Saturday, October 22, 2005

Bracks Urban Growth Boundary Mints $4 Billion If You Can Buy Labour Party Mates

Development should be something everyone has an opportunity to be involved in, not something reserved for the politically well-connected. But today it turns out that a Malaysian developer who has hired the right Labor Party insiders stands to get permission for a $4 billion estate in an area where everyone else has been told to forget about further development.

The Age is carrying 3 articles today (1, 2, and 3), and NineMsn is also carrying the story of how if you hire credible Labor Party heavies like former minister in the Cain government David White and former MP under Paul Keating Neil O'Keefe to lobby for you, suddenly the Urban Growth Boundary becomes a lot more pliable.

Now Brackswatch happens to believe that development should go ahead at Rockbank, if the land owners want to develop their blocks. As Nicholas Gruen points out, smart planning policies like Melbourne 2030 artificially drive up property prices. Such policies mean that the cost of land as a proportion of a house price has risen from 20% in the 1970s to 40 - 70% today. However land development, like any other business, should be open to anyone willing to put up the capital, not simply to those who can buy the right connections in Spring Street.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Insight into the Socialist Left

It is marvellous when internal factional documents get a public airing. The real value is that it shows what the key players in the political parties are really thinking, rather than what they normally disseminate for public consumption. This is certainly the case with the Socialist Left ("SL") faction of the Australian Labor Party and their manifesto for election to internal party positions within the Victorian branch.

State and Federal Policy
The delegates you elect to State Conference will vote for our state election platform, our State policy committee members and Victorian delegates to the National Conference. SL candidates support, and will vote for members of policy committees and delegates to National Conference who support, progressive policy positions, including:
• No more privatisation of essential public infrastructure and services, and a re-examination of ways of funding public infrastructure investment, including direct government investment and public sector borrowing; [9C: State ownership funded by deficits, presumably the Cain/Kirner Victorian Labor Government (1982-1992) was a model of fiscal rectitude]
• An independent foreign policy, based on Australia's national interest, and a recognition that our national interest is best served through our participation in multilateral relationships with other nations; [9C: 'independent foreign policy' is SL code for decoupling Australia from our defence and security relationships - particularly with the United States. This would probably require the doubling of defence expenditure in order to maintain comparable levels of security]
• The protection of Australians civil liberties and democratic rights as a key part of any security legislation; [9C: SL code for going soft on potential terrorists]
• Industry development policies to reinvigorate our traditional manufacturing industries and support the development of new industries creating jobs and economic growth for Australia; [9C: SL 'dog whistle' for pouring taxpayers' money into uncompetitive industry sectors where Socialist Left trade union strength predominates. Maybe we a few billion petrodollars could be borrowed to finance this scheme (see under 'Jim Cairns' and 'Rex Connor'). In North Korea this is known as the 'Juche Theory']
• Removal of the private health insurance rebate and the reinstatement of Medicare as the key element in funding our public health system and providing a universal health care system for Australians; [9C: significantly this is a policy denied by Left faction member and health spokesperson Julia Gillard, despite suggestions in the 'Latham Diaries' that this is what a Latham Labor Government would have done. This policy would increase private health insurance costs by 30% and make it unaffordable for millions of Australians]
• Defending workers right to organise and collective bargaining; [9C: the SL faction must look after the interests of its trade union proprietors]
• Protection of our natural environment, including the control of green house gases, sustainable water use and conservation strategies and greater government support for the development of wind and solar energy; [9C: some factional motherhood lines to keep everybody in the tent, but some of these energy cost increases would create difficulties for the 'traditional manufacturing industries' that they want to shower with taxpayer funds]
• Restoring the balance of Federal education funding between public, parochial and elite private schools. [9C: SL code for punishing parents who save to finance an education for their children outside the teachers' union dominated State system]
A wonderful insight into the thinking of a major constituent element of the putative alternative government in Australia. Remember that this faction controls about 40 per cent of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Victorian School Students In Stinking Third World Conditions

Reports today that Victorian state school buildings are among Australia's
come as no surprise given the Bracks Government's appaling neglect of school maintenance.

Facilities of some schools, particularly in rural Victoria are absolutely disgraceful. I recently visited Middle Indigo Primary School which would easily have the worst toilet block facilities I have ever seen. To describe their conditions as anything but third world would be an understatement.

It seems that this school - and many other small schools in rural Victoria - are out of sight and definitely out of the mind of Jacinta Allan and Lynne Kosky who are ensconced in a comfortable air-conditioned suite in a smart central Melbourne office complex.

However the students and staff at Middle Indigo Primary are forced to use a toilet block with no electricity and no locks on the doors. There is orange paint on walls signifying asbestos exposure and in the boys' toilets the urinal runs straight into the soil.

At nearby Barnawartha Primary School near Wodonga students are expected to learn in classrooms which are simply falling apart. Our students and teachers are being forced to study and work in third world conditions because the Bracks Government has slashed maintenance funding at our schools. Documents obtained under Freedom of Information (FoI) last year revealed dozens of schools were hundreds of millions of dollars behind in their maintenance.

The 2001 audit showed dozens of Victorian schools had massive maintenance backlogs, in some cases, running into a quarter of a million dollars.

Labor's Education Services Minister Jacinta Allan and Education Minister Lynne Kosky must come clean with the current maintenance backlog and renew funding to fix the stinking toilet blocks, peeling paint, poor heating, rotting window frames and leaking roofs.

It is bad for morale, and in some cases health, for students to go to school in such appalling conditions. How can we expect children to be enthusiastic and keen to learn when their classroom is stinking hot and the toilets are leaking and unhygienic?

Labor claims education is its number one priority, but it can't even get the basics right. The last time Labor was in office it left a school maintenance backlog of $700 million and by the time the next State Election comes around, our schools will be back in this position.

The previous Liberal Government implemented a world standard system for maintaining our state schools which was dumped when Steve Bracks took over government.

Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are worthy of consideration but would not have been necessary had the Bracks Government continued to properly fund school maintenance when it gained office six years ago.

Brackswatch would like to thank the contributor of this post, whose identity is as of yet unknown. Anyone else interested in submitting a post can do so here. It is also worth noting that a recent report by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training found Victoria's primary school curricullum to be among the slackest in the country.