A tweet about rape, Darren West, and the Liberal Party of Western Australia

Background

22-year-old Eurydice Dixon was raped and killed sometime between 10:30pm on Tuesday and 3:00am on Wednesday in Melbourne, according to Victorian Police. 

Victorian Police tried to be helpful in warning the general public (cough, women) to take responsibility to avoid being raped. Detective Inspector Stamper told the media: “My message is that people need to be aware of their own personal security. If people should have any concerns at any time about their personal security, call triple-0.” 

The internet lost its $#!✝️

Women were sick of being told it was their job to avoid being raped and murdered, and somehow the onus rested on them to stay safe. The helpful "advice" from the police was tantamount to victim blaming in the minds of many people, men and women alike. 

Stories from around the world flooded our news feeds as women shared exactly what it's like to be ever mindful that one wrong move could result in the worst imaginable thing ever happening to you. 

I spent some time pondering this. I'm a 6 foot 4 male. I never worry about whether someone is going to rape me, and I rarely worry if someone will murder me. Usually when I'm walking along a dark street at night, depending whether I'm wearing a hoodie or a blazer, people are nervous about my presence. I imagined how tiring it must be to constantly make sure you take the long way home, sit in groups, text your friends constantly regarding your safety, etc etc. I felt a genuine empathy towards women and the joke that is society warning them to be the ones to "take precautions" all the time, rather than actually deal with the perpetrators effectively. 

Do you know who else felt empathy towards women following this story?

Darren West, MLC, Labor WA politician, Member for the Agricultural Region.

Darren West

So Mr West tweeted an old list that the women's rights movements circulated back in 2015. It's a great list, sarcastic in nature, that makes a very clear point: It's not the woman's job to avoid being raped, it's the rapist's job to NOT RAPE! It was endorsed by famous feminists like Sarah Silverman and many more. 

Here it is for posterity:

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A similar list also circulated around the same time carried a footnote: “Rape culture directs women to police their clothing, beverage, behaviour and sexuality at all times to avoid men. It portrays men as powerless against their violent sexual urges. Rape culture demeans everyone and everyone should speak out against rape culture."

Now, anyone with an IQ above 65 could tell you that Sarah Silverman, widely hailed as a remarkable feminist (link) is not mocking rape victims by sharing this list. Anyone with an iota of understanding of the context in which the western world is operating right now, namely, rape victims being told it is THEIR job to avoid rape, would be able to put 2 and 2 together and get the point of this list. 

Sarah Silverman has around 12 million followers on Twitter and no woman on the planet called for her to apologise for sharing this list. 

Why? Because of brains.

We used our brains, understood what the list meant, and agreed her point was very valid.

Would you like to know what everyone's reactions to Ms Silverman's tweet were? Type "sarah silverman 10 Rape Prevention Tips" into Google. (or click here)

She was roundly praised, and the men who complained about her tweet were widely condemned. 


We know something needs to change. 

We are SICK of having to train our daughters on how to avoid being sexually assaulted or worse. 

And so when Darren West, in solidarity with Sarah Silverman and the millions of others who feel the same way tweeted this list recently, was he praised just like Ms Silverman? 

No. 

Because there's a by-election happening in Darling Range, and the Liberal Party are trying desperately to spin this into a "rape joke" incident.

Today I received a press release from the Liberal candidate for Darling Range, Alyssa Hayden, demanding Mr West be sacked because he published this old viral list. 

“There is no defending his tweet about rape and no excuse he attempts for posting his tweet is acceptable," Mrs Hayden said.

“You don’t joke about such a serious subject and if he believes it was a serious post it shows a lack of judgement – and not for the first time – which warrants his removal from his senior post in the Government.”


Questions

The questions I have for Alyssa Hayden and the Liberal Party are these:

1. Does Alyssa Hayden understand the point of the list?

2. Does Alyssa Hayden agree with the point the list makes?

3. If Alyssa Hayden honestly believes this list is insulting to rape victims and condemns anyone who tweets it, is she also condemning Sarah Silverman and all the feminists who made this list viral in 2015? 


And the media have been in fine form as well. Caitlin Barr from Channel 9 seems to also have completely miss the point of the list, expecting Mr West to apologise for standing with women. (link) I wonder if Ms Barr expects Sarah Silverman to also issue an apology. 


The response to Darren West's tweet from the Liberal Party is beyond "political correctness gone mad", because Darren's tweet is perfectly politically correct. 

What Mrs Hayden and the Liberal Party have done is basically said anyone who tries to make a salient point that rape victims are not to blame will have their words twisted and spun such that THEY will appear to be the ones who are insensitive to rape. 

I have had multiple family members who have been raped, sexually abused, and domestically abused. None of them are offended by this list. They ARE offended when Police tell them it is their job to avoid being abused. 

Not only did Darren West do nothing wrong by posting this list, but he is to be commended for having the courage to stand alongside victims of rape, and encouraging a conversation where we start thinking maybe it's not the woman's job to constantly avoid being raped. Maybe we should be focusing our message on the would-be attackers. 


I highly recommend reading this article "Everyday steps women take that would shock men" that was published recently by news.com.au (link)

Alyssa Hayden did not respond to attempts to contact her prior to publication of this article.  

Please lie to me: Why we're responsible for the mess that is modern politics

When I was 19 I started selling cars. 

Half my job was selling the car people were interested in. And the other half was buying the trade-in from the customer.

I learned that there were two different strategies salespeople used when people had trade ins. 

1. One strategy was 'alway ask what the customer wants' for their vehicle. 

Here's how the conversation would go:

Customer: "I like this new Pajero. How much will you give me for my Datsun 120Y?"

Salesperson: "How much do you want for it?"

Customer: "As much as I can get. What's it worth?"

Salesperson: "What do you think it's worth?"

Customer: "Four grand."

Salesperson: "FOUR GRAND! It's not worth that!"

Customer: "Well you tell me what it's worth."

It's an awkward conversation. The salesperson's head is done in because the car is only worth $250, but what's the customer supposed to say. He's essentially setting them up to lie to him. 

2. The other strategy was to 'never ask how much the person wants', and just tell the customer what the car is worth. 

Here's how the conversation would go:

Customer: "I like this new Pajero. How much will you give me for my Datsun 120Y?"

Salesperson: "Give me the keys and I'll get it valued."

Customer: "Thanks."

Salesperson: "I got it looked at. I can give you $250."

Customer: "Can you make it $350?"

Salesperson: "How about I give you a set of floor mats for your new car instead? They normally cost $150."

Customer: "Deal."

I learned to adopt the second approach. It's far less painful as a salesperson. You're not asking customers to lie to you, and the clients appreciate you just being straight up. 

But most salespeople would essentially ask the clients to lie to them, then complain that their clients were lunatics who thought their bunky cars were worth a million dollars. 


I am of the strong opinion that we do the same thing with politicians. We ask them to lie to us, we vote for the one with the best story, then we complain that politicians never keep their promises. 


Fast forward a decade and a half and I find myself interviewing politicians with a bunch of other journos. Then one day it dawns on me. We're ASKING these guys to lie to us. The entire political-media game is built around this charade where the media asks "What are you going to do about blah blah blah?" And then we publish whatever they tell us, with no financial training to be able to tell if their numbers add up. And we NEVER ask the question "and what services will you cut to be able to fund that?" Truth is, when journos are interviewing politicians, they feel super important, so it's rare to find one that will actually say "You're full of shit mate. Your numbers don't add up..." because he or she wants to be able to interview them the next time. 

Then the public picks which answers they like the most, vote, and some folks in suits form government. The can NEVER achieve their election promises, because it turns out no one has a crystal ball to predict iron ore prices, thus they can't predict tax income, thus they can't predict how much they'll even have to spend. 

And then three or four years later we do the entire thing all over again as if any promise uttered by a politician in the lead up to an election is even worth writing down. 

But I don't think we can blame the politicians. Nor can we really blame the media. Blaming those two groups is such a useless trope and it gets us nowhere. We click on the articles with the politician's promises. We ask the pollies how they're going to solve the world's problems and bring us inner happiness. And that needs to stop. 

Since when did it become the politician's and tax payer's job to fix everything in the world? Why is it even the government's job to decide who gets to marry who? Why do people in Canberra decide what we're allowed to smoke? Why are taxpayers responsible for funding everything from stadiums to home buyer incentives? How did it get like this?

It got like this because the only factors we consider when deciding who to vote for is "Who's going to promise ME the most stuff!"

But ask the average person on the street what the philosophical differences are between Liberal, Labor, and the Nats, and they couldn't tell you. 

Heck, even I could hardly tell you. 

"Well it's simple, Labor are more progressive, to the left, and Liberals are right wing. And the Nats are the same as the Liberals except in the country," I hear you explain. 

Oh really? If that were the case, you'd expect the Liberal party to be fiscally conservative, aiming to have a smaller government that does less "stuff", and believe in allowing private individuals to set their own destiny. Yet most of their members WANT to interfere in everyone's private life, have a say in who they should marry, they blow money like they just won lotto, and they've left WA in more debt that I can reasonably comprehend. That's at the end of a MINING BOOM! I'm not saying Labor could have done any better. I'm just saying "what the hell does the Liberal party actually stand for other than 'we're not Labor'?"

And don't get me started on the Labor party. What do they stand for exactly? Unions? Gay marriage? Are unions even a thing in 2017? More and more people are working for themselves and it seems Labor does more to hush their association with the unions than boast about it. They held power in Canberra for two terms and didn't say boo about gay marriage. And as soon as the right wing party comes in to power, anyone who doesn't support gay marriage is a homophobe. Give me strength. Heck, even Kevin oh seven got elected originally under the pretence that he was "fiscally conservative", and pundits more or less agreed that people voted for him because he was bassically a younger version of John Howard. Kevin oh seven's "fiscal conservatism" went flying out the window the moment the world's economy collapsed, and every school in Australia ended up with an overpriced building they didn't really need, and plasma TV sales went through the roof as anyone with a kid got $900 checks almost on a monthly basis. 

But like I said, we can only blame ourselves. 

We keep asking these guys to tell us stories. Tell us about the amazing hospital you're going to build. Tell us about how you're going to magically solve the meth problem. Tell us how you're going to somehow lower taxes, increase social welfare, create jobs, increase wages, grow businesses, fix the roads, stimulate new technology, cure cancer, reduce suicide, increase our life expectancy, improve our bank balance, reduce inflation, increase farmers' profits, reduce our grocery bill, support charities, keep us safe from all harm, make us fitter, happier, more productive...

What choice do they have? Would you vote for the candidate who tells you the truth?

Imaginary candidate: "Listen. Here's the truth. No one has any idea how to fix the meth problem. We're going to try 10 different things, measure the results, and replicate what works. But we can't promise anything. It's a worldwide epidemic, and smarter people than us are failing at it. Also, we have no idea what the world economy will look like in 12 months, or 2 years, or 3 years... so we can't promise to build anything. Here's a list of our priorities, but we don't know how far down the list we'll be able to get. And I've got some bad news. You're actually pretty wealthy with your $300,000 household income. I know you like to think you're an Aussie Battler, but you're really not. You're actually going to have to pay MORE tax than you are now if you want that new stadium. It's called maths. And why is it my job to decide who marries who? The Australian Government didn't invent marriage, so I'm not sure why we manage it. Talk to your priest or something, I don't care what you do with your life. I can't promise exactly what will happen in the future, but I can tell you what my guiding philosophy is, what my values are, and how I make decisions."

Well actually, I would vote for that candidate. 

A chat with our Mayor after one year in the job

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It's now been over 12 months since the people of Geraldton elected Shane Van Styn to the position of Mayor.

I had a chat with Mr Van Styn about the past year, the state of the union, as it were, and how he's finding the role of Mayor.

"One surprising thing for me has been the high regard that people hold for the office of the Mayor. It's extremely difficult to turn down attending an event or an opening."

"A casual thing that's changed is now having to get better dressed to go to Bunnings. Everyone likes to stop and have a chat about what's important to them in their city. Bunnings has gone from a 10 minute walk-in-walk-out to an hour or two job. Same as the supermarket. It's a small thing, but it's something that impacts you nearly every day."

So you shop online now?

"No! Shop local, buy local!" Shane bellowed cheerfully.

I was curious about the Mayor's background, and how he came to live in Geraldton and become Mayor. And I found the story rather surprising.

Shane is from the suburb of Gosnells in Perth's south east. He had just finished uni, and was heading north, past Geraldton, to visit some friends when his car broke down in Geraldton.

"I couldn't afford the tow truck at the time," said Shane. "So I swapped them for my car. I was forced to stay the night in Geraldton."

"In my last exam there was a guy from Geraldton, Christopher Quelch. And for some reason I wrote his phone number down on a pencil case. I had decided I was moving to Albany. I was moving to the country and had chosen Albany. And for whatever reason I took that pencil case with me (on the trip up north). So I had a phone number to ring. So he did a ring around for me. 'He's a good bloke, big fella, plays footy, does security, is an accountant, looking to move to the country.'"

"A couple of footy teams approached me and offered to sign me up. I got offered a job doing security work, and I got offered an accounting position in town. By the morning the real estate agent had come around to show me houses."

"I met some security guards that I knew, and got an accountant job in the now Town Towers."

So you have great memories of that place then?

"I remember very well getting stuck in the lift. It was the thing to do in Town Towers,"  Shane recalled, smiling.

"I was also there the day the toy store caught on fire. I came downstairs and they were surprised to see I was still there. They had forgotten to evacuate everyone upstairs."

Whoops.

"I said 'That's alright.'"

"As part of that trip to Geraldton, and this is why I'm so passionate about the verge pick up skip bins, I fitted out most of my utensils, furniture and appliances in my house by landing in Geraldton during the time of verge pickup. I went and scavenged. Got a chair, got a bed, toaster, vacuum, wok."

So you started at the bottom.

"On the bones of my ...."

"I originally said to Mum 'I'll be back in a year'. About a year after that I decided I'd hang around for a while. I don't think I ever made a conscious decision I'm staying here for good, it's just the way it's evolved. I certainly have no desire to leave, at all."

"Geraldton chose me, not the other way around."

From that humble beginning, albeit with an accounting degree in his pocket, Mr Van Styn became involved in a number of companies over the years, including Yamaji Mining and Civil, Westwood Accountants, Camel Bar, a night club, and has had roles in the community including president of the basketball association, Councillor, and of course now Mayor.

And for those paying attention, you'd know Mr Van Styn has tried entering state and federal politics also, as a candidate for the National Party.

Had politics always been an aspiration for Van Styn? In short, yes.

"Even as a young kid my Gran would tell me I should always be a politician the way I would debate issues. Her Father was a Labor upper house member in the Western Australian parliament."

So she had exposed you to the political world?

"Yeah. But she couldn't stand it. Ha."

But she still suggested you should be a politician?

"I don't think she was meaning it all positively," Shane says, smiling.

I laughed at the thought of an old lady sarcastically telling an argumentative little Shane he should be a politician, meant as a gentle criticism, but becoming a prophesy.

"Even in primary school and in early high school I used to go and visit the local member and have a chat."

Shane also spoke of being involved with 'guild tickets' at Curtin Uni, student clubs, and other activities that would lay the foundation for aspirations in the political world.

Once Shane was settled in Geraldton, he became one of the regular letter writers into the paper.

"So you had people like me vs Olly Wrenstead, Jack Simpson, Jim Du Boulay... they were some of the regular letter writer inners, and I became one of them. I started going to council meetings and challenging the status quo, as a member of the public."

Shane reflected on how he was similar to the folk who regularly appear now at Council meetings, challenging himself and Council.

"John Sewell, who was on council at the time, one day said to me 'Look Shane, you're showing up here all the time, giving us a hassle. Put your money where your mouth is, put up or shut up.' I can't remember the exact phrase, but something like that. 'A couple of us aren't standing, there's a couple of spots.' And I thought 'He's right there. He's extremely right. If you think you can do a better job, then stand.'"

"So I did."

Thus Shane Van Styn became a councillor.

So how did Shane Van Styn end up with the National Party and running for state and federal parliament?

"So I was sitting there in my offices at Yamaji Mining and Civil and Grant Woodhams came and knocked on the door, with my mate Gerry Gould from Geraldton Hydraulics. They asked to have a word, and said 'Would you mind running for the National Party in the upcoming state election?' They put forward their case. I thought about it. Brendan Grylls rang me. Few other people rang us. At the time I rang Ian Blayney to say "I'm actually thinking about this."

Previously Shane had been a member of the Liberal party. He says he had tried to engage them, but hadn't had any success getting to a conference or making it into the inner circle. "But the National Party was the exact opposite," says Shane. "They couldn't do enough for you. They invited me to all their conferences, gave me a chance to meet people and speak. So that was that. Had a run, obviously didn't make it. Then the Federal election came up. They said 'Would you run against Barry Haase? Shane, your posters are still up. You've just run an election. We've got no money. Haase is going to win. We just want a name on the ticket.'"

"Just a name on a ticket. Political parties do it all the time. They just want a name on the ticket, it helps them get electoral funding."

Shane said it was also close to the upcoming local government elections, thus he was able to quit his position at council without triggering a by-election.

I can remember at ABC on a Friday, Glenn asking me, 'Shane, really what would it take for you to win?' And I said 'Barry Haase would have to retire.'"

"Then Saturday morning, phone rang about 7:30 in the morning, it was Barnaby Joyce, and he says 'Shane, Barnaby! Have you heard Barry Haase has retired?' I went 'What?' I thought he was joking. But then why would Barnaby be ringing me at 7:30 in the morning? But if he's ringing my personal phone it's serious. Then Alex McKinnon from the Guardian rang, and then it was on."

"It was quite late in the election cycle, so at that point I was the only profile candidate announced in Durack."

There was a big swing toward the National Party at that election, but Van Styn would ultimately come up short, after Labor gave their preferences to the Liberals instead of the Nats.

Shane was pragmatic in reflecting on the two losses. "In terms of losing, I came second. If Palmer United hadn't spent so much money I would have won. If Labor hadn't given their preferences to Liberal, I would have won. But not with the State election. Ian Blayney won that fair and square."

Is Ian Blayney going to win the next State Election?

"The next state election is going to be incredibly tight. I honestly can't pick it. But I acknowledge that it will be harder for Paul (Brown, Nationals) to win it than it would be for Ian to lose it."

Shane was pretty dismissive of Labor's chances of winning however. "When you look at the last election, Liberal and Nationals primary vote was 70%. Labor can't win. Unless the National party decides to do a preference deal with Labor, and Labor getting ahead of the Nats. That's the only way I see Labor being with any reasonable prospect of winning."

Following the Federal election, Van Styn put his hat back in the ring for Councillor with the City of Greater Geraldton. This was the year 'City of Greater Geraldton Ratepayers Demand Change' endorsed a number of candidates, Shane being one of them.

"Not officially," said Shane, when questioned about the endorsement. "But I was one of three people that voted against it (the massive rate increase of 2012 that birthed CGG Ratepayers Demand Change). 

The other two councillors to vote against that now infamous rate hike were Jerry Clune and Bob Ramage.

Are you proud now that you voted against that 27% rate rise?

"It was more than just voting against 27% rate rise per se. The principle of what we were arguing about, particularly me and Bob, was the need for expenditure restraint. If we were running an incredibly lean and mean operation, skin and bones, it could be put forward that we needed a 27% rate rise to build infrastructure that everybody wants; if rates were at record lows (compared) to everybody else, you could make the argument. So it wasn't the 27% rate rise per se. The context of us having a woefully bloated administration, and THEN a 27% rate rise, was way too much. So we had two arguments. We thought we were too big and bloated ALREADY, even without the 27% rate rise. The two combined was utter madness. And rate payers... well, unfortunately Bob Ramage got chucked out in the election. That was the election where I was the only one that was returned."

Becoming Mayor

From talking to you, you seem to have a lot of regard for Mr Carpenter, (the former Mayor), even though you disagree on several things. How did you feel running against him?

"I used to discuss this occasionally with Neil (McIlwaine, Deputy Mayor at CGG). At the time I wasn't comfortable running against Ian. I have a lot of regard and respect for Ian. That being said, there were some significant disagreements... the size of the city operation, and the rate rise for one... and look, that was by and large all we ever really disagreed on."

"It wasn't an easy decision, but then I saw Rob Jefferies nominate, and start to get traction, you know, a bit of utilisation of social media and the like. Rob was also one of the former CEO's of the city, and we're still paying off those investments from back then. The administration grew under that as well, the financial structure deficits that we have... Everyone was telling me they want change, someone new. We saw Shane Hill stand. Again, he'd been elected as a Labor member, wasn't new, and Gavin Hirschhausen, who at the time I had no knowledge of. So as time went on people told me 'You should run, you should run.' In the end it wasn't easy. I chatted to Neil McIlwain about it, I asked if he was going to run, he elected not to, so, after enough people asking me to run, and that was a big part of it, I elected to run for Mayor."

Would you have run if Neil had run?

"Can't answer that. I don't know."

Shane spoke highly of Neil McIlwaine, the deputy Mayor. Neil is someone a lot of the Councillors go to for advice, and everyone holds in high regard.

So you won the Mayorship. There would have been a lot of sad faces as the person who was their boss for the last eight years was suddenly gone.

"I think there was a lot of sad faces in there, I think it's fair to say that we're fairly different characters. So there was probably an element of 'What have we got ourselves into?' when I came here, and I actually take great comfort that people would tell me that to my face. And not in any way derogatorily... I mean, I'm a pretty open guy and people seem to feel pretty comfortable telling me what they think, one way or the other."

"So I think the most important thing you can do after winning an election is winning over the naysayers, those who didn't vote for you... and look, we went straight to work into what ratepayers wanted. Within weeks we got rid of tip fees. That was the number one thing people spoke to me about."

Shane talked about what he wants as far as the City's fiscal position goes.

"I want to be breaking even as quickly as we can. I want to see the city in surplus, and currently our long term financial plan has that set for four years time. I think that quite comfortably we can beat that."

Does that fiscal conservatism come from your time in business or is that a philosophy you held prior to that?

"The initial part of my fiscal conservatism is probably that I grew up in a low income household. So we didn't have much, but yet we had plenty. Never went hungry, got to go on a holiday once a year. Lived in a small house, in the wrong suburb, in the wrong part of town, yet we had a great upbringing. So you learn to appreciate what you've got."

Shane reflected on how his upbringing trained him to live within his financial means, and how that translates into his role in local government.

"I think too often local government, because it's not your money, you don't apply the same level of rigour in the decision making process. So I treat every ratepayer dollar as if it was a dollar I paid, and if I didn't spend it, it's a dollar I don't have to pay."

Your differentiation when you were running for Mayor was 'We're the city, we shouldn't try to be everything. We shouldn't be trying to put a man on the moon, we're just the city of Geraldton.'

Do you feel like you've been able to execute some of that?

"That's a great analogy, because that's exactly how it was. Getting back to basics. Get back to the business of being government. We were putting a man on the moon, trying to do this and that... they're great aspirations to have, but how do you intend on attracting record tourist levels if your own residents don't think it's a nice place to go for a walk on the weekend?"

"If you can't keep the residents entertained from time to time, how do you intend on attracting people from other regions to come and spend time here? So you've got to get your house in order. The 'roads, rates and rubbish' argument for local government, and there's a couple of other r's these days; recreation, we're responsible for entertaining everyone these days, and of course regulation. We bust you for smoking and lock up your dog."

"The election result was so strong that it sent a message that this is actually what the community wanted."

"When you have a ward system, there's actually only one person who gets voted on by the whole of the city, and that's the Mayor."

"So, I reluctantly use the word 'mandate', Ken (Diehm, CGG CEO) hates me using that word, but if there was any mandate to be drawn it's just to get back to basics. People are tired of rate rises, for what they saw as frivolous things, stuff that we shouldn't be involved in, so I've been able to bring other councillors along, and collectively we've been able to achieve that."

Van Styn put the emphasis on collectively, as though to remind everyone he's not railroading changes through, but decisions are being made by the whole of council.

Let's talk about tourism.

"Tourism is incredibly important. We spent a little bit of money on the dump point at Francis St Jetty, and see how rampant that got overnight, RV's and caravans are everywhere."

"Now we've had to put Rangers down there so it's not full of people camping."

"Just that little investment showed us how fruitful it can be. A cruise ship was here today. Those little investments we've made with some shelters and some shade around the place is bringing them ashore. It's been phenomenal. What it will do is it will drive us to improve accommodation, Town Towers and the like."

"Tourism is also about your family members that might live in Perth coming to visit. Tourism is about people who might be 4 or 5 hundred kilometres away, might be in the Wheatbelt, coming here. We associate tourism with inbound foreign tourists, and that's good, but the overwhelming majority, over 80% of our tourists, are actually from Perth."

"So focusing on tourism will mean more cafes, more accommodation. One of the things about being a tourist town is you actually create more stuff for locals. As you beautify your town to attract tourists... you actually have a beautiful town to live in. Win-win."

Shane spoke a little of the branding issues we still have in Geraldton. "We don't know if we're the Batavia Coast, Coral Coast, Turquoise Coast, Sun City, Geraldton, Geraldton-Greenough, Greater Geraldton, Geraldton-Greenough-Mullewa, who knows? Golden Outback, Mid West, Mid West with two words, Midwest as one word. We can't even agree how to spell Midwest! This is how diabolical it is."

It's definately two words.

"One word," argued Shane, which only served to prove his point.

"As we've tried to work out how we're going to handle the branding we've engaged consultants, looked at reports, looked at migration reports, looked at visitor perception surveys, put some science behind it, how we're perceived in the market, and benchmark that against other places we either want to be like or consider ourselves on par with. It's all great to say 'We don't know what we call ourselves,' or 'we can't find crayfish,' or 'It's great because we've got some wind and sand.' Let's actually put some data behind it. Then you look at what that tells you and you relay that to the businesses and say 'How would you fix these issues?' They come up with the ideas, and only then do we start. And I see radical change coming in that space as we get tourists together under the banner of Progress Mid West, a soon-to-be-in-existence economic development unit, a stand alone enterprise that's not a lobbying or representative group per se, it's an economic development agency outside of council so it can move at the speed of business rather than the speed of government."

And tourism will be in its portfolio.

"We've spent a lot of time singing kumbaya at council, it's time to get down to implementation."

What else has happened in the Mayor's first year?

One Night Stand

One Night Stand was a massive coup for Geraldton. Thousands of visitors descended on our city for Triple J's annual massive regional concert event, the One Night Stand. 15,000 people were at the event. Apart from being a fantastic night out with performances from Boy and Bear, Urthboy, Alison Wonderland, Bernard Fanning, and locals Alex the Kid... plenty of money was raised for local charities and community groups.

"That came from the Mayor talking to a bloke on Facebook! Through my Mayor page."

Geraldton was originally nominated by a local resident who then reached out to the Mayor. "Never met the guy. Brad Gundlach. He contacted me through my Mayor page. So I'm the first Mayor on Facebook. And we communicated that way. And we got in touch with Triple J that way, and then had Ken and our city team get together and they went and put together the proposal and got it across the line. So that was social media working for good."

"We had to move fast. Decisions had to be made. Budgets had to be "interpreted". And you had to keep it all secret. But we got it done."

Shane spoke of the economic benefits in the community too. "Within an hour of the announcement from Triple J about One Night Stand, every hotel room was booked. The economic benefits of all of that were huge. Little Athletics had about 400 campsites. I think they raised about 40 or 50 thousand dollars for the night. Probably more money than they'd raised in three or four years. Towns football club made $6000 selling cans of drink. $20,000 for headspace. And it flows through (the local economy) massively."

Sport

"We've had the Wildcats playing a pre season game. And we're pitching for an AFL preseason game early next year."

Shane also mentioned the Stand Up Paddle Boarding event, Open Water Swimming Challenge, BMX state rounds, and polocrosse.

Improving people's opinion of Geraldton

"The best form of marketing is not TV ads. It's about getting them here and them taking a look around. 'Cause everyone's sort of been here once. 'I drove through once. Yeah I pulled in there for fuel and it was crap.' You know? You've got to get people here. And the way to get people here is to run events that drag people here. So attracting people with large concerts, large sporting events... all these events that bring people up and they see it. And that is how you boost tourism. You get the word on the street. 'Yeah I've been there for myself. I've seen it. I've tasted the food. I've walked down the street. I've been to the foreshore. I've been to the memorial. I've looked at the wildflowers.' That is how you improve the state's perception of the city. What Geraldton people need to do is lift their positive outlook of the City. Part of that is getting back to basics. And providing the footpaths and the trees, parks, and all the stuff that they need. Including putting playground equipment back."

Shane started recalling a conversation he had. "'GO AND FIND THE BUDGET AND PUT THE PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT BACK!'"

He was referring to the large number of parks that had their play equipment removed without being replaced, prior to him being Mayor.

"I think it's fair to say we're a lot more engaged with the community now than we have been. I think we're held in a lot higher regard. We've listened to the community and become community led, which is how we should be."

 Mayor Van Styn flanked by CGG CEO Ken Diehm.  

Mayor Van Styn flanked by CGG CEO Ken Diehm.  

Council and the future

What's your relationship like with the other councillors?

"Really good, I get along with all the councillors."

Even the Mullewa ones? There was bit of a thing earlier in the year.

"Look, Mullewa councillors are passionate about their community. I think when councillors are in disagreement with each other are often at their best."

If you were to ask anyone on the street what ward they're in they couldn't tell you. Except the Mullewa people. Do you support the Ward System broadly, or would you support changing that?

"I think we have too many councillors."

Why?

"Because we could save the city some money. If we halved the number of councillors we'd probably save a quarter million a year. But that's an issue for council to debate, the public to comment on. Part of that is 'Do we have wards, do we not have wards, do we have more wards, less wards?' I know that when people used to contact me they'd look up the phone number on the website and then they'd go to the ward that was relevant and go 'You're my ward councillor, etc.' Happens all the time. I think there's an appetite to review whether the ward system should happen or not."

"The complication is Mullewa. Under the current implementation, Mullewa ward councillors exist at the discretion of the Minister. It expires in 2019. Because wards are supposed to be 'one vote - one value'. But they get two councilllors for 500 electors. Tarcoola has two councillors for 5800 electors. It's not even close to 'one vote - one value'. So in 2019, applying the principles as it stands in the local government act, there will be no more Mullewa Councillors. So let's start getting our heads around what that looks like, what's going to happen."

"And this is why I want to have these conversations. As council we should be talking about what we're going to be doing next year, in two years, in five years. And not sitting there having round tables, you know, about old mate's driveway or old mate's shed. I mean issues will come up. But what we should be doing as council is working on policies or local laws that prevent these things from happening ever again. How do we set a policy strategy, how do we set a direction that will guide us into the future, so that whenever there's a lime sand mine again, it's dealt with here? We don't have to keep having public unrest, marches, petitions. Generally petitions and marches only ever happen when you haven't set your policy framework correct."

Do you think in the future in will make sense for Chapman Valley to join the City of Greater Geraldton?

Shane paused and chuckled. There's a bit of history over this now delicate topic.

"There are no plans at the moment..." Shane began to respond in a predictable, politically sensitive manner.

"I don't think there's an appetite for Geraldton residents to consume any of Chapman Valley, and vice versa."

I pressed him a little more.

But as a business man, on paper, do you think it make sense?

"On paper as a business man I would suggest west of the Moresby Ranges, particularly places like Park Falls and the like, would be better suited to being in Geraldton. I mean they're essentially an urban suburb. They live and work in Geraldton. They consume the City of Geraldton's resources. Is the rural part of Chapman Valley suitable for being in the City of Greater Geraldton? ... You'd view how successful the integration of Mullewa was with Geraldton. On paper there'd be an argument. But you'd need to look at what financial impact it had on the Shire if you took out the residential rate payers; would it make them unsustainable? So look, there's got to be discussions in that space going forward, but there's no timeframe at the moment. My focus at the moment is financial sustainability of our own city. Let's get our own house in order first, before we can even entertain the idea of taking on more."

What do you say to local businesses out there that are doing it tough?

"It's not a Geraldton thing. This is what happens too often, be it crime, economic downturn. Too many of the overly public social media types think we just live in this little silo, and the problems that we face in Geraldton are unique to us, and no one else has this."

"Nothing could be further from the truth. If you go to other towns, cities, around the state, they all claim to have the worst ice problem. They'll claim to have the worst crime. They'll have their own Facebook group that reckons it's hell on earth. Every suburb. Every town, has those."

FullSizeRender.jpg

"So what I tell business people is... My job as Mayor is to try and be positive, a confident message and a confident vision, for our city... to never talk the place down. And I wouldn't talk it down because I love the place. Hence I'm the Mayor. But the way I talk about things is in practical examples. If Woolworths is building a Supermarket in Wandina, they don't invest that sort of money unless their demographers and their economists who do this nation wide, the best people in the land, say 'this is a good place to do it.'"

"And what is the key factor to determine where a good place is? Population growth. That's what they're looking for."

"You've got Aldi and Dan Murphy's trying to come to Geraldton... I know they're multi nationals, and I know it's about buying local. I get that, I do. But what you need to do is look at these enterprises using significant resources doing demographic studies before they decide to invest, and they're looking at coming here. The development approvals at the City are at I think the second highest on record for the last financial year. That's not building applications, that's dollar value. These are big numbers, these are big times. This year we're going to see Beresford Foreshore, Olive Street, Town Towers..."

In conclusion

So a year has now passed with Shane Van Styn in the chair. There are policy changes evident at the City of Greater Geraldton, which City staff and Geraldton residents have mixed feelings about. It will certainly be interesting to see how the next few years play out, and if CGG can balance the books while improving tourism and providing the services we all want.

Shane Van Styn sees the big outcome of his first year as Mayor as the delivery of the Growth Plan for the City of Greater Geraldton.

But we've all seen plans before. The next challenge will be executing said plan.

Watch this space.

Regarding the Geraldton hospital upgrade promise from the Nationals

Last week the National Party made an announcement pertaining to the Geraldton Regional Hospital. Their full media release is at the end of this article. 

Paul Brown, current state upper house member and National Party candidate for the lower house seat of Geraldton in the upcoming state election, stood on the steps of the local hospital and promised that if the Nationals are elected at the March 2017 state election, they will spend $115 million of Royalties for Regions money on an upgrade to the Geraldton Regional Hospital. 

However, it's clear that the National Party have no chance of being elected to form government in their own right, and this being the case, we questioned whether the promise was meaningful or not. 

The Liberal Party and the Nationals have a strange relationship in Western Australia. While they have a coalition of sorts, they avoid using the term "coalition" as much as possible, and prefer to call their agreement an "alliance". They're bedfellows when it suits, and often opponents when it comes election time. 

The Labor party likes to paint the Nationals and Liberals as essentially the same choice, claiming the Nats are as culpable as the Liberal party for the lack of action of any hospital expansion over the last eight years. 

However, National members argue that the fact that an expansion is even needed on such a young hospital, can only be Labor's fault. It's a wonderfully messy political argument, and I'll do my best to walk you through it. 


First, a quick rewind for newcomers to Geraldton. 

Geraldton had a new hospital built back in 04/05. 

As far back as 2001 (and earlier) the Gallop Labor Government had been promising a new hospital to the people of Geraldton. Back in 2001 $35 million had been allocated for building the new hospital, and later in the year this figure increased to $39.5 million. 

By 2004 when development started, cost estimates had increased to $48 million. This meant the new health facilities in Moora were shelved to make funds available for the new Geraldton hospital. This number became $49 million in statements from Labor candidate Shane Hill in the run up to the 2005 state election, which Labor won.  

It's often quoted around Geraldton that the old hospital used to have more beds than the new one does. Even Paul Brown (Nationals) is on the record as saying that when the new hospital was built it was "essentially half the size of the hospital it replaced."


But is it true that the new hospital is half the size of the old one?

Here's what we found from a Q and A in WA Parliament from 2006:

Extract from Hansard [COUNCIL - Tuesday, 4 April 2006] p1046d-1047a
Hon Nigel Hallett; Hon Sue Ellery

GERALDTON HOSPITAL - BED CAPACITY
3253. Hon Nigel Hallett to the parliamentary secretary representing the Minister for Health

  1. (1)  What was the bed capacity at the old Geraldton Hospital?

  2. (2)  What is the bed capacity for the new Geraldton Hospital?

Hon SUE ELLERY replied:

  1. The bed capacity at the old Geraldton Hospital was 88 (accommodating multi day and same day patients) with a bed average of 58 in 2003/04 and 53 in 2004/05.

  2. The current bed capacity of the new Geraldton Hospital is 78 and on the completion of stage 2 of the redevelopment in July 2006 will be 88 (accommodating multi day and same day patients). Since the opening of the new facility in September 2005 the bed average is 54. 

Certainly it may still be argued that the new hospital may be undersized, but it seems a stretch to say it was half the size of the hospital it replaced.


Nevertheless, upgrading the Geraldton hospital has been a hot topic for the last few elections, both state and federal. And there's been a fair bit of chatter in WA Parliament recently on the matter, as we head into election season. 


Here's a question in Parliament from MLC Darren West regarding the Hospital from 14 September:

Hon DARREN WEST to the minister representing the Minister for Health: 

I refer to the conflicting statements made by the Premier and the Minister for Health about the priority of upgrades to Geraldton Regional Hospital—GRH. 

  1. (1)  Is the stage 2 upgrade of GRH a priority for the Barnett Liberal–National government? 

  2. (2)  If yes to (1), when will construction of the stage 2 upgrades commence, when will construction commence of a mental health facility, and when will the co-location of St John of God Geraldton Hospital and the Geraldton Regional Hospital commence? 

  3. (3)  Have any funds been allocated in the 2016–17 budget for these works; and, if yes, how much? 

  4. (4)  Have any funds been allocated in the forward estimates for these works; and, if yes, how much? 

  5. (5)  If no to (1), why not? 

Hon DONNA FARAGHER replied: 

I thank the member for some notice of the question. 

  1. (1)  Further redevelopment of the Geraldton Health Campus is a priority. 

  2. (2)  A business case is required to be developed for consideration by government before time frames are determined and funding allocated. The concept master plan for Geraldton Health Campus includes enabling the potential future co-location of a private provider. 

(3)–(4) No.
(5) See answer (2). 


So in a nutshell, despite the Geraldton Health Campus redevelopment being claimed as a "priority" by the current state government, no funding has been allocated for it nor has any business case been done on the merits and needs of such a redevelopment. 


Here's a statement made by National Party leader Brendan Grylls on 12 October 2016 in Parliament:

"The Geraldton Hospital, which was built by the Labor Party in its term in government, is now too small and the community is calling for a bigger one. It got that decision wrong and did not futureproof Geraldton, which is why so much criticism abounds of the Labor Party’s time in government from 2001 to 2008. It could not make the right decisions, and now, less than eight years on, we are talking about needing to invest again. That is classic policy failure when a party does not plan and does not get it right."

Here's a recent statement made to Parliament by Labor member Darren West, Member for the Ag Region:

20 October 2016

"In 2005, a new hospital was opened to replace the 1960s version that had served us well. That new hospital was built always with the intention of expansion, because Geraldton is one of two regional cities that have a private hospital; the other being Bunbury. It is important that both those health services remain viable and provide a service to the public. If we had built a massive hospital in Geraldton, it would have affected the viability of the St John of God Geraldton Hospital. The Geraldton community thinks it is important to have both hospitals, so a decision was made in 2000 to build stage 1 of Geraldton Hospital small enough so that there is capacity in the town for the two hospitals combined on a scale that enables the private hospital to continue to function and not be closed. There would be no real gain to the community if one large hospital was built and the other closed. It was always intended there would be a stage 2 development and that other services would be added to that hospital. It is a fantastic facility. There have been criticisms about it being too small, but I think the people who say that are quite insular and narrow-minded in their thinking."
...

"The Labor government had a plan for health service delivery in Geraldton and delivered on that plan, and that is a very important point to make. The contrast with this government is that it does not really have a plan. It has committed to a lot of things and not delivered them. I refer to the front page of The Geraldton Guardian of 6 September 2013. A very firm commitment was made to the people of Geraldton. I am holding up that front page, which shows the chap on the left, who is now the Leader of the National Party, and the fellow on the right, who is the Mayor of the City of Greater Geraldton. They made, as the headline states, a “Last-Minute $120m Hospital Plan” and if elected, they would build a hospital in Geraldton. They were duly elected and we have not seen a new hospital built in Geraldton."

...

Nonetheless, I saw that as a positive. I was told that consultation was underway and that it would be done in conjunction with the Mid West Development Commission and the Department of Health. Off we go—the review was undertaken about a year ago and was due to be finished in February. With that in the back of my mind, I started to wonder: Where is the review? What has happened? What are the outcomes? On Tuesday, 18 October last week, I asked: where is the review? I was told that the review could not be tabled because it was not finished. A review of health infrastructure in Geraldton that was due to be finished in February is still not completed. Not only have we gone from a plan to a review, but we cannot even manage to finish the review eight months after it was due to be completed! I guess members can work out why I am starting to be sceptical about the government’s commitment to health service delivery in Geraldton.

In Parliament yesterday—Wednesday, 19 October—I asked when the review had begun, because I wondered if it had actually really begun, and why there had been a delay and what funds may be available in the budget process for this important piece of infrastructure in Geraldton. Can members imagine my surprise when I found out yesterday, eight months after the review was due to be finished, that there is no funding available? There are no allocations available in the budget or the forward estimates for this piece of infrastructure that was a central part of a plan in 2013, which was then subject to review but now will not happen at all because there is no funding in the budget. The public gets very cynical when members of Parliament make promises that they have no intention of keeping and walk away from them. Of course the Geraldton community is upset about this government’s handling of the health portfolio and the notion of Geraldton regional hospital stage 2. I am quite convinced that before the next state election the government will go back to this plan. There will be a plan. Even though there is no money and there has been no review, there will be a plan. Hon Paul Brown has already made utterances about $50 million for a hospital in Geraldton, but I can tell the Geraldton community that it is not true because I have followed up the plan, I have followed up the review and I have asked the questions—there is no money. It is not a priority for this government. I think that is very sad. The community is not only missing out on an important piece of health infrastructure that is due, but it is also being dudded. 


Paul Brown responded to statements made by Darren West in Parliament:

The member absolutely knows that those comments are misleading, given that the person standing to the right of the Leader of the National Party, Brendon Grylls, was a candidate for the federal seat of Durack at the time, not the mayor. He was running in a federal election and he was making a commitment to the people of Geraldton and the people of Durack to partner with the WA Nationals and the Leader of the National Party, Brendon Grylls, and go to Canberra, if he was elected to the seat of Durack, and forcefully argue the case for funding for Geraldton Hospital. He did not get elected. No matter what the member on the other side might say, he did not get elected. Melissa Price, the Liberal candidate, was elected as the federal member for Durack.
The reason the Nationals’ candidate did not get elected was that the Labor Party chose to preference against him. Only two people, the Leader of the Nationals and Shane Van Styn, who was a candidate for Durack, made a commitment to the hospital. If health services and the expansion of the hospital in Geraldton were such a high priority, as the member continues to say all the time, why would the Labor Party not commit to the only person who made a commitment to the hospital during the federal election? At the end of the day, when he ran as a candidate for Durack in the 2013 federal election, the Labor Party preferenced against him. When the member stands up and says that he did not keep the commitment, it is misleading for him to suggest that at the time he was running as a candidate for mayor. He is now the mayor, but that was not the commitment that he made. He made the commitment as a candidate for Durack. He was not elected. That election commitment was not able to be kept because the Labor Party preferenced Melissa Price. 
...
Interestingly enough, I will tell Hon Martin Aldridge where the former Labor government got the money from. It got the money with a budget blowout, which meant that the Moora Hospital did not get built at that time. It used $6.3 million that was supposed to go to the Moora Hospital. The budget blew out so much because of union activism. The unions need to be fed and watered, and they need to have something to put back into the Labor coffers as another election commitment, because they got fed and watered. The Labor government chose not to build Moora Hospital. The people of Moora had over seven years saved $360 000 of their own funds to contribute to the hospital, and the hospital was pulled out from under them. Moora Hospital was delayed by many years because those funds went to the over-budget, time blow-outs and service and size reductions delivered through the then new Geraldton Hospital. I quote an article that appeared in Farm Weekly at the time —
MOORA shire president Michael Bates has called on country people to stand up for their rights and be more vocal in seeking funding for vital community services, following last week’s shock decision by the State Government not to fund the town’s new $6.3 million hospital. 
...

Rather than Labor Party members standing up here and in public on many occasions, lauding themselves about funding a new hospital, they should be absolutely embarrassed. They should be embarrassed. The only reason the Geraldton Hospital was built was so that Geoff Gallop, a boy from Geraldton, was not run out of town; he could actually walk the streets of Geraldton safely without being run out of town. The former Labor government did so well in building that over-budget, over-time hospital with a reduction in specialist services that it was kicked out. It actually got kicked out. Everybody thought it did such a good job after it had completed the hospital that it lost that seat at the very next election. 

Regarding Stage 2 of the Geraldton Hospital, Paul Brown continued:

Rather than Labor Party members standing up, patting themselves on the back, and pointing the finger at us, they should talk about stage 2 of Geraldton Hospital. It was never designed and never planned for. The Labor Party was in government for eight years. In the 2008 budget, there was not one penny in the forward estimates for stage 2—the magic pudding that Hon Darren West keeps talking about. There were no plans, no designs, no drawings and no funding. Over eight years in government and over the four years of the 2008 forward estimates for the former Labor government’s last budget, there was not one cent put towards stage 2. It was a magic pudding. Hon Darren West keeps talking about it; it is a figment of his imagination. As a result of the lack of specialist services, we now have two or three Royal Flying Doctor Service flights a day going backwards and forwards to Perth delivering patients for specialist care, and there is increased demand on the patient assisted travel scheme. The footprint for Geraldton Hospital extends over Carnarvon, Meekatharra, Mt Magnet and Wiluna in the north midlands area. Those services cannot be provided from Geraldton because Labor members did not build the hospital big enough, they went against the wishes of the people of Geraldton, and they blew out the budget. They are a disgrace and an embarrassment. 


The person who currently holds the seat of Geraldton, Liberal MLA Ian Blayney, said recently to the Geraldton Guardian that he expected the matter to be settled during this term of Government. 

But time is running out, and, according to Darren West, the report that was promised by February is nowhere to be found. 


As you can see, Labor are arguing that the Nats should have done something by now based on their previous promises, Nats are arguing that it's Labor's fault that anything even needs doing, and the Libs seem to be quietly dodging the issue as much as possible, presumably either because there's actually no money to spend on the hospital, or that they want to make their own bold announcement closer to the election. 


We had a chat with Paul Brown regarding his promise to expand the Geraldton Regional Hospital. (Answers edited for brevity. Questions from Everything Geraldton in bold.)

An improved hospital has been promised in the past. Why didn’t Minister Terry Redman make it happen over the last three years?

There was no commitment made in the past. The previous commitment that everyone keeps referring to is the commitment by Shane Van Styn  when he was running for the federal seat of Durack. He did not win that seat. Melissa Price won that seat, and has not been able to achieve any funding from the Federal Government. In fact, last year when I met with Susan Ley, Minister for Health, and Melissa Price was at that meeting, she categorically ruled out any funding from the Federal Government into the Geraldton Regional Hospital. 

... Shane Van Styn was a candidate when he made that election commitment; he didn't win. So therefore, it was a Federal Election campaign commitment, he was unsuccessful, so this is my commitment. Terry and I made an (earlier) commitment of $50 million. We were looking for dollar for dollar funding from the Federal Minister, and at that time she ruled out funding. So now, a year later, I have been able to convince Terry (Redman) and Brendan (Grylls) of the need, and certainly I've listened to the people of Geraldton and the Mid West and they are demanding an upgrade.

If we are elected next year, we will ensure that through Royalties for Regions funding that ... we move immediately ahead with the redevelopment and expansion. 

Shane (Van Styn) also ran for the (State) seat of Geraldton at the last state election, and he also didn't win that, granted. But he also brought up "vote for me if you want the hospital upgraded"... Now Shane didn't win that election, so you could hardly hold Shane accountable, however... 

Shane was a candidate, and the difference is I am a member of Parliament, and I've been representing this area for four years and I've spoken to the people... I've been able to go and convince my Nationals colleagues and the Minister for Regional Development. So this is a commitment that's not made in a vacuum, we have a great understanding of the need, and we've made a $115 million commitment to the people of Geraldton and the Mid West. 

If I'm not successful, I'd be saying to you and to the people of Geraldton you need to go and speak to Ian Blayney and Lara Dalton (Labor candidate) and see what their commitments are to the people of Geraldton. Ian has been in office for eight years, and has been able to achieve zero focus on development of a hospital. I've been able to convince my partners and my colleagues in Government at the National Party to invest in the hospital. 

If Terry Redman, the Minister for Regional Development, has his fingers on the purse strings for Royalties for Region funding, couldn't he have funded the hospital redevelopment over the last three years?

We've funded an enormous amount of hospital infrastructure across regional Western Australia; Busselton, Bunbury, Albany, Esperance, Kalgoorlie, Merredin, Narrogin, Northam, Katanning, Carnarvon, ...Karratha, Port Hedland Health Campus, and we've also introduced the Southern Inland Health initiative... to improve the health outcomes of people in the Wheatbelt. So I don't think anyone can say we haven't done enough in the health space. I would say, what conversations has Ian Blayney had with the Minister for Regional Development about focussing attention on to Geraldton and the health outcomes for Geraldton?

The Nats won't win Government in their own right. Isn't this commitment a waste of time unless the Liberal party also back it?

We're a balance of power party. We secured the balance of power in 2008, and with the balance of power we were able to secure a billion dollars a year for regional WA through the Royalties for Regions funds. We have fundamentally changed ... investment into communities in our regions. That is what balance of power brings. Balance of power is a very powerful bargaining chip when someone is looking at forming government with us after the next election. All indications are the Nationals will have the balance of power after the next election. We will use that to ensure a better outcome for regional WA. 

If we win the balance of power, then we are in a fantastic negotiating position. 

If the Nats win balance of power, but do NOT win the Geraldton seat, will Terry Redman still make the hospital upgrade happen?

That's a conversation you would need to have with Ian Blayney. My commitment is, if I win... 

I have it on very good authority, from Brendan and from Terry, that he (Ian Blayney) has never had a conversation with them, about investment into Geraldton. 

Hospital promises are starting to feel a bit like Oakajee to Geraldton residents. Every election, federal or state, we see photos of politicians standing in front of the hospital making commitments. Why should people pay attention to this announcement from the Nationals?

Because this is the first commitment I've made. I'm based here in Geraldton. My family lives here. My kids go to school here. I live, work and play in this town. I am leaving a safe upper house seat that I could sit in for the next 20 years, to run for the seat of Geraldton. This is my commitment to the people of Geraldton...

Shane made a commitment as a member for Durack, and he wasn't successful. The people of Geraldton and the Mid West need to look at that. They didn't back Shane, they backed Melissa (Price, Liberal party), and four years later we're still having a conversation about the Geraldton Regional Hospital when she said it was the top of her wish list. She has not been able to go and get funding...

A better hospital ultimately will mean better health outcomes for Mid West residents. What do you say to locals who feel like something as important as their HEALTH seems to have become a political negotiation tool?

Well I don't believe it has become a political negotiation tool. I've made a commitment. They can see that for what it is. I've made an honest, transparent commitment, so has my leader, Brendan Grylls. Terry Redman has supported that being Minister for Regional Development. And on the weekend, our whole party membership at the convention unanimously supported redevelopment of the Geraldton Regional Hospital. That is now National Party policy, not just a promise from me and Brendan. Take that for what it is. 

It's not a political football. I'm not into horse trading with the Liberals or Labor about this. I've made a rock solid commitment... 

If it comes to it, are you saying you're willing to form Government with Labor if the Liberal party won't come to the table on this matter?

We haven't ruled anything out. We've had eight years of good partnership with the Liberal party, but we have not ruled out forming government, and we are happy to negotiate with all those parties. That will be up to the leadership of the party to determine what that outcome is. All I will say is Mark McGowan has said categorically he would not form government with the National party, but we have not ruled that out ourselves. We are a balance of power party, and we seek to use the balance of power judiciously, for the best outcome for regional WA. 

Shane Van Styn appears in photos of your recent announcement. Was he there in his capacity as Mayor, or as a Nationals member?

In his capacity as Mayor of City of Greater Geraldton. He is no longer on the executive of the Nationals. He is the Mayor, and he was invited by me as the Mayor of Geraldton, because this is a very important announcement for the people of Geraldton. 


Media Statement from Paul Brown: 

The Nationals WA commit $115 million to Geraldton Regional Hospital

October 28, 2016

The Nationals WA will commit $115 million of Royalties for Regions funding to the expansion and re-development of the Geraldton Regional Hospital if elected at the March 2017 State election.

The Nationals WA Candidate for Geraldton Paul Brown MP said the funding would facilitate the immediate expansion of ward space for additional beds, reconfiguration of the clinical work space, modernised surgical theatres, an expanded Emergency Department and improved car parking and access points, to cope with the increasing demand in Geraldton and across the Mid West.

“Upgrading the Geraldton Regional Hospital has been a long-held priority for the Geraldton community and surrounding Mid West Region which is serviced by the hospital,” Mr Brown said. “The community has spoken and The Nationals WA have listened.

“Only The Nationals WA, as creators and custodians of Royalties for Regions, can be trusted to deliver this important project.”

Mr Brown was joined by Leader Hon Brendon Grylls MLA for the announcement in Geraldton today ahead of The Nationals WA 2016 State Conference.

Mr Grylls said the announcement was just another example of The Nationals’ strong commitment to improving healthcare in regional WA.

“The Nationals WA believe all West Australians, no matter where they live, should have access to quality healthcare,” Mr Grylls said.

“This is why our team has worked hard to deliver vital upgrades to regional hospitals in Kalgoorlie, Albany, Busselton, Karratha, Esperance and Carnarvon thanks to Royalties for Regions.

“There are also additional upgrades earmarked for Manjimup, Northam, Collie, Merredin, Narrogin and Katanning through the half billion dollar Royalties for Regions-funded Southern Inland Health Initiative.

“These investments are transforming health in regional WA and improving liveability of communities for residents.”

Mr Brown called on the Federal Government to match The Nationals WA’s funding commitment for the full redevelopment.

“It’s time for the Federal Government to return some of the $4.7 billion of GST it has taken this year alone, to ensure this vital upgrade and expansion can be delivered,” Mr Brown said. 

Babies in Mid West towns have been given unsafe tap water and no-one realised it until recently

Great, albeit concerning, story from Sebastian Neuweiler for the ABC:

In the mid 1990s the Health Department provided the Water Corporation with exemptions to nitrate guidelines for 11 towns, on the proviso bottled water be delivered to the communities and supplied to bottle fed infants under three months of age.
The water is supposed to be distributed through local nursing posts and health centres, but it has been revealed not all staff at those organisations are aware of the requirement.

Click here to read story


A local Labor politician has blamed the state Liberal National government for the debacle


The state government has already been under fire this month over the terrible water quality in many Mid West locations

Regarding that deadly intersection at Hosken St - Letter to the Editor

image.jpg

Dear Editor

Hosken Street Intersection

I was most concerned to read of your near miss accident at the intersection of Hosken Street and North West Coastal Highway.

It may come as no surprise that this intersection was listed in the RAC’s Risky Roads Survey, October 2015 Report Card at number two for dangerous intersections in Regional WA.

I have been calling on the Barnett Liberal National Government to address this problem since December 2014 following an approach by residents, extremely worried for their safety and the safety of their children.

I wrote to the then Minister for Transport and have asked many questions in the Parliament since, most recently in June this year.  On each occasion I have been told that plans are either not finalised or are still being considered.

Just how long is the community expected to wait to have this matter resolved? It is not good enough.

I only hope we will see a positive outcome and soon before something very serious happens at this dangerous intersection.

Darren West MLC

MEMBER FOR AGRICULTURAL REGION

 

Link to original article "This Intersection is Deadly"

 

Governor of Western Australia visits Geraldton

Geraldton was honoured to have Her Excellency the Honourable Kerry Sanderson AC pay a visit this week. 

Following visits to numerous community organisations over the last two days, a civic reception for the Governor was held this evening at the new Multi Purpose Centre on Geraldton's foreshore, which included a traditional dance (see video below), and was attended by many community leaders. 

In a short speech to those in attendance, Her Excellency shared that she had come in a community role, to learn more about what is happening in the region. 

She will be visiting Mullewa and Mt Magnet tomorrow. 


The Governor of Western Australia is the representative of the Queen of Australia, Elizabeth II. 

The Governor performs constitutional, ceremonial and community functions, including:

  • presiding over the Executive Council;
  • proroguing and dissolving the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council;
  • issuing writs for elections; and
  • appointing Ministers, Judges, Magistrates and Justices of the Peace.

Furthermore, all Bills passed by the Parliament of Western Australia require the Governor's signature before they become Acts and pass into law. (Wikipedia)

Kerry Sanderson succeeded Malcolm McCusker in October 2014.

Election 2016: Coalition to form government as more crossbenchers pledge support

Louise Yaxley and Dan Conifer for the ABC:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has edged closer to forming Government after two more crossbenchers pledged their support on confidence and supply.

 

Key points:

Three crossbenchers have now pledged support for the Coalition
ABC's election computer has Coalition at 73 seats, Labor 66 and five seats in doubt Shorten concedes
Coalition likely to "scrape" over the line
ictorian independent Cathy McGowan and Tasmanian Andrew Wilkie made the commitments, giving the Coalition 76 votes it needs to govern in minority.

 

TAB sale: Minister admits privatisation could see electronic gaming machines outside Crown Perth - ABC

Pokies everywhere causes so many social problems in the eastern states. If this happens, it's pretty clear how much the Liberal government care about our communities. 

Get on the phone to Ian Blayney and let him know what you think.  

Click here to read full story.  

Water Infrastructure Charges Reduced

Geraldton MLA Ian Blayney, has welcomed the announcement today that charges that apply to provide a water supply to new rural residential subdivisions will be reduced from 1 July 2016 as they are placed on a level playing field to other subdivision types. 

Water Minister Mia Davies made the announcement today that the long standing anomaly would be revised, meaning rural residential subdivisions would attract the standard infrastructure contribution charge, instead of full cost recovery.

“This is great news for regional WA because it removes red tape and a potential impediment to the expansion and growth in regional towns as it becomes more attractive to develop rural residential subdivisions,” Mr Blayney said.

“The costs for regional subdivisions varied significantly from town to town and could be as much as $20,000 per lot in some areas.

“The standard infrastructure contribution from 1 July 2016 will be $2,150.

“The change could encourage more local governments and landowners to subdivide, producing a greater variety of lot sizes in regional areas.

“Despite there being no difference in cost to service these types of lots, rural residential subdivisions have in the past been charged significantly more than other subdivision sizes, and the cost also varied from scheme to scheme.”

Rural residential subdivisions create lots that are greater than one hectare and less than four hectares in size.

For more information, visit http://www.watercorporation.com.au

This woman's Spalding house has been destroyed by neighbouring vandals

What follows is a letter sent to several government bodies and departments by a home owner at her wits' end. Natalie's home in Spalding has been damaged extensively, and as you will read, she has become caught between a rock and a hard place.  

We have included responses sent to Natalie as provided. 

We have also spoken to Natalie in person, and she tells us that despite the responses from various departments, she's still without a clue as to what to do, and has been advised personally by many of the officials she spoke with that there is no point in fixing the property as it will likely be damaged again. 

There is also a letter from another home owner on Strickland Street to the Housing Authority regarding one of their properties. 


I am writing to you all about my property at 70 Strickland Street Spalding, Geraldton. I bought this house off dad after my nanna died in approx. 2000. It is the only home I have ever had – will have.

It has been rented out mostly as I had to move from Geraldton for work. It was a great little house, great little suburb. 

Now it is overrun by ferals. It is now the Bronx of Gero, is it not? 

The DoHW built units next door. It was okay for the few first years. The units were promoted as accommodation for the elderly, given they a 1-2 bedrooms, 'we will choose good tenants, it will all be okay' the residents of the area where told. 

Things have changed. My last tenant at 70 Strickland had been there for about 2-3 years. Beginning of 2015 the tenant did not renew her lease due to the anti-social behaviour by the tenants living [in the] units and ‘gangs’ of feral youth, children and adults who move in and out of these units and across the suburb of Spalding. 

After the property had been vacated on the 08/04/15 I advised by my real estate agent (who had taken a potential tenant to view the place) that the house had been vandalised. I mean totally ruined. Stole the air con, smashed window, ripped out the light fittings, ripped out the blinds, holes in the walls, front door removed now missing, fence pushed over, they stole the rain water tank for Christ sakes. $10,000 worth of damage not to mention the loss of rent …..and this was just the start.

Got the house up to speed. Nearly ready to be rented gain – not that I am confident someone will rent it as its now in the middle of a war zone. 18th June – more damage, broken windows, entry screen door busted, more light fittings pulled out.

End of June 2015 they have now stolen the fake security alarms, ripped out and damaged all the new security screens, broken more windows. More damaged walls and fittings. The house is now boarded up and the graffiti is out of control. Started to get it fixed…again. (oh yes another report to useless police).

August 2015 – more damage lighting has been pulled out, bedroom walls and window frames kicked out, lots of wiring damage, cloth lines vandalized. They are making holes in the roof – this is letting moisture in! It’s just not stopping, no sooner than it gets fixed it’s another thing. Christ they are ripping through boarded up windows, they are ripping out security screens. 

12th august 2015 the real estate [agent] said they did not want to manage the property anymore – too much work, too hard. I am reeling, I am actually physically sick and come Christmas time I am despairing as to what I am going to do. I am now working just to keep my head above water to pay my mortgage and deal with the costs of repairs that insurance will not cover, the insurance excess. 

This was always going to be the home where I retired to, where I would die. Wondered if maybe I could build out the back. Mum needs somewhere to live, she is getting on in years. It’s not much, but I am a single middle age woman with little future prospects. But I just don’t know how this is ever going to happen now. I keep breathing and keep going.  The work is done again. 

I need a tenant in there to make the house more secure, but no real estate wants to manage the property. Regardless of the ongoing work the place is looking very sad and sorry. I can’t get a tenant until this stuff stops. It won’t stop until I get a tenant who can defend the house and themselves (as if they should have to). It is a vicious circle.

By the end of the year 2015 I am paralyzed numb and words cannot convey how distressed I am. Every email and phone call makes me want to vomit. I need to get the house up to speed again. I am desperately trying to find work in Gero just so I can go live in the house and try to do something about this even if I am at physical risk. But there is no work in Geraldton – I am stuck here working to try to pay the costs.

22/01/16 informed again the house had been trashed, that this time the damage is the worst it has ever been bad. All that repair work is meaningless….again. They even pulled out the plumbing and electrical power box. What hope have I got of any protection for my sad trashed little house. I feel so let down by the Geraldton authorities. This year insurance company very nearly declined to renew my insurance.

I note in March 2016 that the police are dealing with riots in Spalding.  The local gossip is that the police are even scared of the ferals. People report that they are living next door, across the road from drug dealers, the area is out of control.

The house and its surroundings is trashed with syringes all the garden and house which is now the new injecting room in Gero. When confronted they just walk next door into the units.

Residents in the area and the street are saying they can’t say or won’t report or do anything as they are too fearful of retribution. I cant ‘substantiate’ as I am not there – there is no one in the house to ‘substantiate’. What is even the point of reporting.

Police and DoHW shrug it off, say yeh its all too bad but they can’t do anything without evidence. Get the evidence, press charges, prosecute then they can help. Right – how the hell do I do that?  And I can guarantee the court will not take into account the history of my vandalised house for the fist offender charged. No one will ever be made accountable for the house.

I have worked in the NFP sector for the past 20 years. Do not talk to me about support programs, community responses, counseling, for these people. Do not talk to me about how disadvantaged these people are. Do not talk to me about the fact that “it’s just a few bad people’, most are good. I do not care anymore. Never again, will I work with these people, helping to build families,  support them to work through their grief, try to keep them out of prison, help in any way I can, work on their drug use, their perpetration of violence and sex abuse, their apathy and their dismal lives. 

I am not a violent person but all I want to do is make them feel the hurt I feel. Even though I know that this is illogical and wrong. What sort of person am I turning into?

And of course it has not stopped. In March 2016 there was more damage – to the floors, and someone has thrown plaster around. 

And of course and then there is more…….now to top it offthey have actually put a hole through the brick wall ….and done more damage. I am so scared – this hole in the ceiling is bad structural damage. Winter is coming.

A fence is not going to stop this. Security alarms are not going to stop this. Security screens are not going to stop this. Repairing the house is not going to stop this. Nothing is going to stop this.  I have had no choice but to stop all actions to affect repairs and make the house safe and livable. I have no choice but to do what I am doing now – writing to you.

Please can someone tell me what to do. The house is now so unsafe. What happens when the council tells me I have to pull it down or I have to do something about the state of the house? What do I tell them? What can I do? I have a mortgage for house that effectively does not exist. I am so trapped. Why do I have to have my human rights breached like this? 

I challenge you to go have a look at the house. Do not judge me for being a bad homeowner – look at it and realize who is responsible for this. I challenge you to go do this when the ferals are roaming the streets.  

This is not just me. Have a look at the house next door at 68 Strickland – it’s pretty much going down the same way. 

God knows who the ferals are. Some are living next door in the DoHW units. Some are ‘visiting’ people in the units. Some of them are just roaming in packs across Spalding and Gero,

I would like you to ask the DOHW (Housing Authority)

  • What have they done [if] anything over the past 2 years to manage their tenants?
  • How many people are living in the units?
  • Where are the dynamic and static security measures they have put in place that can monitor what is going on at the units and the surrounding homes that are been attacked and violated
  • How residents can and should make complaints – regardless of your more “streamlined complaints” mechanisms, when they live literally in fear of doing so?
  • How can incidents of disruptive behaviour be “substantiated” as dangerous when there is no one person who is holding residents by the hand to make reports as they are too fearful to do so?
  • Do I have to go on the dole, move to Geraldton, live in a house that would be considered unfit for human accommodation,  but risk my physical and safety of my property to “substantiated”, get evidence, prosecute and lay charges?
  • How do I identify individuals and a group of feral and rabid drug users when I am stuck here in Kalgoorlie unable to relocate because I have to spend the majority of my wages on paying a mortgage for a house that I can’t rent out and have to deal with the constant vandalism?
  • How are you adhering to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 so Members of can be entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their own homes?
  • What level of case management is given to the residents of the units?

 

I would like you to ask the Police

  • What are they doing to in terms of investigating and responding to the break-ins and damage at 70 Strickland street over the course of the year?
  • How many times have undertaken forensic procedures at 70 Strickland street?
  • What are they doing to in terms of investigating and responding to the drug use not only at 70 Strickland but also at the DoHW units and in the suburb generally?
  • What have they done about the stolen motorbikes and other items that have been left at 70 Strickland and in the surrounding area?
  • What have done about the anti-social behaviour in the area?
  • On what level do the police think it is appropriate to tell me there is nothing the police service can do? That the community needs to respond (and be responsible) when the majority of the ‘community’ are the perpetrators and offenders, and the rest of the community are the victims who live in fear of retribution, who have no capacity, interpersonal or legal power and authority to effect change?
  • If telling homeowners that there is nothing they can do and to sell their homes is useful, proactive or practical given I could not give away the land, the house is trashed and if someone were going to purchase I would have to sell at a loss and still owe the bank?

Can you please ask the City of Geraldton

  • What is the council’s response to this matter, how they view and do they care about the fact that Spalding / Strickland street has become essentially war zone?
  • Why I / homeowners in the areas should pay rates for the privilege of been abused and victimised?
  • Why the council does not recognise that not addressing such issues does not in any way assist with falling property prices, that people increasingly need to move out, and will not move into the area this situation only reinforces bad reputations, and increases the stress already existing upon a economically depressed city?
  • What breaches of local government by-laws have been activated by this situation and what are they doing about them?

What is going to give here?

 My name is Natalie


Response from Ian Blayney's office:

Dear Natalie,

Ian has just been contacted by Minister Harvey’s office to advise that the Minister has personally responded to you, following his representation on your behalf.

He hopes the Minister has addressed your concerns and that the strategies being put in place go some way to resolving the problems you are having. However, he also hopes that if these fail that you will contact him to advise.

Ian has asked me to thank you for bringing this matter to his attention. Please don’t hesitate to contact his office for any further assistance.

Kind regards

Isabelle Scott
Electorate Officer to:
Ian Blayney MLA
Member for Geraldton
Shop 2, 5 Chapman Road
GeraldtonWA6530
Tel: 08 9964 1640
Fax: 08 9964 2982
Email: Isabelle.scott@mp.wa.gov.au


Response from Mayor

Good afternoon Ms XXXX

Your personal circumstances have been discussed with the Police at my regular meetings as well as with local members of Parliament. As a City we can only take action to remedy graffiti and damage to City property. On a more macro level we are working with Police to develop strategies to reduce youth crime and antisocial behaviour including the recruitment of a youth crime prevention officer, who it is hoped can target the known trouble causers and divert them to more positive activities.

Regards 

Mayor Shane Van Styn FCP


 

Further update from Natalie:

I spoke to the ranger at the council this week who suggested that that the report speaking to the above strategies in the council's domain will at a minimum take 6-7 mths to budget and/or implement. Mostly likely years to see any result. I heard that from her that they are also looking at using prison programs to assist in matters such as graffiti clean-up given the council states it is unable to assist with private landowners. I don’t feel that the time frame will assist. Given I have also worked with prisoner re-entry I am also uncertain how they are going to fund and get this program off the ground. This is all nice in theory. 

I know this is not about ME – they don’t know me – I am sure that if they did they might care. I would be more than willing to speak to the perpetrators and provide a victim impact statement – if they gave a shit - something they cannot do because they are so emotionally scared from their own abuse they do not have the capacity to empathise. 

Anyway...

Verbally both the police and the council staff are expressing deepest sympathy but also strongly recommending that I do not undertake any form of repair as they feel it will just be trashed again. I have not asked, yet feel that getting this in writing would not occur.

I need to stress that there is so much kindness out there – people are horrified and appreciative of the issue.

However also some relief that it is not them.

I have not heard back from the MP’s other than the whatever email from Ian. I have never had any feedback from DoHW.


Dear Ms XXXX

Please find attached response on behalf of Minister Harvey MLA in regard to your correspondence.

Yours sincerely,

Office of the Deputy Premier; Minister for Police; Road Safety; Training and Workforce Development; Women’s Interests 11th Floor, Dumas House, 2 Havelock Street, West Perth, WA 6005

T: (08) 6552 5900 | F: (08) 6552 5901

minister.harvey@dpc.wa.gov.au | www.premier.wa.gov.au


Response by Natalie to Liza Harvey

Dear Liza Harvey

Thank you for the written reply from your office about the damage to my property at 70 Spalding Street (as attached).

It is appropriate that a response to the anti-social behaviour in Spalding is now been considered. 

Yes, I was “appreciative of the information provided” by Senior Sergeant Bird and his contact. 

However, no matter the genuine sympathy expressed the situation is still what it is – dire.

Given: 

1. The strategies proposed, particularly any beautification of the suburb and other community based responses are going to take time, that is months to implement, 

2. Such strategies will not necessarily equate to an immediate and/or future cessation of the problem, 

3. None of the strategies mention specifically assist in my resolving the problem at 70 Strickland,

4. None of the proposed actions alleviates the fact that I am still living in fear every day, still sick to the stomach with worry over this problem.

As my house is not CGG property I take it to presume that the:

· “Graffiti on CGG property is to be treated as a priority task and removed immediately” – will not apply to my home?

· “Deployment of maintenance crews to immediately repair any damage to city infrastructure and property” – will not apply to my home?

Clearly while paying the mortgage, water rates, land rates, insurance and the other cost associated with the house I am still left with the need to have some sort of resolution to my immediate problem of addressing the vandalisation of the home.

1. Even if I had sufficient funds to repair the current damage what sort of assistance or guarantees is there that the house will be safe from further damage?

2. Even if I managed to get it repaired where am I going to find a real estate agent willing to manage the property ?

3. Even if both of these issues are addressed how am I going to find a tenant who will be willing to rent the property?

I am still yet to put in claim in for the last lot of damage to the insurance company because I am petrified that they will cancel my policy. 

I have CC’d in other authorities in this letter as I have not had a response from either the CGG or the Department of Housing to my initial email stating the damage. 

A copy of this email I sent is attached ……just in case anyone lost it.

As it now appears that state and local departments are communicating with one another, at one of your next meetings if a mutual discussion around ways of how my current circumstance can be addressed it would be appreciated.

I am not trying to be difficult (I am in desperate circumstances), I do appreciate the fact that some sort of action has been taken to address the macro issues.

I am glad that the people living the area and the suburb itself might have some sort of reprieve in the future.

However - I need some assistance as I just do not have the social support, interpersonal resources and/or the financial capacity to deal with this on my own.

For your consideration

Kind Regards, 

Natalie


Dear Ms XXX

The City acknowledges and thanks you for your correspondence in regard to the above matter.  

Please find attached the City’s response to your email of 15 May 2016.

Should you require any further information or clarification on this matter, please contact Neryl Beer at the City on (08) 9956 6720.

Kind regards
Amy Zinetti
Personal Assistant to the Director Development & Community Services


Everything Geraldton obtained a copy of a letter written to the Housing Authority by another resident on Strickland Street, regarding number 72, the property next door to the destroyed home. 

16-05-2016
Housing Authority
201 Marine Tce
Geraldton WA 6530

Attention: Geraldton Regional Manager of Housing Services, XXXX

RE:  72 Strickland St, Spalding, City of Greater Geraldton

I am writing you to bring your attention to the state of the above Homeswest property.

As the owner of XX Strickland St, I have witnessed firsthand the antisocial behavior from the tenants of this property. The drinking and drug use at the front of the property has become a daily & nightly norm that has resulted in the demise of the adjoining properties as well as the Homeswest property itself.

I will not go into all the details of this antisocial behavior as I know the local police have that information on file. Please don’t tell me that the police should or are going to fix this as it’s a pattern behavior that they can’t stop. I also now realize that it’s nearly impossible to get any Homeswest tenants removed, despite a genuine need for it.

My question is:  Why has the property been left in such a poor state for so long? I have been witnessing vandalism and graffiti for many months now with nothing being repaired (these are architecturally designed homes, surely they deserve at the very least to be maintained.) 

The properties next to and around 72 Strickland are also being destroyed. Graffiti is everywhere in the area, evidence of drug use, property damage including house brick walls being ripped out!? (It closely resembles a 3rd world war zone!) This is directly due to the behavior of some of the H.W. tenants and along with degeneration of this particular property. I am trying very hard not to go on and on but it is all so very unacceptable and SHOCKING! Please see attached pictures.

On Wed, 4th May, I made a complaint to DHW with ‘xxxx’ (Perth) who took my details and told me I would be contacted by a representative, no one phoned back. I made another attempt one week later Wed, 11th May, and spoke to xxxx (Geraldton) who referred me to the housing authorities ‘Housing Manager’  [Redacted - not current person looking after this property], I have phoned her and left call back messages, still to this day….waiting for her reply.

We expect the graffiti covering the front walls and driveway of 72 Strickland be removed and all damaged fences, reticulation boxes, landscape, letterboxes, etc… to be repaired. We are forced to put up with your tenants unacceptable antisocial behavior but we don’t have to put up with the complete demise of government property along with our neighborhood.

I request the housing authorities ‘Housing Manager’ [Redacted - not current person looking after this property]  who I’m told is responsible for this property, fulfill her job responsibilities. If she can’t then get someone who can.

[Name Withheld] 

Owners of: X Strickland Street, Spalding WA 

 

Building a competitive Western Australian defence supply sector

Geraldton MLA Ian Blayney has congratulated GCo Electrical in Geraldton on their receipt of a $30,000 grant toimprove their competitiveness to secure work related to the Australian Government's multi-billion dollar defence programs.

The funding is part of the defence-specific round of the State Government's Industry Facilitation and Support Program (IFSP).

Mr Blayney said IFSP would enable small and medium-sized businesses in Western Australia to purchase equipment, upgrade facilities, and contract finance and marketing experts.

“The successful recipients will use this funding to up-skill and diversify their business base, ensuring they are in the best position possible to take advantage of defence-related contracts,” Mr Blayney said.

“GCo Electrical will use this funding to improve internal business infrastructure systems to ensure they continue to offer a broad scope of works and solutions to their customers.”  

The IFSP defence round will provide more than $350,000 in dollar-for-dollar assistance to 16 WA businesses.

Mr Blayney said IFSP has supported 257 WA-based SMEs to win 539 major contracts valued at $313 million since 2011.

"The State Government's $4.4 million investment in local industry has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in major contracts that have created 565 new jobs, including 66 apprenticeships," Mr Blayney said.

“I’d like to congratulate Murray Hadley and his team for developing a company that looks across WA and Australia for work.

“One of Geraldton’s strengths into the future is to develop as a venue for education and training, and as a base for companies like GCo,” said Mr Blayney.

Response from city regarding ‘Geraldton may have to pay back $9 million’

Letter to the Editor

In response to your article today ‘Geraldton may have to pay back $9 million to the federal government’, I would like the opportunity to provide some clarity around the commentary. 

The Karloo Wandina Project involved building Verita Road, Abraham St Bridge, the Ackland Street to Abraham Street connection, the extension of Columbus Boulevard, as well as water, electricity and sewerage infrastructure to enable the further residential and commercial development of the area.

At the time this project was approved Geraldton was experiencing strong growth but there was a shortage of available residential land, and house prices were becoming unaffordable for the average resident. 

The Federal Government’s contribution of $9 million was made on the condition that 400 affordable housing lots would be sold by the Department of Housing by June 2016, this date was later extended to June 2017. 

At the time, the Department of Housing were selling 80 affordable housing lots a year and there were no indications that this demand would wane. Put simply, selling 400 lots was not seen as a difficult target to reach as the residential housing market was booming and all indications were that it would continue to boom for some time.

The City of Greater Geraldton’s predicament is that we have spent the funding to build the required infrastructure but the Department of Housing will not be able to sell the required lots because of the significant downturn in the local residential property market.

The Federal Government has recently advised us that they are considering policy changes that may require the City to return the funding if 400 affordable housing lots are not sold by the Department of Housing by December 2017.

The City and our community does not have the capacity to repay the funds and have asked the Federal Government to provide a reasonable extension of time to suit our local market conditions. To date we have not had a response.

We have also had a number of discussions with the Department of Housing and have called upon Melissa Price, the Member of Durack to provide assistance on our community’s behalf. 

This is a ridiculous situation for our City to be put in. We have spent the money building the infrastructure that was required but because the residential housing market has collapsed and the State Government can’t sell the lots – the Federal Government wants us to pay it back.

We have a good relationship with Melissa Price and will continue to work closely with her to convince the Federal Government Policy makers to reconsider their position.

 

-Ken Diehm, City of Greater Geraldton CEO

(click here to read original article)

Geraldton may have to pay back $9 million to the federal government

9 million dollars to be returned to federal government

"Financial Millstones"

As I scanned Hansard earlier this week (as one does) I noticed a mention of $9 million that the federal government is requesting back from the City of Greater Geraldton for funding of a particular project. (Hansard is the formal record of what was spoken in parliament.)

Another $9 million bill when funds are already tight, staff have been cut, and services reduced, would not be great news for the people of Geraldton. 

You'll notice the reference to Royalties for Regions projects now being "financial millstones". Millstones are quite handy when you're running a mill, but we think Blayney is using the term in the biblical "millstone around your neck" context.


We haven't had confirmation of which project is being referred to, but... 

A quick search reveals that $9 million is the exact amount granted to the City of Greater Geraldton for the Karloo-Wandina project, which was meant to produce 800 affordable blocks of land, as well as the construction of Verita Road and the accompanying bridge. The grant came from the "Building Better Regional Cities" program created under the Gillard government back in 2010. 

The project has been beset by cost blow outs, with the original figure to be contributed by ratepayers expected to be around 4 or 5 million, but that seems to have grown somewhat higher. (In last year's budget, $18 million was allocated to finalise the project.) Money also came from Royalties for Regions and other government departments for the project.

The project also turned out to be a major ongoing financial burden to the people of Geraldton. This is a statement from Mark Atkinson, who was the Manager of Infrastructure Planning & Design with the City of Greater Geraldton:

"Whilst higher levels of government have provided the majority of the upfront capital, this represents only about 20% of the whole of life costs of the asset. The CGG will ultimately inherit the ongoing maintenance of the road infrastructure and will now need to budget for in the order of an additional $1M/year for depreciation if it intends to maintain the same level of service."

The purpose of the Building Better Regional Cities grants was to increase the number of homes for sale and rent that were affordable for working families on ordinary incomes, in communities that are experiencing positive jobs and population growth that need more homes to be built. The program was largely unsuccessful and poorly run according to an audit in 2014, resulting in projections that the program would be lucky to result in helping 2000 homes be built across Australia, instead of the original goal of 15,000.

According to the 2014 audit done on the project, Geraldton suffered the most delays of any of the BBRC projects, with the expected completion being 30 June 2017. The BBRC projects were originally given until the deadline of 30 June 2016 to complete their residential works. 

The BBRC program stated in the funding agreement that is it a "performance-based, legally enforceable agreement between the Australian Government and the Successful Applicant."

Interestingly, according to an article from Darcy Hay of the Geraldton Guardian in 2013, Ian Blayney and Shane Van Styn were at odds with each other over the project, with Van Styn, who was at the time a National Party candidate and is now Geraldton's Mayor, strongly supporting the project, but MLA Ian Blayney, (our state government representative in the Legislative Assembly) opposed to the project. (link). Comments on the Facebook post embedded below are worth a read too (or click here).

We have emailed the City of Greater Geraldton for comment, and to confirm for which project the federal government is asking the funds be returned. 

Update: 5:00pm - CGG CEO Ken Diehm has sent a response. Click here to read.

Attorney General contacts the Prisoner Review Board regarding Greenough Axe Murderer

Geraldton MLA Ian Blayney has welcomed news that the Attorney General has sent forward his correspondence regarding the sentence review of Greenough Axe Murderer, William Patrick Mitchell, to the Prisoners Review Board.

“I am very pleased that the Attorney General has responded to my letter and to the petition I presented to the Legislative Assembly – which contained 3000 signatures – this way.

“By bringing it to the attention of the Board he is ensuring that they give consideration to the concern of the Geraldton community, when they review Mr Mitchell’s sentence.

“It is my hope that the Board also take into consideration the initial sentencing of Mr Mitchell and that decision that he should never be released from prison,” said Mr Blayney.

Improvements to wastewater infrastructure in Geraldton

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Residents in regional Western Australia will benefit from the State Government’s investment in water and wastewater projects.

Water Minister Mia Davies has announced $782 million had been committed to Water Corporation projects across Western Australia, as part of the 2016-17 State Budget.

Geraldton MLA Ian Blayney, welcomed the announcement today, saying local projects – including upgrades to Geraldton’s wastewater infrastructure would benefit, helping to ensure the community has access to quality and reliable water and wastewater services.

In the 2016-17 year, a total of $782 million has been committed to capital investment projects across the State. These projects will improve Water Corporation’s services, and ensure its customers have access to reliable, high quality water and wastewater services.

In the Mid-West, a total of $23 million will be invested in capital projects in 2016-17.

Improvements to wastewater infrastructure in Geraldton

• Water Corporation will invest $4 million in 2016-17 to improve wastewater infrastructure in Geraldton. 

• It includes an upgrade to the Geraldton Wastewater Treatment Plant to improve odour control, effluent and sludge handling capabilities.  As well as construct a wastewater pump station within the Glenfield Beach Estate to service residential development.

• Work is expected to begin in July 2016 and be completed by September 2017 with an estimated total value of $6 million.

Water Corporation provides water, wastewater and drainage services to more than 2 million people across the 2.6 million square kilometre expanse of Western Australia.

These projects will improve Water Corporation’s services, and ensure its customers have access to quality and reliable water and wastewater services.

For more information about projects in your area visit www.watercorporation.com.au.

Today Blayney tabled a petition to keep Greenough Axe Murderer locked up

 Blayney tables Axe Murderer Petition with 2548 signatures

Geraldton MLA Ian Blayney presented a petition with 2548 signatures to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly today, protesting against the parole of the Greenough Axe Murderer.

“I will be following up the presentation of the petition with a letter to the Attorney General, once again conveying the message that William Patrick Mitchell should never be released from jail.

“This petition has already been signed by about 10 per cent of Geraldton’s adult population and there are still more signatures to come.

“It is the second time I have petitioned on this matter. The people of Geraldton have again reacted strongly.

“Clearly the community doesn’t want this person released from prison,” said Mr Blayney

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Parties need to say where they stand on Royalties for Regions

Sarah Taillier for the ABC:

The Regional Chambers of Commerce and Industry WA (RCCIWA) says political parties need to make their intentions clear for the future of the $1 billion Royalties for Regions scheme.

Click here to read article.

Here's the petition to Save Southgates

Here's the petition to Save Southgates. Be sure to share this with friends and family. 

CGG Mayor Shane Van Styn said via the Save Southgates Facebook page:

"The Hon Paul Brown MLC has helped me draft a petition to be tabled in Parliament, calling for an inquiry into the decisions around Southgates and calling for Southgates to be saved into the future. Please print it off and get them filled with signatures. "

Return signed petitions to Shane Van Styn, 58 Fitzgerald St, Geraldton. Faxed copies cannot be accepted.