Victory for Blue Wedges paddlers

In 2005, anti-dredging campaign group Blue Wedges joined Somali pirates, Peruvian raiders and Gulf terrorists on the US Office of Naval Intelligence's international threat list as a credible threat to international shipping.

Clearly whoever arranged that "intelligence" listing (presumably someone in government) needs to take a cold shower. On March 30, in the Frankston Magistrate's court, Magistrate Rod Crisp dismissed charges against six protesters who last year paddled out to meet the Queen of the Netherlands.

Crisp described the protest as a peaceful gesture of a "pantomime" nature, and said in a civilised democracy such actions should attract minimal penalties.

The paddlers went to meet the Queen because there was no other way left to show opposition to the deeply unpopular channel deepening project. In 2005, after exhaustive public hearings, an independent panel recommended the project should not proceed.

Stunned business supporters quickly embarked on a campaign to re-instate the project, with the then Bracks government ordering a "supplementary" Environmental Effects Statement. In 2007, the S-EES recommended that, despite all the same risks and considerably more cost than in 2005, the project should proceed.

Despite an inflated economic case, numerous risks, a manipulated assessment process and overwhelming public opposition, the project was put back on the books, and is now underway. Big government and big business had ganged up on Victoria's people and ecology.

Thanks to Premier John Brumby, we now have a six-square-kilometre unregulated and unlicensed toxic dump in Port Phillip Bay, extensive rockfall at the Entrance, increased risk to shipping, and rising water levels. The $1 billion-plus debacle continues, while trade and consumption levels fall dramatically world wide.

In my view, we can no longer trust the elected government to act on our behalf. It's time for referenda to be conducted on all major social and infrastructure issues. At least then, the democratic principle of majority rule would prevail.

Our fellow travellers, the paddlers, aren't terrorists; they are courageous people who stood up for the Bay against an unresponsive government. History will show it is the people who had the courage to stand up against Brumby who are the real heroes.

[Jenny Warfe is a member of the Blue Wedges Coalition. To find out more, visit http://www.bluewedges.org.]

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