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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3264

Senator TROETH (4:56 PM) —It gives me great pleasure to speak on this matter of public importance today. Cities that are lauded for their sustainability contain a number of characteristics, such as economic prosperity, social energy, the robust use of resources, lifestyle opportunities and appealing and functional urban habitats. In my home state of Victoria, the Australian Conservation Foundation, which produced the sustainable cities index, have ranked 20 of Australia’s biggest cities and towns. Those in Victoria ranked seventh, which was the CBD of Melbourne; 10th, Bendigo; equal 14th, Ballarat; and 18th, Geelong. Melbourne and Bendigo were considered mid-table performers in the index, and Ballarat and Geelong were poor performers. Their low rankings were attributed to lower density, transport and employment, which placed Ballarat in the lowest-quality-of-life basket. Geelong rated poorly in health, as approximately 5.3 per cent of the population of Geelong is registered as having type 2 diabetes. This highlights the lack of emphasis that the state Labor government have on investing in sustainable living in Victoria. The same could also be said of the Rudd Labor government, and it was interesting to note in the announcement of the recent federal health reforms that the number of new beds in Victoria is barely adequate to cover the existing shortfall and we will need 187 new beds in hospitals in Victoria to cope with rising population.

Unlike the coalition, the Rudd Labor government has failed to create a portfolio position for sustainable cities, whereas my esteemed colleague Mr Bruce Billson from the other place is the shadow minister for sustainable cities. Therefore, we can only imagine that Prime Minister Rudd attaches no priority to sustainable cities. In fact, what he has done is indulge in reckless spending which has emptied the bank and failed to position Australia and our cities for a more sustainable future. The environment portfolio was giving away insulation to homeowners and rental properties, while the education portfolio, which is supposed to be building schools for the 21st century, is building schools where, as my colleague Senator Scullion remarked, one in 10 do not utilise building insulation, one in four do not use energy efficient lighting and more than half ignore energy efficient glazing.

I noticed in today’s Australian that Mr Rudd lists the key achievements of his first term as the education revolution and the remake of the hospitals and health system. What a failure they have been! Sustainability is not on the radar for this government, nor is it a policy priority. But it is not just Prime Minister Rudd who has an apparent disregard for this; the Brumby Labor government in Victoria has a similar disdain. There are great opportunities in Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong. They are wonderful cities and they deserve to be served better so that people find them a desirable place to live and work.

In Melbourne, where I live, traffic congestion—and if Senator Bilyk thinks she has traffic congestion in Hobart she should see it in Melbourne—low water levels and storage deficiencies, energy demand pressures, sprawling suburbs, underperforming and overcrowded public transport and work and family life dislocation are adversely affecting the sustainability of the city, relegating it to seventh on the list. Let us take, for instance, underperforming and overcrowded public transport. We have a cartoon from some four or five years ago on the wall in my office which shows railway commuters clinging to railway carriages, some of them travelling on the roof. This cartoon is yellowed and faded, but exactly the same thing still operates. At the station where I get on the train, on occasions you are lucky to force your way into the train. It is a bit like the way travelling on Japanese transport has been portrayed. The myki ticketing system, which was due to come out some 18 months ago at a cost of $400 million, is now well over the $1 billion mark and still heading skywards. In the meantime we have seen very few tickets.

The forecast population explosion will only make these matters worse. If Australia gets a population of 35 million people by 2050 we are going to be looking at these problems yet again. For instance, when my esteemed former colleague Jeff Kennett was Premier of Victoria there was a considerable amount of criticism directed towards his government for alienating 2,000 hectares of green wedge land for urban development. Since 2002 the Bracks-Brumby Labor government has alienated 55,000 hectares of green wedge land around Melbourne for urban development, a great deal more.

Innovative thinking is required by industry, local government, unions, community organisations and state and federal governments, and I would like to give a good example of what can be done. In my home state of Victoria in 2000 Mr Terry White met with representatives of the North Central Catchment Management Authority, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment and La Trobe University at Bendigo to create the first greenhouse alliance organisation in Victoria. The Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance, CVGA, is an incorporated organisation that includes councils, governments, local community groups and local businesses, covering 20 per cent of Victoria. They are the ones who take full responsibility for their contributions to climate change and lead their communities by example, and they make this transition in a way that is profitable and practical. I can only hope that an incoming Baillieu government in Victoria will lead the way in encouraging grassroots examples of this sort, which will make our nation sustainable and green in a way which it has not been up till now. My colleague the Hon. Bruce Billson has been working hard on this.