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We Live Here

07 Nov 2018

Show us the money!

We Live Here calls on all parties to disclose in full all donations from property developers and multinationals including Airbnb.

We know the Labor government enjoys a cosy relationship with Airbnb, and we were bitterly disappointed when the Liberal members walked out of State Parliament just before the crucial vote on the so-called short-stay legislation.

Naturally, we ask ourselves what motivates politicians?

At the date of writing, only The Greens have declared a policy of outlawing political donations from developers.

Now it is time for all political parties to reveal their paymasters: disclose the details of all donations from all sources.

Labor's promises - déjà vu

It’s time to review some of the promises Labor was elected to fulfil over the past four years and put them up against what we are hearing this month in the lead up to the state election.

We Live Here has reviewed the Victorian ALP platform, and Labor’s Plan for your Community produced for the previous election. We have analysed the promises specifically in respect of housing, planning and community deployment. We did find a few gaps between rhetoric and reality.

Consider these ALP statements that underpinned its 2014 election pitch:

“Labor believes locals should have a fair say in the future of their community.”

“All Victorians have the right to secure, affordable and appropriate housing …”

“Our built and natural environments define our quality of life.”

“Labor understands that working across all level of government is vital to maximise the liveability of local communities …”

“Under the Liberals, Victorians have lost confidence in the planning process.”

“Planning approvals start and end in the minister’s office, with an excessive number of skyscraper approvals and secretive decisions.”

“Melbourne continues to be internationally rated as the world’s most liveable city. Soon it won’t be. People feel like they have lost control of their own community. The planning process is broken and locals don’t have a say.”

“Labor will give the community back its voice, so we can preserve our reputation as the world’s most liveable city.”

“Labor will take a responsible, consultative and long-term approach to planning.”

We can marvel at Labor realising the prophecy of losing the coveted title of the world’s most liveable city. Or we could fume at Labor’s failure to deliver on community amenity promises.

The ALP policies were characterised by the prodigious use of soft promises and were relatively bereft of concrete promises. This time around we expect more – from all parties.

However, the ALP platform did excoriate the previous Coalition government’s record with some incisive observations that must have resonated with the electorate.

We Live Here was created to give our community a voice – we have demanded, cajoled, lobbied and pleaded. A far cry from the idea of a government “giving the community back its voice”.

What do we have to do to get politicians to hear and understand our message?

So what has actually happened in the past four years?

The greatest disappointment has been the performance of Consumer Affairs.

1. An “independent” panel on short-stays set up in February 2015 was seriously flawed:

Terms of reference of the panel were too narrow;

Selection of panel members not rigorous enough and allowed for conflict of interest;

Inadequate representation of owners and residents;

No opportunity for non-panel members to make submissions directly to the panel;

Additional consultations conducted by the government following release of the panel report were with panel members only; and

Not surprisingly, the final report was inconclusive.

2. The Owners Corporation Amendment (Short-stay accommodation) Bill, 2016 introduced into Parliament in May 2016, to curb unruly parties and bad behaviour, was ill conceived and a gross waste of taxpayers’ money:

A senior policy advisor for AirBnb admits on ABC radio that it partnered with the government on the Bill, and that is was the best legislation in the world;

But no evidence that the legislation had been tested in a building putting up with out-of-control short–stays to see if it would actually work;

No mention of proper regulation for the short-stay industry;

Campaigning by We Live Here saw he Bill defeated in the Upper House, and an all-party Parliamentary inquiry recommended 10 amendments to what was deemed an unfair Bill; and

The Bill subsequently passed through the upper house unopposed and with only minor amendments with a review promised in two years – a cop out by both major parties.

The government lost a golden opportunity to put Melbourne on the map by showing the world how the short-stay industry could be regulated to provide a level playing field for all. Instead, four years on, we now have a rampant short-stay industry that owners’ corporations have no power to control.

We are rapidly becoming a city of ghettoes in the sky and, not surprisingly Melbourne has lost its status as the world’s most liveable city.

3. A review of the Owners Corporation Act 2006, initiated in August 2015 was also flawed and never completed:

The review specifically excluded whether owners’ corporations should be able to make laws prohibiting a certain use of a lot despite We Live Here providing detailed submissions (along with hundreds of others) to issues and options papers and a final report promised early this year, none has been forthcoming.

We hope that consumer affairs is taken far more seriously by whichever government wins the election; that owners’ corporations are given more powers to control how their buildings function; and that the voice of owners and residents who have made their homes in this city is heard.

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