I don’t have time to read all of this!
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/VictorianGreens/
Current leader: Samantha Ratnam
Campaign Website: https://victoria.greens.org.au/platform
Themes: Left. Big on the environment, inclusiveness, and social justice generally. Currently trying to find the balance between idealism and functioning as a serious political party.
With friends like these…
The Group Voting Ticket
The Greens are pretty consistent with their voting ticket. They have clearly done a deal with the Victorian Socialists, who are always first on their ticket (thus fulfilling everyone’s secret conviction that the Greens are a party of watermelons – a green shell around a red centre!). The Animal Justice Party and the Voluntary Euthanasia Party are almost always second or third, but they give second place billing to the ungrouped independents in South Eastern Metropolitan (who are a single issue party opposing violence against women) and third place to Diana Grima in Western Metropolitan (I have not yet researched her, but this is a good sign). The Transport Matters and Health Australia parties also do well, and the ALP is in their top five several times, and just outside it otherwise.
At the bottom of the ticket, we always have the Australian Liberty Alliance, as well we should. The Liberal Democrats, Democratic Labour Party, Shooters and Fishers and the Liberal Party usually make up the rest of the bottom five, but the Australian Country Party makes a few appearances here as well.
Basically, no surprises here.
The Body Politic
Policies, Snark, Terrible Theme Songs and Other Observations
My approach with these posts is to try to introduce people to small parties, or to parties they might not know about, and the Greens are really on the margins of that space these days.
On the one hand, everyone knows that they exist, and they are a serious enough party to have a complete portfolio of policies and an ongoing presence in Parliament. On the other hand, a large segment of the population thinks of them as being the political party for people who like to chain themselves to trees.
And to be clear, they certainly are that party. But they have broadened their base significantly in the last twenty or so years, and yet their reputation is still for being long-haired environmentalists who don’t eat meat. (Which is totally unfair, because some of them don’t eat dairy or eggs either! And there are *also* plenty of bearded hipsters who care about social justice in the mix!)
(OK, I’m being a little unfair now. I actually really like the Greens – some of whom do eat meat! – and have volunteered for them in the past, I’m just staring into the seemingly endless list of policies that I’m going to have to read and trying to encourage myself by being frivolous.)
It is, I think, largely owing to this idea of the Greens as a small, single issue party, that they also don’t get the sort of media coverage that Labor and the Liberals – and even the Nationals – get. And that, to me, is what makes them a party whose policies (so very many policies!) I have to cover each election.
Having said that, while I am fond of the Greens, my desire for them to start getting proper news coverage at election time stems less from my commie-greenie ways and more from my desire to not have to read every single one of their policies before every election. Even though I like their policies! Well, I like their policies on transport and on social justice – I’ll admit, they are a liiiitle further into environmentalism than I am entirely comfortable with, but that is their brand, after all. Still, by the time I finish writing them up at each election, I would absolutely give my eyes for a nice, crazy, single-issue party to write about.
Anyway. Enough of me begging the media to take the Greens sufficiently seriously that I don’t have to write 4,000-word essays about them every couple of years. Let’s have a look at their website.
As far as I can see, the Greens don’t have a slogan this time around. They really, really want me to ‘Get Involved!’ though, because I am invited to sign up to help every time I so much as glance in the direction of their website. I’m tempted to take that as a slogan – it sort of suits them – but that doesn’t really count in terms of how they market themselves. They do start off their policy page – I’m sorry, their Plans for Victoria – with the following statement:
Victorians need a government that represents all of us, not just the big end of town.
And if that wasn’t clear enough, they add that ‘Governments should act in the public good, not in the interests of their corporate mates’.
So we definitely have a distrust of ‘the big guys’ – corporations, big business, probably banks – and an emphasis on all of us. Inclusiveness is a core value, here, and you will see it all over their website. Several of the political parties include an Acknowledgment of Country, but the Greens have it in the footer of every page. And words like ‘collaboration’ ‘consultation’ ‘community’, and other words that start with ‘C’* get thrown about a lot.
* I hear you, back there in the corner, muttering about Communism. Hush!
(Oh wow, I wonder if one can do word clouds for political party pages? That would be fascinating… maybe something for the next election…)
At the time of writing this (November 5), the Greens had 32 Plans for Victoria. I’ve read each Plan, but only downloaded the detailed PDF documents if I got really curious. I’m going to divide them into categories below, and, because a cliche is a cliche, let’s start with…
The Tree Hugging Bit
Love Nature, Protect Nature – the Greens want to strengthen the EPA to prevent pollution, and introduce laws to protect endangered species threatened by development and other processes. They also want to end duck hunting and other hunting, fund wildlife rescue and – wow –
Create a roundtable to bring Traditional Owners, scientists and conservationists to the table to discuss the benefits of re-wilding parts of the state including introducing native apex predators, such as the dingo, in areas where it might be appropriate for the environment.
I have no idea what I think of that.
Protect our Forests + Save Our Parks + Invasive species – astonishingly, the Greens are against logging, and would like to create a Great Forest National Park. They want to put more funding into parks generally. And they want to protect the environment from invasive species. But not by hunting.
Clean Healthy Rivers – the Greens want to make the Yarra (and other rivers, but the Yarra is the most mindboggling of them) swimmable again. OK, for that I’m going to read the PDF, because I have to know how they are going to do this. Ah, I see. They don’t quite know either, because their first step is fund research into how this could be done practically. On the one hand I am in favour of funding and undertaking research (especially research that is in the National Interest!!!), but on the other, I feel that you should perhaps do that research before you write policies about it. Also, those new national parks and strengthened EPA laws will protect our water catchments. Very on-brand.
I like this, though:
We will work with Traditional Owners to ensure that their sovereignty is respected, their heritage is protected and their knowledge informs the health of our rivers for years to come.
Ending Plastic Pollution – what it says on the box. A combination of incentives for recycling, banning some plastics, and trying to reduce plastic consumption in the first place.
Climate Commissioner – they want one.
100% Renewable Energy – they want that, too. But seriously, they want to build large-scale, publicly-owned, renewable energy, including wind and solar across regional Victoria. They want solar everywhere, which, frankly, in a country like ours should already be happening. They want energy efficient housing. They want to phase out coal plants by 2030 – oh, hello, someone has remembered that the Latrobe Valley exists and that people there will need jobs! How unexpected! Here is their plan:
Privatisation was devastating for the Latrobe Valley. Communities are often kept in the dark, like they were when Hazelwood closed. The Greens’ planned transition will ensure this doesn’t happen again.
The Latrobe Valley has huge potential for new industries and jobs. The planned replacement of coal with renewables is a new beginning.
With the enormous energy network capacity already in place, the Latrobe Valley is the perfect place to create a battery and storage test-bed for the world.
The Greens plan for the Latrobe Valley would:
- Make the Latrobe Valley the battery test-bed for the world, supported by $300 million of government investment in a battery 3 times the size of the Tesla battery in South Australia
- Develop the Latrobe Valley as a global centre for innovation in energy storage, supported by $200 million public investment in pumped hydro storage
- Support new offshore wind projects through our publicly-owned energy build, bringing new jobs and industry to the region
- Upgrade public housing with energy efficiency measures, put solar panels on all stand-alone public housing homes, and install solar panels and batteries in all public schools. These programs will be managed by Solar Victoria, located in the Latrobe Valley, creating hundreds more jobs.
While I like that they are actually trying to think about the transition, I don’t see anything in there about training the people who already live and work in the Latrobe Valley to do these new jobs. I mean, yes, having more people working there, even if they are coming in from elsewhere, provides customers for local shops etc, but I hope they plan to upskill the existing workforce.
The bit where the leftists indoctrinate young minds (NB: I am in favour of this)
Affordable Early Education – more community childcare, better pay for childcare and early education staff, universal access to two years of pre-school – ooh, and bush kinder! This is a kindergarten model based on unstructured play in a natural environment, and it’s meant to have all sorts of benefits in terms of teaching independence, confidence and resilience. I love the idea, but I have to admit, given Australia’s wealth of venomous beasties, I’d question whether we were quite the right environment for this. One would, at least, want to choose one’s locations with extreme care. (This is Peak Green, though – free education – with more trees!)
Toy Libraries – the Greens want to put $5.6M into toy libraries, to make toys more accessible for children from low-income families – and also to help reduce waste. I have to say, that’s a very small amount of money for something that could benefit quite a lot of people. And it’s easy to implement. And fairly non-controversial (though every time I say that, I get surprised). I think whoever wins government should do this.
Quality Facilities for Every School – apparently, there is a maintenance backlog in school buildings. Can we fix it? Yes we can! With asset management plans and sensible budgeting once the existing backlog is fixed. I’m in favour.
TAFE for all Victorians – basically, more funding, better educational standards and more security for teachers. Sounds good to me.
The bit where economics must be principled
(Also the bit where I start grouping together Plans without writing each one out by name.) The Greens provide us with their Economic Principles, which are essentially that the economy should serve people, not the other way round. They want to bring public assets back into public hands, impose an 0.015% levy on the big banks (fascinatingly, they mention that this is modelled on a levy proposed by the South Australian Labor government – a rare occasion where the Greens give Labor credit for getting something right), and tax developers and landowners who make windfall gains when land is re-zoned. They do not, however, want to be making money from gambling, and have two policies around this. First, they want to double the tax rate on online sports betting companies (from 8% to 15%) – and ban betting advertising, while they are at it, and second, they want to get rid of pokie machines.
Essentially, they want to keep big business out of politics and ‘make sure that decisions are being made for the benefit of the community, not the big end of town’ – but not, evidently, vice versa, as politics should be for the public good. And we have a shout out for the Save Fed Square from being sold off to Apple campaign.
Also, I think if we made a drinking game out of every time the Greens mention wanting to get rid of privatisation and get public assets into public hands, we would all be very, very drunk by the time we finished reading these policies.
The bit about planning and infrastructure
The Greens are always fun to read in these areas, because their ideas are interesting and ambitious and not hampered by the likelihood that they will have to budget for every single one of them (reason # 439 why I wish they would work together with Labor rather than competing, but never mind that…).
So, they want more low cost housing, better quality (and safer) housing, and more sustainable housing. More specifically, they would require 30% of new apartment developments to be public, community or affordable housing; cap rent rises; and basically build a lot more affordable housing.
I like that their housing standards include solar panels or green roofs, and also a weekly bin collection specifically for kitchen waste, so that people who don’t have the space or facility to compost have an alternative that won’t go into landfill. This is the sort of Green policy that makes me happy, because it is feasible and also just sounds like a lovely way to live.
The Greens have an extensive public transport policy, and also want to improve my very own bicycle track, which, if I’m honest, could be a vote winner for me.
Someone in the Greens really, really loves trains, because there are SO MANY pages of maps and justifications and costings for improved stations, extended railway lines (Wollert, Wyndham Vale, Doncaster, Fisherman’s Bend, Clyde, and an electrified Melton line), and high capacity trams. They want faster trains more often, facilitated by better signalling systems, high speed buses (not convinced by this one), and better bicycle infrastructure and laws. They would build a bicycle network, of which the centrepiece would be a new Metropolitan Bike Route #1, “a 17km continuous separated bike lane from St Kilda Road, Elsternwick through the CBD and Royal Parade to Sydney Road, Coburg.”
I feel like they know where their voters are, but I like the idea of having my own personal bicycle lane that takes me from home to work and then to the beach, so I’m in.
They also want to increase bike sharing, bicycle tourism, and work on bicycle safety, including the 1 metre passing laws, which I have to say sound ace, but where exactly do you put the rest of the traffic on Sydney Road…?
Nothing for roads and cars, of course, but more surprisingly, the trams seem to be getting pretty short shrift – I could have sworn they had this whole amazing tram network planned a few years ago, but it’s not there now.
The bit where they are totally social justice warriors (and why is that an insult anyway?)
They’ve put a lot of thought into their policies around indigenous affairs. The Greens support the Treaty process, but want to make sure it recognises the sovereignty of the Clans and First Nations, who should be at the heart of the treaty process. They want to fund a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, a Truth Telling Museum and Cultural Identity Mapping, and they want to ensure the Elders Council is properly established. They want to provide monetary compensation for each Stolen Generation member, and create memorials and dedicated aged care and 38 Healing Places. They will also establish an Aboriginal Health Commissioner, and invest in housing so that no Aboriginal person is homeless in Victoria.
All of these measures are to be done in consultation with the Aboriginal community, and there is emphasis on Aboriginal Community-Controlled health care services that are culturally safe.
This feels like a pretty exhaustive set of policies, designed to redress the harm done to Aboriginal Australians. I feel as though the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission could be quite powerful – I’m increasingly aware on a personal level of how little I know about Australia before white settlement – and, indeed, of the history of Aboriginal people after settlement. But I wonder how they will get people to listen?
There’s a policy on Trans and Gender Diverse Housing – I had no idea that Melbourne was the only place in Australian where people can get gender confirmation surgery. They want to provide an accommodation facility and community hub for people coming to Melbourne for this surgery – and also for trans and gender diverse people who need emergency accommodation due to domestic violence or other crises. My only quibble is that ten beds seems a bit low if this is effectively serving all of the state and possible all of the country.
The Greens want to build stronger communities and focus on community engagement programs and rehabilitation instead of stronger sentencing laws. They are into Rehabilitation and Justice Reinvestment, which is something I’ve never heard of, but basically the idea is to shift funding from building new prisons to funding community programs that will address the underlying causes of crime. (Something tells me that they want to give the alleged Sudanese gangs a big hug.). They are against mandatory sentencing, and in favour of better funding to legal aid and community legal sentences. And they want people who have committed minor offenses who haven’t reoffended for a significant period of time to have this removed from their public record. Their reasoning is that employment is a big part of rehabilitation, and a criminal record makes this hard to obtain.
Spent convictions schemes reflect the reality that many people with a minor criminal record are not serious offenders and that old convictions often relate to a short period of personal difficulties or circumstances, for example, during a troubled adolescence or young adulthood.
This would apparently bring Victoria into line with other state legislations.
The Greens want to strengthen foster care, with their main provisions being to extend the age for leaving care to 21 years of age, so that young people aren’t finding themselves on their own before they even finish school. They will also provide better allowances and reimbursement procedures for carers (especially kinship carers, who often receive less and who are also often Aboriginal Australians), and scale up the TrACK program, which provides intensive support for children with complex needs. Honestly, I reckon all this needs to happen right now.
Speaking of things that need to happen right now, the Greens also want to fix the NDIS. I have watched quite a few friends attempt to access this program and I can confirm that it definitely needs fixing. Currently, it seems to be causing at least as much stress and harm as some of the disabilities it claims to be helping alleviate, and a lot of people who really need it are not able to access it at all – the irony being, of course, that one needs to have superb reserves of time, energy and emotional strength to actually navigate the process of getting enrolled… and these are not things that most people who are living with disabilities necessarily have. So they want to put a lot of money into that, as well as more money into community mental health services. I am for this.
They also want to make trams more accessible – and it’s good to see the trams getting some love at last. I was beginning to think that the Victorian Greens were unpatriotic…
The medical stuff
I’ve already mentioned that the Greens want to restore mental health funding (there is a fair bit of overlap between medical things and social justice things – perhaps because it’s difficult to achieve any sort of equity if you can’t access treatment for your illnesses…), specifically for people who aren’t eligible for NDIS services. They also want to fund dedicated youth mental health services, and embed sexual safety practices and reforms in mental health services. Someone was clearly paying attention to the Royal Commission, as well they should.
They want to provide funding to ambulance services so that Victorians could ride in ambulances free of charge, rather than having to pay membership.
The stuff that is specifically relevant to me and my colleagues, so I saved it until last
More money for medical research! Yay! I mean, yes, just about everyone wants to do that, but I’m not here to discourage them, you understand? They want to make Victoria a world leader in antimicrobial resistance, which is some nice forward ;planning, and they want to help with drug discovery. And gender equity! With a shout out to career medical researchers in Parkville – I’ve just realised that I’m pretty sure I know exactly who wrote this policy, but I’d better not say here.
I must say, I would like a little more care to be taken of basic medical research. Nobody seems to be interested in funding that at present, but we won’t have anything to translate if all the focus is on translation. But I do really, really like that the Greens have said, right, antibiotic resistance is going to be a problem, let’s make Victoria the centre of excellence for researching that.
And that’s it! I haven’t talked much about costings for all of these things – I do slightly suspect that the Greens are a little optimistic about how their budget would balance, but I have to say, if Santa Claus put these policies in my political Christmas stocking, I’d be pretty happy, and not ask too many questions about whether he could afford to buy them. There are a handful of really exciting things in there, at least for me; a number of things that might not be exciting but which are cheap, easy to implement and would just work, so why not do them, and a few eyebrow raisers, but on the whole, I’m pretty pleased with these policies, and the Greens are, unsurprisingly, going to go high on my ballot.