Unanimous council vote for our motion to protect the vulnerable during heatwaves

[By Sue Bolton] In the wake of Victoria’s scorching January heatwave and the more recent fire crisis, I successfully moved at the February 12 Moreland City Council meeting for the council to:

  1. Investigate possible buildings and services in the local area which could be used as ‘heat refuges/relief centres” in time for the 2014-15 summer heatwaves;
  2. Assess the cost to council of the extra staff hours to cope with heatwave responses, the air-conditioning of extra spaces opened up to the public etc.;
  3.  Investigate cost and options to provide targeted material assistance to at-risk groups including water, public transport tickets, sunscreen, ‘heatwave packs’ and, where appropriate, cooling appliances.

According to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, in the period January 13 to 23 there were 139 deaths in excess of the expected number. There were reports of homeless people being forced away from air-conditioned areas as they sought relief from the relentless heat.

Socialist Alliance argues that climate action today must also raise demands for effective and comprehensive measures to protect people to enable people to better cope with the consequences of global warming. This is one lesson of Victoria’s January heatwave and ongoing bushfire crisis. Dave Holmes has taken up the issue in more depth here previously.

My motion added that council would continue to “work with community sector organisations in preparation for heatwaves to ensure greater direct monitoring of at risk groups — especially people who are homeless, living in general public housing and in rooming houses”, and call on the state government to:

  1. Put heatwaves on the same emergency planning level as bush fires and floods by linking the Statewide Heatwave Plan to emergency management planning.
  2. Introduce legislated standards to improve the thermal efficiency of the homes of those Victorians who are most vulnerable in heatwaves, particularly those with disabilities, medical conditions and chronic illnesses.
  3. Allocate adequate money in the state budget to adequately resource local councils and community sector organisations to respond to heatwave emergencies.

The motion was carried unanimously after Greens councillors and left ALP councillor Lita Gillies spoke in favour. However, at the start of the meeting Greens councillors combined with ALP and others to gag the session for general questions by local residents. Only Gillies had voted with me against the gag motion.

When people come to me with issues I always encourage them to campaign and come to council meetings to raise their issues. At the last meeting meeting there some 40-50 people determined to have their issues raised. They became very angry when the gag was moved and there were shouts for councillors to be sacked.