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Desal: no water provided but Victorian families pay $450pa for bikies and drunks

The scale of government waste is spectacular, even on a global scale. Desalination in Victoria, Australia, might be the worst example, per capita, of climate waste anywhere in the world. I challenge foreign readers to outdo it.

With all the wisdom of the best Soviet-style governance, giant desalination plants on the east coast of Australia were built because of prophecies of drought. Experts said the rain wouldn’t return and the dams wouldn’t fill. Billions of dollars later, the plants were barely finished when the rain returned and the dams filled. Most of Australia’s desal plants were mothballed.

The Labor Party in Victoria signed a $22.5 billion contract over 28 years for water that could be delivered almost entirely during the “wet” 30 year part of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation when it isn’t really needed. The plant also cost $3.5 billion to build, is plagued by leaks, and so far has provided zero litres of emergency water.

Treasurer Michael O’Brien said Victorians were paying $1.8 million a day for the desalination plant to sit idle.

That works out as $113 per man, woman, and child in Victoria, or $450 per year for a family of four, paid to the Gods of Climate Change (with quite a lot siphoned off by unions and union-workers). The Labor party calls this “insurance” which was well spent because the cost of running out of water is much higher. It’s the usual innumerate argument. By the same reasoning, we should buy insurance to stop aliens invading. The cost of being over-run by Klingons is “much higher”.

Would you like to be paid for your hangover?

But what the desal plants don’t make in water, they make up for in corruption. A whistleblower has reported to the Herald Sun that bikies and thugs homed in on the river of money, turning up to work drunk or drugged, sleeping in the car instead of working, and collecting double-time rates (for night shift, in a plant that produces nothing?). Drug tests were rarely done because of union pressure. If workers turned up drugged or drunk the pay agreement was not to sack them, but to get them to agree to  counseling and to pay them for two hours to do nothing so they could “sober up”.

The Herald Sun reports that the project was so badly managed that “workers had to wait days for supplies of basic materials such as bolts, leaving them unable to do any work”. (But then, it’s not like that affects the output of the plant or anybody wants the output of the plant.)

Time to get creative with those contracts

Since the plant doesn’t need to produce anything, it really doesn’t matter that bolts are delayed or that workers turn up drunk. It’s not like there is a productivity loss, but funneling money to crooked people is bad for Victoria. Instead the government could hold a lottery for one week job contracts and simply give away the “prizes” to random citizens who don’t have to turn up. At least the money is more likely to end up back in the pockets of honest Victorians.

Other suggestions are welcome. There is a half billion a year up for grabs, and if the contract allows for paying drunks to do nothing, surely we can find other ways to reinterpret the contracts. The State could be paying for Desalination-Schools, Desalination-Doctors, heck, even Desalination-Gardeners would be more productive than Desalination-Drunks.

Big-money from big-government attracts … big-flies

In a different story in the Herald Sun “Desal plant deals: costly workers plugging drips at desal plant “.

Did we need another example of why Big-Government is bad?

The Victorian election is coming up in a few weeks. The Labor Party still doesn’t get it.

Deputy Labor leader James Merlino said the election was about other issues.

“What’s at stake at this election on the 29th of November is the fact that you can wait up to 23 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, and die in the process,” he said.

“Schools are falling down, TAFE’s been gutted, unemployment has gone up.”

Labor doesn’t understand that there is any connection with “other issues”  and wasting $450 per year per family on insurance that was foreseeably not needed, and then mismanaged to boot.

The Labor Party is ahead in the polls. If every Victorian family were visited each year by a tax collector asking for $450 to pay for Wonthaggi, would this grand farce be rewarded? If the ABC reported both sides of the climate change debate, would polls be different?

The best thing for the future of the Labor Party in Australia is serious media investigation and criticism.

h/t Eric Worrall

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