Impossible to solve unless, you know, we actually gave a damn about it

While people are whinging about paying a tiny levy to help people they were pretending to care about just a fortnight ago, the housing crisis gets worse:

THE scale of Victoria’s public housing crisis is revealed in government figures that show disadvantaged people are waiting up to 18 years before they are given a home.

With more than 41,000 people waiting for housing, the figures show the longest waiting time of an applicant allocated public housing last financial year was 226 months – 18 years and 10 months – in Melbourne’s southern suburbs. The average waiting time for those allocated public housing in that region was almost four years.

Other long-suffering people who were allocated housing in 2009-10 include one applicant who waited 199.6 months – more than 16½ years – in south-western Victoria, where the average waiting time was 20 months. In Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, the longest wait was 184.7 months – more than 15 years – and the average wait was just over two years.
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Even those classified as ”priority” cases because they have more urgent housing needs are waiting several years.

The new government’s response is to promise to blame any delay in fixing this on the previous government, and suggest putting people in non-preferred areas (ie away from families and support networks) if a house doesn’t open up near where they’re seeking to live. As if the problem is picky tenants rather than the complete shortfall in public housing infrastructure.

Of course, if you can blame the homeless for their plight, then that alleviates any sense of guilt or responsibility we might feel regarding our failure to assist them, so that’s the angle some commenters to the story have been taking:

After living in Victoria for 15 years, I know that a lot of people waiting for public housing will not accept a house if it is not in the street that they requested. It’s time for these people to accept whats given to them instead of complaining all of the time. If you want a hand out, accept what is offered instead of waiting for what you want.
daaron | qld – January 31, 2011, 7:21AM

Ooh! A vague anecdote! Of course, Daaron, if someone was refusing a house then it would be available for someone else, thereby reducing the waiting list – the problem is a lack of houses, not picky applicants.

Other commenters are similarly determined to find some way to blame the homeless:

Surely 10-18 years is ample time for someone to try and make an effort with their life and turn it around? Maybe some of this money being allocated to this sector could be used to hire a few motivational coaches as it seems many of these people psychologically cannot get themselves out of this rut they’re in.
Mum of many | Melbourne – January 31, 2011, 7:24AM

Of course! Life coaches so they can be better motivated to seek the non-existent jobs!

Roy’s mate is getting bitter the longer they’re off air:

Lets see, we have public housing being used by people selling drugs yet the decision to evict them is overturned. We have public housing being used by people with incomes well over the state average, and yet they are not evicted. Face it, if you had a subsidised house in the middle of Prahran or other inner city suburb wouldn’t you want to stay there? How much do the rates etc for these areas cost the public? and isn’t it time the rules were closely examined.
H.G | Melbourne – January 31, 2011, 6:39AM

As is Lee:

The Department does not manage their properties and does not check who is living in their homes after the first few months, so they are all sub let or used, like my neighbours flat, to deal drugs from and have ultra loud parties day and night at
lee | melbourne – January 31, 2011, 8:47AM

Poor people sell drugs from their housing commission flats? We should kick them out and make them sell drugs from street corners instead!

If we make them live on the streets, they’re bound to turn away from crime.

And check out this ludicrous “asylum seekers in detention have it easy” line:

Don’t wait 18 years…Get to Darwin, rent a fishing boat and head north. Make a quick phone call and wait for the navy to arrive. It’s just that easy.
zac48 | Melb. – January 31, 2011, 8:07AM

Come on, Department of Immigration. I know Zac’s probably an Australian citizen, but he so desperately wants to be treated like an asylum seeker. Are you sure you can’t stretch the rules, just this once?

Just because Australia’s a first world country, there’s no reason why we should feel to compelled house the homeless and their children. If they can’t find somewhere to live in this massively inflated housing market where prices are through the roof and rents increasingly absurd, if they can’t start companies of their own to provide themselves with job opportunities that presently don’t exist, then it’s not our problem. We can always look the other way when we see them begging in the street, and ask the police to lock them up for us.

In completely unrelated news, who’s up for a whinge about crime rates?

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66 responses to “Impossible to solve unless, you know, we actually gave a damn about it

  1. OK – I’m not going to be popular for this observation – but why should the government spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying houses in afflent and desireable urban areas in order to subsidise people who otherwise couldn’t afford to live in those areas?

    I am 100% behind the notion that all Australians should be assisted to maintain a roof over their heads (i.e. there should be a minimum standard of living maintained for all as a basic right), but I fail to see why those availing themselves of this assistance should be able to dictate where they live.

    If I work my arse off, save up and buy a house in Bondi but then fall on hard times such that I am forced to sell, why should I be able to then insist that the government buy me another house in Bondi?

    Is this like Seinfeld’s argument that once you’ve travelled in first class it’s not fair to ask you to move to economy because now you know what you’re missing?

  2. I think that’s a distraction – the issue is that there’s not enough housing stock full stop, not where it’s located.

    If there’s excess housing available at which applicants are turning their noses up – where is it? How long’s it been empty?

  3. Mondo, that’s not what people are asking for. They only want a house in an area that isn’t prone to constant violence, crime and harassment. I think that’s reasonable. The old public housing ghettoes were a tragic mistake, and governments have done very little since then to put that right. Nobody should be asked, let alone compelled, to live in a street where loud fights, sometimes involving weapons, go on every single night. We have one such street in my town and it’s no joke.

  4. As much as i agree with you about the main issue being supply, there is equally probably an issue with distribution.

    If public housing is all clumped together you are inevitably going to get slums, (UK housing estates, US “projects”) most people won’t want to live there, and who can blame them?

    Build more public housing, yeah. But it needs to be spread evenly through the community so you don’t end up with these sort of government mandated areas of concentrated disadvantage

  5. Couldn’t agree more Bloods.

    When i went back to school in ’04 my partner and i used to live in a really dodgy area of Adelaide, all we could afford. Gun shots going off in the distance (regular enough we used to jokingly call it the Friday night fire fight), regular brawls and knifings at the shopping centre, massive unemployment, most of it multi generational.

    As a fit bloke in my 20’s it was ok. But the idea of a single mother or old age pensioner living in this sort of place is not a pleasant one.

  6. I agree with that. It’s entirely counterproductive to shove all the public housing together – much more constructive to spread it out fairly evenly around population areas.

  7. jordanrastrick

    Public housing:

    1) Should not be concentrated into large areas. This really is a no-brainer nowdays with all the empirical evidence of how bad a policy failure this is.

    2) Equally, simply shouldn’t be located in extremely high value suburbs. Its a waste of capital to have an apartment block in a very rich suburb tying up funds that could be used to house two or three times as many people in somewhere perfectly liveable.

    3) Needs to be located, above all else, close to good public transport infrastructure. For most public housing tenants, easy access to regular bus or train services is the most critical thing, because it facilitates access to everything else – employment, healthcare, etc. A minority are not in a position to make use of public transport, but arguably they all need a more holistic answer than straight housing alone anyway – e.g. assisted living.

    4) Further to the above, requires a more flexible model than just “lifetime access to anyone who qualifies once you happen to get to the front of the (years long) queue”, which sadly isn’t far from what we still tend to employ.

    5) Would be a much easier issue to address if we dealt with the undersupply of housing more generally.

  8. I think that’s a distraction – the issue is that there’s not enough housing stock full stop, not where it’s located.

    Not true Lefty – and representative of the deceit at the heart of the article that you’ve quoted.

    The people waiting 226 months for public housing are not living on the street in the meantime, they are living in public housing that they consider sub-optimal. They are waiting to be moved into housing that they consider more acceptable to them and their family.

    When they quote an average waiting time of 4 years that doesn’t mean that families remain homeless for four years – it just means that they are living in ‘temporary’ accommodation for that period. Probably a council flat or other such place. It’s why the wating times in the more desireable areas are so much longer than in the non-desirable ones.

    I don’t disagree that more needs to be done to create a larger base-stock of better public housing, nor do I disagree that public housing ghettos are something to be avioded, but at the same time I don’t accept that the Government’s role is to purchase private homes in all areas so that the poor can elect to live where they want to (waiting times aside).

    There is no reason for the NSW Government to own a single house in Bondi given that the profit that could be derived from selling it would fund three houses in Campbelltown (sorry to use a NSW example but that’s the only market I know).

  9. I agree with that. It’s entirely counterproductive to shove all the public housing together – much more constructive to spread it out fairly evenly around population areas.

    I agree, too.

    The problem is that the baby-boomer home-owners who are sitting on veritable fortunes don’t want that because it would—apparently, since most people seem to think the poor are all druggos and gangsters—bring down the prices of their McMansions.

    Nobody wants to live near public housing, and owners don’t want their property values to go down. Since the last thing politicians want is to bleed votes, they put the whole issue aside, sit on their hands, and play the blame game.

    I don’t know the answer, but it’s not doing nothing. I also agree somewhat with Mondo in that just because somebody prefers an area doesn’t afford them the right to live there, especially on the government (read: tax-payer) purse. It might not be a widespread problem, but it also does nobody any good to ignore it if the money could be better spent on more housing elsewhere.

  10. “… I don’t accept that the Government’s role is to purchase private homes in all areas so that the poor can elect to live where they want to …”

    Did anyone advocate that, Mondo?

  11. Not explicitly Bloods, but that is the implicit position taken by the article and, by extention, Jeremy.

    Given that waiting times are portrayed as unacceptably long (particularly in the southern and eastern suburbs) and that the solution being proposed is to increase the supply of housing, what exactly do you think is being advocated here?

    I maintain that it’s not unreasonable to say to people “if you need the government to provide housing for you then you’ll have to go where we tell you to go.”

  12. BTW Lefty is it possible to take me off moderation or are your hands tied by the wonderful wordpress?

  13. Sorry, Mondo, I don’t know why it’s doing that to you. I have some obvious words in the automatically-moderate filter, but not your name, so I’m damned if I know why it lets some comments through automatically but not yours.

    Stupid WordPress.

    As for the topic – do you have any basis for suggesting that the long wait times are because of particularly picky tenants, or are you just speculating?

  14. I am, admittedly, speculating.

    However logic dictates that if there are differing wait times in different areas then applicants must be able to specify where they want to go (and by implication reject attempts to settle them elsewhere).

  15. jordanrastrick

    You don’t really have to speculate when you have google. The victorian department of housing explains the basis of wait times here:

    http://www.housing.vic.gov.au/applying-for-housing/waiting-times

    One of the reasons they give is the category of applicant you fall under: Early housing, i.e. Priority cases due to risk of homelessness, disability etc. Everyone else is low income.

    The other three reasons pertain to the type or location of accommodation sought. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine any other basis the government could possibly employ for differing wait times other than need (your category) and availability (everything else.)

    So a 16 year queuing time in a system with an average of 3 years is almost certainly someone in the latter category waiting on a very high demand placement, i.e. an expensive type of housing, an expensive area, or most likely both.

  16. It use to be that the Housing Department built units at various locations and offered those at the top of the waiting list a choice of what was available. They attempted to keep people somewhere near the neighbourhood they were familiar with.

    At that time those eligible for government housing could not stipulate a specific suburb. I find it hard to believe that is now the case.

  17. So a 16 year queuing time in a system with an average of 3 years is almost certainly someone in the latter category waiting on a very high demand placement, i.e. an expensive type of housing, an expensive area, or most likely both.

    This seems like an utterly reasonable conclusion to me.

    I mean if I had lived in a nice area my whole life but then fell on hard times it would absolutely kill me to have to leave it for a less attractive and unfamiliar place. It would suck balls, no doubt.

    But that’s life, right? Stuff happens and I can’t see how it’s the government’s responsibility to assist me to maintain this particular element of my former lifestyle.

    Mind you if they moved me to a ghetto full of crime and violence I’d have an issue – but that issue would have more to do with the government tolerating the existence of an area filled with crime and violence.

  18. Well, if you shove all the unemployed and impoverished people together in a ghetto, that’s the unavoidable outcome.

    We should definitely be spreading the housing out around the cities – so the unemployed are near jobs, that they’re near the employed, that the children have access to the same schools as other kids – it is critical not to concentrate disadvantage in an area, if you don’t want it to become thoroughly entrenched, generation to generation.

  19. The real issue is that the shitty places that people want to get out of are seriously shitty, and no-one should be expected to live there at all unless they’re complete cockheads and choose to do so. No-one is asking for public housing to be located in Bondi or Toorak but it is unreasonable to force people to live in places where their neighbours are drunk and noisy every night, where kids of 10 are out on the street at 2 am, where knifings and shootings and fistfights are going on every night of the week.

  20. Please don’t think that I’m in any way defending the parlous state of public housing. I’m not. It’s inexcusable.

    However, as a matter of interest, where do you think the enormous expenditure necessary to correct the situation should be sourced?

    Hospitals are crying out for cash. Our public transport is in need of a major cash input. Our public schools similarly. Our public dental service needs big bucks. Community services requires more money et al. Not to mention the funds required to repair the flood damage to our state.

    A levy maybe!

  21. jordanrastrick

    @autonomy1: According to the site I linked to, you cannot specify a given suburb, but you can specify a more general area/region, and also it would appear the type of housing is an issue – i.e. presumably it is easier to house e.g. a couple in an apartment than a 15 person family in a house. I did not look into details, partly because I am from NSW and therefore would be unfamiliar with the Victorian geography involved.

    @mondo: As I was alluding to above, people may have specific needs that alter the suitability of housing in a certain area. Putting someone in a wheelchair near a station that has no wheelchair access is an issue. Or you may move a person able to live semi-independently away from their social support network of family/friends, and ultimately cost the public purse more in increased cost of care than you save from cheaper rent.

    Nonetheless, your general point is a valid one.

    Arguably, the best approach for people who do not have specific requirements and are “merely” poor (obviously a hard distinction to make with certainty, but governments do so already) is simply to ensure general housing supply is decent and welfare is more adequate. Ghettoisation won’t tend to naturally happen with such an approach, because given a free choice of reasonably priced housing and enough income to cover the cost, most people won’t choose to live in areas with high rates of crime etc.

    @Jeremy: I don’t think its as important to put people physically close to jobs as temporally close to jobs. If I can cheaply commute in 30-60 minutes to work, it doesn’t matter how many kilometers I’m travelling.

    Schools are a bit trickier, precisely because public school catchments are so rigidly tied to geography. The system in this case tends to entrench the socio-economic divisions between different areas; this is a problem that applies much more general than to just public housing.

    @blood05: Some people in public housing have a major drug or alcohol addiction . Some have serious mental health problems, which in certain cases will lead to them disturbing the peace by being noisy at 2am etc.

    If these people are going to live anywhere, someone will have to be their neighbours. Concentrating all of these problems into a small area is a demonstrably bad idea, but equally spreading everyone out doesn’t make these issues go away altogether.

  22. jordanrastrick, the family member I knew who moved into public housing couldn’t just pick a region cos it had more (so-called) class. There had to be a compelling reason. Being closer to family and/or friends being the principal one.

    I just don’t believe someone living in ,say, Footscray could demand public housing in ,say, Brighton.

  23. jordanrastrick

    Oh you can’t be serious – WordPress just swallowed my entire comment?

    Arrrrrgh.

  24. Well, if you shove all the unemployed and impoverished people together in a ghetto, that’s the unavoidable outcome.

    Why is it unavoidable? With proper public and employment services, transport, community policing and the intelligent placement of nearby industry why can’t ‘halfway neighborhoods’ work as a tool of social policy?

    I obviously don’t have the answers – maybe it would be cheaper and more effective for the government to integrate the disadvantaged by simply purchasing more houses in desirable areas and earmarking them for public housing. Even with the obvious cost to government (and the surrounding residents).

    Still, it doesn’t sit that well with me.

  25. The thing is, there IS public housing in Toorak, and in Albert Park, and a whole swathe of other places. It’s important that these are preserved, on top of creating new public housing.

    In Melbourne, there are countless sites fairly close to the CBD, large enough for substantial residential development, that have lain idle for years and in some cases decades because of the vicious practice known as “land banking” perpetrated by corporate developers. It’s about time we apply the Napoleonic Code that states if you don’t use it, you lose it, and the state acquires it compulsorily for public housing.

  26. Mondo, I can already see the problems with trying to address it purely from a fiscal point of view, i.e. cheaper and therefore can create more if we put them in Campbelltown.

    If there’s one thing Campbelltown doesn’t need, it’s more houses. Adding to the social problems there will only cost more in terms of … what’s that word again? “Externalities”.

  27. Why is it important that public housing be maintained in Toorak?

  28. “Why is it important that public housing be maintained in Toorak?”

    Well, you spread the poor people out to avoid creating concentrations of crime, after all crime is a socio-economic issue, hence the poorer, scummier suburbs have more crime.

    Why wouldn’t you want public housing maintained in Toorak?

    “Why is it unavoidable? ”

    Because politicians make the rules, they only care about re-election, they need to pander to middle Australia to get re-elected ie they care less about the poor suburbs that are usually rusted on Labor areas anyway.

  29. “… equally spreading everyone out doesn’t make these issues go away altogether.”

    Nobody said it did, least of all me. Of course you need separate action to work on drug and alcohol issues and mental health problems, but you don’t use housing policy to make them worse.

  30. Why wouldn’t you want public housing maintained in Toorak?

    Because for the cost of maintaining a single house in Toorak, multiple houses of equivalent size could be purchased or built elsewhere, thus alleviating the reported public housing shortage.

    I think this a pretty strong argument, to be quite frank.

    Those other houses don’t have to be concentrated in one area, they could be spread out in order to avoid the ghetto effect, but it seems utterly insane to maintain public housing in Melbourne’s most expensive and affluent suburb.

  31. “. Of course you need separate action to work on drug and alcohol issues and mental health problems, ”

    Issues that politicians routinely stuff up. Look at the fuss the rightards make about the sensible *Greens approach to drugs. They’d rather keep the status quo which is an utter failure (punitive approach to drug users).

    Even the Greens watered down their policy on drugs for fear of losing votes, but hey, they’re politicians!

  32. “… but hey, they’re politicians!”

    Do you have an alternative, Rob?

  33. No… Depressing!

    But, do I have to have the answers before I criticise the status quo?

    My only solution is that people be less selfish and more considerate when they vote, it wont happen though.

  34. jordanrastrick

    @returnedman: Nothing short of full blow Georgism[1] will stop the rent seeking behaviours of developers such as land banking. Now personally I’m a big fan of Georgism but its a hard political sell.

    Likewise our planning system actively encourages rent seeking by neighbours. It is far harder than it should be build a medium or high density development in an Australian capital, in general. A good start would be if councils did not directly decide the outcome of development applications – they should set local policy, and all actual cases should be decided by a (specialised, efficient) kind of local court.

    “Why wouldn’t you want public housing maintained in Toorak?”

    Because it ties up massive amounts of capital, which carries a huge opportunity cost[2]. If you sold the property in Toorak, you could use the cash to house twice or thrice as many people in a variety of still-decent-but-less-exclusive suburbs. This does not entail ghettoisation.

    Put it this way. Would anyone here advocate that the government should be spending money buying places in Toorak for public housing? While it could arguably make sense to have a little to keep very high need cases originating in the area near their carers, this is a small subset of the general demand for public housing.

    If you think its silly to buy new housing in Toorak but perfectly reasonable to keep all that’s currently there, you are committing a variation of the sunk cost fallacy[3], presumably because of divestiture aversion[4]. People are and can afford to be economically irrational like this with day to day decisions, but governments can’t. Its too big a waste of taxpayer’s money.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgism
    [2]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost
    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunk_costs
    [3]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endowment_effect

    Sorry to provide ridiculous footnotes rather than direct links in the text but it really is a pain having to manually compose lots of html tags, especially when there’s apparently no validation on malformed tags and no chance to preview your post …. WordPress am teh suck for commenting.

  35. “it seems utterly insane to maintain public housing in Melbourne’s most expensive and affluent suburb.”

    It seems utterly insane that properties in Toorak (or anywhere in Melbourne) cost so much. I guess if we put more public housing there it might bring the property prices down a bit? 😉

    But I concede, you’re right, in the sense that the reality is that property values in Toorak are too high and the govt has limited funds. However, they have the power to compulsory purchase any vacant land and build cheap housing on it in Toorak or anywhere.

  36. I guess if we put more public housing there it might bring the property prices down a bit?

    LOL. That’s certainly one way to look at it!

    And Jordan – Georgism eh? You learn something new every day around here.

  37. Shit, I’ve only read the first paragraph but I reckon I’m a Georgist.. I thought that I might have been a commie due to my distaste for the ownership of land..

    “People are and can afford to be economically irrational like this with day to day decisions, but governments can’t.”

    If only……. Governments realised this (MyKi, Desal, M1 Abrams Tanks, Afghanistan, sea sprite choppers, etc etc) Maybe they should invest in Toorak properties 😉

  38. No, you don’t have to have the answers before you ask the questions Rob, but I wonder what kind of answers you’re looking for. You can’t go into politics without becoming a politician, but you seem to be saying that the very act of entering politics delegitimises a person. To me that sets up an insurmountable barrier, and leaves politics with nowhere to go.

  39. Actually I have to ask, is public housing (the property) considered an asset or a burden? I ask because I don’t know (economics isn’t my thing, you’d never have guessed though…. 😉 )

  40. Rob – I the opposite of an asset in economic terms is technically referred to as a ‘liability’, but to answer your question government owned housing would be an asset.

  41. Liability – That’s the word I was looking for (language isn’t my thing either)… Cheers Mondo.

  42. “(language isn’t my thing either)… ”

    What is your thing, Rob?

  43. “Usufruct may likewise cease by the abuse of which the usufructuary is guilty in his enjoyment, either by committing spoliation upon the estate, or by suffering it to fall to decay for want of repair.”

    From the Napoleonic Code (a bad English translation). I think it means what I was describing above (hint: I’m not a lawyer).

    Incidentally: for all this talk about Toorak, it is interesting to note that land-banking activities in the inner suburbs of Melbourne are most highly concentrated in THAT VERY SUBURB. Coincidence?

  44. Data… noughts and ones.

    I freely admit that I’m one of the lightweights around here but I’m opinionated, like most who post on blogs.

  45. So bloods05, I’ve been gracious and answered your questions, are you going to reciprocate?

  46. I keep getting moderated. If this keeps up I’ll be so moderate I’ll be joining SB’s Radical Centrist Party.

  47. Rob, I have done, but you can’t see it yet.

  48. No worries… I’ll wait and see.

  49. I posted it nearly 2 hours ago, still nothing. I’ll see if I can post it again.

  50. Rob, I like your stuff, it’s straight from the hip and uncompromising, but sometimes I wonder where it’s going.

    You don’t have to have the answers before you ask the questions, but I wonder what kind of answers you’re looking for. You can’t go into politics without becoming a politician, but you seem to be saying that the very act of entering politics delegitimises a person. To me that sets up an insurmountable barrier, and leaves politics with nowhere to go.

    What do you think?

  51. jordanrastrick

    Henry George wasnt exactly a commie. In fact he was pretty contemptuous of Marx, and vice versa.

    As far as anti-rich people political economy platforms go, one critical difference is that George’s theories still have the respect of most modern mainstream economists, and marx’s don’t. Taxes that capture economic rents are considered 100% efficient even (especially) in a neoclassicists purely free market – they don’t distort incentives or cause deadweight losses. So some streams of libertarianism are very keen on the idea.

    Traditionally Georgiam was about land but of course there are other natural resources subject to similar economic conditions, like wifi spectrum, or, notably, minerals. The original RPST was designed to nationalize a share of the economic rents on minerals in an efficient way. Ross Gittins had an article arguing the miners main fear was not loss of profit in Australia so much as other countries realizing what a good idea it was and adapting it. So basically the current tax gets less money, but crucially it also does it in a stupider way.

    Hence the political difficulty of taking on rent seekers…..

  52. Cheers bloods05,

    I guess I can’t help myself, I call it how I see it but yeah, I have no solutions, i might one day but nobody would listen anyway.

    I suppose I consider politicians a necessary evil, not that I think most of them are evil, they’re human, they’re prone to lying, they naturally form alliances (political Parties) and once you’re part of that alliance you need to conform to the consensus. I still wonder why Garrett ever joined Labor, is he really that naive that he thought he could affect change?

    Hi jordanrastrick,

    Yeah, I ended up reading the article so I got the differences between Marx and George. Thanks for that link.

  53. Thanks for the links to Georgism. Have to confess of never having heard of it (although I do think I’ve heard references to Henry George on 3CR radio’s “The Renegade Economist”). I’ll read up a bit when I get time.

  54. jordanrastrick

    Sorry rob, I’d forgotten that was explained in the article so I was kinda got a bit redundant there. Your comment about distaste of land ownership makes morse sense to me now.

    Bloods, I like your challenge about the damned if you do/dont nature of going into politics. It’s pretty spot on and I often like making a similar point to people with typical views of politicians.

  55. It annoys me when people damn politicians just as a class, rather than for anything in particular they’ve individually done. If you treat them all the same, as contemptible crooks, then that’s the sort of politician you’ll get. After all, if you treat the worst the same as the best, what’s the incentive for them to clean up their acts?

  56. narcoticmusing

    “… but to answer your question government owned housing would be an asset.” but for Government it is a liability because of the cost to maintain. Governments (and many companies for that matter) are constantly trying to get assets OFF their books by tying them up into trusts etc, not just for tax avoidance (not a big issue for govt but a big one for companies) but due to depreciation and maintenance and what that does to your bottom line. Assets with great tenants etc appreciate. Government housing assets often depreciate, this is one reason (not the only reason) govt are outsourcing the risk to external providers and letting them have the assets on their books.

  57. narcoticmusing

    ” If you treat them all the same, as contemptible crooks”

    How ironic that we set standards of a saint for them too huh? Eg. if a politician was to do something that for anyone else might be regarded a minor, but legal, vice or even human.

    The issue with expecting them to be saints has the same danger. We don’t get humans, we get all these people that either ARE saints (ie they have no idea what life is nor what the real world has to put up with) or they are so damn good at lying they become crooks.

  58. jordanrastrick

    No one ever takes me seriously, but this was a big part of the demise of NSW Labor IMO.

    Once the media was truly sick of the government and decided to savage everything they did, good bad or terrible, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I remember thinking the dynamic between the major newspapers an the government had truly junped the shark when, within about a week of one another,

    The herald ran a front page story about an academic saying the government needed to improve speeding fines to raise revenue;

    The Tele ran an even more virulent attack onsomething even more antithetical to populist sentiment, the specifics of which elude me now.

    When newspapers editor’s natural instinct to take the tabloid side of an argument is overwhelmed by a reflexive need to literally criticize everything the government does, you are doomed to bad policy. Nothing short of a military coup, or the premier personally creating a free cure for cancer, was going to change the tenor of the coverage. So why would most MPs, who are always a mix of decent/talented and riffraff anyway, really give a shit what anyone says or thinks about them? Nero fiddling while Rome burns results.

  59. narcoticmusing

    We all rise to the expectations placed before us, even if that rise is negative.

    The idealist in me still believes in a world where the media is the 4th arm of government, informing the public and holding an account. It is an indictment on journalism and the media that people like Murdoch Jnr can claim ‘profit is what keeps the media objective’ with a straight face and have no one bat an eyelid.

  60. “It annoys me when people damn politicians just as a class, rather than for anything in particular they’ve individually done.”

    I acknowledge that they aren’t all bad, most of them wouldn’t even be evil but the fact of the matter is the hot issue at the last few elections has been asylum seekers. The good ones are the ones who are prepared to speak against the government and the opposition, that would be a few Green politicians as far as I can tell. Those who didn’t speak up and disagreed with both Gillard and Abbott are cowards (actually Abbot is a total prick where asylum seekers are concerned, sod it, he’s evil!).

    Bad things happen when good people turn a blind eye, the bad things have already happened with the locking up of many many asylum seekers. When are the good politicians going to speak up and call out their leaders for their disgusting treatment of Asylum Seekers?

    Same as climate change – the greatest challenge etc etc and were still prepared to do fuck all about it.

  61. OK, today the decent politicians have an excellent opportunity to diferentiate themselves form the non-decent by condemning Chris Bowen for insisting that the orphan (who’s aunt lives in Sydney) has to return to Christmas Island.

  62. Agreed Rob. Its disgusting how that lad is being used as a political football.

    He is seriously traumatised, he’s 9 years old ffs and is living by himself in what amounts to a prison.

    The shit these Liberal dogs whip up to score votes with the lowest of the low makes me sick..

    Its un Christian, un Australian and just down right pathetic. How can anyone with any empathy or compassion vote for these heartless c*nts?

  63. jordanrastrick

    It doesn’t surprise me people vote for them. What surprises me is how the moderates in the party feel comfortable enough with the “use this issue to win power at any costs” attitude to put up with it.

    Garret’s “selling out” on environmental issues to me is nothing conpared to the compromised consciencse that Turnbull, Hockey et al must have to live with, when their immigration spokesman thinks a fifth of a percent of a percent of a percent of the federal budget, spent on funeral costs for the imprisoned families of drowning victims, is an appropriate piece of “waste” to kick up a political stink about.

  64. Yeah jordanrastrick, some of those Liberals are nasty pieces of work but when it comes to the treatment of Asylum Seekers, people I personally consider amongst the most desperate and sidenfranchised pople on earth, both major parties suck. I hear no dissenting voices amongst them and wonder who they live with their consciences. Same with the bipartisan support for the bullshit war in Afghanistan.

  65. Ooooh, I’ve switched to IE8, can’t downlaod a spell checker in work… Forgive me.

  66. jordanrastrick

    RobJ, to be honest I don’t know about Afghanistan. I think it would probably be better for the Afghani people if all foreign troops were to get out ASAP, given the bad track record of this war so far, and wars as a nation-building exercise in general; but I’m not well-informed enough about the facts on the ground to be super confident in that belief. Maybe it really would make things worse to pull out quickly.

    With Iraq, I pretty much took the opposite view to the median American voter. I strongly opposed the invasion itself, but once the invasion had happened and created essentially a state of bloody civil war, I didn’t think it was fair to turn around and say a couple of years down the track “Oh, Western soliders are dying now. Well in that case we’re just going to withdraw and let you guys sort this out amongst yourselves.” So I think Bush, and to an extent Howard, Blair et al., deserved to lose office for starting the thing in the first place. But I could understand bipartisan support for keeping troops there until things got stable, given that the invasion had already gone ahead. Of course its possible to disagree about the facts of whether it ultimately helped or not, but that doesn’t mean there’s necessarily any conflict between the underlying values.

    On asylum seekers, unfortunately its hard to get the Hansonite genie back into the bottle. I think its going to take some creative policy making to get us to a position where people are treated fairly and compassionately, without the threat of the One Nation vote scaring the decent major party MPs so much.

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