Monday, April 11, 2016

Why we need a Royal Commission into Australian banks and financial services

Calls for a Royal Commission into Australian Banks and financial services have so far fallen on deaf ears.

The reasons why a royal commission is urgently needed include:
  • Entrenched ongoing fraudulent (possibly criminal) financial advice provided by the Commonwealth bank that has resulted in the losses of tens of millions of investors money.
  • Banks rigging interest rates. Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac and National Australia Bank are all under official investigation by ASIC and have been served with official notices.
  • The Australian Senate inquiry demanded a royal commission into Commonwealth Bank and ASIC
  • The failure of "self regulated" banks and other financial services companies to deal with corrupt and illegal activities within their businesses.
Predictably, some major Australian banks oppose a Royal Commission into their conduct.  What have they got to hide?

Labor now supports a Greens move for a Royal Commission into financial services.  Some Coalition politicians such as Warren Entsch also support this.

Prime Minister Turnbull has dismissed calls for the Royal Commission, describing it as a "thought bubble".  Ministers Josh Frydenberg and Peter Dutton have also parroted the "thought bubble" dismissal.  

It is quite clear that Turnbull, Frydenberg and Dutton are putting a massive cover-up of corporate banking fraud ahead of the public interest.  Perhaps the large political donations that banks all make to the Liberal and National parties influence this curious response?

I don't think that the Commonwealth bank losing tens of millions of retirees and other investor money due to illegal and fraudulent practices is a "thought bubble".  Nor is collusion between banks to manipulate interest rates. 

I think it essential that the financial sector in Australia abides by laws and is held accountable and penalised for illegal activities if and when they occur.

External links

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I just signed this petition asking the Australian Senate to keep EPBC laws

I just signed this petition asking the Australian Senate to keep EPBC laws strong to protect our environment including forests and the Great Barrier Reef.

 EPBC petition

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Underground rail with a linear park is better that overhead Skyrail

The Victorian government has announced plans for "Skyrail" overhead rail along sections of the Dandenong line.  Daniel Bowen provides a good overview of the proposal.

Murrembeena Station concept drawing Source
Community consultation by the Victorian government regarding this proposal seems to be "we are providing elevated rail and we want feedback on the details".

An underground rail option is not being publicly canvassed by the government.  Underground rail would probably cost twice as much as the overhead rail so it has apparently already been ruled out.

While underground rail would cost more it would have much less long term impact. A linear park can be built above it with bike and pedestrian paths and a mix of some residential and commercial buildings. 

Cities around the world such as London, Paris, Stuttgart, Naples and Tokyo all have underground rail. 

If you want to see how overhead rail ends being a disruptive divisive eyesore visit the Canterbury Railway station or have a look at the wasteland under Flinders Street viaduct in Melbourne's CBD.

Flinders St viaduct source: Wikimedia
The "Skyrail" proposal includes:

"an extra 12 km of cycle paths will be added, linking existing sections to make a single stretch for bikes from Caulfield to Dandenong, with local councils contributing additional links to Monash University and the Gardiner Creek trial, which provides an off-road path all the way into the city."

Bike path near overhead infrastructure

However, bike paths on the surface need to cross roads like the current train line does. This is a poor outcome for cyclists, less so for pedestrians. 

Here are some pros and cons of underground versus overhead rail for grade separation.


Pros
Cons
Overhead rail
  • Achieves grade separation between roads and rail
  • Cheaper to build
  • Bike and pedestrian paths can be built under gantry that can provide overhead cover


  • Creates an eyesore
  • Divides communities
  • Propagates noise further
  • Space under the gantry has low sunlight and low amenity - three or four tracks cover a lot of area
  • No opportunity for residential buildings along rail easement
  • Bike path road crossings impede cycling

Underground rail
  • Achieves grade separation between roads and rail
  • Provide linear park above with mix of residential and commercial buildings and bike and pedestrian paths
  • Less noisy, low impact on  local communities
  • Can include bike and pedestrian underpasses in tunnels (next to rail tunnel) under busy roads.

  • Expensive to build
  • Separate overhead cover required for bike and pedestrian paths
  • Diesel fumes from regional and freight trains need to be dispersed

The Level Crossing Authority should provide the best transport outcomes for motorists, public transport, cyclists and pedestrians with all grade separation projects.

So far the track record for grade separations is appalling.  For example, feedback to provide good pedestrian and bike underpasses at Springvale and Rooks Roads was ignored even though the Box Hill to Ringwood Rail Trail was an approved project when they were planned and built.

More recently, the need for a tunnel under Burke Rd for pedestrians and cyclists during the grade separation was also ignored with the usual litany of excuses such as "there isn't room for it" and "it would cost too much".

I provided feedback that a bike and pedestrian underpass should be included during consultation for the Middleborough Road grade separation.  A pedestrian underpass was belatedly provided but bikes cannot use it.

The plans for Blackburn Road grade separation show now indication of a bike pedestrian underpass

Blackburn Road separation concept [source]
Pedestrians and cyclists are forced to use pedestrian crossings at all these locations - they must press and wait for pedestrian crossing lights that then impede the traffic - that the grade separation is supposed to have prevented!  This is an absurd outcome for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

Tunnels should be also be provided for pedestrians and bikes next to train tunnels - its is much cheaper to do this during construction.

Linear parks over underground rail with covered solar bike paths and a mix of residential and commercial buildings provide the best amenity for all users and the lowest impact on local communities.

Linear bike path in Hungary

Linear bike path concept in Sydney

Please reverse government cuts to CSIRO climate science

Open letter to:

Josh Frydenberg, Member for Kooyong, Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia

Greg Hunt, Member for Flinders, Minister for the Environment

Please reverse your government's announced cuts to CSIRO climate science.

Hectares of burnt cushion plant. Photo: Rob Blakers

More government funding is required to better understand the effects of climate change, not less.

Climate change impacts that are now apparent, many of which are exceeding worst case scientific estimates, include:
  • Dramatic increase in very severe bushfires and the extension of the bushfire season
  • Bushfires occurring in regions not adapted to burning such as Tasmania's Central Plateau, where rare plants in World Heritage areas have been destroyed.
  • Heat waves resulting in increased deaths due to heat stress
  • Sea level rises now impacting many coastal regions and communities around Australia
  • Acidification and warming of the oceans leading to coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef
  • Increased frequency and severity of tropical and sub tropical storms (such cyclones and twisters)
All these impacts require ongoing scientific measurement and modelling, not less.

Climate scientists believe Australia's obligations under the Paris climate commitments will be directly undermined by the CSIRO cutting 350 jobs.

Australian and international climate scientists in Melbourne have warned the cuts would cripple CSIRO climate research.



Please reverse your government's cuts to the CSIRO Climate Science team Oceans and Atmosphere, and Land and Water divisions.

Regards, Peter Campbell

Links

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Tasmanian fires and damage to natural environment - enquiry is needed

To: The Hon. Greg Hunt, Federal Minister for the Environment Greg.Hunt.MP@aph.gov.au

The Hon Will Hodgman, Premier of Tasmania  will.hodgman@parliament.tas.gov.au

I note that areas in excess of 95,000 hectares have been burnt recently by out of control bushfires in Tasmania.  Many of these areas have very significant native vegetation and animals that have been destroyed.

Hectares of burnt cushion plant. Photo: Rob Blakers
I have previously visited and bushwalked in the Tarkine wilderness, the Central Plateau, The Overland Track, the South Coast and South West Cape tracks and the Denison and King William Ranges regions.

Could you please initiate an enquiry to determine:

1. Whether the Tasmanian Fire Service has sufficient resources to control bushfires in remote areas in a timely fashion in order to limit their spread.

2. Whether the federal government needs to provide resources to enhance air support, training, and resources for remote area fire fighters.

3. Whether current resourcing and fire management practices are sufficient to deal with conditions expected from the extended fire seasons that are now anticipated under climate-change scenarios

4. What restoration programs will be required after the 2016 fires, and what resources will be needed to ensure the best possible restoration of fire affected vegetation, especially high altitude mountain environments and cool-temperate rainforests.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Campbell

Links

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Australia's continued slide to fascism

Recent observations by Andrew Wilkie in parliament.  10 characteristics of a "pre-police state".



Denying some citizens the right to access the legal system is wrong.

Incremental loss of freedoms, democracy deteriorating bit by bit.

1. Metadata retention. Govt knows where you go, what you look at, who you talk to. No warrant required

2. Media - used, manipulated, bullied

3. Manipulation of judiciary - Royal Commission

4. Secrecy - operational matters "on water"

5. Law - can be arrested on suspicion of terrorism with no evidence.

6. Some people can be incarcerated indefinitely without trial - asylum seekers

7. Complete disregard for international law and agreements - Refugee convention, rights of the child.

8. Parliament forbidden to debate or decide on important matters of state - e.g. bombing of Syria.

9. Safeguard mechanisms disregarded and people bullied - Human Rights Commissioner. Autocratic regime

10. Security agencies act beyond lawful powers. Australian Border Force operation on the streets of Melbourne - unlawful, beyond their legal power.

http://insidestory.org.au/immigrations-disappearing-visa-applicants

And Border Force now prevents people reporting brutality, rape, sexual abuse in immigration detention.

Update 28 Dec 2015.  George Williams, Professor of Law at the University of NSW writes that

An extraordinary number of Australian laws now infringe basic democratic standards, but we hardly bat an eyelid. The growing assault on our democratic rights, Sydney Morning Herald: 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Another bike crash, another driver that "didn't see me", more injuries

I was cycling to work on 9 September 2015 on my back streets route attempting to avoid traffic on my way to the Gardiners Creek Trail when disaster struck again.



I was cycling along Somerset Road approaching the small roundabout at the intersection with Denman Avenue.  A brown Ford Territory was slowing down approaching the roundabout on my left as I entered it apparently "giving way" to me.  I was moving at around 10-15 km/h.

The roundabout in direction of my travel


Suddenly, the vehicle sped up and was coming right at me.  I braked hard and avoided going under the front of the car and getting run over and possibly killed.

However, I couldn't slow down enough to avoid the car and hit the rear passenger door and bounced off it and hit the road yelling.  I was on the road screaming. Both my hands took the brunt of the impact and my left leg was very sore. The driver stopped. The woman driving the car was apologetic and said "she didn't see me".

A schoolboy walking along Denman Ave saw the whole thing and called 000.  An ambulance came promptly.  My injuries were quickly assessed and another emergency hospital visit was required.

The police came shortly after the ambulance and assessed the situation. I spoke to them briefly.  They advised the driver she would get an infringement for failing to give way.

Injuries and surgery

X-rays were taken at Epworth.  My left little finger was broken (malate fracture) and required surgery.  My right wrist and thumb were very sore but no fracture was evident in the x-rays.

I was unable to see a orthopaedic specialist while I was in the emergency department so I went home bandaged.  I visited an orthopaedic surgeon the following day.  She sent me off for an MRI and later confirmed that ligaments were torn off my right thumb and that it had been nearly dislocated. Surgery was required to re-attach the ligaments otherwise my thumb function would be compromised.



I had two operations on Friday: a wire was inserted in the tip of my left little finger to assist the bone healing correctly and the torn ligaments on my right thumb were stitched back to the bone.


I had the following week off work as I was not very mobile or able to use either hand much and was taking pain killers.

I returned to work the following week as I was keen to resume "normal life" as much as possible. The bandages were replaced with plastic splints by the hand therapist which improved my very limited dexterity a bit.



After 2 weeks the cumbersome right splint was reduced in size which improved my dexterity further.


The wire in my little finger comes out on 23 October but it will take some time to get the joint moving properly again.

The right wrist ligament surgery needs even more time to heal, possible until the end of November. So no cycling or kitesurfing for me until then, which is extremely frustrating.

PTSD

I have been feeling terrible however since the crash.  Personal interactions at home, out and about and at work were very difficult for me.  I have been feeling extremely angry about getting hit yet again, 8 to 10 or more weeks out of action (no cycling or kitesurfing), the total lack of action on providing safe separated cycling infrastructure in the City of Boroondara and the Victorian government, and motorists who drive around at excessive speeds and don't look for pedestrians or cyclists.  This anger is washing over me most of the time now.

I have had trouble sleeping and get flashbacks of the car coming at me followed by me hitting it and ending up on the road bruised and broken.  This was a near-death experience.

Blackness and anger has descended on me like a cloud that will not lift.  Everything seems wrong. I was nearly killed.  I don't trust any motorist on the roads now. Every car is a lethal death machine that can easily kill.  I flinch on trams when cars hoon past. I am hyper vigilant of all cars while driving and walking.

Going through the Citylink Domain tunnel in a taxi with the driver sitting 3 metres behind a truck and cars all around, I visualised brake lights, a huge crash, carnage and flames everywhere and felt panicked and sweaty.

I am seeing a psychologist who advised me I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms - he referred me to a neurologist.  The neurologist confirmed I have severe PTSD and has prescribed me medication. He is referring me to some else for further treatment to deal with the PTSD before it gets worse.

I wasn't expecting this.  I thought my bones and ligaments would heal quickly and I would bounce back, but the trauma associated with the crash (and the previous two recent bike recent crashes and hospital visits) is proving to be a big issue.


Cycling on Melbourne streets and roads is now unsafe

Our roads are rivers of deaths - cars maim and kill on a daily basis.

Main roads are now unsafe for cycling. Some motorists squeeze past cyclists while travelling at 60 km/h leaving little gap. Quite a few are distracted looking at their phones or GPS and could run up the rear of any cyclist.

Side streets are also unsafe as drivers rat run down them to avoid congested roads and sail through roundabouts at speed with only a cursory glance.  Small roundabouts have high rates of bicycle-car crashes and are unsafe at any speed.

I now feel that cycling on any road with cars is an unacceptable risk to me - its not worth dying for. What am I trying to prove?

I have cycled over 100,000 km during my life, including 1200km in 69 hours on the Paris Brest Paris Audax event.  I raced on the roads with the Southern Vets for 12 years.

I have regularly commuted by bicycle to the Melbourne CBD since 1983 but I am not riding on any roads with cars any more. The only option I have left is to drive to Gardiners Creek with my bike on the car to get to the bike path where I can cycle in relative safety.

Bike crashes, injuries and deaths appear to be rising rapidly across Melbourne and on country roads. Some recent crashes and deaths:

There are still no safe east west cycle routes through Boroondara

The Vicroads Principal Bicycle Network (PBN) map designates the following roads as east west  "cycling routes" through the City of Boroondara: Riversdale, Whitehorse, Mont Albert, Canterbury, Burwood and Toorak Roads.

All these roads are very unsafe for cycling.  There are narrow painted bike lanes along Mont Albert Road (but cars are allowed to park obscuring the bike lane) and on a short eastern section of Burwood Rd (lane is in the car door zone).  Neither of these provide effective protection to cyclists.

There are high bicycle accident rates on all these roads that illustrate how dangerous they are.

There is no point producing the "PBN" if no safe separated cycling infrastructure ever gets built along designated routes.  The PBN is quite simply a waste of time and money.

The solution is: safe separated cycling infrastructure

Separating cyclists from cars, trucks, buses and trams is needed to ensure their safety, yet there is very little progress on building safe cycling routes in Melbourne.  There are strategies and plans, but nothing is being built.

Copenhagen had bike paths separated between the road and the footpath when I visited in 1985.

Existing rail corridors have space available for bike paths and there are even short sections of bike paths along them, but there is a lack of political will to use them for this.  

Construction of the Box Hill to Ringwood Rail Trail is progressing slowly but cyclists will only have road routes west of Box Hill.

The Hawthorn to Box Hill Trail would provide a safe east west bike route for cyclists aged 8 to 80, but unfortunately there has been no progress on building or even planning it.




The Hawthorn to Box Hill Trail and similar routes along railway lines could be built as "Solar bike paths"using prefabricated spans that incorporate a concrete path base, low walls and a roof with solar panels.


Meanwhile, cycling deaths and injuries are increasing at great cost to our community.


See also

Friday, August 07, 2015

The Speaker's resignation reflects a government that is in chaos

This tweet by Tony Abbot on 24 Nov 2011 applies now to his government in August 2015.  The Internet never forgets.