12 December, 2010

Why the Brumby government was thrown out

The Victorian election result was not a just a matter the "it's time' factor, voters had more solid reasons for change.
Of course the range of government failures such as Myki, the runaway costs of desal, the high cost of the unused water pipeline, overcrowded public transport, overloaded infrastructure, smart meters, rising power and water costs, child protection failures, etc. all had an impact, and of course the approval of many high rise developments in the suburbs that most residents believed were inappropriate. All of these resulted in a resident backlash.
The real cause for many of these issues is the elephant in the room, population growth. The resulting anger and frustration did Labor huge harm. The Brumby government touted Victoria as a success story presenting itself as pro business, a leader in job creation (mainly through building lots of houses).We were continually told that Victoria was the best run state and very active but all this activity depended upon population growth.The Brumby government was using the building of residential and student accommodation to feed the economy. The more houses we built required more people to buy them, requiring more houses and then more people.This strategy was close to a Ponzi scheme and resembled the techniques of pyramid selling.
The government introduced Melbourne 2030 to make Melbourne a more compact city to squeeze in more people, then when that did not work, they introduced Melbourne @ 5 million supported by drastic changes in planning regulations that removed councils out of the planning process. The Planning Minister called in more and more high rise development. This was all aimed to speed up development to retrofit residential high rise into the suburbs.
Not surprisingly the residents reacted so all these planning changes achieved was an angry resident backlash right across Melbourne.
Over the 11  years of Labor government, our population rose by almost 20% and this has driven our economy. More people, more consumers, more jobs. But to continue this growth, the government needed to bring in ever more people. While immigration is a Federal matter, the Brumby government was very active in getting more than its share of migration through promotion overseas. It used our taxes to promote a "live in Victoria" message. Did you know that some developers were selling apartments off the plan overseas?
Labor was claiming it was improving our living conditions yet, if you increase population by 20% you need to improve infrastructure at the same rate, but that did not happen. Somewhere down the track the growth in population was bound to create more problems than it could possibly solve. As our numbers grew we would have to provide more and bigger infrastructure upgrades, more hospitals, more schools, more public transport, more power and water, more freeways, more and more of everything. We would also need more people to keep the growth going.
Any scheme that only pays out so long as you keep adding more punters is a Ponzi scheme.
And what is worse, a lot of the infrastructure upgrades so far have been financed with massive private and public partnership financial arrangements that has delayed the debt to some future time. The desal plant with its massive cost over-runs is a case in point, with big payback commitments for the next 28 years. And even if we don'y use the water we still have to pay! This places an ever increasing burden on future generations while diluting their wealth base and inflating their living costs. They will not thank us for it. 
We say that the population debate needs to be taken more seriously by all parties, including the Greens, and by both state and federal politicians. Also by the business community, who so far tend to concentrate only on the bottom line.
Part of the answer is Kelvin Thomson's 14 point plan, which we have mentioned before, this  essentially cuts immigration back to the levels  we accepted in the latter part of the nineties, around the 70,000 p.a. mark which is comparible to what other developed countries accept.(link http://www.kelvinthomson.com.au/page/population-debate/default.asp (this is a presentation made at the forum we ran at Richmond Town hall on 7th November).
Our new state government will have many issues to handle that in the short term may seem to be more urgent, Yet few will be more essential to their success than reducing the rate of population growth in Victoria. It won't be easy but we wish the Baillieu government all the best in their endeavours to provide us with a more sustainable future.

09 December, 2010

Smoke & Mirrors & Spin

  • MYKI
  • THE LIST GOES ON....................................


It seems clear that our new Prime Minister has got the message on population growth. One of her first policy statements has been to state she does not believe in a "Big Australia". Rudd also backed off from his earlier comments about believing in a "Big Australia" when he appointed Tony Burke as Population Minister but his brief was very woolly indicating Burke would "develop a strategy".
Gillard has firmly stated that Burke would now be known as Minister for a sustainable population (Age 27th June 2010). So far Australia has not had a population policy and we hope that the new direction will develop an acceptable policy which sets a limit on the number of migrants to  the levels of the 80's and 90's at around 70.000 per annum. This would provide growth at a  more sustainable level according to Dr. Bob Birrell, Centre for Population & Urban Resaerch, Monash University. Dr Birrell also believes that this level would support the issues surrounding our aging society.
Currently Australia's population is 22,365,823 (ABS. 27TH June 2010). The rate of growth peaked at 2.2% ( growing at the rate of around 430,000 p.a.) but this has now slowed to 2%. Because Australia had no set population policy, net overseas migration reached over 300.000 in 2008/9 which was far too high.The trend in 2010 is similar.
Victoria's population is heading towards 5 million and we urged the previous Premier  to back off from encouraging migration to Victoria (and Melbourne in particular). We say he needed to curb his oft-stated ambition to make Melbourne bigger than Sydney.
Note: since posting this report there have been some statements from both sides of parliament indicating that the message from us has been received but the indications so far are that the push for population growth to feed the development industry will continue.
We welcome the change of government in Victoria and look forward to further changes in both NSW and Queensland which may add to the pressure on the Gillard Govt to act more decisively on population.

11 November, 2010


The exposure of the Windsor Hotel negotiations and  of the way in which consultation is treated in the Department of Planning points up what most of us have known for a long time, that the Minister of Planning and his departmental bureaucrats do not take our submissions seriously.
And its not just the Department of Planning, for it happens in all areas of government. The particular department puts a discussion paper out (usually just a post on the particular department's website or by distributing a few printed discussion papers, mainly to councils) and asks for submissions prior to enacting legislation. Few of the public get to see the website or discussion papers or even hear about the proposals, but those who do respond such as groups like BRAG, often after hours of investigation and consideration, know full well that the bureaucrats, tick the box, "consulted with the public", ignore the submissions  and then proceed to legislate as they planned initially. Little or nothing is changed.
It is only through groups like BRAG and PLANNING BACKLASH  that any of these proposals ever see the light of day. The government does not really want the general public to get involved. The whole consultation process is a sham.
The Brumby government has always taken a very dictatorial line and Premier Brumby strictly controls his government objectives and actions, ensuring that his ministers follow his directions. Everything goes across the Premier's desk so he cannot hide behind his minister over this latest exposure of the skulduggery that surrounds the Windsor redevelopment proposals.
The press secretary, who has been blamed, was just following the normal departmental guidelines and her recommendations, had they not been made public, would have probably been followed to the letter by Minister Madden.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that this government is morally  bankrupt. It is now up to us, the general public, to consider our options at the election due later this year. Let us not forget that Premier Brumby has appointed Justin Madden as a future premier. Just shows how twisted the current political climate is - Madden as Premier? We don't think so!
It is time for straight forward honesty in government without the spin.
For the latest on the Windsor saga go to www.marvellousmelbourne.org

24 October, 2010

Our Leafy Suburbs Under Attack

The lopping of street trees is under review with the power companies pushing for heavy pruning near power lines.
Peter Batchelor, Minister for Energy & Resources, has announced new guidelines for pruning which will virtually destroy the trees. Following a massive resident backlash and a strong reaction from councils, Premier Brumby has indicated that meetings would be held between his government, councils and Energy Safe Victoria to try to work out how to overcome problems posed by these tough rules.
We say that meetings are often just a smoke screen allowing time for the public outrage to simmer down and this government has a proven record of not responding to residents concerns about such matters. Batchelor has indicated he is determined to ensure the new regulations are followed.
We have asked our members to email both Brumby and batchelor to keep up the pressure to overturn these unacceptable regulations.
Send an email today to john.brumby@parliament.vic.gov.au

27 June, 2010

Anti-corruption Commission in Victoria is a dog's dinner

The proposed anti corruption model for Victoria will have four bodies to serve the same purpose. Victoria already has many issue specific bodies covering police, privacy, equal opportunity,etc. as well as parliament itself. And now we are to get four more.
  • A Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to monitor misconduct & corruption.
  • The VIACC to gather intelligence on serious misconduct & corruption
  • Ombudsman who will be stripped of some powers
  • OPI to look into corrupt police
Why not one overall body to investigate, conduct public hearings and prosecute ??? Premier Brumby says the hearings are to be held in private. This is not good enough. However, the coalition quite rightly will be opposing hearings behind closed doors.
Our major concerns are with corruption in property development and we include political donations to gain favours as a form of corruption, even though this has almost become a legitimate practice, especially with the labor party. Age journalist, Jason Dowling, has recently reported that developers are quietly seeking approval for massive developments from the state government ( and its heritage body, Heritage Victoria) months before any application is lodged. This is not news to us, it has been an established practice for many years under Labor and we have voiced concerns about the governments relationship with certain large developers.
The Walker Corporation gained substantial advantages from such early negotiations in the take-over of public land at the Kew Cottage site with accusations of favours granted after political donations were made. An accusation of corruption was made at the Upper House hearing into this matter.
Stocklands gained substantial advantage when the then Acting Planning Minister "called in" the Tooronga Village site taking the council out of the planning process. This was a square-off for the same Minister refusing Stockland's proposals for building 650 dwellings on the protected wetlands at Point Lonsdale. However, Planning Minister Madden has now given this wetlands development the green light. We would love to know what went on in the negotiations between the suits from Stocklands and the Minister and his departmental bureaucrats.
Of course, there is the Windsor Hotel sham consultation process. We know that the developer had an OK on this 92 metre tower from both the Minister and Heritage Victoria, but the Minister was concerned about community condemnation leading up to the coming election so the sham consultation process was dreamed up to give him an out. There are many more examples.This is not honesty in government is it?
There is no transparency in the Brumby government's planning processes and we are hoping that the anti corruption commission will identify these questionable practices but Premier Brumby has indicated that the various functions will not be up and running for 18 months or two years. Why???
Also, another  major concern with Brumby's  corruption commission is that it may not be given licence to look into past concerns which is obviusly designed to protect his government from issues such as those as identified above.
Food for thought with the elections coming up in November.

08 June, 2010


Just recently Planning Minister reversed his decision to approve the appalling 39 storey tower at Box Hill.
Initially Madden met with developer Barton Australia and then "called in" the VCAT application and  appointed a panel to review the issue. Interestingly, the local residents group, West Of Elgar Residents Assn.(WERA) a Baptist Church representative and another resident objector presented submissions but were not permitted to hear submissions submitted by council, VicRoads and the developer the next day. This is a denial of natural justice but what can you expect from this dictatorial Brumby government.
Robert Clark MP for Box Hill brought this to the attention of parliament and pointed up the behind closed doors planning procedures as further evidenced by the sham Windsor Hotel procedures.
It should be noted that the Box Hill development was to be jammed into the Box Hill Station complex and would have caused a massive overload of the area causing all sorts of infrastructure and traffic problems.
And now Planning Minister Madden has announced that because the residents and the council were against this development he has withdrawn his approval. Wow! There have been many other unacceptable developments that both council and residents have rejected but Madden has ignored them. Why is this Box Hill development  different???
There must be an election in the offing.

16 March, 2010

Australians Want Immigration Capped

A survey conducted by Galaxy during January, on behalf of the Sunday Mail , indicates clearly that Australians want immigration capped.This follows opposition leader Tony Abbott's Australia day address which raised a tough stance on boat arrivals but suggested he favoured more immigration to boost our population.
Our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has said he wants a "big Australia" so now we have both of our main political parties pushing increased immigration. It is clear that the labor and liberal politicians are fostering the current population explosion using a very narrow viewpoint - more people - more consumers-more economic growth. This is an easy cop-out that will result in short term gain for long term pain.
Neither party has a population policy or a limit on this unprecedented growth - up from the long term traditional level of around the 70,000 to 100,000 level per annum to a tripling of numbers to around the 300,000 level.
We say Melbourne is now under threat from this largely unplanned population explosion and and we agree with demographer Dr. Bob Birrell, Director of Population & Urban Research at Monash University, who has raised the alarm over the unsustainabilty of the current directions and an economy dependent upon building houses.
The nexus between population growth and economic growth will be difficult to break but we will continue our campaign to make this a major issue at the coming federal and state elections with the aim of forcing both main parties to develop a population policy that is acceptable to the Australian community.

04 March, 2010

Property Council of Australia Wants Politics Out of Planning !

Victorian Executive Director, Jennifer Cunich, wants to establish a single planning authority to take over from the government and councils and to take the community out of the planning process.The Property Council represents the planning and development industry.
She wants " experts" to make the decisions on planning including land use, infrastructure,  public transport,infil development, etc. independent of from both councils and the government.Wow!
Ms Cunich uses the words "independent authority" and it may be that what she wants is a return to something like the old Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works. Independence is hard to achieve in the area of planning. Take VCAT for instance, it is supposed to be independent but Tribunal Members who sit on planning issues are mostly planners, architects, etc. who's professions are relevant upon the development industry for their income. That is hardly independent is it? And we know just how badly residents who object at VCAT are treated. Developers win because of the bias and their ability to outspend us at hearings.
Ms Cunich's hasn't said it, but we are certain that she would expect "expert" planners to be a major part of the so called "Independent Authority". There is nothing new in her idea, the planning profession has been pushing centralized planning by "experts" for many years.  This would mean the general community, residents and our councils would be removed from the planning process. (We are certain that the government would retain influence over such an "independent authority" just as they do at VCAT).
That would mean the end of democracy in this state. We would have no say what happens in our suburbs. The development industry would be in control. That is unacceptable.

08 February, 2010

Skilled Migrant Intake Cut by 20,000

Immigration Minister Chris Evans has announced a cutback of about 20,000 in the skilled migrant program.
Is this an indication that the Rudd government is responding to our concerns about the massive growth in Australia's population in recent years? Perhaps not for this is only a small cutback. The skilled migrant intake in 1995/6 was 24,000 but it rose to 114,777 by 2008/9.
In his 14 point plan to cut back our population intake, Kelvin Thomson, ALP federal member for Wills, considers that the skilled intake should be no more than about 25,000, so the Rudd government still has a long way to go to make any real impact on the 889,722 arrivals on our shores in 2008/9.
Australia cannot continue to increase its population at the current rate which, if it continues, will push our population up around the 40 million mark by 2050. Our fragile environment cannot cope with these numbers.
Get real Mr. Rudd, we demand that you develop a population policy that is acceptable to the existing resident population.
We support Kelvin Thomson's 14 point plan which, if implemented, would cut our immigration numbers to around the 70,000 mark, which is the about the numbers we took in during the 1990's. This would result in our population stabilizing at around 26 million. Australia could handle that number.
A net overseas migration rate of 70,000 is not inconsistent with Australia's obligation to be a compassionate international citizen.  (See the 14 point plan  - click on http://www.kelvinthomson.com.au/speeches.php and go to "There is an alternative to runaway population" - Kelvin Thomson's 14 point plan for population reform.

29 January, 2010


With our population predicted to be a massive 35 million by 2050, our federal and state governments have reacted by pushing development and densification policies to cope with this growth.
Last year our population grew by 439000 or by 2.1%, roughly double that of previous years and there are now over 2200 people moving into Melbourne each week. As we have previously pointed out (see item below on population growth) 889722 people arrived on Australia's shores during 2008/2009, all needing somewhere to live. This figure includes 171,318 migrants, 47,000 New Zealanders, 13,500 refugees and 657,124 temporary migrants with long stay visas, many with rights to apply for permanent residency - skilled workers, students and others with work permits.
It seems logical that, if we see overdevelopment as a problem for our long term future, shouldn't we look at the cause rather than just continue to overload our cities to the point where they can no longer cope.
BRAG believes it is time for governments (both Federal and State ) to develop sustainable population policies. In fact we go further, we believe it is time for appointment of a Minister for Population with powers to develop policies to limit population growth to sustainable numbers.
Mark O'Connor, co-author of "Overloading Australia" makes the point that tackling climate change is meaningless while governments encourage record population growth. We couldn't agree more. Population expert, Dr Bob Birrell at Monash University, has praised federal labour MP Kelvin Thomson's 14 point plan to curb our population growth set out in his paper "There is an alternative to runaway population" in which he recommends stabilizing Australia's population at 26 million by cutting net immigration to around the 70,000 per annum mark. ( You can access details on www.kelvinthomson.com.au/speeches.php )
Even Bob Hawk, whilst in office, stated that Australia's population should be no more than 23.000 and then a bit later accepted that 25,000 would be OK. Just last week when interviewed on TV by Andrew Denton, he reaffirmed this position
So why are Rudd and Brumby hell bent on pushing growth to 35 million?
The answer is simple, they are pandering to the "growth lobby" who make political donations to get political decisions that suit their cause. This sort of activity has been criticized over the years but nothing is done to stop this practice. Quite the reverse, both Rudd and Brumby encourage such 'donations' as a legitimate way of doing business.
We say such 'political donations' are nothing more than graft and corruption for short term political gains at the expense of our long term future.
If you agree we need a sustainable population policy, then write to your local member and make it clear you expect action.
We also recommend that you send letters to the newspapers. The editors respond to the number of letters receieved, so even if yours does not get printed, it will help to convince the editors to run with the issues raised.

17 January, 2010

Planning Minister Justin Madden's flip flop

This Minister is a real worry. After expanding the urban growth boundary by 43,600 hectares late last year, to satisfy pressure from the development industry, he said that this should be the last expansion "in his lifetime".
But he now says that the government will have to consider adjustments from time to time and he has just approved Amendment VC55 to the Victorian Planning Provisions (VPPs) the rules that govern planning in Victoria. VC55 will will make some very serious changes to the VPPs including further expansion of the growth boundary - the bill is subject to parliamentary approval.
 We are confused but so is  this Minister who floundered under questioning in parliament  on the Development Assessment Committee Bill, which made it very obvious he was not on top of his portfolio.
This is the Minister who professed he knew nothing about the involvement of his electoral office in the Brimbank scandals.
This is the Minister who knew nothing about his department's approval of a beer barn in the Docklands precinct, despite his Premiers desire to limit such premises.
And yet this is the Minister who will have "decision making power without challenge , appeal or review or be quashed or called into question in any court or tribunal" under the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Bill 2009. 
That is total power.
This Minister is about to get further dictatorial powers under proposed changes to the Planning Act,  including the ability to compulsory acquire council owned or private property.
We don't think this confused Minister should be trusted with so much power.
What do you think? 
Email your thoughts to info@brag.asn.au