On November 26 Victorians will again go to the polls, and the outcome of the state election will have ramifications on the whole country. Because as Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam writes, Victoria would be much less progressive than it is now without Greens in Parliament working to protect people, planet and climate.
By Samantha Ratnam
The Victorian Greens are going into the 2022 state election in a strong position. We are guided by our values and commitment to ecological sustainability, social justice, grassroots democracy and peace and non-violence and we are fuelled by hope.
We are ready to build on the momentum of the federal election where more Victorians voted Greens than ever before.
And that happened because our message of hope for action on climate change and inequality resonated with an electorate tired of being taken for granted by the old parties.
Here in Victoria we are seeing something similar. Voters are turning away from the two old parties and looking to support strong local voices who will advocate for their communities, push for bold reforms and hold governments to account.
This is what the Greens offer.
If the last four years have taught us anything, it is that Victorian politics needs a shake-up. Political debate dominated by two men shouting at each other should be a thing of the past.
Our parliament needs more diversity, more voices from the community and a government prepared to listen and work cooperatively.
This past parliamentary term has shown that the Greens help shape the decisions governments make, and often the Greens actually set the agenda.
From permanently banning toxic fracking, to introducing a windfall rezoning tax, banning single use plastics and rolling out a cash for cans scheme, the Greens have pushed the government to implement good policy.
One of the first bills we proposed this term was ending discrimination against LGBTIQA+ kids in schools, and better protections become a reality this year.
In 2020 we secured a ban on evictions and rent increases to protect people as they lost work when the COVID pandemic hit. We worked constructively with the government to manage the impact of the pandemic and advocated for those being left behind.
And while we may not be credited for those policy outcomes, without the Greens – campaigning both inside and outside the parliament, introducing bills, moving motions, tabling petitions, asking questions, initiating parliamentary inquiries and holding governments to account – Victoria would be much less progressive than it is now.
The polls are showing it is likely Labor will retain government, but it could be close. On the other hand it is almost impossible to see the Liberals win and they shouldn't. They have been a bad opposition and would be worse in government. They are being overtaken by right wing zealots and are increasingly irrelevant. The polls are bearing this out.
So it is more important than ever to have more Greens in the parliament pushing the next government to go further and faster on the issues that matter to Victorians and holding them to account.
This election, the Greens are proposing a positive and hopeful vision for the future of Victoria.
Unlike the Labor and Liberal parties we are not beholden to corporate donors.
And we are unafraid to put bold solutions on the table to tackle climate change, address the housing crisis and restore integrity to Victorian politics.
We are excited to be presenting Victorians with an election platform of big ideas to address the challenges of our time.
Tackling the climate crisis
This is the critical decade for climate action. Floods, like we have just recently experienced in Victoria, and fires, droughts and other climate-fuelled disasters are already hitting home.
Coal and gas are the leading causes of climate change. Yet here in Victoria, Labor and the Liberals are pouring more fuel on the fire by backing more coal and gas. The Labor Government is backing new gas projects, including near the iconic 12 Apostles. Labor still plans to allow coal burning until 2048. They have not been honest with the Victorian people about coal and are letting the big energy companies dictate terms.
If you don’t have a plan to phase out coal and gas you don’t have a plan for tackling climate change. Climate scientists tell us we must transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
And it is only the Greens who are putting forward that plan for Victoria.
I was very proud to introduce into the parliament a few months ago legislation that would see an end to coal by 2030. The Bill was accompanied by our plan to invest $10 billion into renewable energy, including publicly owned generation, storage and transmission and a guaranteed job for all Victoria’s coal workers.
We have also introduced legislation to ban all new oil and gas drilling in our oceans and released our plan to get 1 million Victoria homes off gas. These are the policies Victoria needs to tackle the climate crisis. If we don’t then floods, bushfires and heatwaves will be costing our communities a lot more into the future.
The Labor Government is also spending millions to destroy our irreplaceable native forests, including the home of the threatened Leadbeater's Possum. We need to stop logging our native forests immediately, before they’re gone.
Make housing affordable
Victoria is also facing a housing crisis.
Rents are rising four times faster than wages and too many people are locked out of owning a home of their own.
Our public housing system has been neglected, with 120,000 Victorians waiting for a home, and tens of thousands more experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.
The housing crisis is a crisis of inequality. Those with existing economic means can afford a home and increase their wealth. Those without are left with an increasingly exploitative rental market or a neglected public housing system.
House prices in Melbourne have almost doubled in the last decade. Rents are going through the roof and with the vacancy rate at record lows, renters are having to put up with run down poor quality homes.
To make housing affordable the Greens have a plan to build 200 000 new public and affordable homes.
As part of our plan we will make property developers set aside 30% of homes in large developments for first home owners at an affordable price. First home owners would not need to compete with cashed-up investors for these homes and they will be able to live where they want to live.
These sorts of requirements for affordable housing are common in other parts of the world yet in Victoria we are regularly seeing the state government approve large developments with no requirements for any affordable housing at all.
It is time the government made property developers pay their fair share.
Unfortunately the Labor Government is too close to the development industry. This is demonstrated by how they spectacularly dropped the social and affordable housing levy, which would have seen property developers pay a small levy to help fund more affordable housing. The idea lasted only 5 days. The Greens will push to bring it back.
We also remain committed to our plan to build 100 000 public homes over the next 10 years. Every housing expert around will tell you building more social housing is essential to addressing the housing crisis but it has to be enough to meet the problem. Let us be ambitious. Building public housing is a nation building project.
Yet Victoria still spends the least of any state on public housing per capita and we have fewer public housing units now, than when this government took office 8 years ago.
Our affordable housing policy sits alongside our Fairer Renting policy. More and more Victorians are renting and for longer. They face out of control rent rises, poor quality homes and estate agents wielding unfair power. Renters are emerging as a key constituency in this election, and will be ignored by the major parties at their peril.
Caps on rent increases, better standards and a new Housing Ombudsman to help renters more easily enforce their rights are what the Greens are offering. Let’s see if the major parties have the courage to match it.
We can make housing affordable, if we reign in the power of the development industry and create a housing system that puts people before profit.
Treaty and First Nations justice
Here in this place we call Victoria, we have embarked on a process of Treaty and truth telling. But Treaty isn’t just an outcome sometime in the future. It is about acting now to recognise sovereignty and listen to First Nations communities, understand the ongoing impacts of colonisation and the importance of fighting for justice.
This election we will continue that fight by supporting First Nation people with Treaty and better protecting cultural heritage, calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 14, and helping to stop deaths in custody by fixing our bail laws.
Making big corporations pay their fair share so we can have a better future
The COVID pandemic revealed the reality of decades of underfunding of our health system. We have policies to free up hospital beds and make it easier to see a community GP or dentist. Our platform will help ease cost of living pressures with more affordable housing, cheaper energy bills, and genuinely free public schools.
The Greens also want to invest in more public transport services and in protecting our environment and native animals.
We also have a plan to restore integrity to Victorian politics.
And we will pay for our policies by making the big banks, property developers and gambling industry pay their fair share.
I am so confident that together as the Greens we are a force to be reckoned with. With all of our amazing candidates, members and volunteers and our platform full of bold ideas, the Greens can shake up Victorian politics and help create a better future for all Victorians.
Read more about the Victorian Greens election platform here, and donate to the Victorian state campaign here:
Samantha Ratnam is the leader of the Victorian Greens.