Power Plays

Earlier this week the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) advised there could well be power blackouts in the upcoming summer, especially in Victoria. They predict there could be one million households affected by rolling stoppages. These predictions already take into account AEMO’s Summer Readiness plan, which includes getting commitments from large consumers to cut back their usage on extreme weather days.

If the predicted return to full service of the Loy Yang power station, closed for repairs, does not occur by mid December, or the return to service of Origin’s Mortdale plant predicted before Xmas, things could be much worse.

In September 2016 South Australia was hit by severe storms, destroying power transmission lines. At the time the fossil fuel industry mocked South Australia’s reliance on renewable energy, but the blackouts were not caused by lack of power, compromised distribution networks caused them. If some of the predictions are correct, Victoria will have blackouts this summer, and they will be caused by failure of fossil fuel generators to provide electricity. The one thing they claim supremacy in. Of course Victorian, NSW and Federal Energy Ministers are blaming each other instead of addressing the issues.

Today, Kylie Porter, the executive director of Global Compact Network Australia, is advising how business is preparing for Climate Change. This preparation includes making wise investment decisions. She is very clear, big business is not putting shareholders funds at risk with investments in coal-mines and power generation, which are seen as potential stranded assets. She strongly refuted any suggestions that investment decisions were made on political motives, we are talking multinational companies here, and they know the risks of fossil fuels and no longer want a part of them.

The only people playing politics on Global warming are our politicians, who should not be blaming others for their own shortcomings.

Here in the West, we are in a far better position, not perfect, but much better.

Yesterday, Hon Bill Johnson MLA opened the 19.25 megawatt Badgingarra solar farm, to compliment the Badgingarra wind farm. This precinct also has the Emu Downs solar and wind facilities. Today the WA Premier announced a package to expand the emergency services vehicle manufacturing industry in Collie. So in two days Western Australia has expanded its renewable energy capacity, and assisted the old coal town of Collie reinvent itself. Also today the State Government announced support for Carbon Farming in rural WA.

Global Warming will not wait for our politicians to catch up, we have to act now. Along the Eastern Seaboard policy makers are in policy paralysis. Fortunately this week there has been a glimmer of hope here in WA. I eagerly await the outcome from the WA Climate Change Discussion Paper.

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Freo Tech Hub

I recently had the pleasure of presenting to a Fremantle Network/Fremantle Chamber of Commerce Politics in the Pub event, held at The Local Hotel. The format was pretty simple, speakers got 2 minutes to pitch their one idea on how to make Fremantle a better place, then it was thrown open to the audience. There were some good ideas presented and lively audience participation afterwards. I thought I’d write a blog post for those who did not make it, or who wanted more detail on what I said.

My idea was for a Very Freo Tech Hub. My thinking about this was a result of a trip to Taipei to attend a Smart Cities at the invite of AusTrade. We arrived a day early and were given a quick tour of the city before the conference. We were shown Taipei 101; an office tower that was the tallest building in the world, with the fastest lifts, when it was built, that claim probably sits with Dubai now. We were shown the teaching hospital, promoted as the best hospital in South East Asia for elective surgery. They also showed us a video of a remote surgery suite, where the surgeon operated on a patient located in a different hospital using Virtual Reality. We were shown two very large, very high tech businesses. All of these have very large bragging rights. Lastly we were taken to their Tech Hub called Taiwan Tech Arena. This was a very modest place and I got to wonder why they were so proud of it. I realised it was because Taiwan is at the forefront of current day technology, and wanted to demonstrate they intended to stay in the forefront into the future and were backing young inventors and developers to come up with new paradigms.

Back in Fremantle, I dwelled on Taiwan Tech Arena in the light of my frustration at the shift in our Universities funding model. There is now much more focus and money put into what we might call problem solving, usually for industrial challenges. While this makes Western Australia a good place for multinationals to do business, it starves pure research, and the many technologies that come out of it. So many things we take for granted today resulted from chance discoveries from pure research. My conclusion was that well supported Tech Hubs could fill that void left by the changes in University funding. Put another way, well-supported Tech Hubs are now an essential part of technology research and development.

Fremantle is an ideal place to locate a high tech hub that focuses on Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and program development. We already have people pursuing these technologies working out of upper storey offices in the West End and at the Prison Incubator. What is needed is a hub. The walkable scale, café culture and great weather here in Fremantle are essential to getting such a project off the ground.

In Taipei the Tech Arena had some support from the Taipei University, primarily in supporting projects that they thought would have a future, with the business aspects of taking something to the market. Murdoch University has voiced s desire to re-connect with Fremantle; this would be an ideal conduit to do that.

I also hope such a Freo Tech Hub could have synergies with the fledgling Film Friendly Fremantle and perhaps in VR operations at Fremantle Hospital. The Hospital B block is currently not well used; a small section would be an ideal location for Medical Tech research.

I am attempting to plant seeds with the big end of town, and feel a well put together proposal would be well received by State Government.

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Council Budgeting 101

The Rates Challenge

Local Government Elections, naturally, produce a community focus around Council Rates; this election is no exception as some new Fremantle candidates have pushed the popularist Zero Rate Rise button. I believe it is timely to hold Community Discussions about Rates Setting and the wide community benefits from a Participatory Budgeting system.

Rates Setting – Local Government budgets are divided into two parcels – Operational Budget and Projects Budget. The Operational Budget is allocated to finance the management of the recurring business of the Local Government and covers cost of operational staff, administration, security, compliance, power and other utilities, and services such as a Planning Department, Community Services, Waste and Recycling collection and disposal, and special Community services such as the CAT bus.

Fremantle’s Operational Budget is currently about 60% of the whole budget, consistent with industry best practice. Fremantle Council expects the CEO to reduce the Operational Budget each year by approximately 2%. Several years ago State Government introduced a 10% efficiency cut, Council advised Fremantle’s CEO to do the same because it represented prudent budgeting. As a result the Operational Budget is now very tight and, with repeated ‘vertical cost shifting’, from both State and Federal Governments, Local Governments HAVE to ‘do more with less’ each year.

The Projects Budget represents money to spend on existing and new initiatives. These include Sporting facilities, Parks, Gardens and Beach renewal, Bike Path and Road improvements, Community events, and unbudgeted repairs like the recent storm damage at Port Beach. On the upside when Local Government undertakes feasibility and planning for infrastructure works certain Grants may apply. Bike network upgrades are a case in point with Fremantle’s bike infrastructure in recent times having been co-sponsored by the State Government.

Back to Zero Rates rise; each year the cost of Local Government operations increases, and the peak body, WALGA calculates a CPI based on what the Councils spend our money on, differently to Federal Government CPI, which focuses on a typical household spend ‘shopping basket’ approach. Last year WALGA calculated a Local Government CPI of 3.5%. A Rates increase over 3.5% allows the Council to provide more services and projects, less than 3.5% would mean project delivery would have to be reduced.

The Local Government Act requires Council’s to prepare 10year Forward Budgets. The first 5 years are based on evidence-based information, which includes projects with potential for co-funding from State Government, projects spread over more than one financial year, and projects the community have been consulted about and are expecting. A Zero Rates rise in Fremantle’s 2020/2021 Budget would put these projects in jeopardy because it would result in a ‘funding ‘hit’ of about $1.5million which would predominantly impact on the Projects Budget. However, the result would also be the 5year Forward Budget being trashed leaving NO funds for any new projects for 5 years into the future.

For a Candidate to ‘promise’ a Zero Rates rise and, also ‘promise’ new projects is, at best disingenuous, and at worst poor economics literacy.

Participatory Budgeting. With the introduction of such a system Council would receive input from the broad community on aspects of the Projects Budget through a citizen representation process. The process could for example, relate to which projects get priority in any particular year. Another model could ask Community about the level of financial commitment they want Council to make, as Manly Council in Sydney has done.

One idea recently put to the Fremantle community was a Survey system offering the ability to ‘dial up’ their priorities, whilst keeping the budget in balance. Submitters would ‘dial up and dial down’ on a range of local project types whilst keeping the Council ‘Budget in Balance’. Such a system would assist Council to better represent community in their fine-grained deliberations at Budget time.

One thing we can all be sure of is that there will always be a greater demand for local projects than the Annual Budget can afford. What Councils must do is apply sound Budget management for each year, and importantly into their 5year Budget Predictions, anything less would be unprofessional and importantly, be letting our community down.

Posted in Finance, Fremantle, Fremantle Council, Fremantle Council Elections, Local Government | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Monday-Home

Our flight was in the evening so we arranged a late check out. We took a late breakfast with our neighbours and then I went for a walk to the beach. When I returned Cathy was lounging with elevated leg by the pool.

We had lunch and then packed our bags and before leaving we both took a stroll to Kuta Beach for old times sake.  We were lucky enough to witness one more procession before we left.

Someone, presumably the Insurance Company had advised the airport Cathy needed a wheelchair. This incurred substantial delays; at one point I thought we would miss the flight. Apparently the airport required an independent doctors certificate before boarding someone in a wheelchair. Once the paperwork was completed we headed off through the airport, our flight was boarding from the tarmac, so the trip included a bus ride and a hydraulic lift into the plane. The flight back seemed quick and we got through formalities smoothly.

The same friend who took us to the airport ten days previously in the early hours came and picked us up at midnight. What a friend.

When can we go back and finish our holiday? Maybe next year.

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Friday-BIMC

I suggested I went into Ubud to get some antibiotics and painkillers, Cathy suggested we went to a medical centre, so I searched for one. We got a car to take us there and saw an efficient and thorough Doctor.  She booked us in with a colleague at Kasih Hospital in Denpasar, for surgical procedures that evening. When we got to the hospital it began to sink in how seriously the doctors were taking our wounds. The thought of a GA for cleaning and stitching seemed a bit excessive, but Cathy was adamant we needed to go through with it. I called our insurer from Kasih Hospital and they advised we needed to go to BIMC Hospital in Kuta. We got a taxi and once there were checked by their Emergency Department team. They also talked of a GA to debride and stitch our wounds. It took 12 hours to get relevant information to the insurers and for them to advise the Hospital they would cover all aspects of our treatment. We were then admitted; by this time it was Saturday morning and a public holiday. We had our procedures late Saturday afternoon/evening and had a comfortable night, thanks to the excellent nurses. It was now Sunday and I did not want to spend our last night in Bali in the hospital, so I got on the Internet and found a hotel. It took all day to achieve our discharge, again waiting for clearance from the insurance company. We finally got to the hotel, booked in and went to their restaurant for dinner. It was a bit of a come down from Kaia Villas but we got on well with our neighbours. We took a bit of a walk before bed to see if we recognised anything since we were last in Kuta 25 years ago, we didn’t.

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Thursday-Mount Batur

Today we planned the longest trip of our holiday, up to Mt Batur. We chose Bali because of the proximity to Fremantle, regular flights and agreeable climate. We live by the beach, so what we yearned were some mountains, something there is a shortage of in metropolitan Perth. The literature said the place for lunch was the Lake View Restaurant, right on the lip of the old volcano looking directly at the lake in the centre. But the bus trips get there at noon so a little earlier would secure a table with a view. I again checked the route and this time charged both phones and the mobile modem we were using for the Internet. Again it looked pretty simple, but we did set off in good time. The ride was brilliant, forever climbing and the air getting cooler as we went.

We stopped for fuel, for small bikes they have a contraption that is similar to petrol bowsers of my youth. The attendant uses a hand pump to fill a glass bowl on the top, as they fill your tank the level drops in the glass bowl and they read off the side how much fuel you have taken. I also took a small detour to show Cathy the tourist attractions at the heart of Tegalalang. This was the place credited with the best views of rice fields in a wide valley. Unfortunately tourism had taken over, with the now inevitable swings, a flying-fox and even a tight rope bicycle ride!We pushed on upwards and northwards, through vegetable growing farms and a village where they were butchering beasts in the main street. We arrived at Batur’s rim ahead of time so decided to go down to the lakeside in the crater. Angela had previously warned us about how steep the road was, but we took it cautiously without a hitch. Once in the crater we turned left around the lake. We passed a destroyed village that looked like it may have been the victim of a minor eruption. Further round we turned to get to the waters edge. We stopped at a carpark where a man gave us a ticket to park costing a few cents. He had slim pickings, as we seemed to be the only visitors there. At the waters edge was a simple warung on stilts. We sat over the water and had coffee, one with ginger. Our entertainment was a group of children fishing. Each time they dropped their small line in the water they came up with a gold fish. The girl, who seemed to be in charge, got a small plastic water bottle half filled with water and pushed the catch into it. The cat looked most interested, I presume at the end of the day when the fish died the cat got them. We then rode anti-clockwise around the lake and saw men standing motionless in the muddy water up to their waists. It transpired they too were fishing with small rods.

It was time to head back up to the rim for lunch. We got up the first half, which was not quite so steep; I wanted to look at a restaurant at this point, but as we got there another procession came down the hill towards us. We again stopped to watch the event. As the people at the end of the procession passed us we decided to continue up the hill to the Lake View Restaurant. As the road got steeper the bike struggled quite a bit, but I was confident we would make it. We approached a sweeping bend, there were many cars coming down the hill and a swarm of bikes started passing the cars, taking up our side of the road. I slowed and went dangerously close to the verge to get out of their way. I was trying to turn back onto the road but simply did not have the momentum or power to do it and the front wheel slipped down the 100 or so millimetre step onto the verge, the front wheel was too small to negotiate the step and we wound up coming off. At this point we entered a new phase of our trip!

A very kind man and his two daughters coming down the hill stopped to help. They righted the bike (that had no damage at all) and helped Cathy to her feet. She was shaken and had a bad cut on her knee as well as other minor injuries. I was wearing jeans so faired better, but had a torn shirt and cut on my elbow. We had connected with the same sharp bit of road edge that had brought us off; otherwise we would have been OK. These kind people loaded Cathy into their car and headed to the local clinic with me in pursuit on the bike. They stayed with us until the wounds were cleaned, drenched in Betadean and dressed. As they left they said go right and then left to get back to Ubud. For the second time on our holiday I totally lost my bearings, and followed the instructions as I thought best. We were heading up wards and northwards, totally wrong. We turned and tried to get help from Google Earth with no success. After a short while we saw a sign to Ubud and turned down that road. It was going in the right direction and like the road outward went through vegetable allotments. It became obvious we were on the same road as we lost our way along on Tuesday. This time we missed the turnoff so went into Ubud and took the road we knew back north to Kaia Villas. The stop/start in the Ubud gridlock was particularly hard on Cathy’s injured knee. We had a rest then looked at redressing the wounds, I went back to the minimart to get some bandages. Once cleaned up we had dinner in the room delivered from Van Sheva Warung.

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Wednesday-Massage

After the excitement of yesterday we decided to have a relaxing day on Wednesday and plan a big trip for the next day. We were really getting into the groove and arranged a massage for late morning. I went first, I chose my preferred music and had a very good relaxing massage; Cathy followed and chose the masseuses gamelan music. This set the tone for the day.

We relaxed for a while longer until I went out for a ride. I was determined to find Café Dewi, the one that eluded me on Sunday. I found it about 5 km away from the Google Maps location. It was in the strip of cafes and warungs that close at 7:00pm. We will have to try and get there for lunch sometime.  I headed south and found the Arun Restaurant at Tejaprana Resort. This is one of the interesting things about Bali; I’m riding along a busy road with lighting and glass workshops along either side, not a place you would expect to find a top of the range resort. The only give away is a small sign at the end of a bumpy, narrow driveway saying Tejaprana. Walking from the small parking area one enters a wonderland of calm and luxury. The place is built on the side of a steep ravine, uppermost is the Arun Restaurant, and falling away down the ravine are the rooms and other facilities. The place was stunning and a quick check on a booking site had it in the AU$300+ a night bracket. I doubt they had many walk in customers, the rest of the diners in the sparsely occupied Restaurant were house-guests.

I had one more trick up my sleeve. The way home could be the same way as we came or, by going a little further towards Ubud we could turn right and wend our way north up a narrow road of great beauty. Signs said there were Heron observation points along the way, but not at this time of night. What a great day and dinner.

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