Liberal MP speaks up against Channel Deepening

So far we have one brave Liberal. State Upper House MP Bruce Atkinson has spoken out about his opposition to the channel deepening project and the Port Services Amendment Bill

The Brumby government is using the Port Services Amendment Bill to strengthen the arm of the PoMC, instead of the now abandoned 'Channel Deepening Facilitation Bill'. Perhaps they hoped amendments to an existing Act might have slipped through without us noticing them. Not so, and thanks to The Greens and Mr. Atkinson the Brumby government may be forced into a debate they would prefer not to have. Let's hope that Mr. Atkinson has started a landslide of sensible thinking.

Blue Wedges has written to Mr. Atkinson thus: Re your opposition to the channel deepening project and your intention to oppose the Port Services Amendment Bill. We write to congratulate you for your principled stand. We sincerely hope that your actions will stand as an example of rational thinking and fair mindedness, and will provide a positive influence to your colleagues to spend more time examining the realities of this damaging project – as you clearly have. All the very best."

Herald Sun article follows:

Liberal MP Bruce Atkinson to cross floor on channel deepening

November 22, 2007 10:15am

Ellen Whinnett, state politics reporter

LIBERAL MP Bruce Atkinson will cross the floor to vote against the party line on channel deepening - the first public show of dissent faced by Liberal leader Ted Baillieu.

Mr. Atkinson confirmed yesterday he had told the partyroom that he planned to support a proposed Greens amendment relating to channel deepening when it became before the House, possibly as early as today.

His party is expected to vote against the proposed amendment, which seeks to ban the dumping of the dredged soil and material within Port of Melbourne controlled waters, if it could cause any detrimental impact on the bay.

Liberal rules allow their MPs to cross the floor and vote against the party line, provided they notify their leaders and partyroom first.

However, the practise is discouraged, with leaders keen to promote a united position.

No one has crossed the floor so far under Mr. Baillieu's leadership, although Mr. Atkinson, fellow MP Robert Clark and former MP Ron Bowden did it several years ago to oppose racial vilification laws.

The Government is yet to formally introduce a bill to allow channel deepening to go ahead in Port Phillip Bay, but the Port Services Amendment Bill, which addresses issues such as security of the dredging vessel, is seen as an enabling bill.

Upper House Mp Mr. Atkinson said he thought he would be supporting a proposed Greens amendment.

The amendment would disallow the dumping of the excavated material into the bay if it was toxic, impacted on humans, animals, fish or plants, or was detrimental to any beneficial use of the water.

"I'm sure the Government won't support it," he said of the Greens' amendment.

"The Liberal Party position would probably be not to oppose (the Government's) legislation."

Mr. Atkinson said he had advised his colleagues of his voting intentions.

"I think the party obviously prefers people to stand for the position the party arrives at," he said.

"But the Liberal Party also respects that there are some issues that people feel a great deal of concern about and advance an alternative view."

Mr. Atkinson, whose seat of Eastern Metropolitan does not have any bayside areas, has always expressed concern about the proposal to dredge the shipping channel in Port Phillip Bay.

"It is environmentally and economically unsound," he said yesterday.

He said the entire Liberal Party was concerned about the assessment process the Government had undertaken, and that he believed the on-going maintenance costs each



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