Thursday, January 25, 2007

Out of pocket expenses

Melbourne City Council pays hookers claiming in the name of market research

Melbourne City Council paying prostitutes for services in the name of research.

the City of Melbourne has forked out an unknown amount of money for research into prostituting. What's next a world tour of the worlds "hot spots" to facility the marketing of Melbourne's adult entertainment services. Melbourne's Premier Street "Swanston Street", in spite the City Council's promises to clean up the City Center, continues to be one of the City's main locations for sex shows and adult entertainment.

Questions have been asked by senior law enforcement officials as to the merits and legality of the City Council's actions. (What advise did Alison Lyons, disgraced former City of Melbourne's Legal advisor now working for the MAV, provide Dick Gross)

Many question are remain unanswered as to the occupational and safety aspects of the contract and quality research undertaken. Was there any bias in the quality research and sampling?

When Melbourne's Chief executive, David Pitchford, said that these investigators which had paid for sexual services had acted "voluntarily". Did the City Council get satisfaction for the money spent and paid for by ratepayers. Was it a tender contract with discrimination based on the service providers marital or sexual preferences? What qualifications were required and what basis of justification was made for this disgraceful public conduct? What details of reporting has been made to the City Council and will the reports be made public and or subject to FOI? or is is a "R" rated report?

Does this mean that our City Councillors can now claim out of pocket expenses for money paid to sex workers?

Maybe this explains why the City Council paid $800 a night in accomodation/service costs in St Petersburg

Councils pay private detectives to have illicit sex
Clay Lucas January 25, 2007
The Age

MELBOURNE councils are paying private detectives to have sex with prostitutes, to gather evidence against illegal brothels.

Melbourne City Council and Yarra Council yesterday confirmed they had paid private investigators to approach prostitutes, and in at least 17 cases, investigators had sex with them.

Other councils across the city confirmed they had also paid private investigators to visit illegal brothels, but stopped short of confirming sexual services had been provided.

Victoria Police questioned the method of obtaining evidence, saying it was a highly unusual way of proving a brothel was operating illegally. "It has never been Victoria Police's practice to use that method of operation," Inspector Craig Walsh said last night. "I have been around for 22-odd years and I have never heard of it."

Police effectively stopped policing brothels when Victoria Police's vice squad was closed in 1999. Since then, complaints about brothels to police have been referred to local governments. Police said yesterday that enforcing illegal brothels was a planning issue.

Yarra Council confirmed yesterday it had hired investigators from a specialist firm six times in the past two years to gather evidence to be used against illegal brothels. On four occasions, this had involved investigators receiving a sexual service, a council spokeswoman said, enabling council to successfully prosecute and close the premises down.

"Council has an obligation to respond to community concerns and pursue any (brothel) that does not comply with the local planning scheme," Yarra mayor Jenny Farrar said.

"Without concrete evidence, Yarra is powerless to shut down these illegal operations." Cr Farrar said the courts had deemed that to be successful in a prosecution, a sexual service had to be provided. "This leaves us with little choice but to get the evidence needed to close these places down," she said.

The council would not reveal how much private investigators had paid to illegal brothels.

Melbourne City Council also confirmed that private investigators working for the council had paid for "sexual acts" performed by illegal prostitutes.

Chief executive David Pitchford said that these investigators had acted "voluntarily".

"Council has no alternative but to provide direct evidence to achieve a successful prosecution," Mr Pitchford said.

"Clients of illegal brothels cannot be forced to incriminate themselves."

William Albon, spokesman for the Australian Adult Entertainment Association that represents legal brothels and escort agencies, has long claimed there are more than 400 illegal brothels operating in Victoria. He said local councils were doing "excellent work" pursuing illegal brothels. "But it is regrettable that councils have had this enforcement task dumped on them," he said. Mr Albon said that, under the Prostitution Control Act, Consumer Affairs Victoria should be enforcing illegal prostitution.

"But they are hopelessly derelict in their duty," Mr Albon said. "The public records shows that not once in 13 years (has) CAV … brought a prosecution of an illegal brothel before a court or tribunal."

The Municipal Association of Victoria called for more collaboration across various tiers of government so that councils did not have to resort to such desperate measures to shut down illegal brothels.

President Dick Gross said it should be easier for councils to close illegal brothels. "It needs to be defined how private investigators can (get evidence) in an illegal environment," he said.

He called for the Prostitution Control Act to be changed, along with the Planning and Environment Act, so that illegal brothels were easier to shut down.

"The real issues are residential amenity and immigration issues: women are far less protected in a deregulated environment," he said.

The State Government last year committed to reviewing the 1994 Prostitution Control Act. There is "a proliferation of illegal brothels in Melbourne" according to Monash councillor Geoff Lake, a former Municipal Association of Victoria president.

Monday, January 15, 2007

So What

John So puts Melbourne's Historic Gardens at risk

John So rejects professional advice recommending that the Annual Melbourne Flower Show be relocated to protect Melbourne's Exhibition Gardens which is already under stress as a result of the drought.

The City Council's horticultural experts have recommended that the Gardens be relocated to a more suitable alternative site so as to protect the Gardens and Trees.

Local Residents agree and have been calling for the commercial garden show to be moved.

The organisers of the Flower show are more interested in profits then Melbourne's Parks and Gardens.

John So who has no expertise or understanding of horticulture has rejected the recommendations raising yet again concern over John So's suitability to protect Melbourne's Parks and Gardens.

Melbourne is in drought and our parks and gardens are under serious threat and John So, rather then acting to protect the historic trees has now seriously placed them at greater risk. A risk that can not be justified.

If the show is not recolated then the public bococtt it in order to demonstrate their opposition to John So's irresponsible and reckless action.

Flower show stays despite tree fears
Source: The Age
Clay Lucas, City Reporter
January 15, 2007

Lord Mayor John So has resisted calls for the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show to be moved from Carlton Gardens because of fears its thirsty elms could be harmed by the event.

Melbourne City Council's water spokesman Brian Shanahan yesterday called on the show, which is likely to attract 125,000 visitors, to be moved.

Cr Shanahan said the show in April would put great stress on the stricken gardens.

The gardens are one of nine heritage-listed parks the council wants exempted from stage 3 restrictions, because of the poor health of some elms and oaks.

It is believed the flower show's organisers, the International Management Group, will have to apply to City West Water for an exemption to water commercial displays — a move that could stir indignation among Melbourne gardeners who can water their garden only two days a week.

IMG, which pays an annual fee of about $100,000 to run the show in the gardens, would not comment.

The show has been in the Carlton Gardens for the past 11 years and has long infuriated residents, who say it hurts trees and plants.

Last year, thanks to support from Cr So, the five-day show was given another two years in the gardens.

Council has come out several times this week to say the city's trees are in a dire state because of the drought.

Cr So, who will meet with Environment Minister John Thwaites on Friday to discuss water issues, said the show was too important to move.

"The Gardens and Flower Show is a signature Melbourne event and must stay in the Carlton Gardens," he said.

Carlton Gardens Group convener Margaret O'Brien said the show would cause the removal of emergency drip systems set up in the gardens, further endangering the struggling trees.

Ms O'Brien said the show should be moved to another venue such as the Showgrounds, the Exhibition Centre or Birrarung Marr.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Legionella plagues Melbourne City once again

This times it's Melbourne City Council's show case eco-center 'Council House2' that's effected

Melbourne is once again inflicted with the potential outbreak of the deadly Legionella bacteria which has previously claimed lives and resulted in the closure of Melbourne's Aquarium.

Now it is the City Council's newest and latest pride and joy the Council House2 that is infected with the deadly bacteria.

Legionella found in Melbourne building
Source: The Age

The potentially deadly bacterium legionella has been found during an inspection of the cooling system of Melbourne City Council's new green Council House 2 building.

Low levels of the potentially deadly bacterium have been found in the cooling system less than six months after the $51 million building opened.

The council said that the legionella was a low risk strain that did not pose a risk to staff or the public.

The discovery did not reflect badly on the building's cutting edge reputation, Lord Mayor John So told Fairfax.

Staff were told of the test result last week.

The Human Services department has since inspected the building in Little Collins Street and declared no risk to staff working there.

Five-hundred-and-forty council staff work in the 10-storey building.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Costs up equals visitors down

It all depends on how you look at it

The City of Melbourne tries to put a "positive" spin on it.

Less and less Melburnians are travelling into the city but the council points out they are spending more. To anyone else but the City Council this would be ringing alarm bells. It becoming expensive to visit the city centre and costs in transport and parking in particular adds to the overall bill .

The Council tells us that there is less people coming into the city. The State Government has just upped the City coffers and introduced a consumption tax, this will mean more costs and less people visiting the city in 2007.

We can expect that Melbourne's retailers will soon call it a day or demand a reduction in the rent as more and more Melburnians seek to do their shopping outside the CDB. No doubts the City Council administration will argue that they need to travel abroad to find solutions to the problem. I can see another shopping tour on the Councillors on their schedule.

Tourists help lift CBD spending by $1.5 billion
Source: The Age
ONE-IN-FIVE Melburnians are coming to the city centre less often but spending in the city is growing nonetheless, according to Melbourne City Council research.

City visitors spent an average of $41 every time they came to the CBD last year, compared with $34 two years ago, according to the Central City Users Survey, a biennial snapshot of city trends.

The report found that city visitors spent almost $1.5 billion more than they did in 2004 when the survey was last taken.

Last year, CBD visitors spent an average of $22.5 million every weekday and $24.5 million on weekends.

While the average amount spent every day by city visitors was $15 — presumably by city workers — an average spend of $145 a day by interstate and international visitors pushed up the average daily spend to $41.

The survey found that just under half of the city's 543,000 daily weekday visitors were aged under 30. It also found that 18 per cent of those surveyed said they visited the city centre less often.

There were 72,000 tourists in the city each day; half from interstate, and 31,000 from overseas.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Norway lays down a challenge to Melbourne City Council

Greens challenged to bring in quotas on thier green house gas travel

Norway has decided to place quotas on green house gas emissions generated by public servants travelling the globe on public taxes. Something we think Melbourne City Council should also adopt.

Melbourne City Council is renowned for its glob trotting Councillors and Staff seeking overseas five-star luxury holidays at ratepayers expenses. The City of Melbourne is set to top the Overseas holiday expenses yet again this year. The previous City Council, under the leadership of John So, spent over 1 Million dollars in overseas travel.

Greens Councillor, Frazer Brindley managed to talk the City Council into funding travel expenses related to his executive position held an international environment confest organisation. he was elected to the ICLIE executive ion the basis that the City Council would foot the bill for all travel costs.. Why the Council is funding a third party's executive governance cost is anyone guess.

No restrictions when it comes to the City Council's overseas holidays and South African Safaris. Cr Brindley's African sunset tour last year generated around 60% of the annual Co2 emissions for an average family car so he could attend an ICLIE executive meeting. Why could they not have arrange an Internet hook-up to discuss their corporate governance is anyone guess.

Executive travel and international "Confests" are big business and generate significant Green house gas emissions whilst pumping the brave new world of international corporate tourism .

So much to the Greens commitment to fiscal and environmental responsibility.

Come January 1 Public commuters have been hit with a congestion tax to help fund the City Council's Travel budget and their new competitive busting Tourist bus whilst public transport users are left waiting for a ride.

In the meantime Melbourne's "Car Free Council still refuses to publish the costs associated wit the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayors Limousine. The City Council continues to hide the costs associated with the lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayors limos.

Shame Fraser Shame.

Norway to buy greenhouse quotas
Norway plans to offset the greenhouse gases caused by state employees' flights abroad by buying emissions quotas to help combat global warming, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said.

His office said Norway was probably the first country in the world to buy such quotas.

"The government has decided that when state employees travel by plane abroad, we will buy quotas for the emissions caused by the trip," Stoltenberg said in a New Year speech.

"We want to set an example. We hope that companies, organisations and other countries will follow," he said.

Emissions by planes on international flights are excluded from the goals of the UN's Kyoto Protocol, a plan that binds 35 rich nations to cut emissions from burning oil, coal and natural gas by five per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

Stoltenberg did not say how much his plan would cost.

Norway's NTB news agency estimated the cost at about $US400,000 ($A508,000) a year.

Most scientists say emissions from burning oil, coal and natural gas are to blame for a global rise in temperatures that may wreak havoc with the climate by causing more floods, desertification, heatwaves, spreading disease and raising sea levels.

Some companies, including Norway's oil group Statoil, already have similar policies of paying for emissions caused by employees' flights.

According to the Carbon Neutral Company, a passenger travelling one way from Oslo to Washington would account for emissions of 0.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

It suggests a compensating investment of about $US12 ($A15.24) in windmills or planting trees.

"In many parts of the country we have had the warmest autumn and winter months for 100 years," Stoltenberg said.

"We notice it in our daily lives - skis are standing unused. Children are not making snowmen. Researchers say polar bears are threatened."

2007 - Reuters