The Victorian government’s strong focus on infrastructure has been welcomed by the built environment sector, however it has been criticised for failing to articulate how it will meet its ambitious climate and renewables targets.
The budget shows Victoria in a healthy position, with the surplus for 2017-18 estimated at $1.2 billion, and expected to rise to $2.7 billion by 2020.
Jobs growth has also been strong. Treasurer Tim Pallas said in the year to March 2017, more jobs were created in Victoria than the rest of the country combined. Average employment growth over the last year was 3.4 per cent, compared to a national average of 0.6 per cent. Much of this was in regional areas.
Mr Pallas said at the heart of the budget was $1.9 billion over to forward estimates on “an unprecedented package to address family violence”, which he said was a national emergency.
Newly announced infrastructure funding is focused on road transport, with $2 billion committed, including $700 million for the final upgrade to the M80 Ring Road and $100 million to complete planning and pre-construction for the North East Link.
There is also $879.5 million for metropolitan public transport, with new trams, new train stables on the Frankston Line and improved passenger safety.
There will be $435 million for the Gippsland Rail Upgrade, including track duplications, crossing loops, station enhancements and 22 level crossing improvements.
Planning and housing
There has been $6 million committed to stop inappropriate development on the Yarra. Geelong will be provided with an additional $3 million for its city centre revival. The Fishermans Bend precinct has been committed $10 million for a new school, and in total $685 million is earmarked to build nine new schools and upgrade existing schools.
Following in NSW’s controversial steps, the government is planning on selling its Land Titles Registry, which is expected to fetch over $2 billion.
The budget is attempting to address housing affordability by abolishing stamp duty for first time home buyers on properties up to $600,000, costing $851 million; spending $50 million to double the First Home Owner Grant to $20,000 in regional Victoria; creating the HomesVic shared equity scheme and providing $5 million to the National Affordable Housing Consortium’s national shared equity scheme.
On social housing, the $1 billion Social Housing Growth Fund aims to create 2200 additional dwellings; $100 million in low-cost loans and $1 billion in government guarantees will be provided to community housing providers; and $3 million will be provided to transfer management of 4000 properties to the community sector.
Environment, energy and climate
The energy sector is getting a $155 million boost, with $88.8 million on renewable energy, energy storage and energy efficiency programs and $25.4m on climate change programs to meet the state’s emissions reductions target.
$20 million is being committed to the Greener Governments Building program over two years, however it is less than the $33 million announced during the middle of last year.
A funding package $162 million has been committed to strengthen the Environment Protection Authority, which was previously announced in January. And $86 million has been committed to implement the state’s biodiversity plan.
Other programs funded include:
- $30.4m to reduce electronic waste and landfill
- $7.2m for management of coastal and marine environments in the face of climate change impacts
- $9.5m to power Melbourne’s tram network with solar power
- $4.4m to extend the Resource Smart Schools program
Environment Victoria welcomed the funding to modernise the EPA, though said overall the budget failed to demonstrate how Victoria would meet its climate and renewable targets.
“The Andrews government has previously announced welcome targets to boost renewable energy and cut the state’s greenhouse pollution by 15-20 per cent by 2020,” Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham said.
“Given this is just three years away we expected to see significant investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and cutting pollution across the economy in this budget.”
However, he said the modest spending on climate change and clean energy was “dwarfed” by the more than $1 billion spent on new freeways he said would increase pollution.
“It’s really disappointing that in a budget with a $1.2 billion surplus we haven’t found adequate funding to match Victoria’s leadership aspirations on climate change and renewable energy.”
The Property Council of Australia welcomed a commitment to infrastructure investment and housing affordability, but said the government was “addicted” to property tax revenue.
“This is a give and tax budget,” Victorian executive director Sally Capp said. “It’s important to invest in the community, but we need to keep growing jobs in Victoria. Increasing the cost of industry doing business decreases the number of new jobs.
“We call on the government to be more innovative in the way they fund their community programs, and reduce their reliance on property tax.”