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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 12074

Mr BILLSON (8:30 PM) —I rise tonight under the protection of parliamentary privilege to talk about a scandal and a cover-up. Sadly, the scandal is all too present across Australia and the cover-up is not broad enough. The cover-up I am referring to is the covering up of domestic swimming pools. The scandal is that so few jurisdictions across Australia seem to take the evaporation loss from swimming pools seriously. When you look at the circumstances in my own state of Victoria—and I am sure the member for Corangamite would join me in defending the weather of our fine state—in the six months of the peak evaporation period, a pool of 9.2 metres by 4.5 metres loses about 48,000 litres of water. That works out at about 8,000 litres for each of the six evaporation months of October through to March. The scandal is there are so few jurisdictions taking this enormous loss of water seriously and so many happy to look the other way when swimming pools are topped up with potable water.

The effort that is required to protect these pools against severe evaporative loss is not a difficult proposition. It involves the purchase of a pool cover. If that is not your go and you would rather have the visual splendour of the reflection off the water, there are now silicon based pool additives that put a film over your pool. When you dive into it, the surface tension is broken, allowing you to swim and enjoy the benefits of pool ownership, and over time the film reconnects itself. These simple, practical measures are very meaningful ways for people, particularly in urban communities, to make a contribution to water conservation.

It is a scandal that these requirements are only present in some jurisdictions. In the state of New South Wales, when there is a major renovation costing over $100,000 and a pool is involved, there are duties on the proponent to reduce water loss either by shading the pool area or by covering it and to support that action by installing a tank that can be used to top up the water. In the Northern Territory they make a $50 rebate available for devices that save water, including pool covers. In Queensland, under their home and garden water wise rebate schemes, there are swimming pool cover and roller rebates of up to $200. In South Australia, particularly where level 3 restrictions apply in the river Murray on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula, only if you have proof of purchase of a pool cover can you seek to have a permit to own a pool or a spa.

All of these are examples of where jurisdictions have taken this seriously. As for Victoria, it is noted on the Our Water, Our Future website that covering your pool or your spa is a helpful thing to do. But, as was noted in February 2008 by the Swimming Pool and Spa Association, that advice about what is helpful is not then supported by practical action to encourage people to take that up and to introduce themselves to the water-saving opportunities of pool covers. This is a scandal and it is a cover-up that needs to be extended right across Australia. It is a very practical thing that people can do to save water. It is one of the issues that occupies the minds of my community and is part of some of the discussions down in the electorate of Dunkley.

But what is causing a great degree of grievance is that people who live adjacent to the connection between the Frankston Freeway and the new EastLink toll road could not actually hear each other having that conversation. The lack of noise barriers for the community around Peterson Street in Seaford, or the Belvedere Park area, which some people would be familiar with, means that the added traffic volume and the added weight and size of vehicles using that area is making life unbearable for some of my local residents.

When we sought to pursue this issue we got the biggest run-around you could ever imagine. First of all we were told: ‘No. It’s the responsibility of SEITA.’ SEITA is the Southern and Eastern Integrated Transport Authority, which oversaw the EastLink project. They said: ‘No. Take it up with the tollway constructor.’ We then got told: ‘No. It’s not the tollway constructor. Go to VicRoads.’ VicRoads then said: ‘No. It’s a local road issue. Take it up with the council.’ The only thing that was comforting was that people could not hear this nonsense because of the darn road noise!

What people want is some action. Finally, there are now people taking some sound measurements. What they have found is that, in some circumstances, the standard VicRoads acceptable level of noise for a road is exceeded. But we have also been told that the wind was blowing in the wrong direction and that affected the precise measurement of the volume of noise. As interesting as wind direction is for people—and I know wind has a bearing on sound movement and, in this case, volume—people in those homes are not really that concerned about the direction of the wind. What they are troubled by is the noise. Whether the wind is blowing east or west, it is the noise that is causing them some grief. If the wind factor is to be used as an excuse not to put up proper sound barrier protection then that is a fairly feeble excuse.

The threshold for sound barrier treatment on an existing road is 68 decibels. On the EastLink project, it is actually less. Then we have this nonsense that, because these people live near to Frankston Freeway, which used to have two lanes but now has three lanes because there is a merge lane with EastLink, they have been told they do not actually live on EastLink. They are therefore not part of the EastLink sound assessment; they are part of the old Frankston Freeway. The road has gone from two to three lanes because of EastLink. Some of the vegetation that existed was knocked over during construction because of EastLink. If those people had lived 100 metres further along, on EastLink as described by the state road authorities, they would have had a sound barrier built.

As you move up EastLink, particularly around Bangholme, there are a couple of homes—not nearer to the freeway than the ones I am talking about—with magnificent sound walls protecting them. I think that is fair enough. There is even a mock hotel of about eight storeys, near the Dandenong area, that lights up at night as road art. I am all for public art. I think it is terrific. But when you see this empty stairwell masquerading as a hotel beside a toll road, when just a few kilometres down the road people want to pick up that empty stairwell that is art, turn it on its side and use it as a sound barrier, you can understand how unhappy people in my electorate are and why this is a very important topic for a grievance debate.

These people have been given the very feeble explanation that they are not part of the EastLink project, even though they have an extra lane in front of their property because of EastLink and the trees that used to provide some relief have been knocked over because of EastLink construction. Even if you put that to one side, under some circumstances they still trip over what is an acceptable sound level. Surely these people deserve some relief and some decisive action? I call on the government in Victoria to provide that decisive action.

That leads me to another roads topic. I have talked in this place before about the choke point, the extraordinary congestion at the end of the Frankston Freeway, at the Frankston-Cranbourne Road, where everybody knew that EastLink was going to add to what was already a disastrous intersection. I have now had a letter back from the office of the Minister for Roads and Ports telling me that they are monitoring the travel patterns following the recent opening of EastLink. I am pleased that someone is monitoring the traffic. They do not have to be too nimble, because it is not moving. The congestion means that they can take all day to count the increased traffic volumes and realise that the magnificent run you can get on EastLink comes to a screaming halt when you get to the Frankston Freeway intersection with the Frankston-Cranbourne Road.

My question to the state government is: what has happened to the $15 million the state Minister for Roads and Ports and the local state Labor member proclaimed would address this congestion problem? That $15 million has disappeared and we are wondering where it has gone. Here is an example of bureaucracy running amok. We are being told that we have lost the $15 million—because it is not mentioned at all in this letter. We are told that there is half a million dollars to investigate possible treatments at the intersection, after an announcement that the treatment was an elevated turn section, and all we have to show for it is the state minister’s press release. That is the only piece of tangible evidence that anything is going to happen.

That has now disappeared. We have people commuting to the Mornington Peninsula and just sitting on the side of the freeway and reflecting. They are wondering how the investigation of the traffic problem is going. This is not good enough. Everybody knew this was going to be a problem. The state government, to its credit, acknowledged it was going to be a problem. It made its big announcement. Nothing has come of it. The congestion is getting worse and worse. Here is a free tip from a non-traffic engineer: I am guessing it is going to get even worse over summer. When all of the summer traffic comes down to the Mornington Peninsula, what is cactus now is going to become a nightmare. In the 13 seconds left to me, can I add this: bright sparks check their Christmas lights before they put them up. Let us not have any fires in people’s homes this year. Take care putting up your Christmas lights. Be aware that that little bit of brightness can be enhanced by good quality lights. (Time expired)