Media and Commentary

Happy to pay a little extra for a good cause: ABC The Drum

Executive Director Peter Bentley

Of course Australians would like to pay less tax, but as the disability levy shows, they’ll happily pay more when they think it’s merited.

The way the NDIS debate has played out has thrown a lot of dusty, old political orthodoxy out the window.

Our Prime Minister stood up less than five months out from an election and told us that we should pay more tax in the form of an increase to the Medicare levy.

There were no protests in the streets, and most of the outrage vented on social media was not against the tax, but against a business leader who opposed the tax as it might impact on his company’s profits.

The Opposition Leader announced he supported the tax increase and would vote in favour of the measure, assuring its passage through Parliament.

And all to fund an expensive, ambitious Government scheme that had not even been mentioned in the public discourse just a few short years ago.

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Taxation the best way to get off the road to ruin

Executive Director Peter Bentley writes in the Sydney Morning Herald

It’s official: Australians have a thirst for bold transport infrastructure builds and the most parched, of course, are Sydneysiders.

The public reception to the incredibly ambitious high-speed rail proposal puts it beyond doubt. If a cost of $114 billion is not immediately laughed out of town, you get a pretty clear understanding of the public mood.

In Sydney, the feeling is particularly acute.

The global TomTom Congestion Index has just ranked our city as the seventh most congested in the world – worse than Paris or Rome, and only one spot behind the notorious Los Angeles. For one of the wealthiest cities on the planet, this is nothing short of a complete embarrassment.

Traffic congestion and inadequate access to public transport is costing Sydney billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, and costing individuals precious time they could be spending with their family and friends.
People feel it, they want bold action now, and – vitally – they understand that you can’t get something for nothing. This is a major shift our politicians need to recognise. There is no longer a need to dance around and pretend that bold transport solutions can be achieved without taking equally bold revenue-raising measures.


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Sydney’s most hated roads revealed

McKell Institute/7News survey

A survey conducted for 7News has found major motorways are a major annoyance, but it’s worse at spots without them.

Pennant Hills Road is often a long hard slog, while north shore drivers get stranded on Military Road, and inner-city commuters are advised to avoid King Street in Newtown.

“Speeds on some of Sydney’s major roads [are] comparable to what people expect to go through school zones in,” Shadow Roads Minister Ryan Park said.

It’s also the problem with Sydney’s most unpopular, Parramatta Road, where the average peak speed can be as low as 19 kilometres an hour.

The 7News/McKell Institute survey says Parramatta Road is the worst, followed by King Street, Miltary Road, Pennant Hills and Cleveland Street.

“It’s not just residents in Sydney’s west, we actually saw that residents in the city and eastern suburbs were extremely frustrated with Parramatta Road,” McKell Institute spokesman Peter Bentley said.

Rounding out the top ten was the Pacific Highway, the M5, M2, Princes Highway and M4.

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NIMBYs are the haves who want the whole hog: Sydney Morning Herald

Commentary by Executive Director Peter Bentley

We don’t have enough homes in Sydney and the problem is tearing huge holes in our city’s economic and social fabric.

Between 2006 and 2011 the population of Sydney rose by 6.5 per cent and homelessness increased by more than 31 per cent.

In the same period, the number of people living in overcrowded homes, defined as three bedrooms short of what would be required to adequately house people, rose by 56 per cent.

These are people considered at risk of becoming homeless.

That risk was driven home by Anglicare’s recent Rental Affordability Snapshot report, which found that couples on the minimum wage could afford only 0.02 per cent of rental homes in Sydney.

The underlying causes of this worrying trend are basic supply and demand. In the past five years, an average of 14,000 new homes a year were built in Sydney, compared with an average of 21,000 in the preceding five years, and 28,000 in the five years before that.

Why are we failing so badly to balance supply with demand? We can point the finger at the disproportionate power of the not-in-my-backyard brigade, the nimbys.

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McKell Quarterly Homes Monitor: October to December 2012

Sydney steadily improving housing completions but more work to do

The McKell Institute’s Quarterly Homes Monitor shows that despite a decrease in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the previous quarter, Sydney continued a trend of increased housing completions in 2012 completing 17,827 new homes compared to less than 15,000 in 2011.

Many of Sydney’s regions increased their delivery during the fourth quarter, but the city was held back by significant decreases in North West Sydney (-37.4%), the Inner North (-47.1%), North East Sydney (-53.3%) and Sydney’s CBD (-69.3%) against their dwellings targets.

Dwelling delivery for the last quarter of 2012 was above average, although still falling short of the overall Sydney 2036 Metropolitan Strategy target of 5,825 dwellings by some 685 new homes.

New homes completed during the period 1 October through to 31 December 2012 were down 7.5% on the previous quarter.

“The slump in housing delivery has been impacting negatively on housing affordability in Sydney for a decade,” said the McKell Institute’s Executive Director, Peter Bentley.

Click here to read the Fourth Quarterly Monitor

Click here to access previous Quarterly Monitors

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Benefits of longer working hours is just a myth

Executive Director Peter Bentley in The Daily Telegraph

If you thought the most painful cultural phenomenon we could import from South Korea was an equine-themed dance craze, think again. Gangnam ain’t got nothing on “gwarosa”.

Gwarosa can be translated as “death from overwork”. It’s an officially recognised phenomenon in Korea where, in recent decades, people have been suffering from overwork-induced heart attacks, strokes and mental illness.

The condition is not figurative. Medical research shows that overwork leads to a sustained build-up of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases the likelihood of cardiac disease, sleep problems and depression. Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

Yet in Australia we are being constantly pushed to work longer. Across the nation, business lobby groups are hustling for longer working hours, less overtime, and more weekend work.

Click here to read the full article in The Daily Telegraph

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The UMR-McKell Institute Sydney Confidence Monitor

The UMR-McKell Institute Sydney Confidence Monitor tracks the attitudes and concerns of Sydney residents.

The Confidence Monitor analyses the differences between Sydney’s regions and demographics in their attitudes and priorities on a range of issues.

Click below for exclusive coverage of the Sydney Confidence Monitor from Channel 7 News.

Click here for more information on the leading concerns of NSW Households

Click here for more information on the happiness of Sydney’s regions

Click here for a summary of the Monitor in The Australian

Click here for a further information on the Monitor in The Daily Telegraph

Media Releases

Sydney’s shifting faith revealed in new research

Sydney significantly less happy than the rest of NSW

It’s official: Electricity costs dwarf all other concerns in Sydney

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Address by the NSW Minister for Ageing and Disability Services, the Hon Andrew Constance MP

The Hon Andrew Constance MP, New South Wales Minister for Ageing and Disability Services, recently delivered an informative and insightful address to a McKell Institute luncheon hosted by Sparke Helmore Lawyers.

Minister Constance spoke about the the importance of reform across ageing and disability services and outlined the various initiatives currently being rolled out by the NSW State Government.

The Minister also outlined how the NSW Government was rolling out its trial of the National Disability Insurance Scheme while providing insights into how the scheme will compliment existing state based programs.

The speech was followed by a question and answer session.

Click here to watch the speech at our YouTube Channel

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Innovation key to productivity: study


Boosting management skills and the pace of innovation are more important factors in kick-starting productivity growth than labour market deregulation, a study by the University of Technology Sydney and the McKell Institute has found.

Roy Green, Phillip Toner and Renu Agarwal argue that structural change and labour market deregulation since the 1990s has shifted jobs to low productivity parts of the economy.

“This means that structural change has detracted from, rather than enhanced labour productivity growth,” the authors have said in the report, to be released today.

“There are good grounds to question the assertion that labour market deregulation was behind the surge in productivity over the 1990s,” they have said.

Professor Green, the dean of business at UTS, and his fellow researchers could find no theoretical or empirical basis to show that further deregulation of the labour market would lead to a surge in productivity.

Click here to read the full article from the AFR

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Australia’s choice: The high road to productivity or a race to the bottom


It is not easy to devise a solution to Australia’s productivity slowdown when a shared understanding of the problem is so elusive.

While there is recognition among policy-makers that productivity is a key driver of growth, competitiveness and living standards, there is much less agreement on the sources and measurement of productivity performance, and consequently on the policies that may contribute to a sustainable improvement in performance.

The need for such improvement has been sharpened and made more urgent by two separate but related problems that have recently received considerable public attention. The first problem is the impending fall in Australia’s terms of trade from the heights reached during the commodity boom.

The unprecedented rise in our terms of trade as a result of increased commodity prices delivered a massive boost to the growth in our national income in the early 2000s, helped to shield Australia from the worst of the global financial crisis and made our economy the envy of the world. However, it masked a second problem which is the underlying deterioration of Australia’s productivity performance since the 1990s.

Click here to read the full article at The Conversation

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Australia’s productivity problem not that bad – McKell report


A new report commissioned by the McKell Institute says Australia’s productivity problems are not as bad as many people would think and are largely due to one-off factors.

The report also argues businesses and policy-makers are looking in the wrong areas to find productivity improvements.

Business reporter Michael Janda has more.

Click here to read the full transcript or to download audio

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New South Wales Infrastructure Address by the Hon Nick Greiner AC, Chairman of Infrastructure NSW

The Hon Nick Greiner AC, Chairman of Infrastructure NSW, delivered his first major address since launching the 20 year State Infrastructure Strategy at the McKell Institute on Thursday 11th October, kindly hosted by KPMG.

Mr Greiner spoke about public transport, social housing, road and rail infrastructure, a second Sydney airport and sustainable jobs growth.

Click here to read the article in the SMH

Click here for read the article in the Daily Telegraph

Click here to read the article in the The Australian

Click here to read the article in the Australian Financial Review

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Building shortfall hits home in Sydney: AFR

MICHAELA WHITBOURN – 17 September 2012

A generation of aspiring Sydney home owners will be locked out of the market unless the city more than doubles the number of houses and apartments built each year, according to new figures that also show Melbourne is surging ahead in new housing.

A quarterly homes monitor, to be launched today by the Labor-linked research group McKell Institute, reveals Sydney is falling well short of any target for averting a long-term crisis in housing affordability.

There were 3017 homes built in Sydney in the first quarter of the year, or 48 per cent below the target of 5825 dwellings a quarter set by the former NSW Labor government in its metropolitan plan to 2036.

Click here to read the full article

Click here to read the latest McKell Quarterly Homes Monitor

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What makes us tick?: Hugh Mackay

Presentation to the McKell Institute – 30 July 2012

On Monday 30th July, best selling author Hugh Mackay, delivered a speech to a McKell Institute event on his latest book – What Makes Us Tick.

Hugh Mackay is a psychologist, social researcher and novelist. He is the author of thirteen books, six of which were best sellers including the widely read Advance Australia….Where?

In his latest book, Hugh Mackay asks readers to hold a mirror up to themselves and to engage in a journey of introspection.

Why do we talk as if we’re rational, but act as if we’re not? Why do some people always want to take control? What is the true role of religion? Why do we seek change, yet resist it? Why do we want more of the things that have failed to satisfy us? Why are we so passionate about sport? Why do we fall out of love?

In What Makes Us Tick?, Hugh Mackay reflects on some of the ten desires that drive us all and how these desires have remained persistent throughout time.

In a highly entertaining speech, Hugh Mackay provided a short summary of some of the key themes from this book, putting on display his formidable skills as a chronicler and interpreter of our motivations while treating his audience to an exploration of why we do the things we do.

For those who were unable to attend the McKell event, a copy of the video has been posted for your enjoyment below.

Hugh has been awarded honorary doctorates by Charles Sturt, Macquarie, NSW and Western Sydney universities. In 2004, he received the University of Sydney’s alumni award for community service.

Hugh is an honorary professor of social science at the University of Wollongong, a former deputy chairman of the Australia Council, a former chairman of trustees of Sydney Grammar School, and was the inaugural chairman of the ACT Government’s Community Inclusion Board. He has been a newspaper columnist for over 25 years, and is a frequent guest on ABC radio.

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Great Reforms Endure: Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Speech to The McKell Institute – Wednesday 04 July 2012

On Wednesday 4th July, The Prime Minister, The Hon Julia Gillard MP, delivered a landmark address to the McKell Institute on public policy reform and carbon pricing.

In her speech, Great Reforms Endure, the Prime Minister recalled the great reforms of Bill McKell and spoke of the importance of pricing carbon, both to cut pollution and to strengthen our economy.

She pointed out that by next year, pricing carbon will be part of the “lived experience” of more than 860 million people worldwide, including more than 500 million Europeans, more than 200 million Chinese, and starting this week, more than 20 million Australians.

She reminded the audience that when Chifley was putting the Snowy bills through Parliament, the then Opposition Leader Menzies quibbled and wavered and found excuses to raise questions.

“He was too sophisticated a figure for an aggressively negative campaign of the kind we see from the modern Liberal Party – but my conclusion from the record is that had Menzies been Prime Minister by then, he would have proposed a very different Snowy Scheme, if he’d proposed one at all” Prime Minister Gillard said.

A more recent example cited by the Prime Minister was the passage of the Native Title Act.

She told audience members that it wasn’t at all surprising that when the current Liberal Leader spoke on the 20th anniversary of the High Court’s Mabo Decision just last month, what he said in essence was that the “opponents of the Native Title Act had been proven wrong, including, presumably, the handful of his own MPs still in the House who said, “no” when that great reform came to a vote in 1993 and none of them will say they would vote against it today”.

You can read the Prime Minister’s speech by clicking below.

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The myths keep us from improving productivity: Peter Bentley

Opinion piece in ABC The Drum Online – 30 July 2012

Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman was right: productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it’s almost everything.

Whether Australia is able to keep its run of ‘luck’ going into the Asian century will indeed turn on whether or not we can improve our productivity, which has now been languishing for well over a decade.

To give ourselves a decent shot, however, we need to be clear-sighted about what productivity is for and how it can be achieved. Unfortunately, our policy debate in this department currently leaves a fair bit to be desired.

The two great myths of productivity currently impede us. We simply cannot afford for them to dominate the discussion any longer.

The first great myth is that ‘productivity’ is an end in itself, instead of merely a means.

As a nation, we have made mistakes similar to this one before. For a long time, privatisation, for example, was viewed by many as an inherent good or evil, whereas most now accept its value should be judged on the ends it achieves. A similar rule applies to military action, budget surpluses and reality television.

Likewise, productivity is not – and I feel strangely heretical even writing this – an inherent good.

We pursue productivity so we can produce more, more efficiently. We do that so we can grow our economy. We do that so we can generate more jobs, higher profits and stronger wages. Only then do we finally reach our end – improving the standard of living.

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Terrace tactics in war on ‘inner-city NIMBYs’: Australian Financial Review

Dozens of Sydney suburbs boasting big blocks of land and sprawling backyards could be earmarked for a new wave of terrace housing to address the city’s chronic housing shortage.

Sydney’s inner and middle-ring suburbs, 10 to 20 kilometres from the CBD, are “ripe for a terrace revolution”, the institute says in a submission to the Coalition’s planning process for a 20-year strategy for the city.

Pymble, in Premier Barry O’Farrell’s leafy northern electorate of Ku-ring-gai, the beachside suburbs of Bronte and Bondi in the east, and ­Kogarah in the south, are among more than 40 suburbs identified as well-suited to a terrace revival.

“Whether it is North Shore residents in Ku-ring-gai opposing new housing along their railway corridor or inner west residents in Balmain seeking to stop 300 new homes .?.?. the battle cry of ‘not in my backyard’ can be heard echoing throughout Sydney’s town halls, community centres and local cafes,” the submission says.

The institute’s executive director, Peter Bentley, said an “entire generation” would be frozen out of the property market unless the opposition to infill development was overcome and terraces, townhouses and medium-density flat developments took over.

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Suburban future is on the straight and narrow: Op-ed in The Daily Telegraph

ONE of the great ironies of modern Sydney is that its most liveable and sustainable suburbs are the ones designed over a century ago. The main reason? Terrace houses – 12 June 2012

Victorian and Federation housing was the mainstay of Sydney suburbs until World War II. It is characterised by small lots, attached housing, and street frontage. Because it was designed before the advent of the car, it was pedestrian focused and close to transport. It is less land hungry than later housing models, but provides a form of higher density living far more desirable than badly designed apartments.

Real estate agents know it – Sydneysiders love terraces. So why do they appear reserved for the inner city? Why is it that most of greater Sydney misses out?

We examined this very question as part of the McKell Institute’s “Homes For All” report. If terraces are so valued and prized, why aren’t developers building more of them?

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The NBN’s untapped telework potential: Technology Spectator

The NBN rollout across Australia will make teleworking possible for more people and improve the experience for those who already telework.

Telework, also known as telecommuting, involves staff using telecommunications technologies to regularly work some or all of the time from a home office or other location that isn’t their employer’s office.

Claimed benefits of teleworking include improved productivity, infrastructure cost savings, improved ability for an organisation to attract and retain staff, cost savings in time and travel, higher employee satisfaction and better work/life balance.

However improving telecommunications technology and holding a National Telework Week during 12–16 November 2012 to create awareness are not silver bullets that will of themselves result in a large increase in the percentage of the workforce which has telework arrangements to at least 12 per cent by 2020, as per the Australian government’s national digital economy strategy goal.

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Why progressivity of the Australian tax system must be increased: Dr Maheswaran Sridiran

Income inequality in Australia must be moderated.

That is because income inequality causes a number of social ill effects and undermines political democracy. The reasons for moderating income inequality, which are very compelling reasons, are, accordingly, social and political, not necessarily reasons founded on economics.

A principal way for moderating income inequality is for increasing the progressivity of the income tax: that is, those with high incomes must be required to pay income tax at a much higher rate than they currently do.

It is common to argue that such a policy would impede economic efficiency. In other words, some argue that such a policy will distort the decisions made by those who make up the Australian economy as to how they work, invest, and save. Such an argument may have some substance, but it is not an argument that can prevail. It cannot prevail because the reasons for moderating income inequality are dictated by societal wellbeing and political democracy, reasons which are not subordinate to economic policy.

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Failing to plan is planning to fail: Why Australia needs to get back into the game of picking winners

National Secretary of the Australian Workers Union & Mckell Institute Director Paul Howes’ address to the National Press Gallery – 22 May 2012

It feels as though in Australia today no-one is interested in talking about the big challenges. No-one wants to roll up their sleeves up and get on with the job.

Fighting for what you believe in is no longer interesting in modern politics. The national conversation has become dominated by vacuous drivel about particular phrases, styles and presentation. It’s like an inane feedback loop that builds to a conspiracy of mediocrity between our political class and the commentariat – a crime that I am as guilty of as anyone.

In this current political environment, it’s easy to forget where you’ve come from, and to lose sight of where you’re going. This navel-gazing suits the conservatives. It makes it easier for them to chip away at the foundation stones of our egalitarian society. It makes it easier for billionaires and mega corporations to plunder our public resources without giving anything back. It makes it easier to defeat the ideals that the labour movement stands for.

The time to fight back is now.

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What Do We Eat After the Low-Hanging Fruit? A Brief Economic History of Australia, With Some Lessons for the Future

Federal MP for Fraser & Former Professor of Economics Andrew Leigh’s PWC Luncheon address to the McKell Institute – 18 May 2012

In the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of South America, sit the Galapagos Islands. Although they straddle the equator, the pattern of ocean currents have a cooling effect, making them an ideal breeding ground for tortoises, iguanas, penguins, finches, albatrosses, gulls, and pelicans.

Because the islands are volcanic, what’s striking about animal life on the Galapagos Islands is that all of it came originally by flying or floating nearly 1000 kilometres from Ecuador. And yet for the species that survived, life on the Galapagos Islands was perfect. Migrating birds lucky enough to be blown off course found an environment with few natural predators. Tortoises that floated here found beaches perfectly suited to their breeding environments. Life flourished.

Looking back across Australian economic history, I am often struck by the extent to which luck has similarly played a part in our success. Politicians are sometimes reluctant to talk about luck – preferring to focus on the things we can control than those we can’t. It is true that ‘chance favours the prepared mind’. But I think it’s still worth talking about the role that luck has played, if only to help understand what preparations we should be making. If we don’t do that, we’re like the Galapagos tortoise, which must have thought itself the luckiest species on earth, until British sailors discovered the islands in the late-eighteenth century, and ate them in their thousands.

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Ending the conspiracy of silence on housing: McKell Media

A provocative report released by the McKell Institute has called for root and branch reform to both the planning system together with the tax and investment policies that are making home ownership a distant dream for anyone under the age of 35.

Homes For All is an action plan to fix the housing crisis that was released to coincide with the recent launch of the McKell Institute, a new public policy institute dedicated to developing practical policy ideas and contributing to public debate.

“Key to understanding this problem is recognising that we are all complicit in the lack of housing supply.The crisis is systemic. There needs to be a campaign for more and better housing. It starts here,” report author, Dr Tim Williams said.

Click here to read the press release

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Austerity virtue can soon become a vice: McKell Institute op-ed in the Newcastle Herald

Cutbacks need to be balanced with jobs growth writes McKell Institute Director Peter Bentley

AS the economic and political nerds among us prepare to crowd around the television to watch Treasurer Wayne Swan deliver his fifth budget, we should spare a thought for his counterparts in the northern hemisphere.

Dogged by anaemic growth, precarious budgets and, of course, lacking the benefits of a mining boom, finance ministers across the North Atlantic have had a torrid time trying to rein in budget deficits and convince their constituents to take some bitter medicine.

Indeed, in Europe, a continent wide swing is now on against the policies that have become associated with austerity

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Terrace housing could be the answer to shortfall: SMH

The terrace house is a distinctive architectural feature of Sydney and is highly prized by buyers.

Yet government planning regulations have all but wiped out the potential for creating new terrace developments, according to a report recently released, which has called for the resurrection of the beloved property style.

The report, Homes for All, was prepared by the newly formed left-wing think tank the McKell Institute and argues that terrace housing is the ideal way to ”infill” middle-ring Sydney suburbs – those that are still dominated by the freestanding home on a quarter-acre block – thereby significantly increasing the density of these suburbs without alarming the locals.

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Gridlocked commuters look for the exit signs: Daily Telegraph

Recent research by the McKell Institute revealed that one in four Sydney residents would rather live in another state.

When it takes 99 minutes to travel the 25km between the city’s two major centres, it’s not tough to understand why.

Sydney residents have been travelling from the city to Parramatta for well over two centuries and during that time tough decisions have had to be taken when it comes to upgrading the route to meet changing needs.

In fact, to pay for one of the first major upgrades to the road in the early 1800s, Governor Macquarie saw fit to put a levy on spirits – a move of bold leadership in Australian politics if ever there was one. Such decisive leadership is desperately needed now.

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Why income inequality must be moderated: Dr Maheswaran Sridiran

The predominant economic model practised in the world today is free-market capitalism. It is the economic model which has, in all human history, resulted in the creation of the greatest wealth. It therefore has its merits.

Chief among them is its propensity to impel human initiative in pursuit of material gain for one’s self, a cogent incentive indeed. It rewards, however, only those who are able enough to compete, and prevail. Those who can, amass riches. Those who cannot, that is, those who are too weak to compete and prevail, fail, and can fail hopelessly.

Click here to read the full essay


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A look inside the state of mind of NSW Residents: The Sunday Telegraph

Families in NSW are worried about their mortgages, job security and ever-increasing power bills.

But despite the growing pressures on household budgets, most are happy with their lifestyle and the quality of schools and access to GPs.

NSW is also considered to be a great sporting state and exciting tourist destination with favourable weather. The snapshot of attitudes is contained in one of the most comprehensive surveys conducted by the Labor Party’s new think tank, the McKell Institute, as it studies the issues that matter to voters to help it formulate policy.

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Trading on Boxing Day belts small retailers: McKell Institute op-ed in the Newcastle Herald

A 365-day retail model will not boost the economy, writes McKell Institute Executive Director Peter Bentley

Spare a thought for the 365,000 people in NSW employed in the retail sector, because this Easter may be their last spent with family and friends.

After the state government’s decision to cut Boxing Day off the already short limited-trading list, the remaining bottles on the wall are Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Anzac Day morning. Of course, even these limited trading days have significant exemptions, including for small shop retailers.

The fact remains that for those employed in retail, these three-and a-half days are the only guaranteed occasions they have to spend with family and friends who also have time off.

But although cutting the limited trading list may be bad for the 10 per cent of the state’s work force employed in retail – what about the rest of us? How strong is the case for opening every day of the year in NSW?

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Minister for Infrastructure addresses The McKell Institute

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

History shows us the power of vision, backed by analysis, in winning the battle of ideas. Indeed the Australia nation — particularly New South Wales — is founded on just this.

In the early 19th century we saw that great visionary, Lachlan Macquarie, appoint deserving freed convicts to positions of responsibility, despite fierce opposition from both England and free settlers.

Later, it was two New South Welshmen who helped change Australia forever, when Sir Henry Parkes and Sir Edmund Barton promoted a vision of uniting our country under a federation. And it was the Premier of New South Wales, William McKell, who worked with the great Labor Prime Minister, Ben Chifley to promote the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electricity Scheme. This enormous undertaking was so opposed by the then Opposition leader Robert Menzies that he boycotted its opening. Yet it has created a legacy of sustainable infrastructure that is unsurpassed to this day.

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Housing outlook remains grim for the forgotten people: Jessica Irvine in the Sydney Morning Herald

What if we had a housing affordability crisis and nobody cared?

In 2007, federal Labor under Kevin Rudd swept to power in part by tapping into a deep vein of community concern about home affordability. Variable mortgage interest rates had hit an eye-wateringly high 9.5 per cent, while house prices – outside Sydney at least – continued their inexorable rise.

A lot has changed since the global financial crisis hit Australian shores in late 2008. For the third of households who own property outright, the news has been good – homes have largely retained their value. For the third of households paying off a home loan, the news has been similarly positive – mortgage interest payments have fallen dramatically.

But for the forgotten third – renters or those looking to buy – the outlook remains grim. Once the mortgage belt’s demand for lower interest rates was satisfied, concern about high prices for first-time buyers evaporated. House prices may have plateaued, but a new generation of young people still cannot, and may never, afford to buy their own home.

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NSW residents dreaming of Queensland: ABC News

A survey has found one in four NSW residents would prefer to live in another state because of cost of living pressures, bad traffic and long working hours.

The McKell Institute study surveyed 1,000 people and found more than half of the respondents faced rental or mortgage pressures, but stayed put because of ties to family and friends.

Queensland was the most popular choice as an alternative home because of its climate, relaxed lifestyle, job opportunities and perceived lower living costs.

The Institute’s executive director Peter Bentley says there is a link between people wanting to move and the quality of infrastructure and services.

“In addition to working longer hours, a staggering 66 per cent of NSW workers drive to work with only one in five using public transport,” he said.

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Defend the minimum wage and dignity for workers: Peter Bentley in The Punch

Is there something getting into the water at conservative fundraisers?

In the past week we have been treated to leading Liberal-National donor and supporter Clive Palmer accusing the CIA of bankrolling the Rockefeller Foundation to donate to Greenpeace’s legal challenges against his coal mining operations.

Just days later, apparently sensing that “crazy” is the new black, former Federal Liberal MP Ross Cameron waded back into the public debate, to label the minimum wage as a “virus” designed and cultivated to keep people out of work.

However, although it’s easy to giggle at Messrs Palmer and Cameron the fact remains that these are leading figures on the Australian Right, and if we allow the crazy to go unanswered we risk it gaining momentum.

So, let us take Cameron’s conspiracy theory as a starting point and go to the origins of a minimum wage.

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