Monday, August 27, 2012

Troubling State Government Plans for Development in National Parks

The Baillieu Government’s plan to allow ninety-nine-year leases for private sector development in Victorian national parks should ring alarm bells with the public.

The State Government says it is supporting the tourism industry by allowing this private sector development, and that such developments will need to be sensitive to the environment, but the recent track record of State Liberal governments on protecting national parks or the environment in general does not engender confidence.

The Baillieu Government had only been in power 5 minutes when it allowed the resumption of cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park, the O’Farrell New South Wales Liberal Government has permitted shooting in that state’s national parks, and the Newman Queensland LNP Government claimed in May this year that the protections for koalas in Queensland were 'needless duplication' and 'mindless green tape', despite overwhelming science that the Queensland koala has taken a massive hit over the last 20 years.

I strongly oppose the idea of permitting ninety-nine-year leases. I believe it is improper and undemocratic – it denies the community the right to say no to these developments, if the community disapproves of the commercialisation of national parks and votes out the government which has done this, it is still confronted with the legal reality of a 99 year lease. No Parliament should be able to find a successor Parliament in this way.

Friday, August 3, 2012

$100Million withdrawal to HRL Coal Power Plant Project- A big win for Community Environmental Action!

Friday 3rd August 2012/ac

$100Million withdrawal to HRL Coal Power Plant Project-
A big win for Community Environmental Action!

I welcome the announcement by my Labor Government colleague, Minister for Energy Resources, The Hon Martin Ferguson MP, that the Australian Government is withdrawing the offer of a potential $100 million grant to the HRL Project in the Latrobe Valley.

This is a big win for community environmental action, with many people across Victoria raising serious concerns about the proposal. In February I presented a petition from 11,916 petitioners calling on the House to withdraw federal funding for the proposed new coal-fired power station in Victoria and invest in a clean renewable energy future for Victoria instead.

Energy Company HRL proposed to build a $1.2 billion 600 megawatt power plant, which would have produced around 4 million tonnes of carbon emissions. How we can reduce carbon emissions with projects that are plus 4 million tonnes.
The funding was originally awarded by the Howard Government in 2007, but since then the money had not been spent, conditions had not been met, and extensions had been granted until the end of June. Given HRL still could not meet the funding requirements, it was appropriate that Minister Ferguson withdraw the funding.

 The HRL project also had no private money. Environment Victoria advised me that in 2009 HRL lost their major Chinese partner, who withdrew their 50% stake. In 2011 Australia’s big four banks all announced that they would not be involved in the project, and in October 2011 a number of international banks declared that they too would not finance the proposed power station, with HSBC indicating that HRL was too polluting for them to invest in. According to Environment Victoria HRL’s project costs blew out.
This is a great win for local environmental action.

Kelvin Thomson MP
Federal Member for Wills

-       Speech to Australian Parliament calling on HRL Funding to be withdrawn:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Melbourne's population growth, is this good for Melbourne

Tim Colebatch's report on the rapid growth of Melbourne raises the question, is this growth good for Melbourne? As he points out, during the last decade Melbourne's population grew by much more than any other Australian city. Melbourne grew by over 647,000 people, with Sydney the next largest with an increase of 477,000.

It is clear that the pace of this growth has been way too rapid for State and local governments, as well as public and private infrastructure providers, to cope with. The consequences have been severe, with travel times to and from work blowing out, electricity and council rates skyrocketing, residents losing their ability to preserve their street scape and neighborhood character, and young people unable to afford a house with a backyard anywhere near where they grew up.

It doesn't have to be this way. As Tim Colebatch reports, 60 per cent of this growth came from overseas migration. Both our permanent and temporary migrant worker programs were greatly increased during the last decade, supposedly to deal with the mining boom, but instead many migrant workers end up in Melbourne. The migrant worker programs should be returned to the level of the 1990s and 1980s, and Melbourne would be able to cope much better than it is at present.

This is first and foremost the responsibility of the Federal Government, but it would help if State and local government started calling for it, instead of behaving like drivers of the getaway car, which is what they have done all too often during the past decade.