Tuesday, May 19, 2009

kevin comes to town

Tonight the Federal Government held a Community Cabinet at Emerald Secondary School. Many familiar faces were there, some successful in gaining a one on one meeting with a minister after the public forum, others not so lucky.

Before the public forum I joined with a small but vocal group made up of the Sherbrooke Community School and others to protest about the government's fundamentally flawed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Sherbrooke Community School is very committed to environmental issues and passionate about raising the profile of these in the community. Students and teachers joined to highlight the government's lack of action in addressing the issue of carbon emissions, the proposed road through Tasmania's Tarkine got a mention too.

The public forum started with a speech by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who categorically stated the greatest challenge for his government was the global recession. Although I do not deny the seriousness of the global recession, I am disappointed to know that global warming was not on the radar as this government's greatest challenge. We will recover from the recession, but the continuing impact of climate change won’t stay on hold whilst we deal with an economic crisis.

There are many opportunities to respond to global warming and global recession in one hit, a greater emphasis on renewable energy, green jobs and transitioning our economy to a sustainable future would provide a better way forward and also provide the economic stimulus to respond to the global recession. And whilst building infrastructure is a good investment in our future and provides many job opportunities, building with a sustainable future in mind is a far better longer term investment in this country.

There were many questions from the floor covering topics as diverse as bank regulation, vocational education, troops in Afghanistan, solar feed in tariffs, Australia as a republic, project finance from Australian banks, foster care support but most interesting to me was a question asked by a young person about Peter Garrett's (Environment Minister) commitment to fund weed removal in the Dandenong Ranges prior to the election.

Minister Garrett responded by talking about the need for a national approach, the EPBC Act and the identification of key weeds causing problems across Australia. This approach does nothing for the Dandenong Ranges, most of our weeds are environmental weeds (as opposed to noxious), are not listed, yet cause untold damage to our natural environment and in some cases put people at risk (ivy destabilising trees).

It is important that the Federal and State government understand that their criteria simply do not fit when considering environmental weeds in the Dandenongs.

After the public forum I was joined by the Shire's Director of Community and Economic Development to meet with Minister Joe Ludwig (Human Services) to highlight issues about families and young people in the Shire.

As an interface council (located on the perimeter of Melbourne) the Shire faces unique challenges in delivering human services to the area. The fact that our municipality is both urban and rural, that there are distinctly dispersed populations in isolated townships with poor public transport, we have a high number of families with young children makes service delivery very challenging.

Our region experiences significantly poorer health and wellbeing than our counterparts in metropolitan Melbourne, particularly noticeable with lower rates of school completion, lower Tertiary Entrance Ranking scores and a lower percentage of young people attending post secondary education.

There is a higher likelihood of young people disengaging from school and work in Yarra Ranges, with a greater prevalence of 'at risk' behaviors and higher use of alcohol and tobacco.

It is important that the Shire continues to highlight the significant issues we (and other interface councils) experience to ensure that governments of all levels continue to be aware of the very specific issues for families living in our region.

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