Greens and one lib raise the level of debate

What a great debate! The Greens and Liberal MP Bruce Atkinson 'gave it their all' in the debate on the 'Port Services Amendment Bill' held on Thursday evening 22 November

The Greens, led by Sue Pennicuik, and brave Liberal Bruce Atkinson demonstrated just how carefully they had researched the channel deepening project. Conversely, Brumby government champions appeared to know little and care less about environmental and economic risks that the PoMC and other champions of the project are happy to impose on the community. 

Hansard records a lengthy, but very informative debate revealing much about the blinkered, irrational, intractable position that the Brumby government has taken on the channel deepening project, in spite of significant evidence that it could create a toxic time bomb for the Bay and is severely lacking in any economic rationale.

Sue Pennicuik Greens Upper House MP gave an informed and committed performance and dissenting Liberal MP Bruce Atkinson, who took a stand and voted with the Greens, and against the rest of his party also put in a creditable performance. Mr. Atkinson has taken the time to inform himself about broader aspects of the project, even consulting various industry bodies who are already realising that moving more and bigger fully loaded vessels through Melbourne is of no economic benefit to them. Industry has told Mr. Atkinson of large volumes of goods arriving in Melbourne and then having to be immediately placed on trucks/trains for transfer to distant final destinations such as Sydney and Perth. Apparently the costs of this "trans-shipment" outweigh any savings that might accrue from more goods arriving into Melbourne on bigger ships.

Meanwhile, champions for Channel Deepening have been critical of one of our suggestions for moving some freight by train once it arrives in existing deep water ports such as Brisbane, citing "double handling costs being prohibitive". Mr. Atkinson’s consultations with industry make it clear that there is already plenty of double handling going on under the current system, the economic and environmental costs of which the Channel Deepening Champions chose to ignore. According to Mr. Atkinson, using mega ports such as Singapore, and running smaller ships to hub ports such as Melbourne makes more sense to some in the industry. The Bracks and Brumby government however steadfastly refuse to discuss ANY such issues, remaining instead in the thrall of the PoMC's desire to remain THE biggest container port in Australia.

Ms Pennicuik also moved to delete the provisions in the Bill which provide for the declaration of 12km exclusion zones around a fixed point and 1.4km around a vessel. These exclusion zones will have major negative impacts on businesses reliant on the Bay, such as diving and fishing charters, as well as recreational users of the Bay - fishing, sailing, wind surfing, surfing off Pt. Nepean etc.

"The Port of Melbourne has operated for a hundred years without this power, so why do they need it now? It’s clearly in anticipation of the channel deepening project. It will allow the government to keep protesters and the media away from the dredge and dump sites so the people of Victoria will only know what they’re told, not what they can see for themselves,"

Brumby government spokespeople of course regularly raise the bogey man of threats to jobs if the project does not proceed. Clearly they forget that they commisioned the PriceWaterhouse Coopers 2007 study of the Port of Melbourne which found that trade through the port will quadruple by 2035 REGARDLESS OF WHETHER CHANNEL DEEPENING PROCEEDS OR NOT! That surely means there will be at least the same amount of jobs available, and probably a good deal more jobs by 2035, in moving that enormous volume of trade around the state and the Nation.

Congratulations to The Greens and Mr. Atkinson for running a well informed debate on the broader issues surrounding the Channel Deepening project. Thanks to them many more parliamentarians should now know much more about the serious toxicity issues facing Victorians if the project was to proceed - not to mention lack of evidence of any economic benefits to ordinary Victorians.

Link to the full text of the 22 November parliamentary debate below. Stick with it, although lengthy it is extremely informative and revealing:'port'%0a%09and+data+contains+'services'+%29%0a%09and+%28+hdate.hdate_3+=+2007+%29%0a%09and+%28+hdate.hdate_2+contains+'November'+%29%0a%09and+%28+house+contains+'COUNCIL'+%29%0a

Sue Pennicuik's Media Release

said Ms Pennicuik.

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