When council rate relief is bad

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, some local councils have introduced across-the-board rate freezes.

A rate freeze is a bad idea for these reasons:

Council rates are a “wealth tax”, not an income tax. Rates are calculated using property values. To quote a council CFO, six out of seven ratepayers are not negatively affected by COVID. A general rate freeze gives a benefit to the maximum number of voters, but most of the relief dollars go to the wealthiest landowners.

Under a general % rates cut or waiver, wealthiest landowners get the most $ relief
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“Social distancing” is the problem

Most people won’t keep their distance. I have been in a few public places in the last few days and haven’t witnessed any discernible difference in people’s behaviour.

That is why the “social distancing” policy is mostly ineffectual because:

  • it’s seen as rude to deliberately distance yourselves from others, particularly in a social setting.
  • personal risk of the virus won’t hit home to many people until someone they know has the virus.

Unfortunately, shut-down is the only next step worth taking. This removes places that people can come together and transmit the virus.

Masks are the new fashion

I wear a mask whenever I come within two metres of another person. If you come within two metres of another person, you should be wearing a mask.

People are infectious with the virus for four days before symptoms appear. The most common transmission occurs not from surfaces or hands, but from breathing. It surprises me that more in my local community are not wearing masks – in other countries, it is default behaviour to wear a mask even if you have no symptoms. Given that there are now projections for 50,000 to die in Australia, you could save a life by wearing a mask.

A four day incubation period with no symptoms. Any mask is better than no mask. Act as if you have the virus.

Coronavirus and social media

The way that news is propagated to the public has changed.

Before social media

Before social media, important government announcements in Australia were efficiently transmitted via:

  • two newspapers in each city; and
  • five television channels in each city.

The situation now

Now, a large proportion of the public’s primary source of news is via social media channels. News-related posts are mixed in amongst posts about cats and selfies.

This makes it more difficult during crisis situations for government to communicate a consistent message to the public. There is no consistent timing for social media posts to appear in a user’s feed, so it can happen that news stories can be out of sequence in a user’s news feed, resulting in misinformation and confusion.

What needs to happen?

In future, government should legislate so that in a crisis:

  • Government posts are mandated as highest priority across the main social media used in Australia; and
  • Mandated SMS text messaging should be used for official government information.

Planning

Links

Planning document search

(requires PLN reference number)

Planning application search

(requires PLN reference number)

Flowchart

I’ve put together a draft guide on the council planning process. Please don’t hold me to the complete accuracy of it. I’ve just done it to try to explain the quite complex process when residents object to a planning application.

1 objection
1 objection
2 or 3
objections
2 or 3…
4 or more
objections
4 or more…
How many objections?
How many objections?
Decision made by council planning department
Decision made by council planning…
decision to approve
decision to approve
decision to refuse
decision to refuse
Decision made at public council meeting by elected councillors
Decision made at public council meet…
Recommendation made by council planning department
Recommendation made by council plann…
Meeting between applicant and objectors
Meeting between applicant and object…
residential
residential
non-residential
non-residential
Type of application?
Type of application?
Yes
Yes
Decision appealed by objectors?
Decision appealed by objectors?
Yes
Yes
Decision appealed by applicant?
Decision appealed by applicant?
Victorian Civil Appeals Tribunal
(VCAT)
Victorian Civil Appeals Tribunal…
Final decision
Final decision
Yes
Yes
Decision appealed by applicant?
Decision appealed by applicant?
Application received
Application received
Advertise the application:
newspapers
letterbox drop
Advertise the application:…
Council receives objections
Council receives objections
Council receives objections
Council receives objections
Viewer does not support full SVG 1.1

Note that many times council refuses an application, yet the application is approved by VCAT, examples:

Each time council defends its decision to refuse at VCAT, it costs around $10K in legal fees.

Postal vs attendance voting


Postal voting

All voters receive a ballot paper through the mail. They are required to complete the declaration and return their vote through the mail.

  • Easier for mobility-impaired voters.
  • Easier for multicultural English-challenged voters. They have day rather than minutes to seek advice and help from family and friends
  • Increased window to vote. Some voters forget to return their voting papers.
  • More likelihood of “dummy” candidates being used to direct preferences to main candidates. This has been mitigated somewhat by candidate preference lists no longer included in the vote pack.
  • Public perception that votes are easier to manipulate than attendance elections.

Attendance voting

All voters are required to attend a polling booth on the election data. Other options are early voting (aka pre-poll), or voters can apply for a postal vote.

  • More likely to be person-to-person contact. Candidate might be at polling booth (note that there are around 9 voting booths per ward).
  • Local schools can run fundraising BBQs on election day, colloquially known as democracy sausage.
  • More difficult for genuine grass-roots community candidates to run a campaign. Newer candidates find it hard to staff around 7 polling booths from 8am to 6pm on polling day.
  • Some voters feel intimidated by having to “run the gauntlet” of people handing them how-to-vote cards outside the polling booth.
  • Waste of paper. A lot of paper is used for candidates’ how-to-vote cards.
  • Voters have to stand in queues on a Saturday.
  • Voters generally make a quick decision after receiving how-to-vote cards from candidates.
  • Bad weather.

References

Greater Dandenong attendance vote to cost more than $200,000

Election information


Note
The information presented on this website does not represent a final position. All viewpoints will be considered up to the point where a final decision is made.

Keep clear markings

I received this response from VicRoads regarding generally how Keep Clear markings are implemented:

It should be noted that ‘Keep Clear’ markings are primarily used to minimise delays to through traffic on arterial roads caused by vehicles queuing to turn right onto a side road. Where right-turning vehicles are able to wait safely in a dedicated turning lane, as is this case, they do not obstruct the flow of through traffic and hence Keep Clear is not considered necessary at this location. These markings are not intended to enable motorists from side roads to turn into the main road.