When the Member for Cleveland, Mark Robinson proclaimed the success of his Eastern Busway parliamentary petition as “an overwhelming success with the community making its voice heard loud and clear”. He was touting that “over 1200 signatures” was “clear message to the State Government that it is time to deliver“.
Organisers of the recent parliamentary petition, aimed at stopping the mega-Toondah Harbour PDA development in Moreton Bay gathered 2300 signatures!
This was achieved without the profile or organisational capacity of local member of Parliament. Petition organisers can but join Mr Robinson in saying that their 2 330 signatures was an even clearer message “to the State Government that it is time to deliver“.
What is a parliamentary petition?
Parliamentary petitions are one of the oldest mechanisms by which citizens can make requests direct to their representatives, through the parliament. A petition is a formal request placed before the Parliament with the intention of persuading the government to take a particular action. For example, a petition may request the alteration of the general law or the re-consideration of some administrative decision. It is one means for people of conviction to speak directly to the members of Parliament. Last year it there were 176 e-petitions tabled in Queensland.
Parliamentary standing orders require the Clerk of the Parliament to refer the material parts of every petition presented to the Parliament to the responsible Minister who is required to forward a response to a petition to the Clerk within 30 days. The Clerk of the Parliament then (a) tables the response, (b) forwards a copy of the response to the Member of Parliament who presented the petition, (c) forwards a copy of the response to the principal petitioner and (d) ensures the response is published on the Parliament’s Internet website.
Petition 2537-15: Reasoned, reasonable & smart
The recent history of the push to the massive Toondah development has been widely canvassed in mainstream and social media. That the citizens of
Queensland need to petition Parliament seeking its intervention speaks volumes for failed processes to date. The Toondah petition (which for technical reasons of the parliament became three petitions (2537-16, 2562 -16 and 2537-16)) was compiled using both on-line and hard copy versions.
The petition reads:
Queensland residents draw to the attention of the House that they are averse to plans for massive residential development at Cleveland using large areas of the public estate including parkland and waters of Moreton Bay. This is the Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area (THPDA), the gateway to North Stradbroke Island. Most residents agree Toondah Harbour ferry facilities need to be renovated.
2014 plans included 800 apartments. The current proposal covers two and a half times more area, costing $1.4 billion with:
• 3,600 apartments, most on reclaimed land;
• 10,000 more people with probably 7,000 cars;
• A new suburb in Moreton Bay.
The THPDA is predicated on decisions of Government including:
• Approval of dredging to remove 70% more marine material than at Abbotts Point on the Great Barrier Reef;
• Revocation of part of Moreton Bay Marine Park;
• Amendment to the international RAMSAR agreement;
• Revocation of part of the publicly owned GJ Walter Park;
• Extension of the Urban Footprint of the SEQ Regional Plan into the sea.
The gift of public land to incentivise the project is another way to sell public assets without normal public scrutiny.
Your petitioners, therefore, request the House to call on the State Government to withdraw the THPDA and “start again” through a full and proper community consultation process which is:
• based on community vision and values;
• focussed on upgrading the ferry terminal facilities.
Is it “game over!”
Principal petitioners Brian and Jeanette Douglas of Cleveland were buoyed by the response to their call for people to sign. One of the most telling statistics is that only 1.5% of people approached to sign the petition ….refused to sign.
When the petition closed there were 946 signatures. In this day and age many people (174) gave only their email addresses and so these people were discounted from the official tally which left 772 petitioners who gave the required home addresses. Eleven (11) petitioners had responded on a non standard form which meant these views were recorded as a separate and different petition (and so a different numbered petition).
This number was swelled by the 1 373 e-petitioners who signed the on-line version of the petition.
The result? The total number of signatories was 2 330 people. Paraphrasing Mr Robinson MP and on the basis of the fewer signatures he garnered for the Eastern Busway in respect of Toondah the petition was “an overwhelming success with the community making its voice heard loud and clear” and it was a “clear message to the State Government that it is time to deliver”. People want the Government to “stop the rort: just fix the port”.
The Ministers response!
On the 18 April 2016, Minister Jackie Trad sent her response to the petition to Mr Neil Laurie, The Clerk of the Parliament. Dozens of community
members have already inundated Redlands2030 web site with their views of the Ministers response and the open letter to the Minister, which can be found at Community will not tolerate Toondah deal – open letter to Deputy Premier Jackie Trad in addition there has been a flurry of on-line comments.
It is less than favourable commentary on the content and adequacy of the letter as a response to the Clerk of the Parliament. The letter parroted
previously used explanations of Minister Trads predecessor …the LNP’s Geoff Seeney. Some people are wondering if the community would not have been better served by the 800 unit development encompassed in Minister Seeney’s PDA plan as opposed to the steroidal 3 600 apartments envisaged in Minister Trad’s nightmare propasal.
Is it more of the same?
The views of the community about Toondah Harbour development plans have driven parliamentary petitions for almost 30 years. In the days before e-petitions (and email) an impressive hard copy petition was collated ….. that was in the days of name by name, person by person petitions. The organisers collected the signatures of almost 12 000 people in 1988 under the direction of the Save Toondah’s Invaluable Resources (STIR) committee. That petition called for the Government of the day to stop the planned “development assault” on Toondah in a not dissimilar way to the outrage now being expressed. Many of the STIR committee members are still active in the community and are dismayed that promises by the government of the day to ” never do Toondah” have been disregarded.
In February 2014 in the face of the diabolical community consultation on the Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area another Parliamentary petition of 1 211 signatories was rapidly gathered. This petition was garnered in parallel to the community consultation process, which Redland City Council itself sought to extend by a month. The Councils resolution (carried 11-0) was rejected by the then Minister and advice given t the community after the nominal period had closed! So the parliamentary petition of 2014 was open only a few weeks.
What is the score now?
So all up more than 16 500 people over there decades have taken the time to express their views on the residential development proposals near Toondah Harbour. Clearly community views are at odds with the Government. Government’s should be about protecting the livability and lifestyle of existing communities and Redlanders and Queenslanders are tired of having to this job for Governments.
Mrs Douglas said was grateful for the support she and her husband received from the thousands of people in all walks of life. But she wonders “surely we do not have to door knock every house in Queensland to emphasise to the Parliament how important Moreton Bay is to Australia and the world”.
Redlands2030 can predict the response by social media trolls making claims like “only 2 3o0” petitioners in a population of 150 000. Perhaps those commenting in this might reflect on how by the same logic about the so called “will” of silent majority in respect of the extension of the Eastern Busway! They might also reflect on how the number signatories came about … being the efforts of two people both volunteers.
Critics might also contemplate the measured objections now total 16 500 and that only a 1.5% of people approached refused to sign the petition.
Another online petition is open to people (including those resident outside of Queensland) because Moreton Bay belongs to everyone …not just those living in Queensland now. People concerned about the Toondah abuse can still sign the petition Stop the rort: just fix the port.
Published by Redlands2030 – 25 April 2016