TWO important documents are floating around Western Port at present: Victoria’s Draft Marine and Coastal Strategy (Department of Environment, Land , Water and Planning, July 2021) and the Draft Port Phillip & Western Port Regional Catchment Strategy (Port Phillip & Westernport Catchment Management Authority, July 2021).
Also circulating is a document I’ve written called Western Port Strategic Management Plan – Starter Kit (August 2021). I have sent a copy of this document to the MPs on my list and to the new alliance made up of key Western Port community stakeholders now convened by the Victorian National Parks Association.
The ‘alliance’ has tabled it along with a number of plans and suggestions as to how the Victorian community can safeguard the future of Western Port and its region from the ongoing threat of urbanisation and industries that may damage its environment. The group is formulating its position and will have more to say soon.
Unfortunately, it was not good news concerning the supplementary question. Hansard reported that the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, said, “I refer to my answer on this matter which was answered on 29 April 2021 and is available in the Questions and Responses database on the Parliament of Victoria website.”
Stalemate: two questions, same answer.
The reply also ignored the fact that imbedded in the Draft Marine and Coastal Strategy at 2.7 is the following:
- Implement the Port Phillip Bay Environmental Plan 2017-2027 and undertake 5-yearly evaluation in 2022-23.; and
- Develop and roll out Port Phillip Bay Fund grant programs to address priority actions of the Port Phillip Bay Environmental Management Plan 2017-2027.
So why is the Minister resisting the call for Western Port to be treated equitably with its neighbour?
Undeterred by the rebuff, the Sustainable Australia Party has taken a new tack and submitted a third, rephrased question: “In relation to the Minister’s response to Question on Notice No. 3824: Will the Minister consider a new holistic plan for the future, rather than three separate management plans?”
Minister, it’s your call.
I am not a card-carrying member of the Sustainable Australia Party but so far they’re the only ones who have bothered to question the government on its handling of Western Port and this region. With this in mind, I wrote to the non-government MPs on my list and asked what support they could give the Sustainable Australia Party to coax the government to answer the question.
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, which has supported the Sustainable Australia Party in its quest to extract an answer, replied. The Reason Party and the Liberal Party have both offered to lodge a question from me about the matter – do you have a question you would like me to ask?
It would seem the Government is getting a clear run, for under the Westminster system, a Minister is not obliged to answer a question on notice in a specific way. The Opposition has not helped the situation, for in a recent election speech Let’s get Victoria back to the top, there is no mention of Western Port and its surrounds.
So where do we go from here?
I hope you get a chance to check out the two official documents mentioned and, in particular, the PPWCMA proposal for it presents an audit of the current situation and a holistic regional plan for the future.
On the other hand, the Draft Marine and Coastal Strategy proposal is hemmed in by its five- kilometre boundary inland from Western Port’s median high-water mark and as a consequence, any environmental issue on the other side of the boundary, is not its problem.
Given there are elements of these two plans that overlap, I hope the current (or an incoming) government appreciates that climate change knows no boundaries, and that a regional approach may be a better way to go, for it can take into account all scenarios.