Friday, March 18, 2011

Daniel Andrews: Melbourne Growth Got Away From Us

Josh Gordon reports in today’s Age that “Daniel Andrews has conceded Labor lost government because it failed to meet community expectations as Melbourne’s runaway population growth ‘got away from us’.”

He reports that the Victorian Labor Opposition Leader has told The Age that a failure to properly manage Victoria’s strong population growth contributed to Labor’s defeat at last year’s state election, as services failed to keep pace with Melbourne’s expansion. “We just couldn’t keep up”, he said.

Daniel Andrews acknowledgement and understanding of the problem and its role in Labor’s election defeat is good news. I raised the need to curb Melbourne’s runaway population growth at ALP State Conference and in detailed submissions to the State Government concerning Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary, the future of the Edgars Creek Parkland, and the Kodak site. Unfortunately the previous State Government dismissed concerns about Melbourne’s population growth and in so doing got out of touch with voters.

Daniel Andrews statement that “We just couldn’t keep up” is true, but should not be regarded as a sign of failure. No governments or councils successfully manage growth at this pace – the problems are the same in Sydney, South-East Queensland, California, and every other urban centre experiencing rapid population growth. It is not that the State Government was lazy or incompetent – in my dealings with them I found them to be extremely hard-working and conscientious. It is simply that the infrastructure task of a rapidly growing big city is incapable of being successfully managed. There is no sign that the Baillieu Government will have any more success at making housing affordable, reducing crime, containing the cost of living, tackling traffic congestion etc.

Victorian Labor can successfully win back voters by action on three fronts: -

·         Planning. Restore planning powers to the local communities. Get rid of planning appeals to VCAT, and let Councils do what residents want, not what property developers want.
·         Cost of living. Peg electricity prices in particular (and possibly gas, water and Council rates) to the amount by which pensions rise. Electricity prices in Melbourne have doubled in the past decade, and risen by over 50% in real terms. This should stop. Electricity companies should be required to recover the costs of new infrastructure from the property developers who are the beneficiaries of it.
·         Big Australia. Victoria Labor should distance itself from the high migration policies of the past decade which have fuelled Melbourne’s rapid population growth. While business lobbies for high skilled migration on the basis that workers are needed in Western Australia, in reality Melbourne remains a major destination for migrants, keeping unemployment in Broadmeadows, for example, above 15%. We should stop boasting about Melbourne’s growth rate, and aim to stabilise Melbourne’s population.


  1. Hear hear Kelvin. May the new-found wisdom of Daniel Andrews spread through the ALP!

  2. The previous State government failed to "manage" population growth, and the damage done is still with us. How many years are the public to suffer from land "shortages", mortgage stress, homelessness, a blow-out of prices for electricity and water, all due to a government intent on protecting the interests of the elite? They abandoned totally any traditional values of the Labor party, ones that protected the interests of the working people. Families are suffering, and wages are failing to keep up with rising costs. We don't have to have our population growth as it is a government decision - on all levels. We need to protect our lives, and stop accommodating new people - from interstate and overseas - to that our population is stabilised. Priority for homes should be given to residents of Victoria.

  3. Hi Kelvin,

    I wonder if the NSW Labor, after next week's state election, will also realise that rapid growth in Western Sydney has been a problem for it too? As you know, I am the candidate for an electorate that has both a high-density section and an urban fringe semi-rural area (Hornsby) and there are complaints both of too much urban consolidation and too much urban sprawl. Like in Victoria, I doubt whether the coalition will have any more success in NSW dealing with this than I expect they will in Victoria, assuming they get in here. Perhaps NSW Labor will also distance themselves from high-growth policies in the next few years too if they are in opposition.


  4. I'm sure there are more than a few people in Melbourne and elsewhere who know what the fundamental problem is - excessive (insane,in fact) immigration levels.

    But what can they do about the clowns in Canberra who are in the thrall of the Growth At Any Cost mindset? These clowns have their hands on the policy levers.

  5. The Liberal Gov't is not going to do anything to remedy Melbourne's rampant growth - Ted Baillieu's remarks indicate the opposite in this article: "Despite pressure on housing affordability from rapid population growth, Premier Ted Baillieu said he was not about to close Victoria’s borders. He said he would never “put up the stop sign” to curb population growth, but warned Victorians will have to “endure” the problems of a growth rate that saw Melbourne increase by more than 1500 people a week last financial year. “You’d like to think, in government, that you could invest for the future. We’ll be investing to catch [up] because the previous Labor government allowed Victoria to fall behind,” he said."