Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Age At It Again

It's hard to believe, but the opinion writers in both versions of the Age have come to knock the Bracks government of late. The latest instalment, State cabinet looking old, complacent, by Jason Downling hits home on how Steve Bracks has failed, or lacks the confidence to, promote new blood into the higher levels of Cabinet.

Nine months out from the 2002 state election, the Premier reshuffled his cabinet as a "blueprint" for the future and to "strengthen the Government's focus". He should have done the same this time.

Instead, lame duck ministers who will either retire at the next election or are unlikely to retain their seats in cabinet will be selling policies to the public that they will not be around to implement or be held accountable for. The Premier has sacrificed renewal and accountability for an image of stability. As one senior Labor strategist observed last week, "we don't want the public thinking about change".
If anything, there has been a concentration of responsibilities in about six senior ministers, despite the cabinet expanding from 18 to 20 - a concern for a Premier looking towards a third term.
Does the Premier not believe any of his less burdened ministers were up for the task? Is the reluctance to introduce new blood into the cabinet a sign he has little confidence in his 15 parliamentary secretaries or his 51 backbenchers? How deep does this Government really bat?

Voters will have to wait until after the next state election to find out. Steve Bracks will be forced to make ministerial changes if he wins in November.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Brackswatch Tops Bracks

Put Bracks Victoria into the Google Search engine, and the first two results belong to brackswatch, before a Steve Bracks release from October 05.


Report Targets Bracks, Bureaucrats

A committee report, released out of parliamentary sesssion, has criticised senior public servants for awarding themselves bonuses, as well as the inclination for the Bracks Government to use public monies for advertising itself.

This reminds an amusing episode of Yes Minister, Doing The Honours, where the performance of senior public servants had nothing to do with their honours being presented; it was just a natural progression.

Jim Hacker: "When did a civil servant last refuse an honour?"
Bernard Woolley: "Well I think there was somebody in the Treasury that refused a Knighthood."
Jim Hacker: "Good God. When?"
Bernard Woolley: "I think it was 1496."
Jim Hacker: "Why?"
Bernard Woolley: "He had already got one."

Less amusingly, and more important, are the safeguards recommended to prevent the government selling itself. A series of advertising campaigns, 05/06 financial year had attracted "recurring political and media controversy", the committee said.

These include:
  • $122,000 on advertising a yet to be compelted Spencer Street/Southern Cross Station
    (Exhibit 4.5 P143)
  • $135,171 telling Victorians about the different colours of number plates available
    (Exhibit 4.4, P144)
  • $42,860 trumpeting the Bracks ban on cattle grazing in Alpine National Parks
    (Exhibit 4.5, P153)

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bracks 1999 Giveaway Could Cost Taxpayers Millions

Crikey has the scoop on how Steve Bracks' promise to increase the flows in the Snowy River to 21% by 2012 could cost Victorian taxpayers millions.

Bracksy had to make the promise because he didn't actually win the election, he only won 42 seats in the 88 seat lower house, compared to 43 held by the Coalition. As a result, 3 independent MPs, one of them Craig Ingram, held the balance of power. And Steve needed that balance of power. He really needed it. How else would people learn to remember his name, than if he became Premier? Destined otherwise to a life of anonymity, Bracks needed those votes to become Premier.

So he made the proverbial deal with devil and promised Craig Ingram, a new Independent MP from East Gippsland, to increase the flows in the Snowy to 21% by 2012. It didn't seem hard, it wasn't going to cost money, it wasn't going to make anyone angry, and it did establish some very nice shiny new Greenie credentials. So why not? 21% by 2012. After all, it's just water, isn't it?

Steve Bracks isn't the rain man though, he couldn't just get that water from thin air. It had to be taken from somewhere, or someone, or more particularly, Snowy Hydro, the generation part of the Snowy Mountain Scheme.

The same Snowy Hydro that today, Steve Bracks wants to sell. The same Snowy Hydro that tomorrow, might be suing Steve Bracks's bum in court for the millions of dollars it has lost. All because Steve Bracks didn't really win the 1999 election . . .

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Brackswatch Ranked by Honor Network

For the ranking of the month of April, Brackswatch has been placed at number 23 on the rankings of the Honor Network, for Libertarian & Conservative blogs in Australia and New Zealand.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Neo-Con: Brackswatch

Neo-Con: Brackswatch
Our thanks for the link on your homepage, we will return the favour

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Friday, April 21, 2006

The Age Goes To Town: The Undemocratic Premier

Normally, Team Brackswatch tries its best to paraphrase, and sum up articles to make a point, because, like most, we think long diatribes are boring and drawn out. But Paul Austin's effort in The Age today has us collectively nodding our heads.
(Our Bold)

The contempt with which the Bracks Government treats the Victorian Parliament is something to behold. Trouble is, so few Victorians actually do behold it that the Government seems to believe it can get away with it.

The list of this Government's offences against the Parliament is long: it ensures the Parliament sits infrequently; when Parliament does sit, the Government seeks to ensure that the political "news" of the day happens elsewhere; and the one period of each sitting day when the public and press galleries are likely to be well populated, question time, is treated by the Government too often as its plaything and too rarely as a means of seriously reporting to the people on the activities of their representatives.

The list is hardly unprecedented, but the point is that Steve Bracks promised something better. During the 1999 election campaign, Bracks, taking the usual licence of opposition leaders, said of Liberal premier Jeff Kennett: "If he could pass a law to outlaw elections, the premier would do it . . . If he could close down the Parliament completely, rather than the least number of sitting days he has now, he'd probably do that as well. Imagine if he is re-elected with a big majority and what he'll close down next - not only no debates, probably no Parliament." A year into his term in office, Bracks was still talking up the ideal of a rigorous Parliament. Issuing a policy in October 2000 on "ensuring openness and probity in Victorian Government contracts", Premier Bracks said: "We believe that government is only doing its job properly if it allows the Parliament, the community and the auditor-general to scrutinise its activities and hold it to account."

But, as so often with this Government, the fine words were not matched with firm actions. In the election year of 1999, when Victoria was ruled by that anti-democratic Mr Kennett, the Parliament sat for 37 days. In this election year of 2006, with Victoria ruled by that champion of democracy Mr Bracks, the Parliament will sit for 38 days. Opposition Leader Robert Doyle, unsurprisingly, accuses this Government of paying lip service to parliamentary democracy. But his argument is backed by figures showing the Parliament sat for 15 fewer days during the first six years of Bracks than it did during the last six years of Kennett.

A "sitting week" for the Victorian Parliament means Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday only. A "sitting day" can be so short as to leave you wondering whether it was worth turning on the lights: on April 4 this year, the upper house convened at 2pm and adjourned at 5.23pm.

On the days when the Parliament does sit before lunch, Bracks often absents himself from the building during the morning to make the Government's good-news announcement of the day at a TV-friendly location. Then, during question time from 2pm, he arranges for a Labor backbencher to ask him a "Dorothy Dixer" question about said announcement so the Premier can bring the Parliament up to speed.

As for the idea that ministers should account to the people via the Parliament for the allocation of public money and the good governance of their portfolios - well, sometimes the very concept appears foreign to this Government. Space permits only one example, but readers inclined to trawl through Hansard ( will quickly find others.

During question time in the lower house on April 4 (the same day as the upper house sat for a little over three hours), Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey referred minister Bronwyn Pike to "reports that the Wangaratta area manager of Rural Ambulance Victoria was allowed to resign after it was discovered he had forged signatures to get jobs for unqualified mates". Shardey specifically asked Pike: "Why has this man still got a car owned by Rural Ambulance Victoria, and why are Victorian taxpayers still paying to put petrol in it?" Pike's "answer" occupied several minutes, but not once did she mention the area manager, or his car, or who was paying for his petrol. Even the (Labor) Speaker had to ask Pike after she resumed her seat, "Has the minister completed her answer?" Pike: "Yes."

It did not seem to occur to Pike that, while giving a brief summary of the recent history of the RAV and talking up the investment her Government had made in the service, she might have also said words to the effect that the questioner had made an allegation about serious misuse of public money and the minister would have her office or department investigate immediately and would report back to the Parliament at the first opportunity.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that the Bracks Government is happy to belittle the Parliament. After all, this Premier has shown few signs that he regards the lifting of standards in public life as part of his brief.

Last month, when The Age revealed that Police Minister Tim Holding (among others) had been using his taxpayer-funded, chauffeur-driven ministerial car in a Labor Party preselection battle, some political observers thought this might be the subject of a rebuke, or worse, from the Premier. Not a bit of it. Asked his response, Bracks said through his spokeswoman, Alison Crosweller: "Ministers, along with opposition leaders and their deputies, have access to a driver and a car which can be used at their discretion. This is the case in all other states and the Commonwealth Government."

In other words, don't expect the Bracks Government to seek to set a good example on the use of ministerial cars, and don't expect Bracks to enforce higher standards on his ministers.

Steve Bracks doesn't lament the declining relevance of the Victorian Parliament. He contributes to it.

Update: WeekByWeek gives a mathmatical explanation of sitting days

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Doctors' Exodus

VICTORIA'S doctor shortage will worsen if the State Government fails to lift pay rates, medical authorities have warned.Australian Medical Association state president Mark Yates said unless pay increased, Victoria would lose doctors from public hospitals as they went interstate for better deals.

"Doctors are very restless in Victoria because of the lack of response that we have had from the Bracks Government," Dr Yates said.
Dr Yates said doctors in QLD and NSW were paid up to 56 per cent more than their Victorian counterparts.

Victoria has a shortage of some 900 doctors and this is expected to grow to 1500 by 2012, prompting the State Government to boost the number of medical students. However, the new students will not begin to fill the gaps until 2012, making action to attract and retain doctors a priority, Dr Yates said.

From The Age

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Party Away Your Health Worries

Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars

Thats how much Steve Bracks and his government have spent to celebrate the opening of the new Austin and Mercy hospitals. Amongst the bill for Victorian taxpayers:
  • $15,000 for roving performers and stage acts
  • $9300 for muffins, danishes, slices and other refreshments
  • $15,000 for invitations and flyers
  • $46,000 for Health Minister Bronwyn Pike's Party

Tax Justice Association national director Peter McDonald puts it best:
"You don't need to have 20,000 people at something as a feelgood exercise: all you need is an announcement through the media and everyone will know the new hospital, or whatever, is open."

This isn't the first time that Bracks has used big events to soften the pain for cost blowouts. From Victorian Hansard on 1 March 2006:
"Last April the Premier and the Minister for Transport had Max the Magician, Spaghetti the Clown and Thomas the Tank Engine selling the Spencer Street railway station redevelopment and the fast rail project at a party bash, a pathetic public relations stunt that, based on the good freedom of information work done by the member for Brighton — cost taxpayers at least $170 000, all for a one-day shindig. It was a ridiculous open day when nothing was in fact actually open."

also Railpage:
Despite the many thousands of dollars spent advertising the event, just 4500 people attended the day-long festivities at Spencer St Station in April. As well as clowns, face painters and rides for the children, the publicity stunt featured 10,000 balloons, ribbons, banners, stickers, audio-visual displays and two photographers to record it all.

The Bracks Government has spent $800,000-plus on parties and breakfasts to "sell" troubled major projects to voters and will spend about $5 million more on ads and events leading up to this year's election. Think of the money that could have been spent to retain Victorian doctors.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Special Mention...

To our visitors from
  • Australian Parliament House server
    (15:10-15, This afternoon)
  • The Victorian Parliament server
    16:46-7, This afternoon)

It makes it all worthwhile for you guys to be having a stickybeak.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Victorians lose out in Bracks sports mania

Kenneth Davidson has a good piece in today's Age, showing how Steve Bracks has overhyped the economic benefits of events such as the Commonwealth Games, and the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Bracks has apparently claimed the economic benefit of 1.4 billion people around the world "watching" the games, and seeing the new Melbourne logo broadcast. As Davidson points out:

The Indian broadcaster paid $543,000 for the rights to the Games and the Canadian broadcaster was reluctant to pay anything. The Ten Network's payment of $400,000 to Douglas Wood for an exclusive interview about his experience as a hostage in Iraq puts in context the value of this access to the people of the Commonwealth.

Davidson also points to Steve Bracks having the wrong focus on projects:
The Games village violates fundamental planning principles in relation to equity, access and environment. The netball and hockey centre and the competition pool are likely to become white elephants that will either be a drain on taxpayers or sporting associations. [...] The Government's sporting priorities, which put major events first, training elite athletes second and community sport last, should be reversed. Attending to the health needs of the population, particularly the young, should be the first priority of municipal and state governments.

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Easter Sunday: A regulatory egghunt

Three years ago, Steve Bracks introduced regulations to govern trading over the Easter period. These laws have prevented shops with more than 20 employees from opening Easter Friday and Sunday, as well as making Easter Saturday a public holiday. Travelling through Melbourne yesterday, the exceptions seemed to be the rule. Business excluded from the regulations include food outlets, hardware stores and regional festivals.

It raises the question of why large stores like Bunnings and Mitre 10 are allowed to open, yet their direct competitors in the form of Coles Myers' Kmart or Woolworths' Big W are forced to sit back and let the most popular time of year for DIY slip away.

Liberal SME shadow Bruce Atkinson has suggested:
[The bans] would be a joke if it was not so serious for retailers, consumers and holiday-makers throughout Victoria. Easter Sunday trading should be deregulated and the dud Minister, Andre Haermeyer, should be dropped like last year’s Easter eggs.

The Opposition has pledged to wind back restrictions on these trading laws.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Catching the fire, getting burnt: Bracks gets Religious Vilification wrong

By introducing ammendments to the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 Steve Bracks has recognised his own law is unsustainable. The Christian churches have rejected the changes, saying they are "woefully inadequate" and don't go far enough to enable free speech.
"The battle is joined," Presbyterian Church of Victoria ethics convener David Palmer said. "They've said what they are prepared to do, and it falls so far short."

And from the Bracks spokeswoman, conceding the legislation was flawed.
"No legislation exists in a vacuum. It's always being improved. We never get it right 100 per cent at the time. It was a matter of waiting for case law, and we have it now," she said.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Reader Mail

Steve Bracks is one of the best premiers this State has ever had. He is a far better leader, and it much more intelligent than Robert Doyle and the opposition. Is this state is so much turmoil that you would slam Steve Bracks all day? We have just had a hugely successful commonwealth games, which will boost Victoria's tourism, therefor bringing in money to our community. Because of Steve Bracks and what the state govenment has done, our capital Melbourne was voted the worlds most livable city. He must be doing a terrible job...

Submitted by 27 Mar 2006 16:49

We take all submissions to Brackswatch seriously, but this one was a little overdone. The very point of Brackwatch is: WE DON'T LIKE BRACKS. Let's expand a little:

one of the best premiers this State has ever had
: Is he really? Once you take out Kennett, Bolte and Hammer he might be still be surpassed by the likes of Cain and Kirner. Let's not confuse incumbance with greatness.

more intelligent than Robert Doyle and the opposition: Bracks may be politically savvy (remember the Teflon Premier?) but that doesn't make him intelligent. See all stories on Brackswatch for more. Nor do I think that Bracks is more intelligent than the entire Liberal party room. Bracks has people to help him too.

Is this state is so much turmoil that you would slam Steve Bracks all day? I can answer that one easily. You need only scrawl through the pages of this site, and other sources of news to see that there are problems with Bracks. Hence Brackswatch. Gentle Deakinite, you may be happy to go with the flow and agree with everything Bracks does. We don't. As for all day, I don't spend my day running this website, it is a collective effort. Even between us, we don't go all day.

hugely successful commonwealth games: Bracks was elected in 1999, three years after the 2006 bid was made by the immediate past premier (IPP). Said IPP was always big on major events such as the Grand Prix, the (sadly departed) Heineken Classic, International Cycling, Gymnastics, Fashion, Swimming the list goes on. This reputation was created by the IPP, and the PP (Present Premier) has ridden on the coattails of greatness.

boost Victoria's tourism, therefor bringing in money to our community. There are no guarantees when it comes to money coming into our community. Many country people would argue they've been given short shrift by Bracks for not getting their fair share. Country Victoria is still part of his electorate and our "community", lest Bracks forget. Building activity in Victoria also faces a slump, in spite of the games.

our capital Melbourne was voted the worlds most livable city: Unfortunately no longer, Vancouver is the most liveable city. Melbourne is still one of the most liveable.

He must be doing a terrible job...YES!

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