The first budget of a new government should be a roadmap - a plan that lays out the major ideas and goals of the Government for the next four years, and plots a course to achieving them.
I want to see a Budget that outlines an ambitious plan for Victoria. The 2015 Budget should target the areas most in need of government support - especially after the destruction wreaked by the previous government, who decimated crucial public and social services, and trashed our state’s environmental protections.
But I also know that Labor can use this budget as an opportunity to do more, and to aim higher than merely plugging holes left by the Coalition. And they must - because the people of Victoria elected a record 7 Greens to the Parliament, including two of us to the Lower House for the first time. That is a loud voice for change. So we know - and so should Daniel Andrews - that the Greens will be there holding them to account not just on the promises they made in the election campaign, but on the big issues that we need to be focusing on.
When the budget is revealed this coming Tuesday, the Greens and I want to see a roadmap to a clean economy, a fair society and a liveable Melbourne.
This means real investment in our public transport system. The Melbourne Metro will be a great addition to the city, but long before it is finished we need 24/7 public transport on weekends, more trams to ease chronic overcrowding - at least 50 this year! - and big improvements to existing services, especially buses.
This means a real plan to close Hazelwood and Anglesea coal-fired power stations, including a funded community-led transition plan for the Latrobe Valley. The transition from coal to a sustainable future powered by renewable energy is urgent. It will take significant government support to help communities adjust, and to develop alternative industries post-coal.
This also means a comprehensive schools funding plan that puts funding where it is most needed, not just in marginal seats. A good start would be releasing the figures on how and where schools are funded, and where the growth areas are (this information is currently secret, so we can’t tell where new schools are required). The Docklands is crying out for a school, but successive state governments have failed to release any information exploring the need in the area. The Government’s recent decisions about school funding undermine the principles of the Gonski reforms, which were designed to focus on equitable distribution of funds based on need. Funding for our schools is too important to become a victim of political pork-barrelling.
And, as your local member for the State seat of Melbourne, I want to make sure the Government delivers on the promises it made to the people of my electorate. I want to see the $10 million promised for the Carlton Primary School upgrade; a planning process begun for Docklands primary school; a pedestrian crossing on Boundary Road; funding for the Venny in Kensington; and a range of other things that I have written to the Premier to remind him about. And if these don’t appear in the Budget, you can be sure that I’ll be asking why.
This Budget is an opportunity and a challenge for the Andrews Government: I want to make sure they rise to both.