This is really just VicRoads doing their job

VicRoads doing this sort of thing is really just them doing their job.

I’d hope all Victorian government departments were doing these sort of surveys. Melbourne is going to get bigger, and our government departments should be planning for this.

I just hope there is one that has been done as well by someone in the public transport department.

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Why Nathan Buckley is the luckiest man in AFL

Warning- this post contains Collingwood triumphalism

The great thing about yesterday’s winning Grand Final side is how young the side is.

The oldest member of the side was Ben Johnson, who is still only 29. There’s no reason why the whole grand final side can’t still be playing in 2012. In 2012 Nathan Buckley will be inheriting a list which should be close to peaking, withthe bulk of the side between 22-25, and having played betwen 50 and 200 games (including at least 2 grand finals).

It’s also hard to see what other teams are going to be coming up as quickly.

Nathan Buckley will find himself in the unique position of modern day coaches of having a ready made list handed over to him – most coaches start when a team is at a low ebb, and need to build a team. It will be an interesting challenge for him.

I guess I should end with a note of caution – the Hawks since 2008 and the Baby Bombers of 1993 never went on to do as well as could have been expected. Teams might work out a way around Collingwood’s box.

It’s still looking very promising for Collingwood- maybe the start of a golden era.

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I want to believe…

…In high speed rail

High speed trains are great. I’d love to see high speed trains in Australia. Its a much better experience than all the hassle with flying and they can emit no greenhouse gas emissions depending on how you get your electricity. There wouldn’t be any technical problems with building a system that could do from the centre of Melbourne to the centre of Sydney in 3 to 4 hours, which would be competitive with flying.

The problem is the economics of it don’t even seem close to working.

Lets assume it will cost around $40 billion. Theres a couple of reasons for this estimate. $40 billion is a cost that has been quoted in the US for a San Fransisco to San Diego link, which is a similar distance to Melbourne-Sydney. 300-400 km stretches in Europe seem to cost 7-10 billion Euros to build – which would translate to 1000 km stretch costing $30-40 billion Australian.

There’s currently around 800,000 Melbourne to Sydney trips a month. Let’s say half of these can be converted to the train- so we’d have annual ridership around 5,000,000. Fares would have to be around the $200 mark to make it competitive. This gives revenues around $1,000,000,000 per annum, and I haven’t even included the running costs yet.

You could do a Net Present Value calculation, but it’s fair to say that any project that could only get 2% of its costs in revenues is going to require a very heavy government subsidy to make it work.

I’ve got no problem in principle with government subisidies if there are significant external benefits that could be realised, but I’m really not sure what they are. High Speed rail could be better than flying, but not that much better to justify these sorts of subsidies.

The current plans to do a study, and try to reserve land for future use seem to be a good idea. Just because it may not be viable now, doesn’t mean it will remain unviable for ever.

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Why you should always use percentages (and why people making a beat up never do)

I hope this is the best the Victorian Liberals can do:

There are quite a few pieces of stupidity involved here:

1) Counting the $130,000 from an organised theft of computer equipment. Unless the government is going to start locking up all facilities storing IT equipment like Fort Knox (at a cost of god knows how much) , this will happen occasionally.

2) 299 laptops is a tiny proportion of the laptops issued to Victorian public servants – they’d be 10s of thousands of them out there.

3) The time taken by the departments to answer this question wouldn’t have been cheap.

4) The fact they asked a “series” of questions? Was that the best they could come up with.

It really is a complete non-event – any large organisation will lose a few laptops, and holding ministers accountable for it is a complete waste of time – would you expect a shareholder in a large company asking how many laptops went missing?

Still, I guess beatups on government waste worked for the Federal libs – maybe the state ones are hoping the same strategy can work for them.

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Was this election really a massive shift?

There has been a lot of talk that this election has heralded a massive change in Australian politics. There have been a few unique things in this election, it’s the first time a new party has won a seat in the House of Representatives (not counting Pauline Hanson), in 90 years, and the first hung parliament in 70 years. The question is whether these are symptomatic of broader changes, or just flukes from this election.

First – how low is the major party vote at this election? The chart below shows the fraction of the vote going to major parties (Liberal, National and ALP or the parties that are a direct ancestor from these parties).

It’s fairly apparent that since the 70s there seems to have been a trend for the major party vote to decline, but this election isn’t quite the lowest the major parties have hit, even in recent years.

When we look in a bit more detail at the composition of the vote, it seems that it’s quite common for one minor party to get around 10%- and the Greens did a bit better than that. The bigger trend over recent years has been for the independent vote to increase.

So how unusual was this election, and will we see more hung parliaments? Hung parliaments will probably still be unusual in the future – to have the ALP and Coalition vote this close is unusual, so one side or the other will probably get a majority in their own right. It’s quite common for a minor party to get 10% or so of the vote, but the independents have been stedily increasing their vote – and their numbers in parliament. The number of independents may continue to grow, although they will probably be limited to rural areas. The biggest question is whether the Greens will continue to increase, or drop away like other minor parties have.

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Why a double dissolution is very unlikely

Plenty of people are talking up the chances of a doulbe dissolution election sometime during this term. I think it is very unlikely, and it seems to show a misunderstanding of what a double dissolution is- it’s a mechanism for resolving a deadlock between the houses, not within the senate or house of representatives.

To have a double dissolution, the senate needs to reject a bill twice after it is passed by the house of representatives. The independents also have an effective veto on whether a bill can be put up. Section 57 of the constitution states:

If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously. But such dissolution shall not take place within six months before the date of the expiry of the House of Representatives by effluxion of time.

This means that if a bill is rejected by the senate, the independents can change their vote when it comes back to prevent a double dissolution trigger being created.

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How significant was the swing against Labor?

Another claim Tony Abbott has made to back him forming government is that the swing against Labor was very large. “Mr Abbott said that after the ”savage swing” against Labor on Saturday, ”I think that the public expects a change of government”.”

Since the Whitlam Government, every first term government has had some swing against them:
2010 Labor: -5.4% primary, -2.03 % 2 party preferred.
1998 Liberals: -4.83% primary -4.61% 2 party preferred
1984 Labor: -1.93% primary, -1.46% 2 party preferred
1977 Liberals: -3.20% primary, -1.1% 2 party preferred
1974 Labor -0.2% primary, -1.0% 2 Party preferred.

Several of these elections were notable for the rise of minor parties- One Nation in 1998 and the Democrats in 1977.

So the swing in primary vote against Labor was very large, but the swing to the Coalition was barely a ringing endorsement.

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