Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Games Security Blowout: Safe but not Sorry

In amidst the backslapping amongst the M2006 Organisers, the Bracks Government and the rest of the country for a games achievement; Steve Bracks has admitted overspending on security by $70m. The government has conveniently remained under its self imposed spending cap of $697m by not including these additional costs. It's the kind of shifty accounting first year Commerce students learn, or that employed by Enron's smartest guys in the room.
It's fine that this move will not breach limits for specific Games spending, but in the end, taxpayers still pick up the bill. Victorians deserve better than Bracks.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bracks Rorts Bush Of Representation

In yet further proof of the disregard in which the ALP holds country Victoria, preselections for the three country upper house regions (Western, Northern and Eastern) have resulted in all winnable positions being allocated to Melbourne based ALP hacks [See The Age: Danger flagged for ALP in bush.

The six urban Laborites sent out to colonise country Victoria are Melbourne-based union officials Jaala Pulford and Gayle Tierney in Western regionl; the Housing Minister and Member for Broadmeadows Candy Broad and the member for Melbourne West Kaye Darveniza, in Northern Region; and the members for Chelsea and Monash, Matt Viney and Johan Scheffer.

The sitting member for bayside Chelsea, Matt Viney is the only one who has had the tact to at least become a nominal country Victorian, moving a few kilometres outside the urban growth boundary to Tonimbuk (20 km north east of Pakenham). The other five haven't even bothered to do that. Housing Minister Candy Broad won't even open an office in her prospective new electorate until she has been elected [See ABC: Minister rejects regional representation claims].

The voice of country Victoria, The Weekly Times, is censorious in its editorial (22/3/06):
Labor's Upper House Insult
The Labor Party has insulted country Victorians with its decision to stand Melbourne-based candidates in Victoria's Upper House country seats.
[...] It seems the Victorian Labor Party has abandoned country people in favour of factional deals. Dropping city-based candidates who have no involvement in rural Victoria into safe country seats shows contempt for country Victorians. Is Mr Bracks really suggesting that these candidates will spend most of their time outside Parliament in country Victoria? Or is he relying on the party's argument that half these candidates -- like himself -- grew up in the country? [...] Labor's latest decision shows the party's contempt for the country people who in 1999 put Mr Bracks in power.
Dianne Hadden, the former ALP member and MLC for Ballarat East, has said she is not surprised:

"Well, I think they will be and they certainly need to be [upset]," she said.

"The proposal by the Labor Party is to have their factional deals done, so that their union puppets are ensconced in the Western Region for the Labor Party and the two Labor Party union hacks will be ensconced in Melbourne."
- ABC: Claim
ALP faction 'puppets' moved into country seat

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Victoria must play role in tax reform

THE Commonwealth Games are nearly over. They have been well managed, great fun and the athletes have been magnificent.But have you ever wondered how the Government has been able to foot the very sizeable bill with almost effortless ease?

Well, Steve Bracks and his team have experienced one of the largest revenue windfalls in this State's history and they are actively spending it, including on the Games.
From 2000-01 to 2004-05, the Bracks Government received a revenue windfall of $17.6 billion, or a 20 per cent increase in expected revenue.

The main generator of this largesse has been the State's own taxes.
When the GST was first introduced in 2000, the tax cuts as part of the GST deal were expected to result in sharp cuts in state tax revenue. This was not expected to be recovered for at least seven years. The prediction turned out to be far off the mark. The economy boomed. The State's three growth taxes -- payroll tax, land tax and conveyancing fees -- pulled in money at a record rate. Total tax receipts were $7 billion or 18 per cent higher than expected over the past five years.

Then there was the GST. Over the first five years of its existence, revenue from the GST and other Commonwealth grants exceeded expectations by $4 billion.
In the main, the Bracks Government has done little more than maintain the status quo on tax and GST. It has twice, with great fanfare, announced tax cuts. However, these have been minor changes with little impact on revenue collections. And it inherited the GST deal and has met its commitments.

The Kennett Government undertook many reforms but did nothing on tax. It raised a number of non-business taxes to help reduce the budget deficit. It subsequently did not lower these or other taxes, so the Bracks Government inherited one of the most aggressive state tax systems.
As such, Steve Bracks has been able to do little while the money has rolled in at an increasing rate.

The Bracks Government, meanwhile, has increased receipted fees, fines and user charges by 25 per cent over the past five years. A small proportion of the revenue windfall -- $2.4 billion or 19 per cent -- has been spent on expanding the State's infrastructure base. The rest -- $15.2 billion -- has been consumed.

About a third of the windfall has been consumed on more and higher-paid staff including front-line staff. But for every additional teacher, nurse, doctor and police person hired, the Bracks Government has hired an additional bureaucrat. The remainder of the windfall has been consumed in an ongoing spending spree, including the Games.

Ron Walker has warned that we may suffer a bout of depression when the party is over. I suspect he is right.

(Mike Nahan: Herald Sun 25/3/06)

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

An Ode To The Bracks Government

Team Brackswatch has received the following submission from a reader. All readers are welcomed to make submissions using the link on the right.

I would like to thank the Bracks government for bringing us the Commonwealth Games.

I would like to thank them for using monstrous amounts of my money to turn a school sports event into a pseudo-Olympic games.

Thank you for thus ensuring that very ordinary Aussie athletes could thus stand tall among the pigmies of the sporting world.

Thanks to all the institutes of sport, who pay, house and feed mediocre athletes to enable them to become good mediocre athletes and not have to resort to actually working for a living.

Thank you to the Aussie athletes who whipped the pants off international powerhouses like Jersey, Swaziland and Banghalawootitoti.

Thanks to the Victorian tax payer, who will end up paying in excess of $500 each to subsidize the games.

Thank you for also taking up the slack and buying the tickets that were sent back when no tourists wanted to come to our party.

So, as I lie here in my little beddie, with a warm and fussy inner glow, I am so glad that $40 million was well spent on an opening ceremony and not wasted by improving our hospital waiting lists, helping the aged or upgrading schools and/or roads.
I can sleep peacefully and happy - thank you.

Oh, I almost forgot....a very special thank you to John Steffenson for carrying on like a drug-crazed pork chop - what a lovely "role-model" for our kids he is.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bracks' Victoria Follows NSW Into Housing Slump

Victoria is following New South Wales in dragging the rest of the nation into a housing slump, with housing starts across Victoria down 12.5% in the 12 months to Dec 31, 2005 [See The Age: NSW leads in house-building slump].

While the Bracks government while blame a general economic slowdown, the reality is that with the global and national economies stronger than they have been for years, it is not the broader economy, but the Bracks' restrictive approach to development that is stopping Victorians from building new houses. Just this week, a local councillor in suburban Melbourne complained to Brackswatch that limits on rural growth are seeing developers flee regional Victoria to middle suburban areas where the land simply isn't available for significant sized developments [See also Brackswatch: Bracks government destroys rural land values; Bracks Sardine City Exposed]. At the same time, the Bracks government is scaring owner builders and employers away from Victoria with new regulations, taxes [See Brackswatch: Bracks breaking another promise; Bracks Stops Charity With Fifteen-Fold Rise In Land Tax;], and lagging Victorian economic performance [See Brackswatch: Unemployment Under Bracks - Another Story Of Bracks' Underperformance].

The picture is clear: Victoria cannot afford another four years of the Bracks government's increased red tape, taxes and economic underperformance. Regional Victoria needs permission to grow. Urban Victoria needs to be protected from overdevelopment. All Victorians need an economic environment where employers are encouraged and facilitated, not loaded up with regulations, taxes and other obstacles to making a profit.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Connex Whinger Takes On Bracks Public Transpot Bureacracy

For all those of us who struggle with the daily commute on Connex trains, Connex Whinger may just be our new champion.

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Bracks joins the open mike club

Steve has been doing himself no favours recently, joining State Premiers Iemma and Beattie in letting fly with the cameras rolling and microphones on. Although not quite as rude as our northern neighbours, Bracks managed to:
  • Bag the state of the New South Wales economy: "We are going well, though. We are not like NSW here [...] our economy is going well."
  • Criticise the current New South Wales Labor leadership: "Morris just needs to get his team under control and show a bit of leadership. It's like if we lost three or four of our best we would be struggling too."

Although Morris Iemma has refused to seek out an apology, the damage has been done. Bracks can no longer be trusted to not offend others in Australia, even with his droves of minders escorting him around Victoria and the rest of the country.


Faris QC Blasts Bracks' Bill of Rights

Peter Faris QC has launched a blistering attack on the Bracks' government's ill-advised attempt to introduce a Victorian Bill of Rights. Using the platform of a new blog [see Bill of Rights Blog], he is dissecting every aspect of the issue, from the way that the Bill of Rights is actually being used to enact radical positive discrimination in favour of non-heterosexuals and aboriginals, to the way that the Bracks government has backflipped on it's initial promise that no Bill of Rights would be introduced without a referendum [see Bill of Rights Blog: An Aboriginal Bill of Rights, The Sexual Orientation Bill of Rights, The Case for a Referendum].

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bracks' Games: Stealing Police From The Country To Look After The Rich & Famous

The Bracks' government's Commonwealth Games ego trip will see six country towns left without police cars during the Games. Police cars and equipment are being co-opted from across country Victoria to ensure that Bracks' Games go off without any high profile embarassments [See Weekly Times: Siren sounds on seconded police cars].

No one denies that it is important to protect the Commonwealth Games from potential terrorist attacks. However the Bracks' method of doing this, stealing Police from country Victorians to look after the celebrity athletes and guests in central Melbourne, highlights the priorities of this government: athletes, celebrities and events who star front and centre on TV are worth more to this government than the safety of ordinary voters' families, and the security of their homes and businesses.

Victoria Police claim that it will be business as normal in country Victoria [See ABC Gippsland: Police says Games won't affect normal policing], the Police Association, and the facts, suggest otherwise. If a country town is left without a police car, police are limited to investigating those crimes and responding to those incidents which are within walking distance. While this might be suitable in Jolimont or Parkville (ironically enough, the very places where these towns' police cars will be!), it is manifestly unsuitable in country areas where police in these towns are responsible for policing areas covering hundreds of square kilometres.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bracks Government Destroys Rural Land Values

The "business-friendly" Bracks government's anti-development zoning changes are about to destroy hundreds of millions of dollars in land value across Victoria, with disastrous effects for local councils across the state. [See Herald Sun: Rate rise fear with land law]. Property prices for smaller rural blocks are expected to drop significantly as a result of new zoning laws which restrict development on rural blocks under 40 hectares in size - forcing councils to raise rates on other property to make up for the loss of revenue.

The rules also threaten to push out of reach the dream of many Victorians to move to the country and live on the land. The cost of going bush promises to become heart-breakingly prohibitive as homebuilders are forced to search out rarer, more expensive and harder to maintain blocks of 40 hectares or more.

The Bracks government portray themselves as encouraging Victorian businesses to be world-class [See Business Victoria: Become A World Class Performer] but it seems they are intent on keeping country Victoria out of the class.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Story Is In The Papers

Four articles in today's papers tell the story of the Bracks Government:

1. Quashing debate: Sport, weather, traffic and major projects (preferably ones that have been announced no more than a dozen times already) are all suitable topics for discussion in Bracks' Victoria. Serious topics however, such as abortion [See The Age: Bracks steps in to quash abortion vote] are not for discussion however, at least not in an election year when their discussion risks requiring Bracks to actually say something of substance and conviction.

2. Second fiddle: Bracks doesn't even put up a fight for Melbourne against Sydney. As The Age has shown, a Melbourne company, represented by Melbourne lawyers, is the subject of an inquiry taking place in . . . you guessed it, Sydney!!!! A vocal leader of this State would have got on the phone to Philip Ruddock as soon as the inquiry was proposed, to make sure that the $25 million of fees were spent in Melbourne, the natural home of the AWB Inquiry.

3. Sleazy: You can't cut down a tree or build a granny flat in Bracks' Victoria without a host of permits, licenses and authorisations. But apparently you can set up a new strip club without even having to apply for a new license.

4. Fat cats: Under Bracks the glitterati, the big end of town business boys, the TV, Sports and Entertainment Celebs, anyone with a name to make them stand out, gets looked after by the State Government. See how they fork out free tickets and complimentary packages, not just for honoured leaders like Her Majesty, the Governor-General and Prime Minister John Howard, but for multi-millionaire celebrities like Elle MacPherson, Eric Bana and Geoffrey Rush.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bracks has tickets on himself, and the ALP

Steve Bracks has been caught breaking his own law, forcing Progressive Melbourne, a fundraising entity of the ALP, to re-issue its invitations without the Commonwealth Games Logo (left). Under the Commonwealth Games Arrangements Act of 2001, the illegal use of said logo carries a fine of up to $60,000, but all indications are the Bracks will not shoot his own party in the foot, and let this one slide.
The Labor Party love in, which would have hosted the Premier himself, as well as Commonwealth Games surpremo Justin Madden, and other leaders in their chosen sports.

In a further demonstration of lax work by Steve Bracks, one of his own backbenchers sent a calendar to his constituents, bearing a photo of Karak, and the same logo.