Steven Secker

Candidate for the Minnawarra ward in Armadale

Author: Steven

Telecommunications

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The Policy

  • All communications towers for mobile phones should be owned and operated by a government agency, allowing equal access for every telecommunications company at the same rates, based on the cost of installation, operation, and maintenance, allowing the companies to compete properly on service standards;
  • The NBN should remain entirely in government hands, with the same equal access for every telecommunications company, at the same rates.
  • The NBN should have power provision, including the use of backup or remote power supply, to ensure that a standard landline phone connected to the NBN will still work in the event of a power outage in the area – which could also reduce capacity on mobile phone towers.

 

Background
During the first few days of May 2017 we have heard not only that the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (the ACCC for short) has sided with Telstra and Optus is rejecting a call by other telecommunications operators to open up access to their mobile phone towers to allow for other companies’ clients to use the roaming facility, but also that farmers across the country are suffering because of poor data communications preventing them from using technology which will improve productivity.

In the early days of this century, and before, if you made a long distance call on a landline phone the cost of that call depended on the distance between customers. From Perth’s northern suburbs I could call someone locally, and it would cost me an untimed “local call” fee; if I rang someone in the southern suburbs I would be charged on the basis of a timed “community call”; and if I rang someone in Melbourne or Sydney the cost of that call rose dramatically, even though well over 95% of the cost of providing the service involves connecting each subscriber to the local exchange. It literally cost the service provider almost the same for call from Perth to Thursday Island as for a call between neighbours in the same street. That’s because the costs of installation and maintenance on each connection to the exchange are supported only by calls and rental associated with that copper pair, whereas the costs of installing and maintaining connections between exchanges are supported by millions of calls, made by a range of subscribers. The long-distance call structure was a way of making huge profits at the expense of the public.

A few years ago my family spent a number of months in Moora, 180km north of Perth in the Central West district. Before going there my wife and I had a mobile phone account with a small company and could call each other as often as we wanted at no cost above the monthly plan fees. Those phones could not be used in Moora as there was no roaming facility, so I had to change to the only operational service, with Telstra. The recorded arrangement showed I had confirmed that the same cover, where we could call each other at no additional cost, would be provided by Telstra, but my first bill was well over $200, compared with the $60 before I swapped, because we were charged for every call. Since we had no choice but to be with Telstra the company could charge much higher fees with impunity.

The NBN’s “Fibre To The Premises” connection will only allow a connected standard landline phone to work if there is a working power supply on the premises (such as a UPS server) to provide for the conversion from optical to analogue signal. “Fibre to the Node” customers have no such connection possibility, even though it exists while they are still through the copper network, and even though the copper network connection is still used from the node to the premises. This is a serious downgrade in service. NBN Co has assumed that everyone has a mobile phone which could be used, but there are areas where reception is too poor to be trusted, even in metropolitan areas. This essential safety issue MUST be addressed. So far the only responses I have got from NBN Co have avoided the essential question of “WHY has this not been provided?”

Drugs

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The Policy
I will seek the support of whichever party is in government after 11th March to:
● increase penalties for people caught carrying or importing trafficable quantities of drugs;
● initiate a workable and effective rehabilitation programme for people caught with small quantities of drugs for personal use;
● begin serious work to ascertain the real reasons for people resorting to drugs, however uncomfortable those reasons turn out to be, and to implement programmes to address those reasons, with the intention of significantly reducing the demand for drugs.

Background
Markets generally work on a supply and demand basis: when there is a greater supply than demand then sellers seek more buyers, and prices drop in an effort to minimise loss of profit; and when demand exceeds supply, prices rise because buyers are willing to pay more for a product which is in short supply.

The illicit drug industry is no different. Dealers will bring supplies into the market when and where there is demand, controlling the quantity to maximise profits. If supplies get too much then prices drop and the dealers suffer, as happens when demand drops.

Our current way of dealing with the scourge of illicit drugs is heavily focused on trying to catch the big dealers, on the way collecting drug mules, who are just disposable pawns in the game for the dealers, who themselves remain well protected to avoid being caught. We send the mules, and those who are caught with small quantities though large enough to be end-user dealers themselves, to jail in the forlorn hope that we have made inroads into the problem. Whereas I have no doubt that taking illicit drugs out of the market is a good thing, and should be pursued vigorously, the reality is that everyone we send to jail will be replaced, before they’ve even faced court, by others doing exactly the same. We will never win the battle against illicit drugs unless we address the real problem.

What if we actually addressed the cause of the problem, which is not supply, but demand? If we were willing to look seriously at why people feel they need to resort to drugs, or why they don’t think critically enough to realise that someone is trying to con them into trying drugs, then we might just reduce the demand. Ultimately, if the demand is zero then it doesn’t matter how many tonnes of drugs are produced and placed on the market there will be no sales, and the principal dealers will leave us alone. Clearly that is an ideal situation which is highly unlikely to ever eventuate, but if we approach the problem from both ends we stand more chance of ridding ourselves of the worst of it.

The issue is not an easy one: it involves admitting that our society needs to look at how it operates, and what we are doing which results in people accepting an offer of drugs. It might call on us to make serious changes to how we relate to each other, but it will produce a happier, healthier and safer community for all.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Cultural Exchange

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Background

Cultural exchange programmes allow people of all ages to spend time in another country, and another culture, learning about the people in that country, and their ways, their language, their laws, potentially their religion, and certainly their understanding. By experiencing those other cultures people on such exchange programmes return with a different opinion of the people they have been living with for some weeks or months.

Programmes on offer in Australia are limited in a number of ways. Various organisations report that they are only allowed to accept requests for placements of overseas people on a basis of how many we are offering to send to the other country. For some, the cost of going overseas, and staying there for more than just a holiday, can be prohibitive. Families willing to accept people into their homes as part of the exchange programme are not allowed to receive financial contributions from those whom they are hosting, even though there are additional costs of at least food, water, and electricity, so there is a disincentive for many families to host. In addition, though there is nearly always another person dependent on the family for basic services, Centrelink is not able to add that person for family benefits.

Some years ago, someone – if anyone knows who, where and when I’d appreciate being able to give appropriate credit – said “if the governments of the world spent half of their defence budgets on cultural exchange programmes there would be no wars.” Wars arise principally because of a lack of understanding of, and respect for, people of other cultures. If we engage in significant cultural exchange programmes then we will reduce the likelihood of being involved in any war. We will not need walls to be built to keep people out of a country; we will not need to constantly add to border security; and we stand to save billions of dollars currently spent on funding for “defence”. That’s money which could be used for other issues, such as education, health and economic stimuli.

The Policy
● I will push for State government funding to assist people wishing to participate in cultural exchange programmes but being unable to do so because of a lack of funding; and
● with the co-operation of the State government I will push for a small percentage of Federally allocated funding for “defence” to be spent supporting families who host cultural exchange programme participants, and for a lifting of the ban of such families receiving payments to help offset the additional costs.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Water Supplies

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Background

When I came to Perth in 1965 the population was around 500000, we averaged 870mm of rain a year, the local dams regularly overflowed in winter and early spring, we had a quota of water that was free, before we started paying for any excess, and gardens were green. I’m sure there are many who can remember those wonderful days. The government planned for, and built in 1974, the South Dandalup dam, to add to Perth’s water supplies as the population grew, but that was the last significant addition to surface water storage for the metropolitan area. As that dam was being built we had the first indications of declining rainfall, though they wouldn’t have been recognised as such at the time. Widespread land clearing in the Central West, begun in the early 1970s to allow for expansion of the wheat growing capacity of the region, was removing triggers for winter rainfall. Temperatures were beginning to rise, winter rainfall dropped off across the whole of the south-west of WA, and the population of Perth continued to grow at a rapid rate, reaching 1.8 million by 2012. That’s more than three times the number of people who were resident in Perth in 1965 with less water stored in the dams because of the reduced rainfall. More water was extracted from the Gnangara Mound, north of Perth, desalination plants were built to take ocean water and make it potable, and still we struggle with the demand for water. A lack of foresight on the government’s behalf meant that more stress was created for underground aquifers, and the Yarragadee aquifer in the south-west of the state was targeted. Unfortunately, reduced rainfall also affected that aquifer, and wildlife dependent on the rivers across the south-west has been under pressure. Time and again short-term solutions have been suggested, and not necessarily acted on. An aboriginal leader, long-term elected member of the WA parliament for the Kimberley, and first indigenous cabinet minster, suggested, in the 1980s, a pipeline from the Kimberley to Perth, drawing excess flow from tropical rainfalls in the wet season, being the southern summer. The estimated cost of that project at the time was $3 billion. Various authorities have suggested that such a pipeline would be far too expensive, and the water would arrive in Perth contaminated because of the time in the pipeline. The commonly thought reason for opposition at the time was that Mr Bridge was not a white man, and therefore didn’t know what he was suggesting. Since then there have been many comments pointing to an understanding of the project as getting water from the Kimberley to Perth, whereas that pipeline, which would cost little more than the gas pipeline from Dampier to the south-west of the state cost and which has proved invaluable, could supply towns and regions along the way, providing extra water to generate more jobs and turn some areas back to the green they used to be. Topping up water resources in the south-west of WA from the excess flow out of Lake Argyle could, in most years, result in Perth’s dams being completely filled, allowing more water for the increasing population and the chance to re-green Perth. That would reduce the heat island effect caused by more and more paving and roads, and smaller areas of green around homes, and would, in turn, bring about an increase in rainfall.

We cannot keep drawing water from the aquifers around Perth, or building desalination plants using diesel fuel and pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The desalination plants we have must be converted to use solar power to minimise environmental damage, and, with improvements in solar technology power from the sun would provide all the energy needs to move water from the Kimberley to the south-west of WA, and to keep it useable.

The Policy

I will push strongly for:
● construction of a pipeline from the Ord and Fitzroy Rivers in the Kimberley, through the Pilbara, Gascoyne and Central West to the south-west of the state, to provide a long-term solution to the drying climate around Perth and the increasing population, and to provide an additional, and more reliable, source of water for other areas along the pipe;
● easing of water restrictions, when supplies finally arrive from the Kimberley, to encourage intelligent use of the water resource to increase areas of green and reduce exposed paved areas;
● use of recycled water for public lawns, ovals and gardens, gradually making the resource available to the general public for the same purpose through a separate pipeline network.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Roe 8

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The Policy
I want to see, in the first day of a new, non-coalition, WA government
● cancellation of all contracts associated with construction of the Roe Highway extension.

I want to see, in the first 3 months of that new government, if not before:
● work to start on restoring the Beeliar Wetlands to as close as possible to what they were before the current government’s destruction;
● work being done to use the existing rail freight line from Kewdale to Fremantle and Rockingham instead of having trucks use Roe Highway, Kwinana Freeway and Leach Highway;
● abandonment of any proposal to extend Roe Highway west of the Kwinana Freeway;
● legislation, if necessary, being introduced to make Colin Barnett and his Cabinet personally responsible for the cost of cancellation of construction contracts, and for repairing as much of the damage to the Beeliar Wetlands as is possible, based on professional negligence.

Background
The WA coalition government has, for several years, been promoting, promising, and annoying many people by trying, to push through an extension of the Roe Highway from the Kwinana Freeway to Stock Road in O’Connor, and, more recently, suggesting that a tunnel may be built to take trucks from Stock Road to the southern end of Stirling Highway and so into Fremantle or across the river and onto North Quay, for ship loading and unloading. Work was started on the extension of Roe Highway across the wetlands of major concern, but was temporarily stopped because the Supreme Court determined that the Environmental Protection Authority had contravened its own rules when determining the acceptability or otherwise of the project. Unfortunately, the government took the matter to the High Court and convinced the court that the EPA’s rules for all matters not supported by the government did not need to be applied where the government was concerned. The arrogance with which Colin Barnett declared that the road would go ahead, and all he needed was for the authority to be re-issued, showed how disinterested the coalition government is in arguments put forward by opponents of its plans. Attempts to build major roads through residential areas need far more sensitive planning and working than the current government seems able to achieve. For many months the government was pushing to extend Roe Highway to Stock Road with no declared plan for what it would do with the traffic once it had reached there. That displays an incredible lack of foresight for a party charged with running the State effectively. What did Mr Barnett and his party expect to get out of the plan to push through with “Roe 8″ and thumb their noses at the EPA guidelines? Did he hope that people would be so dumb that they couldn’t see his plan to disturb more people’s homes for something that we don’t need? The cost of the proposal is enormous, and we cannot afford to be spending anywhere near that much on a short-term solution to a problem in one area by shifting it to somewhere else. Professor Peter Newman is correct with his description of Blind Freddy knowing we do not need Roe Highway extending towards Fremantle.

The Port of Fremantle is near capacity and there is already plenty of talk about having much of the container traffic through the port shifted to the Rockingham area. If that happens then an extension of Roe Highway to Fremantle, by whatever route it might take, is going to be a big white elephant.

Roe Highway currently runs from near Midland, past the Kewdale Freight Terminal to the Kwinana Freeway. A similar route is taken by the standard gauge freight lines from the Freight Terminal to both Fremantle and Rockingham. There is no reason why all the truck traffic from near Kewdale to Fremantle cannot use that freight line, which could be extended over the Swan River alongside the commuter train bridge, to reach North Quay. Trucks carrying loads which would be difficult to transfer to trains directly could be driven onto low rolling stock for the trip to Fremantle. That approach also allows freight headed to Rockingham to use the train line. It then becomes abundantly clear, to all who are willing to listen and see, that enhancing the already existing rail freight link, and possibly adding an extra track for freight trains across the railway bridge in Fremantle would be a far more cost-effective way of reducing congestion on the various roads, and without the need to damage or destroy sensitive wetlands or the need to resume houses to allow a road to be built. Plan a road along Marmion Street in Cottesloe to link with West Coast Highway, as was provided for in the Stephenson Plan, and see what reaction you get from all the politicians and big money spinners through that part of Perth. The same level of objection applies to extension of the Roe Highway, but there aren’t enough people with enough money in the affected region to make a difference.

Of course there will be job losses from the cancellation of the Roe 8 project – though the way the current government is behaving there will be extra jobs for restoration of the environment – but there will be many jobs created for the other projects which are needed more, such as Armadale Road and an upgrade to the rail freight line to Fremantle and Rockingham.

Yes, it’s a good idea to get thousands of trucks off Leach Highway every day, but not if you’re going to shift them to Stock Road, especially when there is already an option available to have them off all the roads of concern, and at significantly less cost.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Road Safety

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Update
It has been suggested that, if Labor [sic] wins the election next month it will legislate that drivers need to leave at least 1m between their vehicles and cyclists for speeds up to 60km/hr, and more for higher speeds. The Road Safety Act used to specify one vehicle only in a lane at any time, and a bicycle is classed as a vehicle. Reinstatement of that rule, which ensured safety on the roads, would be preferable to legislating for a 1m gap, though I will support any move which makes it safer for cyclists to use our roads. Despite some driver comments, cyclists have just as much a right to use most roads as car drivers do, and we need to show respect and look after their safety.

Background to the Road Safety policy
I’m sure that we’ve all heard frightening statistics about the number of people killed or seriously injured in road incidents, about people going at horrific speeds along some of our roads, about drivers who are so much under the influence of alcohol or drugs that it’s surprising they could get behind the steering wheel, and about people continuing to use hand-held mobile phones despite all the work done to stop such distracting action. I’m sure, also, that the vast majority of road users are aware of the poor state of Australian roads, both in terms of design and maintenance, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks our traffic light sequencing is anything but appalling – except in Main Roads WA. With that general concern, and I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg, there should be plenty of opportunities to improve road safety in Western Australia if we are willing to bite the bullet and make some hard decisions.

WA used to have relatively good roads, where, if you were not the driver, you could pass over repairs and not know it, and where waiting at traffic lights was not a problem since the wait was always short. The Hendon Police Academy in the UK used, as part of its test of driving skill, a glass full of water attached to the bonnet of a car, and required the trainee to complete a specifically designed circuit without spilling any water. These days there isn’t a single, even straight, stretch of road in WA where that would be possible, because roads are being built to a much poorer standard, supposedly because of cost, even though maintenance costs are much higher if the road hasn’t been built properly in the first place.

When WA started to implement the SCATS traffic signal system it removed one essential element of “intelligence” for sequencing by moving the sensors from the approaches to a set of lights all the way to the stop line at the lights. The switching off of arrow sequences when not necessary – try 4.30am on a Sunday, as I have frequently encountered – was all but abandoned, creating unnecessarily longer sequences. Drivers approaching lights which are changing are now faced with the dilemma of stopping, and being held up for potentially long times, or trying to go through on the amber signal, and either risking passing through on the red signal or blocking an intersection because traffic ahead makes it impossible to pass completely through. At one intersection I frequented in Melbourne I could guarantee at least one red light offence for every pass through the sequence, all because of poor timing of those lights.

Whereas consistency of school zone speed limits appears to be a good idea it falls flat when the school in particular has different starting and finishing times. One school with which I was associated finished at 2pm one day a week, and by the time the school speed zone applied there was no sign of any student, there were no crossing attendants, and virtually no teachers, so the restriction in speed was actually counter-productive.

Following the changes in the Australian Design Rules for speedometers, most cars built or first registered from July 2007 show a speed which is 7-10% higher than the actual speed of the vehicle. Thus, if the driver is actually doing 100km/hr the speedometer is likely to be reading in the range 107-110km/hr. If police allow 2km/hr leeway for accuracy of equipment, then the speedometer in a car exceeding a 100km/hr limit will probably be showing at least 9km/hr over the limit. There is no reason why such drivers should have ground for complaint when charged. Similarly, no-one who abides by the speed limits has any need for concern.

The Policy

I will push strongly for:
● reintroduction of the one-vehicle-per-lane rule which used to apply on WA roads;
● roads to be built with solid foundations, not compacted gravel which can be washed away, leaving a large maintenance bill;
● banking on corners to allow for the expected speed of vehicles, including large trucks;
● round-a-bouts to be built, or rebuilt, with the low point at the centre, where is should be;
● the traffic light sequencing system to be totally replaced by something which actually gets traffic flowing, and involves arrow sequences only when they are really needed;
● review of major road interchange areas to employ clover-leaf designs as often as possible so that traffic lights are not needed in those locations, and environmental damage is limited as much as possible;
● a review of speed limits, to make them more consistent and to make school zone speed limits tie in with the times when children arrive and leave each school;
● re-introduction of the Road Traffic Authority, with adequate staffing, or at least a significant increase in the number of traffic police on the roads, in marked and unmarked vehicles;
● well-known places where equipment is set up for people to check their speedometers without fear of being charged with speeding;
● a definition of “tailgating” as being closer than 2 seconds behind the vehicle in front, so that police can charge people with following too closely;
● a significant increase in the number of speed cameras, since only those who deliberately fail to abide by the speed limits have any concern;
● increases in the penalties for speeding and drink driving, including devising ways of preventing those who drive while suspended from doing so for the period of suspension;
● use, by the public, of high-resolution dash-cams with video being able to be uploaded, by registered providers, directly to a section of the WA Police (or RTA) responsible for processing video evidence of traffic offences and issuing infringement notices, along with changes to rules on evidence gathering to make better use of such videos;
● suspension of mobile phone access for those who use hand-held mobile phones while driving, including telephone service providers being required to block the phone(s) and not issue a new service to the offender within the suspension, and making it an offence for someone else to provide a phone for the period of suspension;
● novice drivers to undertake an advanced driving course before being allowed off ‘P’ plates;
● all drivers whose licences are coming up for renewal more than 10 years from their original issue to be retested so that every driver is tested at least every 10 years;
● a requirement, for safety reasons only, that overseas drivers who normally drive on the right hand side of the road undergo at practical driving test designed to ensure that they a capable of driving safely on the left hand side;
● a requirement, also for safety reasons only, that overseas drivers undergo a theory test to ensure they are familiar with our road rules, especially where they differ from those in the country from which they come, before driving here;
● a readily-accessible web page covering all the current road rules with new rules or changes to rules clearly marked so that drivers can easily keep up-to-date and not get caught out because Parliament has passed a new rule with little or no publicity;
● changes to road rules to be emailed to licence holders’ registered email addresses, where such an address is available, in the lead up to those changes applying;
● implementation of a peak toll for private vehicles entering the area surrounding the central business district of Perth during the morning peak, with the money raised being used to pay for improved public transport, including more parking at train stations and bus hubs.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Public Transport

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Background

I have heard it said by country people, many times, “why should I pay for you to have public transport when I don’t use it?” Most country people will rarely use the public transport system in the major cities but, if the public transport system doesn’t meet the needs of the people then country folk, just like their city companions, will pay for construction and maintenance of roads to allow people to move as they need to do.

In comparison with some other states, Perth has a good public transport service, but it can be much better. Looking back over the years it appears that coalition governments focus on cars and providing roads, and Labor [sic] governments focus on public transport. That says a lot for where their loyalties lie. The Liberal-National government of Sir Charles Court shut down the Fremantle line in 1979, only for it to be opened again, with electrification, by the Labor [sic] government in 1983. The Labor [sic] Party also had the Joondalup (now Butler) line built in the late 1990s, and that to Mandurah was built in 2007. In both those cases Liberal party opposition was claiming that they would never be used very much. The contrary has proved the point.

People will use public transport if it can get them from where they are to where they want to be in reasonable time, in reasonable comfort, and at a reasonable cost. Stations on the Joondalup and Mandurah lines were extended to allow longer trains because patronage was so high that people were refusing to board because there were too many people already in the carriages. That shows how effective public transport CAN be.

With a focus on cars and roads, support for Perth’s public transport system has been poor at best. The Mitchell Freeway has been widened several times to allow more cars to approach the city, but with little effort to deal with the morning rush when it gets there. In order to buy votes, the coalition has, on more than one occasion, promised a rail link to Ellenbrook, in the north-east of the metropolitan area, and a light rail link to the University of Western Australia and to Curtin University. No progress has been made on either of those suggestions, which, I suggest, were never realistic possibilities for a coalition government.

Any talk of light rail should be squashed immediately. If we use the more common term, trams, and if we’ve had any experience in Melbourne, we will realise that planning for a tram line takes years, there is huge disruption to local homes and shops, cars, buses and trucks will have to stop whenever a tram stops (where the different forms of transport use the same space) significantly increasing pollution, construction takes months to years and at astronomical expense, and a single break-down can stop operations for the whole line. It is the worst decision that could be made with the intent of improving road safety and the use of public transport. Dedicated bus lanes, if they are enforced, allow gas-powered buses – and, in the next few years, totally sun powered buses, to collect and drop off passengers without interfering with other traffic, and with priority access to speed people on the way. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Much money is spent every year on policing fares on our public transport, with SmartRiders requiring to be scanned at every point of embarkation and disembarkation – including all stations and every bus and ferry, security officers patrol trains and stations to ensure fares are paid, and a robust computer system has to operate to ensure that everything else can work. Those who don’t pay fares can end up in court, with the extra cost of having people prepare briefs and attend the court for a hearing. If we make public transport free then all the equipment and time taken up ensuring that people pay their fares can be retired. Yes, it will cost the government money through the loss of income from fares, and governments are well known for their blinkered approach to finance. If public transport is free then there will be fewer people using cars to commute to the city, and those who still insist on doing so when public transport is running could be required to pay a toll for entering an area around the CBD, with the funds from that toll being used to offset the loss of income from fares.

More trains are required on each line, and that expense needs to be considered as urgent if we are to have patronage increasing, and especially if people can use the system at no cost. Frequency of services should be considered to maximise the number of passengers using trains and buses during peak periods, and it may be worth while using smaller buses on some routes connecting to trains to reduce operating costs. Adding new trains lines underground, which is now much cheaper to achieve than it was a few years ago, would allow expansion of the network to other parts of Perth with disrupting homes, businesses and roads. Gradually putting existing lines underground would provide an opportunity to get tracks more level, thus saving on power consumption costs, would release vast areas of saleable real estate above the lines, and would increase property values along roads parallel to the train tracks. An added bonus is that some curves could be eliminated altogether, shortening distances and making the service faster.

The principal on which trains work is based on reducing to a minimum the friction between wheels and track. They come into their fore on tracks which have little or no rise and fall. Indeed, a small slope can increase power consumption by 50%. Rising and falling tracks, as we see around Perth, are wasting huge amounts of electricity, and trains have to be heavier than really necessary, just to stay on the tracks and keep moving forwards. That is simple high school mechanics. The roller-coaster pattern on the Fremantle line is a classic case of how NOT to organise a train line.

The Policy

I will push strongly for:
● public transport around the Perth metropolitan area to be free;
● building of multi-storey parking facilities at busy train stations, to provide more parking, especially shaded parking, for commuters, and at a reasonable cost reflective of parking costs in the CBD and vehicle costs for the run;
● work to start on cutting the Joondalup and Mandurah lines through hills they currently climb from both directions – such as between Warwick and Greenwood;
● serious planning work to start on putting sections of each existing tracks underground, releasing real estate above and getting a return from that release, with the aim of having all lines completely underground as soon as possible, and thus removing all level crossing;
● planning to be started on expanding the metropolitan area train network using underground routes linking centres of interest to people and with least disruption for station building;
● setting up a toll system to charge people who insist on using their cars to commute to the CBD during the morning peak period, if free transport doesn’t shift enough of them to trains.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Power Supplies

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Background

Many years ago a man I knew, who worked with the then State Electricity Commission, said, sarcastically, “the most beautiful tree is one with power lines attached at the top.” Throughout most of the older suburbs of Perth, and many country towns, you will see power lines strung at the top of poles running alongside each road, with feeder lines off at appropriate intervals to provide power to the houses. In newer suburbs, and those with some political or financial clout, you will find most power lines are now underground, with connection points on the property boundary, at ground level, and no power poles and swinging electricity cables.

Countless efforts have been made to encourage Western Power to get all consumer power lines underground, and it has been mooted that to do that will cost $3000 per house. That’s either distorted by looking at the cost of putting power underground for one property in a street, or is a reflection of an unwillingness to look at the savings generated by having the power lines underground.

A number of months back, someone took a corner too quickly in my street and broke the power pole, resulting in power being cut to many homes, fortunately not on a hot summer night. Western Power workers arrived to assess the damage and report back. After some time a truck arrived with a new power pole, and a large team of workers started disconnecting the overhead wires from the broken pole, which was still standing upright. With the top of the broken pole removed work could start on removing that part in the ground, and then on putting the new pole in place. After that, the workers, some there for safety reasons, started the long task of reconnecting the power lines to the new insulators on the power pole, and eventually we had power restored. If our power lines had been underground then it would have taken one, or at most two, workers to remove a broken connector box and replace it, and it would have taken minutes, not hours.

The situation is much worse with winter storms. Power lines are brought down with high winds and heavy rain, and we expect Western Power workers to go out in stormy weather, risking their own lives, to restore power after such a break. Even this month (January 2017) there were many people without power for a day because of pole-top fires and other problems arising from less than 1mm or precipitation. The financial cost of having larger teams out in stormy weather, trying to restore power, would virtually disappear with underground power lines. Equipment is readily available to bore through ground under driveways, and to dig suitable trenches on council land in front of houses, to allow new power cables to be laid underground, with connections to a junction box on the edge of the property. The cost of running a cable from that box to the meter box on each house wall is not large, and we would ALL gain from having the power lines out of the way of weather and cars.

The Policy

I will push strongly for:
● a well-publicised commitment to convert every suburb in Perth, and every country town, to underground power use, saving Western Power large sums from restoring power after lines have been brought down or disabled, and from compensation for those who have been without power for some time;
● a proper reticulation system so that if power is cut at one point there is an alternative path for electricity to reach buildings which are often cut off under the present system;
● an improvement in the way power from PV cells is handled so that larger power supplies can be fed back into the grid, and people can be paid for supplying larger amounts of power;
● modification to meters so that those with PV cells producing electricity can use that electricity when the grid power is disconnected for some reason

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Fuel Pricing

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Background

In the 60s, 70s and early 80s fuel prices were fixed for all outlets, but with international oil prices varying considerably there were moves to allow the pump price for fuel to be set by the refineries and retail outlets. Up until 2000 fuel prices around Western Australia could be varied at will by the petrol stations, and significant changes were often made in an attempt to undermine competitors and gain more business for the operator concerned. Many independent fuel retailers went out of business because they couldn’t compete with larger operations run by the oil companies, and by retailers such as Coles and Woolworths. That prompted a parliamentary inquiry and recommendations to stabilise pricing.

Since 2001 Western Australia has been the sole provider of a service which stops intra-day fuel price variations, and gives consumers an opportunity to check the price of fuel at various outlets across a large part of WA at least 15 hours before those prices come into effect, and with a stipulation that prices cannot be varied except at 6am, and must be as nominated by the outlet the previous afternoon. Though a multiple outlet business can nominate one price for as many of its outlets as it desires, retail price maintenance laws are supposed to prevent collusion between businesses, and thus promote competition. WA has, for more than 16 years now, provided an example of how governments across Australia should be dealing with fuel price variations.

The Fuelwatch service is, however, seriously flawed in a number of ways.

First, when Coles Express, Caltex Woolworths, Puma, Liberty, Vibe, and BP outlets nearly all put up their prices on the same day, and to prices which differ by only a few cents, there must be some form of collusion on those prices, despite retail price maintenance rules outlawing such an activity. Indeed, Coles Express admitted openly that it was involved in a price sharing service, yet it was not prosecuted because Fuelwatch doesn’t have the legal clout to do that. According to information provided directly to me from one major outlet, Fuelwatch allows up to three outlets in the large operations to price their fuel well below the price for the other outlets. That allows operators such as Coles and Woolworths to sell fuel below cost at some outlets because it can afford to subsidise them from the price of fuel at other outlets. To me that is predatory pricing as it has been used quite obviously with the aim of pricing a competitor out of the market. I have heard talk of a price support system operated by the oil companies so that, if a nearby fuel outlet intends selling fuel at a price lower than another’s buying price then the oil company will provide a support payment to allow for competitive pricing. That’s just another form of retail price maintenance – and it depends on the company providing that support knowing what the retail price of fuel will be at other outlets, either because it effectively sets those prices or is part of an illegal system sharing prices.

Second, in normal business operations, retail outlets buy their products at a price agreed either on the day of purchase or on the day of order. Provided they can still make a working profit they can sell all of those goods at whatever price they want. Only when a retailer is trying to get established, or to get rid of non-selling stock, will the selling price be lower than the buying price. In the fuel market, however, we often see prices increase at an outlet by as much as 33c per litre from one day to another. In such cases the fuel outlet is selling below cost price before the rise, is selling unconscionably higher than the cost price after the rise, is engaging in a combination of both those situations, or is receiving some form of retail price support. None of those options should be acceptable. Further, there will not be an example of a fuel outlet trying to sell off non-selling fuel unless a particular type of fuel is to be phased out, and that would affect all outlets.

The Policy

I will push strongly for:

● each fuel outlet to be required to sell its fuel at or above its own cost, and not to be subsidised in any form;
● evidence showing relatively consistent prices rises across separate business entities to be investigated for some form of price collusion or retail price maintenance, and offending companies to be charged and face hefty penalties for such action;
● a maximum of 15% penetration of the metropolitan market by any one fuel outlet business, to ensure that there is real competition and independent outlets can survive.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Financial Management

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Background

One of the most important rules of financial management is living within your means. When times are tough, and the income isn’t enough to pay the bills, we borrow money using the assets we have available as security. It is then important to make sure that repayments and interest on the debt remain manageable. Promising that the government will fund particular projects when those in control know not only that there isn’t enough money available but also that borrowing more will put pressure on the budget is both lying and irresponsible. When the Labor [sic] Party in WA lost power at the election in 2007, it left a State debt in the order of three billion dollars. After eight years of a coalition government that State debt has ballooned out to thirty billion dollars, and yet the government continues to commit funds to major projects for which it cannot guarantee enough funding to complete the task. While everyone else was asking what we would do when the mining boom ended the State government kept assuming that royalties from iron ore and oil/gas work would continue to grow. There was no planning for a future with much reduced royalties. As someone who has been involved in financial planning I find that incredible. Now the government claims that we need to sell off mor than half of Western Power to pay off the debt run up because of its own mismanagement, and it has the gall to claim that the Labor [sic] Party is bad with finances.

In the lead up to the Canning By-election in 2015, Canberra promised the funding to upgrade Armadale Road for the 7km which is not dual-carriageway. The State government admits that Armadale Road needs to be upgraded, and it has support from all relevant sectors, yet its controversial Roe 8 project has been pushed through first and work on Armadale Road is now not scheduled to start until 2018.

It is time we all stopped believing the vote-buying promises made by politicians when they know that either there isn’t enough money in the pot, or they aren’t going to be in a position to control what happens to the money which is there. When politicians promise to fund a particular project we should always ask when that project will be started and when it will be completed. If the start time is beyond the life of the next parliamentary term then we should ignore the promise.

Even at a state level we can invest heavily in renewable energy, providing the vast majority of workers displaced by closure of mines and oil fields with work in that sector. The economic benefit is huge, and the cream comes with our positive action on environmental issues. Successive governments have been too closely aligned to the oil and mining companies to be willing to push alternative employment prospects.

The Policy

● I will push strongly for time frames to be attached to any promise of funding for projects which have the potential to buy votes at an election;
● I will persistently ask for evidence that a promised project can be funded within the period up to the next election, and will hold decision-makers accountable for any delays;
● I will push strongly for much greater Western Australian involvement in the renewable energy sector, and for power companies to be free to buy all the electricity they can from renewable resources, including household and commercial property PV cells.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Essential Services

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Background

Governments of all persuasions appear to have forgotten that an important role of the government is to ensure that essential services are available to everyone at a cost which is affordable to everyone. That includes gas, electricity, telephones, internet access, roads, public transport, medical services (including hospitals), and basic banking. The infrastructure should be publicly owned, and run efficiently, with service providers allowed to use that infrastructure on an equal basis to provide the best service to the public.

Successive governments have run up debt, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad, and tried to bail themselves out by selling publicly owned assets, nearly always without asking the public if they agree to such sales. Electricity generation should be under the control of a government authority which can access power from any source, in any quantity available, at an agreed price which reflects the cost of supply, and that authority should be able to generate its own supply where and when necessary. That should result in lifting the limit on the size of PV systems on homes and businesses, and the payment made to producers being closer to the charge made when grid power is used. As with electricity, the gas supply lines should all be owned and operated by the government, with service providers allowed to access the supply on behalf of their customers. Landline telephones are much more reliable and cheaper to operate than mobile facilities, and only have black spots where hardware fails, unlike their mobile equivalents. Landlines, cables connecting centres, and all exchanges should be under the control of the government, with services being provided by any operator which wishes to get access to the infrastructure, on the same pricing structure, which should reflect the cost of maintaining that infrastructure. Roads should be constructed for long-term use with minimal maintenance. Commuter traffic should be discouraged from trying to enter the CBD or surrounds as roads should be provided for everyone on an equitable basis, and not based on significant commuter peaks. To assist, public transport should be made more frequent and FREE. The cost saving on road construction and maintenance will more than pay for the provision of free public transport. When the last of the government-owned banks was sold service standards dropped significantly and charges went up rapidly, because the banks were more interested in making money for shareholders than providing essential banking services. The government should start a new WA Bank, run it at a profit to pay shareholders (namely the government acting on behalf of the public) and providing essential services at a reasonable cost, avoiding exorbitant fees, which the others will then discard because of competition.

The Policy

I will push strongly for:
● infrastructure for roads, telephones (including internet), electricity, gas, and public transport to be completely owned and run by the government;
● service providers to be encouraged to use the infrastructure to provide essential services with the same access arrangements for all providers;
● free public transport;
● a new WA Bank, owned and run by the government to provide banking facilities to everyone at a reasonable cost;
● literally signature only credit and debit cards (i.e. no PIN, no touch-and-go) to be available from all providers of such cards, to increase security;
● the government electricity supplier, currently Synergy, being able to buy all the power it wants to buy from domestic and business customers, to reduce the cost of buying electricity from traditional power stations or generating that electricity itself;
● maintenance of the electricity grid to be firmly in the control of the government and paid for through taxes, not by charging customers again;
● help from the new State government to get expansion of Medicare to include physiotherapy, dentistry and alternative therapies.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Elections

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Background

I believe there are many people in the community who would make for very good representatives of the people if they could find a way to be elected to parliament. The cost of registering as an independent candidate is not huge – currently just $250 – but the cost of running a campaign against the financial might of the major parties is another thing.

Advertising in the lead up to the 2017 WA election has been going on for some time, and costs a lot of money, which independent candidates are unlikely to have at their disposal. Media coverage is often centred on the main parties, with little or no cover for anyone else.

If a public servant wants to stand as a candidate that person has to resign from his/her current job to be eligible, though anyone in another profession can either continue in that role, depending on how active the person needs to be, or just take paid leave. Sitting members of parliament can campaign while being paid as a parliamentarian, so there is a great disincentive for those on the inside of government to stand as candidates, even if they are supported by one of the major parties.

I believe it is in the public interest to minimise the amount political parties can spend and to provide support for independent candidates so that they are able to compete on a roughly equal footing with the parties. I also believe that ALL candidates should either be able to maintain their income through the election period, only being required to resign from a current position if they are elected, or should be required to be without income from an employer for the whole of the election period.

When promises are made regarding action which it is claimed will be taken in government they are quite often forgotten after the election. Parties knowing that there is little likelihood of gaining an electoral victory often use the opportunity to push projects which have no hope of being funded, but which have popular appeal amongst electors. This approach is dishonest and should be stopped. The response after an opposition party wins government, to blame the outgoing party for finances being worse than expected, as an excuse for not honouring their promises is also a well-trodden path with no credibility.

The Policy

I will push strongly for:
● strict limits on spending for political purposes ahead of, and during, an election period so that independent candidates are not fighting against vote-buying tactics used by the major parties;
● all candidates to be in the same position with respect to employment income during an election campaign, be that no employment income or being paid their normal wage during the campaign;
● costing of promises ahead of an election be subject to scrutiny to avoid an opposition party being able to claim afterwards that finances were worse than expected so some promises cannot be met.

Authorised by Steven Secker

Education

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Background

My early schooling was done in the UK. At the end of primary school we sat what was called the “11 plus” exams, which allowed all school children in a region to select secondary schools based on their academic skills and interests. I attended one of the top grammar schools in the area and would have taken my GCE “O” level exams a year earlier than most children. When I moved to Australia I was put into what is now known as Year 9, and, after less than two weeks of helping the teachers, was moved up to Year 10, where I completed three years’ work in two subjects I hadn’t touched in the UK, and passed everything despite not being challenged. I should have been in Year 11, but I would have been more than a year younger than all the other students. The Department couldn’t cope with that because it was, and still is, focussed on the age of students, not their ability. By the end of Year 12, having endured three years of semi-boredom, I had lost the inspiration for study. I completed a science degree at the University of Western Australia, then a post-graduate Diploma in Meteorology, then a post-graduate Diploma in Education, where I learned the difference between the “eastern” and “western” philosophies of education. Put simply, the eastern philosophy considers children to have all the knowledge they need, or access to it, and only need the tools to access that knowledge (and skill), whereas the western philosophy treats children as empty vessels which need to be filled with an enormous amount of information. Ask yourself how much of what you learned in high school, particularly in years 11 and 12 (or the equivalent) you have needed since then. The answer is likely to be very little. Curricula in our schools (in every state of Australia) have been filled with more and more information which most of us will have little need for in the future, and vital skills, such as critical thinking, an understanding of why grammar rules are as they are, and essential maths skills such as mental arithmetic and estimation – which are useful when our computers fail or where they give invalid answers because we’ve given them invalid inputs – have been neglected. One lecturer at a Teachers’ College in Western Australia was quoted complaining that “he had to teach the teachers English before he could teach them how to teach it.” No, that wasn’t a recent incident: it happened in 1966, and shows that those who graduated from Western Australian schools prior to then did not have sufficient understanding of our own language for them to teach following students. I don’t deny that there are teachers in current service who have excellent English grammar skills, but they are few and far between, and the situation has only got worse since 1966. A recent move to teach grammar in schools begged the question: “Are there enough teachers who know enough grammar to teach the teachers?” Read any responses to news items and you will see the lack of understanding of English grammar that has pervaded our culture for far too long. An attitude of “who cares” is often the response when people are challenged to clean up their grammar mistakes. I might understand what you intend by a particular statement, but will the next person get the intended meaning? That’s why good grammar is essential.

“Education” comes from the Latin word “educare”, which means “to draw out”. It doesn’t mean “to fill up.” Precious little “education” takes place in our schools because the teachers are busy filling up the minds of their students, as required by the Curriculum Council. As put by Winston Churchill: “my education was interrupted only by my schooling.”

The importance of good grammar was shown clearly in a note sent to all residents of the City of Melbourne in the early 1990s. The council had just decided that garbage workers would no longer collect plastic bags put out with bins, and advised residents with a notice headed “Melbourne City garbage by law.” Self confession is good for the soul! More recently, The West Australian published an online article headed “Bride to be killed in crash”. When I pointed out the unfortunate meaning of the heading it was quickly changed, but we shouldn’t have to be asking media outlets to correct their grammar because the media provide one of the best means of educating people, and should be setting the best example possible.

When I completed my one academic year Diploma in Education, with just one practical lesson in a biological science, I was posted to a country high school where I was THE science teacher – albeit with another teacher taking my Year 8 form group so that I had time for other teaching or duty roles – and where I had to complete an inventory of equipment I had never seen, and an order of materials needed for the year, as if I already knew everything in the courses for the year. I was literally learning biology days before I was teaching it to a farming community likely to be considerably more educated in the subject than I was. That was far more than highly embarrassing because the policy is detrimental to country students, who get inexperienced teachers, and detrimental to the new teachers, who are given too much to learn and not enough support to achieve that.

Having two children at opposite ends of the academic spectrum – one who, like me, was turned off through classroom boredom, and one who, for medical reasons, started well behind his age group and needed extra support at that stage, I am well aware of the failure of the current system to cope with children significantly different from “the norm” on which our schools are built. Education Support Centres work well for some students, but not for others; and advanced groups work well if the testing is effective. The system, as it stands, will never be able to cope with some students, so an alternative needs to be supported for them. Home schooling, which has always been legal, but is often frowned on or criticised, is the best option, and should be supported, with resources available, even if that involves working with a local school to have them available at certain times. For example, science experiments are best done in a laboratory with all the required equipment, and parents can hardly be expected to have such a laboratory at home. Schools should also be able to provide “distance education” services tied to the student’s ability, not to their age, to make the task of home schooling more consistent with requirements for life and future study.

In the lead-up to this election there have already been promises of improvements to the physical structure of several schools. Whereas genuine improvements to schools which have poor facilities, not just changing signs at the street front, are essential, and building schools where they are needed is just as important, I am concerned that some “promises” by both major parties appear to be vote-buying endeavours which may never be honoured – think Ellenbrook railway. I encourage all voters to ask candidates who make promises involving spending large sums of our money, when those promises will be honoured, and if that is beyond the life of the next parliament, or is never provided, to reject the offer because it is unrealistic.

The Policy

I will push strongly and widely for:
● a return to education in schools, rather than teaching, requiring the Curriculum Council to change the emphasis from copious amounts of content to in-depth consideration of essential elements;
● students to be streamed according to their need and ability, not according to their age;
● high schools, where there are several within reasonable travelling distance of each other, to be separated, as soon as possible, according to streaming needs for Year 7, progressing to the same system for Year 12 as the first cohort progresses through the school;
● new teachers to be given postings at large schools, initially with no more than 50% teaching load, as part of their continued training;
● teaching positions in small country schools to be an essential stepping stone towards promotion, not the responsibility of new teachers, with exemptions to be clarified;
● parents wanting to home-school their children to get greater support from the Department, and be able to claim financial assistance from the Education budget – after all, they save the Department thousands of dollars a year;
● schools to be allowed to offer “distance education” programmes based on the student’s ability and understanding, not age;
● English language, with a concentration on grammar and critical thinking, to become far more important, with extra training for teachers and more frequent testing of all students designed to fix problems before they become too difficult.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Climate Change

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Background

The science has long been considered sound, except by those who want to deny that there is an issue. Fifteen of the sixteen hottest years on record, for the world, have occurred this century1; the frequency of extreme weather events has increased over the last 20 years; rainfall in the south-west of Western Australia has declined significantly since the early 1970s, making it difficult to maintain adequate supplies for an ever-increasing population in Perth. You would have to be incredibly naïve to consider that an increase from two billion to seven billion people in the world in less than a century2 would have no impact on climate around the world. The increasing number of people to be housed and fed, resulting in an increasing rate of deforestation (for housing materials and for winter fires), an increase in the number of animals grown (each pushing considerable volumes of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere) for food, and the increasing use of fossil fuels to provide electricity, has caused much quicker rises in greenhouse gas emissions than ever before. Many people don’t realise that even a very small change in atmospheric conditions can have a large and negative effect on climates throughout the world. We must accept that human influence on climate is significant, and will have a huge detrimental effect not only on us, but also on plants and animals. The rapid increase in world temperatures is already having an impact on the reproductive cycles of many animals, and crops will fail more regularly in areas which have been the bread baskets of the world if we don’t work to reverse the impact we have had.

There is no economic sense is continuing to pay to use fossil fuels for supply of energy in the world when we have an abundance of free renewable energy at our disposal with little or no impact on the environment. What we miss out on by not turning to nuclear power will be more than compensated for from the increased income if we engage the renewable energy sector meaningfully.

Many big businesses in Australia failed to heed warnings of the impact of climate change because they were focussed on making money, aided and abetted by governments which were supported by those businesses and therefore didn’t want to rock the boat. Just because Australia is a small country doesn’t mean we can’t be world leaders, with the economic benefits that brings, by doing more than just reducing our pollution levels.

Even climate sceptics should be able to see the economic benefit of reducing our reliance of coal, oil and gas by using something we have in abundance and which is free, and they should be able to see the benefit of providing the world markets with high quality renewable energy technology, even if we don’t use it ourselves. If overseas customers want more efficient ways of using the sun, wind or waves than they currently have then why should we not supply them, even if we think they are not worth using? The world demand is there, but our governments are standing in the way of businesses supplying those needs.

Before last year’s Federal election, the Prime Minster, in a dramatic U-turn from previous policies, indicated there will be support for design and building of a large-scale solar power station at Port Augusta, using technology which allows the site to generate power through the night. That is how the Andasol-1 plant at Grenada, in Spain, operates3. It is how plants could operate in Western Australia if the government was willing to take positive action instead of tokenism. Nothing has eventuated from Mr Turnbull’s promise, just as nothing will eventuate from any other promise unless there is a real commitment. That scenario is, unfortunately, all too common, and many people fall for the trick, which is why politicians continue to use it.

For those who believe that we don’t have to make changes now, please be aware that the atmosphere responds very slowly to change. If we could stop carbon dioxide emissions totally, today, it is likely that we would not see any significant downward change to global temperatures for ten to twenty years. What we really need to do is begin removing large amounts of greenhouse gases. Sequestration isn’t a safe method of achieving that either: a small earthquake could open a crack and release enormous volumes of pressurised carbon dioxide, killing any people or animals close by, and undoing all the good work of removing that gas from the air.

Contrary to the expectations of those who tend to confuse climate with weather, cold outbreaks, as have occurred a few times over south-eastern parts of Australia in recent years, are part of a global warming process. Put simply, if hotter than normal air is pushed polewards the cold air is displaced and moves rapidly towards the equator somewhere else.

When South Australia suffered a catastrophic breakdown in its electricity network in September 2016 many people were quick to blame renewable energy systems, but the reality was that power lines were brought down in the weather event. If power lines are taken out of commission it doesn’t make any difference what the source of power is: it simply cannot be distributed.

There is another way in which we can act to actually reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Technology to remove CO2 from the air and convert it into hydrocarbon fuels for cars, trucks, buses, and even aeroplanes, has been around since early days of the 20th century. With improvements in solar power generation we can now produce enough of those fuels from the atmosphere to satisfy more than Australia’s total needs with only a small footprint. Removing CO2 from the air and making it into fuel will reduce our reliance on new oil finds, and it has the capacity to generate significant income. In addition, there will be new employment opportunities.

Encouraging the use of public transport, especially for commuters, improving traffic flows, and building roads to reduce the stress on engines and tyres, thus reducing fuel consumption, can have a positive impact with little effort, but will be opposed by those with a vested interest.

There is no point in saving the economy if we don’t have a planet on which we can live, which is the consequence of not taking decisive action now. However, we can improve the economy and have a planet to live on if we tackle this issue properly.

1https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/201513 (Retrieved 23rd March 2016)
2The world population was estimated at 2 billion in 1927 (http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/sixbillion/sixbilpart1.pdf) and 7 billion in 2012 (WPP2015_POP_F01_1_TOTAL_POPULATION_BOTH_SEXES.XLS in “World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision” published by the UN Population Division)
3http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-tech/energy-production/solar-energy-night2.htm

The Policy

I will push strongly for:
● a significant focus on renewable energy sources, building the state’s economy and showing the rest of Australia how to do it;
● encouragement for workers in the coal industry to retrain for work in areas of solar power;
● Synergy being able to buy as much solar-generated power as it wants, at a price below the cost of buying from a coal, oil or gas-fired power station;
● work to start on building solar power plants;
● encouragement for companies to pull carbon dioxide from the air and use solar power to convert it into hydrocarbon fuels, improving on technology which has been around for more than a century.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Banks

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Background

The last of the government banks in Australia being sold off marked the beginning of both a slide in banking services and a rise in fees. If banks “A” and “B” provide ATM services to their clients they does so at no cost to the clients. If a client of bank “A” uses an ATM with bank “B” then “B” charges a fee to “A” and “A” charges the client. That’s how the banks want you to see it. However, particularly among the big banks, the number of clients of bank “B” using ATMs of bank “A” would be similar to the number the other way round, and since each bank provides free services to its own clients, and since all the banks are on-line to each other all the time – or EFT wouldn’t work at all – there is virtually no net cost associated with providing ATM facilities for customers of other banks. The fee charged for this service should be abolished immediately.

Given that the banks are on-line to each other all the time, there is no reason why a payment made through internet banking to someone whose account is with another bank should not go through almost as quickly as a payment between a customer’s own accounts. The banks have long been accused of using that money on the short-term money market, and have been vocal in denying that claim because such activity is illegal. The reality is that money “in transit” between banks hasn’t been physically shifted for many years, but can be put in a position which allows other funds held by the bank to be used on the short-term money market, or something equivalent. Technically the banks are correct in denying the claim, but effectively they are not.

Bpay facilities are also set up to provide another way for the banks to charge customers fees which they should be able to avoid. Though it is only businesses which pay to have Bpay access those fees would be totally eliminated if the banks used a registered merchant code to direct “Pay Anyone” payments to those merchants, and such payments do not normally attract fees.

Before the introduction of ATMs customers needed to go into a branch to deposit or withdraw funds. That required branches, with all the inherent equipment, leasing and staffing costs. Getting people to use internet banking, EFTPOS and ATMs for nearly all transactions, and moving towards mobile lending officers, have significantly reduced the cost of providing banking services, and the need for a large number of branches, though there is still a need for some to cater for cash handling and a few other transactions which require personal attention. The cost of an ATM, which runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, is less than that of one full-time staff member (after allowing for leave, benefits and superannuation) so it is ridiculous for the banks to start charging for internet banking, EFTPOS and ATM transactions.

In 2015 the banks, supposedly at the behest of MasterCard and Visa, told everyone that signatures would no longer be available as a security protection for credit cards, claiming that a four-digit PIN was better security than a signature. Barry O’Farrell, then NSW Premier, was found guilty of misleading parliament over a bottle of wine, based on his writing, and forced to resign, such is the security value of a signature. No-one can proven guilty of theft based only on a four-digit PIN. The real reason for the banks wanting to remove signatures is that it takes more effort to check a potentially fraudulent transaction, and many merchants were simply not checking signatures. That’s no reason to remove the best security we have at the moment. The banks will continue to tell people that signatures are not available on credit cards, but that is not true. All banks have a number of customers with signature enabled cards. The forced acceptance of contactless paying systems is another way in which the banks undermine our security. When someone can pick up a dropped credit card and run up multiple transactions of nearly $100 each without any security check then your security has just been destroyed. I understand that there is a move to have an app available to turn off the PayWave facility on a card, but it should always have been an “opt in” system. Banks should be required to provide signature ONLY cards to every customer who requests one – i.e. no PIN, no PayWave.

The Policy

I will push strongly for:
● banks to be required to provide an option of true signature only and tap-and-go free credit and debit cards;
● banks to be required to drop all charges for using an ATM of a bank other than the customer’s own;
● transfers between banks, where the account details of the payee are provided, to be almost immediate;
● fees for internet banking, ATM and EFTPOS transactions to be abolished;
● the State government to open a new WA Bank, to provide quality service at an affordable cost, complying with at least the first three aspects above, while still making a profit for the State.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Asylum Seekers

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Background

Much has been said over the last ten years about the people attempting to reach Australia to seek asylum here. As we are all aware, there were, over a period, many lives lost as unseaworthy boats have been used to get these people from Indonesia into Australian territory. The current coalition government vowed that it would “stop the boats”, and, shortly after being elected applied a policy of turning back those boats which were seaworthy enough, providing lifeboats where they were not, and sending anyone who came close to Australia to overseas processing camps with the clear message that they would not be accepted into Australia even if they qualified as genuine refugees. Many of those who have been returned to the country of origin have been persecuted by the authorities there, proving their claims as refugees, but far too late. Last year, a boat carrying asylum seekers was intercepted within 500m of the main Cocos Island – that’s well inside the Australian territorial boundary, yet those people were summarily returned to Sri Lanka and some have been maltreated for trying to escape. That action by our own government is immoral and illegal. If people reach our shores and apply for refugee status we have an obligation under the Geneva Convention to process their claims properly, instead of deciding, without any attempt to investigate the claim, that they are not bone fide refugees. I am appalled by the government’s stance. I am equally appalled by the use of the term “illegal immigrants” for those who arrive here without full documentation. If you have to run to escape terrible treatment you will hardly ever have a valid passport and a visa to enter another country, so it is far from helpful for our political leaders to be describing these people in such terms. That is not to say that all of those arriving by boat have been genuine refugees.

Even at its peak, the number of people arriving in Australia and claiming refugee status was small compared with the number arriving by plane, with valid tourist visas, and staying here. With a migrant intake of nearly 200000 a year, surely we can process asylum claims properly and accept those who are shown to be genuine refugees.

There are options we could have used years ago to put a stop to the deaths at sea, and without resorting to setting up offshore processing centres of dubious legality and equally dubious safety, but neither major political party has been willing to address those options.

A number of those claiming refugee status who were housed on Christmas Island reported that they had aimed to get to Australia because of the way we treat women. In strict Islamic countries women are not able to do what they can do here, and they are not treated as equals with men. Our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq was the source of much of the information on which that opinion was based, so we should take responsibility for creating the awareness and the desire for a life away from the persecution of women.

Yes, there are those who want to come to our shores to undermine our society, but they are small in number compared with those who are genuine refugees, and it is not helpful for genuine asylum seekers to be labelled as if they were terrorists. It is also not in keeping with the Australian approach for those who put their lives at risk to get here to be told they will NEVER be allowed into the country.

The Policy

With the cooperation of the new State government I will push strongly for:
● closer relationships with Indonesia and other countries through which potential asylum seekers are travelling, to establish humanitarian processing centres in places where people have been heading to take boats in an attempt to reach Australia, so that their claims can be assessed properly without risk to life;
● timely, speedy and thorough onshore processing of all those who arrive off Australia’s coast, or who reach Australian land, with the specific, and widely stated condition that no-one arriving here by boat and claiming asylum on arrival, will be accepted for residence here immediately, but that we will facilitate their transfer to a country of second choice if their claim is deemed valid after proper consideration, and they will be able to apply for immigration, with proper documentation, after a period of residence in that other country;
● permanent closure of offshore processing centres and for a limit of six months for the processing of all claims.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.

Armadale Road

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Background

Armadale Road runs for approximately 18km west from Albany Highway to the Kwinana Freeway. Significant sections west from Forrestdale are still one lane each way despite the large and increasing traffic flow as the area is developed more, and a greater number of people reside in the suburbs along that route. To the west of Kwinana Freeway the road is known as Beeliar Drive, with the Cockburn Central shopping centre complex just to the west of the freeway. Traffic lights control intersections at Tapper Drive, Kwinana Freeway (east and west), Midgegooroo Avenue, Wentworth Parade, and Nicholson Road, and at the junctions at Warton Road and Fraser Road. All those traffic lights include arrow sequences which operate at all hours, irrespective of the number of vehicles. That, of course, is not the only problem with sequencing of those lights.

In the lead up to the 2015 Canning by-election, caused by the death of Don Randall, the Liberal Party at Commonwealth level, being the government of the day, promised funding to make Armadale Road dual carriageway for its full length, with two lanes each way. The State coalition government was silent on the matter. Despite all the planning and costing of the proposal having been done well before the by-election nothing has been seen of the funds promised for this urgent road upgrade, and the latest start date proposed for the work is 2018. Silence from the State government provided it with an opportunity, if noise about non-delivery after the by-election was too much, to declare that there were insufficient funds available in its budget for the road to go ahead, but allowed the public to be conned into thinking that the promise from Canberra would result in some action. In essence, a promise was made in order to buy votes for the Liberal Party candidate, most likely in the full knowledge that the funds would not be available until well beyond the time expected in the affected areas, if at all. At the same time, the Labor [sic] Party declared that it would fund both the upgrade of Armadale Road and the new bridge over the Kwinana Freeway and an associated on-ramp sought by the Armadale and Cockburn councils, again in full knowledge that, without a change of government, that policy would have little or no chance of being accepted in parliament because of petty party politicking instead of constructive governance. The bridge proposal was put forward so that Perth-bound traffic wouldn’t have to encounter the bottle-neck at the intersection with the freeway.

Funding for the upgrade of Armadale Road to dual carriageway standard is critical and urgent in order to make travelling along that route safer and quicker. Indeed, the current State coalition government can no longer claim that there are insufficient funds to upgrade Armadale Road, a task which is supported by all parties, while it claims to have funds to build the highly disputed Roe Highway extension. Whilst I can see some merit in having Armadale Road traffic able to access North Lake Road without the problem of the lights at the freeway and Midgegooroo Avenue, if there is enough traffic taking that route to warrant the connection, the suggestion of having another on-ramp for northbound vehicles is likely to create more mayhem on the freeway, rather than reduce it. Personally, I see an alternative, and much better and cheaper, way of fixing the problem.

Both the Armadale and Cockburn councils have approached the congestion on Beeliar Drive, between the freeway and Wentworth Parade with the idea of diverting traffic from the area, and without consideration of either the consequences of their proposed plan or alternative ways to address the issue. Morning peak traffic on the freeway is already congested by the time it reaches Armadale Road, and gets much worse with the inclusion of traffic from Berrigan Drive before a hill which causes many trucks to slow significantly, and then relief with some vehicles heading onto Roe Highway and with the addition of another lane before South Street. Adding another on-ramp, between Armadale Road and Berrigan Drive will only make that congestion worse. An additional lane, northbound, between Berrigan Drive and Roe Highway would alleviate much of the congestion on the freeway.

The congestion in the area of concern to the councils is directly attributable to a combination of poor traffic light sequencing, and poor road design. With the exception of southbound freeway traffic wanting to head west along Beeliar Drive there is adequate space in the intersection for a clover-leaf structure to be built now, where right-turning traffic goes beyond the intersection and takes a tight left hand curve, properly banked, to join the new route. Such a structure avoids all use of traffic lights and ensures good flow. Left turning traffic is guided along a simple road which connects with the intended route. Improvements in the sequencing of lights at Midgegooroo Avenue and Wentworth Parade would complete the transformation for grid-lock to flowing traffic. One suggestion for southbound traffic heading for Beeliar Drive is to exit at Berrigan Drive and use the recently upgraded North Lake Road to get there.

The Policy

I will push strongly for:
● a clover-leaf pattern to be established as soon as practicable for traffic heading along Armadale Road or Beeliar Drive and joining the freeway, and for northbound freeway traffic heading for Armadale Road, eastbound;
● design planning, with high priority, to work out the best way to get southbound freeway traffic flowing onto Beeliar Drive without the need for traffic lights;
● modification to the sequencing of all traffic lights along Armadale Road and Beeliar Drive, but with urgent focus on those at Midgegooroo Avenue and Wentworth Parade, to make traffic flow closer to how it would with good point-duty police control, learning lessons which Fiji police can provide.

Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.