A new act in the EWL burlesque

One day before the release of the CIS (Comprehensive Impact Statement), subscriber to the Linking Melbourne Authority’s newsletter could learn that the government has assigned an independent committee that will provide recommendations for the assessment process. How independent is this committee?

I have said before that the whole EWL process has so far been marked by a complete abstinence of democratic principles. Although at first sight promising, the next chapter in the process only gets more obscure. What, dear reader, makes a committee independent? To my understanding something is independent from something else, if there is no obvious connection between both. In the EWL process and the discussed CIS assessment, an independent committee would be one that has no connection to the developers, the government, the authorities or any other party involved in the project.

Now, while I am certainly not questioning the competence of people I don’t know, I wonder why we as tax payers, and thus buyer of the whole process, do not learn why and how these people were chosen for the said role. What are their strengths, and why are they the right persons for this very important task? We don’t know, because neither the newsletter nor the website of the Linking Melbourne Authority tell us anything about the people or the process that lead to their nomination.

I believe that in a democracy and considering the controversy the whole project has produced so far, an independent committee should be chosen by the people, not by a totalitarian government. At least we could expect the process that leads to the nomination of such a committee to be transparent. The nomination should have been open and inclusive. All citizens should have been informed about the open positions and invited to apply. Further, parties that cannot be present but will heavily be affected by the project (e.g. future generations, flora and fauna) should also have a voice. This could have been done by nominating as well some representatives from environmental NGOs: Birdlife Australia, the ACF or any other conservation group who know the issues surrounding new developments and habitat fragmentation. None of that is the case and it would be a surprise if some of the committee members would actually represent those groups. At best, they are independent from the environment and environmental interests.

A quick research on the internet doesn’t provide much insight into the biographies of the committee members. What I found is the following[1]. Lynette Denison serves (or served) as a Principal Scientist on Air Quality for the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA). James Holdsworth has prepared a residential street study for the South Melbourne City Council. Des Grogan has written “Melbourne planning scheme amendment C133 residential parking rates panel report”. Nicholas (Nick?) Wimbush has 20 years of experience in a variety of State and Local Government roles in Western Australia and Victoria including advising the Victorian Government in a senior role on coastal planning and development. Since 2006 he has been a full time Senior Panel Member with Planning Panels Victoria.

Certainly very competent people in the area of infrastructure development. However, how independent are they in this process? How much do they know about unbiased, inclusive and transparent assessment processes? How well can they represent society, given that they have been closely involved with governmental bodies, some even with the Napthine government?

What at first glance looks like a good idea might turn out to be the next chapter in a very questionable process. Is the Napthine government playing a new act in its burlesque and we, the tax payers, are those they are laughing about?


[1] Provided they are the same persons. Unfortunately, I had limited time for a research, given that I’m at KL airport on my way to some travel overseas.

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About blaubear

Born in 1973 in a small village in rural Switzerland and into a society largely dominated by cows (not only was the human population of one-hundred-and-forty outnumbered by them, but politics driven by unreasonable subsidies for diary products) I was connected with nature from early age on. Observing nature on one hand and the deficiencies of a dysfunctional Swiss agricultural policy with farmers that had lost connection to the land that provided their income on the other, I soon started to question society and the meaning of life. Suffering also under a farcical public education I developed curiosity to discover on my own. That was how I soon learned that little of what I had been taught was true. Skepticism and interaction with people from for me new cultures fostered my interest for the world and eagerness to leave a life shaped by federalistic layman-ship. At the age of twenty-three I hit the road for the first time, an event that later translated into passion. Traveling between cultures has since become part of my life. At the age of thirty-three I finally realized my dream and did a degree in Environmental Engineering from which I graduated in 2009, only to leave Switzerland once more for my "real home" Spain. Unfortunately, the stay was a short one: a couple of months later I was offered a job in Southeast Asia, where I worked and also lived (with some interruptions, e.g. I live in Melbourne since late 2012) ever since. Having worked for a Japanese company earlier in my life, I soon felt captured again by Asian culture and thinking which makes a lovely contrast to my European heritage. My journey through different countries and cultures has taught me that regardless of how different our thinking and values are, no matter what approaches we take, we all can learn from each other. And if we are open enough to see the common instead of pointing out the differences, then we have a chance to live in harmony and peace: Life is all about integration, not exclusion! It's an old wisdom that "knowledge is power", as such I never get tired of being around new people, having interesting talks, and reading lots of good books. I hope that my blog can contribute to the conversation.
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