Misled by the Kensington Association?

When we moved to Kensington, over a year ago now, we were aware that we were joining a suburb that had something rather unique: its own lobby group. This group, the Kensington Association, was working hard to reunite the suburb of Kensington which, under Jeff Kennett, had half its region assigned to the Melbourne City Council for management, and the other half to the Moonee Valley City Council. This was an odd state of affairs and, in December last year, they succeeded in getting it corrected, with the whole suburb to move under the Melbourne City Council on the 1st July 2008 – i.e. next week.

Of course, there were two broad options for reuniting Kensington – everyone goes to Melbourne, or everyone goes to Moonee Valley. The Kensington Association was vocal in encouraging the Melbourne option, and one of the key reasons promoted was around waste services. A person set up at our local shops to promote their agenda promised me, since I was currently under Moonee Valley, that a shift to Melbourne would result in better street sweeping and the recycling bin being collected twice as frequently. Accordingly, I was convinced that shifting to Melbourne was the way to go.

Except this week, the Moonee Valley City Council took away our green waste bin. It turns out that all is not better with Melbourne City Council, as they don’t offer a regular, kerb-side garden waste collection service in any of their suburbs. Their option is for residents to store the garden waste somewhere, book a garden waste pick-up on a particular weekend per month, and when the council turns up, you need to help them load the waste onto their truck. Hmmm. In all of the Kensington Association’s research and publications on the merger, this little implication was strangely missing.

(And in Melbourne’s recent waste and recycling FAQ, it states that weekly recycling collection will not begin until October 2009, so this potential benefit touted by the Kensington Association is still a long way away.)

What makes the issue of green waste so relevant is that Kensington has a disproportionately large number of houses for an inner city suburb. Based on the data from a popular real estate website, we can construct the following table of suburbs that fall under Melbourne City Council’s management:

Suburb Separate Houses Semi/Terraces Flats
Kensington 28% 24% 44%
North Melbourne 8% 33% 52%
Parkville 7% 34% 53%
West Melbourne 5% 60% 21%
East Melbourne 5% 24% 62%
Carlton 1% 34% 54%
Southbank 1% 2% 85%
CBD 0% 8% 75%
St Kilda Rd 0% 0% 87%

And yes, I know that none of those rows add up to 100%, but that’s the way the numbers came. *shrug*

So, it’s clear that the Melbourne City Council’s not going to have much of an interest in providing a useful green waste service unless they do a special favour for Kensington ratepayers (and maybe those West Melbourne residents in their numerous terrace houses). Or maybe, our local lobby group (if you’re listening) can take a few minutes from their current campaign to save a park and help out those people you misinformed in your last campaign.

The Summit – or perhaps a long way from it

2020 Summit logoI have been pretty interested in seeing the outcomes of the Australia 2020 Summit, and even put my own submission in. And in trying to find some detail on how the first day of The Summit went, I came across Andrew Bolt’s blog posts on it.

Andrew Bolt is pretty amusing, and strongly stands in the conservative camp. But I could not believe what I was reading – it sounded like the first day was a complete waste of time. How could this have happened – surely it was professionally facilitated? Well, I then checked out the the video of the first day’s plenary highlights.

It wasn’t as bad as I had feared, but it was pretty bad. Almost everyone put on camera struggled to communicate their thoughts or articulate what initiatives are looking likely. Most seemed to be in awe of the celebrities and powerbrokers also present. We got a lot of motherhood statements, but they genuinely seemed to feel uplifted by being a part.

However, the Summit’s not for them, it’s for us. Here are the initiatives that were mentioned by people in the video:

  • Put indigenous people on the boards of cultural organisations.
  • Establish a Ministry of Culture (don’t we have one already?).
  • Draft a national Cultural Policy (isn’t that it’s job?).
  • Mandate a national Creative Curriculum.
  • Draft a national Action Plan for Social Inclusion.
  • Provide one-stop-shops for local communities for housing and communal support.
  • Establish a Community Services Commission, like the Productivity Commission.
  • Establish a National Sustainability Commissioner, like the ACCC.
  • Draft a national agreement/treaty with indigenous peoples.
  • Set a policy of continuous disclosure for the government, particularly online.
  • Draft a Bill of Rights.
  • Become a Republic.
  • Establish a “rights based labour mobility programme” to enable Pacific peoples to work in Australia.

Alright – that last one isn’t like the others. It is actually an idea that sounds new.

I understand that each of the ten groups is meant to identify one “big idea” and two or three smaller policy initiatives that could be worked on following the Summit. So, that’s up to 40 actionable items in all. The list above is for 13 items, so they still have 27 to find.

I really do wish them all the best, but if the above represents the results from Day 1 then there’s still a long way to go to fulfill the ambitions of the Summit by the end of Day 2.

Rock the Vote

2020 Summit logoPerhaps I’m naive about what can really be achieved, but I felt the need to provide a submission to Kevin Rudd’s Australia 2020 Summit. Here’s what I wrote:

Over a quarter of a million Australian citizens work for the betterment of this country, but are denied the right to participate in our democracy.

According to the ATO, in 2004-05 there were 280,325 people under the age of 18 years who submitted tax returns. These people earn tax dollars for the government, and yet have no say in how it is spent.

In 1973, the voting age was lowered from 21 years to 18 years. It is time to lower it again, and directly connect our government to the youth of today and the future.

No taxation without representation” was a political catch-cry in 18th century America, and was the philosophical basis for the American colony to reject the rule of their country from the disconnected British parliament. Here in Australia, we have a section of our population who still do not have that representation, over 200 years later.

Although around 4% of the Australian population is aged between 15 and 17 (according to the 2006 Census), many more than the entire state of Tasmania, they cannot influence the election of governments that directly impact their lives through:

  • Funding of schools
  • Educational curriculum
  • Driving age restrictions
  • Smoking/drinking age restrictions
  • Youth wages and working restrictions
  • Entertainment classifications
  • Juvenile justice system
  • in addition to laws, policies and taxation rules that apply equally to all Australians.

This is essentially a moral question: is it right for the voting population’s government to impose rules on productive, yet non-voting, Australians?

This is particularly relevant in the context of the Australia 2020 summit, where it is the younger Australians who are inheriting the consequences of the decisions made today. Decisions made by elected officials that they did not have a say in the election of.

It is true that the constituency of a democracy is only those who vote. We have given the vote to Aboriginals, and Australia led the way in giving the vote to women. How can it be just to with-hold the vote from other productive citizens?

In the last couple of decades, as trading hour restrictions have been loosened, and the cost of living has increased, youths in this country have increasingly taken up jobs in establishments such as supermarkets, fast-food outlets and service stations. This is clearly different to 1950s Australia, and requires different laws that recognise the importance of our younger citizens.

The specifics of the changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act are for the political process to decide on. The specifics will include the precise age, whether voting should be voluntary, and whether it should be connected to the employment situation.

I trust that the above has made a compelling case that we are doing wrong by a significant fraction of our population, and that our democratic government is all the poorer for it. Fortunately, the solution is simple: lower the voting age.

“Taxation without representation is Tyranny” – James Otis (1725-1783)