Melbourne Letter from Issue 187 The Steady As She Goes Edition Issues 9 August to 10 September Our Parole Board ♦ Our new ’General Jacques Raymond Adieu (just retiring!) ♦ Education. Some good practical ideas Large tourist facilities in national parks! ♦ Dummy candidates locally East West Link port access, perhaps ♦ Taxi CHANGES imminent About us Affairs of State 14 Collins Street Melbourne, 3000 Victoria, Australia P 03 9654 1300 F 03 9654 1165 [email protected] www.letterfrommelbourne.com.au Letter From Melbourne is a monthly public affairs bulletin, a simple précis, distilling and interpreting public policy and government decisions, which affect business opportunities in Victoria and Australia. Written for the regular traveller, or people with meeting-filled days, it’s more about business opportunities than politics. Letter from Melbourne is independent. It’s not party political or any other political. It does not have the imprimatur of government at any level. Letter from Melbourne developed a federal and national coverage. This spawned Letter from Canberra (www.letterfromcanberra.com.au) four years ago. Letter from Melbourne Contents State Government & Politics 1 Justice & Police 3 Federal1 Local Government 5 Arts1 Melbourne 5 Education1 Planning 5 Energy2 Sport 6 Environment & Conservation 2 Transport – ports 6 Events2 Transport – air 6 Gaming2 Transport – rail 6 Health2 Transport – road 7 Business & Investment 3 Utilities8 Industrial Relations3 Vale8 The only communication tool of its type, Letter from Melbourne keeps subscribers abreast of recent developments in the policy arena on a local, state and federal level. Published by A.B Urquhart & Company Pty Ltd trading as Affairs of State. Disclaimer: Material in this publication is general comment and not intended as advice on any particular matter. Professional advice should to be sought before action is taken. Material is complied from various sources including newspaper articles, press releases, government publications, Hansard, trade journals, etc. Copyright: This newsletter is copyright. No part may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission from the publisher. Affairs of State respects your privacy. While we do believe that the information contained in Letter from Melbourne will be useful to you, please advise us if you do not wish to receive any further communications from us. Edited words in this edition: 8,586 185 editions. 1.968 million words approx. Cover image The entire of Melbourne’ city citcle tram. Author: Steven Wright Staff Editor Alistair Urquhart [email protected] Sub Editor Morgan Squires [email protected] Design Cory Zanoni [email protected] Copy Editor Robert Stove [email protected] Subscriptions & advertising Alexandra Hughes [email protected] Advertise with us Want to get your firm or product in front of the power-holders of Victoria? Advertising with Letter from Melbourne is the best way to do so. Read by CEOs, MPs and movers-and-shakers in Melbourne and beyond, our magazine gets your voice by the people who matter. Email [email protected] or call 9654 1300 to discuss how we can help you. About the editor Alistair Urquhart, BA LLB Alistair Urquhart graduated from the Australian National University in Canberra, in Law, History and Politics. He may even hold the record for miles rowed on Lake Burley Griffin. He was admitted as a barrister and solicitor to the Supreme Court of Victoria, and remains a (non-practicing) member of the Law Institute of Victoria. Previously, he graduated from high school in Bethesda, Maryland, and had many opportunities to become aware of the workings of Washington D.C. For 30 years, he listened every Sunday evening to the late Alistair Cooke and his Letter from America. Alistair’s early career was mostly in the coal industry, where he became involved with energy, environmental and water issues, and later in the SME finance sector. He found time to be involved in a range of community activities where he came to understand some of the practical aspects of dealing with government and meeting people across the political spectrum. He now chairs a large disability employment service, including its British operations. About the publisher Affairs of State Established in 1993, is an independent Australian public affairs firm with contemporary international connections. Affairs of State provides a matrix of professional tools to multinational businesses, professional and industry associations, government agencies, pressure groups, NGOs and community causes in Australia and abroad. The firm works with many engineering and information technology firms and other professional association and industry groups on a wide range of issues in Victoria, Canberra and overseas. The firm provides the following to clients: - Two monthly publications - Events at our offices and elsewhere - Charts and specialist directories - Facilitation with business and legal skills - Training courses - Mentoring of senior executives editorial Infrastructure as our Melbourne gets bigger Well, The (independent) Age, the Herald Sun, The Australian Financial Review and The Australian have this month focused on the state of the nation: massive amounts of bullshit therein. (See editorial in Letter From Canberra). However, one of the practical things which did get a few bashings from a range of directions was Australian infrastructure and in particular the big East West Link, perhaps with extras, that Victoria will almost certainly proceed with now that the federal Coalition government has arrived. As perhaps an Age article said this week, ‘Melbourne is swelling by 2 per cent a year, adding more than 900,000 people since this century began’. Gosh. I think of some of the road turns and access/roads in the CBD and inner suburbs which were so handy back in 1999, and the children’s sea saw playground in Yarra Park, adjacent to Punt Road, which space now has several thousand vehicles an hour pass over it when that road was widened. Fifty more trams are presently being brought to readiness in engineering workshops in Melbourne. Will all help. This editor has a positive view on train and tram infrastructure proceeding in the next few years, for two main reasons. It has to be done, and financing has a couple of options, which are being discussed with more flexibility these days. Just see what former premier Kennett, in this issue, recently had to say. With this new government in Canberra, the Victorian government will have education, some transport and other infrastructure, and other issues in the easier to deal with basket. Fewer squabbles and stone-walling between the two levels of government, and local government The referendum on local government/financing was also not held.) Our cover is the City Circle tourist tram which in former years was greatly used by our parents and grand parents and further back. The 1958 Hire Purchase Act allowed most Melburnians to have a car and so roads and freeways had a greater emphasis. Now, Melbourne people, whether living in the inner suburbs or further out, have a greater need for trams and trains. The pressure is on. Happy reading. – Alistair Urquhart The Age, the Herald Sun, The Australian Financial Review and The Australian have this month focused on the state of the nation: massive amounts of bullshit therein. Letter from Melbourne 9 August to 10 September State government & politics Our Roads foundations According to The Age, Treasurer Michael O’Brien confirmed that the business case for the $6 billion to $8 billion tollway to link the Eastern Freeway and CityLink, will never be made public, citing commercial sensitivity. Secrecy around the business case for the eastwest public-private partnership has fuelled concern about the reasoning behind a project that the government has struggled to justify. It is also at odds with a call last year by former Kennett government minister Mark Birrell for the release of business cases for PPPs (privatepublic partnerships) in light of the financial collapse of toll tunnels in Brisbane and Sydney. Birrell is now the head of private infrastructure lobby Infrastructure Partnerships Australia. Jeff’s vision Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, who made his political mark as a debt-busting crusader for small government and privatisation, has urged the Victorian government to borrow whatever it takes to build a comprehensive underground rail system for Melbourne. RACV view In the Royal Auto magazine, President and chairman Ross Herron said ‘Melbourne’s complex transport needs require both the EastWest Link and the Metro Rail Tunnel to see our state prosper.’ Warning against budget pressure and also... John Doyle, Victoria’s new Auditor-General, has declared the global economic downturn has made the role of his independent office more important than ever because of budget pressure in government departments. In his annual report, Mr Doyle also said that the Napthine Government’s new laws for the anti-corruption commission have introduced ‘serious challenges to the effectiveness of my office’s operations ... some very problematic provisions remain that may compromise our timeliness and efficiency.’ Secrecy The Victorian Government is again caught up in a fight to restrict information about parolees committing serious crimes, just hours after the Premier vowed transparency following a damning report into Victoria’s failed parole system. The report – by former High Court judge Ian Callinan – confirmed that there were serious flaws in the system, including the Adult Parole Board encouraging the assumption that a prisoner would almost automatically be paroled at the earliest opportunity. Geoff is Open Independent MP Geoff Shaw has left open the prospect of quitting politics before the 2014 election to pursue other opportunities, raising further questions about the Coalition’s tenuous grip on power. According to The Age, Mr Shaw, who resigned from the parliamentary Liberal Party in March to sit on the crossbench, has revealed he is ‘leaving my options open’ after months of scrutiny from Labor and the media. Tobacco money The Victorian Liberal Party will no longer accept donations from tobacco companies after Tony Abbott’s decision to end the practice. Our good wishes According to the Herald Sun, former premier Joan Kirner said she was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer last month and had started chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Good jobs. Congratulations The Department of Treasury and Finance is looking for a new Secretary. [email protected] net. Grant Hehir is off to Sydney as the New South Wales Auditor-General. The Victorian government is also looking for a new Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is appointed by the Governor in Council for a period of 10 years, Carolyn Soddy (02) 9006 3468. At Last Letter From Melbourne is about to hit the streets with the Victorian Government Departmental chart 2013. 03 9654 1300 to purchase this useful item or go to our website letterfrommelbourne. com.au or affairs.com.au Federal Hold that wheel According to a report in the Herald Sun, Victoria’s Great Ocean Road will receive a $50 million facelift under an Abbott government to protect its status as one of the world’s great coastal driving routes. Arts Passing on According to a report in The Age, recognised for more than 20 years as one of Melbourne’s best chefs, veteran French restaurateur Jacques Reymond chose the The Age Good Food Guide awards to announce his retirement. Call it confidence, but with his eponymous Prahran restaurant having nabbed the guide’s highest accolade for 17 of the past 24 years, he passed the baton to his two sous-chefs. Street art Controversial artist Adrian Doyle raised the ire of Melburnians after he painted one of the city’s lane0ways completely blue. According to the Herald Sun, Rutledge Lane, which connects the jewel of Melbourne’s street art crown, Hosier Lane, was covered with a block-out of baby blue paint, destroying every piece of art in the colourful lane. Heart of the Arts The Melbourne Festival will be held from 11 to 27 October. Melbourne Festival is one of Australia’s leading international arts festivals and has an outstanding reputation for presenting unique international and Australian events in the fields of dance, theatre, music, visual arts, multimedia, free and outdoor events over 17 days each October. First staged in 1986 under the direction of composer Gian Carlo Menotti it became the third in the Spoleto Festival series – joining Spoleto, Italy, and Charleston, United States. Known as Spoleto Melbourne - Festival of the Three Worlds, it changed its name to the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts in 1990. In 2003, the Festival was renamed Melbourne International Arts Festival, and is now commonly known as Melbourne Festival. Education TAFE blowout According to The Age, Victorian taxpayers are spending tens of millions of dollars to prop up yet another botched IT project, this time across the embattled TAFE sector. In the wake of trouble-plagued projects such as the Ultranet, HealthSmart and myki, another high-tech computerised system has come under the spotlight for being over budget and heavily delayed. The latest initiative is a student administration system for TAFE institutes to keep records of their enrolments and finances, which began under the former Labor government in 2009. Four years later, the cost has blown out from $66.9 million to almost $100 million, several major institutes have refused to take part, and the program has still not been fully implemented. Rorts Training providers will be banned from enrolling well-educated staff and students in unnecessary remedial courses in a contentious bid to stop rorting of government-funded subsidies, a practice that has potentially cost taxpayers millions of dollars. According to The Age, in the latest upheaval to the vocational system, school students, people with diplomas or degrees, and those taking part in a Commonwealth employment scheme will no longer get public funding for so-called ‘foundation’ courses, which are designed to enhance basic skills in literacy and numeracy, and drew more than $60 million in government funding in the first three months of the year, according to opposition estimates. Red tape lessens... School principals will be able turn the tables on bureaucrats and get them to complete timeconsuming paperwork under a state-wide plan. According to the Herald Sun, the outsourcing service, previously only available to Victoria’s tiniest government schools, will allow all principals access to a ‘lab’ of Education Department experts to complete financial and administrative tasks. It aims to free up educators so they can spend more time in the classroom. Education Minister Martin Dixon said 78 rural and regional schools had so far joined the Local Administration Bureau or ‘LAB’ project. The service will be available to all government schools from next year, with smaller institutions expected to be the biggest users. A-team According to a report in The Age, strike teams of high-performing principals will be sent in to shake up struggling schools – and make their colleagues accountable for poor results – as part of a State Government plan to bridge the gaps in education. Conceding that too many students are still falling behind, the government has embarked on a radical new approach in which principals will be made to judge their peers and schools will be held to account by competitors. 1 Letter from Melbourne Tender documents reveal the department is setting up a new ‘review and intervention services panel’, whereby leading principals and education experts will forensically analyse the results, staffing structures and curriculum of under-performing schools. The worst schools will be reported to the department, which will deploy a group of ‘intervention specialists’ to try and turn the school around. Energy Delays government has found. According to The Age, the findings have potential implications for Victoria’s timber industry, with the cabinetin-confidence report suggesting tens of thousands more hectares of forest habitat is needed to give Leadbeater’s the best chance of avoiding extinction. The research – from the state government’s Arthur Rylah Institute – investigated the status of threatened species in the central highlands forests, which were ravaged by the Black Saturday bushfires. Oil and penguins don’t mix... Almost two in three electricity smart meters installed in some parts of Victoria are not fully working, as the deadline for the contentious roll-out looms. According to the Herald Sun, about 350,000 devices fitted in SP AusNet’s region are yet to go ‘live’ with remote meter reads. Bad news for the nationally beloved fairy penguins of Phillip Island: they would face, according to The Age, a ‘serious threat from an oil spill at the Port of Hastings – set to become Australia’s next major container dock under State Government plans.’ Victory According to The Age, three times in three years, someone has crept into Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens at night and committed, literally, crimes against nature. The most recent incident, on 19 July, included the ring-barking of a 400-year-old river red gum known as the Separation Tree, a brush box planted by the Queen and a spotted gum, the slashing of four other trees and the attempted burning of another. An electricity giant trying to slug Victorian customers tens of millions of dollars more for smart meters has had its legal bid for higher prices rebuffed. According to the Herald Sun, the Australian Competition Tribunal has dismissed distributor SP Ausnet’s appeal to increase charges over the next two years to cover communications technology costs. Public power Energy companies caught unfairly disconnecting homes are paying customers hundreds of dollars for ruined food, lost income and other compensation. According to the Herald Sun, the cases were revealed in an Energy and Water Ombudsman report. Environmen & conservation Baw Baw Mt Baw Baw Alpine Resort recently closed all lifts, despite bumper snow falls and threats of legal action from business owners. According to The Age, the shock decision raised further concerns about the financial viability of the resort, which has received more than $13 million in taxpayer funding since 2008, but is expected to announce another huge lost this year. Oh! Victoria’s endangered faunal emblem, the Leadbeater’s possum, has insufficient habitat to ensure the species’ long-term survival, a leaked report commissioned by the state 2 How sad This could be big Former State Governor and Olympic legend John Landy has joined a group of eminent Victorians urging the Victorian government to abandon moves to open up national parks for tourism development. The letter, titled Privatising Our National Parks – A Betrayal of Public Trust, says allowing tourism development is risky, deprives Victorians of their public land and is not in keeping with the environmental values of national parks. State emblems A 3,000-hectare State Emblems Conservation Area would be created on Melbourne’s eastern fringe as part of efforts to help stave off extinction for two Victorian species under the recommendations of a major review. According to The Age, an 18-month, governmentcommissioned study has called for the conservation area to be established, bringing together 13 existing reserves and 364 hectares of other land and inscribing it under the National Parks Act. The largely unknown and tiny Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve – which would be brought into the proposed 3000-hectare area – is home to the last wild populations of helmeted honey-eaters and lowland Leadbeater’s possums, both emblems of Victoria. Parkland developments A gardening expert has slammed the use of parks to build major developments and warned we face an urban environment crisis. According to the Herald Sun, Wes Fleming, whose firm won the top prize at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show in London, questioned the loss of land in Royal Park for the new Children’s Hospital. Birds Department of Environment and Primary Industries wildlife expert Peter Menkhorst said he had observed sparrows dwindling from an abundant population in the 1990s to a patchy distribution and lower numbers. According to the Herald Sun, one possible explanation for the brown bird’s gradual disappearance was its habit of building nests in the roofs of houses or other buildings. Cold snap On 9 August, the weather was hovering around 10 degrees, but 50 km/h winds and 70 per cent humidity pushed the apparent temperature below zero. Underground relief Melbourne City Council has closed several of the CBD’s underground toilets in recent years, although four of them are heritage-listed and six recognised by the National Trust. Steven Wojtkiw, chief economist at the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry, recommended that the council create a public competition to come up with the best ideas for what should be done with the remaining toilets. Events Springing into fashion With Melbourne’s recent warmer weather, it’s appropriate that the Melbourne Spring Fashion Week should have been occurring during the first week in September. This is the 19th consecutive year in which the Fashion Week has taken place. Gaming Spend limit... According to The Age, a new system to help gamblers set limits on their poker machine Letter from Melbourne 9 August to 10 September losses is likely to operate on the same card as venue loyalty programs aimed at maximising their spending. The state government will introduce legislation this year to usher in voluntary pre-commitment cards for every poker machine in Victoria, including those at Crown Casino, by the end of 2015. Talking of gaming, the Herald Sun announced that ‘gaming giant Intralot has revealed its intention to sue the state Government, claiming a 2008 tender process for lottery products was unfair. In a writ filed in the Supreme Court, Intralot claims its competitor, Tatts Group, was granted favourable treatment during licence negotiations for two public lottery categories.’ Health Solariums A ban on solariums has moved a step closer, following the progress of a Bill in Parliament. According to the Herald Sun, the change to the Radiation Act, which went through recently, would outlaw commercial tanning units within two years. Cancer Council Victoria prevention division director Craig Sinclair said his organisation was delighted that the ban of the dangerous machines was progressing. Helipad closure Critically ill Victorians could face longer and riskier ambulance journeys in coming months after the Royal Melbourne Hospital decided to shut down its helipad for more than 15 hours every day. According to The Age, the hospital – one of Melbourne’s two major trauma centres for adults – has temporarily closed its helipad from 3.30PM to 7AM on weekdays and for 40.5 hours over weekends, due to unmanned cranes on building sites nearby. The paper reported that one doctor who did not want to be named said that staff wanted one crane manned 24 hours a day so helicopters could continue to land at the helipad. Head of the Victorian State Trauma Registry and professor of emergency medicine Peter Cameron said there was no doubt that paramedics would choose to go to The Alfred over the Royal Melbourne Hospital while the diversions were in place to avoid complications. Donor parents According to a report in The Age, Victorian laws will be changed to allow children of sperm and egg donors born before 1988 to find out the identity of their biological parents – but only if the donor consents. Good job The Victorian Government is looking for a Mental Health Complaints Commissioner (Victoria). Kathy Townsend on (03) 9486 6519. Car deaths lower. A breakthrough ‘trauma vaccine’ was described recently by the Herald Sun in glowing terms. It’s to be used on car crash victims, and ‘could save 70 Victorian lives a year. The vaccine – which helps stem internal bleeding – will be a key weapon in a bid to bring the annual road toll under 200. It will be the first time the drug, Tranexamic acid, is used outside hospitals in Victoria, buying critically ill patients time after they lose the ability to clot blood. ... Hospital trauma surgeon Professor Russell Green, who has written a paper on the trial published in the Medical Journal of Australia ... called car crashes a major battleground in public health.’ Business & investment Opening doors According to the Herald Sun, Victoria’s business sector is burgeoning, growing faster than in any other state. New research reveals that over the past four years, 32,500 companies opened their doors. The number of businesses jumped to 551,220 last year – a rise of 6.3 per cent since 2008, according to ABS statistics. Nationally, almost 70,000 businesses have opened in the same period. Troubled lender The Age announced recently that investors in Gippsland Secured Investments, a troubled rural lender, face an uncertain future. This is because a proposal for community and business leaders was rejected by the Federal Court in NSW. The proposal was meant to try to pull GSI from the brink of insolvency by recapitalising and avoiding receivership. Industrial relations Dispute alarm According to a report in the Herald Sun, Victoria’s construction industry watchdog is investigating alleged harassment by unionists at a major rail project. CFMEU officials allegedly demanded that non-union workers be barred from level crossing grade separation works at Mitcham. Port storm According to a report in the Herald Sun, police surrounded Station Pier in Port Melbourne as an allegedly illegal protest, aimed at disrupting freight deliveries to the Spirit of Tasmania ferry continued. Up to 50 officers from public order response units lined up at the dock, where an estimated 20 protesters gathered from 6AM. Justice & police Parole Board Corrections Victoria compiles a parole assessment report for all offenders eligible for parole, which includes a risk analysis using the Victorian Intervention Screening Assessment Tool. Professor James Ogloff found that this tool had not been evaluated. An assessment has since been completed. Recommendations made in the Callinan review, which was released on Tuesday, are set to guide the state government in an overhaul of the parole system. The review by retired High Court judge Ian Callinan was established after the rape and murder of Jill Meagher by Adrian Ernest Bayley in September 2012. Parole board (2) According to the Herald Sun, the Adult Parole Board has hit back at a damning government report that criticised its handling of some of the state’s most violent criminals. It said parts of the review, by former High Court judge Ian Callinan, were wrong. Details Prisoners sentenced to three years or more must apply for parole; parolees returned to jail must serve at least half of their remaining sentences before parole is reconsidered; it will be harder for violent criminals, serious sex offenders and burglars to get parole, with a second ‘review’ panel overseeing decisions; dangerous prisoners would be paroled only if there is a ‘negligible’ chance of re-offending; legislation would be put in place to make community protection the paramount consideration; full time chair for the Adult Parole Board; Board members should serve no more than six-nine years; victims to be kept informed and given voice about the release of criminals; more should be done to attract and retain experienced parole officers; board operating manual to be made public, and board must publicise parolee homicides. All these are things the recent Callinan review of parole has recommended. Musings According to Dan Oakes in The Age, ‘The Parole Board has been silent over the months 3 feature Small business outlines ‘The BIG 4’ issues for survival VECCI calls on the Federal Government to keep its ongoing focus on the economy and business conditions by implementing the national reform blueprint, Getting On With Business, prepared by the national business body the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Federal Government to back business so it can get on with creating jobs and prosperity. With the federal election having decided the country’s leader, the Government now has the responsibility to move forward with implementing crucial reform in key areas including tax, jobs growth, trade liberalisation and infrastructure. • Responsible economic management and fiscal discipline Despite the best efforts of the business sector over the last decade, competitiveness and productivity have declined. VECCI strongly supports a whole-of-government reform agenda targeting five national priorities aimed at reinvigorating the private sector. As outlined in Getting On With Business, the national priorities include: a stronger economy; raising productivity and competitiveness; accessing global markets; better functioning institutions and supporting small business. The blueprint highlights the need for reforms such as a reduction in the company tax rate, a focus on the quality of the education and training system, harmonisation of existing regulations across states and territories and the adoption of a regulatory culture that understands the business process. These reforms will contribute to a positive economic environment that will encourage growth, leadership and innovation across the sector. This environment would be underpinned by business confidence and economic stability. Building the capacity of the private sector must be the central operating principle of the Government. Victoria needs the Issues VECCI is pursuing on behalf of our members are reflected in Getting On With Business and include: • • An acceleration in the pace and breadth of regulation reform Continuing support to build new trade opportunities for Victorian businesses in key emerging and traditional markets • Employer-focused training reforms • Strategic investment in infrastructure Significantly, Getting On With Business profiles the support needed for small business. During the election campaign, VECCI promoted the issues identified through the Small Business, Too Big To Ignore campaign, calling on both Labor and the Coalition to commit to the key priority areas. The BIG 4 You Can’t Ignore priorities issues as raised by small businesses include: cutting red tape, simplifying the tax system, making it easier to employ people and building better infrastructure. The campaign amplified the voices of the thousands of small businesses across the country that voiced their support for these key issues in the lead-up to the election. We will continue to urge the Federal Government to act on Getting On With Business, which is critical to the growth and success of the Victorian business sector. – VECCI Chief Executive, Mark Stone Letter from Melbourne 9 August to 10 September as public outrage has reached fever pitch, but privately the head of the board, Elizabeth Curtain, expressed her anger that the government was not defending the board. For its part, the government, you suspect, was happy for the board to be drawing the heat. But with the release of the 122-page report and the airing of its 23 recommendations, the focus should turn from recriminations to action.’ Not fit is on remand. More than 80 per cent are mothers, with their children at risk of being put into care. Feral teens A magistrate has refused to send a young repeat offender to a state home over fears carers there can’t control the children. According to the Herald Sun, the Department of Human Services said staff were unable to force young people to stay because they lacked powers afforded to youth justice centres. According to the Herald Sun, unfit Victoria Police recruits have failed a basic physical test Crime pays – for consultants that an expert says any overweight couch potato The Ravenhall prison project, The Age revealed, could pass. Ten out-of-shape probationary ‘has been lucrative for consultants, with a constables could not pass a ‘very easy’ seven- State Government [spending] $10.7 million stage fitness test, which includes completing for external advice. A private partner has not five push-ups and climbing over a waist high yet been appointed for the new men’s prison, obstacle. In 2009, Victoria Police announced but the Department of Justice has awarded they would reintroduce fitness tests for frontline contracts to 14 legal, design, engineering and officers, but the paper revealed that their security consultants and advisers.’ physical fitness is still not examined. Fines Victorians owe $1.2 billion in unpaid fines from warrants, with the state’s watchdog warning that a large number of offenders are not being held accountable. Victorian Ombudsman George Brouwer said there was ‘little deterrent’ for not paying fines and road safety was being compromised. The Ombudsman said there were not enough sheriffs to serve an escalating number of warrants issued for unpaid traffic, public order, industry regulation and environment protection fines. Legal crisis According to a report in The Age, national legal bodies have called on federal political parties to explain during the election campaign how they will solve the crisis in legal aid. Cashstrapped state legal aid commissions and community legal centres give free legal help to the most disadvantaged in criminal, civil and family disputes. Demand for their services has grown considerably in recent years, with some community legal centres saying they must turn away many people because they can no longer afford to help them. Gated community A Melbourne community with its own security force and CCTV network is beefing up its $800,000 safety system, despite concerns that exclusive neighbourhoods create a ‘two-phase society’. According to The Age, Sanctuary Lakes Resort – near Point Cook – already has number plate recognition technology at its single entrance and a panic button in every home. Now it plans to install new cameras in two roving 24/7 security vehicles. The 8,000-strong community is within the local government area of Wyndham, which in 2012-13 had the secondhighest rate of residential burglaries in Victoria. Too many Koori women have become the fastest growing segment of Victoria’s prison population, a new report from the state’s human rights commission has revealed. Unfinished Business, to be launched on Monday, finds the number of Koori women in jail has doubled over the past five years. According to The Age, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission report finds that one in 10 female prisoners in Victoria is Koori, and one in three Local government Breaches According to a report in the Herald Sun, Darebin Council may be monitored for the rest of its term after an Ombudsman’s investigation uncovered serious breaches by members of the council. Elections tweak, is a neat fit for the Melbourne restaurant industry’s tumultuous year. Last week saw the shock closure of Giuseppe Arnaldo and Sons at Crown, and the six-week-old Mercy in the city; last month saw the closure of South Yarra’s Louie. Embrasse, Gigibaba, Libertine, Mask of China, Wildflower and Walter’s Wine Bar all closed their doors in recent months. They won’t be the last closures in an industry doing it tough, with several other “name” restaurants on shaky ground.’ Melbourne Day Melbourne Day was Friday 30 August, the date in 1835 on which settlers from Tasmania disembarked from the ship Enterprise near present-day Flinders Street. This was the 178th anniversary, and the chief of Melbourne Day is Campbell Walker, son of former lord mayor Ron Walker. New app According to The Age, a free phone app that is a walking tour and living archive of Melbourne with anecdotes of memorable places from memorable people. The National Trust has released the ‘our city’ app for Melbourne – just in time for Melbourne’s 178th birthday celebrations. Boris in town London Mayor Boris Johnson jumped on a bike and zipped down Spring Street – without a care or a helmet. According to the Herald Sun, he showed remorse after he realised he was legally obliged to protect his head in THIS City, but not back home in London. There will be a sweeping review of local council elections in a bid to reduce the number of ‘dummy candidates’ and to reassess who is eligible to vote. According The Age, the review will be headed by respected Liberal Party elder statesman Petro Georgiou and will also Musings consider why almost a third of eligible voters did not vote at the 2012 council elections, In the Herald Sun, Boris Johnson said Britain candidate disclosures including membership ‘betrayed’ the Commonwealth by joining the of political parties and campaign donations. European Union, and should intensify ties with Recent local government elections have been countries such as Australia. In a provocative plagued by claims of dummy candidates – newspaper article, the London Mayor said the those with no real intention of winning – filling UK must distance itself from Europe and seek ballot papers to funnel votes to other candidates. a ‘wider destiny for our country’ further afield. At the last election some councils had as many A fervent critic of the EU, Mr Johnson said it was time to ‘raise our eyes beyond Europe’ and as 85 candidates for 11 vacancies. not think of ourselves as ‘little Europeans run by Brussels.’ Council sued There is trouble at Campaspe Shire as one of its own councillors sues the council on which he sits for $50,000 in legal bills over a planning dispute. Councillor Paul Jarman took the rural council to VCAT when it knocked back his application to build a cool room in the historic Star Hotel he runs in Echuca. Quitting Greater Geelong Mayor Keith Fagg has quit the job less than 10 months after taking office, citing personal health concerns. Melbourne Bursting According to a report in The Age, Melbourne’s population is swelling by 2 per cent a year, adding more than 900,000 people since this century began – and putting it on track to be a city of eight million people by 2050. The Bureau of Statistics estimates that in mid-2012, the city’s population was about to hit 4.25 million, after six boom years in which it grew by almost half a million. Restaurants In The Age, ‘May you dine in interesting times. The ancient Chinese curse, with a small What.... According to The Age, the running of Melbourne’s venerable Kelvin Club is to be taken over by a nightclub czar who once ran an unlicensed venue called Shit Town. Established in 1927, although its roots stretch back to 1868, the Kelvin Club is a traditional private club, which demands that men wear a suit jacket and tie in the dining room. Members were told that the new owner would overhaul the bar and the dining room, which offers such traditional club fare as bangers and mash. The club is believed to have about 100 members. Most are men, as the club only began admitting women in 1992. Rubbish According to the Herald Sun, city traders in popular Degraves Street hadn’t realised how much rubbish they were generating until they started collecting it. About 57 tonnes of glass, plastic, cardboard and other hard waste has been gathered, plus about six tonnes of food waste. Thanks to a $500,000 program sponsored by the City of Melbourne, the rubbish hasn’t gone to landfill. The traders are recycling most of their garbage thanks to high-tech machinery. Key to the project is an organic dehydrator, which 5 Letter from Melbourne removes water from food waste and converts it to compost. Calls to shine Melbourne’s rivers and bridges will be specially illuminated under a $20 million council plan to make the city more attractive and safe at night. According to the Herald Sun, public and private lighting will be co-ordinated to a single lighting theme for the city skyline. Wheel According to the Herald Sun, the relaunch of the troubled Docklands wheel has been delayed until 2014 – more than 1,800 days after its closure due to cracks. Good job Federation Square is looking for a new Chief Executive Officer, Jo Fisher Executive Search (03) 9016 6000. Planning Green light for 26 storeys When the ALP was last in office in Victoria, it gave permission for a 26-storey redevelopment project for the Melbourne site previously occupied by the Windsor Hotel. This permission was deplored in early September by Planning Minister Matthew Guy, ‘The Victorian Labor Party owes this state an enormous explanation as to how on Earth they gave a permit to gut one of the grand old ladies of Melbourne architecture.’ Ansett building According to The Age, a 1970s office tower has been signed up for a $7 million environmental upgrade as part of Melbourne City Council’s ambitious target to retro-fit up to two-thirds of the municipality’s commercial buildings. The 19-storey former Ansett building in Swanston Street will have its lifts, cooling and heating systems upgraded with estimated annual savings of 606,700 kilograms in carbon emissions and an $80,000 reduction in the building’s yearly energy bills. The building is part of the council’s ambitious 1200 buildings program in which building owners have access to finance to upgrade the building with the loan repaid through council rates. Micro-planning According to The Age, ‘micro-apartments’ are a trend in the world’s Western cities but not 6 everyone is in favour of them. Most are less than 18.5 square metres, including separate bathrooms. They typically come furnished, sometimes with built-in beds and other amenities. Few come with parking. Building authorities in Sydney, Adelaide and London have acted to stop such development by requiring a one-bedroom flat to be a minimum of 50 square metres. Melbourne Council is considering similar rules because of concerns about residents’ quality of life. The median size of a new one-bedder in inner Melbourne has dropped from 52 to 44 square metres in five years, according to research by Oliver Hume Real Estate group. Hong Kong? Rezoning According to The Age, the Liberal Party has averted a potentially damaging pre-election court examination of Planning Minister Matthew Guy’s botched rezoning of farmland on Phillip Island, courtesy of a taxpayerfunded deal to silence the landowner and developer involved. In a last-minute, out-ofcourt settlement, the Victorian Government has struck a confidential deal aimed at putting an end to the two-year row over Mr Guy’s backflip on rezoning of a 24-hectare property to residential at Ventnor. Phillip Island Planning Minister Matthew Guy faces his first censure motion in Parliament over the taxpayerfunded, multi-million-dollar payout for his botched rezoning of farmland at Ventnor on Phillip Island. According to The Age, architect Rob Adams, the city’s most influential planner and urban designer, has warned that central Melbourne will become ‘windy, dark and not a pleasant place to be’ if 104 tall towers now approved for construction in central Melbourne are built. Revamp Professor Adams, Melbourne City Council’s director of city design, joined the council in Barry Humphries has entered the debate over 1983 with a brief to reinvigorate the city core by the proposed redesign of Flinders Street Station bringing residents back. Today there are 28,000 – calling it a ‘big drain’. apartments within Melbourne City Council’s boundaries. And 14,000 more are planned over Public rental crackdown? the next five years. Professor Adams questioned The Age announced that ‘vulnerable public whether Melbourne’s ‘flood’ of apartment housing tenants are increasingly facing eviction development was now going too far. for unpaid rent, with homeless services warning they have been inundated with requests for help.’ Hotel call Nevertheless a Department of Human Services According to the Herald Sun, Lord Mayor spokeswoman ‘said there had been no change Robert Doyle declared an indirect conflict of to the department’s rental arrears policy and it interest and excuses himself from a council expected tenants to meet their responsibilities, meeting when a controversial CBD hotel which were set out when they signed a lease. proposal was raised. The Lord Mayor’s former “Eviction is always a last resort”.’ chief-of-staff, Alistair Paterson, is a consultant to developer Jinshan Investments, which wants to build a 100m luxury hotel and units Sport on the Palace Theatre site at the top of Bourke How sad Street. Essendon Football Club has been (1) banned from the 2013 finals series, (2) hit with Festival miffed The Melbourne International Film Festival significant draft penalties (3) slapped with a is facing a seating crisis, with the imminent $2 million fine for the derelict failures of its demise of its largest venue casting a shadow football program in 2012, and (4) coach James over its future as a city-based event. According Hird has been banned from coaching for 12 to a report in The Age, the Greater Union months. Oh to have been a fly or a flea on the Russell Street is set to be demolished, with wall! the six-cinema complex to be replaced by a 12-storey hotel and apartment block. Though Transport – Ports the new building will be developed by the company that owns the cinema, Amalgamated Port access? Holdings Limited, its plans include a restaurant The first stage of the East-West Link could and rooftop bar but no cinema. include an extension to the Port of Melbourne Letter from Melbourne 9 August to 10 September as part of a plan to manage truck traffic linked to a doubling of container trade over the next decade. According to a report in The Age, the government is believed to have encouraged companies bidding to build the road to include add-on plans for ‘further stages’ of the project – including a raised road extending from CityLink south of Dynon Road to the port. Although the port connection is not a mandatory part of the tender process, tender documents make it clear that a truck access point to the port is considered a priority. The link will be assessed as part of the government’s comprehensive impact statement examining the environmental and social effects of the project, which is expected to cost up to $8 billion. Ferry service? A ferry will transport visitors from the CBD to Chapel Street as part of a newly released master plan to restore the tired shopping strip to its glory days. According to The Age, under the master plan developed by Stonnington City Council, a ferry terminal would be erected on the Yarra River at the northern end of Chapel Street at the intersection of Alexandra Avenue. The terminal would form one of two major gateways to the shopping strip in a bid to attract visitors to the precinct, which is described in the report as ‘run-down’ and ‘outdated’. Transport – Air Airport announcement Essendon Airport’s 2013 Preliminary Draft Master Plan outlines the direction and vision of Essendon Airport with the aim to create more jobs, increase community benefit, and provide a greater vision for the next 20 years. Transport – Rail Rail tunnel As Premier Denis Napthine pushes ahead with plans for an east-west road between Clifton Hill and Flemington, an economic report has argued in favour of the alternative rail proposal: an underground train line between South Yarra and Kensington. According to The Age, the report was prepared last year for the Council of Australian Governments reform council. It says the Melbourne Metro would improve travel times, reshape employment opportunities, and ‘significantly’ mitigate disadvantage in Melbourne’s west by giving people more access to work. In turn, labour productivity would increase by about $384 million over the next 30 years, and ‘equality of opportunity’ would improve. Borrow to build (2) Borrowing big could be the answer to boosting Victoria’s public transport network, according to the state’s public transport boss. According to a report in The Age, with a rail expansion ‘vision’ – one that includes the multi-billiondollar Melbourne Metro nine kilometre rail tunnel through inner Melbourne, linking the Sunbury and Pakenham/Cranbourne rail lines, and new lines to Rowville, Doncaster and the airport – Public Transport Victoria boss Ian Dobbs said borrowing should be on the table. Lack of space Metro-authorised officers fined almost 5,000 motorists last financial year for illegal parking at just twelve Melbourne stations, government data shows. The rail operator’s authorised officers – who also fine fare evaders – issued a total of 4,784 infringement notices to motorists who had illegally parked at one of the network’s 12 most overstretched stations last financial year, netting the state government more than $265,000 in consolidated revenue. According to The Age, the chronic parking squeeze is worst at outer suburban zone two stations and at zone one/two crossover stations, many of which do have large car parks. Werribee, which has a car park with 582 spaces, was the station at which the highest number of fines was issued. In total, 1115 fines were issued there last financial year, costing commuters $32,589, Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure data reveals. Commuters at Watsonia station were fined even harder, with 721 fines issued, totalling $42,286. Ghettos According to The Age, an $18 billion backlog of unrealised road and rail projects risks turning Melbourne’s outer suburbs into isolated ghettos because successive state governments have failed to convert long-term plans into reality, the state’s Auditor-General has warned. In a new report on transport infrastructure in Melbourne’s outer growth areas, AuditorGeneral John Doyle identified several longstanding transport projects for Melbourne that have languished at the planning stage. At the furthest extreme is the Doncaster rail line, first identified in 1929 and now due for completion in 2027, according to Public Transport Victoria’s rail plan – a gap of 98 years. Eddington on project costs Infrastructure expert Sir Rod Eddington has called for maximum transparency to allow the public to make up its own mind about major transport projects such as Melbourne’s East- West Link. Asked about the Napthine cabinet’s decision to keep the business case for the road secret, Sir Rod told The Age that he hoped to reach a point where governments were prepared to release detailed costings to allow independent scrutiny. Talbot back According to The Age, construction of a new station will start in October, and will be finished by the end of the year at a cost to taxpayers of $2.5 million, Public Transport Victoria says. Talbot, in the marginal Labor-held state seat of Ripon, will be the smallest town in Victoria with a functioning railway station. There is an existing station, a single-storey brick and cast iron building from the 1870s, but it cannot accommodate V/Line’s modern VLocity trains and so will remain in its current use as a plant nursery. Talbot – 165 kilometres north-west of Melbourne – is the only disused stop on the Maryborough line. The Coalition promised at the last state election to reopen it, to the joy of locals who had lobbied for its return. Transport – Road No licence, please, we’re Gen Y Adam Shand, columnist for The Australian, wrote recently that for members of Generation Y, getting a driver’s licence – far from being the obligatory rite of adult passage it used to be for millions of young people – seems to have become an optional extra. ‘A new study in Victoria by Monash University shows the number of licence holders under 30 is dropping at more than 1 per cent a year. Having a smart phone is more important to Gen Y than having a car.’ Freedom for roads, CityLink urges CityLink has raised, according to the Herald Sun, ‘the long-term prospect of charging motorists more for travel in peak hours and less for off-peak journeys. Transurban CEO Scott Charlton said congestion could be eased in peak times by selling blocks of off-peak time on toll roads in exchange for fixed price contracts. Speaking at a Freight Week conference run by the Victorian Transport Association and the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, he acknowledged reform was “politically charged”.’ But, he said, leaders ‘could not wait for the perfect solution or keep building their way out of congestion.’ New ramp fears New ramps will connect the East-West Link to Arden Street in Melbourne’s inner north, funnelling thousands of vehicles on to Kensington and North Melbourne streets. 7 Letter from Melbourne According to a report in The Age, previously concealed plans for the second stage of the planned multi-billion-dollar toll road show ‘future Arden Street ramps’ joining a four-lane elevated road alongside CityLink. The map, created by the Linking Melbourne Authority, has dotted lines indicating on and off ramps connecting the elevated link to Arden and Lloyd Streets. The map also shows 21 properties in Kensington that will be acquired to make way for the four-lane road, which will run for much of its length along the western bank of Moonee Ponds Creek. the eastern side of the road, which has been under a public acquisition overlay since the 1950s. The government is weighing up the road’s future as part of its strategy to manage Melbourne’s long-term growth but insists it has no plans to widen it ‘at this point in time’. A ‘preliminary study’ on the future of Punt Road, completed last year, considered four options. In the long-term, road widening is ‘the only opportunity for providing additional northsouth capacity’ in the area, other than digging a new road tunnel, VicRoads believes. Bid rejected Widening one of Melbourne’s key arterials, Punt Road, and bulldozing homes in the process is not on the State Government’s horizon, according to its Planning Minister, Matthew Guy. According to The Age, the Victorian government rejected a bid by Australia’s largest superannuation fund to finance, build and operate the entire East-West Link as a single project stretching 18 kilometres from the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road. Industry Funds Management, which invests more than $46 billion worldwide, lodged a detailed proposal to build both sections of the road simultaneously, suggesting it could be done for under $12 billion with minimal risk for taxpayers. Government sources confirmed the fund handed in the unsolicited bid to the Department of Treasury and Finance in late May in the wake of the state budget. Ad The Victorian Government has launched a scathing attack on Labor and its opposition to the East-West Link, releasing an online advertisement that suggests Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews is a hypocrite. Planning Minister Matthew Guy said that Labor needed to stop lying about the project. Not good State Treasurer Michael O’Brien has revealed that the government dismissed an unsolicited bid to build the entire East-West Link because it was not good value for money. Benefits inflated Traffic estimates used to justify the Victorian government’s East-West Link toll road ‘artificially inflate the benefits that can be expected from the project’, according to leaked emails sent by a senior VicRoads manager. According to a report in The Age, a separate leaked memo from VicRoads’ senior transport economist questions traffic figures put forward to support the road, saying the projection ‘smacks of a desire to enhance the quantum of benefits’. Premier Denis Napthine dismissed the leaked emails as merely advice from public servants who were ‘individuals that have different views’. They were not the view of VicRoads, he said. Dr Napthine has vowed to see construction start on the East-West Link road, joining the Eastern Freeway to CityLink, before next year’s election. The Coalition came to office promising a variety of public transport projects, including a new rail line to Doncaster, and ridiculed preelection suggestions it planned building the sixkilometre freeway. The $6-$8 billion road – the most expensive transport project in Victoria’s history – would tunnel from Clifton Hill under North Carlton to Flemington, cutting the trip from the Eastern Freeway to CityLink to just seven minutes. Fuck VicRoads has proposed widening Punt Road from four lanes to six between Alexandra Avenue, South Yarra and Union Street in Windsor. This would require bulldozing a 20-metre-wide path through every property on 8 No F.... way A giant The RACV has become a giant in Victoria, rapidly expanding to one of Australia’s biggest tourism operators, boasting more than 2 million service members and billions of dollars in assets. Two out of every three households in Victoria have some form of RACV membership, and what started as a small motoring club in 1903 has boomed to have annual revenue of $430 million. The organisation’s Royal Auto magazine is distributed to 1.5 million properties, making it the highest-circulation magazine in Victoria. While 1.13 million members are eligible to vote in the election, fewer than seven per cent voted last time. According to The Age, one who will be voting is cyclist and car owner Noel Jacobs, who believes the RACV concentrates too much of its muscle on promoting car drivers. Rushing According to the Herald Sun, more than 5,000 motorists were caught by Department of Justice cameras travelling more than 30km/h above the speed limit in one year, while police caught another 7,500. Mercy According to the Herald Sun, the speed camera watchdog will call for fines for almost 1,000 motorists to be scrapped because they sped inadvertently. Gordon Lewis believes this is the only fair thing to do, because signs warning of temporary 40km/h zones near road-works were inadequate. Cabs The taxi industry has asked Victoria’s regulation watchdog to investigate the State government’s reforms. According to the Herald Sun, the Victorian Taxi Association filed a competitive neutrality complaint with the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission, claiming the licensing changes give the government a competitive advantage. Cabs (2) Foreign students on visas will be allowed to rent a taxi licence from the Victorian Government in a move slammed by existing plate holders. According to the Herald Sun, the issue was raised in a fiery meeting between Transport Minister Terry Mulder, taxi tsar, (or a more objective and sensible and non-journalistic word) Commissioner Graeme Samuel and several licence holders from the Victorian Taxi Families group. Anyone can rent a taxi licence from the government for $22,000 a year, indexed at 0.5 per cent below CPI. This decision comes as part of reforms aimed to improve the troubled industry. Oldies According to the Herald Sun, 80 elderly drivers are being banned from Victorian roads every week after being dobbed in by family, doctors, police and the public. The licences of 4,106 drivers aged 71 and over were suspended or can celled in 2012-13 after failing a VicRoads medical review. That is almost one in six of the state’s 24,824 drivers in that age group. A further 84,000 have had licence conditions imposed, including wearing glasses, kilometre radius restrictions and night-time driving bans. There have been six major accidents involving older drivers in as many weeks. Our friends According to a report in the Herald Sun, vets are warning tradesmen to keep their pets properly restrained. Lort Smith Animal Hospital head veterinarian Dr Andrew Kapsis said that hundreds of dogs were injured every year while travelling on ute trays. Utilities Warm inner blow During August, wind farms in four states produced record levels of energy. The Age, which announced this finding, said that the energy thus generated ‘could power 155,000 Australian homes for a year. Across the country, enough power was generated from wind farms to make toasted sandwiches for more than 6.1 billion people, almost enough for every person on earth. The new levels were a result of the growing number of wind farms and a gusty last month of winter, the Clean Energy Council says, pointing out that 8 per cent of the power in the National Electricity Market in August came from wind farms. In South Australia, wind farms produced the equivalent of almost 40 per cent of the state’s power, significantly higher than its previous record of 31.2 per cent.’ Vale David Robert Balderstone, 67. Dr Jan Altmann. Bernard Barron, 86. World Vision Australia founder. Enrico Bernoni, 92. Dr T. Ray Bradley AM, scientist and jazzman. William Brennan, 75. Former Catholic Bishop of Wagga Wagga (1984-2002), notable for wholesale reforms of education and seminary life in his diocese. Tom Christian, 78. Descendent of Fletcher Christian. William Dimmick, 88. Member of 460 Squadron. Sir David Frost, 74. Internationally renowned British broadcaster over five decades, who interviewed British Prime Ministers from Harold Wilson to Tony Blair, but whose most famous single televisual appearance was his 1977 post-Watergate grilling of Richard Nixon. Robert Ebihara. Brigadier William ‘Mac’ Grant OAM RFD, 90. Veteran of World War II and everywhere else and later employed by ASIS, in which connection he became close to Indonesia’s General Murdani. Alex Hawkins. Mary Irving. Ivan Light. John McArdle QC. Phyllis C. McBean, 101. Bruce McBrien OAM. Former Honorary Secretary of the Council of British and Commonwealth Societies. Tessa Joy McCann. Donald McGinn. Former chairman of MCM Entertainment. Hubert Henry Miller OAM, 81. William Nicholson, 85. Bill Peach, 78. Veteran television journalist. David Powell, 56. James Ramsay, former MLA for Balwyn. Max Reed. Former St Kilda Football Club player. Lt Col Ronald Rust, 89. Prof Emer Dr Peter Schwedtfeger, 77. Peter O’Shaughnessy, 89. Philip Roland Smibert. Loti Smorgon AO. Joan Sturzaker OAM. Dr Jack Swann. Michael Symmons. Ios Teper, 98. Soviet war hero and Jewish activist. Jack Thompson, WWII veteran. Edward (Ted) Woolcock. Bernard Worsam.
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