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Melbourne Byelection

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Here are the responses from Melbourne's candidates that responded to our letters on whether they would work with the community toward better protection of our water, wildlife and forests.

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2012-07-08 02.47.58 pm

Image by Brent Lukey (Tree) & Dr Dan Harley (LBP)

A fortnight ago, four rural environment groups asked the 16 Melbourne By-election candidates if they would support a proposal to stop the extinction of species and protect Melbourne's water supplies from logging. The proposal was for a Greater Yarra Ranges National Park. We asked how far the candidates would be prepared to go and here are the responses from ten of them. We are very impressed with their support, even the ones who couldn't make a commitment right now demonstrated a willingness to listen. All good signs of leaders.

This is the letter they received. The image on the right is the flyer now being distributed throughout the seat of Melbourne and below are the detailed responses from the candidates.

Vote forests

OUR LETTER:

Congratulations on nominating as a candidate in the important 2012 Melbourne By-election.

You are probably aware of widespread community anger, protests and current community court case to save the last habitat of the endangered Leadbeater's Possum, Victoria's faunal emblem. These animals occur only in the Central Highlands and were already in serious decline when the 2009 Black Saturday fires wiped out more than 44% of their forest habitat. The total remaining population is likely to be less than 1000, even as low as 500! A small captive breeding program is being established at Healesville Sanctuary but the salvation of this species depends on comprehensive habitat protection. 

The natural habitat of this iconic animal is under enormous threat from clear-fell logging. In time, forest habitats can recover from bushfires, but clear-felling takes away nesting trees, food sources and the connectivity of the understorey, which is essential to the animals' ability to move around the environment.  Our diverse forests are being destroyed by the Victorian governments loss making logging arm VicForests to create low value timber products, mostly to supply wood-pulp to Australian Paper (Reflex brand office paper) and chips to a hopelessly oversupplied world market.

According to Professor David Lindenmayer (Australian National University), who has studied the ecology of the Central Highlands forests for almost 30 years, continuing the status quo amounts to little more than managing the species into extinction. And if we continue to clear-fell log these forests we are at risk of watching as the Leadbeater's Possum becomes Victoria's Thylacine, an emblem of man-made and wanton extinction within our lifetimes.

The Solution

We propose that in Victoria we must prioritise the protection of all existing and potential future habitat for Leadbeater’s Possum by extending the existing Yarra Ranges National Park to create the Greater Yarra Ranges National Park.  

There is wide-spread community support for this proposal from community groups and individuals across Melbourne and rural Victoria. 

In addition to protecting the possum from extinction, a Greater Yarra Ranges National Park, would have many associated advantages, including;

  • Support for local tourism industry that provides employment in regional townships, including those still recovering from the 2009 bushfires, with little alternative economic opportunity. 
  • Protection of water catchments that will supply the 4 million people (projected) in Melbourne,
  • Protection of catchments north of the Great Divide that provide a significant proportion of the water to the Goulburn River and then to the Lower Murray,
  • Preservation of the most carbon-dense forests in the world, which, kept standing, are worth much more economically and environmentally than if felled for paper,
  • Preservation of the potential of forests regenerating after previous logging and/or fires to continue to act as carbon sinks into the future,
  • Protection of Victoria's Mountain Ash trees, iconic in their own right as the world's tallest flowering plant,
  • Reduction of the threat of bushfire by allowing wet forests to develop into fire-resistant ecological maturity (young forests regenerating after clear-fell logging are more flammable than more mature forests),
  • Protection of the forests as habitat for a wide variety of other wildlife, including threatened species such as Powerful and Sooty Owls, Greater and Feather-tailed Gliders,

We would like to determine where you, as a candidate, stand in regard to this specific proposal for a Greater Yarra Ranges National Park and to the issue of biodiversity conservation in general.  We will be asking the following questions of all candidates in this by-election and intend to report responses to voters.  You will already be aware that the seat of Melbourne is a very environmentally conscious electorate with strong concern for the preservation of our environment now, and for future generations.  

Question 1:

Do you think it is important to protect threatened species (like Leadbeater’s Possum) from extinction and to protect their habitats?

Question 2

If elected, would you support the protection of all remaining habitat of Leadbeater's Possum in the Central Highlands within a Greater Yarra Ranges National Park?

Question 3:

As a candidate, and potentially as the member for Melbourne, will you publicly advocate for this proposal?

Question 4:

If necessary, would you cross the floor in Parliament to vote in support of this proposal?

Question 5:

If elected, will you work to strengthen and implement legislation and governance to ensure protection of threatened species and their habitats?

2012-07-14 02.07.10 pm

Australian Democrats candidate Melbourne VLA 2012 

David Collyer

Question 1:

Yes.  We are guilty of wanton environmental destruction.  This must stop.

Question 2: 

Yes.  We need to depopulate this high fire risk area, end all logging and reserve it for future generations.  A number of threatened species would benefit (as would humanity).

Question 3: 

Yes.  I do so here.

Question 4: 

  The Australian Democrats extend to their parliamentarians a free vote in all matters (one is held to account by the entire membership if this freedom is exercised without good cause). I would expect to vote for any law extending national parks or protecting the habitat of endangered species.

Question 5:

Yes.  Anywhere anytime.

Additional comments

The Australian Democrats have a long history of environmental leadership.  Ecological sustainability and protection are central to our policy thinking and processes. This has been so since the party was formed.  We concede The Greens no superiority on environmental matters. We are directing our preferences to The Greens ahead of the ALP, (via several minor parties) as has been our long-standing practice.

INDEPENDENT 

From: "G. H. Schorel-Hlavka O.W.B."

Subject: Re: Congratulations from Melbourne's forest communities!

Date: 29 June 2012 9:55:00 AM AEST

As a candidate I receive ample of people wanting me to make a certain pledge without that they even provide accurate details why I should do so. I do not engage in pledge making for the sake of attracting votes.  If elected I will represent all constituents and it will be up for the constituents to present me with sufficient details to show why I should support what they seek to be supported.

One major problem is that people come and refer to figures without showing any backup data to indicate how they arrived at these figures. As such they are so to say grabbed out of the thin air. 

It is therefore essential that anyone seeking to promote a certain matter does so ensuring to convey all relevant details.

Most politicians promise during elections everything so as to attract votes and after the election it all generally becomes un-promised.

Electors have to choose if they want honesty and integrity or rather go along with whomever deceives them or is willing to deceive them.

Gerrit

Mr G. H. Schorel-Hlavka O.W.B.

29-6-2012

From: "G. H. Schorel-Hlavka O.W.B."

Date: 30 June 2012 1:50:41 AM AEST

Subject: Re:  Congratulations from Melbourne's forest communities!

Sarah,

If you can set it out in writing and provide me with it then I will certainly consider it.

Gerrit

Mr G. H. Schorel-Hlavka O.w.B.

30-6-2012

 

INDEPENDENT 

From: Adrian Whitehead

Subject: Fwd: Congratulations from Melbourne's forest communities!

Date: 1 July 2012 2:15:23 PM AEST

Thanks,

Adrian

Question 1:

Yes

Question 2:

Yes

Question 3:

Yes

Question 4:

Not relevant as I am an independent – but yes if I was part of a political party

Question 5:

Yes

Additional comments.

Native forest have a vital role to play as carbon stores, preservers of biodiversity, protectors of our water catchments and as places of scenic and natural beauty. All industrial logging and clearing of native forests should cease immediately. The value as carbon stores along make logging or clearing native forests economic nonsense.

All publicly owned forest should be maintain as standing carbon stores and biodiversity reserves. All high conservation private native forests should be preserved and land owners compensated. Areas of low conservation private native forests provide opportunities for the development of a low impact restorative forestry industry that improves biodiversity outcomes and enables the production or wood based products.

Native forests should be placed in conservation reserves and provided with adequate management support to maintain or improve their values. This would include appropriate ecological burning.

A proportion of native forests should be made available for recreation and other pursuits, including, hunting, fishing and use of 4WD tracks for a range of activities including driving, motor bikes and push bikes.

Some highly damaged area of native forests may require some form of restorative management. This may involved restorative forest which may include some timber extraction, however this would be examined on a case by case basis. Options for restorative forestry could include fire wood collection for private and commercial use however firewood collection wood require a licensing system that would educate fire wood collectors about restorative forestry and enable firewood collectors to harvest appropriately.

All water catchments for human drinking water should be closed to agriculture and forestry, only allowing minimal impact activities such as bush walking. They should be regenerated and have a complete ban on biocide use.

GREENS

From: Cathy Oke

Subject: Re: Congratulations from Melbourne's forest communities!

Date: 3 July 2012 12:17:27 PM AEST

Thanks for sending us your survey.  We very much support your push to protect the Leadbeater's Possum.  Please find responses to your questions below.  

Thanks,

Question 1:

Yes. Victorian and Federal legislation already requires governments to take action to prevent extinction, but also to protect the evolutionary potential of species and ecological communities.  The Greens want this put into practice.  

( See Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/fafga1988205/s4.html )

Question 2: 

Yes. The Greens see forest protection as an urgent priority, for species protection and climate protection, and we will use all our powers of persuasion with the other parties to achieve that outcome.  

Question 3:        

Yes.  The Greens in the Victorian parliament have advocated for the protection of Leadbeater's possum and I will continue to do so.

( http://vicmps.greens.org.au/content/healesville-logging-threatens-leadbeaters-possum )

( http://vicmps.greens.org.au/content/urgent-review-needed-leadbeater-possum-habitat-safeguards )

Question 4:        

At the moment, both the ALP and the Liberal/National coalition support the continued destruction of this species' habitat.  The most likely vote on this matter is Greens on one side of the chamber all other parties on the other.  It would be nice if they crossed the floor to join us!  

Question 5:

The Greens want a rapid phase out of all industrial scale logging in native forests.  We recognise that Victorias forests are some of the most carbon dense ecosystems on earth and restoring their carbon storage to its full potential will make a major contribution to reducing CO2 concentrations. 

( See also: http://vic.greens.org.au/sites/vic.greens.org.au/files/policydownloads/Forests%20policy%20rev2-w.pdf )

INDEPENDENT 

From:   Berhan Ahmed

Subject:  Re: URGENT: We need your views!

Date:  4 July 2012

Thank you for the email message and your questions for the conservation of habitat in the Yarra Ranges National Park. First, I did not receive your first email and second I was surprised to read your ultimatum for the 48 hrs reply. I am not standing on a party platform and I don't have an army of volunteers to reply emails and campaign on the street. I am a one-man band and I have to answer to all emails and phone calls equally.

To answer your questions

 Question 1:

As a senior scientist at the university of Melbourne and trained forest entomology and founder of  of imagine the future in 1992 (affiliated with ACF) I support protecting natural habitat of all endangered species. managing our ecosystem is not the responsibility of one or two groups; it is our collective role.

Question 2: 

yes, ditto

Question 3:

yes, I already being writing and communicating about "ecosystem management".  

Question 4:

yes

Question 5:

yes, As an independent candidate, if I win I have the freedom to stand on my principles.  

Regards, Berhan

SEX PARTY 

From:   Fiona Patten

Subject:  S-x Party response

Date:  4 July 2012

Apologies for the tardiness of the reply but we are so rushed off our feet in the by election. new small parties do not have the luxury of handing on these questionnaires to anyone else. 

As the Sex Party's Public Officer, Fiona Patten has asked me to reply. 

The Sex Party is one of the newest registered party's in Australia and was launched to try and combat the rise of the Nanny state in Australia. Therefore the party's platform is based firmly around civil liberties, free speech and open attitudes to modern sexuality. In order not to lose track of our priorities and to not try and be all things to all people, we have not developed policies yet in many areas. Economics, foreign affairs and housing are just a few areas that would be ridiculous for a new party to try and claim expertise in. Environment is another of these areas. But the fact that we have not had the time to develop policy in these areas doesn't mean that the party has no opinions and, if by some outside chance we were to win the seat of Melbourne and be in a position to vote on these issues in the parliament, we would whip up some policies fairly quickly. This document will give you and your subscribers a guide as to how that might play out.

Free speech and civil liberties are also an integral part of environmental policy and I don't think you should ignore our policies in these areas by saying they are not relevant to the environment. You have only to look at the incredible suppression of information around climate change by big business and big media, to see how important personal freedom and censorship reform is to climate change. 

In terms of the environment we would claim that our policies on sex underwrite many environmental policies if only people think laterally enough and look deeply enough into them. For example, our major environmental policy (embedded in other sex policy) would couched in terms of allowing animals to have more and better sex and allowing them the freedom to enjoy a reproductive life. This can only be achieved if there is habitat available for them to breed in. This then extrapolates out into a host of other policies including climate change. They can't fuck if its too hot or too cold......I'm sure you get where we're coming from here. 

I know you don't really want to hear personal opinions on policy but I think in ranking parties as to their environmental credentials, the personal involvement of the people who run the party are very important. 

I can tell you that in the early 1980s I was the editor of Australia's premier environmental magazine, Simply Living. I don't expect you to remember it but it was the leading media light in championing Bob Brown's fight on the Franklin Dam and my publishers were Verna Simpson (now the head of Humane Society) and Richard Jones who went on to become a Democrat MLC in the NSW parliament and who championed many environmental causes in his time there. I am still in constant touch with these people and advise Verna on a number of political issues. 

My partner, Fiona Patten (President of the party) and I, own two registered Wildlife Sanctuaries on the edge of Kosiosko National Park and have made a large personal contribution to wilderness with over 600 acres left for wildlife to breed in. We could make money from it by commercialising it but we choose to put our savings and super into wilderness. 

I will try and answer your questions as best i can below. 

Question 1:

YES

Question 2: 

YES 

Question 3:

Probably not. We find it extremely hard to get media attention as it is and what little we get we have to wheel out our civil liberties policies. Next time. 

Question 4:

We wouldn't have to as we wouldn't be sitting with the other two dinosaurs. 

Question 5:

Yes, for sure. 

INDEPENDENT 

From:   Stephen Mayne

Subject:  Re: URGENT: We need your views!

Date:  4 July 2012

"Whilst I've long campaigned for an end to old growth logging, spent 7 years living near the Fitzroy Garden enjoying the possums and love taking my kids to Healesville Sanctuary, I would need to better understand the position of DSE and the proposal at hand before rushing into a premature position just to seek an election endorsement. Therefore, I'm tentatively open to the idea, but would need further information from all stakeholders before making a firm public commitment."

Regards, Stephen Mayne

AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY

From:  Jennifer Kanis

Subject:  Leadbetter's Possum response

Date:  5 July 2012

Dear Steve,

Thank you for your email. 

The Labor Party and I value Victoria's unique biodiversity and in particular the importance of our faunal emblem the Leadbeater's Possum. 

Before the 2010 election, Labor announced a commitment to seek the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s detailed advice on the most appropriate land management arrangements to improve protection of critical habitat for Leadbeater's Possum. VEAC was to look at the Woori Yallock Creek in the Dandenong Ranges, which links some of Melbourne’s best parks to the Yarra River, and provides habitat for the State symbols – the Helmeted Honeyeater and the Leadbeater's Possum. 

The streamside reserves and other public land in the valley provide critical bio-links between habitat that is home to some of Victoria’s endangered species, including the Leadbeaters Possum. 

The liberal government  made no such commitment, and so far Mr Baillieu has trashed Victoria's record on the environment, with his backward moves on clean energy, including restrictive wind farm planning laws and scrapping the premium solar feed in tariff, and his blatant disregard for fragile ecosystems with 'alpine grazing trial' which endangers many threatened species. 

If elected, I would work with my Labor colleagues against Ted Baillieu  to ensure protection of threatened species and their habitats. 

With kind regards, Jen 

SECULAR PARTY 

From:    John Perkins

Subject:  Re: URGENT: We need your views!

Date:   6 July 2012

Question 1:

Yes

Question 2:

Yes

Question 3:

Yes

Question 4:

Yes

Question 5:

Yes

Additional comments.

I represent the Secular Party of Australia. We favour redirecting public expenditure away from promoting and subsidising religious organisations and towards public works that benefit the entire community including National Parks. Our policy will free up substantial revenue which will be needed in the future as we move to a carbon constrained world.

AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIAN PARTY

From:   Maria Bengtsson

Subject:  Leadbeater's Possum and its habitat - Response

Date:   6 July 2012

Hi Steve

Please find below the response from Australian Christians candidate Maria Bengtsson to your questions. Our apologies for the delay in responding. Maria has just moved into a new housing area without Internet access –and couldn’t have done so at a worse time of course with dozens of such emails flooding her inbox.

So I’m sending this on behalf of Maria and thank you for your patience.

Kind regards

Question 1:

Absolutely - all that is feasibly possibly should be done to protect threatened species and the environment.

Question 2:

In principle this is something I would like to support. But without being an ecologist, I would have to commit to obtain the research to understand what the broader issues are to others that share this environment.

 

Question 3:

Given the right outcomes of the research the answer would be 'Yes'. I believe advocating for the good of people and the environment is at the heart of good politics.

 

Question 4:

Yes, I would cross the floor for what I believe is the morally right position.

 

Question 5:

This is an important issue which deserves attention and I wouldn't want to minimize its importance. However I would like to be completely honest and advise that my greatest concern is the approximately 7,000 unborn babies that have been aborted in Victoria so far this year, and the legislation that allows for full term abortion. We believe this is to Victoria's great shame that our own unborn children have become a 'threatened species'.

I would endeavor to be a voice for the most vulnerable in our society from the unborn to the elderly, and for responsible management of our environment, resources and species that share these.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.