Local Vision

All levels of government get criticised for their short-term thinking, focusing on the here-and-now instead of the long-term, state governments being no exception. For me it’s a balance; in part I work to a grand vision for Victoria, but I weigh that against the short-term steps that are required to get us there.

Melbourne is growing at over 100,000 people per annum yet already it can seem hard to get into a hospital or a kindergarten, to catch a bus, train or tram, or even to drive on a road that was once free flowing. Addressing this requires visionary solutions such as decentralising the population, creating a state of cities rather than a city state.

For me it’s a balance; in part I work to a grand vision for Victoria, but I weigh that against the short-term steps that are required to get us there.

To that end, transport infrastructure is critical. To incentivise people to live outside of Melbourne, in say Geelong, Gippsland, Bendigo or Shepparton, we need to meet the expectation that they can get back to Melbourne in around an hour, using a service that’s affordable and comfortable, air conditioned in summer and heated in winter. That doesn’t mean bullet trains, it means 200+ kph tracks that would bring our regional cities closer to Melbourne. That type of infrastructure requires very significant investment. It’s a grand plan and yet it must be balanced with the day-to-day expectations of the community: an easier commute into the city, more availability of local trams and buses, increased capacity on our roads. The immediate priorities are an east-west link and then a north-west link and an airport rail link that takes pressure off the roads in and around Melbourne. Increasingly, public transport will combine with ride-sharing from carriers such as Uber. Part of my vision is to encourage cultural change in our use of transport. We tend to be a society that grabs the keys, jumps in the car and drives, whereas in other countries citizens tend to catch a bus or train, or ride a bike on a network of connected paths.

Another key element of my vision is broad based participation in community activities. From cradle to grave, we need to make sure that we’re catering for all groups in our society, children and young people through to people in the latter part of their lives, giving them the opportunity to be active and healthy with stimulated and engaged minds. Retirees and those who don’t want to work full-time can continue to make an enormous contribution to society. Those who are mentally strong and physically healthy are often those that are actively engaged in community groups or clubs, working part-time or even just reading and researching. Consider the Men’s Shed program that has been supported by federal and state governments of both persuasions. It’s been hugely beneficial for men’s health, creating an environment for blokes to interact while building things for charity.

(A) key element of my vision is broad based participation in community activities. From cradle to grave, we need to make sure that we’re catering for all groups in our society.

Sport is another component. Our sporting fields and club facilities need to be expanded to cater for junior participation, veterans’ teams and different genders playing sports that were once unavailable to them. Australian Rules football used to be a boys-only game whereas now it’s a game for everyone. This has necessitated a need for additional change rooms and a significant investment in upgraded sporting fields to encourage even further participation. Investment in sports clubs has an intangible benefit; children who are involved in team-based sports are less likely to fall into the juvenile justice system. Sport creates a virtuous cycle for individuals and communities.

No vision for Victoria would be complete without looking at support for less advantaged people such as the long-term homeless. It’s a problem that is sometimes misunderstood and often not even recognised. There are different forms of homelessness. Some are teenagers who are ‘couchsurfing’. Technically they have a roof over their heads and somewhere to sleep, but they’re homeless when you consider all that a home entails. Then there are those people who are literally homeless and sleeping on the street. In addition to addressing the root causes of homelessness we need more emergency, short term and long term accommodation. There are plenty of centres in my electorate that are full every night. People seek emergency accommodation for a whole host of reasons, sometimes due to domestic violence where short term accommodation is a necessity. Sometimes it’s for economic reasons. Cost of living pressures aren’t helping. We’re all acutely aware of the cost of energy and the impact it’s having on families. I support opening up gas exploration in Victoria, overturning the current ban and giving property owners the opportunity to earn royalties from their land. While we teeter on the verge of a gas crisis, to ban conventional gas exploration seems madness.

At a local level, law and order remains a critical issue. People need to feel safe in their homes and communities; we need plenty of police, plenty of patrols, well-lit public spaces and vibrant shopping districts. My strong stance in relation to law and order closely reflects community expectations, particularly around tougher bail and sentencing standards. Similarly, our health system must match the needs of a growing population and ever changing lifestyles. That means twenty-four-hour bulk billing clinics so people can get medical attention any hour of the day or night. Hospital emergency departments should be able to focus on real emergencies, rather than being used as a GP clinic.

I believe we can do better at the state level and not waste this period of opportunity. We don’t want to look back during tough times and think that we could have done more during good times.

As a country and a state we’re not in a bad position, however I believe that a Liberal government can deliver more. While most of the national economic indicators (e.g. growth rates, interest rates, unemployment) are solid, I believe we can do better at the state level and not waste this period of opportunity. We don’t want to look back during tough times and think that we could have done more during good times. I have now been in public life for over twenty years – I’ve spent nine years in local government, with three terms as mayor, three terms as a councillor, and now as a State MP soon to contest my fourth election and I never take any period for granted. It’s a terrific personal privilege and honour to represent the people of Croydon. I look forward to this year’s state election and presenting some good, local policy initiatives: fixing traffic problems to ease congestion, improving parks, gardens, and sporting clubs, addressing social conditions, keeping the community safe and easing cost-of-living pressures – and not just thinking about the next election, but thinking about the next generation.…delivering local outcomes from a visionary platform.