KEW COTTAGES COALITION
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New Federal Labor leader Mark Latham promised Victorian State Labor Conference delegates at Moonee Valley that a Labor Government would launch a national program for early childhood development..[More..]
Criteria 1 of her explanation goes to the question of arguing that the future of Kew Cottages is of "genuine State significance", rather than just local significance.
As a consequence, if priority is now to be given to State significance, then it might be expected that the planning consultation process would need to be extended from covering Local issues such as traffic, and building heights and envelopes for blocks of flats, to State and Regional issues such as:
a) The needs of the thousands of disabled Victorians on supported accommodation waiting lists ?
b) The nature and form of special accommodation options and services, such as respite care, training, and research, provided at Kew Cottages ?
c) The Government's commitment to getting intellectually disabled Victorians off urgent waiting lists and into suitable accommodation ?
d) The need for a Centre of Excellence at Kew Cottages to help advance new solutions for long standing problems in providing the intellectually disabled with a full range of accommodation choices and services ?
Not a bit of it.
On Tuesday 11th November the Minister for Planning aborted all of the relevant consultation processes provided for in the Act.
She said that she had intervened on the basis of a Wednesday 5th November request in a letter from the Minister for Community Services.
If that is an accurate account, then she certainly acted with some considerable haste. Because, between Wednesday the 5th and Tuesday 11th of November she managed to research, prepare, and publish a completely new planning scheme amendment "of genuine State significance" - all within less than a week !
Not surprisingly, given the shortness of time devoted to the task some elements of the resulting work, don't yet appear to be completely leak proof.
For example, Ministerial Intervention Criteria 2 deals directly with the need for consultation and whether "the issues have been reasonably considered and the views of affected parties are known.."
The Minister's bucket definitely appears to have a hole in it on this one. At face value it looks like she has attempted the "two bucket" or 'pea-and-thimble' solution. Sir Humphrey would no doubt have called it, 'A brave decision ..."
Her explanation goes to the question of when " An Urban Design Framework" is not necessarily the same as "THE Urban Design Framework".
The Minister for Planning claims to have satisfied Criteria 2 on the basis of the consultation undertaken to date. She says, "The development of an Urban Design Framework (UDF) for the future redevelopment of the site coordinated by the Boroondara City Council, has been a public process, with community representatives on the Working group preparing the UDF." (Commonly known as the August 2003 UDF.)
However, she did not actually use her "power of intervention" to incorporate the latter document - the August 2003 UDF - into Amendment C53.
The Minister has incorporated a quite different document - one subsequently prepared for the Government by VicUrban - and referred to as "the Kew Residential Services Urban Design Framework, October 2003" in C53.
There has been no formal public consultation process undertaken with respect to the VicUrban October 2003 UDF. And under C53 there can be no consultation, because the VicUrban document is now part of the amendment, and the amendment was approved without public exhibition on 11th November.
It was not always expected to turn out that way. Only last month the Government was proposing a time frame to Council that provided for Public Exhibition of a new Planning Scheme Amendment from mid-November to mid-December 2003.
The Government's October comfort with the latter time frame makes their November turn-around and current protestations about Council's 'extensive delays' hard to believe. Unfortunately for the Government the Council chose to call their bluff, and put Council Amendment C38 on Public Exhibition without any delay at all.
So C38 was on Public Exhibition within the Government's specified time frame, but with content that was obviously less than acceptable to Government. How then should the Minister deal with the hurdle presented by Criteria 4 ?
Criteria 4 is a two-edged sword.
Criteria 4 raises issues of fairness, or public interest. For example it gives the Minister power to addresses the need for speed and to intervene - "where there is a need for urgency and the public interest would be served by immediate action."
So in the first instance the Minister for Planning could give the Minister for Community Affairs the bulldozer to push aside Boroondara Council if Council was shown to be too slow.
However, Criteria 4 also sanctions intervention by the Minister for Planning where "the mechanisms of the planning process have created a situation that is unjust, unreasonably causes hardship or is clearly in error."
So having now intervened, and effectively removed the
planning buffer' previously afforded by Boroondara Council, Mary
will have to be particularly careful that neither her own
actions, nor those of her fellow Ministers are seen to be in any way:
" creating a situation that is unjust, unreasonably causes hardship, or is clearly in error.."
"We have heard many many stories on the program over the past week. It would seem there is just a glaring gap in the sort of accommodation and facilities available since the de-instituitionalisation of the mentally ill 15 or so years ago... We will continue to ask the questions of the various authorities... particularly the State Government." [More.. ABC Media On Demand - 'Mental Health Care Inadequate' - Audio Starts at 19':24"]
Jon Faine, ABC Radio 774, Melbourne
"I have got no plans for a re-shuffle."
Neil Mitchell, 3AW. 9.30am
Steve Bracks, Premier of Victoria.
[More.. .Dur: 1 min, Download 500k mp3 audio file]
Today's 'Counsellors' may well wish to give some thought to their motto again this week in the few sitting days remaining before the Christmas recess.
It would appear to be a particularly bad week for the Brack's Government in terms of democratic 'safety', and a shadow has fallen across that part of the motto in the entrance hall of Parliament.
As the Brack's Government rushes to crush Kew Cottages its bureaucratic and penny-pinching approach to a wide range of public services and revenue raising is now being brought into serious question.
The Government's absurd choice, and/or use of some of its advisers on critically important matters such as health and human services has already brought major disruptions, including the resignation yesterday of the Chairwoman of the Children's Hospital.
At the very same time the Brack's Government has been seriously criticised for their cavalier and controversial treatment of local Municipal Councils such as Boroondara and Yarra who have dared to remind Spring Street of the truth in the words "Where no Council is the people fall...
The Emperor's clothes it would appear are starting to unravel.
Now politicians of all ages and persuasions have a choice.
They can sit idly by, and ring their hands, while the Brack's Government rushes to crush Kew Cottages , or they can stand up and be counted.
Victorians have asked their politicians:
" Where will the safety net provided by your forebears be if Brack's implements C53, and finally removes the Cottages from the banks of the Yarra ?"
Who among the "multitude of Counsellors" will now
up to answer them in the Parliament ?
One of the benefits of Open Government in Victoria currently appears to be that Ministers who may be perceived by their opponents to be trying to fool all of the people all of the time can sometimes at least be required to tell parliament a small part of how they actually go about doing it - albeit after the event !
At face value the process can look a bit like the political equivalent of very early attempts at dope testing in sport... whereas an athlete was asked to give a urine sample, a politician is asked to fill out a form.... and table it in Parliament.
Yesterday the State Minister for Planning Mary Delahunty explained
parliament some of the tricks of her trade by way of "Planning and
Regulations 1998 Form 2 which explains how on 11th November, when she
C53, she exempted herself from the requirements of Sections 17, 18 and
19 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and the requirements of the
Planning and Environment Regulations 1998 [More..
With Our emphasis added...]
However, "The Age" stands by its story. Age journalist Carol Nader confirmed today that she had checked her story with the Minister's Media Adviser, and they "had not asked her to change anything".
Kew Cottages Coalition, President, Brian Walsh said that the matter was a very serious one. "Our understanding is that in the normal course of events the Government would have certainly invited public submissions, but as they have now categorised Kew Cottages as a project of 'statewide significance' , then the Government would also have been expected to allow at least three (3) months for the public to make their submissions - not 28 days! "
Mr. Walsh said, "The fact of the matter is that the Kew Cottages Planning Scheme Amendment C53 was approved by the State Government last week on November 11th behind a smokescreen of secrecy, excuses, and innuendo, and with absolutely no public submission period whatsoever !
" If the press got it wrong, and if the Community Services Minister is acting in good faith, then she should have acted immediately last week to get a correction published.
"She does not appear to have done that," Mr. Walsh said.
"The way to deal with the waiting list is the construction of additional cluster housing at Kew.." [More..]
Challenged to explain why she had acted in secrecy on 11th November to prevent the State Government's new plans for Kew Cottages being put on public exhibition , Delahunty claimed in her defense that community groups representing some of the 3,000 people on Government's Disabled Waiting lists for Accommodation had asked the Government to act promptly on Kew Cottages...
She failed, however, to identify a single organisation that had actually asked her to intervene and take the draconian step of preventing the Government's plans being put on public exhibition ...
Kew Cottages Coalition, President, Brian Walsh, said the Government suddenly appeared to be panic stricken that the Kew Cottages issue was getting out of control politically, and worried that private property developers would pull out of bidding for the Government's multi-million dollar private residential development project at Kew.
Mr. Walsh, said he did not believe the Minister was silly enough to expect the public to actually believe her suggestion that community based groups had recommended Government abandon community consultation . "But", he said," the truth is probably even more unpalatable."
"Because of its own ineptitude the State Government still has a very large number of disabled people who have been stuck on "Urgent Waiting Lists' for supported accommodation for years - and that same Government is now effectively saying to those people and their families:
"Yes, you are all on our Waiting List, and your needs are urgent - but not urgent enough to warrant you getting a single new house, not a single new unit, not a single new Cottage, not even a single new bed, not even respite care, on that land at Kew - and as for 'Cluster Housing', well you can forget that completely. "No, you won't even get a few dollars from the land sale out of Kew Cottages
Because, as Sherryl Garbutt, Minister for Community Services, said in her media release last week, "Every cent raised from the redevelopment will go towards providing high quality housing for KRS residents in the community."
In other words it appears that the Brack's Government now expects that just getting the existing disabled residents out of Kew, and off the land, and out of the way of the private developers is going to use up all the money from the land sale.
"This must be causing them significant consternation", said Mr. Walsh, because successive Victorian Governments since 1864 have effectively held the public land in trust as an asset for future generations of ALL Victoria's intellectually disabled - not just for the few hundred residents who happen to be living on the land at any one time.
"So now they have got to explain to not only the thousands on the disability waiting lists, but also to all their families, why they should not feel bad about being short-changed in the Government's latest public land deal with private developers... "
"I do not envy Mr. Brack's his task", Mr. Walsh said. "I guess it would be a bit like trying to explain to 'missing' brothers back from the war, that the family farm has been sold off, and that "every cent raised went towards providing high quality housing just for those who were lucky enough to be on the property at the time..."
"No wonder the private developers now want
as the Minister called it today, in the new Kew Cottages Planning
Amendment", said Mr. Walsh.
Bureaucratic speak terms such as "Certainty' and 'a timely fashion' it appears can mean very different things to different people.
Like a rabbit out of a hat.... the Government suddenly releases with a press embargo until 6am on the following Saturday morning 18th October ....
A 'new' UDF plan for Kew Cottages, that no one else outside of Government has even heard about.
A 'new' plan, even the idea of which, the Minister had completely failed to mention only four (4) days previously in her answers to Parliamentary Questions on Notice (903/904) - questions that specifically called for answers with full details of the current status of the Government's own plans for Kew Cottages.
The Honourable Minister for Community Services says that::
Boroondara Council, we understand, however, hears nothing about the Government's 'new Kew Cottages UDF plan' until, after the press, late on Friday 17th October.
Government assures residents that, "The next phase of the development
the approval of a Planning Scheme Amendment for the site which will
an opportunity for a further round of public comment on the details of
(see: http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/regional/eastern/docs/krs/krs_redevelopment_20031017.pdf p.4)
Tueday 14th October. The Government re-iterates word for word, its reply to to Questions on Notice 903 and 904, by way of now finally replying to Q.223 in the Legislative Assembly (More.. )
The "Urban Design Framework is publicly available from the City of Boroondara...." replies the Honourable Minister for Community Services.
8th October The Upper House Debate in State Parliament on Kew Cottages (Kew Residential Services) also provides official statistics of Disability Waiting List numbers as at the end of 2002.
The debate may be found on the Parliamentary website::
1. The Hansard Daily Index for the Legislative Council Spring 2003 Sesion is at:
2. The Hansard PDF file is at:
Government continues to ignore Questions on Notice in the Legislative Assembly of State Parliament about the status of its plans to sell Kew Cottages for private residential development. So, the Member for East Yarra in the Upper House, Richard Dalla-Riva asks the same questions in the Legislative Council, to pressure the Government to finally answer within a prescribed thirty day limit.
Government spin doctors meet to prepare arguments to counter success of KCC Campaign.
Kew Cottages Coalition Protest attracts widespread public support and media coverage
Boroondara Council 12.30am UPC Meeting Approves controversial Kew Cottages Urban Design Framework with Amendments
Government continues to ignore Questions on Notice in Parliament about the status of its Kew Cottage plans.
Government fails to reply to Questions on Notice (223(a)/223(b)) in Parliament about the status of its Kew Cottage plans.
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