Victorian Parliamentary Debates

Legislative Council
Tuesday 17 April 2007
Questions without Notice, page 720-722

Port Phillip Bay: channel deepening


The PRESIDENT -- Order! As I call Ms Pennicuik, I inform the house that she is celebrating her birthday. It would be ungentlemanly of me to announce which birthday, but she can do so, if she wishes.

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) -- Thank you, President, that was most unexpected.

My question is to the Minister for Planning. Regarding the supplementary environment effects statement for the proposal to deepen the shipping channels in Port Phillip Bay, the minister has just reinforced to the house that the document is 15 000 pages long -- in fact it has 18 chapters and 67 appendices, many of which have subappendices -- yet the minister has given the public a mere 30 days to read, analyse and respond to this huge amount of material. This may be manageable for large organisations, but it is totally inadequate for community organisations and individual members of the public.

This proposal is one of the most significant and controversial in terms of the cost of potential environmental impacts that has ever been put before the Victorian people. It is fundamental that this process be fair and be seen to be fair and that it allow for meaningful public participation. Therefore will the minister use his discretion to extend the public exhibition period from 7 May to at least 30 June, as I have already requested by letter, or to 31 July, as has been requested by some community groups? If not, why not?

Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I thank the member for her question and wish her a happy birthday. I acknowledge her interest in this very significant issue. As she said, the channel deepening project should not be underestimated in terms of the environmental effects of what will or will not happen.

As I mentioned in my earlier answer on this issue, this has been comprehensive, and it is intended also that the process be comprehensive in terms of the analysis of the environment effects statement and the submissions that might be made by the relevant parties who support or oppose the project.

On the day of the announcement of the release of the environment effects statement I called on all those in Victoria who felt strongly about the project, one way or the other, to make submissions about their concerns. I still stand by those remarks: if people feel strongly that it should or should not happen, they should make those submissions.

This has been a particularly lengthy process, as has already been mentioned, with the initial environment effects statement going back some years and the supplementary environment effects statement taking some years to conduct.

As well as that, the trial dredging project was to make sure the relevant information was appropriate. It has been comprehensive.

I know that no matter how much time is allocated, it would still not be enough time for some parties. I am saddened by the fact that people may not be able to organise themselves in an appropriate time, but it is worth appreciating too that this has been a very lengthy process. If people have not pinpointed or nominated their relevant concerns by now or do not have the specific area of interest identified so that they can go to those reports and pinpoint whether the recommendations are appropriate or inappropriate in terms of their particular interest or expertise, then it is not likely that they are going to be able to communicate those appropriately at any stage.

One of the important things about a report that has 15 000 pages is if people have a particular area of expertise or interest in relation to this project, they can nominate that. It will be nominated within the report, and I would expect that those individuals will be able to find what it is that interests them. Whether they agree or disagree with it, they will be able to find it, analyse it fairly quickly, reflect on it and present on it accordingly.

Appreciating that people will want more time, and appreciating that this has taken a significant amount of time and also given that eminent people will be on the panel and that they will have expert advice available, we have left no stone unturned to make sure that thorough consideration is given to every issue and that opportunity is given to individuals and community groups to nominate their issues of concern on whether they support or do not support the project.

I am confident that sufficient time has been allocated.

I am also confident that a significant and thorough analysis has been taken into account in relation to these matters. I also anticipate that those who wish to make a point to the panel, who want to make a presentation to it, will be able to nominate their area of concern and expertise in those matters, and that they can do that accordingly within the time allocated.

Supplementary question

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) -- Given that many people in the community would be interested in all aspects of the supplementary environment effects statement and also would be forced to go to the appendices to find the appropriate detail, is the minister happy to assure the Victorian public that 30 days for community organisations and members of the public, who cannot devote hours during the day, represents fair and meaningful public participation?

Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- Again, I acknowledge the member's concerns in relation to this matter. I also appreciate that people would want to dedicate a significant amount of time to these matters, but the government has dedicated an enormous amount of time, energy and resources in relation to this matter. The Port of Melbourne Authority has invested enormous funds to make sure that every consideration that was represented at the initial panel hearing is considered in relation to these reports. The term 'comprehensive and thorough' is an understatement when it comes to a report that it is 15 000 pages long. I know that some people will advocate they do not have sufficient time.

When people want to stall a project it is often the case that saying there is insufficient time is used as a mechanism for doing that.

Often it is used by people who do not support the project under any circumstance and regardless of any scientific or other analysis. I say to anybody who is concerned that there is insufficient time that I am happy to hear from those individuals. As yet I have not seen a letter stating that from any group or individual. What I am saying to Ms Pennicuik is that if that is the case, I am happy to receive a letter from her. It may well be in the system, but I have not yet received an individual letter -- it may have come through the department, but I do not have a letter before me -- to say that someone would like significant amounts of time.

I am confident that the time that has already been allocated and the amount of scientific analysis that has been put into this project are sufficient to allow people to give it thorough consideration and to have the opportunity of presenting to the panel in the way they may need to.


Victorian Parliamentary Debates

Legislative Council

Tuesday 17 April 2007

Questions without Notice, page 714 -716


Port Phillip Bay: channel deepening


Mr PAKULA (Western Metropolitan) -- My question is to the Minister for Planning. Industry and exporters have long been promoting the need to deepen the channel in Port Phillip Bay as a means of increasing economic growth in Victoria. There has also been much discussion around the potential environmental effects associated with the proposed project. I ask the minister to advise the house of what processes have been established to ensure that environmental effects are appropriately considered before a decision is made to proceed with deepening of the channel.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I thank Mr Pakula for his interest in this matter. As you would be aware, President, the Bracks government has remained steadfast in its commitment to deepening the channel, provided the project receives the relevant state and federal environmental approvals.
To illustrate this commitment let me remind the house that an environment effects statement (EES) was prepared in 2004. That statement was found to be deficient, and it was considered that the environmental issues needed further investigation. As a result the then planning minister, Rob Hulls, my colleague in the other place, confirmed in July of 2005 that a supplementary environment effects statement was required.
In March this year I released the supplementary environment effects statement prepared by the Port of Melbourne Corporation so that Victorians could have their say on the proposed channel deepening project. This supplementary work is the culmination of more than two years of investigation, including a $32 million trial dredge that was conducted in 2005, 40 technical studies and around 15 000 pages -- I will reinforce that, 15 000 pages -- of research and data. The supplementary EES is on display now at 29 locations until 7 May.
However, the analysis and thorough consideration of environmental issues do not stop there. Following the public display period, the report will be considered by an independent panel. I have appointed the panel under the Environmental Effects Act. It will advise me on the supplementary environment effects statement. As part of its work the panel will conduct public hearings over June and July. This will include discussion sessions and hearings over a seven-week period, giving even more opportunity for issues to be canvassed and thoroughly considered.
Chancellor of the Australian National University, Dr Allan Hawke, will chair the panel. He will be joined by Ms Kathryn Mitchell, the chief panel member for Planning Panels Victoria.
Mr Finn -- Are you serious?
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- The panel also includes Dr Mike Lisle-Williams, managing director of the Flinders management group and formerly a senior partner at Deloitte -- all, eminent people, Mr Finn, as opposed to yourself. The appointment of such an eminent group of people -- --
Honourable members interjecting.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- I can understand why opposition members, particularly Mr Finn, do not understand the meaning of the word 'eminent', because I suspect Mr Finn has never met anybody or shared a conversation with anybody who might be considered eminent.
The PRESIDENT -- Order! The minister has presented me with an opportunity to make a statement I want to make to the house regarding question time.
Question time is one of the more important functions of the Council in its function of critical review of the executive. It is an opportunity for members to raise topical or urgent issues and seek information from ministers regarding the administration of their portfolios.
As President I am charged with upholding the rules, customs and dignity of the house.
On my election as President I told the Council that I was determined to ensure that every member in this house, regardless of party, policy or politics, would be given a fair hearing and a fair go, members would be treated with respect and the house would be a respectful place.
Question time is a particularly important part of the day's proceedings. There is a great deal of public and media attention focusing on it. It is essential that question time is conducted as efficiently and as fairly as possible and that the rights of all members of the house are maintained. However, on occasions in the past question time has not shown the house in the most favourable light. Members should be aware that I intend to ensure this is not the case in the future.
It is a longstanding practice in the Council that a minister is not obliged to answer a question but that if a minister gives an answer, it should be relevant and responsive. Where a minister refuses to answer, the Chair cannot insist on a reply, and in that instance a supplementary question is also out of order. The standing orders also prevent a minister from debating an answer. Ministers should simply confine themselves to the points contained in the question.
I do not propose to change this longstanding practice. However, a minister will be deemed not to be relevant and responsive if the minister makes a personal attack in any way upon the member asking the question or overtly criticises the opposition or other non-government members of the Council. If the minister chooses to answer the question, the minister's comments must remain within the bounds of his or her portfolio.
I intend to strictly police the answering of questions by ministers during question time, and I ask ministers to take my requirements into account when they are answering questions.
Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- Thank you very much, President, for that direction. I appreciate that in particular, because I think it is very important that ministers be heard and that we conduct question time in a way which does us all justice.
The appointment of an eminent group of people to the panel is an indication of our commitment to the rigorous review of this project. The panel has a very balanced background, with its members having extensive experience across both the public and private sectors. Members of the panel possess both scientific and non-scientific credentials and have been involved in high-level government reviews and planning processes.
As it is particularly relevant, I reinforce the point that, importantly, the panel will also be able to draw upon the expertise of the independent experts group, as necessary. When the panel does not feel it has sufficient expertise, it can call upon this group to assist it.
I have set a date of 1 October this year for the panel to provide its advice to me. The advice will include the suitability and feasibility of the proposed design for the project, the likely environmental effects of the dredging and whether the project can be managed to ensure acceptable environmental outcomes. I will then prepare an assessment of the environmental effects of the channel deepening project, which will be provided to the commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Water Resources as well as the relevant Victorian government ministers. While the Victorian government has signalled a desire for the project to proceed, can I reinforce that this is subject to an environmental assessment and relevant approvals.



Victorian Parliamentary Debates

Legislative Council
Wednesday 18 April 2007
Adjournment, page 847


             Port Phillip Bay: channel deepening

Ms Pennicuik

My matter is for the Minister for Roads and Ports in the other place, Mr Pallas. In the supplementary environment effects statement (EES) for the channel deepening project the cost of the project is estimated at $763 million. I have said publicly that on past records with major projects you could conservatively add 20 per cent to that, which would put the cost at $915 million, or $1 billion as a round figure.

The supplementary EES claims that the channel deepening project will generate $1.9 billion of economic benefits, or only $60 million per annum over 30 years. Despite claims from the Port of Melbourne Authority it is difficult to discern from the supplementary EES just what the real costs of the project are or where the so-called benefits are coming from to add up to $1.9 billion. Examples are that there are no fuel savings on ships sailing and no stevedoring reductions.

Worse still, despite countless calls from the community and the recommendation from the independent panel that looked at the original EES, this supplementary EES has not provided an analysis of the economic value of activities around Port Phillip Bay, such as tourism, recreation and fishing. I say the risks to those activities from this proposal, on my reading of the supplementary EES so far, have been understated. I note though that the cost-benefit analysis claims costs to the dive industry of $4.1 million and to commercial fishing of $1.5 million, assuming that the impacts on these industries are correct -- and I am not convinced of that.

The whole approach to this proposal has been flawed from the start. The government committed itself to it before the EES was done. It has dismissed and refused to look at alternatives such as inland ports and rail connections.

It has refused to provide an assessment of the value of the activities around Port Phillip Bay on which many thousands of people depend -- and they depend on the health of the bay remaining as it is or better -- so that the people of Victoria can assess the economic value against the claims for channel deepening. My request of the minister is that he conduct an assessment of the commercial activities associated with Port Phillip Bay.


Victorian Parliamentary Debates

Legislative Council
Thursday 19 April 2007
Adjournment, page 922



Port of Melbourne: truck movements

Ms Pennicuik

 My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Roads and Ports in the other place, Mr Tim Pallas. At present there are around 15 000 truck movements per day through the area surrounding the port of Melbourne, particularly in the city of Maribyrnong. The port of Melbourne's economic studies show that trade through the port will quadruple even if channel deepening does not go ahead -- and if the government comes to its senses, it will not go ahead.

The supplementary environment effects statement report shows that the number of 20-foot equivalent units moving through the port will increase from about 1.5 million in 2005 to around 7 million in 2035, if you can believe that estimation. In other parts of the report it states that it is basically not possible to forecast out that far or even out past 2020.

I have seen no evidence in the report that supports this assertion. In any case, even if we accept a fourfold increase in trade through the port based on the port of Melbourne's own studies and assume a concomitant fourfold increase in truck movements from 15 000 to 60 000, where is the study on the impact of such truck movements on residential streets, especially in the cities of Maribyrnong and Port Phillip?

My request to the minister is that he release any studies on the impact of those expected truck movements or plans to mitigate or prevent that impact. If there are no reports for him to release, I ask him to conduct one.


Victorian Parliamentary Debates

Legislative Council
Wednesday 2 May 2007
Questions Without Notice, page 1063


Port Phillip Bay: channel deepening

Ms Pennicuik

My question without notice is to the Minister for Planning. I thank the minister for his letter of 30 April confirming that he has declined to extend the period of public exhibition and comment for the supplementary environment effects statement into the proposal to deepen the shipping channels in Port Phillip Bay. I turn to another aspect of this supplementary environment effects process, which again denies the community fair and meaningful participation.

The terms of reference for the supplementary environment effects statement panel allow it just four weeks to complete its task and do not allow for the cross-examination of expert witnesses at panel hearings except by panel members. The first panel hearing allowed extensive cross-examination of expert witnesses and was a fair process.

Will the minister try to restore some credibility to this process by extending the panel hearing time to at least three months and reinstating the right of the public to question expert witnesses, so we can get to the truth of the matter?


Mr Madden

I welcome the member's interest in the channel deepening process and in particular the planning process that is currently under way, the panel hearing and the terms of reference for the panel hearing. As members would appreciate, this has been, is and will be a comprehensive process. We have seen an initial hearing, an environment effects statement which was scrutinised and more questions raised. It is my understanding that the Port of Melbourne Authority went out and did the necessary work from the initial panel hearing and presented a supplementary environment effects statement to answer the queries raised by the initial panel hearing. It is a comprehensive document in the order of 14 000 pages.

This has been probably the most expensive and exhaustive process ever undertaken. In every sense of the term it left no stone unturned. I am conscious that we want to see this process brought to a conclusion. Regardless of whether it is good, bad or indifferent to anybody in this chamber or members of the community, it is important that these processes do not go on forever. I am very mindful of getting the balance right and giving people every opportunity to advocate for their positions. Whether they support or do not support the project they have to have the opportunity to make a submission. They have been given that opportunity, and we have ensured that it will be delivered in a timely manner. We believe we have the balance right. No doubt you can never make everybody happy when you have processes like this. However, it is important that we give everybody the opportunity to make submissions, and I believe this process does that.

Supplementary question

Ms Pennicuik

Given his answer, is the minister still prepared to assure the Victorian public that four weeks of panel time and no cross-examination of witnesses represents fair and meaningful participation?

Mr Madden

I appreciate the member's specific interest. I believe this process will do justice to the project. I am not pre-empting the outcome in any way, because I look forward to hearing what the panel report says in relation to submissions. A 14 000-page supplementary environment effects statement is absolutely comprehensive; we have mentioned this before. If people have a specific concern, no doubt it will be covered somewhere in that document. They can make their point accessible through that document, and they can make a submission to the panel. I understand that people want a longer period of time to make submissions -- I appreciate and acknowledge that.

However, this has been an extensive, lengthy process and I am obliged as the Minister for Planning to make sure we resolve this matter in one direction or the other as quickly as we possibly can. I believe this process will do that sufficiently and that a resolution can be determined in relation to this project in sufficient time.


Victorian Parliamentary Debates

Legislative Council
Thursday 3 May 2007
Members Statements, page 1112


Port Phillip Bay: channel deepening

Ms Pennicuik

Submissions on the 15 000-page supplementary environment effects statement (EES) into the proposal to deepen the shipping channels in Port Phillip Bay are due this Monday, 7 May. The minister has refused to extend this deadline. This is an unfortunate decision because it has not allowed the community anywhere near sufficient time to read, digest and respond to the report. It denies the community fair and meaningful participation in the process. I have struggled to wade through the supplementary environment effects statement and the PricewaterhouseCoopers economic analysis, as have many people to whom I have spoken. It is not good enough for the government to claim that there has been plenty of time. There has not been, and people are angry and frustrated at being overwhelmed with the paperwork and not supported in their efforts to come to terms with it.

Yesterday I raised another aspect of this unfair process which again denies the community fair and meaningful participation. The terms of reference for the panel allow it just four weeks to complete its task and do not allow for the cross-examination of expert witnesses at panel hearings. At the first panel hearing extensive cross-examination of expert witnesses was allowed. I was there for some of it. It was that process that uncovered the many serious flaws in the original EES. In the Age of 23 April it was reported that several leading lawyers have criticised the panel's terms of reference and that one has withdrawn from public hearings on the grounds of a lack of procedural fairness, particularly the inability to cross-examine expert witnesses. What do the government and the port have to hide? If the supplementary EES is so good, surely it can stand a bit of scrutiny and public questioning.


Title Roads and ports: Port Phillip Bay -- channel deepening
Activity Questions on Notice
Date 4 December 2007
Page 4049


4 December 2007 COUNCIL


Page 4049

Roads and ports: Port Phillip Bay -- channel deepening



MS PENNICUIK -- To ask the Minister for Industry and Trade (for the Minister for Roads and Ports): In relation to the economic viability of the Channel Deepening Project (CDP) and having regard for the substantial increase in interest rates over recent weeks in international credit markets:



Page 4050

(1) Has the Minister received or sought undertakings from the Port of Melbourne Corporation (PoMC) that these extra debt servicing costs of financing the CDP have been taken into account.


(2) Will the Minister request the PoMC to revise their economic modeling for the project by updating the discount rate used, from 6%, which overstates the net present value of the project to a more realistic figure (12% for instance); if not, why not.


As at the date the question was received, the answer is:

1. PoMC has advised me that it has considered all relevant matters with respect to financing the CDP, including interest rates.


There have been no changes in domestic or global economic conditions which would affect the economic and financial viability of the project.

2. I will not be requesting that the PoMC revise their economic modelling for the project to update the discount rate used. The discount rate of 6% used in the economic modelling is a real discount rate (which excludes inflation) and accords with the Victorian State Government's Partnerships Victoria guidance material on the appropriate use of discount rates for water, transport and energy related projects.








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