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What next after the 8 June protest? Residents groups on front line of democracy

Victorians and Australians need to initiate a new democratic process and hold to it. Residents' action groups now find themselves at the coal-face of democracy. They are the front line representing the future of our cities, states and this country. Their task is to identify, defend, and establish new property, community and natural environment rights and the implied citizens' rights that accompany these rights. We can no longer rely on the traditional environment NGOs or alternative political parties to represent us on these fundamental problems. They have been silenced by one means or another. Twenty years ago no-one would have contemplated making Planning Minister Mr Wynn's statements on drive-time ABC radio that we have to fit in 10 million more people in Victoria with four more million in Melbourne. This insane proposition is not the end of it by any means, either. Not only would Melbourne keep on growing, but most state governments are trying to force similar changes on their residents and the property development lobby has in the past admitted to the desire for something like 50 new mega cities around Australia, with eight new ones currently on the drawing board. The scale of these commercial projects will demand authoritarian regimes similar to China's. The looming privatisation of the planning system carries a danger of law suits from commercial developers against government, resident groups and private individuals if they try to object to any and all constructions. This paper proposes starting the new democratic process using the Planning Backlash Residents' Bill of Rights document and building on this. Victoria lacks any effective democratic process except state and council elections, but these elections give almost no rights to citizens and residents, renters or owners. This has to change or we will live in a property-developer-led dictatorship with our population completely replaced and displaced by constant massive construction and infrastructure projects, like those in China.

Setting a new process in motion with or after the Planning Backlash protest of 8 June

Groups currently trying to peacefully prevent the erosion of residents' rights by government instigated overpopulation and overdevelopment need to take more formally constructive initiatives. So far they have been reactive rather than proactive, responding to media reports with letters to the editor, responding to government inquiries by making submissions, responding to law bills by writing letters to members of parliament and the three main political parties, responding to development notices by writing objections and taking these to VCAT, and, in many instances, protesting on the steps of the Victorian Parliament. Whilst all these methods are honorable and traditional, they are reactive and piecemeal, do not notify the wider civilian population or representatives, authorities and administrators at all levels of government, and their demands and processes are inadequate in the face of the massive changes to our way of life that are being brought about by related policies at the level of Federal, Victorian and other state government. [1]

Sleepwalking towards the catastrophe of Victoria at 10m and beyond

When we hear the Minister for Planning, Mr Wynn, on drivetime radio, insist that Melbourne and Victoria will have to fit in something like 10 million people - about half Australia's current population by 2050 – then we need to take the matter beyond a very limited talk-back opportunity or 'have your say' submissions. When we hear from Planning Backlash that the Victorian Government is letting a tender for the private sector to rewrite the entire Victorian planning system in what amounts to a transfer of its planning powers, in the context of a continuously increasing scale of projected population growth, and the consequent over-riding of residents' rights, then these Planning Backlash resident groups need to notify authorities and administrators at all levels of government of their concerns in a formal objection to the entire policy of mass economic immigration and elevation of the property development industry to a quasi-authority. Note also the danger that planning system privatisation will muzzle debate through loss-of-profit legal suits against government and private individuals who object to any construction, in the vein promised by the Trans Pacific Partnership and other global agreements.

Twenty years ago no-one would have contemplated making Mr Wynn's statements. The insane proposition of four or six million more people for Melbourne is not the end of it by any means, either. Not only would Melbourne keep on growing, but most state governments are trying to force similar changes on their residents and the property development lobby has in the past admitted to the desire for something like 50 new mega cities around Australia, with eight new ones currently on the drawing board.[2] Such a massive rate of population growth and infrastructure development would require fundamental changes to the way Australian governments, courts, police and defense forces relate to citizens and residents because it would completely upset current land-use and land-tenure, with massive displacement of citizens and residents. For this reason the police and defense forces also need to be included in the notification and asked for feedback regarding the likely impact of this huge project of expansion.

Residents' action groups now at coalface of democracy

In face of the bank-backed and political party-backed army of bulldozers and planning bureaucrats Australians may soon face, residents' action groups now find themselves at the coal-face of democracy. They are the front line representing the future of their cities, states and this country. Their task is to identify, defend, and establish new property, community and natural environment rights and the implied citizens' rights that accompany these rights.

What do you do after the protest? Planning Backlash Residents' Bill of Rights.

Organised protests in public places are fine as a preliminary action, but we need to establish a more effective and long-term process with a body of documents to which we can refer again and again and use to negotiate new laws and rights. Planning Backlash has a fine beginning document, the Planning Backlash Residents' Bill of Rights. (See next page.) The document is not yet perfect, but is the only one of its kind. It lacks points on natural environment and wildlife and on public housing rights, but these could be included. It has an internal inconsistency by proposing regional development as a substitute for further densification of Melbourne suburbs, but its other demands – that population growth be slowed down to an OECD average and that infrastructure be provided in advance – are protective against this.

Notification of Concerns and initiation of new democratic process

There needs to be a Notification of Concerns document with an introduction about the situation, followed by the Planning Backlash Residents' Bill of Rights, which is a document of concrete demands which would establish and enlarge our democratic rights. Those who find this pro-active view of rights hard to imagine might consider the Magna Carta as an example of an historic document that forged rights where no-one had believed this possible. [3] The document needs to be signed by resident and other organisations (such as member organisations of Protectors of Public Land) to give it weight and to avoid stigmatising individual activists. These local and widely connected organisations are the most representative we have on property and democratic rights at the moment. There would be one address for replies, which should be made public. It could then be sent far and wide by mail or by email, but notably to the authorities and organisations that use, enforce, discuss and interpret the law (the judiciary, councils and councillors, police, army, political party branches, etc,). The demands for rights needs to be signed by enough credible organisations to make it a serious claim. Some of the organisations and authorities notified with the document would have to respond because, in effect, citizens will be saying that they think what the government is doing is contrary to fundamental property rights and expected government obligations to citizens. Hopefully some individuals in the organisations addressed would also find common concern with other concerned citizens.

NOTES

[1] Australians have a right to try in good faith to show that any of the following persons are mistaken in any of his or her counsels, policies or actions: The Sovereign, the Governor-General, the Governor of a State, the Administrator of a Territory, an adviser of any of the above, as well as to point out in good faith errors or defects, with view to their reform: the Government of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory; the Constitution; legislation of the Commonwealth, a State, a Territory or another country; or to urge in good faith another person to attempt to lawfully procure a change to any matter established by law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth, a State, a Territory or another country. You may point out in good faith any matters that are producing, or have a tendency to produce, feelings of ill will or hostility between different groups, in order to bring about the removal of those matters; or do anything in good faith in connection with an industrial dispute or an industrial matter; or publish in good faith a report or commentary about a matter of public interest. These rights are set out as 'in good faith' defenses in the Australian Criminal Code Act 1995, section 80.3.[1]

[2]This number, along with the desire for a population of 250m, has not been overtly stated in public documents but you can get the flavour of it in property council proposals like thishttp://www.eco-business.com/videos/one-high-speed-rail-eight-new-cities-a-new-plan-for-australias-growing-population/ (See illustration below) and you can infer it from the Department of Primeminister and Cabinet's "Smart which talks of "Publishing details of the regional City Deal competitive bid process to be used in the selection of City Deals outside Australian cities" at https://cities.dpmc.gov.au/smart-cities-plan and for which you can download the elaborations here: https://cities.dpmc.gov.au/18190/documents/48080

[3] Although the Magna Carta was a demand made by a group of Lords, the principle is the same, but the groups represented are larger and more social-contractually formed. In 1789 in France the National Assembly was peacefully obtained from the king by the common people, arguing their rights via delegates. (The king later went against this document and set his foreign troops on the people of Paris, sparking off a violent revolution, which many people erroneously think was actually started by the people.)

Residents' Bill of Rights

We, the current residents of Melbourne, country and coastal areas of Victoria, call on the government and opposition at all levels to act to protect our homes, communities and cities from over-development.

WE REJECT:

The current trend of excessive population growth through the ever increasing levels of immigration.

The excessive influence of vested interests and lobby groups upon residential planning and government decision making.

The increasing densification of residential areas and the consequent impact on our infrastructure without commensurate infrastructure upgrades at all levels.

The continual changes to planning law and regulations that provides no certainty for the peaceful enjoyment of our neighbourhoods by the current and future residents.
The continual urban sprawl into Melbourne’s green fringe and farming land.

We DEMAND:

• Population growth targets to be limited to sustainable levels based on OECD averages which is currently around 0.63%. (Australia’s rate of growth is currently around 1.7% ).

• Infrastructure be upgraded to meet current needs and kept ahead of requirements to meet our cities population growth requirements.

• A bipartisan planning environment that provides certainty and protects residential areas against densification in any form.

• Councils to be the sole “responsible Authority” for issuing planning permits and building permits.

• VCAT’s role to be confined to resolution of legal planning disputes and ensuring that lawful planning regulations are met.

• FIRB rules and penalties designed and strictly applied to prevent destruction of existing housing stock and neighbourhood character by foreign nationals.

• Expansion and development of regional cities and associated infrastructure to support population growth and lifestyle quality.

• Developer donations be deemed illegal with mandatory disqualification, forfeiture, or dismissal from or of any current or future development.

• Protection of current open space and tree canopy with requirement to retain or replace vegetation on all new or redevelopment sites.

• Government, at all levels, legally required to assess and protect the interests of residents ahead of developers’ interests.

• All planning committees and reference groups must have at reasonable resident representation.

• Legislate to ensure permits can be refused where a poll of residents/owners living within 300m radius of the proposed development indicates objection by the majority of existing residents/owners.

• A national uniform code be developed to define minimum dwelling size, minimum open space per bedroom and maximum occupancy limits.

• Enforceable minimum Victorian building standards regulations administered by an independent authority.

• Any breach of a planning permit or building standards should result in a prosecution by the relevant authority or the State or local Government to ensure proper rectification

• Developers to meet infrastructure costs necessary for new developments including drainage, sewage, water supply, telecommunications, gas and electricity.

• Developers to be required to contribute to a general community/Council infrastructure fund, , based on number of bedrooms or estimated improved value of the property.

• Neighbourhood character, architecture and heritage requirements to be met by every new residential development.

• Establishment and enforcement of resident and visitor car parking standards, for new multi-dwelling developments, at the rate of 0.75 spaces per bedroom, for residents and 0.25 spaces for visitors.

• Character protection for heritage and traditional local shopping strips.

[This bill was] Published & authorized by PLANNING BACKLASH, on behalf of it’s 250
supporting residents' groups in Melbourne, country & coastal areas.
PO Box 1034 Camberwell, Vic. 3124

Comments

The public have been complacent and compliant so far in allowing property developers and other industries to assume they can use our established suburbs, change them, for their own vested interests. We might accept *some* population growth, natural growth, at some point in time. BUT, what we have now is our cities being flooded by people, for "diversity", specifically to keep up the Great Housing Ponzi scheme flowing with profits that rise to the top!
Great to see a model of protest, and their Rights established. Unless residents become self-determining and authoritative, the rort will continue and our heritage buried under high density housing, endless towers and apartments. Quality of life is diminishing and Planning Backlash can set a standard, and process and a model that can be copied, used and implemented in other suburbs, cities and States!

I appreciate your comment on my article, VivKay. It is difficult for people to understand how they might create a new process and to give up entirely on the hand-me-down pretend process we currently have.

People generally appear to be unaware that rights that they should have are being trampled on.They are sleepwalking to a much diminished future. It is happening just slowly enough for young people and those not yet directly affected not to notice but fast enough for it to look like a juggernaut to the rest of us. It is quite true that the numbers and scale of Melbourne's and Victoria's future, articulated by the Planning Minister on ABC radio the other day would not have been broached 20 years ago. The forces of growth have built up to them so that with each wave of increase of the expectation of Melbourne's future size, the populace is to an extent desensitised and thus the tolerance to the growthist ambitions by the public and the media are ratcheted up. It's an example of the frog expiring in the water as it gradually comes to the boil. (as opposed to jumping out of already boiling water and surviving) If people thought that they actually had rights to be passed on to future generations then they would know if they were being breeched or if they didn't it could be pointed out.

Oh, I think the people are well aware that the temperature of water is already decidely uncomfortable, we just have no idea of what to do about it - our leaders and our elite rich act like an Alien species that will not have to suffer the consequences of what is happening to our society - so from that front there is no hope. So what to do? Unless everyone is prepared to risk life and limb in turning away from our current institutions, i.e stopping participating in them, and creating new, citizen controlled institutions, then things will continually deteriorate until uncontrollable violence and unpleasant lawlessness breaks out (as opposed to the possibly more pleasant wallking away from current system laws, created by the elites, towards real citizen created laws).