Urban Renewal Authority Victoria Amendment (Development Victoria) Bill 2016

08 December 2016


7 December 2016

Ms RYAN (Euroa) — It is my pleasure to rise to contribute to the Urban Renewal Authority Victoria Amendment (Development Victoria) Bill 2016. The purpose of this bill is to abolish the Urban Renewal Authority Victoria and to establish Development Victoria to replace Major Projects Victoria and Places Victoria. The bill sets up a framework where the minister can effectively ask Development Victoria to carry out, manage or coordinate the carrying out of property development and social and economic capital works projects, as well as a range of other functions, which I think have been gone through in great detail by the member for Box Hill.

As the member for Box Hill outlined, the Liberals and The Nationals do not support this bill. We are particularly concerned by the potential this bill gives the government to ride roughshod over local communities. This is not just a concern for urban communities, it is a concern for rural communities as well. You do not have to look very hard to find examples of where this government has ignored the concerns of local communities and pressed ahead with its own agenda. The first example of course that comes to mind is sky rail. I will let some my colleagues from the urban areas of Melbourne elaborate on that in more detail. It also brings to mind another example from the previous Labor government — it is a project which I can credit for my involvement in politics — the north–south pipeline. I think if you look back on the history of Labor and the way they treat local communities — —

Ms Green interjected.

Ms RYAN — I note the member for Yan Yean is interjecting. I would have thought that she would have an interest in seeing those communities listened to and well represented. But again, have a look at their treatment of local communities along the corridor there. Jan Beer, who I know very well, was actually spied on and harassed by government agencies during the construction of that pipeline to the point where the privacy commissioner was called in to investigate. It just goes to demonstrate how little regard this government has for communities who are opposed to its developments and projects.

As I was saying, on a whole range of fronts we see that this is a government that does not govern for all Victorians; it governs for a select few. That is the coalition's very real concern about this bill. You only have to ask the state's 60 000 Country Fire Authority volunteers about how much this government consults with people.

The broader issue at stake here is really around population growth. It is very, very clear from this bill the government has no strategy and it has no plan about how it will deal with population growth. This is a government that is very unwilling to do the hard work on population growth. I note that the member for Kew, who is leading the opposition's population task force, established by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of The Nationals, is in the chamber at the moment. He is actually out there at the moment doing the hard work, talking to regional communities, talking to rural communities and talking to city and interface communities about the challenges they face from the burgeoning population growth that this state is seeing.

We have 100 000 people moving to Victoria each and every year, and 92 per cent of those people are settling in Melbourne. That is putting immense pressure on Melbourne suburbs, but it is also not delivering the benefits that accrue to regional and country communities. In my own electorate of Euroa we had a small school, Thoona Primary School, close last year because they did not actually have the kids that they needed to keep that school open, and as a result they were forced to close. If this government was actually tackling population growth in a targeted and strategic way, as this bill should actually endeavour to help them to do, then we would see schools like that not forced to close but instead thriving. Rural communities have a real stake and a real interest in this and in the government's failed policies around population growth and its failure to actually balance that.

I was very interested to note that the Minister for Planning made some comments recently in the media where he said that this government is unambiguously a supporter of population growth and diversity, end of story. But as we know, it is not the end of the story. If we are going to have sensible, balanced population growth across this state, where people do not just settle into the interface areas of Melbourne, which are dealing with higher rates of family violence, dealing with lower education rates, dealing with increased crime — huge surges in crime — and dealing with severe lack of infrastructure, and if we are to actually take some of those people and settle them into the rural communities, where we often have infrastructure, then we also need investment in transport and we need investment in communications.

But country communities are being starved of funding under this government, and if they are going to get serious about ensuring that Melbourne's livability continues to be world leading, then they need to make sure that they are actually investing the funds into rural communities like my own. They need to make sure that they are not cutting the country roads and bridges funding. They need to make sure that they are actually investing in train services to ensure that people can get to and from capital cities. They need to make sure that they are investing in our schools and that they are delivering the Country Fire Authority stations and the ambulances that we need.

But that is not happening in rural communities, and if the government was really serious — if it believed that rebalancing the state's population and settling more people in rural areas was a good thing — then it would be seriously looking at strategic and targeted investment in rural communities to ensure that that could happen. What we are seeing through this bill and what we are seeing through the government's broader policies around population growth is that that is not its focus and that it is not interested in seeing that happen. Instead it is interested in great intensification through the inner city and through the outer suburbs of Melbourne, as this bill effectively gives them the leeway to do.

The Liberals and The Nationals also have some real concerns about a distinct lack of proper process and transparency around the creation of this new body, as the member for Box Hill has so adeptly outlined in his contribution for the coalition. There is no guarantee under this legislation about the proceeds that are raised through the development and through value capture. I should point out that the coalition has no problem with value capture — we did it ourselves — but it has to be done in a transparent, accountable and appropriate way, and the money that is raised through those processes should not be squirrelled away to some little slush fund outside the bounds of Treasury, outside consolidated revenue and outside proper scrutiny to enable those opposite to deliver on their own political objectives.

That is what this bill does. This bill does not ensure proper accountability or transparency for Victorians. It is not in the interests of Victorians to have those opposite have their own little pool of money on one side. It might keep the Auditor-General busy, but it is not in the greater interest of the state. We have seen what happens, in summary, when those opposite develop projects in a cloak of secrecy, as this bill proposes should occur in the future. We have seen projects like the desalination plant, which was developed without proper planning and without proper scrutiny for Victorians. This bill enables Development Victoria to go away and plan major projects without doing their due diligence or their business cases, just like we saw with the desalination plant, a project for which Melbourne water customers are now paying $1.8 million every day for 27 years, a doubling of water bills from projects that were poorly planned and poorly executed with very, very little scrutiny by those opposite. This is a bad bill.

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