Housing Affordability- Is it Harder Than Ever to Buy a Home?

There seems to be an emerging trend in Australia where there is an increasing expectation for government intervention in our free market economy, where supply and demand rationally determines the variable factor ‘price’. On a macro basis, the present economic environment seems like a perfect recipe for growth: historically low inflation & interest rates, credit/finance readily available, generous government subsidies, favourable exchange rates, relatively low unemployment. But it’s still not working as the economy is stalling, barely managing a growth rate of 1%, which is insufficient to support full employment for this year’s school leavers. It is clear that the low-interest rates are no longer an effective Reserve Bank lever to stimulate growth in the economy, so what are politicians to do?

With the Government having significantly closed the tax incentive for individuals to SAVE, (see ‘Age of Entitlement – Unsustainably Extended’), much of the economic investment has shifted to ‘Negatively Gearing’ property (a tax incentive for domestic investors who BORROW) and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is now deeply concerned that the housing debt is too high ($2 Trillion or 1.2x GDP) and a risk to the economy, particularly given the critical sensitivity analysis and impact on the economy when interest rates inevitably rise from their current low level of 1.5%. The RBA understands that the economy is fragile and there is nothing more it can do other than rely on a paralysed Government to act, by either further stimulating the economy or removing the red-tape barriers so businesses have the incentive to expand and grow.

Like the economy, wages growth has stagnated (public sector 0.6% Dec Quarter & 0.4% in the private sector) living standards are falling and the trouble for government is that they have few options to stimulate the economy, as they have literally blown their currency with debt now close to half a trillion dollars and the budget bleeding a cash deficit of approx. $200,000,000.00 per day. Governments are relying on businesses expanding, ‘dreaming’ that in the tradition of the classic Australian movie ‘The Castle’, we could survive by continuing to ‘dig holes’. But the heavy regulatory and Government control and intervention in commerce mean that the environment is not conducive for business to invest for growth.

Now politicians want to intervene by changing ‘Negative Gearing’ in the hope of improving housing affordability by removing buyers from the market. However that will only make room for more foreign investors, so as an alternative why not remove some of the bureaucratic restraints and bring more supply to market to help reduce the cost of housing.

In fact, on a micro basis how hard is it to actually buy a house today? ‘It’s ‘never been harder’ is the mantra, but is that true? This left me questioning this assumption: I concluded that it’s not harder now, it’s always been hard. It comes down to ‘what you are prepared to do’ and ‘what you are prepared to do without’ that makes the difference. There is no quick shortcut solution to circumnavigating what’s hard; otherwise it would be easy. We need to stop using ‘too hard’ as the excuse rather than the reason for not trying. So what are the facts?

Australia is now building the world’s largest homes in suburbia with an average floor size approx. 243 sq. m, the highest floor space per capita in the world. This is an increase of 50% from approx. 162 sq. m 30 years ago. Over that time the size of the household has progressively decreased, from an average of 3 members down to the present 2.5; that is a increase in living area per person of 80%.

The current low-interest rate environment has had the effect of increasing demand and therefore influencing house prices, but overall the lowest interest rates in over 50 years is extremely beneficial for those who want to get into the market. Compare the current home loan rates of 4% against 17% in the late 1980’s!

In the 1980’s a ‘home deposit’ was a non-negotiable 20% of the purchase price. The only way most people I knew could save for a home deposit, was by holding down a second job at night. It was just what you had to do to ‘get ahead’; we never thought it was hard, it was simply necessary if you wanted to save for a deposit to buy a house.

The biggest headwind to ‘saving’ was that you paid 60% tax on the income you earned on your second job. Back then the highest Marginal Tax Rate was 60 cents in the dollar for income over $35,000. Today the highest Marginal Tax Rate is 45 cents in the dollar for income over $180,000.

Another restriction back in the late 1980’s was that if you had finance approved by the bank, they could only fund a proportion of your requirement on cheaper Home Loan rates and the balance was on a separate consumer loan, with a much higher interest rate. This was probably the last time Australian’s experienced a credit squeeze, when the bank wanted to lend you money, but didn’t have enough funds to advance at home loan rates. Remember this was a time when commercial business lending rates were 22%-25% and when Government regulated existing home loans with a ceiling rate of 13.5%; at the expense of new home borrowers who were forced to pay market rates of 17% at the banks and 18% at Credit Unions.

On top of all that, most banks would not lend 100% against a female’s income, in case she found herself ‘in the family way’. Subsequent changes to discrimination laws meant that home loan repayments could not exceed 25% of an individual’s gross income and 20% of joint gross income (income from second jobs did not count). Loan terms were limited to 20 years with ‘principal and interest’ repayments (no ‘interest only’ loans or 30-year+ terms back then).

Thirty years ago there were no functioning Government subsidies, housing assistance or Stamp Duty relief. There was a first Home Buyers scheme but the bar was set pretty low, meaning that if you qualified for a payment under the scheme, then it meant that your financial position was such that you wouldn’t be eligible for a bank loan. I’m not sure that any Government funds were ever paid under that scheme, certainly none of any substance. It was the old chestnut: Government being seen to be doing something, without actually doing much.

Should we lower our expectations and look more closely at what we can ‘do without’ now in order to save for what we want in the future? Are we living within our means and have we anything to show for our apparent high levels of personal debt? Do you control your finances or are your finances controlling you? Having a long-term plan is important if you intend to commit to a 30-year loan term. These issues can also be impairments to entering the housing market.

I’m not saying that it’s easier now. Most of the key determining criteria generally remain unchanged i.e. there has always been a correlation between incomes and house prices. I don’t know if the problem is because ‘marketers’ have succeeded in making us all victims of ‘the Jones’ syndrome’, conditioning us to believe that we need bigger houses for fewer people per household.

Perhaps making the family home ‘exempt from capital gains tax’ is the problem, as the tax concession is encouraging excessive investment in single non-productive assets. I’m not omniscient, but what is certainly true is that credit is now far more readily available, which increases demand and puts upward pressure on real estate prices, simply because there are more buyers competing. Supply, on the other hand, is closely controlled e.g. land release, but I can’t help thinking that the most significant contributing factor or barriers to home ownership today is the doubling of the area under roof line over the last three decades and the impact that has had on prices.

I acknowledge that there are great difficulties getting into the market in certain areas where there are concentrated pockets of demand which attract all the media noise, but I’m not certain it’s a national crisis. While we might all ultimately like to live in an ‘advantaged area’ with a good postcode, the reality is that the location ‘entry point’ is dictated by what your budget can sustainably afford. Perhaps the solution can be more difficult than the actual problem if we let it. Remember, if you are striving to achieve an ambitious goal, the ‘hard bit is having the self-discipline and commitment to achieve it!

It always seems impossible until it’s done – Nelson Mandela

25 February 2017

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Aussie Battlers, Flu Pandemic, Headache, Heatwaves & Hardship

In the early part of last century, with a population of 5 million people, Australia entered the so-called Great War, World War 1 (1914 -1918) where some 60,000 Australians sacrificed their lives for their/our country.  It was incorrectly termed the ‘war to end all wars’ and just like the Second World War some twenty years later, the profound hardship was also shared at home.

At the end of World War 1, upon returning from service, Australians faced another great challenge: the relentless suffering of the 1918–1920 Pandemic, the so-called “Spanish Flu” where more than 12,000 Australians lost their lives. The privation of The Great Depression (1929-1932) soon followed, with Australia experiencing one of the most severe rates of unemployment in the industrial world at 32%.

It is inconceivable to imagine the hardship and anguish this generation of Australians endured: the depth of their despair, the pain, the dire misery, the intensity of sorrow and loss faced by our forbearers, a generation whose stoicism remains unparalleled. So much so that it is embarrassing that our society now considers it necessary to redefine words like ‘hard’ or ‘Aussie Battler’ in order to attract the sympathy and attention they apparently so desperately seek and desire.

Yet another example of real hardship occurred in the summer of 1939 when Australia experienced a heatwave with temperature recorded as high as 49.7 degrees Celsius (121.5 degrees Fahrenheit). It was relentless, lasting some 14 days. That January was a disaster: hundreds of people lost their lives, the numbers of deaths from the heat were so high in some communities that they simply ran out of coffins. This was at a time when the population was a mere 7 million and the country was preparing to face the next great challenge, when later that year Prime Minister Menzies announced our entry into the Second World War (1939-1945) a period of hardship and sacrifice that has been well documented.

We have learnt and benefited from our history, from the sacrifices of those who have gone before us, those who built and have left us a very generous legacy, yet we are reluctant to acknowledge how much better our lives are today. We now seem to feel a need to pitch the line that everything is actually harder or we are ‘worse off’. As usual, once said more than three times on social media it somehow becomes a truism or matter of fact!  Perhaps we are just redefining our negative words proportional to the rate that our lives improve, so we can maintain the need to continually complain and deny ourselves the optimism and happiness our forefathers believed we deserved.

Just as an example: the other week the weather report described one isolated day with a maximum temperature of 38 degrees on the east coast of Australia in the middle of our southern hemisphere summer as a ‘heatwave’. Those who remember January 1939 must quietly shake their heads and mockingly wonder how soft we have become as obviously ONE DAY IS NOT A HEATWAVE. Certainly, my deceased relatives would think it a load of bull for the media’s deities, who seem to confuse climate and weather, to make such a stupid statement.

Again another slightly different but related example: last month the federal drug regulator announced that painkillers containing codeine will no longer is available over the counter from 2018. What has changed? Is there a relationship between the demands for heavier drugs and the way we are redefining certain empathy seeking words? Let’s face it; no one gets headaches anymore, it’s not ‘hard’ enough. It seems that most of us are now only ever afflicted with migraines and this is apparently reflected in the demand for harder painkilling drugs. As a consequence, these drugs are being withdrawn due to misuse.

(Not that I’m stoic, yesterday morning I awoke with a scratchy throat, by lunchtime there was concern that I had an infectious disease, some type of viral influencer and by evening drinks the fellas diagnosed me with bacterial pneumonia. Clearly, the belief that man-flu is more painful than childbirth is an exaggeration, as today, irrespective of the various diagnoses and the relief provided by a small camphor bag, I just have a cold!)

We need to toughen up a bit and stop understating the basics just to make everything sound harder than it is. Stop embarrassing the legacy that we’ve inherited. Stop denigrating the memory of our forefathers: those who endured real struggle and hardship, hunger and homelessness, like the survivors of the Great Depression, the real little Aussie Battlers. How dare we compare our situation today with those who survived such forlorn years? Just look at the photographic evidence of the time: the skinny malnourished skeletons whose sunken eyes reflect the permanent pain etched deeply on faces aged well beyond their years.

Today when we refer to ‘Aussie Battlers’ the picture is generally one of welfare dependence, addiction, sloth and obesity, not people picking themselves up and having a go. Just stop using the term, as it insults the memory of those who’s lives defined the label.

There is no success without hardship – Sophocles

24 February 2017

Government keeping ‘Financial Advice Services’ Affordable for the Wealthy

In the past, I have written about how the financially disadvantaged in our communities are the demographic that would probably benefit most if they were able to access affordable financial advice services. However, the costs of such services are so expensive that it has effectively been priced out of the reach of those who need it most: the young, vulnerable and working poor. (See: Government Absent on Credit Act-Disadvantaging Vulnerable, Youth & Working Poor).

The high-price factor is due to the massive costs associated with unnecessary, excessive and ineffective legislation, compliance, regulation, governance, licencing etc. plus the expense of supporting multi-layers of inefficient reactive government enforcement agencies/bureaucracy. The whole structure is broken because the system favours the wealthy and ‘enforcement’ is incapable of preventing those who are not members of the industry (i.e. the unlicensed criminals) from ripping off consumers, which is the main source of losses.

When will policymakers realise that new legislation does not make criminal activity more illegal, when it was illegal in the first place. So whats the point? The impact of more legislation is simply that it causes additional compliance obligations, which increases the cost for honest business operators, who pass on the added expense to consumers, pricing services out of the reach of those who need it most. (It won’t change the behaviour of criminals)!

This knee jerk response from Government is a case of being seen to be doing something because they are not prepared to acknowledge that government compliance agencies have failed to enforce the existing laws. The reality is enforcement agencies are not doing their job to identify criminality. The bureaucracy is such a protected species who align themselves with Government, while pointing the finger of blame at industry in order to hide their incompetence. So as a consequence all we get is more costly ineffective compliance and regulation.

Would it not be better if the industry, the policymakers, the enforcement agencies and even the product providers and ratings agencies all worked together for the benefit of consumers, rather than the opposite: instead of all the parties being ‘hostile’ with the industry isolated. As a result, the product providers and rating agencies are taking control of the industry unabated, yet no one is receiving the right advice and consumers are the losers. What a mess!

Mind you, the Financial Services industry has not helped itself. Those representing the industry have the difficulty of managing a weak and indecisive body that has limited influence, direction and control. They busy themselves trying to convince the public that they are a Profession, not an Industry, desperately trying to pitch the ‘value of advice’, yet deriving little revenue from it. In reality, they are lorded over by their commission-driven masters, the product providers, who actually pull all the strings. Finance advisers are just facilitators for the Product & Platform providers, Insurance companies and Fund Managers, predominantly controlled by the five major Australian banks.

As with all business models, the emphasis is always on what drives revenue and the problem for the advice industry is that they just can’t sell ‘advice’ as a value proposition. The pity of it is that, in truth, the right strategic financial advice is the most important and essential cornerstone to successful planning and should always be the first step. A consequence of appropriate advice may, at a later point, involve some type of investment product but unfortunately the forces that control and drive the industry influence the wrong behaviour (and therefore outcomes) as the weak advice industry allows the ‘trail commission tail’ to wag the dog; yet one cannot do without the other unless you sidestep regulatory protection altogether, which is exactly what has started to happen.

The Government needs to look at measures to abridge the present prohibitive governance and compliance red tape, as these costs make the provision of services unaffordable for consumers and unviable for the advice industry. Something must be done to preserve the advice industry, if not, control defaults to the Banks and insurance companies, and that would be like giving the foxes the keys to the hen-house. Another consequence of the ludicrous levels of Government compliance, regulation and bureaucracy is that the product providers are finding new ways to move their wares without providing appropriate advice i.e. avoiding the industries’ compliance regime.

A perfect example of this is the personal insurances industry. You don’t have to watch too much free to air television to notice that in recent years we have been overrun with commercials for all types of personal insurances. The reason for this is simply that the insurance industry had to find a new ways to move product when the ‘advice industry’ stalled due to bureaucratic and regulatory overload and Government indecisiveness.

The problem with mass product marketing is that consumers end up with the level of cover that they want, not what the need! The outcome is that most consumers are now significantly under-insured, or have no insurance at all. Many are paying for cover they don’t need or have the wrong policies.

These policyholders are then conditioned to believe they need to increase their cover (and premiums) annually by some obscure or irrelevant indicator such as CPI, when in reality they should be reducing the amount of cover in line with their needs, which generally declines annually as we gradually approach retirement (the obvious exception being Income Protection Cover).

Something needs to change in order to make financial advice more accessible for those who clearly need it most. Otherwise unscrupulous product providers and their enablers in the media will continue to take advantage of the financially vulnerable.

Unfortunately, Governments use the passage of legislation as a benchmark of their success; they actually need to reduce the red tape around compliance if they really want to assist those consumers needing help. That’s counter-intuitive and therefore a major hurdle as it’s a concept that is extremely difficult for Government to grasp. They all need to stop making the finance advice industry the enemy and engage with them to find a workable solution for those who currently cannot afford these types of services.

I’m not against regulatory controls, but it only works if enforced, otherwise it just increases the cost of services and makes it impossible for the industry to reasonably compete against unlicensed, dishonest and fraudulent shysters who continue to rip consumers off carte blanche. The Government, compliance agencies and the industry all need to start working together for the benefit of the consumers. What a novel idea!

The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking. – John Kenneth Galbraith.

23 February 2017

Governments Eliminating Greenhouse Emissions by Shutting Off the Power

One of the biggest disadvantages of minority governments is that in the middle of all the madness nothing actually gets done. We are now realising the consequences of decisions made at the ballot box, yet another gigantic, predictable and foreseen cost for the ‘constituents of Australia’, as we enter a prolonged period of irregular and unpredictable power supply blackouts. The inconvenience, cost and consequences for the public and the economy are the obvious inevitabilities, following decades of indecisive politicians with injudicious policies.

Every political party argues about which idealist has the biggest renewable energy target (RET) as if the award goes to the Party with the most short-sighted and unachievable target without consideration for the long-term consequences. They talk about intangibles i.e. ‘targets’ but no one is held to account for the lack of a viable plan to implement and achieve a workable outcome. Let’s not even consider the costs, because you can’t cost a plan that doesn’t exist.

I’m not against renewable energy or reducing greenhouse emissions, but I’m not in favour of reverting back to third world standards because a bunch of indecisive elected suits are incapable of doing their jobs. From what I can see coal generates approx. 73% of our power, natural gas 13%, so common sense would dictate that we secure an alternative supply of ‘constant’ or base load power source before we started shutting down power stations. What ideology is so blind that they can’t see that?

The alternative to base load power supply is, of course, renewable energy technology; hydro 7%, and intermittent power from wind and solar 7%. Broadly intermittent power can only be relied upon about 30% of the time, essentially dependent upon the right weather conditions.

The point is that when there is no intermittent power, we essentially have a 100% reliance on coal and gas. Even if wind farms could produce 100% of our power 30% of the time, it’s apparent that we still need coal and gas to produce 100% of supply when weather conditions prevent intermittent power generation. So why can’t the impaired see what is plainly obvious? It seems that vested interests line political pockets!

Why are we closing power stations before replacing them with alternative facilities to guarantee supply as the main priority? Would it be stating the obvious to say we should first guarantee supply before investing in unreliable renewable alternatives to the point of dependency?

Australia has some of the world’s largest deposits of uranium and coal yet somehow ‘blackouts’ are preferable to considering nuclear or clean coal technology. Why not get a return on the hundreds of millions of dollars invested by government into carbon capture and storage technology? Meanwhile, we fail to acknowledge that intermittent energy with current technology cannot be relied upon no matter how many wind farms we litter the landscape with, unless storage technology can be commercially adapted.

The truth is that there needs to be room for both renewable and traditional sources of power production, but first you must guarantee a reliable supply. So what is the right balance in a world of commercial imperatives and what chance do we have that those with extreme views will ever take their blinkers off for long enough to consider reality, rather than hold us all to ransom by literally keeping us in the dark? How much inflicted grief must we endure before there is a sensible debate?

Australians need to understand their voting responsibilities when they exercise the privileges provided by our democracy, after all, if you are looking for someone to take responsibility for this debacle then we need to focus inwardly and not blame some of the blind, intemperate and fanatical activists we put in office. The reality check is coming. We are facing a massive increase in the cost of power and we will all pay for their idiotic ideology. Unfortunately, the biggest losers will always be the working poor, disadvantaged and the youth, the demographics with no voice, the politically disenfranchised.

Forethought we may have, undoubtedly, but not foresight. – Napoleon Bonaparte.

21 February 2017

Government enables Banks to target Disadvantaged, Vulnerable, Youth & Working Poor

An interesting learning this week: apparently the tabloid media declared that January is the best time for individuals to review how well they manage their finances. It would seem from the story that the levels of personal debt are at record highs and credit cards are funding extreme levels of long-term unsustainable debt at usurious rates. Unsurprisingly, this is apparently due to the fact that many of us are living beyond our means and funding the shortfall on ‘credit’.

The story then promptly proceeded with what appeared to be a paid infomercial or ‘product flog’ offering a different credit card that does essentially the same thing!  So the solution is the same wrong behaviour with a different product provider! Is that how you take responsibility and control of your finances?

The tabloid media, like the Government, keeps missing the opportunity to educate the large numbers of consumers who clearly need help, although after about 10 years of Federal Budget deficits the Government is hardly in a position to lecture. The bottom line is: if you are using your credit cards for anything other than as a ‘method of payment’ you are simply not applying ‘efficient and effective’ management of your finances to achieve an outcome that is going to be beneficial for you.

Debt management is the essential first step if you are ever going to be in a position to accumulate sufficient assets to live a reasonable existence and a comfortable life in retirement. But who thinks that far ahead? Certainly not Government!

Almost everyone needs assistance to learn how to manage their finances; after all, it’s the mechanism we all use to fund ‘living’. It can be complex and getting the right advice should start early in your working life. The misconception is that you seek financial advice when you have plenty of money, but you actually need it when you have very little and looking to accumulate wealth.

It seems incongruous that Government reactively fund ‘Credit Counselling Services’ for those who have already got themselves into financial trouble, but do nothing proactively to assist with preventative ‘risk’ education for consumers. Nor are they willing to adopt workable policies or remove the failed and ineffective Government Legislation and the associated unenforceable compliance regime. If they did, the prohibitive costs of financial advice could be slashed and services made more accessible to the masses. The barrier for the average consumer is ‘cost’. At the moment only the wealthy can afford financial advice services. Why exclude the demographic that needs help the most?

Why do we accept that a certain socio-economic demographic are the disposable victims of the questionable practices and behaviour of the financial institutions issuing these credit cards to individuals who have no capacity to repay? How do these financial institutions continually avoid regulatory scrutiny from the Government’s own enforcement authorities? There needs to be an enforcement conversation about Financial Institutions complying with the Credit Act or, more precisely, the lack of scrutinising around the practices, behaviour, ethics and morality of the financial institutions issuing these cards.

There was a time when Financial Institutions issued credit cards, but only after completing a credit assessment of the applicant’s capacity to make repayments, as well as looking at their character and capital position or net worth, essentially to ensure the applicants could afford the repayments and to reduce the risk of individuals getting themselves into financial trouble.

Now with increasingly smart technology and the removal of manual credit assessments to reduce costs, the product model has changed. It is no longer about preventing or reducing defaults but rather a high turnover computerised system, which is programmed for an acceptable level of failure or default rate. The higher the interest rate margin the higher the statistical default rate can be. So it’s no longer about looking after customers to prevent defaults, it’s a statistical formula for acceptable losses where the casualties are the customers set up for failure by design, usually the young, vulnerable, disadvantaged and working poor.

Technology has completely changed the dynamic of the card facility and it is questionable whether credit cards can still be defined as a ‘financial product’ in accordance with the intended provisions of the Credit Act. It’s now a ‘service’ generated by a statistically programmed computer; designed by actuaries based on probability and operated by a ‘processing centre’, not finance-trained people. The governing legislation has not kept pace with the technological evolution in the finance sector, where defaults are no longer a potential consequence but a planned inevitability. The cost of the ‘systems failings’ is clear to see: whether due to theft, misappropriation, dishonesty or default, the systems disposable casualties just add further pressure on society and welfare dependency.

The financial services industry seems to have completely dehumanised the relationship with their client. They don’t care or feel accountable to their customers, especially the ‘acceptable losers’ built into these programs. If clients are defaulting because they were not correctly assessed in the first place, then you must ask the question: how are these Financial Institutions meeting their ‘Duty of Care’ to their customers and how do they remain compliant with the Government’s Credit Act? More to the point, where are the regulatory enforcement agencies?

The fact is that financial institutions make large profits from credit cards when the interest margins and fees are so high, particularly at the moment where credit spreads (interest ‘charged’ versus the actual ‘cost of funds’) have never been wider due to the present historical low-interest rate market. I’m not against financial institutions being successful by making profits but businesses still have a Duty of Care to their customers. We need to ask whether the absence of ‘Care’ is the reason why the profits are so high and if that’s the case, I can’t help thinking that the Government has left vulnerable consumers exposed to predators whose behaviour appears unscrupulous, immoral with unethical standards. It’s a numbers racket that would make organised crime syndicates envious.

The gap between what’s said and what’s done has never been wider, with the absence of ‘complete truth’ reflected in the length of the product disclosure documents i.e. they are what they hide. I accept that we all need to take responsibility for our actions, but financial institutions are acting as enablers, knowingly selling what they consider is an acceptable level of grief without accountability or reasonable preventative care. Shaping an orchestrated loss scenario for certain consumers feels like predatory behaviour to me. Why is the corruption of morals the only bankruptcy acceptable to the financial services industry? (See also ‘Why are Government Regulators – not working’).

The time is always right to do what is right. –Martin Luther King Jr.

25 January 2017

Dry Rivers, Wetlands, Environmental Water & Awesome Wells

On October 30th 1938, 23-year-old American actor, director, writer and producer, Orson Welles narrated a nationally broadcasted radio program, with a contemporary adaptation of The War of the Worlds, a 19th-century science fiction novel. It was performed as a live simulated news bulletin, a realistic dramatisation: a Martian invasion of earth was in progress. It reportedly caused nationwide confusion and mass panic when listeners thought that the arrival of the extraterrestrial beings was actually occurring.

Even though the episode was performed as a Halloween event, the accidental hoax had been executed and the myth that became the legend was created. As is the case today when the media realised they had been duped, they reported ‘widespread outrage’ and then led the apparent protest demanding greater regulatory intervention from the bureaucracy. Some things never change!

The Wellesian ruse may not fly nowadays, but what is interesting is how well-educated and intelligent people still get caught up in fictitious fables, leaving themselves susceptible to mythical fabrications and as a result are easily conditioned, manipulated, persuaded and indoctrinated.

So how does this yarn relate to Australians? Well it’s about the manoeuvring, misrepresentation and untruths perpetrated by those relatively new Australians, who after 200 years still don’t understand the harmony of our environment down under, in Terra Australis Incognita (the great unknown land), as they continue to impose reckless policies, pushing a flawed agenda from questionable research based on the European experience; generally misguided, opportunistic and with ominous intent. Let me explain.

Australia is a continent of 7.692 million square kilometres. It is the driest inhabited continent in the world with 70% of its area arid or semi-arid land. It is also the smallest continent in the world, the lowest, flattest and (apart from Antarctica) the driest, with a mean annual rainfall below 600 mm. Yep, it’s as dry “as a dead dingo’s donger” to quote a line from Australian Novelist Di Morrissey (Heart of the Dreaming, 1991). 

Europe is the wettest continent. In 2012 the UK’s annual rainfall was 121% more than Australia’s mean average. The Australian continent also has a vast ‘dry river’ system, carved out of the harsh landscape over many thousands of years; the result of extreme conditions in the cycles of prolonged, severe droughts and flooding rains. The longest of these dry river systems is the Murray, some 2,500 km in length. (The Thames by comparison is 350 km long).

Many people may not realise, but in its natural state you could cross the Murray River by walking the riverbed in times of drought. Then in 1919 as part of the Murray River irrigation plan, construction was commenced on the first in a series of ‘locks and weirs’. The river was subsequently dammed with four major reservoirs and some 15 locks. The irrigation system produced what is now considered to be one of the most productive food bowls and diverse agricultural regions in the country, as well as creating a myriad of artificial man-made wetlands with their associated salinity problems.

One of Australia’s truly unique ‘natural’ wetlands is Lake Eyre. Its formation is connected to the mythological dreamtime story of Wikunda hunting the kangaroo that became Lake Eyre. The Lake Eyre Basin covers 1 million square kilometres and is located outback, some 718 km north of Adelaide. Australia’s largest dry salt lake carries water on average about once every eight years and has only filled to capacity three times in the last 160 years. When water does flow the lake returns to life; a natural spectacle as huge numbers of waterbirds flock to the area. The stark landscape comes alive with wildflowers and even native fish return to the lake.

It is truly amazing; nowhere else in the world compares. So why do we take any notice of these ‘foreigners’ telling us how to manage our unique waterways based on research conducted elsewhere, particularly when they want to ‘drought proof’ these relatively new man-made, unnatural wetlands, that are a consequence of damming a massive dry river system.

I’m talking about ‘environmental water’. We have been led to believe that it’s necessary to waste billions of litres of water on regular flows to maintain these recently created artificial wetlands and then wash the surplus productive water out to sea. What a load of drivel! Lake Eyre clearly proves that wetlands simply do not need intervention with constant water flows.

Environmental water is just another myth that has been forced upon us, based on the irrelevant European experience. We know that the Earth’s present ‘axial precession’ means that the southern hemisphere’s seasons are somewhat more extreme than the northern hemisphere. This is Australia: try to learn something from those who have had a spiritual, physical, social and cultural connection to the land, the traditional owners for the last 60,000 years or more. As I mentioned earlier, how can well educated, credible and intelligent individuals be so gullible, as they embrace these fictitious, fabricated untruths, without even considering the intent of the power brokers who are funding a program based on extraneous data?

In Australia we have a unique environment like no other continent or country. European settlers need to learn how to adapt to their new environment, not change it. Stop destroying productive land, stop maintaining saline-soaked swamps, stop washing valuable water out to sea and stop doing it in the name of the environment. I’m tired of watching these enviro-warriors getting it wrong, planting trees instead of native grasses and now unsustainably mismanaging our most precious resource.

Start asking questions of politicians, why are they attempting to use ‘unsustainable water policies’ as blackmail to leverage ‘bargaining power’; it’s a guerrilla tactic that makes no sense. This week we saw a range of duplicitous Machiavellian manoeuvres by our representatives against the occupants of the driest continents on earth, threatening to waste an additional 450,000,000,000 litres of so-called environmental water, by flushing it down the Murray and for no rational, practical or logical reason other than a shameful, strategic, political ploy for the Senator’s personal career advancement!

They’ll want to ‘drought proof’ Lake Eyre next! These lunatics are from another planet; maybe ‘Mars’.

The line between reason and madness grows thinnerRosa Parks.

1st December 2016

Knowing When It’s Time for the Subterranean Dream

Well, I remember when I was young, how the world was in the midst of the Cold War, as well as the Southeast Asia conflict. But of course, there is always a war somewhere, it’s a given in any lifetime. That said, the Cold War period was different, that constant uncertainty growing up, going to school, doing time, knowing that we were potential fodder for a foreign war, didn’t leave you overly motivated or ambitious. It’s hard to explain now, but we were well aware that we lived constantly with a threat of nuclear annihilation; fortunately we were told ‘obliteration’ was an instant death.

It’s not all bad. Today I keep hearing how ‘peachy’ those days were, when the certainties in life were Coca-Cola, blue jeans and Elvis. Well maybe for some. My growing recognition of reality was quite different: isolated, remote, and tedious. You were never really taught anything that was relative to ‘living in the day’. You just eventually worked things out for yourself or figured it out through observation. With little apparent optimism for the future, the foundations of our lives felt unstable, like we were always treading water. There was no real certainty, direction or ‘givens’ in life.

For the most part, looking back tends to get overshadowed by the good things subsequently learnt, the things you weren’t materially aware of at the time. I think my experience was planted deeper in authenticity; we dared to be bold and take risks, we had fewer choices, our survival skills were sharper and we were not sheltered from the unsavoury realities of life i.e. pain, poverty, disappointment, failure, hardship and a non-interventionist death.

Some things just were. You didn’t think about it nor question too much. It’s like the three-quarter ‘drop post’ that was always kept in our vehicle; it was just there for no apparent reason. Then one day while droving sheep on a remote stock route, its purpose became clear. I was wide-eyed and motionless with what I witnessed. While it was quick, the sound was something a kid doesn’t easily forget, even though it was subsequently explained ‘that putting a stricken animal out of its misery was a case of being cruel to be kind’. That was that and we get on with it, as I came to terms with the thought, that the peace associated with death was clearly preferable than observing a deeply distressed animal, that could not be saved or relieved of its unbearable anguish. By not prolonging the inevitable this ‘being’ did not suffering a painful and protracted death at the hands of the elements and nature.

I later learned that my experience was nothing compared to the severity of the real cruelty endured during the 1937-1947 droughts in eastern Australia, as stories were recalled of farmers forced to walk off their land, leaving thousands of sheep to starve to death in the paddock. No one could afford to shoot them in post-depression and wartime Australia. People were basically struggling to survive at a time when the charitable works promoted by animal welfare groups, such as the RSPCA were unknown or out of reach.

At least when I was a young man, we could afford to destroy maimed stock that had survived trauma like ferocious scrub fires.  I realise now that my experience as a kid was not one of cruelty but of compassion and kindness. It takes an unpleasant type of courage, care and commitment to humanely put a suffering being out of its misery. There’s a learning here for us all.

An American Professor of animal science, Temple Grandin is a world-renowned spokesperson and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behaviour. She has been quoted as saying that “Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.” She is obviously right, but it leaves me wondering why we can’t apply the same kindness to humans at the end of life as we do with animals. How did we become participants in this slow cruel form of ‘legal euthanasia’ that we practice when it is accepted that there is no ‘quality of life’ and ‘natural’ death is imminent? We don’t have to be cruel, so why are we?

Why do we allow physicians to hide behind a 12th-century Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” through inaction when their only option is to try and keep you comfortable while they starve you to death. It is unbelievable that doctors require a legal document to prevent resuscitation, just to force the medical profession to allow nature to take its course and for doctors to behave compassionately.

What is really going on here? Why the aggressive and expensive treatments that fail to improve the lives of the terminally ill, with no chance of quality and comfort for the individual? Or are they just experimenting on us? The ‘medical machine’ sells prolonged care because time is money when they know they cannot offer remedial treatment or a cure. It’s wrong that families are being robbed of the opportunity to grieve because a protracted death has been crafted into a ‘welcome relief’. We know that the profession does not make the law, but they are a powerful lobby group, hence things don’t change!

It has been reported that 25% of medical budgets are funding the final days of life; it’s a big industry. Perhaps prolonging the inevitable is something to do with medical research or is it just a very profitable business making mega profits, from those who have no voice, no representation, the comatose and infirm?

It’s certainly not about being kind, compassionate, humane or progressive. The blame lies at the feet of the policy reprobates and their insane bureaucracies; a culpable, complicit and avaricious ‘medical profession’ and the atheists, agnostics and believers who choose to use God as an excuse to secure their wealth and power. After all these years, I’m still fearful of being someone else’s ‘fodder’!

17th November 2016.