ABC TV Q&A this Thursday evening 7th August at 9.30PM

The Hon. Peter Garrett, our Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts will be appearing on ABC TV Q&A this Thursday evening 7th August at 9.30PM. (See Q&A bio on Mr. Garrett below).

It would be great if the program received a critical mass of questions on Port expansion/Channel Deepening so as to increase the likelihood of a question being asked on the issue. Questions can be sent via text on the night: SMS to 197 55 222 (costs 55c including GST)or at any time to the program website at: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s2320709.htmPlease help!
Here are some suggested questions, which you may use or modify as you wish:
·         Mr. Garrett has a history of commitment to nuclear disarmament. He has however happily approved a project where the Port of Melbourne Corporation avoided (somehow) assessing Yarra sediments for radionuclides - despite a long history of radionuclide contamination of sites adjacent to the Yarra. Millions of tonnes of toxic sludge containing a range of other toxicants such as cadmium, lead, mercury, arsenic, cyanide, and possibly radioactive elements, are being exhumed right now from the Yarra. Despite approving the release of tonnes of toxic material into the environment, Mr. Garrett was happy to raise the spectre of nuclear waste with Brendan Nelson only last week, in his media release challenging Dr. Nelson on such issues as where nuclear waste from (hypothetical Liberal party endorsed) nuclear power plants would be dumped.  How can he justify that contradiction in his commitment to reducing risks from radioactive waste?  See his media release at: http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/garrett/2008/pubs/mr20080729.pdf, and Blue Wedges Media Release on potential radioactive waste in the Yarra at: http://www.bluewedges.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=195&cntnt01returnid=15 .
  • Mr. Garrett has approved a project which poses risk to the 120+ unique sponge species which exist nowhere else on earth other than at the Entrance to Port Phillip Bay. Those species are currently the subject of an emergency listing under the EPBC Act, which VNPA/ACF recently submitted to Mr. Garrett. The Port of Melbourne Corporationadmitted last week that it had failed to properly clean up fallen rocks from an area of 9300 sq. metres in The Entrance, which likely damaged some of these important species, and possibly other threatened species as well. Around the same time he proudly announced his desire to protect our unique terrestrial native species by banning the importation of the African Savannah cat. In announcing that decision he said: "My role as Federal Environment Minister is to make decisions based on the best possible outcome for the Australian environment. I have an obligation under the Convention on Biological Diversity to protect Australia's biodiversity and I take that responsibility very seriously." How can Mr. Garrett justify the contradiction between his desire to protect land based species and his disinterested in protecting vulnerable marine species?
 
  • Shouldn't Mr. Garrett have investigated whether any vulnerable or endangered species under his care were impacted by the Port Corporation's recent failure to meet environmental standards at The Entrance to Port Phillip Bay?
 
(Sadly we did not hear a peep from Mr. Garrett about threats to marine species - being posed right now under his watch) See his Savannah Cat Media Release at: http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/garrett/2008/pubs/mr20080803.pdf, and see Blue Wedges Media Release regarding PoMC's failure to meet environmental standards at the Entrance at: http://www.bluewedges.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=196&cntnt01returnid=15
·         The Port Phillip Bay Channel Deepening project poses broad challenges for society such as the environmental and human health impacts of the Port Corporation's  projected quadrupling of trade (and traffic) through Melbourne which it has relied upon to justify the purported economics of the project. Is it reasonable to rely on a quadrupling of truck traffic emanating from the Port, trundling through residential suburbs just so the Port can expand its business four fold?
·         Aside from the negative health impacts for local communities, what about Greenhouse implications of planning for that sort of (outmoded) expansion? Will a quadrupling of trade by 2030 happen anyway, given what looks like a very different future on the horizon? The PoMC has relied on trade projections, produced for the PoMC by their own consultants; those figures are now some years out of date and are based on old hat thinking, and are also the subject of considerable challenge. The claimed "benefits" are reliant upon the shipping industry passing on a whopping 97% of any savings they obtain from using the deeper channels. Can Mr. Garrett produce any evidence that any business would ever voluntarily pass on 97% of any savings it has obtained?
·         In light of the downturn in retail sales, our economy generally, and the obvious environmental evidence around the globe that "business as usual" just cannot go on, are we digging a highway through the Bay that is already outmoded and may never get used?
You will find considerable material about the spurious economic justifications for the project at www.bluewedges.org
Let's make sure that Mr. Garrett cannot avoid facing his responsibility for approving a project with so many risks to humans and the environment. For loads of ideas on question content, see various other media releases, letters and documents at www.bluewedges.org.
I have already sent in a question (see below) so I hope you might consider sending a question to the Q&A website: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s2320709.htm
Q&A bio on Garrett

Peter Garrett

It was never going to be easy for Peter Garrett to make the transition from environmental activist, political firebrand and international rock star to mainstream politics. Having spent much of his life in the public eye advocating radical positions, he is now frequently accused of selling out for committing to the Labor Party's policy platform on the environment, the US alliance and a range of other issues.
But Peter, who says he is a team player, regards himself as being in politics for the long haul and believes he can have more influence as a member of Cabinet than as an outside agitator. While some of his past views cause him embarrassment when they conflict with present-day Labor policy, he insists that people should be allowed to change their opinions as they go through life.
Peter, who has been Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts since last year's election, was born in 1953. He grew up in the northern suburbs of Sydney and studied Arts at the ANU in Canberra and then Law at the University of NSW. In 1977 he became the singer for the rock band Midnight Oil after responding to an advertisement. The Oils were highly successful in Australia and around the world, recording 13 albums until Peter's decision to leave and concentrate on environmental and social activism in 2002. They were awarded the ARIA lifetime achievement award in 2006.
Peter's activism included co-founding the Nuclear Disarmament Party and running for the Senate in 1984. Through the 1990s he was president of the Australian Conservation Foundation and entered Parliament in 2004 for the Sydney seat of Kingsford-Smith.
Peter, a committed Christian, and his wife Doris have three daughters and live in Randwick in Sydney.
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Jenny Warfe's Question:
 
You approved the Port Phillip Bay Channel deepening project (designed to cater for the Port Corporation's projected quadrupling of trade through the port of Melbourne by 2030) at a time when we are well aware that increased emissions from moving goods around the globe is a major contributor to Greenhouse Gas emissions, global warming, and consequent loss of habitat and species. Aside from your responsibilities to protect unique species in the Bay, which are being destroyed so that even bigger ships can squeeze through Port Phillip Heads, how can you justify providing the environmental approval for projects like channel deepening and the Bass Coast De-Sal plant, which serve only to further entrench our Greenhouse Gas emitting problems?