Thursday, 25 June 2009

Holding and Brumby fail on consultation and dialogue: pass with flying colours on smear and denigration

Demonstration outside Water Minister Tom Holding's electorate office
at Springvale in February this year.
Read a report of this event here. Comment on it below.

What is civil protest? How are strong community voices to press home their case in modern civil society and be taken seriously? Why, in the 21st century, is there not meaningful consultation and dialogue by government with strong community stakeholders on matters affecting them?

These questions need to be asked in response to reports that the Victorian Government has spent more than $3 million on security on the state's two major water projects. Tim Holding says most Victorians would be angry to find out that the protests are having a "significant cost to the taxpayer".

It needs to be said bluntly that most Victorians would be angry to find out that their government is a serial offender when it comes to a lack of proper and meaningful consultation with Victorian communities on major government proposals which will impact adversely on those communities.

In fact, my view is that Victoria needs a companion document to its Charter of Rights and Responsibilities. This document would be titled the Charter of Consultation and Dialogue. Read bout my proposal (and other proposals relating to environment human rights) for the Right of Interactive Consultation and Dialogue with Governments and Corporations here. Set out below is what I propose:

  • Citizens and residents have the right to interactive consultation and dialogue – as individuals, groups or organisations - with governments, their agencies, agents and instrumentalities and corporations, whether public or private, which affect their interests.
  • A code of conduct will be drawn up by governments and corporations with widespread and representative community input to ensure a high standard of interactive consultation and dialogue. Such interactive consultation and dialogue will be based upon freedom of information with the same rights of discovery as exist judicially. This will be known as the Consultation and Dialogue (CaD) process.
All major environmental applications will be subject to the Consultation and Dialogue (CaD) process.
Sensational media reporting - the Springvale Dandeong Leader article does not give a true picture of what occurred outside Holding's office: the music, the speeches, the tanks, the placards, the peaceful approaches to people in the vicinity - is a mixed blessing. Reports can overstate or give a very limited word picture. On the other hand, voices can be unheard unless they can kick up a media storm. This means that media savvy community organisations will often include non-violent civil disobedience among the tools in their kitbag. Plug the Pipe has done this with multiple arrests of demonstrators deliberately seeking arrest for civil disobedience and also staging arrests for wrongful entry of Melbourne Water employees. Needless to say, there has been much publicity surrounding ensuing court proceedings.

Politicians like to look like "strong" leaders - and there is much political mileage in this. Large sections of the body politic respond to the "strong leadership" syndrome - one reason why the theatre of Parliamentary Question Time and the grandstanding of broadcast parliamentary committees and inquiries continues.

But let's ask ourselves - is this very mature, rational or grown-up? Is this the way to handle major issues - particularly the increasingly difficult and expected-to-continue environmental issues we face?

The fact is that Plug the Pipe has been proven right in relation to its major argument that there is and will be insufficient water to come through the pipeline to Melbourne. So there has been all this community and government energy absorbed in argument and confrontation when intelligent listening and dialogue might have benefitted the whole situation.

Meanwhile, the major water organisations concerned have spoken out strongly against Tim Holding's remarks.

Bass Coast Boardriders Club Po Box 289, Inverloch 3996
Urgent Media Release
Tim Holding – Smear Tactics
As President of the Bass Coast Boardriders I wish to express my absolute disgust at Water Minister Tim Holding’s craven attempt to smear the ongoing peaceful and lawful protest against the government’s proposed desalination plant on ABC 774 this morning. In no shape or form have we or will we ever support acts of violence against this increasingly secretive, authoritarian state government. In fact our responsible approach means that we now have backing from many well respected figures including :
Maude Barlow UN First advisor on water.

Peter Singer – World renowned Professor of Ethics

Tom Carroll – Two times World Champion Surfer and Big Wave Legend

Drew Ginn – Olympic Triple Gold Medallist

Nick Seymour – Musician with world famous rock band Crowded House

Like every other skyrocketing cost, mistake and time overrun that continues to plague this
train wreck in slow motion, Mr Holding and his ilk are desperately attempting to blame anyone but the true culprits for this debacle, themselves. If Mr Holding was really concerned to save money he would exercise some commonsense and start listening to those better informed and start adopting the raft of sustainable alternative options that could be rapidly deployed to secure Melbourne’s water supply. If he and Mr Brumby did this and stopped their dangerous and divisive obsession with simplistic silver bullet solutions to a complex problem, they could give Victorians, real security.

John Gemmill
President Bass Coast Boardriders Club 0409 425 133

Neil Rankin of Watershed Victoria says the minister is tainting all protesters as ratbags.

He said the government has never explained why they are constructing a desal plan and has not released any scientific or economic analysis that explains why it is being built.

He said there has been no violence at the desal plant protests.


Mike Dalmau - who with Jan Beer leads Plug the Pipe writes:

Sent: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 1:54 PM
Subject: Personal attacks on me by Tim Holding on ABC Radio this morning.

Hi all,

Apparently, Tim Holding this morning on ABC Radio made a vicious attack on myself and tried to denigrate me.

Firstly, something I learned long ago, when an opponent starts attacking you personally you know you have won the debate and the ferocity of the attack demonstrates Tim Holding and John Brumby are in big trouble. Tim Holding’s actions are a big diversion tactic because his argument is in big trouble. It does not stack up as the truth is now coming out.

I challenge John Brumby and Tim Holding to release the Business Case Plan for the North-South Pipeline and the reports from D.S.E. that show that the water they claimed, is not there. This is something I and many Plug the Pipe supporters have claimed from the start and we have not deviated from this. Melissa Fyffe’s article in this week’s Sunday Age is saying the D.S.E. is at odds with what Brumby and Holding are saying. Who is telling the truth?

Consistently, there are four points I have always pushed in this debate:-

(i) The amount of water claimed is just not there.

(ii) The Murray Darling Basin is in crisis, making the North-South Pipeline Environmental Vandalism.

(iii) There are other sustainable solutions for Melbourne.

(iv) This whole process rolled out by the Brumby Government has denigrated our Democracy and the rights of individuals. Why won’t Brumby support the setting up of a Crime and Corruption Commission in Victoria like other States?

I am happy to debate these issues at any time in any public forum with John Brumby and Tim Holding.

With regard to Tim Holding’s personal attack on me; attached is my C.V.; after having lived in my country community with roles that have kept me in the public eye for over thirty years I am an open book; you can’t hide things in a country community. My C.V. will show that I have a strong long standing commitment to my community and have been prepared to advocate for my community many times.

Currently, I am employed as Bushfire Case Manager assisting people affected by the Black Saturday Bush Fires and as a Bar Manager for the Eildon Boat Club.

I do not have a Police Record (with the exception of a small number of minor traffic offences). I have never been associated with any violent actions and have always spoken against violence (refer to my work with the Safe & Caring Community Project which is part of the Police Community Consultative Committee). With regard to any protest actions that I have been associated with, with Plug the Pipe; I have developed a good, respectful and I believe trusting relationship with a Detective Senior Constable of the Security Intelligence Group of the Victorian Police and have had conversations with this Police Officer before any protest action that I have been associated with.

Back to the real issue; John Brumby and Tim Holding, the water claimed by you is just not there and you have wasted an extremely large amount of the people’s money on a pipe dream, when the money could have been spent much more effectively on sustainable solutions to solve Melbourne’s serious water issues. After ten years in power your actions stand condemned.


Mike Dalmau - High Country Management Enterprises

124 Acheron Road, Acheron, 3714

Ph/Fax: 03 5772 1207, Mob: 0417 588 455


Jan Beer says:

...the security at the project has been excessive. Opponents of the pipeline do not pose any threat. "We're country folk who are never ever going to be violent or do anything untoward," she said.


Water Minister Tim Holding and Premier John Brumby

need to remember that each of us are accountable for our decisions and actions.

That holds whether you are a Minister of the Crown

or the lowliest member of a community advocacy organisation.

Instead of indulging in the blame game,

Holding and Brumby need to ask themselves what

they could have done differently and better given

their level of responsibility and resources.

Let's try the CaD process

with a Charter for Consultation and Dialogue.


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