Transport and infrastructure
Labor is relying on its record for huge transport and infrastructure projects – more than $60bn of rail and road projects are in the pipeline – to win this election.
But it is pledging more, particularly its $50bn suburban underground rail loop, “the biggest transformation of public transport in Australian history”.
Labor says it would be completed in 2050 and include 12 new underground stations. The only firm money pledged so far is $300m for a business case.
Labor’s big promise at the last election was to remove 50 of the most dangerous level crossings over eight years, and it is ahead of schedule, removing 29 this term. The promise is for 75 to be gone by 2025.
Many of its big projects are under way or have start dates including the $11bn metro tunnel project, the North East Link and the West Gate tunnel, and Labor says work on the long-awaited rail link to the airport could begin by 2022. There are pledges to upgrade arterial roads and country rail lines, and $100m for planning towards fast trains to Geelong and Ballarat.
The Coalition has a promise it says is a higher priority than Labor’s rail loop – a $19bn “European-style” regional rail network. It would rebuild the entire network and include high-speed rail on four lines, travelling up to 200km an hour.
It is the key to the Coalition’s commitment to decentralise the state, encouraging people to move to the regions to take pressure off Melbourne’s record population growth.
In Melbourne, the Coalition supports the West Gate Tunnel and the North East Link and has resurrected another giant highway project – the East West Link. That was the proposed project that dominated the 2014 election campaign, with Labor promising to scrap it, which it did after it won.
The Greens oppose the big new road projects. It would upgrade the busiest routes in a $2.3bn pledge over a decade and build 30 high-capacity trams a year for the next 10 years. It wants new tram routes for suburbs which do not yet have lines.
It pledges a metropolitan bike network to include cycling routes connecting major destinations, on-road separation if possible and upgraded bike lanes.
The major parties’ transport policies are about how to manage Melbourne’s record population growth of more 125,000 people a year. The Coalition says the answer is to decentralise the state, and its regional rail pledge is designed to do that.
Labor supports decentralisation but its primary goal is for Melbourne’s transport system to catch up with its current population and then cope with its growing pains through a huge rail project that would take 200,000 people off the roads.
Both ideas are popular but experts are sceptical of their cost and timeframes, with no business case yet done for either.
Health was the centrepiece of Labor’s campaign launch, with $1.3bn in promises to boost nursing numbers, build 10 community hospitals and fund 500,000 extra regional specialist appointments.
It would hold a royal commission into mental health, to begin within 100 days of the government being re-elected, at a cost of $13.2m.
The promises in health include $395.8m to provide every state school student with free dental check-ups and procedures and $232m to build seven new early parenting centres.
Labor has also made targeted promises in seats, including a new $1.5bn hospital for Footscray.
The Coalition has promised the contraceptive pill would be available to women over the counter. Women would need to visit a doctor to get their initial prescription but repeat scripts could be bought under the supervision of pharmacists.
It is pledging $140m for palliative care and a $50m package to families with children who are autistic.
It has announced a number of hospital upgrades and a new hospital for fast growing Warragul in West Gippsland.
The Greens promise a $270m boost to mental health funding, including community mental health services and dedicated youth services. Its focus is on preventative health and wants to restrict the advertising of sugary drinks and junk food targeted at children.
Health is one of Labor’s strongest selling points and it has made big promises at this election, especially the royal commission. It is hard to see the Coalition matching them but it has come up with some novel ideas that have appeal.
Law and order
Labor has introduced reforms to increase sentences, reduce judicial discretion in sentencing, tighten parole and restrict bail – it says the state’s bail laws are the toughest in the country. It is in the process of hiring an extra 3,100 new police officers and plans two new prisons.
There are new offences, such as a three-year minimum term for aggravated carjacking and aggravated home invasion, a reaction to gang attacks and home break-ins.
It has pledged that two officers will be on counter duty at all times at 24-hour stations, and a minimum number of police available on the road to respond to emergency calls.
The slogan is “get back in control”, the Coalition accusing Labor of being “soft” on crime. It promises even tougher bail conditions – now saying that anyone who breaches bail, even for minor offences, will be jailed. It wants parole to be even harder to get, plans longer sentences and more police.
Mandatory sentencing would become more commonplace, with minimum sentences for repeat violent offenders.
The last days of the campaign have been dominated by the terror attack in Bourke Street on 9 November. The Coalition quickly announced new promises, including that people deemed possible terror threats could be banned from the CBD or forced to wear electronic monitoring devices.
It promises a pilot “boot camp” program for non-violent teens as an alternative to a youth justice sentence.
The Greens favour expanding and funding alternatives to prison including corrections, restorative justice and diversionary programs. It would repeal mandatory sentencing laws and reintroduce suspended sentences, which have been abolished.
Experts say mandatory sentencing and reducing judicial discretion do not reduce crime or recidivism and that the government’s reforms have meant a doubling of prison numbers in six years. Labor has accused the opposition of politicising the terror attack in the final days of the campaign. It may have done so, but it clearly sees a political advantage.
Labor has pledged to spend more than $1.68bn over the next decade on education. It will build 100 new schools over eight years, each coming with an in-built kindergarten and, by 2022, three-year-olds will get 15 hours of kinder free.
Labor would also employ more than 190 mental health professionals to work in every state secondary school. Among its other education pledges are a policy to provide free sanitary products in school.
The Coalition would ask Jennifer Buckingham, an expert from the conservative thinktank the Centre for Independent Studies, to review Victoria’s school curriculum.
It would scrap Safe Schools and replace it with what it claims would be Australia’s largest school anti-bullying program, led by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation. Religious instruction, which was removed by Labor – although it is available during lunchtime or before and after school – would be reintroduced. Principals could more easily expel students, and the Coalition would establish a ‘Police in Schools’ program. Textbooks would be free for secondary school students.
The contest on education pits the government’s aim to spend big on bricks and mortar against a Coalition that wants to bring education back to the ‘basics’
The Greens want to increase state funding per student to the national average over the next eight years while scrapping laws that mean private schools receive at least 25% of the funding provided to public schools. They would also stop public schools charging fees for “non-core” activities and complete the school building maintenance backlog over two years at a cost of $89.7m.
The contest on education pits the government’s aim to spend big on bricks and mortar against a Coalition that wants to bring education back to the “basics”. Labor’s self-described progressive credentials are in its promise to provide free sanitary products and to put mental health professionals in every school. If the Coalition’s policies are any guide, schools have drifted too far from the Three Rs. Its plan to reintroduce religious instruction, announced quietly at a Christian lobby conference, caused significant controversy.
Labor would spend $209m to build an extra 1,000 public housing units over three years, with women and children fleeing family violence given priority. Given the property boom in Melbourne’s inner city, apartment buildings would be subject to tougher standards such as requiring green space, sun protection and safe cladding.
The Coalition wants to create a population commission that would sign off on building approvals in a bid to control and funnel population growth into desired areas. In a bid to boost affordability, 290,000 residential housing lots would be released and councils would face fines for failing to free up land in a reasonable amount of time. To woo crucial sandbelt seats, the Coalition has vowed to ban buildings above two storeys along Melbourne’s south-eastern foreshore.
The Greens would introduce a housing ombudsman to settle disputes and wants rent rises capped at inflation. On public housing, the Greens want 40,000 new units built over the next six years, while developers would be forced to set aside 30% of large-scale developments as affordable and social housing. They’ve also proposed a royal commissions into planning decisions.
Matthew Guy’s plan for a population commission, as part of a decentralisation agenda, should be considered in tandem with the Coalition’s plan for fast rail to Victoria’s regional centres like Geelong and Ballarat. But the Coalition’s policies on social and public housing are less clear. Labor’s 1,000 new public housing units come as the state’s public housing waiting list balloons out to 82,000. Social service groups have welcomed that pledge but say it is nowhere near enough.
Labor’s central pledge is to implement all 227 recommendations of the royal commission into family violence. So far, it says it has spent $2.6bn to boost family violence responses, including 17 support and safety hubs across the state, specialist family violence courts and a prevention agency. Ninety of the commission’s recommendations are complete or under way.
Labor has announced policies including building 1,000 public housing properties across the state for homeless people and those fleeing family violence, at a cost of $209m.
It has also announced that it would give an extra $6.5m to support the new Aboriginal 10 Year Family Violence Agreement, which seeks to empower Indigenous people to lead the response to family violence in their communities.
The Coalition has not promised to implement all the recommendations of the royal commission, although it says it is committed to reducing family violence. It has not said which of the recommendations it has reservations about, but has pledged to consider all of them, including considering their “financial impost” and whether “there are efficiencies that can be realised”.
It is focused on law-and-order responses, including mandatory jail terms for offenders who contravene a family violence order. It wants new non-fatal strangulation offences in family violence cases – an idea rejected by the royal commission – and backs police serving on-the-spot intervention orders when they attend a family violence incident.
The awareness of family violence is high following the royal commission, and the issue has received more attention in a state election than usual
The Greens support implementing all of the royal commission’s recommendations.
The awareness of family violence is high following the royal commission, and the issue has received more attention in a state election than usual. Those working in the family violence sector are worried that a Coalition government would not give the issue the priority the Andrews government has, and say law-and-order responses may not be effective in reducing family violence.
The centrepiece of Labor’s environment policy is the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) and associated reverse auctions. It proposed that 25% of energy production in Victoria be from renewable sources by 2020, 40% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. Labor has promised to subsidise rooftop solar panels on 700,000 homes, including a program allowing the government to share costs with tenants and landlords for solar on rental properties.
Labor supported the creation of a Great Forests National Park before the 2014 election but has since backtracked. It has proposed enshrining the existing moratorium on fracking into the state constitution.
The Coalition has said it will rip up the VRET and build a new 500MW power station, which could be coal, gas or renewables firmed up with a battery or gas – whichever option provides the cheapest baseload power.
It has proposed putting solar panels and batteries in 700 public schools and offered a rebate of 50% on new low-energy TVs and 40% of new low-energy fridges for concession card holders.
It supports the moratorium on fracking but has proposed reversing the moratorium on conventional onshore gas exploration.
It does not support the establishment of a Great Forests National Park and has expressed strong support for the native forest industry over threatened species protection.
The Greens propose increasing the VRET to 100% of the state’s energy production by 2030 and closing three coal-fired power stations.
It supports the creation of a Great Forests National Park, the immediate transition from native forest logging to plantation logging, and a reform to the state’s environmental protection laws and threatened species protection laws.
The Greens’ energy policy is about reducing carbon emissions, but for Labor and the Coalition it is about electricity prices.
Labor’s push to support renewable energy has seen some 3000MW of new renewable energy generation either constructed or commissioned since 2014. According to energy market analysts, that will result in downward pressure on power prices from about 2021 – but without more renewable supply coming online to compete against the old coal-fired power stations, the price can only fall so far.
The Andrews government took the historic step in this term of government of committing in legislation to pursue a treaty with the state’s Aboriginal peoples.
Labor has also committed to self-determination by signing a landmark agreement to transfer the guardianship of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care to Aboriginal community-controlled organisations.
However, human rights organisations have warned that the proposal to extend anti-association laws to children as young as 14 will disproportionately affect non-white children and contribute to the over-representation of Aboriginal young people in the crime statistics.
The Coalition does not support the signing of a treaty between the state of Victoria and Aboriginal people, saying such agreements, if they are struck at all, ought to be national.
The Coalition is also pushing a range of mandatory sentences, tougher bail laws and policies focused on youth crime, which have been shown to disproportionately affect Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous children.
The Greens MP Lidia Thorpe is the first Aboriginal woman elected to the Victorian parliament and the only Indigenous parliamentarian currently sitting. She has shaped the party’s Indigenous affairs policy, which supports the idea of a treaty but not the process currently being followed by the Andrews government.
Thorpe says treaty discussions should be with sovereign clans, a construction other Aboriginal leaders have warned would exclude victims of the stolen generation and those who do not know their clan. She has also said a treaty ought to include a positive assertion of the continued existence of Aboriginal sovereignty over the land of Victoria, which the government is not legally able to do.
The Andrews government has been praised by people including the former commissioner for Aboriginal children and young people Andrew Jackomos and treaty commissioner Jill Gallagher for walking the walk on self-determination.
Agreements like the commitment to pursue a treaty and transfer guardianship of Indigenous children to Indigenous organisations are national firsts, but its tough on crime policies, including the transfer of children from youth detention to Barwon adult prison, disproportionately affect Aboriginal children.
Indigenous affairs does not appear to be a priority for the Coalition. The Greens position has support from some sectors of Victoria’s Aboriginal community but more moderate voices within that community are opposed.
Source : https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/nov/20/victorian-election-what-the-parties-are-promising