A lack of transparency and accountability in planning
Credit:Illustration: Alan Moir
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A lack of transparency and accountability in planning
Since January, the state government has inserted a new regime into planning schemes that waives planning requirements for major housing, rail, road and “Big Build” projects. It also involves the government giving public/private sector partners the responsibility for project design, public consultation and implementation of what are often complex, urban renewal projects.
A present case is the removal of two railway stations from shopping villages at Mont Albert and Surrey Hills and construction of one new station in the residential area; a project that reverses an election promise to build two new stations in the villages. Consultation by the project alliance has seen a clever marketing campaign with plan details and technical reports withheld from the public. A promotional brochure with a basic project concept and artist impressions, always subject to change, is served up. Even the powers and involvement of councils are strongly curtailed, by legislation, at a time when local input is most needed.
The fact that the project side-steps government planning policy, with activity centres losing their railway stations, the loss of public open space, the failure to separate a regional bike path across two main roads and poor accessibility and safety at a new railway station, seems of little importance.
Communities around Melbourne will pay a heavy price for this new planning regime that lacks transparency and accountability and has tilted the balance too far in one direction. It is a recipe that the government must seriously reconsider.
Greg Buchanan, Surrey Hills
Different standards for habitat destruction
The endangered Eltham copper butterfly can invoke a realignment of hundreds of metres of rail line (The Age, 25/6) yet the habitat of the critically endangered (i.e., one step from extinction) Golden Sun Moth can be sacrificed for the Western Highway duplication at Buangor near Ararat.
So what is the difference? One is in a suburb in Labor-held seats, the other is in a paddock in a Liberal-held seat. What do they have in common? Local residents have advocated for the protection of both, yet the Golden Sun Moth issue has ended up in an impasse which does have a logical, win-win solution – to shift the road alignment, just as with the rail line. It seems that visibility is everything when it comes to habitat destruction.
Russell Pearse, Ararat
Short changing the north-east suburbs
Your headline regarding the endangered butterfly mentions a deferment of a painfully long overdue $530million rail duplication project. There is no mention that the populations of Banyule, Nillumbik, Whittlesea and outlying feeder councils will be adversely affected. And no mention of the alternatives to accommodate both the project and the habitat.
If Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan thinks the revised plan with signalling and power works will result in the same level of service, why was the duplication planned in the first place? Every other line is duplicated, and this allows the level of service to be improved for current needs as well as the power and signalling improvements to be implemented to meet future needs. Yet again, this government has short changed the north-east suburbs. Second-rate ring road, second-rate rail service, second-rate government.
Wayne Tonissen, Kangaroo Ground
The extra trucks will increase pollution levels
The Andrews government’s claim that the West Gate Tunnel will reduce toxic diesel pollution in the inner west (The Age, Online, 24/6) is all smoke and mirrors. Without filtration on the tunnel exhaust stacks, the concentrated diesel particles from 16,000 trucks a day will be jettisoned into the air above Yarraville, where it will drizzle back down again. And as The Age reported recently, once the tunnel opens, truck numbers will double on Williamstown Road, the very location of the alarming pollution levels. Don’t worry, Dan Andrews (cough), we will survive (cough).
Graeme Hammond, Kingsville
When Tony Abbott took the position of Minister for Women, women were flabbergasted. Now it seems like a continuation of the joke with Barnaby Joyce included in a cabinet taskforce group on women’s safety, given recent criticism of him from women in agriculture and rural affairs (The Age, 25/6). And now a WA Labor politician has told Parliament that she was warned Mr Joyce “had a history of groping women” (The Age, 25/6).
Rosslynne Crawford, Drouin
Protect the vulnerable
If the vaccine rollout had proceeded as originally planned, by now we would have vaccinated most younger people who have medical conditions which make them vulnerable to a COVID-19 infection – the original group 1b.
My son is one of these people. He is 23, otherwise healthy, but he has an autoimmune condition which significantly increases his risk of severe illness or death if he is exposed to COVID-19. His work in retail makes him especially vulnerable.
So far he has been unable to obtain a safe vaccination for his age group due to the restricted supply of the Pfizer vaccine. The federal government is to be condemned for continuing to expose medically compromised younger people to this risk.
Bronwyn Benn, Burwood
We’ve all been there
Sydney has been so smug about not going into lockdown, so perhaps we could now send the residents not so much our best wishes but a selection of our well-thumbed “How to…” manuals as a gesture of goodwill.
Barbara Abell, Essendon
The test for Sydney
Melbourne is a much more dense city, whereas in Sydney things are more “ghettoised” and so, much easier to lock down parts to stop the spread of anything contagious. It will be interesting to see how things go over the next couple of weeks but I think NSW is moving in the right direction. It does not mean, however, that the same approach can be applied to all states.
David Jeffery, East Geelong
The PM’s lack of action
I agree with Shelley Rowlands when she questions the lack of public health messages to promote vaccination (Letters 25/6). Scotty Morrison has been consistently indecisive since he became prime minister and lacks the skills needed to lead our country. It is not just a case of “Where the bloody hell are you?” It is “Why the bloody hell don’t you?″
Lisa Bishop, Macleod
Finally, at long last
So after a geological length of time, Victoria and Western Australia will have quarantine facilities: fit for purpose, near airports and hospitals, and on Commonwealth land. Looks like, sounds like, the sort of facilities that should render Christmas Island redundant.
John Whelen, Box Hill South
But one slight problem
Hooray. A quarantine centre is to be built at Mickleham and, hopefully, finished by the year’s end. My concern is where will the medical and security staff come from to support the centre.
Meg Biggs, Kew East
Was there duty of care?
I certainly hope that people will not just assume I am affected by alcohol if I should exhibit behaviour such as that allegedly displayed by Nationals senator Samantha McMahon (The Age, 24/6). Signs reported such as “appeared to be disorientated, struggling to walk, barely awake and battling to sit upright in her seat” can also be signs of serious medical problems. Where was the duty of care for her?
Nola Cordell, Hoppers Crossing
Isn’t the world outraged, not just sad (World, 24/6) that a blue whale, dolphins and hundreds of turtles have died in a marine disaster which released chemicals and plastic pellets into Sri Lankan waters, causing immeasurable damage to ecosystems and threatening the lives and livelihoods of coastal populations? The suffering and loss of wildlife is nothing short of a profound environmental and human tragedy. No amount of money can compensate for this “trail of remains”.
Gail Pritchard, Templestowe
Carpe diem on climate
Re “The Nats need to move on climate change” by Warren Entsch (Opinion, 24/6). Rarely have the science, economics and technology lined up in Australia’s favour so beautifully as they do right now. Any party in power which ignores the need to seize this moment and act decisively to rapidly reduce carbon emissions will pay the electoral price for decades to come – as will we, the voters, and our descendants as the climate deteriorates. We have had drought, fire, flood and now a pandemic in the last five years. What are they waiting for?
Mary Macmillan, Brunswick East
A leader in waiting
The article by Warren Entsch is the single most honest statement on climate change I have ever heard from a Liberal MP. Watch out, Scott Morrison, this man has what it takes to do your job.
John Robertson, Greensborough
A better relationship
Bill Mathews (Letters, 25/6) levels appropriate criticism at Australia’s outgoing top diplomat Frances Adamson’s bad-mouthing of China.
However, the declining influence of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with budget cuts, fewer overseas postings and reduced foreign aid budgets, is more alarming.
At the same time, Peter Dutton’s Department of Home Affairs grows in power and influence, and quixotic, wasteful defence budgets balloon.
The substitution of bombast and aggression for diplomacy has been grossly incompetent and disastrous. New Zealand and Canada have demonstrated that it is possible to maintain a workable trading relationship with China without sacrificing principles, or the freedom to criticise violations of human rights or international law.
Norman Huon, Port Melbourne
Drawcard for Australia
We are concerned with the out-of-control growth of our cities and the dearth of migrants and labour in regional and rural areas. The Murugappan family are well-settled, integrated and loved in rural Biloela. Were they to be allowed to stay in that community, the news of their happy settlement would likely spread and attract migrants not only from the large Sri Lankan community in Australia but also future migrants from that country and others.
Peter Gaspar, North Caulfield
Serious security concern
There is also the very considerable risk of theft by hacking, whether by criminals or “state actors”. Commonly, organisations will claim “best practices” on data security, encryption of data at rest and so on. Despite this, we repeatedly hear of massive breaches. The larger the data set, the greater the attraction to bad actors.
The responsible way for any organisation, public or private, to manage privacy is to collect only the data absolutely necessary to run the service. In the case of iview, this means none at all. Think again, ABC.
Keith Joshi, Kensington
ABC, you are wrong
The Aunty we love is under intense pressure to modernise. Some see this as being more user-friendly. In other words, more like a pay TV station. In so doing, she may find that many viewers simply switch off.
The Aunty we love and trust would not require more personal details than those already gleaned from ABC on-demand’s viewing histories. The Aunty we love, and of which we are part owners, must understand that we don’t want a Siri to advise us on what to watch next.
Neil Brown, QC, is correct that once given, such information is open to all. Please Aunty, if you must go down this path, don’t make it mandatory. Maintain your integrity.
Gabrielle Pounsett, Preston
AND ANOTHER THING
Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding
So, NSW’s “gold standard” contact tracing stops at the border? Thanks for that.
Darryl Annett, Northcote
Gold-plated contact tracing needs gold-plated human behaviour, not tinny myth making.
Bernd Rieve, Brighton
How do you like them apples, gold-star Gladys?
Eryl Lowe, Aspendale
Gladys’ ideological stance not to lockdown until now invited the virus to spread throughout Australia, just like with the Ruby Princess.
Judy Loney, Drumcondra
Hear, hear David Hamilton (25/6). I’m over 60, I’m not expendable and I’d like to have a choice of vaccine.
Sidra de Zoysa, Glen Iris
Barracking for Sydney (23/6)? More like fingers crossed for the whole country.
Peter McGill, Lancefield
If you want to travel in a car, put on your seat belt. If you want to go outside your home, get vaccinated.
Pat Dowling, Elsternwick
Why would the PM create demand for vaccinations, knowing he had not secured sufficient supply?
Linda Skinner, Mooroolbark
So George is considering a career in the clergy after politics (25/6). Will he practise here or in the Philippines? Preferably the latter.
Greg Bardin, Altona North
Ted Baillieu will lead the Australian Heritage Council (24/6). Let’s hope this time he actually starts the engine.
Paul Custance, Highett
I fear the national interest is being replaced by the Nationals’ interests.
Michelle Goldsmith, Eaglehawk
Scott and Josh endeavour to convince us that the economy is strong. What’s the true picture if we take out iron ore exports?
David Conolly, Brighton
Anyone caught looting in the Dandenongs should face a very stiff jail term.
Reg Murray, Glen Iris
CFA malcontents (25/6) are gearing up for the next state election.
George Reed, Wheelers Hill
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