"It is important that we fight. The stakes are high. Urbanisation has become like tobacco and fossil fuels. A lot has been written about the dark arts employed by the tobacco companies and their lobbyists, and the fossil fuel companies and their lobbyists, to muddy the waters and prevent the public from understanding the damage their products do to public health and to the environment.
In this issue: VICTORIAN ELECTION FOLLOW-UP; HUME COUNCIL APPROVES FIVE STOREY DEVELOPMENT IN SUNBURY; RYMAN HEALTH 6 STOREY APPLICATION NOW BEFORE MOONEE VALLEY COUNCIL; CROWAG 2023 TREE COVER FORUM; CROYDON CONSERVATION SOCIETY UPDATE; GOOD NEWS 1.
In this issue: VICTORIAN ELECTION; CLIFFORD HAYES NOT RE-ELECTED TO LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL; LESSONS FROM THE ELECTION FOR PLANNING DEMOCRACY; SPEECH TO PROTECTORS OF PUBLIC LANDS AGM; SPEECH TO NORTH EAST LINK RALLY; WIN OVER VICSMART CRAZINESS; MIAMI HOTEL WEST MELBOURNE – DEVELOPERS BEHAVING BADLY; RESIDENTS SAY IN PLANNING – MICHAEL BUXTON; RESIDENTS SAY IN PLANNING – CITY OF MELBOURNE CONSULTATION RULES; SAVE WESTERNPORT WOODLANDS; PROTECTING NATIONAL PARKS FROM OVERDEVELOP
This edition's headlines: Pre-Election forum; State Election Questionnaire Responses; Floods; Queen Victoria Market; A win at Oaklands Junction; Saving Mount Eliza's reservoir as a public wetland; Royal Exhibtion Building and Carlton Gardens; Kilmore's Equine Overlay; Beaumaris Modern Open Day; Kingston Planning Scheme Amendment C203; Hepburn Shire Biodiversity Threat; Toondah Harbour - Walker Corporation; Save Westesrn Port Woodlands; Caring for Western Port Country; Value
Planning Democracy has designed this questionnaire to help its network of concerned community groups understand where you and/or your party stand on using the Planning Framework to give communities a genuine say in protecting Victoria’s environment, heritage and natural resources.
Planning Democracy will be holding a Pre-Election Forum for community groups on Saturday 8 October 2pm at the Ashburton Library, 154 High Street Ashburton. Full details are in the attached leaflet. Please feel free to forward the leaflet to your friends, family, and networks, and I hope to see you there.
In this issue - 1. Save Lake Knox!; 2. Moreland votes to refuse development at 38 Harrison St Brunswick; 3. Secret plans for Surrey Hills/Mont Albert Railway Station; 4. Heritage Victoria Decision on Wattle Park; 5. High Rise proposed for central Coburg Heritage Church Site; 6. Melbourne's liveability tanks; 7. Kilmore Residents VCAT win; 8. Plans for Poolman House; 9. Boroondara Cycleway proposals update; 10. National Collections left to languish; 11.
[Candobetter Editor: Sorry this report is being published very late, although it arrived on time.] In this issue: Federal Election 2022 - Climate Change, Corruption, Women, Young People; Australian Heritage Advocacy Advice; Royal Historical Society of Victoria Heritage Protection action; Urban consolidation and Housing Affordability; Good News at Kilmore; Wattle Park/The Effect of Night Lighting on Birds; Boroondara proposed Cycleway; VCAT Decision - Baker v.
Candobetter Editor apologies for the late publication of this report, which was delivered in time. It is also in a different format.
Report on the Heritage Protection Forum; Where to from here; Federal Elections; Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance 2022 Campaign; Save Lake Knox; Brunswick - good and bad news; Submissions open for Melbourne Observatory Lighting Works; Wattle Park Update; Kilmore Land update; Queen Victoria Market update; Mt Eliza Village entry way; Elsternwick Structure Plan; Glenlyon; Hawthorn Institute of Education to become apartments; Sprawling cities are over-running global biodiversity; The
Heritage Protection Forum. This Saturday 9 April, 10am sharp til 12 Noon. Hawthorne Library, 584 Glenferrie Rd., Hawthorne. Meeting Room 3.
Headlines: Planning Democracy Heritage Protection Forum; Legislative Council Planning and Heritage Committee Inquiry; Windsor Heritage House demolished; Big Win Number 1 - Liddiard Street Carpark gone; Big Win Number 2 - Tullamarine waste dump; Save Westernport woodlands; Kilmore Land update; Kew Cottages Coalition; Wattle Park update; Planning delegations in Moreland and Yarra - a win and a loss; 38 Harrison Street Brunswick; National Trust; Sunbury update; Suburban Rail Loop boo
Report headlines: Heritage Protection Forum planned; Federal Election; The Committee that ate Melbourne (The Melbourne Committee); Wattle Park Heritage Submissions sought; Curtin Hotel; Kilmore Land Deal; Crowag Green Notices; South East Water Reservoir, Mt Eliza; Heritage Victoria Permit Application for 2022 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show; Ivanhoe Developer goes direct to Planning Minister; Queen Victoria Market; Big End of Town Complaints Department; High-rise A
This report includes: Legislative Council Planning and Heritage Inquiry; Australian Heritage Advocacy Alliance Federal election strategy; Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens, and St Vincent's Hospital; Concerned Residents of Whitehorse Action Group (CROWAG) – Tree canopy cover; Blackburn Village Residents' Group - Tree Canopy cover; Landscape Plans and potential legal protection for trees within; Liddiard Street Hawthorn multistorey carpark; Kilmore land rezoning; Wattle Park - Artif
- INQUIRY INTO THE PROTECTIONS WITHIN THE VICTORIAN PLANNING FRAMEWORK.
As I previously reported, the Environment and Planning Committee of the Victorian Legislative Council is conducting an Inquiry into the adequacy of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and the Victorian planning framework, in relation to planning and environment protection.
Kelvin Thomson reports on Kilmore Racing Club; Wattle Park, Fiji monument;N.E. Link; Green Wedges; Richard Wynn overide-VCAT-Stonnington; LG apprehended bias opinion; Melbourne population & housing affordability - and more.
It is great to see how Kelvin Thomson has leapt into action on behalf of Planning Democracy. Here he reports on Fawkner Park; Melbourne tree-canopy; Queen Vic Market; Mary-Lous Howie's letter to Mayor Capp; RESCODE; Buxton on Sub Loop Bill; Blackburn Village Res group; Herald-Sun cover of Planning Democracy...(Candobetter Ed.)
Dear Planning Democracy supporter,
Here is my third Convenor’s Report. As you can see, it’s been a busy couple of weeks.
Hi to you all, and particularly to those of you who I do not know. As you will have heard from Mary, I have agreed to take over as Convenor from Mary Drost OAM. In 2005 Mary established Planning Backlash as an umbrella organisation and coalition of community and resident action groups.
“Merely adding more people isn’t a sustainable economic strategy. We can’t pretend that high immigration comes without a cost and growth should not impose an unfair burden on those who are already here. Excessively rapid growth puts downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on housing prices, both of which have sorely stung workers and aspiring home-owners in Sydney and other parts of NSW for a decade. When you look at the numbers, it’s no surprise communities in Sydney are feeling the pressure. In 2006, annual net overseas migration to Australia increased to roughly double its pace across the preceding 25 years.” (Dominique Perrottet as Treasurer in 2018)
To the horror of many Australians, Perrottet has recently called for 'explosive immigration' to Australia, purportedly as an economic fix. In this interview we see how shockingly cynical this call really is, in the light of Perrottet's own history.
Dominic Perrottet’s ‘explosive immigration surge’ will be a disaster
Kelvin Thomson, after quoting Dominique Perrottet above, added, “He told your colleague Michael Mclaren, in an interview in 2018, that simply because the treasury bureaucrats might tell you that putting in more people drives economic growth, that is lazy economics. That’s what he should have told your bureaucrats now, instead of apparently falling hook line and sinker for what he was able to recognize as rubbish three years ago.”
Candobetter Editorial comment: It is obvious that immigration adds pressure on politicians too. Was giving the growth lobby 'explosive immigration' the price Perrottet paid to be NSW Premier, causing him to eat his 2018 words? NSW people and the rest of Australia will also pay for this if it goes ahead.
In the podcast we link to above, Luke Grant is joined by The Hon. Kelvin Thomson, Former Federal Member for Wills & spokesman for the Sustainable Australia Party, who advises that NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet rule out proposals for an “explosive” immigration surge which would bring in 2 million extra migrants over the next five years.
Mr Thomson says, “Not only will 2 million extra people be an environmental disaster, it will be a disaster for young Sydney-siders.”
“For the first time in years the Reserve Bank and leading economists have seen signs of wages growth and increasing job opportunities for young people.”
“The “explosive” two million extra people would detonate those opportunities, blowing the chances of young people to have secure full time jobs right out of the water.”
“The “explosive” surge would also be bad for Sydney’s housing affordability, traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, open space and tree canopy cover.”
During Victoria's lockdown(s), I re-read The Plague, by Albert Camus, which was a prescribed text for me and other Higher School Certificate students (Year 12) way back in 1972. The plot concerns the Algerian town of Oran, which is struck down by bubonic plague in the 1940s. The townsfolk are sealed off and isolated from the outside world, as the plague exacts an increasingly terrible and deadly toll. The book depicts their different reactions to their situation. It has immense power in getting to the heart of what things, and what values, are important in life.
The plague in Oran, and the coronavirus pandemic in Australia, have some clear differences. While the people of Oran are cut off from the world, they are not cut off from each other. They mix at restaurants and cafes and the like. Social distancing doesn’t play any noticeable role – whether this was wise from a health perspective is not spelt out.
Another noticeable difference is that the initial reaction of the townsfolk is largely selfish. It is over time that many of them come to the realization that “we are all in this together”, and join the efforts of the medical team to help those who have been infected. By comparison I feel that the initial response of Australians in 2020 to coronavirus was a “Team Australia” approach, but that as the pandemic has worn on that people have tended to become fatigued and less concerned about the welfare of others.
These differences notwithstanding, I think the book rings many bells for our present situation. Camus says the townsfolk initially believed the pestilence wasn’t real, or that it would soon pass. “A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure, therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogey of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away…”
Camus also says that the town’s leaders and officials were slow to take the plague seriously. He says they had good intentions: “That, in fact, was what struck one most – the excellence of their intentions. But as regards plague their competence was practically nil”. And the epidemic spells the ruin of Oran’s tourist trade.
Then the plague produces a new variant, moving from bubonic to pneumonic. The officials are left “groping, more or less, in the dark”. Camus observes that “Officialdom can never cope with something really catastrophic”. This realization prompts one of the book’s key characters to organize voluntary groups of helpers to help the sick.
Camus also discusses the fatalism in Oran at the time, which is echoed today in the regularly heard observation that “we are going to have to learn to live with COVID”. He wrote “Many fledgling moralists in those days were going about our town proclaiming that there was nothing to be done about it and we should bow to the inevitable”.
But he rejects that fatalism. He goes on to say “And Tarrou, Rieux and their friends might give one answer or another, but its conclusion was always the same, their certitude that a fight must be put up, in this way or that, and there must be no bowing down. The essential thing was to save the greatest possible number of persons from dying”.
Indeed. It is an issue of fundamental humanity. In the last year and a half most people I have talked to have overwhelmingly supported community action to save every possible life. They have not displayed any sympathy for the Darwinian “survival of the fittest” approach. I have been impressed by their basic humanity and concern for those around them.
The Plague is worth a read. It is not an easy book, but then we don’t live in easy times.
Tomorrow it will be exactly 10 years since Kelvin Thomson spoke to the Parliament describing increasing population as the underlying cause of the world’s problems. He listed each of them - global warming, food crisis, water shortages, housing affordability, overcrowded cities, traffic congestion, species extinctions, fisheries collapse, increasing prices, waste, terrorism and war - and described the role that population growth was playing in fuelling them.
Sadly in the ten years since he gave that speech population growth has continued unabated, and Kelvin says he can’t claim that the speech has had any effect on it.
But the speech has certainly stood the test of time. Every thing he pointed out ten years ago remains valid and has been vindicated by the growing problems and turmoil that we see around us.
Kelvin Thomson gives the example of water shortages, which are now even more acute than they were in 2009. He cites a New York Times report which appeared 10 days ago (“A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises”) which said that World Resources Institute researchers had found that among cities with more than 3 million people, 33 of them, with a combined population of over 255 million, face extremely high water stress, with repercussions for both public health and social unrest.
Even worse, by 2030 the number of those cities in the extremely high stress category is expected to rise to 45 and include nearly 470 million people. Clearly the World Resources Institute doesn’t believe either the engineering solutions of the technological optimists, or the consume less/waste less exhortations of the social justice warriors, are going to actually prevent this debacle.
He was only wrong about one thing, he says:
"The one area where Australia has taken a different path from the one I predicted has been the question of price rises. Prices have risen less than I expected, largely because our mass migration program has put downward pressure on wages and caused them to be stagnant. Of course the effect on living standards, which was my concern, has been the same. As the ABC economics writer Carrington Clarke observed in 2017, the reason Australians have been concerned that their living standards haven’t been rising is because they haven’t, while migration has enabled Governments to pretend we have been recession free and that the economy is improving."
"We continue to go down a totally unsustainable path and ordinary people have less control over their lives than ever before. It’s time we started to take it back," he concludes.
Kelvin Thomson's Population Speech to the Australian Parliament Monday, 17 August 2009
Mr KELVIN THOMSON (8:40 PM) —We all know that the world has plenty of problems. Let me run out some that come to mind without much effort: global warming, the food crisis, water shortages, housing affordability, overcrowded cities, transport congestion, the fisheries collapse, species extinctions, increasing prices, waste and terrorism. We scratch our heads and try to come up with solutions. It staggers me that so often we ignore the elephant in the room: increasing population. Each of these problems is either caused by or exacerbated by the global population explosion. In the first two million years of human existence, the global human population was only a few million. Up to 1950, it had managed to climb to two billion. In the 50-odd years since, it has trebled to six billion people. And the population is projected to double again.
The consequences of the present population pressure are dramatic. In my belief, it is not plausible that the world’s population could double without the consequences becoming catastrophic. Yet, when it is suggested that the world’s population is a problem, there is zero interest from policy makers. In my view, it is not so much a problem as the problem. Let me return to that list of problems and describe the impact of population on them.
One: global warming. Population plays a critical role in global warming. We have one earth and one atmosphere, and every carbon dioxide molecule we release into it contributes to global warming. The more of us there are, the more carbon dioxide is released—simple and undeniable. Al Gore identifies population growth as one of the big three drivers of the rapid spurt of greenhouse gasses during the past 50 years. People who believe that we can meet serious carbon targets without curbing population growth are kidding themselves; they are delusional. There is no reasonable prospect that Australia will reduce its total level of greenhouse emissions while our population grows by one million every four years as is presently the case. Population stabilisation must be part of the plan to contain greenhouse emissions not merely for Australia but for the rest of the world as well.
Two: the food crisis. The combination of declining arable land and continued population growth has caused the world’s per capita food production to go into decline. We are now in a situation where there is a global shortage of food which is set to get worse. In future, more people will starve—not fewer. Figures released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation show that the number of people suffering from chronic hunger is rising, not falling. In June last year, the Australian government’s Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation said that world agriculture is experiencing a growing crisis, and its first named demand-side factor was increasing global population.
Three: water shortages. As with agricultural decline, population growth is fuelling water shortages both indirectly through climate change and directly through extraction and pollution. Around the world, one in three people is suffering from water shortage. Assuming modest rates of population growth, we will use 70 per cent of the world’s accessible fresh water by 2025. Already, 400 million children worldwide are drinking dangerously unclean water, and one child dies from a waterborne disease every 15 seconds. According to Melbourne Water, water scarcity in and around Melbourne is being driven by both climate change and population growth.
Four: housing affordability. Housing affordability in Australia has undergone a period of dramatic decline. John Edwards, an economist with HSBC, has noted that Australia’s high level of migration, the highest level in our history, is going to keep upward pressure on house prices. The same goes for rent. The General Manager of Australian Property Monitors, Michael McNamara, has said the shortage of rental properties will continue to worsen because of rising migration.
Five: overcrowded cities. Our cities are too large. They dwarf people. The sheer scale of them is overwhelming for some, who lose the plot and fall victim to mental illness or drug and alcohol abuse. For the rest of us, the madding crowd swells every year, giving us that little bit less room. Every square metre of space is fought over. In Africa and Asia the accumulated urban growth during the whole span of history is in the process of being doubled between the years 2000 and 2030. A United Nations Population Fund report released in June 2007 says that, as a result, a billion people—one-sixth of the world’s population—live in slums. The overcrowding of cities is not merely a Third World phenomenon either. In my home city of Melbourne, a lot of people of goodwill have supported high rise as preferable to urban sprawl. What they do not realise is that it is not halting any urban sprawl at all. Suburbs continue to continue to march out onto the horizon. Property developers are having their cake and eating it too. We are growing upwards and outwards. Melbourne is becoming an obese hardened-artery parody of its former self. There is something intangible but important about the personal space of a backyard. I believe the children who grow up in concrete jungle suburbs are subject to more bullying and harassment and are more vulnerable to traps such as crime and drugs.
Six: traffic congestion. More people equals more cars, and the more cars there are out on the roads the longer it takes us to get anywhere. The time that motorists spend on the roads in and out of Brisbane, for example—to the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast or Ipswich—is truly appalling. Each suburb we build out of the city fringes means more traffic coming through the inner suburbs, more congestion, more pollution and more noise. It does nothing for our calm, our quality of life or our sanity. We think we have no choice but to grin and bear it. It is not true.
Seven: species extinctions. The USA based National Academy of Sciences has reported that human activities are leading to a wave of extinctions over 100 times greater than natural rates. Over 12,000 varieties of animal, plant and water life are critically endangered. Thirty per cent of Australia’s 760 bird species are under threat. The world has entered the 21st century with little more than 10 per cent of its original forest cover intact. According to anthropologists Richard Leakey and Roger Lewis, all the forest cover will be largely gone by 2050. Sometimes I think we have declared war on everything else. The more there are of us the less there is of everything else. I consider it a grotesque piece of arrogance on our part as a species that we think that we have a right to destroy everything else on our way to affluence.
Eight: fisheries collapse. One of our favourite old sayings was, ‘There are plenty more fish in the sea.’ Not anymore: 90 per cent of the large fish in the ocean are gone. Australia is in the same boat as everyone else. Our annual catch has steadily gone down, and a Bureau of Rural Sciences fisheries status report says that two-thirds of Australia’s fisheries are either overfished or uncertain.
Nine: increasing prices. Increasing population consumes resources and makes them scarcer, leading to price rises. The rising price of petrol is a clear function of scarcity fuelled by population growth, and the increased cost of basic resources such as water and petrol feeds into everything they contribute to—food costs, transport costs, insurance, housing et cetera. Some economists argue that increasing population will create economies of scale and put downward pressure on prices. In reality, this downward pressure on prices is sighted less frequently than Elvis Presley.
Ten: waste. A vast area of the central Pacific Ocean has become smothered in plastic. It is referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The area affected is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and to a depth of at least 30 metres. What a disgrace!
Eleven: terrorism and war. Analysts spend a great deal of time assessing the political and religious factors leading to the scourge of terrorism and war in the modern world. They spend less time noting the underlying cause: conflict over scarce resources—scarce land, scarce water and scarce oil—brought about by increasing population. A Pentagon report in 2007 detailed a range of scenarios in which population displacement caused by global warming and triggered by extreme weather events would lead to border tensions and armed conflict. An Oxford University study has estimated that 26 million Bangladeshis, 73 million Chinese and 20 million Indians are at risk of displacement from rising sea levels.
In short, it is time for governments and policy makers around the world to come to their senses and take steps to stabilise the world’s population. It needs to happen in every country, including here in Australia—especially here in dry, arid Australia. And it is time people and communities stood up and demanded better of their policy makers than the ‘she’ll be right’ growth fetish which is making an utter mockery of our obligation to give to our children a world in as good a condition as the one our parents gave to us.
It has been great to re-live the Apollo 11 Moon Landing’s 50 th Anniversary. What a monumental achievement and tribute to human intellectual candlepower, endeavour and above all courage. I was a Year 9 student at the time; like other classes we downed tools to watch it unfold. Our teachers were just as astonished by the audacity and precision of the Landing as we were. I – and I think most of the people who I talked with or heard from at that time – had a very rosy view of the future. Yes we were involved in a stupid war in Vietnam, but I thought the Second World War and the Holocaust were so wicked and so evil that we’d learned from that, and that there was a very strong worldwide appetite for peace. I thought that war and conflict would become a thing of the past.
I also thought that we were learning from our environmental mistakes, and that the public interest and community action groups springing up to oppose air pollution, water pollution, toxic pesticides and habitat destruction would see us lift our environmental game. In short, I thought everything would improve.
But to reflect on the Apollo 11 Moon Landing raises the question for me – what has actually happened to the world in the last 50 years?
The most striking global phenomenon of the past 50 years has been population growth. It took us the whole of human history to get to the 3.6 billion people we were in 1969. It has taken just 50 years to more than double that, to 7.7 billion now. Australia is no exception – back in 1969 we were 12 million; now we are 25 million.
The impact of this growth on wildlife and the environment has been catastrophic. The latest World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report says that since 1970, 60% of the population of all mammals, birds, reptiles and fish has been lost.
60% in 50 years. It is a disgrace. It makes an absolute nonsense of the idea that we’re decoupling growth from environmental damage; that we can continue to grow, and our wildlife won’t disappear. Let me repeat – in the last years our numbers went up by over 50%, and the world’s wildlife went down by 60%.
Co-incidence? Hardly. As has been noted by The Overpopulation Report, the total weight of vertebrate land animals 10,000 years ago was – Humans 1%, Wild Animals 99%. Today it is Wild Animals 1%, Humans 32%, Livestock 67%.
And the population doubling in 50 years has not just been catastrophic for our wildlife and environment; there have been many other consequences too. Back then Australia had negligible unemployment. Now we’ve got unemployment, we’ve got underemployment, we’ve got job insecurity, we’ve got no wage growth.
Back then we had virtually no homelessness and much lower levels of mental health problems and drug addiction. Now we have homelessness and beggars in the streets, our young people have mental health problems. Ice used to be something you needed to keep the beer cold. Not any more. We have housing unaffordability. In 1969 Australians not only owned their own homes, many Australians had a holiday home down by the beach as well. Not any more. In 1969 there was no such thing as traffic congestion. Now the traffic congestion is terrible. We have road rage (unheard of in
1969) and Melbourne is on track to add over one million extra cars in the next 20 years. How will we go with another million cars?
In 1969 we did indeed take a giant leap forward. But it’s the increasing size of the foot, and our footprint on the earth, that the past 50 years will be most remembered for in time to come. The next giant leap for mankind will be the one that moves us from using “growth” as our measuring stick, to using “wellbeing”, and which enables us to put into effect the lesson of those beautiful photos of the earth taken by the astronauts – that we’re all in this together.
The Hon. Kelvin Thomson
22 July 2019
Kelvin Thomson will be speaking at an event organised by the Builders Collective of Australia on the 25 August 2019. 'In light of the cladding crisis, Builders Collective of Australia present a public event to discuss the causes, consequences and solutions'. https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/cladding-conversations-tickets-65666711903
About this Event
With an aggregate rectification bill of billions of dollars, the fallout from flammable cladding is unfolding through the building industry, property market, and legal systems.
As well as immediate practical challenges of making buildings safe and compliant, flammable cladding raises broader questions around risk in our buildings and cities, and the frameworks that govern them. How do we, and how should we, assign responsibility for cladding issues and for fixing them? How do governments balance tensions between accountability, certainty, and the immediate need to make buildings safe? How did we get here and what are the options moving forward?
In light of such questions, Builders Collective of Australia, present a public event comprising an expert panel with a primary purpose to discuss the causes, consequences and solutions to flammable cladding. The expert panel draws together a range of perspectives to help illuminate how the flammable cladding problem came about, what the range of consequences are, and what could or should be done to fix it.
Speakers will discuss government, consumer, academic and industry-based insights into different aspects of the combustible cladding challenge. The discussion will cover questions around the building industry, litigation, regulation, owners corporations, fire engineering, consumer rights, and planning processes.
The event will comprise a short facilitated panel discussion, but more importantly it then gives the Moreland residents and the wider Victorian community a chance to particpate in an audience discussion on the issue.'
This is an incredibly good interview. If only the ABC had interviewers of this public interest standard. McLaren and Thomson seem to touch on almost everything in about 20 minutes, with appropriate emotion. We have so many problems caused by massive population growth.
Michael McLaren introduces the interview: "What are some of the really big issues that people around the country and around our cites are talking about? Water shortages particularly in the cities. Dam levels are heading down to 50% and falling Many are talking about record multi-billion dollar infrastructure spends, particularly by state governments that are increasingly heading towards debt; Certainly, in Sydney, many people are talking about shoddy, rapidly builtcrumbling, high-rise apartment towers, and more broadly, [...] the green elements of our society people are talking about increasing biodiversity loss. These diverse topics have in common unsustainable rapid population growth. These are all symptoms of that root cause, and yet, the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that Australia's population growth is speeding up! In other words, all of those issues and more are only going to get worse." (Michael McLaren of Wake Up Australia 2GB radio) Michael McLaren is joined by Kelvin Thomson, former Federal Member for Wills now advisor for Sustainable Australia Party’s Clifford Hayes to discuss the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that Australia’s population growth treadmill is speeding up. Figures released Friday for the end of December 2018 show that in 2018 Australia’s population increased by over 400,000 to pass 25 million. Net migration contributed around 250,000 of this increase while natural increase (births minus deaths) contributed around 150,000 of this figure.
“Face up to the fact that the Liberal, Labor and Green Parties are not going to move on this issue on anything other than the point of an electoral gun, and conduct ourselves accordingly.” We have to deal with the magic pudding myth which says the world's poor can achieve western standards of living that people living in western countries will be able to more or less maintain their standards of living, that we can maintain our current rate of population growth, and we can protect the environment. It is a lie. You've heard Al Gore talking about climate change and inconvenient truth? Well, this is a convenient lie. It enables environmental groups to duck the population issue, but it is a monstrous and deceitful lie. Researchers who've looked at this say there could be a European standard of living for everyone, with sustainable use of our natural resources, provided the earth's population was no more than two billion. Kelvin also suggests that we ask political candidates if they would support Australia sponsoring a population treaty at the United Nations that committed each country to stabilising its own population. (Speech made at SPA Brisbane Seminar 27 April 2019).
Text for speech: The Political Impasse - Where To From Here?
Speech to Sustainable Population Australia National Conference Saturday 27 April 2019.
My first response to the question “Where to from here” is that we need to seize the high moral ground. Now in the political party which I was a member of for over 40 years, there is a saying “In the race of life, always back the horse called self-interest. It doesn’t always win, but it always gives you a bloody good run for your money”.
And because population stability would serve so many Australians, particularly younger ones, better than rapid population growth, it is indeed very tempting for us to pitch our arguments in that direction. But the population debate is not fundamentally a debate about putting a few more dollars in people’s pockets. It is a debate about values. It is a debate about what kind of world we are going to live in, and what kind of world we are going to pass on to our children.
I don’t know about you, but I am sick to death of commentators and social media smart alecs trying to paint anyone who raises the issue of population as racist or selfish. The opposite is the truth, and we should unashamedly claim the high moral ground.
In August it will be ten years since I first advanced in the Federal Parliament two propositions - that the world had a population problem, and that Australia has a population problem.
As that tenth anniversary approaches I have reflected on what has been achieved since then, and the short answer is, not much. There are few signs of a shift towards population stability and sustainability either globally or here in Australia, and the debate about population continues to be dominated by the greed of the political right, and the vanity of the political left.
But to get a clearer perspective on the population issue, I prefer to go back not 10 years to 2009, but 50 years to 1969. In the summer of 69 Bryan Adams was playing his guitar till his fingers bled. And I was a teenager getting interested in the environment and politics. My father and I got involved in the campaign to save the Little Desert and the Lower Glenelg River in Victoria from being cleared for agriculture.
That successful campaign saw the establishment of the Victorian Land Conservation Council. It was a time that seemed to me to mark the establishment of the modern conservation movement, not just in Victoria, but in many other parts of the world.
I had a very rosy view of the future. I thought Australia’s pioneers had made a lot of environmental mistakes, but we were learning from those mistakes, and in future we were going to properly protect our unique and beautiful birds, plants and animals.
I had a pretty rosy view about everything else, too. I thought that not only were we lifting our environmental game, but that EVERYTHING would get better.
Yes we were involved in a stupid war in Vietnam, but I thought that that the Second World War and the Holocaust committed on the Jewish people was so wicked and so evil that we had learned from that. That there was an appetite for peace. That war and conflict would become a thing of the past, and things would continue to get better and better.
So what has actually happened in the last 50 years? The world’s population has more than doubled - 3.6 billion back then, 7.7 billion now. Australia’s population has also more than doubled - from 12 and a quarter million then to 25 million now.
The effect of this on the world’s wildlife has been nothing short of catastrophic. The latest WWF Living Planet Report says that since 1970, 60% of the population of all mammals, birds, reptiles and fish has been lost. 60% in less than 50 years!
This is terrible, it is a disgrace, and it makes an absolute mockery of the idea that we’re decoupling growth from environmental damage- that we can continue to grow, and our wildlife won’t disappear. Let me repeat - in the last 50 years our numbers went up by over 50%, and the world’s wildlife went down by 60%.
Co-incidence? Hardly. As has been noted by The Overpopulation Project, the total weight of vertebrate land animals 10,000 years ago was - Humans 1%, Wild Animals 99%. Today it is the Wild Animals that are the 1%. Humans are 32%, and our livestock are 67%.
So in my view there are two aspects to claiming the high moral ground. The first is to focus on this environmental havoc and destruction. Part of this should include being involved in the climate change debate. For example, the 2018 Victorian Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report shows total net greenhouse gas emissions went up by 7% between 1990 and 2016. Transport emissions went up by 39%, due to an increase in the number of passenger vehicles by over 70,000 each and every year.
The report explicitly noted that “population growth is an important driver of emissions trends in a number of sectors and sub sectors”.
So Victoria’s rapid population growth of over 100,000 each year fatally undermines all the good work being done by Government Departments and agencies, Councils, business, community groups, families and individuals to reduce our greenhouse emissions. It is indeed pretty hard to reduce your carbon footprint when you keep adding more feet.
We need to cultivate a knowledge and love of the natural world. We should be demanding that environmental education be taught in schools, and that our children are given contact with nature. People will value and protect what they know and love, and the level of ecological ignorance and illiteracy in the year 2019 is frightening.
Dr Harry Recher says we need to act as if other species mattered as much as our own, and accept that we have a moral responsibility to share resources with other species, rather than sacrificing other species for pointless human aggrandisement. The ultimate goal of human societies is not ever more economic activity or the heaping up of endless wealth, but creating communities that allow their members to live good lives.
Dr Recher calls out the failure of the modern environmental movement to address overpopulation. He says that for the most part Australia’s environmental groups fail to discuss population matters, leaving Australia’s population policy to be made by greedy businessmen and politicians lacking in environmental concern. He says we need more discussion of population matters, not less.
I also agree with Dr Freya Mathews, who says that taking biodiversity preservation as the central goal of conservation sets the bar too low. Preventing species from becoming extinct is too modest.
Conservationists want to preserve abundant, wild nature. When we get to the point where our children will only see a platypus or a bandicoot in a zoo or a cartoon, or we’re down to our last few hundred lions and tigers, being restricted to isolated disconnected refuges, more and more of which are gated, high security compounds, then we’ve pretty much lost the plot.
To its great credit, Zoos Victoria has an Extinction Denied Program that includes captive breeding Orange Bellied Parrots. However some of the Parrots can’t get enough feed in the wild to get the strength to fly across Bass Strait to Tasmania, which is Orange-bellied Parrot custom and practice. So Qantas has been flying them across in planes. It feels like life imitating art, where Air New Zealand commercials star a white duck flying by plane across the Tasman.
Now I give full marks to Zoos Victoria and Qantas for their efforts and commitment, but when the birds need a plane to get across Bass Strait, this is not nature in all its beauty and awe-inspiring diversity, these are pathetic splintered remnants of a world we’ve laid waste to.
Dr Mathews says we have to concede that wild animals are, like sovereign peoples, entitled to their territories and ecological estates. The biosphere was shaped by wildlife as much as it was shaped for us and by us, and belongs to them as much as it belongs to us. We have no right to dispossess wild things of their ranges or degrade their environment to the point where it can no longer sustain them.
So we need to seize the high moral ground by focusing on the state of the environment. The 15000 scientists from 184 countries who issued the World Scientists Warning to Humanity in 2017 said we are jeopardising our future “by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats”. They said “By failing to adequately limit population growth, ....humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere”.
One immediate aspect of this, which I encourage you to contact your election candidates and representatives about during this election campaign and indeed beyond, is vegetation cover or tree canopy cover. We need our trees and plants and grasses. It’s not just an environmental question, it’s a public health one. The good news is that drones and satellite imagery and the like enable vegetation cover to be monitored with a degree of precision we’ve never had before. The bad news is that our vegetation canopy cover is declining. So I urge you to contact your political representatives and candidates and ask them to commit to maintaining, and where possible increasing, the vegetation canopy cover in your electorate, on both public and private land. People simply have to stop bulldozing and chopping trees and shrubs down. It has to stop.
The second aspect of seizing the high moral ground is to put population in a global context. Much of our discussion focuses on Australia, as it should, but it seems to me that (a) unless there is action in other countries, no matter what we do in Australia the world is still going to go to hell in a handbasket, and (b) much of our credibility and moral authority comes from taking the global view.
We need to build alliances with like minded people in other countries, and particularly build alliances across religious and ethnic divides.
An important aspect of focussing on the issue of rapid global population growth is that there is a magic pudding myth which is implicit in much of the political debate, including from politicians and activists from the left, who really ought to know better. It goes like this -
The world’s poor can achieve Western standards of living
People living in western countries will be able to more or less maintain their standards of living
We can maintain our current rate of population growth
We can protect our environment.
It’s a lie. You’ve heard Al Gore talking about climate change as an inconvenient truth; well this is a convenient lie. It enables environmental groups to duck the population issue. But it is a monstrous and deceitful lie. In 2010 a group of researchers who studied this question in depth estimated that there could be a European standard of living for everyone, with sustainable use of our natural resources, provided the earth’s population was no more than 2 billion.
In 2013 Theodore Lianos estimated that we could maintain ecological equilibrium, and all have a per capita annual income of $11,000, with a global population of 2.5 billion or less. If the population is larger than 2.5 billion, which of course it is, ecological and social equilibrium requires lower standards of living.
Like the environmental question, there are ways of raising the global population issue in the current Federal Election and beyond. There has been some great work done by Rob Harding promoting the idea of a United Nations Global Population Stabilisation Treaty. This seems to me to have a lot of potential. Indeed it should be much easier to reach agreement around the idea of each country stabilising it’s own population, than to get agreement around emissions reductions targets in the Climate Change talks, where of course serious questions of global equity and historical legacies arise.
I encourage you to contact your candidates and elected representatives, during the election campaign or beyond, and ask them - “Would you support Australia sponsoring a Population Treaty at the United Nations that committed each country to stabilising its own population?”
We also need to talk about fertility. If you think talking about migration is tough, try talking about fertility in a culture that views pregnancy and childbirth as an unmitigated blessing. But right around the world it has to happen, and indeed some countries or communities have had success with “Two is Enough” type campaigns.
After taking the high moral ground through a focus on the environment and global population growth, we need to acknowledge that neither the Liberal Party, the Labor Party or the Greens is going to do anything serious about this issue except at the point of an electoral gun. This is a very hard thing for me to say. I have spent a lifetime in the Labor Party - I think I attended over a thousand Branch Meetings! - and in many ways I still love the Labor Party.
But these parties, until further notice, are all about suppressing and killing off this issue by any means or devices they can come up with. We need a non-racist party that takes a firm line on population and migration. That is why I have joined the Sustainable Australia Party. It has no time for racists or racism. It believes in the non-discriminatory migration policy. It is a party of the centre. Unlike populist parties of the right like One Nation, it believes in strong action on climate change and to protect the environment. It believes in strong gun laws. It believes in action to tackle indigenous disadvantage.
But it doesn’t accept the trebling of Australia’s migration program which started about 15 years ago. We want to return the program from the 200,000 per annum it is now to 70,000, which is where it used to be - in the Whitlam years and the Keating years it was actually lower than that.
So in conclusion - the question I was asked to answer was “where to from here?” First, seize the high moral ground with a focus on the environment and global population issues. Second, push elected representatives with challenging but not unreasonable asks like maintenance of our remaining vegetation cover, and support for a global population treaty. And third, face up to the fact that the Liberal, Labor and Greens Parties are not going to move on this issue at anything other than the point of an electoral gun, and conduct ourselves accordingly.
And as for the question this Forum asks - “what future do we want for Australia?” - the future I want is one in which my children, and their generation, have the same job security and opportunity we had, and can afford a post secondary education and a house with a garden and the chance to see owls and platypus in the wild the way we could. Oh, and the Orange-bellied Parrots can fly across Bass Strait without a boarding pass.
The opposition leader said this week that the next Federal Election will be a referendum on wages & the Reserve Bank Governor was saying he couldn’t understand why wages weren’t going up more given the underlying strength of the economy. Michael McLaren of 2GB Radio is joined by the Hon. Kelvin Thomson, former Federal Member for Wills now advisor for Sustainable Australia Party’s Clifford Hayes to talk about Bill Shorten’s declaration that the upcoming election will be a ‘referendum on incomes’.
Michael is joined by the Hon. Kelvin Thomson, former Federal Member for Wills now advisor for Sustainable Australia Party’s Clifford Hayes to talk about Bill Shorten’s declaration that the upcoming election will be a ‘referendum on incomes’.
The opposition leader said this week that the next Federal Election will be a referendum on wages & the Reserve Bank Governor was saying he couldn’t understand why wages weren’t going up more given the underlying strength of the economy.
This seems a remarkable thing for him to say given that the answer is obvious… that Australia’s high migration program of the last 15 years has provided a pool of surplus labour which is used by employers to keep wages down.
Yesterday’s commentary by the Reserve Bank Governor suggested that the issue was not confined to Australia, and that it was a 21st century phenomenon.
Other Western countries have also seen employers using “open borders” to keep wages down, and in Australia’s case the migration numbers took off from around 2004 – so yes it has been a 21st century development.
Download this podcast here
The Hon. Kelvin Thomson, former Federal Member for Wills, is joining the Sustainable Australia Party. Mr Thomson served as an Australian Labor Party Councillor for the City of Coburg from 1981 to 1988, Member of the Victorian Parliament for Pascoe Vale from 1988 to 1996, and Federal Labor Member for Wills for over 20 years from 1996 until the 2016 Election. Mr Thomson will be advising Sustainable Australia’s first elected Member of Parliament, Mr. Clifford Hayes, who was elected as a Legislative Councillor for the Southern Metropolitan Region at the recent Victorian election.
Mr Hayes said, “Kelvin Thomson’s knowledge of all three levels of government, his campaign experience - he stood for public office 12 times in his career and was successful on each occasion - and his policy development expertise, having been a Shadow Minister for the Environment amongst other Shadow Ministries, Parliamentary Secretary and member of many Parliamentary Committees during his parliamentary service, will make him an invaluable asset to me, my office and to the Sustainable Australia Party.
Mr Thomson said, "I first joined the Labor Party in 1975. It was an honour and privilege to represent the Australian Labor Party in two Parliaments and three levels of government for a total of 35 years. To say the Labor Party has been my life is putting it mildly. So I have submitted my resignation from the Labor Party with a very heavy heart.
“For a decade now I have set out what I believe to be the myopia, greed, vanity and ecological illiteracy that drives Big Australia, Australia's policy of rapid population growth. I have arrived at a point where there are irreconcilable differences between the course I believe Australia and the world needs to chart, and the course that the Australian Labor Party is charting. I set out in my Valedictory Speech my great appreciation of the support I received as an MP from ordinary members of the Labor Party, and those sentiments remain true. I retain a hope that in time the Labor Party will embrace views about Australia's population that are more in keeping with the needs of this generation, the needs of those who will come after us, and the needs of the many other species we have the good fortune to share this ancient, beautiful and fragile country with.
"What this world needs now is not more people, but more courage."
Sustainable Australia Party Founder and President William Bourke said, "Kelvin Thomson played a key role in kick-starting the population debate in Australia 10 years ago, with a speech he gave in Parliament in August 2009, and with a media release he put out in September 2009, in response to Treasury figures showing that Australia's population would be 35 million by 2049, a massive jump from the previous projection of 28 million by 2049, made just a couple of years earlier. He described this as a recipe for environmental disaster and called for population reform."
"The Sustainable Australia Party, formed in the wake of that debate, is a party of the political centre, and Kelvin and other mainstream, like-minded Australians are very welcome here."
Kelvin Thomson's letter of Resignation from the Australian Labor Party 13 January 2019
Victorian Branch Secretary
Australian Labor Party
438 Docklands Drive
DOCKLANDS VIC 3008
This is a very hard letter for me to write. I first joined the Australian Labor Party in 1975.
Within a few years I had become a Branch Secretary, then Branch President, then delegate to the Victorian State Conference and President of the Wills FEA, Policy Committee member, and member of a number of local, State, and Federal Campaign Committees. I was later elected as a member of
the Public Office Selection Panel and served for a time as its President.
In 1981 I was elected as an endorsed Australian Labor Party Councillor for the City of Coburg, and reelected in 1982 and 1985, serving until 1988. In 1988 I was elected as an endorsed Australian Labor Party Member of the Victorian Parliament for the electorate of Pascoe Vale. I represented Pascoe Vale until 1996 and served as a Shadow Minister and Manager of Opposition Business during that time.
In 1996 I was elected to the Federal Parliament as the Labor Member for Wills. I was re-elected in 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013, serving for over 20 years until I retired from Parliament in 2016. I served as a Labor Shadow Minister from 1998 till 2007. When Labor was elected to Government I became Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, and later on served as a Parliamentary Secretary under 2 Labor Prime Ministers.
It was an honour and a privilege to represent the Australian Labor Party in 2 Parliaments and 3 levels of government for a total of over 35 years. To say the Labor Party has been my life is putting it mildly. As you know, I received my 40 Year Membership Medallion a couple of years ago. Since retiring from Parliament I have continued to provide assistance and support to Labor MPs and candidates in my area.
So I am writing this letter of resignation with a very heavy heart. There are many things I could talk about, but I accept this is always going to be true of any large political organisation. The one thing I cannot overlook is this. The world is undergoing unsustainable population growth – it has more than doubled in the last 50 years. I can’t do much about that, but Australia is one of the worst offenders. So too Victoria. So too Melbourne. The Australian Labor Party of the 21st Century has embraced Australia’s 21st Century rapid population growth, known by the shorthand expression of Big Australia. The 55,000 annual net overseas migration of the Whitlam years, when I joined, has turned into over 200,000 annual net overseas migration. Here in Victoria we have embraced Big Victoria
and Big Melbourne.
For a decade now I have set out what I believe to be the myopia, greed, vanity and ecological illiteracy that drives Big Australia. I won’t insult your intelligence by repeating my arguments. Suffice to say that I have arrived at a point where there are irreconcilable differences between the course I believe Australia and the world needs to chart, and the course that the Australian Labor Party is charting.
It is true that neither the Liberal nor the Greens Parties have any more enlightened approaches to the issue, but there is a Party – Sustainable Australia – which does get it. As they say in the US, everyone has the right to the pursuit of happiness. It is well established that an important ingredient of happiness is the opportunity to spend your days doing something you believe in. What I believe is that exponential population growth is not merely a problem, but that it is the problem that reinforces all others. I agree with David Attenborough – “I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder, and ultimately impossible, with more”.
I have been given an opportunity by the Sustainable Australia Party’s Victorian MLC Cliff Hayes to do something I really believe in. It is an opportunity too good to pass up. Obviously that is not consistent with my remaining a Labor Party member, hence this letter.
I set out in my Valedictory Speech my great appreciation of the support I received as an MP from ordinary members of the Labor Party, and those sentiments remain true. I retain a hope that in time Labor will embrace views about Australia’s population that are more in keeping with the needs of this generation, the needs of those who will come after us, and the needs of the many other species we have the good fortune to share this ancient, beautiful and fragile country with.
The Hon. Kelvin Thomson
11 January 2019
Kelvin Thomson's resignation letter as pdf file - click here.
The driving force behind the Protectors of Public Lands, Julianne Bell, passed away on Friday January 27 this year. Julianne was an indefatigable and tireless campaigner for the protection of Melbourne’s public open spaces. She was most well-known as the defender of Royal Park against any and all who would seek to diminish it for their own purposes, and she told me that she was most proud of her role in stopping the East-West Link, a Freeway which would carve up Royal Park in an outrageous act of environmental vandalism. She was the driving force behind this organisation and used it to defend public open spaces far and wide from all manner of threats – the Carlton Gardens, the Catani Gardens, the Exhibition Gardens, the Rogers Memorial Reserve and many others too numerous to mention – no public open space was too far away or too small to merit her attention.
Julianne worked closely with me on the problems caused by Rapid Population growth for the world in general and for Melbourne in particular. She understood that it is people, it is us, who are responsible for environmental damage, and was prepared to cut through the vanity that prevents many of us from acknowledging this. She had worked in the Immigration Department, and told me a number of times about the propensity for migration agents to tell fibs on applications, and the trouble an understaffed Department had in verifying claims and uncovering rorts.
Julianne was not always easy to work with, and she was very hard line. I did think when she was telling me about the evils of the Flower Show in the Exhibition Gardens that perhaps she could lighten up! But she grasped, better I think than anyone else I have ever met, that our public open spaces are constantly in danger from people or organisations or businesses who want to use them for a private benefit, at the cost of the value of the open space asset itself.
She understood and loved the heritage of Marvellous Melbourne, the legacy of beautiful parks and open spaces which Melbourne’s founders bequeathed us, and she was relentless in her defence of them. If Julianne had not been standing guard over them these past decades, they might well look rather different, and Melbourne might well have been on its way to becoming a soulless concrete jungle, like so many other cities around the world.
Over the years various Premiers and Lord Mayors have basked in reflected glory as Melbourne was declared the World’s Most Liveable City. But this title owes, in my view, a fair bit more to Julianne’s work than to theirs. If we are to keep that honour, we will need people to draw inspiration from Julianne, take over her life’s work, and themselves become Protectors of Public Lands.
After Julianne’s death Rose Iser suggested there be a memorial to her in Royal Park. I said I agree. But not too big. Julianne would not approve. I am very pleased that the City of Melbourne has got this right, in its acknowledgment of her at Walmsley House.
The evidence about the physical and mental health benefits of public open space and exposure to nature continues to mount. A study led by The University of Queensland and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions suggests people might need a minimum dose of nature. The research concludes that people who visit parks for 30 minutes or more each week are much less likely to have high blood pressure or poor mental health than those who don’t.
Researcher Dr. Danielle Shanahan says, “if everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be 7% fewer cases of depression and 9% fewer cases of high blood pressure”. ”Our children especially benefit from spending more time outdoors. Kids who grow up experiencing natural environments may benefit developmentally and have a heightened awareness as adults than those who don’t”.
The United States Natural Academy of Sciences did a study, reported in February this year, which found that increased urbanisation closely correlates with increased instances of depression and other mental illness. Given this correlation I am astonished that we continue to build high rise towers and continue to encourage people to live in large cities, where traffic congestion, cheek by jowl living and fierce competition for jobs and advancement make us less satisfied and more stressed.
Until our civic leaders and planners come to their senses about this, the Study suggests there is something people can do to help their mental health and wellbeing. They say that getting outdoors and bushwalking, disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature, can help. The research indicates that bushwalking can reduce mental fatigue and improve problem solving. Exposing children with ADHD to green outdoor activities reduced their ADHD symptoms significantly. The results suggest that nature exposure can benefit anyone who has a difficult time paying attention or exhibits compulsive behaviour.
Researchers from the University of British Colombia have found memory benefits for women over 70 coming from aerobic exercise. And the Natural Academy of Science researchers found people walking in nature had decreased obsessive or negative thoughts, by a significant margin, whereas people who walked in an urban environment did not. They concluded that bushwalking can lead people away from the negative thoughts that can lead to depression and anxiety.
So we shouldn’t just hang on to our public open space and vegetation for the birds and plants and animals – we should do ourselves a favour and hang on to it for ourselves.
I can’t speak to you about these matters without saying how disappointed I am with the failure of the modern left in politics around the world and environmental groups in particular to come to grips with the real drivers of our twenty-first century failure to successfully tackle inequality and environmental degradation.
The Australian Conservation Foundation has been particularly disappointing. The October edition of their Magazine Habitat sought to do some big picture thinking, with an extensive article titled “The 10 drivers damaging our living world”. It listed what it called “Persistent Human Population Growth” at number 7. While at least it got a mention, the ACF quickly moves on, and there is no action by the ACF to do anything about it.
In fact, rapid population growth is the Number 1 driver of damage to our environment. The article cites as Number 1 “The dominant view of Free Markets, Individualism and Technological Progress”. No doubt this is a real problem, but why is this view dominant in the first place? A key driver of its political success is that around the world the left and environment groups espouse open borders and refuse to talk about population, leaving a massive political vacuum into which populist right figures like Donald Trump. Nigel Farrage, Marine Le Pen etc march. In Queensland at present One Nation is outpolling the Greens.
Coming in at Number 2 in the article is “Undervaluing Nature, including as a result of the increasing disconnection from Nature”. Once again, this is a real problem, but why is it a problem? The answer is increasing urbanisation, and the left and environment groups do little to speak out against increasing urbanisation. Indeed they often support increasing densification – dual occupancies, multi-unit developments, and high rise - claiming, incorrectly, that this is a more efficient and environmentally appropriate way to live.
Coming in at Number 3 in the article is “The Endless Pursuit of Economic Growth through Unrestrained Free Markets”. Again, I agree that this is real problem. But the only reason we really need economic growth is on account of our rapid population growth. If we have population growth, we must have economic growth otherwise we’ll all be manifestly poorer. But if we had a more stable population we could maintain our prosperity without being fixated on economic growth. This is how things used to work, and work they did.
And Number 9 on the list of drivers is “Governments and Market Institutions that Ignore Environmental Degradation”. Once again, true enough. But governments presiding over rapidly growing populations spend most of their time and energy dealing with the problems this creates. It’s all about infrastructure. The present State Government is going hard on the level crossing removal program (which by the way Rosemary West from Green Wedges tells me could damage the Edithvale Wetlands) and on things like the City Link Widening Project. There is a crowding out effect. They don’t have much time to put into saving the Orange-Bellied Parrot. In a stable population Governments would have much more capacity to tackle environmental degradation.
In my view, until the left in general and environmental groups in particular are prepared to call a spade a spade, and stop indulging themselves and the rest of us in this vanity that we have about ourselves as a species – the problem couldn’t possibly be us – then protecting our public lands and open spaces will continue to be a battle.
Now I realise at this point I am in real danger of depressing the crap out of you, and having you go home spend the rest of the year watching TV, instead of inspiring you to get out there and do something. But Julianne Bell did take on, fight and win battles, and I will mention to you two that are going on right now that can be won, and need to be won.
The first is in Fawkner, part of my former electorate of Wills, where VicRoads is the owner of land adjacent to the Merri Creek. For many years they wanted to build a Freeway through there, but strong community campaigns and excellent leadership by their political representatives at the time prevented that.
Now VicRoads want to sell a significant parcel of that land, and Moreland Council is not prepared to pay the price they are asking. This land, as part of the Merri Creek valley, has real environmental and open space value, and should not be sold off for housing. I can assure you that if it were in Balwyn or Camberwell and proposed to be sold off all hell would break loose. Fawkner residents should not be treated as second class citizens, and the land should remain as public open space. Indeed it is adjacent to the former NuFarm Factory, which used to make the chemicals used in Agent Orange. Any housing development on this site will involve dubious clearances from planning and environmental authorities.
I have seen this kind of issue many times over the years, and been involved in the successful resolution of a number of them. It involves the State Government body substantially reducing the money it is seeking, and stop trying to make a financial windfall, and the Council being willing to pay a reduced amount, so that honour is satisfied all round. But it requires a lot of effort to get to this point. Fawkner Residents Association leader Joe Perri is doing a great job trying to prevent this selloff, and I hope some people will be willing to support him in protecting these public lands. His phone number is 0412 112 545, and his email is [email protected]
Of course Julianne Bell knew that our public lands not only need to be protected against people who want to sell them off, but also against those who would appropriate them for a private benefit. This is the issue on the beaches between Port Fairy and Warrnambool, where commercial horse trainers have been licenced to use the beaches of the Belfast Coastal Reserve. This is prime habitat for the endangered Hooded Plover. I find it remarkable that Governments can put a great deal of effort into protecting the Hooded Plover, then undo it all by allowing throughbred racehorses to charge up and down the beach!
The horses churn up the sand, disturb the chicks and adult nesting birds, crush eggs and damage protective fencing. They also risk the safety and enjoyment of joggers, swimmers, surfers, anglers, birdwatchers and other beachgoers. Horses are for courses, not for beaches. The campaign to stop beaches being turned into racetracks is being run by the Victorian National Parks Association, phone 9347 5188 or email [email protected], and by the Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group, email [email protected] One of their key people is Killarney resident Shane Howard, lead singer of the Goanna Band.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this afternoon. Julianne Bell would be delighted to see you here carrying on this incredibly important work.
Free Public Event. Guest Panel, Q&A... 'An Economically Sustainable Australia' - Economist Leith van Onselen and the Hon Kelvin Thomson. WHEN Saturday 19th November, 2016. 2:45 for 3pm - 4:30pm, WHERE Upstairs at The Sporting Globe hotel, 288 Bridge Rd, Richmond VIC. Opposite the Richmond Town Hall. Hosted by Sustainable Australia.
Free Public Event. Guest Panel, Q&A...
An Economically Sustainable Australia
Economist Leith van Onselen and the Hon Kelvin Thomson
WHEN Saturday 19th November, 2016. 2:45 for 3pm - 4:30pm
WHERE Upstairs at The Sporting Globe hotel, 288 Bridge Rd, Richmond VIC. Opposite the Richmond Town Hall. Hosted by Sustainable Australia.