Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities

I am originally from Singapore. When I migrated to Melbourne, I noticed many similiarities between the two cities. I am surprised no one has yet to make a comparison. I will now attempt to draw the parallels between Melbourne and Singapore.

History and Population Growth


Both cities were established in the early 18th century. Singapore was founded by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles on 29 January 1819 while Melbourne was established by John Batman on 30 August 1835. The current population in Melbourne and Singapore is 4 million and 5 million respectively. The population in Melbourne is projected to increase to 5.27 million by 2026 and 7.97 million by 2056 while the population in Singapore is projected to reach 6.5 million in the next 40-50 years.

Both Melbourne and Singapore are now experiencing booms in population and real estate, with strong migrations from Asia, particularly China and India. There have been talks of a looming property bubble both in Melbourne and Singapore. Like Melbourne, the influx of large number of foreigners is placing immense strain on the existing infrastructure. Singapore is experiencing an unprecedented public transport congestion, especially on trains, and the government is "doing everything possible to improve matters", such as adding 22 new trains to the rail system, upgrading of the signalling system and construction of new lines.

Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong said "Most of the time, the MRT system is working fine. The peak hours are when the crowding takes place." Urging Singaporeans to "be patient", he noted that trains in all cities "will always be packed during peak hours". "We can't guarantee that every passenger can get onto the first train everytime, or even that he can get onto the second train everytime, but there will be trains every couple of minutes." he said.

Melburnians, does this sound familiar?

Click link to article source.

Real Estate


Geographically, the sea lies to the south of both Melbourne and Singapore. Like Melbourne, the eastern part of Singapore is more highly sought after as places of residence compared to the northern and western parts, which are more industrialized. However in recent years, the western part of Singapore especially those near the CBD is catching up in house price, mirroring the gentrification process in Melbourne's inner west. Bukit Timah is the "Toorak" of Singapore, with properties on very large land lots and where only the very wealthy can afford to live in. Katong is the "Brighton" of Singapore, which is closer to the beach. I would think Geylang is the "Richmond" of Singapore, on the eastern fringe of downtown Singapore, with very good public transport, several train stations, many restaurants and a rowdy, colourful and bustling character. Geylang is renowned for its red light district while the fame goes to St Kilda in Melbourne.

Bridge Street in RichmondSims Avenue in Geylang
Saturday on Bridge RoadTraffic
Photo by Andrew Barron

Photo by neajjean

Shophouses in RichmondShophouses in Geylang
Allans Buildings - Richmond
Photo by Dean-Melbourne
Photo by allamandalah

Road Infrastructure


The Westgate Bridge in Melbourne and the Benjamin Sheares Bridge in Singapore share many similiarities. Being the longest bridge in each city, each links the eastern and western parts of the city. Both fly over water - Westgate Bridge over Yarra River and the Benjamin Sheares Bridge over Marina Bay. Both are connected to expressways at each end. Both suffer traffic congestion problems. The Westgate Bridge passes over Westgate Park, a large environmental and recreational reserve created during the bridge's construction. The Benjamin Sheares Bridge passes over Marina South area which is a coastal park built from reclaimed land with recreational facilities. Westgate Bridge costs A$202 million to build while Benjamin Sheares Bridge costs S$177 million. Westgate Bridge was opened on 15 Nov 1978 after 10 years of construction while Benjamin Sheares Bridge was opened on 26 Sep 1981 after 4 years of construction.

Westgate Bridge over Yarra River
Benjamin Sheares Bridge
Melbourne, Australia - 2007Benjamin Sheares Bridge, Singapore
Photo by Chris&StevePhoto by TheMouseintheHouse

Singapore has an Outer Ring Road System, which is a semi-expressway that forms a 'ring' along the towns outside the city. When completed, it provides an alternative route for motorists to travel between the east and west of Singapore without going through the city, thereby helping to reduce traffic volume on city-bound roads. The Victorian State Government is thinking of achieving exactly the same result by eventually linking the Western and Northern Ring Road to EastLink (Eastern Ring Road). When completed, this Metropolitan Ring Road will provide a circumferential route around Melbourne, from Altona to Frankston. An Outer Metropolitan Ring Road, that links the Princes Freeway west of Werribee to the Hume Freeway at Kalkallo, creating a transport corridor through Werribee, Melton, Tullamarine, Craigieburn, Mickleham, Bundoora and Donnybrook, is being proposed. Construction is not expected to start until 2020.

Economy


The Wikipedia entry on Melbourne says that "Melbourne has a highly diversified economy with particular strengths in finance, manufacturing, education and research, IT, logistics and transportation, and conventions and tourism". You can replace the word "Melbourne" with "Singapore" without altering the factual accuracy of this statement.

Financial Centre


Singapore was ranked 4th, Sydney 10th and Melbourne 23rd in the Global Financial Centres Index. Singapore is headquarters to many multi-national corporations while Melbourne is headquarters to five of Australia's six largest corporations (BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Telstra, NAB and ANZ). Melbourne is Australia’s leading centre for superannuation funds, with 40% of the total and 65% of industry super-funds, including the $40 billion-dollar Federal Government Future Fund. Singapore is the world's fourth largest foreign exchange trading centre after London, New York and Tokyo. Australia has the big 4 banks - CBA (Commonwealth Bank), NAB (National Australia Bank), Westpac and ANZ (Australia New Zealand Bank) while Singapore also used to have the big 4 banks - DBS (Development Bank of Singapore), UOB (United Overseas Bank), OCBC (Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation) and OUB (Overseas Union Bank) but this is now reduced to 3, when OUB merged into UOB in 2002.

Port and Logistics


Singapore hosts the busiest port in the world while Melbourne Port is the busiest in Australia., handling 39% of its container trade. Both ports are located near the urban centre, on the western side. The World Bank ranks Singapore as the world's top logistics hub while Melbourne's freight and logistics sector is Victoria's largest employer.

Manufacturing


Manufacturing, comprising the electronics, oil-refining, chemical, mechanical engineering and biomedical sciences industries, constituted 26% of Singapore's GDP in 2005. In 2006, Singapore produced about 10% of the global foundry wafers (used in semiconductors). Melbourne is the centre of Australia's automotive industry, which includes Toyota, Ford and Holden manufacturing plants and their Australian headquarters. The Toyota Plant at Altona will start to build the next generation, greener Toyota Camry Hybrid in 2010 after securing a $35 million subsidy from the Federal Government. Singapore has the world's third largest oil-refining industry located in the western region while oil refineries in Victoria are also west of Melbourne CBD, in Altona and Geelong.

ICT Industry


Both Singapore and Melbourne place great emphasis on science and technology. Melbourne ICT industry employs over 60,000 people (one third of Australia's ICT workforce), has a turnover of $19.8 billion and export revenues of $615 million. Singapore is currently ranked second after Sweden in the Global IT Report, compiled by the WEF (World Economic Forum). Australia is implementing the NBN (National Broadband Network) while Singapore is rolling out the NGNBN (Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network). Both use fibre optics and can deliver broadband speeds of up to 1 Gbps. NGNBN is on track to achieve nationwide coverage of 95 per cent by mid-2012.

The Singapore Government has envisaged that the NGNBN will catalyse the development of new innovative services, including services in healthcare, education, trade and logistics. PM Julia Gillard said that the NBN will play an essential role in the next era of health reform, including telemedicine to rural communities.

Biotechnology


Both Singapore and Victoria have targeted Biotechnology and Medical Sciences as a key growth area. Singapore is investing huge amount of money in Biotechnology to build the infrastructure, fund research, recruit top scientists to Singapore and attract leading pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Merck to set up plants in Singapore. Pharmaceuticals now make up more than 16% of the country's manufacturing output. The 2007 Victorian Biotechnology Strategic Development Plan aims to achieve the vision of making Victoria recognized as one of the world's top five biotechnology locations. From 2004 to 2007, Victorian biotechnology companies had secured more than $4 billion in investments, spent over $500 million on research and development and attracted more than 40 percent of biotechnology funds invested across Australia.

Tourism and Convention City


Tourism is a major industry both in Melbourne and Singapore. In 2004, Melbourne receives about 7.6 million domestic visitors and 1.88 million international visitors. In comparison, Singapore achieved 10.3 million visitor arrivals in 2007 and its ambitious Tourism 2015 blueprint aims to increase visitors arrivals to 17 million by 2015 and raise tourism incomes to S$30 billion.

The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) has ranked Singapore as the top 5th global convention city in 2009. Melbourne has also been attracting an increasing share of domestic and international conference markets and this is augmented by the completion of a new Convention Centre in 2009.

Seafarers Bridge at the new
Melbourne Convention Centre
Fountain of Wealth at the
Suntec City Convention Centre
Seafarers Bridge - Melbourne Convention CentreLuck is Near at The Fountain of Wealth, Suntec City – Singapore
Photo by Dean-MelbournePhoto by William Cho

Melbourne has the Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex on the Southbank while Singapore has the Marine Bay Sands Integrated Resort fronting the Marina Bay.

Crown Casino
Marina Bay Sands
The Spectacular Yarra River, MelbourneMarina Bay will soon be dancing with rhythm to the tune of Marina Bay Sands
Photo by Mark Owen
Photo by William Cho

Both cities have an observation wheel opened in 2008. The Singapore Flyer, located on reclaimed land in Marina Centre, is currently the tallest ferris wheel in the world. The Southern Star is located at the Waterfront City Precinct in Docklands, which is recycled from decrepit space previously used for docks, rail infrastructure and industry, during an urban renewal process that is still continuing. Both wheels suffered from breakdowns. While the Singapore Flyer is still operating, the Southern Star was shut down indefinitely in January 2009, one month after its opening due to serious structural defects, including cracks and buckling.

Southern Star Observation Wheel
Singapore Flyer
this wheel's on fire #2Singapore Flyer
Photo by JesPhoto by Choo Yut Sing

Education


The education sector is a big revenue earner for Melbourne, pulling in 5.4 billion worth of earnings in 2008-2009, making it Victoria's largest export sector. Singapore has also recognized the potential of the international students' market. It aims to attract 150,000 international students by 2015, which would not only create 22,000 jobs but also boost the education sector's GDP contribution from 1.9 to 5 %.

The Times Higher Education World Universities Rankings ranks the University of Melbourne (UniMelb) 36th and National University of Singapore (NUS) 34th in 2010. The QS World Universities Rankings ranks UniMelb 38th and NUS 31st in 2010.

Singapore has long been ranking schools and producing league tables based on schools' academic performance. It had also introduced performance-based salary for teachers for quite a while. Now Australia is adopting similiar measures.

Privatisation

The Australia and Singapore governments have both undertaken a series of privatisations. Telstra and SingTel were previously the sole provider of telecommunication services in Australia and Singapore respectively. Privatisation of SingTel started in 1993 while that for Telstra began in 1997. Now, the Singapore Government owns a 54% stake in SingTel through Temasek Holdings while the Australia Government holds a 10.9% stake in Telstra through its Future Fund. Optus (wholly-owned subsidiary of SingTel) and StarHub are the second largest telecommunications company in Australia and Singapore respectively. It is ironic that SingTel is playing a dual role - as an established player in Singapore, doing whatever in defending its dominant position but at the same time, through its Australian subsidiary Optus, as a challenger keen to make inroads into Telstra's territories.

Both countries have privatized other services such as power supply, bank, airline, ports, public transport and so on. There are now two large public transport operators in Singapore, SMRT Corporation and ComfortDelGro Corporation, which both run trains, buses and taxis. ComfortDelGro has also expanded its operations to China, Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Vietnam and Malaysia. Metro Trains Melbourne, the consortium led by Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation, had replaced Connex in 2009, as the operator of the metropolitan train lines in Melbourne.

Global Financial Crisis


Both Australia and Singapore have emerged very strong from the GFC. Not only is Australia the only advanced economy to have escaped a technical recession, it is also recovering very well from a mild dowturn. As for Singapore, it has become the fastest growing economy in the world, with a growth rate of 17.9% for the first half of 2010.

Garden City

Singapore and Melbourne are both known as the Garden City. Singapore is well known for its good urban planning, with a lot of green spaces between buildings, besides roads and along pedestrian paths. Melbourne has an abundance of parks and gardens close to the CBD and in the inner suburbs.

Royal Parade in MelbourneSingapore Expressway
Autumn in MelbourneTree lined streets Singapore
Photo by Andrew
Photo by Jason Shaeffer

Water

Singapore and Melbourne are both facing problems of long term water supply. To secure its water supply, Singapore has turned to recycling of waste water and desalination. Its first desalination plant, one of the biggest in the world and worth S$200 million, was opened on 13 Sep 2005. It can produce 30 million gallons of water daily and meet 10% of the nation's needs. A bid for a second desalination plant was launched in June 2010 and the Singapore government has identified five coastal sites for future plants, aiming to increase the capacity to one million cubic metres per day by 2060. It was suggested that Singapore could become the world's water hub for water recycling and desalination technology, which it could then export to other parts of the world such as China.

To provide a permanent solution to its water shortage problems, Melbourne is now building a desalination plant at Wonthaggi, the largest in Australia, which when completed at the end of 2011, will be able to supply 150 billion litres of water a year to Melbourne, Geelong and other regions in Victoria.

End Notes

With so many things in common, it is inevitable that Melbourne and Singapore will compete on many fronts. However, the two cities can also learn from each other and collaborate in many areas. Recently, my cousin from Singapore was sent by his company, CapitaLand, one of Asia's largest real estate companies, on a study trip to Melbourne and Sydney to learn about the shopping mall operations here.

Julia Gillard visited Singapore in 2008 and as the then Minister for Education, she would probably be keen to learn of the changes taking place in Singapore's education system.

The following are quotes from Julia Gillard's speech delivered during the Fraser Lecture in Canberra on 28 May 2008:

"While other nations like Singapore were creating laboratories to determine the best methods of classroom instruction, the Howard Government was obsessed with flagpoles rather than implementing a serious reform agenda."

"Three of the highest performing school systems – those of South Korea, Finland and Singapore – select teachers from only the top 5 per cent, 10 per cent and 30 per cent of university entrants respectively."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Prime Ministerial Residence in Melbourne

I saw the federal police car this morning so our PM must be back to her Altona home. This may be the last time she spends her weekend in Altona as she is planning to move into the Lodge in the next few days. I would not be surprised to see her at the MCG today watching the AFL Grand Final. But her favourite team, the Western Bulldogs, will not be there.

There was a previous talk of putting up her Altona house for heritage listing but this was dismissed due to lack of a strong case supporting the listing. Julia Gillard had stated she will not sell her house if she remains the PM in a newspapers report.

Where will she stay when she visits Melbourne in the future? Probably, in a hotel following the tradition of her predecessors. Windsor Hotel was the favourite choice for many previous Prime Ministers including Robert Menzies, Paul Keating, Edmund Barton (Australia's first PM), Alfred Deakin (Australia's second PM) and Malcolm Fraser.

Hotel Windsor in Melbourne
The Windsor Hotel Melbourne
Photo by Kevin Whelan

Bob Hawke stayed at the Hyatt on Collins while Kevin Rudd chose the Park Hyatt. John Howard preferred the Langham Hotel at Southbank where he could conveniently do his morning walks along the Yarra River. The exceptions to this tradition include Harold Holt, who returned to his home in Toorak and James Scullin, who lived on Park Avenue in Richmond.

It has been long argued that there should be a Prime Ministerial Residence in Melbourne to rival the Kirribilli House in Sydney, which has the capacity to host business delegates and international dignitaries. This argument has gained stronger grounds in recent years with the increasing importance of Melbourne due to its booming population and the possibility of Melbourne overtaking Sydney as the largest city by 2037.

Kirribilli House in Sydney
Kirribilli House, 111 Kirribilli Ave, Kirribilli, NSW
Photo by Geoff - He's reorganizing his flickr photos.

The 1.5-hectare block of land bordering the stately Stonington Mansion in Malvern has often been touted as a potential site for a PM's residence but this hope was dashed when it was sold to a Chinese property developer, Ever Bright Group, for $28.5 million in Sep 2010.

Stonington Mansion in Malvern
Stonington - Malvern
Photo by Dean-Melbourne

Other options were proposed. The National Trust had offered to hand over Como House in South Yarra. The Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry is pushing for a new residence built as part of the redevelopment of the Jolimont railway yards. Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle proposed any heritage building close to the city, such as a Victorian-era house or a house built between 1901 and 1927, when Melbourne was the home of Federal Parliament.

Como House in South Yarra
gm_00928 Como House, South Yarra, Victoria Australia 1985
Photo by Gregory Melle

I would propose locating the Prime Ministerial Residence in the Western Suburb. This will help to spur the development of the long-neglected western part of Melbourne, similiar to the urban renewal that the 2012 London Olympics is trying to achieve in its underinvested, impoverished and crime-ridden eastern part of London. At least in terms of road infrastructure, the State Government would have to solve the traffic congestion problem on Westgate Bridge. One would not want to see the Prime Minister stuck on top of the Westgate Bridge while getting to attend some important functions in the City.

I would not suggest Altona although I will very much like the idea. This will smack of favouritism as Julia Gillard's home is in Altona. The Kirribilli House commands impressive views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House. The Strand in Williamstown will be an equivalent location with excellent views of the Westgate Bridge, Port Phillip Bay, yachts, Melbourne CBD and Eureka Tower. What is lacking in Melbourne is a single iconic landmark, such as the Sydney Opera House, which is an unequivocal symbol of Sydney.

View of Melbourne CBD from The Strand in Williamstown
the golden city
Photo by Luke Tscharke


Reference Source:

Jewellery Exhibition

There is a jewellery exhibition at the Louis Joel Arts & Community Centre that will end tomorrow 26th Sep 2010. Hence, this is a rather late post but it is better late than never. Hopefully, this post will attract some people to visit the exhibition today or tomorrow.

Here are some photos.

Jewellery Exhibition 12Jewellery Exhibition 13Jewellery Exhibition 11
Jewellery Exhibition 01Jewellery Exhibition 14Jewellery Exhibition 03


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wearable Art Exhibition

When I first moved to Altona, I soon discovered an externally unimpressive single-storey building, the Louis Joel Arts & Community Centre, located very near to Pier Street. I was curious what it was but hesitated in stepping inside for I did not know whether it was a public or private property. I found out later that it is a public venue for art exhibitions and one does not need to pay to view these exhibitions. I am rather impressed that such a small suburb like Altona has its own arts gallery that it can be proud of, for I know not every suburb of Melbourne is fortunate enough to have an arts centre.

I believe this centre serves a useful and important role in Altona. It provides a venue for artists, particulary those from the western suburbs and budding artists, to display their works of art. The residents of Altona stand to benefit greatly. The centre is more than a venue to spend one's leisure time. It brings arts to the home turf of locals, particularly senior citizens, who do not need to commute afar to view art exhibitions. It educates local residents on how to appreciate art and helps to build a more cultured community. Not only is it a favourite spot among locals, it is also appealing to tourists who visit Altona.

The centre now holds a wearable art exhibition, which ends on 26th Sep 2010. I have missed the Fashion Parades on 10th Sep 2010. So I quickly visited the exhibition and took some photos before it ends.

Wearable Art Exhibition 02Wearable Art Exhibition 10Wearable Art Exhibition 03
Wearable Art Exhibition 05Wearable Art Exhibition 07Wearable Art Exhibition 09
Wearable Art Exhibition 01Wearable Art Exhibition 15aWearable Art Exhibition 11

The photo in the centre is a digital print on silk of the work of Greg McQuirk, an architect from Sydney. This artwork is supposed to show dance movements from different cultures, such as the Dervishes of Persia, the Arabic Dance of the Veils, Chinese Fan Dancing and Polynesian Poi. It is filled with four alphabets A, C, G, T which stand for Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine and Thymine respectively. These are the four nucleobases of DNA and form the genetic code of all living organisms. The artwork is drawing parallel between the process of weaving and that of DNA strands unravelling and then reweaving during replication.

Though I do not know much about art, I would say that all the apparels are remarkably creative. Two ladies who were visiting this exhibition could not help constantly expressing admiration for every single item of the apparels on display. These exhibits are such powerful magnets to them that it is apparent they are glued to the venue.

Altona Beach Market 6th Birthday

Tuesday 21 Sep 2010 was the 6th anniversary of the Altona Beach Market. We learnt that there are many children's activities at Logan Reserve so we decided to bring our two kids there. On reaching Logan Reserve, we were immediately attracted to the animal farm. I figured that there were no less than 20 animals in the enclosure and a great variety too - sheep, goat, cow, deer, duck, chicken, emu, rabbit and so on.

Children Farm 02Children Farm 07
Children Farm 15Children Farm 10

Not only were the children happy, the animals were apparently happy too, chasing each other and jumping around, as depicted in the video below.



There was a free caricature session at the Rotunda for the kids but the queue was long so we decided to give it a miss.

Caricature 01

We bought for our daughter a footy souveneir from the stall manned by the Piggy Bank Appeal which aims to raise over $1 million to support families of children with life-threatening illnesses.

Piggy Bank 1

We tried to coax our two and a half years old daughter to enter the jumping castles but she was too afraid to do so.

Jumping Castle 09

It was 12 noon and we were feeling hungry so we decided to buy some sausages in bread from the stall manned by the Altona City Rotary Club. Leon Mancini, the boss of Mancini Real Estate, was there busy serving the sausages.

I feel that many people in Altona are doing their parts in making Altona a better place to live. I am deeply appreciative of the foresight of Altona Village Traders Association in setting up the Altona Beach Market. I did not realize that the Market is only six years old. I moved to Altona three years ago so I had actually witnessed half of its history.

The decision to hold the market on a weekday is probably a wise move. As a nascent market, it would have faced too much competitions from established markets in other parts of Melbourne if it is to be held during the weekends. The Altona Beach Market and the shops along Pier Street also complement each other, helping to pull in a larger crowd than if they are to operate independently. I can sometimes see coach buses bringing tourists to visit the Altona Beach Market. I do not think there are many markets held on a weekday elsewhere in Melbourne. Hence, the Altona Beach Market carves itself a niche by filling this vacuum and providing an option for tourists to spend their times on a Tuesday.

The Altona Homestead used to be open on Sundays. The Altona Laverton Historical Society which manages the Homestead made a strategic move in shifting their opening hours to Tuesdays to cater for the visitors to the Altona Beach Market.

It is my hope that the Altona Beach Market will one day rival established markets such as Camberwell Market in fame. Happy 6th Birthday!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wild Wheats in P.A. Burns Reserve

I have recently discovered from a Wikipedia article on Altona that there is a reserve called P.A. Burns Reserve that borders Altona Coastal Park. I do not know the exact boundaries of this reserve so in my previous post on Altona Coastal Park, I may have mistakenly labelled some photographs as being taken in Altona Coastal Park instead of P.A. Burns Reserve. Without an authoritative map, I can only make assumptions and may repeat the same mistake in this post.

I recall that there is a location where wildflowers bloom in Spring, covering the coastal areas in a carpet of golden-yellow sheen. We decided to visit the area again and were not disappointed.

P.A. Burns Reserve C

There is a human-created path that leads to the rocky outcrops of the sea.

P.A. Burns Reserve 04

This trip gave us a surprise reward. What would have appeared as grasses to me grabbed my wife's attention. She could recognize the ears of the plants and was adamant that they are some sorts of wild wheats. When we reached home later, I immediately went online, did Google image searches for wheat and compared with the photos that I had taken. I was elated to confirm my wife's insistence that these are indeed wheats.

Closeup View of the Wild Wheats, clearly showing their ears

Wild Wheat 2 closeup

These wheats are still green and unripe. My wife guessed they will be ripe by December and we will take a look again. She later discovered that these wheats are quite common along many industrial roadsides in Laverton, on the way to Deer Park.

Wheats in front with trees and yellow wildflowers in the background

Wild Wheat 1

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Interesting Encounters & Requests

Due to lack of resources, to make the Altona Blog and Facebook Page known to more people in Altona, I have to do it the hard way by dropping fliers into individual letter boxes. Whenever there are people around, I will speak to them personally.

Today, I met an elderly lady who said she does not have a computer. I asked her to pass the flier to her children instead. She told me that the elderly folks in Altona are well aware of the goodness of Altona and would rather keep these secrets to themselves for fear that flooding of people into Altona would endanger its desirability. She conceded that times have changed and there is no way to stop developments in Altona. I understand her point of view, which is also shared by a considerable number of Altona residents. There are a few houses in Altona that put up signs in their front gardens that say residents in those particular streets strongly oppose unit developments.

I have learnt from others that Altona has undergone massive changes in recent years. During the short three years I have been in Altona, I had witnessed improvements made to the beach and Pier Street, such as the installation of chairs and picnics tables along the beach, the planting of more Norfolk Island Pines along the Esplanade, the renourishment of Altona Beach, the streetscape improvements in Pier Street North as well as the extension of Coles' operating hours to midnight daily, gentrification, the proposed developments in Cherry Lake and Apex Park and so on. These changes would not have taken place if things are to remain static in Altona.

After this encounter, I did not expect that I would have another more interesting meeting. After knowing that I have created a blog with lots of content on Altona, an elderly lady asked me if I know any good dentist in Altona. I told her I do not know although I think there are at least 4-5 dental clinics in Altona. But I told her I have been seeing a dentist at Collins Street, Melbourne, whom I think is very reliable, honest and charges reasonably. I rummaged through my wallet, was fortunate to find the dental appointment card and passed her the dentist's phone number.

I had received interesting email requests such as a guy asking where he could sell his car and a girl asking how she could find housemates to share her rented house. This is an outcome that I did not expect to have arisen from creating the Altona Blog. If people feel that they can seek useful information from the Blog, the Blog would have a successful start and is on its way to playing an important and larger role in the Altona community.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Free Entry to all Victoria's National Parks

I am a nature lover. I love to explore places, appreciate the beauties crafted by the hands of nature and be thrilled by new discoveries. This is the PRIMARY reason why I had decided to settle in Altona. Altona is blessed with abundant natural resources - sea, lake, creeks, swamps, saltmarsh, grasslands, parks, reserves, playgrounds, open spaces and teeming with wildlife, flora and fauna. Only 13 km away from Melbourne CBD, you can escape the commotions and hectic life of cosmospolitan Melbourne to be tucked away in a different world.

Many people say they prefer to live in the eastern suburbs because they are more desirable. I say I had made a lifestyle choice by living in Altona. I do not need to travel far to satisfy my cravings to be in touch with nature as all the parks and nature reserves are practically at my doorstep. I can go to the sea, lake or parks at my slightest whim as they are all so near. I would often admire the green open spaces through the windows of my front bedroom or living room and never fail to give thanks for this gift of being so close to nature.

I love Altona. But I also love Melbourne, love Victoria and love Australia. I feel fortunate to be living here as there are so many places that can be visited within a day trip from Melbourne. Before having my kids, I used to explore Victoria during each weekend. I was thrilled when I learnt that entry to all Victoria's National Parks is now free. Yes, every single one of Victoria's magnificent national parks is now free and this includes:
  • Wilsons Promontory National Park
  • Point Nepean National Park
  • Werribee Park
  • Mount Buffalo National Park
  • Baw Baw National Park (excluding the Mt Baw Baw Alpine Resort)
  • Mornington Peninsula National Park
  • Yarra Ranges (Mount Donna Buang)
  • Coolart Wetlands and Homestead
  • National Rhododendron Gardens
  • William Ricketts Sanctuary

Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve in Williamstown is under Parks Victoria's listing but none of Altona's parks and reserves comes under Parks Victoria's listing. I feel that the Altona community should lobby hard to get protection status for its nature reserves. Otherwise, we cannot be sure that the Altona Coastal Park or Truganina Coastal Parklands would not be sacrificed to make way for residential developments to cope with Melbourne's booming population in the future.


Useful Sites:
Reference Source:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ministry of Education

I told a visiting friend last Saturday that Julia Gillard was back to her Altona home during the weekend as the Federal Police Car appeared a day before. When she was the Deputy Prime Minister, whenever I saw Federal Police Cars in the street, I intuitively knew three things even without checking the current news. Firstly, Kevin Rudd must have gone overseas. Secondly, she is now the Acting Prime Minister and lastly, she is back at home in Altona. The sight of the Federal Police has somewhat become a "barometer" of who's in charge of the nation's affairs at that time. With Julia Gillard planning to move to the Lodge due to security concerns, I will miss the presence of these police and the enhanced security to this very quiet street.

My friend asked "Isn't Julia Gillard announcing her new cabinet makeup today?" We were both curious of how and where the announcements were made? Are the announcements made through her spokesperson in Canberra or made personally by her in Melbourne? I had seen cars from the TV stations parked along this street on Friday and Saturday. If she announced the new cabinet personally, did she do so at a specific venue in Melbourne or did she simply call reporters to her Altona home?

The education portfolio is now split between three Ministers: Peter Garrett - the Minister for Schools, Early Childhood and Youth (overseeing schools), Chris Evans - the Minister for Jobs, Skills and Workplace Relations (overseeing undergraduate university and vocational education) and Kim Carr - the Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science (overseeing postgraduate higher education and research).

There were serious concerns, particulary from universities, that this would result in a fractured approach to education policies. ANU Students' Association president, Tully Fletcher aptly expressed the sentiments of most educators: "From a policy perspective, funding and outcomes for students, schools, universities and research are deeply integrated.....students believe that Australia requires a dedicated minister for education, without other portfolio responsibilities."

To appease the Universities, the new government has decided to add the word "Education" to the title of Chris Evans, who is now Minister for Tertiary Education, Jobs, Skills and Workplace Relations.

Despite the title change, I am still deeply concerned that the new government is placing less priority on education, as I strongly believe that there should only be one Minister for Education. I have already felt that the previous Labor government is not doing justice to the importance of Education by having Julia Gillard taking on simultaneously the portfolios of Deputy Prime Minister, Education, Employment, Workplace Relations and Social Inclusion.

I migrated from Singapore which practises a rather different way of organizing the various Ministries under the Cabinet. The Ministries are more or less fixed, with little variations over the past 30 years. Changes were made mainly to keep up with changing times and circumstances. In Singapore, each Ministry has its own building, offices and core group of civil servants. The policies, practice and personnel remain largely unchanged with a change in the Minister. The system is Ministry-centred and changes in the Cabinet just involves moving or rotating people around the fixed number of Ministries.

In Australia, it appears that the system is person-centred, with the Ministries portfolio tailored and adapted to each person. So we often see changes in the Ministries, including creation of new ones, removal of old ones or name-changing. These changes are politically-motivated rather than needs-driven. For example, Social Inclusion has been lumped with Education, Employment and Workplace Relations in the previous cabinet but now has been lumped with Human Services.

Another major difference is that besides Ministries, Singapore also has dozens of Statutory Boards such as the Economic Development Board (EDB), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), Housing Development Board (HDB), Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and so on. These Statutory Boards are each headed by a chairperson who is appointed based on merits and not on political affiliations. In other words, this person does not have a political role or connection. I think this arrangement accords a greater stability and continuity of policies as the chairpersons do not need to undergo election cycles and need not change if there is a change of government. I suppose in Australia, functions similiar to these statutory boards actually come under the responsibilites of the respective Ministries, which may explain why Australia has a much larger number of Ministries compared to Singapore.

Singapore places enormous amount of importance and resources on education for it sees its future tightly linked to the education of its people. The Ministy of Education and the Ministry of Finance are probably considered the next most important ministries, after the Ministry of Defence and are perhaps ranked slightly above the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I do not see the equivalent amount of attention being allotted to education here in Australia. There are no signs of a big picture and an education revolution taking place. I would not consider equipping every student with a computer as being commensurate with an education revolution.


Useful Sites:
  • My School Website - enables you to search the profiles of almost 10,000 Australian schools

Reference Source:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Victoria's Top 10 Most Dangerous Areas for Motorists

According to Victoria Police, the top 10 most dangerous places on Victoria's roads by local council areas are Melbourne, Casey, Monash, Geelong, Yarra Ranges, Boroondara, Hume, Brimbank, Moreland and Dandenong. Like the train stations, Hobsons Bay and Wyndham again escape from the list, which indicate that people living in the southwest corridor of Melbourne are pretty secure as far as road accidents and rail crimes are concerned.

Reference Source:

Melbourne's Most Dangerous Train Stations

The Age today published a list of Melbourne's most violent train stations which include Flinders Street, Dandenong, Broadmeadows, Footscray, St Albans, Ringwood, Bayswater, Frankston, Southern Cross and Thomastown stations, where 45% of all reported assaults took place. In June this year, the Herald Sun published a leaked confidential Metro report, revealing Dandenong, Ringwood, Sunshine and Upfield stations to be hotspots for crime. In another Herald Sun's article, the Hurstbridge train line was rated worst for crime, followed by Frankston, Pakenham and Lilydale.

I am relieved none of the southwest train stations, including those in Altona Loop, make to the list so we are pretty safe in the southwest corridor.

The Herald Sun has a very cool database from which you can extract statistics such as assaults, theft, weapons, unruly behaviour, graffitti, vandalism, trespassing and littering on tracks for all the train lines and for any train station you specify. I have embedded the search database below:




Useful Sites:
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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Running a Late Night Errand

When we moved to Altona in 2007, the local Coles supermarket closed at 6 pm on some days and at 7 pm on other days. The operation hours were extended to 12 midnight probably about a year later. I did not realize how helpful this change was until I had to do some urgent shopping late at night.

Tonight, my two and a half years old daughter was crying due to having great difficulties passing motion. My wife recalled that our family doctor advised her to eat prunes when she was suffering from serious constipation quite sometime ago. She found this method to be extremely effective as it took about 1-2 hours to take effect. It was 11 pm and my wife asked me whether Coles is still open. I said yes and left the house immediately to buy the prunes. I passed by Julia Gillard's house, saw her lights on and four men chatting to each other on the nature strip. I suspect that they are her bodyguards as they are wearing suits and not police uniforms.

I was surprised that there were many cars parked along Pier Street North so there may be some activities going on in the Finnish Hall. I also saw a new gym "Run With Me Fitness Club" operating in the new residential/retail complex, opposite the Sweeney Swimming School. There were still a few people shopping at Coles. Besides getting the prunes, I decided to do some late night shopping as well.

When I returned home 20 minutes later, I still saw the four men talking to each other. I wonder whether they are going to have any sleep tonight .....

Julia Gillard vs Michael Jackson

When I saw Julia Gillard's photo on The Age's website today, I could not help noticing a striking resemblance between her and Michael Jackson.

Julia Gillard Photo
Photo of Julia Gillard published on www.theage.com.au today

I did a Google Search using the keywords "Julia Gillard Michael Jackson" and was surprised to find this interesting youtube video:

Friday, September 10, 2010

How we reduce our living expenses in Altona

According to the ATO classification, we should be considered a low-income family. Hence, we need to live frugally and one of the first things we do after moving to Altona is to source cheaper shopping options for goods and services. I am now going to share what we have discovered. It may not be for everyone but it serves our needs.

Never save on food!

I believe that good nutrition is vital to our health so never compromise your well-being by saving on what you eat. However, I think the nutritional value of a food item is not directly correlated to its price. In many cases, you are paying the premium for the brand, without getting any extra nutritional benefits compared to a lower-priced but less renowned brand.

Groceries & Food

We do a lot of shopping at Aldi as we foofind what it sells are really good value for money. In particular, we buy our bread, milk, eggs, flour, pasta, toilet papers and other consumables at Aldi. We find the quality of these products to be no inferior than those at Coles or Safeway. There is a weekly specials section where you can buy quality fruits and vegetables at a very good price. There is also a section stocked with goods Aldi is clearing and discounted at multiple times. However, be careful with the electrical products. We had bought two sets of electric toothbrushes which failed after one to two months of usage but we did get a full refund. The nearest Aldi is at Point Cook Shopping Centre but will be at Spotswood when a new shopping hub is built there. I am actually hoping that Aldi will set up a store in Altona, maybe in Pier Street North. Altona may have scope to accommodate another supermarket besides Coles as many people from neighbouring suburbs such as Altona Meadows and Altona North visit Altona Beach and there will be more high-density residential developments around Pier Street in the future.

One disadvantage with Aldi is the narrow range of groceries and lack of variety. Hence, we need to complement our shopping at the local Coles supermarket, which can offer bargains during promotional sales. I do not know whether others notice the same thing as I do. Safeway tends to set up stores in populated, established areas and has less interest in the western suburbs, which are dominated by Coles supermarkets.

Meat, Frozen Seafood & Nuts

We shop for our chicken drumsticks, prawns, squids, mussels, cashew nuts, hazelnuts and walnuts at Tasman Meats located in Brooklyn. The drumsticks are often priced at $2.99 per kg and the frozen prawns at $19.99 per kg, deshelled and with the heads and intestines removed so I just need to defrost them before cooking, which saves me much time and effort.

Fruits, Fresh Seafood & Asian Food

We shop for our fruits, fresh seafood, Asian vegetables and groceries at Footscray Market opposite the Footscray Train Station. It takes about 20 minutes to drive from our home in Western Altona to Footscray. But it is worth the journey as we are unable to replenish our Asian food anywhere else. I would not consider the Vietnamese shop at Pier Street South or the shop in Harrington Square as selling Asian groceries. There was one time I was in need of glutinuous rice and was not willing to travel to Footscray so I went to an Asian grocery at Point Cook Shopping Centre instead. Coles, Safeway and Aldi nowadays stock increasing varieties of Asian food to cater to the rising Asian population in Melbourne.

The best time to shop for seafood at Footscray Market is 2.30-3 pm on Saturday, when the hawkers start discounting. You can get one plate of seafood for $5 or even 3 plates at $10. After getting your seafood, you can start buying your meat (pork, beef and lamb). Get into the Footscray Market before 4 pm for the security guards will shut the entrances and prevent you from entering. The vegetable and fruit stalls will start heavy discounting towards 4 pm. There will be many people, the place will be congested and the environment can be very chaotic and noisy. This is not for the faint-hearted or for people who prefer a more relaxed, orderly shopping environment. Boxes of fruits such as apples, pears and oranges will be pushed out for $2 each. The quantity is enough to last a fortnight for a couple. But do not expect quality. The fruits will have defects so you should be prepared to throw away some and to cut away the damaged portions. I usually go for the Golden Delicious apples as they tend to be of quite good quality.

Medicine and Baby Goods

We get our medicines, fish oil, vitamins, milk powder and sometimes nappies from Chemist Warehouse located at Millers Road in Altona North. The same drug can be purchased at half the price of what you will pay at other pharmacies. You can get good deals on nappies if you watch out for discounts from Coles or Safeway.

Home Maintenance

Like most other Aussies, we frequented the Bunnings (at Millers Rd) for tools, hardwares and our gardening needs. Bunnings is the undisputed leader in this category of retail business and visiting Bunnings has become a favourite pastime for many Aussie blokes.

Transport

Altona is served by three Zone 1 train stations. Commute by train, save on petrol costs and avoid the traffic jams in Westgate Bridge during peak hours. It takes about 25-30 minutes by train into the city. I work at the University of Melbourne. I board the train at Westona Train Station, alight at North Melbourne and take a shuttle bus to the University of Melbourne. It takes about 35 minutes for me to reach my office if the train is punctual. I can often get a seat on the train. If there is an express train from Laverton to Newport and a normal train running through the Altona Loop, passengers at Laverton will prefer to board the express train even if this arrives slightly later than the normal train. This means that the Altona-bound train will be less packed.

Occasionally, I drive to the University of Melbourne during the weekend. Instead of using the Westgate Bridge, I find it faster and easier to go via Millers St, Princes Highway, Somerville Rd, Whitehall St, Dynon Rd, Lloyd St under the train bridge to Arden St in North Melbourne, then all the way to Grattan St in Parkville.

Utilities

I had installed a 7000-litres rainwater tank, connected to my toilet and laundry. I am very puzzled why this does not help to reduce my water bills, although I am quite certain we are conscientious in using water. City West Water is the sole water retailer to Melbourne's western suburbs so you do not have a choice and it appears that the three Melbourne water retailers (the other two being Yarra Valley Water and South East Water) set their water rates differently.

To reduce our electricity bills, we had recently installed a 1.5 KW solar photovoltaic system but decided to forego the feed-in-tariff scheme, in which excess electricity generated is sold to the retailer, for reasons which I will elaborate in a separate post.

I had regretted changing from an electricity-driven hot water system to a gas-powered one instead of a solar-boosted one, for our gas expenses comprise a huge chunk of our utilities bills, especially during winter.

Mortgage

Get a good mortgage broker, who can get the best loan package for your circumstance, which is not necessarily the cheapest one. Do not borrow beyond your means and you should always have a reserve to tide you over during a change in circumstances such as loss of employment. Have a 100% offset account where you credit your salary and additional money into to reduce the interests you need to pay. Have the mortgage broker reviewed your mortgage regularly or after 4 years to take advantage of more competitive interest rates offered by other financial institutions.

Insurance

House, car and income protection insurances are very important to protect you against unexpected incidences. Do not save on these expenses for you will pay dearly to recover what you have if your house and cars are damaged or you become retrenched or unemployable due to sickness or accidents.

I did not buy private health insurance. I migrated to Australia in 2003 so I do not have prior health cover in Australia. Due to my age, I will need to pay a huge premium to cover my whole family and the system does not consider prior health insurance bought overseas. Due to my low family income, I do not need to pay the 1% medicare levy surcharge.

My wife had both her labour at Werribee Mercy Hospital as a public patient. We are very pleased with the services. My wife had a single room to her own, which is also the birthing room. I was able to sleep overnight on the double bed. However, we still need to find a private obstetrician. But our out-of-pocket medical expenses were minimized due to the family safety net protection.

However, I am still worried as I have often read from the newspapers about the long waiting list for elective procedures in public hospitals. Hopefully, our federal and state governments will improve the public hospital services, efficiencies and fundings so that poorer citizens will not be denied the same access to quality services as enjoyed by more wealthy people who can afford private health insurance and hence, are able to jump the queue.

Credit Card

Sometimes, you can get real bargains from fliers posted in your letter box. A few years ago, I received a letter from Citibank advertising a lifetime no annual fee credit card. I took immediate advantage of this promotion. I insist on using just only one credit card so that I can concentrate all my purchases on this card to accumulate reward points for redeeming cash rewards. I always pay the full amount by the due date as I do not wish to pay interests. Do not pay just the minimum amount each month as this is a very fast way of getting yourself heavily in debts.

Recently, I received another similiar promotion from HSBC Bank in my letter box. I always keep my ears open to salespersons as I am not afraid of being tempted by them. I treat such encounters as learning experience so that I am more in touch with what are currently going around in the market.

Phone and Internet Bills

I do not yet know of a good way of reducing these bills. I will greatly appreciate if anyone can give me good suggestions.


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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Energy Retailers' Sales Tactics

Two weeks ago, a salesman from an energy retailer knocked on my door and asked for my electricity bill. After looking through my bill, he told me I have a good deal and there will be no advantage for me in switching the provider. I was impressed by his honesty and professional integrity. He would rather forfeit his commission than to deceive potential customers.

Yesterday, an Indian salesman from AGL knocked on my door and I had a completely different experience. First, he claimed my bill would definitely be reduced by switching to AGL. This is because AGL is the distributor of energy to Altona so I am getting my energy supply indirectly through other retailers at a higher price. I told him he got his facts wrong. Powercor is the distributor of electricity to Altona. I later found from Wikipedia that there are five electricity distributors operating in Victoria: Citipower, Powercor, Jemena, United Energy and SP AusNet. AGL is not in the list. Although AGL does distribute natural gas, it only serves NSW. SP AusNet Gas is the gas distributor to Melbourne's western suburbs; the other two Victorian gas distributors are Multinet and Envestra. What is correct is that AGL is involved in energy generation but whether this will imply a better offering from AGL is another story. We know that Telstra is the wholesaler of ADSL services to other ISPs but it does not offer the most competitive, lowest-priced plans.

The salesman tried to convince me that AGL is trustworthy as it is a 170 years company. I told him this is not important to me, that I even know that AGL is an acronym for Australian Gas Light Company and what matters to me at the end of the day is whether I will receive a genuinely lower bill. I volunteered to show him my bills from Simply Energy. I told him I am getting a 10% discount for electricity and a 6% discount for gas from Simply Energy and I am not in any binding contract. He replied that AGL is giving me a 14% discount. I told him that he is misleading me as he cannot simply add the 7% discount AGL is offering on electricity to the 7% discount on its gas to make up 14%. If I incur a $100 electricity bill, I will only receive a $7 discount, not a $14 discount.

I told him that two years ago, my wife was pressurized by an AGL door salesman to sign a contract. I did a thorough research from the internet, compared the rates and supply charges between different energy retailers and came to the conclusion that AGL was not offering a good deal compared to its competitors. I proceeded to ask him whether AGL rates are lower than those offered by Simply Energy. After looking at my bill, he proclaimed that the rates written in my bill could not be that low - they must be the rates after discounts. I told him I am very certain that these are the rates before discount for computing the usage charges, after which the 10% discount is then applied.

I emphasized to him the importance I attach to an unconditional, non-binding contract as I will not have to pay early termination charges if I decide to switch provider. He claimed that all companies have contracts and if AGL raises its rates unreasonably in the future, I can easily terminate the contract. I know this is not the case. Two years ago, when I tried to cancel the contract with AGL while during the cooling off period, I was told I could not do this over the phone. I need to mail AGL an official letter, stating the reasons for opting out of the contract. I never need to go through such lengthy and troublesome procedures with either Simply Energy or Origin.

Having discovered from the internet that AGL has gained a notorious reputation for its sales tactics, I feel fortunate that I did not fall for its traps. I would advise anyone to take the words of a salesperson with a pinch of salt. Always do your due diligence before committing to anything.

Useful Sites:

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Julia Gillard I See

I am living very near to Julia Gillard's house. I will not disclose in this blog the name of the street I am living in as I strongly believe every person, including public figures, is entitled to his or her privacy. I am very glad from what I read from the mass media that the people in Altona are largely considerate folks who have left her alone to pursue her private life. She had expressed her happiness of living in Altona and she can walk around freely in Altona, without being harassed, talked about, treated differently or inviting excessive attention. I am aghast that many newspapers showed absolutely no regards for her privacy by having no qualms in widely publishing photographs of her house in Altona. One newspapers article even quoted in its headline, the name of the street she is living in, hoping this would capture the attention of curious readers.

What I know about Julia Gillard, like most other people, is from the mass media coverage. She is seldom at home. Even her next door neighbours do not get to see her most of the times. I saw her only a few times and smiled to her, when she was on her way out for business or on her way home, always accompanied by security officers.

Although I have no personal contact with her, I am still able to form an impression of her from what little knowledge I have of her through newspapers reports. Her house in Altona is a very modest brick veneer house built in the 60s. It does not even have a front fence. "Her security measures, as far as I know, involve her locking the front door and maybe the back one." a visitor to her home told the Sydney Morning Herald in a news article.

My parents-in-law from China who visited us were very surprised by how modest and down-to-earth her house is, which would not befit the status equivalent to a Deputy Prime Minister back in China, where even low-ranking provincial officials would be living separate from the common folks in highly-guarded special residences. My parents-in-law managed to meet her a few times during their morning walks and she always smiles to them. A previous boarder (an Indian girl) who was staying with us was walking to the train station one morning. Julia Gillard happened to leave her house, went to shake hands with my friend and asked her where she was working and so on. My parents-in-law heaped praises on her and the political system in Australia for it would be unimaginable for common folks in China to have such close and easy contacts with politicians. They feel honoured to have met the most powerful person in Australia while here on a tourist visa, whereas they cannot even get close to a low-ranking official in their hometown throughout their lives.

Many highly-educated women have set a very high bar when choosing their ideal partners. Their criteria may include a successful career, high educational qualifications, good financial status, compatible family background, a minimum height requirement and many other desirable attributes. I think it is atypical and rare for a woman of her capabilities, qualities and achievements to choose as a partner, a hairdresser who had only completed an apprenticeship and who is a divorcee with three children. Unlike many people, the past and imperfections of her partner does not matter to her. Her attitudes to her own personal life speaks favourably of her as a person, showing that she is a very pragmatic person who does not hanker after material possessions and who values personal relationships highly.

I do believe that she has not secretly plotted against Kevin Rudd for the top post and she has not orchestrated the coup that leads to Kevin Rudd being desposed as a Prime Minister. She had accepted the persuasion from powerbrokers in the Labor factions of the need to challenge Kevin Rudd, due to opinion polls indicating the rapid decline of popular support for the Labor Party. Of course, she could flatly refuse the lobbyists' requests to challenge Kevin Rudd. But we are having double standards here, in that many people had criticized Peter Costello for not having the courage to challenge John Howard and hence, losing his political future.

I think we should not read too much into her "Real Julia" election strategy, in doubting whether she has been a "fake" in the past. She was getting desperate at that point of the election campaign so she wanted to reach out more to the hearts of people by running a less stage-managed campaign and having less scripted speeches. Politicians all over the world have image consultants for packaging them optimally to engage their voters so we should not expect the situation in Australia to differ vastly.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Nation's Fate lies in the Hands of Three Men

The three country independents, Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter, are expected to decide today on who to support. The result can either be a Labor or Coalition Government or a tie, which will see the nation going back to the polls. I think the third scenario is highly unlikely as the three independents will be risking not getting elected in a fresh poll and losing advantage of their current bargaining power in having their demands satisfied.

Altona, which was previously unheard of by many Australians, was thrown into the limelight when Julia Gillard, an Altona resident, became the first female Prime Minister of Australia. Will she be the shortest serving Prime Minister of Australia? Will Altona's name fade away from the media's attention or will Altona once again become a hive of journalists' activities?

Waving to the crowd
From US State Dept, photo by Adam P. Wilson. Link to its Flickr page.

Julia Gillard had insisted on not moving from her Altona house to the Prime Minister's Lodge in Canberra, until given the mandate by the electorate during the General Election. It would be most people's dream to be residing at the highest echelon of the nation's political power. Will she get so close to realizing this dream but to slip away at the last minute? Hopefully, we can know the answer by today.

The Lodge in Canberra
Canberra
Photo from lions59


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