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Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Page: 11343

Mr WOOD (10:55 PM) —Tonight I wish to tell a story about sadness, about hope, about victory and about despair. The sadness relates to the Dandenong Ranges, and one of my favourite subjects, as the Speaker would know, is the invasion of weeds. I will go back to my days at Ferny Creek Primary School when a good Samaritan went through all the schools in the area—from Ferny Creek to Olinda to Mount Dandenong to Sassafras. The sad thing is that, with the best of intentions, the good Samaritan gave all the children, including me, a fantastic creeping plant to take home. That plant was called wandering trad and it was planted out through the entire hills. The sadness comes about because it has actually spread through all the creeks, and it has been one of those weeds that have clogged up the creeks and stopped the platypuses—for example, in Clematis Creek—from moving around.

The other sad thing about the Dandenong Ranges is that, with the best of intentions, another plant called ivy was introduced. Ivy climbs up the mountain ash and strangles it, and it climbs all over the fern trees and causes great damage and destruction throughout the Dandenong Ranges. One of the aspects we are greatly concerned about is that of climate change and how trees like the mountain ash and the fern trees will survive when basically being strangled to death by ivy. There are also other local weeds that cause great damage, such as onion weed, which is throughout the hills, especially beside the roads.

Last year the former environment minister, Malcolm Turnbull, visited the electorate and met with all the local environmental groups and listened intensively to what was being said. The local environmentalist gave a firsthand account of the destruction that weeds are causing in the Dandenong Ranges. The minister got to hear firsthand how local groups, such as the Friends of Clematis Creek of which I am a member, the Sherbrooke Weed Society—all these different groups—are doing an amazing job. There are groups like the Friends of Olinda Creek, the Friends of Sassafras Creek—the friends of various groups throughout the hills—and they have been doing an amazing job over a long period of time. I have always said that the problem with the weeds I am mentioning is that they are regarded as environmental weeds; therefore, federal funding was not being received for their abolition because they were not regarded as agricultural weeds. For example, the state Labor government in Victoria had not listed a number of these weeds as environmental weeds, so the situation was not addressed.

We had this fantastic announcement by the former environment minister, Malcolm Turnbull, for a $450,000 biological control for wandering trad. This was a great victory, and it gave great hope to all those volunteers that, finally, there may be a biological control determined over a number of years under the guidance of the CSIRO and Melbourne university, who were going to do the research. After three years of hard work and lobbying the minister—and again I congratulate former Minister Turnbull—we had funding to tackle this weed. Sadly, when Peter Garrett became Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts he removed that funding and caused great harm and tragedy to the local environment.

We had one more victory. During the election campaign I announced a $3 million grant to the Shire of Yarra Ranges to tackle all the weeds throughout the Dandenong Ranges. Sadly, again, Minister Garrett—who was still in the shadow position at that time—came to the electorate and refused to match that funding. To this very day we want to see the Rudd government match our commitment to weed funding. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 11.00 pm, the debate is interrupted.