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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21707

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (12:42 PM) —I present the Commonwealth Land at Point Nepean, Victoria Bill 2003. I am today introducing a private member's bill which would transfer all of the Department of Defence land at Point Nepean in Victoria to the Victorian government, without charge, on the proviso that the Victorian government maintains this land in perpetuity as a national park and is responsible for its ongoing maintenance. The Victorian government in turn has made abundantly clear its willingness to do these things.

One of federal Labor's environmental policies and commitments is to hand over the land at Point Nepean as a national park. This should not be a controversial issue. I am amazed that the federal government has not done this. I expected all along that the federal government would bow to public opinion on this issue, but I reckoned without their arrogance and cockiness. Their view is that they are so far in front that they do not need to worry about public opinion. Public opinion in Victoria, which the Liberal Party is wilfully refusing to listen to, could not be plainer. Over 9,000 Victorians signed a petition calling for all of Point Nepean to become a national park, and 400 Victorian community groups have signed a community consensus statement saying that the entire site should be national park under one management and rejecting the federal government's plan for a 50-year lease to private developers.

The community's opposition to the federal government's plan could not be plainer. But instead of listening to that opposition, the Liberal Party and the member for Flinders have sought to pretend that the government is protecting Point Nepean when it is manifestly handing over key sections of it for commercial development. For example, the Liberal member for Flinders put out a taxpayer funded brochure to all Flinders residents, under the heading `Point Nepean not for sale', which said:

The last 85 hectares of Pt Nepean will not be sold but will be given to Parks Australia which runs Kakadu and Uluru National Parks ...

That was, and is, utterly wrong. Parks Australia will have no role in the management of the 85 hectares. The landlord will be the Department of Defence, and the tenant will be a consortium which includes the Queensland property developer FKP Ltd. But the member for Flinders has been so anxious to look on the bright side of this terrible performance by the Howard government and so anxious to put the Liberal government's case to the Mornington Peninsula people rather than put the Mornington Peninsula's case to the government that he rushed into print, at great taxpayer expense, with this nonsense. The member for Flinders throughout this issue has fundamentally misunderstood his role. It is to represent the Mornington Peninsula in Canberra; it is not to represent the Liberal Party on the Mornington Peninsula. He misled the House with this untrue claim and misled every household in his electorate.

The Victorian Labor government has been endeavouring all along to see this land preserved forever as national park. Last week it wrote to the member for McEwen, who as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence has been responsible for the Point Nepean fiasco, indicating that the developers will have to get a planning permit if they want to engage in building or demolition works. This is a good thing. The Queensland property developer FKP Ltd, which is leading the consortium which the government has given this 40-year lease to, has been prosecuted for illegally felling trees and destroying vegetation. It was fined $4,000 by Maroondah council after chopping down gums and failing to protect other trees on a Croydon building site in January this year. It has also been guilty of clearing rare coastal bushland in the shire of Maroochy in Queensland. It is just not good enough to allow a group with such a record to access areas adjacent to rare coastal tea-tree or moonah woodland. The ancient moonah woodlands on Point Nepean have been heritage listed.

This issue demonstrates clearly the fundamental difference between Liberal and Labor on environmental issues. When you see a thing of beauty, do you cherish it and protect it, or do you try to make a quid out of it and profit from it? The Liberals invariably do the latter. They just cannot help themselves. Originally they wanted to sell it all. Since then, under pressure from the public, they have done backflip after backflip but still cannot bring themselves to do the decent thing. Today is their chance to do the right thing, support my private member's bill and protect Point Nepean for all Victorians—not just the few—for all time. It is high time the federal government cut through their veil of secrecy surrounding the leasing process by providing full public disclosure of all the bids for Point Nepean so we can discover whether the FKP lessee disclosed these previous environmental breaches. (Time expired)

Bill read a first time.

The SPEAKER —In accordance with standing order 104A, the second reading will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.