NATIONAL PARKS AMENDMENT (LEASING POWERS AND OTHER MATTERS) BILL 2013

It is with a deep sense of disappointment and anger that I rise to speak on this disgraceful piece of legislation that has been proposed by a government with, quite frankly, the most disgraceful record on environmental issues that we have seen in a long time. There are many people in my community, and indeed in the Victorian community as a whole, who are outraged by this government putting its grubby little fingers deep into the throat of our pristine national parks, throwing open the gates to our beautiful environment and letting the tractors in for their developer mates. This is nothing short of a disgrace. Victoria has a proud record of protecting our heritage and our environment with these extraordinarily beautiful, important and pristine national parks. These are not gifts for our children; it is the right of our children to enjoy and understand the importance of their environmental heritage. Excuse me, I have dropped my speech. I return!

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms GARRETT — It is because of those on the other side that I have so much to say today. I do not want to rob members of the opportunity to hear the words of wisdom of the member for Brunswick on these most important matters!

An honourable member — We want an extension of time!

Ms GARRETT — We do want an extension of time. The community wants an extension of time on this matter because, as I said, our children and our grandchildren have a right to enjoy these national parks. What this government is doing is heinous and should be condemned. These developments will be for the exclusive enjoyment of a few, probably very well-off, punters, who will enjoy the herbal oils, the fluffy white towels and having the chocolates on the pillow at the expense of the heritage and the right of our children to enjoy these pristine environments.

As we have heard from other speakers on this side, we absolutely support nature-based tourism, and we support those townspeople whose livelihood relies on nature-based tourism. But the fallacy of this legislation is that it will actually suck the lifeblood away from these communities. The people who will perhaps visit these developments within our national parks will probably not be attending the local towns. They will be enjoying, as I said, the spa baths and the herbal oils that are available to them in the new developments being proposed by this government at the expense of maintaining environmental and heritage values for our children.

Really it does not take long for the Liberal colours to shine through, does it? Sell anything that is not bolted down, privatise anything that you can get your grubby hands on, let your developer mates come in and enjoy the largesse while you are there. And now not even national parks are safe from this mob. Not only, Acting Speaker and those opposite, are you doing it, but it is the way that you are doing it — a typical Liberal-Nationals way.

Honourable members interjecting.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) — Order! The members for Rodney, South Barwon and Benalla!

Ms GARRETT — Earlier this year the government released its guidelines for investment entitled Tourism Investment Opportunities of Significance in National Parks, and again the flavour of this government is on display. We have very limited community consultation around these developments. There are no formal processes, would you believe — for people to object to these developments.

There is no proper environmental planning that needs to be done by those developers seeking to take advantage of this government’s largesse with our children’s future and no community consultation during the later stages of the process. It is typical of your Minister for Planning, typical of your minister for — what? Is it the environment? Is there a minister for the environment? And it is typical of you and your developer mates. This is in effect handing it over.

Dr Sykes — Through the Chair!

Ms GARRETT — Through the Chair, you and your developer mates. Unfortunately this is a fast track to inappropriate development in our national parks, and there is no proper public process.

Mr Wynne interjected.

Ms GARRETT — Where is the public good, I ask member for Richmond? It is nowhere, it is hanging up in a ‘For sale’ sign on Victoria’s great assets. That brings me, with some passion, to this mob’s environmental record. Let us go through what this government has done. This latest travesty is just one item in a long list. We let the cows back in; this Parliament let the cows back in — or tried to — to graze in alpine national parks. It has introduced anti-wind farm legislation that has shut down investment in wind and renewable energy in this state. It has slashed the solar feed-in tariff, which has greatly impacted on solar energy in the state.

Honourable members interjecting.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) — Order! The members for Forest Hill and Prahran!

Ms GARRETT — It dismantled the climate change act in this state, the very one that it had supported when in opposition. It has attacked mercilessly the green wedges, it has moved to expand brown coal mining and now it is moving to allow hotels and developments in our national parks. Not only that — not only has this government so quickly and with such ferocity dismantled so many important environmental protections and activities of the previous government — but it has also comprehensively failed to deliver on any of the promises it made in this space prior to the last election. It has not retrofitted homes to 5-star energy rating, it has not made Victoria the solar state. In fact it has done quite the opposite. It has slashed the feed-in tariff to make that worse, and it has not done what it promised to do regarding water recycling and stormwater.

An honourable member interjected.

Ms GARRETT — Yes. It has been an absolute disgrace of a record by this government. I turn back to the latest item in this long list by which this government will be harshly judged at the next election. It came in with a warm and fuzzy coat, saying that it believed in the environment. Former Premier Baillieu, the one who was elected, spoke very strongly about the environment. He gave the impression to the people of Victoria that this would be a government that cared about the environment, that was going to make a difference and that believed in climate change.

From day one of the Baillieu government, followed by day one of the Napthine government — the only consistency being the esteemed Deputy Premier — those opposite have taken to the environment with an axe, as they are now taking to our national parks. They are taking to our parks with an axe.

We on this side of the house are standing firm in our opposition to what is yet another winding back of this state’s great record on the environment — another in a string of backward steps. This is taking unprecedented action in our national parks, which have been for so long protected.

Ms Ryall interjected.

Ms GARRETT — Yes, I am the member for Brunswick. I take up the interjection even though I am probably not supposed to.

There are many within the community of Brunswick, you would not be surprised, who are very agitated about this legislation, but we are not alone. These things that you are unwinding — through you, Chair — these great legacies of former Liberal and Labor governments that the government is unwinding mean an enormous amount to our community. These parks mean an enormous amount in terms of their environmental significance and their symbolic significance. We do not have to develop every corner of the land. There are parts of our community — —

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms GARRETT — I can understand why The Nationals are getting so upset. The truth does hurt. These parks are not just a gift but are in fact a right of inheritance for our children. It is shameful that today we are unwinding those protections and the Liberal-Nationals government is letting developers in to what should be protected parts of Victoria.