Opposition to desal plant grows

Issue 

A public meeting on June 24 against the proposed desalination plant drew 500 people. The gathering, 12 months after a 700-strong public meeting that kicked off the campaign, vowed to continue the fight against the energy-inefficient and costly non-solution to Melbourne's water crisis.

A public meeting on June 24 against the proposed desalination plant drew 500 people. The gathering, 12 months after a 700-strong public meeting that kicked off the campaign, vowed to continue the fight against the energy-inefficient and costly non-solution to Melbourne's water crisis.

Opposition has increased since a Federal Court judge, on June 13, ordered the community group, Your Water Your Say, to pay the government's legal costs after YWYS lost its case against the Victorian government. The overwhelming sentiment at the meeting was to not pay.

Community representatives reiterated the reasons for opposing the $3.1 billion desalination plant. There was a clear understanding, summed up by YWYS lawyer Michael Moorhead, that the campaign could not rely on the legal system to stop construction.

"We don't have any environmental protection laws. What we really have is a system of licensing people to pollute. Any operator of the desalination plant will have immunity from prosecution for pollution", Moorhead said.

Councilor Gareth Barlow, speaking for the Bass Coast Shire Council, argued that state and federal Labor MPs only understand one thing — threats to their electoral chances.

"The community of Wonthaggi are not only facing rising food and petrol costs and high interest rates, compounding the general impoverishment that many rural areas are having to struggle with but, on top of that, they are expected to tolerate the bullying attitude of Premier Brumby", said Barlow.

YWYS spokesperson Andrea Bolch explained that the group had to take its message to the broader community. "We need to make an impact in Melbourne to get [the attention of] the wider Victorian community."

YWYS had become a major headache for the government campaigning tirelessly against the desalination plant, which is to be built and operated by a private company that will control 40% of Melbourne's water supply. Two months ago, the group established a 24-hour community assembly to stop work on the pilot project and has been educating the public about the destructive nature of the plant.

The Brumby government has ignored concerns about the likely destruction by the proposed plant on the Bass Coast marine environments. The Rudd government has also failed to address the community's concerns.

The head-kicking methods used against community groups exercising their legitimate rights to object to government fiat are the same as those being used on union activists. The community, of which trade unionists are a part, are in common cause. While many unionists are involved in the anti-desalination protest campaign, unions as whole now need to join in. Environmental degradation will have an impact on us all and therefore must be of concern to all.

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.