Tuesday, November 27, 2012

But wait, there's more.....

Remember yesterdays post? Here's a little more on the same subject.....

The man charged with consulting stakeholders about the new Local Land Services model says he knows nothing about a draft organisational structure that has already been circulated to DPI and CMA staff.

Mick Keogh has been commissioned by the State Government to assess what changes stakeholders would like to see when their local CMA, DPI and LHPA amalgamate to become Local Land Services.
"Commissioned"? How can he be commissioned and on the reference panel? Surely there's a conflict of interest here? I wonder if Katrina Hodgkinson's comments still apply, after all this is what she said about funds going to CMA staff and board members.

''This is a questionable outcome,'' she said. ''The appropriate management of public funding is a public interest priority and an absolute for good government.''
And the consultation doesn't seem to be going all that well.

Less than 20 farmers have turned out in Tamworth to discuss the amalgamation of a number of organisations into the state government's new Local Land Services (LLS) organisation......  
Liverpool Plains farmer, Hugh Price, says, despite claims to the contrary, the meetings weren't adequately advertised. "I received an electronic invitation from the Namoi CMA, and I was quite pleased to receive it, because I thought somebody was recognising that I could have a contribution to make," he said. "But it would appear, from what we've been told, the publication of the meeting wasn't well advertised and, sadly, it's not been well attended and I think that's something the organisers need to review." Mr Price says he was also disappointed in with the content of the workshops and what he claims was a lack of information offered on the future structure of Local Land Services. "I think the facilitator himself used the term 'to put the flesh on the bones'," he said. "Well, we haven't actually been told about the bones, but the skeleton's already been designed
My little whiskers tell me there'll be much much more to come out of this before it's over.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Leak this!

It's quite interesting, the more you look the more you find. Remember a couple of days ago (surely you can remember that far back) when I posted about the leaking of an internal investigation into CMA funding that looked suspiciously like an attempt to smear CMAs and their staff? Well, I saw today that Mick Keogh of the Australian Farm Institute has been engaged to undertake some public consultation:
Mick Keogh, Director Australian Farm Institute, has undertaken independent targeted consultation during November in Armidale, Tamworth, Griffith and Wagga Wagga, and with LHPA State Council and Policy Council, NSW Farmers Western Division (including Council and CMA) and CMA Chairs.

Now, is this part of his official duties as a member of the reference panel or has it been contracted and if so what was the process? So I dug a little further, finding the immediate past chair of the AFI is none other than the current chair of the Natural Resources Commission, Dr John Keniry (something absent from his profile on the NRC website, though mentioned in the annual report) and with a fair whack of the AFI's income (p21 annual report) coming from corporate membership (NSW Farmers, MLA, Westpac Agribusiness, Pfizer, Landmark, Commonwealth Bank, Monsanto etc) it could hardly be described as independent nor representative of most of the landholders CMA, DPI and LHPA staff deal with.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

More on the Local Land Services plans

Last week the State Government released a draft map showing proposed boundaries of the new LLS areas, one look shows that it's based on Local Government Areas rather than catchment boundaries which both State and Federal Governments have been using for years and which people actually have got a good idea of. The curious among you may wonder how the proposed boundaries line up with the current ones, well wonder no more, over the past couple of days this little map has been bouncing around the state (and luckily for us found it's way into my inbox).

Blue lines current CMA boundaries, orange lines current LHPA boundaries.

In short it doesn't fit either the current Catchment Management Authority or Livestock Health and Pest Authority boundaries at all, what it will mean is that the new Catchment Action Plans, the drafts of which have just been released will, in many areas, be either completely useless or need drastic overhauls. From where I sit the whole thing looks like a shambles, and you should hear what they have planned for the staff....

Saturday, November 24, 2012

So Who Leaked?

A couple of weeks ago the Sun Herald published this article:

Inquiry to examine 'bias' in water grants  
Date October 28, 2012  
Sarah Whyte Consumer affairs reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald

A dozen NSW water authorities have granted their board members, staff and relatives more than $3.4 million in funding, sparking a state government investigation.

Internal documents obtained by The Sun-Herald show that 12 out of the 13 NSW catchment management authorities have granted 93 funding incentives to 66 board members, staff and family members from 2005 to last year.

The documents show funding from the authorities, which manage natural resources at a local level, went to initiatives including sustainable farming, fencing, grassland conservation and grazing management.

The Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, ordered an inquiry into Catchment Management Authorities, citing concerns of bias and potential conflicts of interest.

''This is a questionable outcome,'' she said. ''The appropriate management of public funding is a public interest priority and an absolute for good government.''

Tony Thompson, a board member from the western Catchment Management Authority, received nine grants totalling more than $750,000, while the wife of a board member for the central west authority received about $2000 for ''catering for a large meeting in a remote location''.

Mr Thompson said he was initially concerned about issues of bias when he joined the board in 2007, as he had already received four grants. ''I definitely declared a conflict of interest,'' he said.

The chairman of the western authority, Rory Treweeke, said it would be unfair if his board members could not apply for the grants, some of which could last up to 15 years, saying the process was hands-off.

''Given the area we are working in, it would be actually inequitable to prevent board members applying from the same programs that their neighbours could,'' he said. ''I don't believe there is any nepotism.'' Mr Treweeke received a grant of $7374 for works to improve sustainability.

In total, the catchment, located in the state's north-west, gave $1,181,910 worth of grants to their board and staff members, which were granted by an ''independent panel'', Mr Treweeke said.

The western authority has no plans to exempt board or staff members from grants, Mr Treweeke said. The general manager of the Murray authority in the state's south-west, David Leslie, said he ''welcomed'' the government's investigation.

From 2008 to 2010, Mr Leslie authorised four grants to a staff member's partner totalling $104,475.54. ''The conflict of interest was declared and the staff member was removed from the project,'' Mr Leslie said.

The female staff member's partner received the grants for conservation and fencing for flood damaged areas.

But last year, the general manager of Namoi authority, in north-west NSW, decided not to allow board or staff members to take part in their programs. In 2007, they issued two grants to staff members totalling $114,427. '

The general manager wanted to remove any perception of favouritism in the granting process,'' Anne Ferguson, a spokeswoman for the catchment, said.

The Sydney metropolitan authority is the only catchment that has not given any staff members grants.

Tom Gavel, the chairman of the Central West authority and spokesman for Catchment Management Authorities, said he was confident the investigation would be a ''straightforward process''.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/water-issues/inquiry-to-examine-bias-in-water-grants-20121027-28cbf.html#ixzz2D7mYZr8Z
Now, here's the thing, the print edition had details on a number of the grants, the investigation had already been in place for a month before the article, the reporter (Sarah White) tends to report on entertainment and music, CMA's are not "water authorities" and the grants were for environmental and sustainable agriculture projects leading to the reasonable conclusion that information about the investigation was passed to Sarah White (or passed to more experienced reporters who smelt a rat).

In spite of a potential breach in public service guidelines there has been, to the best of my knowledge, no investigation into who leaked the information. When the audit comes back showing little more than the few usual clerical errors will the Minister issue a press release exonerating the staff and issuing a public apology? Don't know about you but I doubt it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Coalition Introduces Carbon Tax

A quick look through the NSW Government Gazette found this little gem (p4136):

Energy and Utilities Administration (Energy Contributions) Order 2012 I, the Hon. ROBYN PARKER, M.P., Minister for the Environment, with the concurrence of the Hon. CHRIS HARTCHER, M.P., Minister for Resources and Energy, and the Hon. MIKE BAIRD, M.P., Treasurer, make the following Order under section 34J of the Energy and Utilities Administration Act 1987.

This Order takes effect on the date that it is published in the New South Wales Government Gazette. Dated at Sydney, this 18th day of September 2012. ROBYN PARKER, M.P., Minister for the Environment

Explanatory Note Section 34J of the Energy and Utilities Administration Act 1987, provides that the Minister may, by Order published in the New South Wales Government Gazette, require any one or more distribution network service providers to make an annual contribution for a specified financial year to the Climate Change Fund. The purpose of this Order is to require defined distribution network service providers to make an annual contribution to the Climate Change Fund for the financial year commencing 1 July 2012.

1. Name of Order This Order is the Energy and Utilities Administration (Energy Contributions) Order 2012.

2. Commencement This Order commences on the date that it is published in the New South Wales Government Gazette.

3. Interpretation The Explanatory Note to this Order does not form part of the Order. 4. Definitions distribution network service provider means a distribution network service provider listed in column 1 of Schedule 1.

5. Annual Contribution (1) A distribution network service provider is required to make an annual contribution to the Climate Change Fund for the financial year commencing 1 July 2012. (2) The amount of the annual contribution to be paid by a distribution network service provider is as set out in column 2 of Schedule 1.

6. Time for payment The annual contribution is to be paid by instalments on or before the first day of November 2012 (being equal to one-half of the annual contribution payable), February 2013 (being equal to one-fourth of the annual contribution payable) and May 2013 (being equal to one-fourth of the annual contribution payable).

Column 1                           Column 2
Distribution Network        Annual Contribution
                                          Service Provider
Ausgrid                             $118,000,000
Endeavour Energy            $74,250,000
Essential Energy               $57,750,000

Which is an annual cost of around $250 million, where's the screaming from Alan Jones and Tony Abbott?