"Senior alpine staff in dubious expense claims"

Hunter

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SOME senior staff at Victoria's alpine resorts have been making dubious publicly funded expense claims, including one instance of more than $1000 claimed for a Labor Party fund-raiser.

Victoria's financial watchdog has uncovered a number of questionable claims for personal expenses by government-appointed senior staff and board members at Victoria's five alpine resorts.

Ahead of the opening of the Victorian ski season this week, a report by the Victorian Auditor-General's Office, released yesterday, details unauthorised expense claims, a lack of documentation to support expense claims, claims being paid to board members before approval, and inconsistent travel and mileage claims.

The report says that in one case a board member claimed a refund of $1100 for attending a political fund-raising event.

The Age believes this claim was made by the chairwoman of the Falls Creek Board of Management, Judy Ward, to attend a fund-raising event for state ALP MP Rob Hudson, the member for Bentleigh.

Mr Hudson said that "of course" he knew Ms Ward, but declined to comment on whether she had attended the fund-raising event.

"I have not accepted a payment from any public sector agency," he said.

"Every payment I receive from fund-raising comes from individuals."

The Age was unable to contact Ms Ward yesterday. A spokeswoman for Falls Creek said she could not comment.

A spokesman for Environment Minister John Thwaites said the Department of Sustainability and Environment would hire an independent auditor to investigate the claims. The report said "deficiencies" in arrangements for claiming expenses showed a need for "sector entities" to improve procedures and controls.

It also raised serious doubts about the viability of Lake Mountain and Mount Baw Baw, finding both were in a parlous financial state and facing the prospect of more bad seasons because of the effects of climate change.

The Mount Baw Baw management board reported a $385,000 operating loss last year, while Lake Mountain was $333,000 in the red.

The losses — and lack of public accountability — came despite $2.8 million in "support payments" from the DSE.

Opposition environment spokeswoman Louise Asher said any dubious claims represented a serious abuse of taxpayers' money.

"The Bracks Labor Government needs to clean up the practices of these alpine resort management boards and senior staff and to ensure their personal expense reimbursement practices do not continue to be an abuse of taxpayers' money," Ms Asher said.

DSE secretary Peter Harris said the department would be pursuing the issue "vigorously".

"The department will ensure that advice on guideline development will be provided to the management boards," Mr Harris said.

Victoria's alpine resort management boards are required by law to be largely self-sufficient, earning revenue through service charges, gate fees and site rentals.

The report said "deficiencies" in arrangements for claiming expenses showed a need for "sector entities" to improve procedures and controls.
http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/a...1089152102.html
 
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Snow Gun

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HiLo

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[Deleted by Admin.

It is an allegation, the Age "believes".

Slander is not allowed here]

But it's an odd (and perhaps malicious?) article. The headline and first line say that multiple staff have made dubious publicly funded expense claims, but it only details one, and that without real confirmation. It's a slur on all the other senior staff. Bad journalism.
 

hair-raiser

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[Deleted by Admin.

It is an allegation, the Age "believes".

Slander is not allowed here]

For example, for many years Ski patrol, which the RMB operates, was accommodated on the hill so that when night rescues were needed, properly qualified patrol members were always on hand to take the lead.

Now their quarters have been taken over by the office staff and all patrollers will be off the hill at night. There is no-one at the mountain with anywhere near the expertise of the ski patrol in search and rescue. Bad luck if little Johnny can't be found at 10pm. You'll be left with Dad's Army.
 

currawong

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I would have thought that the long time SES guys would have more search and rescue experience than ski patrol.

I hadn't heard about them throwing patrol out of the monastery. I'm certainly surprised to hear it, given the very early start they have. How good are your sources on this?

As for the fund-raiser: obviously we don't want to see public money funnelled this way. But can get a bit murky when we expect organisations to act like private companies in some ways and public servants in others. Hypothetically, suppose someone from the lift co and someone from resort mgt both went to a function because it offered a good chance to get in someone's ear about a matter of importance to the resort. Are we saying that it's 100% appropriate for the lift co, but a sackable offence for resort mgt? I'd rather it didn't happen, but I'm not completely sure about this one (assuming the allegation is true in the first place)
 

ausi ski bum

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I have only one question, how was Hunter able to post this article hours before the Age came out and what were they doing searching the Age for articles at 2am in the morning anyays unless they work there.

Political fundraisers are always a difficult one, I as a CEO get invited to all sorts of things and when it comes to polatics many businesses and organisations make an equal donation to both sides of the fence to ensure they have access to the minister or the shadow minister.

Recently I was invited to an afternoon tea which was attended by two state ALP Ministers. I had been trying to get to meet with for some time, Not only did I get to meet with them as a result of attending but I also got to meet the Director General of one of their departments, I achieved more in one afternoon than all the lobbying I had done in the 12 months before this.

While I never paid for this event (and thats where the issue gets difficult) often attending is invaluable as a way of getting something on the political agenda.

Its easy to say this person or that person needs to do more in our interests, has anyone asked why these functions were attended and if it was to promote or lobby for something in our best interests in the first place.

I would prefer to hear both sides of any discussion before passing judgement.
 

st Kilda

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It would be fair to say that public money being spent at a political fundraiser is inappropriate, which is exacty why it is highlighted in the Auditor General's report. Certainly as Currawong has mentioned, there is pressure for an orgainisation like RMBs to act like a corporate but they are a state agency, like it or not.

If it was a innocent mistake then i would expect a person in such a position to be far better informed.
 
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MungBean

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ASB - it is listed on the front page of the National news section of the Age:
http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/

No searching required, it was (and still is) there for anyone to see.

Personally I have better things to do than be on the net at 2am but I see by the posts here some others don't. Or is Hunter overseas at the moment and using the Age to keep up to date with events in Oz?
 
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Cuppa

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I would have thought that officals of the Resort Management Boards would have access to government officals and ministers, so why would they need to attend a $1,100 per person fundraising dinner?
 

niseko dreaming

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That article is of significant interest in its references to Lake Mountain and Mount Baw Baw. Will there be pressure to (re)designate them as something other that "Alpine Resorts"? Obviously, they have to go somewhere - whether it be into Parks or something else.

If so, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
 

hair-raiser

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It's actually "libel" if written and "slander" if spoken. If posts are to be excised here and there, at least get the reason right!

It's certainly not libelous to say that if a Government body is referred to by the auditing authorities as having suspicious expenses, then that probably reflects their culture, and might be expected to be apparent in the other things they do.

And it absolutely isn't the role of alpine resort managers to give money to any political cause. As a "CEO", ASB is free to do whatever, so far as I am concerned, unless he uses tax payer funds - then it's a different matter again.

And who cares what time of day Hunter read the article, or where Hunter works. Your ultra-defensive attitude is starting to cloud your thinking, ASB.
 

HiLo

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I thought I had an "If true" qualifier on my now deleted comments. Apologies if I didn't.

Baw Baw & Lake Mountain are tourist attractions which attract people to other businesses in their area and provide healthy recreation for many. Their costs are in the same ballpark as a municipal aquatic centre. All governments, local, state and federal, spend lots of money on other public venues and activities that allegedly bring tourism to an area. The Grand prix is a well known controversial one. Some of us feel it is a waste of money.

It's a difficult area to explictly define what govts should or should not do.
 

HiLo

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hair-raiser said:
As a "CEO", ASB is free to do whatever, so far as I am concerned, unless he uses tax payer funds - then it's a different matter again.
Like many, ASB's business depends at least partly on government funding (for clients) and subsidies. He too needs to be careful.
wink.gif
 
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hair-raiser

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Skiing isn't the only dubious recipient of tax payer's money. Motor racing, too, should support itself, at least until you can tell me that indigenous health and opportunity matches some sort of agreed standard.
 

Froggy

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I don't think anyone is surprised that Baw Baw and Lake Mtn were in the red last year but with a good ski season should be profitable unlike the GP.
 

teckel

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Exactly Froggy. LM turned in a nice profit in 2004. Then it spent $1m on snow-making in addition to which 2005 was very poor at LM (only 3 weekends of decent skiing). Then last year (2006) was totally woeful with only 1 weekend of decent skiing. To suggest that a mountain is not viable because of the results of 2 very poor season is simply not fair.
This table compares the results of resorts over 3 years. Interesting that even FC made a loss last year, and indeed hasn't performed too well over the 3 years either:
psa1803-2.gif
 
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Yardsale

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This practise is common place amongst any businesses trying to get government contracts or funding? You pay to attend one of these dinners in order to get the ear of the government, who then direct the funding. Liberal, Labour, Greens, Family First... they all do it (in one way or another).

The fact that Judy Ward went to one of these things on behalf of Falls Ck, makes it a legit expense claim. If you're a CEO of a company, you do it regularly in order to keep up contacts within the government and make sure you are on the right panels for getting business. You could not expect Judy Ward to foot the bill for business expenses herself, unless that was part of her employment contract (which I am sure it is not).

This is just the way it works, and has worked for ages. If you see it as right or wrong, it is irrelevant as everyboyd does it and it is perfectly legal.

There are also other ways you can get favours from the government. It involves making donation to some independant 'foundations' who in turn make donations to a political party, or write and reccommend 'policy' that the government should follow. Many pollies as associates sit on the board of these foundations.

All in all...

119048BgIF_w.jpg
 
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swooper

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Teckel you are just like ASB when he mans the pump.

The figures for LM & BB ignore the 2.8 mill support funding from the govt., if you took that away the figures are a disaster.
 

Bogong

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I'm sorry, if the report of the Auditor-General is correct (and why shouldn't it be?), then Judy Ward should resign. If she doesn't, and the state govt doesn't sack her, there will be lots of others demanding her head on a plate. Not just Libs and Nats but lots of people in the ski industry and non skiers concerned with bureaucratic accountability.

She has what most of us would regard as the ultimate dream job, would any of us endanger this job by "diverting funds" to our prefered political party? Of course not.
 

Cuppa

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Yardsale said:
This practise is common place amongst any businesses trying to get government contracts or funding? You pay to attend one of these dinners in order to get the ear of the government, who then direct the funding. Liberal, Labour, Greens, Family First... they all do it (in one way or another).

The fact that Judy Ward went to one of these things on behalf of Falls Ck, makes it a legit expense claim. If you're a CEO of a company, you do it regularly in order to keep up contacts within the government and make sure you are on the right panels for getting business. You could not expect Judy Ward to foot the bill for business expenses herself, unless that was part of her employment contract (which I am sure it is not).

This is just the way it works, and has worked for ages. If you see it as right or wrong, it is irrelevant as everyboyd does it and it is perfectly legal.

There are also other ways you can get favours from the government. It involves making donation to some independant 'foundations' who in turn make donations to a political party, or write and reccommend 'policy' that the government should follow. Many pollies as associates sit on the board of these foundations.

All in all...

119048BgIF_w.jpg
Business doing this to get contacts etc is fine. An individual attending a dinner is fine. What is essentially a government body paying a fund raising fee for a member of government, prior to a state government election, is not, no matter what the commercial benefit is.

Maybe the RMB model should be looked at.

If is was all legitimate why did the Auditor General bother putting it in their audit report?
 
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Hunter

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swooper said:
Teckel you are just like ASB when he mans the pump.

The figures for LM & BB ignore the 2.8 mill support funding from the govt., if you took that away the figures are a disaster.
Have to agree with all of that.

This public exposure will turn up the heat on BB and LM, us skiers don't find it a pill too large to swallow but the public at large will take a far less supportive view I believe.
 
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currawong

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what is the difference between maintaining lake mountain as a public amenity and maintaining st kilda / sorrento/ torquay beach as a public amenity. I bet they "lose" more money than Lake Mountain.

xc sking is a relatively inexpensive, safe, aerobic sport that encourages an appreciation of our natural environment and helps the regional economy. Lake Mountain is very close to Melbourne and provides these benefits to a huge audience. Why shouldn't government (and the public) support it?
 

chriscross

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It's hard to come up with percentages without having a look at some serious stats, but literally many thousands of Melbourne people have had their first snow experience there and take their kids there for same.That being the case, surely it's an important feeder for the rest of the snow "industry" and arguably deserves some taxpayer support.
 

Hunter

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There is taxpayers support and then their is propping up an stand alone, commercial unviable, lesiure activity.
As I said we who ski have a biased view, I am sure if you put it to the general public, as this article is now doing, it will be a different story.
 

HiLo

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Is recreational swimming commercially viable? Ask your local council what its pools cost to run. And the local District Cricket ground with its turf wicket.
 

teckel

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Exactly Hilo, I know that all 4 of Murrindindi Shire's pools run at a huge loss.

Hunter, I gave you figures - 200,000 annually visiting LM. Acknowledgement from you of those visitation figures might help, or are you ignoring them because they don't suit your argument? A loss of $333,000 last year - the worst year ever (one weekend only for skiers, 2 weekends for snow-players - less than $2 per anticipated customer that never showed up. 2 years prior, a profit in excess of $1 million. Personally I don't think those figures are too bad.

But Hunter, we know you use every opportunity to knock every resort you can except Buller. While I may promote LM, I certainly never bag any other resort.
 

Ian D

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How much government funding was there to setup Docklands and any number of other stadiums in Melbourne? Isn't the Vicory's new ground $200 million plus and the Victory guarantee to play 7 matches there a year.

How many people a year visit Donna Buang national park and how much is spent by Parks Victoria to maintain it?

There is a strong case in support of Currawongs arguement.
 

Hunter

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Hunter said:
There is taxpayers support and then their is propping up an stand alone, commercial unviable, lesiure activity.
As I said we who ski have a biased view, I am sure if you put it to the general public, as this article is now doing, it will be a different story.
You are not reading my post, as I said WE who ski have a biased view point and see the financial support favourably, but the GENERAL PUBLIC will very likely see it differently.
 
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teckel

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Geez Hunter, you asked a question. I answered it. You didn't like the answer, so you ignored it and started carrying on about the general public. FYI, the general public has no say in the matter. And even if they did, they would look at the tiny loss, compare it with other govt spending, think about the good times they have had at LM and come to the conclusion that a measly third of a million is barely a loss at all.
 

Cuppa

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I think the general public's attitude would be one of amazement, that the government tips in money for a rich persons sport.
 

Hunter

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What are you on about Teckel, my opening post on the subject (below) refers to the "public" in the second word.

This public exposure will turn up the heat on BB and LM, us skiers don't find it a pill too large to swallow but the public at large will take a far less supportive view I believe.
Cuppa seems to get it easily enough.

BTW the "general" public have the ultimate say in the matter, it is their money :rolleyes:
 
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teckel

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People who go to Lake Mountain are not rich, Cuppa. It's the average mum and dad and kids. I see them every weekend. One of my jobs is to convince them that even if they can't afford to hire gear for themselves, they must hire it for their kids. Most gloves I sell are the $15 variety, and $5 beanies. And most prefer to hire gloves at $5 rather than purchase them at $15. And the general public regard LM as their mountain, their place to see the snow. Trying to convince them to hire skis instead of toboggans can be difficult - until I tell them the price and the fact that trail fees are $10/adult per day. Then they have to figure out if they can afford that. LM is not a rich person's mountain at all. I wish it were - I would make much more if it were.
 

HiLo

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Hunter said:
....the "general" public have the ultimate say in the matter, it is their money :rolleyes:
Then I assume you want them to make their judgement on the best possible information, rather than a bigoted view of what Lake Mountain is about.
 
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currawong

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xc in general is not a rich person's sport. in fact all the jokes about chook footers are about them being tighter than a fish's....

there are some who spend big bucks on xc but they are definitely in the minority.

and as teckel said, Lake Mountain is the main place where Melbourne people can go to see snow and play in it, even if they never ski. Donna Buang is closer but is much less reliable.
 

Cuppa

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teckel said:
People who go to Lake Mountain are not rich, Cuppa. It's the average mum and dad and kids. I see them every weekend. One of my jobs is to convince them that even if they can't afford to hire gear for themselves, they must hire it for their kids. Most gloves I sell are the $15 variety, and $5 beanies. And most prefer to hire gloves at $5 rather than purchase them at $15. And the general public regard LM as their mountain, their place to see the snow. Trying to convince them to hire skis instead of toboggans can be difficult - until I tell them the price and the fact that trail fees are $10/adult per day. Then they have to figure out if they can afford that. LM is not a rich person's mountain at all. I wish it were - I would make much more if it were.
I think you would find that if you surveyed a random 100 people they would say that the sport of skiing is an expensive rich man's sport.

So, I assume, what Hunter is saying that a general view amongst the population would be "why are the ski resorts been subsidised by my tax dollars?"

That is not to say that per head it may be more economical to fund a ski resort, than run a local swimming pool. It is just the general perception of it. I think that people would be more accepting of the costs of their local swimming pool than some ski resort they may vist once a year.
 
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