Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority to get an overhaul

Environment Minister Lisa Neville wants to clarify ‘if the EPA is our environmental protector or regulator or both’.The state’s environment watchdog will be overhauled to ensure that polluted industrial sites are safely cleaned up before they are converted into residential land.

Environment Minister Lisa Neville has ordered a public inquiry into the Environment Protection Authority to ensure it has the right powers and skills to meet the challenges of policing pollutants in a period of rapid urban development.

The inquiry, to be chaired by former Justice Department secretary Penny Armytage, was an election pledge.

The main focus will be to ensure that the agency is capable of meeting the public’s needs. Legislation regulating the agency is 45 years old and the government wants to learn if there are new polices available to avoid major land contamination in the future.

Alcoa’s Point Henry Smelter, which closed last year, is just one of many potentially contaminated sites the agency will need to police in the near future, alongside the factories and plants left behind as Ford, Holden and Toyota wind down their Victorian operations.

Many of the factories were built before strong environmental controls were established.

And with Victoria’s population expected to double by 2050, there will be continued demand for high density urban development, much of it on former industrial land.

“Increases in resource consumption, traffic and waste volumes will follow.  Demand for housing and urban density will continue bringing communities into closer proximity with potentially contaminated land, industrial areas and with each other,” Ms Neville said.

“We need to better protect Victorians from exposure to chemicals and pollution than we unfortunately sometimes have in the past.”

Since coming to office, Ms Neville has been critical of the EPA’s performance, including the agency’s failure to tell locals about an ash slurry leak into waterways near Yallourn Power Station.

In April she also said the EPA’s failure in 2014 to let the public know about a Geelong refinery chemical spill into Corio Bay was “not good enough”.

Ms Neville also wants quicker and more up-to-date information for the community about spills, leaks and air quality.

Labor expects evidence before separate inquiries into the CFA training centre at Fiskville and the Hazelwood Mine Fire to inform future policy for the EPA.

The inquiry has been asked to make sure the agency has the resources and skills to respond to the public concerns about contaminated sites, water quality, air pollution and exposure to asbestos.

Ms Neville said the inquiry would ask “if the EPA is our environmental protector or regulator or both”.

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Man continued to use ice after sentencing, court told

A CONVICTION for trafficking the drug ice didn’t stop a Ballarat man from using the drug again, caught driving while high on the substance last December, a court has heard.

Ballarat Magistrates Court on Tuesday heard Callagun Mann, 21, was placed on a community corrections order last year for trafficking ice, but continued to buy, use and drive on the substance in the months after being sentenced.

With Mann pleading guilty to a string of drug, driving charges and deception charges, magistrate Michelle Hodgson said she was inclined to make an example of him, noting his excuse of being “young and dumb” didn’t sit well with her.

“Why wouldn’t I make an example of someone,” Ms Hodgson said. “It’s just exhausting listening to such pathetic excuses“It’s just nonsense.”

In a consolidated plea hearing, police prosecutor Senior Constable Kathleen Hewitt told the court of an incident on November 5 last year when Mann, driving despite holding a suspended licence, was intercepted by police about 4.30am after being seen coming out of a suspected drug dealer’s house.

The court heard police searched Mann’s car, finding three small plastic bags, two of which contained ice.

Senior Constable Hewitt said Mann was again driving on December 4 when he entered a breath testing site in Doveton Street.

The prosecutor said Mann returned a positive oral fluid test, indicating he was on ice at the time.

“Honestly, I didn’t think it would be in my system, with such a small amount,” the court heard he told police.

Providing the magistrate with three letters of support, one from Mann’s mother, one from UnitingCare and one from his doctor, lawyer David Tamanika said his client had been in “a rut” at the time of the offending.

The magistrate said she didn’t accept the submission Mann had changed his attitude in a matter of months.

Ms Hodgson deferred sentence until June 16, telling Mann he had to demonstrate he could stay out of trouble.

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Sex abuse toll in Ballarat horrifying

Hearing: Justice Peter McClellan during Tuesday’s hearing in Ballarat.CLERGY sex abuse survivor Philip Nagle asked for a minute’s silence following his testimony to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Tuesday.


Mr Nagle was honouring his 12 fellow St Alipius Christian Brothers Primary School pupils who have committed suicide – out of a class of 33.

The shocking statistics were some of the evidence presented about abuse on the first day of the hearings that victims have described as a “carnage” that has fractured Ballarat.

Mr Nagle was repeatedly assaulted by disgraced priest Stephen Farrell when he was a grade five pupil.

“I would know when an attack was coming because he would always remove his glasses first,” Mr Nagle said.

“It was a scary time. I couldn’t work out what I was doing that made the abuse happen because the physical pain made it feel like I was being punished.”

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ENTER AT RISKBarnawartha saleyards intersection ‘dangerous and wrong’

TRANSPORT operators have spoken out about the danger posed to motorists at the entry to the Barnawartha North saleyards, with one driver saying if changes aren’t made, the consequences could be fatal.

The intersection on the Murray Valley Highway has been labelled “short-sighted” by Kevin Keenan, the vice- president of the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters’ Association, who has called a meeting to highlight the problems.

Representatives from Wodonga Highway Patrol, VicRoads, Wodonga Council and WorkSafe have inspected the entry and heard about the issues faced by truck drivers and other road users.

Mr Keenan said the first thing he wanted to see was an audit of traffic conditions by Wodonga Council and VicRoads.

“The intersection is totally dangerous, it’s wrong, it’s been badly made and I’m worried someone will be killed there,” he said.

“It has been made to minimum standards to keep costs down but it’s not going to help safety.

“I just find these developments don’t take into account traffic flow and the size of the traffic.

“The main thing I want to get out there is to make drivers aware on foggy days and during busy traffic periods there will be transport in and out of that gateway.

ENTER AT RISK | Barnawartha saleyards intersection ‘dangerous and wrong’ The saleyards entrance.

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Pell ‘assisted abuse cover up’

A Ballarat bishop knew Australia’s worst paedophile priest had abused boys when he moved him between parishes with Cardinal George Pell involved in at least one decision to move him, an inquiry has heard.

Then Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns knew Father Gerald Francis Ridsdale had abused boys “so he was taken out of there” and again moved to another parish, the abuse royal commission heard on the opening day of three weeks of hearings in the city devastated by decades of abuse.

Senior counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness SC said Ridsdale was discussed at a meeting of the bishop’s advisers — the College of Consultors — in September 1982, where Cardinal Pell was present.

The meeting minutes say the bishop advised it had become necessary for Ridsdale to move from Mortlake parish, but do not disclose what reasons Bishop Mulkearns gave.

“There will be evidence that Bishop Mulkearns knew it was because Ridsdale had abused boys in Mortlake, and that he had offended in this manner in 1975,” Ms Furness said.

“Several of the consultors had been present at meetings, or were members of the College of Consultors, on each occasion in the past when Ridsdale was moved.”

Ridsdale was moved from Mortlake to Sydney’s Catholic Enquiry Centre, with then Father Pell at a college meeting that allowed him to stay for a further year.

Cardinal Pell was not at the college when Ridsdale was moved on three earlier occasions and was not at the meeting when he was first appointed Mortlake parish priest in January 1981.

Ridsdale abused more than 50 children as he was moved between nine Victorian parishes over three decades, and also abused an altar boy in Sydney.

Ms Furness said it was not until June 1988 that Ridsdale was suspended, 13 years after Bishop Mulkearns first knew he was abusing boys.

The Ballarat hearing heard Ridsdale was a prolific offender in Mortlake, with his replacement believing Ridsdale had molested every boy aged 10 to 16 in the Victorian town’s school.

Ms Furness said his behaviour around boys was no secret in Mortlake, but Bishop Mulkearns later told a Catholic Church Insurances investigator that he did not take it as his position to report him to police.

Convicted Ballarat priest Paul David Ryan has told the inquiry Bishop Mulkearns knew about him in 1977.

“Ryan thought Bishop Mulkearns buried his head in the sand about the sexual abuse issues,” Ms Furness said.

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