Thursday, October 23, 2008

Conflicts of interest in environmental planning

Andrew Norton has an interesting article on some unintended consequences of proposed reforms to Victoria's local government legislation. Reforms desgined to reduce the potential for conflicts of interest could undermine, rather than strengthen, the rights of residents to partcipate in the planning process:

In the future, local councillors may be prevented from voting on the very motions before council they may have been elected to support or oppose.

For example, they will be held to have become an ‘interested party’ if they have lodged an appeal in relation to a council decision, or have made an objection or submission. Say the Council wants to cut down the trees in your street, or redirect its traffic, or let someone build a house that overshadows your garden. You go through the normal proceses to protect your interests, by making an objection. This fails.

So you run for election on one of these issues, win a mandate to act on them, and then because of your earlier steps to protect your interests you cannot vote on the matter. Not only are you deprived of your right to vote, but the democratic will of the people who supported you is also frustrated.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Defensive investments

I'm back from a very enjoyable trip to Ireland and Scotland - and two fantstic weddings. Being on holidays, I was only generally aware that there was a financial meltdown going on and that everything was costing more each day as the Aussie dollar sunk about 30% against the Euro and pound over the course of the trip!

I developed a bit of a taste for whisky in Ireland and (especially) Scotland, which is timely as it appears that fine whisky is one asset that has been appreciating in these tough times:
Roughly 11 months after the launch of a Dutch online trade platform for exclusive single malt whiskies, mostly from Scotland, the World Whisky Index has seen an average return of 26.2 percent, compared to a more than 40 percent decline in the MSCI World stock index.

I'd have some doubts about whether that will continue but there is this upside to whisky as an investment class:

But even if the 80-proof alcoholic drink turns out not to be recession-proof, there is still a reassuring side to this type of investment.

"While shares and obligations can become completely worthless, if bottles turn out to be not very valuable, you always still have the bottle to drink," the spokesman said.