Parliamentary Inquiry – The Lost Submissions – Part 2

The Economy and Infrastructure Committee Secretariat (and all members individually) received a copy of this submission and, at least thus far, seem to have ignored it.

Taifalos has gone from V/Line and they’re not calling him to give evidence?
Liddle has gone from PTV (so he won’t be responsible for anything they’ve done) to acting CEO at V/Line where he doesn’t have clue, and Lezala gives set-piece answers, ritzy Powerpoint presentations, and glib reassurances.

Are people really stupid enough to fall for this charade? (Ed: Apparently… Yes)

Is it a sham inquiry, a white-wash, the purpose of which is to attempt to deflect responsibility from the minister, blame the Liberals and, in the end, justify the decision to hand V/Line, (and another couple of billion a year), to MTM, while at the same time diverting attention from the continuing physical collapse of the metropolitan system under MTM’s dubious operation?

One suspects that it is.

Environment & Infrastructure Standing Committee

Honourable Members

With regard to your inquiry into V/Line, PTV and Metro, I offer, for your consideration and dealing, the attached documents and video.

Many further examples could be provided if required. However, your resources are greater and reach further than mine.

The attached submission explores the competence, integrity and what are, at best, questionable business practices of Metro Trains Melbourne Pty. Ltd., the current (since November 30, 2009) operator of Melbourne’s suburban railway system.

It proposes that MTM Pty. Ltd., are engaged in the systematic rorting of the Metropolitan railway system, aided and abetted by incompetent or possibly corrupt elements within PTV.

This rorting is deliberate, informed, and follows the practice and patterns established in the UK following the privatisation of their railways and, in many cases, imports personnel (on 457 Visa’s) already skilled in the arts of separating taxpayers from their money, their assets and their control and oversight.

It further questions their ‘links’ to PTV, proven, suspected or alleged corruption of one or both parties in relation to the existing ‘Franchise Agreement’, (i.e. MTM’s performance under, and PTV’s supervision of that performance), some of which are currently under investigation, and criminal proceedings against 9 persons and one company pending.

It is my belief that the breadth and magnitude of these matters is beyond the remit of your committee, and demands at least a full and public Judicial Inquiry, or Independent Broad Based Anti- Corruption Commission (IBAC) investigation, or Royal Commission – any of which must be properly constituted and resourced so as to allow forensic investigation of any and all persons, matters and activities arising with a view to prosecution.

.

Essentially, it contends that Metro Trains Melbourne Pty. Ltd. are utterly unfit, on any level, to operate Melbourne’s suburban railway system, and that their franchise should be ended immediately, and failing that, NOT be renewed or extended beyond the current term.

METRO – SCAMS & CORRUPTION?

YOU owe it to the taxpayer’s of Victoria to read and understand the implications of this document

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Rushall ‘main line’ derailment, 6 Feb 2016 – currently under investigation.  The driver was reinstated almost immediately.  Poor track condition and/or the wheel-rail interface identified as the likely cause.  Trains often pass at this location and fatalities would almost certainly have resulted from a head on or side-swipe collision.

“METRO”, (which is actually a ‘business name’ owned by the Victorian government, applied to Melbourne’s suburban rail services) is operated under a ‘franchise’ arrangement (See Note 1.) by Metro Trains Melbourne Pty. Ltd. The ‘brand’ METRO was intended to outlast any private operator. Metro Trains Melbourne Pty. Ltd., is a consortium, comprised of MTR Corporation – itself majority owned by the government of Hong Kong, (60%), John Holland Group (20%) – now owned by China Communications Construction, and UGL Rail (20%). In other words, MTM is 80% owned by the Chinese Government. In recent times Metro’s trains have been ‘co-branded’ PTV – Public Transport Victoria. This is significant because it shows the ‘depth’ of the scam. PTV and MTM are “colleagues”, or perhaps that should be “Co-conspirators”, rather than master and servant! First, MTM – verified by confirmation from their ‘mates’ in PTV (who had overseen and allowed the continued decay under Connex) – tell the government the joint’s in a parlous state – which is substantially true – having been stinted and starved of funding for necessary maintenance, much less for capital works and improvements for decades. Metro, their consortium partners and their confederates at PTV however, are only too happy to devise, implement and manage (for a fee) a staged, progressive ‘rehabilitation’ of the infrastructure.
What they don’t say, is that it is, and is intended to be a money machine, delivering vast and effectively endless sums of taxpayer’s money directly into the company’s coffers, to facilitate the payment of lucrative salaries to literally hundreds of imported ‘managers’, (equipped with 457 VISA’s and little else), profits to the ‘shareholders’ – chiefly the Hong Kong government – and ‘performance’ bonuses to the executive corps at MTM. These ‘payments for performance’, or ‘additional works’, or ‘projects’, performed by MTM as a ‘contractor’, are over and above the $1.3 billion per annum management fee due under the franchise agreement. They are the ‘icing on the cake’. PTV also seems to be a little over-supplied with 457 VISA holders.

And this is a coincidence?
And so the staged, progressive scamming of the unsuspecting taxpayer begins.
Urgent ‘1 in 5’ sleeper replacement with concrete sleepers to hold the tracks ‘in gauge’ – pending ‘further works’.
Ultrasonic testing of life expired rails which ‘finds’ more than 12000 ‘flaws’ of sufficient gravity to require the immediate application of ‘emergency’ fishplates (EFP’s) – to be fitted at a unit cost of…………? Well, there’s the equipment hire/lease, and the crew to be paid, and each EFP requires 4 holes to be drilled – in rails already identified as defective – and 4 Huck™ bolts to be fitted for each EFP.
Let’s be conservative, and say it’s only $250.00 each – 250.00 x 12,377 = $3,094,250.00 – for what is essentially UNNECESSARY ‘work’, since serious defects should have seen the rails replaced, and Temporary Speed Restrictions (TSR’s) in place in the interim. It would be interesting to ascertain the actual ‘cost price’ of ‘inputs’ for this scam, vs the invoiced costs/payments.

It should be further noted that ‘emergency fishplates’ were almost never used before the arrival or MTM, and then only to ‘safeguard’ defects, usually in conjunction with a Temporary Speed Restriction (TSR) until a permanent repair could be effected – usually within 24 hours. It is also noteworthy that the statement “There aren’t any areas on our network where continuous gauge corner cracking has developed”, by Metro spokeswoman Larisa Tait – reported in The Age on November 26th 2014 is instantly refuted by the picture below.

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Guage Corner cracking and spalling – but we don’t have a problem? Oh, really? Multiple EFP’s fitted, when the rail – the outside rail on a 70km/h curve – should have been replaced.  This is a ‘detail’ image showing EFP’s 1 and 2 (of 7) of that which appears below

 

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Guage corner cracking / spalling was identified as the primary cause of the Hatfield (UK) rail crash October 17th, 2000.  Four passengers were killed, another 70 injured.

See: Hatfield Rail Crash

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The saga of EFP12047 – This prefabricated Insulated Rail Joint (newly installed on 22/01/15, as noted on the ‘guage face’ of the rail) required two thermite welds.  Note the gap under the rail and insecure fastenings in image 1.

 

Such is the degree of flexing at the joint in pic 01 that the ‘weld bridging’ type EFP, No. 12047 was fitted on the 6th of March, 2015, (also noted, this time on the ‘field face’ of the rail). That’s just 44 days between installation and ‘detecting & plating the flawed/failed weld’. You can be sure they all got paid for both jobs and that they were paid again for ‘repairing’ the defective weld! You could call it ‘job creation’, or ‘over-servicing’. The uncharitable (or the wise) might call it ‘gouging’, or ‘rorting’, or even ‘profiteering’! But, the taxpayer’s pockets are deep, and PTV won’t ever check the work, or the details, much less give the world’s greatest railway tenant the slapping, and the docking, and the warning they deserve. Because either the job was botched in the first place, in which case a slapping is called for, or it’s a money making racket. And either way, they shouldn’t have been paid – and certainly not 3 times – and PTV should have made sure they weren’t.

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Two fees, for the same ‘service’? EFP No.9960 magically becomes EFP No.12378, attracting another payment for no more ‘work’ than simply overpainting the old number?

 

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More over-servicing? 5 EFP’s in less than 5 metres – little more that the length of 6 fishplates (No speed restriction was ever applied to this section of track)

Linsinger rail milling/grinding machine, support vehicle and operating crew, either leased from Linsinger, or purchased by the state government at an undisclosed cost – initially reported to be leased at a cost of $10 million a month – used to ‘rehabilitate’ life expired, damaged and flawed rails with substandard roadbed, usually with defective timber sleepers still in place, by milling and/or grinding the rails to ‘profile’. This is a pointless exercise, which achieves almost nothing – except that someone’s making lots of money out of it!

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Sep.26, 2013 Messrs. Ryan, Mulder, Lezala & Dobbs with ‘their’ new toy – How much did it cost, who actually owns it, who paid for it, who profits from it, and where is it now? The ‘METRO’ stickers came and went and were later replaced by a smaller version!

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Linsinger, Burnley Feb. 2014

In many cases the defects in the rails were so severe that even the most cursory visual inspection would have shown anything other than rail replacement was an exercise in futility. They are so worn that milling is unable to remediate the gauge corner and head defects, and this was obvious to anyone who cared to look at them, but they did it anyway because they got paid. Then, they come back and install concrete sleepers again – removing those concrete sleepers which have failed in the interim due to uneven support and shoddy or non-existent sleepers. e.g. New rails at West Richmond ‘placed on site’ in mid 2012, finally installed in mid 2015. Meanwhile the worn out rails have been ‘plated’ multiple times, the criminally worst pieces have been replaced by short length ‘patch’ or ‘closure’ rails being welded in, then the rails are milled by the Linsinger. Essentially 5 operations – each paid for – when 1 would have done, repeated system wide!

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‘Cosmetic’ re-ballasting – in which ballast is laid over existing track defects such as mud holes, substandard, even to the point of being imminently dangerous), ‘line’, ‘top’ and ‘cross levels’, sometimes groomed by ‘tamping’ (and sometimes not) such that it appears to be of an acceptable standard is common.

Presumably, the digital photos provided to PTV are sufficient ‘evidence’ of work done, and payment is made without any physical inspection or auditing. NOTE the lighter coloured ballast on the left hand shoulder, and the pre-existing and un-remediated mud-holes and ‘cyclic top’ condition in mid field, evident on both tracks – detail below:

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On November 26th 2014, The Age ran the following article, “Metro derailment waiting to happen….”, generated by WA Labor MP, Alannah MacTiernan.

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from The Age. December 3rd., 2014“Australia’s rail safety watchdog has found that Melbourne’s railway tracks are being safely maintained after a federal MP raised allegations in parliament that shoddy maintenance by rail operator Metro was putting public safety at risk. Inspectors from the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator visited parts of the Melbourne rail network on Wednesday last week and found the tracks were in a safe state of repair. However, they are continuing further detailed analysis of Metro’s maintenance procedures. “While to the non-technical observer some parts of the track may appear to be in poor condition, based on our engineering inspections and supported by Metro’s maintenance procedures, we are satisfied that Metro is adequately managing the network,” the regulator said.

The un-named regulator didn’t look too hard, and ‘lied’ – a lie for public consumption & reassurance?

Then, on Monday, 8th December 2014, the following video appeared on Youtube; Showing a Metro Comeng train on the verge of a high speed derailment between Hoppers Crossing and Williams Landing due to the appalling condition of the track, which had been repeatedly reported by both Metro’s own, and V/Line drivers. Such a derailment, in this location, at high speed (110km/h) with parallel running lines and opposing traffic, carried the very real risk of a ‘head on’, ‘side-swipe’ or ‘running into wreckage’ collision, almost inevitably with multiple fatalities – and MTM ignored it!
[Ed Note: Video could not be included here. Please click link above]

Published on Dec 8, 2014 Up and down Comeng EMU sets running at around 100 or more km/h passing my camera. Then look at what I shot with my second camera and then look at it in slow motion. Any commercial interest in this can contact me by simply leaving a message. Original footage can be made available if requested.
On Tuesday 9th December the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator was supplied with a copy of the video and sharply questioned as to the basis of their assurances. The same video was also widely distributed to industry insiders, the media, and others.
On Thursday, 11th December 2014 – in response to an urgent directive from ONRSR – the following 80kph speed restriction was issued, applicable to both broad gauge lines in that area. TS.096-214

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However, between November 26th and December 3rd 2014, what actually happened – in spite of the sugar coated public assurances from ONRSR – was that Metro were ‘given a rocket’ by ONRSR and the Victorian Government, and put on notice that they were being closely watched.
In the 6 months since then, a veritable frenzy of track work, occupations and re-railing has been undertaken with Metro in more than justifiable fear of losing their ‘franchise’.
Neither is such appalling and criminal neglect of the safety and maintenance of the track new, or unusual, as illustrated by the following examples. (And many others to be found on YouTube.)

Montmorency, 2011: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_Ldkb36Qgc
Uploaded on Aug 24, 2011 “I shot this footage on the Hurstbridge line at Montmorency. It is testament to how safe trains are and how they will handle extraordinarily bad track without going arse over head. This is of course not to say that some of the passengers will be going to see a chiropractor or orthopedic surgeon to have their backs put right after riding the trains through here. And a belated thanks to METRO for being stupid enough to leave it like this and to Channel 7 for making it lead story on the nightly news.”

This particular example received a ‘quick fix’ in the days after it was posted – but only because MTM was ‘embarrassed’ into action by the Channel 7 News Report using this footage. Over the intervening 4 years it has been ‘rehabilitated’, re-sleepered, re-ballasted, tamped and even had some ‘spot replacement’ of damaged rails on several occasions. MTM, and their consortium partners, have been generously paid – either on a ‘fee for service’ basis, or as part of the overall track maintenance budget, over and over again. Today, (2016) the track is hardly in any better condition than that shown above – go there and see it for yourself – and this is just one of hundreds of examples that could be highlighted. Clearly, PTV have repeatedly failed in their statutory responsibility to ensure work of an appropriate standard and value for the taxpayer’s money. But they nonetheless keep ‘writing the cheques’, and MTM keep cashing them!

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PTV have the capacity to compare successive ‘surveys’ of track condition and geometry, almost to the centimeter, by means of the data accumulated by the EM100 (latterly renumbered the IEV100), and they should do so as a matter of course. Why do they not? In fact, PTV should not only monitor this work, they should conduct it independently of the operator, to ensure that standards are maintained and that taxpayers get value for money.

Further Examples –
Officer, 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_l32pN1VO-Q

Published on Oct 8, 2013 “This is a short section of track at Officer about 50km’s east of Melbourne. It has a moderate frequency of EMU type suburban trains, a country passenger train roughly every hour and one heavy freight train a day. The state of the track is nothing short of disgraceful and a testament to just how bad it can be before trains are in danger of derailing. Nonetheless the rail flexing that is taking place will eventually take it’s toll and should a rail break as a train passes over the results could be tragic. Passenger comfort is obviously not an issue for the track owner. Before our system was handed to the private sector this disgrace would never have been allowed to happen.”
Diamond Creek, 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKpZG-ApCsU
Published on Oct 8, 2013 “This is an example of Metro’s finest track work. It got a write up in the local newspaper last week. Mulder’s mouthpiece stated that there was no safety risk and that the line was meeting all punctuality and reliability targets. Well of course it is without any speed restrictions and it will continue to do so until one goes in the dirt. Anybody that maintains that this track is fit for purpose clearly has an agenda that has nothing to do with passenger comfort and safety.”
Meanwhile, on November 29th 2014, the business and political dynamics collapsed for MTM. The Napthine Liberal Government was (unexpectedly) defeated in the Victorian State Election and replaced by Labor, under Daniel Andrews. Former Minister for Transport, Terry Mulder, was replaced by Jacinta Allen.
MTM, now in a mild state of panic, ‘brought forward’ their plans to establish a number of wholly owned subsidiary companies, along the Sunstone model.
Sunstone Resources Pty., Ltd. (a wholly owned subsidiary of MTM) as their ‘preferred’ contractor for all manner of works and training. Sunstone was ‘the model’ for an undisclosed number of such companies, which would have been contracted for services well into the future – i.e. long beyond the tenure of MTM’s franchise. The purpose of this breathtakingly ambitious scam was to secure MTM owned entities as the only local source of equipment, ‘expertise’ and staff, thereby securing MTM’s revenue stream ‘through the back door’, even if MTM lost the franchise.
PTV were willing co-conspirators in this scam, having ‘authorised’ the arrangement in direct contravention of the provisions of the franchise agreement. Why? And who was involved in that decision?

And then there’s this laughable racket – the only word which adequately describes it – from January 2013!

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picture 14_1picture 14_3 Bottom image: The same view in July 2015.  MTM spray-painted the rails, supposedly to reduce the amount of expansion on the rails to minimise ‘track circuit faults’ by reflecting heat and maintaining the rails at a lower temperature.  This was never going to work.

and it hasn’t been repeated or expanded upon. There was no surface preparation, more paint ended up on the ballast than the rails and weathering and the accumulation of dust and grime started to reduce the claimed ‘reflectivity’ of the paint almost immediately. But it did generate a positive ‘story’ in Metro Express, and no doubt, a substantial payment authorised by somebody at PTV.
The ‘On Time Running’ Scam –
Manipulation of the timetable, falsification of statistics and misrepresentation of the true state of service delivery and on time running is nothing new, but MTM have turned it into an art form – because it delivers them a cash bonus of around 1 million dollars a month. Station ‘skipping’, short terminations, ‘Loop bypasses’ and ad-hoc rescheduling – all practices imported from the UK (along with most of MTM’s management) – and long criticised there as dishonest, delivers around 10% of MTM’s annual gross profit.
Station Skipping, Short terminations. Loop bypasses, and ‘rescheduling’ are all parts of the cash delivery racket.

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Above: In a scene replicated across the system hundreds of times every week, passengers from a ‘short terminated’ Greensborough ‘service’, are abandoned at Macleod and forced to wait for a following train. Sacrificed for the ‘greater good’ of ‘on time running’ performance – and, of course, MTM’s monthly bonus payments! Afternoon peak, Winter 2015.

It is important to note that the Train Franchise Agreement does not specifically allow these practices.
Neither does it specifically prohibit them – as MTM’s lawyers helpfully pointed out.

But PTV could, and so could the Minister.
Indeed, these events were limited by political decree in the lead up to the Victorian Election in 2014 to ‘protect’ the Liberal Government from adverse publicity. MTM complied, attempting to protect their cash cow. It didn’t work, and the Liberals lost the election! Could Labor be the next ‘one term’ government in Victoria?

See: Metro Pulls up short to meet performance targets
See: Melbourne Metros Station Skipper Overseer promoted to senior position

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And:
Passengers left out of the loop as metro cuts corners to run trains on time

‘Franchise’ arrangement – Is it REALLY?

MTM have systematically extracted hundreds of millions of taxpayer’s dollars from the Victorian government. Their highly paid legal department has microscopically perused the Franchise Agreement, exploiting every loophole, ambiguity and opportunity to maximise their profit. Some of these activities might even be ‘legal’, but are clearly not within the ‘spirit’ of the agreement.
Then there’s the joint headquarters, co-located with “our colleagues”, PTV?
The $80+ million a year for electricity, paid for by the taxpayer.
The 800+ ‘Private Police Force’ of Protective Services Officers, paid for by the taxpayer.
A substantial proportion of PTV’s staff, also paid for by the taxpayer, but essentially MTM employees.
MTM were/are in the process of setting themselves up as the ‘Prime (only) Contractor’ for all things railway related.
Training; Track maintenance; Planning etc., aided and abetted by their co-conspirators at PTV, and portrayed as stand-alone organisations – Sunstone Resources (and others?)
Entering into service and supply contracts extending beyond the current nominal Franchise term – Advertising on Stations and Rolling stock with XTD Limited granted a 7 year contract, commencing in October 2014

See: Outdoor Company XTD Completes 3m Float

Spring St South – Metro Trains Melbourne (MTM)


AREA3 was engaged by Metro Trains Melbourne (MTM) to lead a mixed used development within the Melbourne CBD which will provide MTM with a centralised operations and management. The final project includes basement car parking, 17,175m² of commercial space over 6 levels, a 27-storey residential tower including 240 apartments and a 11,339m² hotel tower including 369 rooms.
http://www.area3consulting.com/portfolio_page/spring-street-south/

How many taxpayer dollars intended for the railways have vanished into this edifice? 

More Maintenance Fails

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The above obscenities are found on a 75km/h main running line with 100% suburban passenger traffic – and this is an example of MTM’s “World’s Best Practice” is it?

Why do PTV allow this, and more importantly, who audits and deems this sub-standard and shoddy work to be acceptable? Are PTV merely incompetent, or is the entire organisation corrupt?

Chinese manufactured rails – of, at best, questionable quality. PZH trademark by Pangang Group Steel Vanadium & TitaniumCo., Ltd. in Sichuan Province, China.


Again, who is responsible for the decision to allow MTM to source and install rails of Chinese manufacture? How much has already been installed? What was the actual cost ‘saving’, vs the invoiced price, and who profited from it? I think by now we all know the answer to the last question!

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Sunstone Resources

In an attempt to develop a “tied supply chain” for everything from ‘training’ (Metro Academy) to trackwork and graffiti cleaning, (Sunstone Resources and 5 (later to be 8) ‘independent’ rail operating companies – shelf companies, wholly owned by MTM – the value of which was vested in the long term contracts they held as

preferred suppliers for these services, their divorce from the ‘franchise’ process and proper government oversight, and the ability – indeed, soon to be breathlessly articulated NECESSITY for the various elements to be sold off altogether.
This is similar to the spectacularly failed Metronet (UK) business model.

And MTM have imported not just the model, but some of the management that delivered it. And this was – or should have been – known when the franchise was awarded, IF the ‘due diligence’ which cost 25 million dollars of Taxpayer’s money was properly conducted. But it clearly wasn’t!
The first ‘public knowledge’ of what had long been known and was widely regarded by industry insiders as a transparently corrupt process, came in the following Age article on May 2nd , 2015.
Metro move to monopolise rail maintenance under government microscope

May 2, 2015

Adam Carey
Transport Reporter for The Age

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Metro granted Sunstone exclusivity over track repairs, graffiti removal and other maintenance works.

A rail maintenance company set up by Metro to monopolise project work in Melbourne could be put out of business by the Andrews government due to concerns about a lack of probity. The labour hire company has been awarded contracts by its owner, Metro, without going to tender, on an expanding range of projects such as track repairs and graffiti removal.
Companies previously contracted by Metro to maintain Melbourne’s rail network have been denied the opportunity to bid and some have since laid off staff. Metro formed the company, called Sunstone, with the co-operation of Public Transport Victoria, which granted Metro an exemption from a clause in its government contract prohibiting the creation of a subsidiary.

A Metro policy document seen by The Age states that Sunstone is to be Metro’s “tier-one contractor” and the exclusive provider of a multitude of essential rail services.
“PTV has agreed that the purpose of SR [Sunstone Resources] is to increase MTM’s [Metro’s] control of key services involving the franchise business, including greater management and control from a safety and quality perspective,” the document, from October, states.
The document lists almost 50 services which “MTM must engage SR to perform .. unless otherwise dictated by project alliance requirements”. But the agreement has alarmed the Andrews government, which began a review of Sunstone’s operations last month. It has also banned the company from taking on any new work while the review takes place. Professional services firm KPMG has been hired to complete the review, which will determine whether or not Sunstone’s permission to operate is revoked or amended.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said no decision regarding Sunstone would be made until KPMG finished its review.
Electrical Trades Union organiser Gerry Glover said Metro never should have been allowed to award work to its own subsidiary without going to tender.
“That electrical work used to be shared around, and all of a sudden they are saying it goes to one company that just happens to be connected at the hip with Metro,” Mr Glover said. “All our union wants is a fair process that is open to a number of electrical contractors to quote on a particular job and win it fair and square.”
One of several companies that have lost contracts to Sunstone is Notting Hill-based UMS (Urban Maintenance Services), which performed electrical maintenance and graffiti removal for about 13 years.
UMS was told last year when its contracts expired that Sunstone would take over that work. The company has since laid off or reallocated more than 20 staff, a spokesman said.
Sunstone strongly defended its business practices, arguing its creation had stamped out unsafe and shoddy work practices.
“The problems included numerous quality, control and industrial issues,” managing director Phillip Walker said. “We suspected malpractice due to close relationships with suppliers, and there were a number of safety issues such as safe-working breaches involving contractors.” Overall, the quality of services provided to Metro had improved under Sunstone and they were being provided at lower cost, Mr Walker said.
“Prior to Sunstone, Metro had long-running contracts with contractors that were static and provided no incentive to improve quality and productivity,” he said.

On June 25th 2015 the following story appeared online –
Metro’s maintenance arm loses its special deal
June 25, 2015 – 4:30PM
Richard Willingham

State Political Correspondent for The Age

Metro’s maintenance subsidiary Sunstone Resources will have to publicly bid for work after the Andrews government ended a relationship where the company did not have to tender for lucrative contracts. Last month Fairfax Media reported that Sunstone, the labour hire company had been awarded contracts by its owner, Metro, without going to tender, on an expanding range of projects such as track repairs and graffiti removal. The arrangement meant companies previously contracted to maintain Melbourne’s rail network had no chance to bid for work. Metro formed Sunstone, with the co-operation of Public Transport Victoria, which granted Metro an exemption from a clause in its government contract prohibiting the creation of a subsidiary.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union and other unions have been critical of Sunstone Resources and called on Labor to close the business down. Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said following a review by KPMG, Sunstone would not be awarded contracts without a tender. The review, which is commercial in confidence, found there was no evidence the Sunstone arrangement provides value for money for taxpayers. “As a result, no new work will be provided and the current arrangements will cease.” Allan said. The Rail, Tram and Bus Union has been a major critic of Sunstone. “Metro should never have been allowed to give millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded work to a wholly owned subsidiary without a competitive tender process,” said state secretary Luba Grigorovitch. “The government needs to ensure this never happens again and PTV chief executive Mark Wild needs to explain why he allowed this to happen.” “If Mark Wild cannot substantiate how this was permitted, the RTBU would be inclined to call on his resignation.” Sunstone managing director Phillip Walker said the initial two-year period where Sunstone Resources had an exclusive arrangement for Metro work had now ceased. “We welcome the opportunity to compete in an open-market environment,” Mr. Walker said. Mr. Wild said Sunstone was granted its exemptions before he started at Public Transport Victoria. “The arrangement was always intended to operate for a two-year period with a review to be conducted at the end of that time frame,” Mr. Wild said. WITH ADAM CAREY

IBAC – Prosecuting minnows, while the real sharks feast?

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In early May 2015, Ian Dobbs announced he would not be seeking another term as Chair of the Public Transport Victoria (PTV) Board when his current term expired on 30 June 2015. And this is a coincidence?
Mark Wild, (previously PTV’s Director of Projects and Technical Services since September 2012), Dobbs’ understudy and his anointed replacement as CEO of PTV since 1 Feb 2014, claimed – with regard to the Sunstone ‘arrangement’;
Mr. Wild said Sunstone was granted its exemptions before he started at Public Transport Victoria. “The arrangement was always intended to operate for a two-year period with a review to be conducted at the end of that time frame,” Mr. Wild said.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/metros-maintenance-arm-loses-its-special-deal-20150625-ghxexx.html
Can Mr. Wild not count? Or does he think that nobody else can? Or is he simply being careless with the facts? September 2012 to June 2015 is 33 months, and Mr. Wild has been CEO at PTV for the last 17 months. Exactly when did the Sunstone ‘arrangement’ start and end? How can Mr. Wild credibly claim to have no knowledge of, or responsibility for, what has been going on? Mark Wild is at least tainted by association, and he also has to go – and the sooner he does, the better!

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A new group, but the same old Sunstone business model? Sharing the same Bakehouse Lane, South Kensington address as The Metro Academy, and Sunstone Resources. Nominally a rail welding contractor and formerly a labour hire company – NUGROUP can also supply labour and security services if required.

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Managing Director, Paul Cassie, formerly UK armed forces (14 years), commercial helicopter pilot (15 months),”FREELANCE PROTECTION OFFICER to the Emir of Qatar & close family members whilst they travelled outside their sovereign state.” (3 years).
Not the sort of skill set you’d normally associate with rail infrastructure.
https://au.linkedin.com/in/paul-cassie-8a539124
Train Maintenance.

Since their arrival, MTM Pty Ltd have continually attacked the FMP – the Fault Management Protocol – in order to minimize the impact of train faults on fleet availability, and hence operations, profits and bonuses. Hitherto, drivers were the first line of defence against serious, or cumulative, or progressive faults, defects and equipment deficiencies. MTM Pty. Ltd. however, chose to reinterpret the FMP and reclassify many faults and defects, removing the ability of drivers to rule a train unfit for service, and extending the time in which those faults and defects must be fixed – in many cases up to 90 days – with the possibility, indeed likelihood, of ‘starting the clock’ again at the end of that time. Drivers now had the supposed ‘authority’ to ‘upgrade’ faults and defects from the level assigned by Train Controllers – (who have no experience or training in these matters, and instead rely on a published table), but were then subject to interview (bullying) to justify their decision. It will come as no great surprise that drivers, following the line of least resistance, just gave up! Many now book no defects at all, or only the handful of ‘safety critical’ defects which remain. The consequence of this is that many faults/defects go unreported, or unrectified for months, and even those which are reported become part of an increasing backlog, or ‘maintenance deficit’.

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Above defect 695M Traction Motors ‘All Out’ (No, not an unprotected Industrial Action, but all isolated) and Rheostatic Brake Isolated due to defects – pictured on 05-08-15 – in service like this for a whole year!

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Broken X’Trapolis main suspension spring, primarily caused by sub-standard track condition.

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Self-destructing Comeng air compressor.

 

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Failed X’Trapolis axle bearing.

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490M booked for wheel flats 24-10-14 – a Critical Defect but recorded as MNT (Maintenance) and still in revenue service (normal speed operation, with passengers) when filmed at Mordialloc days later. See attached .mp4 [Ed. Unfortunately cannot include mp4s in this format] – originally posted on Facebook, this video was ‘deleted’ within 24 hours! By November 4th, the train had been remarshalled with 490M as a ‘centre motor’ so that the true nature and extent of the defect was less obvious to drivers. (But no less dangerous!)

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Croydon ‘main line’ derailment 3 Jan 2013 – blamed on heat buckled tracks, but actually caused by poor track maintenance and shoddy repair work. The risk of a ‘side swipe’ collision was very real, since trains often pass each other in this location!

See; http://www.dtpli.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/242599/FINAL-REPORT-PDF-Croydon-Derailment-3-Jan-2013.PDF

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Derailment, Caulfield Through Siding, 28th May 2013 – 623M-1162T-624M-629M-1142T-630M – This incident was never investigated by TSV – Would that be another coincidence?

Caulfield Through Siding Derailment.

Let’s just call her “Driver X” (not her real name) – able to leap derail devices in a single bound.
Now Driver X was [allegedly] a bit of a problem child from day one – she just didn’t get it. She should have been weeded out during training, and would have been by an appropriately stringent training program But MTM had compromised the existing training program – again, ‘authorised’ by PTV, and anyway, she was special, being in the vanguard of the positive discrimination push to increase the numbers of women in the ‘blokey’ driver cohort, and if she ‘failed’ that would reflect poorly on the gender-balanced HR department, the very proposition of positive discrimination and the newly re-jigged Driver Training Scheme, And so, she was returned to driving.
Transport Safety Victoria never investigated this incident, and never released a report on the circumstances, which revolved around poor training and staff selection (because ‘the agenda’ was more important than aptitude or ability) and poor training.
TSV of course, are part of the MTM-friendly PTV.
Are TSV corrupt as well, or did MTM misrepresent or falsify the facts when they reported this Reportable Matter – as they did when the reported to the media that the “rails in the siding had spread”?

And one might ask, why a driver who supposedly, (for public consumption), was unfortunate enough to have a ‘mere derailment’ in a siding was subject to weekly ‘safety audits’ and ‘close supervision’.
After a number of other incidents – arguably less serious – and some of which even occurred during safety audits, even MTM could no longer ignore what a liability she was, and she was ‘encouraged’ to seek alternative employment.
Alan Osborn, formerly the Director of TSV, has likewise been dispensed with or decided to seek new challenges. Another coincidence?

 

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Paisley Main Line Collision 22-08-2014 – V/Line train collides with the rear of a stationary Metro train. V/Line driver reports tail-lights of Metro train ‘not visible’, a claim supported by the following; Another maintenance failure?

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Adherence to the Rules and Regulations

 

Alan Osborn, formerly the Director of TSV, has likewise been dispensed with or decided to seek new challenges. Another coincidence? After an interval, MTM Pty.Ltd – at least enabled, (if not actually encouraged), by PTV – decided that they could ‘reinterpret’, reinvent, or otherwise circumvent the letter and intent of various Rules and Regulations, at an operational level, to better serve their primary interest of making money. Wrong line movements without proper Authority Malvern to Flinders Street, Patterson etc.

Signals Passed at Danger – (SPADS)

Another ‘yardstick’ as to the ‘health’ of the operations of MTM Pty. Ltd. are the outrageous and increasing number of incidents where a signal is passed at Danger, and the manipulation of SPAD statistics to present a ‘better than reality’ picture of the situation. SPADS have more than tripled during MTM’s tenure without a corresponding increase in services or train/km. Even so, MTM continue to downplay the numbers – directly caused by inadequate training, and dilution of skills and experience, and pressure to maintain on time running
And now we come to the unravelling Cert.IV in Rail Operations (Transport & Logistics) Scam. This is a money-spinner – new money for old rope!
“The Kangan Caper”

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This racket, laughingly referred to as “The Kangan Caper” sees MTM ‘engage’ the Kangan Institute – (and other service providers?) to ‘deliver training’. This so called ‘training’ takes the form of certificates of competency issued by Kangan (and others?) to MTM staff, for qualifications which they already have.
This is apparently RPL, or Recognition of Prior Learning
Presumably, Kangan are/were paid a fee for this service, and MTM are/were paid a vastly larger fee by taxpayers, in both cases based on the numbers of staff supposedly ‘trained’.
Somebody is investigating this, with staff being ‘interviewed over the phone to determine when (or if) any ‘training’ actually took place before the certificates turned up in the mail. The universal response has been “No”, or “What training”.
But don’t take our word for it – Ask Mr Peter J Graham, Director, Funding and Quality Assurance, Higher Education and Skills Group at Department of Education at; Graham.peter.j@edumail.vic.gov.au
He gave up after receiving over 100 responses as outlined above!
Now, exactly where Mr. Graham and his handlers are going with this remains to be seen, but perhaps a referral to the DPP for fraud would be appropriate, or perhaps a handball to IBAC for their dealing?
The Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Fiasco.
The four tunnels that comprise the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop were intended to alleviate congestion at Flinders Street Station – the primary CBD station – by providing alternative CBD destinations (Spencer Street, Flagstaff, Museum (now Melbourne Central), and Parliament) – and it worked!
For 25 of the last 30 years, most trains ran ‘via the City Loop’ and commuters were encouraged to use, and became accustomed to using, multiple CBD destinations.
The four tunnels were designed to run at 2 minute ‘headways’ – the minimum interval between trains – giving each tunnel a theoretical capacity of 30 trains per hour – a total of 120 trains an hour.
A capacity which has never been realised.
A number of additional services, ‘direct to (or from) Flinders Street’ provided additional capacity – capacity that was now easily accommodated at Flinders Street (in respect of passenger numbers) because 2/3rds of the previous passenger numbers boarded or alighted at one or other of these alternative destinations.
Successive governments then ‘dropped the ball’, and failed to continue ‘building for the future’

MTM arrived, and promptly started lobbying for – and achieved – the removal of some trains from the underground loops, to much public disquiet. And why wouldn’t there be?
This has the effect of making the users ‘fit the system’, forcing them to change trains at ‘satellite stations’ such as Caulfield, South Yarra, Richmond, Burnley, North Melbourne, Newport etc., rather than the reverse.
This practice disenfranchises the users of the system, the “customers” – the taxpayers.
Coincidentally (?) it also allows MTM to more easily reach their ‘On Time Running’ requirements, which also (coincidentally) increases the likelihood of achieving their monthly ‘performance’ bonuses.
The ‘service’ is thus compromised in the pursuit of profits to MTM.
And guess who wins?
Who, at PTV allowed this?
MTM have systematically exploited every deficiency, ‘grey area’ or loophole they could find in the Franchise Agreement.
They regularly and routinely ‘reinvent’ and reinterpret operating rules, the better to facilitate the making of money and ‘earning’ of bonuses.
Another example being the “Absolute Block” Fiasco where, having facilitated train running between and in the aftermath of the Fried Bat Disaster at Auburn, (February, 2013) they harassed, bullied and disciplined drivers who had correctly applied the applicable rules. But MTM couldn’t abide that, when the correct procedures had the effect of slowing trains, and compromising their ‘performance’ bonus!
They routinely ignore their own stated policies, renege on agreements that they have made, and have deliberately fostered a climate of blame, informing, bullying, fear and intimidation.
It would be charitable to say that MTM have merely ‘poisoned’ their entire workforce against them.
2015 saw the latest (and least responded to) Employee Engagement Survey descend into farce when Ron Bria tried to ‘buy’ responses by promising $10.00 of ‘his own’ money for every survey returned. It was a dismal failure.

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‘Sweating the Assets’.

‘Sweating the assets’ does not merely mean deferring the essential maintenance or replacement of equipment and infrastructure beyond prudent intervals. Highly skilled, well trained and dedicated staff, with decades of experience – career railway men and women – are assets too, in every sense of the word. They are the

‘Human Capital’ of the organisation, their training and experience for the most part having been paid for by the taxpayer over many years. Yet MTM have been allowed to waste and dilute this resource by their profligate, ‘born to rule’, bullying management style. Why?
Train drivers quit their jobs in droves
by: Greg Thom
From: Herald Sun
January 26, 2012 12:00AM
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Steven Elford says there is a lack of respect for his fellow drivers. Picture: Nicole Cleary Source: Herald Sun DRIVERS are abandoning suburban rail operator Metro in record numbers, insiders claim. The exodus has aroused fears of a “brain drain” of experienced drivers. Insiders said industrial tension between drivers and Metro management was behind a stampede for the door. The drivers’ union said the number of drivers leaving was almost three times the normal rate of attrition. Metro denies the claims. Drivers have told the Herald Sun they decided to leave because of what they believed was Metro’s aggressive management style. The Rail, Tram and Bus Union claims the number of trainees barely kept pace with the number of resignations. It says 45 drivers walked out last year, many of them 25-30-year veterans who trained recruits. About 47 drivers were accredited in the same period. More than half those who have left took jobs with other railways, including V/Line and freight companies Pacific National and QR. The rest have headed to WA to take advantage of lucrative railway jobs created by the state’s mining boom. A new round of railway job ads at this weekend are expected to spur another round of resignations. One driver estimated up to 50 more drivers could leave Metro in the next six months. A union spokesman said it was the number of highly experienced trainers quitting that was particularly worrying. Union divisional secretary Marc Marotta, said it was particularly worrying that people with decades of experience charged with training the next generation of drivers were quitting.

“The majority of blokes leaving are experienced guys,” a driver said. “I reckon about 70 per cent have 20 years or more under their belt.” Metro blamed driver absenteeism for a recent decision to cancel more than 20 peak-hour train services. Metro spokeswoman Geraldine Mitchell said 18 drivers resigned from Metro last year, in line with the normal rate of attrition. She said another 14 retired and five exercised their right to transfer to V/Line, and exit interviews reflected no driver dissatisfaction.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/train-drivers-quit-in-droves/story-fn7x8me2-1226253832436 thomg@heraldsun.com.au

Note: There has never been a single ‘Exit Interview’ conducted with a driver.
Repeated failures to abide by the terms of the Franchise Agreement.

MTM continuously ignore their obligations under the Franchise Agreement to properly maintain infrastructure, standards of cleanliness and presentation of buildings, rolling stock, maintain signal viewing distances by foliage control works etc. They are paid to do this work, and any money ‘saved’, i.e. not spent, goes straight into the pockets of the managers who ‘saved’ it, in the form of ‘bonuses’, and those of the shareholders. Shareholders, which also include some of the senior management of MTM.

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Signal head (S218) completely obscured by foliage. A ‘missed’ red signal here could easily result in a serious rear-end collision. (One of hundreds of examples of ignored reports and ‘deferred’ action) Note also the ‘cyclic top’ on both tracks.

The rail reserve, or ‘right of way’ is also a haven for noxious weeds – blackberry, Cape Weed, Pampas Grass, to name but a few – and MTM do nothing to remediate this.

Graffiti.

Trains, trackside infrastructure and buildings which are graffiti covered present a distasteful, shambolic ramshackle and care less appearance. Yet the government, PTV and MTM allow this to continue. Much of this vandalism occurs in supposedly ‘secure’ areas. Even deep inside the Underground Loop tunnels which are subject to regular incursions by ‘trespassers’. Imagine what could happen with a dedicated ‘lone wolf’ or group of ‘terrorists’

Trains covered with graffiti and allowed to remain in service – a daily occurrence, which ‘protects’ MTM’s bottom line. (Literally thousands of examples are available.)
Not so secure however, when vandals have keys, sometimes lost, sometimes stolen and sometimes openly sold online on graffiti-ist websites – a fact which MTM and PTV were repeatedly warned about, aware of and repeatedly ignored. This culminated in a train being ‘stolen’ and derailed at Hurstbridge in December 2015, causing an estimated $3 million in damages and loss of passenger capacity. Nobody has yet been charged arising from this incident, and nothing has been done to prevent a similar occurrence.

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PTV have the statutory responsibility, the legal power and the resources to supervise, audit, and enforce where necessary, strict compliance with every aspect of the Franchise Agreement. In this, as with every other aspect of their responsibilities, PTV are a miserable failure. Why?

Bullying, intimidation and harassment of staff.

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MTM’s belligerent, top-heavy, (more than 1200 manger/supervisor positions – costing more than 180 million dollars a year – who’s paying for that?) micro-management style Not to mention the documented cases of outright bullying of staff – often for simply doing their jobs, while managers threaten, stalk and sexually harass female staff – to the extent of even ‘turning up’ at their homes, peering through windows etc. Some of these events are ‘known’, and have been contemporaneously reported to MTM, the RTBU and elsewhere, including directly to the Minister.
Many others have not been ‘reported’, because of the justifiable fear on the part of the victims that they would be victimised and further harassed. In one shameful case, from March 2014, such was the care and sensitivity for the welfare of their employees exhibited by MTM, that a young driver committed suicide soon after being terminated. (Name and further details available upon request.)

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Investigator, Mr. Val Smith (0418207789) (former Victoria Police Detective Sen. Sgt.) is compiling evidence and at this point has taken statements from more than 50 drivers and at least 6 junior managers. Reportedly appointed to the task by PTV, MTM nonetheless ‘own’ the investigation, and any report/s arising from it, and predictably, no report has been released nor action taken against the perpetrators. Further Reading:
http://www.rtbuvicloco.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/LocoLines-Edition-61.pdf

https://mtmmemes.wordpress.com/2015/12/25/metro-trains-bully-and-harass-worker/

https://mtmmemes.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/how-metro-trains-increases-the-trauma-and-stress-involved-in-a-traumatic-event/

MTM are an ongoing disaster for public transport and the rail industry in Victoria. There are too many aspects of their business and operational practices which raise too many alarming questions – questions which have no satisfactory explanations.
How has this situation come about, or been allowed to continue, without the collusion of senior people within PTV?
Who those people are, what their level of incompetence, and culpability has been (and is?) can only be determined by a properly constituted and probing investigation.
The Victorian Government and the Minister have the opportunity here for a ‘face saving exit, given that it was the previous Labor Government that appointed MTM/MTR in the first place. Take the system back into public ‘ownership’, and save the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year thereafter. Hundreds of millions of dollars annually which could be redirected into rehabilitation, capital works and REAL IMPROVEMENTS.
Failing that, they need only force MTM to re-tender for their second franchise term – along with other interested parties – and then appoint somebody else as the operator. Nobody need be prosecuted, or even charged, (as satisfying as that might be), but the ‘train wreckers’ at MTM would be gone, and the system might actually start to ‘work’ for the real and measureable benefit of those who pay for it, rather than the undeserved enrichment of the opportunists who ‘manage’ it.
And in either case, there is a sound argument for wholesale dismissals and redundancies at PTV, starting from the top down.

http://www.dtpli.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/242599/FINAL-REPORT-PDF-Croydon-Derailment-3-Jan-2013.PDF

http://www.danielbowen.com/2015/02/26/track-conditions/

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3 comments

  1. David

    Quite a number of serious allegations in there. If true, that’s probably a criminal offence. Has it been reported to the police? If not, why not? There’s whistleblower and anti-corruption legislation to protect people who report those sorts of events.

    Like

  2. Inspector Gadget

    Clearly there’s something going on which demands a fearless and probing investigation. The appropriate forum for a proper investigation would be IBAC, a Judicial Inquiry, or a Royal Commission – any of these would have the capacity to subpoena witnesses, documents and other evidence, and refer the matters to the DPP.
    Any such investigation NEEDS to be open and public. The media, who have their own vested interests involved here – in the form of saturation advertising by the organisations in question – also have to grow a spine, and do their job.
    I have little faith.
    Whistleblower legislation actually provides no real protection – as many whistleblowers have discovered, to their detriment.
    It would be a brave person who expected that it would.

    Like

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