Going Backwards under Baillieu – protest at Parliament House, Melbourne, 13 November 2011

Environmentalists gathered at Parliament House to protest at the Baillieu government’s retrogressive policies, symbolised by a backwards march down Spring Street to the Treasury Gardens, where they were welcomed by members of Occupy Melbourne. Before setting off, they heard speakers including Mark Wakeham of Environment Victoria, one of the groups organising the event, along with the Victorian National Parks Association, The Wilderness Society, and Friends of the Earth; Kate Tubbs, Bacchus Marsh teacher and farmer defending her farm from coal-mining;Luke Chamberlain, Victorian Forest Campaigner, The Wilderness Society; Cam Walker, Campaigns Coordinator, Friends of the Earth; and Matt Ruchel, Executive Director, Victorian National Parks Association. There is a report by Takver on Melbourne Indymedia and photos on the FoE Flickr Photostream. See also http://www.melbourne.foe.org.au/?q=node/1024 and http://www.environmentvictoria.org.au/media/backwards-march-urges-baillieu-government-change-direction-environment

Mark Wakeham began proceedings by listing the ‘shocking decisions’ the Baillieu government
had made, inviting the rally to ‘vote’ by boos to select the worst. The list ranged form the return of cows to the Alpine National Park, support and approval for the new HRL coal-fired power station, through extending the duck hunting season, logging the habitat of endangered species, imposing crippling restrictions on the building of wind farms, and so on and so on. See further http://www.environmentvictoria.org.au/blog/posts/baillieu-government

Kate Tubbs recounted how there had been no objections to the mining exploration at Bacchus Marsh, simply because no-one in the are had known anything about it: “There are 29000 people in the Moorabool shire, and not one person objected against this exploration licence, because we did not know it was happening… The stealth stunned us. I was the first one to find out because they actually needed to come on to our land and I had refused…” (See article in The Age and Moorabool environment group website)

Cam Walker discussed the government’s wrecking of the wind energy program in Victoria. Wind energy was one of ‘only two so-called environment policies which the Coalition had brought to the last election, and they had implemented it in its entirety, which was entirely bad news for Victoria. He saw it as clearly based on political deals and ideology and not on common sense, not on good science and certainly not on best practice management of anything. (There is a detailed analysis of the implications of the Baillieu government’s wind energy policies on the FoE website – What is the real cost of Ted Baillieu’s wind energy policy? ) He was loudly applauded when he said that under the Baillieu government’s policies we would have no more community wind farms, and for his own part, he would rather a community cooperative owned his energy and sold it to him rather than International Power down at Hazlewood…

Matt Ruchel stressed Victoria’s unique richness in terrestrial and marine species ‘but it’s also one of the most stressed places in Australia’. Many scientific reports over the last 20 years had shown that Victoria had a high number of threatened species, with very little native vegetation left compared with other places around the country. ‘But what we’ve seen in the last 12 months is a real concerning trend – the first act almost of the Baillieu government when they came to power was to essentially sneak cattle back into the Alpine National Park in January last year’ [subsequently blocked by the federal government]. He went on to list massive expansion into the green Wedges -‘the lungs of Melbourne, but also some of the last remaining areas of grassland, the most endangered ecosystem in the country’ with as little as 1% left; attacks on the national parks, emending red gum legislation and abolishing the ban on collecting firewood. See further http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-09-22/anger-over-firewood-collection-plan/2911004 and generally on the VPNA website.

Luke Chamberlain dealt with the government’s record in the forests: ‘About two months ago .. the Baillieu state government, through its logging apparatus VicForests, sent the bulldozers into Leadbeater’s [possum] habitat (http://leadbeaters.org.au/)and started trashing the forest at Sylvia Creek outside Toolangi (loud boos). (See eg report in Green Left Weekly). These forests, he said, were special, they were the last home for a myriad of endangered species, this particular area was one the small amount of forest that did not get burnt during the 2009 fires … See more on the website of the Wilderness society and here.

Excerpts from the speeches on YouTube:

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