Showing posts with label costs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label costs. Show all posts

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The bad news for NSW North Coast regional communities just never ends


According to the Berejiklian Coalition Government’s Transport for NSW  website: The Community Transport Program (CTP) assists individuals who are transport disadvantaged owing to physical, social, cultural and / or geographic factors.  Individuals who do not qualify for other support programs may be eligible for community transport. CTP is funded by the NSW Government and aims to address transport disadvantage at the local level via community transport organisations.

In the Clarence Valley medical specialist services are rather thin on the ground and residents are frequently referred to medical practices and hospital clinics hundreds of miles away.

For communities in the Lower Clarence where a high percentage of the population are elderly people on low incomes this can frequently present a transport problem, as often there is no family member living close by to assist or the person’s peer friendship group doesn’t include anyone capable of driving long distances.

Community transport has been the only option for a good many people.

Until now…..

The Daily Examiner, 8 January 2019, p.3:

The thought of paying $200 for a trip to see her specialist about her medical condition made Yamba pensioner Gloria George glad she was sitting down when she made the call.

The 80-year-old said when she contacted Clarence Community Transport and was told the price to be taken by car to the Gold Coast for a Wednesday appointment, it could have brought on a heart attack.

Mrs George said CCT told her there was a bus service to the Gold Coast that ran on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for $70.

“My appointment was on Tuesday and the clinic I was booked into was not available on the other days,” she said.

“They said they had made cutbacks and the price to be driven to the appointment was $200.

“I’ve got a bad heart problem and I nearly fell over when they told me.
“Who can afford $200 to go to an appointment?”

Mrs George said she still has a licence, but would not feel safe driving to her appointment.

“I think I’ll be able to get a friend to drive me there and take me home again. I hope so,” she said.

The manager of CCT, Warwick Foster, said the price rise for services had come in when the government cut $250,000 from CCT’s funding when the NDIS came in last year.

“We could no longer afford to operate the bus five days a week,” he said. “And we can’t afford to drive people to appointments for the same fee we charge for the bus service.”

Mr Foster said the government subsidy for transport of $31 a trip created a juggling act for CCT to afford its services.

“Each trip, no matter the distance, is subsidised at $31,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter if the trip is across town or to Brisbane, the subsidy is the same....


Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert follows unofficial Liberal Party guideline: Don't get caught but if you do pay it back


Image: The Sydney Morning Herald 2017
Assistant Treasurer and Liberal MP for Fadden Stuart Rowland Robert (right) is in the news once more.

This time over the excessive costs associated with his taxpayer-funded 4G home Internet connection.

He has been charging taxpayers more than a $1,000 a month for Internet access since 2016 and by 2018 the cost had risen to over $2,000 a month.


The reasons being given by Robert for why he didn’t avail himself of cheaper alternatives don’t really stand close scrutiny.

Given this Liberal MP’s history (see below) one immediately wonders if a third party individual/ corporation signed his contact with the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and this increased the cost to taxpayers or whether Robert has a pecuniary interest in that particular ISP.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has requested that these expense claims be investigated by Special Minister for State Alex Hawke who himself is under a cloud when it comes to parliamentary expense claims.

Once his parliamentary expenses drew media attention Robert was quick to commit to paying back Internet charges reimbursed by the Dept. of Finance. At a quick estimate that would be somewhere in the vicinity of $25,000, although reportedly he puts the estimate as a little over $20,000.

Parliamentary expense claims are not the only issue for the Member for Fadden.

On 6 October 2018 The West Australian reported that:
A company run by a Federal minister who charged taxpayers $2000 a month for internet access lodged documents removing him as its director only after the matter was queried by The Weekend West.

Until late yesterday ASIC records showed Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert was a director of an alternative health franchise business, despite Mr Robert telling Parliament a month ago he quit the board of Cryo Australia when he returned to the ministry.

In February 2016 Stuart Robert was sent to the backbench in disgrace after just three years as a federal government minister. 

It is barely six weeks since he returned to the ministry on the back of Scott Morrison’s politically bloody ascendancy and it appears that there has been no lesson learned.

A Brief History







Thursday, 9 August 2018

Is Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton value for money?


Australia's millionaire Minister for Home Affairs and Liberal MP for Dickson Peter Dutton has gathered to himself a lucrative salary worth in the vicinity of $478,068 per annum, before any parliamentary entitlements are realised.

The Prime Minister's annual salary is only a little under $50,000 more than this, while the U.S, President's annual salary is apparently around AU$70,000 less than Dutton's annual payment for services rendered.

So is Peter Dutton giving taxpayers value for the revenue dollars they supply.

It honestly doesn't appear to be the case if this audit is any indication.


On 18 July 2017, the Prime Minister announced that the government had decided to establish a Home Affairs portfolio which would have responsibility for:

federal law enforcement;
national security;
transport security;
criminal justice;
emergency management;
immigration and multicultural affairs; and
border-related functions.

The Department of Home Affairs has assumed all of the department’s functions (including the ABF) in addition to functions from each of the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet; Social Services; Infrastructure and Regional Development and the Attorney-General’s department.

In addition to the ABF, the Home Affairs portfolio also includes the following entities:

the Australian Federal Police;
the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission;
the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre; and
the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. …..

Conclusion

10. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection achieved the integration of DIBP and ACBPS and the creation of the Australian Border Force in a structural sense and is also progressing with the implementation of a suite of reform projects. However, it is not achieving commitments made to government in relation to additional revenue, and is not in a position to provide the government with assurance that the claimed benefits of integration have been achieved.

11. The department established largely effective governance arrangements which were revised over time in response to emerging issues.

12. The department’s record keeping continues to be poor.

13. The department is effectively managing a suite of 38 capability reform projects and has developed sound monitoring arrangements, although the Executive Committee does not have visibility of the overall status of individual projects.

14. The efficiency savings committed to by the department were removed from its forward estimates and have thus been incorporated in the budget. However, the department has not verified whether efficiencies have been delivered in the specific areas which were nominated in the Integration Business Case.

15. Based on progress to the end of December 2017, if collections continue at the current rate the department will only collect 31.6 per cent of the additional customs duty revenue to which it committed in the Integration Business Case.

16. In the Integration Business Case, the department committed to a detailed Benefits Realisation Plan. The plan was not implemented despite several reviews identifying this omission. As a result, the department cannot demonstrate to the government that the claimed benefits of integration have been achieved….

18. Reporting to the Executive focused primarily on integration and organisational reform, with minimal coverage of progress in delivery of the suite of 38 capability reform projects. Following the identification of this as a gap in the 2017 Gateway Review, an Enterprise Transformation Blueprint was established to provide the Executive Committee with greater visibility over the progress of activity across the department.

19. There was no evidence identified to indicate that written briefings were provided to the Minister on progress throughout the implementation process.

20. Detailed communication plans were established and implemented to support the integration process. ‘Pulse Check’ surveys were regularly taken to evaluate staff satisfaction and engagement with the process.

21. The audit found that the department did not maintain adequate records of the integration process. This finding repeats the outcomes of a substantial number of audits and reviews going back to 2005. The department’s own assessment is that its records and information management is in a critically poor state. The problems and their solutions are known to the department, and it has an action plan to address them, although numerous previous attempts to do so have not been successful.

22. The department also experienced a loss of corporate memory due to the level of turn-over of SES staff, with almost half of SES officers present in July 2015 no longer in the department at July 2017.

23. The department initially identified possible risks to effective integration. However, regular reporting against those risks ceased when the Reform and Integration Task Force was disbanded.

24. The department made extensive use of consultants to assist it with the integration process. Despite a requirement to evaluate contracts upon completion, this did not occur in 31 out of 33 (94 per cent) of contracts with a value of more than $1 million examined by the ANAO, and therefore it is unclear whether these services represented value for money…..

The Assurance Partner [Third Horizon] was engaged by DIBP as a consultant for the period 19 June 2014 to 18 June 2016 with a contract value of $2 million The total paid to the consultant was $1.6 million. Due to the department’s concerns with the Assurance Partner’s performance, the engagement ended early in August 2015……


The initial allocation of funds for the Portfolio Reform Program in the 2014–15 budget was $710.4 million.5 Additional funds were approved in successive budgets which brought the total funding for the Program to $977.8 million. [my yellow highlighting]

BRIEF BACKGROUND

North Coast Voices, 26 June 2018, Australia’s Border Farce lives down to its nickname


Thursday, 26 July 2018

Australia 2018: the Coal War continues


It should come as no surprise that in the Coal War being conducted by right-wing ideologues and climate change deniers consumers are predicted to be the losers under the Turnbull Government's National Energy Agreement (NEG) and, that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is offering the same illusory $550 per annum saving on electricity costs per household promised but not delived by his predecessor Tony Abbott. 

A COAG Energy Council Ministers meeting on August 2018 will reveal the final NEG design - a design which won't be published until after this meeting.

What is already broadly known about the NEG design appears to support allegations that the aim of this agreement is to cement the dominant position of fossil fuels in the national energy mix at the expense of renewable energy technologies.

REneweconomy, 20 July 2018:

As pressure mounts for Australia’s states and territories to finalise their position on the National Energy Guarantee, a new report has warned the federal government’s policy would fail to achieve its most basic and important function: to lower energy costs for consumers.

The report, commissioned by Greenpeace Australia Pacific, says the Coalition’s NEG would in fact do the opposite – raise electricity prices; as well as bringing investment in large-scale renewables to a halt, and do nothing to combat climate change.

Based on analysis conducted by energy and environment analysts RepuTex, the report models the impact of the NEG under the government’s 26 per cent emissions reduction target, compared to a more ambitious 45 percent target.


In both scenarios, as shown in Figure 17 above, electricity prices are forecast to fall through to 2020 as more than 6GW of renewable energy enters the NEM under large-scale renewable energy target (LRET).

“The increase in low cost solar and wind generation will see the electricity supply steadily become more competitive, with average prices less influenced by high priced gas, and subsequently falling toward $60 MWh in 2020,” the report says.

But under the NEG, new investment in renewables falls off a cliff after 2020, while the impact of the reliability guarantee drives an increase in gas generation, prolongs the phase-out of coal, and makes it harder for key new technologies, like battery storage and demand management to compete.

“The result is the continuation of a coal-dominated market with a fairly static picture for large-scale renewables investment, with gas providing flexibility to meet evening ramp ups,” the report says.

“As a result wholesale prices rise above $70 per MWh after the closure of Liddell, and $80 per MWh after the expected retirement of Yallourn in 2028.”

A more ambitious emissions reduction target, however, of 45 per cent, would provide a signal for investment in more solar and wind, driving prices down by around $20/MWh.

“The competitive pressure from higher solar and wind energy is modelled to push wholesale prices lower, eventually resulting in the closure of excess coal capacity” – around 9GW, in total, by 2030 RepuTex says.

Published on Jul 23, 2018

The crucial make or break meeting of State Energy Ministers is on 10 August. So if we want block Turnbull's dirty energy plan, we need to move right now.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Don't expect your residential electricity costs to come down anytime soon


In three years time the amount of revenue electricity network companies can charge customers will be reduced, which according to the Australian Energy Regulator in its Draft Rate of Return Guideline "could [not would] result in household customers’ bills decreasing by around $30 to $40 per year".

Remembering all the other failed assurances that the cost of residentail electricity would come down, it is a brave individual who takes this latest prediction at face value.


The Australian Energy Regulator has moved to significantly cut the amount of revenue electricity network companies can charge customers in a bid to take the pressure off households and businesses enduring high power prices.
AER chair Paula Conboy said it would reduce average household electricity bills by about $30 to $40 a year….

But energy network companies claim the new guidelines will strip about $2 billion in revenue over the next five years and threaten future investment in the energy sector.
Morgan Stanley said the rule, if confirmed, would cut valuations of listed grid owners such as Spark Infrastructure and Ausnet Services, while adding it "could have been worse".

Energy users welcomed the move as a sign the regulator is prioritising the interests of consumers although Energy Consumers of Australia acting head Lynne Gallagher said the proposed reduction in the rate of return able to be earned on capital could have been bigger.

"There is no doubt that there could be some disappointment from some consumer groups with this decision, but it is a much better outcome than we've seen in previous years on this issue," Ms Gallagher said....

AusNet said that if the rule is confirmed, the reductions would apply to its power distribution network from the beginning of 2021, in transmission from April 1 2022 and in gas from January 1 2023. Spark said the rule would apply to its various assets in 2020, 2021 and 2023….

Mr Turnbull is also expected to use his speech in Brisbane to talk on the long-awaited Australian Competition and Consumer Commission into electricity prices which is expected to be released this week. The ACCC report is expected to be used as a reason not to call a royal commission into electricity prices as being pushed by the Greens. 

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Restoring electricity affordability & Australia's competitive advantage, 11 July 2018, excerpts:

Australia is facing its most challenging time in electricity markets. High prices and bills have placed enormous strain on household budgets and business viability. The current situation is unacceptable and unsustainable. The approach to policy, regulatory design and promotion of competition in this sector has not worked well for consumers. Indeed, the National Energy Market (NEM) needs to be reset, and this report sets out a plan for doing this…….

There are many causes of the current problems in the electricity market. At all stages of the supply chain decisions have been made over many years by many governments that set the NEM on the wrong course.

In networks, the framework that governs regulation of monopoly infrastructure was loosened, leaving the regulator with limited ability to constrain excess spending by network owners. The limited merits review (LMR) regime allowed network owners to appeal regulatory decisions and recover billions of additional dollars from consumers. It led to significant increases in prices, has drawn out the length of time taken for revenue determinations, and has created significant uncertainty around network pricing. In addition, increased expenditure on networks was driven by reliability standards for some networks that were set too high, without due regard for consumers’ willingness to pay for marginal increases in reliability.

In generation, against ACCC advice, the Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) governments made decisions regarding the operation and ownership of generation assets giving rise to concentrated markets. In Queensland, the government consolidated the generation assets of three businesses into two. In NSW, as one example, both generators owned by Macquarie Generation were sold to AGL, missing an opportunity to deliver a competitive market structure by selling them to separate buyers.

Most state governments put in place excessively generous solar feed-in tariff schemes with a view to encouraging consumers to install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Under these schemes, the subsidy paid to consumers for the energy produced by their systems outweighed, by many multiples, the value of that energy. Take up of the schemes exceeded all expectations, in part due to dramatic declines in solar PV installation costs. The substantial cost of the schemes continues to be spread across all electricity users.

The main enduring policy instrument for encouraging low-emissions electricity generation is the Renewable Energy Target. While it has been effective at encouraging wind and solar generation capacity installation, it has also distorted the investment that has occurred in the transition from higher carbon technologies to lower ones. The subsidies received for installing wind and solar made the business case for doing so compelling but did so in a way that was indifferent to the ability to provide energy to the market when demand requires it.

At a time when gas-powered generation has become more important with the exit of large coal-fired plants, the extent of LNG exports from the East Coast and government moratoria on on-shore gas exploration and development have stifled the availability of gas at a low price.

Electricity retailers have also played a major role in poor outcomes for consumers. Retailers have made pricing structures confusing and have developed a practice of discounting which is opaque and not comparable across the market. Standing offers are priced excessively to facilitate this practice, leaving inactive customers paying far more than they need to for electricity. Pay on time discounts, which have emerged as a response to attempts to constrain late payment fees, are excessive and punitive for those customers who fail to pay bills on time. [my yellow highlighting]

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Australia’s Border Farce lives down to its nickname


Minister for Home Affairs and Liberal MP for Dickson Peter Dutton’s poor oversight and lack of managerial skills is on display for all to see…….


The benefits of the merger of the Immigration and Customs departments and creation of Australian Border Force  haven't been proven and promised increased revenue hasn't materialised, a damning audit report has found.

While the Department of Immigration and Border Protection did achieve the merger effectively, it "is not in a position to provide the government with assurance that the claimed benefits of integration have been achieved," the report said.

The merger of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service took place in 2015, with its functions now covered under the Department of Home Affairs. Controversial at the time, it heralded a move to focus more on guarding the country's borders over resettlement and migration.

In the business case for the merger, the department committed to a "Benefits Realisation Plan," but because the plan was not implemented, the claimed benefits have not been measured and can't be demonstrated, the report said.

While the business case for the integration of the departments promised an increase in revenue from customs duty, less than half of the promised revenue increase has materialised. At the end of 2017, just 42.2 per cent of the extra revenue committed to had been achieved, and the report predicted that at the current rate just 31.6 per cent of the additional revenue promised would be delivered.

When the merger was announced, then immigration minister Scott Morrison promised "hundreds of millions in savings" would be reinvested back into the agency.
Auditor-general Grant Herir slammed the department's record keeping, which the department admitted was in a "critically poor state," and said there was no evidence that the Minister Peter Dutton was given written briefings on the progress of the integration of the departments.

In its response, the Department of Home Affairs acknowledged it had issues with record keeping and committed to making improvements a priority. The report didn't look on this commitment favourably though, pointing to more than 10 years of audits and reviews that have made similar findings.

The problems and their solutions are known to the department, and it has an action plan to address them, although numerous previous attempts to do so have not been successful," it said.

The report also found that the department experienced a loss of corporate memory through the merger.

"Almost half of SES officers present in July 2015 [were] no longer in the department at July 2017," it said.

The report also found that out of 33 consultancy contracts with values of more than $1 million, just 2 were evaluated for value for money, meaning that it was unclear if the other 31 contracts had been value for money.

Spending on consultancy in the department more than doubled in the years after the merger, topping more than $50 million in each of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 financial years…..

The Age, 19 June 2018:

The multimillion-dollar college that trains Australia’s border security personnel has “overpromised and underdelivered” and immigration and customs officials have repeatedly abused their powers, a scathing report has found.

The government-commissioned findings also said many department staff lack the training needed to perform their jobs and “jaws of death” have gripped officials struggling to complete more work with fewer resources.

In May 2014 the Coalition Abbott government controversially announced the creation of the Australian Border Force (ABF), as part of a merger of customs and immigration border operations. Crucial to the new super-charged agency was the establishment of the ABF College, with multiple campuses, to ensure recruits and existing staff “have the right skills to do their jobs”.

Under the former department of immigration and border protection, consultants RAND Australia were asked to evaluate the progress of the merger, ahead of the creation of the Home Affairs portfolio in December last year which combined immigration, border protection, law enforcement and intelligence.

The findings concluded that “clear and unequivocal” progress has been made towards building a “modern border management capability”.

However, success had been “uneven” and in particular, the ABF College “largely remains a disappointment to senior leaders across the department”.

The report involved interviews with senior department officials, who cited concern that the college’s curriculum was “not adequate for actual training needs”.

The college’s use of technology was poor and, in many cases, was used to “automate bad learning environments” rather than improve training.

The college was supposed to train staff across the department, however many officials were not given time to attend courses.

Overall, the college and other training opportunities in the department “overpromised and underdelivered to the detriment of the workforce and the morale”.

One senior official was so frustrated at the problems that he suspended a board examining the issues “until new terms of reference and fresh ideas were developed”.
The report is dated 2018 but it is not clear exactly when it was finalised. The Department of Home Affairs did not answer questions from Fairfax Media on how much had been spent on the college and where its campuses were located. Officials have previously said the 2014-15 budget included $54 million to establish the college and other training measures, and that several campuses would be established including in Sydney and Canberra.

Across the department’s broader workforce, senior officials said staff in many cases lacked “the capability to do the work required of their assigned positions”.

This included customs and immigration investigators “not understanding the law, use of force protocols, and rules of engagement” which in some cases led to “abuse of power,” the report said.

One official said field compliance officers “were doing dangerous jobs without proper training” and another described a junior officer who was “unable to manage shipboard operations due to a lack of proper training and experience”.

Department staff described being held in the “jaws of death” as they juggled an increased workload and declining resources. Senior officials repeatedly raised concern that the ABF received more resources than other divisions but “has not been subjected to the same level of scrutiny”….

As a local member it appears that Dutton is also having ‘workforce’ issues ahead of the forthcoming federal election…..

www.peterdutton.com.au as of 20 June 2018:

Peter is working hard but could use your help.
If you can spare an hour or two to help Peter in Dickson, please join the team.

The most shameful evidence of Peter Dutton's management style is found when one condiders that as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection since 23 December 2014, he currently has ultimate responsibility for the welfare of asylum seekers held in custody. 

Bringing the total number of deaths in onshore or offshore detention and in the community to est. 64 people since January 2000. 

That is the equivilant of almost four deaths each year on Peter Dutton's watch and around three deaths per year overall.

According to MSN on 21 June 2018; There are nearly 700 men currently in detention on Papua New Guinea, and more than 900 men, women and children on Nauru.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Tweets of the Week




Friday, 2 February 2018

How we see the cost of living in Australia in 2018


Essential Report, 30 January 2018:


A substantial majority believe that, in the last 12 months, cost of living (73%) and electricity costs (75%) have all got worse. The only economic measure that has got better is company profits (42% better/12% worse).
Compared the last time this question was asked in February 2016, there has been an increase in the percentage that think electricity costs (up 13% to 75%) have got worse. However, there has also been an increase in the percentage that think company profits (+12), unemployment (+19) and the economy overall (+18) have got better.


51% (down 2% since August) believe that, in the last two years, their income has fallen behind the cost of living. 28% (up 3%) think it has stayed even with the cost of living and 14% (down 1%) think it has gone up more.

64% of those earning under $600 pw and 58% of those earning $600-1,000 pw think their income has fallen behind while 54% of those earning over $2,000 pw think it has stayed the same or gone up.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)media release, 31 January 2018:



Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 1 November 2018:




According to the ABS, over the last twelve months up to end September 2017 the Living Cost Index* rose:

2.0% for Pensioner and Beneficiary Households
2.1% for Other Government Transfer Recipient Households
1.7% for Age Pensioner Households
1.6% for Self-Funded Retiree Households
1.5% for Employee Households 

One of the principal drivers to the rise in costs for these groups has been the rise in housing costs due to the rise in wholesale electricity costs.


Thursday, 23 November 2017

Will you be able to afford your electricity bill this summer?


The Daily Examiner, 22 November 2017, p.5:

Power price hikes have tripled wage growth in the past decade and experts fear more NSW families could have their electricity disconnected this summer.

New data shows the average electricity bill has jumped a whopping 116 per cent from $1282 in 2007 to $2770 in 2017, while the median wage has grown just 35 per cent from $59,723 to $80,382.

The figures, compiled exclusively for The Daily Telegraph by price comparison firm Finder, reveal the average bill jumped 10.5 per cent in the past year alone, while wages grew just 2.2 per cent.

Analysis shows the portion of their wages workers are spending on their bills has grown more than 60 per cent in those 10 years.

Experts are now worried that residents forced to spend a bigger chunk of their wages on electricity could risk disconnections this summer as airconditioner use pushes bills even higher.

While state and federal politicians remain divided on how to tackle soaring power prices, figures from the Australian Energy Regulator show that from 2014 to 2017 the number of customers on hardship programs has risen from 18,293 to 24,921. The number of customers with bill debt has also jumped almost 20,000 in the past year, with 85,801 customers now in debt compared with 68,487 last year.

In the most recent financial quarter there were 7775 electricity disconnections in NSW and 1908 households with their gas cut off.

To put this in perspective, a careful aged pensioner living alone in New South Wales would have easily faced an annual electricity bill in 2016-17 in the vicinity of $1,300-$1,500.