Confederation of Finnish Industries leaves wage transparency task force


THE CONFEDERATION of Finnish Industries (EK) on Monday announced it will surrender its seat on a tripartite task force appointed to promote the transparency of salary information and reduce wage inequality in Finland.

The task force was scheduled to convene at 2pm on Monday.

Katja Leppänen, a senior legal adviser at EK, told Helsingin Sanomat before the meeting that she will not be attending. The decision not to do so, she added, is all but unprecedented in her almost 20-year career at the business advocacy.

“At least I’m not aware of us ever leaving a tripartite task force in the middle of its tenure before,” she stated to the daily newspaper.

She said EK decided to abandon the task force in protest of the approach taken by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The ministry, she explained, has violated the principles of tripartite legislative co-operation by not allowing the task force the opportunity to investigate the issue at hand and weigh up different alternatives.

“[I]t has effectively made the decision in advance. The labour market organisations are there only to approve the decision made by the ministry, and we refuse to be part of such a masquerade.”

The government has in its action plan committed to promoting the elimination of “unjustified pay disparities and pay discrimination” by adopting statutory measures to improve the transparency of wages.

The objective has been welcomed more readily by trade unions than employer organisations, according to Helsingin Sanomat. Chief shop stewards are already authorised to request an inquiry into suspected cases of wage discrimination, but the underutilisation of the opportunity has been interpreted as evidence of a need for greater wage transparency.

EK is not completely opposed to increasing transparency, stressed Leppänen.

“The task force has engaged in no no genuine discussions about the tools. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health already in the second meeting presented a legislative clause it had drafted to radically increase the transparency of wage information. [Its] attitude is that the issue has been investigated thoroughly enough. We disagree,” she said.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT



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Pandemic: How lack of transparency, inconsistency harm U.S. fight



As the pandemic surges across the United States, Americans are facing public health measures that are seen as not just restrictive, but inconsistent.

Take indoor worship. In Washington, it’s limited to 25% occupancy. In Oregon, it’s 25 people. And in most of California, it’s banned altogether. Schools are closed, yet bars are open. Many places impose curfews, but they are riddled with loopholes. Outdoor dining – once seen as a way of keeping restaurants afloat while protecting the public – is now banned for three weeks in Los Angeles County.

This apparent illogic – from the federal government to the states, and between states and within them – fuels mistrust, say observers, as people compare their own rules to the ones in the next county or state.

“So much of compliance depends on voluntary cooperation,” says John Pitney, a professor of political science at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. “People will go along if they see a consistent set of rules that seem to make sense.”

Much of the inconsistency comes from the top, says Emily Blodget, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “We don’t have federal guidance, at least not now, so each state is determining their own rules.”

Pasadena, Calif.; and Cincinnati

As the pandemic surges nationwide in the United States, rules meant to curb the virus are testing not only the patience of many Americans, but also their reasoning.

What is the logic, for instance, behind closing the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., when scientists say it is safer to be outdoors than indoors? Why do the West Coast states – all run by Democrats and consulting each other on pandemic strategy – have three different standards for indoor worship, from 25% of occupancy (Washington), to 25 people (Oregon), to no indoor worship (most of California)? And a biggie – why are many schools closed (from New York to California), while bars are not?

“There have been reasons to question why close this and not close that,” says Jeanne Ringel, senior economist at the Rand Corp. who specializes in public health research. For example, “it doesn’t seem that schools are a big spreader, but research does suggest that restaurants, bars, and gyms are, and they remain open.”

The questioning goes beyond impatience with restrictions – “COVID fatigue” – to mistrust of rules, says Dr. Ringel. In turn, that can lead to noncompliance, just when America is entering the holiday season, which is traditionally a peak gathering time for friends and family and a make-or-break time for many businesses. The U.S. has surpassed 12.5 million cases, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked people not to travel to see loved ones. Inconsistent messaging – from the federal government to the states, and between states and within them – contributes to the head-scratching, as people compare what’s happening in the next county or next state.

“So much of compliance depends on voluntary cooperation,” says John Pitney, a professor of political science at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. “People will go along if they see a consistent set of rules that seem to make sense.”

“It’s about a lack of consistency”

That looks to be coming to a head in California, where the director of public health for Los Angeles County, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, is butting heads with the chair of the county’s board of supervisors, Kathryn Barger, over a new health directive to close outdoor dining at at bars and restaurants for three weeks, starting Nov. 25. Take-out and delivery are allowed. Owners are complaining loudly after having invested in tent canopies and heat lamps.

“It’s about a lack of consistency,” Supervisor Barger said on KPCC radio Nov. 23. “Our own public health director has said that more than 50% of the positives being reported are the result of private social gatherings with someone who tested positive.”

In press conferences, Dr. Ferrer has pointed to many sources for a recent surge of cases in the nation’s most populous county – the largest surge since the pandemic began. She cites private gatherings and parties, celebrations related to two team championships (the Lakers and the Dodgers), and noncompliance at workplaces. But it’s nearly “impossible” to pinpoint where and when people are becoming infected, she said Monday.

The county has interviewed more than 280,000 people who have tested positive, and most have no idea where they got the virus, she explained. So when the county says that 10% to 15% of infections come from restaurants, it’s based on a smaller sample size of people who know where they were exposed, or it is based on an outbreak investigation. Meanwhile, she announced, the entire county is heading toward another stay-at-home order, though modified, because the five-day average of new cases has surpassed 4,500.

California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has also come under criticism for flouting his own rules on social gatherings. Last week, he had to apologize after he was outed for attending a dinner birthday party for a friend at a swanky restaurant. His apology came on the same day he announced that 40 counties were moving backward into more restrictive tiers, affecting some 94% of the population. He’s been criticized, too, for sending his children to private school while millions of others have no choice but distance learning. The first family is now in quarantine because their children were exposed to a highway patrol officer who tested positive.

“It … doesn’t help when the governor and others are not following the rules,” says Dr. Ringel. She questions the effectiveness of a new curfew of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. that applies to nonessential businesses and residents in the most restricted counties. It probably cuts down on transmission among people who might be at bars in the evening or other gathering spots, “but I don’t know that there’s any evidence, particularly research evidence, to support that,” she says. It is a way to balance economic and health needs, she says, though “I’m not sure it ends up doing either very well.”

The question of curfews

Governor Newsom is part of a trend of Democratic and Republican leaders across America – and other countries, too – who are turning to curfews.

In Ohio, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew that includes numerous loopholes and exceptions. John Frank, who works at Brink Brewing Company in Cincinnati, finds the curfew too small in scale to make much of a change. In addition, he says, patrons who might complain about others not wearing masks can, and do, walk into the brewery and, once they’re seated, take their masks off and talk to each other in close quarters.

“It kind of seems like [they’re] just making it seem like something’s being done,” he said of regulations. “But I mean, I don’t think anybody in general really understands how to navigate this. … It’s a situation where nobody has the answer, but you have to give an answer.”

Mr. Frank had a second job at a steakhouse across the river in Covington, Kentucky – 9 miles away – until Friday, when the governor there banned indoor dining in the state. Outside of work, he tries his best to limit his social circle, and so reduce his odds of being a carrier.

Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, says he understands doubts about a curfew. It seems perfectly reasonable to ask why a virus wasn’t dangerous at 9:58 p.m., but it is at 10:02 p.m., he says.

“It can seem a little silly for an individual, but for a population, the country, or the city of San Francisco, it’s reasonable,” because it’s aimed at activity where people take off their masks, drink, and are closer than they should be.

He strongly defends the rules of San Francisco – which went into lockdown before last spring’s state order and was slower to open up. Its cautious approach made it the first urban center in California to reach the least restrictive tier. Last week, it imposed new restrictions as an increase in cases pushed it back into a more restrictive tier, but Dr. Wachter is not concerned, citing the expected “roller coaster” nature of a pandemic. He’s proud that the city, the densest in America after New York, has recorded only 158 deaths since the pandemic started.

If the entire country had that rate, he says, it would be looking at 60,000 deaths, not more than 250,000. “What we’re doing is working,” he says, pointing to a culture that wears masks and does not think COVID-19 is a “hoax.”

Of all the rules, he points to mask wearing as the most important, and indeed, Republican governors who once shunned the idea are now embracing it as the pandemic stretches hospital capacity in their states. North Dakota needs to “avoid a post-Thanksgiving crunch,” said Gov. Doug Burgum after two weeks of surging hospitalizations forced him to impose a statewide mask mandate – something he once said was unnecessary and unworkable.

Washington’s role

Much of the inconsistency with rules stems from a lack of strong federal guidance, says Emily Blodget, who teaches at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “I think it’s difficult because we don’t have federal guidance, at least not now, so each state is determining their own rules,” says Dr. Blodget, who specializes in infectious diseases.

“The president of the United States has to be the leader on this. … It’s got to come from Washington,” says Zev Yaroslavsky, a former member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. He credits the Food and Drug Administration for recent approval of a drug to treat COVID-19 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its strong guidance against Thanksgiving travel, saying the federal agencies “seem to have snapped to attention.”

Not everyone believes the answer is top-down rule-making.

On the first night of the California curfew last Saturday, protesters gathered on the pier in Huntington Beach, a community that bristles at directives from the governor. Two state Republican lawmakers sued to prevent the governor from overstepping when it comes to the pandemic, and a state superior court recently barred him from taking executive action that changes existing law or creates new law. But a California appellate court temporarily blocked that injunction last week.

The governor is overreaching, says Laurie Davies, a Republican who is heading to the state assembly from another beach community, Laguna Niguel. “One size doesn’t fit all.”



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government fails to follow own transparency guidelines with over 200 PPE contracts – Channel 4 News


The government failed to follow its own transparency guidelines over 200 times on contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) worth nearly £6bn of public money in total, FactCheck can reveal.

Departments were reminded in March this year that they could make deals for vital supplies without going through the usual competition processes because of the coronavirus crisis – that’s always been the case in an emergency. But they were told that when that happens, “you should publish a contract award notice (regulation 50) within 30 days of awarding the contract.”

Our analysis, which covers the period between 1 January and 28 October this year, found 246 “direct award” contracts for PPE where the government failed to meet that deadline. Though ours was not an exhaustive search.

Among them, we found 115 deals that were published more than 90 days after being awarded without a competitive process. Together, they were worth £3.1bn.

And FactCheck found six deals that weren’t made public for over 200 days. All were struck with suppliers based in China or Hong Kong, who received just over £100m between them through the arrangements.

It seems the government was much slower to publish deals struck with Chinese suppliers, taking 180 days on average to report the 17 deals we found – compared to 98 days across all the late-reported contracts in our analysis.

The single largest direct award PPE contract we found that didn’t meet the 30-day guideline was with a Dutch supplier and worth £308m. It took ministers 88 days to publish the details.

Responding to our findings, Nick Davies, an expert in public procurement at the independent Institute for Government think tank, told FactCheck: “There were good reasons, particularly at the start of the crisis, to use more direct awards, but there is little justification for the failure to publish contract award notices on time.”

“These transparency rules exist to ensure that government is accountable for its decisions and to avoid real or perceived impropriety. It’s critical that government adheres to them if it wants to maintain public trust,” he added.

A government spokesperson told FactCheck: “As part of an unprecedented response to this global pandemic we have drawn on the expertise and resources of a number of public and private sector partners.

“This approach is completely in line with procurement regulations for situations of extreme urgency, where being able to procure at speed means protecting more frontline workers and ultimately saving lives.

“We have been clear from the outset that public authorities must achieve value for taxpayers and use good commercial judgement. Publication of contract information is being carried out as quickly as possible in line with Government transparency guidelines.”

Under the spotlight

Government procurement has faced particular scrutiny during the pandemic as departments scramble to get equipment, including PPE, from UK and international suppliers.

Analysis by the Mirror reports that £1bn of Covid-related contracts were awarded to firms who they allege have close links to senior government figures. They do not make any suggestion of wrongdoing. Responding to that story at the time, the Department of Health said: “We have processes for carrying out proper due diligence for all government contracts and we take these checks extremely seriously.”

Meanwhile, one legal organisation has taken the government to court over what they describe as a “transparency gap”. They pointed to the fact that government lawyers said the Department of Health had spent £17bn on Covid-related goods and services since the start of the financial year, but at the time, only £12.4bn in Covid-related contracts were in the public domain. Further contracts have since been published, but a gap remains.

Responding to that story, the Department of Health told the Guardian that it could not comment on legal proceedings, adding: “As part of an unprecedented response to this global pandemic we have drawn on the expertise and resources of a number of public and private sector partners. This is completely in line with procurement regulations for exceptional circumstances.

“We have been clear from the outset that public authorities must achieve value for taxpayers and use good commercial judgement. Publication of contract information is being carried out as quickly as possible in line with government transparency guidelines.”



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Currency transfer transparency needs to improve


Prices shown for transfers are complex and often presented in different ways that lack necessary transparency, the regulator says.

In its guidance, the ACCC says total costs should be more “up-front,” calling for the introduction of digital-pricing tools on providers’ websites that are easy to use and show the total amount to be delivered to the recipient of the money transfer.

“If [transfers] involve fees or charges that are unknown to you at the time you supply the service to your customers, you should use relevant information you hold, such as transaction data, to estimate unknown fees and provide the best estimate you can,” the guidance says.

Money transfer providers, including the major banks, have improved their fee transparency somewhat since the ACCC’s inquiry and guidance but there is still more work to be done.

Some make an estimate of fees charged by the receiving international bank involved in a transfer. For some countries, the provider covers those costs, or offer for the customer to pay a known fee applied by a receiving bank.

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While these are welcome improvements, some providers are still falling short of the “best-practice” standards that consumers desire.

Many international currency transfer providers include a mark-up on the “mid-market” rate – the rate banks and money transfer services use when they trade currency between themselves. They will show the exchange rate used and usually alert customers if there is a mark-up.

However, some do not reveal the mark-up, preferring to show the fees only.

TransferWise is one of the most transparent providers and among the cheapest in the market.

Crucial information is displayed on its website homepage, so you do not have to drill down to extract the full costs.

You enter how much is being transferred and where it is being transferred and the quoted exchange rate is held for a certain period of time.

There is no mark-up on the exchange rate and the rate and fee are clearly displayed, along with how much will end up in the receiver’s account.

The ACCC said in June this year that just over half of the 26 prominent online foreign exchange transfer providers it reviewed had an online calculator on their website or improved their existing calculator. The ACCC said it would continue to engage with those who fall short of “best practice”.



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State Govt cranks up advertising spending as transparency promise lags


Treasurer Rob Lucas’s promised new era of advertising transparency has had a tardy beginning, despite the State Government approving new campaign spending of nearly $9 million in the space of one month.

Lucas told InDaily on September 1 that he had decided to change official guidelines to require public reporting on the proposed budget for all Government advertising and marketing campaigns worth more than $50,000 as they began, rather than only publishing evaluations after campaigns had ended.

However, as of yesterday, despite numerous Government campaigns being approved in September, there was no reporting on the Department of the Premier and Cabinet website, as required by the new guidelines.

After InDaily inquired yesterday about the lack of reporting, the body that oversees government advertising campaigns – the Government Communications Advisory Committee (GCAC), chaired by Lucas – published its report for September.

That report shows that at least six campaigns have been approved since Lucas made his September 1 promise – including five on that day – worth a total of more than $8.8 million.

Lucas defended the near two-month lag in reporting today, saying that under his new guidelines, he expected information to be published in the month following approval of campaigns.

He also insisted the new measures still provided much greater transparency than in the past (scroll down for a full statement from the Treasurer).

The bulk of the new spending approved in September – more than $5 million – is earmarked for inter- and intra-state tourism campaigns, to capitalise on South Australia’s relative success in containing the coronavirus. (Solstice Media, publisher of InDaily, receives Government advertising spending from time to time, including tourism campaigns.)

An additional $1.5 million was approved on September 1 for a campaign to attract New Zealand tourists to SA – well before the so-called travel bubble with our trans-Tasman neighbour was approved.

The GCAC report says the money will be spent on an “international campaign to encourage New Zealanders to travel to South Australia when able”.

By contrast, another substantial campaign – worth just under $1.2 million – is directly targeted at South Australian voters.

Approved on September 27, the “infrastructure campaign” – designed to “raise awareness of the government’s record investment in infrastructure across the state” – has sparked a change in political rhetoric from government MPs, from the Premier down to backbenchers.

The advertising insists the Government is “building what matters” – “because the things that matter to you, matter to us”.

The messaging has been echoed in coordinated political rhetoric by the Government in recent weeks.

Liberal marginal seat MPs, ministers and Premier Steven Marshall are using the messaging in their social media campaigning ahead of the State Budget in November, many including the hashtag #BuildingWhatMatters.

A screenshot from Member for King Paula Luethen’s Facebook page. Similar messaging is being used by other Liberal MPs.

A screenshot of a video on Steven Marshall’s Facebook page.

Announcing Government funding for road maintenance projects this week, Marshall said: “This is another part of our plan to keep South Australia safe and strong, by creating jobs, backing business and building what matters.”

Government rules explicitly prohibit the use of paid advertising campaigns for party-political purposes.

The rules also state that public funds cannot be used for paid advertising when “members of the government are named, depicted and promoted in a way that could be seen as excessive or gratuitous” or “it can be interpreted as political”.

In this case, the main advertising campaign does not include politicians, but supplementary social media posts, media releases and interviews with politicians have been used to explicitly reference the paid campaign messaging.

InDaily asked Rob Lucas whether the campaign could be construed as political, given it is promoting the Government’s broad infrastructure spend, rather than providing direct information about individual projects.

“The infrastructure campaign is an important initiative to inform South Australians about where their money is being spent to build and upgrade roads, schools, hospitals and affordable housing across the state and create jobs,” he said in response.

“The campaign encourages South Australians to visit sa.gov.au to learn more about the infrastructure projects and jobs being created in their local area. It also engages the private sector to register their infrastructure projects on the website, which also provides helpful direction to local businesses who wish to gain access to project tender information and job seekers pursuing employment.”

InDaily reported in July that GCAC had scaled back its public reporting on communication campaigns’ cost and effectiveness.

The GCAC was formed in July 2019 and, as of June this year, had published one evaluation report for the financial year. In the previous financial year, the Government had reported monthly on campaigns’ cost and effectiveness.

In response to InDaily’s questions in July about the frequency of reporting, Lucas promised to review the guidelines for reporting on government advertising.

On September 1, he said he had approved an amendment to the guidelines to require additional reporting and greater transparency about the cost of campaigns.

In addition to the rules requiring public reporting of the total cost and an “evaluation summary” for each approved communications initiative, typically done after its completion, the GCAC would now publish the cost of each campaign as it begins.

“This enhanced reporting will ensure South Australians are better informed about Government communications initiatives’ associated costs at the start of a campaign period, not just at the end,” Lucas said.

“The total cost and an evaluation summary for each communications initiative above $50,000 (ex GST) will continue to be published on the DPC website.”

However, the new guidelines – effective from September – don’t specify a timeframe for reporting campaigns.

They simply say: “To further improve transparency, the proposed budget, total cost and an evaluation summary for each communications initiative (above $50,000 ex GST) will be published on the DPC website.”

InDaily has asked Lucas how transparency has been improved, if the timing of reporting isn’t specified.

“The September report was approved by me in the past week and it has been subsequently published,” he responded. “As per the new guidelines, communications initiatives (above $50,000 ex GST) approved since July 1 are now published, together with their proposed expenditure.

“We’ve committed to monthly reporting, however, the actual timing of the report’s publication is dependent on the preparation of the report and subsequent approval by me, as chair of GCAC. We would expect a report will be published in the following month, for example, a September report will be published in October.

“Under the previous system, expenditure associated with a campaign wasn’t published until well after the campaign’s conclusion. The new guidelines provide much greater transparency, with the proposed expenditure associated with a new communications initiative (above $50,000 ex GST) published in the month after its approval.”

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How artificial intelligence (AI) can provide transparency in the city


  • An algorithm registry launched by the cities of Amsterdam and Helsinki hopes to cite datasets used to train models, the description of how an algorithm is used, how humans can utilize the prediction, and how algorithms are assessed for potential bias or risks
  • The registry will help foster a two-way conversation by providing citizens a means to give feedback on algorithms that their local governments use, as well as the name, city department, and contact information of the person responsible for the deployment of a particular algorithm

Digitally-transformed cities can keep residents better informed with real-time updates and serve their residents with services on tap around the clock. It is hoped that these smart cities will use artificial intelligence (AI) in a wide range of use cases to make our cities safer, more livable, and healthier for residents.

That said, how do we know whether that’s actually the case?

Amsterdam and Helsinki have recently launched algorithm registries to detail how each city government plans to deliver services. As part of the Next Generation Internet Policy Summit organized in part by the European Commission and the city of Amsterdam, each city introduced an AI Register to layout a European vision of the future of the internet.

The registry cites algorithm datasets used to train a model, the description of how an algorithm is used, how humans utilize the prediction, and how algorithms are assessed for potential bias or risks.

The registry hopes to also foster a two-way conversation by providing citizens a way to give feedback on algorithms that their local governments use, as well as the name, city department, and contact information of the person responsible for the deployment of any particular algorithm.

Welcome news

Following the A-level student exam results debacle in England and Wales, where 40% of student exam grades were downgraded by an algorithm in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the introduction of a complete algorithmic registry in two major European cities could be deemed as welcome news.

Europe has the largest community of cited AI researchers, and have the opportunity to not only implement new technologies for the benefit of the European economy but also provide the world with an alternative to the corporate-driven approach of the US and the state-driven approach of China.

Despite the levels of investment flowing to businesses in the US and China, it is hoped that Europe can still become a global leader of ethical applications of AI in societies. The algorithmic registry could empower citizens and give them a means to evaluate, examine, or question governments’ applications of artificial intelligence. “Algorithms play an increasingly important role in our lives. Together with the city of Helsinki, we are on a mission to create as much understanding about algorithms as possible and be transparent about the way we – as cities – use them. Today we take another important step with the launch of these algorithm registers,” said Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam, Touria Meliani in a statement.

The decision to launch an AI registry to document and assess city use of algorithms is not the first, with New York City has created an automated decision systems task force in 2017. The release of the report last year did not come without criticism, however, as commissioners on the task force were prompted to complain about a lack of transparency and inability to access information on the algorithms used by city government agencies.

The previous application of AI by cities is an evident risk to basic principles of democracy with algorithmic bias and dysfunctional performance being main concerns, which in turn tends to lead to a loss of trust between governments and citizens.

Following a tumultuous period of lockdown upending cities, the introduction of AI registries represents the latest multinational effort to maintain public trust.

“The wide-ranging utilization of artificial intelligence is conditional on maintaining trust in the city’s activities. Therefore, the city strives to strengthen this trust with the greatest possible openness. This is why the Artificial Intelligence Register has also been created,” said Project Manager of the Helsinki City Data, AI and robotization project entity, Pasi Rautio.

Open communication

The recent launch of the AI registry in Amsterdam and Helsinki provides a valuable database that governments and citizens can use to refer to. Its application aims to be a way of communicating openly about the city’s AI applications.

That said, the concerns of artificial intelligence in the hands of repressive governments to manipulate and spread disinformation are very real. Blurring the lines between truth and fiction with the use of Deepfakes – created by algorithms to make realistic video and audio forgeries – may one day become a deciding factor in a tight election.

It’s imperative that for AI registries to be a success and the technology to realize its true potential in cities across the globe, scalability will need to be achieved with everyone actively participating and contributing in an open and dignified space.





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Crime up, transparency down | Alice Springs News


By ERWIN CHLANDA

News of a sharp rise in offences “against the person” coincided with the cancellation of Parrtjima events scheduled for the Mall as the town lost control of the CBD, according to Mayor Damien Ryan.

Assaults are up 12%, domestic violence assaults 19% and alcohol related assaults 11% over last year’s figures, according to statistics based on police reports.

The good news is that house break-ins are down 17% as is vehicle theft by 33%.

The recent trouble in the town came down squarely to rioting kids while police are failing to answer questions, their standard response being they can’t do anything unless a crime has been committed (and they find out in time to catch the offenders).

The News put to them some basic questions 30 hours ago – no answer: Does the police consider that children without adult supervision on the streets late at night are at risk? Does the police have an obligation to take action about children at risk? If so, what kind of action is the police taking? (See update below.)

Neither the police nor Parrtjima would give a detailed account of the week-end troubles in the Mall, Parrtjima claiming that “the anti-social behaviour in Todd Mall is a police matter”.

Observers say there was a mass brawl on the council lawns on Sunday. Rock throwing on both weekend days. Cars illegally driven in the Mall.

“We can confirm the anti-social behaviour took place late in the evening, after our event had finished and our patrons had left the site, so they were not at risk,” says a Parrtjima spokeswoman.

The much touted festival in lights is keeping up its evasive routine: Asked specifically about the number of people attending, divided into locals and visitors, we’re getting “attendances”.

That of course is meaningless because a single person can engage in several attendances.

Equally opaque are the references to money. We’re referred to annual reports.

In 2019 Major Events got $37.5m, an 82% increase, including $32.5m in grants. But that is for Bassinthegrass, Darwin Supercars, Red Centre NATS, Arafura Games as well as Parrtjima 2018 and 2019.

How much of the public money for Parrtjima goes out of town including to the Sydney company providing the spectacle?

Says the spokeswoman: “As is normal in the event world, agreements with our partner organisations remain Commercial in Confidence, to protect our commercial interests.”

Images from social media.

 

UPDATE 3pm

A police spokesperson provided the following statement:

About 10:30pm on Saturday night a stolen motor vehicle was driven through the closed area of the Todd Mall in an erratic manner.

There were a few people in the area at the time, including security and festival staff.

Nobody was “driven at” by the vehicle.

Police apprehended the vehicle a short time later. They arrested the 18-year-old driver; the other occupants of the car were aged between 12 and 15.

NT Police continue to work with other government and non-government agencies to address the issue of unsupervised children out at night.

Young people are spoken to by police on patrol, youth engagement officers and youth outreach officers, and in partnership with the Tangentyere bus we try to take the children home.

The parents and caregivers receive a follow-up visit the next day, not only to find out why the children are out at night, but also what sort of assistance the family can be offered to help keep the children at home.



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B.C. government unveils new strata insurance regulations, pledges transparency


The British Columbia government has unveiled regulatory changes it hopes will help bring transparency to the province’s strata insurance market.

Strata home owners have been hit by massive increases in insurance costs in the province over the last year.

Read more:
B.C. condo insurance rates up 40% in ‘unhealthy’ market, regulator finds

An interim report in June from the B.C. Financial Services Agency, which regulates credit unions, insurance and trust companies, pensions and mortgage brokers, found that strata insurance premiums had risen by 40 per cent on average, provincewide, while year-over-year hikes in deductibles had increased by triple digits.






Condo owner launches petition demanding gov’t action over rising strata insurance


Condo owner launches petition demanding gov’t action over rising strata insurance

A petition calling for government action to deal with the skyrocketing prices has attracted close to 15,0000 signatures.

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Read more:
Amid rising strata insurance costs, one East Vancouver building faces enormous bill

Starting Nov. 1, insurers or their agents will need to give strata corporations 30-days notice of an intention to renew or materially change a policy.

“This change ensures strata corporations have advanced warning of cost increases and has time to seek other insurance options if desired,” said the Ministry of Finance in a media release.






More sky-high insurance strata increases


More sky-high insurance strata increases

Insurance agents will now also be required to disclose their commissions, with penalties of up to $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for companies that fail to do so.

READ MORE: ‘Government needs to get involved’: B.C. strata’s plea after insurance bill with 780% hike

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The ministry is also banning referral fees to strata property managers from insurance deals.

The The B.C. Financial Services Agency estimates there are nine or 10 companies providing strata insurance in B.C., which are mainly headquartered outside of Canada.

The regulator’s final report into the market is expected some time this fall.




© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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Community Groups Demand Major Projects Transparency



Sophie Underwood (PMAT), Peter McGlone (Tasmanian Conservation Trust), Anne Held (East Coast Alliance) and Brian Corr (Hobart Not Highrise) speak to media today in Hobart.

Community groups have upped the ante on the state government’s Major Projects Bill, saying the draft should be made available as soon as possible to enable proper scrutiny.

“We’re calling on the minister to release a copy of the Bill today to give us more time to look at the final Bill before it’s debated,” said Sophie Underwood, State Coordinator of the Planning Matters Alliance of Tasmania. “We’d also like the tabling of the Bill postponed so it gives longer for the community to have a look at it.”

She said the Bill had “significant and far-reaching consequences” for Tasmanians. One of the big concerns of her organisation is that there are no appeal rights.

“If a developer puts in a proposal to build a 200 metre building in Hobart, we can’t raise the fact that height is an issue,” Underwood said. “The scope of the bill is really broad, almost any project could be brought into this. From subdivisions to cable cars, to projects like Cambria Green, projects in parks and reserves like Lake Malbena…the scope of what can be brought in is a big concern.”

Her characterisation was that the Bill put developers’ priorities ahead of communities. The government has also never really explained, she noted, why the existing processes for major projects were inadequate.

Other speakers at the media event on Parliament lawns today rather various points of concern around the legislation.

Peter McGlone, Director of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, said he was worried that the Bill was being used as a workaround for the stalled Cambria Green development proposed for the east coast.

“The Minister keeps using sneaky language, avoiding answering the question, talking about the planning scheme amendment rather than it being a development. They’ve had a refusal, they’re in the Supreme Court…if the Major Projects Law was in place it would solve all of Cambria Green’s problems.”

He said the TCT had written to the Premier Peter Gutwein and the Minister for Planning Roger Jaensch, asking if the proponent of Cambria Green had met or communicated with them and sought assistance with the development.

“Suddenly, four weeks after the Supreme Court case, they bring the Major Projects legislation back out. I don’t think that’s a coincidence,” McGlone said.

“The rules now have become cheaper faster and easier…that’s completely unfair and undemocratic,” said Anne Held, President of the East Coast Alliance. She described Cambria Green as ‘overscaled’ and also unnecessary in the current climate as it was a tourism-based project.

Brian Corr, President of Hobart Not Highrise, said that although the minister claimed that the Bill was not a Trojan horse for high-rise buildings, that was not borne out by the wording of the first draft of the Bill. “Fourteen thousand electors voted to maintain the heritage and heights and streetscapes  and street views of Hobart,” he said. “Keep Hobart beautiful as it is, and a really nice city to live in.”

Greens Planning spokesperson Rosalie Woodruff said the Labor Party had a key role to play in shaping the Major Projects legislation.

“Labor has a choice when Parliament returns this week – will they back developers and the erosion of our democracy, or will they stand with communities and their right to have a say?” she asked.

She described Tasmanians as ‘passionate defenders’ of the places that are important to them. “Communities having a say has always been, and should remain, central to planning laws,” she said.

“The Liberals’ major projects legislation is an attack on democracy. It removes accountability from the existing planning scheme mechanisms, gives decision making power to a hand-picked panel, and weakens third party rights of appeal.

“Combined with Tasmania’s weak donations laws, the developer-driven major projects legislation is a recipe for corruption. It has been written to give corporate mates more power, and communities less.”

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