House debates

Monday, 18 October 2010

Grievance Debate

Swan Electorate: Canning Bridge Precinct Development

9:31 pm

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I note the member for Hindmarsh was speaking about taking the time to listen, making sure that everyone has a chance to put something forward, and that is what I rise to speak about. I rise to express disappointment on behalf of my constituents and ratepayers of Swan who reside in South Perth. I also note that many residents from Tangney are unhappy with the direction the City of Melville has taken on the issue I am going to talk about and they have formed a Melville action group.

The decision being taken is to approve the draft for a high-density, high-rise planning regime in the Canning Bridge precinct of Perth. There has been widespread and almost unanimous opposition from local residents in both council areas and I must admit I have not had one resident approach me and say, ‘This is a fantastic idea.’ The draft Canning Bridge Precinct Vision document, which outlines this plan, defines a Canning Bridge precinct as an 800-metre radius centred on the Canning Bridge train station. On the Swan electorate side of the bridge an arbitrary circle has been drawn demarking the area to which this regime will apply. Information my office has received from the Western Australian Planning Commission suggests that this will lead to 1,600 more dwellings on the South Perth side of the precinct by 2031. It has been met with a resounding opposition from local residents. Worryingly, it has now been endorsed by the City of South Perth in the face of this opposition. The other council involved, the City of Melville, is set to vote on this issue tomorrow night.

I want to run through how this process has developed into such a contentious issue in my community. When this issue first surfaced earlier in the year, people were concerned about the lack of consultation and the lack of information available. The residents are not antidevelopment but have felt that, through the whole consultation process, they have not been listened to. I have been to a few of the meetings and I must admit I also felt they were not being listened to.

The WAPC issued the draft for comment and subsequently extended the consultation period timeframe, which gave some time for the local residents to raise their objections and for a full public reaction to emerge. Public meetings were held, including one down by the Canning Bridge, which I attended with the local state member, John McGrath, MLA for South Perth—a hard-working local member—and Janet Woollard, an Independent MLA who listens to her constituents and understands their needs. It was clear at this meeting that there was an overwhelming opposition to this proposal in the community. Many of the main concerns from local residents centred on the proposed tower block developments. The draft plan foreshadows buildings potentially 20 storeys high which would undoubtedly come to dominate the skyline and the surrounding areas. In a submission one local resident said:

It’s ironic that one of the very things (the leafy quiet feeling of community) that draws people to live in Applecross will be eroded by it and eventually disappear altogether under inexorable encroachments of successive high-rise developments. Witness what happened to South Perth.

The same sentiment has been echoed by many residents of Como. There is a palpable fear in the community that these tower blocks will change the nature of what are quiet and indeed leafy suburbs, which is what attracted people to these areas in the first place. There has also been anger over the inevitable destruction of green space. The Como Beach action group raised concerns about the Olives Reserve, the only park on the river side of the Canning Highway for nearby residents. The group also raised concerns about the potential use of green land at the end of Melville Parade.

Other concerns included the possibility of compulsory acquisition of properties, impact of noise pollution and devaluation of properties. One resident summed up his views about the plan as more traffic, more congestion, parking issues, reduced street parking, overshadowing, less trees, more noise, more pollution, extensive zone of high rise buildings, existing views impacted, reduced privacy and overlooking issues, lack of public open space at ground level and security concerns.

After making detailed submissions and attending public meetings and lengthy consultation sessions, local residents would have hoped to have been heard. However, it is the inability of the council or the Planning Commission to take any of these points on board that has angered the local residents. This has led some local residents to declare it is a sham consultation process. A submission from one local resident declares:

This section states that the visions have been identified through ‘extensive community and stakeholder consultation’. Many of these dot points however were not discussed within nor arrived at through the conducted community forums and it si not clear from where many of the points have eventuated.

A number of points were put forward by the consultant running the workshop sessions as his own personal thoughts and were not pur forward from the community nor supported by those in attendance. Another submission states:

… we do not recognise the community forums held or sponsored by the South Perth City Council and other governments to date as legitimate community consultations for the following reasons:

1. Material information that would significantly affect residents and owners—including but not limited to the bus ramp at Cassey Street, the rezoning of heights to 10 storeys, and the rezoning plan leading to the elimination of many existing river views—was known and foreseen as a possibility by the governments before and during the community forums.

2. That this material information was either vaguely presented, downplayed or not presented at all by the governments in their published documents or in the community forums.

3. That this material information was then used by the governments and government contractors as the basis for the first published vision in a forum(s) that deliberately excluded community participants.

One of the local councillors has responded to concerns about consultation by publishing a diary of consultation events on his Green for Tangney blog. Yes, that councillor stood for the Greens in the federal electorate of Tangney at the August election. I feel this process and the council have been politicised by his lack of independence. Anyway, his blog goes like this:

My diary of consultation around Canning Bridge transport and other issues includes the following events:

21 July 2008: initial presentation by GHD, joint events for the city of South Perth and Melville citizens and the south of Perth yacht club two sessions—midday and evening;

29 July 2008: council briefing, city of Perth with GHD councillors and staff;

11 August 2008: community engagement sessions—one at South Perth senior citizens for South Perth residents within the 800 metre zone.

These are just samples of what is on his blog.

In the end this councillor concludes that there have been almost 40 consultation events. However, one of the residents has said that you can hold 400 public consultation events and it would be pointless unless you listen to what the people are actually saying to you. Another area in the fanciful concept of this draft is about TODs. A TOD is a transport oriented development, but a submission by a resident about the draft on TODs notes:

Section 1.3 of the draft is titled ‘Principles’ yet the section sets out ‘key elements of TOD’ The concluding paragraph states, “This study will consider ways in which the above principles of TOD can be delivered effectively and in a timely manner to the Canning Bridge precinct”.

Transit oriented development planning is a theoretical exercise which cannot simply draw out the main elements of the approach and apply them on the ground in a one-size-fits-all scenario guaranteed to arrive at success, particularly from one country and one culture to another. The section of the element principles is only a vague outline of the details of design within a TOD and is far too broad and non-specific to be applied literally. The component that is most likely to result in a successful TOD is the connectivity in the area, particularly between the identified elements. This aspect has not even been identified. In addition, the principles of TOD have not been applied in any way that is cognizant of what is actually occurring on the ground and in the existing areas.

I would like again to point out that the residents opposing this plan are not antiprogress. Stakeholders commended the recommendation for a southbound Manning Road on-ramp. This is an issue I have spoken about many times in this parliament and during the campaign I was pleased to be able to launch a Liberal election commitment of $10 million towards the construction of this long overdue piece of infrastructure. It was interesting to note that the Labor candidate also called for this infrastructure to be implemented as well but got no commitment for it. However, we were not given the opportunity to form a government and sadly will not have the opportunity to help build the Manning Road on-ramp for the people in that area.

In conclusion, concerned residents have founded two pressure groups: the Como Action Group and a Melville action group. I applaud them for this. As with other action groups, sometimes councils need to understand the passion of these people for their suburbs. The consultation process should actually achieve some results and not just ‘I hear and I feel what you are saying’ and then totally ignore the input of the people who voted for them in the first place. These groups are talking about running candidates against the sitting councillors at the next election in 12 months. I would encourage them to do that as part of the Australian democratic process and would warn those particular councillors who are not listening to their local residents that they do so at their own peril. The fact that they can do it is what is great about our country.

In this spirit I call upon the planning commission and the local councillors to listen to the people, shelve this plan, conduct a real process in consultation with the community and embrace the notions for how they want to live. I would like to thank those residents who have contributed and helped me put this speech together with their submissions.

10:41 pm

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My grievance is with the way in which the immigration debate in this country has been boiled down to a simple tally of boat arrivals. I live in one of the most diverse parts of Sydney. I live in Parramatta, right in the geographic centre of Sydney, in a community which has come from the world and settled where I live. Quite a significant number of refugees, over many decades, have settled there as well. I know them well. I know them to be great contributors. I know more recent arrivals and I know their stories. So when I talk about boat arrivals today—even though I am not going to refer so much to the personal stories, I am going to talk about the numbers and the problems around the world—I do want to remind the House that we are talking about people who have travelled terrible paths of fear, loss of family, violence and sometimes torture before finding themselves on a leaky boat seeking a safe place to live.

I am concerned in particular at the growing level of fear of what is a relatively small number of arrivals on Australian soil. I would like, in the time I have here, to inject some facts, some evidence and some relevance into this debate. Australia in 2009 had a net migration of around 160,000 people; the humanitarian stream was about 12,000 and of those about 2,000 arrived by boat. So the number of people arriving by boat was under one per cent of total migration. Yet these people had about 100 per cent of the public’s and media’s attention. Sections of our community respond with such fear at a relatively small number of boats, but I just want to point out that many other places in the world find themselves in considerably different circumstances. I wonder how we would respond in Australia if, like Pakistan, we were hosting 1.8 million refugees, mostly from Afghanistan. We had 2,000 arrivals in 2009 by boat. Pakistan had 1.8 million people flocking across its border. Now that is a refugee problem. Again, in saying that, I am well aware that it is the refugees themselves who face the greatest problem.

In 2009 Syria was host to 1.1 million Iraqi refugees, making it the second-largest refugee host country in the world. Iran hosted 980,000 refugees—large by our scale but small for Iran which earlier, with an open border policy, hosted close to five million Afghanis. Jordan hosted 500,000 refugees; Chad, 330,000; Tanzania, 321,000; and 320,000 refugees flocked across Kenya’s border. In that year 2,000 people arrived by boat on Australian shores.

The economic and social load from hosting refugees is overwhelmingly carried by developing countries, who hosted nearly 80 per cent of the global refugee population. In the Asia-Pacific region, our neighbours host around one-third of all the refugees in the world. In 2009 just 1.6 per cent of the asylum applications received across the 44 industrialised nations came to Australia. We ranked 16th overall and 21st on a per capita basis. Overwhelmingly, the burden of the world refugee problem is hosted by developing and Third World countries. A relatively small percentage of refugees go to industrialised nations, and Australia is well down the list in terms of how many we receive.

If you have listened to some of the debate recently, you might believe that somehow the number of boats that arrive in Australia is simply a matter of what happens within Australia. I would like to point out that the number of refugees in the world rises and falls with conflict. At the moment, there are around 45 million displaced people around the world, and some think that is a profoundly understated number. About 15 million of those people are recognised as refugees, and just one per cent of those refugees will be resettled in a third country. In about mid-2005, there was a relative outbreak of peace and the number of refugees in the world reduced from about 15 million to eight million. Eight and a half million Afghans went home in that year. The boats stopped arriving in Australia, but they also stopped arriving in Canada, Europe and the US. To suggest that boats stopped arriving in the US because of changes in Australia’s immigration law is clearly nonsense. Boats stopped arriving in countries such as the US, Canada and Australia because they stopped leaving places of conflict.

When we talk about people smugglers, we are of course talking about criminals. They are people who break laws; they do not necessarily sit down every day and study them. They do not care that the boat floats, so I am sure they do not have a particular care about the quality of life of their customer—or victim, depending on how you see it—when they arrive in their country of destination. Again, Australia and the other countries around the world receive more refugees, we receive more boats, when war breaks out, and those numbers decline as peace breaks out. Asylum seeker numbers go up and down for all sorts of reasons to do with world circumstances.

Asylum seeker numbers have gone up and down during the terms of individual governments. After the introduction of temporary protection visas, for example—which are hailed as a great reducer of arrivals—arrivals did not decrease. In 1998 there were 200 arrivals on 17 boats. Following the introduction of TPVs, by late 2001 the number of maritime arrivals had increased to 5,516. So the number went up from 200 to 5,516 in the first three years after the introduction of the temporary protection visas. I am not suggesting that the numbers went up because of the temporary protection visas; it is simply that you do not stop a war in a foreign country, and you do not stop people fleeing persecution, fear and violence, with an immigration regulation in Australia. You stop it with peace, not with immigration regulation.

In the two years after the introduction of TPVs, there were 8,455 irregular arrivals on 94 boats. Between 1999 and 2007, over 10,000 of those people were granted TPVs and 90 per cent of them were eventually granted permanent visas. Only three per cent of those people granted temporary protection visas departed Australia. But TPVs also did not allow for family reunions or enable refugees to travel freely, and there is anecdotal evidence that women and children who had not seen their partners and fathers made the dangerous journey to Australia by boat because it was the only way they could actually see their family members.

The other myth is that offshore processing works, where Australia intercepts a boat and transfers it to an Australian-run processing centre elsewhere, most recently in Nauru. Again, the boats declined between 2001 and 2006 right across the world. Again, it is nonsense to assume that the number of boats travelling to the US and Canada declined because Australia processed its asylum seekers in Nauru. The boats stopped coming because 8½ million Afghans went home and there was a decrease in the number of refugees around the world from around 15 million to eight million in those years.

By the way, in those years when the Pacific solution was seen as the answer, Denmark experienced its lowest level of asylum seeker applications since 1983, New Zealand recorded its lowest level since 1998, the United Kingdom recorded its lowest level since 1989, Norway recorded its lowest level since 1997, France recorded its lowest level since 1998 and the UNHCR suggested that the big fall in asylum seekers was due to improved conditions in some source countries, such as the easing of conflicts in Afghanistan and the Balkans. In those years, Canada and the United States experienced a 47 per cent decrease in asylum seekers and Europe experienced a 54 per cent decrease. In other words, many countries all around the world who did not have a Pacific solution experienced the same kind of a reduction in numbers that Australia experienced.

There is considerable fear in my community and in communities across the country of people arriving by boat. I hope that today, in the short period of time I have had, I have helped explain a little bit about what drives people to flee their own communities and seek safe haven here. Only one per cent of refugees around the world will be resettled in third countries. The queue is very, very long for people to find a way into a safe country. I wish all those who arrive here well. I wish them happy and safe futures. (Time expired)