Bentleigh residents begin rebel-ution

A group of Bentleigh East residents have plans to ‘secede’ from their local council of Glen Eira to form an independent municipality.

The rebel group is planning to challenge their right to exist as a legal municipality under the 1989 Local Government Act. However, the Council describes their efforts as ‘futile’.

The rebel group has organized a procession next Saturday at 10am; the rebel group will march from the spotted Dog Café on Centre Road in Bentleigh, to Glen Eira Town Hall. The Council maintains that despite this, they will still not agree to meet with the group.

The rebel group claims the Council have ignored their needs and requests for too long now, and are fed up with receiving higher charges than surrounding suburbs, according   to rebel group leader, ‘Colonel’ Darren Wicklow.

Last week’s rate rise for the Bentleigh residents further enraged the group who feel they are subsidising the inefficiencies of the Council.

‘It’s independence or war’, says rebel group leader,’ says Mr. Wicklow.

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State election to spend on education

With the State election around the corner, politicians have several issues to consider, particularly the need for increased funding in the state education system.

In the past decade, the Government has increased spending threefold on building prisons but expenditure on education and social and health services has remained the same, according to Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) CEO, Cath Smith.

Secondary school parents are concerned about their child’s needs being met, either through enrichment programs or provision of additional support, reveals research by the Education Union. Addressing “young people who become disengaged during their secondary education”, is also of concern, says President of the Australian Education Union (Victoria Branch), Mary Bluett.

“Over 70 per cent of Victorian students are educated in Government primary schools; when it comes to secondary schools, it’s only 58.5 per cent”, says Bluett. There is a need for “significant reinvestment in secondary provision,” says Bluett.

Doncaster Secondary College students look to a bright future

Victoria is the lowest funded state in terms of expenditure on education, says Bluett. This leaves Government schools with insufficient budgets. No principal should ever have to compromise the welfare of students for financial reasons, says Bluett.

The previous election committed to modernising every Government school in ten years. There are calls for “the government or the opposition to maintain that pledge”, during the upcoming election, says Bluett.

Investment into regional areas is also needed, says Bluett. A portion of the 2009-10 State Budget was likely to contribute to “closing the gap” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students according to VCOSS.

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Victorian rivers not to be banked on

Despite the State Government’s strategies to mitigate the drought, outlined in the 2004 white paper: ‘Our Water Our Future,’ commitments to Victorian rivers are lacking.

The Government invests much energy in water saving through the implementation of a desalination plant, the Sugarloaf Pipeline, and water restrictions. Promises to increase environmental flows to Victoria’s fifteen main catchments however, have not come to pass.

Prior to this winter, “most rivers in Victoria…had 10 per cent of their normal flow,” says CEO of Environment Victoria, Kelly O’Shanassy. This amount, despite 2010 recording an above average winter rainfall, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, will not be enough to have a sustainable impact on water security.

Raising a family on the riverbank

Environment Victoria is concerned for the health of rivers’ organisms and the spread of toxic blooms like the Murray River experienced.

“Environmental systems should be protected,” says Sustainable Water Use Expert, Dr. Grace Mitchell, to avoid degradation to the point of malfunction.

Rivers in Northern Victoria are under particular stress. Goulburn, Victoria’s largest river, normally has “over 80 per cent of its flow…taken out for irrigation”, says O’Shanassy. Provision of water to irrigators and urban consumers, together with the drought, means little water remains.

The Government’s focus lies in securing water for consumers, not for rivers, says O’Shanassy. The Government should also commit to buying water to return to the rivers.If you don’t have a healthy river, you can’t have secure water supply for consumers,” she says.

Environment Victoria wants water prices to contribute to the rehabilitation of rivers.

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Free public transport is not our ticket to ride

Free access will not resolve the issues for Melbourne’s public transport system; including overcrowding, lack of services and poor coverage.

Overcrowding on our trains

A conference amongst disadvantaged transport users revealed that 99 percent of commuters would prefer newer, more efficient services, rather than free public transport. Professor Graham Currie, Chair of Public Transport, Monash University, concedes that “if you haven’t got anything, the fact that it’s free is irrelevant.” 

According to Daniel Bowen from the Public Transport Users’ Association, “the service quality is just not there.” Allowing free public transport will cost money, leaving less to spend on upgrading services.

Railways are currently experiencing 40 percent overloading. This figure will rise with Melbourne’s population growth. Allowing free fares would increase the market by 20 to 30 percent.

Professor Currie projects that this increase would impact little on the number of cars on the roads. Congestion would be reduced by only one percent, if at all, considering the expected population boom.  

Professor Currie believes there is a “social justice reason” why public transport should not be free. The wealthy, white-collar classes account for the majority of public transport commuters.

No fares will cost $300 million per year, giving “rich people free fares, to not have much effect on travel, to increase crowding on trains and stress the budget,” Professor Currie said.

The reality lies within the paradox: free public transport comes at a cost.

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Meningococcal disease hospitalises five Ballarat teenagers

Five students from Sebastapol College in Ballarat were rushed to hospital Monday night, all with a severe case of meningococcal disease.

Sebastopol College Principal, Mr Bruce Feeney stated that any measures to be taken at this point, are “a matter for the Department of Human Services and Ballarat Base Hospital.” At present, no other students are reported to have been infected.

Dr Wainwright, Head of Communicable Diseases, Ballarat Base Hospital

The Head of Communicable Diseases at Ballarat Base Hospital, Dr Beryl Wainwright, revealed that of the five, three are in a critical, but stable condition. The other two are in a critical condition. The severity of the disease required all five teenagers to be quarantined indefinitely. Dr Wainwright disclosed that she has “never seen an outbreak of this strain affect so many people so quickly.”

Jeremy Little, 15, is one of the teenagers who has been infected with the disease. Mrs Lynne Little, mother of Jeremy, said she rushed her son to hospital when “he vomited once, twice and then couldn’t stop.” At this stage, doctors have been unable to report whether his condition is improving or getting worse.

Apparently, the five students caught up for a movie night on Sunday evening.

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Wind turbines soar with electricity costs

The outskirts of Weribee have seen the construction of 1000 new wind turbines. Gas emissions will be reduced by 5 percent, but electricity bills will increase by 40% per household.

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