Saturday, December 29, 2012

Botanic Gardens Titanic Achievement: Melbourne's Disgrace

The flowering of a rare tropical plant Titan Arum in  Melbourne's Botanic Gardens was truly an all inspiring event.

The staff at Melbourne's Botanic Gardens deserve praise for their professional skills and efforts in propagating and nurturing this rare magnificent tropical plant and displaying it to the public.  Raised from a seed given to Sydney and Melbourne Botanic Gardens by David Attenborough (How he manged to get it by customs is any ones guess).  

People stood in line for up to three hours on December 26 to see this magnificent flower, nature at its grandest. The queue stretching outside the Botanic Gardens Gate E back towards Gate D (Some 300 meters or more in length).

 Raised from seedling to tuba to leaf then flower the Melbourne Titan Arum pollen has been harvested to hopefully be used to propagate flowers in the future.  The life span of the flower is a long journey spanning over 7 years. If pollinated it takes a further nine months to bear fruit  

Today a team of Botanist and Scientists harvested the flower's pollen as the flower begins to wilt. The pollen will be frozen and used to fertilize anther plant which will hopefully bear fruit and a new generation of Titan Arum   (What is not known to most members of the public is that there is a second Titan Arum ready to flower but sadly not on public view.  The pollen from this flower might be used to try and germinate the second flower - Hopefully they will be successful)


Melbourne's Disgrace


The main disappointment was the Glass house itself.

Melbourne's Botanic Gardens Tropical Plant Glass House has little to desire. It is small outdated and poorly designed.  It is events such as the flowering of this rare plant that members of the public become aware how much Melbourne and our vistors are missing out.

The management of the Royal Botanic Gardens would very much like to build a new world class hot house, one that would allow the propagation, cultivation and display of tropical plants in a better environment. Richmond/Kew in Southwest London, UK and the Glass house in Munich are good examples that Melbourne should aspire towards constructing.  A good design would facilitate better access, environmental efficiency and better management.  The cost of building a new Glass House is estimated at between 2.5 to 5 million dollars.  Money that would be well spent if the design is right. Personally I think Melbourne should look at building a world class winter garden and tropical glass house on the scale of the Princess of Wales Conservatory. Sadly the RBG has not included such a facility in its Garden's Master Plan. It should.


The Melbourne City Council under the auspice of the Lord Mayor's fund should make a contribution towards a special fund to build a new glass house

Photo Gallery

December 17, 2012
December 19, 2012
December 26, 2012
December 26, 2012
December 28, 2012
December 28, 2012
December 29, 2012
December 29, 2012
December 31, 2012
December 31, 2012
December 31, 2012
December 31, 2012


Death of a Titan:Melbourne's Botanic Gardens


Friday, December 28, 2012

Self Deception: Oh What web they weave

Stephen Mayne's Years Wrap-up is a lot of self indulgent misconception.

Mayne claims to support open and transparency yet he has done noting to hold the Council to account and put an end to the misconception, deceit and avoidance of accountability.  Decisions of Council are being are behind closed doors, with a nod and a wink decisions made under delegation .  No documents, No reports with no open public discussion.

Stephen Mayne himself has been reported as wanting lesser public sessions and there are increasing reports that Councillors are not responding to City residents and traders concerns.  Mayne is too busy shopping in Doncaster Shopping Town.  Transparency and openness is the last item on his agenda.

What is interesting and telling in Mayne's report

Mayne stated "It's all very well having lots of briefing papers available to read, but this is never as good as having a lively verbal debate around the table with ideas flowing back and forth. I always enjoyed challenging Manningham developers in front of the officers during private sessions and then later asking the officers what they thought of the answers. There's limited opportunity to do this at Melbourne."

Yet Kathy Alexander in her recent correspondence state that the session were verbal presentations only.

The Horse and Carriage Street Traders were denied any access or input to proposed policy changes put forward to the Council at its November 27 "Closed Session" Councillor Forum meeting. According to Alexander there are no written reports, documents or minuets of the discussions held.

Decisions made under delegation were implemented without anyone knowing exactly what was being implemented in the name of the Council. Councillor Richard Foster had been made aware of the Street Traders concerns yet he failed to have their concerns heard in public. The Council just gave a nod and a wink and hey presto.  The Horse and Carriages were removed from Swanston Street, and denied parking outside the Town Hall.

We are told that Stephen Mayne was contacted by representatives of the Horse and Carriage Association but he did not respond to their numerous calls and SMS. 

This is a good example of the systematic problems facing the Council. Open transparency and good governance no longer exist in Melbourne.  The system is corrupt and widely open is misuse and abuse.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Doyle's supporters disenfranchised, denied representation

Analysis of the October 2012 Municipal polls shows that the Lord Mayor's Robert Doyle's "Team  Doyle" was disenfranchised by distortions in the electoral system.  Over 8% of the electorate had no say in who represents them. Team Doyle polled 38% of the vote yet only managed to elect three Councillors disproportionate to their support.

The problem arises in the way the City  Counts the vote.  The method of  calculating of the quota used in the election is is not proportional. With nine vacancies the quota used to determine the outcome of the election is calculated by dividing the total number of votes recorded by (the number of positions vacant plus one - referred to as Droop Quota).  In the City of Melbourne's case the total vote was divided by 10 ... not 9. The quota instead of being 11.1% is reduced to 10% with up to 10% of the electorate denied representation.

By comparison the Greens, who polled just 15.5% (Less than half of that polled by Team Doyle), managed to increase their representation disproportionally, elected two Councillors - not based on merit but only due to a distortion in the proportionality and method used in counting the vote.

The reason why the method used to calculate the quota was adopted was to facilitate a manual counting process.  It allowed the outcome of the election to be decided early without having to fully count all ballot papers.

Plea for pure democracy

With the use of computer based technology in counting the vote there is no justification or merit in disenfranchising voters. The system should be pure proportional, not semi proportional, with the quota equaling the  total number of votes divided by the number of positions (i.e. x/9 in the case of the City of Melbourne)

Team Doyle's surplus of 8% should have been counted and their supporters should have had a say in who represents them.  This is an issue that the Lord Mayor should take up and call for a review of the current electoral procedures in 2013.

Extraordinary revelations: Council decisions made by a nod and a wink

Melbourne City Council endorses decisions made by the Administration on the basis of verbal presentations. No Minutes no documents and no reports.

Replies forwarded by Melbourne CEO, Kathy Alexander (See below) claim that there is no documentation of discussions or decisions made at the City of Melbourne Councillor Forums.

On November 27, the City Council considered a a number of issues presented to the Council at a Councillor Forum. Issues listed for discussion included Melbourne Street Trading policy (Horse and Carriages) and other issues of significance related to policy development and Council administration.

The City Council, just days before Christmas, implemented changes to Council's policies removing Horse and Carriage permit zones from Swanston Street outside the Town Hall. There was no consultation with stakeholders and no written reports published or made available to the elected Council or the public. Previous City Councils have rejected moves to remove horse and carriages from trading in Swanston Street, which was recognized as poviding a valued service and tourist attraction to visitors of the City.

Clearly a decision has been made and acted on. Exactly who made the decision and under what authority they had is unclear.

This is systematic of a number of serious flaws in the administration of the City Council. Most controversial decisions are made just before Christmas when there is little to no public scrutiny or media attention. The decisions are made in the back rooms by unknown persons and without any oversight of public scrutiny.

The fact that issues are being presented and decided at Councillor Forums without any documentation presented to the City Council is beyond belief. City Councillors are either complicit to the deceit or left in the dark and not properly informed. This reflects poorly not only on the recently elected City Council but more so on the administration. Issues considered by the Council at secret closed meetings are not presented or discussed at more formal meetings of Council.

Closed meetings, where public policy is discussed by Council Officials, leaves the Council wide open to allegations of corruption and denies public access to the decisions and administration of the City. There is no published record of decisions made under delegation.

The "Councillor Forums" are a means of subverting the requirements of section 89 of the Victorian Local Government Act. The suggestion  that Councillor Forum presentations are verbal and there is no minutes and no documentation allows the Council to claim that the meeting does not fall under the provisions of s89. A claim that is still under dispute as the forum by any name is still a meeting of the Council.

This matter is currently before the Victorian State Government Local Government Inspectorate whose charter is to oversee the compliance of the Local Government Act. If these meetings (Councillor Forums) are allowed to continue, unabated, with Council decisions being made behind closed doors in the absence of public scrutiny or proper documentation then public confidence and accountability of government will continue to decline.

-- Copy of reply received --

Subject: RE: Minuets and reports of Council Forum held on November 27, 2012
Received: Thursday, 27 December 2012 13:36 

Dear Mr van der Craats

I advise that in accordance with Section 80A of the Local Government Act, no Minutes are documented for Council Forum meetings which are verbal presentations.

Kind regards

Kathy Alexander | Chief Executive Officer

City of Melbourne | 90-120 Swanston Street, Melbourne, 3000 | GPO Box 1603 Melbourne, 3001
T: 03 9658 9835 | F: 03 9658 9440 | E:

We value: Integrity | Courage | Accountability | Respect | Excellence.

City of Melbourne: Secret Registers not available on the internet

The City of Melbourne is required by law to maintain a number of registers that contain important public information. Whilst some registers are made public and published on line many are not.

The Council under pressure, be it somewhat reluctant, has published a list of councillor Expenses and travel register.  The Councillor expense register is somewhat misleading as creative accounting had removed some of the costs that were previously included and have now been removed from the expense list.   The Councillor Expense register is a list of money paid to Councillors in addition to the allowances already paid.

Missing from the new Councillor expense list is money reimbursed to Councillors for overseas travel and the cost of internal catering and the Lord Mayor's "Free Booze bar"

We want to start a campaign for full public disclosure and publication of all registers that are required to be maintained to be accessible via the Council's web site and not hidden away behind an administrative wall  designed to limit public access to this information.  The cost alone of granting administrative access to the registers warrants the information being freely accessible via the internet.

Details of the allowances fixed for the Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and councillors under Section 74 or 74A of the Local Government Act 1989. View the Allowances page Yes
The total annual remuneration for all senior officers in respect of the current financial year, set out in a list that states: Contact Council Business No
(i) ranges of remuneration of senior officers, where the difference between the lower amount and the higher amount in each range must not exceed $10,000; and
(ii) the number of senior officers whose total annual remuneration falls within the ranges referred to in subparagraph (i).
Details of overseas or interstate travel (but not interstate travel over land lasting less than 3 days) undertaken in an official capacity by councillors or any member of Council staff in the previous 12 months.  The register includes the names of the councillors or Council staff and the date, destination, purpose and total cost of the overseas or interstate travel. View the Travel Register page Yes
Updated quarterly.
Names of Councillors and Council officers who were required to submit interest returns during the financial year and the dates the returns were submitted. Contact Council Business No
If you would like to view the register complete this form and send to Council Business.
Agendas for and minutes of ordinary and special meetings held in the previous 12 months except if the minutes record parts of meetings which have been closed to members of the public under Section 89 of the Act. View Agendas, reports and minutes Yes
A list of all special committees established by the Council and the purpose for which they were established. Contact Council Business No
A list of all special committees established by the Council which were abolished or ceased to function during the financial year Contact Council Business No
Minutes of the meetings of special committees which were established under section 86 of the Act and held in the previous 12 months, except if the minutes record parts of meetings which have been closed to members of the public under section 89 of the Act. View Agendas, minutes and reports Yes
The register of delegations kept under Sections 87, 88 and 98 of Local Government Act 1989 and the date on which the last review took place under Section 98(6). Contact Council Business No
Submissions received over previous 12 months under Section 223 of the Local Government Act 1989.  Contact Council Business No
Agreements to establish regional libraries under Section 196 of Local Government Act 1989. There were no agreements to establish regional libraries during the financial year. No
Details of all property, finance and operating leases involving land, building, plant, computer equipment or vehicles entered into by the Council as lessor or lessee, including the name of the other party to the lease and the terms and value of the lease. Contact Council Business No
Register of Authorised Officers appointed under Section 224 of Local Government Act 1989. Contact Council Business No
A list of donations and grants made by the Council during the financial year, including the names of persons or bodies which have received a donation or grant and the amount of each donation or grant. Contact Council Business No
A list of the names of the organisations of which the Council was a member during the financial year and details of all membership fees and other amounts and services provided during that year to each organisation by the Council. Contact Council Business No
A list of contracts valued at: Contact Council Business No
$150,000 or more for the purchase of goods and services; and
$200,000 or more for the carrying out of works,
for which the Council entered into during the financial year without first engaging in a competitive process and which are not contracts referred to in Section 186(5) of the Act.
A written record of an assembly of Councillors (for a period of 12 months after the date of the assembly). View Council meeting reports Yes
(Presented to Council Meetings).
Election campaign donation returns for inspection at the office of the Council during normal office hours. Contact Council Business No