The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Two steps back … and half a step forward?

Angela Merkel and George Bush at the G8 meeting in Germany; Creative Commons licence does not apply to this image

  • Yesterday’s announcement from the G8 meeting sounds awesome: US$60 billion! For the Global Fund! Tackling the worst diseases facing Africa! Yet although this is good news, it actually represents only a little bit of new funding, and it’s being directed to programmes that have an annoying tendency to draw the focus away from other public health concerns (i.e. yay your town is HIV-free! but no we won’t fix your crumbling hospital).
  • Among the other announcements from the G8 summit (including a very American-sounding statement about intellectual property) is an even greater non-event: on climate change, they’ve promised to enter discussions about what to do when the Kyoto Protocol expires, seeking “substantial global emission reductions” (which is as strong as the document gets). By normal standards of diplomacy I’d call this a success — but problem is, by the time normal diplomacy is finished, the battle may have already been lost.
  • Unrelatedly, here I was thinking Paul Murray’s column on Thursday was bad. Today he highlights that newspaper’s endemic lack of clue towards the Internet: whilst pretending he knows what he’s on about, he waffles about “credibility” before selectively quoting The Assault on Reason (taking an entire sentence to dismiss why Al Gore thinks the Web is good for democracy), and froths at the mouth about celebrity gossip without noticing that the Internet is a wee bit bigger than the home pages of Australia’s commercial news services.
  • Murray’s page was taken up yesterday by an infinitely more sensible article from former MP Phillip Pendal (who’s no saint, having once been anti-railway). He points out that the State Government ought to stop sitting on its hands with the Old Treasury Buildings and restore them to government offices, their original use. This really does make a lot of sense, particularly given how much office space the State rents and how horribly expensive that is in the current market. But its sensibility is exactly why I fear his proposal will be ignored.
  • From today’s report about the not-yet-released masterplan for the Amarillo site, I observe that there’s basically nothing new. It’s a huge area of sprawled housing in a region with more new housing estates than you can poke a stick at, there’s suggestion of a dense centre that might be kinda cool (maybe), and there’s the mention of “possible light rail” that has accompanied every development south of Fremantle for as long as I can remember.
    Update 14/6: I’d not noticed that the master plan has been buried on the DHW site for some days now.
  1. Re: Amarillo

    One of the commenters at the West made a good point (one the few good points that could possibly be made in a discussion about so superficial a topic as whether “Amarillo” is a good name): how do we know that investors won’t sweep up many of these properties, keeping house prices inflated and out of reach for most first-time buyers?

  2. We don’t.

    In fact, assuming no major market or policy changes, that’s exactly what will happen.

    From my non-expert reading of the house market, and quite apart from criticisms lobbed at government, the biggest factor pushing house prices up in recent years has been property investors — some of whom are quite heavily geared (i.e. buying with debt) — chasing increasingly-strong rental returns and the very favourable tax treatment for houses.

    The most obvious fix is also the least likely to happen: at Federal level, simplify the mess of tax rules for investors, in exchange for cutting out discounts like 50% capital gains after a year.

    At State level, it’d help to have broad policy coordination for creating more Homeswest housing to supply people who really need help. (The current release strategy has the laudable goal of not creating slums, but seems to have slowed the number of actual homes being built.)

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