Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Victoria: July to December 2009

Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Victoria: July to December 2009

Article excerpt

Although there had been better than average rainfall alleviating the state's water problems, and a cold snap obliterating the memories of the series of searing hot days that culminated in one of the worst bushfire seasons since the 1930s, the "Black Saturday" bushfire disaster that afflicted Victoria in February continued to reverberate through winter and spring. This was due partly to the extent of the damage caused by the fires especially around Kinglake and Marysville that taxed the ability of the reconstruction effort to replace buildings and reconstruct towns and communities. As the bushfire reconstruction authority under the leadership of former Police Commissioner Christine Nixon grappled with the task confronting it, the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission under the chairpersonship of Justice Bernard Teague continued to inquire in to the disaster. As part of its inquiry (which has yet to be concluded), an interim report was published in September so as to give the government and emergency services authorities some findings that could be the basis for new regulations and new approaches in time for the next fire season .

The bushfire royal commission and the bushfire reconstruction effort were major issues in the Victorian policy debate during the second half of 2009, although their ability to generate political controversy did not match that of water policy, transport policy and policing. The Brumby Labor government did not appear to be suffering too much political opprobrium from the bushfire issue, even after the release of the interim report flagged that there had been several administrative failures on the part of the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and authorities such as the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and even though the Melbourne Age newspaper headline declared that the Commission had "[Laid] the Blame on CFA and Brumby" (Age, 18 August 2009). The interim report was highly critical of the abandonment of the idea of community refuges in high-risk rural areas and recommended their re-introduction. The report also argued for a review of the system by which fire conditions might be assessed and warnings issued. The CFA came in for criticism over its advice to residents in high-risk areas, with the commission indicating that it had identified the "stay or go" policy as problematic. From these recommendations the Victorian government and the Commonwealth decided to formulate a national fire emergency warning system to include a new category of"potentially catastrophic" conditions that would then become the basis on which residents would leave a fire district well before the onset of a fire. While the commission continued its hearings, the Brumby government tried to explain the new warning system.

Water, Land-Use, Transport: the Policy Debate

Like the bushfire royal commission, the matters of water policy, public transport policy and "law and order" were constant themes in the policy debate. However, unlike the matter of how government should respond to fire emergencies in the future, the other matters on the agenda were to be a constant source of irritation for the government. The problems associated with water policy derived from localised opposition to two key infrastructure projects commissioned by the government in a bid to buttress Melbourne's drinking water supply. The construction of a desalination plant near the regional city of Wonthaggi in south Gippsland had been the subject of vociferous opposition from local conservationists, although the government's main concern was about the impact that the global financial crisis might have had on the availability of foreign investment capital to fund the private-public partnership project. The desalination plant is the cornerstone of the government's plan to secure Melbourne's drinking water in the face of prolonged drought. It was with some relief, then, when the government was able to announce in July that the tendering process for the plant's construction had been completed and the project had been awarded to the AquaSure consortium comprising of French company Degremont and the locally based Theiss construction company (Australian, 31 July 2009). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.