Introduction: The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, is seeking senate approval for an announced a $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan to support jobs and invest in future long term economic growth. The 'plan' includes "five one-off cash bonuses (of $950) for eligible individuals". These are proposed for Australian workers whose taxable income was $100,000 or less in 2007-08. There is also a Single Income Family Bonus to support eligible families with one income earner; a Farmer's Hardship Bonus paid to drought affected farmers and farm dependent small business; owners receiving exceptional circumstances related income support; a Back to School Bonus of $950 per child from low- and middle-income families; $950 paid to eligible students and people returning study to help with the costs of education and training.
Other measures the Senate is being asked to support are: free ceiling insulation for around 2.7 million eligible Australian homes; building or upgrading a building in every one of Australia's 9,540 primary schools; building more than 20,000 new, low-income social housing dwellings and defence homes; a temporary business investment tax break for small and general businesses buying eligible assets; significantly increasing funding for local community infrastructure and local road projects.
While I appreciate the seeming urgency of the 42 billion dollar plan - I totally agree with the opposition and minor parties' demand that the scheme be at least given a senate review.
Yes we are in very difficult times, but what amounts to a knee-jerk response, while politically possibly advantageous, from a long term view is very foolish.
Schemes like this (even though they may have had a far longer gestation period than we tend to be told) are wonderful for the opportunist "white shoe' brigade - and I can fairly predict that at least 15% will be siphoned off, to nobody's benefit.
The only component of the scheme that I can wholeheartedly agree with is the roof insulation - but even then, it requires a far more coherent energy target - as 'roof insulation' can mean damn near anything. Are there any targets - R values, appropriate forms of insulation, what about roof space venting?? Different areas of Australia require different methods - up here in the tropics - simple sisalation (double sided aluminium foil sarking) does wonders - but not on the tablelands - where you need something more substantial, and even more substantial measures are required as you progress south. There is no indication that what we are seeing here is not a 'feel good' "one size fits all" approach - which is exceedingly foolish.
I'm not sure about the primary school improvements - after seeing the 'air-conditioner in every school' issue of last year - which raises the State's carbon footprint significally (especially as most country school buildings were never designed to accommodate A/C - being neither insulated or draft-proofed). Plus the need for A/C is restricted to only a few days a year. Maybe some schools could use some upgrades - but this seems to be a 'pork barrel' issue.
Given the rapidly approaching issue of "Peak Oil", road infrastructure would seem to be the least useful use of the money - and the use with the least useful benefits in the future. Sure - many road projects are "shovel ready" - but that doesn't make them appropriate - Facing the inevitability of a fuel constrained future (very soon) - we need to be putting the money in to the provision of public transport and light rail where appropriate.
Some obvious areas - that would have a huge carbon footprint impact - would be the fitting of solar HWS to as many homes as possible.
Another - creation of "forest regeneration corps" - to re-plant our millions of hectares of marginal land that was cleared - because clearing land was Government policy at the time. Associated with appropriate training - such a corps could be really important for the long-term "carbon -neutralisation' of Australia.
And that's just a start.