Tuesday 30 November 2010

More on the Green failure in Victoria

My last post was on the macro results across Victoria. Now let's get into the micro results.

Let's go back to this statement from the Green Senator, Sarah hyphen hyphen:

Despite a decisive swing to the conservative side of politics, the Greens still managed to increase their vote in both Houses, even if it is unlikely to result in extra seats. If preferences had flowed similarly to 2006, the Greens would have won the Lower House seats of Melbourne, Richmond and Brunswick.

2006 Green primary vote - 9890
2010 Green primary vote - 8020

Enrolments rose from 39,734 to 43,321 - an extra 3,587 voters, or 9% more. However, the Green primary vote dropped by 1870, or 18.9%.

The Labor vote crashed even harder, dropping from 15,891 primary votes to 10,823. In the 2006 election, Liberal preferences split 25% to Labor and 75% to the Greens. The decision to preference the Greens last clearly got Labor over the line - but I don't think the Greens should be saying that they "increased their vote". A drop in the primary vote of 18.9% is not an "increase".


2006 Green primary vote - 8704
2010 Green primary vote - 8880

They managed to find another 176 primary voters - an increase of 2%. Enrolments grew from 38,853 to 43,916 - an increase of 5063, or 13%. Of those extra 5063 voters, the Greens could only bag 176 - a measly 3%. It makes you wonder whether the GetUp campaigns to enrol young voters really have any impact. They might enrol, but do they bother to get out of bed and vote?


2006 Green primary vote - 7900
2010 Green primary vote - 7284

Once again, the Green primary vote went backwards, this time by 616 voters, or 7.8%.

Enrolments went from 38,941 to 42,025 - an increase of 3,084, or 7.9%.

So let's total up the gains and losses across these three key electorates:

Richmond = -616 primary votes
Melbourne = +176 primary votes
Brunswick = - 1870 primary votes

Total = the Greens shed 2310 primary votes.

In 2006, they got 26,494 primary votes across these three electorates.

In 2010, they got 24,184.

So they shed 2,310 primary voters at a time when 11,734 new voters were added to the rolls.

Whilst their share went up, that was because the Labor primary vote imploded. The actual number of people who voted Green went backwards quite badly. At future elections, the Labor vote is likely to pick up again. When that happens, the Green share will decline rapidly.

For instance, take Richmond.

In 2006, the Greens scored 24.68% of the primary vote.

In 2010, that rose to 26.48% - that has been touted as a major improvement.

However, the main change in this election was the Labor primary vote crashing from 14,855 in 2006 to 10,749 in 2010. The other parties went backwards as well.

The Greens share of 26.48% is calculated on a total vote of 28,539. This is well down on 2006, when 32,011 voted.

Imagine if all those Labor voters who failed to get out of bed had actually bothered to get out of bed - which will probably happen at the next election, or the one after that. The Labor vote will go back up to 15,000 or so, and the total number of votes will go to 32,000 or more. If the Green vote stays static - or goes backwards again - then their share of the primary vote will drop to 22% or lower.

At that point, the Greens will have to invent yet another measure of success.

Victorian election - Green vote goes down

I popped over to Catallaxy today to watch the usual bunfight in action. I wasn't disappointed - a thread on Sarah hyphen hyphen quickly went pear shaped.

I'm going to examine this paragraph from hypen hyphen's article in the Age:

Despite a decisive swing to the conservative side of politics, the Greens still managed to increase their vote in both Houses, even if it is unlikely to result in extra seats. If preferences had flowed similarly to 2006, the Greens would have won the Lower House seats of Melbourne, Richmond and Brunswick.
Here is an amalgam of two comments that I left on that thread:

The Greens polled 297,931 votes in 2006 in the lower house.

As of now, they have polled 278,859 – with 95.25% of the vote counted. Extrapolate that to 100%, and they end up with 292,765 lower house votes – fewer actual votes than they got in 2006. Their share of votes went up slightly because turnout crashed between 2006 and 2010. But fewer actual people voted Green at this election.

Similarly, in the Upper House, the Greens got 314,847 votes in 2006.

In 2010, with 96.11% of the vote counted, they are up to 293,222. Extrapolating that to 100% gives you 305,090.


2006 – 314,847
2010 – 305,090.

Somewhere along the way, 5000-10,000 Green voters have dropped off the face of the earth. Percentage-wise, they have gone up. People-wise, they have gone backwards. They shed just over 3% of their voters between elections.

I wouldn’t say that their support is “on the rise” based on those figures.

Let's look at that again:

Lower house
2006 - 297,931
2010 - 278,859
Loss of voters = 19,072
Percentage drop in raw votes = 6.4%

Upper house
2006 - 314,847
2010 - 305,090
Loss of voters = 9757
Percentage drop in raw votes = 3.1%

In 2006, there were 3,353,845 enrolled voters. Turnout was 92.73% - 3,109,907 turned up and cast a vote.

In 2010, the number of enrolled had risen to 3,582,232 - an increase of 228,387 - or 6.8%.

However, only 2,804,304 bothered to vote - a drop of nearly 10%, which is made worse by the 6.8% increase in enrolments. if enrolments had not increased one bit, that would mean 305,603 people stayed in bed compared to 2006.

However, because enrolments went up by 228,387, it means that 533,990 stayed in bed.
What happened to those votes?

Informal - lower house
2006 - 141,914
2010 - 139,438 (scaled to 100% of the count)
Decrease in informal = 2,476

Libs - lower house
2006 - 1,022,110
2010 - 1,080,645 (based on scaling up 95% of the counted votes to 100%)
Increase in votes = 58,535, or 5.7%

Labor - lower house
2006 - 1,278,046
2010 - 1,020,818 (based on scaling it up again)
Loss of votes = 257,228, or -20%

Nationals - lower house
2006 - 153,299
2010 - 195,075
Increase in votes = 41,776, or 27%.

Family first shed about 80,000 voters and "People Power" and the CEC vanished between elections, taking 20,000 votes with them.

I'd characterise this election as one where the Libs barely held their ground, but won because Labor went badly backwards and the Greens went backwards as well. The Libs got out and voted - perhaps out of duty, perhaps because of the stance against the Greens - whilst many Labor voters could not bring themselves to vote for any party, so they stayed in bed. They failed to drift to the Greens, which is why they went off like a damp squib.

The Nats are the big surprise - 27% more people voted for them this year.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Thursday photos

Is it Thursday already? Must be - I fell asleep on the couch not long ago. By the end of a week of getting to and from work under my own steam, I'm knackered.

Four amigos waiting at a light. We have a nice mix of cycling styles here, and the nice thing to see was a few of them chatting to each other. Cyclists are a much more social bunch than any other group of people moving from A to B. If a cyclist pulls up beside you and starts talking, that's nice. If you're on the bus or train and the person beside you decides to start talking, there's a 98% chance they're insane.

Here are two of them, having a very pleasant chat as they wander along under the trees. I think the bloke on the right rides in from just over the bridge - he parks his car in a free parking zone, unfolds the bike out of the boot and off he goes. The bike looks fine for a short trip of only a few kilometres, but I wouldn't want to do much more than that. He fairly motored along though.

Ever wondered what sort of people stick those "free the refugee" posters up on poles? Well, here we have a pair. She was short and fat; he was pimply.

Why do they think that we are at "war" with refugees, and how will bringing the troops home help? If we were at war with refugees, we'd be machine gunning their boats and burning them to the waterline. Our detention centres would not be packed with people the Navy plucked from the water - they'd be empty, because everyone who tried to enter would be dead. Enough of the hyperbole - we are not at "war" with refugees. It takes a uni student to be stupid enough to believe that sort of tripe.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

You'd have to be nuts to go to Uni

Seriously - University can drive you mad.

RATES of serious mental illness are more than five times higher among university students than in the general population, according to research from the University of Queensland.

Almost 84 per cent of students reported psychological distress, compared with 29 per cent of the general population. More than 19 per cent of students surveyed suffered from a serious mental illness. In the general population, the rate of serious mental illness is about 3 per cent.
Here's what I want to know - when these people leave uni, do they still have a mental illness? Or does leaving provide a magic cure?

Christ on a bike - these sorts of surveys really get up my nose. Going to uni is not supposed to be easy - it's supposed to be bloody challenging, and it's supposed to weed out the stupid and the lazy and the useless. One would hope that the sort of people that finish Uni and get a good degree are the best of the best. Uni should be stressful and difficult, because it should stretch and challenge the minds of students. Either they can hack it, or they can't. If they can't, they should quit and take up plumbing.

I was under a fair bit of financial stress at Uni - mainly caused by my drinking. Once I got a job that required me to work until midnight on Friday and Saturday, the problem went away - I was unable to go to the pub - and that was that.

I was also under quite a bit of exam stress, because I drank like a fish and did hardly any work. It's pretty hard to pass your exams under those conditions - although I'm happy to report that I did score a few A's and B's. But not a lot. If you've spent most of the term drunk or asleep rather than in lectures and tutes, you'll probably feel a lot of pressure a few days out from your exams. I certainly did - I still have the odd nightmare about it over 20 years later. The fact that I passed all those exams - bar one - should clearly mean that my uni course was too easy. I should have been washed out like Bluto.

The problem that many modern day students might be having is their discovery that they don't really belong at Uni. Their parents and schools have coerced them into attending, and once they get there, they're trapped. That's certain to mess with your head.

Tuesday photos

I was wrecked on Monday - not that I did anything of note over the weekend. It was just one of those days where you wake up shattered. I was in such a feeble and horrible state, I figured that I had to ride into work just in order to wake up. If I caught the bus, I'd have jumped off after a few minutes and gone home to bed. The ride in did help, but I was slow as a wet week. Worse than that, I was spotted being slow. There was a rude text message on my phone when I got to work, asking if I was normally that sluggish.

The ride didn't wake me up that much - I fell asleep in a meeting during the morning. Twice. Thankfully, there was no snoring. I think.

A line of three head into town this morning. I would have been content to sit on their tails - I was still not in great shape - but they were hubbards! I managed to keep my eagerness under control for about 10 seconds, then I took them out one by one. I am just not geared for cruising. It's flat out....until I blow a gasket.

Two different styles - the guy in front has all the good gear on, whilst the bloke behind is going home wearing a business shirt. Hey, if you don't have far to go - why not?

Cruising through Pyrmont on a beautiful morning.

Hello girls! I was busted taking their photo - although I think she was more intent on looking at cars coming up behind us.

Notice the pink and red and green "Christmas" banner dangling from the lamp post? I've looked at a few around town, and not one actually seems to have anything to do with Jesus and his birthday. Bloody PC maniacs.

Sunday 21 November 2010

How gay friendly is your electorate?

Vexnews never ceases to amaze. Andrew Landeryou has managed to dig out a chart listing every federal electorate, along with the percentage that think that homosexuality is immoral. Go have a look at the chart, and read what he has to say.

We're in the electorate of Reid. 30.6% of those surveyed in this electorate think being gay is immoral.

I was a bit shocked to read that, but then again, this is a diverse electorate. Down the eastern end in Drummoyne, I'm sure the percentage who think being gay is immoral would be in single digits. However, over here in Five Wog, being gay will probably get you bashed at 1am on Saturday outside the local pub. Five Wog, funnily enough, is full of wogs - Italians and Greeks. Machismo rules supreme. I'm sure all the gay wogs decamped to saner pastures a long time ago.

The far western part of the electorate takes in Auburn - a very Muslim area. The percentage out there that think being gay is not immoral is probably in single digits.

Here's something of interest, given that Bob Brown comes from Tasmania. Tasmania has five federal electorates. Three of them have "immoral" percentages over 34% - Bass (36.8%), Braddon (35.1%) and Lyons (34.8%). These are all in the top fifth of "immoral" electorates - those that aren't very gay friendly.

Franklin (26.3%) and Dennison (20.2%) and down the quieter end.

It's interesting that the Greens are pushing gay marriage, given that the home state of their top dog is possibly the most unfriendly towards gays in the nation!

Spending, spending, spending

Every now and then, I like to spend a bit of time trawling through a mass of government statistics in order to try and get a better understanding of where our tax dollars are going. I've got to tell you - it ain't easy. I can see why journalists prefer to get briefed by politicians and public servants, and to lap up press releases instead of trawling through the bowels of government fact sheets. It's a complete chore.

A constant refrain from the "we hate private schools" crowd is that private schools get too much money from the government. This topic always raises its head at my favourite education blog, run by Maralyn Parker.

As most funding for private schools comes from the federal government, I thought I'd start by analysing whatever numbers I could find on the DEEWR website (that stands for some enormous department that was cobbled together by Julia Gillard before she knifed Saint Kevin.

Here's my first finding - the pubes at DEEWR are absolutely amazingly good at hiding figures from the public. They squirrel things away in places where you'd never think to look. They're also very good at not providing up to date information - the latest information on capital grants to state and private schools dates from..... October 2007. Gee, I remember there being an election in December 2007, and the new government talking a lot about "openness" and so forth.

What a crock that turned out to be. Here's a tip for those that have come to hate Julia Gillard for the MySchools website (which rolls up all sorts of data on state the private schools) - Julia loves to reveal data on what other people are doing, but hates to reveal data on what she is up to.

Either that, or she's kept her public servants so busy for the last 3 years, they haven't had a chance to annually update the data once a year.

Data on state school capital grants can be found here, and private schools here.

Here's the guts of it.

In 2007, the feds handed out $107 million to 192 private schools and $189 million to 142 state schools in capital grants.

The average private school got $560,000 and the average state school got $1.3 million.

I've attempted to present the data in two graphs. The first shows the distribution of grants by size for each school type. Private schools are in blue, state in red. It's not entirely clear from this graph, as I had to truncate the horizontal axis, but private schools clearly got a lot of "small" grants, whilst some state schools got some very hefty grants - up in the $8 million range.

The next graph shows the total amount granted by grant size. When you look at the first graph, because the blue (private) lines are taller, you're probably thinking the private schools are getting all the cash. However, when you look at the graph below, you can see that massive chunks of grants are being spent at the high end - in the $2 million to $8 million range - where the state schools get the most.

This data is for NSW only by the way.

Now the "we hate private schools" brigade usually clouds the issue by announcing that great wads of cash are being thrown at "elite" private schools, and that this is "wrong".

Here's a random sample of private schools that got money, and where they are located:

  • Clancy Catholic College, West Hoxton
  • Green Valley Islamic College, Green Valley
  • Vern Barnett School for Children, Forestville
  • Qibla College, Minto
  • Sule College, Prestons
  • St Therese Primary School, Padstow Heights
  • All Saints College, Bathurst
  • James Sheahan Catholic High School, Orange
  • Mountain View Adventist College, Doonside
  • St Bishoy Coptic Ordthodox College, Mount Druitt
  • South Coast School for Children with Autism, Corrimal
  • St Paul's College, Walla Walla
  • All Saints Catholics Boys' College, Liverpool
  • St Ignatius' School, Bourke
I could go on and on. If you're interested, have a look at this spreadsheet - it lists them all.

Those suburbs and schools don't exactly sound like bastions of privilege to me.

Just out of interest, I decided to delve deeper in St Paul's College, Walla Walla - because I have no idea where Walla Walla is. It turns out it's somewhere near Albury-Wodonga.

It's a Lutheran school with 215 kids. Annual fees range from $4648 to $7300, with the average being $6053. All the numbers from here on in are 2009 numbers.

As we know how many kids are in each year thanks to the annual report, we can calculate that fee income from parents comes to $1.3 million - this is 45% of all income.

40% of their income comes from the state government and 14% from the feds. This is all in the annual report.

Those of you that remember your maths will know that if $1.3 million is 45% of their total income then 100% of their income is $2.89 million.

We can then calculate 40% of that as $1.15 million (state contribution) and $405,000 (14% federal contribution).

Dividing those numbers by 215 kids, we find that:

  • Parents chip in an average of $6,053
  • The state government chips in $5,381 per kid
  • The feds chip in $1,883 per kid
Total taxpayer contribution is $7,264.

Total of parent and taxpayer contribution is $13,453.

I've blogged on this a number of times, but in NSW in 2010/11, the average spending per state school student is a whopping $15,229.

You can calculate this yourself by simply looking at the NSW DET Fast Facts sheet.

It says that:

Total recurrent expenditure on state schools is $9.296 billion
Total capital expenditure on state schools is $1.913 billion

Add them up and you get $11.209 billion.

The fast facts sheet also says that there are 736,000 kids enrolled at state schools. If you divide $11.209 billion by 736,000, you get $15,229 per head.

Of that $15,229, the parents pay nothing - state and federal taxpayers pick up 100% of the tab. (Yes, state schools do levy additional fees, but you don't have to pay them if you don't want to).

Of course not all that $15,229 actually makes it to each and every state school - a massive amount, perhaps 30% or more, gets swallowed by the bureaucracy - allowing state schools to constantly cry poor.

Back to our Lutheran school out in the sticks. It educates kids for 12% less than the state system does ($13,453 vs $15,229), and it does that whilst getting 53% less funding from the government.

Except there's more - the figure of $15,229 is an average across the board figure for state schools. It actually costs about 25% more to educate a high school kid than a primary school kid, so the actual amount of money going into the state system per high school kid is well over $16,000.

Yet somehow, the "we hate private schools" brigade manages to ignore private schools like our Lutherans in the sticks when discussing funding (and how little these schools get in comparison to state schools), and instead wheel out the high fee "elite" schools, as if they are representative of all private schools.

What I find sickening is that the state school system is not short of money - but the state schools are. Somehow, the system manages to chew up a lazy few billion dollars per year, and at the same time, the "we hate private schools" brigade blames the private schools for the problems of the state system!


Saturday 20 November 2010

Odd looking unrinal

I don't get down to the flash end of town much, so when I am down there, I am one of the few that bothers to stop and sample some of Sydney's artistic delights. One of them is the P&O fountain, which is perhaps more famous today for the part it played in a 1960's obscenity trial.

Here's some better photos of interesting things to see in Sydney. If this sculpture takes your fancy, here is a slideshow of all the artist's work. Interestingly, he did a crucifix for the Royal Military College, Duntroon in the mid 1960s - but I can't find a photo of it anywhere.

I am a bit uncertain as to whether I ever wee'd in this one drunken night during my misspent youth. I suspect I might have. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have done that.
Two other items in these early issues incurred the wrath of the NSW police. One was Martin Sharp's ribald satirical poem about youths gatecrashing a party, entitled "The Word Flashed Around The Arms"; the other another was the now famous Oz #6 cover photograph (pictured at right), which depicted Neville and others pretending to urinate into a wall fountain created by sculptor Tom Bass, which was mounted in the street facade of the Sydney offices of the P&O shipping line and which had recently been unveiled by Prime Minister Menzies.

Six flats in two weeks

I've had more flat tyres in the last two weeks than in the last 12 months. The weird thing is that after removing the tubes on some of those occasions, pumping them up and putting them through a bucket of water, I haven't been able to detect any air leaks - not a single bubble.

However, next morning, the tyre is flat as a pancake.

I've tried new tyres and new tubes - no dice. I wonder if I've annoyed somebody at work, and they're sneaking down to the garage to deflate my tyres during the day....

Thursday 18 November 2010

Much cheaper than the Hubble

More photos from the Hubble Telescope?

Nope, just some paint left out in the backyard in the rain.

Wednesday photos

It's now Thursday, but these photos cover Monday to Wednesday.

Monday was a horrible day - hot and murky in the morning, wet as a Bangkok hooker in the afternoon. It was so hot and muggy during the morning, it was one of those days when I was wishing it would rain, just to cool me off.

This is what the paths looked like - completely empty. It was a lousy day for walking or riding.

Here is a very odd character - he's about to dismount and walk his bike around the rowing sheds. No one does that - and I mean no one. This must be Tuesday, as there was nothing and no one about on Monday to photograph. And it was raining too hard during the afternoon to take the camera out.

A typical scene on our new bike paths in town - a jogger running down the path, running away from the traffic, so that he has no idea what is tearing down the hill behind him. I saw a cyclist yell at a couple of pedestrians on the bike path this week - I'm fed up enough to start yelling too.

How cycling should be - very relaxed, in thongs. If we could just get rid of the compulsory helmet for relaxed riding, things would be grand.

I am not a complete Philistine

Seen in the Pitt St Mall this week. He's not doing it on the paving stones - he's rolled out a canvas and chalked over that (it's been raining a lot).

Why do governments feel the need to pour so much cash into "art", most of which is atrocious, when we can have things like this? The public was happy to fund this bloke - his buckets were full of coins (quite a lot of them gold), and I chucked in some myself. The public are much better arbiters of taste than bureaucrats and politicians.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Who are Green voters?

From Counterpoint on the ABC - read the transcript or listen to the podcast.

John Black: That's right, the National Party is traditionally run by wealthy people who represent poor people, and the Greens tends to be run by lower income people representing rich people but who seem to have a view that their constituency is decidedly bolshy in terms of economic policy when in fact there's absolutely no evidence of that at all, and in fact the evidence is to the contrary.

Paul Comrie-Thomson: So in fact if green voters see green political parties threatening their income stream, they'll dump them. Is that how you see it?

John Black: In a New York second. This is not rocket science. People vote politically as consumers, and I fall back on my old Marxist historians for that little piece of wisdom. People do not vote to lose money, that's a case in point. Your green voter now has shares, your green voter now doesn't have children. Because they don't have children they have money, they have investment homes, they have shares. The simple correlations between ownership of investments, including shares, and the top income group was +0.94. You don't get any stronger than that. I mean, share ownership is clustered in then top quartile, green votes are clustered in the top quartile. Green voters are born overseas, they're the kind of people who were getting $100,000+ in WA on the old AWAs. They were into them with their ears back. These are rich, cosmopolitan, internationally qualified people.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Why do our national parks burn?

In my last post, I looked at the breakdown of staff in the DECCW. Now it's time to look at how they spend their budget.

The DECCW has a capital works program for the next few years of $309 million.

$6.4 million is being spent on buying up perpetual crown leases.

$7 million on satellite imagery.

$6.8 million on spatial data.

$19 million on establishing Brigalow/Nandewar (presumably a new park)

$69 million on land purchases

$23 million on establishing new parks

$45 million on rivers environmental restoration.

Improving fire, feral animal and weed control will get $993,000 in 2012-13.

$3.295 million was spent last year on bushfire management. For an agency that controls 11% of the state.

$3 million.

They probably spent most of it on consultant's reports, rather than actually making their properties more fire resistant.

In the section on the major achievements of the executive, I did find this:

Completed fire management strategies for all parks and reserves, and finished 59,202 hectares of hazard reduction burning which is the highest total ever completed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Let's see - they have over 6 million hectares under their management. 59,202 hectares is 0.98% of the total. At this rate, it will only take them a century or so to get all that hazardous undergrowth cleared out.

Top brass vs rangers

More snippets from the DECCW annual report. Never read the warm and fluffy stuff with colour photos at the front - go straight to the appendixes. That's where all the dirt is buried.

When I think of the Department of the Environment, which includes the mob that runs our parks, I think of lots of buff blokes in green or blue shirts running around doing good stuff with trees and native animals.

Sadly, I am mistaken.

Here is a table from 2009 showing how employees are classified. I have re-ordered it from largest category to smallest.

DECC employees by classification

Policy, project and research 993
Administrative and clerical 844
Field 663
Manager positions 353
Ranger categories 303
Horticultural 146
Operations 136
Other 134
Senior officers and senior executive service 108
Trade 18
Total 3698

I'm not sure what "field" positions are, but I presume they involve running around getting your boots dirty. I hope.

Of the 3700 staff, from what I can gather, only about 1000 actually do work with trees and flowers and furry creatures. The rest are driving a desk.

Amazingly, there are only 303 rangers. They are outnumbered by the 353 managers, and even more incredibly, there are 108 senior officers and executives (and they have grown from 83 in 2007 to 108 in 2009).

To add insult to injury, for a department that manages so much land out in the scrub, 55% of their staff work in the Sydney metro area - presumably in a nice office somewhere.

The 303 rangers have to manage just over 5 million hectares of national parks, and 888,000 hectares of nature reserves and 448,000 hectares of conservation areas. This represents 8.39% of NSW.

Altogether, there are 793 community conservation areas, national parks, aboriginal areas, regional parks etc etc etc - in other words, there are 0.38 rangers per bit of land that the department manages.

There are also 48 declared wilderness areas that cover 1.9 million hectares - another 2.4% of NSW.

There are also six marine parks covering 345,100 hectares, and

And last but not least, there are just over 100 bits of land that have been acquired by the department, but have not been turned into reservations yet.

In other words, 303 rangers are looking after nearly 11% of the state. I think they might be spread a little thin. No wonder so many of them are infested with wild pigs, feral goats and weeds; and then they have a tendency to burn like buggery every few years.

More on the burning bit in my next post.

Government by committee

I had a look through the DECCW annual report today - that stands for the Department of the Environment, Climate Change and Water. Phew, no wonder they truncate it.

DECCW is a relatively small "super department", having only 3698 public servants. However, that doesn't stop the top executives from being very, very well paid. Here they are:

Ms Lisa Corbyn
Director General

Mr Simon A Y Smith
Deputy Director General, Climate Change, Policy and Programs Group

Ms Sally Barnes
Deputy Director General, Parks and Wildlife Group

Mr Joe Woodward
Deputy Director General, Environment Protection and Regulation Group

Mr Len Banks
Executive Director Scientific Services

Ms Stephanie Cross
Executive Director Corporate Services

Below is a graph that shows the number of taxpayers in each income range for 2009. I have drawn in a red arrow to show where the most lowly paid DECCW executive sits - in the 3rd bracket from the top. I can't show you where the top two sit, as they are off the chart - it only goes to $300,000.

There are only 40,000 people in the entire country that earn over $300,000, so I guess you can say that the DECCW executives aren't really doing the job for love of the environment. They must be doing because they love sitting on committees.

Lots of committees. I count about 70 committees that the DECCW runs. Around 800 people (public servants and members of the public) sit on these committees (I wonder what sort of fees they pay?)

I've sat on a few committees in my time, and the common thread running through all of them is that no work was done in them, and they had few meaningful outcomes. Yet DECCW is over run with them. I reckon their budget for tea and biscuits must be enormous.

Here's the list of 70 committees. It's quite amazing. I've also added in all the interdepartmental committees - I count about 125 of them, and the 22 significant statutory bodies that DECC has membership of.

Significant committees advising DECC

Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee
Aboriginal Water Trust Advisory Committee
Animal Ethics Committee
BioBanking Ministerial RCape Byron State Conservation Area Trust reference Group
Climate Change Fund Advisory Committee
Climate Change Science Research Network

Community Conservation Advisory Committees
Border Rivers/Gwydir CCAC
Central West CCAC
Namoi CCAC

Conservation Audit and Compliance Committee
Environmental Trust
Internal Audit Committee
Kangaroo Management Advisory Panel
Karst Management Advisory Committee
Load-based Licensing Technical Review Panel

Marine Parks Authority
Bateman’s Marine Park Advisory Committee
Cape Byron Marine Park Advisory Committee
Jervis Bay Marine Park Advisory Committee
Lord Howe Island Marine Park Authority Advisory Committee
Port Stephens–Great Lakes Marine Park Advisory Committee
Solitary Islands Marine Park Advisory Committee

National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council

National Parks and Wildlife Regional Advisory Committees
Blue Mountains Region
Central Coast Hunter Range Region
Far South Coast Region
Far West Region
Hartley Historic Site
Hunter Region
Mid North Coast Region
North Coast Region
Northern Plains Region
Northern Rivers Region
Northern Tablelands Region
Snowy Mountains Region
South Coast Region
South West Slopes Region
Sydney North Region
Sydney South Region
Upper Darling Region
Western Rivers Region

Boards of Management
Biamanga National Park Board of Management
Gulaga National Park Board of Management
Mount Grenfell Historic Site Board of Management
Mutawintji Board of Management
Worimi Conservation Lands Board of Management

Co-management committees
Arakwal National Park Management Committee
Central Coast Hunter Range Regional Aboriginal Co-management Committee
Darug Peoples Advisory Committee
Githabul National Parks Management Committee
Goobang National Park and Snake Rock Aboriginal Area Committee
Menindee Aboriginal Elders Council
Mungo National Park Joint Management Advisory Committee
Paroo Darling National Park Co-management Group
Gawambaraay Pilliga Co-Management Committee

NSW Climate Change Council
NSW Council on Environmental Education
NSW Landcare Committee
NSW Scientific Committee
NSW State of the Environment Advisory Committee
Radiation Advisory Council
Waste Service Performance Improvement Payment Advisory Group

World Heritage Areas advisory committees
Greater Blue Mountains WHA Advisory Committee
Gondwana Rainforests Community Advisory Committee
Gondwana Rainforests Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee
Willandra Lakes WHA Advisory Committee

DECC membership of other significant statutory bodies

Brigalow and Nandewar Community Conservation Council
Bush Fire Co-ordinating Committee
Lake Illawarra Authority
Lord Howe Island Board
Natural Resources Advisory Council
Nature Conservation Trust
NSW Heritage Council
Radiation Health Committee
State Contracts Control Board
State Heritage Register Committee
Sydney Harbour Federation Trust

DECC membership of significant interdepartmental committees

Adaptation Senior Officer’s Group
Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System Management Committee
Australian Government and New South Wales Government Natural Resource Management Joint Steering Committee
Australian Transport Council, Fuel Efficiency Working Group
Biofuels Expert Panel
Board of Surveyors and Spatial Information – Spatial Information Committee
Chief Executive Committee
Climate Change CEO’s Cluster
Climate Change Working Group
Commonwealth Fuel Standards Consultative Committee
Council of Australian Governments Adaptation Subgroup
Council of Australian Governments Working Group on Climate Change and Water
Counter Terrorism CEO’s Cluster
Data and Information Management Working Group – NSW Remote Sensing Subcommittee
Data and Information Management Working Group – NSW Spatial Data Infrastructure Subcommittee
DECC/CMA/ServiceFirst Shared Services Steering Committee
Economic and Business CEO’s Cluster
Environment Protection and Heritage Council Air Quality Working Group
Environment Protection and Heritage Council/Australian Transport Council Fuel Efficiency Working Group
Environment Protection and Heritage Council Working Group on Noise Labelling
Environment Protection and Heritage Ministerial Council Standing Committee
Environmental Trust Subcommittee: Clean Air, Healthy Communities
Environmental Trust Subcommittee: NSW RiverBank
Environmental Trust Technical Committee: Restoration and Rehabilitation Program
Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area Steering Committee
Intensive Agriculture Consultative Committee
Land Supply CEO Group
Metropolitan Planning CEO Group
Metropolitan Water CEO Committee
Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Management Team
Murray–Darling Basin Authority Acid Sulfate Soils Advisory Board
Murray–Darling Basin Authority Acid Sulfate Soils Scientific Reference Panel
Murray–Darling Basin Commission
Murray–Darling Basin Commission Salinity Management in Catchments Task Force
National Coordination Committee – Aquatic Ecosystems Task Group
National Coordination Committee – Biodiversity Working Group
National Coordination Committee – Executive Steering Committee for Australian Land Use Mapping
National Coordination Committee – Executive Steering Committee for Australian Vegetation Information
National Coordination Committee – River Health Contact Group
National Coordination Committee for Salinity Information
National Coordination Committee – Technical Advisory Group for Australian Landuse Mapping
National Committee on Soil and Terrain Information
National Environment Protection Council
National Packaging Covenant Council
Natural Resources and Environment CEO’s Cluster
Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council Standing Committee
Natural Resource Policies and Program Committee
NSW Chief Information Officers Executive Council
NSW Electric Vehicle Taskforce
NSW Feed-in Tariffs Taskforce
NSW National Oil Spill Plan Executive Committee
NSW Research Scientist Classification Committee
NSW Soil Policy Working Group
Planning and Approvals CEO’s Cluster
Premier’s Council for Active Living
Senior Officers’ Group on Energy Efficiency (reporting to the Council of Australian Governments)
State Emergency Management Committee
Sustainability CEO’s Cluster
The Living Murray Environmental Watering Group
The Living Murray MDBC Committee
Transport, Planning and Infrastructure CEO’s Cluster
Two Ways Together Coordinating Committee
Wetlands and Waterbirds Task Force

Thursday 11 November 2010

Wednesday photos

I managed to leave half an hour earlier than usual, but the sun was well up by the time I got to the water. It was a lovely morning - and a horrible afternoon. Around 3pm, the heavens opened and down came the rain. Forget the afternoon - it was a great morning for the rowers. There were at least 8 crews out on the water, rowing to and fro with a few boats racing each other.

There were very few cyclists about, but lots and lots of joggers. I occasionally see the Boot Camp mob doing their exercises - this was the first time I had seen them running around The Bay. All of them looked very sweaty - the humidity this last week has been tropical.

And then there was this interesting couple that I spotted in town. They were walking down George St, begging for cash from the passing pedestrians. They had that look of "I've just left prison". When we think of gay marriage, I'm sure the luvvies don't have the likes of these two in mind as their role models.

Joe Tripodi goes - but why?

Joe Tripodi, brother-in-law of our local member Angela D'Amore, has decided to quit politics. Angela of course is having her own problems with ICAC over rorted allowances.

Interesting to note earlier this week that Joe was friends with Tonette Kelly, a public servant lawyer who has been found to be corrupt.

In earlier evidence, another Maritime lawyer, Sean O'Dwyer, said he believed Ms Kelly was ''very powerful, very highly connected'' with ''a personal and professional relationship with people as high up as the minister'' and invariably got her way.

Mr O'Dwyer said it was ''common knowledge'' within Maritime that the then minister, Joe Tripodi, would drop in to see Ms Kelly.

''It was the subject of a fair bit of comment whereby the minister would come to Rozelle and he would go into Tonette's office before going into the CEO's office, which is very unusual for a government department.''
Does something smell of fish?

By the way, I've been doing a bit of light reading, trawling through the ICAC transcripts regarding the investigation into Angela (I'm having trouble sleeping). The following is a series of questions put to a staffer working for Angela, along with his responses.

You didn’t by the way like going to parliament did you?---No.

You didn’t like the conditions of work at Parliament House?---No, I didn’t like the people at Parliament House.

Okay. All right. So you preferred if you had a choice in the matter to work at the Drummoyne electorate office didn’t you?---I think that’s where the member’s work is, is, serves a greater benefit.

Right. But at all events you personally preferred the class of people you encountered at the Drummoyne electorate office than the people at - - -? Infinitely.

I beg your - - -?---Infinitely.

Thank you. Now, so if there was any way of your getting out of going to parliament and remaining at the Drummoyne electorate office where you thought you could carry out your duties more efficiently you would take that option wouldn’t you?---If it was possible for me to remain in the electorate I would.

Makes you wonder what sort of people are working in parliament house for the Labor party if an experienced staffer of long standing doesn't want to have anything to do with them.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Bad karma?

I've had more flats in the last month than in all of last year. I've given up trying to fix the front tyre for the moment - as the leak is very slow, I just pump it up in the morning, give it a top up before heading home and try not to think about changing the tube.

Well, I have thought about changing it a small amount. I paid a visit to a bike shop on Monday and bought two tubes.

On the way home, just as I was moving fast in order to avoid a nasty thunderstorm that was coming my way, I heard the sudden POP and then fzz, fzz, fzz of a deflating tyre.

Bugger. There goes the front tyre again.

But no! It was the back tyre! On a brand new, thick as two short planks tyre that is supposed to be bullet proof!

I can't tell you how impressed I was to be changing a tube during a thunderstorm, with sunset minutes away, whilst sitting on the side of the road with no wet weather gear.

Monday photos

Not something I see every day - two speedy blokes overtaking me. They were quick.

Your more typical relaxed commuter ambling into town on a more comfortable bike.

An even more relaxed commuter - apart from the helmet, she is not wearing a stitch of "cycling" gear. She's in total office mode. Perfect for a short distance commute from say Pyrmont or Ultimo, which is only a km and a bit from the CBD.

Monday 8 November 2010

Possibly not the best use of our taxes

There are some marvellous things to be found in the grants section of the Dept of Climate Change.

Like this:

Grant detail
Program title: Shaping an International Solution to Climate Change
Sub-program: Bilateral Climate Change Partnerships
Recipient: Australian National University
Value: $249,609
Purpose: To host and facilitate the 1st Australia-China Climage Change Forum.
Approval date: 1 June 2010

Remember what KRudd said about those "rat fuckers"? Do you think the Chinese will take the slightest notice of what our pubes have got to say?

PS - a quick trawl through the grants shows that all the universities are taking money from the climate change gravy train - which is no surprise. Helps to explain why they're so quick to toe the party line.

Dept of Climate Change - does anyone ever take any leave?

Before we get stuck into whether anyone in Canberra is taking any leave, lets have a look at how personally rewarding the climate change gravy train can be:

That's 14 public servants being paid over $200,000 - including one earning around $350,000 and the big kahuna raking in over $470,000. That would be Martin Parkinson, the Departmental Secretary. I'm sure the battlers being whacked with higher power bills will forgive them.

Now, on to the leave provisions and salaries of those hard working pubes.

Last year, wages and salaries came to $25.473 million. Leave and other entitlements added a further $6.6 million. That doesn't include Super, which was yet another $4.2 million. I don't understand how you can have wages of $25 million and leave entitlements of $6.6 million - that implies around 21% of their time is leave.

Four weeks off per year equates to a bit over 8% of the working year taken as leave. A 19 day month with 4 weeks leave comes to 11.5% as leave. A 9 day fortnight with 4 weeks leave comes to 17% of the year off. How on earth do you get to 21%? They must work some funny hours in Canberra.

The other amazing thing is that provisions for leave add up to $11.56 million - this for a department that is only 2 years old! When your entire wages bill is only $25 million, how do you end up with provisions of $11.56 million, which equates to an average of 46% of a year off for every employee?

Madness. Only in Canberra.

Oh, and the Minister that oversaw this is now the Finance Minister. I wonder if PWong has ever read a financial statement?

PS - if you are interested, the Dept has a huge swag of nicely paid jobs going at present. I love the sound of the Travel Manager's job:

The Travel Team sits within the Business Services Branch. The Travel Manager is responsible for developing and maintaining the Departments travel policies and managing the Departments external travel provider under the whole of government travel arrangements. Through the supervision of a team travel offices, the Travel Manager provides support to business areas in supplying high level advice and reporting in relation to travel trends and compliance.
Executive Level 1
$87,362 - $111,299

Gee, I'd like to get $100,000 per year for sitting in an office with a poultice of underlings, essentially telling other public servants how to book plane tickets and hotels when they jet off on their all-expenses paid overseas junkets. I can't believe they need an entire TEAM for this.

Amazing how some people describe themselves

Don't ask me how, but I came across an anti-war group today called Stand Fast.

Here is a description of one of the members:

? Peter Hannaford joined Her Majesty?s Royal Australian Navy in 1964 and was sent to Vietnam. He is a feminist who helped found Diversity in Safe Communities, a united front comprised of anti-Nazi organisers, which successfully drove the misogynist Blackshirts out of Brunswick. Peter is a renowned community artist who has marched against every war since Vietnam.

Intriguing. Most intriguing.

Really astounding map

I never realised just how big Africa really is. Check out this map.

Hat tip - Carpe Diem.

Labor attacks Greens - part II

I got a bit of stick from my last post about Labor attacking the Greens.

Hey, you must be short-sighted or something (maybe one-eyed?).
Can't see much in your thumbnail anyway, but "Labor" is pretty clear when I view the original.
Yes, I am short sighted. And one-eyed. However, that photo that I posted originally was taken at 10x zoom, and I then cropped the photo before publishing it to make the poster (and Labor party logo) as large and visible as possible. I deliberately made the photo as easy to see as possible - as opposed to the actual sign in the real world.

Here is the same sign, taken without zoom and uncropped. Let me know if you can find the sign (hint - it is the orange thing halfway up the power pole in the middle of the photo).

Now you might be able to see why I originally said that the Labor logo was very hard to see, and the authorisation statement at the bottom impossible to read even when standing directly under the sign.

Sunday 7 November 2010

More data visualisations

Right, here's another animated GIF with the paths of all salary bands marked in. Click on it to animate it. It looks like blogger will only allow one animated GIF per post. (Finally - only took six attempts to get that to work properly!)

Notice how the trajectory of the lower salary bands is almost straight up - that is, the number of staff in those bands went up, but their salaries didn't. The trajectory for the upper bands is much flatter - the salaries in those bands shot up over the 4 years.

I want to see if I can do this with the Department of Climate Change next - assuming I can extract enough publicly available data from their web site.

By the way, I stole the idea for this data visualisation from a great TED talk by Hans Gosling. Suggest you check it out.

Visualising public sector salary growth

I've been fiddling with Powerpoint, figuring out how to do bubble charts with transitions.

Click on the image - it's an animated GIF. Watch how the upper salary bands change from 2003 to 2006.

The vertical axis shows the number of staff in each salary band. The size of the bubble shows the percentage of staff in each salary band as a percentage of total staff.

Labor starts attacking Greens

Most of the councils around this way are Labor dominated - except for the greentards in Balmain-Leichhardt. The state seat of Balmain is tipped to go from Labor to Green at the election in March.

These orange signs have started sprouting around Leichhardt - they say "Come on Council. Finish upgrading Leichhardt Oval".

What is completely unobvious, unless you stop and peer at it closely (like I did) is that this is a Labor produced sign. I couldn't read who authorised it - that's in print so small, you'd need to rip the sign down and use a magnifying glass to read it.

So Labor are finally putting the boot into the Greens - but this signage is fascinating. The colour is not a traditional Labor colour. The Labor logo is so small, only really observant people would notice it. It's an attack by Labor that doesn't seem to be coming from Labor.

Interesting. Wonder what trick they'll try next?

Saturday 6 November 2010

NSW government - burning our money

I exercised the brain a bit tonight by crunching a stack of numbers from a series of RailCorp annual reports. I chose RailCorp because they used to include statistics on how much they paid their staff - at least they did up until the 2007 report, when it probably became too embarrassing. Here's a table from the 2003 report, showing the number and percentage of staff in each income bracket. This has to be taken with a pinch of salt - the railways underwent a restructure around then, and staff were shuffled between the various old railway companies. However, it shows that most staff were pulling in around what is the median income in 2010 (about $1,000 per week), with very few in the highest grades.

The next table shows the results for 2003 to 2006. Yes, it's a bit small - sorry. What stands out though is that over those few years, the income brackets shot up 23%. We didn't have inflation of 23% between 2003 and 2006, but RailCorp certainly had wage inflation of 23% or more. I've put the raw numbers down the bottom of this post as a footnote.

The next thing that stood out is the leakage of people into higher grades. Instead of showing raw salary bands, I've split it into 7 salary bands. What you can see is that between 2003 and 2006, the percentage of staff in the top three bands (levels 5, 6 and 7) grew quite substantially.

In 2005, RailCorp had 10,724 employees. Of those, 720 were in the top two bands. 469 were earning between $75,331 and $94,165, and 251 were earning over $94,165.

In 2006, RailCorp had grown to 13,256 staff - an increase of 2,802. However, the numbers in the top two bands had grown from 720 to 1612. Overall staff numbers grew by 26%, but the numbers in the top two bands shot up by 223%.

In 2007, RailCorp grew slightly from 13,256 to 13,805 - an additional 549 staff or 4% growth. The top two bands grew from 1612 to 1741 - growth of 129, or 8% - double the growth in total staff numbers.

At that point, RailCorp ceased the publication of this information.

Here's my best attempt at charting this change. Unfortunately, the numbers here are skewed by 2003, which was an odd year due to all the restructuring that went on. However, you can see a steady drift into the upper bands.

Here's the chart with 2003 removed - the percentage of staff in the 2nd lowest pay bracket dropped significantly, but there was robust growth in the top three bands. This is an old trick that the public sector loves to play - when wage growth is capped by the government, managers scheme to promote each other into the next pay band by regrading jobs etc - that's a great way to get a whacking big pay rise.

But as they say folks - "That's not all". For you see, these tables don't include the number of executives, who are listed separately.

In 2003, when RailCorp only had 3563 staff, it had 11 executives earning $205,000 to $430,000. The total pay packet for the 11 execs was $2.86 million.

In 2004, although staff numbers had shot up to 10,724, there were only 15 executives at a total cost of $3.97 million.

In 2005, staff numbers grew again to 13,256, and executives grew to 19 - but the total cost shot up to $4.96 million.

In 2006, there were suddenly 37 executives, even though staff numbers increased slightly to 13,805. The total executive bull blew out to $9.7 million.

Since then, the number of execs has stayed at around 37, and last year, the bill for them was $10.1 million. And here we have a chart of all those numbers.

Here's a chart that might be a bit tricky to explain. What I'm trying to show here is the impact on the payroll of staff moving into higher pay bands.

We have 7 pay bands, ranging from $30,000 to $90,000 (assuming no inflation). In 2004, 2.3% of staff are in band 1, 3% are in band 2, 1.9% are in band 3 etc etc. What we know now is that quite a few people crept into the top three bands - what impact would this have on the payroll?

Using these nominal numbers, you can see that the overall payroll (assuming no pay increases based on inflation and no change in staff numbers) would grow from $53.80 to $57.60 - a 7% increase. And that's just for the middle managers and front line staff. That's a 7% cost increase over 3 years simply from bumping middle managers into higher pay grades.

What also happened between 2003 and 2006 is that the pay grades themselves went up 23%. That is, band 1 went from less than $27,606 in 2003 to $33,910 in 2006. The top band went from $82,914 to $101,849. They went from having 2% of the workforce in the top two bands in 2003 to 12% in the top two bands in 2006.

If you get 7% cost increases from bumping managers into higher grades, plus a 23% increase in the underlying pay grades, you suddenly get explosive wage growth over just 3 years. And you thought all the extra money being tipped into public services was being spent on things like better track and cleaner trains.....

How does that compare to the general population? Well, here's a chart of the number of Australian taxpayers in various brackets for 2009. There are 9.6 million Australians paying income tax, and 59% of them earn less than $55,000 per year. 77% earn less than $75,000 per year. 89% earn less than $100,000.

I've tried to match up the income tax table with the salary bands at RailCorp.

I think - and I mean "I think" - this shows that your average public servant is earning more than the average taxpayer that supports them. I've prattled on too long to comment on whether that is a good or desirable thing or not - or a necessary thing. That can wait for another night when I'm bored.


Salary bands


> $82,914