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Byron Shire
May 22, 2024

Cost of living could be eased with surplus  

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When the government is in surplus, the people are in deficit.

That’s never been truer than it is today. Treasurer Jim Chalmers tells us the budget surplus this financial year ballooned from an expected $4.2 billion out to $19 billion.

Ordinary Australians, desperately trying to keep their budgets under control and cost cutting wherever they can, should expect some kind of relief from this surprise windfall.

Rough sleepers should expect immediate assistance. The latest count found there are 300 homeless people in Byron Shire alone, more than double last year’s count. 

The problem is particularly acute for women.

Anthony Albanese and Justine Elliot. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Meanwhile, our local MP, Justine Elliot, continues her taxpayer-funded social media campaign against The Greens, simply because they are trying to persuade her government to take real action to help the homeless and desperate renters. Her social media account blocks anyone, including me, who is too ‘vociferous’. 

Her top priority should be finding suitable accommodation for people sleeping on the streets of her electorate.

The prime minister suddenly found a lazy two billion dollars to throw into the kitty to help states deal with the housing catastrophe. 

He could easily add another eight billion from that surplus right now. Then we might just start seeing a difference.

The government is nervous about fuelling inflation, and say they are going to pocket the surplus. That surplus belongs to all Australians. Helping the homeless absolutely must have priority over any inflation fears.

There are other urgent issues that also need dealing with. Australia is likely moving into another potentially deadly El Nino cycle. Heaven knows how hot and dry it’s going to get this coming summer.

The planet has just had the hottest June day ever. Greenland ice is melting at an unprecedented rate. Anything could happen in a few months.

Australia has a fleet of about 150 firefighting planes. Judging by the raging forest fires in Canada this year, we need to gear up for the worst-case scenario.

Coulson Aviation of Canada has been converting Boeing 737s into FireLiner tankers. These are highly effective and capable of carrying 15,000 litres of water at a time. One of these tankers, named Phoenix, was ordered in January this year and is based in Sydney.

FireLiner tankers cost $2.5 million a year to lease. The Albanese government could invest in any number of these and it would have zero effect on inflation. Tankers, and other effective firefighting equipment, need to be stationed in vulnerable areas all over Australia. It must be top priority. 

Many lives, properties and so much forest and wildlife can be saved. Australians will never forgive the government if it fails to prepare to prevent disasters that could be stopped in their tracks.

Inflation-free investment 

Another inflation-free investment would be retiring a chunk of tertiary student debt. Many mature women have needed to go to university to retrain to earn an income after relationship breakdowns, taking time out to have children, or the death of partners. 

There are over one hundred thousand people over sixty carrying an average HELP (Higher Education Loan Program) debt of more than ten thousand dollars. 

The total HELP debt owed by those sixty-and-over is around $1.4 billion. That has leapt this year as interest on the debts is tied to inflation. People are retiring, often in poverty as rents and the cost of living have skyrocketed, with this burdensome debt hanging around their necks, further stressing them out. Retiring the HELP debt of the over-sixties would cost less than ten per cent of this coal and gas export-fuelled budget surplus. It’s just a book entry, would have zero effect on inflation, and give peace of mind to tens of thousands of vulnerable and struggling elders. 

There are multiple ways the Albanese Labor government could recycle this huge surplus to assist people who are really suffering from the cost of living crisis, the lack of health care, and to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis, without having any impact on inflation.

As for our local MP, Justine Elliot, she needs to take time out from her Greens-bashing campaign to attend to the urgent needs of her electorate. It is truly shameful we have hundreds of people sleeping rough in Byron Shire. 

She could, for example, organise for them to be housed in some of those empty Airbnbs, until more permanent accommodation can be organised. The cost of doing that wouldn’t add a cent to inflation. Look how the homeless were suddenly housed during the covid pandemic. Why not now? 

This government needs to wake up to the rising groundswell of discontent at their appalling failure to help Australians desperately in need. 

The unprecedented wealth disparity in today’s Australia has turned us back into a feudal society. Instead of barons, we have billionaires who call the shots. It’s surprising young Australians aren’t already rioting in the streets! 

Wake up Albo! Time to listen to the people.

♦ Richard Jones is a former NSW MLC and is now a ceramist.

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  1. Richard, 5000%

    The only thing that exercises the ALP is the blame game on the LNP and going at the Greens.
    The ALP actually doing its day job, like fixing Flood Victims…..pfff.

    If PM Albo can promote Kathryn RoboDebt Campbell into that cushy $900,000 pa job – that must be what our $’s20billions Budget Surplus is good for??? – at Defence / AUKUS, then he can get off his couch and sort the Flood Victims.

    Shame, Labor, Shame

  2. Apparent Surplus ?
    This government or the previous have had record
    Surplus receipts as a result of Renewable energies
    Profits … if only !!

    • Mainly because of a war and increased commodity prices, Barrow – the same conditions that are sending your power bills up. You think that’s all triffic do you? Renewable energy would give us some reprieve from these vagaries of international commodity markets. And, even if you don’t believe that climate stuff, they will give us cleaner air. But no, let’s just plan to dig holes forever!

        • And wages are not going up to meet inflation.
          The Labor government is keeping wages down just like the Liberal government did.

          • Yes Emily that’s why Albo answered “Absolutely!” , during the ‘22 election campaign when asked if he supported the 5.1% increase to the minimum wage in line with inflation. It rose by 5.75% on July 1 this year.

            The govt is also funding the Fair Work Commission’s decision on the Aged Care Work Value case of a 15% increase to award wages.

            But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good sledge!

        • Indeed we don’t, but the prices we pay for our own gas and coal are very much determined by the prices the local extractors can get overseas. Makes you want to become a socialist doesn’t it?

  3. While I agree that it would be great to see some of this surplus used to ease cost of living pressures (especially in non inflationary ways) please remember that this information came during the winter break. Who knows what measure may be considered upon parliament’s return! It is also good to keep some things in mind.

    A surplus or deficit is just the difference between revenue in (taxes collected) and spending in any one year. The extraordinary conditions that created this surplus are not expected to continue even until the next budget. This means any ongoing commitments like putting up the rough sleepers in Airbnbs – Justine should pull this off for just this electorate and let the others scream – and increased rent assistance would possibly pose a problem when we have a deficit.

    Or do we just throw them out and off then? Remember too that the surplus is quite a different concept to the national debt upon which the nation is paying interest at increased rates like everyone else.

    How many of those over 60s looking to retire will need to pay anything off their debt in retirement (thresholds) and die with their debt? Jason Clare has already flagged looking at a system where the inflation% increase is applied to just the remainder owning rather than the original debt so some relief has already been mooted.

    As for “ Meanwhile, our local MP, Justine Elliot, continues her taxpayer-funded social media campaign against The Greens …” – that’s what political parties do and the Greens are certainly no exception. Except that they can beef all they like and don’t have to deliver. David, when you deliver more balanced commentary you might have some more credibility with this charge.

  4. Just want to say good on you Richard, I’m a fan and enjoy your column, gives me different perspectives. Thank you

  5. David, your Green credentials do you no justice at all, what part of “Labor inherited a Trillian dollar debt from an incompetent Coalition and has to service that debt, that has a staggering interest bill of $2.5 million an hour,” does your severely depleted Greens tunnel vision not allow you to see? How about letting the grownups handle the grownup things and just stick to commenting on the Greenies protest actions like inconveniencing the working public going to and from their workplaces, or appalling, reckless attempts at disrupting major sporting events.

    • Keith, you right, “How about letting the grownups handle the grownup things”, your ALP mob doing a wonderful job sorting Flood Victims, yeah, despite having a lazy $’s20billions Budget Surplus available to get stuck in with and help N O W the Flood Victims.
      Keith your ALP mob can’t, won’t, handle this grownup thing. Get the Greens in, the only ones adult enough to fix the Flood Victims.

      But wait, there’s more of your grown up ALP mob handling grown up things, with PM Albo promoting Kathryn RoboDebt Campbell, yeah. To paraphrase that famous expression…..’Fantastic. Great move. Well done Albo’. PM Albotross, strikes again.

      Keith, we feel your pain about environmental defenders causing some minor inconveniences.
      Keith, you must have missed the recent times National Bushfire Apocalypse 2019/20 and the around the nation Flood Devastations of 2021, 2022 and 2023.
      Keith, in a Climate Emergency there is nothing more appalling or reckless than your ALP mob continued supporting of the usage of Fossil Fuel which is fuelling our climate disaster events.
      Keith, Climate Science, your ALP mob refuses to listen and act accordingly.
      So Keith, please do keep shooting the messengers – our climate and environment defenders – best you and your reckless ALP mob not speak a word about any inconvenience when the next Climate Catastrophe Event is visited upon us.

      • Joachim my man, your comedy is literally killing me, I barely got started on that, (what ever it was) you wrote and suffered terribly from uncontrollable laughing, the Greens “adults”, on what planet my man, who are you trying to convince, me or yourself?, I suppose this comedy is what we are going to get non-stop from Mandy Nolan and the Greens in the lead up to the next Federal election, so sad.

        • So Keith;
          -Flood Victims being left in a lurch by your ALP mob is comedy;
          -Kathryn Robodebt Campbell gets a promotion from your ALP mob is comedy;
          -New Coal and Gas keeps getting support from your ALP mob is comedy;
          We get all that Keith, you love self advertising as a fool who just regurges talking points supplied to you from ALP HQ.
          Keith, the good news for you, your suffering won’t last much longer, just under 2 years to go before PM Albotross is tossed out – the voters in last Saturday’s Fadden byelection have signalled the end of your ALP mob.

          • Not at all my man, it’s only your ridiculous Greenspinning and complete detachment from reality that’s comedy, your juvenile predictions are in a rare class of their own, but keep them coming, a good laugh is good for the soul, or so they say,

          • Joachim my man, you placed your foot firmly in your big mouth once again, (God this is becoming so repetitive), speaking of the Fadden bi-election, it wasn’t the Labor party the voters sent a message to, it was the Greens, how do you explain the halving of the Greens vote in that same bi-election, it was sort of status quo for the LNP and Labor, but the Greens (the party of renters), really copped a serve from the voters, OUCH.

          • You’ll have the LNP back Joachim, led by Dutts. You’ll be in seventh heaven! Pity about what that will do to the rest of the country.

          • Keith, Keith, Keith, you do worry so much for the Greens.
            It is very touching to be sure. Next we’ll see you voting Greens, welcome to the bright side!

            But Keith, you do need to focus on your failing and flailing ALP mob.
            Keith, the Fadden by-election, give your mate John Black , ex-ALP senator for QLD and now the top person at Australian Development Strategies a call. He has done a rundown on some Numbers ( oh no, Numbers, Keith’s forte again ) analysis – the ALP is in a world of pain.

          • Liozardbreath, I’ve written before that LNP is a no go zone for me, it always was and always will be.
            That Peter Dutton is now PM in waiting, I can’t work it out but it can only happen off the back of the ALP’s continued fails, fails that need not be happening.
            Like I’ve said in the past, whether it is ALP or LNP, its always the same rubbish dished up, they just take turns to deliver their own branded rubbish.
            There is a solution, the third way, the Greens!

          • Hi Joachim..maybe we could ask Keith
            For a update on how Victoria is fairing
            under the untouchable Teflon Dan ..?
            now this Premier in his latest interview
            On how did it come to this ..pulling out
            Of the Commonwealth Games ..finally
            The Press asked some hard questions..he
            Teflon was not impressed..looked rattled..
            💯 percent was not apologising
            For his states record debt ..more than
            NSW & Qld Tasmania combined..
            Labor at it’s best ..good luck Victoria..

          • Joachim, do you really think the Greens are likely to win the next election? Or that if they did they’d be able to do everything they pretend they can.

            We’ve had the most awful government for a decade starting with Abbott and Hockey and ending with the worst PM and administration in Australia’s history, and you can’t wait to get them back! If you think one progressive government, in conservative old Australia, can undo all that in one term you really do believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden.

            I’m sorry but I just don’t want to see the other lot back for the foreseeable future. But don’t forget to keep harping on about Kathryn Campbell – that’s the most pressing issue we currently face.

          • Lizardbreath, I fully agree with you that the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison years were an atrocity.
            The hope and vibe was for PM Albotross to be a whole lot better than the last lot ( it can’t be that hard ), who forgets ( besides PM Albo / ALP ) the “no one held, no one left behind” vow?
            But PM Albotross has delivered his own brand of rubbish; his cold hearted leaving Flood Victims hanging – Morrison style empathy!; his out of touch, insulting to Victims, indefensible promotion of Kathryn Campbell – yes, it DOES need constant harping; his prioritising a Budget Surplus over helping those that need real help NOW; his betrayal on Climate with this continued boosting of Fossil Fuel use but hey, that’s what happens when a political party is captured by $’shundredsof thousands Fossil Fuel Industry donations.

            We have a different Captain holding the tiller – PM Albotross, steering the same course of bad governing.

          • Barrow, the Comm Games 2026 thing.
            I don’t know what it is with Governments , building Big Things and the $’s. It isn’t their strong suit.

            Teflon Dan hasn’t, yet, revealed how the massive $’sblowout has come about.
            I, we all, would love to see more information.

            But Teflon Dan isn’t the lone ranger when it comes to Govt having big trouble building stuff.
            The self labelled ‘superior economic managers ‘- The LNP – haven’t exactly delivered standout performances themselves,
            At Fed Govt level, the former LNP Govt gave us the Snowy Hydro 2.0… blowout of $’sbillions.
            At NSW Govt level, the former LNP Govt gave us the Metro Lines and Light Rail… blowouts of $’sbillions.

            Clearly it isn’t just our dear Keith who has constant trouble with numbers, our Govt’s of both sides of politics have the same issue.

  6. That’s it Richard, apply the good old lefty socialist fixes. How come they didn’t work when you were in parliament?. It’s very easy to snark from the sidelines, pull your head in.

  7. Joachim my man, the only “world of pain” emulating from the Fadden bi-election is with yourself and Greens losing 4.6 % of their pitiful vote, seriously your posts are beyond ridiculous, you’re just making stuff up, but that’s normal for the Greens, we’re on to you old son.

    • Keith, Keith, Keith, Numbers we know it is a painful area for you.

      It only took 14 months for your crash hot ALP to reverse its gains at the May 2022 Fed Election in the seat of Fadden.
      Surely Keith, if your ALP mob was doing such a crash hot job and with the RoboDebt RC Report released, your ALP mob would have crushed it in Fadden!
      Instead, the ALP has somehow managed to do the opposite and crush itself.
      Its a an ALP disaster.

      • Joachim, Joachim, Joachim, my man, here we go again, do you ever learn?, I know reality is a painful area for you, but you just keep coming back more more punishment, how many times have I got to catch you out, it’s becoming monotonous? The ALP lost just .32% in the bi-election, and that’s not bad for a Govt dealing with the present cost of living crisis, the only disaster was for the irresponsible Greens, wow what a blow that must have been, after all the grandstanding obstructionism regarding affordable housing, the voters have spoken my man, OUCH.

        • Keith, fantastic for you and the ALP celebrating that magnificent ALP result in Fadden.
          ‘Desperate Times, Desperate Measures’, cue the Greens result as the last line of defence with distraction and diversion.

          But Keith, wonderful that you should again bring up the Housing issue.
          Keith, its happening, Greens leadership on the Housing issue is bringing needed action.
          – Chris Minus / New South Wales Govt has recently appointed Trina Jones as NSW’s first ever Rental Commissioner
          – Teflon Dan / Victoria Govt yesterday announced big movement as well.
          The story was in yesterdays Sunday Age newspaper.
          ‘Rent hike restrictions and an end to urban sprawl mulled in housing overhaul’
          ByJosh Gordon July 23, 2023

          And Keith, yes, Teflon Dan had a fair bit to say for Renters. Here’s par t of the Sunday Age piece –

          Landlords would be able to lift rent only once every two years and may face a cap on the increase under sweeping housing reforms aimed at boosting security for younger Victorians locked out of the market.

          Premier Daniel Andrews has warned that Victoria must stop the urban sprawl on Melbourne’s fringes, promising an anticipated planning overhaul would increase density and quality housing in middle suburbs, as well as provide renters with added security.

          “Everything is on the table,” Andrews told The Sunday Age. “We want to give tenants even greater protections.

          “Too many Victorians are under rental stress and too many are having to go and live a long way away from where they work. It doesn’t make sense to keep on building suburb after suburb. We need to create more housing with the best design standards where people want to live.”

          Andrews did not specify what measures could be put in place to help renters, but in recent weeks has promised the planning overhaul would be one of the most significant in the state’s history.

          A senior government source with knowledge of the discussions, speaking anonymously because they were not authorised to disclose details publicly, said that limiting landlords to one rent increase every two years – up from the current 12-month limit for most cases – was being examined.

          Treasury officials are also considering the consequences of combining that new time limit with a rental cap.

          Various models are being looked at, including the system operating in the ACT under which rent increases are limited to 110 per cent of the rate of inflation. Although that has led to smaller than average rental increases in the ACT, a concern is that linking increases to inflation could mean rents rise more when tenants are most experiencing cost-of-living pressures.

          A government spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of the planning and housing overhaul.

          The focus on renters in the reform package follows a long deterioration in housing affordability, a problem compounded by strong overseas migration, supply shortfalls and, more recently, rising building costs and interest rates and the collapse of building companies.

          Keith, Kieth, Keith, the ACT, NSW, Vic, things are happening.
          Keith, give your “everything is impossible until its not”, don’t care, too slow, too lazy, couch dozing PM Albotross a call. Tell him the Greens have shown THE leadership on housing, NSW and Victoria have just woken up, “Its Time” Albo for you to wake up NOW on Housing.

  8. Joachim my poor misguided man, are you into writing fictional novels now?, is there anything in this great country that ratbags like you are happy with?; when you come to grips with reality, someone might actually take you and your disingenuous and disrespectful rants seriously. I sincerely doubt that the crazy Greens could lead a duck to water, let alone implementing important legislation.

    • Mr, if you are happy with the bollocks governing that the LNP and now ALP take turns in delivering then for sure that’s great for you and keep voting for more of the same, yeah. Its not great for me and I don’t need to sit still and be quiet about it.
      I want better.

      The ALP and LNP have had their go, they’ve shown that they can’t cut it.
      Important legislation is what the Greens have always led on, the ALP and LNP just follow by a copy and rebadge in their name exercise.
      Time to give their Greens their go at the tiller of government,

      • Joachim old son, you do realize that all of these Nostradamus like predictions are only the product of a seriously disturbed, fanatical Green mind, that does not reflect any form of reality.

        • Keith, look at the record.
          Some of the big issues, that your ALP mob didn’t ever want to know about, eventually adopted as Policy by your ALP mob – Banking Royal Commission, Fed ICAC, Marriage Equality, Legislation of Emissions Reductions…you happily received all that seriously disturbed fanatical Green mind thinking, didn’t you Keith old son.
          Keith, we’re used to the too slow, too lazy to do the work, couch dozing ALP leaving it to the Greens to supply the ALP with policies to copy and run with – Housing and Rent, stopping New Fossil Fuel Adventures, these next up for your ALP to copy and run with Greens policy. Why the ALP delay, act NOW.

  9. Re your last paragraph Joachim. This doesn’t come as a surprise to some of us and shouldn’t to you as we pointed it out to you just after the national cabinet of April this year where it was on the agenda. The PM in the post conference presser stated:

    “ So what will occur over coming months is looking at the different programs that are in place, some of those are around the frequency of any rent increase that can occur. In at least one jurisdiction’s case, it’s also over the amount that can occur of any increase. There are a range of measures that will be considered by state and territory governments to strengthen the system of renters’ rights, there was agreement on that.”

    Shortly after, the Greens resident, ever hopeful, ever self-promoting Cheshire Cat claimed it was all at his instigation. (You can’t say he doesn’t try!)

    However the Andrews Government is considering a rental increases every 2 years (rather than annually as at present) with a cap of no more than 110% of inflation. It’s a far cry from the demands of the Greens for a 2 year rental freeze and a capper % increase after that which will likely be below inflation. Demands which 1) the federal government cannot compel the states to deliver and which 2) are being used to hold up a 10 billion dollar investment in affordable housing. Demands for which we are still awaiting a detailed and informed analysis on the impacts of rental stock availability.

    But Joachim, “Chris Minus” – how many hours do you spend thinking up this savagely biting nomenclature? I can think of much more productive cognitive exercise for you.

    • Lizardbreath, the NSW and Vic Govts, they are ALP Government States, they aren’t waiting around anymore for couch dozing ALP PM Albanese to wake up. NSW and Vic, they are actually getting moving.
      We’ve had the Greens leading the charge, the the NSW and Vic Govts joining the movement for action.
      We saw Zach White from CFMMEU gave an address to National Press Club 25/7/23 and Housing was the topic. Fantastic speech it was.
      It is a growing movement for action now but the dam wall that is couch dozing Albanese is the problem.

      If Coucho Albo ( Lizardbreath, you’ll love that one ) can act at the speed of light promoting Kathryn Robodebt Campbell into that plum, created just for her new job at Defence / AUKUS, then it can’t be too hard for our Albo to get off his couch and pull his finger out on such an urgent issue that is our Housing and Rent Crisis.

      • The repetition of rubbish doesn’t make it any more accurate. I could repeat a few facts for you AGAIN! but it just pulls your wind-up toy silly nonsense.🤯

        • Lizardbreath, catch up with the SMH Newspaper editorial yesterday 27/7/23.
          They also Don’t think that the Kathryn Campbell promotion scandal is in your words, “the repetition of rubbish”.

          • Hardly a stinging indictment, Joachim that’s just your rather slanted take on things. It says it’s hard to work out what’s going on. I personally don’t think it’s too hard.

            It does however indicate that the Government acted within days of the report.

            The rubbish I refer to was mainly anyway about all your guff about the rental stuff and how it’s all because of the Greens. I don’t think Dan Andrews, knowing his style, would give a tinker’s cuss what they thought – but dream on.


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