Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Hansard 2008-06-12 Auditor General Report - Pipelines

On 12 June 2008, Mr Peter Kavanagh MLC for Western Victoria commented on the Auditor-General Report on the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline and the Goldfields Superpipe.
Mr Kavanagh expressed concern that other superior alternatives to supplying water to Bendigo and Ballarat were not pursued by the government and detailed some of the adverse affects on the property of the farmers located on the pipeline route.
Mr Kavanagh’s comments in Parliament on Hansard are below:

Title: Auditor-General: Piping the System -- Incorporating the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline and the Goldfields Superpipe
Activity: Statements on Reports
Date: 12 June 2008
Page: 2270

Auditor-General: Piping the System -- Incorporating the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline and the Goldfields Superpipe

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- The goldfields super-pipe was constructed to avert the prospect of Bendigo and Ballarat running out of drinking water. It seems to me that there were superior alternatives available, which included the construction of dams or at least a weir in the Otways with a view to using some of the 93 per cent of the most reliable water supply in Victoria that now flows into the sea. These options and others were rejected -- largely, it seems to me, because of a misplaced ideological opposition by the government to new dams.

Although it has been alleged in public that the Democratic Labor Party was trying to stop the construction of the super-pipe, this was never the case. The truth is that I put a lot of effort into getting the best deal possible for affected farmers.

These efforts met with some success and the pipe was laid deeper than was originally intended. This is important to allow

Page 2271

farmers to use heavy equipment over the pipe with confidence. Finally a much better insurance deal than was originally intended was offered to the farmers. I think it is fair to say that, as a result of vigilance and frequent complaints and requests for action to ministers, more care was expended to meet farmers' concerns than would otherwise have been the case.

The Auditor-General's report Piping the System concluded that the goldfields super-pipe has been well managed. While this may be the case in general, there were a considerable number of instances of mismanagement in the installation of the pipeline by contractors. In at least one case, to gain access to a farm contractors simply cut the electric fences, allowing cattle to escape and wander the district. This caused great distress and worry to the farmer concerned and necessitated the loss of days of work time in rounding up his cattle.

In spite of repeated, explicit demands by farmers that construction equipment not be taken between properties without it being thoroughly washed down, this was not always done. Some farms were needlessly exposed to the spread of weeds and other contaminants onto their properties. In a similar way, soil profiles were not always restored as they should have been. Farmers demanded the restoration of soil profiles and in a majority of cases this was done. In some cases, however, it was not done and some farmland has thus been degraded through the replacement of topsoil with subsoil.

There was at least one oil spill on farmland. Installation of the pipe also caused damage to pre-existing old pipes, causing flooding of crops on at least one farm and in another case cutting the supply of water essential to crops. This happened when temperatures were over 40 degrees and the crops were at real risk of being ruined. In both cases, repairs to pipes were not begun until more than 10 hours after the damage was first reported.

There are reasons to suspect that the amount of compensation being offered to each farmer depends more on the amount of noise that he makes rather than on the real cost to the landowner. Whilst the temptation is understandable, it is obviously bad policy.

Australia comprises many things -- its spirit and its people. Undoubtedly Australia is also the land on which we stand. We have the responsibility to preserve and protect our country, and this must surely include the land that is beneath our feet. The world is experiencing a sharp rise in food prices due to a shortfall in crop production. I do not believe this will prove to be a long-term crisis, but it emphasises the need to conserve farmland. The land adversely affected in the laying of the goldfields super-pipe included some of the best farmland in Victoria.

I express the hope that in implementing future projects, including the north-south pipe, the government will ensure that contractors act with more respect for the land and for landowners than was shown in some instances by those who installed the goldfields super-pipe.

Hansard 2008-06-11 Reporting Date/Interim Report

On 11 June, Mr David Davis MLC for Southern Metropolitan moved the following motion in the Legislative Council:
“That the resolution of the Council on 2 May 2007 requiring the Select Committee on Public Land Development to present its final report to the Council no later than 30 June 2008 be amended so as to now require the committee to present its final report by 11 September 2008”.
And concurrently sought to move:
“That the Council take note of the second interim report of the Select Committee on Public Land Development”.
Mr Kavanagh’s comments in Parliament on Hansard are below:

Title: Reporting date and second interim report
Date: 11 June 2008
Page: 2197

Reporting date and second interim report

Page 2197

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- Having spoken about the work of the Select Committee on Public Land Development on the tabling of its first interim report, I do not intend to speak at length on today's tabling of the committee's second interim report. There are two points, however, that seem to me to deserve emphasis and are therefore worth repeating. The first is that the government has maintained its hostility and obstruction to the committee's work. This can be seen rather clearly from the speech given earlier today by Mr Thornley and by the extravagant attacks on the committee by its deputy chairman, Mr Tee, when the first interim report was tabled. One expects possibly to hear similar remarks from Mr Tee a little later today.

The extraordinary attacks included a greatly exaggerated claim of hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on the committee. There has been some spending, no doubt, on the committee's work, including photocopying, postage and so on, and there have been two assistants employed for a total of a few months, not throughout the entire length of the committee's work. I do not believe that the amount of money spent on the committee amounts to anywhere near $100 000, let alone the hundreds of thousands of dollars that has been alleged by the government members of the committee.

This hostility and obstruction falls into a pattern that is familiar to members and observers of the gaming committee also. The government has continued to do its best to prevent the committee doing its work. This house specifically authorised the land committee to investigate the alienation of public land. The government relies on an obscure administrative order to continue to insist that public land means land that cannot be alienated.

The government's logically untenable position has, as obviously intended, limited the investigations of the committee.

Our adversarial parliamentary system is built on the assumption that competition enhances performance or, to put it another way, that scrutiny is conducive to good government and indeed is good for the government ultimately. The people of Victoria should be concerned that the government has continued to express determination to avoid scrutiny.

The second point I would like to emphasise is that the way that the government deals with land is a matter of keen interest to a very large number of people. Dealings with public land is the point at which community interest intersects with government policy for many people. The committee has heard from large numbers of passionate, interested people.

It is important that governments develop and implement the best policies possible on the uses and sale or other alienation of public land. The committee's work could assist the government to fulfil this obligation.

Hansard 2008-06-11 Water: Plug the Pipe Protest

On 11 June 2008, Ms Wendy Lovell MLC for Northern Victoria moved the following motion in the Legislative Council:
“That the Legislative Council expresses its disappointment at the Premier's intemperate response towards the Plug the Pipe organisation and their peaceful protest which was held on the steps of Parliament on Tuesday, 3 June 2008”.
Mr Kavanagh’s comments in Parliament on Hansard are below:

Date: 11 June 2008
Page: 2238


Page 2238

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- It seems to me that the origin of the dispute that has led to an unfortunate remark by the Premier was in the government's misguided hostility towards dams and weirs. For centuries dams and weirs have been used to protect countries and cities against drought, and they have proven their worth. It has previously been argued by me in this house that the government should seriously consider, for example, the scheme that Mr Vogels referred to: a weir in the Otways. At present 93 per cent of the water runs into Bass Strait, and I do not see the advantage in that at all.

So the government is now left with proposing running pipes that will crisscross throughout Victoria to bring water from one area which may not have an abundance of it to other areas which have even less water, plus constructing an extremely expensive desalination plant.

Many in northern Victoria resent water being taken from their area, and indeed they have expressed that anger on the steps of this building. The Premier's response was a very uncharacteristic failure of intelligence by someone who undoubtedly is an extremely intelligent man. The Japanese refer to an uncharacteristic failure with the expression 'Even monkeys fall out of trees'. We all make mistakes, and this is probably one by the Premier. We have all done things that we regret, and I suspect that the Premier will regret this momentary failure of his intelligence. The response by the Premier was disappointing, so I feel I have no alternative but to vote for the motion.

House divided on motion:
Ayes, 21

Kavanagh, Mr

Noes, 19

Motion agreed to.

Hansard 2008-06-10 Police Integrity Bill

On 9 May 2008, the Legislative Council voted 20 to 18 to decline to pass the Victorian government's Police Integrity Bill and voted to refer it to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee for further investigation and consideration.Peter Kavanagh’s support for referral to Committee motion for was crucial to its passage.
Mr Kavanagh moved and, with other MLCs, passed a motion for more time for consideration of the Bill as detailed below:

Date: 10 June 2008
Page: 2133


Committal postponed

Order of the day read for committal.

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- President, I move:

"That the consideration of order of the day, government business, no. 1, be postponed for one week".

The committee's report on this bill, which includes the Hansard transcript, was only published on Friday, which does not give adequate time for consideration of the bill. It is my opinion that further time is warranted for a bill of this significance.

That is particularly so given the irregularities in the committee process that have been referred to today by several members and also because passage of the bill would seem to do injury to the government's charter of human rights and responsibilities. Even apart from the black letter of the law in the charter, the bill could be seen to be unfair to members of the police force, and on that basis I urge that more time be provided for consideration of the bill.

House divided on motion:

Ayes, 21

Kavanagh, Mr (Teller)

Noes, 19

Motion agreed to.


Peter Kavanagh MLC
Member for Western Victoria
Parliament of Victoria

"La Cabine"
2nd Floor
1 Yarra Street
Geelong VIC 3220

Ph: 03 5222 1503
Fax: 03 5222 8677

Email: peter.kavanagh@parliament.vic.gov.au
Blog: http://peterkavanagh.blogspot.com/
Site: http://www.dlpwestvic.org/

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