May news: state budget, renters’ rights, solar for apartments and more

24 May 2024

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Community, News, Parliament

Hi, here are my latest updates from Parliament and around the Brunswick electorate (Brunswick, Brunswick East, Brunswick West, Fitzroy North, Princes Hill & Carlton North).

In this month’s newsletter:

  • Solar for apartments
  • What’s in the budget for Brunswick
  • Sydney Road accessible tram stops debate
  • Road safety in Brunswick West
  • And more…

Missed last month’s newsletter? You can find it here if you’d like to read about freeing up AirBnBs for housing, saving live music, creating a Great Forest National Park, and more.

Want to get these updates delivered straight to your inbox? Enter your email at the bottom of this page.

Solar for apartments

I’ll start with some good news: last week, the government acted quickly to fix a problem I raised in parliament.

Thanks to two Brunswick apartment residents who separately contacted me, I learned there was a problem with the state government’s new Solar for Apartments program. 

Entire apartment blocks were unable to apply for the program run by the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) because they contained apartments owned and managed by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH), who were not supporting the application process.

I raised the issue in Parliament, asking that the Minister for Climate Action urge these two government departments to work together. To her credit, the very next day (this could be a record!) we heard that not only were these two apartment buildings going to be able to submit their applications, but that apartments owned by DFFH would now start participating in the program – unlocking cheaper government-supported solar power for apartment residents, including social housing residents, across the state.

I’ll keep working to win minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties, and to properly extend the Solar Homes program to renters. In the meantime, if you’re applying to the Solar Homes program and you run into any issues, get in touch and I’ll do my best to assist.

What’s in the budget for Brunswick?

Catching up with Merri Creek Primary School principal Kerri Gibson at their Merri Marathon fundraiser.

It was good to see some funding committed to some of our local public schools (Carlton North Primary School, Merri Creek Primary School and Brunswick North Primary School), after years of advocacy. Some of this was less than hoped, so I’m following up with the Department of Education to find out more details, and to continue advocating for better support for all of our public schools. Our students, parents and staff deserve properly funded public schools in Brunswick and across the state – it shouldn’t be a matter of waiting anxiously each year to see if a particular school has been blessed by the budget this time around.

And it was great to see that Melbourne General Cemetery has been allocated $1.5 million from the state government, on top of the $500k recently committed to the cemetery by the City of Melbourne. This will go a long way toward improving the greenery in this important inner city open space. I’m looking forward to paying the cemetery a visit alongside others who have long advocated for these improvements, including my Greens colleague Ellen Sandell, local councillors from Melbourne and Yarra, and community representatives.

But I was disappointed to see continued neglect of our local neighbourhood houses, which provide essential services like food relief, employment support, community gardens and language classes on a shoestring budget. Neighbourhood houses are under increasing pressure as our governments continue to go down a path of austerity, and they need to be supported. I’ll be following this up with the government.

And of course we can’t go past the confirmed delay of the level crossing removals and Skyrail construction along the Upfield line – now pushed back to a 2030 deadline. This is well after the next state election, which leaves our community in a state of uncertainty as key local issues like installing protected bike lanes on Sydney Road, improving the Upfield shared path, and increasing green space along the train line seem to be on hold until the government can figure out their plans. I’ve written at length about this proposed project in the past, including in my 2022 blog piece and my March newsletter

While it’s disappointing to see another election promise deferred by Labor, one silver lining I can see is that this delay provides an opportunity for us to urge the government to properly consult with our community to determine whether this car-centric project is really the best use of $1.5 billion. I’ll be pushing the government for more details about this, and to be honest with our community about their plans.

More broadly, it’s a shame to see the many missed opportunities in this budget: there’s nothing in it to alleviate Victoria’s cost-of-living crisis by regulating price-gouging supermarkets, to mitigate our housing crisis by capping runaway rents and regulating AirBnBs, or to support our mental health system as was promised following the Royal Commission. 

If you’re interested, I spoke more about my thoughts on this year’s budget on my Instagram page here

Renters’ rights

Just days after the state budget was released with nothing in it for renters, the media reported that renters in Melbourne could have saved an average of $2,537 over the last year if the government had frozen rents over that time.

When we asked renters how they would spend their savings from a rent freeze, most listed the absolute basics: buying healthy food, paying medical bills, and heating their homes in winter.

So last week, my upper house colleagues in Parliament debated the Greens’ bill for a rent freeze and rent caps, pointing out that these sensible measures have been successfully adopted by governments around the world including Scotland, Denmark, Germany and even the ACT.

Even after all that, however, the state Labor government still won’t support our bill, so we’ll keep the pressure on. You can help by signing up to our campaign and, if you’re really keen, sending an email to your upper house Labor MPs (and please cc me!).

Sydney Road accessible tram stop debate

Earlier this month, my Greens colleague Samantha Ratnam brought a debate to the Victorian parliament on the community petition for the government to act on its legal obligation to build accessible tram stops on Sydney Road. This petition was led by the Sydney Road Accessible Tram Stops (SATS) campaign and attracted thousands of signatures.

It was my privilege to meet with Christian Astourian and other SATS campaigners (pictured above) to watch the debate, where Samantha Ratnam and Greens transport spokesperson Katherine Copsey spoke beautifully about the need for our state government to finally ensure that our so-called public transport system actually includes everyone. At the moment, there are no accessible tram stops on Sydney Road for 5.5km – leaving behind passengers with accessibility requirements, like people with a disability, parents with prams, elderly people or anyone with temporary and permanent mobility restrictions.

I think Samantha put it best: “The best time to make all tram stops permanently accessible in Victoria was two years ago, as required by federal law. The second-best time is now.”

You can read the whole debate here, and I hope you’ll join me at the SATS campaign’s rally on Sydney Road on Saturday, 22 June.

Debating Victoria’s military connections with Israel

I’ve had more emails about Israel’s assault on Gaza than any other topic in my six years of being an MP. It’s clear that the people of Brunswick want to see an end to the violence and oppression being inflicted on the Palestinian people by Israel and its allies.

On May 15, Samantha Ratnam introduced a debate in the upper house about a community petition for the Victorian Labor government to end its agreements with Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems and the Israeli Ministry of Defense. It’s important to note that May 15 was also Nakba Day, marking 76 years since over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled and displaced during the creation of the state of Israel. And this was also the day that the Greens and I were banned from wearing keffiyehs and watermelon symbols on the Parliament floor.

I joined hundreds of community members to sit on the cold bitumen in front of the Parliament steps, watching the public livestream of the debate happening inside Parliament. The Greens and other members of the progressive crossbench argued passionately for Labor to end its military connections with Israel – but Labor refused to put up a single speaker, and most Labor MPs didn’t even bother to attend the debate. Not only that, but they then took the unprecedented step of returning to the chamber solely to vote with the Liberals to reject the petition entirely. I was shocked to witness this categorical refusal to listen to the community – the parliamentary equivalent of putting their hands over their ears and humming loudly.

Labor still doesn’t want to listen, but we are not deterred. The Greens and I will continue to use our position in Parliament to amplify the voices of the community as we work toward a permanent ceasefire and an end to the occupation.

Road safety in Brunswick West

I was inspired by local resident Andrea Bunting’s recent article in the Brunswick Voice to ask the Minister for Roads and Road Safety what the government plans to do to improve road safety along the Route 58 tram line (Melville Rd, Dawson St and Grantham Rd). 

These roads see an average of 30 injuries per year, including two deaths since 2022 – and vulnerable road users, like people on bicycles or on foot, are most at risk.

And just this month, the government’s own inquiry into road safety recommended that the government prioritise safety measures like lower speed limits, separated bike lanes and better pedestrian crossings to protect vulnerable road users.

You can read my question here if you’re interested, and I’ll let you know what I hear back.

Visit to Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre

I’ve been lucky enough to get along to Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre a few times over the last month, including during Neighbourhood House Week, when Ellen Sandell and I had the pleasure of participating in their community BBQ, drum circle and hobby horse competition! If you’d like to see me try (and fail) to hold a rhythm, the regrettable video evidence can be found here.

Mother’s Day planting event with the Friends of Merri Park

On Mother’s Day, I joined the Friends of Merri Park on their annual planting day. It was a beautiful morning out by the wetland planting 1000 indigenous grasses and flowering plants. (That’s Merri-bek Council candidate, Liz Irvin doing the digging.)They have a number of working bees coming up to maintain the site, so get in touch if you’d like to help out!

What’s on in the neighbourhood

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have noticed that I regularly post events and opportunities that are happening in the Brunswick area. Here’s my most recent post where you can find out about events and opportunities like the High Life expo to improve sustainability in apartments, the 2024 Children’s Week Grants Program, the Parliament Prize for students in years 5-12, and more. And you can always email me to suggest other events and opportunities you’d like me to share.

Thanks for getting this far! Remember, if there’s anything you want to raise with me, you can always get in touch with my office on [email protected] or (03) 9384 1241.

Until next time,


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