Fresh flood inquiry after Coalition, crossbench flex muscle
A scandal-plagued review into the October floods will be expanded after the opposition, Greens and other crossbenchers teamed up in Victoria’s upper house to force the Labor government to establish a second inquiry.
The opposition and Greens initially filed separate motions to establish a parliamentary inquiry but, in a rare moment of collegiality, later agreed to join forces.
The clean up in Maribyrnong.Credit:Justin McManus
The Coalition’s motion, with Greens amendments, passed on the voices, meaning individual votes weren’t counted. It ensures the Environment and Planning Committee will now consider the state’s preparedness and flood response, separate to the review by Melbourne Water into the Maribyrnong River disaster.
Georgie Crozier, leader of the opposition in the upper house, said Victorians wanted answers that the parliamentary inquiry could provide in ways the Melbourne Water review could not.
The parliamentary probe will examine the adequacy of early warning systems, resourcing for the State Emergency Service, the 2007 government decision to approve a flood wall around Flemington Racecourse and “how corporate interests may influence decision-making at the expense of communities and climate change preparedness”.
Melbourne Water’s Maribyrnong review had been condemned by residents and experts for its narrow scope. The head of the inquiry, Nick Wimbush, resigned this month after The Age revealed he had, in a previous role, supported planning changes that led to a riverside retirement village building homes that were swamped during the October 2022 floods.
More than 500 homes and businesses in Melbourne’s inner west were inundated by floodwater in October last year. Two men died in the state’s north.
Liberal David Davis said the Melbourne Water review was like getting school children to mark their own homework.
“Mostly, they give themselves good marks,” he told the house. “They give a lot of ticks and As. [Our] inquiry will have the capacity to be more robust in examining these matters. We’ll be in a position to actually get to the bottom of what is going on.”
Labor MPs did not speak against the motion but accused Davis of, at times, politicising the issue. Sonja Terpstra said residents were looking for answers, not political stunts.
Crozier had sought a broader statewide review but accepted Greens amendments to also hone in on planning failures in Maribyrnong.
Greens leader Samantha Ratnam thanked the Coalition for agreeing to her party’s amendments.
“The Greens are pleased to see so many of these chamber recognise the need for a proper inquiry into last year’s floods and listening and bringing the concerns of the community into this chamber and into this debate, especially in the Maribyrnong area, to get to the bottom of what went wrong,” she said.
When voting as a bloc, the opposition and crossbench have a majority in Victoria’s Legislative Council.
Coalition, Greens, Legalise Cannabis and Animal Justice Party MPs spoke in favour of the motion. Ahead of the motion passing on the voices, Liberal Democrat David Limbrick confirmed he would vote in favour and One Nation’s Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell and Jeff Bourman from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party told The Age they were likely to.
The inquiry is due to hand down its findings by June 30, 2024.
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