Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Peter Greste

The trial of Peter Greste has been a farce. He was guilty of no more than doing his job as a reporter, and no evidence was led which justified either the guilty verdict or the sentence he received.
I support the Australian Government’s attempts to have Peter Greste freed through the use of diplomatic channels and international fora such as the United Nations. If the use of diplomatic channels does not result in his being released, we need to examine our present areas of bilateral co-operation with Egypt and consider whether some of them should be suspended until Peter Greste is released.

The depths to which the rule of law has sunk is a sad consequence of Egypt’s out of control population growth.

In 1948 Egypt’s population was less than 20 million, less than Australia is now. It added a further 20 million by 1975, another 20 million by 1994, and another 20 million to reach 80 million by 2011. The UN says that continuing high fertility rates will see Egypt reach 100 million by 2025 and 140 million by 2050.

In fact Egypt’s birth rate for the last three years exceeds the UN’s “high” projections. The number of births in the 1990s was 1.6 million on average. This increased to around 1.8 million births in the first decade of this century. There were 2.4 million births in 2011 and 2.6 million in 2012, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics. Back in 1950 Egypt had the same number of births as Italy. By 1977 it had the same number as Italy and France combined. By 2000 it matched the combined total of Italy, France and Spain, and by 2012 the combined total of Italy, France, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The consequences of this rapid population growth are plain for all to see – violent, debilitating conflict over access to scarce resources. The world’s leaders need to tell Egypt’s leaders that they need to stop focussing on today’s battles for just long enough to draw attention to the underlying problem, and the need to reduce their birth rate to more traditional levels. If they do not, it is entirely predictable that there will be more conflict and misery in future, not less. It is also predictable that Egypt will make no progress towards becoming a vibrant pluralist democracy where the rule of law, freedom of speech, and proper protection for women and minorities is the natural order.

Monday, June 23, 2014

100 Years of Red Cross – Be Part of the Great Australian Story

Kelvin Thomson invites local residents of Wills to become a part of this year’s Centenary of Red Cross in Australia.

Red Cross has helped shape 100 years of Australia’s social history. To celebrate its Centenary this year, Red Cross is publishing the stories of ordinary Australians whose lives have been touched by Red Cross as volunteers, members or beneficiaries of their services.

“100 years of Australian Red Cross is worth celebrating,” said Mr Thomson.

“Over the past century, especially during times of war and disaster or through the blood service, the lives of most Australians have been touched by Red Cross.

“Every Australian can take part in the Red Cross Centenary celebrations this year, by attending an event or sharing your Red Cross stories and photos.

“I congratulate the Red Cross members and volunteers in my community whose everyday work makes such a positive, lasting difference to the lives of vulnerable people.

“Red Cross is unique as an impartial and neutral humanitarian organisation that brings people together, irrespective of religion, nationality or any political differences they may have, to help those in need.

“I look forward to joining local Red Cross people in our community to celebrate 100 years of people helping people,” said Mr Thomson.
To share your Red Cross story visit:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sinkhole Suburbs: Thousands Face Ruin

A front page article in the Sunday Age of 8 June with the above heading drives home starkly one of the sad consequences of Melbourne's rampant population growth. Homeowners may end up with debts of tens of thousands of dollars because the property industry and planning authorities are too greedy and short-sighted to make sure homes are only being built in locations that are safe and suitable.

New estates from Grovedale on the outskirts of Geelong to Doreen in Melbourne's north, and including thousands of homes in the municipalities of Hume, Melton and Wyndham, have been built on highly reactive volcanic clay soils on "waffle slab" foundations. Soil movements under a home's foundations cause walks to crack, doors and windows to jam, and floors to tilt. The Sunday Age reports that 160 home owners have contacted Slater and Gordon lawyers.

A Melbourne consulting engineer says waffle slabs, poorly trained and regulated soil testers, and builders failing to follow the AS2870 standard for home footings are at the root of the problem. But one must also question the land releases on Melbourne's fast growing outer suburbs, many in areas with volatile soils, and the expansion of Melbourne's urban growth boundary which facilitated this.

The property industry demanded these land releases, in order to boost its profits, and claimed they were necessary to help make housing affordable. It did this rather than admit that the real solution for skyrocketing house prices is to stop Melbourne's rampant population growth. But homeowners facing ruinous home renovation and legal bills will not think that housing for them has become more affordable as a result of this greedy and short-sighted behaviour.

This unhappy episode shows that far from listening to demands from the property industry for less red tape when it comes to land releases, we need firm, clear and enforced State and local government regulation which protects innocent homebuyers.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Federal Government Disinterest in Royal Park

Given the Federal Government’s plan to spend billions of dollars (Budget emergency notwithstanding) to put a freeway through Royal Park, I asked the Assistant Infrastructure Minister whether the Government had made any estimates of the value of Royal Park as an area of public open space for Melbourne residents. I also asked whether any estimates factored in the impact of current population growth rates on public open space, and the importance of maintaining treed areas in Central Melbourne to mitigate against temperature and summer heat waves.

Mr Briggs has now replied that “these are primarily issues for the other levels of Government”.

It is a matter of profound regret that the Federal Government is prepared to spend billions of dollars on a freeway, but is not sufficiently engaged to find out anything about the damage this will cause.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Support the CSIRO

The Prime Minister’s response to complaints about his failure to appoint a Science Minister was to say that the government should be judged by its performance in the area of science, rather than whether it has a Science Minister.

Following the 2014 Budget we are now, regrettably, in a position to assess its performance. The CSIRO Budget is to be cut by $116 million over the next 4 years. Indeed more than 500 jobs, about a tenth of the CSIRO workforce, will go.