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3:16 AM
A Need or a Want?

What is the difference between a 'need' and a 'want'?

Most people have confronted this question. Manningham Council also appears to be painfully aware of the difference.

 

Manningham Council's 'Want'.

Manningham Council have 'wants' that they know cannot be justified as real 'needs'.

For instance they 'want' to translate some of the council material into various languages. The reason they give is that 42% of Manningham residents speak a language other than English at home. Please see page 340 from the minutes of 27 Feb 2018:

Manningham has a rich cultural diversity with 42% of Manningham residents speaking a language other than English at home and 40% being born overseas. This level of diversity is higher for Manningham when compared to the whole of the State of Victoria and the Melbourne Metropolitan area.

A review has been undertaken of Council’s communications channels to ensure it is fit for purpose for Manningham’s CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) community.

Council used a range of community feedback sources to inform this review. The key needs and opportunities highlighted were:

  • residents want more quality translated material on a wide range of Council service topics that is easily accessible

  • residents are open to using new technology, especially for digital (website) enhancements

  • make it easy to get information and access to Council services

The report outlines CALD communication improvements being made via a number of channels including:

  • updated and enhanced language services organisational guidelines

  • Manningham Matters content

  • an enhanced universal interpreter symbol

  • enhancements and better information and transparency in correspondence to directly affected residents on major projects and initiatives

  • on-demand and on-site interpreting services

  • expanding Council’s CALD publications and information factsheets

  • CALD media and advertising, and

  • greater CALD content and services information via Council’s corporate website.

The review outcomes support Council Plan Goal 1.2 “A connected and inclusive community’.

 

First, notice how the council reads a 'want' as a 'need'.

Now, lets try to examine the business case for what the council wants to do.

  1. 42% of Manningham residents speak a language other than English at home, but this does not mean they cannot speak English. This number alone does not mean that council publications need to be translated into other languages.

  2. If someone in these households has difficulty reading English, this also does not mean they have no one among their family who can assist them. In my experience (which I will explain below), I have found that in situations where someone cannot speak English well, there are other family members who can assist them read and understand material.

  3. I think the question that really needs to be asked is this: "Are there any Manningham residents who are unable to understand English and also have no-one to assist them? What I find odd is that Manningham Council did not go into detail regarding this in the minutes. The closest they came is saying that 7.6% (of 42% of residents) do not speak English well (see page 342 of the minutes). But they did not give any details of the situation these people found themselves in.

 

Manningham Council's investigation of real migrant needs.

The paragraph below is the closest that Manningham Council came to investigating the real needs of migrant families who cannot speak English. Please see page 342 of the minutes:

4.2 CALD Practice and Improvements

4.2.1 Census 2016 – Languages spoken at home and English proficiency According to the Census 2016, the main languages, other than English, spoken at home by Manningham residents remained the same, with the largest changes between 2011 and 2016 being for those speaking Mandarin (+5,535 persons), Farsi (Persian/Dari +977 persons), Italian (-825 persons) and Greek (-813 persons). 

While 42% speak a language other than English at home, residents’ proficiency in English was high, with 53.6% of residents peaking English only, and 7.6% speaking another language and English not well or not at all.

 

So 7.6% (presumably of the 42%) do not speak English well or not at all.

But do these people have family members who can help them? Or have they recently arrived and are learning or want to learn English? How many have no one to turn to who can help them? As I mentioned Manningham council did not go into detail in the minutes about the situations that this 7.6% of people find themselves in.

It appears that Manningham council looked carefully into the situations migrant families found themselves in, and what they found did not give them the evidence and numbers they wanted to justify their translation program.

So what they did is give us that bit of information that supported their cause and left it at that. i.e. "7.6% spoke English not well or not at all."

But this itself if no justification. As I said before, do these people have family members they can turn to for help? Evidently they do. Because Manningham Council was unable to use their actual situations to justify translating council publications into other language.

 

Lets consider some examples of situations migrants may be in.

I have found that elderly migrants who cannot speak English are very rarely left alone. In my experience, migrant families would not allow a situation like this to occur.

Having married an Asian woman I get to visit quite a few of the Asian homes in Manningham. If there is an elderly person who cannot speak English, then in every case I know of, they are being taken care of by their family. And there is more than one family member who speaks English very well and are there to explain things they cannot understand and take them to places they need to go to.

 

Regarding migrant families who have just arrived. I think the question should be this. Should we print council material in their languages or should we help them to learn English?

I am sure that if people who have recently arrived plan to stay, they would identify a very real need to learn English. You would think the best course of action for Manningham Council would be to help them to learn English - provide or organize classes so people could come up to speed as quickly as possible. But it seems Manningham council has chosen to entrench 'diversity' rather than encourage communication.

 

Now a few other issues.

Regarding the 'want' for translated material expressed by some migrants.

It comes down to how you ask people. If you say it as a free service supplied by the council, then yes, people would be likely to say that they would like it. However if you give people a choice and say they can either have a reduction in their council rates or the translation service, then do you think they would still be so keen to say they 'want' this service?

Wouldn't they prefer a reduction in their rates so they retain more of their hard earned money? I am sure that if you put the question this way, you would get a very different answer.

 

Also a  'need' for an Interpreter service can be a type of self-fulfilling prophecy because Manningham Council is able to create and develop a 'want' among the residents for this service themselves.

For instance, by providing some translated materials and sending it to people who speak another language at home, you build up an expectation for that material and a hope that other material will be translated as well. Consider the following from page 343 of the minutes:

4.2.7 CALD publications and information factsheets

Council translated a range of brochures and service information annually. As part of the review, the key information requests and top issues residents make inquiries or complain to Council about were considered. In response, a range of resources are being developed, to be available in hard copy as well as digital and audio files. The topics include parking; animal management; planning and building; waste and recycling; vegetation management; road conditions; drainage; emergency management; Your Council and Councillors; halls and facilities for hire; leisure centres, libraries, neighbourhood houses and community centres; aged and disability support services, and family and children’s services. This will be available by the end of February 2018.

 

Manningham Council is very determined.

Manningham Council is not going to be stopped just because they cannot justify their translation program based on an examination of the situations migrant families find themselves in.

But before they can spend public money they need to come up with suitable justification.

So how are they going to justify what they want to do?

Please see page 344 of the minutes. Manningham Council turned to 'focus' groups.

5.2 Communication and Engagement

Council used a range of community feedback sources to inform this review, including the extensive 1000s of voices engagement initiative which informed the development of the Council Plan 2017-2021; qualitative focus groups held in 2017 for the redevelopment of Council’s community news magazine Manningham Matters; Citizen Connect research in 2017; and surveys and focus groups held in 2017 with the Manningham Community panel. The review overview and key outcomes were also presented and discussed with Council’s Access and Equity Advisory Committee in December 2017.

 

The problem with all these groups is that Manningham Council can 'guide' them to give the outcomes they want. This is not hard to do. Please allow me to explain.

First Manningham council can place vocal people who support the council's agenda either on these groups or have them run the groups. They can be assured their concerns and interests will be raised and addressed and that very likely they will get the results they want.

Even if the group does not agree with the council program, all the group needs to say is that what the council wants 'may be a good thing' and that is enough.

This is because Manningham Council is very good at hearing what they want to hear and ignoring what they don't like. There have been some outrageous examples of this in the past. For example, the renewal of the special charge scheme for Tunstall Square was a glaring example. Also the proposed High Ball Stadium at Mullum Mullum creek was another.

In the latter instance the council simply did not want to listen to local residents so they accused them of doing something wrong to give themselves a reason to ignore them. However, the residents were well within their constitutional rights to do what they did.

Manningham council has demonstrated they can have very selective hearing when it suits them.

 

Why is Manningham Council so determined to translate their publications?

There are a few ways of looking at this.

 

First, the council look good in front of their bosses in the state government.

If Manningham Council translates council publications into other languages, they would be seen by the State government as progressing their CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) program.

And from the minutes, we can see this is a very important issue for Manningham Council.

 

Secondly, it means more money in the pockets of council workers.

Please consider this.

If Manningham Council only did what was actually needed and only delivered services that were genuinely needed by residents, then there would be a real saving in money. And council rates could be reduced.

But Manningham Council will never allow that to happen.

Let us consider why they will never reduce our rates.

First Manningham Council collects far more money than they really need. With rates increasing in real terms between 5% to 8% per year and inflation increasing at around 2% to 3% per year, the council has a windfall nearly every year.

And you can forget about the state government's election promise that our rates will only increase with CPI (around 2.4%). Manningham Council ignored that and got around that years ago and the State Government did absolutely nothing to stop them.

  • Our rates actually increased 8.3% between 2015 and 2016 (See annual report 2015/2016 page 110)

  • Our rates increased 5.5% between 2014 and 2015 (See annual report 2014/2015 page 81).

  • Our rates increased 5.6% between 2013 and 2014 (See annual report 2013/2014 page 85)

  • And after this orgy of greed and deceit our real rates increased 1.3% between 2016 and 2017 (See annual report 2016/2017 page 115)

     

Our rates have actually increased nothing like the 2.4% per year as promised by the state government.

If our rates had increased by 2.4% over a 4 year period they would have increased by 9.9% (1.024 x 1.024 x 1.024 x 1.024 = 1.099). However, based on the actual increases, our rates have gone up by 22% (1.083 x 1.055 x 1.056 x 1.013 = 1.22). You can see that it pays for Manningham Council to ignore the State Government election promises.

So what is the council going to do with their windfall in rates each year? There is no way Manningham Council is going to give it back to the ratepayers.

First of all, Manningham Council is of the view that ratepayers already have too much money.

Please consider the following from the 342 of the minutes:

While Manningham has a diverse community, it is also a very skilled and higher income earning cohort compared to the rest of the State of Victoria and the Greater Melbourne Metropolitan area, supporting a balanced approach to providing language services to the Manningham community.

That's right. Manningham residents have more money than most, so they are going to get a 'balanced' approach to providing language services.

The word 'balanced' in thrown in there to make is sound as though it is reasonable. In fact, what the council is really doing is providing these services even though they are fully aware there is not a genuine need for these services. So it is not 'balanced' in any real sense of the word.

We are going to get language services simply because we can afford it as a community - not because we genuinely need it. We are getting it simply because the local council can extract enough money from us to pay for it.

Second, we can see that the council believes ratepayers must be relieved of their excess money so the council can provide services.

 

So how does Manningham Council get our excess money into their pockets?

One big way of achieving this is inventing unnecessary work - and having us pay for it.

What this means is more work, more overtime, more projects, more staff, more promotions, basically more everything.

By inventing work they can be assured that most of the windfall the council receives each year ends up as wages and salaries and pay increases in their own pockets.

This invented work is just pointless activity -- and waste – nothing more. More importantly, it is activity that they can sell to the ratepayers as 'service'. And whether that service is really needed or not can be easily hidden from the ratepayers (which is exactly what the council is doing with this translation 'service').

Manningham Council are really like the old 'shake down artists' from the gangster period of U.S. history. They find ways to extract as much money from us as they can to fund their wants, pleasures and private expenses, just like the gangsters of old.

This translation service appears to be one of these activities. I think it is quite clear that we really don't need it. The council could not justify it by looking at the actual situations that migrants find themselves in. So they had to dredge around for more justification and turned to focus groups where they could either engineer or selectively pick out the justification they needed.

So, in one fell swoop, they can look good in front of their bosses in the state government and can also put a lot more or our money in their own pockets. For them it is win, win and they can have a good laugh about it. For us it is loose, loose.

 

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