Tuesday, November 03, 2009

If it looks like a junket and costs like a junket then it is a junket.

Robert Doyle is keen to take a $61,000 junket to Denmark to meet princess Mary.

The 5 day envirofest will cost Melbournians $2,000 a day per person. Whilst Robert Doyle tries to claim that the trip is not a junket and that it will deleiver "tanable" benefits to the city. He failed to outline exatcly what these benefits were and why the City of melbourne needs to fund four people to join in on the junketfest. Greens Councillor Cathy Oke is keen to be included on the invitee list.

No junkets' lord mayor packs his bags for trips
November 3, 2009

LORD Mayor Robert Doyle will take two overseas trips in the next six weeks - a year after promising to end foreign junkets for Melbourne City councillors.

Cr Doyle will lead a party of four to the Copenhagen Climate Change conference next month at a cost to ratepayers of $61,000.

He will also attend a World Bank summit in Singapore in a week's time that has been paid for by the World Bank.

When he was elected last year, Cr Doyle made it clear he would focus on Melbourne and ruled out overseas junkets.

''It's a good commitment for me to make personally and to say to my councillors that they should be making no junkets,'' he said in November. ''I may take the occasional day trip to Frankston … I think we know what the problems are here. My job is to stay here and work on the solutions.''

Cr Doyle said yesterday his decision to head overseas did not break his election promise because his trips were not junkets.

Referring to the Copenhagen visit, he said: ''It is not a wasted trip, it is not for personal pleasure.

''It is to bring something home for Melbourne and to take us to the table of world discussion on perhaps the most important economic, social and environmental question before us, that of climate change.''

Cr Doyle's decision to go to Copenhagen comes after campaigning to return cars to Swanston Street, criticising tram super-stops and supporting handing Yarra Park to the MCG.

He has also championed retrofitting city buildings to make them more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint.

The Age revealed last month that Melbourne City Council has little chance of achieving its greenhouse gas emissions target by 2010 and may buy carbon offsets to meet the goal.

The Lord Mayor's $61,000 trip also comes just months after the council increased the cost of parking in the city to raise funds.

Cr Doyle said he decided to announce the trips on the eve of the Melbourne Cup because the decision had just been made.

He said the council would need to approve the Copenhagen trip at a meeting on November 17, but added that his fellow councillors supported the trip.

He said it was important that Melbourne was represented at Copenhagen.

''It is such an important forum. The world leaders will be in Copenhagen and we have a generous invitation from the Mayor of Copenhagen … ''Our aim is to have cities recognised in the new agreement. Cities contribute 75 per cent of the emissions … the problem lies with cities, solutions lie with cities.''

Cr Doyle's trip will not be the first for a councillor this year. Greens councillor Cathy Oke travelled to Canada and the US in June at a cost of $9691.

Cr Oke said she supported Cr Doyle's trip to Copenhagen.

''I think it is incredibly important that he goes,'' she said.

She said 100 mayors from around the world had been invited but only two from Australia, Cr Doyle and Clover Moore from Sydney

Friday, September 11, 2009

Doyle, Costelleo and Kroger behind the sceans

There is ongoing speculation that Melbourne's Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle is actively using City Council resources to manipulate and interfere with the Liberal Party Federal pre-selections which are being held this month. Doyle has teamed up with outgoing Liberal Party member Peter Costello and his long time friend and power broker Michael Kroger. Doyle staffer Tim Singh, who is on the Council payroll as Doyle's media adviser, has been enlisted to promote and assist in the media smear campaign.

It is one thing for Doyle to be actively engaged in State and Federal Politics but it is another to be using Council resources leaving town hall open to the allegation of corruption. A quick review of the Lord Mayor's telephone expenses will confirm the allegations.

If the allegation of Council staff involvement are true then this raises a number of issues that should be investigated by the State Government or the Ombudsman and brings the City Council once again into disrepute.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Melbourne Icon derailed

Plans by the State Government to scrap W-Class trams

The Brumby State Government has announced plans to scrap Melbourne's iconic W-Class trams. W-Class trams will only serve the Melbourne City Circle route.

The W-Class tram has been a national Icon, like that of the Sydney ferry, has served Melbourne for nearly a century and is recognised world over.

The W-Class trams should continue in service along the Toorak, St Kilda, Carlton and bayside routes during the summer months.

The proposal to abandon Melbourne's W-Class trams is widely opposed by community groups such as the National Trust of Australia and Victorian tourism organisations

The W-Class tram with its opening doors and natural ventilation is well sought after and will be sold off to oversees buyers at a premium price.

Government's come and go but the W-Class trams should stay forever

The decision by the State Government is reprehensible and demonstrates a lack of social and historic understanding and appreciation of what makes Melbourne, Melbourne. Those responsible for this decision should lose their jobs.

Once they have gone they are gone forever.

It is now incumbent on the Australian Government to place restrictions on the sale and export of this important part of Australia's heritage.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Chinese Government threatens Melbourne Sister City relationship in attempt to dictate Foreign Policy

The Chinese Government is once again seeking to strong brow Australia in an attempt to dictate to Australia Australian Foreign Policy and who Australia should and can invite to visit Australia.

The Chinese Government has threatened to cancel Melbourne's Sister City relationship with Tianjin if Lord Mayor Robert Doyle does not intervene to stop the screening of a film about Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer at the Town Hall today.

The Chinese Government has considerable power and is not afraid to exercise it by threatening bilateral trade and cultural relationships. In Russia for example the Dali Lama has been refused a visa to visit Russia due to undue Chinese pressure (Even though Tibetan Buddhism is one of Russia's recognised religions) .

If they can strong arm Russia what hope is there that Australia will not bow to pressure? Last I knew Australia was a democratic sovereign nation and as such our foreign policy is independent from other nations. If the principle of maintaining independence over our sovereignty places at risk Melbourne's Sister City relationship with Tianjin then so be it, let the Chinese Cookie crumble.

The Chinese Government has declared Rebiya Kadeer a terrorist (in the same league as the Dalai Lama - I had met the Dalai Lama in Melbourne back in 1992 and he did not seem to be a Terrorist to me) even though there is no such evidence that would warrant this charge

Australia's Parliamentary Foreign Affair's Chairman, Michael Danby, spoke out in support of Rebiya Kadeer right to visit Australia.

Michael Danby has been hard to contact and efforts to contact his office to discuss this matter has failed (due to ongoing staffing issues and his constant absence from his electoral office)

But in this instance we fully support his stance (if only he would push for more democratic and fair electoral reforms - Michael Danby is a member of the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Victoria takes one step forward on the path of reform

Federal Government held in shame

The Victorian Parliament Electoral Matters Committee has recommended that the electoral act be modified to adopt a more fairer and accurate calculation of the results of the upper house elections

Recommendation 8.1: The Victorian Government considers introducing the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Method of counting votes for the Legislative Council

The proposal brings Victoria in line with Western Australia which had also adopted similar changes earlier in the way votes are counted.

The reforms proposed by the Victorian Parliament will have its greatest impact in the Local Government sector including the City of Melbourne. (Assuming that the same policy will flow through to Local Government). Analysis of past elections has shown that the results of the City of Melbourne Elections would have changed had this reform been in place at the time.

The recommendation of the State Parliament has flown in the face of the Australian Federal Government who earlier this year rejected calls for similar reform to the Australian Senate System. The Australian Government, increasingly seen to be at odds with the states on electoral reform, remains stuck in the 19th century clinging on to an outdated and discredited counting system.

Analysis of the 2007 Senate election has indicated that ALP Senator David Feeney could have lost his seat as a result of the distortion on the Senate Counting system, a system that would have delivered the Greens an additional 7,000 "bonus votes" above and beyond the number of actual votes received.

The recommendation of the State Parliament Electoral Matters Committee is a step forward in improving the accuracy and public confidence in Victorian elections.

The Parliament now needs to consider further the other anominally and error in the Senate Upper House election system, namely the way in which votes allocated to excluded candidates are redistributed.

The order in which votes for minor candidates are distributed seriously effects the outcome of the senate elections. The system currently in place unfairly resulted in the Greens Queensland Senate Candidate "Larissa Waters" missing out in the right of representation in 2007 . The ALP unfairly won a third Senate spot as a result.

With the advent of computer assisted election counts, both the Australian Parliament and State Governments, should consider adopting a re-iterative counting system (Wright System) or the use of Meeks Method of counting the vote as the next step for electoral reform

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

See no evil, Hear no evil , Speak no evil.

Electoral reform denied

The Australian Parliament fails to act to correct errors in the way votes are counted in Australia.

The Australian Labor Party forsakes its reputation on electoral reform to perpetuate a distortion in the way in which Senate votes are counted in Australia.

Three issues had been identified as needing attention and correction.

1. The method used in calculating the Surplus Transfer Value and
2. The methods used in distributing preferences of excluded candidates.
3. The need to publish detailed electronic preference data files in a timely fashion so as to ensure the proper scrutiny and open and transparency of computerised election counts.

Surplus Transfer Value

The method used in calculating the Surplus Transfer Values seriously distorts the one vote one value principle and as demonstrated by the analysis of the 2007 Victorian Senate vote (hypothetical) could have unfairly denied the Australian Labor Party's David Feeney a third Senate seat. David Feeney would have lost the election to the Australian Greens' Richard Di Natale, who would have been the beneficiary of the distortion in the value of the vote. A distortion that would have given the Greens a bonus value of 7,000 additional votes tipping the results of the election in favour of the Greens Candidate. (The analysis and hypothetical was independently confirmed by ABC media electoral analyst Antony Green).

Western Australia was the first State Government to address this the errors and correct the formula currently used to take into account the true value of the vote when calculating the Surplus Transfer Value. Under the current rules votes belonging to major political parties are inflated at the expense of minor parties. This gives an unfair advantage to one party above the other as the final result of the election does not accurately reflect the outcome or intention of the voters.

The proposed change in the way the vote is counted and the calculation of the surplus transfer value is minimal and could be readily implemented for less then $10,000.

The issue of calculation of the Surplus Transfer value is a time bomb ticking. One that will and can effect both major parties come time in the future. Western Australia State Parliament acted to correct this issue but the Australian Government and Opposition Parties failed to act.

The Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee in its final report on the 2007 Federal Election failed to act to correct this obvious error. Preferring instead to turn a blind eye to the flaws in the way the Senate vote is counted

The Australian Greens, represented by Senator Bob Brown, also has turned a blind and covered their mouth to prevent the correction of the the in the way the Senate vote is counted. Primarily because the Greens are the beneficiary of the current distortion. The failure of the Greens to address this issue in a their dissenting report demonstrates that the Greens hold no moral ground when it comes to electoral reform.

Method of Distribution of preferences

The second issue is just as important in ensuring that the Senate electoral system accurately reflects the voters intention.

Analysis of the Queensland Senate Election has shown that the results of the election did not accurately reflect the intention of the Queensland voters.

The method used in determining the order and transfer of preferences denied the Australian Greens the right of representation.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) failed to give due and proper consideration to the issues raised.

In supporting the argument for no change the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, backed up by a false and fallacious argument presented by the Australian Electoral Commission opted to deflect attention and criticism that the results of the election did not reflect the voters intentions.

The AEC falsely claimed that they were not in a position to verify the results of the analysis of the Queensland election in which the Greens Candidate, Larissa Waters, was denied the right of representation.

The AEC claimed that analysis of the election results would have required the development of software that was not readily available. This argument is false as the flaw in the counting system can be readily identified using existing software and existing procedures in the count.

The election of Larisa Waters was not dependent on the changes required to the way in which the Surplus Transfer Value is calculated as outlined above.

The results of the recount would have shown that Larisa Waters should have been elected and highlights the problem in the way preferences from excluded candidates are distributed.

All the AEC had to do to demonstrate and verify the error in the way the elections are counted was recount the electronic ballot excluding all candidates from the count except the last seven candidates left standing (Three Liberal, Three ALP and the greens Larisa Waters).

This requires no modifications to existing software and analytical tools are readily available to the AEC. The AEC could have also called on the expertise of other electoral authorities (Members of IDEA an international association of electoral authorities to which the AEC is a member) to help assist in the analysis of the other electoral system such as the "Meek method" (The time required to process the electronic data is less then three hours)

The AEC by failing to undertake a proper and detailed analysis of the method of election had compromised its professional independent standing.

Respected ABC Electoral Analyst Antony Green also failed to undertake a proper and detailed analysis of the Queensland results and the method used in the distribution of preferences .

Antony Green went to considerable effort to verify the identified issues raised in relation to the Surplus Transfer Value calculation (See Antony Greens supplementary submission and analysis of the hypothetical in relation to the Victorian Senate Vote) however Anthony Green was unable or unwilling to undertake analysis on the method of distribution of preferences from excluded candidates. Given the significance of the outcome one can only wonder and question why the Antony Green failed to review the results in detail. Had Antony Green analysed the result of the Queensland count he would have been better informed and aware of the distortion in the way the ballot is counted.

Antony Green like the AEC turned a blind eye to the errors in the system count and the fact that the Greens were denied the right of representation due to the method used. A method that is not accurate and was original designed primarily to facilitate a manual count not accuracy.

The JSCEM and the AEC put forward the false argument that the alternative method proposed could not be verified by a manual count and as such should not be used. If needed a manual count could readily be undertaken using the alternative proposals .Given that we now have use of computer based technology the system used should be changed to take full advantage of the new technology.

Open and Transparent computerised counts

The AEC should be congratulated by the fact that they published the detailed preference data for the Senate elections. However there is ongoing concern at the delay taken by the AEC in making this information available for independent analysis and subject to proper scrutiny. With the introduction of computer based counting systems it is fundamental and important that public elections and the results of the election are open and transparent.

Without publishing this data the computerised count and results of the election can not be independently verified or properly scrutinised. The lack of transparency and accountability and accuracy in the computersied count undermines overall public confidence in the electoral process.

The parliament needs to change the regulations and procedures so as to ensure that copies of computerised electronic preference data files are readily available for scrutiny and public review. As a minimum copies of the preference data files should be readily available to scrutineers though-out the count and official certified copies published as apart of the procedures related to the declaration of the poll - not three months after the declaration.

The JSCEM, disappointingly, failed to properly address these issues.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Councillors cut expense costs but not expenditure

Melbourne newly elected City Council has acted quick to cut expense costs associated with Councillor expenses according to the Councillor Expense Statements published last week.

In a very cynical move the City Council has decided the best way to cut expenses is to not publish them.

Missing from the new published Councillor expense statements are costs associated with Interstate and Overseas Travel, Conferences and other junket revenue expenditure removed from the statements.

Councillor Carl "Jet set" Jetter is still charging the City Council in excess of $2,000 a quarter for local travel with over $1,000 in communication costs. Kevin Louey has over $1,400 (4.5 times the cost of the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor) in phone bills. Whilst Brian Shanahan has rung up close to $1,000 on Conferences and Training.

The Cost of the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Limo expenses have been listed at $3,691 and $3,968 respectively. This does not include the full costs of the purchase, maintenance and chauffer which remain undisclosed. The City Council policy of non disclosure and deceit continues unabated.

Staff have not curbed their last for the Leather on Aeroplanes. They have rung up over 3 Months increases of $58,000 with Scott Chapman close to $24,000 for a 13 day world site seeing trip to Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, with a stopover in Auckland between the 20th of March to the 4th of April this year. This expense is on top of his six figure salary of course.

12 members of staff had their expenses picked op by an undisclosed source begging the question how much does the City Council fork out in kind.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vexing Question

Melbourne City Councillor Cathy Oke's Overseas travel allowance


Recently elected Melbourne City councillor Cathy Oke has wasted no time shoving her snout into the travel trough, with reports on Nine News and in News Limited publications about a series of trips she has planned at ratepayers' expense that will cost $33,000.

VEXNEWS invited the councillor to explain herself to a disgusted public and it appears she has been struck dumb. We (VEXNEWS)wrote to her:


I refer to media reports that you are embarking on ratepayer funded $33,000 travel to various overseas destinations. We (vexnews) propose to do a follow-up story that explores the issues in detail.

The $33,000 bill contrasts starkly with a previous Greens party Melbourne councillor David Risstrom who travelled extensively on council business but managed to spend very little money indeed, other than on airfares. He appeared to stay at backpacker style hostels and`to eat very parsimoniously indeed. We fear he consumed a vegan variety of seeds and berries.

This meant he was very hard to criticise for travelling at ratepayer expense, except of course by those conscious - as you no doubt are - of one's carbon footprint. What measures will you be taking to deal with the carbon consequences of these very long trips? And why are you proposing to travel so regally by comparison to your own party's predecessors? Could you please provide us with a breakdown of how you propose to spend $33,000 on these trips? And also what is the length of the trips? With airfares as they currently are, the quantum outlined in that article seems to be almost impossible unless you are living very large indeed.

What do you say to those who believe that three different trips in such a short time is excessive? What will you be doing on such trips to justify the large expense? How are they not in breach of the Lord Mayor's ban on junkets?

Given that you say you work as an environmental consultant, how do you respond to suggestions you might be getting ratepayers to pay for travel that could be advantageous to your business?

The Herald Sun said that you would be travelling with a member of staff. Is it envisaged that you would be sharing accommodation with that person? If not, why not?

Please feel free to contact us on the mobile 0415 99 33 26 or by return email editor[at] vexnews.comin time for our deadline of 9am
tomorrow. If you fail to respond, we will note that in the customary way.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Landeryou

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Passports Australia bowing to public outrage

The Australian Government, sensitive to the criticism of victimizing victims of Victorian the bushfires, according to scant information available from the passports office has offered to waive the costs associated with the reissuing of any passports that were destroyed in the fire with the same expiry date of the original passport.

Whilst the Government should be commended for the offer of assistance to Bushfire victims and their insurance companies, who otherwise would have to cover the cost of replacement, the question needs to be asked why they do not offer the same degree of compassion to other victims of a flood or victims of a crime who have had their passport stolen?

Applicants are still be required to furnish a copy of their birth certificate and other documents verifying their identity. All you should need to do is prove that you are the person associated with the original passport. A birth certificate can not identify who you are, last time I look they did not have a photo or DNA imprint on them. Your entitlement to be issued a passport should already be recorded and on file from when you were last issued with your original passport. I would have thought that if they had a record of their original passport there would be no reason for the having to produce a copy of your birth certificate. If your birth certificate was also destroyed you will need to obtain a new one before the Australian Government can reissue you a replacement passport. It is unclear if the government has extended the compassionate offer to also include reissuing other documents such drivers license and the like.

If your money, assets and passport are stolen or destroyed by no fault of your own you are penalised by the Government for being a victim (unless you are effected by last weeks bushfires).

It is still unclear what test or proof of onus they will require. We could find no information on the http://passports.gov.au web site related to Bushfire or flood victims.

What is clear is that the system that was put in place by Alexander Downer is unfair and unjust. A system that has been prolonged by the Rudd Labor government who has increased the level of fees charged.

Bushfire victims subject to $69 to $416 fine for loss of passport

Australians who have lost their passports in the Victorian bushfires, in a policy introduced by Alexander Downer in 2005, will be subject to a fine of $69 to $416 plus the cost of replacement for the loss of their passport.

The Australian Government applies a fine if you lose your passport, it is stolen or destroyed. First offence attracts a $69 fine subsequent additional loss $208 to $416

The cost of a new Passport is $208 for Adults and $104 for Children

They will be required to produce a copy of proof of citizenship and identity including a copy of their birth certificate

Doyle Backs down under pressure

Robert Doyle, under pressure by the local media, has backed down and canceled his intended St.Petersburg "Junket" leaving a member of Staff on 50,000 for three days to attend the St Petersburg Days of Melbourne celebrations.

Melbourne is one of St. Petersburg 26 Sister Cities. Whilst Melbourne's Sister City relationship with St Petersburg is of value in Australia's relationship with Russia there are questions about the way in which the City of Melbourne goes about recognising and valuing the relationship.

The role and way in which the Australian Embassy in Moscow represents Australia is also under question.

The Moscow Embassy, according to the DFAT web site, is also responsible for representing Australia's Interests in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

It is headed up by Margaret Twomey.

The Embassy, in what is seen as indicative of the Moscow's office, did little to nothing to further Australia's representation in Ukraine, an important strategic nation in the region. In an embarrasing oversight, DFAT and the Embassy has forgotten to update Ukraine on the Embassy's list of Nations that it represented highlighting the value or lack of value they show towards recognising Ukraine as a nation. Georgia is not even listed as a country. Ukraine and Georgia were part of the Moscow Office of responsibility but it appears that Ukraine is now represented by the Austrian Embassy in Vienna. DFAT has not updated their index listing. If only they paid more attention to their job and less attention on junkets and social events whilst actively justifying their highly paid salaries and hardship living away from home benefits.

When an Australian was shot in an apparent road rage incident in Kyiv last year the Embassy was able to offer little to no support. Which by comparison to the level of support offered to other incidents around the world that had attracted significant media attention raises series questions as to the ability of the Embassy's administration. Little wonder why Moscow lost responsibility for Ukraine.

Less celebration and more work is required.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Common-wealth Bank Withdrawal

The Commonwealth Bank has been doing it tough - so although that they have lost a fortune of investors money - Their superannuation scheme is one of the poorest performing financial funds.

In 2000 I had invested a small fortune in the CBA Superannuation fund thinking it was a good investment after talking to the Commonwealth Bank Financial advisor - big mistake.

In August last year the amount invested and retained by the Commonwealth Bank Financial Services (Sic) had grown 60% over the last eight years and I was charged $800 setup costs plus an annual administrative fee. (My other industry based fund had grown twice that rate and cost less to set up).

In 2004 I had taken out a Gold credit card before my return departure overseas. During my travels my Wallet along with my passport and Gold credit card were stolen - A Victim of a train pickpocket racket. I managed to get my passport back but required a new passport and was fined $50 by the Australian Government for being a victim of a crime (My Commonwealth Gold Credit card was never seen again) Having reported the Credit card stolen the Commonwealth Bank informed me that they could not forward a new Card to me overseas as the Gold card had to be picked up from the bank. -- Some use that was as I was OS. I was told that the account would be closed as the card had not been issued and that the balance of the account would be transferred to my linked saving account). OK I was without a Gold credit card - The bank did managed to send me a normal credit card`without the Gold imprint and without requiring it to be picked up at the bank - why they could not send the Gold Card I still do not know.

Imagine how I felt when on my return three years latter I discovered that not only had my Gold Credit Card not been cancelled as I was told it would be, but the Commonwealth Bank continued to debited my account $100 annually for a card that I had no access to or no benefit from. The Account did not appear on my telephone banking menu and I rightly assumed that the account had been closed. What's worst is that the Award Savings Points - The scheme that is designed to suck you into spending and using Commonwealth Bank's Credit - was not transferred to my other account - I had thought the two cards were linked to the same Award Saving points. No that would be too simple and straight forward, the Commonwealth Bank does not like things to be efficient - It goes against their code of ethics in doing Business.

To further undermine confidence in the Bank's operation, annoyed at the poor quality service and the fact that the Bank failed to close my account as indicated and debited me for a service they did not provide, I decided to withdraw all my investments from the Commonwealth Bank before they lose the lot.

I had lost all confidence in the bank and decided to contact the bank again last week to ascertain the current level of my investments.

On contacting the Bank I was told that my superannuation account had lost value, thanks to the USA lead world economic recession. My investment held in trust with the commonwealth Bank was now 20% less (Overall reducing the value my superfund to an annual increase of 4% per annum (Down from 8%) on my original investment, even less if you consider compound interest.

Well that was the last straw. I had lost all confidence in the bank and its administration and investment strategy. I would have done better managing the money myself. I wanted out.

On inquiring how to go about withdrawing my money and transferring my investments to another financial service the CBA "customer service officer" I spoke to was not very helpful or apologetic for the fact that the Bank had lost me thousands of dollars in fact they were going out their way to make it difficult for me to access my money or transfer my account.

It seams that the Commonwealth Bank is a no-care institution and accept no-responsibility for their mistakes and denies any liability.

For those that do not know the Commonwealth Bank, it is Australia's largest commercial bank. I joined the bank 45 years ago along with millions of other school children who were encouraged to bank with the Commonwealth though a child education programme, I later set up a State Bank of Victoria account only to find that I was back into the Commonwealth bank when the State Bank collapsed and the Commonwealth bank took it over.

The Commonwealth bank has not, in my opinion, done a good job managing its investments the loss of my investments and award points is a good example of the problems facing the bank.

They are good at paying staff and directors large salaries and high annual bonus but when it comes to dividends and service they are second rate.

The extent of my loss at the hands of the bank has alarm bells ringing. Other Industry Superannuation funds have fared much better then the Commonwealth bank. I would not be surprised if there are many people out there who feel as I do and who want to withdraw their investments before it is too late. We can expect a run on the bank if they continue to act as they do, they will soon find they will need to liquidate their own asserts and layoff the overpaid staff (Management of course will continue to receive large bonuses which are expected and not tied to the banks performance.

The services offered by other banks are much more professional and in keeping with the public's expectations. My advice would be to think seriously about your investments and think twice before placing trust in a bank that does not care about their customers or their investments. Loyalty... forget it they have no idea of the true meaning of the word.

Whilst Australia morns Robert Doyle flies out to Russia on his first junket

Victorians are in morning as it recalls the devastation and cost to lives and property following Saturdays devastating bush fire.

Record breaking temperatures and high winds fueled one of Victoria's most tragic bush fires.

With over 130 recorded deaths, towns wiped off the map and untold destruction to wild life and the environment.

In the midst of this disaster it is comforting to know that our Lord mayor, The right Honorable Robert Doyle, has his priorities right.

Instead of donating the estimated $100,000 to the Red Cross Victorian Bush Fire Appeal -Robert has flown off to Russia to spend three days in the midst of the Russian cold winter, drinking vodka and enjoying the Russian hospitality.

One can not help but think under the circumstances he should have stayed at home.

Please support the Red Cross Appeal - Victoria needs your help

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cost of Russian junket blowout - $50,000 for 4 days

Elected on a "No Junket" policy costs of Robert Doyle's Russian sortie has blown out from a previous announced $20,000 to a revised budget of $50,000. Robert Doyle told Radio 3AW host Neil Mitchel that cost of accommodation was being met by the Russian host city St. Petersburg.

With the cost of a Business class return ticket listed at between $4-6,000 per person where is the rest of the money going?

Yes Melbourne's relationship with St Petersburg is a potential valuable resource BUT Doyle should be seeking to set an example and save ratepayers money and ensure that each cent is well spent and properly accounted for certainly the news of an additional $30,000 blow out in the budget is alarming.

For $50,000 I could live in Russia for two years. But to spend that amount in four days is unjustifiable. Maybe Robert should invite a independent observer to watch over the cost expenditure of the trip. We would be pleased to undertake that role for $5,000 :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No Junket Rob goes on a Junket

St Petersburg in the middle of Winter

Rob Doyle less then a month in the top job has planned a Junket to St Petersburg. Russia. Whilst St Petersburg is one of Melbourne's Sister Cities one has to question the merit and benefit of the planned junket.

Ousted Melbourne City Councillor, Fiona Snedden, as part of her farewell world tour visited St Petersburg in May last year. Prior to that Rob's Deputy, Susan Riley, and disgraced former City Councillor Anthony Nicholson packed in a midnight summers holiday back in 2003-4 costing ratepayers in excess of 20,000 each. Anthony Nicholson was too drunk the night before and missed his plan and had to schedule an alternative flight. The cost of Nicholson's St Petersburg tour was never "acquitted" and did not show up on the Council's Travel register or expense statements.

It is unclear as to the reason or benefit of this trip which Robert claims was organised prior to his election. There was no mention of this in Cr Snedden's report.

The Moscow Embassy is controversial itself and should be seriously reviewed. What does and has Austrade done. the staff at the Moscow office are highly paid and have numerous lurks and perks. they are also responsible for representing Australia throughout Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and other CIS countries. They never seem to do anything for the other countries where their absence is noted by most Australian's.

Winter in Russia is not a picnic which begs the question what has Robert Doyle got to offer and contibute that will bring direct benefits to Melbourne?