Now’s the time to put it to the pollies

Recent polls have found that 81% of Victorian voters support more funding for the protection of nature, 57% oppose private developments in National Parks, and the environment is a bigger issue of concern than law-and-order and roads.

There are polls and polls, of course, but these findings look pretty reasonable from here. In any case, FOBIF believes that candidates in the upcoming election should be put on the spot about what they think about issues to do with the management of nature. We’ve circulated to members a list of questions it might be worth putting to candidates nominated so far. We hope lots of people will take the opportunity to ask the questions–and that they make it clear they don’t want pre packaged party responses. Let’s find out whether the candidates really have thought about the issues [and have serious convictions about them], or whether they’re just regurgitating the Party line.

Here are some questions we think are worth a run:

1. In 2012-13 the State Government embarked on a program of cutting 10% of Parks Victoria’s staff, continuing a process of cuts begun under the previous government. Do you support these cuts? Can you tell me how many Park Rangers are looking after parks in the Bendigo region? Do you think MPs would be more efficient if their funding was cut by 10%?

2. Since coming to office the Coalition Government has cut more than a quarter of Government animal health and biosecurity jobs. The number of scientific and technical reports by DEPI officers supporting agriculture has fallen by 33% over the same period. More than 500 jobs related to agriculture have been cut from DEPI since 2011. Is the Farmers Federation right in expressing lack of confidence in the Department’s ability to manage agriculture, particularly disease outbreaks?
3. The Royal Commission Implementation Monitor has said that the Government’s policy of burning 5% of public land every year ‘may not be achievable, affordable or sustainable’. He’s also suggested it may be environmentally damaging, and that it does not make communities safer. What’s your view?
4. Past experience overseas shows that commercial development in National Parks benefits the private developer, but not the Park or the public. Do you support commercial development s in National Parks? What effect do you think these might have on eco tourism businesses near Parks?
5. Victoria’s recent Waterways Strategy did not mention ‘climate change’, referring instead to ‘natural climate variation’. The Environment commissioner has claimed that the State Government has instructed employees to avoid saying ‘climate change’, and instead to refer to ‘natural climate variation.’ Which one do you prefer? Do you think experts should be dictated to by politicians on this matter?
6. This year the State Government introduced prospecting into National Parks, promising that the activity would be monitored. Can you tell me how the monitoring is going, and how many staff are allocated to doing it?
7. What’s your position on the continued funding of Landcare? Can you supply details?

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