Friday, 26 November 2010

The last day of the campaign and the power of voting of Green

Today is the last day of my campaign for the state seat of Melbourne.  I have had a great time and met lots of people throughout the electorate.  I would like to thank all the volunteers who have helped me so much during the campaign.  I couldn't have done it without you.

Chatting to an inner city local at Lygon Street

From the feedback I have received from residents, it is clear that we need to make big improvements in public transport, public housing, planning decisions and childcare.

Your vote is powerful.  If I get elected I commit to pursuing these and other improvements with a vigour that the major parties choose not to match.

I did my last radio interview with Jon Faine on ABC 774 radio this morning. After the interview I chatted to some locals in Lygon Street who were born in Italy.  They were all interested in voting Green as an alernative to the same-same policies of Labor and the Coalition.

Chatting with Lygon Street locals

At 12:30 I attended the last event before the election with all the Greens MPs and the inner city candidates on the steps of parliament.  You can watch the video below.

I also joined with the protesters from the Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) who are demanding that Wards of the State to get justice and redress from the victorian government.

Supporting the Care Leavers Australian Network protest

Its over to you the voter now.  Remember that its your vote and your preference, you don't need to follow the how-to-vote cards of any political party.

If you vote 1 for me (and number all the other boxes) and I get elected, the state seat of Melbourne will change for the better.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Real Forest Debate - protecting our native forests and jobs

I attend the Real Forest Debate at RMIT in Melbourne last night.  It was great to see so many people at this important event.

Here is video of me speaking.

Science has found recently that Victoria’s native forests are among the most carbon dense in the world.  Our forests produce most of our water, and contribute to the oxygen we breathe.

We appreciate their rich biodiversity and their beauty.  In short, they are unique and wonderful. Yet in 2010, we still clearfell and burn them.

Labor has broken their 2006 election promise to “protect the last significant stands of old growth forest available to logging”.

Brown Mountain and other old growth forests were recently logged. The Brumby government is actually in the logging business via their agency VicForests.  The Supreme Court found this year the Victorian Government to be in breach of the law for not ensuring threatened species surveys were conducted prior to logging.

Only about one quarter of the paltry 40,000 hectares the Labor government eventually protected this year is actually old growth.

Logging in Victoria's water catchments also continues despite clear scientific evidence it is decreasing water supplies across the state.

It is worth noting that most of our native forests logged, around 80%, ends up as low value woodchips, not timber. Less than 2% is furniture grade.

Despite the ongoing logging of our native forests, jobs have dwindled in this sector.  Three decades ago there were around 40 sawmills operating in Gippsland.  Today there are only 6 or 7.

Only this week, Bob Humphries from the Cann River saw mill said "The writing is on the wall - we are not going to survive"

Yet the best John Brumby and Minister Jennings can do is to offer to facilitate "peace talks", while the Liberals have committed to continued logging that will destroy our remaining forests.

Labor and the Coalition have both abdicated responsibility to save our forests despite overwhelming community support for this.

Its no surprise then that support is rising for the Greens as we are committed to an immediate logging industry transition out of native forests to plantations.  There are enough hardwood and softwood plantations for this immediate transition to occur. This transition is 10 years overdue.

We need action on protecting our remaining native forests, not more broken promises and subterfuge from our governments.

This is the UN International Year of Biodiversity. We the Greens will protect our remaining native forests from logging so that their biodiversity, the carbon they store, the water they produce is safeguarded.

We will promote a vibrant jobs-rich timber industry based on existing hardwood and softwood plantations that are available right now.  Our vision is for East Gippsland’s forests to be protected and part of World Heritage area with long term prosperity from nature-based tourism.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Level-headed leadership – not logging and desal

In a time of crisis, common sense and strong leadership are vital. Victoria is facing a water crisis, yet the Labor government is failing on both counts.

The 2007 government decision to build a desalination plant at Wonthaggi short-circuited the community consultation process and by-passed cheaper, more sustainable water conservation methods, arriving at an expensive, inefficient and environmentally unsound solution.

Early in the crisis, common sense prevailed. The 2002 report, 21st Century Melbourne: A WaterSmart City, identified that an end to logging in Melbourne’s water supply catchments would yield, on average, an additional 20 gigalitres per annum. It makes sense when you think about it – new plants transpire more water than mature forest. Water yield drops by 50 percent, and returns to normal about 150 years later.

By October 2006, the government’s Central Region Sustainable Water Strategy was still on the right track, with plans to increase production of recycled water at sewerage plants, to increase water reuse and to improve the efficiency of water usage, storm water harvesting and rainwater tanks. Public comment was invited, submissions received and reviewed. An independent panel assessed the strategy and found it “to be an impressive first step towards rigorous and effective planning to ensure the long-term sustainability of water resources in the Central Region”, that region covering an arc around Melbourne.

Desalination was also recommended for consideration, but the panel expressly warned against “hasty decisions based on incomplete analysis”, fearing this would lead to wasted investment, lack of community support and adverse water resource and environmental outcomes.

Nine months later, without offering the public a glimpse of background analysis – complete or otherwise - the Labor government announced plans for the $3 billion (now closer to $5b) Wonthaggi Desalination Plant.

That was in June 2007 and debate still rages over many aspects of the desal plant’s development, not least the choice of location. Wonthaggi’s sewerage effluent outlet is located 3km from the desal intake, causing risk of contamination. Prevailing Bass Strait currents are being cleverly utilised to provide ‘fresh’ sea water to the intake and flush away the salinated output, except for those months every year when the currents reverse, short-circuiting the process and reducing plant efficiency.

To achieve the ‘carbon neutral’ label, the plant’s sizeable greenhouse gas emissions will be offset with the purchase of renewable energy – a cost passed on to the consumer in water charges.

The plant is being constructed by the private consortium AquaSure in a public-private partnership (PPP). In September this year it was revealed in Parliament that the PPP includes ‘water security payments’ to AquaSure, even if Melbourne’s reservoirs are high enough not to require desal production. That is, consumers will be paying for water that is not being produced, as fixed charges on their water bills.

A gantry offshore associated with the Wonthaggi desalination plant

Added to this, the normal privacy rules don't apply to PPPs, as they are not public agencies, and we have seen secret memoranda of understanding between police and the developers to share private information about potential protesters, and now spying on the workers on site - including passing on tax file numbers.

Over the past decade, the Labor government has had ample opportunity to show its true colours in a crisis, to demonstrate strong yet fair leadership and a level-head approach in dealing with water security. It began with a nod to preserving water catchments and making smarter use of the resources we already have. It ended with Victorians paying for water that may not even be produced, in a deal they were never asked about.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

South Kensington station needs more trains

I have visited several railway stations during my campaign. Its a great opportunity to meet and hear from locals on their way to work and to highlight the many opportunities to improve our public transport system.

At South Kensington, accompanied by my partner Sally, daughter Georgia and volunteers, we had a pleasant morning handing out information to commuters.

This busy station is now unstaffed, and the "hole in the wall" vending stall - along with all the facilities - toilet, office and kiosk - are permanently closed. It would be great if you get a coffee, a croissant and a newspaper on your way to work.

There are too few trains stopping at South Kensington, even during busy commuting times. This means you need to plan your trip to avoid a lengthy wait, rather than just go to the station and get on train within a few minutes, as you can in London, Paris, Milan, Rome and Zurich.  

There was a better service at South Kensington 80 years ago. In 1929 Melbourne's population was less than 1 million, and there were 16 trains on weekdays between 6:54am and 9:03am - an average of one every 8 minutes

In 2010 (with our population over 4 million) there are just 10 trains over the same period - an average of one every 12.7 minutes.

After 9:05am there are trains every 20 minutes.

This is not good enough. In Parliament, I would work for a better public transport service.

There were also many cyclists riding past the station using Childers St as a transit route, yet there is no bike line or route markings for what is obviously a popular bike path. I would work to make Melbourne a more bike-friendly city.

Afterwards, breakfast in Bellair Street, Kensington.

My campaign car - a Blade Electron Mark V electric vehicle


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Giving taxi drivers a fare go

Taxi drivers protest outside Flinders Street Station

They form an integral part of our public transport workforce, yet their working conditions, safety and welfare are largely ignored. They work in a multi-million dollar industry, but regularly take home less than the minimum wage. Welcome to the world of the Melbourne taxi driver.
The taxi industry has been in the spotlight in recent years, not least for the 2008 Flinders Street station protest when, following a violent attack on one of their own, drivers stopped work and removed their shirts to bring attention to their plight. As a result, driver safety was improved with the introduction of security screens and pre-paid fares.
But the story doesn’t end there. Recently, I met with a large number of taxi drivers to gain a first-hand account of life as a Melbourne cabbie. The picture is bleak.
Drivers often work 16-hour days and, depending on demand, can take home less than $7 per hour. There’s no holiday pay or sick leave. They fund their own uniforms, clean up after drunken patrons, and pay the fare when a passenger does a runner.
Perhaps the most critical issue, though, is that of insurance. Third-party insurance is not mandatory for taxi cabs, and is expensive because mainstream insurance providers refuse to insure taxis. Many taxis operate uninsured and if a driver causes an accident with another vehicle, he or she is personally responsible for the damage. Bankruptcy beckons.
Melbourne’s drivers have little power in the taxi game. They sign unregulated bailment agreements with operators, with a recommended 50-50 fare split. Thus they become independent contractors, looking out for themselves in an industry where taxi licences change hands for up to half a million dollars, but little filters down to the driver.
Taxis are an essential part of Melbourne’s public transport system and taxi drivers deserve fair treatment, just like bus, train and tram drivers.
The taxi industry needs reform to ensure a more equitable distribution of income and to ensure safe and reasonable working conditions for drivers. It’s only ‘fare’.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Let’s do public transport properly

Waiting for a better public transport system - PTUA photograph

The seat of Melbourne is home to some of Victoria’s most critical – and iconic – public transport lines and hubs including Flinders Street Station, Southern Cross Station, the City Loop and Melbourne’s famous tram network.

But even within the Melbourne electorate, the public transport system is running down. At Newmarket station in peak period there were 18 trains to the city in 1929, and today there are 12. At South Kensington there were 16, but today there are 10. That pattern of rundown and neglect is true across the network.

The woeful state of the current system is unacceptable and immediate action is required. We need a public transport system that can respond to a growing population and offer a real alternative to car use.

The Greens have a six point plan to fix public transport:

  1. End the failed privatisation experiment

Under privatisation, costs have dramatically increased, performance is appalling and planning is chaotic. No one is accountable for the system as a whole.

  1. Establish a powerful, accountable Public Transport Authority (PTA)

The Greens will create a publicly accountable PTA modeled on successful agencies like Translink in Vancouver, ZVV in Zurich and Australia’s own Transperth.

  1. Fix urgent problems

Expert task forces will act now to increase capacity, review ticketing, plan for expansion and establish the PTA.

  1. Make public transport safe

Staff all train stations from first train to last, bring back tram conductors, fence rail lines and fix level crossings.

  1. Extend rail and tram systems

Urgently extend the rail line from South Morang to Mernda, and tram routes to East Malvern Station, Doncaster Shoppingtown and Knox City. Double-track key lines, order more trains and make better use of the existing tram fleet.

  1. Introduce ‘Swiss-style’ public transport for regional Victoria

Reform V/Line, order more high-speed trains, devise an integrated rail-bus network connecting regional Victorians to local, inter-regional and metropolitan destinations.

Public transport should be in public hands for the public good. The new Public Transport Authority will have the skills and experience needed to build great public transport. With a new agency, we can cut through the byzantine bureaucratic mess public transport users currently deal with, abolishing:

  • Director of Public Transport and the Public Transport Division of the Department of Transport
  • Transport Ticketing Authority
  • VicTrack
  • Metlink
  • Public Transport Ombudsman
  • Public Transport Customers Charter Consultative Committee

The new PTA aims to be small, smart and transparent. Public transport experts will be recruited from the best-performing agencies around the world, instead of re-assigning staff from the existing, failed bureaucracies. Based on the experience of Perth, Vancouver and Zurich, around 60 staff are required, including a dozen public transport experts. The PTA will hold public board meetings and seek community input into its plans. Public accountability is key.

Victoria has the potential for a world-class public transport system. It’s time to get started.

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