Thursday, 5 March 2015

Liberals and Nationals not travelling as well as NSW election polling reports imply?

ABC Antony Green’s Election Blog 2 March 2015:

As the NSW election approaches, the Baird government's vulnerability to defeat is being hidden by the reporting of opinion polls.
Opinion polls showing Coalition 2-party preferred result of 53% or 54% are being reported as the Baird government on track for re-election when in all likelihood they indicate a much closer contest with the government at risk of losing its majority.
There are three reasons for this.
The first is a likely change in preference behaviour by minor party and independent voters. Like Queensland, NSW uses optional preferential voting, and the recent Queensland election saw a 20% decline in exhausted preferences and a similar size increase in preference flows to Labor. This factor alone was enough to add another 3% to Labor's state wide 2-party preferred vote compared to polls. If the Queensland experience is repeated in NSW, then the published polls are over-stating the Coalition's 2-party preferred vote.
Second, under optional preferential voting, two-party preferred percentages are exaggerated in favour of the party with the higher first preference vote. In over than half of the state's electorates at the 2011 election, the Coalition outpolled Labor on first preferences by more than two-to-one. Because of the way 2-party preferred percentages are calculated under optional preferential voting, the Coalition margins in these seats are exaggerated. Any reversion to a more normal level of Labor first preference vote in these seats will see larger than expected two-party preferred swings.
The north coast National Party seats of Ballina, Lismore and Tweed all sit on margins of more than 21%. All would be Labor held based on the results of the 2013 federal election and will be seats to watch despite being well beyond the uniform swing. The National Party will also face challenges from Independents and anti-CSG campaigners in a string of seats.
In Sydney, traditional marginal seats like Drummoyne and Ryde have wildly inflated Liberal margins compared to past voting patterns. The same comment applies to Penrith where former Liberal MP Jackie Kelly running as an Independent may also complicate the contest.
The third factor is political geography. The tendency in NSW since the introduction of one-vote one-value electoral boundaries is for the Coalition to win fewer seats than Labor for any given level of two-party preferred vote.
In 1984 Labor polled 52.6% of the 2-party preferred vote and won 58 of the 99 seats. In 2007 Labor polled 52.3% and won 52 of 93 seats. In contrast, the Coalition polled 52.7% of the vote in 1991 and won only 49 of 99 seats.

Read the rest of the article here.

Review of Australia's Welfare System by the Abbott Government: he who is without sin.......

Hot on the heels of its September 2013 election to federal government, the Coalition led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott ordered a review of Australia’s welfare system.

There is no dispute that it had the right to initiate such a review and chose who headed this review.

However, in the face of a demonstrable history of religious philosophy-based institutions abusing and exploiting the vulnerable in their care, that it picked a former Franciscan priest with a background in such institutions to conduct this cash transfer/funding review defies belief.

While I am reasonably sure that he would have had little to no first-hand knowledge of the abuses which occur within the organisations in which he was a professional executive, I am less certain that he is completely free of the bias and discrimination these institutions display against their client bases.

St. Vincent de Paul has been implicated in allegations of child rape and in at least one court case. Mission Australia tends to fly under the radar when it comes to discrimination and abuse allegations, but there have been past allegations of racism and physical assault of vulnerable clients of which I have become aware. In particular I recall the case of one elderly and homeless Parkinson Disease sufferer allegedly beaten on the footpath outside an inner-city facility by a member of staff. Macquarie Bank’s venture into the aged care/nursing home market brought forth allegations of reductions in staffing numbers and/or hours at the expense of patient care. While Metlifecare in New Zealand has instances of failure to provide adequate care of aged residents on its record from 2002 through to 2014.

On 25 February 2015 the Abbott Government released the review report, A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes (second McClure report).

I leave it up to the reader to decide if the review has anything meaningful to say.

However, the manner in which the Abbott Government decided to stage the release of this report leaves a lot to be desired.

New Matilda 1 March 2015:

Welfare advocacy groups are asking for the Coalition government to bring them in on major policy announcements after scrambling to get on top of the McClure report, which they were not warned would be released this week.
The report into the long awaited review of the social welfare system was dropped early on Wednesday morning, but disability and welfare groups were left trying to piece together its contents from media reports.
Maree O'Halloran, Director of the Welfare Rights Centre, said her organisation had not been given any notification about the report’s impending release.
“Clearly the report was given by the government to certain media outlets,” O’Halloran said.
“I think it’s a disrespectful way to have a relationship with community and welfare organisations.”…
While community groups were frustrated by the lack of notice, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph both ran front-page splashes of the report on Wednesday, apparently gaining access to it before its public release. Other outlets, including Guardian Australia, filed stories before Wednesday morning.
New Matilda put questions to the Department of Social Services about media policy regarding the release of key reports and consultation with stakeholders. The questions were forwarded to Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison, but no reply was had been provided by Friday evening.
Craig Wallace, President of People With Disability Australia, said there had been a history of documents like the McClure report being dropped to certain media outlets, particularly The Daily Telegraph, resulting in stories being framed with negative portrayals of people on welfare or those living with a disability.
“This has been the pattern across the last 18 months. We get drops in the media, something on boxing day or on Easter Sunday, and there is no notice, there is no provision of advance copies for community groups,” Wallace said.
On Wednesday, The Telegraph’s headline read: “Our Federal Bludget: DSP under fire as bill to write welfare cheques hits $3bn”….

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Maclean public car park, Cameron and McLachlan parks: he said, she said

Having recently listened to Clarence Valley councillors debate before voting to deny a $2.8 million boutique redevelopment of the older-style Surf Motel in Yamba, primarily on the basis that the architect had kept the allegedly 100 year-old frontage footprint in the plans before council and the lift well was 97cm higher than allowed with part of the rear of the building 27 cm higher than allowed, I can appreciate the sense of frustration building in a section of the Maclean community at the same nine councillors approach to the latest move by the company behind the IGA supermarket development.

The Maclean dispute has a long history and it’s not only the siting of the supermarket which has changed - some individual positions have also changed. Cr. Sue Hughes now supports the IGA supermarket development (with subsequent loss of parts of Cameron and McLachlan parks as well as part of the public car park) which started the row back in 2011-12.

Along the way there has also been one very odd instance of time and money wasting on council’s part which failed to amuse many Maclean locals.

Now it appears a war of words has erupted within the community and is being played out in the pages of one valley newspaper.

Open Letter to Clarence Valley Council in The Daily Examiner, 25 February 2015:

Dear Councilors,
We understand many Councilors perceive the activities of the Greater Maclean Community Action Group as negative and reactionary. Unfortunately that perception has arisen following public delivery of an objective and responsible planning assessment made of the proposed supermarket in Maclean's car park. Council only last Tuesday has voted to proceed with the rezoning of this application without having any proper understanding of what the full implications are.
For Councillors to understand the "negativity" from the residents we represent, a step back is needed to look at what has happened to Maclean.  It is no longer negativity they will see; it is now a considerable anger.  Maclean isn't dying, it is being killed.
Everyone sees the need for a "supermarket anchored shopping centre" (a direct quote from the now outdated Retail Strategy).  That is nothing like what is being proposed.  There is absolutely no provision for future growth or expansion.  Hasn't this Council ever heard of "long term planning"?
We have observed as a group this Councils lack of expertise and commitment to even the most basic concept of "Assets and Risk Management" and the pretence of public consultation.  Implicit in the process of Consultation is the recognition of the opinions expressed, acquiescence or rational informed debate to the contrary, and above all, feedback.  Council doesn't even pretend to do that.  If public consultation and "planning" were anything more than "box ticking", there just may have been some acknowledgement in the 10 year plan that Grafton is at high risk of becoming a rural backwater when the new Harwood Bridge and Pacific Highway are completed.  The State Corrective Services seem to have already realised that and no reasonable person actually believes there will be a second bridge over the Clarence at Grafton.
As for Maclean, in 10 years this Council has delivered very little positive value to the town.  But the negatives are numerous and significant.  There has not been so much as a new rubbish bin put in this town over all that time.  The main street is breaking up and will soon look like a patchwork quilt, if indeed it is patched at all.  The only new footpath constructed by Council in 10 years is 13 metres from the CBD car park. It was constructed by throwing dry mix asphalt over grass, and is now almost completely overgrown. We now stand to lose most of what little green space we have in central Maclean and the destruction of the heritage in McLachlan Park seems imminent. We did, however, get a new toilet block which wasn't needed when there was already a perfectly good one just needing overhaul, at a fraction of the cost of the new one. I won't go further with the list but suffice to say it is very long.
The public meeting on Monday last was not sponsored by Council.  It should have been!  It explained very professionally exactly what was proposed in the DA for the supermarket and how it would impact on the town. It was the result of lot of effort by the Maclean Action Group and it drew the wholehearted support of the 3,000-strong Maclean Bowling Club.  There has been absolutely no response from Council to the issues presented. Public consultation is a box to be ticked and the responses are simply ignored. The supermarket debacle is only one of the many examples.
There were comments that audio visual presentation was difficult to hear and see.  Let me say that the Bowling Club is not a theatre and neither is the RSL.  Maclean has no theatre or anywhere else that is remotely suitable for public meetings or presentation using standard audio visuals.  There is a Civic Hall that is more than 100 years old, has a leaking roof and severe water damage to the ceiling and roof structure.  It is in that state because successive Councils have not carried out even basic routine maintenance.  I know of people who have left this town because they have to drive to Yamba to find anywhere they can have a family picnic and watch their children play.

Major trees (75-100 years old) have been removed and not replaced eg. the Taloumbi St Jacaranda and Fig trees.  The only four Camphor Laurels to be removed because of their genus are in one of only two small parks left in the town, if indeed the nature strip along the river can be called a Park.  There are estimated to be over 2000 Camphor Laurels growing in the Valley on public land but only the four delivering shade and ambience in Maclean are programmed for destruction and no "program" for the progressive removal and or replacement of the species exists.  Why the four in a Park in Maclean and why do this when the residents are overwhelming against it? Why would a Council crying poor even consider spending scarce cash on something like this? It's illogical and irrational.
However, all of that aside, the single most appalling facet of this Council Administration has to be the erratic and inconsistent application of its own drafted Policies, procedures and regulations.  Is it any wonder that the major investors bypass this Valley? It is just not worth the trouble, as the IGA no doubt is now starting to realize.  And that is why we will have to send our children away to find decent employment, and why we will pay rates 30% higher than inner city suburbs in Brisbane, and most other places in the State.

Do not for one moment interpret the absence of a Lower Clarence Candidate in the recent Council bi-election as an indication of complacency or acquiescence. It wasn't!  The years of disregard for the views and aspirations of the people of the Lower Clarence and the quest for responsible and professional planning may well materialize into something far more tangible in the lead-up to the next Council general election.
Ian Saunders, Hon Secretary GMCAG
A somewhat less than polite response published in The Daily Examiner, 27 February 2015:
COUNCILLORS, I am apologising in advance that you have had to put up with the blatant lies which have emanated from the Maclean Inaction Group letter.
A group of 100 people does not and will not ever represent the sum of all opinions on any matter, let alone that regarding a supermarket. It certainly does not represent the whole 3000 members of the bowling club.
It is unfortunate that the current discussion to move the supermarket does look like a variation on a plan, but it will undoubtedly be a better solution if shoppers have the current tar car parking to use while the supermarket is being built.
But let's get back to the letter:
Accusing the council of no provision for future growth. WRONG.
There is ample space for future growth, and this supermarket plus current supplies, according to the Maclean Urban Study (a plan I think) will be enough until 2031. But hey, the Maclean Action Group - a misnomer if ever there was one - say otherwise. They must be the experts.
Accusing the council of a pretence with public consultation. WRONG.
The Maclean Inaction Group did not even bother to put in a deputation when this was discussed two weeks ago, as the Chamber of Commerce did. A deputation is the correct forum for pleading your case.
Accusing the council of no feedback. WRONG.
The council replies by many methods: email, letters, phone calls, deputations on site, and when they call a public meeting to discuss the visions for the year, six people turn up.
Accusing the council is ignoring Grafton. Well, let Grafton solve its own problems and get its own Grafton Inaction Group. We've got enough up here if they want to share.
Accusing the council of doing very little in Maclean in 10 years. WRONG.
They have paved through the CBD; built a footpath from past Gulmarrad School all the way into the High School; built the Sports Centre; built the new toilets which were needed and connected the sections of grass in a much more usable way; re-done the stormwater around the bowling club and up the hill; done the garden roundabout at the Post Office.
They are in planning for a million-dollar upgrade of McLachlan Park and Wherrett Park, both of which should start as soon as the weather clears and the Highland Gathering is finished.
Accusing the council of not upgrading the main street. WRONG.
When council did the paving, they completely revamped the outside parking lanes of the main street. The centre lanes I believe are the responsibility of the RMS. Maybe this has changed?
Accusing the council of taking away what little green space we have in Maclean. WRONG.
This new supermarket concept actually gives Maclean residents more green space than supermarket one. Keep in mind IGA has a valid DA on supermarket one. If they believe the Maclean Inaction Group, they may go back and build version one without any further discussion, but this will definitely put pressure on the people of Maclean compared to option two.
Accusing council of not maintaining the Civic Centre. WRONG.
I would like to offer the Maclean Inaction Group some vouchers to Specsavers, so they can catch a glimpse of the fairly new green Colorbond roof on the Civic Centre and the brand new kitchen which has been put in. Yes the ceiling needs painting. I'll lend them a brush.
Accusing the council of not calling a public meeting on the issue. WRONG.
They did. Years ago. The chamber has called three public meetings on the issue, but because the Maclean Inaction Group didn't get the response they wanted, the group said these meetings were rigged.
The Action Group has called four meetings - I believe meetings where if you try to stand up and discuss the issues rationally you get told to "shut up". They are meetings where there is no option to give a view opposing to theirs.
Accusing council of not replacing trees in town. WRONG.
They have replaced several trees in town, particularly in the main street. To say that Maclean only has two parks is a blatant lie. To say that people have to go to Yamba to play in a park completely ignores the beautiful children's playground next to the very expensive Sports Centre built by council with partly a grant. Specsavers again?
Perhaps the people driving to Yamba are actually going to a beach, visiting their aunt or dare I say visiting a really big supermarket?
Accusing council of overcharging on rates compared to Brisbane City. Well, sadly that's the maths behind the problem.
If you have three million ratepayers paying rather than 2600, then the base price will always be less. It's called economies of scale. Council is not crying poor over these upgrades to Maclean, as they have grants and the sale money quarantined to be spent only on Maclean projects. This is fact.
The Maclean Inaction Group concludes their letter with a threat to pull the council into line at the next election. That is their democratic right.
However if they do get elected, they will find that legal constraints on councillors are far more rigorous than even they have any understanding of.
Successful decisions of council are an amalgamation (dare I use that word!) of councillors, council management and staff and proposals put before them.
Sometimes as, in this case, they are tweaked to get the best result. They are not the result of bullying.
Denise Worrill1

1. As Maclean Chamber of Commerce Secretary in 2009 Ms. Worrill was vocal in her support for sale of part of the car park to IGA.

Disability Support Pension: Graham Richardson doesn't bother to check his 'facts'

This was 'political commentator' Graham Richardson in The Australian on 27 February 2015:

Surely, though, there must be savings to be made in disability pensions. The number of recipients is growing at a phenomenal rate…. 

This was Professor Peter Whiteford, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, on the same day:

It would appear that truth has little value over at News Corp's principal Australian masthead.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Moggy Musings [Archived material from Boy the Wonder Cat]

An and they're off! musing: Clarence electorate candidates in 2015 NSW election beginning to answer voters' questions on a moderated Facebook page at:

A meet the candidates musing: Yamba Chamber of Commerce is holding a Meet the Candidates Forum so that people can measure up those standing in the Clarence electorate in the 2015 NSW election. Monday 23 March at the Yamba Bowling Club at 5.30pm.

A Tarzan of the Jungle musing: I get a bit of mail from locals these days and a heartfelt moan about roadside verges fell out of the letter box this week - Many local councils, including Clarence Valley Council, reckon they can save a few bucks by mowing the grass verges along the sides of local roads on fewer occasions. Good idea in theory ... rotten and dangerous idea in reality.
Local wags driving around the valley reckon the flood gauge signs, which indicate flood heights on local roads, have acquired another important role. Motorists are using them to see how high the overgrown vegetation is near the road. The wags reckons there are many places they wouldn't be game to pull off the road - the height of the overgrown roadside vegetation is such that their vehicles would disappear from sight and need to be put on a missing vehicles register.

Another reader sent me these Facebook quotes this week:
* Afternoon Councillors of CVC. I would like to draw to your attention that Mahogany Drive Pillar Valley nature strip has not been slashed for over 3 years. Your tractor driver has been in the area for last couple of days doing Wooli Rd but again has not slashed Mahogany Dr. I would like it to be slashed as it is 6ft tall grass and fire prone. Please advise when the nature strip will be slashed as it used to be slashed by the previous driver twice a year.
* I spoke to Council staff member on Friday who spoke to Supervisor who said that Mahogany Dr was to be slashed and was going to get onto the driver to come back & slash the road. This morning the slasher driver came back and slashed the road but only partly done along the front of our boundary on Mahogany Dr, he has only slashed close to the road side and not to the boundary fence where the grass is 6ft tall and requires a big tractor & slasher to carry out the work particularly where Council realigned the road onto Wooli Rd and hence making it probably difficult for him to do.
* Out front of my property grass is 6ft long and probably snake infested. If my dogs get bitten by snake from there I'll be seriously looking at Council.

An Abbott is a b**tard musing: The New "GP Fee" Explained video here by Dr.George Forgan-Smith.

An even an owner won't buy musing: On 12 January 2015 a stock exchange notice revealed that Metgasco Limited’s Managing Director & CEO Peter Henderson failed to excise his option on 645,161 Metgasco ordinary shares by 28 November 2014. Does this mean that Henderson is not willing to invest further in this company?

An excuse me while I snigger musing: Rumour has it that some large Metgasco Limited and Elk Petrolem Ltd shareholders are privately admitting that their shareholdings are worthless - that they "can't give them away".

An it can only happen at a call centre musing: Imagine you're on your way to work around 5.45am and find your progress blocked by a very large tree which has fallen across the road. You phone the emergency number on your mobile and are put through to the main NSW State Emergency Service (SES) call centre. You ask for SES assistance in removing the tree from the road. The call centre informs you that the road you are on doesn't exist and that neither Tucabia nor Tyndale (both named districts which have been around since the 1800s) can be found on its computerised map. That's what happened to one Clarence Valley resident as he travelled along Bostock Road in December 2014. Luckily for him a local farmer passed by an hour later, went back to fetch his chainsaw and then removed enough of the tree to let cars pass. The driver has no idea if an SES crew ever turned up, but does know that a local crew did turn up for the next tree that came down. Bet whoever reported that second tree didn't contact the main call centre!

A January 2015 hot weather musing: As commercial building airconditioning systems coped with operational overload, the media reported:
Thousands of iiNet customers across Australia have found themselves offline after the company shut down some of its systems at its Perth data centre because of record breaking-temperatures.
"Due to record breaking temperatures, iiNet Toolbox, Email and our corporate websites are unavailable. Apologies for any inconvenience caused," iiNet tweeted.

An even if it was tongue-in-cheek it was irresponsible musing: My two-legs still hasn’t realised that I know how to wake up the laptop while she is in Dreamland. Mostly I use this My Time! to browse the newest catfood ads for the most expensive items in the supermarkets and, then I go on a hunger-strike until she brings home my latest ‘favourite’ tucker. Of course I’m not really going hungry because I have one neighbour dog trained to step back ten paces while I eat his dried nibbles placed by his backdoor (but don’t tell anyone!). Expecting a pleasurable first Google browse of 2015 the other night, instead I came across this on the January 3: Hey, all you rich dicks pulling down sweet, sweet bucks from your lucrative bar and restaurant jobs and flaunting your wads of cash in front of the little people - the man is onto you, and you won't be on that gravy train for much longer. Whoever Alasdair is he has a rather strange and upside down view of the world if he likes to pretend that bar and restaurant workers in a notoriously low paid industry figure amongst Australia’s rich elite and need to be taken down a peg or two, even after their weekend penalty rates were cut last year.


PS. This is one of my fav dogs with his new 'mum'. He needed to be re-homed and found a furever home in the Lower Clarence Valley. Unfortunately, like many re-homed animals in the area, his new life is put at risk by sections of Clarence Valley Council's proposed Keeping of Animals Policy.

"We want a gasfield ban, not a gas plan!"

Letter to the Editor in The Daily Examiner, 27 February 2015:

Election and gasfield
The State Election is fast approaching. On March 28 we go to the polls again to cast our vote to decide who will run the State of NSW for the next four years.
In the Northern Rivers, the biggest political issue over the past four years has been the threat of industrialisation and destructive and polluting activities which inevitably accompany invasive gasfields.
We have fought to save our region - at Glenugie and Doubtful Creek and then at Bentley. The famous Bentley Blockade resulted in the suspension of Metgasco's exploration licence which was to allow drilling to a depth of 2.1km through the soils, rocks and aquifers of this beautiful and productive valley, so typical of the Northern Rivers.
It was the pressure exerted by the community on the NSW Liberal National Government which caused them to suspend activity. It was not an act of benevolence on the part of the NSW Government- without people-power the drilling rig would have moved in.
Over 95% of people in the Northern Rivers do not want to live in a gasfield. Tourism and primary industries in our region will suffer irreparable damage and our properties will become devalued and unsalable - who would buy a house in or near a gasfield?
Now is our chance once again to have our voices heard loud and clear - in NSW we have a system of Optional Preferential voting.
Under this system, numbering one box is permitted. However, there is a very good reason why this is not a good choice. If you do number only one box and your choice of candidate does not receive 50% + one of the total votes in the first count, your vote is "exhausted'" and you have, in effect, wasted your vote.
To ensure that your vote counts, you must number every box.
You do not have to follow the how to vote card of any political party or independent candidate.
You are the one who is allocating preferences. Your preferences are the ones that matter.
Who you vote for on election day is, of course, your personal choice. However, to vote for a gasfield-free Northern Rivers, you will need to give your LAST preference to the party who is least supportive of the community's clearly expressed wishes to remain gasfield free.
We want a gasfield ban, not a gas plan!
Rosemary Joseph

Once the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 becomes law

On 27 February 2015 the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security recommended that the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 be passed by the Australian Parliament.

It appears that there is bipartisan political support for the passage of this bill.

The information that will be kept on each and every one of us is found in the Draft Data Set (30 October 2014), but there is no guarantee that information collected and stored will be limited to this particular data set.