MAY 2007

Chapter 4


The structure of the ‘Risk Management Matrix’ by its very nature confirms the complexity of the risks associated with the project. The fundamental issue we have with the risk analysis is that it has as its basic premise the assumption that the project is critical to the state of Victoria. Consequences are thus assigned from the perspective of risk to the state if the project did not proceed1 Hence the risk management approach dilutes and oversimplifies the importance of risks in individual areas by putting individual risks into a state-wide matrix.

Such an approach is inappropriate for a complex ecosystem which is also of critical value to the state, but where in nature, and beyond our control, risks can interact, cascade and increase by orders of magnitude due to mechanisms we do not even understand. Even more importantly, the underpinning assumption that the project is essential to ensure the economic viability of the state, or that failure to achieve project approval would mean economic demise is an assumption based on narrow, spurious and outdated economic modelling. This assertion will be discussed more fully in later chapters.

Prof. David Fox, the eminent Professor of Environmental Engineering, University of Melbourne2, in an address to the Royal Society Melbourne , stated that Risk assessment is an imprecise science. The Bay is a complex ecosystem, with perhaps infinite variables, and it faces a major infrastructure project with its own inherent risks. The imprecise science of Risk assessment is insufficient protection for our irreplaceable, priceless asset – Port Philip Bay.  This real but poorly understood web of life which is Port Phillip Bay is well illustrated by Dr. Matt Edmunds, in his Marine Ecology Report:

“The information provided above on linkages between organisms within habitats and at wider spatial scales was largely derived from basic marine processes described elsewhere. There is currently little information that quantifies the actual strength of the linkages for Port Phillip Bay”3
An eloquent description of how little we know and how much we risk.

The SEES Toxicity Consequence Assessment has a detached and misleading quality to it.  The values underlying the risk assessment are certainly different to those held by our members and we believe would not be accepted by the wider community. 

Individuals whether they be humans or animals are not respected as having intrinsic value.  They are seen as dispensable and their loss a “negligible” or “minor” impact.  It is only when there is a “High level of impact for communities Bay-wide” that the consequence is considered “major”.  Any “consequence”, no matter how devastating for the individual or the local community, is inconsequential.

The value system behind the consequence assessment is the antithesis of much of what we hold dear and what has made Australian society so liveable to date.  The needless suffering or death of any individual or animal is to be prevented, not classified as a “negligible” or “minor” impact. 

The public health consequences raised in this submission illustrate this dismissive attitude towards life. The authors point out that in “standard human health risk assessment literature, an ‘unacceptable’ cancer risk is considered to be when one person in 100,000 develops cancer”4.  However in the Channel Deepening Risk Assessment if one person were to develop cancer as a direct result of the project then this impact would be classified as "negligible".  This is because negligible is defined as "minimal if any impact for some communities and potentially some impact for a small number (<10) of individuals”.
If 10 people were to develop cancer the consequence would be considered "minor".
If one person were to die, 100 people develop cancer and one thousand people were to develop minor injuries, the consequence would then be classified as "moderate".  Only if there was more than one fatality or over 100 people who contracted cancer, would the consequence to be classified as "major".

Other examples include the acceptance of significant mortalities in the penguin and dolphin colonies by labelling this consequence as “negligible” or “minor” on the assumption that the populations as a whole have the capacity to recover.  Whilst the PoMC may not mind dead dolphins and penguins washing up on the beaches as a direct result of the Channel Deepening project, our members and arguably the Australian and international community will not consider this a “minor” or “negligible” consequence.  This is of particular concern, when in our opinion the ability of the Port Phillip Bay dolphin and penguin populations to withstand mortalities has been significantly over-estimated. 

This shifting of the language from “unacceptable” in normal society to “negligible” or “minor” is perpetuated throughout the report.  It has enabled the project to be labelled a “success” and the environmental impacts “minor” when the reality is far from that.  This is misleading in the extreme.

We do not believe that it is acceptable to require the broader community to bear a wide range of risks, of varying degree - from a modelled base, based on assumed and indirect benefits, for the direct benefit of a narrow section of the community.

When stripped bare the public is being asked to accept a real risk of serious ecosystem degradation or failure in Port Phillip Bay, and all of the attendant environmental, social and economic consequences – a moral and ethical decision about how we as a community, and at the species level, behave.

Environmental Management Plan

It is noteworthy that the EMP for such a complex project is merely an Attachment (No. 4) to the Main Report. It appears to be an EMP in name only and is currently a work in progress, as was the EMP for the EES.  Unless we are able to assess the EMP, how can we satisfy ourselves that it is adequate to protect our unique asset Port Philip Bay?

We note:
“The EMP is a controlled document and will be approved and revised in accordance with the requirements outlined in Table A4 -1-2”5 There are no approval dates in the relevant Table.


“Project approvals, Legal requirements, and other relevant requirements such as guidelines and codes of practice will be identified, documented and reviewed as outlined in the CDP IMS Legal and Other Requirements Procedure”6

Environmental Monitoring Programs

Only three monitoring programs are proposed:
  • Turbidity
  • Airborne noise
  • Underwater noise

“Detailed monitoring procedures will be prepared prior to the commencement of works and will include monitoring locations and methods, frequency and statistical basis”7

Contingency Plans

Only three contingency plans have been identified, as per topics above.

We see the proposed Monitoring programs and contingency plans as totally inadequate, and suggest additional programs and plans should include at least, but not exclusively:
  • Rockfall
  • Water quality
  • Beach condition
  • Species surveys
  • Water temperature and salinity
  • Animal rescue
  • Tourist behaviour
  • Business behaviour

On the basis of available information put by the Corporation the project poses unacceptable risks, and those risks would be inadequately managed by the proposed EMP. 

Environmental Bond

In line with accepted business practice where developers may be required to lodge a bond to protect other important assets which might be may be placed at risk if their project were to fail, we call for government to impose an Environmental Bond on the PoMC, at least equal to the benefits claimed for the project.

According to Treasurer Brumby8, by 2035 benefits of $2.2 billion would flow from the project. We see $2.2 billion benefits by 2035 as rather trifling compared with the benefits provided annually by the Bay; however we understand the limited economic assessment that has been applied to the project, and government’s refusal to place an economic value on the Bay rather than just the Port.

Given government’s support for and promotion of the project it seems reasonable that they should be willing to require a surety from the PoMC.

The very least we require is for government to demand that $2.2 billion be held in trust until 2035 in lieu of an environmental bond.  


If the shipping industry suffers more than one month’s stoppage this is rated as an ‘extreme’ consequence9 and as ‘moderate’ when it is for only one week. 

In contrast, for those species, persons and businesses included in environment and tourism risk assessment, permanent loss is required before an ‘extreme’ rating is applied and effects that last for years are only rated as ‘moderate’.  Over 10 fatalities or major health impacts on over 1000 individuals are required to be assessed as ‘extreme’ while 1 fatality and/or 100 persons suffering major illnesses or injuries is considered ‘moderate’. This can only be described as extreme bias within the risk matrix towards the proponent.

What a sorry state of affairs it is when a risk assessment, purportedly put in place to protect the environment, rates closure of a Port for more than one week as more significant than one fatality and/or one hundred major illnesses resulting from the project.

On that basis alone this project should be rejected.

[1] SEES Main Report Chapter 5 Page 49
[2] Prof. David Fox Royal Society Address on the Channel Deepening Project 22nd July 2004
[3] Technical Appendix 47 Page 36
[4] SEES Technical Appendix 60 Toxicity and Public Health Issues Report
[5] Attachment 4 EMP Page A4 -14- 15
[6] Attachment 4 EMP Page A4 -15
[7] Attachment A4 EMP Page A 4-31
[8] Victorian Government Media Release 21st March 2007
[9] SEES Main Report Chapter 5 Page 54

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