Putting public policy debate on population planning in Victoria, back on track.
B y Mehroz Siraj
The last few years of the Labor and Coalition state governments in Victoria have been wrecked with political instability in which the governments have been stumbling upon from one crisis to another.
Clearly, the lack of public policy debate on sustainable population planning has been one of the major failures of the Victorian political establishment and it seems like it is another crisis just waiting to explode.
Research shows that strong population planning usually forms the bedrock of coherent policy formulations and nation building.
As our schools, hospitals and roads are supposed to be catering to the needs of an increasing and culturally diverse population of Australians living in Victoria, effective allocation of resources cannot take place in the absence of a proper research as to how many people would be living in Victoria in the next few decades and the factors that would contribute to this population growth.
Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, Victoria experienced exponential growth and large investments in its health care, educational, industrial and public infrastructure sectors. The extensions to the state’s public hospitals, universities, the CityLink project and other major initiatives of that era are great examples of how strong population planning can deliver the desired economic results.
Socially, Melbourne has become one of the most diverse cities in the world today. Growing populations of suburbs such as Dandenong and Springvale, have long been used as economical and social determinants on the basis of which the Victorian state governments would allocate funding and resources towards sustaining culturally diverse neighbourhoods where migrants live, work and study alongside local Australians.
In these inner suburbs, the state governments have invested heavily in terms of providing English language training to new migrants and in preparing teachers, social workers and other professionals who can better deal with people coming from non-English speaking backgrounds.
The higher educational reforms that started in Victoria since the Menzies era, based themselves on the vision that Victoria’s educational facilities would be used by tens of thousands of visiting foreign students, naturalizing migrants and their future generations.
This vision formed the foundation on which funding and resources were allocated to Victoria’s universities with the hindsight aim of attracting the best skilled migrants, who would then form the backbone of Australia’s skilled labour force.
As a direct outcome of this hard work, today Melbourne’s universities are amongst the best in the world.
The CityLink project took over ten years to complete. Its success is widely attributed to the strong and accurate population planning that was undertaken prior to its establishment and construction.
These success stories speak loudly about the need of basing policy frameworks and infrastructure development plans on strong population planning. However these lessons have been lost clearly on the government of premier Bailieu.
Last month, it was announced that budgetary cuts of close to $1 bilion would be performed on Victoria’s health care sector, despite a report in the Geelong Advertiser about the rising numbers of Melbourne women who were going to Geelong’s hospitals to give birth to their babies mainly because hospitals across Melbourne’s western suburbs are increasingly struggling to cater to the very high demands and volumes of the required services.
These budgetary cuts speak loudly about the loosening connection between the planning of public health policy and the population growth that has taken place all over Victoria in recent years. Public health policies under previous state governments based themselves on strong population planning statistics that were not fudged for reasons of political manipulation.
These days, strong population planning has taken a back seat as politicians become more interested in character assassinations of their colleagues . This neglect of strong population planning is having its all out impact on other major issues of population planning, such as education and health care.
Citing budgetary concerns, the Bailieu government announced serious cuts to the TAFE sector, which actually means that far few technicians, engineers and trades people would have access to the training that makes them job ready for the future.
A growing Victorian population would require more trained and qualified staff to be working in our hospitals, industries and infrastructure sites, whereas these budgetary cuts would lead to the exact opposite.
This also means that our industries would now have to work under more pressure and with lesser access to qualified staff and trained personnel.
Population planning debate in Victoria has become seriously skewed over the last few years and it is having its impact on all major areas of policy planning and development across the state as we have seen so far. Latest polling figures demonstrate voter dissatisfaction with the Bailieu government very clearly indeed and if the state government continues on its path of colossal failure in governing the state, it may as well be kicked out of office in a landslide rout at the next election.
The Writer Is The Founder of An Upcoming Political Affairs Magazine, Australian Affairs. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org