Baillieu government budget fails the environment, public transport

Environment Victoria has said there is virtually nothing in the Victorian State Budget to improve Victoria's environmental credentials. Environment Victoria's campaign manager Mark Wakeham said the State budget was “deeply disappointing”. He described the budget as failing "to deliver on key environment election promises, significantly cuts environment and climate change policy funding, and ignores opportunities to create green jobs and reduce household energy and water bills."

“In its first 18 months in office the Baillieu Government has made a series of decisions which represent an attack on the environment and a failure to grasp the threat of climate change. This budget does nothing to reverse the government’s environmental performance,” said Mr Wakeham.

Anti-environmental actions taken by the Baillieu government include:

In March a market research survey found that Victorians want Baillieu State Government to act on climate change, clean energy.

“This state budget was an opportunity to deliver on the environment election promises that the Coalition has not yet broken, including the commitment to improve the energy and water efficiency of Victorian homes to an average of 5 stars and the election promise to source 5 per cent of the state’s energy from solar power by 2020. These two important commitments are ignored in this budget which raises serious questions about the Government’s intention to deliver on these promises.”

“Spending on environment and climate policy and regulation within Department of Sustainability and Environment has been cut by over 20 per cent on this year’s expenditure. This is in stark contrast to development agencies like the Department of Primary Industries who are attempting to open new coal mines that have had an increase in program expenditure.”

Public transport upgrading has also missed out in the budget, despite a desperate need for more public transport infrastructure to make the system more efficient, and to reduce the need for increased expenditure on heavily subsidised road transport.

“There is no new funding to reduce Victoria’s greenhouse pollution in this budget. The Treasurer’s speech mentioned “cleaner coal” but failed to mention climate change. Meanwhile transport funding was heavily skewed towards roads over public transport, ensuring Victoria’s transport emissions continue to rise.”

“The only area that received some attention was water with some significant investment in improving knowledge of water resources and resourcing the Environmental Water Holder, however these commitments are overshadowed by the fact that the Baillieu Government is trying to weaken the Murray Darling Basin Plan to the point where it won’t safeguard the future of the Murray.

“Investment in urban water efficiency is more positive and less complicated with the establishment of the Office of Living Victoria which will need to move quickly to meet the Coalition’s election promises to increase stormwater capture and water recycling.”

Mr Wakeham concluded: “The Baillieu Government’s attacks on the environment are taking us backwards by decades. We know from polling that we’ve conducted that Victorians feel let down by the government on the environment. This budget was a wasted opportunity to reverse the government’s poor track record leaving the government with limited time to turn around its environmental performance ahead of the next state election.”

More money for roads while Public Transport and cycling get the shove

While millions of dollars are set to go to a new east-west freeway link, public Transport and cycling get the shove. The Greens oppose such an east-west link arguing public transport needs improving.

Upper house Greens leader Greg Barber tweeted that "More of our household budgets going into transport in our increasingly car dependent cities" and "pretty much every mayor in Victoria will be disappointed with the public transport in this budget -there is none". He identified the only public transport capital project is an upgrade to the Warragul Station car park. According to budget details there is also expenditure on more VLine carriages for regional train services and roadworks funding to eliminate 3 railway level crossings in the Eastern suburbs.

“V/Line patronage is booming, and the extra carriages are desperately needed”, said PTUA President Daniel Bowen. “While a few carriages will become available once the Sunbury electrification project is finished, the government clearly needed to act on ordering more. Passengers unable to find a seat, forced to sit in the aisles or stand for long periods of time, have become a regular occurrence on V/Line services. Expansion of the fleet is very welcome, and needs to be matched by a commitment to more frequent services, including at off-peak times when V/Line services currently run only once an hour."

Myki again blows out from $461 million to $611 million - it seems the Libs cannot manage this project any better than their Labor predecessors - while there is no increase in bus, train or tram services.

On funding for cycling infrastructure Greg Barber commented: "All key cycling programs have received no funds in this budget, including the VicRoads Bicycle Program, the Department of Transport Walking and Cycling program and the Metropolitan Trail Network. All we're seeing is some scraps of money to complete projects already underway".

"Traffic congestion is a worsening problem in Melbourne yet the Baillieu government has abandoned bike programs that directly reduce congestion - every bike is one less car. Melbourne will be worse off due to this government's decision to not fund bike programs," said Mr Barber.

The east-west freeway link was condemned by the PTUA spokeperson: “the government is pushing ahead with the east-west road tunnel, which will merely entrench car-dependency, and do nothing to solve traffic congestion — in fact it may well make it even worse by encouraging more traffic into Melbourne’s inner-north. This represents a clear change in priority from public transport towards roads, and is bad news for Melbourne’s future sustainability and liveability.”

Mr Bowen warned that the government needed to push ahead on bringing high quality, frequent public transport services to more of Melbourne.

“The last election swung on public transport issues. Melburnians are looking for solutions to their transport woes, and the best fix traffic congestion is providing more frequent train, tram and Smartbus services right across Melbourne.” concluded PTUA President Daniel Bowen.