Oct 27, 2011
Inherent in what I wrote was the question of whether a public instrumentality should, for example, spend $10 to save $1. Now I exclude any suggestion of expenditure to counter corruption in the theme or purpose of what I say – that goes without question. I do not claim any skill of prescience, but an article in an edition of the Sydney Morning Herald last week showed that, perhaps, I might have some.
The article detailed reviews and audits that had occurred involving and revolving around the sale, via a web-based auction site, of two billiard tables from the staff recreation area at Parliament House. The review followed questions from the elder ALP statesman in the Senate, Senator John Faulkner. I’ve known Senator Faulkner for some time and he has been unrelenting in his campaign for openness and transparency in government and in the oversight of public revenue and expenditure. But, in this case, I think even Senator Faulkner would bristle at what followed his questioning of the relevant government department responsible for management of Parliament House.
Following his questions, consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers were commissioned to audit the process. The audit found the process was within departmental guidelines but it did find some weaknesses in processes. What government could live without “process”?
These weaknesses in process, or processes, led to a broader review by a former public servant. As well, an investigation into whether staff had breached their code of conduct was commissioned from the Centre for Public Management.
Not content with all these audits or investigations, a survey of the cultural heritage value of items in Parliament House was also commissioned.
The secretary of the department responsible for Parliament House said he was grateful that such an affair had come to light as it had identified deficiencies in the department’s processes – there’s that word again.
The key is in the detail. Let’s look at it. PricewaterhouseCoopers were paid $42,000 for its audit. The review of weakness in the processes by the former public servant cost $30,000. Then the Centre for Public Management’s investigation came with a price tag of $25,000. Lastly, the survey of the cultural heritage value of items will cost an estimated $5,000.
All up, the cost to review the processes of the on-line auction of two redundant Parliament House staff recreation billiard tables cost taxpayers some $102,000.
Process, after all, must be followed --- and reviewed, and investigated, and audited, and reviewed again.
That’s all well and good and the bureaucrats are no doubt reassured that the $102,000 expenditure was justified – all in the name of process.
The only issue I have is that, the outcome (another great word for bureaucrats) of the on-line auction was that the two tables sold for $2,500 each – a grand total of $5,000.
The federal bureaucrats spent $102,000 to check if all due process was followed in the $5,000 sale of two billiard tables.
If that’s the outcome of process then leave me out of it. I’m just a mug taxpayer who helps foot the bill – for process, of course.
This is “Yes Minister” to the nth degree – or bureaucratic madness. In Canberra, however, it’s normal process!
Oct 22, 2011
The picture below shows shopping as it used to be – when, in my kids’ opinion, we were all in the dark ages.
Oct 16, 2011
Along with the drainage works, the gangs are busy in Mascot shops, where the new footpath is under construction. As I advised last week, the work along the Mascot shopping strip will take four to five week and to minimise disruption we’ll be working after 7.00pm at night. When we’re finished the new footpath will add some new sparkle to the shopping strip as was the result when we did the pavers and planter boxes down on Botany Road along the Botany shopping strip.
Down at Sir Joseph Banks Park, the outdoor gangs are also upgrading the garden beds around the park, bringing the spring growth to what is probably our most popular park.
There are within communities, that is if a community is fortunate enough, a few individuals, a group or a few groups who selflessly, unstintingly and with no need for recognition or reward give of themselves. These people, these volunteers, give to their community without ever seeking recognition. To me it is almost instinctive giving. They don't think about it. They just do it. It was fitting that, through Council, our local community took the opportunity to both thank and recognise the invaluable work done by our volunteers.
It will be presented by James McVeigh, a Prince of Wales Hospital nurse practitioner in the heart failure service area. James was the first cardiac authorised nurse practitioner in NSW and his presentation on this important subject will be well worthwhile. We all know that having a healthy life and making sure you don’t get diabetes, or taking care of your diabetes if you do have it, can go a long way in protecting your heart. And, protecting your heart means protecting your life. James is keen to hear and answer questions after his presentation, which begins at 6pm Thursday, October 20.
The location is the Edmund Blacket building at Prince of Wales Hospital. Tat’s the old stone building on Avoca Street. Light refreshments will be provided for those attending. You can book by calling the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation on 9382 4261 or email firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com. The lectures and presentations that the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation and Rotary Botany Bay have organised in the past (and this is the fifth) have been extremely beneficial to those who have attended with positive health outcomes.
Oct 11, 2011
We’re replacing the entire footpath on the eastern side of Botany Road between Hollingshed and King streets. The existing pavers are coming up to be replaced by high quality asphalt. To minimise inconvenience, we’re doing the work at night, starting from either 7:00pm or 8:00pm each night. During the day, we’ll make sure there is a useable footpath for those who like to wander up and down the shopping strip. In the end, the Mascot shopping strip will look as good as what we’re doing down in Botany.
Oct 10, 2011
After many entries and extensive judging, the results of this year’s Garden Competition are in. The judges gave me the list (I thought they would at least pass me the envelope!) and, as we’ve done in previous year’s, details are announced in my column in the Southern Courier on Tuesday, and today right here. The overall winner was Andrew Stevenson from the Botannix Studio Café of Botany. The category winners are:
Front Domestic Garden
1st Jason and Riley McFadyen of Daceyville;
2nd The Kolbe Family of Botany;
3rd Gregory Phibbs of Eastlakes
Angelo and Rita Propoggia of Eastlakes Highly Commended.
Rear Domestic Garden
1st Pene, Logan and Hayden (who we know as HaHa) Ingle of Botany;
2nd Kathryn and David Webb of Rosebery;
3rd Jason and Riley McFadyen of Daceyville
Tom and Pam Vose of Botany Highly Commended.
The judges added a special award to this category with Dorothy Arthur of Botany being acknowledged for her knowledge and excellence; and
Robert Jarvis gaining a merit award for his wildlife habitat.
Planted Nature Strip
1st Janet Cole of Botany;
2nd Helen McCleod of Botany;
3rd Richard Muirhead of Daceyville.
1st Phillip Tomczyk of Daceyville; 2nd Edith Nowlan for her plot in the Leon Lachal Community Garden; 3rd Lorraine Henderson of Daceyville. Highly Commended was Lesley Button of Botany.
1st Phillip Tomczyk of Daceyville;
2nd Edith Nowlan for her plot in the Leon Lachal Community Garden;
3rd Lorraine Henderson of Daceyville.
Highly Commended was Lesley Button of Botany.
Ben Forsyth and Rebecca Vietch of Mascot;
2nd Annie Parkes of Botany;
3rd Carol Ashmore of Botany.
Botany resident Dorothy Arthur was Highly Commended.
1st The Kolbe Family of Botany;
2nd Jason and Rile McFadyen of Daceyville;
3rd Pagewood Public School.
1st Siri and Parichart Thongsiri of Pagewood; 2nd Panayiotis and Thalia Achilleos of Pagewood; 3rd Botannix Studio Café of Botany. Mascot Public School was Highly Commended. Takashi Abe was awarded a Merit in this category for an unusual and interesting array.
1st Siri and Parichart Thongsiri of Pagewood;
2nd Panayiotis and Thalia Achilleos of Pagewood;
3rd Botannix Studio Café of Botany.
Mascot Public School was Highly Commended.
Takashi Abe was awarded a Merit in this category for an unusual and interesting array.
School or Community Group Garden
1st John Brotchie Nursery School of Botany;
2nd Pagewood Public School;
3rd Banksmeadow Public School.
Mascot Public School was Highly Commended.
1st Botannix Studio Café of Botany;
2nd Botany Grove Business Park;
3rd Discovery Cove Industrial Estate.
Residential Complex (Communal) Gardens
1st Kevin Rayner of Botany;
2nd Dave Rothery of Greenwood Apartments;
3rd Rolf Koch of Daceyville.
Oct 7, 2011
Oct 5, 2011
Our Aquatic Centre will begin is learn to swim classes from Monday, October 11 from 3.00pm and the classes run for a ten week term until December 20. The classes cater for all standards of swimming. There is also an intensive program during the school holidays.
The ten week, ten lesson term costs $140 per child, although discounts of $10 and $20 respectively are offered for a second and third child from the same family.
The Botany Aquatic centre is also the home for the Botany RSL Youth Amateur Swimming Club and its season gets underway on Saturday, October 8 at 7.00am.
The swimming club has been operating from Botany Aquatic Centre since the early 1960’s and provides an opportunity for children of all abilities to participate in swimming races.
The club’s Saturday morning club races are handicapped and based on a point system that encourages children to swim against their personal best.
Council supports the Botany RSL Youth Amateur Swimming Club, which is open for children from 4 years old to 25 years of age and there is a registration fee of $75 per swimmer.
Children have the opportunity to swim all strokes, in 15, 25, 30 or 50 metres either socially or competitively. Relay and distance swims conclude the morning sessions.
The club also competes against six other RSL swimming clubs at Zone carnivals for a chance to swim at the State carnival, which this season will be held at Ulladulla.
Through the Aquatic Centre’s own activities, along with those from the Botany RSL Club, this summer season will provide both fun and exercise for swimmers and safer times in the water.
The fact is that, in this City, candidates must get the majority of votes to be elected. Thus, elected members reflect the wishes of the majority of electors. To me, that is quintessential democracy.
But what failed to resonate to me the most in Mr Shoebridge’s comments was: “There wasn’t even an election in Botany.”
First, Mr Shoebridge, as you’re the spokesperson on local government, you might learn that we are the City of Botany Bay – not Botany. But I suppose Greens MPs can never learn – they know everything there is to know when they drape themselves in their green cloak.
Next, it was not any action of this Council that led to all elected members being returned unopposed. In our democratic system, anyone can nominate to stand for election.
But in our City to win election you must have majority support.
As far as the Greens are concerned (and they know everything, remember) they feel that they are entitled to be elected – on five per cent or ten per cent and not 50 per cent.
But then I believe in democracy and its reflection of the will if the people.
One of our electors, a perceptive person from Rosebery, sent me a copy of a letter he had written to Mr Shoebridge. He said, and I’ll paraphrase, that he didn’t want “bloody Greens” to “stuff up” Council’s work. He added: “The people of Botany and Mascot don’t have to consult the Greens as to the democratic make up of Botany Bay City Council.” I couldn’t have expressed it better.
Each and every elected representative in this chamber is ready to face an election next year. Maybe Mr Shoebridge would like to join us – but then he’d have to get more than five or ten per cent of the popular vote. Maybe that’s a step too far.
He advised that these Briefing Meetings are to provide the Panel with an overview of the Development Application and to outline and discuss any major issues at the Panel/Officer level. The Joint Regional Planning Panels were introduced by the former State Government to take the place of Council in dealing with major Development Applications.
It is my view that the attendance at any secret Briefing Meetings, which are informal discussions about a Development Application with Council Officers would be improper and possibly even unlawful. It is a fundamental requirement that the decisions, deliberations, and material upon which Councillors rely in determining Development Applications be subject to public scrutiny. These deliberations are required to be in the presence of the press and public and not behind closed doors.
The Joint Regional Planning Panel sits in the place of this Council and this Council requires its Committee and Council Meetings not only to be in the presence of the press and public but goes to extraordinary extent by being one of the very few Councils in this country that broadcast its meeting by Webcast.
Any information that is provided to a Councillor about a Development Application in my view should not be in an informal context. As well, the suggestion of building stronger relationships between the Panel and Council and to achieve a better understanding of the objectives of the Council by the Panel is something that can be dealt with in the absence of the press and public is, to me, an alien concept. It is also a concept that does not, and would not, have my support.
Development Applications affect the fundamental rights of individuals to the extent of hundreds of millions of dollars. Members of this Council do not discuss privately with objectors or developers the merits of a Development Application. The suggestion by Mr Roseth is, in my view, a misunderstanding of the public scrutiny and responsibilities of Consent Authorities.
In a formal submission to the review, I have responded to Mr Moore advising that whilst I am happy to provide whatever input and assistance he and Mr Dyer might require, I have suggested that they go back to the original legislation as enacted in 1979 as a first step. Examine that legislation without the myriad of legislative changes that followed its enactment.
It is my view that the Act, as originally enacted, was a fine piece of environmental and planning legislation. However, much of it was changed and tinkered with by the legislature where members of Parliament were often seeking political solutions rather than planning solutions. Proper planning often came a poor, and distant, second.
It has long been my view that with many of the amendments to the Act over the years, the government of the day was seeking to avoid the environmental scrutiny of its decision-making processes and, as a result, many of those changes had the effect of detracting from the very premise of the original legislation.
I have offered for consideration the following two points:
- Previously applications for the construction of new homes or alternations did not require development consent. All that was required was a building application. These applications on the whole were dealt with promptly and not tied up with the development application processes. When the decision was made to repeal the building application regime in the old Local Government Act, normal housing matters were required to be dealt with as development applications under the Environmental and Assessment Act. This decision resulted in considerable delay, either because of the additional requirements involved in determining development applications, or alternatively, the applications were in the same queue with a number of other development applications which could have difficult or complex aspects. Whatever the purpose of the legislative amendment, what I referred to was the practical reality of those changes.
- The original legislation always provided a mechanism for the State Government to call in development applications, which were determined to be of regional or state significance. The Government was entitled to do so, but the processes involved in the assessment of those development applications required not just public input, but also public scrutiny. Provision was made for a Commission of Inquiry that would then report to the Minister for the determination of the application. Despite the controversies that often occurred with applications of this nature, a Commission of Inquiry that was seen to be independent, provided for an appropriate and open mechanism for the community to have input. The Minister of the day then had a firm basis for making his or her determination and even if the public was dissatisfied with the result, a forum was provided to give the public the opportunity to voice opinions, and the determination by the Minister was not seen to be political, even if it was.
The reason governments did not like Commissions of Inquiry was that planning officers, and no doubt the political interests of the government of the day, did not like public scrutiny of the deliberations. Nevertheless, these commissions provided good planning outcomes, even when the government of the day engineered those outcomes.
I fundamentally believe that elected Councillors are well qualified to make decisions on development applications because of local knowledge. Councillors are, in theory, able to know what the impact of a proposed development is and should be able to formulate conditions to minimise adverse impacts.
Many of the problems that arise relate to needing to confine councillors to considerations under Section 79C. It is my view that if councils debate a development application and argue over matters that are irrelevant to Section 79C, then any council decision must fail to meet what the Act intended and therefore the decision miscarries.
Councillors need to be accountable for taking into consideration only those matters that the law permits. This is an issue that somehow needs to be addressed, or deliberations relating to development applications get used for political purposes rather than the purpose that the law intended.
I have offered Mr Moore and My Dyer any assistance they may require as they conduct their review. This is an important issue and one that could have long and wide ranging impacts on local government and the people represented by local government.
Proper, effective and open planning assessments and deliberations are fundamental to proper, effective and open government.