This interview actually gets to the nub of why Julian Assange (and David McBride) are being persecuted and why most Australians and the mainstream press have almost no idea of what is going on. McBride , who is a professional soldier and lawyer, and served in Afghanistan, lends credibility to John Shipton's explosive analysis.
We, the residents of Melbourne demand that the
Government stop its plan to damage St Kilda Road and that
they make alternative plans such as an alternative route via
Kings Way and linking it into South Yarra Station, or deep
tunnelling the entire length or stop work , re-focus and re-
plan, in meaningful consultation with the people of
Voted on and approved unanimously by the attendees at the
Public Protest at The Domain Interchange on the 21 st
Yesterday between 1 and 1.30pm a rally was held to save the trees in St. Kilda Road destined for removal to make way for the new underground metro. It was organised by the combined forces of Planning Backlash, Protectors of Public Lands and Walk in St. Kilda Road and environs Approximately 80 people attended including the 9 speakers listed below. The M.C of the event was Mary Drost , Convenor of Planning backlash.Prof. Michael Buxton was unable to attend and Dr. Ernest Healy , Vice President of Protectors of Public Lands Victoria deputised by reading Prof. Buxton's speech. Feelings for the impending loss of ancient trees and for those already lost ran high. The general consensus from the speakers was that the damage envisaged for avenue of trees in Melbourne's beautiful boulevard, St. Kilda Road was not necessary to accommodate the project and that a better way must be found. A statement to this effect will be sent to Shadow Minister for Planning, to be read out in both houses of Parliament.
Rally for St. Kilda Road trees February 21st 2018
Speakers at the event
1. Kristin Stegley OAM, Chairman, National Trust of Australia (Victoria)
2. Michael Buxton, Professor of Environment and Planning, RMIT University (in Prof. Buxton's absence speech read by Dr. Ernest Healy)
3. The Hon. Barry Jones: a statement by himself and Tom Harley, nominators of St Kilda Road and Environs for emergency National Heritage listing
4. Dr Greg Moore, OAM, president of the International Society of Arboriculture, Australian Chapter; member of the National Trust’s Register of Significant Trees from1988, Chair since 1996
5. Bea McNicholas, Director, Walk in St Kilda Road and Environs, Planet Ark National Tree Day
6. Senator Derryn Hinch
7. Dr Judith Buckrich, historian; author of “Melbourne’s Grand Boulevard: The Story of St Kilda Road”, 1996.
8. Jill Quirk, Protectors of Public Lands, Victoria
9. David Davis, MP, Shadow Planning Minister
The following speech was made by Hon. David Davis, Shadow Minister for Planning in the Victorian Parliament yesterday afternoon.
"Today I was pleased to join a very large crowd, a significant gathering, on the corner of Albert Road and St Kilda Road. Many people there were very concerned about the state government's approach to the construction of the Metro Tunnel. This is an important project, a project that is needed to deliver the additional capacity, but it should not be beyond the wit of government and community in Victoria to deliver projects without trashing our heritage. We see that large European cities are able to deliver major projects without the loss of their important heritage, and in this case the state government has, in my view, adopted an appalling process of trying to crunch through the legitimate concerns of local community and not listen at all.
The attendance there was significant and included not just myself but my colleagues Ms Fitzherbert and Ms Crozier. Also Barry Jones was there speaking as a former state MP and former federal Labor MP. He was highly critical of Jacinta Allan and her approach to a number of these major projects, particularly the tunnel. Barry Jones made some very clear points. A former Governor, Alex Chernov, was there as well, and he joined the group who were prepared to stand up and say, 'Enough is enough. This should've been constructed in a different way, a way that did not destroy the very important avenue of trees that is part of St Kilda Road'. Derryn Hinch was there as well, so we actually had a federal MP attend to make some very clear points about his disgust and concern as he sees trees being torn down in a way that is not necessary.
When I addressed the group I made the point very clearly that in fact there were alternate locations and alternate ways of doing the construction. I am aware of at least two worked-up alternatives, including one which the previous government looked at, which was further to the west. A group of local and experienced engineers also put together a proposal which would have seen a different alignment and different approach to the loss of trees. This proposal was a very thoughtful one, but instead of independently assessing it I was concerned that Jacinta Allan immediately gave this proposal to the Metro Tunnel authority, effectively asking it to check its own homework.
It is hardly surprising that the authority said, 'Oh, no. We're doing it the right way'. Unfortunately the state government would not, in an independent way, consider alternative approaches that could have delivered less destruction, less loss of trees and a more mature approach to this sort of construction.
I was proud to join that group today. I pay tribute to all the activists who are determined to protect our important heritage along that corridor. St Kilda Road has recently, as we know, been permanently listed, along with the Domain and Government House — that whole precinct through there — on the National Heritage List. This is an important step that I congratulate Josh Frydenberg for taking.
But you have to ask real questions about what was going on with Heritage Victoria. On the Monday, when the national heritage listing was gazetted formally, it became clear that in fact late on the Friday night the head of Heritage Victoria, Steven Avery, who has popped up from somewhere — I do not quite know where he has come from, but he is a recent appointment to the position — made the decision, seemingly in the knowledge that on the Monday there would be a national heritage listing. He gave the go-ahead. He said, 'Start your engines. Start your chainsaws. Start your crushers. Away you go and you try and beat the national heritage listing'. What a shameful and disgraceful approach. Daniel Andrews is a bully. He is bullying communities, and he is leaving a legacy that is not what Victorians expect."
The loss of the trees in st. Kilda Road causes deep distress to many people. I spoke to one local resident who was suffering very visibly from dust irritation form the earthworks in progress. She also reported to me that since work has started and trees have been removed, mice have entered her house and the sound of distressed displaced birds was deafening.
St Kilda Road, Melbourne's Champs Elysees, is being vandalised for population growth that we don't need, but big business is imposing. Join a public protest Wednesday 21 Feb 2018, 1pm-1.30pm. The meeting is now in the reserve which is outside 1 Albert Road. It’s a triangle of land in the fork of Albert Road. Some more details and yellow arrow on map inside.
Come and see for yourself the disaster of our beautiful boulevard.
1 Albert Road, in front of ‘the Domain’ building
(in St Kilda Rd, opposite Melbourne Grammar, next to Albert Reserve.)
Tram: Get off at Domain Interchange.
Bring posters, write slogans
Photo and media opportunity
A shameful destruction
It is hard to believe our state government is allowing the world's most beautiful boulevard to be destroyed. (The Age 15/2). How dare it destroy St. Kilda Road in this shameful way? Why can't it learn from London, which is 'deep tunnelling' for 42 kilometres for the new line, Crossrail. This work is being done without damagin anything on top. In contrat, we vandals are bulding the relatively small Metro Tunnel and wrecking this wonderful area by cutting and filling (because it is cheaper than deep tunnelling) and bulldozing those beautiful trees. People will have to cope with years of a mess-up city. Vote out the government.
Mary Drost, letter published in The Age, Feb 16, 2018.
"This proposal by Ms Turnbull is just a diversion, an absurdity not worthy of being called a thimble and pea trick, but the agenda behind her smokescreen is worth examining. The GSC is a body set up by premier Baird who, you will recall, had been elected in 2011 on a platform of getting rid of what was undoubtedly the unaccountable and corrupt planning regime of the Labor government. But Premier Baird's promises of returning planning to the community and the councils was soon forgotten and his new government launched reforms that bypassed all community input. These proved to be so unpopular with the public that they were withdrawn and, instead, Premier Baird introduced the GSC, which essentially did the same thing."
Lucy Turnbull is the Chief Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC), and in this role is promoting the idea of “re-imagining" Sydney as three great separate cities - Eastern Harbour City, the Central Parramatta River City, and the Western City in and around the new airport at Badgerys Creek. These smaller cities will, according to Ms Turnbull, be able (in 40 or so years) to meet an essential criteria for a liveable city - the 30 minute transport target where residents can travel to work in half an hour or less. She went on to say that it was essential to embrace the three-cities approach to deal with Sydney's expected population growth. "There's around 4.6 million people living in Sydney now, by 2036, it's expected that number will be more like 6.2 million, and in another 20 years it will be up to eight million." See Michael Bleby and Su-Lin Tan, “Lucy Turnbull’s Grand Plan for Sydney, Australian Financial Review, November 20, 2016.” www.afr.com/real-estate/lucy-turnbulls-grand-plan-for-sydney-20161118-gss887 [Editor: This address is not linked because it lacks the https prefix.]
Sydney does have a major problem with transport – its now ranked 51st out of 100 cities in terms of ease of travel . Congestion cost Sydney $16.5b in 2015 and its been growing every year largely because of increased car numbers. But to suggest that dividing the city into 3 separate identities will somehow mean people will travel less or faster is an absurdity. People commuting to the city centre from Baulkham Hills, Beecroft or Carlingford will still travel the same distance and face the same delays despite having their home address changed to Parramatta River City. And by the same token this name change won't create more employment in Parramatta or western Sydney. Fixing Sydney's transport is almost entirely dependent on providing massive amounts of infrastructure for public transport and has nothing to do with name changing. If previous governments could not do that when the population was 4 million then they certainly won't be able to do it if the population doubles.
The GSC should be aware that retrofitting infrastructure is hugely expensive and disruptive as shown by the unpopular WestConnex which Ms Turnbull described in 2014 as a “necessary evil”. While there are many who would agree that it is evil - the National Trust described the destruction as the “worst hit to heritage” in Sydney’s history and 12,000 submissions from residents as well as 5 councils opposed the project. (These councils were subsequently replaced by forced amalgamations while demolitions were underway.) In 2015 the project was costed at $16.8b but new estimates suggest that it could rise to $45.3b (including $650m so far spent just on legal battles associated with land acquisition) leaving NSW with an impossible debt that will beggar the state for decades curtailing expenditure on other essential projects such as the need to almost double the number of schools & hospitals.
While this scheme may sound a bit like a plot that was rejected by the script writers of the ABC's Utopia it did not receive much in the way of critical analysis. In fact there was even some faint praise because the proposals did mention the importance of cycling, its commitment to women's needs (more street lighting, ramps for prams and footpaths without pot holes) and even gave a slightly bizarre claim to connecting with indigenous history. If you Google “Greater Sydney Commission Plans for Sydney” you will see some inputs that - like the Telegraph -¬ just repeat the governments press release, trumpeting the joys of Jobs & Growth. But there are precious few questioning the validity of the plan let alone the need for population growth - the exception from MacroBusiness. See https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2017/08/heres-lucy-turnbull-can-fix-sydney/
However there is more than just Sydney's congestion to consider. For instance the planned population growth will require the construction of 725,000 new dwellings along with 817,000 new jobs at a time when employment is threatened by technological changes. There will also need to be a matching increase in our capacity to handle waste and supply water yet we have governments that allow mining under Sydney' water catchment and won't apply even the mildest restrictions on plastic usage. Developer-related corruption is rife, yet the NSW government cut ICAC [Independent Commission against corruption] funding in half and the federals won't even consider having such a commission. Ms Turnbull claims that Sydney is not full and we need to grow to become a “World City”. Well we could argue that Mumbai or Jakarta also aren't full but most of us would consider the European capital, Brussels at 1 million more liveable than Beijing with its population of over 20 million.
This proposal by Ms Turnbull is just a diversion, an absurdity not worthy of being called a thimble and pea trick, but the agenda behind her smokescreen is worth examining. The GSC is a body set up by premier Baird who, you will recall, had been elected in 2011 on a platform of getting rid of what was undoubtedly the unaccountable and corrupt planning regime of the Labor government. But Premier Baird's promises of returning planning to the community and the councils was soon forgotten and his new government launched reforms that bypassed all community input. These proved to be so unpopular with the public that they were withdrawn and, instead, Premier Baird introduced the GSC, which essentially did the same thing. This is a common tactic of governments. The GSC is but one of a number of unloved bodies, like Urban Growth and the Hunter Development Corporation, that can carry out the dirty work while isolating the government from the responsibility of any unpleasantness. Even more importantly the government can dictate the charter of these agencies, in this case limiting their role to planning for population growth without the need to consider adverse consequences. As an example NSW and Queensland recently removed sea level rise from their state planning policies and the former Labor governments sea level planning benchmarks, based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data, were rejected, and decisions left to local councils. More than $226 billion in Australian commercial, residential, rail, road and industrial assets is at risk from climate change-induced sea-level rise with close to 250,000 residential properties and 8600 commercial buildings vulnerable, as well as ports, power stations, hospitals, and water and waste facilities. See https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/tag/planning-2
It is hardly likely that Ms Turnbull or anyone in the SGC is a climate sceptic, yet they feel no compulsion to listen to warnings from the Climate Council. None of the media outlets – Fairfax, News, or the ABC - felt it necessary to point out that bigger cities are hotter and more prone to damage from severe storms or even that developer-related corruption has become endemic and might be influencing these decisions. Nor did they mention that Sydney's expansion will come at the expense of its green spaces, air quality, and even its food bowl, which provides the bulk of its fresh food production. See https://theconversation.com/urban-sprawl-is-threatening-sydneys-foodbowl-55156
It seems that all those involved in city planning have restricted their activities to searching for land that can be acquired from fortuitously defunct industrial sites or older dwellings – even schools - that can be replaced with high rise. No one seems to heed warnings from the science community on the threats from increased storm intensity, even though at its current size Sydney will be unable to withstand the adverse effects of climate change. Such is the way civilizations have collapsed in the past. Ideology is no substitute for science.
 ‘Thimble and pea trick’: The shell game (also known as thimblerig, three shells and a pea, the old army game) is portrayed as a gambling game, but in reality, when a wager for money is made, it is almost always a confidencetrick used to perpetrate fraud. (Wikipedia)
"Dear Mum and Dad, I am writing to you from what we used to call the future but for me now it is the present. I'm in fact living in 2017, yes 17 years beyond the turn of the century that we used to think of as so far ahead in time. I am living in Melbourne still, in one of the reasonably well- heeled areas in the suburb of ***** where yesterday I saw 2 beggars sitting on the footpath along the shopping strip. Now there are thousands of homeless people sleeping rough on any night of the week in Australia." Sally, who in her youth described the cities of her travels to her parents, now writes to them as ancestors, describing the Melbourne of today, a place which would be quite unfamiliar to them. It is a cold winter and she cannot afford adequate heating in her middle class home.
Dear Mum and Dad ,
I am writing to you from what we used to call the future but for me now it is the present. I'm in fact living in 2017, yes 17 years beyond the turn of the century that we used to think of as so far ahead in time. I am living in Melbourne still, in one of the reasonably well- heeled areas in the suburb of ***** where yesterday I saw 2 beggars sitting on the footpath along the shopping strip. Now there are thousands of homeless people sleeping rough on any night of the week in Australia. Melbourne is particularly bad because housing and rents are so expensive. You wouldn't believe this but the house we used to live would now fetch around $2 million!. Young people attempting to buy a home are forced into flats or "apartments " as they now called or out to the remote edge of the sprawling city. Craigieburn, the town we used to pass as we headed north to Sydney is now a suburb of Melbourne!
It's really freezing at the moment 13.5 degrees maximum today. Remember we used to have central heating and topped it up with radiators? This winter we have been told that power bills will shoot through the roof so I have tried to economise by using only one heater and wearing more clothes inside. Don’t worry, I'm not poor but I have to be careful as we don't know what surprises are in store for us in the way of bills.
Electricity and gas distribution have been privatised . We were told this would be good for the “customer” as it would force providers to be competitive and prices would fall as they competed for our custom. No such thing has happened . You would find it intensely irritating as I do to have electricity sellers coming to the front door usually just as you are preparing dinner asking you to go and find your last electricity bill as they are sure you are paying too much and will sign you up with their company at a cheaper rate. This door to door job or the job of doing it by phone seems to fall to newly arrived migrants or backpacking young overseas travelers.
The other basic necessity that has become much more expensive is water. When you were alive, water was something we did not have to worry about. We used it as we needed to. In recent years we have had water restrictions where you had to use a particular hose on your garden at particular times. You couldn’t use a sprinkler system and the only way to get the whole garden watered efficiently was to install metres of hose with tiny holes in a sort of grid all over the garden and a timer so it turned on in the middle of the night when you were asleep. To top this all off the Victorian Government ordered the installation of a desalination plant at Wonthaggi to ensure Melbourne’s ongoing water supply. I don’t think they’ve used it yet but a private company installed it and the Victorian government has to guarantee them an income from it. Gardens are all disappearing, anyway. The word “garden” is almost a dirty word! When you talk about having a garden it’s almost as though you are talking of something wasteful and unnecessary. The trend now is to demolish houses with gardens and build all over the block, even excavating huge caverns, fence to fence for car space or more house space. It will be like a honeycomb of concrete cells throughout suburbia. I don’t know how the street trees will survive this.
As you will have gathered, Melbourne is not nearly as pleasant as it was when you were alive. It's grown to 4.5 million, bursting at the seams and growing daily . That's why the price of housing has gone up so much. Overseas criminals even launder their ill-gotten gains by buying houses in Melbourne or Sydney. One of the commentators on a business TV program stated that if agents who knew were obliged to report suspicious dealings then it might adversely affect the property market!! Unbelievable given that people are having trouble servicing their mortgages and paying their rent or are homeless!
Honestly if you came back and experienced Melbourne as it is now you would be shocked.
It's so crowded now that they are building trams and trains with a minimum of seats so that more commuters, standing up will fit in! True! I couldn’t believe it when I first heard it but now everyone accepts it as normal . Today, which as I said has been very cold , something went wrong with the computer system controlling and tracking all the trains and the system came to a standstill at peak hour! Yes, people were stranded in trains and on railway stations with no idea as to when they would be able to move. They were advised to use alternative means to get home. Many of those who chose to do this used a service called Uber where you use your mobile phone to find a driver going your way and willing to take you. Guess what the Uber drives did in this emergency: they charged 4 times the price! No sense of helping out in a crisis – just exploitation! Oh well, I guess the Uber drivers also have to pay the rent! It’s a sort of jungle out there!
The other really distressing thing is that the beautiful old houses of Melbourne are being demolished so that apartments can be built to fit in more people. They are also building high rise towers in many suburbs. The councils are actually told that they have to fit in thousands more people within a given fairly short time –frame. This will mean even more traffic as though we don't already have too much. It is now so bad that I think twice before going anywhere by car for fear of being caught up. One night I attempted to cross the city to meet, M and J and I had to give up, turn around go home. I now haven’t seen them for 2 years.
You remember the South Eastern Freeway? Well that is now part of a tollway. Yes, you can't use it any more unless you pay. You have to put a device on your windscreen and intermittent gantries check you as you go past and you are charged via an account which you need to keep topped up with money. There are many of these tollways and sometimes if you make a mistake you get funneled onto them. If you don't realise or forget to pay later you are in for a hefty fine. Driving in some normal streets the speed limits have been reduced to 40kms per hour and on many roads they change the speed limit all the time between 40, 50, 60, 70 , 80 and 100 kms so you have to be constantly vigilant checking your speed. There are speed cameras all over the place and no matter how careful you are , you can get caught. It is horrifically expensive and you lose points on your driver's license. Belinda was fined over $300.00 recently driving along Warrigul Rd at 60kms per hour in what turned out to be a 40kms zone.
The other awful thing we have now is a sort of madness. We now have bollards in the city in case someone takes it into his (invariably male) head to ram pedestrians. This happened in Bourke street this year and pedestrians were killed, including babies and children.
Sounds as though I am living in a sort of Hell, doesn't it? In a way I am. I see everything being destroyed and I am on tenterhooks waiting for the next tree or old house to fall or the next road block.
The other strange thing about now is the role of the telephone in our lives. Now we all have mobile phones which are nothing like those large heavy ones you may have seen when you were alive. They are now small, flat and fit into the palm of your hand. They all include cameras so any one of us can record anything, any time, moving or still, complete with sound. Most of us now don't go anywhere without one, so we are always contactable. It has become the expectation. When we make arrangements they are much more approximate than they used to be as we can track one another and check our respective progressions towards a meeting point usually using "text messages" . There is a problem with this though because if you are meeting someone and they let you know they are running half an hour late and you have already left home. , you have still lost that half hour because of their lateness!
Anyway, that’s the world I inhabit now and I thought it was about time I let you know what it is like and that I am surviving in it . Obviously I won’t forever, so see you where you are – sooner or later. If this does not get returned to me , I’ll assume it got to you.
From your loving daughter ( living in Melbourne 2017,)
Some extracts: "What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? [...] Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments! Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb! Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities! Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!" This is from "Howl" by Gregory Corso (1926-1997) was written in 1984. Full poem plus background at http://howlcriticaledition.weebly.com/howl-by-allen-ginsberg.html
Howl (Part II) by Gregory Corso.
What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years’ animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!
Australian comedian Barry Humphries' humour identified and targeted a world of pleasant streets and gardens that is now under threat. We've stopped laughing, but is it too late?
I was raised on the humour of Australian comedian, Barry Humphries, when his main alter ego was the suburban sage simply known as "Mrs Edna Everage” and his eastern suburbs commentary issued forth in the monotonous narrow viewed but well-meaning drone of Mr. Sandy Stone. Barry’s characters described a world which was very familiar to me, although I lived in neither the now famous Moonee Ponds nor in the apparent epitome of Melbourne mediocrity, Glen Iris. The adults in my family all found the Humphries humour hilarious, despite, or maybe because of the fact that their lives were being held up to good humoured ridicule. I shared this delight and amusement with them.
Barry Humphries' targets were mediocre, commonplace and rather petty preoccupations such as lawn mowing, sandwich making, wall colour, general domestic decor and associated status symbols. It was all so familiar and we laughed our heads off all the more, delighted to be laughing at ourselves and our nearest and dearest. Or if it wasn’t us it was someone we knew. The humour rested on an assumption of self- satisfied comfort and safety, devoid of outside threat. Our laughter and Barry’s merciless assault is an indication of how quickly we forget and how short each stage of our lives really is. Barry was born in 1934, safely clear of any expectation of participation in WW2 or The Vietnam War. He emerged as an adult in the postwar comfort and optimism of the 1950s and played to an audience where young couples were settling into their suburban Shangri -la’s. "The Australian dream” of the house and garden was alive and well and not under any threat. This situation continued for a few more decades but on a downward trajectory in terms of general accessibility, that is to say, affordability.
Fast forward to the present day and what was once a source of relaxation, pleasure, security and comedy, the suburban family home, is now turning into a tragedy.
The undermining of the family home and garden in concept and reality has been under way for at least 30 years. It began with soft rumbles, the odd newspaper opinion piece advocating the end of the 1/4 acre block and the beginning of a rhetoric very negative and critical of the way we lived. People started to parrot these opinion pieces and preach knowingly at dinner parties, that we couldn’t go on living as we were as though cleverly seeing into the future. Then they would go home and continue living as they were, no doubt thinking that it was people in the future who would have to live differently, not they. The point was that they did not express any feeling of being under threat. Yet they were. They are!
The sacred, yet hilarious homes of our parents and of us are now being demolished, at a frightening rate. The honest workmanship of the Californian Bungalo and the 50s triple fronted cream brick veneers is being replaced with nondescript non- architectural multi dwelling, fence to fence arrangements , devoid of of any reference to the humanity of those who are expected to dwell within. The subject of Barry’s whole comedy career is being pulled down in front of us; a new cavernous car park excavation appearing near where I live each week. That is the reality on the ground. In the media , a past Victorian Planning Minister, Justin Madden who now works for developers was given space for a whole article about the need and desirability, nay imperative, of demolishing 60 year old houses in a ring of Melbourne suburbs about 15 kms from the CBD. There’s always a new angle in the scramble to fit ever more residents into Melbourne (which grows by about 80,000 people p.a.) Developers who can get their hands on these unsuspecting little houses on their “1/4 acre" blocks (I understand they never were as large as 1/4 acre, really) can make a killing by demolishing and redeveloping to fit in more residences.
It seems to me that people are now really getting upset by all this. They see their local neighbourhoods in a constant state of transformation. They are living perpetually in a construction zone. Trees, houses and gardens go, roadworks and construction abound and there is the constant shock of empty blocks of land either totally cleared and levelled or exposing raw bedrock 3 metres deep, previously covered with a few tonnes of earth and rocks and iced with pleasant house and garden.
But what has this to do with Barry Humphries? Well for a start, the much derided but rather enviable and almost egalitarian Melbourne suburban way of life is swirling down the plug hole and will be gone before you know it. The people of Melbourne did very little to protect it when it was first under fire and now it is probably too late. Were we asleep at the wheel? Did Barry Humphries unwittingly lull us into a child-like sense of security about our home city?
What does Barry say now when, in actual fact what is happening is that our precious gardens are being used to accommodate an ever higher population? Had we been asked 15 or 20 years ago if we minded someone building in our backyard, we would have said, “go and find you own land!” but that is what we are being forced to do now. People move out of garden-surrounded houses into units with token amounts of land and end up with only a little bit of change from the exchange. Collectively, what is happening is that others are building in our gardens!
Barry Humphries’ jokes about the scourge of thrip on the roses (or was it the tomatoes?) will be incomprehensible to future Melbournians. How can this joke be funny when the “problem” is foreign to you?
Victoria's royal commission into family violence will focus on improving a system that is struggling to cope with the sheer volume of people who need help, the inquiry's head says.
Commissioner Marcia Neave said the year-long inquiry would examine how to better protect people, prevent violence and hold perpetrators to account.
Domestic violence is not the only thing in Victoria struggling with the "sheer volume of people" that need services.
(image:"20081123120727-violencia-de-genero" by Concha García Hernández - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
At nearly 2% of population growth, this massive increase of over 100,000 new people each year is causing clashing waves and tremors, disruption a once dignified city, and peaceful State.
Victoria's Premier, Daniel Andrews, has vowed to jail family violence thugs, make intervention orders easier to get and enforce tough new laws to make women and children safe. These are bold words, and chest-thumping promises, but he will be hard-pressed in light of Victoria's pressure-cooker environment.
The dystopia of unemployment, the uselessness of searching for non-existent jobs, pressure on house prices and mortgages, cuts to education, and the stresses of having to cope with many changes and impacts of course causes violence and crime! There's no predictability, stability, assurances of a future, and pressures on individuals and families for survival.
Our population has grown from 4.4 million people (1994) to over 5.7 million by 2014, yet the numbers of people who deliver services on behalf of the Government has dropped from 48,359 to 29,568 over that 20 years. Thanks to heavy cutbacks by the Napthine government, there are now fewer workers servicing more Victorians!
People under pressure explode, or resort to drugs or alcohol to ease the pressure. The population of women who are homeless because of domestic and family violence is increasingly becoming a group with complex and multiple needs due to drug and alcohol dependency, mental health issues and disability.
Overloaded prisons and correctional services
The prison population in Victoria grew by more than 14 per cent between December 2012 and December 2013 and rose every month. The recidivism rate is based on the number of prisoners who return to jail, under sentence, within two years of release. Unpublished state government figures obtained by The Saturday Age reveal the recidivism rate for 2013-2014 is at a 10-year high of 40 per cent, up from a low of 34 per cent four years ago. Prisoner numbers have grown almost 40 per cent from 4350 in June 2009 to 6454 on January 16. The government's forecast prison population for June 2015 is 7169.
Urban sprawl and housing challenges
Melbourne's rapid expansion, and urban sprawl, means that families are separated by a gulf of distances, due to limited affordable housing. Instead of being able to settle close to family support, in the suburbs where people grew up, they are forced either to rent, or buy in far flung urban fringes, with little infrastructure, support services, and away from access to family connections.
People could be forced into rental properties, in transience, and nomadic existence due to rent costs and job availability. It's crumbles a sense of permanence and stability that fosters long term relationships.
Added to the mix is the "diversity" of peoples, with various values proportioned to women, and children. The rising number of homeless, of families and women, is the tip of the iceberg of those who are falling between the safety cracks in our society - based on greed for growth, at all costs.
If justice prevailed for these poor creatures, the people responsible would be placed in a dark dungeon forever to atone for allowing this to happen. The specimen letter inside this article responds to reports of the death of scores of animals in the Surabaya Zoo, Indonesia, and seeks the immediate closure of the zoo, immediate medical attention to be provided by trained veterinarians to all animals on site, and transfer of all enclosed animals to accredited facilities.
Consul-General Teguh Wardoyo
Consulate of Indonesia in Hong Kong
6-8 Keswick Street
Indonesian Economic and Trade Office to Taipei
Mr. Ahmad Syafri
6F, No. 550 Rui Guang Road
Taipei, Taiwan, 114
Taipei Economic and Trade Office in Jakarta
Mr. Andrew Li-Yan Hsia
Gedung Artha Graha, Lt. 17 Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav. 52-53 Jakarta 12190, Indonesia
Dear Sir, Madam, to whom it concerns:
I am writing to seek your support for the following:
-The immediate closure of Indonesia's Surabaya Zoo
-Immediate medical attention to be provided by trained veterinarians to all animals on site
-Transfer of all enclosed animals to accredited facilities
The news that has come out of Surabaya Zoo about the death of scores of animals is extremely disheartening to say the least.
Endangered animals such as Sumatran Tigers and Bornean Orangutan dying prematurely due to preventable illnesses and a lack of veterinarian care, emaciated camels, shackled elephants with wounds on their ankles, unable to take one step in any direction and the death of a giraffe due to the 20KG of plastic bags found in his stomach are only a few of the horrific problems that have been found at Surabaya Zoo.
None of the 5 Freedoms of Animal Welfare ( Freedom from thirst and hunger, Freedom from discomfort, Freedom from pain, injury, and disease, Freedom to express normal behavior, Freedom from fear and distress) are being met, which is a basic requirement that all zoos must provide.
Thanks to the reporting of international media outlets such as The L.A Times, The Huffington Post, The Age Environment, The Jakarta Globe and the UK Telegraph the international community is now aware of the horrific conditions animals suffer in at Surabaya Zoo. More than 200,000 people from around the globe have already signed petitions demanding the closure of the zoo.
To tackle the issues of neglect and suffering imposed upon the animals at Surabaya Zoo, I implore you to take immediate action to have the zoo closed and to have qualified veterinarians provide all affected animals with the medical care they so desperately require.
Now is the time for the government of Indonesia to show the world and, in particular, the people of Indonesia, young and old, that a new day has dawned and that the 5 Freedoms of Animal Welfare will not only be honoured, but mandated in government policy and all those who do not comply will be dealt with by law.
Indonesians deserve to be proud of their government’s stance on animal welfare. I, as a potential visitor to your country, would most definitely support tourism to Indonesia if it's animals are protected.
[Place your signature here]
Article by Sheila Newman and James Sinnamon.
Absence of choice hallmark of Big Population
The tone is dictatorial: You will have a Big Australia. It will be perhaps 48.3m in 45 years. Nowhere in the article is anyone saying who decided to allow such high immigration or questioning the events leading up to this - certainly not the current Australians or those of 20 to 40 years ago. It is as if the author, who is the Melbourne Bureau Chief for the Australian Financial Review knows about some change afoot that the rest of us don't suspect; perhaps something violent that will stop dead any revolt as more and more Australians realise what they are being herded towards.
Aztec-like, the article harbingers the elites' desired crammed Australia with a symbolic child sacrifice, Alexander Marshall of Malvern East. As with the best traditional victims, Alexander, who looks about 5 years old, has no say in his fate. Innocence is what the gods and the elites require. Alex's appearance as a star on the elite-media altar that is the Australian Financial Review will be all too brief. Soon, through the aging process, he will look different from his photograph here. If the elites who drive the big financial markets and Australia's distant governments have their way, Alexander will gradually fade into an ever growing crowd of Australians suffering shortages of vital resources and competing with a stream of foreign born students and workers who will, by that time, have completely overwhelmed Alex's contemporaries. With immigration 60 per cent of Australia's population growth now and if the anticipated population of 48.3 (or more) actually happens, most of those people will be a foreign born selection-weighted for their ability to out-compete the natives in housing, income, position and status.
The infill process
Alex's suburb, Malvern East, will be unrecognisable, well before he reaches fifty, for Malvern East is doomed by planners to 'high densification', part of the plan to cram in that 48.3m and the next 48.3m and the ones after those. This old suburb, with its spacious and ornate wooden houses (all that is left of once vast forests nearby), its broad-leafed plane trees on every street, is already pocked with moonscaped sites and notices announcing twelve new units for a single block.
Scapegoating the elderly
The article pretends, "That people can expect to live longer than any other period in history is a main driver of this population increase." In reality it is out-of-proportion mass immigration that is clearly driving Australia's overpopulation. Ironically, that immigration, far from keeping the population youthful, is actually increasing the rate of aging. The article uses the old fallacy that we need many migrants to care for our hugely aging population, without ever admitting - does the writer even realise? that past immigration contributes more aged to our population than the native-born? See "Immigration speeds up Australia's rate of aging - FECCA" and High post-war immigration blamed for today's economic problems.
For a completely different way to manage the needs of our population and economy, see: "Discussing Australia's Dependency ratio 2009 with graph by Dr Katharine Betts".
Scapegoating outer-suburbanites and the disabled
Another hallmark of this typically growthist article is its scapegoating of certain classes. Scapegoats include those who live at a distance from the CBD away from major transport routes. They are portrayed as costing the rest of us for infrastructure, however elsewhere, the article acknowledges that population growth is driving housing unaffordability and thus pushing people outwards to cheaper lots. (High density inner suburbs also need lots of infrastructure - consider the proposed and already hated East-West Link. High-rise use more fuel to run than houses.) The aged, of course, are accused of being the reason that we must all submit to our 'demographic destiny'.
The AFR beats the ageist drum, beginning the article by evoking how a tram has to wait while a 70 year old man with a prosthetic leg slowly mounts it. "Getting drivers to wait for passengers to reach their seats is just one example of the changes we will have to make in the way we live and work if we are to cope with the massive population changes experts predict." The problems with this image and its conclusion are multiple. Firstly, people have long lived to 70 plus and had prosthetic limbs. (Remember Long John Silver?). Secondly, we are in a society that promotes independence for the disabled. Thirdly, and much more relevantly, has the author not noticed that women with prams and toddlers usually also cannot mount moving trams at a run. This is an example of the absurd lengths to which journalists, high and low, are expected to go to market the growthist message in Australia. They might as well be writing for real-estate agencies, but in fact they are. Both the Fairfax and Murdoch press are heavily invested in global marketing of Australian real-estate among their many other corporate interests. More and more of the pages of the Australian Financial Review these days are taken up with real-estate, property development, land-marketing, land-use planning arguments, and industries associated with immigration. This article by Dunckley is just one more example, a double-pager one, signifying that someone there thinks they have to step up the pace of propaganda.
Demographic mythology of the Growth Lobby
I have been reading articles like this one in the Australian press since the early 1990s, when I began to understand what was driving Australia's population growth in the face of manifest democratic disquiet. See The Growth Lobby in Australia and its Absence in France, which first identified what it is about our system and other Anglophone systems that makes it so hard to stop population growth when elites are driving it. For a short explanation of what the "Growth Lobby" is, see "How the growth lobby threatens Australia's future". I recently wrote a book, the result of ten years of independent work on population and economic theories, (S.M. Newman, Demography Territory and Law: The Rules of Animal and Human populations, Countershock Press, 2013.) I honestly know quite a lot about population and I can tell you that this article is a compendium of demographic mythology, thrown together to prop up a failing economy in the short-term, and throwing the rest of us to the wolves. The scale of population growth that this article is advocating is nothing short of an invasion.
Why it all makes sense
My attention was first drawn to Mathew Dunckley's article in the Financial Review by a number of people who are concerned about the consequences of overpopulation in Australia. A frequent remark was that it did not make economic sense to advocate a situation where democracy would be frankly reduced by crowding of electorates and an increasing number of people would face malnutrition, homelessness and disease. Why would anyone advocate such a situation? The answer seems to be that this situation benefits a few corporations and their investors. The banks want it, the property developers want it, the miners and building materials producers want it, and the newspapers want it. They want it because there is global economic decline and they have important investments in resources and commodities that benefit from increased demand. They know that increasing demand by driving up population growth will cause poverty and social dysfunction. But they don't care. Unlike the Australian, the Age, the Herald Sun, the Sydney Morning Herald or the Courier Mail etc., which all have the same agenda , the Australian Financial Review does not even pretend to care about 'democracy' or the 'people'.
Tourism vs Big Business - an example of the paradigm
Many people in Australia are worried about the effect of human population growth and infrastructure expansion on Australian wildlife and habitat. They often seek economic arguments to defend other creatures and the beauty of nature against people and forces that appear completely uninterested in anything but money. So these conservationists wonder why, for instance, koalas are being driven extinct through the rapid removal of their remaining patchy habitat. Why, they wonder, would the government damage local tourist industries by removing the very things that attract so many people to this country? This conundrum arises repeatedly. Indeed the native animal and wild spaces tourism is a huge and valuable source of income for many people in Australia, and particularly for those in rural areas. So, why would government policy be so much more inclined to destroy than to protect it? The answer is obvious to anyone except those who still believe that Australia's governments try to promote what is best for most Australians. Our governments are only interested in what is good for banks, property developers, and allied corporations. Our elites and their parliamentary servants have become quite distant from nature and reality. They have no feeling for their compatriots, only for their financial and political peers. They are not interested in local economies; they are probably against local self-sufficiency, cooperation and self-government. So, the senseless makes sense, in a way, if you are blinded by greed.
La Feuille Verte/The Green Leaf is a bi-lingual production about a dystopia where humans have become alienated from their organic origins. Sound familiar? Mariette has created characters of a deceptive simplicity. She uses the metaphore of trees and cages to describe the life force, the brain and caged, regimented minds.
Originally written in words for her children and friends, years later it occurred to Mariette to illustrate that story. She says that the drawings were quite quickly executed, but that it took her years to reduce the written story to the sparse narrative that remains. That was the hardest part for her.
"The writing is only necessary for those who don't understand the pictures without explanation," she says. In fact working out what the pictures mean is part of the pleasure of the exhibition.
The illustrations are finely executed in very soft earthy pastel tones of coloured pencil and ink. They are lightly stylised.
The book, The Green Leaf/La Feuille Verte sells for $20.00 at the exhibition and is also available from (613)98981304 if you are ringing from overseas or 03 98981304 if you are in Australia. Inquiries from individuals and booksellers welcome.
Details of Gallery location and hours:
Chapel on Station Gallery
cnr Station St & Ellingworth Pde
Box Hill Vic 3128
Ph 9890 5810
Hours : Tues-Fri 11:30-3:00
Life is increasingly serious, it seems to me. Or is it just what I choose to watch on television or read, especially on the Internet? Quark writes about our Heath Robinson government in Victoria, of the war between cyclists and nature lovers over parkland, of factory-farming of human masses and the tedious obligation of infinite pseudo choice.
It’s not that I go looking for trouble exactly.
I have what I would call a normal concern about our environment, not only because I enjoy nature but because I think I understand its inextricable relationship and importance to us. I also think I have a normal concern about the future, about the way animals are treated and about preserving native species and even about people and their quality of life.
Who doesn’t care about at least some of these things?
The sad thing is that I can’t find any good news, anywhere on these fronts.
Everywhere I look things seem to be getting worse
Everywhere I look the situation seems to be getting worse and I am constantly confronted with images and accounts of suffering factory farm animals, homeless, doomed orangutans whose forest homes have been decimated, kangaroos being culled, and cattle tortured after an interminable journey to the other side of the planet before what must be the final real relief of expiring.
I think, to be a happy balanced person, I’m supposed to focus on other things and to appreciate the “privileged” place in history and in geography in which I find myself.
I’m supposed to thank my lucky stars that I live in the age of mass communications, especially the Internet.
I must say that I really do appreciate these things which I am using right now but, at the same time, there are so many other aspects of our contemporary world that are draining it of enjoyment.
This effect is a combination of how changes to our political, social and physical environment affect us directly and the pressures that human existence place on other creatures. I learn about these things via the very media which I have just acknowledged as a great plus.
Daily deluge of pleas to save the helpless from us
Daily, I am deluged with electronic pleas to help stop baby seals being clubbed to death, save bears from being caged for the purpose of draining bile from them, to save from logging, forests in my own state which are home to the engaging and endangered Leadbeater's possum, the Victorian state emblem.
Even if I did not look at electronic media, I would still receive through my letter box appeals for funds to help the hapless products of puppy mills or to rescue other cruelly treated malnourished domestic animals.
It is well known that laying hens are kept in tiny cages, their little feet never scratching in the earth. If this were not bad enough, the media is oozing with propaganda meant to coax people, push them, finally forcing them through price into minimal sized apartments with little or no natural light.
Factory farming the human masses
Housing for the masses is now all about minimally accommodating people rather than providing living space.
Both situations - for hens and for people - are utilitarian, functional and completely inconsiderate.
I then read and hear about scarce public parkland being appropriated for road construction. At best one could see this as a utilitarian approach about traffic and transport rather than about people and their lives, at worst a project for its own sake.
Stealing our parkland and enemy cyclists
Parkland is a luxury that can be just stolen from the people it seems. This can happen in Melbourne or Istanbul.
Whatever is happening spawns unexpected competing interests.
The gentle activity of cycling has become some sort of monster! In Melbourne cyclists want bicycle paths as commuter highways through parkland and require the sacrifice of pre-European settlement trees.
The cyclists could traverse the parkland in a meandering fashion on the existing pathways but they want to go at top speed in order to get to work.
You see, cycling is now a mode of transport rather than a recreational activity.
Cyclists occupy the high moral and environmental ground because of their dainty carbon footprint.
This is a kind of war between the cyclists and those who want to preserve the park.
The country’s priorities now seem to be focused on our lives as real estate consumers and workers. Numbers of hours worked, house prices, GDP, company profits, are critical indicators of our competitive edge.
Are these things really life or death?
Heath Robinson government
We seem to be trapped in a very unimaginative version of a Heath Robinson machine with no detours.
Even our recreation seems to be about something organised and orchestrated from a higher power like the AFL (football) rather than our own ways of re creating ourselves. Our private activities and invented fun have literally no room in contemporary life.
Opportunities for creative play are being removed as open space diminishes and we are funneled into profit making arenas of entertainment. These opportunities are being removed as the ratio of nature to humanity decreases and access to nature diminishes, becoming less accessible in crowded, regulated, expensive cities.
Even our precious spare time is hijacked by organisations.
Things that I never used to have to make decisions about and could leave ticking away in the back ground are now items I am supposed to spend time on. I refer here especially to telcos and to energy supply.
In a nutshell, it requires quite some calculation to ascertain if one company is better value than another. This question comes up several times a week through phone calls interrupting my peace or someone at the door insisting that I go and find my last electricity account. Even after I have worked out the advantage of one over another, it will have all changed by the time I get around to working it out again and I’ll find I’ve been on the wrong plan or with the wrong company.
'Choice' - a tedious obligation
Did we ever really need this in our lives? “Choice” has become a very tedious obligation.
The Internet, smart phones, the “vibrancy” of a city growing in population at an enormous pace, Skype, Twitter, tablets: all these should make me happy.
The trouble is that I am losing what really made me happy.
Normal life increasingly criminalised
At the risk of appearing to indulge in nostalgia, our lives are far less free than they were. Big Brother is out there doing its robotic best to nab us in a hapless 100 metres of driving at 64 in a 60 zone or the parking officer is doing his level best to add to his daily quota as we tear back to our parking meters when a community meeting goes 10 minutes too long.
Even using water has become a sort of crime whereas it was once part of our lives and it was OK to hydrate both ourselves and our environment. Friends boast to one another that they never water their plants or are getting rid of their gardens. My neighbours have covered theirs in concrete slabs which will be very economical on water.
All the above symptoms impose stress and remove spontaneity and freedom. It is the effect of our governments imposing themselves on us and overcrowding us so that we are constantly banging up against the will and interests of others, the limits to resources, and being reminded us of the cost of everything, every minute of the day.
Along with the loss of fun and freedom in contemporary life, there is a burdensome overlay of the oppressive and unhelpful role that governments play in our lives. There’s a feeling of being administered, of having ideas, projects and changes to our environment imposed on us; of control of our world coming from somewhere outside ourselves.
The recent announcement of yet another new suburb on the outskirts of Melbourne is nothing to celebrate despite its upbeat name of ‘Merrifield’, according to the Victorian and Tasmanian branch of Sustainable Population Australia.
“As Melbourne continually bursts what were once its boundaries, open space for wildlife, agriculture and escape from the metropolis are being swallowed up in a sea of homogeneous suburbia," said President Quirk.
'It is disturbing that, despite our widespread distaste for urban sprawl, the growth machine keeps rolling it out,” she observed."
Ms Quirk described the opening of the new suburb as "a very serious matter." And she said that there is in fact, no end to this very rapid process unless we rein in our population growth.
Myth that Growth is Inevitable
“It is a widely held belief that population growth is inevitable but it is not. Australia and thus Victoria could stabilise their populations by the end of this century by immediately reducing immigration to more modest levels and maintaining our current fertility rate over the long term.” says Ms. Quirk.
Myth that Growth is Good
President Quirk identified another myth - that we must have some growth for its own sake or for some sort of economic benefit. She explained:
There is no benefit in population growth to the people already living in Australia without at least equal growth in both economic output and at the same time an improvement in quality of life. This is not happening, especially with respect to quality of life in this country which has one of the fastest population growth rates of any developed nation.
Quality of life diminishes with overpopulation
She drew attention to the fact that:
Traffic congestion renders many people’s lives utterly miserable in their daily commutes to earn the means to service the mortgages for their unaffordable housing. Natural light is dealt out in meager proportions to those taking up residence in higher density areas of Melbourne closer to the CBD.”
“The promise of 20,000 temporary jobs in Merrifield during construction is an example of the extent to which - in our defective economic system - employment depends on continuing population growth and consequent construction, a process like a dog chasing its tail.
Drawing upon the reliance of human life on the health of the natural world, she said that this process needs to stop "for environmental and thus survival reasons."
Responding to the latest spin from some of the growth lobbyists - that we cannot stop population growth quickly because some people might lose jobs - (Bernard Salt on the ABC on Tuesday 21 May, RN Drive with Waleed Aly), she said that purportedly we have been increasing overseas immigration because there are not enough people to do those jobs.
The bigger and faster population growth, the harder to stop
She stressed, however, that:
"The real problem with deliberately accelerating our population growth now is that it will make the job of stabilising our population in the future an increasingly slow, painful and difficult task, like turning the Queen Mary around. By that time the necessity will be obvious to everyone.”
“In the interests of all, a clever Victorian government should be planning for a stable population in Victoria, as cheap energy becomes more scarce, as our environment deteriorates as a result of population pressure, and as climate change reduces the state’s human carrying capacity."
She concluded by saying that a far sighted Victorian government would get us off the growth merry-go-round - sooner rather than later - out of consideration for younger and future generations who will be left to pick up the environmental, economic and social pieces of our population excesses.
Reading this letter to the Wheeler center about a shocking spin exercise delivered by professional development spruikers, with Roz Hansen (who is also involved in fielding public submissions), one is reminded of the film, We need to talk about Kevin, a film about a totally underestimated problem with utterly dire consequences. In fact, Melbourne really needs to talk about the corruption of democracy via Melbourne planning and development organisations, their contempt for citizens, their infiltration of law-making in parliament, and the gross unsustainability of the philosophy and projects they seek to unilaterally impose - Candobetter Ed.
Letter to the Wheeler Center after “We Need to Talk” The Wheeler Centre Books Writing and Ideas – Series on “Ideas for Melbourne” Part 1 “The City of the Future” Wednesday 13 February 2013.
Subtitles are by Candobetter.net editor
The booklet said re ‘The City of The Future:’ session: “In 30 years, Melbourne’s CBD will have another 220,000 new residents. A ‘second CBD’ has been proposed for Melbourne’s west, along with a third runway for Tullamarine Airport – and more green wedge land for housing. Can a big Melbourne remain beautiful – let alone liveable or sustainable? Can we have it all, or do tough choices lie ahead?” The panel consisted of Roz Hansen who is the Chair of the Metropolitan Planning Strategy of Melbourne Committee; Alan Davies; and David Nichols (University of Melbourne?). Jane Rawson was the interviewer.
Vivienne Ortega and Julianne Bell attended this Wheeler Centre evening event.
Here are our comments about the event:
We need to talk about what is happening to our democracy
We considered this exercise a piece of political spin, full of contradictions, and generalities. There were no speakers on the panel debating or contesting statements made by panel members; all 3 were in furious agreement with each other. There was no community involvement and no audience interaction. Few questions were allowed at the end of the session. We considered that it was simply a lecture by growth-lobbyists. We were just being lectured to as to how a “Future Melbourne” could accommodate a rapidly growing population!
Roz Hansen - Ethics and Fairness in question
Firstly, it appeared to us extremely inappropriate that Roz Hansen would be speaking at a public forum with obvious references to the Metropolitan Planning Strategy of Melbourne (MPSM) when she was Chair of the Ministerial Committee which is still receiving public submissions on the MPSM. In our view she was giving us the spin on Government policies which ensures growth for developers, the real estate industry and the road lobby. While Ms Hansen said that she wanted “community dialogue” and to hear what we think, she made it clear that said some topics were "non-negotiable" or off limits. It appeared that one of the “non negotiables” was the topic of trains. She made it clear – and had done so at a community forum she attended with the Minister for Planning Matthew Guy on 21 November 2012 - that the “Future Melbourne” would have buses but not urban rail, apart from the underground Metro rail. It would of course have the East West Link tollway/freeway.
Hobson’s Choice promoted as Consumer Choice
The panel was of the opinion that, with population increase, people would “choose” apartments and high density living. We see this as Hobson’s choice, that is, no choice at all. Many people have not now, and will not have in the future, any other affordable alternatives to high density living. No mention was made of the inevitable increase of per capita greenhouse gas emissions, and the denial of facilities enabling residents to reduce consumption and energy, reuse and recycle.
There was an assumption by the speakers that "empty-nesters" will want to buy apartments and units. We know it has found to be a myth that the retired and the elderly want to “downsize”. Many want to stay in houses with gardens and keep their rooms for family and guests. (We have been through this argument with Bernard Salt who took a more extreme line stating that widows should move out of their large houses in the leafy suburbs to provide accommodation for incoming family groups of migrants.) [See Should Jeannie Pratt and Elisabeth Murdoch downsize to high rises in Activity Centers to give young people more room?]
Urban Parks for food production; shopping mall walks for exercise
It was suggested by one of the university academics when the subject of “food security” was raised that urban parks could be turned over for food production and that residents could exercise by walking in shopping malls. Presumably people would be denied back gardens though this was not specifically discussed. In the context of food security it was suggested by one of the speakers that more "intensive farming" could take place in the outer urban growth areas. To us it meant more factory farming, which is cruel and unethical. (Many animal activists want to put an end to it.) We are of the view that our food bowls and green wedges should be protected. Roof top gardens and parks are not a viable alternative.
False perception of inevitability dishonestly imposed on public
It was assumed by the speakers that this "future" spelt out for Melbourne with a rapidly growing population – 6.4 million by 2050 - was inevitable. We say it is not inevitable as the high net overseas migration intake could be capped and reduced as it has been in the past. We consider that the terms “sustainability” and “growth” are oxymorons. Anthropogenic climate change can't be addressed with an economy based on population growth.
Spin cannot hide increasing congestion and no solutions in sight
The "20 minute city" – one of the principles of the MPMS - is to us a contradiction in terms. The proposed growth of Melbourne will inevitably cause more congestion. Infrastructure continually fails to keep abreast of population growth. Rather than more buses, we need more linked public transport and trains. If we cannot manage with congestion and traffic gridlock now why could we manage any better in the future?
Resounding Silence on development-threatened Green Wedges
We consider that our green-wedges are not for housing - they have a purpose as our "green lungs" and should be protected. This was not discussed.
We were of the view that trying to maintain Melbourne's status as a "liveable" city, and "sustainable", are contradictions if our population is "projected" to be 2 million more by 2050 - at a time of severe climate change warnings and increasing scarcities of natural resources.
Homelessness swept under carpet
The problem of “homelessness” was not discussed. It is related, in our view, to the power of developers, grabbing rooming houses for "developments", and forcing up the price of family homes over what is affordable by those on normal fixed wages.
The threat of racism arising from unwelcome mass immigration was not discussed.
Sneering, out-of-touch panellists artlessly contemptuous of public
We were offended by the supercilious rather sneering tone of panellists and comments made. One panellist referred to the “great unwashed” from the outer suburbs. The other male panellist commented that with population pressure new suburbs were becoming “trendy” and expressed surprise that even in Preston growing a moustache was now acceptable and one could get a café latte there. We thought this showed contempt for the audience.
There were few questions, no real vision or strategy for improving or enhancing our city, and there was no chance for the audience to challenge the panel’s opinions. The "Ideas for Melbourne" lacked balance and a contrary side of the debate.
Julianne Bell, Secretary, Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.
Vivienne Ortega, Secretary, Sustainable Population Australia (Victorian and Tasmanian Branch)
28 February 2013
The consideration of the Planning Zones Review should have been referred to the Parliamentary Committee for Environment and Planning which has considerable resources to put the 2,000 submissions on the Parliamentary website and then record on Hansard the hearings of some of the submitters before the Parliamentary Committee.
Submission to Department of Planning and Community Services (DPCS) on Victoria’s New Planning Zones
Introduction: I am writing on behalf of Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc., a coalition of 80 community, environmental and heritage groups dedicated to protecting and maintaining sites of environmental and heritage significance.
Here is a statement made by Professor Michael Buxton of RMIT covering the significance and the impact on Melbourne of the new zone proposals. He gave permission for me to quote him. I am then making a suggestion as to the need for a Parliamentary Inquiry by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Planning in order for there to be proper consultation with the public.
Significance of Review of Planning Zones: The Victorian government’s proposed new planning zones are the most radical review of planning schemes in the history of Victorian planning. They will lead to fundamental changes in the way Melbourne operates, change the fabric of the city and its hinterland, and remove an extensive range of existing citizen rights. Every citizen will be affected.
The new zone proposals will
• Replace the three existing residential zones with three new residential zones
• Replace the Business 1, 2 and 5 zones with a new Commercial 1 zone, and the Business 3 and 4 zones with a new Commercial 2 zone
• Extensively alter the Green Wedge zone, rural Conservation zone, Green Wedge A zone, Farming zone, Rural Activity zone and Rural Living zone
• Change the existing Mixed Use zone, Township zone and Low Density Residential zone
• Change the existing Industrial 1, 2 and 3 zones.
The government recently released the report of the Advisory Committee into the Victorian planning system and its response to this report. Neither this report nor the government response advocated the changes to zones now proposed. No other justification or strategic context has been provided for the radical changes to the statutory planning system. Clearly, the government worked extensively on its changes to zones in a secret parallel process while the public was diverted to a public process which proposed only moderate change.
Impact of New Planning Zones: The major impacts will be the introduction of extensive commercial uses into residential areas, the destruction of Melbourne’s traditional strip retail centres, the dispersal of commercial activities to car based areas resulting in serious metropolitan wide traffic congestion, the de-facto removal of the urban growth boundary and the extension of a large number of urban related uses into green wedges. Resident rights of notification and objection will be seriously curtailed with many new uses allowed in these new zones without the need for permits.
In particular, the zones will:
• merge residential and commercial uses across urban zones, with an extension of commercial uses into residential areas and little difference between commercial and some industrial zones
• increase the price of commercial and rural land through the encouraging of land speculation
• lead to the growth of large numbers of out-of-centre car based commercial/retail developments including accommodation which will end the current functions of many strip retail centres and lead to substantial car use and increase road congestion across Melbourne
• increase the height of commercial/retail and mixed use developments.
The new zones constitute a largely deregulated land use planning system drawing from the reports and lobbying of market oriented bodies and development groups and growth focused government agencies. These zones, in effect, constitute unfair competition by attempting to allow a wide range of uses in many locations. Existing strip retail centres, for example, will have to compete against new retail development built on much cheaper land far from public transport; land traditionally used for agriculture and rural pursuits will become locations for urban related commercial development and accommodation facilities in unfair competition against higher priced urban land. The principle of unregulated markets also takes no account of their public economic, social and environmental impacts, for example, the impacts on congestion of dispersed commercial development and the associated costs in delays and road construction and maintenance.
The application of the zones and the use of schedules will be subject to ministerial approval. Councils may not be allowed to select zones they regard as appropriate to land in their municipalities.
The use of overlays and structure plans may not significantly reduce the impact of the zones. For example, the Heritage Overlay is increasingly ineffective in preventing development even under current zones, and the effects of structure plans depend on the content and the nature of their incorporation into planning schemes.
Melbourne will not be the same city if these new zones are approved even in a modified form.
Failure of the State Government to Consult Victorians Properly on New Planning Zones:
Here is my comment. This complex set of proposals concerning the new planning zones was sprung upon the public which was given only a month to comment. As commented above it appeared that the public was seriously misled as …“Clearly, the government worked extensively on its changes to zones in a secret parallel process while the public was diverted to a public process which proposed only moderate change.” A number of Councils held planning forums at which planning officers attempted to enlighten the public re detail of the changes. The public encountered difficulties when attempting to make submissions by the deadline last Friday when the DPCS computer crashed. The Planning Minister then gave the public an extension for a week. Our submissions will be referred to a small committee hand picked by the Minister. Members of the Committee cannot be said to be independent.
It is extraordinary that the Planning Minister did not refer the review which is of such great significance to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Environment and Planning. This has not had an inquiry for the past month or so. Public submissions (to this Standing Committee) are put on the Parliamentary website and presentations to the Committee recorded in Hansard. As far as I am aware most members of the public regard this process as open and transparent where people are given a “fair go”. Even if members of Parliament are split on Party lines they can write a group dissenting report. Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc recommends that a proper Parliamentary Inquiry be held into the new planning zones.
Secretary Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.
PO Box 197
The joke is on you, you green fool! You and your idiot faith without evidence! Your techno-optimism and cornucopian denial! Renewable technology? What a laugh! Who did you think you were kidding? Mr. Jevons? What a paradox! Smart growth? Ha! What's next, "Smart" cancer? "Smart" extinction? "Smart" deforestation?
We're Screwed! We're Buggered! Cooked! Done!
Ha ha! We thought we were smart enough to manage complex systems!
The joke is on you, you green fool! You and your idiot faith without evidence! Your techno-optimism and cornucopian denial!
Renewable technology? What a laugh! Who did you think you were kidding? Mr. Jevons? What a paradox! Smart growth? Ha! What's next, "Smart" cancer? "Smart" extinction? "Smart" deforestation? Oh and "Sustainable" Growth! I love that one, and I laughed even harder at Sustainable "Development"! Nice try. As Garrett Hardin said, we got a moratorium on thinking with that one! Mr. Greenwash you really have a sense of humour---too bad your euphemisms didn't fool Mother Nature! But I must at admit you sure put one over on the Sierra Club membership! You even had them believing that we could "de-couple" economic and population growth from environmental degradation! Those comedians from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Eco-Socialists, what a piece of work they are! And then there is the Queen of Smear from Hampshire College! Good work on character assassination babe! You, Morris Sleaze and the Center for New Community make a great team shutting down debate about crucial environmental concerns !
Were goin' down folks! It's Good Night Gracie! Another failed evolutionary experiment for the fossil record! Ha ha!
Ladies and Gentle....men! Welcome to the Doomsday Auction. What we have here tonight is Human Catastrophe offered to you at an incredible price. This is a once-in-a-life time opportunity to make a claim on that disaster which will end civilization as we know it. You have been brought here by special invitation. All of you here are prominent and credible threats to humankind, but your challenge tonight is stake a claim to catastrophe by producing evidence that you have the largest constituency of public opinion behind you. That is, the more people who take you seriously, the more attention you deserve. And if you command the most attention then you, and you alone, can take home the prize of being Boogeyman Number One, The Top Dog of Human Catastrophe!
First, let me introduce viewers to the contestants. We have, in no particular order, Nuclear Accident, Terrorist Attack, Global War, Cyber War, Global Warming, Economic Collapse, Fuel Shortage, Oil Spill, Industrial Accident, and Famine. Sorry, but even though we now have over 7 billion people, "Overpopulation" was not invited to this auction because mainstream environmental organizations refused to size its nomination papers in deference to their corporate donors and political correctness, and the eco-socialists claimed that he was a rich racist who was trying to blame the global poor for his own excesses. "Natural Non-Renewable Resource Shortages" are not here either because Peak Oilers protested that it was all about energy and that the shortage of minerals and metals vital to an industrial economy were not deserving of a voice---a view seconded by PC book publishers who won't print any manuscripts from Chris Clugston.
OK, lets get rolling. Let’s start the bidding at 5%. Who will offer 5% of public opinion to back their claim to fame as a credible and lethal threat to civilization and life as we know it?
Industrial Accident? Thank you. Industrial Accident bids 5%. Now Oil Spill bids 6%. Famine? Famine bids 8%! Cyber War has matched you but Fuel Shortage doubles the offer at 15%. Its Fuel Shortage at 15%. Do I hear 16%? Global Warming raises the offer to 22%! 22% of the people worry about Global Warming. Now Nuclear Accident bids 25%! Its 25% going once, 25%...What’s that? Global War says 27%! Ladies and Gentlemen its 27%..... now Global Disease Outbreak makes it 33%. It looks like we are witnessing a contest here! And yes, yes....Terrorist Attack I hear you. You bid 44%! Now Natural Disaster sees you and raises that to 46%! It’s 46% once, 46% twice, 46%.....Economic Collapse, do I see your hand, yes! Is that right? 63%? You have 63% of folks worried about you? Do I hear 64%? Anybody at 64%? It’s 63% going once, 63% going twice, 63% SOLD to Economic Collapse because you sir look like your looming just around the corner!
Well Ladies and Gentlemen I guess you could have seen it coming. Economic collapse is keeping us awake at night. That wolf at your door has certainly got your attention hasn’t it? Greens have tried to take your eye off the ball with global warming but who the (expletive) cares about another metre or two of rising sea water in 60 years when you will be on the bread line tomorrow, and you will have give away your kids to an orphanage!
If that is not worry enough for you, come back next week and maybe, just maybe, Overpopulation, Peak Everything, Depleting Aquifers, The Collapse of Biodiversity Services and Critical Metal and Mineral Shortages will show up! That's if tensions in the Gulf don't trigger a nuclear exchange!
Have a safe journey home now---- that's if it hasn't been foreclosed on you! As the saying goes, if the bailiff doesn't get you the Grim Reaper will! Now go back to sleep and have an American dream!
January 2, 2012
Cf. The National Survey of Pandemic Awareness and Attitudes October 28-31
Thanks to Emily Spence for bringing this survey and article to my attention through
Article by Amanda Burchell
Aesthetics of a prosthetic and over-regulated world
One of the suggested topics for this discussion was: The aesthetics of a prosthetic and over-regulated world.
Though I had a problem in tweaking the word aesthetics to suit my purposes in relation to prosthetic, I learnt to use the latter word in a metaphorical sense and the rest found poetic license in its final expression by me.
And did I want to challenge the meaning of the word aesthetics in order to suggest precision, restraint, a certain punctilious and concrete approach?
Yes, I thought that I did.
So the translation for The Aesthetics of a prosthetic and over-regulated world would be:
The precise and concrete arrangement, to which a world propped up on plastic, is delivered in a rigid and untenable manner, devoid of joy and equity.
Welcome to Australia, folks!
Welcome to Australia, folks ~ this is the world we appear to be striving for.
… ‘A mundane metal cupboard in the bowels of the Australian Museum is a last resting place for lost mammals.’
… ‘In the past 200 years Australia has driven 27 of its mammal species to extinction.’
You may not give a damn that a Quoll or a Caladenia brachyscapa (Short Spider-orchid –Tasmania) – is rare or extinct but you might, however, spare a thought for your own survival, if it comes to that.
What's next? You perhaps?
Having ruined the habitat for other mammals and flora to boot, you might think – what’s next?
You, perhaps? Since it is always all about you, you may well consider that, if Australia keeps importing extra people – and you keep producing children yourself, you may just run out of room.
Perhaps each person who steps onto Australian soil, as well as the current residents, should be buying multiple blocks of land.
A man marries a woman and has two children: multiply that out by three generations - a house for the original couple, two more for each of their children and their families, and so forth.
Well, unless everyone stops procreating for a while, we are going to have serious problems in supplying sufficient housing, food, jobs and water, for everyone.
Water… do you remember that, during Jeff Kennett’s regime, he made it illegal to buy and install water tanks?
That’s because during his time, water was privatized, and he, the politician – elected by the people - had a mandate to support the private enterprise that he and his government had further encouraged in the purchase of our public utility.
By the way if you’re wondering who would like to see Australia’s population expand infinitely, I would suggest that developers and real estate agents have a vested interest in population growth, wouldn’t you?
Immigration means more listings and sales – but, if you take a good look at where they’re building these house and land packages, they’re getting further away from real infrastructure and the CBD than ever before.
Now demographers are discussing self contained satellite cities where people are contained within, never needing to leave, really.
Is that what you want? Because that’s what they are talking about as a means to grow Australia, in a 'sustainable and manageable way'.
'They' includes those politicians I mentioned before; politicians like Jeff Kennett’s who just know what’s good for us and for Australia.
Well, I’d like the voting public to think about how tough things are at the moment – and how much tougher they are likely to get with a bigger squeeze on strained resources.
The Builders and Developers are Wrong
The builders and developers are wrong. More people does not equate to a cheaper, better standard of living.
I heard the case for increasing Australia’s population back in the 1980’s and I cannot see any proof to date, that an increase’ has served the interests of that population, in general terms.
And forgive me, my youngest son; I am not a racist pig, as you once accused me of being – I just want a country that will give you a job and home – and enough water to drink.
I want a sustainable population with equity for all – for a long, long, time to come.
According to software engineer Arved von Brasch the danger posed by Senator Steven Conroy's Mandatory Internet Filtering is that it will confer upon the Federal Government the capacity to censor internet content it considers a threat, in exactly the same way that the Chinese Government now uses the same technology that Conroy proposes to introduce to censor views of its critics. Arved von Brasch also shows there are overwhelming reasons to reject the legislation on technical grounds alone.
Originally published as "The consequences of filtering", with discussion forum, on 4 Mar 10 Online Opinion. Republished under the terms of the Creative Commons License. See also: Internet censorship, Citizens Initiated Referenda and the Greens - an open letter of 23 Dec 09, Online Opinion forum discussion contribution: Why won't Greens move motion to put filtering to a referendum?
The Government is proposing a system to filter the Internet. The proposal is a complaints-based system that would block specific URLs only after they have been brought to the government's attention and also deemed to be Refused Classification. It would operate using a secret list and make it mandatory for all ISPs to block sites on the list for all Internet users in Australia.
"Refused Classification" and "illegal" are not the same thing, and the problems of having a mandatory, secret blacklist should be readily apparent. The consequences to the wider Australian society if this filter proposal succeeds do deserve discussing. This proposal doesn't have a single redeeming feature that will make Australia any better than it currently is.
There are also obvious known drawbacks to the proposal. The first is the cost of the system. Filtering products are expensive to purchase and run. Smaller ISPs will not be able to easily carry the cost, and will be forced to immediately pass them on to customers. Larger ISPs, with more capacity to absorb the cost, will be able to strongly compete on price for a short time. This will force competition out of the market. It will mean even more expensive Internet for Australians, especially as the government intends for ISPs to carry the entire cost of the proposal. Access to the Internet in Australia is already among the most expensive and inadequate in the developed world.
While the technological issues are minor compared to the political and civil liberties issues, they should be enough themselves to scuttle this proposal. The Internet is currently running on a backbone of IPv4. Every computer connected to the Internet has a unique number assigned to it. IPv4 only allows for 4 billion computers to be connected simultaneously, and the pool of available numbers is rapidly diminishing. IPv6 is already starting to take over, and within two years almost every ISP will be forced to support IPv6. The trouble is that most current filtering systems are incapable of supporting IPv6. The proposal will saddle ISPs with expensive, inadequate equipment.
The next technological issue is latency. The government is making big claims about speed, but it is confusing itself on the difference between speed and latency. While it may be true that speed decrease for individual website loads is negligible, the compounded effects have not been measured. This is particularly important in high bandwidth applications, such as video games, film distribution and teleconferencing. Minor reductions in speed have a cumulative effect, and this could dramatically affect performance in such applications.
This issue is particularly important given the government's proposed National Broadband Network. The maximum speed tested in the Enex trial was 8 Mbps. The NBN's speed is expected to be 100 Mbps. There is little reason to think that the trial results are applicable to a higher speed network. Additionally, at least one participant in the Enex trial reported they had less than 15 households in the trial. Telstra didn't even bother to test using any real people. There is no reason to think that such a small sample is representative of the result of filtering the millions of connections across Australia.
High traffic sites cannot be blacklisted as there will not be the capability to deal with the huge number of requests for sites like YouTube. There is a lot of material on YouTube that would be considered Refused Classification because the rest of the world doesn't attempt to ban such material. As recent events have shown, Google is not keen on the idea of removing such material. This means that only sites that have softer voices will be blacklisted. This is inherently discriminatory.
There is also the Streisand Effect to consider. On the Internet, attempting to censor something inherently focuses attention on it. A site that is considered low traffic at the time it is added to the blacklist may quickly become a high traffic site when its presence there is discovered. Slashdotting is a similar effect. This is when an extremely popular site links to a far less popular site. The large number of people who then visit the low traffic site often bring it down by their volume. Both effects could significantly degrade Australian Internet performance as low traffic sites become high traffic to the point the filtering equipment may not be able to cope.
There is no real possibility that the blacklist will not eventually be leaked again. Mandatory censorship of this scale will motivate large numbers of the tech-savvy to reverse engineer the list. It is relatively easy to do. If the list truly is the "worst of the worst", and its security can't be assured, its publicly availability is unconscionable. If the list is as poor quality as the current ACMA blacklist, then leaks will do little more than be a continuous source of embarrassment to the government as the edge cases are brought to light by the media. A more disturbing thought is that the list is reconstructed but not made public because those who reverse engineered it were seeking out the illegal material which is also encompassed by Refused Classification.
The government has not provided any figures on how much of the total Refused Classification material on the Internet it expects to block. This is an important consideration. If the government only ever expects to cover a small percentage, then there seems little point in even having the policy. The web contains more than 1 trillion unique URLs. The current ACMA blacklist contains less than 1,500 URLs. And the government has admitted that performance will degrade if the list becomes too long.
The unintended social issues this proposal will create are deeply concerning. The filter is being sold as a way to protect people, particularly children, from accidental exposure to offensive material. There is no evidence of impending societal collapse from the decades at the current level of exposure. The reality is that a list of a few thousand will have a negligible preventative effect. It will, however, mean that parents will become complacent and oblivious to online dangers. If this proposal succeeds, the government will claim that the Internet is now "safer" in its advertising. That will be the sole message mums and dads will take away from the entire debate. This will mean less parental supervision, and will actually magnify our children's exposure to age inappropriate material. It will cause the very problem it attempts to solve.
The ACMA has conducted numerous studies over the years that show that Australian parents are well aware of online dangers and are happily managing their children's access. There are currently ISPs in Australia that specialise in providing filtered access, like WebShield. These companies have a filtered Internet service as a core component of their business model, rather than the cheap bolt-on after thoughts that reluctant ISPs will implement. Such companies do have low take up, despite the massive amount of free advertising the government has just provided. The previous government's NetAlert scheme similarly had low take up. It is clear that Australians understand the risks and deliberately choose to have unfiltered Internet. It is laudable to try and make their job easier, but this proposal will not do that.
Then there is the matter of privacy. Authorities require extenuating circumstances to eavesdrop on the telephone conversations of Australians. Intercepting private mail also requires a good reason vouched for by the judiciary. What the government is proposing, however, is a system where every packet of information sent by Australians is opened and inspected, before deciding if it should be allowed to reach its destination. It is not enough to say that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. Most people close the door when they go to toilet. While they aren't doing anything illegal there, that does not mean they particularly want to be observed doing so. Privacy is, and must be a fundamental right in a civil society.
There is also the future reaction of users when they encounter material which is potentially Refused Classification. If it isn't already blocked, are they to assume that the material is sanctioned by the government? Sexual explicit material, which isn't, and never could be covered by any blacklist is not Refused Classification. This is clearly material that is age inappropriate for children. Also, as a complaints-based system, the majority of complaints are going to be registered by our nation's biggest wowsers. Are we content to have what we see decided by the most easily offended? Such people will also be the loudest voices to keep increasing the scope of what is blocked.
Even more bizarrely, the government is proposing outsourcing censorship decisions to foreign countries. Incorporating foreign lists into the Australian blacklist without reviewing the content is handing another country the power to decide what Australians can and cannot see. Foreign lists have had their own embarrassments. The British Internet Watch Foundation, for example, has blacklisted material our Prime Minister might consider "absolutely revolting", but wouldn't bat an eye at the Classification Board. Properly incorporating foreign lists will turn into an expensive exercise. It already costs over $500 per URL for review by the Classification Board.
If the filter proposal passes, Australia would be the first and only Western democracy to introduce such broad and far reaching censorship on the Internet. Our actions thus far have already given comfort to more authoritarian regimes. Our filter model will end up justifying limiting freedom of speech among the most despicable governments. It would blacken our reputation, weaken trade, discourage discerning would be migrants and constrain our moral authority. Respected international human rights organisations are already expressing concern about Australia over this proposal.
There is a saying: "The Internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it." The whole concept of the Internet was to have redundant means of communication should any number of nodes be destroyed. Circumvention is thus not only possible but also exceptionally easy. Both the Enex and Telstra reports made this very clear. Even WebShield was unable to prevent circumvention and this is their core business. Thus, the filter proposal will do nothing to stop those who want illegal material from seeking it out.
The unavoidable conclusion is that the government's Internet filter proposal will be no more than an expensive waste of resources, delivering no benefits and having little or no value to show for it. It will magnify the social problems it claims to be attempting to solve, and destroy Australia's reputation into the bargain. It is well past time this idea was killed off once and for all.
#appendix1" id="appendix1">Appendix: Online Opinion Forum discussion contribution Why won't Greens move motion to put filtering to a referendum?
Of course, I agree with Arved von Brasch that the main threat is the power that it gives to Governments to censor, at will, sites that it considers a threat, and that should be the major focus of the anti-Internet Filtering campaign.
Nevertheless it is most helpful to also understand the technical problems posed by Filtering and Arved must be congratulated for having explained them so well. Now, we can all understand what the truth behind Conroy's claims that the tests is.
Have any polls been taken on this issue? I believe I heard once that the overwhelming majority were opposed. Even if not, that would change very quickly if there was a proper public debate on this. So there is no way that this legislation should stand any chance of becoming law in a properly functioning democracy.
About three weeks ago, I learnt from a member of Scott Ludlam's staff that they are, in fact, expecting the Liberals and Nationals to back away from their previous strong opposition.
I had put in an e-mail to Senator Ludlam early last year that they simply move a motion in the Senate that it be put to a referendum. However when I phoned his office around September last year, I was told that opposition by the Coalition to filtering was practically guaranteed. Implicilty it seemed that there was not urgent need for a referendum motion to be put. This still made me nervous that at a coming election many voters would face an impossible choice between the Coalition on the one had with its past record of Work Choices, the Iraq War, Telstra privatisation, etc. and the Labor party on the other hand with Mandatory Internet Filterin. Nevertheless, I did not pursue further my request that a motion for a referendum be put at that stage.
Now, that has changed.
The serious risk that Internet Filtering could soon become law should be considered unacceptable, even, if, for example, the rough edges were to be softened by, for example, Labor Senator Kate Lundy's proposed amendments.
Yet, when I put to one of Scott Ludlam's staffers, two weeks ago on the phone that they should go ahead and move a motion for a referendum, as I had urged earlier, she told me that Scott Ludlam would not.
Why I asked?
Because, she told me they did not expect that it would be carried.
I should have asked her how she knew that.
Furthermore, since then, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has suggested that her Government's health system reforms be put to a referendum at the Federal elections. Surely, especially now, a motion for a referendum on Mandatory Internet Filtering at this year's Federal Election could hardly be depicted as unreasonable.
If the Coalition were to vote against such a motion, then surely that would give the Greens a perfect opportunity to differentiate themselves positively from the Coalition and gain a large number of votes at their expense as well as at the expense of the Labor Party.
And if the Coalition were to agree, then better still. The public would assuredly drive a large blunt stake through the heart of Mandatory Internet Filtering at the referendum. The Greens should still expect do very well from a grateful public and certainly would do a lot better than if they were to remain on their current trajectory.
How could the Greens lose?
Why won't they seize this opportunity with both hands?
See also: (As mentioned above) Internet censorship, Citizens Initiated Referenda and the Greens - an open letter of 23 Dec 09.
Article by Geoff Brown
Delfin Lend Lease, the developer of the ADI Site, is now promoting its new suburb. It has the appalling name of Jordan Springs (another generic Delfin project with Springs in the name).
Jordan Springs is the 230 ha area of bushland - the now critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland - found on the western (Penrith) side of the ADI Site. Check out the spin from Delfin http://jordansprings.com.au/
There should now be a big question mark over this development
There should now be a big question mark over this development with both the NSW and Australian Government's upgrading Cumberland Plain Woodland from Endangered to Critically Endangered. You would assume any development that proposed to clear over 200 ha (there is still another suburb to go at ADI and it is 130 ha) of critically endangered bushland would be struggling to get approval.
Penrith Council recently approved the first 6 ha subdivision prior to the critically endangered listing.
Penrith Council, Delfin, Peter Garrett
They need to be hammered about this issue and reminded they have an obligation to reject developments that threaten critically endangered vegetation. They can easily justify refusal under the Threatened Species Act and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. Delfin have also got some kind of get out of jail free card from Peter Garrett whereby they don't have to refer their plans to him for assessment under the EPBC Act. This is appalling as any other proposal in Australia that threatens matters of National significance needs the approval of the Federal Environment Minister.
We are meeting with Garrett's adviser next week and will be raising plenty of issues with him about protecting CPW and the Western Sydney Priority Lands. Also the Cumberland Plain Recovery Plan which is a joint State and Federal Govt Plan.
They say a week is a long time in politics but in Victoria a day is a long time.
They say a week is a long time in politics but in Victoria a day is a long time. Community members tracking the progress of the Planning and Environment Amendment (Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution GAIC) Bill have been stunned at the mercurial changes in policy exhibited by Planning Minister Justin Madden in relation to this Bill. A month ago Minister Madden was saying that he expected the planned expansion of the urban growth boundary by 43,600 hectares to be the last expansion in his lifetime. Yet a week ago he was conceding that there may have to be changes to Melbourne's urban growth boundary. He made the excuse that his not-in-my-lifetime comments were about major changes to the outer urban growth boundary not just little amendments.
Julianne Bell Secretary of the Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc. commented:
“We have been taking a great interest in the progress of this Bill. If passed it will change the face of Melbourne forever and irrevocably affect the lives of many outer suburban/rural land owners. PPL VIC considers the GAIC tax is grossly unfair, unequal and discriminatory impacting on small landowners and property owners on the rural fringes of Melbourne. We are implacably opposed to the extension of the Urban Growth Boundary and alienation of Green Wedges which will automatically be implemented if the Bill is passed.
Internal contradictions, political twists and turns
We found it most extraordinary that on Tuesday last Jenny Mikakos, MLC Member for Northern Metropolitan representing the Government, said “…the government does not support any move to delay consideration of this bill… It is important that Parliament deals with this bill before Christmas so that the government can give certainty to land-holders and industry. We believe there is no logical reason to delay consideration of this bill any further, and we will be opposing the procedural motion on that basis.” Yet late yesterday Wednesday Minister Madden approached the Opposition with a series of amendments and changes to the GAIC Bill. This was the fifth proposed change to Bill and gave the Opposition, let alone the community just 16 hours to scrutinise the amendments. This is an absolute joke and indicates to us that that planning in this State is conducted on the run.”
GAIC Bill deferred to 2 February 2010
The Bill has been “deferred” which means that it will not be considered until the next sitting of Parliament starting on 2 February 2010. As it will have been deferred for than two months it will be referred to the Disputes Committee. So its fate is uncertain. Meantime the Government blames the Opposition and Greens for holding up the Bill and for not giving the landowners “certainty.” The question is what sort of certainty Minister?
Rally at Parliament 2 February 2010
Make a date for 2 February 2010 - see you at the biggest rally ever on the steps of Parliament to continue our protest over the GAIC Bill! Best wishes for the festive season and a tax-free, green and carbon reduced 2010!
Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.(PPL VIC)
Thursday 10 December 2009
"My concern is that a DAC is being treated almost like a court, judging from the answers the minister has given -- that is, somehow one can show contempt towards the DAC and this is referred to as 'detriment'. Clearly the DAC is not a court. I would like the minister to elaborate on this point: what constitutes detriment, who makes this decision and will there be guidelines?" (Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) [Hansard] )
The Libs may defeat the urban growth boundary legislation in the upper house, but the passing of the Development Assessment Committee (DAC) legislation and the introduction of the "New Residential Zones" and the Review of the Planning Act, and the Transport Bill, are bad news for democracy and our quality of life: The Planning department will have almost total control and there residents or councils will have almost no say or rights.
It seems that the liberals are going to defeat the urban growth boundary legislation in the upper house. However the passing of the Development Assessment Committee (DAC) legislation and the introduction of the "New Residential Zones" and the Review of the Planning Act, and the Transport Bill, will result in much more medium and high density development in our suburbs. At the same time there will be almost total control by Madden or rather his department and there will be almost total loss of any say or power by residents or councils.
The following debate on the DAC's legislation this week is revealing and makes us wonder just how competent the Minister for Planning is. He admitted that he knew nothing about the involvement of his electoral office in the Brimbank scandal and he also admitted he did not know of his department's approval of the beer barn at Docklands.
Read the following and you will learn that he does not know much about how the DAC legislation will work either.
As we have said before, he sees nothing, he hears nothing and he knows nothing, and yet he has been given over-riding powers to do virtually whatever he wants.
Take time to read the following and be astonished, angry and sad.
(Ed. Highlighting and headings have been inserted by the editor.)
Development Assessment Committee Legislation bill approved in the upper house this week -
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I ask the minister whether any activity centre zones have been gazetted so far.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I would have to check, but I do not believe so. However, I understand a fair amount of work has been done on the first batch. I would have to check but I think there are four or five of them; I think it is five. Basically there has been a process of consultation to delineate the boundary, and that has been to a panel. The panel has considered that and taken submissions in relation to the boundary for each of those activity centres.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! Can the minister check now, because it is a fairly specific question and the gazetting is the particular process?
Have any been gazetted? Yes or no.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I am pretty sure that one of those, which might be Manningham, has either been gazetted or is close to being gazetted -- on either side of the gazettal.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I take it from that answer that a number of the zones are more or less on exhibition to the extent that there is a panel which is viewing them. Have there been public submissions via the normal process for that exhibition?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I believe so.
Clause agreed to; clause 4 agreed to.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I am just looking at the definition of 'relevant activity area', which is defined as those suburbs listed in the bill. If an activity zone has to be within a relevant activity area, I presume it means that for such a zone to be lawful it must be no bigger than the suburb?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I am not quite sure what the point of the question is, but I will try to assist the member. The general idea is that we nominated the activity centres. There is a zone around each activity centre. There is a delineation of where the zones start and finish -- in a sense boundaries. The zones are not overly large. The activity centres are located in particular suburbs.
Unless you go to the Melway and see there is some sort of subsection of a suburb with an identifiable name, I would expect that a zone would not extend over and beyond a particular activity centre in a broader way than a number of streets either side of the main street around that activity centre. I am speaking very generally in that sense.
Entire suburbs could fall under this regime
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- We have a definition of a relevant activity area which is defined as a suburb. I presume that means the state's standard definition of a suburb. We then have a relevant activity centre zone, which means a contiguous area designated in a planning scheme in respect of a relevant activity area as an activity centre zone.
It is my view that if he wanted to the minister could lawfully advertise an activity centre zone to be as big as but no bigger than an entire suburb.
It becomes important because we then say in the second definition that not more than one activity centre zone may be designated in a planning scheme in respect of each relevant activity centre other than Preston and not more than two activity centre zones may be designated in a planning scheme in respect of the Preston relevant activity area. My contention is that it does not matter because if he wanted to the minister could lawfully put on exhibition and ultimately gazette a zone that was the same size as a suburb, and therefore I think those latter provisions are fairly irrelevant.
That is all I have on that particular new section. I have other new sections within the clause that I want to move onto as well.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I will respond to that.
There is no doubt that the planning minister has the authority to use very broad and quite strong powers in particular circumstances in a very broad way, but that is not the intent of this bill. I know Mr Barber's scepticism on some of these matters implies that he might expect me to take over whole suburbs in terms of being the planning authority. That is not the intent of this. The intent here is to share the decision making and in a sense not have the minister make the final decision. It is to share that decision making based on local and state policy.
Currently there exist provisions under which the minister could call in or intervene or take up all of the powers in relation to particular elements of any planning scheme or planning matter, but that is not what we have chosen to do here.
We have chosen to try to share that decision-making model through the development assessment committees, and hence it is not our intention to make them broad sweeping or any more extensive than what we have described in the bill and what we have described as activity centres within other policy documents.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- My question is in relation to new section 97MCA where under subsection (1) it refers to the minister taking advice as to the classes of applications for permits that are to be decided on by the DAC (development assessment committees). I want to get an understanding from the minister as to what we are talking about when we talk about classes. In the planning scheme now we talk about certain uses. We also have overlays that are triggered when there are certain works. What do we actually mean by classes of application?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- Could the member refer me to what he is speaking to?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! It is new section 97MCA, being inserted by clause 5 on page 9.
Section 97MCA(1) says:
Before making a recommendation to the Governor in Council under section 97MB or 97MC, the Minister must refer the matter to an Advisory Committee under section 151 for advice as to the classes of applications
Mr Barber wants to establish what the minister means by 'classes of applications'.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I will just get some advice from the technicians. The phrase is used in the sense of a category.
The category might be something like a particular class of building, which might be of a certain height, a certain floor space or a particular element of that class of building which is referred to. I suppose in a sense it is a template for other buildings.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I suggest that classes could be things we are more familiar with as uses. A billboard is generally viewed as a use; licensed premises are called a use. Is it possible that licensed premises could be a class which may be included or excluded from these particular consultations?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- There could be all sorts of classes of buildings or building types under particular classes. It is really a matter of just defining what those classes may or may not be.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- With respect to the five the government has on exhibition now, what are the classes of application that are proposed to be sent to a development assessment committee?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- Just to give the committee a broader perspective on where we are with those other activity centres, in a sense the boundaries of those activity centres have come about before the actual delineation of the controls in those centres. We have been through a process whereby in consultation those local governments have determined the boundary for their activity centre in anticipation of an activity centre zone. There has been a view held by the department and a view by local government and broadly they have been the same.
In a few instances there have been very small additions to or deductions or omissions from that footprint which have been put before a panel for it to take submissions and make recommendations as to whether it is appropriate that there be adjustments to the footprint of the activity centre boundary. I understand that the Manningham council wanted it adopted as quickly as possible; it was enthusiastic about it.
In terms of the absolute controls in those locations I would have to check to see whether the controls have been set. The issue around the way in which the process has taken place to date as opposed to the processes contemplated in this bill is that you can set the boundary and you can set the controls later. The emphasis for the negotiations around this is to do those as almost one amendment as opposed to doing them as separate amendments or separate zonings or separate settings of controls.
That allow the mechanics of that process in this bill to work differently to what might have been the case prior to the introduction of this bill or the adjustments made to it.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I appreciate the generic-context-type answer the minister offered me, but I am asking a specific question.
In those zones that are on exhibition, the five of them, has it been determined which classes of application for permits would be included in the controls for that zone, or is that a piece of work still to be done?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- My understanding is that that is still a piece of work that needs to be done.
Just as background again, what I have said to local government in these circumstances is that I am very eager to work with councils to come up with what the thresholds, in terms of particular classes of building, might be.
An example I have often used is of there being some controversial issues in terms of local sensitivities around the height of some buildings in an activity centre. Let us say the council is happy with 5 or 6 metres, but there might be sensitivity about going above 5 or 6 metres. The council might also prescribe that nothing goes beyond a particular height, such as 12 metres. Then buildings or classes of buildings that are between 6 and 12 metres high could be the sorts of buildings that might be referred to a DAC.
However, we have not yet worked through that with local government because we are eager to see this bill pass before we progress the work around what the controls over particular classes of buildings might be and at what stage the threshold might be where a DAC would consider matters relating to particular classes of building. The emphasis on classes and buildings here is particularly around either density or height within some of those locations.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I find it interesting that this whole group of clauses refer to class or classes of applications. The orders that establish the DACs themselves have to describe the class or classes of applications that will be decided by the DAC; in fact the very function of the DAC is determined in terms of these classes of application. Also the minister is proposing an advisory committee where the question of what the classes are will be looked at. According to section 97MCA(2), the minister has to consult owners and occupiers of land that may be materially affected by the proposal -- that is, the proposal to determine the classes -- and as far as we can tell we are talking about 28 different suburbs, possibly leading to 29 activity centre zones.
I can understand the minister's interest in issues such as height and density, which may be a combination of floor area, but I am surprised that the house is prepared to pass a piece of legislation that refers to classes of applications when those classes could be almost anything under the sun. I refer in particular to applications for licensed premises which could be a class of applications. All types of planning permit applications, big or small -- an application for a toilet block to appear in a main street -- that could potentially trigger a permit are potentially a class of application that might get referred off to a DAC. I could say good luck to the minister, who does not have any clear view now of what classes he is interested in but will be consulting with owners and occupiers of land and public authorities across 28 different areas about what they think would be a useful discussion around the types of applications that might go to a DAC rather than an old-fashioned council planning meeting.
I do not want to belabour that any more, but I am interested in asking some more questions about proposed section 97MJ.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- In relation to those last comments, unless Mr Barber has been somewhere else for a long period of time in relation to many of these matters, he would know that the issue around development assessment committees, activity centres and boundaries is really about concentrating activity, and that activity is basically around business, retail services and housing, particularly multi-residential developments in these locations.
"Making the community feel confident" (Madden)
There is no secret that what the government is trying to do is highlight where it believes communities will feel confident and comfortable about having higher densities of dwellings in these activity centres to take pressure off the suburbs, particularly the green leafy suburbs where people are very conscious of their amenity, the housing type, the housing style and the setting of those dwellings.
We know we will need a greater number of dwellings across Melbourne into the future, and that is for the existing population, let alone any growth in population, just because of the ageing demographic. It is important to provide those housing options. We also know that the average household size is coming down, so there will be a need for a greater number of smaller dwellings in existing suburbs. The government does not want those dwellings to happen just anywhere in any suburb.
[Ed. Note that above Mr Madden appears to be having a bet both ways by excusing growth on supposed trends to smaller houses and catering to the aging population, presumably in case of a failure of the population growth scenario - upon which all this coercion is been based]
We are trying to locate them in the activity centres, and we are trying to give people confidence that these developments will occur in those activity centres zones. The emphasis is to make sure that these sorts of dwellings can be located with confidence in these areas so that people can access services such as retailing and even work in these locations without having necessarily to get in a car and drive some distance.
It is in a sense a slightly different lifestyle change to the traditional quarter-acre block. The government is trying to provide the mechanisms to locate these dwellings in these locations. To cut a long story short, the class of buildings is predominantly about dwellings and associated business activities, but the vast majority of them will be dwellings in multi-residential developments.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- With licensed premises on the ground floor of those buildings! The minister asked where I have been in recent years. Where I have been is right here in this place, and before that I was a councillor and mayor of the City of Yarra, which has five activity centres -- in fact they are all one big activity centre. My simple point is that while these sorts of ideas look fantastic from the umpteenth floor of Nauru House, when you have experience in implementing these sorts of decisions and dealing with these sort of permits you realise it is not as simple as separating out an issue, as the minister chooses to, of height density and residential development and suggesting that we now have a clear-cut framework for how DACs may operate.
I am happy to move on to proposed section 97MJ.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I know Mr Barber has a fixation about licensed premises, and I can understand the politics of why he may have that fixation. I know there has been public criticism of decisions I have made in relation to venues, but I do make decisions from time to time -- --
Mr Guy -- You said your department made them.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- Mr Guy did not let me finish. Or the department will make decisions about venues. I am not the minister for liquor licensing. The minister for liquor licensing has responsibility, as does the Liquor Licensing Commission, for the final issuing of any liquor licence. The house spent a great deal of time in the last sitting week debating the new licensing regime and the costs associated with it and the development of risk. Mr Barber may be concerned about a cafe located in an activity centre having a licence to serve a drink with a meal. Is that unreasonable? I am not sure; that is for Mr Barber to decide. If Mr Barber believes a large-scale venue is unreasonable in an activity centre, he may be being reasonable, but I make the point that there are differences between licences, there are differences between venues and there will be specific venues that people who live in these activity centres will want and that will make those areas attractive.
They are often described colloquially and light-heartedly as the cafe society. Some people want that and want to live close to that. They may not necessarily want a big venue, a tavern or any other venue, but those are decisions that will be made by the relevant authority.
The thresholds that members have talked about and that I continue to talk about in relation to development assessment committees and the most sensitive issues in these areas seem to be -- this is the impression I got from local government -- around height, particularly multi-residential developments. This is a mechanism to assist in objective decision making based on good controls set in a partnership with local government and state government to give clarity and, on more occasions than not, probably more prescription than has been the case around what can happen in the centres. It will then allow for those decisions to be made accordingly.
I would hate to think that Mr Barber is just trying to muddy the waters here today to scare people about something which, at the end of the day, will provide more dwellings and more opportunity for smaller dwellings, and will give people more confidence in what will happen in their local areas in advance rather than on an application-by-application basis.
Lack of clarity about classes of buildings included in the Minister's broad powers
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! I think this minister obviously has no height sensitivity! I think Mr Barber's line on the liquor licences was more of a throwaway line. What he was trying to establish was some clarity about the classes of buildings that were likely to be involved with the minister's very broad powers, as the minister himself described them. I think the issue is that this is very significant legislation and Mr Barber was exploring what was in and what was out as far as classes go and not at all being specific about liquor licences. I think that was a throwaway line.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- That is right, but if it assists, basically there will be widespread consultation about what classes of buildings will fall into these thresholds, what will come under the controls within a precinct and also the controls that will be established for the development assessment committees to make decisions on. Mr Barber might be concerned that they have not been finalised, but the intent is to consult broadly at a local level and also have those controls come through the Parliament through the negotiations that have taken place to resolve some of these matters in this new bill.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- Just on that last matter, how do these controls -- that is, the classes -- come to the Parliament?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- They will come through as planning scheme amendments which will articulate what takes place in these centres, where the thresholds for the activity centre controls lie and also where the thresholds for the development assessment committees in a sense cut in when it comes to certain types of decisions in relation to certain classes of buildings.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I am sorry, but I may be missing something here. The decision as to which areas will be covered by activity centre zones is made via the gazettal process. The decision as to which classes of permits are referred to a DAC under proposed section 97MCA comes into proposed section 97MB, which says the Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the minister, publishes an order to establish the DACs, and that order must specify:
(a) the class or classes of applications for permits to be decided on by the DAC; and
(b) the area or areas in a Relevant Activity Centre Zone or Zones for which the DAC is established and to which any such class of application applies.
.Why would it not be possible to gazette an activity centre zone, put out an order in Governor in Council that says, 'This is the DAC and this is the class of applications it would look at', and then, somewhere down the line, change the classes of application that are covered within that given DAC with its area? That was not a rhetorical question; that was a specific question for the minister.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- As I am saying, and have said on a number of occasions, the minister has other powers. If I wanted to go down the path of, in a sense, being ham-fisted I would not surreptitiously seek to do that. What would happen is that the minister would just intervene. At the end of the day, this is about a process of partnership in good faith with tests that we have been able to negotiate and put into this legislation. The minister has an enormous amount of power in relation to controls anyway if the minister seeks to intervene.
There is no logic, in a sense, in going the long way around when the minister can just step in and intervene if he really wants to and do it much more quickly.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- Yet here we are debating this bill -- I, like the minister, am wondering why, because with that answer he has basically confirmed that it is possible to bowl up an activity centre zone.
This Parliament looks at it and decides on balance that it will not disallow it, but then at a subsequent date we find out that the DAC is extending its reach and power to take over virtually every detail of how planning permits are issued. Up-front we might have looked at the list of classes and the area and said, 'That seems quite all right', but as we go along, we could find that the classes change.
I can give the minister another example if he is leery of licensed premises applications. Take car parking. Car parking might not be listed as a class of application, yet some whopping great big shopping centre could be developed with a DAC approval and then at a subsequent date it could seek changes to its car parking requirements: small or large, to expand, to contract, to do something different.
The DAC would not be able, nor would it be willing, to deal with those particular classes of permit, which could be very germane; they will then go back to the local council because they would not be of a class that could be dealt with by the DAC. You can see the risk there: the applicant makes an application that it thinks it can get past the DAC and then any hard stuff that is going to be too problematical for the members to deal with gets left off the application. The minute that is over, we go back and make another planning permit application, but this time it will not be the DAC that will have to deal with it; it will be the council.
We could go on for quite a long time on that particular question but I am feeling pretty happy that I have made my point with that one. It is proposed section 97MJ that I am interested to get involved in.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order!
If the minister has no further comment, please proceed.
Legal consequences for councils
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- Proposed section 97MJ says that:
A decision or failure to make a decision by a DAC on a DAC application is taken to be a decision or failure to make a decision on that application by the responsible authority.
I presume that what this is telling me is that for all legal purposes, a DAC decision is owned legally by the local council after the DAC has made that decision. I am familiar with a particular instance at the City of Yarra where a council planning decision was made that was not lawful; that led to legal action and subsequently the council had to undertake a number of actions in order to provide remedy. One thing was that it paid for some very expensive works to be undone that should never have been done.
The other thing was that everybody's costs at the end of a very long and tortuous legal action had to be covered, and there was some dispute as to how much of this was to be covered under professional officers indemnity insurance. Can I take it from the minister that with proposed section 97MJ(1), any future course of action -- legal and so forth --
will be subject to the council's own insurance or, failing that, its own risk?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I will not try to answer that directly only because it is in many ways a hypothetical question about something going off the rails, and I cannot comment on the indemnity insurance of a hypothetical off-the-rails incident if I do not know what the incident is.
This model is basically part of the council's decision making.
The DAC itself is in a sense like a subcommittee of the council; it makes the decision but it is a binding decision for the council made at arms length from the council chamber other than of course the representatives from the council who are at the DAC table. It is the equivalent of a decision of the council but it is not made in the council chamber around the council table; it is made away from that through the DAC. Councils will have to make their own decisions on their own matters, as they would have done anyhow in relation to the decisions that are made for or on behalf of councils. I am not going to labour over any hypotheticals, but the councils will have to determine those matters as and if and when they arise.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- The minister knows full well there is nothing hypothetical about council planning decisions going off the rails.
He has got a whole slew of them from a number of different councils, and he could provide many examples of where those councils' decisions went off the rails for a whole range of reasons. He is now attempting to unscramble some of those more famous examples. I think he confirms with his answer that the moral hazard of non-council members who make decisions under these DACs, and the minister's own moral hazard in appointing them to a DAC, is zip, because if they make bad decisions or if they even make unlawful decisions -- and we all know it has happened -- the council will have to wear the problem.
DACS has wide powers to close meetings to the public for 'confidential' discussions
I am interested in new section 97MTA for our next discussion. New section 97MTA(2) says:
A DAC may close a meeting to the public if the meeting is discussing confidential information or legal advice or any other matter that the DAC considers would prejudice the DAC or another person.
Why is that test so much weaker than the existing test under the Local Government Act?
By 'weaker' I mean providing much wider grounds for a DAC to close a meeting than would normally be permitted by a council.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I sort of understand what Mr Barber is getting at, but he might want to background me on what sort of answer he is seeking, as opposed to -- --
Mrs Peulich -- Get a bit of advice from the boss.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- No, as opposed to just trying to get an answer on what the definition of 'weaker' is.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- The Local Government Act sets a test for what sorts of meetings may be closed -- it is when councils are considering certain sorts of matters.
When he sat down to write this bill, the minister came up with a different test. I just want to know why.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I have got to admit I am getting a bit tired here, Chair. I am having a bit of difficulty concentrating as we speak, only because it has been a long day. I am not picking up entirely the point of Mr Barber's questions, but I will try to do justice to them.
Mrs Peulich -- You haven't got the ticker!
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- I am not saying that. I ask Mr Barber to explain the point of his question one more time.
DACS Powers of secrecy and silencing of dissent within DACS
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! It is fairly clear.
Mr Barber has said that under the Local Government Act there are circumstances in which a local government authority, a council, can close a meeting and hold it in camera. Mr Barber is saying that those provisions in the Local Government Act are different to the provisions here. Indeed in this legislation a DAC would seem to be able to close a meeting and go in camera on a much easier basis than a local government authority. In other words, the test for going in camera for a DAC is considerably lower than for a council. All they really need to do is say, 'We think it is going to be confidential; we are going to be talking about a person or a corporation or such like in our deliberations. Therefore we will go in camera'. Mr Barber is trying to establish when the DAC would go in camera, if the minister can provide some greater definition of when the DAC would go in camera and what their obligations are implicitly and what their obligations are to be open and transparent to the public. I am sorry the minister is tired, but I think we have all been here the same amount of time.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I was not bemoaning being tired, it was just my ability to concentrate on Mr Barber's question in that instance. Thank you very much, Chair, I certainly appreciate your qualification. My understanding is these matters were accommodated and accepted by the Dispute Resolution Committee. The provision was deemed as warranted and acceptable in these circumstances.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I know you get it, Chair, because you have been a councillor, and so have I. Like the minister I have served in the role of responsible authority. The difference is all my decisions had to be made in public, whereas none of his ever are. He sits in his office and he makes these decisions all day long as the responsible authority. There is nobody looking over his shoulder.
I was surprised earlier today when we heard the Treasurer say, 'This government is not scared of scrutiny', and I am equally surprised that the coalition says it will be campaigning on the potential for corruption at the next election, because this is a measure that will allow the DAC, if it considers a matter would be prejudicial to the DAC or another person, to close a meeting. The reason must be recorded in the minutes of the meeting but, unlike a local government meeting, that is not subject to challenge because there are not those strong criteria.
New section 97MTA(4) says:
A DAC must give public notice of a meeting of the DAC if practicable.
Local councils have pretty consistent and regular time lines of meetings, and nobody would be terribly shocked that a council is having a meeting.
They may receive only a few days notice of what is on the agenda for that meeting, but councils generally have websites, so it is pretty practicable to provide the advice.
The Minister can make the rules for DACS and DACS must obey
I turn to proposed new section 97MU, which states:
(1) In addition to the procedures set out in this Division
-- which are pretty minimal --
a DAC must act in accordance with any procedures determined by the Minister and published in the Government Gazette from time to time.
This really means that the minister will set about writing the rules by which these meetings of a responsible authority will operate after the fact. Again we will have no idea how they are meant to operate.
With all that as background, I am interested in moving on to proposed new section 97MY.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! Does the minister have any response?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- No.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- How are the minister's tiredness levels, Chair, because we could always come back and do this tomorrow, which would give him time to get some answers for these other questions.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I was tired of the one question, basically.
Mrs Peulich -- You just did not want to answer it.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- I was happy to answer it, but I was not quite clear of what sort of answer Mr Barber wanted. I am quite happy to try and answer Mr Barber as best I can, but the point here is that if Mr Barber wants to make rhetorical statements, I am happy for him to do that as well.
However, if Mr Barber wants to me to attempt to give him the answers he is seeking, I will do that. I think I have a proven track record of doing my best in seeking to give people the sorts of answers they are after, whether it suits me or not, in this chamber. I seek to do that in good faith, but if Mr Barber's aim is to belabour this point and try and score points by making rhetorical statements, I am also prepared to allow him to do that. However, I am not going to sit here and give Mr
Barber answers to his rhetorical statements in relation to what he does or does not like about the bill.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I turn to proposed new section 97MY and the definition of 'confidential information'. The bill tells us that confidential information is:
information provided to a member of a DAC --
(a) which was identified as being provided in confidence by the responsible authority or person who provided the information; or
(b) which the DAC has identified as being confidential.
My concern is that this is a much tougher test than the Local Government Act. Under the Local Government Act information is confidential if it was provided as part of a deliberation in a closed meeting, and closed meetings can only be closed under those criteria we were just talking about.
Here it seems that a vote of the DAC could be used to declare that certain information is confidential, even if other DAC members did not want it to be confidential, because there are two ways the information can become confidential.
One is that the DAC identifies it as being confidential -- that is, the DAC as a whole, and I presume it votes it to be confidential -- and the second is that either the responsible authority said it was confidential or the person who provided the information said it was confidential. As a councillor I would have legal duties, and that includes keeping confidential information that was properly designated as confidential.
However, I also have another duty -- that is, to inform my constituents about certain key issues, and in certain cases simply to go public, not as a whistleblower, but with information that has been provided to me that I believe the public should know about. I know council managers and staff love to pull out a big stamp and put 'confidential' all over everything, but it does not mean anything legally; it may give them a bit more comfort. Here the danger is even greater -- that is, that the DAC itself can actually close down other members simply by deeming the information as confidential.
As we get into later sections there are penalties associated with releasing confidential information that would leave me, as a member of a DAC, in jeopardy. That is the only point I wanted to make on that section. I have a point to make about the next section as well.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! Does the minister have any comment?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- No.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- Whatever they say is confidential is confidential. Proposed new section 97MZ is a close corollary of the relevant section in the Local Government Act. It reads almost the same, until we get to proposed section 97MZ(1), which states:
(1) A person who is, or has been, a member of a DAC must not misuse his or her position or former position --
(b) to cause, or attempt to cause detriment, to the DAC or to a responsible authority.
Can the minister indicate, apart from the legal responsibilities I would already have as a member of a DAC, how I would cause detriment to a DAC?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I assume Mr Barber means as a DAC member. Is that what he means?
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- Proposed section 97MZ(1) states:
(1) A person who is, or has been, a member of a DAC must not misuse his or her position or former position --
(b) to cause, or attempt to cause, detriment to the DAC or to a responsible authority.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- Of course there are a whole range of ways somebody could be detrimental to a DAC, and it is not hard to imagine how that could or might happen. However, I am not going to prescribe or go into great detail of exactly what people might need to do. I suppose there are all sorts of ways they could do it, and that might relate to some of the comments Mr Barber made earlier about confidential information. It might relate to the way in which members of DACs do or do not conduct themselves in the role that they have in their position, or whether they seek to undermine the operation of the DAC in conducting its duties.
It would not be hard to imagine that one individual might seek to undermine the operation of the DAC because they hold a particular view which is contradictory to the DAC itself. Of course that would need to be determined. I am not necessarily the one to determine it -- it could be determined by the courts -- but with Mr Barber's experience in local government he would agree that it would not be hard to imagine how somebody might attempt to cause or cause detriment to the DAC or to a responsible authority whilst holding a position or having held a position in a DAC.
What unlawful acts could cause harm to a meeting? Seems wierd
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I genuinely am having a lot of difficulty understanding how in some sort of unlawful act I could cause detriment to a DAC. A DAC is nothing; a DAC is a meeting. How do I cause detriment to a meeting?
I could cause detriment to a responsible authority, and I could misuse my position in such a way that I know would cause monetary damage or damage to reputation or risk or whatever to the responsible authority, because that responsible authority exists as a legal entity with all sorts of elements to it. I just do not know what 'detriment to the DAC' means. The minister says he does not know and it would be for the courts to determine, but the minister writes the acts that the courts interpret. They would be interpreting what he meant when he wrote this, so I am hoping there is some further elucidation of what 'detriment to the DAC' would mean.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! Perhaps what the committee would like to know is, given that members will be appointed by local government authorities, if a member were to criticise the proceedings of a DAC, would they be bringing detriment to a DAC? Would this provision apply where a member of a DAC actually went out and criticised the process?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- That could well be the case. I am not going to say yes or no. It would depend on the circumstances. Like any position, if you elect to take up a position on the DAC itself and the DAC operates accordingly, one of the reasons for seeking to have a DAC is so that you do not necessarily have some of the difficulties that arise or may have arisen previously when councils need to make objective decisions in a council chamber and politics prevails.
As we know, politics can prevail in a council chamber as it can in this place.
The purose of DACS is to take politics out of local decision making: "Yes, that is the intention."
Mr Barber -- The purpose of DACs is to take politics out of local decision making.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- I understand that, Mr Barber. That is the intention.
But if you had an individual from local government or state government or even an independent chair who misused their position and undermined the operation of the DAC from its intended purpose, which is to make objective decisions based on the controls and guidelines, then of course that individual or those individuals might be considered to be causing detriment to the DAC, and so decisions would have to be made accordingly.
I am not saying exactly what circumstance may or may not bring detriment or show an intent to bring detriment to a DAC. There are a plethora of things that people could do. I am not trying to avoid the question, but I am not prepared to prescribe exactly what fits or does not fit into that category. The DACs are being established to make decisions and resolve matters. Anything that might undermine that because it politicises the process in some way or undermines the public's confidence in the operation of that process or threatens the operation or outcome of a DAC of course would be a matter that could be considered to the detriment of the DAC, and no doubt decisions would be made accordingly and somebody would have to prove their case either way.
Madden, this is serious: The Courts look to the second reading and committee proceeding to interpret laws
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! I remind the minister again that the process of the committee stage is an extraordinarily important process in terms of the conduct of the Parliament. When legislation is enacted people rely on that legislation and its provisions. When the courts are considering matters brought about by legislation they look at two things. They look at the second-reading speech and they look at the committee proceedings to interpret what the intentions of the Parliament were in enacting particular clauses. It is frankly not good enough for the minister to say, 'This is my legislation but I am not going to discuss what this may or may not mean'.
The reality is that it is the minister's legislation, he is bringing it to the house and Mr Barber is asking legitimate questions in relation to this clause and other clauses that he has explored to establish positions that the public and in future courts and certainly local government and members of the DAC would need to understand the implications of. It is not enough for the minister to say, 'Well, there could be lots of things but I am not going to go into them'. If there are matters, then really this is the time to disclose at least some of the matters that are likely to be subject to the ramifications of this clause. I am happy for the minister to speak to that, otherwise I will let Mr Barber proceed with any further questions.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- Thank you, Chair. I appreciate your guidance in these matters. I am not trying to avoid the issue here.
What I am trying not to do is pre-empt or prescribe a list of things people might do that could undermine the operation of or cause detriment to a DAC. There are a range of things I could describe but I do not want to limit the explanation to that either. I am seeking not to limit the explanation and I am seeking not to be too prescriptive because there are those who might want to use this to inflame the debate or the acceptance of DACs out there.
"Partnership arrangements" sound like private-public dictatorships
The general idea of the DACs is to give the decision-making process to a partnership arrangement and really take it away from the politics of the council table, to put it into a partnership arrangement where objective decisions are made away from the council chamber. We have seen, and Mr Barber has also referred to, matters where from time to time a council or two might politicise a matter to either an individual councillor's or a number of councillors' personal advantage and also seek to undermine the decision of their own local council by taking quite a vocal position of criticism against it.
That does a number of things. It undermines the confidence of the community in the operation of the council, particularly if it is done surreptitiously and particularly if it is done in order to undermine that decision. We know that from time to time an individual councillor might seek to undermine a decision that has been made by a council even though they are a councillor and have shared obligations around that council chamber.
Basically this clause seeks to at least give some direction that if you volunteer to be a representative on a DAC, you have an obligation not to undermine or cause detriment to the operation of that DAC. I am not going to describe how you might do it but I think it is very clear, Chair, that what I am trying to give reference to without describing it in absolute and exact detail is that if an individual volunteers to be on, or makes themselves available to be on, a DAC, then they must conform with the obligations of the DAC rather than seek to undermine it.
By undermining it they would cause detriment not only to the operation of the DAC or the public perception of it but to a whole range of other things in relation to the DAC. So it is particularly important to understand that if you make yourself available to a DAC, you do not want to cause detriment, you do not want to undermine it and you want to see that its operation succeeds.
If Mr Barber was not aware, in a sense this is flagging to those who might seek to volunteer themselves to a DAC that unless they enter into that position with an objective frame of mind in relation to the decision making, they might cause detriment to the DAC.
I advise Mr Barber that that is not unlike the Winky Pop decision that we have debated in this place in relation to decisions and positions that councillors take, so I would hope that those who volunteer themselves to a DAC would come to the DAC with an objective frame of mind, bearing in mind their own responsibilities and bearing in mind who they represent when they arrive at the DAC, but also given whatever decision the DAC makes, that post that decision they would not seek to undermine it or continue to undermine the operation of that DAC because of their individual view on the decision of that DAC.
Mrs Peulich (LIBERAL PARTY) on suppression of dissent in DACS
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- I have two questions. Does criticism of the DAC process therefore constitute undermining the DAC?
And, dare I say, if there is in particular anything that is untoward, I would have thought that it was vital for members of DAC to still have that ability. And secondly, in view of the emphasis that the minister has placed on coming to the DAC with an open and unbiased mind, does that mean that members of the Labor Party who are required to caucus will not be eligible to be DAC members?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- My comments in relation to the way people enter into the responsibilities of the DAC and also arrive at the DAC with an objective frame of mind goes for absolutely everybody, so there is no delineation between people's allegiances. They should come to that position in the same way that Liberal Party councillors or Labor Party councillors might arrive at that position.
Mrs Peulich -- They do not caucus. They are not required to by constitution.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- I am not going to go into -- --
Mrs Peulich -- Just ignore it?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- No, I am not going to ignore it, but I am not going to get into a long-winded argument about what does or does not happen specifically based on political allegiances. What I would say is that people must come and make decisions with an objective frame of mind for exactly the same reason as in the Winky Pop decision that I have referred to -- that all councillors, regardless of their allegiances or what party they belong to, might belong to or have belonged to and regardless of whether they are independent or not, need to make planning decisions in an objective manner based on the information provided to them. I would expect that to be the case at a DAC when people volunteer or make themselves available to become representatives on a DAC. In relation to some of the other matters you raised -- --
Mrs Peulich -- Criticism.
Criticism which 'undermines the authority of the DAC'
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- Criticism, yes.
This is not to in any way undermine freedom of speech, because people would have the ability to no doubt share their views about their experience on the DAC. If they did not have a good experience, they would say, 'It might be the last time I go near a DAC'. If somebody wanted to say that, they could, but if it is a criticism that undermines, in a sense, the authority and the decision of that authority, that is slightly different. I am not going to give exact details of where the line of demarcation is between somebody's ability to speak freely and to limit what they might say because of having been on the DAC. I am not going to define that, but I am sure there are others who will define that, and the courts will no doubt define that as they do in other circumstances where people go a little bit further than they should when it comes to what they do or do not say under the banner of freedom of speech.
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- Further to that, because I do not believe that the minister's answer provided any clarity to the question I asked, if there was anything inherently wrong in the DAC process, would members of a DAC be free to make their views known on that? I am not talking about passing informal and personal reflections on their experience. If they criticise the DAC process, are they undermining the DAC?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- If individuals think there is something not quite right about the operation of the DAC, then I would expect that first of all they would bring it to the relevant authority's attention -- whether that be the council or whether it be the minister. There are places to go if they feel that something has not been complied with in terms of the operation of the DAC, and they should go to those relevant authorities.
Sounds like 'Yes-men' only need apply for positions on DACS
But if they come out and make high-level criticisms of the operation of the DAC and do not follow it through but just go to the press, I think there would be some legitimacy in people questioning the bona fides of that criticism and whether that criticism was warranted on operational grounds or technical grounds rather than just being some politicisation of the operation of the DAC. This is an issue that we are very conscious of in the operation of the DAC. We are not trying to undermine the ability of local government to set controls. We want to enter into a partnership in good faith, but what we do not want is sceptics who are sceptical from the very beginning entering the process and just reinforcing their scepticism and then coming out the other end and undermining it because they were always sceptical about the process from the very beginning. If they are sceptical about it, do not do it.
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- Could the minister clarify therefore the remedies for the different categories of members that he has alluded to; and secondly, does that mean that anyone who is not prepared to basically toe the line and accept the process and the outcome -- and I imagine our history has been full of regimes where speaking out is something that is not condoned -- they should not apply or they will not be considered?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- It is like any commitment; if you make a commitment to something, you make a commitment to something. If people are not committed, then there is no point in remaining there.
Mrs Peulich -- Leading to a bad result?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- What I am saying is if they are not committed, they should not necessarily remain there. The importance here is that they remain objective at all times, and they should enter with an objective frame of mind. If, because of their scepticism or cynicism, they arrive with a commitment that is not objective, then I think that those individuals need to question the legitimacy of the bona fides of that commitment. It is like any public office, and I expect that people who make themselves available to a DAC would do so in good faith, with objectivity and with respect for the operation of the DAC, and in respecting the operation of the DAC it would not be in their interests to cause detriment or certainly to undermine the operation of that DAC.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- The minister does not really need to lecture Council members on these DACs as to what is thorough decision making and what their responsibilities are to have an open mind.
However, in terms of the non-councillor member of the DACs that the minister will be appointing, what process will he go through to ensure that the members he appoints to these DACs both understand the principles that he has just laid out and also have a commitment to implementing them?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I certainly appreciate the question because it is a very good point. There is no doubt that in entering into a commitment to the DAC people have to be well informed of what their obligations and responsibilities are, and I would expect that we would have a protocol of ensuring that people are versed in their responsibilities and informed and versed in what their obligations are before, during and after the event in the sense of their role in the DAC. I would ensure that there is certainly supportive advice given to allow people to know what their obligations are.
In terms of those who are representatives, if they are not from local government, if they are either the independent chair or a representative of the state government or an individual with expertise, they would also need to be well versed. The comparison I make here is with Planning Panels Victoria, which has individuals who are highly trained. They are also experts in respective fields and well versed in what their responsibilities are. They are also reminded of what their responsibilities are by the chair of the DAC. It is important that the chair also continues to ensure that the obligations of the DAC are fulfilled, that that is done based on the information provided and that all of that information is also considered. I would expect it to be done after making sure all the relevant information has been provided and by having a protocol by which people are informed and recognise what their obligations are.
As well as that, one of the obligations of the chair would be to keep people informed about maintaining their commitment and their obligations, particularly in relation to the process but also the decisions that need to be made by that DAC.
What about duty to represent the best interests of the community?
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- I am mindful of the minister's emphasis on the requirement for members of DACs to be objective. However, councillors take an oath to represent the best interests of their community and they are obliged to be cognisant of the views of their community as well as of the council's strategic and planning decisions, processes and imperatives. In the minister's view, what is objectivity? Does it mean preparedness merely to embrace state government policy and positions?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- Not at all, Mrs Peulich.
In a sense objectivity means that DAC members must hear the case by the proponent or the proposal on its merits and be free to give it objective consideration and determine their own position on the matter on the basis of the other relevant matters they need to consider. The other relevant matters that an individual and any other member of the DAC might need to consider are balancing local policy and state policy according to what is warranted in the face of the controls that are set in relation to the activity zone in a particular precinct, taking all of those matters into consideration and giving them appropriate weighting.
I would expect that local government representatives and some experts might give more weighting to local expertise. In a sense, I think that is why there has been consideration by the Legislation Committee about the mechanisms by which an independent chair is independent. The mechanics of having five people means that there is a significant potential casting vote ability by the independent chair or the chair, if it is warranted.
I would hope, though, that in the vast majority of cases the decisions of a DAC are almost unanimous and, as I have said on a number of occasions, unanimous in the sense that the emphasis now is on local government, and also state government, to make sure the controls almost help the DAC to make the decision itself. What we have often had previously is controls which are a little bit open-ended and somewhat vague because people have known at the end of the process that they have been able to use some discretion in the decision making about what the interpretations of those controls are. I would hope that this legislation creates a discipline and a rigour so that the controls are prescriptive to the point where people know what they do and do not mean and that those controls give clarity and direction to the decision-makers who then have to balance their decision in terms of the policies that the controls may or may not inform.
That is particularly the case in the difference between performance controls and prescriptive controls. I am inclined to want to see more prescriptive controls in activity centre zones so there is more clarity.
But where from time to time there may be performance controls, where there is a degree of interpretation of what is a performance measure that people have either arrived at or are close to; if that is where the margin is for the differences within a DAC, I would hope that people make that consideration based on policy, not only their own but of the other authority at the table -- the state policy and local policy balance -- and that is what the intention has always been.
What if any structures etc available for public scrutiny of DACS decisions and processes?
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- Further to getting a handle around the intersect between the requirement for members to be objective, the obligations that elected councillors have and the oath they take to represent their community, could the minister explain, firstly, how members of a DAC and their conflicts of interest are monitored and available for some sort of public scrutiny? Secondly, can he guarantee that Labor Party activists and Labor Party donors will not be appointed to DACs?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- When Mrs Peulich asks questions like that I am almost tempted to not even dignify them with an answer. Mrs Peulich might wish to make out that this is a conspiracy, but it is not; nor does it seek to be.
Mrs Peulich -- I was born under a communist regime where there were lots of conspiracies.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- I know.
Mr D. Davis -- It is 20 years since the fall of the Berlin wall.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- That is right: we are now celebrating 20 years since the fall of the wall. It was not long ago; it was in our lifetime.
so I certainly appreciate that. I am very mindful of Mrs Peulich's request and I am very confident and happy to guarantee her that anybody who is appointed to these positions will be required to comply with the issues I have already mentioned about objectivity.
In relation to all those matters -- --
Mrs Peulich -- Objectivity? The question was about conflict of interest.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- Yes, objectivity, but if councillors or experts have a conflict or perceived conflict, they have to deal with those accordingly, because the issue around conflict of interest is for the individual themselves to be able to declare that and not for someone else to find it before, during or after the event. The important issue around conflict is not only should you not have a conflict but you should be seen not to have a conflict. I would expect that anybody who makes themselves available for a DAC would make public any potential conflict. But if they did have a conflict, then they would not make themselves available for that DAC. I think they would have to exclude themselves from the DAC if they had a potential conflict and potentially even if they had a perceived conflict.
Mrs Peulich not reassured
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- So members of the Labor Party who under their constitution are required to caucus on local government matters would not be appointed to a DAC because of their conflict of interest and their automatic allegiance to a set of policy positions and platforms that the Labor Party expects? Would the minister comment on that?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- The issue here is that they must be objective in their decision making, so that is -- --
Mrs Peulich -- How do you know when they caucus in secret?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- I do not necessarily know either, nor will Mrs Peulich, but -- --
Mrs Peulich -- That is what you said about Hakki.
[Ed.] Madden refuses to answer reasonable question reasonably
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- If Mrs Peulich wants a serious conversation, I will give her a serious conversation, but if she wants to take cheap shots across the chamber, I will not dignify her questions with any answers.
Back to how a person might cause harm to a [DACS] meeting
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I am back to exactly where we started. I am wondering how a member of the DAC can cause detriment to the DAC. If I was the lawyer for the defence, I would say the DAC is not a person and it is not a body corporate. It has no financial interests and no other charter. I was kind of hoping the minister would simply confirm that you cannot cause detriment to a DAC, but he seems to have elucidated as we have gone along that what he is really talking about is criticism of the DAC or making some kind of decision that is meant to undermine that DAC's decision. I do not understand why that would simply be a question for a councillor member. The minister has suggested that members should not volunteer themselves, and he is referring to councillors. But the second part of section 97MZ(1) says:
(b) to cause, or attempt to cause, detriment to the DAC or to a responsible authority.
Can the minister give us a for instance where a member of a DAC could cause detriment via an action on a DAC to a responsible authority, which is the council in which this decision has been made?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- Again Mr Barber is asking me to present a hypothetical on what could or could not happen, and I am not going to try to describe an incident that I have to make up or imagine to undermine it -- --
Mr Barber interjected.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- It is not hard to imagine how an individual could, if they really felt aggrieved by the whole notion that they have to be at a DAC or they want to undermine the operation of DAC, come up with some convoluted mechanism to try to scuttle the operation of a DAC. That is basically what we are talking about. We are talking about individuals who get a decision they do not want, take their bat and ball and go home and then try to scuttle the decision of the DAC. That is basically what we are talking about.
I can describe to Mr Barber all manner of ways in which that may or may not happen, but I am sure Mr Barber would be better at describing that than I would, if he wished to, but I do not want to take up time by trying to present hypotheticals as to how somebody could undermine it.
In any operation where a group of individuals has to make a decision together and somebody might have a decision that is in the minority that they are not happy with, as we have seen in Parliament there are ways to do that. If you are on a committee in the Parliament and you do not like the decision of the committee, you write a minority report.
Mr Barber interjected.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- That is what I am saying, but what I -- --
Mr Barber interjected.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- Is Mr Barber going to listen to me or not? If he really wanted a productive conversation, he would let me finish what I am trying to say.
Otherwise he can just get up and talk for as long as he wants, and I will sit down and save my energy. I know Mr Barber does not like the idea of a DAC. I know he voted against it. I know he was not happy with the negotiations of the Legislation Committee to resolve this issue. He has already voted against this, so I understand he does not like the idea of a DAC. If he had his way, he would scuttle it. I suspect there are even members of his party who will volunteer to go on a DAC to try to scuttle a decision if it does not suit them.
Madden should answer Barber's question so that future courts can understand the law
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! The minister was asked a very specific question, and as Chair I think it was a fair and reasonable question.
The minister suggests that he does not want to go into a hypothetical.
The reality is that people who refer to this legislation will want to know what it means, and that is all Mr Barber is trying to establish. I suggest the minister take advice and come back with an example, as he has been invited to do.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- The prime example might be to volunteer to take up the position and then refuse to turn up or for two local government representatives to refuse to turn up, having sought to take up the position when other local councillors might have wanted to and had been prepared to turn up. That might be an example. But it is not necessarily the only way in which they might undermine it. I do not want to go into all the other ways they might, but I suspect there will be some very inventive minds seeking to come up with mechanisms that might undermine a DAC if they want to try to scuttle the decision of the DAC or the operation of the DAC.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! This is an appropriate time to break for dinner.
Sitting suspended 6.31 p.m. until 8.04 p.m.
Mrs Peulich: DACS not courts, but treated almost as such
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- We were talking about detriment, what constitutes detriment and the lack of clarity about who will decide what constitutes detriment. My concern is that a DAC is being treated almost like a court, judging from the answers the minister has given -- that is, somehow one can show contempt towards the DAC and this is referred to as 'detriment'. Clearly the DAC is not a court. I would like the minister to elaborate on this point: what constitutes detriment, who makes this decision and will there be guidelines?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- As I mentioned earlier, there will certainly be guidelines in relation to the operation of the DACs, the obligations of those involved and the expectations of how people conduct themselves and the way in which they make themselves available for the DACs. I would expect that is a critical component of how anything beyond that is then interpreted as being to the detriment of the DAC.
Again, I go back to the need for people to be objective, for people to ensure that the community can have confidence in the operation of the DAC, particularly if they are representatives of the DAC. That is critical. Representatives of the DAC should seek to fulfil their obligations in making themselves available for their role in the DAC. I would expect that there is nothing new in that. As I said before, if people make themselves available for various obligations and if they make a commitment, they are obliged to fulfil those obligations and uphold that commitment. When they do not uphold those commitments that is often not only to the detriment of the individual but will also be to the detriment of the operation of the DAC.
Most critical to that is the need for the DAC to be able to reach a resolution and a decision on what it is that it is considering.
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- The minister still has not elaborated on who decides what constitutes detriment.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- Just to give some background in relation to a member of a DAC (development assessment committee), the ability of the Governor in Council to dismiss a member of a DAC is important in order to ensure the integrity of the decision-making process and confidence in the decisions made by the DAC.
The Minister for Planning does not have the ability to dismiss a member; only the Governor in Council can do this. The removal and suspension provisions are intended to cover such matters as -- and these are probably the ones that go to the issue the member has raised about what is improper or is to the detriment of the DAC -- acting dishonestly, conflict of interest or acting inappropriately such as releasing confidential information. A three-month suspension period is proposed to enable an investigation of any allegations in relation to any of these matters.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I refer to another and different aspect of the same new section. This part is a mirror of the provision that exists in the Local Government Act. In that act the suspension under 'Misuse of position' says that you must not use your position either to gain or attempt to gain an advantage for yourself or for another person, nor must you use your position to cause or attempt to cause detriment to the council or to another person. But when we look at the provision in the bill it is not quite a mirror. If you like, there is a symmetry in the Local Government Act which says that you cannot cause detriment or gain advantage to a person whereas the bill says you cannot attempt to gain advantage for yourself or cause detriment to the DAC. I wonder why we are not making it an offence to cause detriment to another person, which is the provision which would apply to you if you were a councillor making the same decision under the Local Government Act.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I suppose there are reasons for and against it in terms of the absolute definitions of these things, remembering that we receive legal advice about the formation of the clauses we put into these bills. The advice I have received is that this is sufficient, and it should cover the incidences that I have referred to previously. We get that advice from relevant legal sources within the department and also from parliamentary counsel. My understanding is that the provisions are sufficient for what we are seeking to achieve.
Members of DACS could use position to cause persons harm with little consequence at law
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- It seems to me that if I am on a DAC, I can use my position to cause detriment to another person. I could cause them some harm -- it might be the developer or it might be the applicant. Never mind the detriment that I am apparently going to cause to the DAC.
The penalty here is 100 penalty units.
In the Local Government Act the mirror offence -- misuse of office --
also has a penalty of 100 penalty units. However, in the bill before the house to make amendments to local government offences, the proposal is to increase the penalty under the Local Government Act to five years jail. If that bill passes and this bill stays the same, we will be in a position where a councillor who misuses their position on a planning permit that does not go to a DAC faces five years jail, but if they misuse their position in relation to a planning permit while sitting on a DAC, the most they face is 100 penalty units. Can the minister explain why the offence in this case is so low, even if he cannot speak for the Minister for Local Government in regard to his changes?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- Mr Barber might have to assist me again. Did he say the bill had been passed or was being considered?
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- It is the Local Government Amendment (Offences and Other Matters) Bill which is currently before the chamber and which I think we will be debating later this week.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I am unable to explain the inconsistencies there, but I am happy to seek to provide Mr Barber with advice on the reason for the inconsistencies. I suspect that one has been based on previous legislation, and of course the other one is waiting for a new lot of legislation to be passed. I also suspect, because this legislation has been a long time in proceeding through the Parliament, that it may well have been initially drafted prior to the most recent local government legislation.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- It could well be. It is just that I am pointing out that these are identical clauses. To all intents and purposes the title is 'Misuse of position'. The wording is almost identical except with regard to that little bit on the end, and it would literally be the case that if I were a councillor making a decision on a planning permit, I could face five years jail for misuse, but as soon as that planning permit went to a DAC for a decision I would be facing 100 penalty units.
In any case, since he will no doubt be assisting us at the table on the local government bill when we get to that, the minister will be able to provide us with an answer at that stage as to why there is that inconsistency. But I do not need to anticipate debate.
Just moving down, proposed section 97MZ(2)(e) refers to:
using public funds improperly or in an unauthorised manner.
What public funds is it that DAC members will have at their disposal under the bill? I do not understand.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- As I said previously, this is an instrument of a council, and because it is an instrument of a council no doubt funds for the day-to-day operation will be the council's funds.
It is really about the operation of the funding and how those funds are used and how they should be applied to the DAC and for no other reason.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- Is the minister saying that if I am a councillor and I am on a DAC, then I am subject to the provisions of the Local Government Act and this act, whereas if I am just an appointed member of a DAC, I am only subject to these provisions?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I am sorry but Mrs Peulich said something on the way through. I did not pick up what Mr Barber said because Mrs Peulich was interrupting him.
How might a DAC member have access to public funds?
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- First of all I do not understand how a member of a DAC has access to public funds that they can use improperly or in an unauthorised manner.
The minister said, 'It is to do with council funds', but that would apply to a councillor with respect to their responsibilities under the Local Government Act. What is going to happen here is that as a local councillor I am going to be subject to two different acts even though I am just continuing to do my duties as a councillor.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- It is not necessarily news that you might be subject to a number of acts at any particular instant whether it is in local government or in the community. You might be covered under a number of things, so I do not think that is so much the point as the point I suspect Mr Barber is attempting to make which is that in a sense potentially there is a higher degree of rigour at the local government end than the rigour for the other appointees. But the chamber should remember that there are no specifics about how these DACs will be funded over and above their operations.
If members of a DAC were to seek, say, some specific legal advice which required an advance from the council, because it is an extension of the council itself, but those funds were used improperly rather than for the operation of the DAC, then any one of the five members of the DAC -- if it was specifically one of those members who had asked for some advance
-- might in some way come under that provision.
The DAC is an extension of the operation of a council. It is a vehicle, a decision-making body, but of course there is always the expectation of a high degree of rigour in local government anyway. That does not change. The other members are certainly covered under that clause if they are not covered under the Local Government Act.
Do DACS rely entirely or mostly on using council funds?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order!
Can I just clarify this for the sake of the committee: it was my understanding that the government is also providing funds to the DACs process, so we are not just talking about local government funds here, are we?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- That is correct. We have made a commitment to provide some funds, and I know Mr Guy has been very conscious of this. But the mechanics of these things are, I would suspect, that the money is provided to council for the operation and the council would not come seeking any advance, in terms of the operation, from the state government. The money will rest with the council as an advance in some form for the operation of the DAC or as a subsidy or through some program arrangement. So I would suspect that the mechanism by which you get an advance would go back to council, because the DAC is a vehicle of the council rather than of the state government, even though we are introducing it under state government legislation.
There is no provision for funding DACS members for legal advice
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- The minister mentioned legal advice. If councillors want legal advice, they go to the chief executive officer and the CEO either gives them advice or determines that legal advice needs to be obtained. I have never had an instance where a councillor could order up legal advice, let alone in the middle of deciding on a planning permit. Is there some other arrangement proposed here where, by virtue of being a member of a DAC, a person will be able to order legal advice?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- No.
Payment for DAC members - no set figures, unlike council remuneration
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- What allowances are DAC members going to be paid?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- My understanding is that the members will be given the equivalent of a service rate of some description and that it will be not unlike -- but not necessarily the equivalent of -- the service rate or arrangement at Planning Panels Victoria. Of course the local government itself, depending on who it appoints to the DAC, will have to determine arrangements on that basis.
If you are a local government representative, you may not wish to receive that service rate -- you might forfeit that fee -- or it might be rolled into your allowance as a councillor or assumed to be part of your allowance. But if you were an appointee -- either an independent chair or a representative from the state government -- and if you were someone with expertise, you would probably receive a service fee of some sort, not unlike the situation at Planning Panels Victoria. There is not a set figure at this point in time.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- Council remuneration is set by the Local Government Act; councils are not in a position to vary the fees they pay to councillors in return for other duties. If what the minister is saying is that there will be allowances to DAC members and that those will be covered under the minister's regulations and paid to those people irrespective of their receipt of an allowance from the council, then I think that makes a lot more sense.
I am also uncertain as to how all the other operating costs of a DAC -- from advertising its meetings to requests for individual pieces of, say, heritage advice or design advice -- will be allowed for if the DAC is to make its own decision.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- In many ways there is no great variance from the current operation of a council considering a major matter.
Relevant parties who may have an interest or who might be involved in the process would no doubt be notified. That is not that much different from the way the council would operate in the circumstance of a matter of consequence. The DAC would operate locally. It is highly likely it would operate within the council precinct somewhere, so I would not expect there to be a significant cost in terms of the hire of a public space within a building. So if there are to be costs, they are not really additional administrative arrangements, because most of those would have been the administrative arrangements local government would have had in terms of making an equivalent decision anyway. Any additional costs are more likely to be with the non-council law members of the DAC, who will receive a fee for service of some sort.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- I suppose we could quibble about that.
The minister would have heard me referring to an article in the Australian Financial Review which stated that the minister's New South Wales counterpart had made the commitment that where a council or members of a DAC had opposed a DAC's decision and that decision subsequently became subject to appeal, the state government would fund the court defence of that decision rather than forcing the local government to defend a decision which its appointed members did not support. Is that the same commitment the minister is making in Victoria?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- No, I am not making the equivalent commitment, because from time to time councils make decisions under delegation that sometimes councillors do not like themselves. They give authorisation to their planning staff to make decisions because of the controls that are in place in a particular location. Those controls themselves really determine what decision can and cannot be made.
I have been involved in a circumstance like that lately where the controls determined the decision rather than anyone using discretion over and above those controls in terms of the decision.
So it is not my expectation that we would make a similar commitment to funding what has taken place in New South Wales. In terms of the operation of the development assessment committee I will monitor very closely the situation where a council is not happy with a decision but needs to defend in some way, and I will see how often that occurs. I will seek to operate the system so that councils do not find themselves in that position on a regular basis when they have to stump up the money for a defence which they do not really feel compelled to invest in with any significance.
We know from experience that councils may often decide to reject a planning proposal even though their policy might advocate for the proposal, and then if the decision is challenged the council goes to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and does not defend it very strongly. The council may send a junior officer to represent it and is almost complicit in letting VCAT make the decision on the basis of the existing policy or controls within the council.
I am conscious that there are already in the system some reported instances where councils do not strongly defend decisions they currently make, even if they do not support or necessarily want to support the decisions. I am conscious of those points but do not make that commitment at this time, which is not to say -- without monitoring the situation -- that I may not come back with a different view at a later date.
Minister has power to suspend DAC member. Madden did not know how a DAC member might be terminated.
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- Going back to an answer the minister gave earlier when he said the removal of a member from the development assessment committee would need to occur through the Governor in Council, if the minister became aware of a conflict of interest will he explain how he would deal with sacking a member of a DAC, what the process would be and how long it would take?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I mentioned in some of the detail I gave earlier that a member would be suspended initially and only after an investigation would a decision be made that somebody would be dismissed. A suspension may occur initially and then an investigation would take place and recommendations and a decision would be made after that. In the initial stage there would potentially be a suspension of the member if it was warranted.
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- Would this decision be made by the minister?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I do not have the ability to dismiss a member of a DAC but I will check to see how that termination or suspension would occur.
I can only suspend the member. As would be the case with any decision I make on any planning matters in any area, I would only do it on the advice of my department, and there would have to be some independence over and above the department's advice to qualify it in some manner. I would expect that on the suspension further advice would be provided to me after an investigation of these matters.
There could be a range of mechanisms on which I would qualify the advice of the department with additional independent advice in relation to the matter, but I would expect the advice of the department alone would not necessarily be sufficient justification or reason publicly for the confidence and operation of the DAC. I would be looking for some external independence to qualify the advice of the department.
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- I believe the minister is saying that natural justice principles would apply to the suspended member and that he or she would have the opportunity to defend their position in some way. Is the minister able to elucidate how that would occur?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- Absolutely. Suspension of a member could only be for a short time.
I would expect that during that period an investigation would resolve the matters and clarify whether there was some legitimacy for the dismissal of that person from DAC.
Two sets of laws might apply simultaneously to a councillor
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- It is all very confusing because it seems to me we have mirror provisions in the legislation and that for a councillor both sets of provisions would operate. If a member breached the Local Government Act the local government ministerial inspectorate would talk to the member, but now we are getting a hint of some kind of unit or process being set up within the Department of Planning and Community Development that would look at another act that seems to have the same wording. Before the minister goes any further on that, I have a series of questions around register of interests which start at proposed section 97MZN, and some of them relate to the same kinds of questions. I am indicating that I am keen to move on to that proposed section.
Register of interests, keeping of records - serious problems
There is a series of new sections within subdivision 6. First of all, members of DACs must register their interests. The secretary must maintain that register. The secretary must allow a person to inspect the register if they have written to the secretary and asked for permission to do so and if the application meets the requirements of the regulations, if any. The secretary has to maintain a record of the names of persons who have inspected the register. A member of a DAC can inspect the register. A person must not publish information derived from the register unless that information is a fair and accurate summary or copy of the information derived from the register. As soon as practicable after a person ceases to be a member or an alternate member of a DAC the secretary must remove all the returns submitted by the person from the register, but then the secretary must retain the returns of a member or an alternate member for a period of three years and at the end of the three years the secretary must destroy the records.
Never mind councillors, who will have to go through many of the same provisions anyway under the Local Government Act, it seems that if these DAC members -- and they could be all these planning consultants and architects and various people who the minister is going to decide are suitable people -- have any sort of expertise and professional involvement in this field, they are bound to have interests in the field. I for one would want to know which planning consultancies they work for so that I could determine if other clients of that consultancy may have an interest in the matter.
What we are told here is that I have to ask permission to see the register and the secretary may have regulations that deny me the ability to see it. I can be in trouble if I publish the information unless I give a fair and accurate summary.
The minute that person gets off the DAC, their returns are no longer available. They sit in the secretary's filing cabinet for three years and then they get destroyed. How is this meant to guarantee any probity in the process if the public at large cannot understand the interests of these people or even if that DAC member has to be investigated? It could be that they have made a pattern of decisions over a number of years which together trigger an investigation; however, on the day they quit that information is no longer publicly available. And if they do not get sprung for three years, the information itself is actually destroyed. It just seems to me that this is not really offering the opportunity for any person to make their own assessment of the probity of the process.
I do not think I have any particular question on the issue.
Having been through this issue when we did this with local government -- and in fact I had a private members bill which addressed these issues -- this seems to mean that the secretary is the only person who is likely to have free and unfettered access during the relevant period. For a member of the public to attempt to inspect the records is going to be quite difficult.
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- On the same point if I may, in relation to the provision which requires that those records be kept for a period of three years after the person ceases to be a member of the DAC, clearly there is currently a flaw in the Public Records Act in that it requires documents to be kept for three years -- a length of time which has not been synchronised with the new terms of the state Parliament and local government. I actually have it in writing from the Public Record Office that this has been a failing. How does the minister explain the fact that the three-year period is enshrined in this particular provision? Is this again a replication of a flaw?
Should it not be corrected to reflect the four-year election cycle?
Secondly, public records management protocols should apply. Here there appear to be no protocols. I am concerned that the regime does not guarantee probity. Is the minister able to comment on that?
People would have to fall back on the omsbudsman!
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I suppose there is not a lot of difference in what is described here to what is currently the case in the expertise provided at Planning Panels Victoria in many instances in relation to the same way in which the interests of board members or members of panels are kept and stored -- there is not a lot of difference. I know Mr Barber has expressed concerns about if somebody has a consultancy or an interest connection and that people need to have confidence in that. I agree that there needs to be confidence in that process.
There are other mechanisms if people believe there is more than meets the eye. The Ombudsman exists in this state for that sort of reason. If people do have specific concerns about those individuals who are the experts who are taking up positions on the DAC, there are mechanisms by which they can make a request to the Ombudsman to follow that up.
Striking a 'balance' rather than guaranteeing probity (Madden)
The other issue is that individuals who have a degree of expertise might also have an interest in the degree of privacy around some of their personal matters which do not relate in any way to the DAC but might be listed on a register in some way. Of course if that private information is made publicly accessible without a degree of control for that particular individual, there are privacy issues there as well. Often the issue around an individual's privacy and the ability to access detailed information in relation to their position or authority has to strike the right balance, and we believe it does that.
There is also the ability for people to access that information and to report on it, but of course they have to report on it accurately, and that is the implication made and the direction given in terms of the legislation here: if people are going to quote from the register, they need to quote directly from it rather than describe it in some other fashion.
Privacy should be secondary to public interest in representative role
Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- But if DACs members are fulfilling the role of what elected members should be doing, then protection of their privacy should be secondary to the public interest.
Therefore I cannot accept the minister's argument. I strongly suggest that the regime here is not sufficiently open and transparent. I do not believe it is corruption-proof, given that the three-year period for which records must be kept is not in sync with the election terms at both the state and local government levels. Is the minister prepared to change those?
Too bad for the public interest
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- We have a bill presented before us that has been resolved by the Dispute Resolution Committee of the Parliament. This is the bill which has been resolved, so there is no ability to change this bill as it is presented. Those issues no doubt will be monitored by all sides of politics.
Given Mrs Peulich's interest, I am sure she will pay a great deal of attention to this matter. If it is warranted, then we will look at making changes to the bill, but not only on this front.
As I said before, there are issues that we will monitor -- and I am sure the Parliament will monitor them -- and if there are changes that are warranted, there will be a chance to make changes to legislation by bringing forward other legislation.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! Can I get a sense of whether we are nearly completed?
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- We are extremely close, Chair.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT -- Order! Thank you. I am very relieved.
Insufficient probity monitoring; high risk of corruption
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- My final concern is that the minister has admitted his department will have the responsibility of being the probity auditor for these people.
We are told that as soon as a DAC member resigns from the DAC all of their public returns will be removed, almost straightaway, from the register. The first thing a guilty person would do is quit. The next thing to happen would be that all of their register material would go missing. In any case, the material on that register is limited because it says what they would need to disclose. It is considered to be a conflict of interest or what they call in new section 97MZG(1) a 'conflicting duty' if the person:
(b) is a partner, consultant, contractor, agent or employee of a person, company or body that has a direct interest in a matter;
Unfortunately there is no requirement that a DAC member disclose on the register their employment, partnerships, consultancies or contractual arrangements with companies and bodies in the development industry, which they will almost certainly have. That is a real weakness.
It will make it extraordinarily difficult, even for the minister, to maintain probity, or for mindful members of the community to play any part in this either.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I have no further comments to make in great detail, other than to say the issue, as I raised earlier on, is for individuals to reveal where they may have a perceived, possible or potential conflict of interest in advance of that happening. There is an obligation on individuals to remove themselves from office if and when there is a potential conflict of interest. With these matters there is always a high degree of onus on an individual to know what those conflicts are. Even in registering potential conflicts there is a high degree of obligation on the individual to make them known on the register.
To cut a long story short, there is a high degree of obligation on the individual, and if they do not comply, then the individual is the one who will find themself in a very uncomfortable situation when it comes to the matters being investigated or followed up, particularly if they have a significant impact on the operation of or confidence in the DAC.
With many of these matters the ability of any one individual to manage those conflicts in a way which takes place across all sorts of areas of business and government is particularly important. Again, the onus falls very heavily on the individual to make sure that they have been careful.
Mr Barber interjected.
Madden's law demands public rely on reputation of appointees rather than proper checks and balances
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- It will always fall back on the minister. The reputation of the individual and the reason they are in these positions is because they are no doubt held in high regard.
They are seen as experts with a high degree of established and well-regarded reputation in their respective fields and professions. There is as much an onus on them to do justice to that reputation than to have it undermined, hence undermining the operation of the DAC.
Clause agreed to; clauses 6 to 10 agreed to.
Reported to house without amendment.
"An Age/Neilsen Poll taken last week has confirmed most Australians do not share Kevin Rudd’s grand ‘big Australia’ vision.
Treasury Secretary Ken Henry recently predicted Australia’s long term projected population has increased from 28.5 million in 2047 to over 35 million by 2049.
Only thirty percent of those surveyed believed growth at this level was acceptable.
Australia’s rebuke of Mr Rudd’s ‘big Australia’ comes on the back of comments made earlier this year by former NSW Premier Bob Carr likening population growth of this enormity without an environmental impact assessment, to playing ‘Russian roulette with water security.’
While Mr Rudd and the Labor government might be excited about a ‘big Australia’, this poll shows Australians are seriously concerned of the demands this population explosion will place on our infrastructure, environment, economy, social systems and quality of life.
Mr Rudd has arrogantly failed to provide any coherent strategy or detailed plan to accommodate this projected population explosion in a sustainable way.
The Prime Minister’s ‘big Australia’ ambitions and lack of any credible policies to deal with the forecast ‘population explosion’ should set off alarm bells about the problems our cities and environment will face.
Mr Rudd should set aside his ego and self interest in spruiking a ‘big Australia’, simply to make himself a ‘bigger diplomatic deal’ and focus on the national interest of tackling the challenges presented by a population explosion on settling and supporting an extra 13 million people in the coming decades in a sustainable way.
The Hon. Bruce Billson MP
(in Victoria, encompassing Frankston among other suburbs)
Shadow Minister for Sustainable Development and Cities
10 November 2009
Poll shows Australians do not share Rudd’s vision for ‘Big Australia’
The following article is based on a submission to George Seitz, Committee Chair of the Outer Suburban/Interface Services and Development Committee, Victoria, and was submitted on 19th October by Protectors of Public Lands. Headings inserted by Candobetter editor are preceded with “(Ed.)” Illustrations are from candobetter.org . The rest of the article, unless otherwise marked, is the original text.
Submission to Parliamentary Outer Suburban Interface/Services and Development Committee Inquiring into the Impact of State Government Decision to Change the Urban Growth Boundary
I am making a submission on behalf of Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc. (PPL VIC.) I should by way of introduction mention that our organisation, established in 2004, is a State wide coalition of over 80 environment, heritage, resident and parks groups across Victoria. We are dedicated to keeping public lands in public hands and to protecting and conserving iconic heritage places and environmental sites of significance.
Summary of Grounds of Opposition: In addressing the terms of reference we are considering “The impact of the State Government’s decision to change the urban growth boundary on landholders and the environment…” PPL VIC draws the Committee’s attention to the failure of the State Government in strategic urban planning over the last 10 years and in encouraging uncontrolled entry of settlers to Victoria without examining sustainable population levels. We object to creation of growth areas outside the existing boundaries as extending and creating urban sprawl; alienation of established Green Wedges; destruction of the environment and wildlife; loss of biodiversity; creation of “dormitory” settlements without infrastructure and services; likely social alienation of youth; loss of arable land for food production; increasing car dependency; worsening Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to climate change with land clearance, unsustainable housing and reliance on road transport; plus knowingly approving the building of new settlements in fire-prone areas. Additionally we deplore the imposition of a vendor tax on landowners in order to fund the infrastructure of the new settlements and the impetus given to land speculation and “land banking.” PPL VIC supports the submissions made by our colleagues from the “Green Wedges Coalition” and “Taxed Out”.
The grounds of our submission are as follows:
New Growth Areas = Future Urban Sprawl = Major Failure of Strategic Urban Planning:
The Bracks Government guaranteed in 2002 that, under a Labor Government there would be no changes or amendments to the Urban Boundary or to the Green Wedges corridors. The fact that there are now radical changes represents a serious breach of faith with the electorate by the Brumby Government. Melbourne 2030 was considered to be the blue print for future development and was expressly intended to contain future urban sprawl; to prevent urban incursions into rural land; to concentrate residential growth into areas served by high capacity public transport; and protect sensitive environmental zones around the city. Many planners have pronounced Melbourne 2030 dead in view of recent radical departures from the plan.
Before the 2002 election the State Government announced protection of Melbourne’s green wedges from subdivision and inappropriate urban uses. There was bipartisan support - the Opposition supported the green wedge protection legislation when it passed through the Legislative Assembly before the 2002 election.
(Ed.) Path to unsustainable growth paved with
The Government has additionally broken a 2005 promise when 11,500 hectares was excised from Green Wedges land that there would be no further changes until 2030. The community accepted the excision on this proviso. Apparently, the Minister for Planning gave a number of assurances right up to the announcement of the review of the Urban Growth Boundary that there would be changes to Green Wedges. .
The State Government announced its review of the Urban Growth Boundary in December 2008 when it released the Melbourne @5 million, an update to Melbourne 2030: Planning for Sustainable Development. This signalled the State Government’s plans to open up at least 23,000 hectares – including land in Green Wedges areas - for urban expansion to allow for construction of 600,000 houses with 284, 000 of these to be located in growth areas. It was only apparently belatedly realised by Government advisers and planners that Victoria needs to accommodate another 1 million people before 2025. By 2036 Melbourne is predicted to have a further 1.8 million, twice the number forecast by Melbourne 2030 planners. By anyone’s reckoning failure to predict this massive population boom is a monumental blunder in strategic planning (See also comment under population)
(Ed.) Incremental excisions of natural amenity, wildlife habitat and agricultural land
We can see no improvements under the current Delivering Melbourne’s Newest Sustainable Communities (DMNSC) report on the Urban Growth Boundary Review released in June 2009. PPL VIC was alarmed to see that according to the Green Wedges Coalition the report proposes to excise a further 41,663 hectares from Melbourne’s Green Wedges, nearly twice the area estimated to have been needed in last December’s Melbourne @ 5 Million report.
Minister Madden has added to proposals by announcing on 6 October 2009 that new “Precinct Structure Plans guidelines” were to be added, a kind of overlay for suburbs of 3,000 dwellings or more. These guidelines were drawn up to try to ensure developments avoided becoming isolated, so called “dormitory” suburbs - places where there is nothing to do but sleep. The Age article of 11 October 2009 “Sprawl of the wild” by Melissa Fyfe says “The Victorian Government has discovered sustainable communities. Pity it’s 10 years late.”
On 16 October 2009 Planning Minister Madden announced the draft legislation for Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution Bill. We have only been given time to make comments until 2 November 2009. (It is not known if the legislation will be introduced to Parliament before this Committee has reported.) The problem is that arrangement to levy the GAIC have been changed or significantly amended. Michael Hocking of Taxed Out says on his website:
“This is taxing the landowner by stealth. The tax is still applied at a flat rate regardless of the sale price yet the land may be twenty years from development. A property owner needing to sell in the short-term will find it virtually impossible to find a purchaser who is prepared to accept a GAIC liability when he sells, meaning the only likely purchaser is a developer not interested in the value of the dwelling and not interested in paying development prices for land that won't be developed for decades.
The Growth Areas Authority assumptions relating to value uplift remain fundamentally flawed and Taxed Out Inc. intends to expose these issues at the Parliamentary Inquiry…In many respects this situation is worse than that originally proposed.”
PPL VIC deplores the fact that the State Government appears to have attempted to mislead affected landowners. We also point out that this debacle over changes to the GAIC further illustrates that our contention that this is planning on the run.
What is a Sustainable Population for Victoria?
The whole rationale for extending the Urban Growth Boundary is to accommodate the unprecedented flood of population to Victoria. It is instructional to Google the “Population Clock” of the Bureau of Statistics. This shows the resident population of Australia which increases by one person every 1 minute and 12 seconds. This projection is based on the estimated resident population at 31 March 2009 and assumes growth since then of:
• one birth every 1 minute and 44 seconds,
• one death every 3 minutes and 39 seconds,
• a net gain of one international migrant every 1 minutes and 53 seconds leading to
• an overall total population increase of one person every 1 minute and 12 seconds
(Ed.) Process of loss of Green Wedges and Agricultural land will be endless
PPL VIC considers that the extension of the Urban Growth Boundary is really the thin end of the wedge. As there are no plans to stop the present high rate of population growth (mostly from immigration) the process of loss of Green Wedges and agricultural land is endless. There will be another extension when the proposed boundaries are seen to be filling up.
The extension of the Urban Growth Boundary does not save private or public open space in the established suburbs - the rate of population growth is so high that Melbourne is getting more urban densification daily as well as urban sprawl. As we have pointed out the State Government is devoid of coherence in these planning matters and its approach to endless population growth.
PPL VIC considers it imperative that the Victorian Government hold a forum to determine the population sustainable for Victoria, especially in view of water shortages and the likelihood of future droughts. (Excuses used have been “immigration is a Federal matter” but State Premiers have influence in Canberra.) At a rally on 14 July 2009 protesting over Planning Minister Madden’s “Cash for Chat” with developers, PPLVIC and allies delivered a set of resolutions to the Minister including the need for a population forum. There were over 500 people at the Rally which indicates the strength of public feeling concerning the issues raised here.
I have a quote here from Mr Kelvin Thomson MHR, Federal Member for Wills who says that:
Everything that makes our city the great place to live, work and raise a family, is potentially under threat if population growth and urban sprawl continue at the current rate. We must implement a strategy to control population growth, urban expansion and development. Our way of life, open spaces and infrastructure cannot be sacrificed on the altar of ever expanding population. We have a responsibility to secure our city’s future by thorough, thoughtful and detailed planning. This planning should not include an expanding Melbourne waistline.” (Source: “Five Million is too many: Securing the Social and Environmental Future of Melbourne” Submission to the Urban Growth Boundary Review July 2009.
Destruction of the Environment and Green Wedges:
The Government must abandon the Green Wedge land grab as destructive of the environment, a threat to wildlife, including endangered species, and as a major contributor to Green House Gas Emissions. Around the urban fringe we have a concentration of some of the most endangered eco- systems in Australia including the Western Basalt Plains Grasslands and Grassy Woodlands in the Darebin, Jackson and Merri Creek valleys, with 400 year-old red gums, and plus loss of habitat for a range of threatened species (e.g. Southern Brown Bandicoot.) PPL VIC supports the submission of the Green Wedges Coalition as being an excellent detailed statement of the threats to significant landscapes, endangered species and wildlife plus indigenous vegetation.
The 15,000 hectares of grassland reserves to be provided over 10 years as a trade-off for grasslands is apparently of poorer quality than the kangaroo (themeda) grasslands to be destroyed
The removal of environmental protection from all areas within the Urban Growth Boundary would seem to indicate that areas such as significant parts of the Merri Creek Catchment will not be protected from environmental damage or even clearing.
Areas for development are clear felled by developers. The loss of trees and other vegetation for housing adds to global warming effect. Is there any provision for conservation?
The proposed high density, low open private space in these outer suburbs means they will be hotter - urban heat island effect - from the lack of the cooling effect of vegetation/transpiration - low ratio of vegetation to concrete and other hard surfaces.
What provision is made for public open space? There is no mention made of public open space for passive recreation as well as sports fields and recreation areas.
(Ed.) Cruel failure to create or maintain wildlife corridors spells slow death for native animals
On past performance, no allowance will be made for wildlife in outer suburban development. PPL VIC has had experience with kangaroos of Somerton and Morang where animals get trapped in developed areas and just left to get killed on roads. The outer suburban interface is considered terra nullius it seems. What of smaller animals/birds what about the grasslands and inhabitants? There appears to be no consideration given to the creation or maintenance of wildlife corridors.
The State Government appears to have taken little notice of report by the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Mr Ian Mc Phail, in “The State of the Environment Victoria 2008”. In it he comments:
"Victoria's population growth, increasing affluence and the expansion of our cities and towns has contributed to unsustainable levels of resource consumption and waste production. This has direct environmental impacts through changes in land use from conservation and agriculture to cities and towns. To supply our cities and towns, we harvest water for residential and manufacturing purposes, changed river flows, discharge wastes to land and sea, remove native vegetation and send damaging gases into the atmosphere." (Refer in the report to A Culture of Consumption. Drivers of Change – Population, Change and Settlements Page 9)
The report continues:
“Continuing growth of Victoria’s population will increase demand for land, as well as housing and transport services, potentially leading to more waste and pollution. Extra demand for water is particularly pertinent given the predictive effects of climate change on already depleted water storages.” Mr Mc Phail concludes on a depressing note: "It is currently cheaper to protect the environment to than to restore it but it is even cheaper to degrade it…”
Urban Growth Areas in Fire Prone Areas:
Whether it is advisable settling thousands of people in outer suburban fire prone areas does not appear to have occurred to the Government. These are the outer suburban areas classified as "Growth Areas": Beveridge, Bulla, Devin Meadows, Cranbourne East, Clyde North, Diggers Rest, Donnybrook, Kalkalo, Melton, Mt Cottrell, Officer, Pakenham, South Morang, Sunbury, Tarneit and Truganina.
Councils opposed to the extension of the Growth Areas Boundary and the imposition of the Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution are Melton, Casey, Cardinia and Mitchell. Wyndham refuses to comment.
It is apparent that these areas are either under resourced by fire services or not serviced at all. We assume this also goes for ambulance and police. Would the State Government be liable if fire services were not provided and a fire went through the settlement?
The Age reported on 4 July 2009 (Lessons to Learn) on the proceedings of the Bushfire Royal Commission and pointed to urban sprawl as one of the “fatal confluence of factors” that led to Black Saturday.
Cost to Victorians:
The cost of building new homes in the rural fringes of Melbourne is double that of constructing infill dwellings in the inner city. This is the hidden cost of suburban sprawl. This is an unacceptable financial burden for Victorian tax payers to shoulder. The added costs include extra infrastructure such as power, water and transport, as well as higher health costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
The report, commissioned by the State Department of Planning and released in July, cites research that found "for every 1000 dwellings, the cost for infill development (in existing suburbs) is $309 million and the cost of fringe developments is $653 million".
It has been stated by Minister Madden in Parliament (and reported in the Sunday Age 11 October that the funds to be raised by the $95,000 hectares Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution will cover only 15 per cent of total infrastructure costs. The Minister is prepared to sacrifice Green Wedges land that makes Melbourne “livable” and to destroy the livelihoods of many small landowners and farmers for this minor financial return.
Unfair Tax on Land Vendors: The Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution is an unfair, discriminatory tax on family farms and small landowners, even after amendment by the State Government in draft legislation. As we have consistently maintained, the tax needs to be withdrawn and any charges levied at the point of development, consistent with the approach taken in other Australian states. PPL VIC supports the campaigns of “Taxed Out” and as mentioned above held a joint rally on 14 July 2009 to protest against the Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution.
Perpetuation of Car Dependency: The plans to construct major freeways/ring roads and the absence of plans for extensive rail networks to serve the new suburbs spells out that the population of Melbourne will remain dependent on cars despite the uncertain future of oil. We are particularly concerned over plans to build the E6 freeway through Woollert. The roadway appears redundant.
Reduction of Arable Land: Given our population crisis and likely food shortages with the drought it is unthinkable that the Government can even be contemplating turning over arable land for housing development. The loss of vegetable farms including prime market garden land in the Westernport Catchment will increase food miles for our produce.
Increase of Green House Gas Emissions: Climate change is the most important moral question of the age and must be at the forefront of our public policy. The State Government appears to have its head in the sand. Compared to other cities in the world Melbourne has one of the highest rates per capita. Our private vehicles and public transport were recently recorded to generate 11 million tonnes of carbon monoxide a year compared with 8.5 tonnes in London. The increase in urban sprawl will worsen our figure.
Accommodation of Population within Existing Urban Growth Boundaries:
No examination has been undertaken of how the increased population can be accommodated in Metropolitan Melbourne.
Suggestions have been made that an inventory should be conducted of development applications which have already been approved by Council within the Urban Growth Boundary but which have not yet been built. Utilizing existing approvals might go some way to addressing the issue.
An inventory also needs to be undertaken of brown field sites and land which could be available for residential development – former transport depots, rail sidings and Commonwealth Government sites eg the Maribyrnong Defence site.
(Ed.) Developers prefer Greenfield Sites because they are cheaper
It is most unfortunate that the practice of “land banking” by developers appears widespread throughout the city. Take for example land on the former Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital site in Parkville which was given to Australand and the Citta Property Group to build a residential development then used for 2 weeks for the 2006 Commonwealth Games Village. The original plans showed a wall of 700 units in a 9 storey block along City Link. The land is still vacant and there have been no attempts to commence building. The developers are said to be waiting until the “market is right.” The truth is that developers prefer green field sites and are unwilling to invest in developing brown field sites.
Request to Committee: PPL VIC urges the Committee to reject approval of the extension of the Urban Growth Boundary and the iniquitous Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution and to develop recommendations for accommodating increased population within the Urban Boundary plus arriving at consensus for determining a sustainable population for Melbourne.
This submission was addressed to:
Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.
Mr George Seitz
Outer Suburban/Interface Services & Development Committee
C/- Parliament House
Spring Street, Melbourne
on 19 October 2009
Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.
PO Box 197
The Major Transport Projects Facilitation legislation
The Major Transport Projects Facilitation legislation introduces far reaching changes to environmental and planning laws for projects that are declared by the Premier as major transport projects.
New laws with no public consultation
The legislation, introduced with no public consultation, replaces existing environmental approvals with a new approval process intended to fast track new freeways, ports, rail lines.
This seminar will address important questions including:
• How does the legislation restrict public involvement in decision making about transport projects?
• What impact does the legislation have on existing environmental approvals?
• What sort of projects will be caught by the legislation?
To learn more about this major legal development, come to the EDO’s seminar to hear Brian Walters SC and others discuss the impact of the legislation on the community, the environment and good governance.
• Mr Brian Walters barrister and passionate advocate for the environment and civil rights.
Brian is also the President of Protectors of Public Lands Inc.
• Representative of Dept (to be confirmed)
Transport (to be confirmed
• Ms Nicola Rivers Law Reform and Policy Director at Environment Defenders Office
Tuesday 29 September 2009
5.45pm for 6pm start
RSVP: EDO (03) 8341 3100
or [email protected]
60L Green Building
Ground floor, Meeting Room 2
60 Leicester Street, Carlton
7.30pm expected finish
There is no charge for the seminar however donations to support our work are greatly appreciated
Rumours of early election if Opposition don't pass Planning Amendment bill
It is rumoured that the Government is suggesting that it will call an early election if the Opposition doesn't pass its loathed bill and that the Opposition may feel that it is not ready to govern yet.
Ms Pruneau, of MRRA, wrote to MPs today, saying, "In our view, if the government uses this flimsy excuse to call an election, it will be exposed for the short-sighted, minority-driven, undemocratic body it has become. Any compromise on your part will serve to endorse that behaviour. Please, let the government lose credibility, keep yours intact."
Indeed, let us remind the opposition that there is honour in standing firm and debating honestly, and that they have a duty to represent the electorate and to make the government do the same where it forgets its role and works, instead, on behalf of big business finance, materials, engineering, land speculation and property development.
In the excerpts of speeches published under the heading DACs 2, there are some notable examples of fudging on the government's responsibility in the whole overpopulation disaster which is Victoria. The opposition is also afraid to comment on this because they are under similar pressures and inducements to support developers over The People.
What more proof do we need to see that population increase leads to decrease in democracy in Australia?
Upper House rejects Planning Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2) motion today on standing order grounds
Introduction Received from Assembly.
The PRESIDENT — Order! I wish to remind the house that a bill of this nature was introduced, debated and the second reading negatived in this chamber in June this year. A standing order of this house in effect states that we cannot within six months of the same session debate two bills of similar content. Standing order 7.06 states:
No question will be proposed in the Council which is the same in substance as any question which has been resolved during the previous six months in the same session.
I note that this bill has been slightly amended, but in substance in my view it is still the same. I therefore indicate that I cannot accept a motion for the first reading of this bill at this stage. I do note, however, that earlier today the government gave notice of a motion for the suspension of standing order 7.06 in relation to this bill. Until that motion is moved and decided on by the house, this bill cannot proceed any further.
See alsoDACs 2: Highlights: Macedon Member Duncan makes bizarre statements about population growth in Victoria and DACs 2 Highlights: "The Bill is a very blunt instrument" (Mr Morris, Mornington, Victoria)
Editor: This is a comment about the Planning Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) Second reading Debate resumed from 15 September on a motion of Mr BATCHELOR (Minister for Community Development) made in the Assembly of the Victorian Parliament on 16 September and recorded in Hansard.  This Labor Government initiated bill is a source of enormous consternation for Victorians not completely roped in by the corporate media. The concerns are on democratic, planning and environment grounds. It was read for the second time and, after a very close call, its passing has again been delayed - this time until 13th October.
The Bill is a very blunt instrument" (Mr Morris, Mornington)
I want to initially come back to something the member for Bundoora [Mr Brooks, ALP] said when he was talking about the Dispute Resolution Committee process that has led to the current form of this bill. He referred to it as a democratic process with equal numbers from government and non-government parties, but of course the government has the right to elect a chairman and the government has the casting vote. So no matter what quality of debate there has been — and I understand there has been some good discussion and good work done and some of the nasties have been taken out of the bill — it is a long way from being a democratic process. In fact it is about as democratic as the are proposed to be.
The bill essentially is the death knell for community input into the planning process in the areas that have been nominated. It is a real symbol of the hypocrisy of the Australian Labor Party when it comes to local government, when it comes to local communities and when it comes to local interests. This is about getting the message right and getting the process right to suit the message. It is about spin. It is about saying one thing and meaning a different thing entirely. The claim is, ‘We are on side with the communities’. But the reality is that these are simply soothing words, lulling communities into a false sense of security, and then belting them on the head with a blunt instrument.
Members of DACs will be hand-picked
This bill is a very blunt instrument. This is not calling in one application and this is not calling in two applications; this is calling in the whole planning process. It is taking the entire planning process away from local government and the local community. It certainly gives lie to the government’s claims of partnership with local government. Every significant application in every principal activity centre in 27 areas of the metropolitan area, plus the city of Geelong, will now be determined by a committee hand-picked by the Minister for Planning. The people who will dominate these development assessment committees are not, will not and never can be independent persons. They will be hand-picked to push through the government’s agenda in this area.
Let there be absolutely no misunderstanding about that.
You simply need to refer to the bill, in particular proposed section 97MK, which deals with the membership of the development assessment committees. The chair will be nominated by the minister from a list of persons that he has prepared under proposed subsection 3. Proposed subsection 3 requires the minister to, firstly, prepare a list of names, secondly, to consult with the Municipal Association of Victoria and the Victorian Local Governance Association, and then to make his own decision. So the VLGA and the MAV are told who are contenders for the position. That is the extent of their input. They have absolutely no right to say, ‘Yes, we agree’, or, ‘No, we don’t agree’. It is the minister’s list, it is the minister’s decision, and they are dragged in to dress up the process and to make it look respectable.
Two members will be appointed directly by the minister. So that is three out of five. Two members will be appointed by the local council, and they will rotate. I understand there might be, say, one DAC for southern metro and two councillors from Glen Eira, two councillors from Frankston, two councillors from Kingston, or whatever. Those two councillors are, once again, simply to dress up the process, because you could wait until hell freezes over before they have any influence on a decision. They are there as the scapegoats. They are there to take the blame. That is all they are there for. and who is going to pay for the process? Do you think the people who have lost their influence over the process will be able to put the cost onto someone else? No, of course they will not.
I refer to proposed section 97MG at page 11 of the bill.
To enable a DAC to decide on an application, the responsible authority — in other words, the council — has to provide not only the application but also a copy of comments from a referral authority. They have to do the referral to start with and then also provide a copy of a report from any member of their staff, any other document that is relevant and any other document or information that has been reasonably requested by the DAC. In other words, if they jack up and say, ‘No, we are not going to do a report on this; we are not going to pay the officers to do these reports for someone else to make a decision on’, the DAC can come back and say, ‘Oh yes, you will anyway’.
The vast majority of the cost of the planning process is not the actual decision making. The costs are in officer time, the officer effort that goes into preparing the report and getting it into a form to go to the decision-makers. That cost will still be borne by the community.
Political mechanism called 'the blame game' to take heat off ministers in their local areas
The bill strips away any opportunity a citizen has to have an input into the bricks-and-mortar future of their community. In the second-reading speech the minister said the government is committed to strengthening confidence in decision making and to the state government playing a role in actively implementing state policies. If the government is that committed, why is it establishing these bodies? Why do we need to create another layer? Of course it is a tried and true formula, and it has been going on for the last 10 years.
It is called the blame game. It is about making sure there is someone else set up to take the blame. Many local councils are sick to death of being blamed. It has been standard government member policy. Any time an application comes up that the community does not like, government members say, ‘Look, the council is dealing with that; we can’t get involved’ — and quite properly they should not — the refrain is ‘It is not our fault’.
It is. The entire planning structure is a product of decisions of this government. The councils are simply charged with trying to knock the rough edges off and have some input. Once again statutory bodies are being set up in order to take the blame. The planning system is certainly in dire need of an overhaul and of a refocus.
There is now a huge number of development applications that are subject to appeal, and anyone who is involved knows that. This number of appeals did not occur 10 years ago.
They did not occur in the past when the appeal processes were not quite as effective as they are now.
These appeals did not occur before the introduction of Melbourne 2030. It is only the government’s meddling with the planning act, preventing people from having their say, that has caused this level of objection. We have a situation where local councils now cannot even commence a planning scheme amendment without the minister saying yes. Occasionally one slips through.
The C87 amendment — the Mount Eliza woodlands amendment — is a classic example; the minister did not like the outcome so it simply sits on his desk and he does not approve it.
All the planning in this state is now located at 8 Nicholson Street
All the planning in this state is now located at 8 Nicholson Street.
We have an epidemic, we have a tidal wave of objections, and the minister seems to have no idea what is causing it. But the solution advocated by the government, and this bill is living proof of that solution, is to strip councils of their powers, to put fees through the roof and to threaten objectors with costs in the event that they are unsuccessful — in other words, to try and scare them away from the process and to make it impossible for ordinary Victorians to have their views heard. That is the real message.
That is the intent of the bill — to take the process away from the hands of the people, to set up a body to take the blame, take the fire, deflect the anger from the government and to pretend, as we have heard in this debate again and again, ‘Oh, we have got urban expansion, is it not terrible?’. Yes, we do have urban expansion — because the government has set up the zones in that way. It has nothing to do with local councils. It has everything to do with the planning structure that has been set in place by this government, and it is time it stood up and took responsibility rather than trying to blame somebody else.
 Debate recorded in Hansard, 16 September, 2009 (Assembly)
Recall defective Planning Bill
Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc has called for the withdrawal of the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Bill 2009.
Brian Walters SC, President of Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc. said: “This Bill is an affront to democracy as well as to good planning. It will inevitably lead to damage to the environment and public assets. It is an irresponsible measure and suggests that its proponents are in league with developers instead of upholding the community’s interests.”
Under the provisions of the Bill, the Planning Minister (in consultation with the Premier) can recommend that a project be a “declared project”. Then the project is fast-tracked without any of the normal safeguards the community has a right to expect.
Community's rights removed
The community will have no right of objection, and comment by the public is only to be permitted at the whim of the Planning Minister – and then only in exceptional circumstances, and with only 15 days’ notice. To expect community organisations to provide proper comment on major projects with only 15 days to master the material and assess it – and if necessary obtain expert advice - is ludicrous. These provisions provide for a sham right of consultation which is effectively impossible to exercise. The real goal is to remove public comment altogether, but the Bill lacks the integrity to say so.
Without public comment, projects that do not serve the interests of the community will be rammed through without a full assessment of their impact.
Ministers will not have time to assess the projects
Even when comments are offered, the Minister has only 15 days to assess them, so only the most cursory examination of the merits of a project is anticipated. For most decisions under the Bill, appeals to VCAT or judicial review are expressly excluded. Where judicial review is allowed (only for the final decision to approve a project), the Bill allows just 21 days to commence proceedings once a decision is published in the Government Gazette.
Bill heavily biased in favour of developers and varies Constitution Act
In its haste to limit rights, the Bill goes so far as to vary the Constitution Act. All consideration is given to “project proponents” and none to the community.
Labour legislating for millionaire mates
Mr Walters said: “We hope the government sees sense and withdraws the Bill. If it does not, we hope the Parliament will reject it. The fast tracking of major projects for developers, at the expense of the community and good planning, appears to be legislation for millionaire mates rather than for the good government of the people of Victoria.”
Contact via this website:
Brian Walters SC President Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.
Julianne Bell Secretary Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.
These are dark times for Australia and Victoria is one of the darkest places in the country for democracy. There are, however still some good people in parliament and we must support their efforts. The Greens and the Opposition need the electorate's help to have this bill stopped in the upper house. They have done it before, so they can do it again. See for example, "Coalition, Greens & DLP vote Tim Holding's North South Pipeline enabling regulations down!".
If passed, the new proposed Major Transport Projects Facilitiation Bill 2009, will create an Act of Law tol override existing planning and environmental approval processes under the 11 other Acts listed below. Like the Repco rally law in NSW it will overturn laws for the protection of democracy, the environment, and the public.
This Bill is bad because:
- It will exempt the State Government from its own laws and concentrate decision making power into one or two Ministers, raising the risk of corruption and 'influence peddling'.
- You will not be able to appeal to the Supreme court except to appeal the final decison by the Planning Minister, but the law will be biased against the appeal because they will have to favour "cost and efficiency" of the project rather than environment, heritage, or democratic agreement by the community.
This bill is bad for democracy and is not needed or wanted - except by big business and developers.
Greg Barber of the Greens has asked, "What public transport projects have ever been delayed by following proper processes?"
Labor is determined to ram this through.
He says, "Labor is determined to ram this through. Only the Liberal-National Coalition, by voting with the Greens, can stop this bill in the upper house. You are urged to email Liberal, National, DLP Upper House MPs and tell them that if they really care about stopping corruption they will vote to make state government decisions subject to the law."
Copy of the legislation and explanatory info
Coastal Management Act 1995
Consent under section 40(1)
Conservation, Forests and Lands Act 1987
Comment under section 66
Environment Protection Act 1970
Works approval under section 19B(7)
Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988
Permit under section 40
Licence under section 53 to take and keep fish
Forests Act 1958
Licence or permit under section 52
Permit under section 59(1)
Authority under section 77
Heritage Act 1995
Permit under section 74
Permit under section 113
Consent under section 129
National Parks Act 1975
Permit under section 21(1)(a)
Approval under section 23
Consent under section 25
Planning and Environment Act 1987
Preparation, approval and adoption of a planning scheme or an amendment to
a planning scheme under sections 8, 29 and 35
Granting and issue of a planning permit under section 61
Road Management Act 2004
Consent under clause 1 of Schedule 2
Decision under clause 2 of Schedule 2
Consent under clause 16 of Schedule 7
Water Act 1989
Licence under section 51
Licence under section 67
Wildlife Act 1975
Authority under section 21(1), (2) or (3)
Licence under section 22(1)
Authorisation under section 28A
Partial source for this article was