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NSW Bill to override local democracy and to privilege private business and protect Ministers from legal challenge
The following is from a speech to the Legislative Council of the NSW parliament by the Reverend Dr Gordon Moyes . (Headings and new punctuation have been added by a Candobetter editor):
The Motor Sports (World Rally Championship) Bill 2009 is a bill for an Act to facilitate the conduct of the international motor sport known as the World Rally Championship. Clauses 13, 14 and 15 override the Local Government Act 1993, the Forestry Act 1916, and the Water Management Act 2000 by allowing the Motor Sports (World Rally Championship) Bill 2009 to authorise people to take actions that are expressly not permitted by those Acts. Clause 20 protects the exercise of certain functions of the Minister, or any delegate of the Minister, or a public authority, from challenge or review before a court or administrative review body, or from being restrained, removed or otherwise affected by any proceedings.
An affront and an injury to Northern Rivers area in NSW
The Northern Rivers area of New South Wales is pristine and beautiful. It is incredibly rich in flora and fauna, with more species of fish, birds, amphibians and mammals than even the world-famous Kakadu area of the Northern Territory. The region also has many threatened fauna and plant species that need to be protected. The area is recognised as having diverse ecosystems, including different kinds of rainforest, wetlands, heath lands and important zones between the land and the water.
Area already officially consacrated as a national landscape icon
Some areas of Australia are so special and unique that they have received official recognition, and this is one of them. In 2008 the Federal Government launched the National Landscape Program, selecting only a handful of regions. Along with Kakadu and the Great Ocean Road, the Mount Warning Wollumbin Caldera was awarded special status as a national landscape icon by the Ministers for Tourism and the Environment. The green cauldron, as it is commonly called, is a designated area stretching from Byron Bay up past the State border into the Gold Coast, and was selected because of its distinctive natural features, including the world's second-largest shield volcano crater, which has shallow sloping sides, awesome environmental biodiversity and a very rich Aboriginal heritage.
Gordon Moyes MP: personal observations
I have wonderful memories of visiting this area on many occasions, particularly the area around Kyogle, which my family has visited several times. Kyogle is a town of approximately 4,000 people in the Northern Rivers region of northern New South Wales. It was founded as a lumber camp in the 1930s, with red cedar and hoop pine being the main timber trees. It is about 750 kilometres north of Sydney, quite close to the border. The Kyogle area has cattle grazing, dairy farming and forestry as its primary industries, and is a tourist gateway to many national parks. The mad rush of the modern lifestyle has lost so much of the simplicity and beauty of the more natural pace of life and the smaller scale of living on the land. The people living in Kyogle and Tweed shires have purposely set out to recapture this preferred quality of life and are living their vision in the most committed way.
REPCO Rally assails regional community world-view
The back-to-the-land lifestyle is a homey, environmentally based world view that embraces home-grown organic food, handmade items of daily life, eating actual cooked meals rather than fast food on the run, raising poultry and cattle, birdwatching, bushwalking and a philosophy that supports the ongoing daily work of a commitment to recycling and a deep love and respect for, and the protection of, wildlife. These are the kinds of quiet pursuits that they embrace and encourage in their region. The people of Kyogle and Tweed collectively have identified the environment and its protection and enhancement as their top priorities, and the extraordinary natural environment is the reason people choose to live there. I emphasise the fact that the people as a community and as a region have purposely chosen that natural, life-affirming, low-carbon-footprint, close-to-the-land lifestyle.
As part and parcel of that worldview, they have eschewed big, noisy, air- and water-polluting, old-fashioned, high-energy-using pastimes from the manic-paced cities, such as international motorcar racing. It is true that there has been a small Speed for Tweed race of historic motorcars for the past five years on the streets of Murwillumbah, but it is very small scale, low key and charming. It is run as a non-profit event by the locals for the benefit of locals. It has raised thousands of dollars for local charities and Murwillumbah hospital. The race is tiny in comparison with the major-event motor car races of a scale threatened by the Repco Rally, which is simply not welcome there for many reasons—one of which is that it is an international business. It does not even pretend to benefit or serve the interests of local people. It is merely a commercial enterprise, a business. It does not share the ethos of the region and will offer nothing of value to the community.
An insulting imposition on the locals by external parties
Most of all, the Repco Rally simply does not belong there; it is seriously out of place. If the rally proceeds, it is an insulting imposition on the locals by external parties with truly alien values who are apparently such arrogant people that they will not take the broad hint that they are not wanted. Indeed, the local people could hardly be more expressive of their point of view on this matter, having written to their representatives and to the newspapers, marched in their localities, attended consultations, and done everything else they could think of to get someone to pay attention to their concerns—which range from indignation at being treated shoddily by the State Government to concerns about damage to the environment, and to issues with the suspect economic claims behind the decision to hold this race in their vulnerable natural environment.
Same Rally cost WA tax-payers $6m+ p.a.
Previous speakers who praised the rally indicated that it will bring $100 million of value to the area. They do not understand what they are talking about. For example, $100 million over what period? It is certainly not for this one race that is coming up; nor for the one in two years time or the one in 10 years time. It is the accumulated value they think they might get if everything is done and all options are accepted between now and 2027. A more true picture comes from Western Australia. The Western Australian Government no longer wanted the rally, indicating that it was costing Western Australia $6 million a year and it was not getting economic value to make up for that $6 million.
Sham public consultation
I have received, as I guess have many members, hundreds of emails, letters and visits from people in the area pointing out many different aspects. Obviously I will not go through all of them now. However, one concerned citizen, Dr Jules Lewin of Stokers Siding, pointed out to me that Repco Rally's socioeconomic impact assessment was so poorly put together, without being substantiated or having verifiable projections or references, that in scientific, medical and management circles it would be flatly rejected. The methodology was inappropriate, the numbers were inadequate, the data presentation was obscure and the analysis was unsound and contradictory.
In the assessment there was no consideration of the current economic crisis; nor were there any references to current social trends, such as green driving, concern for many environmental issues, the concept of sustainability or the impact of peak oil. With such a lack of insight and grasp of elemental issues, the so-called impact assessment is utterly irrelevant. No multimillion-dollar contract meant to last a minimum of 10 years, plus a 10-year extension, should be allowed to proceed on the basis of the authenticity, accuracy or recommendations of this flimsy report.
Also, in the socioeconomic impact assessment the Repco Rally organisers claim to have consulted with the community, but a letter written to a number of local newspapers stated the following:
"We the undersigned wish to advise the community that our respective community associations have been totally misrepresented in the report entitled Rally Australia Socio-economic Impact Statement, which was committed by Repco Rally Australia. We have been listed on page 29 of the report as being the representatives of our respective community associations who were supposedly part of the community consultation process. We wish to advise that no such community consultation ever took place."
The letter is signed by a significant number of leaders of community organisations from the area. Claiming that community consultation took place might look good on paper, but it has now been completely discredited as an untruth. If the Repco Rally organisers have not provided meaningful background research, presented accurate information or genuinely consulted with the community, and they have misrepresented their own activities, what is their word worth on anything else? One lady wrote to me about Sargents Road in Kyogle, where she lives, which is a core koala habitat crucial for the survival of the species. She cited the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change [DECC] November 2008 Recovery Plan for the Koala, which seeks to ensure the survival of the koala in the wild. This State report reinforces the need to recognise the value of koalas to the community in terms of their presence in the landscape and their potential to attract eco-tourism.
Chaotic policy causing wildlife calvary
How then can another State department come along and act in opposition to those interests already committed to by that department? Sargents Road is not the kind of road recommended for racing—not if we care about animals and their habitats. In fact, the busy local wildlife rescue volunteers say that already far too much wildlife is injured and killed on the roads by automobiles, and that more cars racing on those roads is the last thing the animals need. They also mention that the methods proposed to scare the animals away from the roads—I wonder how many Government members understand this—will likely lead to stress reactions and heart failure in the animals. There will be extremely loud noises, such as banging and so on, to frighten animals away.
Road carnage bad enough without Repco adding to it
Additional concerns have been reported to me in letters from people, such as problem driving and street racing. I will not comment on those. We all know that streets and roads are already deadly to innocent drivers and pedestrians. The news is always full of copycat racing in every area after it hosts such races. Do we really want to inspire more of them? The answer from the people of the North Coast is a resounding "No". The local Kyogle and Tweed Landcare teams, made up of people who give their time free cleaning up, salvaging and repairing damaged ecosystems, dread the havoc that will be wreaked by such an event in this area—one that they have tended with such devotion over the years. The members of the Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers and the Caldera Environment Centre, who have worked for decades protecting the natural environment, are sick at heart over this bill, which will force on the rally in an area where it should not be allowed.
So many reasons to scotch the Repco rally
I assure members that local residents in this area are informed and intelligent; they know their special environment is critical to the growth of tourism in the area and is, in fact, its greatest attraction. Any activities that are destructive of the environment are anathema to them. Some believe that the Government will be in contravention of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which was signed in 1992. Motor sports are an incompatible activity and irrelevant to the local agricultural industry, and can only undermine the World Heritage value of the area. Any anticipated profits from motor sport enthusiasts would be dwarfed by the year-round loss of ecotourists once the green branding of the area is tainted. In addition to the danger to wildlife at risk from the rally, there are also many companion animals and domestic stock living in this area that are very sensitive to noise and can be terrified by screeching, careening and unpredictable motor-generated noises. Even if they were able to stay safely indoors, they will be bombarded by noise, which to animals is perceived as a threat. Such noise permeates and penetrates residential walls as if they were not there. This kind of noise should be isolated away from population centres—and not allowed in an area known for its nurturing silence.
The excessive noise pollution will be imposed on the human population too, of course. The standards set to protect people and animals will be overruled by this bill that we are considering passing, so that people will have no right to complain—and that is wrong. Those standards were established for a purpose, and to remove them casually in this way is a great wrong. Exposure to excess noise is known to raise the heart rate and blood pressure of many people and to contribute to anxiety; it should not be inflicted on populations as if it is of no importance. The wives, families, counsellors and companions of 4,000 war veterans living in the area have expressed their great concern over the anticipated helicopter noise—which they anticipate will cause psychological disturbance and deep anxiety as it triggers post traumatic stress episodes in the vulnerable, particularly Vietnam War veterans.
Even the anticipation of one helicopter circling above them is unbearable, much less the dozens of helicopters that will be used over the three-day event. To put veterans through such stress is just unconscionable. Their absolute dread is really escalating into a serious mental health issue for them, their families and their communities. Previously I have mentioned that I was responsible for establishing a mental health facility in Taree to handle post-war traumatic syndrome. Hundreds of Vietnam veterans from the northern rivers came to the Wesley Mayo clinic at Taree for psychological services. In fact, the recently named psychological condition of "solistalgia" is now widespread in the North Coast area. Solistalgia is defined as "the deep distress induced by environmental change, which is exacerbated by the sense of powerlessness and loss of control over the changes that are occurring".
Copious chemical and atmospheric pollution
Then there is the spillage of oil, petrol and other wastes that will seep into the ground, into the atmosphere and onto roads, which is unconscionable in such a pristine area. The air pollution generated from motor racing is unhealthy for people and all other living things, including trees close to the track. The amount of dust that is raised is dangerous for asthmatics and people with respiratory conditions, not to mention dirty and distressing for the people whose homes it will fill. Advising them to go inside and turn on the air conditioning is not good enough. People have outdoor work and busy lives to live and cannot easily take refuge indoors, and many do not have the option of air conditioning. Nothing will help animals cope with the particulate matter in the air that will sicken them.
On the topic of pollution, it is reported that every member of the world rally racing team travels over 130,000 kilometres by air each year. Add that to all the carbon emitted by the activities associated with the rally and a thoughtful person cannot help but recognise that it is an unacceptable carbon footprint.
Car-racing anathema to crucial environmental concerns - Why is government encouraging them?
In fact, in this era of climate change, in response to the deadly global threat of increasing greenhouse gases, it would be far more sensible for the State Government to discourage all human activities that produce such a massive carbon footprint. Perhaps the rich race organisers think they do not have to worry about such matters, but climate change will eventually affect them too. There are also all the prudent economic arguments that many of my constituents have pointed out. Locals believe almost universally there will be far more irremediable damage than any possible benefit accruing from having full restaurants and accommodation for a few days every other year.
The proposed benefits of showcasing the northern area to an estimated 51 million people worldwide, who are supposedly going to watch the racing on television, is outweighed by the actual damage done to the whole fabric of society, the already ill-maintained roads, the environment and the people. Some things just do not bounce back that easily, and having had an event of this magnitude forced upon them is not going to sit easy with residents. Many are simply not resilient enough to cope with the magnitude of the change being thrust upon them.
It just does not make sense on any level
West Australian Government on record as saying it was deceived by rally organisers
I will say very little more. It just does not make sense on any level. The history of the rally in other States has been lacklustre, leading to large financial losses by taxpayers. The Western Australia Government expressed that by not being willing to let it continue in that State. It is on record as saying they it was deceived by rally organisers. Why have Suzuki and Subaru withdrawn their sponsorship of the rally? Why did Victoria or Queensland not want it? Why did the Welsh Assembly Government recently terminate its five-year contract after just two years? I will tell you why. Because all the promised benefits that have been presented to members of the Government and the Opposition were hyped to them were not forthcoming, after all—and if we in New South Wales are sold the same bill of goods, the same thing will happen on the North Coast.
People have asked me why are the taxpayers of New South Wales being asked to fund this rich-people's sport? Why is the State Government promising this international commercial enterprise free labour of hundreds of local volunteers, particularly, who are already overstretched by their efforts and services during two recent floods in the area? As well as the money paid to the Repco rally organisers the State intends to provide free of charge a number of bushfire brigades, 150 extra police, the services of the State Emergency Service, hospitals and all their associated staff on stand-by, on and on ad infinitum. This event will run at a loss for the State, but not for the organisers. Even though the people who thought the idea had some merit now recognise the contempt in which their region's concerns are being held by the arrogant rally organisers who act as if they have been given carte blanche to do whatever they like. The residents know full well it is not democratic, not respectful, not what they expect or deserve, and not right.
One wrote to me and said:
"Apart from being a very bad idea and unpopular with residents, this is a dangerous practice: taking control over events that the local councils should be regulating, in order to benefit outside elites."
"Have our governing bodies become so anesthetised to the fact that they are elected to represent the citizens, and not given the divine rights of kings?"
Githabul Aboriginal women say attack on their sacred areas of life and death importance
There is one more group whose interests and concerns I have not yet mentioned, the Aboriginal women of the Githabul people, whose representative contacted my office when they heard that I was listening to all sides of the issue. The representative of the Githabul people explained that under the agreement reached in late 2007 the Githabul people were going to be allowed joint management of national parks and State forests with the New South Wales State Government. Regarding the Repco rally, there was consultation carried out with one sole male elder. But he, as a male, was not in a position to know anything about the areas that are sacred to the Githabul women and apparently the women are very distraught that they have had no voice in presenting their deeply honoured cultural concerns to the rally organisers and the New South Wales Government, and they call upon both to recognise that they too have a right to be heard. To them these issues are of life and death importance and they do not want the Repco rally to have access to particular areas on the race route as announced that are actually sacred territory.
Undemocratic bill to say the least
Forcing through the bill does not demonstrate respect for the opinions, needs and lives of people and their families in these areas. This is not good manners, it is not social justice, and it is not democracy. In fact it is a blatant flouting of the democratic process and does not represent the value system that Australians have gone to war to defend and protect. It is an insult to war veterans and families in that area. I am disturbed to note that this is becoming an all too familiar pattern, with bills being used by the Government to disregard other tiers of government or authorities in order to force its own way without regard for the feelings or safety of the people on the receiving end. Our political system has been built up over many years with multiple layers of power and checks and balances, and we must not give them away.
Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament
I conclude, Mr President, by reading a passage from the Code of Conduct for Members, which you signed and sent to every member of this House. I am sure that it has been quite a while since many of us read or thought about it. It states:
Members of Parliament acknowledge their responsibility to maintain the public trust placed in them by performing their duties with honesty and integrity, respecting the law and the institution of Parliament, and using their influence to advance the common good of the people of New South Wales.
Dr Gordon Moyes (MP) draws the line
I will not support any bill that allows large-scale events unwanted by the people who would have to host them.
Not all of my constituents are against motor racing per se, if it can be held in an area that will be undamaged by it and if nearby residents actively want it happening there. It is a hard ask, though. No residents that I have spoken to in the area, or anywhere near it, want motor races to be held near their children's schools, on their village streets or on rural roads. I do not approve of anything that can be construed as a misuse of power and, therefore, I will not support any bill that allows large-scale events unwanted by the people who would have to host them. I encourage any other members here today who still think they have either an environmental or a social conscience to join me in refusing to support what I believe is an ill-conceived bill. I thank you, Mr President, for extending me the privilege of being able to speak.