Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shorten: Survey of one confirms what we know is true

Assistant Treasure Bill Shorten in his survey of one has conformed what we all know to be true. Retail and service providers have failed to pass on the win fall of Australia's high dollar to consumers. Prices of goods and services have not come down down down as the cost of purchase and profits from overseas services become cheaper.

A decade ago when the Australian dollar was low in value businesses were quick to pass on the costs of petrol and overseas manufactured goods to the public. Petrol broke though the one dollar a liter barrier and the costs of goods increased in compassion to the the Australian Dollar. Overseas travel became that much more expensive as the Australian dollar had to work twice as hard.

Today the opposite is the case. The Australian Dollar is twice as much in value yet the prices of goods and services has not gone down. Petrol remains high.

The extent of profit taking and opportunism is shown clearly in the English Language testing system. The cost of sitting an IELTS test in Australia is twice that of charged in the United States, UK and Ireland. The profits being paid to the the overseas licencing coping Seek Learning have doubled in value at Australia's expense. Instead of going up $20 from $310 to $330 the costs of sitting the IELTS test should have gone down.

It is this pocketing of the win fall and the failure to pass on some of the benefits of having a high dollar that has contributed to the decline in retail in Australia. With an in crease in the value of the dollar the cost of buying on line overseas sourced goods and shipping them to Australia has become much much more competitive and consumers are voting with their keyboards boycotting Australian retail outlets.

Add to that the cost of rent in shopping centers or the cost of parking within the City of Melbourne and extended hours parking restrictions apply and the landlords and City Council are also contributing to the economic inflationary pressure impacting retail in Melbourne. Instead of passing on the benefits oif a high dollar small retail outlets have the opportunity to use the win fall profits to off set other high costs associated with running a business in the city. Sure the City Council has discouraged shopping in the CBD. The CBD is no longer the place to shop. Services can be sourced on line and the consumer has to some extent greater choices. But this only applies where there is real competition but in prices and services offered.

organisations like Seek learning's IELTS have a legislative monopoly. Even though the Department of Immigration and Citizenship have began to recognise other accredited service providers the Skills assessment authorities such as the CPA and others continue to only acept IETLS as the only means of assessing English language requirements. If level of English is the aim of the skills assessment then why are they only prepared to accept IELTS as the only means of assessment. If alternative language assessments are available and accredited then why are not not being recognise.

Bill Shorten like that of many in Australia know all too well the price ripp offs we see day to day.

It is only by exposing the profit takers and subjecting them to real competition that the benefits of a high dollar will be passed on to residents.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Victoria's Count Back System of Shame

The City of Melbourne has concluded the count back of the 2008 Municipal Election ballot to determine who will fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Councillor Peter Clarke.

The successful candidate was Jackie Watts (Peter Clarke’s number 2 on his ticket).

Over 6,000 votes that should have been counted were excluded from the count.

Raising further concern about the system of Proportional representation used in Victoria’ municipal elections.

Whilst the result of the count back are not brought into question the method used in the count back is very much questioned..

Under the system adopted there are seven councillors elected to the Council with a quota of just under 1/8 of the total vote. The total vote divided by (the number of vacant positions plus one) minus one. Of which Peter Clarke represents one eighth.

Peter Clarke was not elected on the primary vote and relied on the distribution of preferences from other candidates. Clarke's surplus votes were also distributed on assisting the election of other councillors who were elected later in the count.

Peter Clarke had a primary vote of 5511 votes at full value (1.000)

He received an additional 3205 votes at full value and 18 fractional value votes following the distribution of preferences from excluded candidates and other candidates surpluses. Total value 8734

The quota for election was 7415. Clarke’s surplus of 1319 which was distributed to other candidates, remaining in the count, according to the voters nominated order of preference.

Under the VEC rules the recount only took into consideration the votes that formed Clarke's original quota, they failed to take into consideration other unused residual votes that remained on the table, effectively a full quota of votes was ignored in the recount. Votes which could have determined the outcome of the recount and the candidate who filled the casual vacancy.

By only considering Clarke's original set of ballot papers that were used to elect him the system has double counted some votes and excluded other votes which legitimately should have been counted.

The formula that should have been used should have proportioned Clarkes original set of ballot papers so that they together equal quota (Quota divided candidates total value of votes) times the value of the each vote.

This value should have then been added to any remaining residual value that had not been used at the conclusion of the original count brining the count to its final conclusion. In a full preferential ballot this should equal two quotas minus one. (Taking into consideration and exhausted votes that failed to express a valid preference for any continuing candidate.

All unelected Candidates should have been reactivated and include in the recount and value of the votes outstanding redistributed according to the voters nominated preference until a candidate has reach the original quota value.

This is not the process that the VEC or the legislation applied. They only considered the ballot papers that made up Clarkes original quota votes that when combined with the other residual votes could have produced a different result. But excluding the residual votes from the count these voters have been denied equal representation.

By Way of a theoretical analogy

The ALP number 3 Senate Candidate Jacinta Collins may have been elected on the back of preferences from the DLP who preferenced Jacinta Collins then preferenced Family First or some other candidate ahead of the ALP’s other candidates. The DLP vote when they were excluded from the Count continued on to elect Collins in the original election.

If Collins position subsequently became vacant and count back was used to fill the casual vacancy, under the VEC rules the ALP’s number 4 candidate would be elected but not on merit or on in accordance with the voters chosen candidate. The DLP vote would have been transferred to the Family First Candidate not the ALP and this vote could have resulted in Family First reaching quota before the ALP number 4 candidate. In a fair accurate system Family first’s Steve Fielding should be elected on the count back.

The City of Melbourne count back has highlighted some serious flawed in the system of proportional representation that has been adopted.

Flaws that were introduced by poor legislation drafting and designed to facilitate an outdated manual counting process. With the use of computer based technology it is possible and highly desirable that the system is reviewed and the rules amended to reflect more accurately the voters choice. Our system of Proportional representation and the count back rules, as they currently exist, is not really proportional but semi proportional at best.

If we cannot fix the system so that it accurately reflects the voters choice then we might as well do away with preferential voting which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to count and adopt a similar cheaper party list system as is used in Europe.

If we are going to retain the preferential voting and the associated expense of counting it then it should be accurate.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Questions raised as to the integrity of CPA English Skills Assessment Regime

In what is if ongoing concern to overseas students and foreign professionals studying and practicing in Australia, the CPA (Certified Professional Accountants) has recognised IELTS as its preferred and accepted English Language Test.

In recent correspondence to the CPA we received a reply that indicated that whilst the CPA is considering accepting TOEFL as an alternative skills assessment they are only prepared to do so where IELTS testing is not available. This would appear to be discrimination and anti competitive giving IELTS an unfair advantage in the market place .

On what basis the CPA can argue that TOEFL is acceptable under some circumstances and not all is difficult to understand to support. Maybe the CPA has a sponsorship arrangement with IELTS and Seek Australia who owns IETLS in Australia, maybe there is some unknown or undisclosed reason why they seek to lock TOEFL out of the market?

The Federal Government has rightly acted to ensure that there is competition in the English Language Testing market. Both IELTS and TOELF are recognised by the Federal Government as acceptable tests for English competence in immigration why not skill assessment?

If it’s good enough for one its good enough for all.

Clearly, in the absence of the CPA's ability to self regulate, the Government will have to act to ensure that all registered skills assessing authorities recognise and accept of all accredited English testing systems.

There could even be a case for class action in the various Appeals Tribunals or even the High Court to try and force the CPA into accepting TOEFL accreditation.

Anyone concerned about this should contact us to discuss further action.

Dear Anthony

Currently, the IELTS test is considered as one of the standard English tests recognised in Australia. CPA Australia together with the other two assessing authorities made the decision to require the IELTS Test Report from applicants to prove their English proficiency. However, we may in future consider other English tests, e.g. TOEFL for applicants who reside in areas the IELTS test is not available.

Kind regards,

Tracey Huynh | Qualifications Advisor | Qualifications Assessment Unit

Member Advisory & Information Services | CPA Australia

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

IELTS already overinflated set to increase by 5%

The Australian IELTS fee charged to foreign students and alike in Australia is set to increase by 5% to $330.00 come August 2011. the same test costs $180 in the UK, USA, Ireland and Ukraine.

There is no justification for the rip-off with substantial profits being paid to off shore entities and Seek Learning who in partnership with Australian Universities own the IELTS testing regime in Australia.

The high costs is used to buy support and extra income for Australian Universities. Students visiting Australia deserve a better deal. They have to pay high rents, get no concession in travel or any benefits other than an Australian education and the limited possibility of securing Australian residency after they graduate.

Those students who need English testing should look into TOEFL which is now accepted as an alternative English language test assessment. But do not expect parity, TOEFL costs $200 but is still $40 more expensive to do in Australia and other counties.