Sunday, May 25, 2008

One vote One value

Bringing Australia's electoral system into the 21st Century

Australia's electoral system in need of reform to ensure one vote one value

The Australian Joint Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Matters is currently reviewing Australia's electoral system following the 2007 Federal election

Australia's electoral system was designed in the early 20th Century to facilitate a manual counting system to elect Members of the Australian Senate. The system in use has also been adopted in various forms for State and Municipal elections.

With the use of electronic computerised counting system now is the time to bring Australia's electoral system into the 21st century and in doing so remove a serious distortion in the method of counting proportional representation ballots.

The current system seriously distorts the one vote one value principle of proportional representation.

Analysis of the 2007 Victorian Senate election has highlighted the extent of distortion in the electoral system. Based on a realistic hyothetical with One Nation placing the Liberal party ahead of the Australian Labor Party the system currently in use delivers an additional 6,200 votes disproportionally to the Greens and produces a different outcome. (Under a pure proportional system based on the value of the vote the Australian Labor Party would have secured the six position)

This issue also effects the Victorian Municipal elections scheduled for November 2008. The effect of the in-built distortion in the value of the vote is greater in Municipal elections where there is no above-the-line voting. This is an issue that MUST also be addressed by the Victorian State Government. (Copies of the submission have been sent to John Brumby, John Lenders and Richard Wynn)

Link to Submission.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rate rise as sun sets on So

Residents face hike in City Rates to pay for Johns Travels

The Melbourne City Council has published its budget which shows an eight percent increase in Council rates and income. With CPI recorded at 4% that's a net 4% increase in Council rates.

BUT the council figures have been though the Council Finance laundry and the whites look whiter then white.

Here are some of the tricks they try

The budget comparison is based on the mid year review of last years budget. The Council underestimates the income and low and behold come mid year review there is more money received then they expected. The mid year budget is revised and the Council spends the win-fall which is then used to set the bench line in the following years budget.

In spite a recommendation by the Council Auditors the City Council has not listed a budget allocation for overseas trips and Council expenses. They have an open check as the costs of Councillors expenditure is concealed in the overall expenses.

Prior to the Kennet financial review the Council was required to publish a full detail budget./ Nowe they just published the minimum. Previously;y the Council cam under criticism for printing what was considered to be a City size telephone book budget. Many trees dies to publish this document. Now we have the Internet there is no real reason why the Council does not publish the full breakdown. It could be that with this information readily avail;able the Council does not really want it published.


The City of Melbourne operates on a NAV (Net Annual Value) as property values increase so does the Council's take - A windfall in times of plenty. Many resident's in the city will be faced with much higher rate bills as their property value has increased substantial above and beyond their income and CPI

Many residents might be seriously considering selling up and moving to less expensive rateable areas.

The Council is renowned for its over inflating costs and estimates. A recent quotation on air flights to China and accommodation was four to six times the going market rate. Our City fathers are big spenders with no expense spared in luxury or budget costs when it comes to overseas junkets. The council tried to provide Councillors with a per-diem payment when they travel. The Administration conviniently forgot that whilst Councillors are entitled to receive reimbursements for "Out of pocket expenses" they are not entitled to receive an allowance above and beyond the allowances set by the State Government. Question are still unanswered as to the legality of the Council's decision to provide Outgoing Deputy Lord Mayor Garry Singer a fully paid Limousine, free petrol and running costs (Including a hefty repair bill). Garry Singer is a part time "employee of the Council. I appears that Cr Singer uses his Council funded vehicle for private non-council use and does not pay tax or reimburse the City for his non-out-of-pocket use of the car. The Government and auditor general appear to be turning a blind eye to this unauthorized additional allowance which is not available to other Councillors. It is understood that the City must also pick up the Fringe Benefit tax for these "questionable additional benefits" Of course it is not the Councillors and staff that foots the bill but the City ratepayer.

Our City Council shows no care and no responsibility when it comes to spending our money and increasing the costs of living in the city once claimed to be the worlds most livable city..

Unlike private businesses, who struggle to obtain an increase in Income, The Council income and expenditure is in reality another impost on the City ratepayers.

Artcle ABC news
Article Herald Sun

Thursday, May 15, 2008

So Financially Challenged

Melbourne goes into deficit for second year running

Melbourne City Council expected to go into deficit for a second year running as rates soar in order to pay the exhorbanent costs of the City Council .

Meanwhile John So, Melbourne Million Dollar a year Lord Mayor who hardly ever attends Council's finance and governance meetings, will take leave when the City Council brings down its budget that will see in the election of a new Council,

Property values in the City have soared in the ;last two years and as a result the amount of money paid in rates has increased substantially, providing a win-fall for the city. Melbourne City Council works on a NAV (Net Annual Value) rating system based on the valuation of rateable property in the City. As property values increase size does the amount of rates paid top the extravagant financially irresponsible city council.

On top of the rate increase that Council is also expected to gain a windfall in funding thought secondary incomes streams such as the Road Congestion tax and additional service fees that have crept in under John So's watch.

Asset rich income poor. The hardest hit in the rate increase will be pensioners and residents on a low income. Many ratepayers and residents of the city will soon find it too expensive to live within the City boundaries will be forced to sell up and move to a cheaper place to live outside the city.

Deficit budget is not good for Melbourne.

A deficit budget would see Melbourne's financial position worsen yet again as John So continues his high spend fest, minimal care over Melbourne's future.

Melbourne City Council and John So faces re-election in November and it is unclear if John So will run for a third term as Melbourne's Lord Mayor. John So has become Melbourne Most travelled lord Mayor has he and his staff continue to milk the City's treasury to funds John So's Chinese adventures. A deficit budget will add further financial pressure on the new City Council.

If the new Council does not come to terms with Melbourne high cost big spending administration it will soon face bankruptcy adding further to the financial pressure and possible future devaluation of property which will further diminish the City's financial stability.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why John So is your bro

The perils of a direct election

The Age has published an article proposing the question "Why is John So my Bro"?

IN it the writer makes some connection to London's new Lord Mayor and then goes on to expose some of the myths and weakness of Johns So's tenure.

This pop star image and brunt of a joke that John so well responds to is a by product of the Direct election system. A system that sees a populist politicians with no substance elected as Mayor of our capital city.

The question needs to be asked who supported the direct election model. The changes were brought in by Bob Cameron, the minister of Local government back in 2000. Bob Cameron did not last long as minister and was soon replaced by Candy Broad, a lack l;aster Minister. The review undertaken in 2000- was held in secret, submissions, unlike Municipal reviews undertaken today, where never published and the public had no opportunity to scrutinies or respond to the proposal for direct elections. Instead of being independent from the municipal process the review was made by the Department/Ministers office.

Last Year a number of Councillors recommend that the State Government City of Melbourne initiate a review of Melbourne representative model and that the City of Melbourne should be subjected to the same review process as all other Municipal Council in Victoria. Under the Local Government Act every municipality (except the City of Melbourne) is required to undertake a representation review every technical term of office. If these requirements applied to the City of Melbourne then a review should have been undertaken last year.

The proposal for a review was put forward and voted down by John So and his team 5-4 as John took the do nothing approach. The City Councillors whop initiate the idea of the review did nothing to further the issue and the State Government failed to take up the initiative.

Some Councillors are now trying to make a bit of noise about the need for a review before the next Municipal election due in November, but unless there is the political will there is a snow flake chance in hell that any meaningful review will take place.

Dick Wynne, former Council elected Lord Mayor and now Minister for Local Government has shied away from reviewing the monster that his predecessors created and allowed to exists. Dick more then any other Minister knows the short comings of the direct election model.

The So genie is out of its bottle and it may be hard if not impossible to put it back. The direct election model has failed to deliver good governance and more importantly the person elected Mayor is not held accountable as he/she is not elected and as such not accountable to the Council itself. Under the Council appointed system the City Councillors provided a day to day accountability. Under the direct election system the only accountability comes from the media and once every four years when the public focuses its attention on the would be star Lord Mayor and votes for who is the most likable.

The fact that the City finances are in worst shape then ever and that the design me a job city continues to milk the ratepayers for every cent and dollar possible has little to no bearing on the voters choice. many who live outside the city itself, the overseas property investor.

Melbourne Council most certainly needs review and the direct election model should cancelled. Council must be given more power and say to hold the Lord Mayor accountable.

In the end the failure of the City Council is a failure of the State Government to act.

One of the problems that inhibit the City Council is the restriction that the Load Mayor is also the Chairman of the Council, an oversight and left over from the days of a Council appointed Mayor.

The fact that John So has little skill and more often then not does not chair Council meetings is of concern.

If Dick Wynne and the State Governments are unwilling to subject the City of Melbourne to a proper and comprohensive open public review then the lest they should do is to separate the position of Lord Mayor and Chairman so that the Chairman can be appointed from and by the City Council. Such a move would provide the necessary day to day checks and balance required to restore good governance and financial management to the City.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

John So head in the sand and hand in the public pocket

John So continues to spend spend spend whilst burying his head in the sand.

The State Government has also wiped it's hands clean and failed undertake a review of the City of Melbourne's representative model. Whilst every other Municipality is subjected to comprehensive review Melbourne has been excluded.

Its been just seven years since Melbourne narrowed its focus and adopted a direct election of its Lord Mayor.

Last year there was a half hearted proposal for the City of Melbourne to initiate it won representative review, A proposal that met with opposition from John So and was rejected on the casting vote of the Lord Mayor.

Why the city councillors that were supporting a review did not appeal directly to the State Government is anyones guess. After all it is the responsibility and determination of the State Government to undertake any serious independent review.

David Dunstan in today's Age has reflect on the issues that face Melbourne faces and the need to ensure that the City's governance meets the challenges it faces.

The largest and most central of them all, Melbourne City Council, instead of being made larger to give a lead, was made smaller and more ineffectual to prevent inner-city residents having any say over Melbourne's lucrative golden mile and inner region. Labor has been careful not to undo the pro-growth, pro-big-property stance of its predecessors. But for nine years it has taken the city for granted, simply assuming that it can absorb the growth to 4.5 million people. Now problems of housing affordability, traffic congestion and the inadequate contribution of the public transport system are upon us.

The proposal to create a greater City of Melbourne is not new but for various reasons has never been taken seriously. Jeff Kennett in fact went the other way and reduced the size of the Council to that of a small island.

There is an urgent need to review and expand the Cities boundaries.

The direct election model has failed to provide good governance and accountability.

John So has spent the Cities inheritance and family jewels. Come November he will also loose the support of a number of his collection or rubber stamps. It is expected that John will dump his Deputy Lord Mayor, Gary Singer, as team up with the third rate councillor David Wilson. Catherine NG, one of So's best performers. is expected to stand down leaving a serious gap in Johns ability to undertake even the most basic of tasks required by the City Council.

John So leadership is also under question.

John has failed to provide financial management or corporate governance. His ability to chair a meeting is left seriously lacking.

Whilst there is ongoing support and talk around the town hall for an urgent review of the City Council, reality is that both the Councillors and the State Government have left it too late to initiate a serious review.

At best we could hope that the State Government undertakes a ministerial review restore balance and strengthen the Council's accoutability and governance in the City Structure.

Lord Mayor, by default, is also the Council's chairman.

One proposal that should be considered and adopted is the need to separate the role of Lord Mayor and that of the Chairman of the Council.

When the State Government implemented a direct election model it did not pay sufficient attention to the functioning of the Council and did not consider to the role of chairman.

The chairman of any council should always maintain the support and confidence of the elected Council, the Chairman must be elected from and by the Council itself and not part and parcel of Lord Mayor's position.

The separation of the two roles and allowing the City Council to appoint the Council's chairperson of their own chopping would go a long way to strengthening the Council's governance and ability to hold the executive to account.

This one change is simple and logical and should be adopted without delay in the first week of the spring parliamentary session prior to the November Municipal election.