It’s a miracle!
Back in 2011, the train information on this Smartbus sign at Bentleigh station was switched off.
In 2016 during the level crossing removal project, the bus stop and sign were removed, then put back.
For a while the sign wasn’t working, but then the bus times were switched on. But not the train times.
On Monday, for the first time in over 8 years, the train times re-appeared. Eureka!
Thinking ahead, and more broadly: the real-time bus information that was once unique to Smartbus is now more widespread. It’s made its way onto smartphone apps.
The opportunity here is for authorities to get some solid passenger wins for relatively little investment.
Displays inside new buses should be a no-brainer, given the other required infrastructure is already in place – when a Smartbus ends up on a “normal” route, it appears the displays work correctly.
Unfortunately the current program of 100 new buses for Transdev has missed this. They are adding new generation Myki readers, USB ports for charging, and better external destination displays, which is good. But no internal displays.
(Marcus Wong points out in his blog today that they’ve also missed an opportunity to shift to more hybrid or electric buses.)
Displays at stations are also handy, as bus drivers can see imminent train arrivals, and may be able to wait for connecting passengers.
Of course, more direct routes and better bus frequency and operating hours are the best thing to get more people using buses.
But making them user-friendly for new and regular users is also important, and should be an easy win.
The family cycled from Berlin to Tallinn this year, giving me an opportunity to see how Poland and the Baltics have fared after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990s. Some observations:
– Poland is doing well. Agriculture there is as organised and productive as in Germany, with the newest combine harvesters collecting flour for millions of bread rolls.
– You see large new houses in the minor villages in Poland, and lots of new infrastructure in the towns. People drive in reasonable cars, horse-drawn carts have disappeared, and the youth looks tall and healthy.
– Interestingly, the Polish are quite bad at English and usually don’t understand you in bars, hotels, and restaurants. Their German and their Russian is a lot better on average, even amongst the younger generation. This in turn seems to be part of the success of Poland: because their English is poor, they can only do somewhat menial jobs abroad, meaning that they get treated as second-class citizens in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, etc. That in turn encourages them to go back and work on the future of Poland, with great success. So lacking good English language skills, which will have cost them in the early decades after the Soviet Union, is now helping them emerge as a more vibrant and self-conscious society. The opposite can be seen in the Baltics….
– Poland is clearly investing in its historical heritage. The fort of the Teutonic Order in Marienburg is beautiful, with many other relics being restored. They are proud of various scientists who lived there throughout the ages, such as Copernicus.
– You do see some interesting new Cathedrals in Poland and the roads have lots of small places of worship, but there is still no great religious enthousiasm on display. You do not see constant religious processions, groups of nuns and monks, or open displays of large crosses. Television has lots of scantily dressed young people and few preachers.
– Alcohol is cheap, accommodation is cheap, and the parks and squares are full of young people. So on the outside it’s pretty tourist-friendly.
– Road users are remarkably well-behaved. To cyclists, in London an orange traffick light means ‘hurry up’ and a red light is a suggestion. Not so in Poland.
– Interestingly, the Polish have started owning some of the Prussian and Baltic heritage that the North-East of Poland boasts. They are still not quite comfortable with German cemeteries and inscriptions, but things like the Hanze league (which were blatantly German-only) are now embraced. There is also a rediscovery of the Baltic origins of many of the Prussians, which seems to make it easier for them to accept that part of the Polish population. The Polish-Lithuanian alliance is similarly now celebrated.
– So Poland is essentially constructing a new historical narrative that allows it to live harmoniously with the population groups in its border.
– Lithuania by contrast is considerably poorer than Poland. The houses are more often wooden, the fields are less productive and less modern, the roads are poorer, the population density lower, and only a few coastal cities are doing ok. Even the cities are losing people though, with the population in Lithuania going down, just as in Latvia.
– In all the three Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), the young people speak good English. As a result, you don’t see many of them because many live and work abroad. This is a very mixed blessing: because they do well overseas, they often do not return, which takes the pressure off the politicians to truly reform, making it difficult for new businesses to thrive, keeping the talented youngsters away.
– The language history of the Baltics shows the importance of not speaking the language of the elites: in each of the three countries, the large coastal cities were dominated by foreign invaders for many centuries. Danes, Germans, Teutonic knights, Hanze merchants, the Swedes, and the Russians ruled the roost in Riga, Tallinn, and the few ice-free harbours on the coast. These cities dominated the economies of these regions but, crucially, their populations were small and these cities did not bother educating anyone on the countryside. As a result, the peasants kept speaking their old languages, never adopting the language of the small elite in the cities. When nationalism swept through the region and delivered new countries at the start of the 20th century, the identity was essentially language-based as the language had remained fairly untouched.
– There are many ironies to observe in how the populations of the Baltics see themselves. The story of ‘we were oppressed for 700 years until we got our freedom’ could be heard everywhere. Yet, it sounds rather hollow if you press them on who their ancestors were, because they will quickly have to admit that their families are a mixture of German, Polish, Russian, Jewish, and Baltic. So both supposed oppressors and oppressed are liberally represented in the pool calling itself the perennially oppressed. Where have we heard that before?
– I learned a lot about the Hanze and the Teutonic Knights. The Baltic Hanze cities were more ethnically oriented that I knew, only accepting German merchants into their circles. The Teutonic knights were like an ISIS that made it….. German knights returning from the crusades who were given permission by the pope to go kill and rob the Baltic populations as long as they converted them to Christianity … which they duly did … for instance destroying Danzig in order to take over the amber trade which paid for the bills …..
– The tug of war between Riga and Tallinn as to where Christmas trees originated is hilarious. The Ests in Tallinn say it was them because rich bored German merchants organised in the Brotherhood of the Black Heads were first recorded around 1450 to set fire to fir trees in the middle of the city. After a few years of doing this, the practice was forced of the city because of course it caused huge fires in the whole city. Yet, the Lets in Riga say it was them because rich bored German merchants there were first recorded around 1500 to dress up said fir trees before setting fire to them ….. of all the things to be proud of ….
On the whole, things are going pretty well with the remaining populations in that region. No huge tensions or great poverty that I could see. If you force me to nominate something not going well, then it is that the Baltics are rather empty because don’t have enough kids and they encourage the few they have to move away.
I was in Brighton Cemetery on Saturday (long story) and noticed this statue from a distance, so thought I’d have a look.
Someone famous? Not really.
A young man, tragically drowned off Mornington. The statue was made by his workmates.
Thanks to Trove, I found quite a detailed report of the accident.
FISHING BOAT OVERTURNS.The Argus, 29th December 1919
YOUNG MAN DROWNED.
Forced by a blinding rainstorm to abandon a proposed fishing expedition off Mornington early on Saturday morning, a party of youths attempted to turn their boat shorewards when the light craft was over whelmed by a big sea, and one of its occupants was drowned. Two other members of the party were rescued in an exhausted condition after a stern struggle in the surf.
Trove also shows that in the following years, his parents placed notices in his memory.
And it all happened 100 years ago this December. With the weather turning, this might be a good reminder of the importance of taking care in the water this summer.
There is still, I think, not enough recognition by teachers of the fact that the desire to think – which is fundamentally a moral problem – must be induced before the power is developed. Most people, whether men or women, wish above all else to be comfortable, and thought is a pre-eminently uncomfortable process.
Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth
As journalism is the first draft of history, some of my emails are the first draft of blog posts. As here where I was responding to someone with whom I’d already agreed that in economics there’s lots of emphasis on using models to understand reality but not much care given to the question of fitting them to the world.
To paraphrase in a way that’s unfair to him – but which is only intended to provide a point of departure here – he then suggested that social science was about model building and fitting the world to those models and, to shift the world towards better outcomes for social science (we were talking about economics), one needed different kinds of participants in this.
A model that comes to mind when thinking about all this is the model of how movements (e.g., Me too, civic rights, etc) happen. First we need a “0”, a person who would be willing to go against the social norm even if there were 0 people helping them. I would label Rosa Parks as a 0 in the scenario of civic right movement. But then you need a “1” to have observed the 0, and a 2 to have observed at least two people from type 0 and 1, and a 3 to have observed at least 3 people from 0, 1 or 2, and so on. Because they need to be observed to trigger additional behavior, in practice we need a bunch of 0s, a bunch of 1s, a bunch of 2s, and so on, otherwise the movement does not create its own momentum. In terms of making progress in the economic problems, I believe we need all kinds of people like that: the 0s, or the ones that have an original vision, the 1s, or those that make enough progress on those visions, and so on. As I said above, I do believe that in academic jobs in economics most people are in the 10,000s, so we need to incentivize more people to go down their numbers and create alternative paths for progress. For instance, I believe Glen Weyl has been doing important and timely work in economics. He is currently more like a 500 (where a 10 in this scenario might be Henry George).
My response – edited as I fancy going through it again was thus:
I don’t agree with much of that I’m afraid :)
I think it builds a metaphysics around one’s ordinary practice and convinces oneself that one’s own practice is paradigmatic – that reality is built in such a way that the practice not only makes sense, but contains within it the kernel of how all sense is actually made in the relation between us and the world. Here’s a nice passage on the point written in the 1920s you may have come across – I’ve edited and in doing so bowdlerised it a bit, but the original longer quote is here if you want to check it.
Now the history of mind reveals pretty clearly that the thinker who decries metaphysics will actually hold metaphysical notions. .… If he be a man engaged in any important inquiry, he must have a method, and he will be under a strong and constant temptation to make a metaphysics out of his method, that is, to suppose the universe ultimately of such a sort that his method must be appropriate and successful. .… but inasmuch as the positivist mind has failed to school itself in careful metaphysical thinking, its ventures at such points will be apt to appear pitiful, inadequate, or even fantastic.
The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science.
I can think of two things I recoil from when I read what you’ve written.
As I agued in my debate with Krugman, I’m not arguing in any important sense for more or less of one or the other.1 It’s the quality of the thinking – of whatever kind that’s of the essence. And of course the way ideas from different perspectives using different techniques or skills are put together – echoing the original point on which we agreed that the fitting of models to the world is a critical matter which tends to be given short shrift.
To use a cool expression Wittgenstein used to describe philosophy, it represents the fly trying to get out of the fly bottle. It’s easy to turn one’s own intuition of the way the world is into a metaphysical map – as indeed was done when we thought that the sun revolved around the earth. That was ‘based’ if I can use that expression on the fact that it looked like the sun went round the earth. This was what I call metaphysics by default. As Wittgenstein put it, “and what would it look like if the earth went round the sun?”.
The reason we need to be careful about ‘just so’ stories that reduce our making sense of the world to some simple reductive model – is that if we don’t pay close attention to what we’re doing, we end up simply reifying our own intuition. One thing we do know is that we don’t ‘build models of reality’ to navigate our daily lives. Yet how could that be if one needs to build models to understand reality? A tennis player seeking to run to strike a ball follows numerous heuristics to get the ball where they want. The knowledge they have – in their bodies and brains – is embodied. They acquired their knowledge of the world from being in it and interacting purposively in it. In that regard their main cognitive job is not to build some God’s eye model of the world as it is, but to find ways of turning the physical and other features of the world into affordances for their purposes.It seems to me that engineering is the discipline that gets closest to this mindset (though I should make clear I have no extensive familiarity with the discipline(s) of engineering). Engineering, as I understand it, is a body of knowledge to assist in the articulation and pursuit of human purposes. If you want to build a bridge or a battleship or a chemical with certain qualities or a software program, you follow procedures that it is engineering’s task to explore, investigate and prove up to some point after which it’s up to your own critical nous to ‘apply’ in the field.
It’s only preoccupied with some God’s eye view of reality to the extent that that might become necessary or advantageous in the quest for the affordances it seeks. Thus there will be all manner of knowledge about the tensile strength of different materials, how they bear up under stress of different kinds, how they change through time and so on. It may be expedient to seek this knowledge via building God’s eye models of certain aspects of reality. It may be possible to acquire adequate knowledge from common knowledge or trial and error or some other method. The point is that one encounters the knowledge with purposes in mind.
In fact I can’t really see how one would encounter a God’s eye view of reality except as part of the lack of intellectual vigilance intimated by Burtt above which leads me to a corollary claim that seems attractive having come this far. I’d be highly suspicious of any abstract statement about what the physical or social world was like in any circumstances where the person making the assertion couldn’t explain how that conclusion arose from purposive activity – ‘where they were coming from’ as it were. If that couldn’t be done, I’d suspect their statement would be vague, possibly meaningless or poorly defined, or, to the extent that the claim that was being made is clear, wrong.
As an example I’d provide the Arrow Debreu ‘model’ of general equilibrium, though only a fool takes that to be a model of reality. Arrow and Debreu certainly didn’t accuse their model of being a model of reality. Perhaps a DSGE model is a better example. At least there, one may be able to explain the purposes with which it was built, which will then frame one’s investigations as to whether it’s of any use or not. As an aside however it will be difficult to explain why arbitrary (aesthetic) constraints were placed upon the assumptions that constituted the model.
This blew my tiny mind.
Speaking of Metro tunnel station names, the project publicity is increasingly talking about (new) North Melbourne station.
It’s a shame the old one wasn’t renamed to West Melbourne (as per the plan) last year when all the maps were reprinted for the opening of the Mernda extension.
Hopefully they get it done soon, well before the tunnel opens.
Yes, sometimes my blog isn’t about transport. If you’d prefer to see only transport posts, you can use this link.
Here’s a post where I ramble on about recent upgrades around my house.
I had wall insulation installed earlier in the year.
The winter gas bill came in recently. It’s down 37.7% from the previous year.
We were away for a bit of time, but nowhere near that much. I’d call that a win.
My current thinking is I’d like to slowly transition off gas and onto electricity, moving towards solar PV.
Back in 2011 we got our first widescreen digital television: a 32 inch (80 cm) Samsung.
Rather annoyingly it still works fine, but I was thinking of buying something bigger than 32 inches, perhaps around 43 inches. (Are television sizes one of the last holdouts of imperial measurements?)
Then my sons spotted the 49 inch Sony X70F on Amazon, which seemed irresistibly cheap at $649 – slightly cheaper than the cost of the 32 inch TV in 2011.
Choice’s handy guide to model numbers indicates that the X70F is last year’s model, but it’s got all the features we want, including 4K. We bought it. It’s since gone up to $849.
We also bought a TV stand so it could fit on the old (narrow) cabinet. What I didn’t realise was the stand on top of the old cabinet positions the TV far higher than suits the room. The stand is height adjustable, but only up from where we have it.
Sigh. Oh well, the old cabinet was also due for replacement (an ancient unit from Ikea that’s at least 25 years old – remember their Nunawading store and when they sold products that were real solid wood?), so I ended up buying a new cabinet as well. It’s lower but wider so has more space. Yes, Ikea again.
It took an evening to re-cable everything into the new cabinet, but it’s tidier.
Is a 49 inch (124 cm) TV too big for my small livingroom? Perhaps. Some advice seems to be aim for a TV with a size of about half the distance you sit away from it. On that basis it’s okay, but that’s really aimed at not seeing pixelation at the highest resolution. … Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get used to it.
I moved into my house 14 years ago. My best guess is it had a makeover in the mid-1990s when the property was subdivided and most of the backyard was sold off and developed.
So the bathroom was some 25+ years old and looking pretty tired. I finally got it revamped over winter.
I was able to arrange the perfect timing: Peter the bathroom guy was able to do the project in early July, when my sons were away, and during the Caulfield to City bustitution – giving me an excuse to stay home and avoid it, at least in peak hours.
Peter’s way of working is to provide a shopping list for most of the required bits and bobs, so I got to decide on and go shopping for tiles, grout, tapware, showerhead, toilet, vanity unit, towel rails.
I discovered that there are any number of places that will sell you all this stuff – but almost all of them are only open during weekday business hours, and Saturday mornings – which was not very convenient at all.
Only Bunnings has the smarts (and resources) to be open all weekend, and until 9pm on weekday evenings. In return for their long hours, and relaxed returns policy, they did very well out of me on this project.
Thankfully my house has a second toilet. No full second bathroom though. I got used to washing each morning in the laundry sink, with occasional showers courtesy of nearby family so I could wash my hair. It’s manageable, but it was good to have the actual bathroom finished.
In the end the work took a week and a half. Could it be quicker? If two people worked on a small bathroom, they’d just bump into each other.
Any lessons learnt? I do wonder if next time I might not use a mixer tap for the vanity unit basin. The reason is the default (middle) position is likely to be used by people when they don’t want hot water. This actually runs the hot and cold together, which means the hot water heater starts up. It might be more energy-efficient to have separate hot and cold taps, even if they mix into one outlet.
During the work we discovered why some of the pipes had been rattling – and fixed/replaced them. We also found the water takes a long route around the house before getting to the bathroom, which is why the hot water takes a while to start. Unfortunately it sounds like that would be quite complicated to actually fix.
Not to worry – the overall result is great.
Now I just have to get around to repainting affected sections of wall… put it on the list with the drill spots from the insulation.
Maybe when I get the kitchen re-done, I’ll get some painters in to do it all.
Now, what’s next?
Trouble afoot for the Melbourne Airport rail link?
Age: The new proposal would see airport trains use existing rail lines between Southern Cross and Sunshine, and add a new line between Sunshine and the airport, sources close to the project have said.
Herald Sun: …while most prefer an express route with only one stop, the state governmentâ€™s plan to include the airport rail project in its $50 billion Suburban Rail Loop means travellers may have to change trains at Sunshine to get to the CBD.
This casts light on some of the thinking inside the State Government: that the airport trains might share tracks into the City, or that they might not reach the City at all!
I think we perhaps could live with the former, but the latter would be problematic.
There also seems to be talk of a bog-standard service frequency of every 20 minutes, which is half that of the Skybus and the busiest off-peak suburban lines.
Step back for a sec: It’s important to think about service outcomes, not infrastructureâ€Ś and we should also not assume that everything needs to be resolved in one hit at enormous cost – with most people talking about a premium fare of some kind, super-expensive infrastructure is likely to drive up fare prices.
Let’s take it as read that the route is via Sunshine, with a stop there for interchange purposes.
My view is the goals are we need a travel time of 20-25 mins or so from the City to the Airport, and a service frequency of 10 mins. That’s what’s going to ensure the train is competitive with car travel, or taxi, and that it’s at least as fast as the existing Skybus, including ensuring interchange (whether in the CBD or at Sunshine) is quick and easy.
Bear in mind those two aims.
There are two sets of tracks from the City to Sunshine: the Sunbury line (which by 2025 will connect into the Metro tunnel) and the Regional Rail Link tracks, carrying V/Line services to Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
The Sunbury line only carries 3 trains per hour at present at off-peak times, but hopefully will be 6 before too long. And those off-peak trains stop at every station, so Airport trains wouldn’t be fast enough if they shared those tracks.
By my count, the RRL tracks carry 6-7 trains per hour off-peak at present. So with some tweaking (and assuming electrification), you should be able to get another 6 airport trains per hour onto that line without too much trouble, and all running pretty fast from the City to Sunshine – typically they take 12 minutes at present.
It’s peak that is the problem. Between 5pm and 6pm there are currently 16 outbound trains on the RRL lines, so it’s getting close to full, particularly with the current situation of numerous flat junctions (yeah, fix those for a start).
Melton and Wyndham Vale trains are likely to run as electric services on the suburban tracks in the future, which might help, though you’d expect some of those paths to be needed by additional longer distance trains, to further relieve crowding.
But peak is only a few hours a day, and the competition (the Tulla Fwy) is also congested then, so as an interim measure, while they figure out/fund/build more track capacity, you could probably live with slightly longer running times or slightly lower frequencies to the Airport.
If the freeway clogs up every day in peak, does it matter much if the train travel time goes a bit over 25 minutes at the same time? It would still be quicker, and as long as the travel time is predictable and consistent, it would still be time-competitive.
This would not be a unique situation. London’s Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express trains both run 4 trains per hour, and share tracks with other services. Gatwick Express in particular has running times that vary a bit according to other traffic on the line.
And this is of course no different to many other public transport routes, including street-based trams and buses.
Sure, eventually you’d need more capacity. That could mean extra tracks between Sunshine and the City. But it could also be the Metro 2 tunnel – latest thinking includes it providing a route for (electrified) Geelong trains direct into the City, taking them off the Sunshine route, freeing up yet more RRL paths. This would have a number of other benefits too.
But if we’re going to demand dedicated tracks all the way from day one (really, a multi-billion dollar tunnel for a measly six trains per hour?) it’ll just mean it takes longer to build, and will help push up the fares.
Forcing people to change at Sunshine however, I think would be far more problematic.
It’s not unreasonable to expect an airport train would provide a one seat journey from the CBD, attracting a significant business market.
Also worth remembering that passengers from the suburbs (or in fact anywhere in the CBD that isn’t walking distance to the terminus, presumably Southern Cross) would have already changed service at least once.
The Metro 1 tunnel will provide better access to Sunshine for people along the Sunbury to Cranbourne/Pakenham line, including from Parkville and ANZAC (Domain) stations. Sunshine is also readily accessible from the Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo lines (assuming the latter is altered to actually to stop at Sunshine – for some reason it doesn’t at the moment).
But from other lines, it’s problematic. Doubly so for Alamein and Stony Point passengers, who may have already changed trains to reach the City… and not forgetting people who had to catch a bus or tram to the station at the start of their trip. Plus a lot of people would have luggage to wrangle.
There are some cities where you need to change trains between the CBD and the Airport. Singapore is one of them, with a cross-platform interchange and reasonably frequent service at most times of day.
But it’s slow. A random check of Google Maps reckoned around 49 minutes from Changi Airport MRT station to City Hall MRT, not helped by stopping all stations – but the change of trains alone was 7 minutes. Driving can be as fast as 20 minutes. That might be okay in Singapore where car ownership is restricted, but would it fly in Melbourne? I doubt it.
And one more thing: It’s a hard enough sell at the best of times convincing Melburnians to change trains. I reckon an airport rail link that doesn’t serve the CBD would be political suicide.
Ultimately, the airport rail link needs to be price and time-competitive with taxis and driving from a variety of locations around Melbourne, including the CBD which is the hub of the existing public transport network. It must also be convenient for people, especially those with luggage.
It’s understandable with lots of infrastructure projects underway that the government is looking to see if it can cut costs – but they will need to take care that the airport link meets these goals.
Let’s hope they carefully consider the options.
More reading: Ben Lever (PTUA Ballarat) highlights the other upgrades needed, whether or not a new tunnel is built
It’s nearly the end of the month, so here’s another in my series of photos from ten years ago.
Yarraville one afternoon. This hasn’t changed much at all.
In Swanston Street, a quirky display of old public benches.
Every few years, the tram/train level crossing at Glen Huntly needs renewal.
Of course during the renewal, buses replace trains. Back then, they ran the buses along the side streets – picking up passengers closer to the stations, but a long slow journey.
Here’s a Moorabbin Transit bus running rail replacement service. This company was owned by Grendas at the time; Grendas was eventually bought by Ventura.
Once the crossing works were finished, trains resumed, crawling across at 20 km/h, as they still do today. The crossing is on the removal list, added during the 2018 election campaign, but no firm timeline yet.
As clear as mud? Trying to document the busy Swanston Street/St Kilda Road tram corridor in one sign. Note the style which also affected the train map of the time, which obscures which way the branches go when they join the trunk route.
Here’s the view on St Kilda Road near the Shrine. As of 2019, a lot of this area is busy with metro tunnel works.
Elsewhere in Bentleigh, spotted this portable building being moved. Not sure where it was going, or why they chose to navigate down that narrow street.
Federation Square, looking towards the river.
…and the view from Flinders Street. The Visitor Centre has now been demolished, and metro tunnel works have taken its place; this will be one of the entrances to Town Hall station.
This, the other week, was interesting:
In a concerning revelation, researchers have found that myki, in conjunction with social media, can be used to uncover a wealth of information about card users.ABC: ‘Shocking’ myki privacy breach for millions of users in data release
Here’s the report and media release from the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner:
Here’s the original study:
What happened was that PTV released a whole bunch of Myki touch on/off data for a “datathon” event, where people see what handy things they can do with the data.
It was “de-identified” – that is, Myki card numbers were removed and replaced with another identifier, which could link trips from a single card together, but not back to a card holder.
Or so they thought.
Part of the problem was they left in a flag indicating the card type. This is not just Full Fare (Adult) or Concession – it goes down to the precise type of Concession or free pass. For instance type 39 is a War Veterans Travel Pass; type 46 is a Federal Police Travel Pass.
With more than 70 types of card, some of the more obscure types are pretty rare, so if the person you’re trying to track down is using one of them, they’re probably not that hard to find, particularly if you know which stations they regularly use.
That’s presumably how the researchers found Anthony Carbines, State MP for Ivanhoe, I’m guessing travelling on a State Parliamentarian Travel Pass – by looking at the data, and matching it up with his social media posts, which included at least one from Rosanna Station.
I’m probably in there too. And so are you. (I’ve only seen a sample of the data; a mere 30 million card touch records out of the total 1.8 billion originally released.)
Ultimately, it’s good that data sets like this are released. There actually should be a lot more of it – at present, the data released by PTV is very limited. Anything related to patronage or bus service performance is really difficult to find.
Perhaps the problem with not adequately cleaning the data is that they’re out of practice. Almost everything currently available either has nothing to do with passengers directly, or is at such a high level that it could never be used to find individuals.
More data should be out there. Ultimately, the public transport network is funded by taxpayers, and it should be a lot more accountable and transparent than it is.
One thing’s for sure: if they have a go at releasing this level of detailed data again – and I hope they do – they’ll need to be more careful to remove information that could be used to re-identify individuals.
One of the tropes of urban planning is that traders think car parking (and car access generally) for their customers is far more important than it might actually be.
Here are some live examples in Melbourne right now.
In Caulfield, traders reckon their businesses will suffer if separated bike lanes, part of the Principal Bike Network, replace car parking. Some residents, who seem to believe they have the unalienable right to park on a public road in front of their house, are also not happy.
Even in the CBD, belief in the importance of car parking is a thing. Some traders in Elizabeth Street are up in arms at proposals to give more place to pedestrians:
Andrey Eierweis (from Ekselman watchmakers and jewellers): “We’re losing business because there’s no access to the shops and people can’t find a parking spot close enough.”
And he makes this amazing claim: “The city’s dying. No one’s coming here.”
No sir. The city’s not dying. It’s busier than ever. That’s precisely why the council is proposing these types of changes, to make space for more people.
Perhaps what you mean is no one’s coming into your shop. Which is a different problem.
It should be noted that Ekselman possibly is a business that genuinely does benefit from parking nearby, because, the article says: in the past they had sold and repaired a lot of large clocks but that had dried up because of a lack of parking.
The parking in front of their shop disappeared when the tram superstop was installed some years ago.
I suspect that if their business relies on people being able to bring in large clocks by car, they should move their premises to a different street. Most CBD streets have easier parking than Elizabeth Street.
Meanwhile in Sydney Road, some traders object to the council proposing a trial of fewer car spots, in favour of separated bike lanes.
Jessica Tolsma (Jessicakes – great name!): “The proof in Melbourne is that when you remove parking from strip shops like Acland St and Bridge Rd, it doesn’t work and decimates businesses.”
Is Acland Street doing as badly as the Sydney Road traders claim?
Recently removed the parking was removed and the footpaths were widened, and a new two-platform accessible tram terminus was constructed. So how bad is it?
I stopped past on Sunday morning for a quick look. At 10:30am, the street wasn’t especially busy, but there were certainly some people walking around browsing the shops, and some of the cafes were packed.
On neighbouring Barkly Street, which is still a through-route and does have lots of parking, there were plenty of cars, but no people browsing the shops, though one bloke in the barber was having a haircut.
According to this report from Victoria Walks, despite what the traders in Sydney Road might think, the Acland Street traders decided to study it rather than shout it down.
The traders quickly discovered that more than half of all their customers walked to Acland St to shop – and only around a quarter drove. More than that, though: more than half the shoppers in the area lived locally, and locals made an average of 184 visits to the shopping precinct every year. In fact, almost a quarter of the people surveyed said that they shopped in Acland St every day.
It’s also worth noting that Acland Street has substantial numbers of car parks within walking distance, so the removal of spaces on the street presumably didn’t have a huge impact even on motorists.
I don’t know Sydney Road and Inkerman Road well enough to cast judgement, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Acland Street was far from unique.
No shortage of studies have shown that providing better access for cyclists and pedestrians is actually an economic positive.
In part this is because car spaces are just so space-inefficient, and limit the number of shoppers.
A study of Lygon Street, Carlton, found that while the average cyclist’s retail spending is only $16.20/hr compared to a car driver’s $27.00/hr, six bicycles can park in the space required for one car. Therefore, while one car space equates to $27.00/hr retail spending, six bicycle spaces equate to $97.20/hr.
I would also imagine that passing cyclists and pedestrians are far more likely to stop on a whim than passing motorists, because they can more easily see into shop windows, and don’t have problems parking – which in busy centres is an issue even where kerbside parking is provided.
Perhaps it’s the same phenomenon as with park and ride — the most visible, space-hogging access mode is assumed to be the most important. Another factor might be that traders themselves might tend to drive, because they often have stock or equipment to carry to/from their shops, so they see access to their shops from the perspective of a motorist.
In any case, actually getting some actual evidence about their customers (and potential customers) wouldn’t go astray — rather than just assuming they all need to drive.
If these kinds of things existed in my country, I wouldn’t need to be running for President to fix everything up.
The only thing that didn’t leave a nasty taste in my mouth last year was the food.
Barry the hypothetical troll from last year (He’s been debunked, defrocked, unfriended and univited this year)
You may not be in that exclusive group of less than 200 people in Australia who have been to one of my dinners for refugees. But whether you’re Donald Trump or Douggie Hourigan,1 you’ll have heard of them. I can tell you they’re a blast. Born out of a birthday party that went strangely right, I have made this an annual event since. Each function has been in support of refugees.
The basic idea of the dinner is to meet interesting people, have fun and raise a decent amount of money for refugees. Last year, with Christos Tsiolkas as our guest of honour, we raised over $10,000 for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and, in so doing helped them establish a program to train refugees to become program evaluators. I’m thrilled to say that that this is now bearing fruit.
This year, as with the first year, we’re raising money for Urban Refugees. It targets the refugees who are outside the UNHCR process and the protections it affords – that is the millions of refugees living not in refugee camps, or in host countries but largely on the outskirts of cities of the low and middle income world like Kuala Lumpur and Kampala.
It will mostly be dinner and meeting and talking to friends and interesting people you’ve not met before, but Santo Cilauro from Australia’s best TV production company Working Dog will be our guest of honour and we’ll hear from him. We’re inviting you to pay your way at $60 which will include approximately $25 which will be receipted as tax deductible donation. 2
So Book Now for 7.00 pm on Thursday Sept 12th at Tazios on this link. And NOTE: Though it’s still on Flinders Lane, Tazios has moved since last year’s dinner.
I’m also hoping you can make an additional tax deductible donation. In fact I’m so hanging out for you to donate that, as in other years, I’ll match every dollar you donate over $100 up to a total liability of $5,000 for me. 3 (In the first year, Ross Gittins decided to play hard-ball and try to bankrupt me with a thousand dollar donation which took $900 out of my pocket right there! Bring it on I say! I’m planning to sponge off my kids in retirement in any event.)
If you’re making a donation of over $200 (that’s over $300 with my matching donation) and would like to, please feel free to email me on ngruen AT gmail and I’ll send you my bank account details so you can avoid all charges.
The first donor of over $500 will be flown First Class to London where they’ll be chauffeured by Theresa May driving the trusty Aussie hot rod ‘Rooter’ (How good is Rooter?) and taken to dinner with Boris Johnson who will arrive late with carefully towselled, bleached hair.
And there’s a special deal for those from out of town. They can make an even larger donation as they don’t have to pay for dinner.
And please pass this invitation around.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have already seen this.
A man rushed past on the stairs at Southern Cross. He ran down and around the corner, then doubled-back to the V/Line fare gates. My guess is he’d come from the Metro platforms.
Here’s a short video of what happened next.
(It’s only 18 seconds to play in full. You don’t need to hear the sound.)
You can sense his frustration.
On V/Locity trains, the conductor checks the platform, then advises the driver it’s clear to depart, and all the doors close. The conductor probably can’t see if someone’s trying to board after that. I would assume the driver can see via the mirror, but might not be authorised to stop the train.
The Bendigo line shares parts of its route with the Metro Sunbury line (between Sunshine and Sunbury), so there’s also a risk that a delay might cause the train to miss its path – though with the Metro trains only running every 20 minutes (40 beyond Watergardens) this seems unlikely. There are also issues with the single track beyond Kyneton.
Note the lady in the background. I think she had planned to meet him on the train. After it departed, she approached and they spoke and ended up sitting on a bench together.
Of course we don’t know all of the context here – had his Metro connection been delayed or diverted? Or had he just not allowed enough time?
Southern Cross (formerly Spencer Street) Station got a huge upgrade about 15 years ago. The former passenger subway was closed, and is now used mostly for maintenance vehicles, and as a conduit for numerous cables and pipes running under the station.
The subway used to be the only way to get to and from the platforms. It wouldn’t cope with passenger numbers nowadays, but would provide extra capacity and be a quick way to change between platforms. It’s unclear if it is viable to bring it back into service.
The station upgrade provided far quicker exit to some locations, such as Collins Street west, and to the northwest including
Telstra Etihad Marvel Stadium.
But capacity has been a problem in recent years, and interchange between some of the platforms isn’t great, especially at the Collins Street end. It’s a bit better via Bourke Street, and doesn’t involve exiting the paid zone to swap between Metro and V/Line.
You can only feel for the bloke in the video, and all the others over the years who have missed their connection thanks, in part at least, to the distance between the platforms.
This went super viral, at least by my standards. It started off as a reply to a Tweet from Tosh Greenslade (from Mad As Hell) – he pointed out a similar slogan, then I realised the BBQ Shapes box design is near identical to the livery on the trams.
Someone suggested a look at the other modes… and it grew from there.
On Twitter it got plenty of Likes and Retweets, but the Facebook post in particular has gone gangbusters: in the first 24 hours, over 2000 likes, 2600 comments (many are people tagging others as a way of forwarding), and 4300 shares.
At some stage, V/Line shared it, asking: “Pizza shapes are everyoneâ€™s favourite, right? “
That triggered articles from the Herald Sun, Pedestrian.tv and Broadsheet, and a spoof from the Watsonia Bugle. The PT Ombudsman had a go, and even the public transport professionals on Linked In seemed to like it.
Eventually Arnott’s responded… though I’m not sure they quite hit the mark.
I’m quite amused and astounded at how fast and far this spread. As of Sunday morning, five days after posting, Facebook reckons my post alone has been seen by 851,020 people.
I wish I understood the formula for viral posts. I guess some stuff just is, and some isn’t.
With at least some of the patterns being a close match, it’s pretty amusing that the colours also match up so well.
The Barbecue and Pizza flavours in particular really are similar to the PTV patterns for trams and V/Line. The others a little less so – the biscuit shapes shown on the boxes are less geometric.
How long has Arnott’s used this design? It looks like it’s less than five years old – the archived version of their web site from 2013 shows (as far as I can see from the low resolution images) that back then the boxes were plainer, without the patterns.
The PTV design originated with Metro in 2009, and was subsequently adopted for the other modes in 2012. I don’t know for sure, but it seems not unreasonable to assume that the geometric shapes were influenced by the design of Federation Square.
The colours had been first used by Metlink around 2004, but appear to have been inspired by colours used since early in the 20th century.
The Shapes viral image raised some chuckles, but has also got a few people thinking about the branding of public transport – and the importance of presenting a united network across separate modes.
One weakness of PTV’s branding is that the logo isn’t a great one, so the geometric pattern in different colours is what binds the modes together, which in turn makes it difficult to then use colours to distinguish major lines, for instance to match the train map.
Contrast this to say London where the TfL/Underground logo is incredibly strong, allowing the Tube lines to easily take different colours – shown not just on the map but also on the trains, platforms, interchange wayfinding signage, all over the place.
Of course good branding doesn’t mean good service – a lot more work needs to be done to bring poor services up to scratch.
On Thursday night I had a PTUA Committee meeting. So I went prepared.
I’m heading to a @ptua Committee meeting. And I’m bringing snacks!â€” Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) August 8, 2019
If you like better public transport as much as biscuits, please consider joining PTUA – we need all the help we can get! https://t.co/nArsJ8xyaX pic.twitter.com/96MtwZ6A3G
There is no legal obligation on the state and territory governments to spend the general GST funds distributed to them in accordance with the CGC assessments.
After the end of each year each state and territory reports actual spending in each category under what is called the uniform presentation framework, and the CGC publishes their assessments and the actual income and expenditure reported by the states and territories.
In 2015 I reported to you the underspending of $522 million on areas of social justice in the 2006/07year. I also told you that as a result of a Senate Inquiry in 2008 that the reporting framework reduced the categories of expenditure reported.
However the pattern of underspending remained evident in 2009/10 through to 2013/14 which at that time was the most recent year for which we then had available data. Review of NT budget papers for 2015 and 2016 clearly showed that the spending patterns had not changed in any material way.
In 2016 I dissected the allocation of GST funds to the NT by a three-stage reverse engineering process using published CGC ratios and data. My conclusion was that 68% of the NT budget expenditure should relate to indigenous people. The NT government’s own review stated that 53% of its expenditure was in relation to indigenous people. The difference is around $500 million a year.
In 2017 I looked more closely at some of the items that would have been classified as indigenous expenditure in the NT government review. In particular I considered the number of full-time equivalent positions in the NT public service. Between 2003 and 2016 the population increased by 21.4%. In the same time the public service FTE positions increased by 41.7% the increase in the public service over and above the population increase is almost 3000 positions or about $400 million a year over and above keeping pace with population growth.
The NT Public Service Commissioner’s 2015/16 report tells us that 39.4% of the NT PS is in the administrative stream i.e. managerial and clerical. That’s over 8000 people and around 6500 people more than figures from some other states and territories would suggest are necessary.
Presumably the excess numbers in particular areas would still be regarded as “Indigenous expenditure”.
In 2017 the Commonwealth government announced an enquiry by the productivity commission into horizontal fiscal equalisation and the GST distribution. The Yothu Yindi Foundation made a submission to the enquiry which we are pleased to say appears to have directed attention to the issues raised.
Some of the issues highlighted were the geographic injustice in where NT government spent its money. For example we compared spending on Darwin roads that we considered to be unnecessary with the state of the central Arnhem Highway. Around $400 million spent in Darwin as compared to comparatively negligible amounts on the Arnhem Highway.
We also pointed out that the NT government inherited a massive deficit in its infrastructure at the time of self-government in 1978 and that the CGC methodology prevents any catch up.
What I have not said previously, but have thought about, is that the NT government treats indigenous disadvantage as a commodity to be used in arguing for more money from the Commonwealth. If there is underspending then a closed-loop can develop: dollars; underspending; relative disadvantage; leading to more dollars.
At the time of preparing the Productivity Commission submission we did not have the full insights into the NT government that the Langoulant report has provided, although we did have our suspicions. When you interpret the bureaucratic language it is chillingly compulsive reading.
When it says “the NT government requires comprehensive change to improve the integrity of the budget process” you should read “spending has been completely uncontrolled”.
When it says “the level and duration of expenditure growth restraint proposed is unprecedented across the states and territories” read “this is the worst government financial disaster in Australian history”. And it has been achieved in only 40 years of self-government despite years of underspending on indigenous people. Perhaps the following points made in the Langoulant report have also contributed to the disaster:
In other words effectively uncontrolled and unmonitored spending has occurred. When the report says “given the magnitude of the fiscal challenges, returning the budget to balance should be identified as the primary objective.”
It means “it’s sink or swim time”.
You might recall NT government has said it will dispense with 53 ECO positions out of approximately 650. The report tells us that approximately half of the ECO positions should be converted to SAO2 or SP2 positions, with remuneration reductions of around $60,000 per annum for each position i.e. $18 million per annum in total.
In 2018 I reviewed what would be reasonable processes for policy formulation. I concluded that indigenous people had never properly participated in any policy formulation process of which I was aware. That is, participated as a full equal partner from inception of the process with equal say and equal access to information.
In my view the Commonwealth government had and has no valid claim to legitimacy in its policy formulation processes in relation to indigenous people.
Now let us look at what life in the bush is like. It is not easy.
The fundamental reality of remote area life is that everything—repeat everything—is far more expensive than in cities such as Darwin. Stores have the diseconomies of scale that comes with comparatively minuscule turnover as compared to Coles, Woolworths, Bunnings and others. On top of that you have to add in freight.
Travel is typically by air or by vehicle on substandard roads; either way the costs are prohibitive to those on low incomes.
The relative costs are illustrated by the ratios used by the CGC for very remote areas. Darwin is considered by the CGC to be a regional centre to which it applies a cost loading factor of 21% as compared to major cities, for schools.
The cost loading factor for areas in the NT outside Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, and Tennant Creek is 91%. If we take the age pension as being the amount the government considers necessary for Australians generally to not live in poverty, then the $18.20 a fortnight remote area allowance is not going to be anywhere near sufficient to cover the additional cost of living in remote area.
Tax measures such as Zone rebates are meaningless in this context because at these rates of income no tax is payable typically. Remote area fringe benefits tax concessions which strongly favour higher income individuals are merely rubbing salt into the wounds.
So there you have it – historically underfunded by about $500m a year, and that is after huge administrative overstaffing in the NT is included in “Indigenous expenditure”, the massive infrastructure deficit inherited by the NT from the Commonwealth at the time of self-government which can never be caught up because of the CGC methodology, all compounded by geographic injustices in where NT dollars are spent, the inability to plead the case for the bush because of the total exclusion from policy processes, and all in an environment of living costs double (or more) those of major cities supposedly covered by the pension and Newstart remote area allowance of $18.20/fortnight.
And it is not as if the NT Government has saved the underspent money I talked about earlier – it is in the worst financial situation of any State or Territory in Australian history.
This is the context in which government assistance programs are delivered, programs that are intended to relieve the suffering and distress of a myriad of social issues. More often than not governments expect local communities to operate these programs or at least that their leaders be available for seemingly endless “consultations” about the programs. FOR NO PAY. Everybody at the table getting salaries and travel allowance except the only essential person – the community leader.
The more you think about this, the easier it is to be convinced that there really must be a poor understanding within governments about the workloads they heap on poorly resourced community leaders. New programs are proposed, developed, approved, and dropped on harried community leaders without preparation or consultation.
At the end of each financial year there is a flurry of activity in funding bodies to get money out the door, with the regular consequence of communities having to apply to carryover the unspent funds into the next financial year and the requirement to account for it separately from that next year’s funds.
This is complicated because each funding agency has its own set of rules. This might not sound particularly onerous but for example a single audited grant acquittal can usually only be provided if the full audit is completed. The whole cycle is captive to the most onerous set of conditions. A small grant can cause major problems by applying conditions that would perhaps be reasonable for that grant in isolation, but not when it has a significant knock-on effect.
On top of this there are the pettifogging program rules which can lead to demands for explanations up to 18 months after the event. Just so a box can be ticked on some spreadsheet somewhere for some purpose obscure to us. What is the point of collecting information 18 months out of date?
The reliance of both the NT and Commonwealth governments on seriously under-resourced communities to deliver a multiplicity of programs is (to express it most politely) fundamentally flawed.
This is not to say that our organisations lack the capacity to undertake the work; they lack the resources and time.
It must be said that each department or agency lives primarily in its own world. Attending meetings to defend one’s own position is not collaboration, it is a silo, and leads to failures of communication, duplication, loss of focus, and blurring of objectives.
Community leaders are highly motivated and focussed on local priorities, and have little time for such bureaucratic nonsense. Rather than having programs operate haphazardly, there needs to be a coherent and unified suite of policies which lead to community needs being fulfilled. This requires full indigenous participation and comprehension of the programs, with locally determined priorities. Governments are overly focused on delivering goods and services within Departmental silos, and not enough on effectively supporting the development of our human capital.
What is required is a regional structure with culturally appropriate boundaries which oversees all programs and consultations in the region. The directors would be elected to salaried positions and there would be staff to support and advise the elected members. Local Government bodies could not fill this role because they are ultimately controlled by the Minister, and they have roles that conflict with a body such as I propose.
This would eliminate the random and uncoordinated “consultation“ burden and replace it with something much more effective and productive. Elected members would be able to devote time and effort to policies and programs from the commencement, with advice from unconflicted staff. The constant worry of balancing commitment to community with personal income and family matters is overcome.
Funding currently provided by the Commonwealth and the NT should be provided directly to the regional body. The end result would be a vast improvement on the current passing parade of public servants and others who seek to draw legitimacy from “consultation” for their particular program or project.
Remote communities need staff who will work with the community, for community objectives. We are not interested in being a career move, a box ticked on a planned career path. Staff working for a government department or a Local Government Council cannot be expected to represent both their employers and the community – the conflicts of interest are obvious.
Let’s consider how this could work::
Our plea to Government is this: deal with the causes of our problems rather than the consequences.
The post Barry Hansen: The NT government is the worst government financial disaster in Australian history appeared first on The Northern Myth.
This is a lightly edited copy of the speech given on Saturday 3 August 2019 by Denise Bowden, Director of the Garma Festival
Good morning and welcome everybody.
In the places where Aboriginal people live in remote Australia we lack the basics that are taken for granted by the rest of Australia – if it’s not health facilities it’s housing support.
If it’s not the power it’s the sewerage. If it’s not the absence of a decent road, it’s the lack of a proper school, or a safe place for old people.
For many Australians these things are taken for granted and when they are not there it’s inconvenient at worst. For many Indigenous Australians these things can be a matter of life and death and they are part of day-to-day life.
And that is what I want to talk about today – the way government has ignored the needs of Aboriginal people and the mismanagement of government spending on Indigenous communities. This year is the 10th year I have worked for the Yothu Yindi Foundation (YYF).
Can I say that it is a privilege and an honour to serve the Chairman and the Directors of this great organisation for Yolngu and other indigenous Australians to have the same level of well-being and life opportunities as non-indigenous Australians.
Thank you Galarrwuy, thank you Djawa, Yananymul, Barayuwa, Balupalu, Djapirri and Binmila. Thank you Eddie Gumbula, and Murphy Yunupingu. And thank you to our dear departed directors and members, some of who stand in our Hall of Yolngu Heroes, and all of whom we remember with tears and grief but also with pride and love.
I remember in particular Mrs Gurruwiwi who lobbied for an Aged Care home in this region for Yolngu women like herself. I sat in a meeting in 2014 as Mrs Gurruwiwi pleaded with senior public servants to build such a facility with money that was already appropriated. She died a few years later in a place that was not fit for human habitation. She is not alone.
There are many other elders who carry the ancient wisdom, knowledge and beauty of our people who die every year for simple and avoidable reasons. And today – 5 years later – this facility in Nhulunbuy has still not been built and we are still waiting for a tender process to get underway.
This is one of hundreds of examples that make my blood boil.
Few things focus your mind like grief and anger and over the last decade YYF has analysed spending patterns & formulas through the Commonwealth Grants Commission data, Northern Territory & Federal budget reports & audits.
This work confirms everything we see in front of us and explains why many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory continue to live impoverished lives.
The data shows time & time again that hundreds of millions of dollars of untied GST funds sent to State & Territory governments to address Aboriginal issues diverted to other urban priorities, or are spent on administration in Darwin or other urban centres. Here’s an example of our frustration.
Since 2006 the NT Government has spent over $300 million, presumably from its untied GST payments, creating a Waterfront precinct, which in large part has been turned over to property developers and business.
In addition to the sunk costs, every year the NT Government grants up to $20 million to the Darwin Waterfront Corporation to run a conference centre and tourist facilities including a wave pool & an artificial beach & events like fireworks, concerts and driverless cars.
Forgetting the hundreds of millions in capital costs, that’s an annual payment equivalent to 40 remote houses a year so local Darwinians and people visiting Darwin can enjoy themselves.
Don’t get me wrong – we understand the importance of tourism to the economy but meanwhile in the bush the housing crisis continues, the housing deficit grows, indigenous people are living lives characterised by poverty and neglect and despair.
Another child is born to another overcrowded home. Another kid gets no sleep and can’t get to school. Another assault takes place in a house full to bursting point, and so on.
Recently the NT Government published a report by respected economist John Langalout which confirmed everything we have said for over a decade. Mr Langalout found the Territory is in a structural deficit.
That is, the books don’t balance and this has nothing to do with short-term factors; it’s a locked in situation caused by decades of overspending and maladministration. He says that the Territory is in an almost bankrupt situation with forward estimates driving debt so high that by 2030 the interest bill alone will be $2 billion dollars a year.
Thinking back to Mrs Gurruwiwi, who died waiting for health services that have still not materialised, can you imagine trying to process the news that $2 billion a year of Territory funds would be spent not on improving the lives of some of the most marginalised people in the world, but on paying the interest bill?!
Again, that makes my blood boil. It is the high level of maladministration that is occurring that is the most extraordinary.
Let me put some facts on the table:
“99% of Territory government spending is unscrutinised outside of any internal agency reviews. As a result almost all expenditure is simply rolled over from one year to another with little external assessment of effectiveness, efficiency and alignment to government priorities”.
If the Northern Territory Government was a corporation serious thought would have to be given to winding it up.
If it was an Aboriginal Corporation its Cabinet ministers would be prosecuted. It makes me cry that we are prisoners to this incompetence and maladministration.
Yet for all of this there seems no prospect of change. Why would they? For the moment the Northern Territory Government is unwilling or unable to respond to the deep outrage around deeply flawed processes, decision making and funding models.
For its part the Commonwealth seems to have happily wiped its hands of the mess it created when it left the NT to a small group of inexperienced administrators in 1978. The Commonwealth created the system that is currently in play in the Territory and has sat by and allowed it to continue unabated, dining out on the back of Aboriginal misery.
So we call out the Commonwealth Government as well. The Commonwealth is responsible for the Northern Territory under the Self-Government Act. It is responsible for the GST formula that gives the rivers of gold to the NT Treasury.
Under the principle of responsible government the Australian Parliament is duty bound to set the mistakes of self-government right. We call on the Australian Parliament to do so – because the lived experience of the current arrangements are defined by poverty and frustration. Once again, it makes my blood boil. That’s a lot to think about, so let me conclude. Many of us – and I hope many of you too – see the Uluru Statement from the Heart as a light on the hill.
A beacon, a flame of hope where for too long there has been none. There is no doubt we need a Voice and we will support that with all our heart. But at the same time we cannot lose sight of the urgent need to change a system that is fundamentally broken, a system that is impoverishing Aboriginal people by clipping the ticket of Aboriginal disadvantage.
These are not easy truths and I don’t expect I will have made any new friends in Darwin but that comes with the job. I take strength from my Chairman who has weathered decades of attacks and undermining and has never deviated from his course.
Under his leadership YYF has not and will not hesitate in exposing to scrutiny an awful system that lives off the misery and disadvantage of my brothers and sisters.
I ask you to join us in this challenge and set thing right.
Denise Bowden is a born-and-bred Northern Territory Indigenous woman. She has an extensive experience in Indigenous affairs in the more remote regions of Australia’s north. Denise is the Chief Executive Officer of the Yothu Yindi Foundation (YYF) and has worked has worked in this capacity for ten years with the Yolngu clans.
The post Denise Bowden: we are prisoners to NT government incompetence and maladministration appeared first on The Northern Myth.
You might recall I had put in a request to Vicroads to resolve a 13 year old problem with a local bus zone.
The bus zone hours hadn’t been updated since last decade. In 2006 the operating hours of bus route 701 were extended so it runs until after 9pm in the evening, and Sunday service was introduced for the first time.
Vicroads replied and said they had passed the query to PTV.
Then PTV replied and said they had passed the query to City of Glen Eira.
I was waiting for the inevitable next step: for Glen Eira to refer it to Vicroads. But no!
Sometime in the past couple of weeks, they’ve fixed it. Behold, the new signage.
And yet, this raises some concerns.
Someone actually bothered to look up the timetable. The last bus of the night is scheduled for 10:03pm on weeknights, heading to Bentleigh. So they made the bus zone end at 10:15pm.
But they messed up. Bus services actually start just before 6am. The first service of the day is scheduled at 5:59am on weekdays, heading to Oakleigh.
And their research missed that this stop is regularly used for train replacement buses during planned works. When those run, the last service is at about 1am on weeknights, and there are all night services on weekends.
This last occurred in July.
Why not just make the bus zones 24/7? A few hundred metres south, I found this brand new bus zone for recently added bus route 627, a route with similar operating hours, which is 24/7. And this stop isn’t used for train replacement buses.
24/7 bus zones, particularly where people are unlikely to park anyway:
And why separate AM and PM? I think this just makes the signs harder to scan/read.
In fact, on one of the revised signs, the new Bus Zone hours format is inconsistent with the existing adjacent stopping rules. Ingenious!
Have you looked at the bus zones in your neighbourhood? What do they say? Do they actually cover the bus operating hours?
Do local motorists observe the bus stops? Some bus stops are unsigned, meaning 24/7 parking restrictions apply.
Given these bus zones as now signed don’t actually cover bus operating hours – not even the regular route – I’ll try and send feedback to the City of Glen Eira and see what they do next. (Tried this morning – their web site spat out an error.)
It’s a little depressing that collectively, three authorities had to play Pass The Parcel with this, and when it’s finally got done, it’s been messed up.
If they can’t get the little things right, what hope is there for the big stuff?
Sorry PT fans, this is a blog about driving.
The average in Australia is about 15,000 km per year, but some drive a lot further. My past average is about 7-8K, but circumstances (principally one son who just got his licence) has us driving more than in the past.
I’m liking the car. The only thing I don’t like is the rear spoiler. I think it looks a tad silly, I doubt it has great aerodynamic benefits, and it partially blocks the view from the rear vision mirror and when doing a left shoulder check.
Taking off the spoiler is theoretically easy. You just unbolt it. But filling the bolt holes is the tricky bit, especially in such a way that it’s not noticeable and doesn’t let leaks in. The car dealer even suggested checking spare parts places/wreckers for a replacement boot lid might be easier.
I suspect the base model Lancer only had the spoiler to try and put off people like me who are grown ups and don’t really want a spoiler and should probably spend more on a car… but my fiscal sensibilities defeated them. And judging from the people I see driving the same model of car, I’m not the only one.
Aside from the unwanted spoiler, no issues with the car, other than being new I feel like I have an obligation to keep it clean, which is tricky, especially with a gravel driveway that has lost most of its gravel. Might be time for a top-up.
There has been a minor mishap (a low speed bump with a parking sign) necessitating a surprisingly expensive repair. But hey, I wasn’t driving it. Protip: if you have a large insurance excess, get a quote first; it may not be worth claiming.
Given the car often sits in the driveway for many days at a time, I’m also pondering if I should sign up for Car Next Door, but we now have another driver in the house.
I taught my younger son to drive. The elder isn’t interested just yet.
This was an interesting experience. He had a number of paid lessons as well, and our practice drives complemented them nicely.
What we agreed was really valuable was that we tried lots of different types of road. Freeways for instance don’t get a lot of love for learner drivers in Bentleigh/Moorabbin, because there aren’t any nearby. The art of entering a freeway (matching the existing traffic speed) is important, and seems to be lost on some motorists.
On another drive we hit the CBD late on a Sunday afternoon and got in a hook turn, the roundabout of death, driving safely around trams, and that tricky road on the northern side of Melbourne University – where I once saw a motorist stop dead in the middle of an intersection out of sheer confusion.
And, surprisingly close to home, we found a dirt road (not the one pictured above), to sample the reduced grip of an unsealed surface – plentiful in rural areas.
Come test day, he passed first time – and of course with each drive, he gets better.
Nobody’s perfect of course, but he tells me that now he’s driving himself, he’s surprised at how many bad drivers there are on the roads. Yeah, ain’t that the truth.
I switched the information display on the console to display how many litres per 100 kilometres we’re using.
It looks like typically about 6-8 litres if driving with the air-conditioning off; about 8-10 with it on. Short drives are evidently less efficient; long freeway drives bring the fuel consumption down – as long as it’s not congested.
Of course the best way to cut fuel use is not to drive and the long term habit in our family is to consider carefully which transport mode we use, rather than jump in the car every time. We’re lucky to have viable choices for many of our trips.
Given I now have an actual (not forecast) number of the kilometres per year, 10,000, I can re-calculate my estimated costs per kilometre:
That’s a total of 39.5 cents per kilometre.
Based on 8000 kilometres per year, it was 43.9 cents per kilometre, so as you can see, the more you use it, the cheaper it gets, as the fixed costs such as insurance and rego don’t change.
Peter Sherwin, who passed away earlier this week, was, as this anonymous blogger noted, a man viewed through many prisms.
For many he was the Cattleman’s cattleman, for others a reclusive bumbling hillbilly, a David tilting at Goliath corporate and banking windmills or a megalomaniac dreaming of control of 3 per cent of the nation’s cattle herd and 1 per cent of the land mass.
Sherwin will always be the employer who saw tragedy when two of his young jackaroos perished in the West Australian desert and who couldn’t find it in his stoney heart to measure sympathy to the families of those boys. He was a fearless bare-knuckle pugilist who was said to wield a pistol against those whom he thought were against him.
For blackfellas across the north of the country Sherwin was no icon, rather a bad neighbour resolutely opposed to the interests of Aboriginal people.
For all the plaudits handed out at his passing of him as a cattle king or baron—he undoubtedly had an astute head for business matched with a ruthless courage— Sherwin had a glass jaw of magnificent proportions, not least in regard to the Aboriginal people who worked on or made claims to land he “owned.”
According to Norm Barber, Sherwin would:
… buy a station, cut off the water to anything that didn’t make money, overgraze the land, exhaust the infrastructure, not pay the employees, beat up anyone who got in his way, steal the jackeroos’ equipment, and spend big to arrive at a bush meeting with a lawyer flown out from Darwin. He was the hunter who returned with fresh kill, while others were afraid to pull the trigger.
Tensions between pastoralists and Aboriginal people in the Top End of the NT date back to the 1870s when the first cattle herds were driven across the NT-Queensland border.
Sherwin’s poor relations with Aboriginal people surfaced publicly in the early 1980s. In 1981 Senator for Western Australia Ruth Coleman raised her concerns with Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Baume. Senator Coleman asked if the Minister had followed up on his comments to the media concerning the expulsion of 50 Aboriginal workers and their families from the north-western Gordon Downs station, then owned by Peter Sherwin.
The West Australian of 16 January 1981 quoted the Minister as saying:
I am concerned about the expulsion or removal of any traditional Aboriginal people from land with which they have strong ties. My Department has sent an officer from Kunanurra[sic] to Halls Creek to investigate all matters concerned with the reported expulsion. He will be reporting to me as soon as possible.
The following day the Minister provided further advice to the Senate.
The fact is that the Aboriginal people from Gordon Downs were evicted by the station management on 2 January and they then moved to Halls Creek. The people have established a camp at a rock hole about one kilometre east of Halls Creek town centre.
Three years later Sherwin attracted the attention of the Northern Land Council (the NLC), which at the time was representing the Wompaya, Jingili, Ngarnji and Gurdanji people claiming vacant Crown land on the Barkly Tablelands in the Northern Territory.
As Land Rights News reported in 1986, at the time Sherwin was—almost— at the top of his game, controlling the largest cattle empire in the world, said to be worth upwards of $100 million.
The Wompaya, Jingili, Ngarnji and Gurdanji were claiming NT Portion 1099, 2300 square kilometres of landlocked vacant Crown land the southern, western and parts of the eastern boundaries of which adjoined land controlled by Sherwin. There were no public roads to NT Portion 1099 and in the course of pursuing the claim the NLC’s lawyers requested access across Sherwin’s Anthony Lagoon station so that they could visit the land and document sites of significance in preparation for the land claim.
Sherwin’s lawyers refused the request for access. The Land Council, noting that access by helicopter was prohibitively expensive and that alternative vehicle access was difficult in the extreme—on one trip an NLC four-wheel drive vehicle travelled 15 kilometres in two days and suffered 9 punctures—sought relief from the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, seeking orders to allow access across Sherwin’s station.
Predictably, that access was resisted by Sherwin’s lawyers, who claimed that the installation of a gate on the station boundary was unacceptable. The Land Commissioner took that assertion with a very large grain of rock salt.
It is very interesting that Mr Sherwin doesn’t want a gate on his boundary with some other property. That is a luxury that would be almost unique in the Northern Territory: that he had a boundary with land, inaccessible Crown land, so he did not have the bother of neighbours to put up with … It does not impress me greatly. It would be nice not to have neighbours …
The Land Commissioner ordered Sherwin to grant access and the claimants, notwithstanding a later appeal to the Federal Court seeking to overturn the Commissioner’s ruling, were able to access the property. Following the Federal Court’s decision that the Commissioner’s decision should stand, Sherwin launched a further appeal to the Full Bench of the Federal Court.
Three years later Sherwin was locking gates and barring access to Aboriginal land claimants again. In 1989 Land Rights News reported on an injunction sought by Sherwin’s lawyers against access sought by NLC lawyers on behalf of traditional owners seeking to claim land at Pigeon Hole, on the Victoria River Downs Station, south-west of Katherine in the Northern Territory. In early April, NLC lawyers and claimants travelling to Pigeon Hole were confronted by “padlocked gates, and a roadblock of trucks and a helicopter” when they attempted to access Pigeon Hole along the Main Camp road.
The following day they faced similar obstacles while trying to access Pigeon Hole through the Camfield Road to the east, and were served an injunction —by helicopter—issued by then Chief Justice Asche of the NT Supreme Court.
The next month, Sherwin’s lawyers applied for a full injunction against the NLC and the two lawyers involved. Justice Nader refused the application, lifted the interim injunction and granted an order allowing one of the NLC lawyers access to interview claimants at Pigeon Hole.
By 1990, having been bought out by Robert Holmes a’ Court’s Heytesbury Holdings, Sherwin was long gone from Victoria Downs Station but problems for the traditional owners at Pigeon Hole continued.
In May 1990 Land Rights News reported that, in relation to Sherwin’s opposition to the application by the NLC to access the property, Justice Nader in the Supreme Court of the NT noted the evidence of one of the Pigeon Hole claimants about the conditions while Sherwin operated Victoria River Downs:
The story this woman tells is the story of their being imprisoned there. The men are only allowed out to work; they cannot get visitors and they cannot visit other people. I find it extraordinary that people could behave so savagely in 1989 against fellow human beings.
Meanwhile Peter Sherwin was facing other challenges. As the anonymous blogger has noted.
Sherwin wanted to control more of Australia’s cattle properties, to double the size of Sherwin Pastoral Company through a takeover of Australian Agricultural. A broker said: “Sherwin had just been a herd builder. He was like a Hindu, where wealth is measured by how many cattle you’ve got. Shareholders needed cash flow, profits; but that was an anathema to him. He just wanted to get bigger.” Sherwin’s own barometer for success, size rather than profits, was only one of the problems; so too was his failure, or inability, to communicate. It sent the city types into despair.
Norm Barber provides some perspective on Sherwin’s fall from grace in Death in the Sand, in which he examines the deaths of James Annetts and Simon Amos in 1986 on Sherwin’s Nicholson Station near Halls Creek in the far north of Western Australia and the—largely unrelated—financial catastrophe that followed.
Sherwin was determined to camouflage the sad state of affairs, but auditors Pannell Kerr Foster refused to sign his 1987 accounts. They said his estimated herd size of 347,000 beasts hadn’t been independently verified. Sherwin was no smooth talking Alan Bond, but a taciturn recluse who thought he still retained absolute control of his company. Some creditors and shareholders saw him as sneaky. Maybe he was fiddling the books. Like a stock camp manager picking ‘killers’, corporate predators circled Sherwin Pastoral Company, like wild dogs slathering over a weakened animal separated from the herd. Shares floated at $1.00 slipped to 83 cents then the October 1987 stock market crash knocked them to 60 cents. Elders and Bankers Trust Australia began buying in preparation for a takeover bid. Elders offered Sherwin 88 cents for each of his shares in June 1988. Bankers Trust raised it to $1.12 eleven months later. But the bells tolled when Australia’s most feared corporate raider sent a plane over Sherwin’s herds. Its spotters estimated numbers might be as low as 280,000.
Traditional owners of Pigeon Hole were finally granted their application for a mere 31 square kilometres of their traditional lands in August 1992. Then NLC Director Mick Dodson noted that the once prosperous Bilinara nation:
… has been decimated by more than a century of massacre and brutality, and they have been landless ever since colonisation. But now they have a small piece of land they can call their own.
NLC Chairman Galarrwuy Yunupingu said that the action by the pastoralist [Sherwin] was a clear attempt to thwart the rights of Australians gaining legal title to their land.
Great cattle empires were built on the sweat and blood of the Bilinara and they deserve their land. They deserve better than to be harassed.
Another in my series of photos from ten years ago.
This month: July 2009.
Then-metropolitan train operator Connex was advertising the addition of more station staff around the network.
Frankston station. I think the construction was an upgrade to the bus interchange… which was all replaced again in 2018.
Mordialloc station (I think)
Richmond station, before the entirety of the platforms got shelter.
The old Bentleigh station, before the crossing was removed, with its almost unique red man and “Another train coming” displays.
A non-transport photo: the Bentleigh Priceline made me laugh, with its placement of weight management and confectionery in the same aisle.
Fears of distraction from mobile phones aren’t new – but back then, they thought you might be making a phone call, rather than staring at the screen.
New sensors had started being fitted to the Metcard gates in preparation for the introduction of Myki at the end of 2009. This is the Elizabeth Street entrance to Flinders Street Station.
Advertising for tram and bus lanes. Yeah, we could do with more of those. Lanes that is (and enforcement), not advertising.
Victoria Street, Abbotsford – the Skipping Girl sign.
You always spot more stuff on foot than you would when driving.
On Saturday morning I walked over to the new 627 bus route and caught it up to Murrumbeena, before walking home via Carnegie, my old neighbourhood.
The bus wasn’t packed, but a few people were using it, including some boarding and alighting at stops along East Boundary Road, which didn’t previously have any bus service. Not too bad given the unspectacular 40 minute weekend frequency and the fact that the route has only been running a few weeks.
Perhaps surprisingly for a Saturday, more people hopped off to go to Murrumbeena station (or possibly the local shopping centre) than stayed on the bus for Chadstone.
Nearby is this bus shelter. It’s clean, free of graffiti, has good sight lines, and provides reasonable wind/rain protection. Up-to-date advertising shows it is actively maintained, and it’s still signed as a 24/7 bus zone. The only thing it doesn’t haveâ€Ś is buses. The stop moved closer to the station last year.
Under the skyrail there were plenty of people cycling or walking along the shared path, and also some doing exercise. During my time in Murrumbeena (1987-88 and 2003-05) I don’t remember many people walking along the railway line like this, even where the path was provided.
Anecdata like this isn’t data, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course. But to me it looks like a pretty good outcome in terms of usable community space, which wasn’t possible when the line was at ground level, and wouldn’t have been possible with a rail trench.
Of course, one could speculate that the fear campaign forced the authorities to work harder on a good outcome. (It certainly didn’t result in an electoral backlash.)
In Carnegie, another bus stop: why would they put the useful information (the timetable) on the side that can’t be seen from the seat/paved area? (The other side has a generic “Catching a bus with Myki is easy” notice.)
Also in Carnegie, I found this. I know I may be slightly colourblind, but I’m pretty sure this is not a yellow line.
Delivered at Melbourne University, Friday 19th July, 2019 and cross posted at The Mandarin.
Welcome to the launch of another book by Australia’s most overachieving economist. A global authority on decision theory, he also publishes in the daily press, in submissions to government inquiries on his blog and in academic journals in any number of other fields in environmental, agricultural, welfare, tax and finance economics to name a few areas I’m aware of. As you do.
I’m not much of a fan of the endless KPIs into which academic life has descended (it’s an important reason why I’m not an academic). I hate the reductive gravity to which they subject pretty much everything in their path. Academics’ KPIs enable the performance of those whom we trust to be at the forefront of human knowledge to be judged by people who know nothing of their field or their work. What could possibly go wrong?
Still, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, in John’s case I’ll make an exception. His KPIs have been achieved whilst actually addressing useful questions rather than disciplinary arcana. John’s been placed in the top 5% economists in the world according to IDEAS/RePEc and two Federation Fellowships from the Australian Research Council.
I don’t really believe a word of this.
The dark dirty secret is that these accomplishments stem from a time when John wore a big black beard that had people wondering who he really was – and why he looked so much like Captain Haddock from the Tin-Tin cartoon books. It’s not the kind of thing one is thanked for when launching a book obviously. But this is an existential matter for anyone who still clings – however quixotically, however much it offends the Nietzschean verities – to the idea that he’s still part of the reality based community.
To speak truth to a poster-boy of our KPI riddled academic community, behind that beard he could have been any number of people – all at once.
Since he’s cut his beard off his pace may not have slackened but I thought I’d get used to his unbearded face very quickly. However John lives in Queensland and I live in Melbourne. So I’m afraid I don’t really recognise him. It’s not the chin I used to know. So for me anyway, until I see that beard back, I think of him as the economist formerly known as John Quiggin.
Anyway, not content with the five books he’s already published:
John’s written another book – which on my reckoning is the economist formerly known as John Quiggin’s second unbearded book.
What’s the message of the book? I can explain that by telling you a story. I was once at a lunch following the launch of Nugget Coombs’ last book at which an acolyte was on my left and Nugget was on my right. She said that economics was far too complex and technical for her to understand. I responded that economics might look complex, but that it’s all based on one idea. Nugget, who, like surprisingly many economists towards the end of their days despair of their profession, leant across to her and said: “Yes and it’s wrong!”
The idea I was thinking of is the idea of opportunity cost. Which is a simple, but sometimes subtle idea. And John doesn’t think it’s wrong. He thinks it’s right.
It’s just that he thinks it hasn’t been taken seriously enough.
Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson states the lesson thus:
The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.
This is actually code for ‘the market’. Like a lot of economic rhetoricians (some of whom were fine economic theorists too), having called for a thorough investigation of all the impacts of policies, Hazlitt then proceeds to out-source this herculean intellectual task to the market. Hazlitt is trying to put one over on us – something he no doubt accomplished in the traditional way of the ideologue, by putting one over on himself.
Quiggin reformulates Lesson One thus:
Market prices reflect and determine opportunity costs faced by consumers and producers.
Reducing the ambitions of Hazlitt’s initial goal to this reductive dreck is the thing that Nugget Coombs had lost patience with all those years ago. So John proposes a second lesson as a corrective.
Market prices don’t reflect all the opportunity costs we face as a society.
Let me name some of the things that I like about this.
It is … the distribution of wealth that decides what will be produced, and leads to a consumer of a more anti-economic variety: a consumer wastes on unnecessary, guilty enjoyment that could have served to heal the wounds of poverty.
What a pity that, in opening up valuable new vistas, Wieser’s students Mises and Hayek paid so little attention to such a commonsensical idea.
The book doesn’t break any new ground in a disciplinary sense, because it’s intended as a general introduction to economics for the interested public, rather like another excellent book by John Kay. If you liked John Kay’s The Truth about Markets, you’ll like Economics in Two Lessons.
I thought I’d leave you with the thought that ran through my mind as I read this book. I wanted another lesson. I’m currently in the process of writing my own sixth book – well OK it’s my first book and I don’t have a publisher – so I probably shouldn’t get ahead of myself. But a central idea in it is this.
The complementarity of the private and the shared, of competition and collaboration exists not only at the level of the whole economy – where it’s represented by ‘the market’ and ‘the government’ – but at every level in our society and economy. Indeed it inhabits all our social institutions right down to every conversation.
Why am I telling you this? Because, although I’m not getting paid for this, there’s still no such thing as a free launch.
So buy as many copies of John’s book as you can afford, but remember there’ll be another book coming out some time later, and you’ll want to buy at least one copy of it. Just think of John as Bob Dylan and me as Eric Clapton, each coming with our own opportunity cost.
I’ll be watching sales of this book carefully. With the sellout 1946 edition of Economics in One Lesson now superseded by Economics in Two Lessons, keep an eye out and a small place in your budget for Economics in Three Lessons.
Postscript and tangent:
This book launch was at Melbourne University with an audience of agricultural and resource economists and as I was preparing my speech I wondered whether Alan Lloyd might come up. Alan was Dad’s best friend, someone he’d made friends with in the old NSW Department of Agriculture in the 1950s where so many of Australia’s economists of that generation cut their teeth.
When Bill Malcolm mentioned Alan and his marvellous sense of humour in introducing me, I did my best to recount from memory some verses he’d written – just jotted in the margins of a newspaper he was reading – about the fact that the shearers at our farm ‘Bindango’ outside of Canberra (Now the suburb of Kambah) had declared our woolshed black for some infraction of their union requirements. This would have been in around 1964.
I got in most of the punch lines, but mucked some of it up, so I was pleased to be able to recover the verses from a memorial to Alan in my library. I reproduce them below as well as a reference Alan wrote for a colleague. Both capture Alan’s remarkable humour and class as well as an Australia long since disappeared. All that’s left is its vapour trail lingering in margarine ads and Aussie ‘anthems’. (For the benefit of any international readers, this is a parody of The Man from Snowy River, by Banjo Patterson – who coincidentally was a cousin of my mother’s).
There was movement at the station
For the word had got around
That Gruen’s sheep were ready for the shears
And so they thought was Gruen
(The professor from the town)
They hadn’t seen a softer cop in years
All the tried and noted bludgers
To ‘Bindango’ made their way,
To optimise this slicker heaven sent,
Though the price of wool was falling
They thought that in their pay
They could insert some economic rent.
Here is Alan’s reference for a colleague
18th November, 1976
RE : MR. C. M. ALAOUZE
I have known Mr. Christian Alaouze for eight years, during which time he was an undergraduate and then a postgraduate student in my department (agricultural economics) at Melbourne University.
Mr. Alaouze is an excellent example of the intellectual and emotional chaos of the times. He is a reformed anarchist “reformed” only in the sense that now he doesn’t even believe in anarchism. But most of all he doesn’t believe in econometrics, and if you wish to inject some skepticism (if not disillusionment) into your postgraduate body -Alaouze is your man.
As an undergraduate his academic results were fair, but well below his ability. This was the result of an acute aversion to work, as well as a preoccupation with student activities, demos and various hallucinatory diversions. His academic performance was severely affected, I am sure, by distractions such as obscenity charges (he was found innocent) and various forms of harassment by police and dole inspectors.
Alaouze’s political philosophy well illustrates the extreme fertility of his imagination. He espouses a form of syndicalist nihilism which should add stimulating diversity to political activity on your campus.
In summary, I would say that if you can get Alaouze to work for you, you will be extremely fortunate.
Professor A. G. Lloyd Melbourne University
Cross posted from the Mandarin
There is a huge catch 22 driving impact measurement in human services. A lot of the evaluation is done because governments seek it, but then it goes nowhere – and for good reason. NGOs and others hoping to ‘scale-up’ innovation can’t escape this without something like an Evaluator-General, writes Nicholas Gruen.
There’s a spectre haunting service provision. For decades now, we’ve presumed that new and innovative service provision will emerge from innovation out in the field, with successful pilots and innovative programs initiated by NGOs being grown to their appropriate size and unsuccessful ones being improved or closed down. But it almost never happens.
As Peter Shergold put it in 2013, things don’t actually work out this way:
Too much innovation remains at the margin of public administration. Opportunities are only half-seized; new modes of service delivery begin and end their working lives as ‘demonstration projects’ or ‘pilots’; and creative solutions become progressively undermined by risk aversion and a plethora of bureaucratic guidelines.1
As I’ve pondered this paradox over the past decade, it’s slowly dawned on me that, however well-intentioned we’ve been, it’s all built on a lie – a lie we’re not even admitting to ourselves.
There’s a catch 22 at the heart of the system.
Let’s say you’re running a pilot or a not for profit offering some innovative new approach to some service. You’re convinced it’s cost-effective and indeed generates all kinds of benefits for the community and overtime for the government – in lower outlays on health, corrective services and higher employment and productivity.
You seek greater support from governments, and the bureaucracy’s response is that you should have the program independently evaluated. Already there’s a problem: there’s no standardised way to conduct this evaluation – no published expectations of what success looks like, or measures of the success or otherwise of the existing services and how they compare.
In any event, you then spend a hundred grand or more having the program independently evaluated: Deloitte or PwC start turning over the meter.
You submit your paperwork, now bolstered by independent evaluation. But nothing happens.
That’s because once your independent evaluation makes its way to the hardheads in the central financial agency, they barely bat an eye. The fact is, your report isn’t independent: you funded and commissioned it, and we all know how creative consultants can be in arriving at conclusions that support their clients’ interests. Catch 22. Your money and time down the drain, your innovation might linger for years at the periphery of governments. Visitors might be taken to see it in all its glory. But it’s not going anywhere.
Policymakers have in their head an idea that markets are spontaneously occurring phenomena, when, in fact, they’re forged over long periods of time and often involve concerted struggles that require the buy-in of the commanding heights of the system at both the administrative and political level. As I’ll show in a subsequent article, even if innovation started bubbling up from below, validating it is just the start of a process because successful innovations can’t usually be scaled without redesigning the systems all around them.
But there’s wisdom in starting small — so how might we do that?
Already, in numerous areas, governments fund third-sector programs on condition that an evaluation is done. Accordingly, in those areas, funding is already in the budget and thus, implicitly provided by government. In these areas, governments should take greater responsibility to ensure that evaluation is commissioned independently – not by the advocate for the new initiative – and they need to commit to taking full account of it. And given this, bringing both monitoring and evaluation into the process would streamline things considerably.
To address the risk that this is done in a cumbersome “top-down” manner, the process should be steered by a board with strong representation from the third sector.
The purpose would be to work towards a close, collaborative relationship between the third-sector organisations running these programs and the evaluators, who nevertheless remain independent. The goal should be for independent experts in monitoring and evaluation to help build the capacity for practitioners themselves to understand the success or otherwise of their own practice and how to continually improve it. Thus an accountability system would not be imposed upon practitioners from above, but built ‘bottom-up’ from their own self-transparency within a system they’ve collaborated in building. This is how Toyota built is own accountability for production line efficiency – workers on the line are trained in statistical control and endlessly measure and optimise it.
Governments would commit to publishing all such evaluations and also to conducting and publishing evaluations of existing practices. The process should be trialled in some specific area and commenced as soon as possible. Action in this area would be welcome from governments in any of Australia’s three levels of government.
There’s another problem, and it’s growing: amnesia.
Governments commit to various actions but then don’t follow through. The problem is an international one, and well documented for Britain by the Institute for Government’s 2017 report All Change. It was brought home to me that same year when the PC reported on Data Availability and Use, largely replicating recommendations of the Government 2.0 Taskforce, which I chaired in 2009. The recommendations needed to be reiterated not because our recommendations had been rejected, but despite the fact that they’d been accepted!
With this failure to follow through now ingrained in our system, I suggest an independent source – for instance, the Auditor-General – should conduct a retrospective review of learning from pilot programs in Australian jurisdictions. The review would explore the extent to which intentions to learn from experimentation in pilots and to identify and grow the best of those pilots had been realised. In particular, such an initiative would review the extent to which programs that work well are discovered, learned from and expanded, whilst those that perform less well are improved or defunded.
This is a guest post by Megan Brayne, a lawyer and director of Comhar Group, a legal and policy advisory firm specialising in native title, environment and planning and climate change law. Megan has recently returned from United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Bonn, Germany.
In May 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) quietly released its Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (the Report).
IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body established by 130 nations (including Australia) in 2012 to provide governments with objective scientific information about biodiversity and ecosystem health. The Report did not receive much attention when it was released because it couldn’t compete in the news cycle with the birth of royal baby Archie on the same day.
The Report finds that of the eight million animal and plant species on earth, around a million are currently threatened with extinction. That’s more than 40% of amphibians, a third of reef forming corals, sharks and shark relatives and over a third of marine mammals globally.
Nearly 10% of domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with 1000 more breeds still threatened which means the pool of genetic variation which underpins food security has declined.
Astoundingly, the Report is the first intergovernmental report on biodiversity and ecosystems that takes into account indigenous knowledge.
At the same time that natural wonders such as Niagra Falls were lit up blue in honour of baby Archie, the Report announced that current trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine progress towards 35 of the 44 targets of the sustainable development goals. Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems is not just an environmental issue, it is an economic, security, social and moral issue as well.
The world’s population has doubled in the last 50 years. We are presented with difficult tensions between the food production and energy and infrastructure expansion needed to raise the living standards of the global population on the one hand, and climate change mitigation, biodiversity and ecosystem conservation on the other.
The Report highlights this tension, confirming that the earth provides more food, energy and natural materials than ever before, however this comes at the expense of other ecosystem services that we don’t ordinarily quantify including air, water and soil quality, crop pollination and carbon sequestration.
In other words, humans are increasing one set of benefits of nature (the production of food and resources) at the expense of other benefits that create sustainability (clean air and water, good quality soil, crop pollination and carbon sequestration). It’s a Catch-22.
The Report has complicated implications for how we deal with climate change. A few weeks ago, in June 2019, parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) met in Bonn, Germany to work on the rules to implement the Paris Agreement and other climate change matters.
IPBES held a special event during the proceedings. IPBES scientists emphasised that there are trade-offs between trying to mitigate climate change and conserving biodiversity. IPBES scientists pleaded with climate change negotiators to stop trying to achieve climate change mitigation at the expense of biodiversity and ecosystems.
In doing so, they emphasised lessons to be taken from land-sector emissions reduction such as reforestation and bioenergy cropping. These mechanisms might present an effective means of sequestering carbon emissions, but if they negatively impact biodiversity and ecosystems they’ll negatively impact the sustainable development goals.
This conundrum is at the heart of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which specifically discusses sustainable development and prioritises it in mechanisms such as those under Article 6 (cooperative approaches to market mechanisms).
Last year, the Northern Territory released its discussion paper on Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Opportunities for the Northern Territory, [https://haveyoursay.nt.gov.au/39757/documents/88860] which mentions the negative impact a changing climate will have on biodiversity and ecosystems.
However the Northern Territory discussion paper is scant on the potential for climate change mitigation to compete with biodiversity and ecosystems and how competing aims should be prioritised.
Taking the IPBES approach, arguably the global standard set out in the Report, the Northern Territory’s policy needs to explicitly address climate change, biodiversity, ecosystem maintenance on an equal footing rather than prioritise one over the other. The dangers facing our natural world, through climate change and biodiversity loss is a holistic equation, rather than a series of compartmentalised problems with discrete solutions.
The people of the Northern Territory deserve biodiversity and ecosystems to be prioritised in the race to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. This applies to policy settings as well as approaches taken to carbon and biodiversity offsetting. And that would be a royally good outcome indeed.
The summary for policy makers is here: https://www.ipbes.net/news/ipbes-global-assessment-summary-policymakers-pdf and the full report is here. https://www.ipbes.net/global-assessment-biodiversity-ecosystem-services
The post Catch 22: The case for biodiversity in climate change policy appeared first on The Northern Myth.
Their official name is the not-very-catchy High Capacity Metro Trains, or HCMTs for short.
A friend’s son suggested what I think is a far better name, given the anniversary:
What do you think?
For comparison, Sydney has the Millenium trains, which entered service in 2002.
This is an excerpt of a speech given by the President of the United States of America on January 19, 1989. The full text of the speech can be viewed at https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/research/speeches/011989b
Now, tomorrow is a special day for me. I’m going to receive my gold watch. And since this is the last speech that I will give as President, I think it’s fitting to leave one final thought, an observation about a country which I love. It was stated best in a letter I received not long ago.
A man wrote me and said: “You can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk, or a Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American.”
Yes, the torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage, the compact with our parents, our grandparents, and our ancestors. It is that lady who gives us our great and special place in the world.
For it’s the great life force of each generation of new Americans that guarantees that America’s triumph shall continue unsurpassed into the next century and beyond. Other countries may seek to compete with us; but in one vital area, as a beacon of freedom and opportunity that draws the people of the world, no country on Earth comes close.
This, I believe, is one of the most important sources of America’s greatness. We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people — our strength — from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation. While other countries cling to the stale past, here in America we breathe life into dreams.
We create the future, and the world follows us into tomorrow. Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.
A number of years ago, an American student traveling in Europe took an East German ship across the Baltic Sea. One of the ship’s crew members from East Germany, a man in his sixties, struck up a conversation with the American student. After a while the student asked the man how he had learned such good English. And the man explained that he had once lived in America.
He said that for over a year he had worked as a farmer in Oklahoma and California, that he had planted tomatoes and picked ripe melons. It was, the man said, the happiest time of his life. Well, the student, who had seen the awful conditions behind the Iron Curtain, blurted out the question, “Well, why did you ever leave?'” “I had to,” he said, “the war ended.” The man had been in America as a German prisoner of war.
Now, I don’t tell this story to make the case for former POW’s. Instead, I tell this story just to remind you of the magical, intoxicating power of America.
We may sometimes forget it, but others do not. Even a man from a country at war with the United States, while held here as a prisoner, could fall in love with us. Those who become American citizens love this country even more. And that’s why the Statue of Liberty lifts her lamp to welcome them to the golden door.
It is bold men and women, yearning for freedom and opportunity, who leave their homelands and come to a new country to start their lives over.
They believe in the American dream. And over and over, they make it come true for themselves, for their children, and for others. They give more than they receive. They labor and succeed. And often they are entrepreneurs. But their greatest contribution is more than economic, because they understand in a special way how glorious it is to be an American.
They renew our pride and gratitude in the United States of America, the greatest, freest nation in the world — the last, best hope of man on Earth.
You can view a video of the speech here: https://nowthisnews.com/videos/politics/ronald-reagans-final-presidential-speech-was-for-immigrants
Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. January 19, 1989.
No time at the moment for any ambitious deep dive blog posts, so here’s a slightly rambling follow-up to last week’s Caulfield to City rail bustitution.
For the entire week, I was lucky enough to avoid travelling in peak hours, but overall the feedback was that it was a lot smoother this time. There were delays of course – buses just can’t do the job of trains – and footy fans in particular (who if they are not regulars, are less familiar with the changed arrangements, and tend to travel at busy times) had some issues.
Overall, it a big improvement from Easter – perhaps fewer operational mishaps, and more passengers becoming familiar with alternative routes.
What is a little disappointing is that – like so many things with public transport – despite significant organising and resources, often it’s relatively little things that fall short.
For instance: I travelled outbound on Sunday morning, when buses were replacing trains between the City and Westall/Moorabbin. The road network isn’t stretched at this time, and passenger numbers aren’t huge. But still there were little hiccups.
Frankston line buses were running to three patterns:
Express (E) – Arts Centre to Moorabbin non-stop, for longer distance trips
Limited Express (L) – Arts Centre to Caulfield non-stop, then all stations to Moorabbin, for people between the City and stations between Caulfield and Patterson (including me)
Stopping All Stations (S) – from the City to Caulfield, stopping all stations – for shorter distance trips between Richmond and Malvern.
This all makes sense; it helps minimise the travel time, and splits passengers into groups so the numbers are more manageable.
Not that you’d know about this if you saw the timetable guides provided on the web site, which showed a diagram for only one route, and timetable information (arguably too much; it’s very difficult to read) for two.
Then you’ve got these detailed PDFs which manage to drown you in frequency information but simultaneously not tell you about all of the three route variations (Stopping/Limited Express/Express), nor mention where to catch them. #MetroTrains #bustitution pic.twitter.com/zJSv6JAfCzâ€” Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) July 14, 2019
There were detailed brochures flying around the place which did have the route detail, and these had been handed out to passengers at stations in the weeks beforehand. But if you didn’t get given one of these, they were hard to find.
The signage was excellent around Flinders Street station – provided you wanted the E or L buses. For the S… not so good; I didn’t see it anywhere.
In fact, even basic information on where to catch the Stopping buses was contradictory, as shown in these two tweets from Metro that morning.
This one said you catch the Stopping buses from Spring Street, near Parliament:
This one a few hours later reckoned Fed Square.
There are express buses as shown by this map but they are working as required and arranged locally. pic.twitter.com/yK6sNayTuZâ€” Metro Trains (@metrotrains) July 14, 2019
Talking to some People That Know, it sounds like there were different arrangements on each weekend (presumably for some good reason) and some of the info for weekend 1 got muddled with that for weekend 2.
On that Sunday morning, it was good to see there were lots of staff and lots of buses deployed at the Arts Centre.
The boarding point for a Limited Express bus was incorrectly signed for Express buses. Thankfully there were enough staff to advise arriving passengers which queue they should use.
I found a line of people waiting for a Limited Express bus, and a line of Express buses arriving, waiting and leaving with virtually no passengers aboard.
Some people had obviously been waiting for a while. A stream of Express buses continued to arrive while I was in the queue.
Eventually the dispatchers decided to reallocate an Express bus to the Limited Express service, and off we went.
Unlike during weekday peaks, the buses moved pretty quickly, and we got to Caulfield after about 20 minutes, and then Bentleigh perhaps another 10 minutes after that. About the same as the train journey, if you don’t count the walks to/from the bus stops.
There was the usual confusion over whether passengers should touch-on their Myki cards. Many regulars know that you don’t have to touch on, but the last time I looked, the “bible” (the Fares & Ticketing Manual) still claimed that you should (at the railway station, which in this context makes no sense, as it could be hundreds of metres away).
The bus Myki readers (as usual) were left on, and at least one passenger did use them. Can they not be switched off? Why does Myki not have a “free ride” mode?
At busy stops, some passengers (quite reasonably) expected that the bus driver might open both doors for boarding. I mean, given free rides, why not, to speed up operations? And yet this still doesn’t happen with any consistency.
Indeed, there is a bus operator that’s been set up specifically for running train replacements. Their buses actually have No Entry signage on the rear door. If no fares are payable, why do this?
As usual, the point of all this minutiae is to identify the big picture.
There’s lots of projects in the next few years, right across the rail network. Which is good.
This means lots more bustitution is coming. A little more care and effort, and it could be a lot smoother for passengers.
This is part 2 of what may become a multipart series …
Darwin harbour is without doubt still a beautiful place.
Sure, while humans and nature have both tried their best to trash the place over the past couple of hundred years – the settler society with inappropriate residential and industrial developments, the WWII bombing raids (that have left the harbour floor littered with wrecks) and nature with massive cyclones – the harbour is a survivor.
I moved back to Darwin a few months ago after too long in Centralia. In that time Darwin – Garramilla to the Larrikia people, the first nation owners of the land and waters in and around the harbour – has grown in some respects and shrunk in others.
One thing that caught my eye is the increase in shipping servicing the offshore and onshore gas facilities and the cruise ship industry. There is also a large coastal barge fleet servicing the NT’s offshore islands and remote townships and a mixed small fleet of fishing and pearl industry boats, among others. And of course Darwin has long had a naval base, with a small fleet of patrol boats permanently based here and other ships from the navies of Australia and other countries involved in regular joint military, aerial and naval exercises.
Another thing that I love about this harbour is that it is never the same from one day to the next. The three visual elements – water, sea surface and sky above – are in constant flux, driven by the irresistible forces of tide, wind and weather.
One day the waters will be a muddled mousey grey, the next a bright lapis lazuli and the next a messy cabbage green. The surface can be glassy and uniform; streamed with layered froth and channels moved by breezes and tide; choppy behind a strong south-easterly; or ripped and torn by rushing tides and strong cross-utting winds that swing ships about on their anchors like windvanes in an open field.
And above all the sky. Even with the consistently blue midday skies of the Dinidjanggama season from June to late August the sky can wake – and sleep – a violent red from the smoke of seasonal fires that stings the eyes and throat; hazy from early morning swamp and sea fogs that bring horizons shrinking close-up and distant shores away to disappear; or on another – or the same day – with scatters of whispy clouds scudding across an impossibly electric blue dome.
Then there is the promised threat of long-overdue but never-coming rain through the long months of the Gurrulwa Guligi (big wind) and Dalirrgang (build up) seasons, when pretty much every-thing and -one is stagnant with humidity, sweat and dread and when anything, nothing and everything does, can – or doesn’t and can’t – happen. By the time that Dalay (the monsoon) arrives in the last few months of the calendar year the rains and the cooler weather they bring are a welcome respite. And then the seven cycles of the Larrakia calendar start over again.
Through all of this the town needs feeding, industry needs supplies, fishes and prawns are waiting to be caught and brought back to base, exports need to be shipped and tourists from the cruise ships need to have their money drawn carefully from their deep pockets, wallets and purses.
Here are some of the larger industrial ships that come through Darwin harbour. In future parts I’ll look at military, fishing and cruise ships that come through the Port of Darwin.
Enjoy, and please send a message in the comments section below if so minded …
The post Ships of Darwin Harbour – Part 2 – Cruise ships, military and miscellaneous shipping appeared first on The Northern Myth.
This is part 1 of what may become a multipart series …
Darwin harbour is without doubt still a beautiful place.
Sure, while humans and nature have both tried their best to trash the place over the past couple of hundred years – the settler society with inappropriate residential and industrial developments, the WWII bombing raids (that have left the harbour floor littered with wrecks) and nature with massive cyclones – the harbour is a survivor.
I moved back to Darwin a few months ago after too long in Centralia. I’m lucky to have an office with a balcony that overlooks the harbour, so I thought it worthwhile to document some of the passing traffic.
In the time I’ve been away Darwin—Garramilla to the Larrikia people, the first nation owners of the land and waters in and around the harbour—has grown in some respects and shrunk in others.
One thing that caught my eye is the increase in shipping servicing the offshore and onshore gas facilities and the cruise ship industry. There is also a large coastal barge fleet servicing the NT’s offshore islands and remote townships and a mixed small fleet of fishing and pearl industry boats, among others.
And of course Darwin has long had a naval base, with a small fleet of patrol boats permanently based here and other ships from the navies of Australia and other countries involved in regular joint military, aerial and naval exercises.
Another thing that I love about this harbour is that it is never the same from one day to the next. The three visual elements – water, sea surface and sky above – are in constant flux, driven by the irresistible forces of tide, wind and weather.
One day the waters will be a muddled mousey grey, the next a bright lapis lazuli and the next a messy cabbage green. The surface can be glassy and uniform; streamed with layered froth and channels moved by breezes and tide; choppy behind a strong south-easterly; or ripped and torn by rushing tides and strong cross-utting winds that swing ships about on their anchors like windvanes in an open field.
And above all the sky. Even with the consistently blue midday skies of the Dinidjanggama season from June to late August the sky can wake – and sleep – a violent red from the smoke of seasonal fires that stings the eyes and throat; hazy from early morning swamp and sea fogs that bring horizons shrinking close-up and distant shores away to disappear; or on another – or the same day – with scatters of whispy clouds scudding across an impossibly electric blue dome.
Then there is the promised threat of long-overdue but never-coming rain through the long months of the Gurrulwa Guligi (big wind) and Dalirrgang (build up) seasons, when pretty much every-thing and -one is stagnant with humidity, sweat and dread and when anything, nothing and everything does, can – or doesn’t and can’t – happen. By the time that Dalay (the monsoon) arrives in the last few months of the calendar year the rains and the cooler weather they bring are a welcome respite. And then the seven cycles of the Larrakia calendar start over again.
Through all of this the town needs feeding, industry needs supplies, fishes and prawns are waiting to be caught and brought back to base, exports need to be shipped and tourists from the cruise ships need to have their money drawn carefully from their deep pockets, wallets and purses.
Here are some of the larger industrial ships that come through Darwin harbour. In future parts I’ll look at military, fishing and cruise ships that come through the Port of Darwin.
Enjoy, and please send a message in the comments section below if so minded …
Part 2—Cruise ships, military and miscellaneous shipping—of this series can be seen here.
The post Ships of Darwin Harbour – Part 1 – Industrial shipping appeared first on The Northern Myth.
Three weeks back I went to Adelaide for work. As is my wont when in Adelaide I headed for the Central Markets just off Victoria Square, always my first stop for good food I can’t get in Darwin. I was also looking for bookshops, a haircut and any other fun a fella can find in the big city.
Having grabbed a wondrous variety of stinky cheeses at Say Cheese and sweet delights at The Turkish Delight I wandered around to a local bookshop and spotted a copy of C P Mountford’s Nomads of the Australian Desert (pictured above) with a $500 price tag.
I pointed out to staff in the shop that Nomads is a very dangerous book to have on display and for sale, particularly in Adelaide and because the subject matter of much of the book – the secret and sacred knowledge of the Pitjantjara people given to Mountford in confidence during fieldwork in the 1940s – was the subject not only of a strongly worded caveat by the author, but also a 1976 judgement by Justice Muirhead of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory that restrained the sale, display or distribution of Nomads in the Northern Territory.
I’ll return to the bookshop and Justice Muirhead’s judgement shortly but note that his judgement was and remains effective only within the Northern Territory, having no effect (other than persuasive) outside of that jurisdiction, including the expansive traditional lands of the Pitjantjara and their affiliates – with whom they share much secret and sacred knowledge – in the states of South and Western Australia.
Mountford – who didn’t take any formal anthropological training until after his retirement from a long career as a public servant – was for some a giant of Australian ethnology, but by others he was damned with the faintest of praise.
Professor A P Elkin, who held the first Australian chair of anthropology at Sydney University, described Mountford as an “amateur ethnographer” and a “good photographer, particularly of still subjects.”Â Elkin’s student Catherine Berndt, wrote to Elkin saying that Mountford knew “just enough to prevent him from realising his ignorance.”
The Adelaide establishment – then and later – held Mountford in higher esteem, crediting him with bringing Aboriginal art and culture to the attention of a wide national and international audience.
Mountford was undoubtedly a gifted ethnographer, and he travelled widely across Aboriginal Australia and produced a number of books and films of varying degrees of scientific accuracy and utility.
Mountford’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography notes that towards the end of his life Mountford:
Concentrat[ed] his efforts on an illustrated analysis of Central Australian Aboriginal art and mythology, he worked from his office in the [South Australian] museum and, at the age of 86, completed his magnum opus, Nomads of the Australian Desert (1976). The book contained images of restricted Aboriginal subjects and was withdrawn from sale soon after publication.
Mountford died the same year that his magnum opus was published and subsequently withdrawn.
Mountford wasn’t alone in believing that he was documenting dying cultures that would soon disappear for ever. In that we now know he couldn’t have been more wrong and, while much knowledge is no longer available, across much of central and northern Australia ceremonies that maintain traditional knowledge of and relationships with the land flourish to this day.
Mountford included the following caveat in Nomads of the Australian Desert:
Where Australian Aborigines are concerned, and in areas where traditional Aboriginal religion is still significant, this book should be used only after consultation with local male religious leaders.
The restriction is important, it is imposed because of the concept of what is secret or may not be revealed to the uninitiated in Aboriginal religious belief and action, varies considerably throughout the Australian Continent and becauseÂ the varying views of Aborigines in this respect must on all occasions be observed.
Shortly after Nomads was published and notwithstanding Mountford’s caveat, Justice Muirhead saw fit to impose an injunction on the sale and distribution of Nomads in the Northern Territory.
Foster and Others v Mountford and Rigby Ltd 14 ALR 71 (1976) was an unusual case in a number of respects. Firstly, the plaintiffs were members of an unincorporated association (the Pitjantjara Council) that represented the Pitjantjara people, who live on large tracts of land that spans the south-western corner of the Northern Territory, the north-west of South Australia and the far central east of Western Australia.
The respondents were Mountford as author and his publishers, Rigby Ltd and neither were represented before Justice Muirhead, as the application for an injunction was bought ex parte and was heard in chambers, i.e. with only one side, the Pitjantjara people, appearing before and providing evidence to the Court and not heard in open Court.
The application was also unusual in that it sought to protect gender-specific confidential information of the Pitjantjara people published in Nomads that they claimed was provided to Mountford in confidence more than 35 years earlier.
The Pitjantjara also claimed that Mountford was obliged to protect their confidences and had breached that duty by publishing Nomads. Few, if any, of those who provided the information to Mountford were alive at the time the application to the Court was made.
While the equitable doctrine associated with confidential information has not historically been a popular or uncontroversial cause of action, courts have been asked to protect various kinds of confidence including that attached to the private etchings of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, matrimonial secrets and confidential sources of a parliamentary lobbyist and, in an Australian context, restraining the publication by the Centralian Advocate of certain information about Aboriginal customary laws and the publication of photographic slides taken Mountford containing secret or sacred material*.
Christop Antons provides a useful analysis of the importance and relevance of Foster v Mountford in a chapter published in Landmarks in Australian Intellectual Property Law published in 2009.
In Foster v Mountford: cultural confidentiality in a changing Australia* Antons discusses the significance of Foster v Mountford, which he says is a case:
… belonging to the period in which Australian courts were finding their identity in deciding intellectual property disputes. As the first decision in Australia taking into account Aboriginal customary rights to culturally defined notions of secrecy, it is a landmark case. It symbolises a shift from assimilation policies based on the notion of Australia as terra nullius at the time of discovery towards a growing understanding of Aboriginal customs and associated rights … The case also has significance beyond Australian borders. In an ongoing debate about violations of indigenous cultural secrecy and ‘rights to cultural privacy’, the case has been regarded as one of the few legal actions examining such violations.
Antons goes on to note the limited effect of Foster v Mountford with the increasing reach of the internet and other technologies into remote Aboriginal Australia but notes that it provides at least a framework for a broader consideration of traditional knowledge.
Established doctrines of equity such as confidential information, fiduciary obligations and unconscionability combined with protocols and other forms of contracts may not always offer ideal answers to the problems surrounding Aboriginal cultural secrecy. If used in a pragmatic manner, however, as in Foster v Mountford, these doctrines may lead to reasonably acceptable and practicable solutions.
One recent example of Antons’ “acceptable and practicable solutions” is the decision by Justice Nettle of the High Court of Australia in the matter of Northern Territory of Australia v Griffiths (deceased)  HCA 19 (the Timber Creek native title compensation case) handed down on 19 June 2019.
Justice Nettle’s decision (the primary decision by the Full Court of the High Court in NT v Griffiths can be found here) concerned an application for consent orders to “suppress publication and disclosure” of a volume of anthropological material identified as “gender restricted.”
As in Foster v Mountford, the material the subject of the application in NT v Griffiths was:
… restricted men’s evidence given by senior male members of the claim group on country.
That, supported by uncontested affidavit evidence, including anthropological evidence establishing:
… the restricted transcripts and reports relate to matters that are restricted in their transmission or communication to ritually qualified men according to customary Aboriginal practices.
Justice Nettle observed that these practices are “a fundamental component of Aboriginal religious belief and practice” and that failure to comply with the rules established by that practice:
… is believed to result in exposure to harmful and potentially fatal spirituality. Those who break the rules for transmission may be objected to social opprobrium and spiritual reprisals that may be deadly … The men who gave the restricted men’s evidence … would not have been prepared to give evidence had they known that it might later be read in transcript by women. If that were to occur, the men concerned would be vulnerable to the social opprobrium, spiritual reprisals and other deeply held fears of the kind mentioned.
In considering the consent orders sought, Justice Nettle briefly examined several public policy issues, including that arising from a primary objective of the administration of justice, namely to safeguard the public interest in open justice (see s 77RD of the Judiciary Act) and the requirement in sections 77RI and 77RE of the same legislation that any order made operate for no longer than is necessary than to achieve its purpose. Justice Nettle’s orders will run for a period of 10 years.
It is instructive to observe the continuity between the approach by Justice Muirhead in Foster v Mountford and of Justice Nettle in NT v Griffiths.
In Foster v Mountford, Justice Muirhead found that:
… a number of the photographs, drawings and descriptions of person, places and ceremonies have deep religious and cultural significance to the plaintiff Foster, and to the other plaintiffs. I find that some of the matters hitherto secret are revealed in the book, and that this has caused dismay, concern and anger. The plaintiffs’ concern probably goes basically to the fact that the revelation of the secrets to their women, children and uninitiated men may undermine the social and religious stability of their hard-pressed community.
Like Justice Nettle in the High Court last month, 43 years earlier Justice Muirhead also considered the public policy impact of his decision, not least upon the “right to disseminate the results of scientific or anthropological research.”
Unchecked by the provisions of the Judiciary Act noted in NT v Griffiths, Justice Muirhead ordered that the defendants be restrained from:
… selling or displaying for sale, or otherwise distributing in the Northern Territory of Australia the book Nomads of the Australian Desert and further restraining the defendants from causing or authorising the further sale, distribution or display of the said book in the Northern Territory of Australia.
It is understood that Rigby Ltd withdrew Nomads from sale following Justice Muirhead’s decision and that around 2,000 copies were sold before the withdrawal and that several hundred more were destroyed in a warehouse fire, with the remaining copies purchased by the Aboriginal Arts Board*.
A search of the National Library of Australia’s Trove catalogue indicates that Nomads is available in at least 70 Australian libraries, including the Alice Springs Public Library, where I last saw it in a locked case 10 years ago.
A simple Google search of “Nomads of the Australian Desert” produces links to a number of Australian and international booksellers with Nomads for sale. Prices range from a low of $US388 ($AUD552) to $US1,027 ($AUD1,462).
Those numbers make the copy of Nomads for sale in Adelaide a bargain. When last I checked it was still for sale for $500, plus $20 postage.
The post Why are the secrets of the Pitjantjara people for sale in Adelaide? appeared first on The Northern Myth.
The minority in the House of Commons is composed for the most part of members of a
single party who are in general opposition to the Government and hope to supplant it at the
next election through becoming a majority. Party Politics: The Growth of Parties.
Sir Ivor Jennings, Cambridge University Press 1961.
If the official Opposition is not clear by virtue of numbers, it is for the Speaker to decide
which group shall be so called, and who will be recognised by the Chair as the leader of the
Opposition. House of Representatives Practice 7th Edition page 79.
As Speaker I am entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the orderly conduct of business in the House. To do this I must now determine, in light of the tie situation and the point of order raised, which party shall form the official opposition. House of Commons Debates (Canada) February 27 1996.
At the opening of this Assembly, His Honour the Administrator of the Northern Territory said:
The results of the recent election have established the first official Opposition in the Assembly. The presence of an official Opposition in this House is welcome as the Westminster system of government can only be fully effective under the scrutiny of and by constructive argument from a viable Opposition.
… I am sorry to have to say ….The Majority Party has showed itself to be openly resentful
towards the presence of an Opposition. The behaviour of some of its members including the
Majority Leader, has been churlish if not downright childish. It is quite clear that having cut
their teeth in an Assembly where there was no recognisable Opposition, they are now
reluctant to adapt to the present composition of this House. Member for Sanderson,
Ms June D’Rozario Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Debates 6 December 1977.
I do not intend to get caught up in a political fight over the resources or recognition of
Opposition in the Assembly. That is a matter for the Government in terms of resourcing and
the Assembly in terms of status. Statement by Speaker, the Hon. Kezia Purick MLA
Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Debates 30 October 2018.
This paper looks at recent events in the Northern Territory concerning public debate and
discussion about who forms the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. A debate which has
been based on conjecture and hypothetical assumptions because essentially, the question
does not arise as there is not an equality of numbers of Members representing different
political parties in existence who are unable to form government.
The 13th Northern Territory Legislative Assembly (like the 12th) has changed its composition since the election. This has resulted in the growth of independents.
As at 2019 there are 15 (Labor) Government Members, seven independents, two (Country
Liberal Party – CLP) Opposition Members and (uniquely) one Labor non caucus Member in
the 25 Member Assembly.
During late 2018 and continuing into this year there was a surge of interest in the concept of
a coalition of independents and a possible claim on the resources provided (by the Northern Territory Government, not by the Speaker) to the Opposition in the Assembly. The matter had been dormant for two years after being examined in the immediate post 2016 election analysis.
As the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly I have consistently made it very clear that I do
not agree with any proposal that the Speaker should have a role in anointing an ‘official’
In coming to this conclusion I have considered a great deal of advice, been very well
informed and I have not made the decision lightly.
Canada appears to be particularly fertile ground for calling on Speakers to resolve who is
considered to be the Opposition.
The House of Representatives Practice gives a nod to these precedents. The Clerk of the
House, Mr David Elder, advised the Clerk of the Northern Territory Assembly in November
2018 about the provenance of the extract at the beginning of this paper.
My staff have had a good look into this and could not find any example of this having arisen in the Australian federal context.
However they did note the situation did arise in the Canadian Commons whose Procedure & Practice (O’Brien & Bosc) similarly provides: ‘Should an equality of seats among the largest opposition parties occur, the Speaker may be called upon to decide which party should be designated as the Official Opposition’. In 1996 when a tie occurred between the two largest opposition parties mid-parliament, the Speaker ruled that incumbency was the determining factor and that the status quo should be maintained1.
An informative article by Professor Nelson Michaud outlines the various Canadian
precedents in some detail2.
In British Colombia in 1937 the recognised Opposition’s party lost a seat after a by-election
resulting in another party becoming numerically superior in the House. The Speaker
determined that ‘for the sake of convenience’ the ‘official’ Opposition would not change.
In Saskatchewan in 1977 an equality of numbers in opposition resulted in a (legislatively
required) equality of resources shared amongst the two parties.
In Alberta in 1983 the Speaker stated that in the case of equality of numbers, party status
must be taken into account. In that case the Speaker even took notice of the election results as well. This was unusual in that other Canadian precedents only considered what is happening inside the House and not the numerical quantity of votes that got them there. It is understood that this approach was contra a previous Speaker’s ruling from the same province in 1952.
In New Brunswick in 1994 the Speaker there decided that taking note of election results was
an ‘exception to a general rule’. Madam Speaker extended her consideration not to just the
official opposition but also to the Leader of the Opposition, this was directly counter to the
Alberta Speaker’s specifying it was not his duty to specify the Leader of the Opposition.
The outcome in New Brunswick was the Speaker’s ruling meant that equality of numbers,
which had come about as a consequence of by-lections and resignations during a term of
the Assembly, on its own was not enough to replace the then recognised (numerically equal) ‘official’ Opposition.
In the (Canadian) House of Commons in 1996 the ‘continuity principle’ enunciated in New
Brunswick two years earlier prevailed when there became an equality of numbers of two
parties in opposition, the party (Bloc Quebecois) started off in opposition and prevailed over the reinvigorated Reform Party which later achieved equal numbers on the floor of the House.
The interesting argument there was that because Arthur Beauchene’s Rules and Forms of
the House of Commons of Canada states that the political party which has the right to be
called ‘Official Opposition’ is the largest minority group which is prepared, in the event of the resignation of the Government to assume office, then a kind of “government in waiting” principle should be applied. Mr Speaker did not agree.
The Reform party argued the separatist Bloc Quebecois was not a “government in waiting”
since it would not run candidates outside Quebec and its members were committed to the
secession of Quebec and breaking up the confederation of Canada.
The problem with some of these arguments is that they neglect to remember that in most
cases a new government is formed after an election and not by some osmosis from
Opposition or pre-anointment by a Speaker as the next in line3.
In The Yukon in 1996 the Speaker extended the notion of incumbency to having formerly
been in Government being a satisfactory test. This situation arose directly after a general
election rather than during a parliamentary term like the other Canadian examples.
Speaker Robert Bruce of the Yukon described his decision making with reference to the
House of Commons precedent when he wrote in the following year:
It is the Chair’s judgment that that spirit and intent is best satisfied by selecting an opposition party caucus which formed the government prior to an election to be the Official Opposition over an opposition party caucus that was a third party in the House prior to the election4.
How do any of these example relate to the existing situation in the Northern Territory?
Well, in my view they don’t, but that hasn’t stopped conjecture and debate.
It is also worth noting that access to the resources made available to the recognised
Opposition is perhaps what motivates the debate.
The Yukon Speaker also said: This decision is made in respect to the proceedings in this
Chamber. Decision on matters such as caucus funding and space allocations are made in
This is of interest because that ‘other forum’ in the Northern Territory is a gift of the
Government. The Government decides the quantum of resources allocated to the Opposition as well as to any other groups. The Remuneration Tribunal Determination each year makes it clear that this is at the discretion of the Government.
For instance, during the 12th Assembly, in 2015 the Government declined to provide any
additional resources to the three Palmer United Party Members of the Assembly (all
defectors from Government ranks).
In the existing 13th Assembly the grouping of seven independents (after many requests for
more resources) have benefited from a funding allocation which allows the Department of
the Legislative Assembly to employ two temporary researchers to serve them all (funding
expires on 30 June next year and the general election is in August next year).
The assumption in the Northern Territory is that the allocation of the Government’s funds for Opposition will follow the decision made by the electorate as to who is in Opposition. The idea that the Speaker might ‘choose’ an Opposition could effectively mean that the Speaker would direct the flow of the Government’s funds.
The matter of who forms Opposition was the subject of detailed advice from both the Clerk to the Speaker and advice sought by Government from the Solicitor-General of the Northern Territory. These advices were disseminated to Members on 30 August 2016, a few days after the general election.
They covered off on matters such as the definitions of an ‘opposition’ in various well
regarded sources such as the Encyclopedia of Parliament5 and Erskine May’s Parliamentary
Practice6 as well as examining the Northern Territory (Self Government) Act 1978, the Standing Orders (of a number of parliaments) and the Remuneration Tribunal Determination and looking in other places where there may have been references to ‘opposition’. Those advices were informative and they appeared to settle the matter for the time being.
In October 2018 the matter arose again with a series of Questions on Notice from the
Member for Araluen (independent) to the Government, media requests to the Speaker and
sometime later, an attempt by three independent Members who approached the Speaker
advising they had formed an ‘alliance’ to claim Opposition.
At the first sitting of the 13th Assembly on 18 October 2016 there was no dispute or
conjecture about the Opposition7.
The declaration of the polls had confirmed there was a cohort of two Members from a single
political party to form Opposition and no objection was (or has yet been) raised by way of
substantive motion in the Assembly.
The Opposition is the party or group which has the greatest number of non-government Members in the House of Representatives8. Rulings and interpretation of these Standing Orders is the responsibility of the Speaker or Member presiding in the Chair, guided by previous rulings and the practices of the Assembly and, if required, the most recent edition of the House of Representatives Practice9.
These authorities are the basis for how the Opposition has come into existence in the
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory.
The 2016 advices contain consideration as to whether it would be possible for a grouping of
individual independent Members of the Assembly to form and be recognised as an
The Solicitor-General (advice tabled in the Assembly), specifically advised:
Advice has been sought in relation to the formation of the Opposition by a “coalition” of Independent Members if more seats in the Legislative Assembly are held by Independent Members than by Country Liberal Party (CLP) Members … in my view the Opposition cannot be formed by a coalition of Independent Members of the Assembly10.
While questions have been asked of the Government at Question Time about the resourcing
of independent Members, no Member of the Assembly has sought a decision of the
Assembly as a whole in order to change the Assembly’s adoption of the practice of
recognising the party or group with the greatest number of non-government Members
becoming the Opposition.
The House of Representatives Practice advises that the concept of ‘alternative Government’
is very relevant in Australia. Every Opposition can realistically hope, eventually to form
Does this ‘hope’ extend to individual Independent Members? I don’t think so. An unplanned
for opportunity to be part of a government by being coopted into a ministry to support a
minority government is a different matter.
On Friday 26 October 2018 in the context of active media coverage I sent an email to all
Members of the Legislative Assembly as follows:
Dear Honourable Members
It has come to my attention through comments from Members on local radio and questions from media outlets that there is a deal of misunderstanding (and perhaps some politicking going on) in terms of the role of the Speaker and the status of ‘Opposition’ in the Legislative Assembly.
Let me make it abundantly clear – The Speaker has no individual role in determining what constitutes an ‘Opposition’ in the Legislative Assembly.
The attached advice from the Clerk dated 30 August 2016 was provided by email to all Members just after the Territory election in 2016.
It should be understood from this advice that the Clerk also has absolutely no role in determining the status of an ‘Opposition’. Clearly some Members may have a poor memory or did not read this previous email message.
It is the Assembly itself which will make a determination if and when it comes to that.
See particularly page 6 of the attached concerning a brief reference to a situation where two (non-government) political parties have equal numbers in the Assembly. To follow that thread, you can look at page 77 of the ACT Legislative Assembly’s
Companion to Standing Orders document here.
I have no doubt this advice to Members will end up with some media outlets and so be it, I have no issue with my comments being broadcast far and wide.
The Member for Araluen (a former CLP Deputy Chief Minister in the 12th Assembly) replied
to me and copied in all Members as well as the Clerk on two occasions the following day.
The Member asked:
1. Are you saying the Assembly decided in 2016 who was to be Opposition?
2. If not, then who exactly did make that decision to give Opposition status to the two members of the CLP?
3. If it was not you “individually”, then what other individual or group of individuals made that decision?
I replied that I continue to take the view that the status of Opposition in the 13th Legislative
Assembly is consistent with the established precedent that the party with the largest
numerical representation after the Government is the Opposition.
It is also my view that the Assembly is not required to take specific action or adopt any
specific position when it is known that numerically there is a party or grouping of Members
which can be identified as the Opposition. By doing nothing more than following recognised practice the Assembly, in effect, decided that the two CLP Members in the Assembly were the Opposition.
I tabled my considered response to these questions in the Assembly the following week.
In the case of the 2016 election there was some initial doubt as to whether there would be
more than one Member of the Assembly from the CLP, (this is what generated the first
advices from the Clerk and the Solicitor-General in August 2016) however upon the
declaration of the polls there were two CLP MLAs.
Further to her first email, the Member for Araluen emailed me and all Members the following questions:
4. The document you have attached by the Clerk, refers to an attached letter from the NT Solicitor General providing advice on this issue. Is it possible for this letter from the Solicitor General to be provided to all honourable members?
5. You have referred us to the ACT Standing Orders. Did you consider over the past 2 years, developing a Companion to the Standing Orders of the NT Legislative Assembly, like that of the ACT Legislative Assembly?
The Solicitor-General’s 2016 advice was sent to all Members in 2016 and has been tabled in
A ‘companion guide’ in the Northern Territory would not assist in any contemplation of the
status of Opposition here as there is no equivalent Standing Order in the Northern Territory
to the ACT Standing Order about a method for the Assembly choosing an Opposition leader.
The reference to the ACT Standing Orders was provided to Members to assist Northern
Territory Members understand what might be available should a second party or group of
Members come into existence to challenge the existing CLP Opposition status.
A discussion between some Members of the Assembly on Darwin radio station MIX FM as
well as two other emails sent to me on Friday 26 October 2018 from a reporter at the ABC in
Darwin asserted some form of collusion on the part of the Speaker in ‘determining’ the
The radio interview included the following comments from the Member for Blain (an
independent but also a former 12th Assembly Chief Minister):
We fear insider trading because the two existing parties and the Speaker appear to have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are … If we leave it to insider considerations and advice from a Speaker you are going to have, I think, things stay exactly the same way because they are motivated to keep them the same way.
The next week in the Assembly I called upon the Member for Blain to ask him to withdraw
the comments and to apologise for reflecting upon the Chair12 which he did.
The ABC’s journalist wrote to me asserting:
I am working on a story today about the possibility of independent members Terry Mills and Robyn Lambley attempting to form Opposition. As you are aware, it wasn’t the Government that gave the two-member CLP official Opposition status, it was you and the clerk.
This assertion is factually incorrect. Neither the Speaker nor the Clerk have the power to ‘give’ status to an Opposition.
According to a respected constitutional law expert, it is the Speaker who selects the Opposition and questions have also been raised over why the Solicitor General was even called in for a matter that is supposed to be dealt with by the rules governing the Legislative Assembly, which is the Clerk’s responsibility.
It is not known who the expert referred to is.
In the context of conversations between the Clerk and noted constitutional law scholar
Professor George Williams, Professor Williams wrote to the Clerk on 7 February 2019 in the
… I am thinking about whether to do one of my columns in The Australian on the subject.
I did end up doing a short interview today for ABC radio before I received the below. I made the point of how existing conventions are ill adapted for the current situation, and that I saw this is as a matter for Parliament to resolve, rather than the speaker. I noted though that it was not clear Parliament would be able to do so, especially given the need for government members not to determine who becomes the opposition. In light of this, I suggested that the conventions may need to evolve and that Parliament may need to be informed by further independent advice so as to bring a non-partisan perspective to the resolution of this question13.
The article in The Australian14 provides some more information on those views. I have
emphasised the pertinent part above with regard to my role as Speaker.
While the procedure in the ACT Assembly provides for a deadlock in that jurisdiction where
there is an equality of numbers in opposition parties. The matter has never been determined in the Northern Territory.
The House of Representative’s Practice reference is to a situation where the Speaker might
be required to recognise who is the Leader of the Opposition where there are two parties in
opposition with the precise same number of Members15.
In his email to me the ABC’s journalist further stated:
The 2016 decision has also been called into question because of the rushed handling of it. You gave the keys to the fourth floor offices to Higgins and the CLP before anyone else could make an argument for Opposition and the Government then followed suit and gave them the Opposition resourcing. That’s just a fact.
The 2016 advices were received by James Oaten at the ABC in Darwin who reported on the
matter extensively at the time. (Mr Oaten was not the reporter making these new assertions).
The allegation of a ‘rushed handling’ is incorrect and the remainder of the commentary is not ‘a fact’.
The poll was declared on 12 September 2016. The Chamber seating plan was settled by the
Speaker after the declaration of the poll. It was an orderly process. The Assembly holds no
record of ‘anyone else’ seeking to ‘make an argument for Opposition’.
The role of the Speaker in ‘determining’ Opposition became somewhat murky when the
Chief Minister’s answer to Written Question 447 was published.
The answer was provided to the Member for Araluen without consultation with or reference
to me about its content.
It is understood the answer is partially based upon further advice the Government received from the Solicitor-General. After seeking a copy of that advice it became clear to me that the Solicitor-General’s advice was not considered in full in the Government’s Answer 447.
Answer 447 is an answer provided by the Chief Minister and as is well known, Ministers may
answer questions how they see fit.
If I had written the response I would probably have written:
The Speaker in the Northern Territory has consistently advised she will not make an arbitrary decision if there is an equality of numbers. It will be a matter for the Assembly itself.
The Member for Araluen to the Chief Minister:
1. Given that the CLP Opposition currently have only two members, how would the Opposition be determined in the case whereby another two cross bench form a political party (compliant with the requirements of the NT Electoral Commission) and make a bid for Opposition status?
2. Given the Remuneration Tribunal Determination refers to a single ‘Opposition’, would the Chief Minister give consideration to making an interim Determination (as available under the Act) to recognise a second party of opposition and adjust the allocated resources in equal shares accordingly?
3. Given the Assembly Members and Statutory Officers (Remuneration and other Entitlements) Act provides in the regulations the Tribunal cannot allocate certain resources to Opposition and Independents will the Government step in if there is an equality of numbers in two political parties on the opposition bench to the Government?
4. If there were two political parties, both with 2 cross bench Members of Parliament in the NT Parliament, who and how would the Opposition status be determined?
5. Has the Government sought an update from the Solicitor General with regards to her 2016 advice on who constitutes the opposition in the case outlined above?
6. Is the status Opposition status simply about a political party having more Members on the floor of the NT Parliament?
7. How is it determined that a political party or a coalition of political parties, can “form an alternative government” and thereby be considered as an Opposition?
8. What role or say does the NT Government have in determining what political party or coalition of political parties forms Opposition?
9. Has the Government sought any advice from the Speaker and/or the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly on the matter of who forms Opposition if there is an equality of Members in two parties that do not form the Government?
10. Is there any precedent for the Opposition status of a Parliament to be shared by two parties of the same size?
11. Are there any circumstances in which Opposition status could be shared by two political parties?
12. If so, how would that work?
13. Given that the CLP Opposition currently have only two members, how would the Opposition be determined in the case whereby another three cross bench form a political party (compliant with the requirements of the NT Electoral Commission) and make a bid for Opposition status?
14. Could you describe the circumstances that would trigger a change in Opposition, given the current Opposition consists of 2 Members of the NT Legislative Assembly?
15. Who would determine a change in Opposition?
16. What is the process for changing Opposition?
17. If two political parties formed a coalition of more than three Members of the Legislative Assembly, in the current Parliament with the CLP Opposition of two, could they form the Opposition?
18. How would a coalition of two political party be recognised as a potential Opposition in the NT Parliament?
19. What requirements are needed to qualify as a coalition in order to be considered as an Opposition in the NT Parliament?
20. In the case where no political party has more than one member representing them on the cross benches of the NT Parliament, how is Opposition formed?
21. In the case where there are no political parties represented in the cross bench (all cross benches are Independent Members of Parliament), and therefore there is no political party to form an “alternative Government” or claim Opposition status in the NT Parliament, what would happen?
22. What is recognised as a coalition in the NT Parliament?
23. Can a group or alliance of two or more Independent Members of Parliament (not a political party) with common policies, form Opposition?
24. What is the Parliamentary process for determining a change of Opposition? What happens?
Under Westminster convention and practice, the ‘Opposition’ is defined as the political party (or ‘coalition Opposition’ of parties), which has the greatest number of non-Government Members in the Legislative Assembly. It is not possible for two separate Opposition parties to exist, or share the function of Opposition status, while remaining distinct in their individual Party’ status. For similar reasons, it is not possible for two Independent members to share the function of Opposition. A coalition of parties forming the official Opposition could be demonstrated by some blurring of the distinction between the parties, comprising clear evidence of their ongoing joint commitment and capacity to function as the official Opposition.
While there is no ‘bright-line’ test of the requirements for a coalition of parties to be afforded the status of Opposition, a coalition Opposition would need to demonstrate a public commitment to act co-operatively based on aligned ideologies and that it could effectively perform the functions of the Opposition. Evidence of this commitment could be, for example, a written agreement pledging to always act collectively and with detail regarding the agreed positions on likely policy issues. If the official Opposition party (or coalition Opposition) is not clear by virtue of numbers, it would be a matter for the Speaker of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to decide which group will be recognised as the official Opposition, and who will be recognised as the Chair as the Leader of the Opposition.
1. Refer to the Overarching Response.
2. There can only be one party recognised as the official Opposition, therefore, consideration of a second party of Opposition, and subsequently the resourcing of such a body, is a fallacious concept.
3. Refer to Question 2 above, and the Overarching Response.
4. Refer to Overarching Response.
6. Yes – refer to Overarching Response.
7. Refer to Overarching Response.
8. None – refer to Overarching Response.
10. – 19. Refer to Overarching Response.
20. In the event there was no non-Government party with more than one Member, there would be no official Opposition. In that situation, it would be more appropriate that all non-Government Members (both Independent and those endorsed by a minority party) would act in opposition to Government, instead of there being an official Opposition. This was the case in the first Assembly of the Northern Territory.
21. Refer to Question 20 above.
22. -24. Refer to Overarching Response.
Not satisfied with the Government’s response and the subsequent and repeated repudiation by me of the purported role of the Speaker which the Government outlined in the response entitled Overarching Response above, the Member for Araluen again asked the Government further written questions.
The Government’s answer to these questions (451) was: Refer to Written Question 447 for answers.
On 19 December the Member for Araluen asked Written Question 479: Can a group, alliance or coalition of two or more Independent Members of Parliament (not a political party) with common policies, form Opposition?
The Government responded: The responses to Written Questions 447 and 451 provide the
answer to this question.
Finally (so far), on 28 February this year, the Member for Araluen asked question 538 on the
same topic with 20 parts to the question16, the Chief Minister’s novel answer was:
The extensive advice you have already received answers these questions. I encourage you to focus your energies on the concerns of Territorians, rather than continually focusing on yourself.
On Wednesday 6 February the NT News reported under the front page headline T.R.Y.
Time: Terry, Robyn and Yingiya move to seize Opposition from CLP17 that the three
independent Members had met with me to ask me to “formalise the arrangement which
would see the two member CLP stripped of the resource and privileges of the Opposition”.
Needless to say, at my meeting with the three Members on the previous day I reiterated my
by then oft stated position that I do not see it as the role of the Speaker to do any such thing.
When they cited the Chief Minister’s ‘overarching response’ to Question 447 I advised they
would have to take that up with him.
I was particularly interested in the reporting the next day which stated: “The opposition-in-waiting would operate as a collation of independents and follows advice from the NT
Solicitor-General that a coalition of non-government members could act as the official
opposition if those members had demonstrated a public commitment to act cooperatively
based on aligned ideologies”.
“However that advice related to coalitions of political parties not independents.”
Yes – That’s a pretty big “however…”
After meeting with the independents on 5 February I wrote to them to advise:
It is understood that you seek Speaker’s intervention into the existing arrangements concerning which Members of the Legislative Assembly form the recognised Opposition. As you have been advised previously, by convention, the grouping of Members from the recognised political party with the most Members who cannot form Government are considered the Opposition in the Assembly.
That convention does not reflect any decision made by the Speaker. For procedural purposes, the Speaker is required to know which Member is Leader of the Opposition but otherwise has no interest in the matter. It is open to you as Members to challenge the above stated convention and seek to formalise other arrangements with the agreement of the majority of the Members of the Legislative Assembly..…
At our meeting on the 5th of February you referenced the Chief Minister’s answer to Written Question 447 submitted by the Member for Araluen. That answer asserts the Speaker has a role in the determination of who forms the Opposition in some circumstances. The Chief Minister’s response to that question on notice is a matter for him. I do not agree that the Speaker in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly should
have the described role. I will not perform that role. I have consistently said I will not do so. Should one of you wish to move a motion in the Assembly for the Assembly to consider whether the Assembly recognises your grouping of independent Members as the Opposition and one of you as the Leader of the Opposition that course is open to you.
It remains my view that the Speaker should have no direct role in deciding who forms
Opposition in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.
In Party Politics: The Growth of Parties Sir Ivor Jennings wrote in 1961 that: The minority in
the House of Commons is composed for the most part of members of a single party who are
in general opposition to the Government and hope to supplant it at the next election through becoming a majority18.
While his work mentions the few independents who come to the fore from time to time it
does not contemplate a coalition of independents supplanting parties.
Acknowledging some unique legislatures such as that of Nunavut where there are no
political parties and the government is formed by a vote on the floor of the Assembly, the
experience in Australia has uniformly been that parties exist and parties either alone or in
coalition form governments and if they exist in opposition they are recognised as the
In the Northern Territory there was not always an opposition that could be recognised even
when the Assembly had two non-government members who were elected as independents.
While occasionally styled as ‘in opposition’ they were not recognised and resourced in such
a manner (1974-77).
I continue to take the very well established approach that the Speaker’s role is to serve the
The Speaker remains in the service of the Assembly and is accountable to its membership
for so long as the Assembly determines (in my case) that I should hold the position. To
choose a different particular grouping to become the Opposition when there is, by convention and past practice, an already recognised grouping in existence would be, in my view, an abuse of my trusted and impartial position.
I therefore leave it as a matter for the Assembly itself.
1 Reproduced with the permission of both Clerks.
2 Designating the Official Opposition in a Westminster Parliamentary System. Nelson Pichard, The
Journal of Legislative Studies Vol 6 No 1 Winter 2000 pp69-90 at page 75 onwards.
3 See the Speaker’s complete explanation at: https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/35-
4 Recognition of Official Opposition Robert Bruce, Canadian Parliamentary Review Spring 1997 page
5 Wilding and Laundy 1961 Edition page 428.
6 Erskine May (Sir Malcolm Jack) – Twenty Fourth Edition page 49.
7 The NTEC results were declared on Monday 12 September 2016.
8 Seventh Edition at page 79.
9 Standing Order 1: General Rule about Application and Interpretation, Legislative Assembly of the
10 Paragraph 29 of Solicitor General’s advice at Annexure 2. Tabled in the Assembly.
11 Seventh Edition at page 79.
12 See generally the House of Representatives Practice Seventh Edition page 202.
13 Reproduced with permission of Professor Williams.
14 Territory’s Arm Wrestle is Unique 18 February 2019.
15 House of Representatives Practice Seventh Edition at page 79.
16 See: https://parliament.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/665653/Aqst-538-LambleyOpposition-Status.pdf.
17 Reporter: Hayley Sorenson.
18 At page 2.
You can read all of the papers from the 50th Annual Presiding Officers and Clerks Conference held earlier this week in Bribane here.
The post The Role of a Speaker in Determining the Opposition: Kezia Purick appeared first on The Northern Myth.
I’ve been listening to the Transit Unplugged podcast for a while now on my (sometimes quite long) weekend walks.
They typically interview CEOs and other senior managers from public transport systems in the USA, often small-to-medium sized operations.
In recent weeks they’ve published a set of interviews with CEOs from much larger operations – and the reason this is of particular interest to locals here is that they’re all in Australia – mostly Melbourne.
While I know and have spoken to some of the people involved, it’s interesting to hear about issues from this perspective – interviewed by host Paul Comfort, who is a former CEO of an American public transport operator.
They’re not challenging interviews – but some of the challenges facing these operations certainly get highlighted.
The interviews are also a reminder that behind the scenes of the public transport operations that we passengers see day to day, there’s a lot of management of people and finance that’s also going on – something in common with any big organisation.
The other theme is that of change. For instance the PTV interview notes that one seat journeys are no longer realistic for all trips in a city the size of Melbourne, but work needs to be done on better interchanges. The V/Line interview notes the transition from a regional rail operator to (at least for many passengers) a commuter railway.
I can see a few typos in the transcripts – especially for Jeroen Weimar, who is a fast talker when he gets going – and Nicolas Gindt’s reference to gunzels, in his French accent, which must have confounded the host, is missing.
Perhaps the transcripts were generated by a computer – and you might also note a few minor gaffes in the recordings, but still, these are very interesting and well worth a listen.
I’ll leave you with this great optimistic quote from Howard Collins from Sydney Trains:
Australia has hit the golden age of rail. I think for the first time in probably 50 years, Australians realize public transport is the only way to get cities to work. Expanding cities like Melbourne and Sydney, which are going to grow from five million to eight million in the next 20 years, you can’t drive, you can’t have that culture of car anymore. You’ve got to look at London and New York, and you’ll see that public transport.
Update: There’s also a live podcast from a discussion at the recent UITP conference, featuring Ian Dobbs (1990s era The Met/PTC, and also 2000s era PTV, now with UITP Australia), Allan Fedda (PTV deputy CEO) and Nicolas Gindt (Yarra Trams CEO) as well as Nat Ford (Jacksonville, Florida).
All the podcasts are here: Transit Unplugged Podcasts
“Blachung” – there are as many alternate spellings as there are recipes – is for many Top End families the sauce (or sambal) that keeps them together and provides a common culinary reference point.
As part of Darwin NAIDOC celebrations for 2019, the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation – hosts and organisers of many of this week’s great events – held a competition to find the best Blachung sauce at its Coconut Grove headquarters.
I caught up with a few locals to see what they thought about their favourite condiment. Like a mug I asked Larrakia man Mark Motlop who made the best Blachung. “Mine!” he responded. And the second best? “Mine!” and broke us all up in peals of laughter.
Mark went on to explain that plenty of his aunties made Blachung:
Everyone has their own different style of making it and everyone thinks that theirs is the best but blachung is just nice!
Where does blachung come from? Well, the Indonesians have their own different style – they call it “belachan” and there’s “blachan,” which you can buy in blocks from the shops – that is the dry one – and then there’s “blachung” that I’m used to – My father is from the Torres Strait, my mother is a Larrakia woman and I learnt to cook blachung from my father.
Plenty of folks reckon that cooking blachung was not for the faint-hearted, not least because of the universal ingredient of shrimp – which can come in a dry block or as a paste and the particular smells they put off when cooked.
Mark Motlop reckon he tries to cook it indoors until his missus gets sick of the smell and sends him outside.
Northern Land Council CEO Marion Scrymgour reckons that you could always tell when her Mum had blachung on the go.
You could always tell when the blachung was cooking – not just that smell, but also the flies on the screen door – sometimes there would be hundreds of those big blue blowflies trying to get to that smell! But when it was cooked, YUM! It is just like honey to a lot of Aboriginal families in Darwin.
Maisie Austin from the NT Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation reckons that her family would always cook inside the house.
Yes, they cooked inside. I remember when dad used to make it everyone used to have to go outside because it just stank the place out!
Apart from the extraordinary olfactory impacts and entomological attractions of cooking blachung, there was widespread agreement on its origins somewhere in Asia.
Nigel Browne of the Larrakia Development Corporation noted the links between Darwin’s Asian history and demography and its favourite condiment.
[Blachung] obviously has Asian influences but if you look at the history of Darwin over the last couple of centuries, for a long time the largest part of the population was Chinese and a lot of our Larrakia families have Chinese backgrounds as well. But also Malay, Filipino, Indonesian, Timorese – all sorts. I think it has been more than a century of a cultural and culinary melting pot and blachung is one of the things that’s come along for the ride.
The prawn paste is the base of course but a lot of people use really different things. Some use chicken giblets, turtle guts, goose giblets. All sorts of stuff. Some of it is very, very hot, some is mild and some has more flavour than heat. I like a lot of heat and a lot of flavour!
Wadjigan/Larrakia man Jerome Cubillo credits the early Macassan traders with the introduction of blachung and of the impact on good food on community relations.
For me it has got to come from the Macassan trading days – bringing all their spices across to the Top End for hundreds of years and that Asian influence. It might be just a unique thing to Darwin, growing up here with all the different cultural influences – the Chinese, the Filipino and more – that just added to the mix. Our mob like the flavours and it caught on – and was adapted locally of course.
I think it speaks about how diverse Darwin is and how we are really fortunate here. From the very start of Darwin we had a whole mix of different cultures coming into one place, interacting with Larrakia and other Aboriginal cultures. This is a unique place where growing up you didn’t know any different from seeing a whole range of cultures just coming together at places like the Saturday markets at Parap, the Mindil Beach markets and the Sunday markets at Rapid Creek and Nightcliff. I think people getting together around food is a special thing that breaks down stereotypes and stigmas through food. What could be better!
No-one could agree on who made the best blachung. For Marion Scrymgour it was her Mum that made the best but she also credits former NT government Minister and NLC Director Jak Ah Kit as one of the best blachung makers.
For Careflight’s Peter Costello it was all about being local.
Local people … local people. (Laughs) It depends what chilies you put in and what you add to it so it is very hard to explain.
For Northern Land Council Chair Samuel Bush-Blanasi the best was “Pedro’s … and old Jimmy Anderson.”
Maisie Austin’s pal, Tiwi Islander Veronica Virgona reckoned the best place to find blachung in the old days was in the suburb of Stuart Park.
My parents always used to say that if you are looking for blachung go to Stuart Park because you’ll find somebody there with it! We had the Abala and Lew Fatt families living there. My parents loved it. Us Tiwi islanders, we never made it – but we used to eat it! The blachung made by the Lew Fatt family was always my favourite.
For local legend Sambo (that’s right, just Sambo) the best blachung was made by his godfather. He’s passed away now but “his blachung was the best.”
Jerome Cubillo also keeps it in the family.
My Aunty Pilar Cubillo’s blachung is the best. Well, there is a bit of bias there. It was the first one I tried and also because it packs a lot of punch! I like it hot. You’ve got to do it properly if you are going to do it at all! Aunty Pilar’s is my go to against which I measure all the others. Freddy Adams makes a pretty mean one!
Maisie Austin may just have it all worked out – she supplies the chilies and her family supplies her with the blachung!
Everyone has their own secret recipe, my father and my mother and my brothers are all blachung makers and they are all different and all beautiful. And I supply the chillies! They are quite a big and very hot chilli and they were brought over from Queensland. I’ve been growing them for about 30 or 40 years.
And, like pretty much everyone else I interviewed, blachung goes with just about anything. Maisie Austin again.
Rice, steak, bread … anything! Chicken vermicelli (laughs) whatever you are eating … omelette, whatever!
Mark Motlop reckons blachung on rice is the go.
You can put it on ham and cheese sandwiches, on top of your steaks, on rice – on top of the rice is the best way to eat it.
Nigel Browne gets the last words – he puts blachung on …
Anything … and everything! (laughs) Probably not for breakfast but most definitely … I like using it like Hot English Mustard. I’ll put the blachung on the steak and I’m all set!
And the winners of the inaugural NAIDOC Blachung cook-off for 2019 were:
First place: Judy Kennedy;
Runners up: Mark Motlop & Steven Cardona.
See you all next year!
The post Blow-flies, “honey” and secret recipes: the great NAIDOC Blachung cook-off of 2019 appeared first on The Northern Myth.
Just a quick one as I’ve been very busy, and have also had a bad cold, so haven’t felt like much writing.
The next lot of major bustitution is upon us from Saturday morning, and including all of next week: no trains between the City and Caulfield.
You’ll recall that at Easter, this was a complete mess.
Have they learnt from that? Yes, I’m told they looked very closely at how it went, though they’re sticking with the strategy of funnelling most people into Caulfield, then bussing them from there.
Why? Because, they say, they know what went wrong, including during that looooong trip on the Monday morning:
Okay, fair enough, let’s assume the root cause was a lack of staff clearing platform 1. They can fix that.
But that doesn’t explain why they let the queue for buses to Fed Square get out of control. Why didn’t they divert some of the crowds to the other queue?
They could also brief the bus drivers on both routes, and the options connecting them, for more operational flexibility. Sounds like this time they will divert buses if the Fed Square route clogs up.
And it doesn’t explain why the long delays for buses getting out of Caulfield across Princes Highway, nor why the Federation Square bus route was still a mess throughout that week.
To be fair, they say they’ll try harder this time to quickly clear incoming buses out of Fed Square, and deploying Variable Message Signs to encourage other traffic to avoid parts of that route, to try and keep things moving.
They’re also going to try express buses from Cranbourne and Pakenham all the way into the City (inbound AM peak only), to try and reduce loads closer in. It’ll still be a long journey in the traffic.
And for Dandenong line users they’ll have contingency plans if the line clogs up, offering the option of a bus connection from Oakleigh to Darling on the Glen Waverley line. They may also deploy buses to Moorabbin.
But they’ve resisted the idea of funnelling large numbers of passengers onto other lines by default, as it may just cause crowding and delays to spread more widely.
There also seems to be no consideration to also boosting regular crosstown route buses to neighbouring rail lines – though they did tell me they’d watch for people left behind, and try to boost tram capacity. Tram 67 and bus route 630 seemed to be the worst affected last time.
I also know they’ll continue to monitor closely each day and tweak things where possible. I don’t expect this will be the last big shut down for the metro tunnel, so they do need to keep working at improving things.
Let’s see what happens on Monday morning.
Here (just a few hours late) is another in my series of ten year old photos: this time, it’s June 2009.
Already the subject of a blog post, was this confusing ad on the side of a bus. Does it mean it’s flexible or not?
Don’t you wish you were not packed into a train on your commute, but instead on your own private train somewhere? I used this photo in a blog about Connex (Veolia, then running the suburban trains) and Transdev (then running Yarra Trams) being replaced by consortiums run by MTR and Keolis – which was announced in June 2009.
There was a campaign on trams around keeping trams and other traffic moving.
…There was also a campaign around rail safety.
As of June 2019, there’s a new bus route 627 that’s just started – here’s a pic of the previous route to have that number – which was very confusing. Since split into the 625 and 626, which helps legibility.
Meanwhile over on the trains, ads for the government’s transport plan had started to appear.
…and Myki machines had started to appear in railway stations. They would finally be switched on at the end of 2009.
Last week’s two whirlwind trips to Brisbane were busy with family business, but there was a chance for a few quick transporty observations.
Tourists see signs for “stations” and might assume they’re all railway stations. Nope, some of them are busway stations – they just look similar from the outside!
Boggo Road busway station has platform numbers combined with the adjacent Park Road railway station. But why don’t the two stations have the same name?
When we passed through, the railway line was closed for works, with the busway and station being used for bus replacements. Handy. Their bus replacement routes also have route numbers, which helps navigate the system when the trains are out.
Some Brisbane bus drivers say “thank you” as you touch-on your Go card. This might encourage fare compliance. Most Melbourne bus drivers in comparison don’t seem to acknowledge this.
Brisbane bus passengers are encouraged via signage to say thanks to their drivers, and many seem to do so.
Lots of resources get thrown at Brisbane buses: high frequencies on many routes, the bus ways, and innovations such as USB charging. It probably reflects that they play a significant role in the transport task, in comparison to Melbourne. Of course Brisbane has no trams.
As noted previously, the busways keep buses zooming alongâ€Ś at least at off-peak times. They can clog up quickly during peak. They can handle a lot of people – more than cars, but not as many as trains.
Elsewhere on Brisbane roads, there seem to be some bus lanes and jump start lanes, but little in the way of real bus traffic light priority.
Brisbane’s train system infrastructure remains impressive, but service frequencies do not.
Most rail lines run only every half-hour outside peak, including the Airport to Gold Coast line, though this is gradually moving to 15 minutes.
The exception of course is the inner section where multiple lines converge. We travelled from Wooloowin (near our hotel) to Park Road, then made a connection to a bus to UQ. Then back again. Waiting/connection time: minimal, thanks to combined high frequencies.
Wooloowin has the rail service of a busy hub station, but feels like a well-to-do residential inner suburb.
Apart from the hotel we stayed in, many of the houses were traditional Queenslanders, not South Yarra-like skyscrapers. I wouldn’t be surprised if density increases there as the city grows.
As in Melbourne, Brisbane trains seem to be mostly 6-car trains even at off-peak times.
so it beats me why the new trains (“Next Generation Rollingstock” aka NGR700) were built with intermediate cabs. Maybe they envisage some 3-car running on some lines into the future.
Correction: the NGR fleet does not have intermediate cabs. The middle two carriages are non-cab/driver motor cars.
There are a lot more staff on the train system than in Melbourne, even on weekends. For a start there are drivers and guards on the trains.
But there are even more staff thanks to a screw-up with the new trains.
It’s nice having the airport train in Brisbane. But it’s expensive, and at most times of day it’s infrequent. Of the four trips to/from the airport, I only used it for one – where I was travelling alone, and at a time when there was a train every 15 minutes.
The train was a long way from full, but still had quite a few people aboard – perhaps 100 alighted at the end of the line at the Domestic terminal.
For one of the other airport trips I used a taxi (perhaps more expensive than Uber, but positioned right outside the terminal, with no waiting), and for another, because we’d be making some time-sensitive, non-PT-friendly trips, we got a hire car — which was pretty smooth, but I did have to navigate Brisbane’s road network, which was challenging thanks to hills preventing a Melburnian-friendly grid.
Parking in Brisbane’s CBD and surrounds is getting difficult on weekdays. They’re becoming a big city!
New in the CBD scramble crossings – with signage to educate pedestrians.
And along Albert Street there’s construction for their metro tunnel (“Cross River Rail“), though I’m not sure there’s any actual construction happening just yet. It’s due to open in about 2025, around the same time as Melbourne’s Metro 1 tunnel.
The Go Card that I first bought in 2011 still works, 8 years later. Presumably due to its 10 year lifespan, it’ll conk out in 2021, though I’m told you can actually get the expiry date extended at a station booking office. I didn’t get a chance to do this, and I’m not sure if it means the card is replaced, or just the expiry date on it is reset.
Go Card purchase cost remains at $10 (refundable deposit), but single use (2-hour) tickets are also available – they’re just a printed receipt you can show to staff. More expensive than Go Card fares, but good to have the option for tourists who only want to make a quick single trip.
And one more thing in the transport mix: apart from hire bikes, Brisbane also has Lime scooters all over the CBD and inner city. I don’t have a feel for how successful they are, but I did see a few people using them.
In the past week, I’ve flown to Brisbane and back twice.
My Uncle Frank got very sick. My sister, my cousin and I are his closest relatives, and we all live interstate. Thankfully we were able to go and see him.
He passed away on Sunday morning. It was peaceful in the end, but it was still a shock.
You may have noticed I've been pretty quiet this week.— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) June 21, 2019
It's because my uncle passed away.
He was 86, and lived in Brisbane. His nephews and niece were his closest family.
Sharp until the end, and always full of good humour.
RIP Uncle Frank 1933-2019 pic.twitter.com/Sy1bFKBWHi
After helping to organise things, I flew home, then back for the funeral, which was on Friday: a service at the Funeral Director’s chapel.
After the service was a burial in the family plot at Lutwyche Cemetery, then we had a meal at a nearby restaurant to chat with relatives, neighbours and friends, to reminisce. It was good.
To the end, Frank was sharp and loved to chat. In the past few years I’d ring him up and he’d love to talk about politics, family, and especially family history, which he knew I was interested in.
And transport sometimes came up as a topic, interwoven into our conversations.
He told me he’d done national service in 1951. He used to go to army training on the tram… carrying his rifle… with a bayonet. He reckoned you probably couldn’t do it nowadays!
Uncle Ken passed away in 1996. Dad in 2010. Frank was the last of that generation in that part of my family.
Sometimes when you’re living a long way away from your relatives as you grow up, you can end up a little unaware of some of the things that make you the person you are. Chats on the phone with Frank helped to fill some of those gaps for me.
RIP Uncle Frank, 1933-2019. Sadly missed.
Our inaugural blog post for the Valuing the Census project provided an overview of our strategy for estimating the benefits of the Census to the Australian community.
From here, we’ll be blogging about various issues that we’re grappling with in making this assessment.
To assess the value of the Census, we need to assess the additional value it generates over alternatives in its absence.
These alternatives are counterfactual scenarios to assess the benefits of the Census against.
So, that value is of the extra precision or insight for a given use, compared with the next best alternatives.
(In later blog posts we’ll get into what Census-related data or information means, as well as what the impacts of this extra precision or insight might be.)
But what are the alternatives to the Census?
They might include personal experience, or stylised facts, or the ABS’s survey-based official statistics, or market research data, or many other administrative or non-official data.
Alternatives will obviously vary by issue and use, and not all alternative data will be available to all people (for example, due to commercial or confidentiality restrictions) or be easy for them to understand and/or use.
In a hypothetical world without a Census, would the ABS do something else to fill some of the gaps created?
Would the ABS or other agencies create a new next best alternative source of data for some uses and if so at what cost?
The potential counterfactual scenarios are varied and prompt consideration of a wide range of issues.
For example, consider these hypothetical scenarios:
Our current thinking is that, given the purpose of this exercise, it would be the most simple and straightforward to consider the first scenario that is ‘with’ and ‘without’ the Census.
This reduces the number of permutations and uncertainties in play.
Since our valuation will draw in part from stakeholders’ perspectives on alternatives to Census-related data, the thought experiment needs to be clear and consistent for them, too.
We are hoping that stakeholders will be able to understand this ‘with’ and ‘without’ scenario.
For example, since 2006 the Census has incorporated information of educational attainment (i.e., highest year of school completed or level of highest non-school qualification).
This helps users to investigate the relationship between levels of education and employment outcomes, income and other socioeconomic variables. It is often used as a proxy measure of socioeconomic status.
While various sample surveys also look at this issue, their sample size is too low to give sufficient detail for small population groups and for small regions or localities (for example, with respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples).
This is the sort of comparison between Census-related and alternative data and information that we’ll be looking to explore further with stakeholders.
In doing this, we acknowledge that simply discontinuing the Census is not a realistic scenario with the kinds of options set out in the second and third scenarios being more likely (and which statistical agencies worldwide are debating).
However, we think it is a reasonable position to take for a first and already challenging Australian assessment of Census value, and one that is not trying to assess the relative desirability of different Census models.
It is also the position taken, with varying degrees of explicitness, in recent UK and NZ analysis on similar topics.
Do you agree with our current thinking?
Are there other approaches we could take that will be both valid and practical?
If so, please let us know by commenting on this post or emailing us at email@example.com.
Here’s Phil Lowe reporting on the RBA’s failure to meet its performance targets and refusal to do anything about it:
This decision [to cut rates by 0.25%] was not in response to a deterioration in the economic outlook since the previous update was published in early May. Rather, it reflected a judgement that we could do better than the path we looked to be on.
If anyone can fill me in on what that means, I’d be grateful.
Monetary policy is one way of helping get us onto to a better path. The decision earlier this month will assist here. It will support the economy through its effect on the exchange rate, lowering the cost of finance and boosting disposable incomes. In turn, this will support employment growth and inflation consistent with the target.
It would, however, be unrealistic to expect that lowering interest rates by ¼ of a percentage point will materially shift the path we look to be on. The most recent data – including the GDP and labour market data – do not suggest we are making any inroads into the economy’s spare capacity.
Steady as she goes.
Lateral Economics has been commissioned by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to estimate the value of the Australian Census to the Australian community. As part of that exercise we’ve got the go-ahead from ABS to do something that, it seems to me, all public inquiries, and most independent public agencies, should do as a matter of course. Run a blog a little like the blog we ran when I chaired the Government 2.0 Taskforce.
Ten years on from the Taskforce, it’s amazing how slow the practice has been to catch on. It seems to me the kind of thing that the Productivity Commission should do, and the Reserve Bank. Anyway, as far as I know, there’s no such blog on offer there or anywhere else much. One exception is the Bank of England which runs a lively blog in which staff explore all manner of questions relating to their research. It greatly enhances both its work and their staff’s morale and willingness for some of the best to stay at the Bank rather than moving off into academia or consultant land.
Anyway, this exercise gives us an opportunity to trial it again. Accordingly we will post from time to time outlining the progress of our investigations, particularly highlighting issues we are trying to understand to improve the quality of our review.
Comment will be post-moderated with a back-up plan to provide pre-moderation in the unlikely event of commentary which is judged to lack bona fides in a disruptive way. We’ll be consulting ABS with draft blog posts before posting them to give the ABS an opportunity to provide input. We nevertheless remain responsible for the exercise, and for the content of each post, not the ABS.
Finally, if you do have anything to offer, please do so to show how productive this kind of exercise can be. I know myself how productive it is from my own experiences blogging myself not least as part of the Government 2.0 Taskforce, but as I’ve grown older it’s struck me how much adoption relies on, well, adoption. If no-one’s doing it, no one does it. Then a few people do it and the obviousness of doing it seems to become accessible to others, even as they keep their in-tray reasonably cleared.
Valuing the Australian Census
Gene Tunny, Nicholas Gruen, and Matt Balmford, Lateral Economics
The five-yearly Australian Census provides a wealth of data on Australian households. Those data are used extensively by all levels of governments, industry, and non-profits in decision making and planning. The Census provides important information on household composition, journey-to-work flows, Indigenous status, and languages spoken at home, among other data. It is also used extensively to ‘ground-truth’ and so assess and improve the representativeness of a wide variety of data sets. The ABS understands that all this information is of substantial value, but no careful estimate of its total value has yet been made. The ABS has engaged Lateral Economics to provide such an estimate.
In recent years, a combination of factors has led to renewed scrutiny of the value of the census, including burgeoning administrative data which could be tapped by national statistical agencies, as well as advances in computing power and data science. Statistical agencies worldwide have come under pressure from ministers to provide greater justification for the hundreds of millions of dollars of costs of a national census. For instance, in 2001, the UK House of Commons Treasury Select Committee called for the national census to be justified in cost-benefit terms. Since then, the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) has produced a Census Benefits Evaluation Report for the 2011 Census. It was reported that the UK census yields annual benefits in the order of £500 million.
In 2013, Statistics New Zealand followed the example of the ONS and commissioned a valuation of the NZ census, which reported a return on investment (ROI) of around $5 of net benefits for every $1 of expenditure on the census.
In Australia, too, the issue of the cost of the census has come under scrutiny. For example, in 1993, a Federal government interdepartmental committee investigated cost reduction opportunities for the census. However, it recommended maintaining the current census format. Indeed, comprehensive five-yearly censuses are seen as necessary to ensure fair electoral representation given substantial population growth in newly-developed areas, such as Springfield and Yarrabilba in South East Queensland. The requirement for a five-yearly Census was inserted into the Census and Statistics Act 1905 in 1977 (section 8(1)), following a 1976 High Court decision suggesting the need for more a more frequent Census to ensure fair electoral representation.
A critical question for Lateral Economics’ research project is the extent to which the Census is essential for developing high quality estimates of populations at various levels, national, state, regional and for small areas, and for various groups in the population, including Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse people. Such estimates are important for electoral representation, but they are also important for the allocation of:
- GST revenues across state and territories;
- resources in health, education, and other social services; and
- capital expenditures, both for social infrastructure and transport infrastructure, and in the private sector, too (e.g. shopping centres, retirement villages, etc.).
Such decisions may depend critically on information such as accurate estimates of Indigenous people in a region, or journey-to-work flows between regions, and the Census is a critical source of information to such estimates and for which there are not obvious substitutes.
Lateral Economics will attempt to quantify the benefits to the Australian community of more accurate decision making regarding the allocation of funds across regions for different purposes. We will be guided, but not limited, by the methodologies employed in previous studies. These methodologies rely largely on estimates of the inaccuracies of resource allocation and capital investment that would be occur in the absence of Census data. We will also draw on methodologies developed in these studies for estimating the dollar benefits of, among other things:
- improved public policy development in social policy areas where Census data are important, such as in policies for disadvantaged groups; and
- higher-quality academic and market research.
Even after the most stringent of efforts, considerable uncertainties will remain in parameterising these questions. However this underlines the importance of consulting as widely as possible – with the Australian Electoral Commission, Commonwealth Grants Commission, other federal and state agencies, local governments, and the private sector and NGOs – to develop defensible assumptions to underpin our estimates (guesstimates?). It is likely we will provide reasonable lower and upper-bound estimates of this ROI.
In undertaking this project, Lateral Economics is not necessarily presuming that there will net benefits to the community from running the Australian Census in its current format and frequency. We are doing our best to follow the evidence – something that the ABS has stressed its support for. We note that, based on a cost-benefit analysis, South Africa decided not to run a census in 2016, so the question of whether a national census is valuable is an open one. But wherever the evidence takes us, it’s critical we get the best evidence we can regarding users’ specific uses of Census data, the benefits they derive from that use, and any reflections they have on what the next best source of data would be in the absence of the Census, and the potential costs of any reduction in data quality.
In future articles, Lateral Economics will discuss our progress and seek feedback on our thinking and analysis to date regarding the different Census benefit values we will be estimating. In the meantime, if you have any ideas or information that you think would help us, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
 This could be estimated by assuming a percentage improvement in the quality of related government services and applying that to total spending on those services. The assumption would be informed by consultations with stakeholders.
A follow-up to last week’s post mapping out the number of train services per station.
Commenter Andrew suggested I compare it against patronage – happily I’d been working on this anyway!
Here it is – and as a bonus I’ve got hold of 2017-18 station patronage data.
The darker the blue, the higher the boardings per service. Click on a station to see the numbers.
What’s interesting is that the top ten stations for boardings per service are not what you might expect.
Remember, these are figures across the entire day. Peak would be a lot busier.
I was surprised that two of the top five are well outside the CBD. And if you’re boarding at Williams Landing or Watergardens and you think it’s busy, it’s not your imagination.
Is it an anti-west bias? I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. Historically, development in Melbourne has spread further to the east and south than the west and north. So the train lines are longer, with more stations, and thus overall higher patronage. So more train services are needed.
Of course the north and west are now growing fast. Is provision of PT keeping up with demand? Nope… but that’s the case across most of the city.
Here is the data on a chart – services per weekday on the X axis, and boardings on the Y axis.
Note the patronage (Y axis) is on a logarithmic scale. It was even messier without this, because just a handful of stations have daily boardings up between 10,000 and 100,000 per day.
The middle range, between 500 and 10,000 per day is a bit of a dogs breakfast because of a large number of suburban stations in that range – and in many cases, they also have identical service levels, thanks to being on the same line. More on these below.
Broadly, you can see that the higher the patronage, the more services a station probably gets.
But does patronage follow service, or service follow patronage? A little of both – authorities tend to try and act to demand/crowding, but the convenience of frequent services attracts more passengers (including more development around stations – hello South Yarra!)
The underground stations at Parliament and Melbourne Central (and to a lesser extent Flagstaff) get a lot of people going through them, despite only having four platforms and about half the number of train services as Flinders Street.
The highest ranked Zone 2 station is Box Hill, followed by Dandenong. Some zone 2 stations have seen a big increase in passenger numbers since the fare cap was introduced in 2015.
Zooming in on the suburban stations of under 7000 boardings per day, things become a little less muddled:
A few stations like Newport, Camberwell, Clifton Hill and Burnley are getting more trains than you might expect for the patronage, thanks to their junction status. They are important for interchange, and different lines converge there, resulting in more services. (In contrast, Caulfield gets slightly more services, but has the patronage to match thanks to the adjacent university campus.)
Some inner-city stations also get more services than the patronage might suggest – but this certainly is not an argument to cut services – one could expect recent infill development has seen the numbers of passengers continue to increase in recent years. Consistent stopping patterns are also important – running some trains express burns up track capacity and creates confusion.
There are also some very busy middle and outer suburban stations that appear not to be getting enough services, such as Sunshine, Essendon, Glen Waverley, Watergardens, Werribee and Hoppers Crossing.
This Channel 9 story in February (which is where the patronage data came from) highlighted the mismatch between demand and supply:
Regulars here would know my message from all this: as Melbourne grows, so does overall travel demand. The number of services provided around the rail network needs to continue to grow, including outside peak hours – as well as boosting tram and bus services.
On the 8th of June 2018 the Northern Territory Government and the NT’s four Land Councils have signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding paving the way for consultations to begin with Aboriginal people about a Treaty.
The MoU was signed on the first day of the Barunga Sport and Cultural Festival – the 30th anniversary of the presentation of the Barunga Statement to Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who went on to promise a Treaty between the Commonwealth and Australia’s Indigenous peoples, but has remained undelivered.
On 18 February 2019 the NT government appointed Professor Mick Dodson as the NT Treaty Commissioner. Professor Dodson congratulated the NT Government for initiating the Treaty process.
“Anyone who has listened to me talk publicly, knows that I am concerned with what I call “the unfinished business”. A Treaty is a good place to start with addressing this unfinished business.We as a nation must come face to face with our dark and traumatic history. We must confront the impact of colonisation and begin the process of acknowledgement, recognition and healing. The NT has embarked on dealing with this task by this courageous step of setting up this Commission.”
The Aboriginal Land Councils are independent statutory authorities established under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 to express the wishes and protect the interests of traditional owners throughout the Northern Territory.
The members of the Land Councils are elected by Aboriginal people living in their areas. The NLC and CLC are also Native Title Representative Bodies recognised under the Native Title Act 1993 to promote the interests of native title holders across the Territory (‘Traditional owners’ include native title holders).
The NTG is the democratic, representative and executive arm of the Northern Territory. Its functions and powers derive from the Northern Territory Self Government Act 1978, which established the Northern Territory of Australia as a body politic under the Crown.
Background to the Memorandum of Understanding:
This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) represents the first significant step in advancing a Treaty in the Northern Territory since the call for a national Treaty in the historic Barunga Statement by the Northern and Central Land Councils. The Barunga Statement was presented to former Prime Minister, RJ Hawke AC, by Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM and Mr Wenten Rubuntja at the annual Barunga Cultural and Sporting Festival on 12 June 1988.
The text of the Barunga Statement is as follows: We, the Indigenous owners and occupiers of Australia, call on the Australian Government and people to recognise our rights:
• to self-determination and self-management, including the freedom to pursue our own economic, social, religious and cultural development; • to permanent control and enjoyment of our ancestral lands;
• to compensation for the loss of use of our lands, there having been no extinction of original title;
• to protection of and control of access to our sacred sites, sacred objects, artefacts, designs, knowledge and works of art; • to the return of the remains of our ancestors for burial in accordance with our traditions;
• to respect for and promotion of our Aboriginal identity, including the cultural, linguistic, religious and historical aspects, and including the right to be educated in our own languages and in our own culture and history;
• in accordance with the universal declaration of human rights, the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, the international covenant on civil and political rights, and the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, rights to life, liberty, security of person, food, clothing, housing, medical care, education and employment opportunities, necessary social services and other basic rights.
We call on the Commonwealth to pass laws providing:
• A national elected Aboriginal and Islander organisation to oversee Aboriginal and Islander affairs;
• A national system of land rights;
• A police and justice system which recognises our customary laws and frees us from discrimination and any activity which may threaten our identity or security, interfere with our freedom of expression or association, or otherwise prevent our full enjoyment and exercise of universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms.
We call on the Australian Government to support Aborigines in the development of an international declaration of principles for indigenous rights, leading to an international covenant. And we call on the Commonwealth Parliament to negotiate with us a Treaty recognising our prior ownership, continued occupation and sovereignty and affirming our human rights and freedom.
The call for the Commonwealth Parliament to negotiate a national Treaty has yet to be realised. However, thirty years later, the Aboriginal Land Councils remain fully committed to the goals and aspirations articulated in the Barunga Statement.
The NTG, for the first time in its history, is also committed to commencing discussions on developing a Treaty (or Treaties) in the Northern Territory with Aboriginal Territorians. It has established an Aboriginal Affairs SubCommittee of the Northern Territory Cabinet to advance a number of Aboriginal Affairs priorities including a Treaty.
The Aboriginal Land Councils wrote to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory on 2 March 2018 proposing to reach an MOU with the NTG outlining a consultation process for a Treaty with Aboriginal people that is led by Aboriginal people.
At an historic meeting between the Aboriginal Land Councils and the NTG on 23 March 2018 in Alice Springs it was agreed to establish a Treaty Working Group to develop the MOU.
It is intended that this MOU provides the opportunity, building on the significance of the 30th anniversary of the Barunga Statement, to facilitate consultation with all Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory to allow for a framework to be agreed for negotiating a Treaty.
Subject to the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978, the Legislative Assembly has power, with the assent of the Administrator or the Governor General to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory.
It is acknowledged that there is a range of Aboriginal interests in the Northern Territory and that all Aboriginal people and their representative bodies must have the opportunity to engage fully in the process agreed to in this MOU.
It is further acknowledged that non-Aboriginal Territorians need to be brought along with this process. It is understood that the use of the word Treaty in this MOU also includes the plural “Treaties” should the proposed framework include provision for negotiating multiple treaties.
IT IS AGREED BY THE NORTHERN LAND COUNCIL, THE CENTRAL LAND COUNCIL, THE ANINDILYAKWA LAND COUNCIL AND THE TIWI LAND COUNCIL and THE NORTHERN TERRITORY GOVERNMENT as follows:
1. It is envisaged that should a Treaty ultimately be negotiated, it will be the foundation of lasting reconciliation between the First Nations of the Territory and other citizens with the object of achieving a united Northern Territory.
2. All Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory need to be heard and the consultation process agreed to in this MOU needs to be inclusive, accessible and transparent to all.
3. Traditional owners, as the original owners and occupiers of the Northern Territory, and represented by the Aboriginal Land Councils, are integral to consultation concerning a Treaty.
4. All Territorians should ultimately benefit from any Treaty that is agreed in the Northern Territory.
5. The NTG must not exclude from discussions any legitimate issue raised by the Parties or other Aboriginal people for inclusion in a Treaty while the consultation process agreed to in this MOU is underway.
6. It is agreed that:
a) Aboriginal people, the First Nations, were the prior owners and occupiers of the land, seas and waters that are now called the Northern Territory of Australia.
b) The First Nations of the Northern Territory were self-governing in accordance with their traditional laws and customs; and that
c) First Nations peoples of the Northern Territory never ceded sovereignty of their lands, seas and waters.
7. It is also agreed there has been deep injustice done to the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory, including violent dispossession, the repression of their languages and cultures, and the forcible removal of children from their families, which have left a legacy of trauma, and loss that needs to be addressed and healed.
8. The Treaty must provide for substantive outcomes and honour the Articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
9. Recognising that a Treaty is of much wider significance than a normal agreement between the State and Indigenous peoples, it is also recognised that Treaty making involves the acceptance of responsibilities and obligations by all parties;
10. The Treaty should aim to achieve successful co-existence between all Territorians that starts with ‘truth telling’ which involves hearing about, acknowledging and understanding the consequences of the Northern Territory’s history.
The objective of this MOU is to agree about and to implement a consultation process to be led by an independent Treaty Commissioner, which will inform the development of an agreed framework to negotiate a Northern Territory Treaty.
This framework may focus on, but not be limited to, the following areas:
• Agreement as to what a Treaty is and its potential contents;
• What a Northern Territory Treaty will seek to achieve;
• Whether there should be one or multiple treaties;
• What outcomes are possible under a Treaty for Aboriginal people that encompass recognition as First Nations, rights, obligations and opportunities; and
• What the best process is for negotiating a Treaty.
The key objective of any Treaty in the Northern Territory must be to achieve real change and substantive, long term, benefits for Aboriginal people.
A Treaty needs to address structural barriers to the wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and provide for economic, social and cultural benefits. Appointment of an Independent Treaty Commissioner The NTG will appoint an independent Aboriginal person as Treaty Commissioner.
The appointment, role and functions of the Treaty Commissioner will be enacted in legislation, the contents of which shall be agreed by the parties. In the interim the Chief Minister shall appoint the Treaty Commissioner to consult, inquire, report and make recommendations in accordance with Terms of Reference agreed by the parties.
The Terms of Reference shall outline, in accordance with this MOU, the role, responsibilities, outputs, reporting requirements, term of appointment and qualifications of the Treaty Commissioner. The role and functions are to include:
1. Consultation with all Aboriginal people and their representative bodies in the Northern Territory about their support for a Treaty and on a suitable framework to further Treaty negotiations with the NTG;
2. Providing a public report to the Chief Minister on the outcomes of the consultation process and a proposed framework for Treaty negotiations; and
3. Facilitating conversations for a possible Treaty framework process between the NTG, Aboriginal Land Councils and other Aboriginal representative bodies, and community groups.
The Treaty Commissioner will be independent of the NTG and Aboriginal Land Councils. The reasonable costs of a Treaty Commissioner to perform the roles and functions and achieve the objectives listed in this agreement, will be paid for by the NTG.
The Treaty Commissioner will devise and implement an Aboriginal-led consultation program after discussions with the Treaty Working Group. That program will have two stages and include:
• In the first stage (to take no more than 12 months), advising and sharing information and ideas about different experiences nationally and internationally and models of what a Treaty could be with Aboriginal Territorians;
• Explanations of the legal context of a Northern Territory Treaty;
• Initial consultations to determine the level of interest in a Treaty amongst Aboriginal Territorians and the provision of an interim report by the Treaty Commissioner to the Chief Minister to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly;
• At the start of the second stage, release of a public Discussion Paper to help facilitate informed discussions among Aboriginal people that are focussed on reaching a consensus on particular positions with respect to a Treaty;
• Translating the Discussion Paper into the major Aboriginal languages in the Northern Territory (including audio translations) by the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service;
• Multiple methods for Aboriginal Territorians to give feedback;
• Consultations will follow a structured and principled process utilising an identical agenda for consistency across locations;
• Land councils will provide advice to the Treaty Commissioner on locations for regional and remote consultations taking into account small, medium and large communities and homelands; and
• A final report on outcomes of consultations about a possible Treaty and proposing a framework for a Treaty to proceed.
The NTG and the Land Councils will cooperate to support the consultation process to be undertaken by the Treaty Commissioner in regional and remote locations.
The Parties will work together with the Treaty Commissioner to establish consultation protocols for Treaty matters. This will include ensuring the ongoing cooperation of all Parties in consultations across the Northern Territory and the provision of consistent information.
Respective parties will also keep the Treaty Commissioner informed of any discussions concerning a Treaty to enable all Aboriginal voices to be heard by the Commissioner.
The Northern Territory Treaty Working Group membership will continue to comprise senior representatives of the NTG and Aboriginal Land Councils.
However, by agreement, after the signing of the MOU, its membership will be reviewed and opened up to other Aboriginal representative bodies and community groups in the Northern Territory to also participate. After the appointment of the Treaty Commissioner the continuation and terms of reference for the Treaty Working Group will be further reviewed.
Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
At the time this MOU is being signed, the Commonwealth Parliament has established a Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples 2018. This follows a constitutional convention on 23-26 May 2017 that brought together over 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders at the foot of Uluru in the Northern Territory on the lands of the Aŋangu people.
The majority resolved, in the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’, to call for the establishment of a ‘First Nations Voice’ in the Australian Constitution and a ‘Makarrata Commission’ to supervise a process of ‘agreement making’ and ‘truth-telling’ between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The NTG and Aboriginal Land Councils agree to contribute to the deliberations of the Joint Select Committee and hope that it will be possible to achieve constitutional recognition that also includes a Commonwealth Treaty making process.
Negotiating a Northern Territory Treaty does not remove the need for a Treaty at a national level, accompanied by ‘truth telling’ or a voice to the Parliament. A Northern Territory Treaty cannot address all the consequences of the British taking control of the land, seas and waters of the Northern Territory and its legacy of injustice.
A Federal Treaty process is a crucial next step in our journey as a nation.
The Parties do not intend any of the provisions of this Agreement to be legally enforceable. However, that does not lessen the commitment of the Parties to fully implementing the Agreement in a transparent, consultative and accountable manner. To facilitate this, it is agreed by the Parties that the Agreement will be published immediately on the websites of the Parties once it is signed and tabled in the Legislative Assembly as soon as possible and that quarterly updates will be made publicly available by the Treaty Commissioner.
The post Essential documents from Aboriginal Australia: 8 – The 2018 Barunga Agreement appeared first on The Northern Myth.
Yesterday I was chatting online about Wednesday evening’s dreadful shooting massacre in Darwin (like many shocked people here). I posted a comment listing the various murder scenes, saying: “A fourth was murdered at 18 Gardens Hill Crescent (or Gardens Rd, not sure which).”
A fellow Darwin tweep (son of an old colleague) with whom I talk quite often, replied: “Crescent. His name was Nigel.” Actually we were talking about the second victim in time, a person so far only identified as a 75 year old man. M_ obviously knew something, so I sent him a Direct Message.
KP: Hi M_. I guess from your comment that you were close to Nigel. I’m so sorry. All this stuff is so close, it reminds you that Darwin really is still just a small town.
M_ : Cheers Ken. Wasn’t close but he is my neighbour. I was first on the scene and tried to perform first aid but it was a mess and he lost too much blood. Ambo didn’t arrive for an hour. Police were at a road block 100m down the road at the time but just stayed where they were. Ben drove straight past them after unloading at 2 apartments. Bit upset about that to be honest.* They even id’d the right ute to me after I ran down the road. Appreciate your story though. We also know the Hoffman’s but have to say I didn’t recognise him as I watched him exit. Bloody small town mate. Bloody being the operative word today.
Nigel was always whinging about the trees. He liked to cut down trees and had a win with the council over a tree last week. He was pretty happy about that. He was a good sort and I reckon he was shot through the door coz he liked to keep an eye on the comings and goings. His uneaten dinner was still on the kitchen counter in his flat.
*M_’s reaction here is more than understandable, but I don’t necessarily agree. Assuming the police staffing the Gardens Hill Crescent road block were just general duties uniformed officers, if they had set off solo in pursuit of the gunman they would almost certainly have caught up with him at the Buffs Club at the top of the hill only a minute or so later. Would they have captured the shooter alone and unaided?Â It’s more likely that one or both of them would also have been slaughtered, just adding to the horrific death toll.
It’s essential that all relevant issues are explored, to ensure as far as possible that the best possible procedures are in place and followed in such events.Â But we shouldn’t start with a presumption that it was anyone’s fault other than the Shooter himself.Â There were four separate murder scenes and all four murders occurred within the space of only a few minutes. In the absence of NT Police acquiring extraordinary clairvoyant powers, it looks to me that they did as good a job as one could reasonably expect in such an extraordinary and confused situation.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before: slicing and dicing GTFS data is not as intimidating as I thought it might be, and it’s pretty easy to import into Google Maps so you can visualise it.
Once you find what you want and figure out its quirks, you can get some pretty useful stuff.
Let’s start with this: a map of the total number of weekday Metro train departures per station. Click here (or use the View Larger Map icon) to see it bigger.
It’s easy to import into Google Maps, though there is limited control over the groupings and colours.
So, the stations are grouped into:
Departures includes both directions (including arrivals for terminus stations), per day, for Monday to Thursday. Fridays run a slightly different timetable due to Night Network overnight services.
Unsurprisingly the central stations have the most train services, with lines except Stony Point (and Alamein outside peak) converging there.
Junction stations such as Caulfield and Clifton Hill (and inner stations on that line) that serve multiple lines also do well here, as do major stations served in peak by expresses and stopping trains, such as Box Hill, Glenferrie and Newport.
Dandenong probably just sneaks into this category thanks to late-night shuttles from Cranbourne adding to the departure/arrival count.
Green accounts for most stations on the lines with frequent all-day services out to Frankston, Dandenong and Newport, as well as some stations that have very frequent peak service such as Box Hill to Ringwood.
Yellow is mostly lines that run only every 15-20 minutes off-peak, but have a more frequent peak service.
Why do Middle and West Footscray and Tottenham not quite make yellow? Because they are bypassed by some trains from Sunbury in peak, which probably helps balance train loads, but adds to waiting time.
It’s a similar story for some stations that are yellow, not quite green: Highett and Southland, and many of the zone 1 stations on the Ringwood line.
Red stations have relatively infrequent service: all-day 20ish minutes (such as the Altona Loop, Williamstown, Alamein and Upfield lines) or good peak but infrequent off-peak (such as the outer sections of the Sunbury, Hurstbridge lines, and the Ringwood and Dandenong branches) or just very few services such as the Stony Point line.
The interesting thing to look for is red stations close to the City. Some of these I expected, such as the Upfield line, with only a basic service all day, in part due to the single track.
I didn’t expect inner sections of the Hurstbridge line to show up in red. Stations such as Westgarth fall just below the 140 threshold, thanks to only 20 minute frequency off-peak, and some peak express trains bypassing them.
The nature of a visualisation like this is that not all stations can be cyan and green.
But the challenge for government is to boost services to those red and yellow stations, particularly those close to the CBD, to keep up with demand – not just train crowding, but overall suburban travel demand, including that sparked by infill development.
While adding peak service is tricky on some lines due to capacity, a boost to all-day off-peak/weekend/evening frequency is easy – and would bring huge benefits to passengers by cutting waiting times and crowding, and improving connections.
Claims of a left-wing bias at the ABC are seldom absent from public discussion. These claims quickly lead to suggestions that the ABC should privatised.
Of course, bias and impartiality are notoriously elastic and subjective concepts. The only arbiter that can make sense of this tangle of subjectivity is the Australian public. The ABC’s impartiality can only be judged by its perceived alignment with the views of the Australian public as judged by the Australian public.
But how are we going to determine what the Australian public thinks is biased or impartial?
Why not just ask them?
Why not conduct regular ABC impartiality polls? Why not create a statistically accurate reading of what the stakeholders that fund the ABC think of its performance?
While it is easy to be sympathetic to arguments that public broadcasting is antiquated and irrelevant in an era when news and information is a simple finger-tap away, our expanded media-verse is characterised by weakened credentials and authority, and diminished responsibility accompanied by associated risks of wilful misinformation and manipulation.
Given these risks, it is relatively straightforward to articulate a renewed and refreshed case for public broadcasting that is founded on reliable, responsible and impartial reporting transparently founded on research and facts. But without radical impartiality this renewed argument for public broadcasting collapses.
An ABC impartiality poll could be conducted every six months by independent parties under competitive contracts and funded directly by Government. Survey and sample design would need to be sophisticated, but this is well within the science and art of modern survey techniques. Much has been made of the inaccuracy of polls in relation to the recent Federal election, but these errors amounted to less than a few percent. The survey data, methodologies and results would be open for academic and journalistic review and an orientation to continuous improvement would be a core goal.
Reliable survey data would enable us to identify the public’s impressions of overall bias and also provide public feedback on lower level questions: for example, an assessment of the impartiality of leading current affairs programs, and even ratings of the perceived balance of reportage on specific issues.
This data could be used to provide the ABC with strong and specific direction for improving the public’s perception of its impartiality. ABC management would be expected to act on these findings and new incentives could be implemented to encourage them to do so. Critically, the ABC’s funding could be indexed to its measured ‘impartiality performance’. Impartially would become an organisation-wide KPI.
There would be numerous technical survey design issues. Should the surveys be anonymous? Should they be linked to individuals say via a tax file number? Of course, there will be those who attempt to game the system and that needs to be a design consideration. Everything important gets gamed to some extent. That is the very thing that we are trying to deal with.
In the era of elevated political correctness, virtue signalling, social media echo chambers and political polarisation it is all too easy for unrepresentative ideological enclaves to form within our critical institutions and they are difficult to dislodge. Creating real, immediate and pecuniary incentives is likely to be the only effective solution.
We depend on the public having access to accurate information and a range of views and analysis that, taken together, represent a balanced perspective. Our collective investment in the institution that is the ABC needs to be protected against the corrosive influence of ideological capture.
Improving our institutions is an arduous process that can only be achieved wilfully via a degree of political consensus that appears increasingly difficult to assemble. Intuitional innovation as a national competitive differentiator is something that needs greater recognition in Australian politics.
In a world where trust and truth have become scarcer, they have also become more valuable. The need to address a growing market failure in the production of trustworthy public information suggests a pressing rationale for public broadcasting. But it is a role completely contingent on radical impartiality.
On 19 April 2018, the Northern Territory (NT) Department of Health (DOH) issued a precautionary drinking water advice to Garawa 1 and Garawa 2 camps in the remote NT township of Borroloola.
Routine testing had revealed elevated lead and manganese in the water supply above safe levels. Residents were told not to drink, cook, or brush their teeth with the water, while assured that the contamination was only a short-term problem. The issue proved persistent, however, with the precautionary advice for Garawa 1 not lifted until 15 June 2018.
Although still not publicly confirmed, brass fittings in the decades-old reticulated piping connecting the water supply to the houses in the town camps were attributed responsibility, with the acute problem resolved by a combination of water flushing and spot replacement of fittings at the most stubborn points. It was, according to the authorities, a minor incident.
But over the past two years there have been multiple incidences of water under-supply or contamination in remote Aboriginal communities in the NT – at Yarralin, Ngukkur, Yuelamu and elsewhere. These incidents collectively illustrate the precarity of reliable drinking water supply in these places, where people’s health, as elsewhere, depends on the availability of water that is safe to drink, of adequate supply, and distributable to homes.
As the world continues to heat and water supply becomes more vulnerable, these impacts may become more pronounced.
Prompted by these incidents, and the links between housing, drinking water, and human health, the Housing for Health Incubator has asked the question: what legal protections and governance regimes do exist for drinking water in the NT?
To summarise, under the legislation that applies to drinking water in the NT, there is no general provision or power to reserve water for current and future drinking water supply against other uses. Further, there are no mandated minimum standards set for water quality across the NT. Finally, different legal regimes govern how drinking water is supplied depending on residence in the NT, privileging urban and town populations over Indigenous communities and outstations located on Aboriginal land.
The Water Act 1992 (NT), which deals with the allocation, management, and assessment of water resources across the NT, has only fragmented application with respect to drinking water. Allocations for drinking water do exist in declared Water Control Districts where a Water Allocation Plan has been finalised. However these areas currently account for a small proportion of the NT’s landmass, focused on major population centres, such as Katherine.
There is no legislative power to reserve water for current and future public water, meaning that an adequate drinking water supply is not reserved to residents across much of the NT.
Further, the NT has not set minimum standards for water quality anywhere in the NT, despite there being power to do so in the Water Act (s73), the Water Supply and Sewerage Supply Act 2000 (NT) (s45), and the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT) (s133).
Instead, a now expired (as of 2015) but still apparently applied Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the DOH and Power and Water Corporation (PAWC) states that while “no minimum standards for drinking water quality have been set”, the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) “will be used as the peak reference”.
A regime of water testing, incident reporting and response, and public reporting of drinking water quality is outlined in this MOU – although in strict legal terms, this regime is unenforceable and compliance appears inconsistent. For example, despite a requirement that annual drinking water quality reports be published annually, as of May 2019 no drinking water quality report for Indigenous communities located on Aboriginal land has been published since 2016. Moreover, it is unclear which government agency is directly answerable to residents for water quality issues under these arrangements.
Finally, the Water Supply and Sewerage Supply Act 2000 (NT) regulates the provision of public water supply in NT “water supply licence areas”. Power and Water Corporation (PAWC) is licensed and regulated by the Utilities Commission under this legislation.
However, it currently only applies in the NT’s 18 gazetted towns. For the 72 larger Indigenous communities and 66 of the approximately 500 outstations located on Aboriginal land under the Land Rights Act, the Water Supply and Sewerage Supply Act does not apply.
They are serviced by Indigenous Essential Services Pty Ltd (IES), a not-for-profit subsidiary of PAWC. Unlike PAWC, IES is a private company and its operational structure is relatively opaque, with no legislation mandating licensing of its operations or particular levels of service to residents against which IES can be held accountable.
In the 450 or so other outstations on Aboriginal land, there is no regulation and neither IES nor PAWC operate. Water infrastructure in these areas appears to be maintained either privately, via funding provided to outstation resource centres, or not at all.
To be clear, the absence of legislated protections for standards, duties, accountability, and transparency does not mean PWC and IES are not testing the water in areas where they operate. In their radio interviews with ABC Darwin last week, DOH and PAWC noted this, while emphasising the difficulty of supplying safe drinking water across the NT.
However, in South Australia, which experiences many of the same geographic, geological, and infrastructural challenges in supplying drinking water, guarantees for water supply and minimum water quality are contained in the Safe Drinking Water Act. There is thus an alternative to the patchwork of differentiated forms of attention evident in the NT, which would require that all drinking water providers be registered and comply with minimum standards.
The Incubator is advocating for the introduction of a similar Safe Drinking Water Act in the NT. When the next incident of water contamination surfaces, it is important that there are clear public standards for testing, reporting, and remediation with direct lines of legal accountability to residents. Such legislated standards are necessary to reduce the likelihood of such incidences and to protect drinking water for all residents of the NT.
*Liam Grealy is a postdoctoral fellow at the Housing for Health Incubator at Sydney University. Kirsty Howey is a PhD Candidate at the University of Sydney.
The post Are there legal protections for drinking water in the Northern Territory? appeared first on The Northern Myth.
It’s the end of May, so it’s time for a batch of photos from ten years ago.
I quite liked this ad for iiNet in Flinders Street Station:
I was snapping photos for Tony’s web site “Our Fading Past” (currently offline, but the Google Map is up), highlighting old signs around Melbourne. This classic is in Ripponlea on the side of a heritage-listed pharmacy.
On the 70s-era Z-class trams, you can still find these things. Originally these trams had front-door boarding, so you could have your ticket checked by a conductor. The rear doors were used to alight, and these little screens would light up to indicate you could press the button to open the doors. I think these days most of them are wired up to the Next Stop buttons.
Also arriving on trams: new Myki readers. Myki became active on Melbourne trains at the end of 2009, and on trams in mid-2010, with the touch-off requirement removed to make it work with the slow readers.
Excitement! New screens arrive at Richmond! Evidently some teething problems initially.
At this time, there were still plenty of CRTs around the network. These were at Parliament station.
A visit to the Dandenongs…
…wouldn’t be complete without a photo of one of greater Melbourne’s worst bus stops for accessibility.
A foggy morning at Glenhuntly station
…and here’s a view at the other end of the day from Richmond. Note the lack of platform cover, and the Hitachi train.
Good news: New bus route 627 starts in June, running from Moorabbin to Chadstone via East Bentleigh and Murrumbeena.
Excuse the micro-transport-blogging about this specific route in my local area, but (as usual) there are considerations that are relevant across the network.
This new route fills some gaps in the local network, including East Boundary Road (which is meant to be part of the Principal Public Transport Network, but currently has sections with no public transport), and sections of Tucker Road and Jasper Road. New bus stops are under construction.
The route will make trips to the huge Chadstone Shopping Centre easier for people in Moorabbin and parts of Bentleigh and East Bentleigh who currently don’t have direct services – remembering that changing along the way is not a good experience given low bus frequencies, especially on weekends, which are the busiest shopping days.
The 627 will add another connection to the Frankston line from the Dandenong line, which can be useful when major delays (planned or otherwise) hit one line or the other, and it’ll serve the new McKinnon Secondary campus, though it won’t connect to the existing campus.
It adds to frequency on about 3.5km of route 822. (It also shares parts of routes 701 and 703, though not really in a way that adds very useful frequency.)
It runs more frequently on weekends than many other suburban bus routes: every 40 minutes instead of the typical hourly frequency. It’ll mostly run half-hourly on weekdays.
The bad news: The route structure is a zig-zag. Not particularly intuitive. This is partly due to challenges with the T-junction at the southern end of Tucker Road.
This route has been laid over the existing local bus network, without any other changes. Ideally this would have been an opportunity to straighten out route 822 to run along East Boundary Road, with this new route filling the gap, and/or straighten out route 626 along McKinnon Road (so that route could connect the two McKinnon SC campuses).
I wanted to talk in detail about the timetable.
The new 627 adds useful frequency to the section of route 822 between Chadstone and Leila Road (and as far as south as Centre Road if people can walk for a few hundred metres).
But the timetabling doesn’t make the most of this.
If I were planning it, I’d be particularly careful to aim for even frequencies southbound, departing from the most likely trip sources on the shared section: Murrumbeena station (particularly on weekday afternoons) and Chadstone (particularly on weekend afternoons).
Ideally northbound frequencies would be as even as possible too of course, but this is a secondary priority, since people can more easily time their departure from home. Timing your connection from a train arriving at Murrumbeena, or the arrival of another bus or the end of your movie at Chadstone, is a bit harder.
Unfortunately the planners haven’t quite hit the target here. Here’s how the combined service looks at Murrumbeena southbound on weekdays after 3pm:
Trains are every 10 minutes or better until 10pm, so the aim isn’t for buses to meet specific trains, but instead to provide a good frequency so that nobody has to wait too long for a connection.
Instead the combined bus departures are irregular. At the commuter peak, gaps vary as widely as 7 to 23 minutes. Not so good.
Given a total of 4 buses per hour, a consistent 15 minute combined service would have been better. (Back in the 1980s, the predecessor to the 822 was the 655, which ran every 15 minutes in peak as far as Stockdale Avenue, East Bentleigh – a bit further than the combined 627/822 route will run.)
These shortcomings aside, there’s a clear opportunity to grow commuter patronage to and from the station, which is great.
The last two bus departures for the night are scheduled 5 minutes after (then not so frequent) train arrivals – which is good – even better if bus drivers can wait a little while if the train is late.
There’s a quirk with travel time.
On the new route 627, Chadstone to Murrumbeena is timed at 7 minutes.
On the older route 822, it’s 9 minutes… despite the two routes being identical on that section. And there’s a similar discrepancy in the other direction.
It appears route 822 hasn’t been re-timed since the level crossing was removed and the route was straightened out to avoid the side street detour so it could stop outside the old station. That’s an issue which affects many routes serving stations rebuilt through the Level Crossing Removal Project.
How does the Saturday afternoon shopping rush look from Chadstone? Much better: each bus leaves every 40 minutes, and they’re pretty evenly spaced until 5:31 when the 822 drops back to hourly – then it’s a bit messier, for instance both routes are timed to depart at 6:11pm.
And weirdly, the 627 gets more frequent after 7:30pm.
What about Sunday afternoon from Chadstone? Not so good – route 627 is every 40 minutes, but route 822 is only hourly, so it’s messy.
The obvious solution would to upgrade the 822 to match the 40 minute frequency on Sundays, and to also tweak the weekday timetables to match better.
No doubt along the common part of the route, the two routes will share stops, including at Murrumbeena station.
At the Chadstone bus interchange? Unclear. Hopefully either a shared bus bay or adjacent bays.
Another point: Why was the new route given the number 627?
627 used to be the number used for what is now the 625 and 626 when they were one, long, confusing route.
Would it be better as, say, 820, to help sell the shared section with 822? (The route numbers 821, 823, 824 and 825 are already taken.)
Or are there future planned network changes that are coming into play here?
I’ve focussed on a local route, but the same principles apply across the public transport network.
The addition of extra services (and extra service kilometres) is very welcome. But as I noted in a 2014 blog post, these upgrades should not be planned in isolation.
The real aim is to help each new upgrade improve the overall network.
While the bus system needs more resources, there are lots of gains to be made from reviewing and revising the network: moving towards direct routes, where possible along main roads, and using the efficiencies gained to increase frequency.
The patronage growth in Smartbus routes shows this works, but it’s also been shown in other areas such as Brimbank.
The windy indirect routes are not useful to most people – and as this Twitter thread shows, it’s something of a myth that buses that stop everywhere suit people with limited mobility.
Monday’s State Budget provided not a lot of new funding for buses, so it makes sense to ensure the network is as efficient as possible at meeting suburban travel demand.
Hopefully this new route will help, and other upgrades will follow.
There is a widespread consensus in Australian policy circles that Australia should follow the US in almost any foreign adventure, though preferably on the cheap. The shining example of this was John Howard’s decision to publicly support the US in its war in Iraq in 2003, and yet send only a 1,000 special forces or so. Maximum alliance points, minimal actual risks and costs. Well done, John Howard.
Sure, the US and its Murdoch media empire heavily lobby and cajole Australian politicians and public opinion. Yes, joining the Americans makes one a bit of a target. And yes, of course there is a large element of corruption and laziness to the alliance.
Still, we’d be nuts to break up with the Americans. The best arguments come, ironically, from those who criticise the Americans loudly and convincingly.
The biggest reason to be with the Americans is that they are bullies. Yes, you read it correctly: the fact that they misbehave on the international stage is a very important reason to be with the Americans as all those who have opposed them have found out the last 70 years. Look at American decisions the last 5 years around the Golan, Jerusalem, Khassoggi, Venezuela, Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Cuba and Libya. The more we cry ‘injustices’, the more we should want to keep the Americans as friends.
All the ‘left-wing intellectuals’ who write about how many wars the Americans have started and how they have supported dictators and other *ssholes thus provide the strongest reasons for Australia to stay in the US alliance: the Americans get very nasty to those they see as enemies, particularly those who were former friends (think of Panama, Iran, or Venezuela). Why make ourselves the net target?
Sure, supporting the bully comes at a loss to others in the world, but not to us unless the other side really gets more powerful, in which case we can always switch. A new bully would recognise we are just the runt that follows the biggest bully, so it’s up to the new bully to show he is worthy of our allegiance. Till then, we stick with the one we know. That IS smart politics.
Can’t we do a New Zealand and simply be independent, I hear you ask? You see this written a lot, but New Zealand doesn’t have large American bases on its soil. Australia has huge American bases on its soil, which do not merely provide business for prostitutes but also gives the Americans a reason to become very nasty to whomever asks them to leave.
Also, NZ is essentially free-riding off the military protection offered by Australia. Australia needs a reasonably sized army. In turn, it is easier to have a modern well-trained army if one has integrated it with the best-equipped best-trained units of the US army. Going on foreign adventures, however ill-conceived, keeps the army on its toes a bit. Good training.
So no, the NZ option is closed to us. To have no army is not an option and to break with the US would weaken our army and cause a serious political conflict.
One should also not underestimate how popular the alliance with the Americans is amongst the Australian public, just as blindly following the Brits was before ‘we’ switched. Australians like to feel they are part of the winning team and there is a keen interest in being in the Western-block. It gives Australians a sense of belonging in the world. ‘We’ have loved being part of the war against terror and have happily accepted a few bombings as the price to pay. I say that with resignation, not relish. ‘We’ enjoy the role of runt, even more so when it gets some of us killed: Australians truly value obedience. Paying a price for the obedience simply makes it more real and hence more rewarding. You may not like it. I don’t like it. But you ain’t gonna change it in a hurry.
But, I hear you cry, what about the torture, the illegal killings, the bugging, Assange, etc., that comes with handing over basic foreign military policy to the Americans? To be blunt, Australians don’t care about such things and never have. Like the Americans, the Australians prefer not to know and are hence quite happy being lied to. If someone would force us to acknowledge such things you will find Australians would truly just shrug the shoulders, as all NATO partners and their populations have effectively shrugged their shoulders at all the misdeeds of the Americans. This includes the Norwegians and the Dutch, those paragons of virtue.
More broadly, if you are not competing to be in charge, you have to accept what your friends who are in charge do. It does indeed mean we are guilty of everything our American friends do, which is why we don’t want to know. Our hidden shame is the price of cowardice and an easy life.
Isn’t militarisation and the increase in the security state a threat to Australian democracy? Yes it is, but I am afraid that that is home grown and quite independent of the US alliance. Internal dynamics in Australia move us towards a class society with a nasty security establishment. It is not the Americans who fund or encourage the Anzac military marches reminiscent of Germany in the 30s.
What about the Chinese then and our strong economic ties to China: aren’t those at risk from a continued American alliance? Well, maybe. Many NATO member and other allies have stronger economic ties with China than the US, such as South Korea, which has not been a problem. We should surely keep trying to have our cake and eat it as long as possible, refusing to choose by pretending we don’t even see the choice.
How about a war with China though? As I have said in the past, China will become more important than the US and it is part of our task as their friends to help the Americans get used to it. That probably IS the best thing we can do for our long-run security: to stay close to the Americans and whisper in their ear that they can’t truly win against the Chinese and need to keep it cool. If it truly does come to a devastating nuclear war between the US and China, Australia indeed will be a target, but that’s a very remote possibility. Having over a million Chinese on our shores in that sense gives China a reason to go easy on us and try and win us over.
Shouldn’t we then at least invest in our capacity to think for ourselves? Yes, I do think Australia should invest in better education and international awareness for its own population, for all kinds of reasons, but our failure to do so is unrelated to the Americans. And we don’t want an Australian military that has smarter world-wise leaders. They would only make the Americans edgy about us.
Don’t I fear that a low-level US-China conflict, combined with growing inequality in Oz, will involve an internal dynamic where the rich plutocrats will fan resentment against the one million Chinese in Oz in order to keep the masses off their back? Yes, I fear that scenario, particularly if there is a major recession that brings the corruption of the elites to the attention of the population, at which point the plutocrats will need a scapegoat. Yet, that 1930s fascism scenario is essentially not dependent on the American alliance. If it happens, the reasons will be internal, with only the focus of the scapegoating influenced by the alliance.
In short, I do not really see any reason for Australia to become more independent in its military policy. We are aligned with the neighbourhood bully and follow where he goes. Like an Ostrich, we pretend not to see, so as to have the best of everything. That is the smart thing for the neighbourhood runt to do. We can always switch if a bigger bully emerges.
In the world of public transport, services are what counts.
Infrastructure is important, but ultimately, infrastructure is only built to enable services.
If the train only runs every 40 minutes, it’s a long wait whether the station is 100 years old, or shiny brand new.
Today is State Budget day, and it’s a good chance to look at the overall level of service around the network. The Budget Papers (the Service Delivery book) includes figures for total service kilometres for each mode.
To put these figures in context to see how the network is expanding against population growth, we can calculate service kilometres per person.
So how’s that tracking? These graphs are based on the 2018 Budget Papers:
(Edit: 7/6/2019: I messed up and used the wrong numbers on this graph. Corrected and updated below.)
On the face of it, that looks okay. It’s going up. Bus kilometres in particular show some growth.
However one should always be cautious about the most recent years. 2017 was the expected outcome, and 2018 was the target. We’ll see what those say in the 2019 budget papers.
(My assumptions: I’ve used metro train, metro bus and tram, and a portion of V/Line service kilometres, because V/Line serves parts of Melbourne’s west. And I’ve used Census figures for greater Melbourne’s population.)
Focusing on just Metro Trains, which is the backbone of the public transport network:
Again, an uptick. But the underlying figure for 2018 was a target of 23.8 million kilometres, a rise from 23.1 – or a bit over 3%.
Has that actually happened? Probably – the 7km Mernda rail extension opened, and there were some worthwhile service increases for the Dandenong line and a couple of others.
I’ll aim to update these figures later today – to see if reality has matched the forecasts, and what the plan is from here.
Update 8pm: Today’s budget includes some investment in additional train services (Metro and V/Line), expected from 2020 onwards – though the 2019-2020 expected service kilometres is the same as this year. It’s just as well something’s happening, as Metro patronage is continuing to grow – it’s looking like almost 5 million trips above the target for 2018-19.
There’s no increase in the target for tram service kilometres, and a minor increase in buses.
As a result of all this, for 2019-2020, the target service kilometres per person for Metro trains, and overall across the network, will drop slightly.
Values are observed in actions and choices, and rather less so in words. Competition policy has been applied with great relish to the labour market – at least at the bottom end. (Subject to our relatively generous basic and award wage arrangements). So restrictive practices of warfies and workers in manufacturing plants have been ended, and where they haven’t compromised worker safety or other valuable things, I expect this is a very good thing.
But back the top end of town, rigid demarcations remain, between doctors and nurses, baristas and solicitors (ok – barristers and solicitors, but you get my meaning). You might think this is because of the raw power of powerful professions in our society. And you’d be right. 1 But the thing is that economists’ and policy makers’ imagination seems to align with the power. The desirability of reforming professional licensing was always in the Chicago School catechism. 2
But in the case of Australian opinion leaders, not so much. I’ve been in numerous ‘How Good is Australia? Not good enough without more Reform. Why can’t we get back to the glory days of Reform?’ conferences of the great and the good when it’s not been mentioned. I brought it up at such a session run by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission and managed to get it onto the list, but not with any great enthusiasm from anyone.
And as many Troppo-didly-dillians will know, a few years ago the Abbott, though it may have been the Turnbull or even Gillard Governments, convened the Harper Review into competition policy which at some stage got it into its head that we should open up social services. Admittedly they did so in a manner that led Gary Sturgess to warn them at their conference “stop it or you’ll go blind”. No-one on the panel knew much about the human services they were arguing should be opened up and it occurs to me that if the draft report had had one of those mascots that are now de rigueur at the Olympics, it would be called “Thread Bear”. The final report purported to a little more knowledge, but not very convincingly. This then fed into a PC report which recommend five areas that might be opened up.
Be that as it may, it occurred to me that here’s another area ripe for opening up. Nick Kamper and I have previously argued for the opening up of government forecasting models – their release as open source models. But forecasting is exactly the kind of thing that should be opened up to all comers.
Currently our situation is not so unlike Philip Tetlock’s picture of forecasting in our society:
Accuracy is seldom determined after the fact and is almost never done with sufficient regularity and rigor that conclusions can be drawn. The reason? Mostly it’s a demand-side problem: The consumers of forecasting – governments, and the public – don’t demand evidence of accuracy. So there is no measurement. Which means no revision. And without revision, there can be no improvement. Imagine a world in which people love to run, but they have no idea how fast the average person runs, or how fast the best could run, because runners have never agreed to basic ground rules – stay on the track, begin the race when the gun is fired, end it after a specified distance – and there are no independent race officials and timekeepers measuring result, How likely is it that running times are improving in this world? 3
Indeed, in doing so government could move towards its classical role which is the ring master, designing forecasting tournaments – with forecasts in probabilistic form – which would actually generate retrospectively accountable information about the quality of forecasting and in so doing both rescue forecasting from suspected political bias as well as start identifying whose forecasts are best and so create the incentives for them to improve.
I think this is quite clever.
When trains or trams are partially closed for planned works, generally the less of the route is disrupted, the better.
But this is always limited by the placement of turnaround facilities. Witness the current Sandringham line closure: the major works are at South Yarra, but because (despite what was said beforehand) the infrastructure issue at Elsternwick hasn’t been fixed, the whole line is closed.
Over on the trams, they have an ingenious solution: a portable, temporary crossover. It was in use in Swan Street in Richmond (route 70) for a few days this week while tram platform stops are built:
This enabled them to terminate trams at Richmond station, with disrupted passengers able to either change to a train, or walk 400 metres to where trams could resume.
Apart from placement of the temporary track, they also needed to install some overhead wire. Of course it’s made easier to manage in this case by the road closure.
But it’s smart thinking, allowing trams to run as far as possible, reducing disruption for passengers, and avoiding the mess and cost of replacement buses.
For long term projects, it still sometimes happens. Over Easter, the Dandenong and Frankston lines near South Yarra were ripped up and rebuilt as part of Metro tunnel works, and will be ripped up again as the junction to the new tunnel portal is built. There have also been tram tracks relocated on St Kilda Road which may need to be relocated again as the tunnel works continue.
But overall, temporary track is less common in modern times, at least on short term projects.
If only it were this easy on the railways.
Saturday’s Federal Election result might have been unexpected by many, but it underscores the Coalition’s illogical obsession with East West Link.
Well, illogical from a transport planning perspective that is. Remember, it’s got a business case that says it will lose money – unless you include Wider Economic Benefits with which the Victorian Auditor General had, and I quote: significant issues (of) plausibility.
(This was also a reminder that you can’t always believe everything in business cases.)
It’s not really free money of course. It’s money from taxpayers. It should be spent wisely.
Being a money-losing project didn’t stop the Federal Coalition making a pledge of $4 billion for East West Link during the election campaign. Despite their claims, that doesn’t appear to be enough money to pay for it.
The $4b is only the government contribution – as per the 2014 business case. But the amount required is questionable given five years have passed, and there’s been some scope creep thanks to overlap with the WestGate Tunnel, and (perhaps) a proposal last year from the State Coalition to build the eastern tunnel portal further east.
There’s also the question of whether there’s construction industry capacity to build a third major motorway project (at the same time as WestGate Tunnel and North East Link), alongside numerous level crossing removal projects and the Metro tunnel. Heavy demand tends to drive up prices.
Obviously the Federal Coalition backed EWL yet again because of politics, but it’s not really clear why they remain so obsessed with it, since it didn’t translate into swings to them around Melbourne – apart from in Aston.
Everywhere else in Melbourne, there were swings away from the Coalition – maybe not enough to lose seats, but enough to move a good many electorates into marginal territory.
To be fair on the Feds, they also made a pledge for the Kooyong railway crossing removal – which amazingly isn’t on the State’s list. (The Coalition pledge also included studies for two others: Tooronga Road and Madden Grove). This is good – except that they insist it has to be rail under, because they’ve taken the State Lib line on skyrail… as if an elevated rail line will somehow spoil the view of the nearby elevated tollway.
If the Feds can get over their obsession with EWL – which of course they won’t – there are plenty of other projects they could be contributing to, including other level crossing removals and rail network duplication, which would provide huge benefits.
If they were feeling particularly mischievous, they could take on public transport projects that the State isn’t interested in, such as suburban tram extensions. Some, such as the 75 to Knox and Ferntree Gully, would even reach into the eastern suburbs electorates the Coalition is courting.
Equally there’s an argument that a spirit of genuine cooperation would see the Feds funding projects on Infrastructure Victoria’s short term priority list.
It’s not as if Melbourne doesn’t have already enough major road projects underway. Two new tollways is two too many.
Yes, these motorways all have short term travel time benefits, but history shows those won’t last. And there are ways of boosting access and economic activity that aren’t restricted to people who drive and can afford tolls, and don’t so easily get clogged if they are “successful” and people actually use them.
It’s worth noting that every time the EWL has been taken to an election, it’s lost: Kennett in 1999, Brumby in 2010, Napthine in 2014 (despite the side letter, which is what triggered the huge bill for cancelling it), and Guy in 2018.
And now 2019. It seems the Coalition hasn’t yet learnt their lesson.
This is a guest post by Brian Schmidt. Actually it isn’t, I’ve cut and pasted. I hope he doesn’t mind. Important stuff. HT: John Walker
Everyone in my office grew sick last week of my continual complaints about the state of the political polls. Not because of any insights into the results they were predicting, but because they were all saying the same thing with a collective similarity that violates the fundamentals of mathematics.
Since the election was called, there were 16 polls that published two-party preferred results ahead of Saturday’s vote. Every single one of them predicted the LNP winning 48% or 49% of the two-party preferred vote, with Labor winning 51% or 52%.
These polls were central to the public’s perception of this election, with everyone, including the media, ignoring the polls’ underlying uncertainties. These uncertainties typically far out-weighed most of the conclusions drawn from the poll results.
In 2019 it’s hard to get a poll right. No longer is there an easy way to phone a random sample of people at home using the White Pages. Those people who are contacted are less likely to agree to be surveyed than in decades past. This means that getting a random sample that really represents Australia is harder than ever.
But the one thing that is almost impossible to avoid is what is called sampling error. This uncertainty in a poll is caused by talking to a subset of people, rather than everyone. And no matter what you do, except polling more and more people (which is very expensive), you are stuck with it.
You can think of the uncertainties in the polls much like what happens when you flip a coin 10 times. You can expect to get the “right” answer of five heads quite frequently, but not every time. It turns out mathematics tells us that you’ll only get five heads 25.2% of the time.
If you do a similar calculation for the 16 polls conducted during the election, based on the number of people interviewed, the odds of those 16 polls coming in with the same, small spread of answers is greater than 100,000 to 1. In other words, the polls have been manipulated, probably unintentionally, to give the same answers as each other. The mathematics does not lie.
I say unintentionally because humans are biased towards liking to get the same answer as everyone else. We often make subtle choices, even in quantitative analyses, to get the answer we expect. Commonly called confirmation bias in science, many of the large experiments in physics and astronomy hide the answers of an analysis from researchers until they are completely done to avoid this effect.
I don’t know why the polls so badly missed the election’s actual result. But whatever led to the five polling companies to illegitimately converge on the same answer, must be a significant contributor. All five need to have a thorough and independent investigation into their methodologies, and all should agree to better reflect uncertainties in their future narratives.
The last five years have demonstrated to me the fragility of democracy when the electorate is given bad information. Polls will continue to be central to the narrative of any election. But if they begin to emerge as yet another form of unreliable information, they too will be opened up to outright manipulation, and by extrapolation, manipulation of the electorate. This is a downward spiral our democracy can ill afford.
• Professor Brian Schmidt is a Nobel Laureate in physics and the vice-chancellor of the Australian National University
I worked for the early Hawke government in 1983 and 1984 when I worked for Senator John Button. Hawke barely knew me then or later, but in 2003, I attended a dinner at Moonee Valley Racecourse in honour of the 20th anniversary of his election. Anyway, I happened to be at his table and made a point at the end of the dinner of going up to him, shaking his hand and saying “Thanks for being the only really good prime minister of my lifetime,” an assessment which I hold to this day.
Hawke and Keating, both at the time of their 13 years in office and ever since, have enjoyed a relative status surprisingly like Paul McCartney and John Lennon, respectively. Paul, like Hawke, was the babyface, the one more liked by your average Joe but John, like Keating, was the one with intimations of depth and drama. We look down upon those who seem to want us to like them – like Paul and Bob. They can’t be a Cool Kid – like Paul and John. In any event, it’s been becoming clearer that Paul was the greater talent in the Beatles, though they were both giants. And I’d say the same of Hawke versus Keating. Labor supporters are also always a sucker for a martyr, and Keating managed to measure up – along with Whitlam and Gillard.
Such fond thoughts are all very well, but in politics, you sign up to a struggle on behalf of those you claim to represent. You owe them everything you can manage to stitch together to achieve victory. If you want to be a grand failure, better to pick religion. Not politics.
In any event, to mark his passing I’m hoisting an essay I wrote in late 2007 trying to crystallise what seemed to me the lessons from the Hawke and Howard years with an obvious eye to the new Rudd government. What I’ve never told anyone before is that on publication, the new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd rang me and offered to create a post of Australian Strategist Laureate for me if I’d accept it. (I haven’t told anyone this before because I only just made it up.)
Just as Marshall McLuhan argued that, in media, the medium was the message, one can say something similar about style and substance in politics. The style is the substance or at least comes to determine it. The political history of the last generation particularly the contrast between Bob Hawke’s and John Howard’s styles illustrates my point.
Their rhetoric notwithstanding, Hawke’s and Howard’s economic ideologies weren’t far apart. Each sought prosperity through a vigorous market, and each supported substantial income redistribution. But the quality of governance differed considerably in ways that suggest lessons for the future.
Lack of resources and timidity in the face of inevitable scare campaigns ensure that opposition platforms are painfully incomplete blueprints for government. But the style of government influences the subsequent development of that platform for good or ill.
Three crucial and related elements of political style depend on whether:
- unity or division is emphasised;
- there is a cult of the strong leader as opposed to the leader being seen as an orchestrator of wider forces; and
- the extent to which populist themes dominate political rhetoric
Hawke provides us with the archetype of one style. Seeing himself as the conductor in an orchestra more than the strong man at the helm, his style was self-consciously inclusive. Of course, he was happy to use populist themes, but much of his political energy was dedicated to persuasion, to arguing a principled case for economic reform.
By contrast, Howard saw himself as the strong leader, and his instincts were populist and nationalist. As a result, his reign was remarkably free of policy momentum. And that robbed him of political momentum. Remarkably for a politician governing during a long boom, each election saw Howard come from well behind, needing to pull ‘a rabbit from his hat’ to use the expression that became a cliché by the time Howard’s time drew to a close.
The centrepiece of Hawke’s economic strategy was tackling both inflation and unemployment simultaneously by reducing real wages and doing so by agreement with the unions rather than with economic contraction. Despite widespread scepticism (such policies had failed elsewhere), things fell into place with great felicity.
Like all successful prime ministers, Hawke had his luck. But his consensus was the template on which a rich, new style of politics developed. A highly productive relationship grew around the framework of the Accord. The unions delivered lower disputation and wage restraint. Treasury and the central agencies sold the new government a backlog of economic reform that the previous government had baulked at.
Though not formally part of the structure, business leaders were also involved in the process. These new nodes of ideas and influence existed in a productive and dynamic tension with one another so that within a few years the Treasury, the ACTU, some business peak bodies and the government each under the sway of competent and pragmatic leaders were working very productively together.
Within just five years of Hawke’s election, the process of microeconomic reform had been articulated in a wide-ranging and mature form and it continued to unfold as governments committed and then implemented new policies over the next decade. And on the back of the revenue from rapid growth, the government bought continuing wage restraint, economic reform and major increases in transfers to poorer households.
By contrast, Howard’s accession to power was much less constructive. Sacking six departmental heads at the outset, his government’s relationship with the bureaucracy was serviceable but not particularly creative or productive. And while its relationship with business was close and sympathetic, business wasn’t a particularly useful partner in developing and implementing a political agenda.
Where Hawke enjoyed an extended honeymoon lasting beyond his 1984 re-election, Howard was in trouble within his first year. Introducing gun control and slashing expenditure showed political courage, but policy was a series of episodes rather than the unfolding of a growing policy vision.
Within 12 months of Howard’s taking office, there was increasing alarm at his directionlessness. In this circumstance, Howard took his economic policy vision off the shelf, as it were, promising the GST that Hawke and Fraser had shied away from. Though his subsequent re-election was inevitably regarded as a vindication, it was a difficult election to lose. And Howard lost it on votes, though he held sufficient marginal seats to retain government.
A leader with greater policy vision wouldn’t normally have needed this grand and near politically suicidal gesture.
To use the ungainly terminology of our time, Hawke’s strategy was triangulation, Howard’s was wedge politics.
Coined by Bill Clinton’s advisor Dick Morris, “triangulation” involves a leader presenting themself as someone above and between partisan politics, finding a creative but commonsensical course between left and right. As Katherine West used to observe, for quite some time, Prime Minister Hawke appeared above the ruckus and between the left and right.
As the expression suggests, wedge politics focuses on dividing one’s opponents or their constituency. At least where it’s been most devastating, wedge politics has appealed to populist sentiment. It appeals to the idea of a nation or a national culture besieged either from without as in the case of terrorism and asylum seekers, or from within as in the case of the culture wars against effete elites who are seen to court nihilism, relativism and cultural disintegration.
Now, these sentiments can make a good speech. In the right circumstances, they can win an election. But they are expressive, not deliberative. “We decide who comes here and the circumstances under which they come” is ill-suited to the unfolding of a coherent policy platform.
Of course, all democratic politicians juggle tensions between popular sentiments and policies that must be more carefully considered. Yet, not surprisingly, political strategising dominates the mind of most professional politicians. And where wedging is at best a distraction from the policy substance of governing, triangulation is a political strategy which is about policy rather than value-laden gestures. It facilitates a constructive integration of political strategy and rhetoric and policy development. Populist wedging frustrates it.
Further, though a government practising triangulation frequently steals its opponents’ policies, its focus remains itself. To the extent possible in the chancy game of politics, it remains the author of its destiny. By contrast, wedge politics is reactive both to evolving events and to its opponents. Thus, although one can think of some exceptions to this generalisation, while Hawke’s broad strategy was to marginalise his opponents as irrelevant, Howard’s approach was to exploit opposition weaknesses, so much so that his own conduct was often shaped by little more than the desire to draw his opponents into political dilemmas.
If his first year in office left onlookers wondering what he was trying to achieve, Howard’s last year was an apotheosis in which the style of sledging and wedging his opponents had become the substance. What policy direction there ever was had leached away, overtaken by a clearing of the policy decks (numerous policies being hurriedly reversed to neutralise the opposition’s policy advantage) and a symphony of improvised attacks on its opponents.
Howard improvised one political feint after another. The only time I can remember when I had less knowledge of what alarms and excursions might turn up in the next day’s papers was during the chaos that was the Whitlam Government.
With the recent AWB scandal leaving the government’s distain for the principles of ministerial responsibility fresh in the mind, the Minister for Environment got tangled up in the government’s attack on Kevin Rudd. With the government in high dudgeon about Rudd meeting persona non grata Brian Burke, the minister turned out to have done the same thing quite appropriately in his ministerial duties.
At this point, the principles of Westminster Government appeared, like some digitised folkloric creature in a Harry Potter movie with nothing but its uncanny weightlessness to give away its essential unreality. The minister resigned. His prime minister said he’d done nothing morally wrong. Others in his party said that in resigning hed done the right thing. The minister, smiling and magnanimous, was transparent about his party’s motivation, which was to clear the decks for intensified attacks on the Opposition Leader. And so, the once-grave principle of ministerial responsibility reasserted itself one last time under Howard, this time transformed into an ironic simulacrum of its former self — a walk-on walk-off cameo the tactical feint du jour in the news cycle.
And apparently seeking to expose divisions in the ALP, Howard managed to wedge his own party by embracing nuclear power. He then downplayed the conversion as a grateful opposition drove home its electoral unpopularity.
The rudderless in pursuit of Rudd.
Workchoices offers a pointed example of our themes.
Though Hawke never gained control of the Senate, the style and institutions of consensus politics also helped insulate him from this kind of political overreach. The search for consensus often identified politically viable means of making policy progress while addressing the concerns of major interest groups. And once policies had been broadly agreed, the partners to the process then helped sell the sometimes difficult messages that emerged, like the need to rein in expenditure, reduce real wage costs, protection and means test benefits.
In fact, as right-leaning labour economist Mark Wooden observed, Workchoices itself was far from clean or coherent as labour market liberalisation. In addition to introducing new red tape and arbitrarily restricting what could be negotiated, it maintained minimum wages that were relatively and absolutely amongst the highest in the world. And it was not integrated with other arms of policy, most particularly welfare.
Workchoices eroded wages and conditions for lower paid workers, though perhaps less dramatically than many feared. But Howard never clearly acknowledged the obvious political problem. He responded to the inevitable scare campaign with an Orwellian mix of advertising and spin seeking to highlight the positives. Even Workchoices Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) read like a marketing brochure, and was duly rejected as an inadequate appraisal of costs and benefits by the independent red tape watchdog. (As an aside, this was while the Howard government-appointed Banks Committee was coming up with a red-tape busting agenda. In 2007, with a refurbished regulatory gatekeeping infrastructure in place in the wake of the Banks Report, the hastily cobbled together “Fairness Test” also fronted with an inadequate RIS).
More importantly for the fate of the Howard government, in eliding the policy problem (the costs imposed on some) it ignored the corresponding political problem.
It needn’t have been that way. Hawke’s approach to engineering lower real wages was straightforwardly negotiated with stakeholders and so addressed these issues as an integral aspect of its design. Wage restraint was sold as equality of sacrifice for the greater good of the economy and community, and other arms of policy were mobilised to compensate workers through the social wage (Medicare) and through a wage tax trade-off.
Ironically, in 1999 the Business Council proposed something in this mould. It proposed and met with the ACTU to seek support for a wage tax trade-off which would have seen the minimum wage frozen in return for tax credits to compensate low income working families. But the government showed little interest.
If cost had been the problem or the fact that the compensation package was highly targeted and so created some losers in childless households, this constraint evaporated as the mining boom drove soaring company tax receipts. Remarkably, during the endless embarrassment of riches that followed, the government seemed endlessly caught short, cutting taxes in different ways in four successive years (without trying to buy reform with such measures) and improvising any number of different giveaways invariably multiples of $100 to specific groups. Beneficiaries included pensioners, self-funded retirees, parents. One year apprentices got $800 for their tool kit.
Had the government acknowledged the losers from Workchoices, explained its rationale and explicitly compensated them for it, history could have been very different.
Triangulation has been the political style of left-of-centre parties, whilst wedging has characterised the right. Yet, there’s no logical necessity for this. It would be perfectly possible for right-leaning parties to triangulate and so dominate the centre as to render their opponents irrelevant, but both here and in other countries, particularly the United States, they have practised divisive and populist wedge politics.
In fact, in Australia, we’ve had three right-leaning political leaders who have had powerful policy visions. They’ve not embraced wedge politics. Yet in presenting themselves as strong leaders, each has forsworn the resources the inclusion of triangulation. And each of those leaders — Hewson, Kennett and Greiner — was less politically successful than Howard the wedger, whilst enjoying no worse circumstances.
We’ve also had a left-leaning political leader Paul Keating mix the economic policy of triangulation with a new, more divisive style focused on his own strong leadership. Like the three Coalition politicians mentioned above, Keating’s style had more than a little of the crazy brave about it and, like them, his period of political supremacy was surprisingly short given his talents.
Prime Minister Rudd’s style is already emerging. Promising a new consensus across our country, he’s already pre-emptively launched a process by which his opposition number is undergoing trial by bipartisanship on Aboriginal affairs. These clues suggest that Rudd wants to be the conductor rather than the heroic leader, the uniter not the divider, the triangulator, not the wedger.
But Hawke’s success was built not just on his own style, but on what it brought forth most particularly the Accord and the creative tension this established with the bureaucracy as well as institutions such as EPAC. Critics could say – did say – that Hawke’s corporatism was undemocratic; that the right venue for such deal-making was not behind closed doors, but within Parliament under public scrutiny.
But shouldn’t governments set agendas both inside and outside Parliament? Indeed the Howard government’s failure to do so damaged both the quality of its governance and ultimately its own long-term political saleability. In any event, whatever extra-parliamentary institutions and pressures an accord can produce, Parliament retains its role in forming governments and passing laws.
Indeed, at a time when the executive so dominates Parliament, when political debate is so rarely permitted to rise above the relentless infotainment values of the media, one can argue that Hawke’s centrist corporatism enriched our deliberative democracy. Although invitations to the table were at the grace and favour of the government, the conversation once there was a genuine search for solutions, something that has become increasingly rare within the stage-managed public theatre of Parliament and party political combat. And once established within the Accord framework, politically difficult policy objectives like wage restraint were then sold to constituencies by the Accord partners.
But, as its period in power lengthened, the bureaucracy’s proximity to senior politicians ensured that its influence grew at the cost of others. Australia has a first-class bureaucracy and Treasury, the central bank and central agencies typically provide first-class advice. But it’s in the nature of such agencies to promote strong orthodoxies which can blindside them and those they advise. By the end of the ALP’s reign, economic reform had become formulaic and it had become all too easy for the defenders of the formula to mistake those arguing for new developments of those policies as their opponents.
Instead of letting it slowly atrophy, an alternative course was for the Accord to have deepened, for instance by broadening its agenda and its make-up. Its purposes would have changed as the issues changed; for instance, its role in wages policy would necessarily have been scaled back as enterprise bargaining spread. It would, however, have been an ideal vehicle within which to negotiate a wage-tax-trade-off of the kind discussed above.
While we debate across the trenches between left and right using weapons crafted from the experience of the US, England and New Zealand, there’s a strange beam in our eye about Ireland. In fighting its way out of the economic despond of 17% unemployment in 1987, Ireland emulated Australia. Like us, Ireland embraced fiscal and wage restraint and it did so with an accord between government, employees and employers. But, as our Accord withered and was duly dispatched upon Howard’s victory in 1996, Ireland’s social partnership grew in stature and now enjoys bipartisan support. Since 1987, Ireland has roughly doubled our own impressive per capita economic growth. It was one of Europe’s poorest countries. It’s now one of its richest.
The idea that innovation in practical affairs might be central to Australia’s destiny has deep roots in our history. In the late 1930s, Australian economic statistician Colin Clark expressed his own ambitions in response to John Maynard Keynes’ entreaties to Clark to return to England.
I am reaching the conclusion I want to stay in Australia. People have minds which are not closed to new truths, as the minds of so many Englishmen are: and with all the mistakes Australia has made in the past, I still think she may show the world, in economics . . . .
By the mid-1990s, we were showing the world, which watched and imitated our best innovations — HECS, the Child Support Agency, Rural Research and Development Corporations, welfare targeting, and the list goes on. But the atrophying of the Accord, and the loss of political confidence engendered by the early ’90s recession (and Keating’s more divisive style?) robbed us of confidence to build imaginatively on that accomplishment.
Today, after a long detour from which we might surely have hoped for more, the possibility presents itself anew. Though, as usual, we’re sceptical, the government’s exploratory 2020 Summit at least suggests an appetite for the challenge. Hawke’s two summits attracted similar scepticism before their event. But both were the beginning, not the end of a process by which we built the institutions and political culture capable of meeting the challenge.
Let’s hope we can do so again, and that both political parties come to sustain the effort for decades to come.
Episode 5 of the final season of Game of Thrones showed us a vengeful fallen angle, Daenerys Targaryen, after whom thousands of children in the real world have been named. Even though her enemies had been defeated and surrendered, she nevertheless used her massive weapon, a fire-spewing dragon, to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians. We get to experience this from the point of view of the victims who are incinerated: men, women, and children.
I see this episode as the crowning moment of George Martin’s career. He wrote the books and scenarios on which the tv-series is based. He has shown us and told us about the cruel side of humanity time and time again, but many of us did not take this personally. To worm his way into our minds, he gave us a heroine who overcame sexual abuse and umpteenth set-backs to become a powerful ruler who did many good things.
Daenerys liberated the slaves of an entire region. She helped defeat an army of ice zombies who otherwise would have killed everyone on the continent of Westeros and turned it into a zombie wasteland, thus saving all the generations to come. She hence saved hundreds of millions of lives, losing many of her best friends and allies in the process, risks she knowingly took. Those are good deeds of the highest order. She was and to some extent will remain, on balance, a heroine.
But throughout her on-screen struggles these last 10 years she was ruthless, not blinking an eye when her brother was killed by having molten gold poured over him, crucifying hundreds of ‘slave masters’ as punishment for their actions. The noble side of her character was fanned by adulation of freed slaves and warm relationships with her closest friends, Melisandre and Jorah. Their influence tempered her continuous preparedness to use her children, three fully grown fire-spewing dragons, to lay waste to the bastions of her enemies.
When her closest friends died, two of her dragons were killed, and her role in saving the whole of humanity on Westeros did not bring her the adulation and love she so desired, Daenerys did exactly what she had promised to do and was foretold to do in all previous seasons. She broke the game of power in Westeros and turned its biggest city to ashes. She did it partly out of revenge, partly in order to instill fear and thus loyalty, and partly out of a ruthless bloodlust that ran in her family and in herself.
Letting us, the audience, get so close to Daenerys and all her emotional ups and downs throughout the years, has made many of us feel we have partly done all the good things she did. George RR Martin trapped us in her story by letting us see her develop and gain what we also crave: connection, appreciation, redemption, love, lust, and, above all, power. Many of us excused her excesses and coldness, ignoring all the warnings and prophesies, not because we did not recognise this potential in her or even ourselves, but because she was the symbol of how we want to see ourselves. We were made to trust that she would never give in to seeing everyone as expendable in her drive to rule.
Now George RR Martin has sprung his trap and confronted us with what I think he believes is the truth about humanity: in our desire for power we are prepared to do anything to anyone. All the rationalisations and moralising about who we are and why we do things ultimately will make way for our drive to power when the opportunity for power comes. Power blinds us and, particularly when the drive to it costs us emotionally, it estranges us from others and makes us do things we initially never imagine we would be capable of.
It is this shattering of the image of ourselves that is so unsettling. We are made to realise who was always behind the mirror.
There has been mass disappointment among fans. In their bewilderment at being told that this is not merely how their hero is, but how they themselves all are, they go through the phases of grief: denial, anger, bargaining.
The disappointment of the fans shows you how successful George has been in springing his trap (and in the amazing ability of HBO to have kept it a secret so long). The fans latch on to accusations of how the tv-makers have cheated them by rushing the story, not flagging enough that this was coming, betraying the essential character, or something else. The reason for this denial and rationalisation is obvious: they wanted to be allowed to distance themselves from Daenerys and hence not experience what they have just experienced – the momentary realisation that what she did is in all of us. The horror of war is the horror of what we are all prepared to do to others in our lust for power. We suffer when others do this to us and we inflict the suffering when we do it. Just for a moment George RR Martin has truly managed to drive home the message he has told us ever since the first episode some 10 years ago: power blinds all of us and corrupts most of us, except a few fools who get themselves and others killed by their naivete (Ned and John).
Well done George, you have spent your artistic life well. You have managed to engender a realisation amongst millions, however temporary, that humans in modern societies have not often had and that they quickly forget after their brief glimpses of it.
Just after World War I was another such moment. We knew that Great War was due to human stupidity. It was recognised as being a stupidity that belonged to all of us, not merely the elites who decided. We knew the leaders were stupid in sleepwalking into that war. We knew the soldiers were stupid for enthusiastically walking to their deaths and empowering their leaders by their obedience. We knew whole populations were stupid for being so full of themselves and so hell-bent in imposing their collective will on other people that they cheered on both leaders and soldiers, giving neither of them a choice but to follow-up on the collective stupidity. Power lust blinded whole populations and lead them to gas, bomb, maim, and shoot each other in unimaginable orgies of destruction. For a brief moment afterwards, surrounded by cripples and widows, we knew. In that moment, we vowed never to forget.
Yet, we forgot quickly. The truth was replaced by parades of glorious soldiers professing how noble their cause was, organised by elites that wanted the population to keep empowering and obeying them, egged on by populations that wanted to believe in their collective glory and infallibility. The window for truth was short because humans in modern societies are trained to be blind to their own powerlust. That blindness is part and parcel of a society where we are nicer to others within our society than we need to be prepared to be towards enemies outside that society. That duality is solved by having most people believe they would not be violent and ruthless unless it is for a just cause. The lie that we are all fluffy bunnies to some degree ceases to be a lie when it comes to our behaviour inside our group. Yet, we normally do not really look closely at whether the cause is just when we murder the enemies outside. We behave like feral beasts to outsiders, but we try not to know.
Yet, our power lust remains undiminished. We are not fluffy bunnies. Our desire for power is what makes us cheer on and identify with powerful rulers on screen, no matter what they do. When we see films about him, we forgive Alexander the Great his great cruelty, which included the burning and rape of entire cities, because we imagine ourselves to be him and have that power. We fawn over stories of Henry VIII with his many wives because we revel in the idea that we are also so powerful and adulated, conveniently blotting out the fact that he was a genocidal murderer on whose orders the North of England was pillaged. We cheer on ‘our leaders’ when we look at war films, choosing not to remember things like the bombing of Cambodia or the genocide of the Khoisan. We cheer on butchers because, in the end, the power attracts us more than the butchering repels us. That doesn’t make us evil, it is just who we are. It is the job of artists to remind us. It is the job of those who devise the institutions of society to keep that truth in the front of their minds.
George Martin for a moment shattered our collective illusions. Thank you to George and to the thousands who helped him spring his trap. You reminded us of who we really are and of the human costs of what the game of power does to us. Lest we forget.
But first I need to get these points out of the way:
So often it seems the politics of climate change in Australia comes down to cold hard cash: the cost, the impact on jobs.
They never seem to consider the cost of not acting.
No matter how much I might dislike the rhetoric, for some people it resonates, and it seems in Australia, real action on emissions reductions may continue to be resisted for this reason.
But what I think might (hopefully) get things happening is if it can be shown that actually, cutting emissions can save money.
Technology is getting cheaper over time, and this is changing the equation.
Everyone knows the importance of affordable reliable power.
Recent power reliability problems such as on January 25th were caused by coal failures. Coal is becoming expensive and unreliable.
No wonder coal is on the way out, with 13 coal power stations shut down in Australia since 2012.
Meanwhile effective large-scale battery systems have emerged that are
overcoming store and dispatch issues with renewables, contributing to stabilisation of the grid, which in turn demonstrably cuts power costs.
This means I’m not convinced anymore that clean means unaffordable and unreliable.
(People like to talk about baseload power, but what’s really important is dispatchable power – in other words, available when and where it’s needed.)
Britain recently went a week without coal power. Okay, so it included 46% gas and 21% nuclear, but they still think they can regularly get by without coal and gas by 2025.
The cost of PV panels is dropping, making both large-scale solar farms and household solar a good investment.
Given labour is becoming the biggest cost in many industries, it makes sense that over time, the once-off installation and maintenance of renewable energy generation will end up being cheaper that paying people to continually dig stuff out of the ground and burn it.
In fact the economics of it means that even people who don’t believe in climate change are jumping on this bandwagon.
Tony Pecora, the now disendorsed Clive Palmer/UAP candidate for Melbourne, who believes that the IMF and the World Bank “are pushing the idea of climate change so strongly … because having a global-based carbon taxation system is one of the most effective ways of centralising financial power” (his actual words) and yet his day job is installing solar panels!
Meanwhile the cost of electric vehicles is dropping, with some models set to drop to the same price as their petrol counterparts by next year. That’s high-end vehicles initially, but even for models such as Toyota Camry it’s likely to be between 2022 and 2024.
The Coalition’s bleating against electric vehicles is utterly ridiculous. They’ve gone in hard against them just because Labor has decided to support them – a reminder that politicians will say almost anything to get themselves elected.
The key claim that electric vehicles are under-powered is just simply wrong. Here’s a video of a Tesla pulling a Boeing 787.
With other countries moving on this, vehicle manufacturers are also moving off petrol. Mercedes just announced half of their new vehicles will be electric by 2030, with all switched by 2039.
Electric vehicles won’t fix traffic problems, but do reduce pollution in cities, and if combined with renewable energy, will help cut overall pollution and emissions.
Transport investment has outcomes in emissions.
Because transport is supply-led, funding more road infrastructure results in higher emissions (especially while the bulk of the car fleet is petrol) whereas providing better public transport (particularly when powered by renewables) gives people options to leave the car at home more often, helping to cut emissions.
Victorians who consider transport infrastructure important have a stark choice in Saturday’s election. The Coalition says they’ll fund the East West Link. Labor says it’ll fund the Suburban Rail Loop.
SRL isn’t perfect. Most would agree it isn’t as important as Metro 2. And the whole concept still needs fleshing out. But I’d rather have it than EWL any day.
Lots of people want action on climate change, but the way the economics are going, even those who don’t particularly care will soon be choosing to buy electric vehicles and rooftop solar – because it’ll be cheaper.
And power industry investors will be building renewables, not coal, because it’ll be cheaper. The dinosaurs will be left behind.
So I suspect climate change action will come, with of course plenty of other benefits from cutting pollution.
But this is not an excuse for our political leaders to do nothing. On the contrary – they should be pushing harder for change, to help us ride the wave, not swim against it.
It’s not just good for humanity, it can also ensure that Australia doesn’t miss out on opportunities to be at the forefront of a huge technological shift as the world decarbonises.
So the good news is that money will force progress.
The bad news it it won’t be enough.
The science says CO2 needs to get down to a level of 350 parts per million to stabilise the climate. It’s just gone above 415, the highest in human history.
Something has to happen, and quickly.
It’s all very well for us to just follow the money to cleaner energy and reduced emissions, but stopping dangerous climate change should be a higher priority for our political leaders and policymakers.
Vote well, Australia.
Peter Dempster asked me to post this follow-up post to an earlier one of his. Nicholas
Vote 1 for your preferred party but then do something very unusual – Vote 2 for the opposing party, symbolically joining the major parties on your ballot. Make this the trademark vote of the Australian CENTRE, a demand for much less division and much more compromise in Australian politics. 70% of voters agree … political parties should ‘meet in the middle’. (Essential Poll, 18 July 2017)
If we can’t do this, how can they?
|Either: Vote 1 for LABOR
& Vote 2 for LIBERAL/NATIONAL
|Or: Vote 1 for LIBERAL/NATIONAL
& Vote 2 for LABOR
If you Vote 1 for a minor party or independent, consider joining the major parties further down your ballot, say, at 2+3 or 3+4.
CENTRE votes will be detected in poll results – polling station by polling station, suburb by suburb. Such that Australia’s CENTRE can stand up and actually be counted, not divisively assigned to one party or another as ‘their’ voters. Only 18% of Australians say they identify with either the left or right wings of politics.
Most importantly, CENTRE votes suggest a readiness to flip, a quiet threat to unseat the most divisive politicians.
It’s a symbolic vote but symbols are essential. Flags are symbols; hi-vis vests and school uniforms are symbols; hair styles and tattoos; handshakes and signatures; hugs and kisses. Putting the other party last, as instructed by each party’s how-to-vote, is also a symbol. But a symbol of disgust and mistrust, which is not what most of us want to say to each other; only 18% of voters identify with either left-wing or right-wing politics. So, on 18 May, let’s rally ourselves, come together, look around to find we are not alone, realise the strength in our numbers; proclaim the CENTRE from both sides of politics. It’s the start of a long road back to where we need to be.
It is important to vote CENTRE for the Senate, not just the House of Representatives. There is an exhaustive reporting of Senate preferences, such that the CENTRE vote can be fully documented.
The Senate ballot paper can be challenging. If you need a cheat sheet in the polling booth, you will find how-to-votes at thecentrevotes.org. There are always three: one each for those who Vote 1 LABOR, those who Vote 1 LIBERAL/NATIONAL, and those who vote minor party or independent. All can adopt some version of the CENTRE vote, declaring what they have in common, not just how they differ.
Then what happens?
The CENTRE’s objective is to establish a political audience and constituency that is neither left wing nor right wing. Such that pollsters take an interest in what CENTRE voters think, rather than assign us to a party – LABOR, LIBERAL, GREEN and so forth. Political journalists do more stories that interest the CENTRE, focusing on the pre-selection, behaviour and abilities of individual politicians in respect of … meeting in the middle. Politicians better understand they must appeal to the CENTRE, most importantly, by creating non-partisan processes and institutions to resolve the many difficult issues that we face. Thus, a rejuvenated, and depoliticised public service, genuine public consultation, anti-corruption commission, evaluator general, independent commissions to deal objectively with tough issues, fewer rollouts of half-baked policies a few weeks or days before elections.
The CENTRE may need a ‘big stick’ of the kind favoured by Teddy Roosevelt … speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far … to jointly threaten the careers of divisive politicians on both sides of politics. That requires more political innovation and will take some organising. Importantly, however, the CENTRE will have expressed a need felt on both sides of politics.
Improving my house’s heating and cooling and energy efficiency is an ongoing project.
This week it was wall insulation.
Obviously this is best fitted when the house is built, but in a house built circa 1930, the only way is to retrofit it.
They do this by drilling small holes in the walls all the way around the house, then spraying in filler stuff into the wall cavity.
They’ve filled the holes, but they’ll need sanding and painting, which leaves me somewhat regretting I didn’t do this before I got the house painted in 2015. Not to worry, but for now the house looks like it has measles.
Last year’s winter gas bill (covering 15th June to 15th August) was a whopper, at $489 ($7.87 / 354 MJ of gas per day) – similar to 2016. (In 2017 we were away on holiday for some of winter.)
I’m hoping that by getting the new insulation in time for winter, the gas bill for winter this year can be reduced quite a bit – hopefully daytime warmth can be better retained into the evening and overnight.
It might be a while before the investment (not insubstantial) pays off, but already there’s a noticeable difference, which is good.
Future options around the house include: