12 December, 2010

Why the Brumby government was thrown out

The Victorian election result was not a just a matter the "it's time' factor, voters had more solid reasons for change.
Of course the range of government failures such as Myki, the runaway costs of desal, the high cost of the unused water pipeline, overcrowded public transport, overloaded infrastructure, smart meters, rising power and water costs, child protection failures, etc. all had an impact, and of course the approval of many high rise developments in the suburbs that most residents believed were inappropriate. All of these resulted in a resident backlash.
The real cause for many of these issues is the elephant in the room, population growth. The resulting anger and frustration did Labor huge harm. The Brumby government touted Victoria as a success story presenting itself as pro business, a leader in job creation (mainly through building lots of houses).We were continually told that Victoria was the best run state and very active but all this activity depended upon population growth.The Brumby government was using the building of residential and student accommodation to feed the economy. The more houses we built required more people to buy them, requiring more houses and then more people.This strategy was close to a Ponzi scheme and resembled the techniques of pyramid selling.
The government introduced Melbourne 2030 to make Melbourne a more compact city to squeeze in more people, then when that did not work, they introduced Melbourne @ 5 million supported by drastic changes in planning regulations that removed councils out of the planning process. The Planning Minister called in more and more high rise development. This was all aimed to speed up development to retrofit residential high rise into the suburbs.
Not surprisingly the residents reacted so all these planning changes achieved was an angry resident backlash right across Melbourne.
Over the 11  years of Labor government, our population rose by almost 20% and this has driven our economy. More people, more consumers, more jobs. But to continue this growth, the government needed to bring in ever more people. While immigration is a Federal matter, the Brumby government was very active in getting more than its share of migration through promotion overseas. It used our taxes to promote a "live in Victoria" message. Did you know that some developers were selling apartments off the plan overseas?
Labor was claiming it was improving our living conditions yet, if you increase population by 20% you need to improve infrastructure at the same rate, but that did not happen. Somewhere down the track the growth in population was bound to create more problems than it could possibly solve. As our numbers grew we would have to provide more and bigger infrastructure upgrades, more hospitals, more schools, more public transport, more power and water, more freeways, more and more of everything. We would also need more people to keep the growth going.
Any scheme that only pays out so long as you keep adding more punters is a Ponzi scheme.
And what is worse, a lot of the infrastructure upgrades so far have been financed with massive private and public partnership financial arrangements that has delayed the debt to some future time. The desal plant with its massive cost over-runs is a case in point, with big payback commitments for the next 28 years. And even if we don'y use the water we still have to pay! This places an ever increasing burden on future generations while diluting their wealth base and inflating their living costs. They will not thank us for it. 
We say that the population debate needs to be taken more seriously by all parties, including the Greens, and by both state and federal politicians. Also by the business community, who so far tend to concentrate only on the bottom line.
Part of the answer is Kelvin Thomson's 14 point plan, which we have mentioned before, this  essentially cuts immigration back to the levels  we accepted in the latter part of the nineties, around the 70,000 p.a. mark which is comparible to what other developed countries accept.(link http://www.kelvinthomson.com.au/page/population-debate/default.asp (this is a presentation made at the forum we ran at Richmond Town hall on 7th November).
Our new state government will have many issues to handle that in the short term may seem to be more urgent, Yet few will be more essential to their success than reducing the rate of population growth in Victoria. It won't be easy but we wish the Baillieu government all the best in their endeavours to provide us with a more sustainable future.

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