Dear supporters and Sustainable Australia Party members,
I hope my letter finds you and your loved ones well.
I hope you are all staying strong during extremely difficult circumstances. This unprecedented pandemic is undermining the social and economic fabric of our state.
As you will be aware, the past month has been dominated by the State Government's push to extend Victoria's State of Emergency.
I will touch on that, and many other issues, in this newsletter.
Clifford Hayes MP
Why I voted against the Government's State of Emergency Extension Bill
This issue certainly dominated the headlines in recent months. With the current State of Emergency set to expire mid-September, the Government rushed to put a Bill to Parliament to extend it for an entire year.
This was likely the most polarising, controversial bill I have ever seen. I have never been inundated by so many emails and phone calls with people concerned about this one.
As I told many media outlets, the original proposal was a ridiculous overreach.
The Government subsequently backed down, returning with a plan to extend the State of Emergency by six months.
It was passed in the Upper House this month by just one vote.
I rose to put our point of view.
I voted against the Bill, and I'm disappointed that it was voted through without amendment by Labor and three Crossbenchers.
Here's a brief rundown of the problems I had with the Bill:
- The Government arrogantly brought on this Bill without consulting with the Crossbench or the community.
- The Government had six months to plan for this, but did nothing until the last minute.
- The initial proposal for 12 months was a ridiculous overreach.
- The Government had been actively trying to stop Parliament from sitting, denying Members like myself from being able to engage in scrutiny.
- Six months of unchecked power is too long without democratic oversight.
- The powers so far exercised under the State of Emergency have been far too arbitrary; certain rules for some and special rules for others.
- The Government was responsible for the hotel quarantine disaster during the State of Emergency; perhaps that could have been avoided with Parliamentary scrutiny.
- The length of extension without Parliamentary oversight is undemocratic.
- The Government wants State of Emergency to apply even when there are no cases - another overreach.
- The Government is also reducing the threshold for police to exercise force upon the community.
In short, I want to make it clear that I do not believe there is anything fake or exaggerated about the coronavirus pandemic. It is by any yardstick a genuine emergency.
We need a reasonable compromise between the need to ensure that public safety is protected and the need to ensure that civil liberties are safeguarded and not removed without genuine cause.
The Bill, however, had many underlying issues.
I suggested a three month extension, to be renewed if necessary by a sitting of Parliament as a compromise between the civil liberties of the Victorian community and the safety of the public, but the Government already had the numbers for six months.
The broader lessons we need to learn from this pandemic
With all the discourse surrounding Coronavirus, I feel there is a need to clarify the lessons that we need to learn moving forward.
Families, businesses and individuals have, and continue to suffer as a result of this pandemic. The social, economical and mental health repercussions are immense. My thoughts are with those who have contracted the disease and their families and those who have lost jobs or substantial parts of their income due to virus lockdown and restrictions.
There is little doubt that the world has changed as a result of COVID and we do need to learn some lessons from it. We need to make the health and well-being of our community our top policy priority! For years our governments and political leaders have been prioritising economic growth. We need to change the focus to what really matters, our health, the health of our communities and our cities.
We need to become more self-reliant and self-sufficient. We are way too vulnerable to global supply chains. In a crisis other countries put themselves first, and frankly so they should. We need to buy Australian made products and support Australian ownership and Australian owned companies. And not just manufacturing, but Australian services as well. The entire notion of globalisation will be changed for years to come.
We also need to re-learn the lesson that dense population is not healthy or safe, and push back against the property industry and planners who tell us all that we should live packed together and on top of each other in apartments.
Communities should have a choice about how we live in our suburbs and have control over the plan and not be forced to follow the dictates of the property industry.
Melbourne’s previous suburban design, with front and back yards, owes a lot to the push against unhealthy, dense, disease-ridden slums by the planners of the
early twentieth century.
We need to recapture the vision of a well-spaced city.
For health and heritage: It's time for an inquiry
One of my main focuses as of late has been the protection of Melbourne's world-renown heritage.
During my time as an MP I have received many expressions of concern about the poor state of heritage protection in Victoria and the number of historic homes in Melbourne which have been demolished or are at risk of demolition.
I have discussed this issue with some of my Crossbench colleagues, and am seeking their support for a Parliamentary Inquiry into Heritage Protection.
All too often, these beautiful heritage properties are being bulldozed and replaced with high-density apartments.
In the Southern Metropolitan Region in recent years we have seen numerous demolitions of significant buildings.
Prepare to shudder at this list, which includes:
- 34 Armadale St Armadale
- 19 Moir St Hawthorn
- “Forres” at 9-11 Edward St Kew
- 981 Burke Rd Camberwell
- 993 Burke Rd Camberwell
- “Arden” at 1045 Burke Rd Camberwell
- 33-35 Huntingtower Rd Armadale
- 34 Were St Brighton
- “Idylwilde” at 16 St George’s Rd Toorak
- 27 Mariemont Ave Beaumaris
- 17 Nautilus St Beaumaris
- 2 Burgess St Beaumaris
- “Breedon House” at 34 Were St Brighton
- 32 Middle Crescent Brighton
- 25-27 Victoria Rd Canterbury
- 368 Auburn Rd Hawthorn
- 360 Auburn Rd Hawthorn
- 55 Seymour Rd Elsternwick
- Gough Whitlam’s former house at 46 Rowland St Kew
In light of this, I also recently wrote an editorial for the Herald Sun on the importance of protecting our heritage and the need for a Parliamentary Inquiry.
This isn't just about these magnificent pieces of architecture, but it is also about the health and safety of our communities.
We owe it to 19th and 20th century Melbourne's days of the quarter-acre block, backyard and open space for slowing the spread of previous pandemics.
Planning for open space and vegetation is also part of our heritage.
High-density developments have been counterproductive when it comes to the spread of pandemics including COVID-19.
Just another reason to protect our heritage.
On that note, there are two properties at risk as we speak that I am desperately trying to save.
A home by renowned Melbourne architect Robin Boyd is the subject of a heritage row after it was listed for sale and advertised as a redevelopment opportunity.
Another, a 1916 Federation Queen Anne villa in Berkeley Street Hawthorn is in danger of demolition, with the Planning Minister having rejected a request from Boroondara Council to extend heritage protection to the home.
Pushing back against property developer donations
I have always been concerned about the undue influence of property developers in Victoria’s political process through campaign donations.
The revelations at the Independent Broad-based Anti Corruption Commission Inquiry into Casey Council have shown how deep this insidious influence is.
In February I moved a Motion in Parliament urging the Victorian
Government to sack Casey Council, and asking the Government to ban property developer donations to political parties, sitting Members of Parliament, state and municipal candidates entirely. The motion also called for an end to direct or indirect financial support or gifts from property developers to Members of Parliament, Councillors, planning staff or their families.
Both the Government and the Opposition, voted against my motion, but within a few days the Government moved to dismiss Casey Council.
However the rules regarding political donations remain the same, full of loopholes.
Political parties and developers are masters of exploiting loopholes and restrictions on donations, so we need to clean up this mess and outlaw property developer donations entirely.
To those who claim that such laws are hard to define or enforce, have a look at the 2018 New South Wales Electoral Funding Act and the 2018 Queensland Local Government Electoral and Other Matters Amendment Act. Both already list property developers as prohibited donors. Victoria, however, does not.
This is a change I continue to pursue.
Since then, we've had a welcome development with the City of Melbourne successfully moving a Motion to ban candidates for the forthcoming Council elections from accepting campaign donations from property developers or the gambling industry.
No gas import hub for Westernport
Recently, the Shire of Mornington Peninsula took a stand against the ludicrous Crib Point floating gas hub.
The Council has adequately represented the community, and now it is up to Richard Wynne to step up and do the right thing.
Notwithstanding the severe and detrimental environmental ramifications of this project, why on earth should we - being the biggest LPG producer in the world - export our resources on the cheap only to buy it back at a much higher cost.
It is absolute nonsense.
Imagine having an Apple tree growing in your backyard. By this Government's logic you should sell the apples to Woolworths for 80 cents a kilo only to return to the supermarket a few days later to buy your apples for $5 a kilo.
I have sent a submission to the Environmental Effects Statement for this project and written numerous letters trying to get this stopped. Watch this space.
Pushing for reprieve in Glen Eira
The City of Glen Eira is under siege by a developer onslaught. This has only been exacerbated by the State Government's current planning provisions in the municipality.
Recently, I wrote to Glen Eira's Mayor and Councillors to outline my concerns.
There are currently five VCAT appeals underway relating to high rise applications which Council has rightly rejected.
The applications are for a 9 storey tower at 348 Hawthorn Road, 7 storey towers at 371, 380 and 388 Hawthorn Road, and an 8 storey tower at 679 Glenhuntly Road. The appeals are due to be heard at VCAT in September, October and December.
The three tallest buildings in Caulfield South at present are 4 and 5 storeys. Every one of the five proposed towers would be much taller than any building presently in Caulfield South. They would dramatically, and negatively, alter the neighbourhood. They would be inappropriate at any time, but they are particularly inappropriate at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has brought home the health risks that come with a dense population.
Caulfield South residents want Council to take three steps to help protect them from overdevelopment. First, provide external legal representation for all five VCAT hearings, to ensure the best possible representation of the position of Council and residents. Second, to actively argue at VCAT for a 5 storey height limit in each of the 5 hearings, consistent with the City Plan 2020. Finally, they want Council to expedite the planning work required to enshrine the height limits in the City Plan into the planning scheme.
Further to this, residents of Carnegie and Bentleigh have contacted me to express their opposition to Planning Scheme Amendment C184 for the Carnegie and Bentleigh Activity Centres.
I have asked the Council to scrap these Amendments, which would facilitate further high-density development.
Success in battle to stop Woolworths towers in Elsternwick
Some fantastic news for local residents of Elsternwick Village - VCAT has rejected Woolworths' proposal for 10 and 14 storey towers for Selwyn Street.
A critical aspect in the findings was the need to protect the heritage shops along Glen Huntly Road.
This finding means that Glen Eira City Council needs to make a firm commitment to protecting the Glen Huntly Road shopping precinct, which is constantly under threat from inappropriate development.
Congratulations to all of those who worked so hard to save Elsternwick.
I'm proud to say that I campaigned heavily on this issue, asking a myriad of questions in Parliament, writing letters to Ministers and so on.
An important battle won but the campaign goes on!
Safety for Hampton after a long battle
A great payoff in the battle to upgrade the notorious Grenville Street crossing.
The Government has committed to upgrade the crossing with a safe pedestrian crossing by the end of 2020.
While I'm proud to have advocated for this, the major credit must go to the Make it Safer: Fix Grenville St Crossing group, and in particular, Stuart Worn; whose tireless advocacy made this possible.
It's sadly been a site of fatalities in the past, but it is with some relief to say that residents of Hampton and surrounds will be much more safe once this upgrade is complete.
Finally, some action on cladding after far too long
It seems we're finally getting some movement to rectify flammable cladding on apartments across Melbourne.
For those who missed it, the State Government will accelerate the removal of dangerous flammable cladding from apartments across the state.
At a glance, this is a fantastic decision!
In the midst of economic uncertainty, a lot of these stimulus infrastructure spending programs go to projects which are environmentally damaging and contribute nothing to sustainability.
Fixing up dangerous buildings is an example of spending government money on something that is worthwhile.
However, if the Government wasn't worried about tradies this wouldn't be happening. The underlying motivation for this program is that the government is clearly desperate to create jobs.
It makes you wonder, why do we need such exhaustive migrant worker programs? It is glaringly obvious that we have an excess of workers over the number of available jobs.
With that said, I must congratulate the many constituents who have approached me about this issue and been extremely proactive over the past year.