mooroobool housing commission precinct has, over the past 5 years, demolished
over 15 liveable, taxpayer-owned homes, with 5 of these over the past 2 years!
September 2006… RESIDENTS of Cairns are accustomed to tiresome Councillors’
verbal and literary nonsense particularly when it comes to Council policy
back-flips and subsequent damage control ploys.
failure to communicate the truth regarding Councils proposed sale of ‘small
parcels’ of ratepayer-owned land when in fact the overall ‘small parcels’
tag seems somewhat extraordinary when these ‘small parcels’ range in size
with one being 20,380 square metres... that’s over 5 acres!!!
fact is that Lot 301, (RP859356) Murphy Street, Gordonvale, became a ratepayer
asset in the early 1990’s as part of a subdivision approval and, this 'small
parcel' is capable of being developed into 16 residential lots (Residential 1
zoned) for low-income housing.
must add that the incumbent State Member for Mulgrave, Warren Pitt, asked CCC to
hand this land over to the State for ‘public housing’ which was,
unfortunately, refused outright by the CCC.
the obvious problems of poverty in our communities, plus the problems of
children and youth associated with poverty, are addressed as a matter of
urgency, we will all be back here next year talking about this very same
Solutions to poverty in Australia are achievable, and are the responsibility at at both levels of (State/Federal) Government and local Authorities (Regional Councils), and, I would implore each and every one here this evening to take the poverty issue into account at the forthcoming Federal election, the Local Government election on 15 March 2008, and the ensuing State Government election.
RETURN TO: INDEPENDENT VIEW
Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870