Victorian Planning Authority Bill

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) — It gives me great pleasure to speak on this bill. I think it is important to set a bit of context for Melbourne’s growth. Melbourne, as we have heard, is scheduled to grow from 4.6 million people today to 8 million people by 2051. Eight million people is about equivalent to New York City’s population today, perhaps just under, and where Nanjing in China is. They are big cities. That is the projection of growth for Melbourne by 2051. Victoria will grow to just over 10 million in the same time frame, so we really do not have much of a choice. We are a great place to live and people come here. This is an obvious point but it is important to note that this growth is not distributed evenly across Victoria. I will talk a bit later about the opposition’s approach in thinking they can tell people where to live.

Greater Melbourne attracts the bulk of Victoria’s overseas migrants. Due to its large share of the state’s population, 76 per cent in 2015, and its younger demographic, it also accounts for the majority of natural population increase through childbirth. These trends are likely to continue, and greater Melbourne is projected to have almost 85 per cent of the state’s growth by the time I mentioned, 2051. Within greater Melbourne the areas with the greatest capacity for dwelling growth are the outer growth areas and the inner city. This is reflected in projected population growth.

While the middle suburbs are expected to regenerate and increase steadily in population, the designated growth areas, effectively 49 per cent, and the five inner local government areas, 16 per cent, are expected to account for the majority — two-thirds — of population growth to 2031. Of course the regions play a role, and they are clustered around the three largest population centres of Greater Geelong, Greater Bendigo and Ballarat. This is not a situation where you can just put up a ‘We are full’ sign, nor can you really direct people to live where you want them to. You cannot do that in a civil democracy. Of course you can encourage; you can put programs and infrastructure in place.

We are growing by more than 100 000 people a year because people want to live here, and we have seen that in international rankings time and time again. The Andrews government is planning for that growth with a massive infrastructure program that we have heard a lot about in this chamber over the last two years. Just as a quick refresh, we are investing $10.9 billion in the Melbourne Metro rail project that my good friend the member for Bentleigh just talked about in his contribution. We are spending $5.5 billion on the western distributor project over the Yarra, providing a vital second river crossing and an alternative to the congested West Gate Bridge. We are spending $2.4 billion to remove 20 dangerous level crossings by 2018. Four of those are in my community and nine are on the line that I call my line. This is something that the previous government did not do.

We want to distribute growth evenly and get the planning right so we can see better growth for Victoria in four main areas. That is the government’s vision for the inner city and urban renewal areas, through activity centres in our suburbs and in greenfield outer suburban areas and regional Victoria. That is as much planning as is appropriate before you enter Stalinist territory by telling people where to live.

Talking specifically about this bill as others have done and why it is important in managing for growth in that context I have described, this bill will enable the Victorian Planning Authority (VPA) to lead planning in designated areas, moving away from the model where it began with the Growth Areas Authority and then the Melbourne Planning Authority, to have a broader sweep of authority over larger areas of Victoria or wherever the minister directs, and provide advice more generally, including urban renewal sites such as Arden near Melbourne’s CBD, as others have mentioned, in growth areas such as Wyndham and East Werribee and regional cities and towns such as Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong, Wodonga and the Latrobe Valley.

The Victorian Planning Authority will be empowered to work with local government, utility providers, developers and a whole range of others across government to ensure that the infrastructure and services that are required for our communities to live in those population centres actually come to fruition. This planning will be based on the extensive strategic planning already done by other levels of government, including local government. It will have an important focus on planning new housing, which is also important, but not just any type of housing: housing that actually adds to your quality of life; housing close to service centres, shops, schools, medical practitioners and a whole range of other important life services required for any community.

As others have said, the bill details the function and powers of the VPA, the composition of the board and its operating arrangements and provisions for the appointment of a chief executive officer and staff. It talks about conflicts of interest, which is obviously important within this context of public policy, other technical provisions and necessary updates related to other acts to ensure this act is appropriately constituted. This is a very important piece of legislation because it essentially fulfils a vision of the frameworks and instrumentalities that we need to manage growth in a way that is effective and contributes to our amenity rather than mitigating it in what we call our most livable city in the most livable state.

I want to pick up on some of the small mindedness of the opposition. I find this extraordinary. They say they support the bill — well, they do not oppose the bill, I suppose. It is tricky language. You have first got the member for Kew, who is all puff and no pastry. He is the Dickie Knee of Victorian politics who just gets up and makes a little contribution. What has the member for Kew achieved since he was announced by the Leader of the Opposition as having some role regarding population policy? What he has achieved — I have read some of the documents — is that he has talked about regionalising our growth. He said, ‘Let’s get the population growth into the regions’. It is a good sentiment, but it does not constitute anything new. Gough Whitlam provided grants to attract people to regional Australia 43 years ago. This is what the great member for Kew has to offer in the population debate: ‘Don’t come to Melbourne. We don’t want you in Melbourne’.

Then you have got the member for Benambra. There is a milk bar politician, if you have ever seen one. I ask the Minister for Planning, who is in the chamber: do you remember the milk bar where you used to go when you were a kid and you would ask for 20 cents worth of lollies in a bag? That is the level of politics — —

Ms Kealy — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, perhaps rather than giving his critique of the members of the opposition and their contributions, the member would like to go back to debating the bill at hand.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Pearson) — Order! It has been a wideranging debate covering a number of issues, and I note the member does not have long to conclude his contribution. I would encourage the member to continue.

Mr DIMOPOULOS — To explain for the record, the reference to the milk bar was that the focus of the milk bar owner is on the little things, like a bag of lollies, rather than the big, strategic things. The member for Benambra said, ‘You’re introducing the VPA bill because you do not trust local government to deal with population planning and decisions’. That is not it at all. How on earth could you replace a strategic approach, like the VPA and everything else we have debated in this chamber — relying on 79 councils to make individual decisions, albeit with an oversight planning role through the state government, and catering for Melbourne’s New York City approaching day — with a VPA authoritative organisation and some strategic planning?

Then you have got the member for Mount Waverley, who drew some ridiculous longbow between Waverley Park — something that his leader, the then minister for planning, monumentally stuffed up, not this side of politics — and this bill. I still do not understand that context.

This is a very important bill. I commend the Minister for Planning. I commend the existing staff of the organisation and the outgoing CEO. This is the kind of stuff that people will look back on in 20 years and say, ‘That was foresight. That was architectonic stuff that actually led to a better quality of life and better and more sustainable population growth for Victoria and Melbourne’. I support the bill.