Robert Doyle: What would you remove from the budget?

Melbourne’s Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, at last night’s Special Council meeting, asked “what would you remove from the Council’s budget to save money?”

Listen here (15min)

I would scrape the Lord Mayor’s Limo (Something Robert said he would do but hasn’t)

They could also scrape Lord Mayor’s Free Booze Bar, Free Councillor Car Parking and Staff Overseas Junkets.
 
“There is a $10.5 million shortfall in parking revenue basically caused by compliance, people are following the rules so our projected fines did not reach what we thought we were going to get,” Robert Doyle

Council’s Embarrassing Moment as it slugs ratepayers and City commuters

The Melbourne City Council has published its four year plan and 2013-1014 budget.  In an embarrassing oversight the Council nearly passed a recommendation approving the wrong City plan.

The recommendation outlined in the notice paper listed

Recommendation from management
8. That Council:
8.1.approves the draft Council Plan 2009–13
for release for public notice (Notice)
from 10 May to 7June 2013
Should have been the 2013-2017 draft Council plan
Thankfully a member of the public altered the Council to the administrative oversight and the Council was able to amend the recommendation before it was too late.  Had they not  done so they would have had to convene another meeting to pass the correct motion, costing ratepayers 10s of thousands of dollars.

As much as I would have been amused I could not sit by watch such a blatant oversight go unnoticed.  That’s our Council administration for you.

City of Melbourne denies any responsibility for permits to construct a hoarding

In a surprised turn around the City of Melbourne has come out and denied that it has any responsibility to issue permits for hoardings on private property.

Previously the City of Melbourne had stated:

We can confirm that the City of Melbourne has not issued a permit for the structure attached to the wall.
 
There are four relevant legislative frameworks – Planning, Building, Occupational Health and Safety and Local Laws. There are intricacies in the way in which these interconnect and overlap.  These complexities are likely to be considered by the investigating authorities.

A CMP (Construction Management Plan) does not replace the need for Planning, Building or Local Laws approval for specific works. These must be sought separately.

Developers, builders and owners along with lawyers will have a field day with this one. Anarchy reigns in Melbourne’s Streets  I wonder what the Coroner and the Work Safety inquiries will make of this one.  

 The City of Melbourne has a permit application for hoardings which comes with a fee for service. They have published a full list of permits required and a hoarding, fence and advertising sign is on the list which is also included in the

City of Melbourne Local Law 2009.

Part 7 BUILDING STANDARDS Compliance with Code
Part 13 PERMITS When is a permit required under this Local Law?

What the response from the City of Melbourne (published below) failed to mention or make clear was that under the local law a hoarding (Both on public land and on private land) must comply with the City of Melbourne Construction Management Plan and the relevant design standards related to height and wind loading  The code of practice, (1.4) which is referenced in the City of Melbourne Local Law, stipulates a maximum height of 2.4m and ability to withstand wind loads to AS1170.2 standards

Under the the Code of Practice

Item 2. Definitions“Hoarding” means “a high temporary fence or structure enclosing a demolition site or a building site during building works, to restrict access and provide side protection to the public”
Item 4. Hoardings

4.1 … Hoarding screens must be constructed of closely boarded timber or plywood between 1.8m to 2.4m in height to secure a building site and form a barrier against noise, dust and debris.

… Hoardings are to be designed to withstand wind loads to AS 1170.2 with counterweights as necessary to prevent overturning. In addition hoardings adjoining excavations are to be designed to withstand a lateral line load of 0.75 kN/m applied at a height of 1 metre from the base and suitably guarded by barriers to prevent vehicular impact.

 
With all the word games and “intricate interconnect overlap and complexities” that surround this issue there is a clear need for the City of Melbourne to undertake an independent review of the legislative provisions governing public safety on building sites and the City Council.

This should be done as a matter of urgency and without delay or waiting pending the outcome of the Coroner’s report or other investigations that are currently underway in relation to the March 28 Swanston Street Wall Collapse. It will have to be done eventually,. The sooner they start the better

Council response dated: Tuesday, 7 May 2013 12:08 

I refer to the Future Melbourne Committee Meeting of 15 April 2013 – Question without Notice in relation to 555-591 Swanston Street and 2-76 Bouverie Street, Carlton and provide the following response.


Question:

“Did the City of Melbourne issue a permit for the construction of the new hoarding on the CUB Swanston Square project site?  The height being significantly taller than the 2.4m maximum permitted height pursuant to the City of Melbourne Construction Management Plan Guidelines.

Has the City of Melbourne inspected the site since the new hoarding was constructed?  If not, why not?”

Response:

No permit has been issued for the construction of a hoarding.
The temporary fence/hoarding is located on private property.  In this instance a permit is not required under the Activities Local Law 2009.

The structure is also exempt from a building permit under the Building Regulations 2006
(Sch. 8).

The structure satisfies Element 1, Item 1.5 of the City of Melbourne Construction Management Plan Guidelines as:
1.   
It is a solid barrier
2.   
The barrier prevents viewing; and
3.   
The barrier should restrict unauthorised entry


It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure the structure is designed, installed and maintained in accordance with engineering principles and must satisfy any relevant standards.

City of Melbourne officers attended the site shortly after the barrier was erected.
Angela Meinke | Manager Planning and Building | City Planning and Infrastructure

City of Melbourne | Council House 2, 240 Little Collins Street Melbourne 3000 | GPO Box 1603 Melbourne 3001
T: 03 9658 8400 | M: 0429 502 043 | F: 03 9658 9891
|www.melbourne.vic.gov.au | |www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/whatson

Disaster! What the New Planning Zones will mean for Melbourne

The Victorian government’s proposed new planning zones are the most radical review of planning schemes in the history of Victorian planning. They will lead to fundamental changes in the way Melbourne operates, change the fabric of the city and its hinterland, and remove an extensive range of existing citizen rights. Everyone will be affected“.  – Prof. Michael Buxton

 

Business 1 Zones to be transferred to new Commercial 1 zoning with “As of right use” and removal of height limits 

The Commercial Zone 1 replaces the existing Business 1, 2 and 5 Zones and is designed to create vibrant mixed use commercial centres for retail, office business and higher density residential growth. 

Ministers Press Release

Melbourne’s Planning Scheme is already in disarray. Inner urban residential amenity is being corroded and removed by inappropriate development. Public confidence in the City Council’s Planning and Engineering Services Departments is at an all time low. Car Parking exemptions for licenses premises are not assessed on a basis of any benefit to the community or local amenity. The Council is not collecting contributions for car park exemptions and the system is wide open to corruption in order to secure a favourable recommendation.  Come July 1 things will only get worst as height limits removed and “right of use” without a permit begins to take hold. in what will be a free for all planning regime where the developer rules and teh community’s needs ignored. Along with the removal of restrictions we will see a noticeable decline in the quality of design.

IELTS DIAC Survey

Have you recently completed an English language test?

By Thomas on 6 May 2013 3:11pm, 
 

Calling all students

Have you recently completed an English language test?

If so, we’d like to hear from you.

Fill in our short survey and let us know about your recent experience with English language tests. You can find the survey here www.surveymonkey.com/s/RG83W23  If you have any difficulties with the link please copy and paste it into your web browser.

Your feedback is important to us and will help inform the department’s review of its expanded English language testing arrangements for students.

The survey will remain open until 5pm AEST 20 May 2013.

Thank you

ABC Error in Reporting on Council’s Press Release on Wall Collapse

The ABC, following a complaint in relation to an article on the Wall collapse in Swanston Street, reported that the City of Melbourne was not required to issue a permit for the hoarding.  The ABC reporter was wrong.

ABC’s response to the complaint

ABC News acknowledges the reporter misinterpreted the press release issued by the City of Melbourne and consequently inadvertently misrepresented the council’s position.

News advise that the release came after several days of phone calls by the reporter to the City of Melbourne asking about whether or not a council permit was required and, if so, whether one was issued. She was told by council officers that the situation regarding permits was confused as there were a number of different authorities involved. The confusion was compounded by the press release, which was not received until late in the day. On reading the release she came to the conclusion that it was indicating that the council did not need to issue a permit.

ABC News apologises for the error. The story has been corrected and an editor’s note attached.
The City of Melbourne Press release did not state that the Council “did not need to issue a permit” to the contrary it stated that 

We can confirm that the City of Melbourne has not issued a permit for the structure attached to the wall.  

There are four relevant legislative frameworks – Planning, Building, Occupational Health and Safety and Local Laws. There are intricacies in the way in which these interconnect and overlap.  These complexities are likely to be considered by the investigating authorities.

A CMP (Construction Management Plan) does not replace the need for Planning, Building or Local Laws approval for specific works. These must be sought separately.

The City of Melbourne’s responsibility of the subject of a number of inquiries including the Coroner, Work Safety and the Building Commission.  The Council has refused to undertake an independent inquiry into its responsibility on the administration of public safety, it’s Local laws and liability

Flaw in ABC Antony Green’s Election Calculator

There is a noticeable flaw in ABC Anthony Green’s Election Calculator in that he has awarded the seat of Melbourne to the Greens based on the Essential Research quarterly state poll

The Greens only won Melbourne in 2010 because the Liberal Party at the time preferenced them ahead of the ALP. A mistake they are unlikely repeat in September.

In 2010 the State Liberal party fearing a backlash from its supporters placed the Greens below the ALP this allowed then State ALP member Browyn Pike to hold on to the State Seat of Melbourne.

Without LNP preferences the the only way the Greens can hold on to the Seat of Melbourne is if ALP endorsed candidate Cath Bowtell polls third below the Greens and the Liberal Party after distribution of minor party candidates preferences. in which case Cath Bowtell’s preferences will elect Adam Brandt.

LNP supporters will be conscious of this potential outcome and we will most likely see a repeat of the State By-election where LNP voters will fall behind Cath Bowtell in order to prevent the Greens from being re-elected.

All recent  polls including the Essential Research Poll are showing a Statewide drop in Greens support which lends even more to the flaws in Antony Greens Calculations. You can not apply a statewide swing overall to a specific seat such as Melbourne where the 2PP contest is not between the LNP and the ALP.

UPDATE:  It is clear that Antony Green has hard coded in the defeat of  Independent seats as shown by this scenario on his calculator

Australian Telco’s institutional policy rips-off Millions of dollars from consumers.

The scam goes like this…  you subscribe to a mobile telephone plan that includes a 5Gb per month  data usage. The monthly anniversary is, say, on the 15th of each month. You exceed your data usage on the 10 of the month and purchase an additional  top-up allocation  of 1 to 5 Gb which expires on the 10th of the following month.

On the 15th you have only used a proportion of your top-up allocation when you then regain a new 5Gb data entitlement as part of your normal monthly contract.  Your account shows now shows you have 4 Gb left from your top-up, which expires on the 10th of the next month plus a new allocation of 5Gb which expires on the 15th of the next month.

Now here is where the rip-off begins to occur. 

The Telco provider, In my case DODO but the scam applies equally to all Telcos, deducts your data consumption from your standard 5Gb allocation (Expiry date 15th) but you use up the 5GB  again on the 10th of the following month only to find that your 4GB that you had purchased and remained unused has expired and is no longer available.  You are forced into buying a new data-top-up. Had the Telco deducted your consumption for the account that expired first (FIFO) you would still have 4Gb to use prior to your next monthly anniversary of your account.

I asked my provider why they deducted my data consumption from my normal allocation which expires on the 15th of the month  and not the data allocation that expires earlier on the 10th? 
In discussion of this issue with Peter (Undisclosed surname) , Disputes Resolution Officer with Dodo Australia Pty Ltd, Peter indicated that the deduction of data from the Monthly allocation in priority of the top-up package is a deliberate corporate policy. Designed of course to force you into buying more data-top up packages. 
Millions of dollars rip=off Australian consumers as a result

If you multiply this scam by millions of account holders, and remember this does not just apply to DODO but also to other telco providers, the amount ripped off from Australian consumers adds up to millions of dollars.  This in my view is unconscionable.  Peter from DODO said it was unethical but not unconscionable.
DODO offered to provide a “bonus $5.00 1GB of data in compensation”.   Problem is this offer is useless as the data would expire prior to the expiration of my next monthly data allowance and I would not benefit from it. 

Peters reply “if I did not like it then I can cancel my account”.  Why should I?  In all other aspects I am happy with the service.  It’s just the policy of deducting my data consumption from the wrong account in the wrong order.

The issue is not about the five or twenty dollars spent on buying additional data allocation, it is the principle of consumer fairness. The Telcos should be deducting data consumption from whichever account allocation expires first. (FIFO)
I wait with interest to see if the Telecommuncations Ombudsman is capable of addressing this issue.   If not this may require a class action law suit before the rip-off, costing Australian consumers Millions of dollars, is addressed.  
A link to this post has been sent to the Stephen Conroy and Opposition Spokesperson Malcolm Turnbul.