The 2017 Victorian State Budget presented the Andrews Labor Government with a chance to show Victorians that they take climate change to be the serious threat that it is.
They had the opportunity to seriously invest in renewable energy and prioritise the environment, at a time when Victorians’ concerns about climate change has never been greater.
There were some excellent things in the Budget, like the historic investment in family violence, gender equality, and investment in metropolitan hospitals, but this Budget is not getting on with the job of protecting our environment or our liveability.
NO PLAN TO MOVE BEYOND COAL
The closure of Hazelwood should have been a wake up call to Labor to set their priorities straight, but this Budget highlights that Labor still has no plan to move beyond coal.
This leaves local communities with huge amounts of uncertainty, and also leaves us falling behind in the fight against climate change.
NO CLEAR RENEWABLE ENERGY STRATEGY
It’s no secret that our energy grid needs reform, so it’s good to see the Government is catching up by investing $88.8 million to test new technologies like battery storage and micro-grids.
But overall, Labor doesn’t have a clear Renewable Energy Strategy. So where’s the plan, Dan?
Labor does, however, have $39.3 million to investigate the feasibility of conventional onshore gas. We will keep telling Labor that the most feasible option is to leave it in the ground.
SOME INVESTMENT IN SUSTAINABILITY
We’re glad to see that at least a portion of the Sustainability Fund, which has been sitting largely unspent for the last two years, is finally being invested in some climate change and environmental protection initiatives.
But with a budget surplus of $1.2 billion, there’s no reason not to be urgently investing more.
WINS FOR BIODIVERSITY
The Government has begun to heed our calls to protect our biodiversity, with $86.3 million being given to fund biodiversity protection programs as part of Biodiversity 2037.
$162.5 million will also modernise the Environment Protection Authority and overhaul the relevant Act, providing much needed resources and more clearly defined powers.
NO GREAT FOREST NATIONAL PARK (AGAIN!)
Against these wins for biodiversity, Labor have again refused to allocate funds to create the Great Forest National Park. We’re seriously running out of time to protect Victoria’s old growth forest and our critically endangered furry friends, including the Leadbeater’s Possum.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT AT A LOSS
Already massively overcrowded trains and trams are going to get worse.
While Daniel Andrews is blowing billions on mega roads (and increasing greenhouse gases by doing so), Labor are failing to sufficiently invest in the train and tram networks that could reduce traffic and congestion on our roads.
PUBLIC HOUSING WINS
Flemington Estate has been awarded a $36 million redevelopment, and Parkville Social Housing has been given $43 million. This is a good start, but it’s just a start.
$185 million has awarded for public housing renewals, and $26 million for upgrades to public housing high rises. We’ll be asking the Government to make sure that this funding is used to bring Melbourne’s public housing up to scratch.
CITY SCHOOLS NOT A PRIORITY
Labor have not announced in this Budget the construction of new schools that Melbourne needs. Land for the planned North Melbourne school has still not been acquired.
Funds for planning and scoping a new Docklands school have been provided, but there’s no construction budget, indicating that Labor have no plans to begin construction for at least another year, maybe longer.
The new Docklands school remains only prep to grade 6. University High School, bound to struggle under the dearth of inner city high schools, has received no extra funding to cope with surging demand.
All we’ve got is additional money for portable classrooms in the metro area – a short term fix to a long term problem that Labor has not prioritised.
FUNDING FOR THE ROYAL MELBOURNE HOSPITAL
We’re glad to see that the Royal Melbourne Hospital has received $40 million for redevelopment. It’s so important that we maintain our world-class healthcare.
MELBOURNE PARK REDEVELOPMENT
We’re also happy to see this cultural centre getting the boost it needs with a $271 million redevelopment.
A MIXED BAG FOR THE ARTS
While the Arts Centre will also receive a boost of $40 million, total arts funding has been slashed by a third. We’re yet to see where exactly this devastating cut will impact most.
This was Labor’s third budget and, as far as we’re concerned, their third strike.
They’ll have one final chance to get their priorities straight next year. In the meantime, we’ll be working hard to make sure your voice is heard.
Office of Ellen Sandell MP, State MP for Melbourne.
(Ellen is currently on maternity leave until mid-year, after the birth of her first child. The office will remain open and Ellen’s staff have been working hard to analyse what the budget means for Melbourne. Please contact us on 03 9328 4637 or at email@example.com if you have any questions or concerns about this year’s budget.)