Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Report from the Front: Mildura, Brumby, Solar energy, Passenger rail, Pipelines, Protesters

Maria Reidl at the Brumby protest in Mildura yesterday
To watch the Channel 9 news item on the protest, please go here.

Yesterday, the Labor Premier of Victoria, John Brumby, visited Mildura.  An election is in the air, you see.  November 24 2010, to be precise.  The seat of Mildura is not a traditional Labor seat.  In eighty years, the ALP has held the seat for seven although an Independent did hold the seat from 1996-2006 and did support Labor under Steve Bracks when there was a hung parliament.

After the events surrounding the 2010 Federal election and The Greens' Adam Bandt defeating Labor in the seat of Melbourne to win the first Greens House of Representatives seat, there clearly will be some slight interest (that's sarcasm, Networkers) in highlighting environmental credentials by the major political parties.  So it was that, after much controversy about a solar energy plant for Victoria and particularly Mildura, Mr Brumby came to town to announce the good news that a major solar energy plant will be built near Mildura.

As a background to the topic of solar energy, Networkers, attention must be drawn to Australia's tardiness - in spite of its plenitude, across the continent, of sunshine - in implementing the renewable energy of solar power.  To rub salt into the wounds, one of the world's richest men is Shi Zhengrong of Suntech Power, and he gained his extensive education in solar energy at the University of New South Wales.  Admittedly, China is a larger marketplace than the Land of Oz  - but let's admit it.  Australians - well, let's be more precise, their political and business leadership - are slack and not leaders of the pack.  Innovation has no trouble finding itself in this country but  struggles to get off the ground because of the faithlessness of governments and business.

But back to the good folk of Mildura.  There were not many of them turned up to greet John Brumby.  Apparently, his visit was not well publicised to the locals.  I can  understand that.  The Brumby Government is not into community engagement.  But it is into media events.  Nevertheless, there were a few locals there to annoy Brumby with their pleas on local issues: restoration of the rail service to Mildura (download report embedded below on this subject)  cut by the Liberal Kennett Government in 1993 (an excellent reason to elect an Independent at the next election in 1996) and the North-South pipeline, and I think the burdensome cost of desal rated a mention as well. 

Among those who turned up to give John Brumby a 'warm' welcome was that indefatigible Water Warrior and academic researcher, Maria Reidl - with her trademark hat as you can see from the picture above.  Maria has reported from the Brumby in Mildura Front as follows:  

We had desal, pipeline, train signs. We had ½ hour notice as he was planning to sneak into town and just have media circus. It is all about the election as the $100mil he promised if great but what about his promised passenger train and no pipeline and yet another coal-fired power station. Sneaking didn’t work. I find him quite arrogant and unwilling to ask and seek advice from the community. And is happy to keep making promises that I do not believe he will keep as his ONLY intention is to be elected premier-as he has never been elected!


Keep up the good work, Maria!

BTW, there is another hurdle for the solar plant.  It has to get Federal funding!

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