Posted 18/9/09 

 

3 DACs 2: Highlights: Macedon Member Duncan makes bizarre statements about population growth in Victoria

 

CanDoBetter

Posted September 17th, 2009 by Sheila Newman

 

Labor Government member, Ms Joanne Duncan, stated that she supported the Planning Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2)[DACs revisited] and the introduction of development assessment committees (DACs). She observed that people did not want to continue Melbourne’s sprawl, but conceded that "people generally do not like higher density housing." She then said that it was inconsistent to "have higher density housing and prevent urban sprawl," commenting, "We are either serious about increasing densities across metropolitan Melbourne or we continue urban sprawl." However she then made this bizarre statement: "Another option is to somehow put a moratorium on any population increase and have all manner of totalitarian measures to reach that end. All of those are completely unacceptable, so we will continue to have population growth."

 

What totalitarian measures?

 

What are the totalitarian measures that would be required to put a moratorium on any population increase?

 

The totalitarian measures are already present in the government purposefully ramping up immigration to create overpopulation and then trying to force through increasingly draconian legislation to facilitate this dictatorial regime. Democracy is decreasing with population increase, yet Ms Duncan pretends that to allow the population to grow or stabilise or shrink at its natural pace would somehow require totalitarianism.

 

What sophistry is this?

 

It makes the writer wonder just what the people advising the Labor government are saying to elected representatives to make them toe the line and endorse the real totalitarian measures in the government purposefully ramping up immigration to create overpopulation and then trying to force through increasingly draconian legislation to facilitate this dictatorial regime.

 

Anyway, here's the rest of the purportedly 'anti-totalitarian' Duncan's support a bill which was described elsewhere in this way:

 

List of terms used by Shadow Minister for Planning, Mr Guy, for the earlier but similar version of this bill [1]:

 

The terms were: ‘concerning’; ‘sneaky’; ‘pretty low’; that the bill showed ‘contempt’; ‘bizarre’; ‘bureaucratic’; ‘misleading’; ‘half-hearted’; ‘half-baked’; that it would ‘do nothing for industry’; that it would ‘gut’ community input; ‘shameless’; and ‘deceptive’.  He concluded by saying the bill would ‘undermine the fundamental basic principles’ of planning.

 

Ms DUNCAN (Macedon) — Despite the opposition of the previous speaker to this bill, I would support many of the issues and points that he raised in his contribution. But I rise in support of the Planning Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2).

 

I have sat in this chamber and listened to a number of different members go through their positions on this bill, and I am again puzzled by the position of the opposition. We are hearing from most of the speakers that they will not be opposing the bill but basically they do not support it.

 

We have heard a range of criticisms of the bill, which does make you scratch your head and wonder: if that is their view, if they believe that this is such poor planning or poor legislation, why would they not just not oppose it but actually reject the bill? If they were true to themselves and that was what they truly believed and if this whole dispute resolution process were not just a relevance deprivation exercise on behalf of the opposition, they would oppose the bill. There is no way members opposite could support the bill with clear consciences having said some of the things that have been said in opposition to it.

 

One of the good things that has come out of the debate is that the member for Shepparton declared — and it might have been mentioned by the member for Box Hill but I missed that — that if ever again the opposition is in government, it will be repealing parts of this legislation so that, as I understand it, councils will be allowed to either opt in or opt out of being part of this partnership process between state government and local government. I will be bold enough to make a prediction and to suggest that some years down the track — hopefully many years down the track — if the opposition is back in government, when it makes this offer to local governments most local governments will choose to stay in the system. It was highlighted by the previous speaker that planning is incredibly difficult:

 

for as many people support a proposition there will be that many who oppose it with sound arguments for and sound arguments against, and it is always a balancing act.

 

One of the main reasons I think this is good legislation is that previously either local governments were making decisions or there were call-ins by the planning minister. One of the reasons the opposition may oppose this bill is, quite frankly, why would opposition members see the need for it? Under their government it was either a decision by local government or they made that decision by the planning minister calling in huge numbers of proposals. Under the previous government we saw how many times the planning minister unilaterally, without any explanation, without any guidelines about why or why not, would call-in a proposal and would make that decision unilaterally.

 

From memory, none of these call-ins were actually in support of local residents. My memory — and I stand to be corrected — is that his call-ins supported the proponent, the developer, in almost all of these cases.

 

Do not ever be misled by what the opposition would suggest, that it is there to support the underdog and this is big developers just trampling over the individual rights of residents. One has only to look at the track record to appreciate that that is absolute rhetoric and hypocrisy in its highest form.

 

We also heard the member for Box Hill talk about the threat that hangs over us if we do not support the bill — the unchecked and repeated call-ins that he said may result if this bill is not passed. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! It really is hypocrisy in its most extreme form for any member of the Liberal opposition to suggest that this government is doing anything like unchecked and repeated call-ins. I think he must have been talking about the planning minister under the Kennett government.

 

It seemed to me he also questioned the fact that there are still appeals to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. He was saying that if the government was hoping this was going to speed up planning, then the fact that there are appeals to VCAT means that will not occur. That suggests to me that he thinks you either do it unilaterally, which we saw members opposite do they were in government, or you remove all those third-party appeal rights.

 

I can understand why the Liberal Party is confused. In listening to the contributions of members of the Liberal Party to the debate I can understand why the Liberal members would be confused, because while they say they support the bill, it is inconsistent with everything they have previously said and everything they did when they were in office. It is the case again that either they are very confused or, as I said before, they never let the facts stand in the way of a good piece of opposition rhetoric.

 

I support this bill. I support the introduction of development assessment committees (DACs). It is a good balance between the decision making of local councils, which will understand their local communities and have an appreciation of those local issues, and state representatives, who have an eye to a broader need for the potential of this sort of development. We know we do not want to continue Melbourne’s sprawl. We know we need to have higher density in housing and in all manner of developments. As much as people and the opposition will say, ‘Where has 2030 gone?’ and all of these things, the reality is that people generally do not like higher density housing. You cannot have higher density housing and prevent urban sprawl; the two are inconsistent. We are either serious about increasing densities across metropolitan Melbourne or we continue urban sprawl. Another option is to somehow put a moratorium on any population increase and have all manner of totalitarian measures to reach that end. All of those are completely unacceptable, so we will continue to have population growth.

 

These sorts of decisions must be made in a balanced way, where you are trying to bring together a partnership between two planning authorities — one with an eye to the local issues and one with a broader eye to the statewide issues and statewide development pressures — and I believe the DACs will achieve that result and we will get balanced and good planning outcomes as a result.

 

I commend the bill to the house. It is a further development of planning laws in this state that are designed to provide balance as well as the kinds of infrastructure, planning and development we need to ensure that Melbourne does not continue its sprawl.

 

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) — I want to initially come back to something the member for Bundoora said when he was talking about the Dispute Resolution Committee process that has led to the current form of this bill. He referred to it as a democratic process with equal numbers from government and non-government parties, but of course the government has the right to elect a chairman and the government has the casting vote. So no matter what quality of debate there has been — and I understand there has been some good discussion and good work done and some of the nasties have been taken out of the bill — it is a long way from being a democratic process. In fact it is about as democratic as the development assessment committees (DACs) are proposed to be.

 

The bill essentially is the death knell for community input into the planning process in the areas that have been nominated. It is a real symbol of the hypocrisy of the Australian Labor Party when it comes to local government, when it comes to local communities and when it comes to local interests. This is about getting the message right and getting the process right to suit the message. It is about spin. It is about saying one thing and meaning a different thing entirely. The claim is, ‘We are on side with the communities’. But the reality is that these are simply soothing words, lulling communities into a false sense of security, and then belting them on the head with a blunt instrument.

 

This bill is a very blunt instrument. This is not calling in one application and this is not calling in two applications; this is calling in the whole planning process. It is taking the entire planning process away from local government and the local community. It certainly gives lie to the government’s claims of partnership with local government. Every significant application in every principal activity centre in 27 areas of the metropolitan area, plus the city of Geelong, will now be determined by a committee hand-picked by the Minister for Planning. The people who will dominate these development assessment committees are not, will not and never can be independent persons. They will be hand-picked to push through the government’s agenda in this area.

 

[1] Listed by Mr Brooks in the debate recorded in Hansard, 16 September, 2009 (Assembly)