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Thursday, 14 February 2008
Page: 470

Mr HUNT (12:29 PM) —I rise in relation to the effects of the now-begun channel-deepening process upon dive operators within the electorate of Flinders, on the Mornington Peninsula and within Port Phillip Bay. There are two issues that I wish to raise here. The first relates to the impact of the toxic sludge from the mouth of the Yarra; the second relates to the economic impact and the environmental impact on the dive operators, their businesses and those who wish to partake in activities in the south of the bay.

Let me turn first to the toxic sludge. I have made it clear throughout previous years, and I reaffirm that position, that, whilst I recognise that the broader project is inevitable, the process of taking from the mouth of the Yarra two million tonnes of toxic sludge—which contains zinc, cadmium, mercury, other heavy metals, dieldrin, DDT and a toxic cocktail of approximately 270 other recognised pollutants—and then dumping it in the middle of Port Phillip Bay is a negligent, unacceptable and ultimately dangerous process which should not be allowed to occur. I want to repeat that: that process of dumping toxic sludge is unacceptable. It is held in suspension for 150 days and it is subject to tides, weather, waves and all the vagaries of being in a suspended solution. For 150 days zinc, cadmium, lead, mercury, dieldrin and DDT will be allowed to float free in the bay.

There is an alternative, and that has been set out both by my colleagues at the state level in the Victorian alternative government and by us. It is very clear that land based options for the disposal of two million tonnes of toxic waste, or approximately eight to nine per cent of the project, must be fully examined. As it stands, it is unacceptable. That is a position which I have put previously and which I maintain as the member for Flinders, and the federal opposition have set that down as a very clear position.

The second issue is in relation to the divers and the dive companies within the electorate of Flinders. What I want to say is very clear. Already we have reports from people, such as Jason Salter, who is a dive operator on the Mornington Peninsula, that the quality of the water—and the diving—has been greatly affected. The position of the Port of Melbourne Corporation is that people can simply dive elsewhere. In reality that will mean that the impact on local businesses will be profound. They have essentially been treated in a way which is not only arguably unconstitutional but also improper and immoral. I say that because their businesses will be cut to the quick without any compensation.

The state has moved to deny the possibility of compensation for these businesses as an ordinary fund or process which should be the corollary of a major project. In effect, it is transferring wealth from small business owners to an enormous state owned corporation and to the great shipping companies and stevedoring companies. This is the transfer of the hard-earned family earnings of small business operators to big business. That is what is occurring, and there is no feasible compensation process. The state has ruled that out. The small businesses know that it is economically impossible for them to take on the Port of Melbourne or corporations which are hundreds of times larger, if not thousands of times larger, than them. So they have no real approach.

My position is very clear. It is the same as the Victorian opposition’s. A compensation fund must be set up. There must be an approach to dealing with businesses who are right now, this day, about to lose their economic viability. The mums, dads and families who have given years to build businesses will be the ones who will suffer. Very simply: there should be no toxic dumping and there should be a peninsular recovery plan. (Time expired)