The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Annoying website of the day: Tiger Airways

Wednesday 30 May 2007 at 10:58 pm

'System Error' on a Tiger Airways payment page

Bloody incompetent tech staff. I mean, most airline websites aren’t good by any stretch, but I’m trying here to give you people money, and the best you can do is give me a nondescript error!


Equally (un)likely: the stadium and the power station

Monday 28 May 2007 at 8:08 pm

Proposed stadium precinct at Kitchener Park, Subiaco; Creative Commons licence doesn't apply to this image

  • So my last post was wrong; Wednesday’s stadium task force report didn’t officially name a preferred site. But I think this was just a political move, since it’s impossible to miss the subtext of “East Perth is best” in the report. Their concept design is undeniably awesome, and I’d love to hear a State official announce that it’ll go ahead without further delay — not that that’s likely. Also, it’s worth noting that the task force’s work is much more carefully considered than some observers seem to think — for instance, they present an almost undeniable economic case for a single multi-use stadium rather than upgrades that preserve the status quo.
  • There’s only one way that the BP & Rio Tinto proposal for a new power station at Kwinana can go ahead: big bucks from Canberra. (Given that Howard is looking for policies to improve his score on climate change, that’s hardly improbable.) From a local perspective, I don’t see all too much to praise. The proposal is for their new joint venture to convert coal into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, then store the latter under the sea floor. Aside from putting yet more stress (acidification even?) on an obscenely polluted Cockburn Sound, both companies admit this’ll be much more expensive than gas-fired power. Nevermind that natural gas accounts for 30% of WA’s electricity (most of which is in new facilities) and is subject to a domestic reservation policy that makes it an awfully attractive fuel.
  • Briefly, I’m reasonably impressed by the plan to relocate FESA headquarters to Cockburn, since it might stimulate further growth (for instance, some of Parramatta’s current success came from the NSW Police relocating there). But given the State Government’s record with measures like relocating the old DOLA to Midland, I’m not so sure.
  • And finally, I’m amused to hear of John Edwards’ new campaign funding source: pirate treasure!
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After much arguing, a baby step forward

Saturday 19 May 2007 at 11:51 pm

Tomorrow’s Sunday Times reports that East Perth is the recommendation from John Langoulant’s Major Stadia Taskforce. They’d previously rejected the Burswood proposal, which was my preference since it’d have allowed the creation of an awesome new district, but this is indeed the second-best site. At least there’s hope for integration with the river.

The thing is, this is just a report recommending what, where, and how to build (and it took this long!). It’d be great to see even a vague sense of urgency on this project — a commitment to build, perhaps, or the commissioning of a notable architect. Instead, we have a drawn-out process that does a great job of considering a wide range of views … but doesn’t succeed on any other score.


Water, Web sites, and the World Bank

Thursday 17 May 2007 at 12:17 pm
  • My apologies to those of you waiting on e-mail from me — regular service might be returned shortly. Um, maybe.
  • On the new desalination plant, I am hesitantly supportive, although I’m scratching my head as to why building in Binningup is so much more expensive than Kwinana. I’m also at a loss to understand why yesterday’s West Australian claimed it was bad for the long-term — not being reliant on rainfall is supposed to be a good thing! (On that note, this is pretty funny.)
  • However, I agree that Maxine Murray is on to something in complaining about political influence in the public service: there’s certainly little evidence that Tuesday’s decision was made on formal advice. But everywhere I look there seems to be different opinions on whether this is a sensible solution or not, and whether it was right to “cave in to” / “acknowledge” / “finally listen to” pressure groups who didn’t want the Yarragadee tapped.
  • Deeper in the guts of yesterday’s paper lay an article about Twitter. It repeats the “X is the next MySpace!” cliché, and it muddles some terminology — but given that page 5 called Alan Carpenter the “predecessor” of Geoff Gallop, I can forgive that. It also quotes Tama, and therefore earns instant not-completely-clueless points ;-) Oh, and my take on how its owners intend to not go broke is the same as his — my four-year-old phone supports a vaguely similar service that never won much support, but Twitter could use its popularity to con phone makers into paying licensing fees for an enhanced interface or something.
  • I reserve judgement on the State Opposition’s “Plan for Perth” task force. As with the housing affordability task force of months past, there’s a chance it’ll produce interesting new suggestions and give the Liberals ammunition for the next election, but given that all we’ve seen out of them so far is cheap point-scoring that disagrees with anything and everything, I’m not holding out hope.
  • [World Bank ad entitled 'Women Empowerment'] The World Bank has been purchasing Adsense recently. (Like, WTF? A UN bureaucracy. Buying advertising. From Google?) I first saw this text ad on Pandagon, which is an increasingly-rare case of the big G’s matching algorithms working (I can imagine some readers of that blog might actually want to read their report), and a few days ago I saw this banner on PerthNorg. Is this an on-the-cheap attempt to improve PR in the wake of the ongoing scandal?
  • Finally, a geeky discovery: the Etchasketchist. I cannot begin to describe how awesome this dude’s blog and Flickr account are.
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Fixing the city centre: not a State priority

Friday 11 May 2007 at 7:14 pm

An ugly Perth Rail Yard with lots of construction work

The coverage of the State budget in today’s West Australian looks to me like little more than a jumble of ill-considered low blows — for example, Mike Nahan (who sounds increasingly like a Liberal lackey with every column) criticises it for not being as reformist as the Federal budget, without stopping to note that Tuesday’s biggest reform was allowing the ATO to pre-fill our tax returns so we can file with one click (great though it is, it’s hardly earth-shattering).

But today’s paper did reveal something that I didn’t have time to confirm yesterday: no funding has been allocated for the new footy stadium, the still-under-wraps foreshore development, or most worryingly, the Northbridge Link project. Assuming the project goes ahead, the earliest anything could happen is July 2008. And that would require it to be funded in next year’s budget — which may well focus on vote-buying measures for the February 2009 election instead.

So the vista above is likely to continue looking like that for a while. Possibly a long while. Now I know what Charles Landry was on about when he said that Perth’s immense potential is “blocked in innumerable energy-draining ways”.

(Also in the “budget WTF” category: the $100 million over five years that the Premier promised to deal with climate change looks all the more feeble when you realise that $88 million is to be spent in the next 12 months on our coal-fired power stations. In fairness, some of this will go to efficiency-improving measures, but it still makes the “commitment” look awfully lame.)

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And now for the State Budget

Thursday 10 May 2007 at 2:43 pm

So, Eric Ripper has just finished his State Budget speech. For 2007-08, the total allocation is $16.1 billion for services across WA, but we’ve not been given much in major new funding commitments (after all, the State election is some time away).

The big-ticket item that everyone’s been talking about is tax cuts, and this budget delivers exactly what was predicted: reductions in stamp duty for first homebuyers and for car purchases, and reductions in land tax. This will cost about half a billion dollars per annum.

Health-wise, the investment is all in construction and infrastructure, such as upgrades to various regional hospitals, rather than in any management changes. Half of this year’s surplus is being spent to construct the Fiona Stanley Hospital in Murdoch, that being the fashionable way to fund projects these days as opposed to the traditional issuing of bonds. (Each time the Treasurer mentioned this, the Opposition kicked up quite a ruckus.)

Other than that, most of the announcements aren’t new: the environmental measures announced earlier this week, for instance, will cost a ridiculously generous $20 million per year. Meanwhile, next year will also see $44.5 million spent on improving TAFE colleges — a good sum, to be sure, but just like Tuesday’s budget, this seems like small change in the face of our skills shortage.

$48 million will go to upgrading vehicle licensing services, in the wake of criticism from Today Tonight (et al.). The new Department for Child Protection will be funded with $104 million over four years, and $55.3 million will be spent next year to recruit 260 additional police officers. But all of these figures are dwarfed by recurrent spending, which is about $4 billion for health and $3.3 billion for education.

So in short, this Budget is mostly a business-as-usual affair, with tweaks and increases around the place, plus a bunch of moderate-sized tax cuts, but nothing revolutionary.

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