Posts Tagged ‘Victoria’

The decision by the Baillieu government to deny Brimbank residents and ratepayers their right to elect their representatives to the Council might seem like a pithy kind of issue; something to ignore, or as some have put it “to get over it” but it is a serious issue.

The Brimbank City Council under administration is making decisions about the future of the municipality without the representation of the residents and ratepayers. Sure there is some consultation with the community but it’s much like the consultation offered when residents and ratepayers could elect their representatives. But then it also matters because the very reasons for extending the administration are based on some very flimsy reasoning; and it’s the flimsy reasoning which should worry us all.

The decision by the Minister for Local Government was based on two reports. One of those reports was completed late last year and the other report barely covers 5 pages. The Minister having considered two reports, not even 20 pages in length between them, decided these reports contained enough evidence to extend the administration. There are some that believe the Minister took a considered position on the matter; but that’s hardly convincing when the reports contain innuendos, rumour and conjecture. And these reports were not even made available publically before the Minister axed democracy for another 4 years in Brimbank.

In fact the reports are questionable in their methodology, analysis and recommendations.

So let’s go through these reports and see what the Minister used to base her decision upon.

Report One [Scales-Report-November-2011]

The first report to consider is the older of the two. It was produced in November 2011.

It is a spectacularly unspectacular report. It makes a lot of assumptions and gives little details about how recommendations have been ultimately determined. In numerous instances it appears the author relies entirely on the opinion of a handful of community groups that supports the administration of Brimbank City Council.

This report spends more time looking at the programs of the Council and how the administration has gone about cleaning up the mess; auditing programs and schemes; and implementing strategies that hadn’t been implemented by the previous Council. The report argues that the current administration, while having done a good job to-date, needed more time to ensure the work currently done was completed. The report also argued that additional time in administration was warranted as other important strategies needed to be well embedded and in latter stages of implementation before a return to democratically elected representatives of residents and ratepayers.

While these sound like amicable aims they aren’t really based on ensuring there is representation of residents and ratepayers in the work of the administrators and Council management. This is not about the hard-working staff delivering the much-needed services, this about direct representation elected by residents and ratepayers. The work of the administrators is about setting the future direction for the municipality with what can only be called feeble consultation, held at times that are difficult for many people to attend. Any strategy will be soulless and the privy of bureaucrats as there is no elected representation, no matter what consultation takes place.

Anyway, carrying on, instead of carrying on.

Report Two [Request-for-option-Brimbank-City-Council]

This report as it has been released to the public provides nothing worthwhile on which to base a decision as important as the one to remove the democratic rights of Brimbank residents and ratepayers. The report is quite flimsy and doesn’t really explain why there should be an extension in the administration of the council. It picks up on the report noted above and it curiously mentions possible outcomes from a fair election that could be ‘unpredictable’.

The report has as one of the conclusions, remarkably, that because there is no way to predict the outcomes of an election, the council should continue to remain under administration.

This may seem to be okay for some but to people like me this is absolutely wrong. There can be little doubt that this a questionable reason. There are no real reasons provided by the report and relies on much innuendo about what ‘could’ and ‘might’ be the case, while citing the need for the administration to bed down current projects and make sure that strategic plan initiatives have begun.

It is also concerning that a government would use such a report, with such reasoning, to support a decision to extend Brimbank City Council’s administration.

Concluding remarks

It’s pretty disappointing that one of our Western Metropolitan Region Upper House  Members of Parliament, Mr Bernie Finn, strongly supports the on-going taxation of residents and ratepayers without representation. It’s also disappointing that despite the rhetoric the conservatives found it convenient to use political interference as the reason to continue the administration.

The decision made by the conservative Baillieu government was not made in the best interests of the Brimbank’s residents and ratepayers. It was a decision to suit political interests.

One has to wonder at what point will the Liberal Party stand up for democracy, as they claims they do, and restore the democratic rights of Brimbank residents and ratepayers to elect their local councillors.

NOTE: This post was originally published as a guest post on Cafe Whispers as “Victorian TAFE cuts will suffocate state’s productivity” on 22 July.

The Ted Baillieu Victorian government appears hell bent on dragging the state down in the short term and in the long term.

By attacking the technical and further education (TAFE) institutions in Victoria, the state government has illustrated scant regard for the state’s economy or future capacity to meet the growing need for technical and trades people. While there might be a mining boom happening in some states and plenty of opportunities for people with technical and trades training, the state government of Victoria is failing to see how it can respond when the boom comes to an end.

It would seem that for all the supposed ability to manage an economy, the Baillieu government is failing abysmally. Yet the breathtaking stupidity of attacking TAFE is there for all to see.

Within days of the state government announcing wide-ranging cuts to the TAFE budget because of private sector blow-outs and largesse, various universities that provide TAFE courses announced the closure of courses. It didn’t take long for established TAFE institutes announced they would have to dramatically scale back their offerings and ability to meet student demands on future course offerings. Not content were the current conservatives with the hikes in TAFE fees from the previous Labor state government, it was determined that slashing technical and further education would help the budget.

Unfortunately, the Liberal National coalition are simply running on ideology not on any practical policies supported by research and discussion. Like their federal counterparts, the state conservatives sense that they have a mandate to attack the institutions that make sure there is the ability to meet the growing demands for skilled labour.

Unemployment has gone up and is continuing to rise as more jobs are lost in manufacturing and Qantas’ plans to continue to off-shore maintenance work. And this is on top of the job losses in the public sector. The faux austerity measures are not improving the conditions of the state and are certainly not prompting an increase in business investment and growth. There definitely hasn’t been a cut in the cost of living; a key election promise of Baillieu’s campaign in 2010.

By limiting and restricting the growth of wind and solar energy, the state is losing out on growing a manufacturing base for renewable energy projects. This base can be developed relatively quickly given the potential of the existing manufacturing base. It can even spur some manufacturers to re-open plants and operations. However, because the state government is refusing to grow the economy, the state is losing skilled workers to other states or overseas.

As unemployment rises, people will seek to re-train or update their skills through institutions like TAFE. But with the state government’s slash and burn approach, courses are being dumped and fees are sky-rocketing. There are dwindling options available for re-training or career development while pricing more people out of the ability to pursue further education options; options like TAFE which used to be affordable. The ability to access affordable vocational and technical education has ensured people have employment options and to make available to the labour market skilled, educated workers. TAFE used to help produce the very workers being sought after in the mining boom; and the subsequent growth of regional areas.

The Baillieu government’s own employment and procurement practices have to be more closely scrutinised. Rumours abound that the government will continue to gut the public sector but then re-employ some of the same people through short-term contracts and labour hire firms. These kinds of practices lead to a shrinking corporate knowledge and stagnation in policy development; and more importantly stagnation in policy execution and follow-through.

Attacking our TAFEs is another example of the Baillieu Liberal government’s failure to develop a long-term vision for the state. The inability to meet Victoria’s need for skilled labour means that more businesses may end up leaving the state, costing more jobs. It’s clear there are no plans to improve the level of productivity through education and development and help improve the conditions for local businesses to innovate and continue to compete in the global economy. By attacking TAFEs the state government is effectively suffocating productivity.

The Baillieu government tinkers at the edges without a thought for the ramifications and calls it reform; after telling Victorians it’ll cost more to the taxpayer.

Victorians should think long and hard before giving the Baillieu government another term. It’s clear they are incapable of taking care of the state’s economy; or ensuring the state is capable of taking full advantage of the growing renewable energy industries.

The Brimbank City Council had, for many years, been plagued with allegations of nepotism and petty corruption. There were, for many years, also rumours and allegations about the various factional fighting among the Councillors who were often staffers for local state and federal Labor Members of Parliament.

With the election of the first Greens Councillor to Brimbank City Council, real light was being shed on some of the governance issues. Following the election of the Greens’ Geraldine Brooks in 2008, the governance issues intensified resulting in the then Labor state government intervening and sacking the Councillors in early 2009; installing administration arrangements.

Queries made about whether or not Brimbank City would participate in the coming state-wide local government elections indicated that the Council and Victorian Electoral Commission were preparing as if elections would be held.

However all was dashed when on May 17 the Local Government Minister announced that Brimbank City Council would continue to remain under administration.

The residents and ratepayers of Brimbank are now being denied the ability to democratically elect their representatives.

What has been reported in the media implies that the state government is more concerned about being able to predict electoral outcomes than the democratic rights of Brimbank residents and ratepayers. It was also remarked that it was important that the administrators consolidate their work. It beggars belief that the administrators now no longer dealing with the mess left after the sacking of the councillors in 2009, have had their brief extended to meddle into the future planning and development needs of the community.

There has been no consultation with residents and ratepayers about the decision. There has been no opportunity to consider and respond to reports commissioned by the Minister as they have not been made publicly available. [There has been loud protestations by Bernie Finn (Liberal Member for the Western Metropolitan Region) about how citizens are afraid to elect their representatives. Read my thoughts about that here.] There has been little to no consultation around the nature of the continued administration other than what has been publicly reported – again a complete lack of detail keeps the residents and ratepayers in the dark.

The administration arrangements are not democratic.

There is no obligation of the administrators to take into account the concerns, ideas and opinions of residents and ratepayers.

There is no accountability to the residents and ratepayers of Brimbank.

There is no way to contact the administrators directly.

We can’t go past the fact that the Baillieu Government has declared loud and clear it thinks the citizens of Brimbank can’t be trusted to elect their representatives. It’s a sad state of affairs that democracy is being trampled for poor excuses.


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