South Australia leading the Nation

Or Old Ideologies v’s the Future.  I’m starting this post with a fascinating live link to the energy sources powering Australia at the moment:

The next installment of the Perfect Storm II began earlier this week when our Premier, Jay Weatherill, announced South Australia was taking control of its own energy needs.  This came after constant sniping from the Federal Liberal National Government over our blackouts the last few months.

Some history to the blackouts

South Australia wasn’t the only state experiencing blackouts over summer, but the other states are powered mostly by coal.  The Federal Government has an unusual obsession with coal.  Against majority international scientific opinion, they regard coal as the future, and do everything they can to ensure Australia’s main energy source is coal.

After each blackout the Federal Government would blame our high uptake of renewable energy.  In every case, this wasn’t the cause.  In contrast there was silence when the other states experienced blackouts.

The last coal fired power station in South Australia and the Leigh Creek coal mine closed last year.  This was due to economic reasons.  The Victorian Hazelwood brown coal fired power station is also going to close this year.

In contrast, the Queensland Government with assistance from the Federal Government, is in the process of allowing Adani to open the biggest coal mine in Australia, and is attempting to push through amendments to the Native Title Act to over-ride any opposition from the First Nation peoples.  The Adani CEO was responsible for a major environmental disaster in South Africa, and here are some more reasons why the mine shouldn’t go ahead:

The Announcement

As part of our state taking control of its energy needs, our Premier announced we would install a 100mWh battery storage system, after visiting Tesla boss Elon Musk offered to solve our blackouts by installing a 100mWh system in 100 days or it would be free*.  Tesla has already installed a 80mWh system in California.  Germany is also aiming to increase their storage from 60mWh to 200mWh this year.

The announcement included increasing our gas extraction (we are assured it doesn’t including fracking) and also building a new government owned gas fired power station to ensure (cheaper?) reliable energy supply.

We are told gas is a bridge between coal and 100% renewable energy for our state.  Port Augusta is very keen on building a solar thermal plant, and the Government is due to make a decision on this by June.  Many renewables supporters think we should stop investing in gas and put all the money into renewable energy sources only.  As more money is invested, the cheaper renewable energy becomes.

The fact is, the power purchase solar panels on our roof have generated an average of 23kWhs/day from October to January, and with battery storage we could have easily powered our household and put energy back in the grid.  There are many roofs without solar panels in SA.

Like most other Australian states and territories, there is massive land space in South Australia for wind, solar thermal, and solar panels.  With battery storage, we have the weather to power South Australia and further afield.  Our Federal Government has removed incentives for renewable energy and recently talked about using the clean energy fund to finance a ‘clean coal’ power station, to the disgust of many.  it is extremely frustrating watching the Government bypass opportunities to support renewable energy based on old ideologies.

Our Premier’s announcement sparked a panicked policy announcement by Prime Minister Turnbull to increase the size of the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme by 50%.  Along with the newly elected Labor Government in Western Australia, hopefully this is the beginning of a turnaround towards renewable energy.

*The SA system is going out to tender so one or a multiple of companies can bid for the project.

Money Tree II

Since writing the post on the Money Tree, I came across this excellent article, and spoke to some friends about the reality of home ownership in 2016.

Paying for it: In hock to the greatly outdated Australian dream

My parent’s and my generation were brought up with the expectation that we would own a home, with assistance from our parents in the form of a loan or deposit.  In the mid to late 20th century full-time, permanent jobs were achievable, and the cost of living low enough for couples to live off one wage.

All of this changed around the turn of the 21st century.  People started to invest in housing instead of stocks and bonds, or self manage their own superannuation.  The government offered incentives on investment properties, that weren’t available for personal home loans.  This drove the price of housing up at a rapid rate; 300% in South Australia, and more in the eastern states.

To add to the difficulties in securing a home loan, banks were spooked by the Global Financial Crisis, despite our government going guarantor, and tightened lending regulations for home buyers.  As a result, a fat deposit is no longer the step into home ownership.  It has to be backed with a good credit history and proof of a permanent minimum income.

Permanent full-time jobs are steadily decreasing in Australia, replaced with contract and casual or part-time work.  There is no such thing as job security anymore, and most workers are pushed to their limits with performance management, long hours, unrealistic work expectations, with under-training and an ultra-competitive work place that is constantly looking for ways to streamline procedures and cut costs.

For manufacturers, tariff reduction and free-trade agreements mean making locally is no longer a competitive option, with labour costs far cheaper in poorer countries with lower living standards and workplace conditions.

If you aren’t part of the lucky generation, or politicians, who receive tax free superannuation benefits for the rest of their life after retirement, the next retirement generation is going to be working until they are too old to do so.  Then living on the aged pension with a mortgage or rent still to pay, and adult children to support both financially and physically with day-care for grand-children.

The CityMag article referred to above, looks at the realities of housing today and a change in the way people are living.  We used to live in multi-generational housing, as many cultures still do, but the last century was an odd bump in the road with the “nuclear family”.  The future of housing has to address a much larger population, mass migration due to climate change or war, and less money moving around in the economy.

I don’t think these forced changes to our way of living have to be a bad thing.  The excesses of the 20th and early 21st century in western societies can move to a more inclusive and community based way of living.  Technology allows us to see how other people live and we can learn a lot by simplifying our lives.  I look forward to seeing what an affordable, adaptable, totally self sustainable home can look like.  By removing the expectations of the past, we can start with a clean slate and ask, what are our needs and what makes a meaningful life?

The Perfect Storm

During the storms in South Australia last week, two tornadoes flattened twenty-three transmission towers, which resulted in a state-wide blackout for three hours. Power was out in some parts of the state for several days.

“A preliminary report into the mass three-day power outage has been released by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). The report says it remains unknown what role wind power played.”

“Renewables were supplying 70 per cent of generation in South Australia at the time of the incident and we know that they work differently to conventional thermal generation,” ”

Clearly  wind power via the tornadoes played a large part in the blackout, but politicians were quick to blame green energy in the state for the outage, long before knowing any facts.

The first reaction was from Independent Senator Nick Xenaphon, who instantly blamed SA’s high take up of renewable energy.  “Mr Xenophon said while he supported the renewable energy target – 40 per cent of South Australia’s energy supply comes from renewable energy – the transition had been “reckless” and heads should roll over the blackout.”  He was soon joined by Liberal and National Party  politicians, including the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who questioned the speed of the take up of renewable energy:

“Now, I regret to say that a number of the state Labor Governments have over the years set priorities and renewable targets that are extremely aggressive, extremely unrealistic, and have paid little or no attention to energy security.”

Paul Gilding in The Great Disruption, says we have done too little too late to avoid catastrophic climate change events.  He also argues that once we see the effects of climate change we will act fast to radically reduce carbon emissions.  We obviously haven’t reached the point of peak stupid. (My observation, not Paul Gilding’s).

“NASA’s data showed that each month in 2016 was the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880. This trend suggests 2016 will surpass 2015 as the hottest year on record, NASA said.Jul 20, 2016″

I’m astounded that with a consensus of scientific opinion around the world, that politicians still can’t get their head around the urgency in reducing carbon emissions.  Do they think they are reflecting the will of  the people?  Our former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was voted in on a platform of scrapping the Carbon Tax.  At present, the Right of the Coalition wields power over a Prime Minister who was previously passionate about addressing climate change.  The present Government is also funded by powerful coal interests.

If Paul Gilding is correct, and we have left the move too late to avoid catastrophic weather events, then I hope we have a better attitude to accepting climate refugees.  Given our current acceptance of off-shore detention and refusal to settle refugee boat arrivals in Australia, we need to reflect on our future as global citizens.  The irony is, Australia may be one of the countries most effected by climate change, and do we expect our neighbours to show more humanity towards us than we have towards them?  What goes around comes around.

Paul Gilding, The Great Disruption

To end on a more positive note, this is from Paul Gilding’s book:

“Apart from the lack of CO2, the extraordinary amount of solar energy arriving on the planet means renewables make intuitive sense.  Consider this: Every hour an amount of energy equivalent to what all of humanity uses in a year hits the earth’s surface from the sun.  Even after allowing for the limits in accessibility and converting this into useful energy, a year’s supply arrives every week.

Another “annual supply” of energy is available from the wind every month and another one again each month from geothermal.  Then there is the hydro from rivers and energy in the waves and tides.  So there is just so much energy available, it is implausible that we cannot access it effectively and at a reasonable price if we put our minds to the task.”



Autumn Collection

There’s nothing like a drive through the beautiful Adelaide Hills in Autumn to find inspiration to create new designs.  With the last two years all about street art, especially photography, I’m experimenting with colour and light to achieve some nice surface designs.  So thanks to RedBubble for being a quality print partner here is the start of my Autumn Collection, soon to be available in a range of scarves, chiffon tops, bags, homewares, gift cards and the essential journals at Etsy.


Negative Gearing and All that Tax

This post is dedicated to my late Grandfather, State Liberal MP, Horace (Race) Hogben.

My Grandfather spent most of his time as a Liberal MP in the 1930’s working on a plan to bring affordable housing to South Australians, that became the Housing Trust.  “Concerned about housing problems during the Depression, in 1934 he and (Sir) Keith Wilson (the president of the Y.L.L.) formed a committee to examine the ‘shortage of low-price houses and the concomitant of rising rents’. Hogben undertook the research, at the expense of much of his accountancy practice and income.”

He then spent time on the Board of the Savings Bank of South Australia and believed the central role of the bank was to offer low interest loans for housing.

How the Liberal Party came from that point to where it is today I don’t know, but my Grand-father would roll in his grave over the policies on negative gearing and the effect it has had on pushing up the price of housing, especially over the last fifteen years.

Housing in Australia is up to twelve times the average income.  After 9/11 when fear was created in investing internationally, many Australians decided to invest in domestic housing.  The policy of Negative Gearing allows investors to write off costs or losses against their income.

Negative gearing as a policy covers many areas of investment but the question is, should it include the essential need of housing?  The GST (Goods and Services Tax) in Australia doesn’t apply to food, so I’m not sure why we would allow any investment tax breaks on housing when the obvious outcome would be to push up the price of housing.

Our State Government is phasing out Stamp Duty on transfers of non-residential and non-primary production real property, while it will still apply on residential properties.  Does this mean a property purchased as non-residential for the investor is exempt?

Somebody pays for all tax breaks and exemptions and it is inevitably low income earners who pay a higher ratio of tax per income and/or rent to allow higher income earners to get tax breaks and accrue more assets.

Using essential services such as housing as a tax break should never have been part of the negative gearing policy.  It has forced a generation into renting and removed their ability to build up an asset to pass to future generations.  The Federal Government has acknowledged the family home is an individual’s biggest asset and at the same time ensures that current and future generations will be unable to afford that asset unless they have substantial financial assistance from their family (assuming that family already owns property).

Negative Gearing for housing ensures home owners are able to buy more houses or units and renters stay in rental accommodation for future generations, widening the gap between the ‘haves and have nots’.

Other articles:  Almost 20,000 Canberrans unable to afford essentials due to housing costs, survey finds