Socialist Alliance 2010 Victorian Election Platform

Socialist Alliance 2010 Victorian Election Platform

The following policies were adopted by the Victorian State Executive of Socialist Alliance for the November 27, 2010 Victorian state election.

Anti-nuclear policy

Keep Victoria nuclear free.

No uranium mining

No radioactive waste to be transported through Victoria (the federal government plans to transport radioactive waste from the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in NSW and through Victoria to the Northern Territory).

Bushfires and fire protection policy

The Socialist Alliance supports a single firefighting service for the Melbourne Metropolitan area and heavily populated areas of Victoria.

In April 2009, the Independent Board of Reference ruled that there should be upgrades at 24 CFA fire stations — either by becoming a 24/7 professional CFA operation, or by adding extra firefighters on shifts. These fire stations are in areas of significant population: Ballarat, Dandenong, Eltham, Geelong West, Hastings, Hoppers Crossing, Lara, Lorne, Melton, Mildura, Mooroopna, Mornington, Narre Warren, Ocean Grove, Pakenham, Phillip Island, Portland, Rowville, Sale, South Morang, Springvale, Sunbury, Warragul and Warrandyte.

The Socialist Alliance advocates that these stations in heavily populated areas be staffed with full-time firefighters, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

No decrease in minimum crew numbers on shift. Minimum crew levels need to be maintained in order that the internationally recognised benchmark of a 7.7 minute response to life-threatening emergencies is maintained.

Maintain a firefighting service (currently the Department of Sustainability and Environment and Parks Victoria) with an ecological approach to fire management in forested areas. DSE and Parks Victoria are under-resourced and understaffed as a result of savage cuts in the 1990s. These cuts need to be reversed. Vic Forests needs to be brought back within the DSE so that the agency charged with managing forest resources doesn’t have profit making as its number one objective.

Climate and Energy Policy

Preamble

The Brumby government’s recently released

Climate Change White Paper, The Action Plan, falls dramatically short in planning the necessary action to address climate change. The plan lacks detail, contains some dubious accounting, and falls short in both the target set and a clear plan to achieve the target.

The previous incarnation of the ALP’s “action plan” was released in 2002 when the Bracks government unveiled its Victorian Greenhouse Strategy (VGS). The strategy promised to “reduce Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions by five to eight million tonnes by 2010. The most recent data from the government shows 2008 levels were 119 Mt; just 1.5 Mt below 2002 levels. When recent emissions are compared with the internationally recognised base year for measuring emissions, 1990, emissions have increased by 12.4 Mt.

Victoria’s emissions are anticipated to climb to 130 million tonnes per year by 2020 under the business as usual scenario. While emissions from industry, waste and agriculture have remained almost steady over the past two decades, emissions from the energy sector have skyrocketed. Fuel combustion (mainly Public Electricity and Heat Production) rose from 77 Mt in 1990 to 100.8 Mt in 2008: an increase of 24 Mt in a sector that now makes up 82% of Victoria’s emissions.

Brumby’s plan sets a 20% emissions reduction target based on 2000 levels by 2020. This target requires that emissions are limited to 96 million tonnes annually by 2020. This is 34 million tonnes below the business as usual scenario and requires that 3.4 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution will need to be cut every year for the next decade.

To be on track to achieving the 2020 target by 2014, the government would need to have accumulated 34 Mt of emissions reductions. The announced policies deliver only 10 Mt of abatement by 2014. In the term of the next government, Brumby’s “action plan” will fall 24 Mt short of staying on track to achieve the plan’s already low target of 20% by 2020. Delay now would require more dramatic action in the future to get on track.

If the White Paper’s 2020 target is reached it would represent only a 9% reduction based on the internationally accepted year benchmark of 1990. The White Paper uses 2000 levels as the benchmark to exaggerate the target. The science demands that we aim for 100% renewable energy by 2020 to prevent runaway climate change. This should be the legislated target of the Victorian government.

Priority actions:

Replace Hazelwood Power Station

Hazelwood burns 17 million tonnes of brown coal per year and consumes 27 million litres of water annually (equivalent of using one month’s worth of Melbourne’s water supply every day). It accounts for 15% of Victoria’s emissions and 3% of Australia’s.

It takes just four days for Hazelwood to cancel out the entire year’s worth of emissions saved by Victoria’s fivestar energy efficient homes program. That’s 200,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases.

A state government that is serious about reducing emissions must start with Hazelwood. The Socialist Alliance is committed to the urgent replacement of Hazelwood, Australia’s most polluting power station, with renewable energy by 2014 as a key step in reducing emissions.

Socialist Alliance explicitly rejects proposals for the use of gas as a “transition fuel” to replace Hazelwood. The technology and industrial capacity exists to replace stationary energy with renewables, as demonstrated in the Beyond Zero Emissions plan. Advocating gas as part of the “transition” attempts to avoid the direct confrontation with the fossil-fuel industry that is necessary and inevitable, and undermines the case that renewable technology is commercially available now and is capable of delivering baseload power.

In the case of Hazelwood, with a combination of solar thermal and wind energy we could replace Hazelwood within the term of the next government (by 2014). The impediments to this action are political and not technological.

The owner of Hazelwood, International Power, has made repeated public statements about its willingness to close the station with the right amount of compensation. Hazelwood was built by the Victorian government and sold during the electricity privatisation process. It was scheduled to close in 2005 but had the license extended to 2030.

International Power owns 70% of the Latrobe Valley Loy Yang B power station and several gas-fired stations in South Australia and Western Australia. The company's profits surged 40% to $387 million in the year to December 2009 compared to the previous year. The Socialist Alliance is opposed to any compensation to International Power resulting from the closure of Hazelwood.

Socialist Alliance Climate and Energy priority policy

No new coal- or gas-fired power stations. No to the proposed HRL “syngas” coal-fired power station in Morwell.

Ban exports of Victorian coal.

Replace (all of) Hazelwood with renewable energy by 2014.

No taxpayer funded payout to International Power (Hazelwood’s owners).

Plan the priority replacement of Yallourn and Anglesea power stations by 2015.

Set a target of 100% renewable energy by 2020 in the power grid, with a mandatory annual reductions target and large-scale funding to achieve the targets. This policy recognises that Victoria can’t have 100% renewables on its own but only as part of the development of a national renewable energy grid.

Serious commitment from state government to large-scale solar power, through commitment to at least 20% power from baseload solar thermal by 2020 and financial assistance to install domestic solar photovoltaic systems.

Commitment to a large increase in wind energy (at least 8000MW by 2020) and fast track planning procedures to ensure existing development proposals go ahead. Mandate a system where the wind farm gives money to the community as a whole rather than individual farmers.

Cancel subsidies to fossil-fuel industries and redirect them to publically owned renewable energy projects.

Bring the electricity sector back under public ownership in order to transition to renewable energy according to plan.

A government-backed job and retraining guarantee for all workers in the coal and power industries, starting with Hazelwood, with no loss of take-home pay and conditions.

Locate renewable energy manufacturing industries in the Latrobe Valley to provide a just transition away from coal jobs for the community there.

Develop a plan for 100% renewable stationary energy by 2020, informed by the Zero Carbon Australia plan developed by Beyond Zero Emissions.

All new homes to be rigorously energy efficient including solar hot water (electric heat-pump boosted) and passive solar design, wherever possible.

Insulation to be designed to negate the need for airconditioning other than on exceptional days or in heatwaves.

Campaign for a national standard for home appliances to be required to meet best practice energy efficiency standards, starting with large power consumers such as refrigerators and airconditioners.

Develop a program to introduce best-practice energy efficiency standards into workplaces, industry by industry, starting with the biggest consumers of energy.

A government program conducted through the public sector to replace all old, inefficient appliances, including space and water heating/cooling and a large-scale insulation retrofit program.

Forest Policy

  • No logging of native forests.
  • End all logging in Melbourne’s water catchments. Let the forest regenerate back to its natural state.
  • Support timber-dependent communities to develop alternative economic activity.
  • Develop large-scale reforestation programs and agricultural practices to draw down carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Plant native vegetation corridors where rural and urban land use has eradicated the indigenous ecosystems.

GM Crops Policy

  • Ban GM [genetically modified] crops from Victoria.
  • Make Victoria GM-free.
  • GM companies should restore the damage that GM cropping has caused.

Justice Policy

Preamble

Law and order has increasingly become an election issue in Victoria, even though crime in Victoria has consistently fallen for the last nine years. Contrary to media hysteria and government propaganda about rampant knife crime, Victoria Police data shows that, per head of population, assaults with knives are down 112% and robberies with knives are down 61% across the past 10 years. The recent changes introduced in the Control of Weapons Amendment Act 2010 contradict Victoria’s Human Rights Charter and are unnecessarily draconian measures curbing basic civil liberties and restricting the rights of children and intellectually impaired people.

Prison: Even though only around 10% of prisoners are incarcerated for violent crimes, such as assault and murder, Victoria’s prison population has increased by close to 50% over the last decade. It is estimated that 50-80% of prisoners have a drug or alcohol dependence, 70-80% are suffering from a psychiatric disorder and 43% have personality disorders. About 80% of imprisoned women in Victoria are mothers and sole parents. Forty per cent of Victorian prisoners have Hepatitis C. It costs close to $100,000 per year to keep a person in prison in Victoria.

Police racism: The recently released report “Boys, you wanna give me some action” highlights and documents police racism and brutal police violence against African youths in Melbourne. Out of 20 complaints that were taken to the Office of Police Integrity, including allegations of criminal behaviour by police, only one has been investigated.

Police and industrial action: Worrying reports indicate that police command plans that the police industrial unit will be restructured and brought under the arm of the counter-terrorism unit. With counter-terrorism in charge of government relations with unions, surveillance, infiltration, special squads and raids could become acceptable occurrences.

Socialist Alliance policy:

  • Repeal the Control of Weapons (Amendment) Act, which enables police to search children of any age and people with impaired intellectual functioning in an unplanned designated area without a parent, guardian or independent person present.
  • Increase non-custodial alternatives to prisons, such as suspended sentences, community based orders and a wider scope for rehabilitation
  • Support early intervention court programs such as the Victorian Court Integrated Services Program (that try to address underlying causes of crime by linking offenders with treatment programs and support services).
  • Support early intervention programs for at-risk children and youth.
  • Increase investment in social services such as housing, education, mental health and alcohol and other drugs programs to help minimise factors contributing to offending behaviour.
  • No profiteering from incarceration — take prisons back into public hands.
  • End racial profiling and over-policing of youth, especially from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
  • Ban Tasers and capsicum spray — train police in non-violent techniques when dealing with distressed people and develop a mental health response unit as an alternative for people or police to call when dealing with someone in a highly distressed state.
  • Continue to oppose any proposal from the Police Command to incorporate “police industrial” into the counter-terrorism unit.

Price of Utilities Policy

Preamble

The privatisation of utilities in Victoria has led to soaring water, gas and electricity bills. The providers have structured bills so that no matter how economical a person tries to be, the bills keeps on increasing because of the large service/supply charge. The large service/supply charge is totally regressive and works like a flat tax. This means that there is no incentive to be economical with water, power or gas.

Access to water, power and gas is a human right.

The Socialist Alliance:

  • Supports bringing the utilities back into public hands;
  • Opposes public-private partnerships;
  • Supports every household being issued with a basic allowance of water, gas and power at a very cheap rate, with allowances for people with special needs (pensioners, people suffering from chronic illness, children, large households and certain occupations,) and then rising steeply thereafter.

Protection of Workers’ Rights in Victoria

Preamble

While industrial relations is primarily governed by federal legislation, there is much that state governments can do to improve the rights of workers, including refusing to use anti-union sections of federal laws. The right of workers to organise to defend their rights is critical. In industries where workers aren’t organised, many abuses of workers occur, especially in regard to health and safety and lack of job security.

Socialist Alliance policy:

1. State government and relations with workers

The Socialist Alliance opposes the federal Fair Work Act’s restrictions on unions’ and workers’ ability and right to organise. A pro-worker state government would refuse to use the draconian sections of the Fair Work Act against state government sector employees.

Unions should have full access to workplaces.

Abolish the harsh cap on wage increases for state sector workers of 2.5% when the real cost of living is increasing at a far greater rate.

2. Protect workers’ entitlements

Introduce a law requiring employers to bank workers’ liabilities — e.g. superannuation, long-service leave, holidays and redundancy— each month in a secure statewide liabilities fund. Unions want an industry fund rather than a self-managed fund.

3. Workers’ compensation

From 1992, when the Kennett government was elected, until now, both Liberal and Labor governments have amended the Victorian Accident Compensation Act to weaken the ability of workers to claim compensation for injuries by changing the definitions of compensatable injuries.

Repeal the sections of the Victorian Accident Compensation Act that have weakened workers’ ability to claim compensation.

Restore the ability to be compensated if bullying by management causes you to take stress leave.

Restore workers’ right to seek compensation for injuries incurred while travelling to and from work.

Restore injured workers’ right to sue under common law if they were injured in the period before the Bracks government restored the right to sue under common law.

With any future review of federal workers’ compensation harmonisation processes, Victoria should push for the highest standard of any state law.

Restore the ability of workers to access workers’ compensation when they suffer bullying from managers.

4. Occupational Health and Safety

The Socialist Alliance rejects the federal Occupational Health and Safety harmonisation that has taken place to date. The Socialist Alliance rejects the secrecy of the process, as well as the government’s option of harmonising all states’ OHS laws in line with the weakest state laws.

5. Industrial manslaughter

The only way of providing a safe workplace is when unions have unfettered access to workplaces to take action against OHS breaches. The Socialist Alliance supports the urgent passing of industrial manslaughter laws.

6. Procurement policy

The Socialist Alliance opposes government contracts being given to companies without registered union-approved enterprise bargaining agreements.

7. Local Manufacturing

Trams, trains and buses should be manufactured locally, particularly using idle factories and retraining workers from these idle factories while receiving an equivalent wage.

Public Transport Policy

Preamble

Climate change means it has become urgent to prioritise public transport over private travel to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Public transport is a necessary service that needs to be taken seriously — not used as an adjunct to car-dominated cities. But successive state governments have shown themselves unwilling or incompetent to enact this change.

Public transport is not over capacity — it is poorly managed. Melbourne’s population is growing rapidly and more roads, freeways and tunnels do not solve congestion. Over the past decade the Bracks/Brumby government has wasted $6.6 billion on new road projects. The cost of traffic congestion nationally is expected to be $30 billion by 2015.

On top of this are additional costs of road expenditure: health problems associated with air pollution, climate change, noise and accidents. People in Melbourne’s outer suburbs lack adequate access to public transport. Opinion polls reveal the people of Victoria want better public transport and that they will use it when it’s reliable and frequent.

Socialist Alliance Policy:

1. Organisation and administration

Public transport to be organised by a single efficient, accountable, dynamic public transport agency.

This will provide a counterpart to Vicroads. “Best practice” models for such an authority include Vancouver’s Translink, Gothenburg’s Västtraffik, Transport for London, Madrid’s Regional Transport Consortium, and Perth’s Transperth. Such an organisation will be able to coordinate timetables between trains, buses and trams.

The authority would be charged with producing an integrated “go anywhere, anytime” network, including extensions of the rail and tram system to service new developments.

Take public transport back into public ownership and operation.

End private contracts and prepare for government control of the whole system. Subsidies to private contractors have cost taxpayers more than before they were privatised, with no increase in efficiency.

Proper public consultation over new projects. No mistakes like Regional Rail where home owners were informed by the media instead of the state government that their houses were in line for compulsory acquisition. Residents were kept in the dark about the projects details.

2. Extension of the Public Transport Network

Commit to large-scale investment in the public transport system, especially to cope with increased patronage as petrol prices keep rising

Priority public transport investment to improve Melbourne's liveability would involve new lines to Rowville, via Monash University, and East Doncaster, the airport extension from Broadmeadows and grade separations to get rid of level crossings.

Commit to a major upgrade of the train network (including “black spot” areas not currently serviced in the southeast and western suburbs), which should include:

  • A new train line to East Doncaster to ease pressure on the Eastern Freeway and inner north;
  • Extension of existing lines to the outer suburbs — Sunbury, Baxter, Whittlesea township, Epping North and Bacchus Marsh;
  • Electrification and dual tracking of the train line to Melton and Bacchus Marsh;
  • Upgrade and extend the train and bus network, including to areas currently not serviced;
  • Lay dual tracks from Laverton to Newport, including dual tracking at Westona, Altona and Seaholme stations, along Railway Parade and back to the main Werribee line, dual tracking to Hurstbridge and Melton;
  • Investigate turning the city loop into a thoroughfare metro with each line going across town and only using half the loop— increases capacity in the loop, which can be used to put extra trains on lines;
  • Build an orbital link to “connect the spokes” of train lines running out central from the CBD. This could include using a lane of the existing ring road/Eastlink;
  • Reopen existing tracks, e.g. Sunshine to Broadmeadows, or requisition land using easement under power transmission lines. The route must connect existing rail lines and have stations at useful points to pick up passengers in areas that are not yet close to rail, e.g. Keilor East.
  • Build new light rail along busy transport corridors, e.g. Bell Street, Footscray Road, Warrigal Road, Springvale Road.
  • Revive regional rail links that have closed down, e.g. Healesville, South Gippsland.

3. Integrate services and increase frequency

Deal with overcrowding on public transport by increasing services to match demand.

Cut waiting times by linking bus, train and tram timetables.

Minimum operation of all services to be 5am-1am and a 24-hour service for major train lines, every 10 minutes, every five minutes in peak hours.

Real-time information at train, tram and bus stops.

4. Improvement of tram service delivery through:

Speeding up traffic by separating car traffic from tram lines.

5. Security

Fully staff all train stations with rail attendants from the first to last service. Restore tram conductors on trams and rail guards on trains to improve safety for passengers.

Install and/or improve street lighting around stations that have little or no lighting, e.g. Jacana station on Craigieburn line.

6. Buses

Increase the number of bus services, create more and upgrade existing bus shelters to provide protection from weather and include real-time tracking information.

7. Cost

Phase in free public transport starting with pensioners, students, the unemployed, all concession-card holders and people under 17. Free public transport is necessary to give people an incentive to use public transport instead of cars. A mass transition from cars to public transport is necessary because of global warming and because the roads and carparks are congested.

Scrap Myki. The Myki ticketing system will be more expensive to run than it would be if the project was scrapped now and the company paid out. The money spent on Myki could pay for free public transport.

8. Regional Rail Link

Regional Rail Link should be an electric rail line instead of diesel and should stop at suburban stations.

Begin a medium-term project of electrification of regional rail starting with Geelong then Ballarat, Bendigo, etc.

9. Public transport in regional cities

An urgent review of public transport needs in regional cities and between regional cities and towns.Urgent upgrading of bus services in regional cities, with buses traveling at 10-minute intervals

Geelong needs a light rail between Geelong, Bellarine and the Surf Coast, and Bacchus Marsh needs a bus service.

10. Cycling

Better integrate cycling and public transport with:

• bike racks on buses so people have the ability to travel with bike on bus;
• dedicated on-road bicycle paths and, where possible, make new bike tracks separate to roads to encourage more women and children to ride bikes;
• continuous bike routes to train stations and industrial estates;
• designate priority cycle lanes to connect by the most convenient cycling route between suburbs and major travel destinations; to be full width (as wide as a car lane) to allow safe space for more cyclists;
• all cycle lanes to be dedicated for cyclists, not shared with parked cars or pedestrians;
• an urgent upgrade of the Upfield shared pathway (including widening and lighting) to address current safety and capacity issues;
• all cycle lanes to be continuous, not intermittent whenever there is an intersection or narrow stretch;
• more room for bikes on train through buying trains with internal storage of bikes on purpose built interiors;
• bike lockers at all train stations;
• funding the Spotswood— Port Melbourne bike ferry.

11. Access for people with disabilities

Announcements re upcoming tram stops to assist people who are vision impaired.

All new stations and tram stops to be made wheelchair accessible.

12. Develop train and bus stations as community hubs

Develop community gardens around stations.

Develop train stations as meeting places with community friendly halls around public transport hubs.

13. Redirect road funding away from roads and prioritise public transport and rail freight

Public transport and rail freight have been starved of funds for decades, with rail and tram lines ripped up to be replaced by cars. The cities can’t cope with the number of cars and the climate crisis demands a mass transition from private cars to public transport, and freight to be transferred from trucks to rail.

Every new freeway/tollway or freeway/tollway extension that gets built simply shifts the traffic congestion to a different suburb or area. Funding needs to be redirected to public transport and rail freight so that there is a realistic alternative to using road transport for people.

Urban planning needs to be redirected to ensure that public transport is installed with every new housing development and industrial development and to ensure that community activity areas, sports grounds and schools are based around public transport hubs.

14. Some of the proposed new roads that should be scrapped immediately:

WestLink — Scrap the $5.8 billion WestLink freeway. The new freeway (which has a cost-benefit ratio of 0.5, which means that for every $10 invested the community gets back $5 in benefits) will create new congestion points that will be used to justify a further $10 billion investment in tunnels and roads that are already pencilled in by VicRoads:

North-East Link — if constructed this would destroy the Banyule Flats and the Heide Museum.

Peninsula Link/Frankston Bypass — if constructed this will destroy protected native bushland

Single Mothers Policy

This policy was adopted as part of the Victorian election platform, but has also been submitted for consideration as a national policy.

Preamble

Traditional nuclear families comprising a legally married heterosexual couple and their genetic offspring no longer account for the majority of Australian families. Twenty per cent of families in Australia today are single-parent families, of which 85% are headed by single mothers, be they unmarried, divorced, separated or widowed.

Over the past 40 years, single mothers have made significant gains under the leadership of the Council of Single Mothers and their Children. These gains enabled most unmarried mothers to keep their babies.

The introduction of income support for single mothers enabled women without partners to bring up their children in safety and dignity. This progress allowed single mothers to begin overcoming the effects of past discrimination. However, legislative changes first introduced by the Howard Coalition government in 2006, and retained by the Rudd-Gillard ALP regimes, have turned back the clock for single-mother families and ripped away the welfare safety net of every Australian child:

ACOSS describes single mothers and their children as “our poorest families.”

Single mothers and their children are now the largest single group of homeless people in Australia.

Half of all single mothers seek assistance to pay utility bills and many seek assistance for back to school expenses.

Welfare to Work legislation has forced women into the lower end of the insecure casual job market, without adequate childcare provisions, and stripped them of Parenting Payment entitlements, placed them on lower Newstart payments and deprived them of pension rises. Welfare to Work laws force single mothers on income support to either work or search for work 52 weeks of the year and pressure mothers to leave children uncared for or in the care of older siblings or other inadequate arrangements.

Single mothers are especially dependent upon childcare services, but there is no after-school care for secondary school children, some as young as 11 years of age. Childcare hours do not cover the hours that many women have to work. There is no evening childcare at gymnasiums or to support other forms of vitally important recreation for women. There are no childcare services for primary school children on curriculum days. School holiday services are few and far between and need to be booked in advance, which is impossible when many women do casual on-call work. Aging grandparents and other extended family members are increasingly being relied upon to help their adult children financially, and with childminding and accommodation.

Living standards for single mothers and their children have further been eroded through changes to the Child Support payment formula.

The pegging of fathers’ Child Support payments to access arrangements has seen uninterested and even violent fathers gain an increasing share of custody of their children.

The safety of single mothers’ children has been further undermined by the fact that Family Courts no longer consider children’s safety to be the sole, paramount consideration in determining access arrangements — the right of the child to know both parents is now considered equally paramount under Howard-Rudd-Gillard Family Law. This has indirectly contributed to some sensationalised child murder cases, as well as lesser known abuses that take place behind closed doors. Women who cannot prove allegations of domestic or sexual violence against former partners can be prosecuted for making false allegations, but there are no penalties for men falsely denying allegations that are later found to be true. Women who have been through a Family Court report that, rather than impartially practising psychology, Family Court mediators and child psychologists attached to the courts routinely brush aside women’s fears about violent fathers. With few exceptions, all stages of the custody process now channel single-mother families towards the John Howard shared care single-parent family model.

Divorced and separated mothers face increasing litigation, Centrelink and Job Services Australia harassment, and Child Support Agency red tape, while being forced to work increasing hours.

Aboriginal single mothers in the Northern Territory and parts of Queensland and Western Australia are having half of their income support payments quarantined under draconian and discriminatory Income Management rules, a system which may eventually be rolled out to single mothers and other income support recipients nationwide. They are additionally being threatened with suspension of payments if their children do not attend school.

Single mothers are still facing financial discrimination in post-separation property settlements if they were not legally married to their children’s fathers. This discrimination also applies to gay and lesbian custodial parents upon separation, since gay couples are not legally allowed to marry. Single mothers additionally face further forms of social, legal and financial inequality:

Women in Victoria are being denied free Legal Aid and even the Women’s Legal Service if their former partners access these or affiliated legal practices, under “conflict of interest” rules. Unemployed women with savings or who own homes are being assets tested for Legal Aid — many are forced to sign caveats on the family home giving Legal Aid a percentage share of ownership over their homes in lieu of cash payment of legal fees.

Some men’s “support” groups continue to engage in persistent and organised harassment of some single mothers, including but not limited to stalking, threats, photographing, telephone harassment and harassing of single mothers’ friends.

Counselling services to address all family members’ post-separation issues are costly and often involve unacceptably long waiting lists and a lot of travel. Free services are difficult to access. The Council of Single Mothers and their Children is often the first port of call for single mothers dealing with personal, legal, family, housing or financial crises. CSMC is drastically underfunded and cannot give sufficient emergency assistance. It is not funded to run 24-hour support services, support groups, recreational activities or much-needed activism for change.

Single-mother families are disproportionately affected by the underfunding of public transport, public health, public education, public housing, community legal services, childcare services, job retraining opportunities, and the increasing costs of utilities, rents and essential commodities and consumer goods.

The increasing pressures on single mothers have destroyed their quality of life and that of their children, with increasing workloads and falling living standards cutting into quality time with children, helping children with homework and fitness, preparing nutritious meals and children’s extra-curricular activities. These pressures force an increasing number of mothers to leave children unsupervised to meet Centrelink work requirements and pay bills, and make recreation, fitness, hobbies and socialising increasingly unrealistic for single mothers.

Recreation is further put out of single mothers’ reach by entertainment venue and restaurant operators who openly discriminate against single-parent families and non-aged health card holders by refusing to grant them concessions that they grant to other customers. These venues escape anti-discrimination legislation by being allowed to voluntarily choose who they consider to be “deserving” families or “deserving” poor who can access concessions. One adult and accompanying children do not qualify for family concession admission prices or “kids eat free” deals at many venues.

Despite some tightening up of Victorian Equal Opportunity legislation, religious institutions are still legally entitled to discriminate against gays, lesbians and single parents in employment and in the provision of services. The state government’s singling out of sexuality and marital status as “protected characteristics” has exposed gays, lesbians and single parents to further societal stigma.

The Socialist Alliance says:

Whilst many of these problems are caused by federal legislation, the 2010 Victorian state election nonetheless provides the Socialist Alliance with an opportunity to put forward policies which, if implemented at the state government level, would significantly advance the cause of justice for single mothers and help close the gap between the living standards of single-parent families and the rest of the population. To this end, the Socialist Alliance candidates at the 2010 Victorian state election stand on the following policy platform on single mother issues:'

Existing Socialist Alliance Victorian state policies on public transport, public health, public education, public housing, childcare services, respite services and lowering utility bills through environmentally sustainable power generation, to deliver quality services to all low-income families. These policies will also create jobs.

Strong support for all union campaigns and legislative change for family friendly workplaces, job creation, job security and pay rises.

Strong support for all community campaigns to increase income support payments, restore Parenting Payment rights and to overturn all regressive Howard-Rudd-Gillard legislation affecting single mothers.

Research all child welfare matters relating to the Howard-Rudd-Gillard anti-single mother legislation, including changes to Family Law and forcing single mothers to either work or search for work 52 weeks of the year.

Hold Family Court judges, mediators, child psychologists and child legal representatives accountable for the future safety of the children who they purport to represent.

Strong support for gay marriage law reform and the reform of all laws which financially discriminate against women who were formerly in defacto relationships to ensure all mothers have equal property settlement rights upon separation, regardless of whether they were formerly in a defacto or marital relationship, or a heterosexual or same-sex relationship.

Strong community support for Indigenous single mothers resisting the Northern Territory Intervention, Income Management and tying income support to children’s school attendance.

Properly funding employment training programs to assist single mothers re-entering the workforce.

Affirmative action programs to assist single mothers into meaningful secure employment.

Provision of free and accessible fitness and recreational opportunities for single mothers, and provision of childcare services and cooked meals to enable single mothers to access these.

Provision of after-school care services at secondary school level and free, quality evening, weekend, school holiday and curriculum day childcare services.

Adequate funding of Legal Aid services, and a free and independent Women’s Legal Service available to all women. End the assets testing of Legal Aid and abolish all caveats that this service has placed upon low-income earners’ family homes.

Investigate the activities of shady men’s “support” groups that harass and stalk women, with a view to redirecting the men concerned towards constructive and supportive men’s welfare services and self-help groups, and laying criminal charges against offenders where necessary. Massively increase the funding for the Men’s Shed, anger-management groups and other initiatives that encourage men to constructively resolve their post-separation issues.

Increased funding for all relationship, family and post-separation counselling services and support groups for parents and children. Increased funding for the Council of Single Mothers and their Children to massively increase their vital services to single mothers.

Further amend Victorian Equal Opportunity Legislation to remove all provisions which allow religious organisations to discriminate on the basis of the “protected characteristics” of marital status or sexuality in the provision of services or in employment.

Amend Victorian Equal Opportunities Legislation to remove the right of entertainment venue operators to deny concession admission prices to single mothers as non-aged concession card holders; to demand that single parent families can also access a family discount admission rate; and that all restaurants that allow children free or subsidised meals impartially grant this deal, regardless of whether the children attend the venue with one or two adult guardians.

State Education Policy

Preamble

Government schools educate around 70% of students. However, government funding to government schools is decreasing while it is increasing to non-government schools.

A large number of government schools have been closed or amalgamated. Many teachers and other education workers are on contracts. Approximately 21% of school teachers and about 50% of Education Support Staff (this includes integration teachers) and TAFE teachers are on contracts. The TAFE sector has taken a beating from a decade of underfunding and casualisation of the workforce and the introduction of an open training market.

School students have to learn in large classes or pay high fees (some have tripled recently) if they attend a TAFE Institute. Frequently they have to put up with inadequately resourced libraries, too cold or too hot classrooms, broken computers or even broken chairs.

Significant numbers of teachers buy their own resources, including whiteboard makers, pencils or pay for photocopies intended for their classes! Additionally schools try to solve their funding shortfalls by charging parents various fees or asking them to assist through fundraising.

Instead of adequately funding government schools, the state government has advocated Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a panacea. However, overwhelming evidence clearly shows that PPPs earn windfalls for the private partners while creating a very expensive bill for taxpayers and without any guarantee of quality buildings or resources.

The Socialist Alliance opposes state funding of private schools and calls for free education at all levels of education.

The Socialist Alliance calls for:

  • a big increase of funding to government schools and to TAFE institutes;
  • a Victorian Government Schools Agreement that is enforced at a state-wide level, with no local school/TAFE agreement exceeding the maximum conditions;
  • abolition of the contract system for hiring staff;
  • lifting TAFE teacher pay levels to match those of teachers in schools;
  • no fees in TAFE;
  • genuinely free education so that parents aren’t constantly paying fees and extra charges for public education, as this discriminates against children from poor families and excludes children from many school activities if parents can’t afford to pay;
  • the establishment of Secondary Colleges at Coburg, Yarraville and Richmond and other under-resourced areas to meet growing needs;
  • schools for Indigenous students, such as the KODE schools, to be adequately funded and resourced;
  • a maximum face-to-face teaching time in primary and secondary schools of 17.5 hours including extras in secondary schools and 17 hours per week if a teacher supervises sporting, musical or other extra-curricular activities of students on a structured basis for a period of two hours per week;
  • a maximum class size of 20 students except in practical classes where it be 15 students;
  • Casual Relief Teachers (CRTs) to be paid at the daily rate of teachers at the top of the pay scale and that CRTs only be required to teach and/or supervise students for a maximum of 225 minutes (3 hours and 45 minutes.) And that CRT teachers be employed by the education department, not local school councils;
  • a Special Payment Pool for positions of responsibility (jobs which teachers perform in addition to their classroom duties, such as curriculum coordinator, year level coordinator, faculty coordinator) equivalent to $2000 per Effective Full Time (EFT) staff below principal class;
  • an end to class splitting when teachers are absent in primary schools;
  • Australian Education Union representatives to be allocated one period a week to carry out their AEU responsibilities as part of their timetabled duties;
  • DEET to desist immediately from the current practise of providing relocatable classrooms that contain asbestos to state schools. A mandatory state-wide asbestos audit also needs to be conducted and a commitment to manage the safe removal of existing asbestos from all state schools needs to be pledged by the minister in office;
  • the allocation each year of one non-teaching day at the start of the school year plus three others to be used at the discretion of the school, plus one day for the implementation of the Ultranet, plus one day for the implementation of the National Curriculum;end standardised tests for students, such as the NAPLAN tests;
  • that in Victoria, student counsellors fill the federal chaplaincy funding provision.

Toxic Waste Dumps Policy

No toxic waste dumps.

Industries that produce toxic waste must reduce, recycle or eliminate environmentally hazardous/toxic output.

Existing toxic waste dumps such as the Tullamarine Toxic Waste Dump and the Cranbourne Toxic Waste Dump need to have world’s best practice linings and covers installed.

Urban Planning and Infrastructure Policy

Preamble: Melbourne’s infrastructure is at breaking point and ordinary people are being squeezed. The Socialist Alliance, however, does not believe this is caused by population growth and rejects population control as a method for meeting needs.

The current squeeze is created by decades of neo-liberal policy which have dismantled the public sector, sold off public assets and services to private corporations, which have comprehensively failed to invest in maintenance and new capacity. In particular, railways have been systematically downgraded in favour of roads, and some rail and tram infrastructure has been pulled out. This has been primarily driven through government policy which seeks to put corporate profits before community needs.

Now that public assets are in a state of disrepair and minimal new capacity has been built for several decades, governments are basically slugging ordinary taxpayers with massive hikes in the prices. This can be seen across the board, with energy, water, transport and price increases in housing and basic consumables making life incredibly difficult for working and even middle-class Victorians. In effect, ordinary people are being slugged twice, once by paying our taxes and secondly by having to pay again for the same product as an “end-user”.

We don't believe that rising house prices are primarily driven by too many people moving to Melbourne and a “shortage” of housing on the market. But this kind of language is usually used to argue for an expansion of fringe housing development to create more “supply”.

Housing prices will not be kept down by expansion of the boundary; instead it will further drive up speculation on the housing market and increase the price of homes in Victoria.

There has to be a serious plan to undercut speculation and profiteering from housing by investing in a massive public housing plan. Specifically, a plan needs to be developed to actually meet people's needs.

Socialist Alliance Policy:

1. Reverse neo-liberalism

A reversal of neo-liberal policies, starting with putting major public services and infrastructure back in public hands — re-establishing publicly run industries overseen by democratically elected boards and backed with government funding. This should start with energy (electricity and gas), water and transport. The government should then commit to a serious re-investment in a planned upgrade of Victoria’s failing infrastructure conducted by these public industries.

The government should immediately end private and public partnerships and cancel all guaranteed public money to privately constructed infrastructure projects, including the desalination plant.

The government should provide a base allocation of all energy and water supply for free, which meets basic needs of households. Any consumption above this allocation should incur increasing fees as a disincentive to over-consumption.

2. Urban growth

No expansion of Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary and reverse the state government’s July 2010 decision to expand the boundary by a further 43,600 hectares.

Increase urban density in Melbourne through a planned approach to developing medium-density housing.

Urban density programs cannot be dictated by developer interests and any planned increase in population density must involve community support and direct participation in the planning process. This includes setting height restrictions which are supported by community.

All new housing developments to be environmentally sustainable.

The big developers should be nationalised so they are out of the equation and a rational plan can be devised and implemented. Government should acquire all “banked land” from property developers.

The government should conduct a study into available land for medium-density development, and propose a plan for which areas are to be developed and associated urban changes. This could be discussed at a community level, improved and amended, then voted on by the people of Melbourne. It should be implemented by a public works program.

Additional services must be identified in advance and planned for, such as improved public transport, new schools, medical facilities, community centres, etc and green spaces preserved. Governments should also provide support for small business to promote and maintain localised strip shopping and halt approvals of new shopping centres.

Establish green buffer zones between houses and industry.

Establish wildlife corridors where needed.

3. Regional Development

The state government must act to halt the ongoing migration out of regional Victoria into Melbourne by promoting new sustainable growth in regional town centres.

The central focus of this must involve a commitment to develop new economic activity in regional towns, particularly manufacturing renewable energy and other sustainability products. New public industries need to be set up in regional towns such as the LaTrobe Valley to create new jobs. Assistance could also be provided to businesses to relocate to regional areas.

Improve and expand regional public transport to enable better travel between regional areas and into Melbourne.

Urban growth boundaries need to be set in place around those regional towns to ensure no useful agriculture land or natural habit is bulldozed to make way for housing.

4. Community control

Reverse the Kennett government’s decision to amalgamate local councils, to reduce the size of councils to cover smaller populations. Smaller municiple bodies can facilitate community gatherings where people can air their concerns and elected representatives can be held accountable to achieve true people’s democracy. This will help to facilitate direct participation of the community in decision making and ensure that councils are more accountable.

Final decisions on all planning proposals must lay with council, not with the state government. The planning minister must be stripped of the power to “call in” a planning proposal overseen by council and to fast-track approval.

VCAT needs to provide space to hear concerns and force developers to amend their proposals to recognise these concerns, not act as a vehicle to circumvent community opposition in favour of the developers.

Housing Policy

The Socialist Alliance supports public ownership of human infrastructure and services, including housing, transport, electricity, water and banking, understanding that the private market is unable to put human need before profit greed.

In order to achieve adequate housing for all, the Socialist Alliance in Victoria commits to the following immediate and long-term policy priorities.

Housing stock

  • Stop the sale and transfer of public housing.
  • Mandate high standards for private accommodation and require landlords to fix problems and maintain private housing stock in good condition.
  • Publically acquire and renovate all substandard landlord holdings.
  • Publically acquire unoccupied dwellings if they are not made available to the rental market.
  • Increasing investment in social housing with an aim to double the public housing stock within 10 years, to eliminate homelessness within this period and house all people on the waiting list.
  • Increase the maintenance budget to clear any backlog of outstanding maintenance within 12 months, environmentally sustainable, retrofitted existing housing stock with energy efficiency, including insulation and solar hot water (to minimise costs to tenants and to work to counter climate change).
  • Work with construction unions to implement the construction and maintenance program, and include an investment in apprenticeships and training to meet the labour needs. All overseas workers to work under the same award conditions as Australian workers.
  • All new housing needs to be environmentally sustainable, encourage use of eco-friendly or recycled home construction materials and fittings,
  • Develop planning frameworks to legislate and enforce developer allocations of 30% of housing for low-rent tenants in new developments; all housing developments must include the provision of local health, education and other services and access to quality public transport and must be energy efficient.
  • Establish a large-scale building program to make good quality, creatively designed, energy efficient, appropriately located, affordable, long-term social housing with a low carbon footprint, to suit a wide variety of domestic arrangements, including the needs of people living communally, in extended families and in Aboriginal communities, available for all who choose it.
  • Invest in social infrastructure to support housing — local health services, education, employment and other services and access to quality public transport.
  • Undermining housing inflation and speculation
  • Income test all first-home buying incentive schemes to low-income owners to minimise wasting public money on people well off and to undermine house price inflation.
  • Cap exemption from land tax at a level above the median price and remove stamp duty at a level below the median price.

Diminish housing stress

  • Provide no-interest home loans for those in need.
  • Cap all social housing rents at a maximum of 20% of gross income, legislate to prevent community housing providers from increasing rent at a later date.
  • Address spiralling rental price increases by implementing rent control laws to limit the amount that rent can be increased.
  • New properties to be energy efficient and use universal design principles (aged and disability accessible).
  • Prosecute landlords, including rooming-house operators, for evictions that fail to uphold tenant’s rights.

    Increase rights
  • Strengthen legislation covering the rights of both public and private tenants, including the right to long-term leases, abolishing tenancy databases, banning rental bidding, and amending legislation to end “no grounds” evictions.
  • Implement community control of public housing through democratically elected housing boards comprised of tenants and housing workers.
  • Increase funding for independent tenancy advice services.
  • Government funding to locally based tenant groups for participation, community engagement, self/collective advocacy — with a particular focus on cultural needs.
  • Simplify calculation of rebates to minimise administration, maximise understanding by both staff and tenants, and avoid unintended arrears.

    Safety and security guarantees for the most vulnerable
  • Provide high quality, community based, supported accommodation for people with disabilities or other special needs.
  • Provide additional funding for programs that provide support services for the aged homeless and greater access to aged-care accommodation.
  • Fully fund refuges and other secure emergency accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence.
  • Guaranteed supported or lead tenant accommodation until 25 years of age for children leaving care.
  • Stop the turnaway of people from homelessness services by increasing funds for additional crisis and transitional housing.
  • Improve coordination between specialist homelessness services and mainstream agencies such as mental health, with a requirement to include homelessness prevention and early intervention in their work.
  • Develop support strategies to intervene early to support women experiencing family violence to remain in their home.
  • Plan a workforce development strategy for the specialist homelessness and family violence sectors, addressing current and projected skills shortages.
  • Fully fund the costs of the pay equity case.

    Pressure the federal government
  • For immediate changes to capital gains tax and rapidly phase out negative gearing arrangements to undermine housing speculation.
  • To pay Commonwealth Rent Assistance to all social housing tenants.
  • To develop national tenancy legislation (relevant for community housing providers who operate across state/territories with different compliance  regimes; this creates confusion to the detriment of tenants).
  • To extend rent assistance to low-income home buyers for mortgage assistance.
  • To extend rent assistance to those receiving Austudy payments.

    Pressure the state government:
  • To nationalise the big developers.

    Sources of public funding
    The main sources of public funding towards meeting these policy priorities can be drawn from:
  • redirection of existing government expenditure;
  • redirection of current tax expenditures;
  • contributions from budget surpluses, if available, and government borrowing.
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