A Bill of Rights
The COVID-19 response exposed that the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities is inadequate to protect the rights of Victorians when it matters. The Charter is not constitutionally entrenched, it does not permit courts to strike down legislation and can be amended or repealed as with any piece of legislation.
Protection of human rights is the hallmark of a liberal democracy, and the Liberal Democrats will seek to introduce a Constitutional Bill of Rights, to strengthen the ability of Victorians to enforce their rights.
Emergency Powers Safeguards
In Victoria, the government has set a precedent for using emergency powers to suppress protests, surveil citizens and control their movements. COVID-19 is just one of many threats we will face in coming decades, and we must ensure that laws empowering governments to respond quickly and unilaterally to national emergencies include appropriate checks and balances.
The Liberal Democrats will protect democracy and the rights of Victorians by introducing safeguards to emergency powers legislation. Broadly, these safeguards will include:
- independent review of all emergency powers directions
- transparency of relevant advice and human rights compatibility assessments
- detention review rights; and
- penalties for lawmakers who breach the safeguards.
Give Integrity Bodies Real Teeth
Victoria’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC), is failing to meet community expectations, with hearings conducted behind closed doors and limitations on IBAC’s power to independently investigate certain matters such as police misconduct.
Ensuring confidence in the public sector and Victoria Police depends on holding public officials who do the wrong thing to account. The Liberal Democrats will strengthen IBAC’s ability to expose corruption in the public sector and improve public trust and confidence in policing by:
- broadening the statutory definition of corrupt conduct
- improving IBAC’s investigative powers and restoring IBAC’s discretion to conduct public hearings
- independent oversight of all police misconduct complaints including an additional $43.1 million in funding between 2022–26 for IBAC to undertake these functions.
A well-resourced Victorian Ombudsman is also integral to holding the Victorian public sector accountable to the people of Victoria. The Liberal Democrats will also seek to secure an additional 10% per year in ongoing funding for the Ombudsman, with surge funding available to meet the needs of Victorians.
Treat Victorians Like Adults
National Parks are created with the aim of protecting significant sites by restricting things like development, invasive species and some forms of recreation. These restrictions limit the ability of Victorians to access public land and engage in outdoor recreation like prospecting and horse-riding. The restrictions also hamper valuable community management activities such as pest control, fuel load reduction and maintenance of fire trails.
The Liberal Democrats believe that public land should be open to the public and will seek to establish State Forests in place of National Parks to promote greater access and a culture of responsible land use.
End the Nanny State
In Victoria, the proliferation of laws designed to save us from our own lifestyle choices is patronising and wastes precious resources. In many cases, there is little evidence for these intrusions. Provided you are not harming anyone else, the best person to make decisions for you – is you.
The Liberal Democrats will seek to reduce Nanny State intrusions and remove legal restrictions and penalties for victimless crimes such as cannabis possession and vaping, and increase speed limits where safe to do so. This will restore agency to adults and ensure police resources are directed towards combatting serious crimes.
Education spending has skyrocketed over the past 50 years, yet education standards have dropped across Victoria. True education reform requires taking power away from government bureaucracies, creating competition between schools, and allowing real choice.
The Liberal Democrats know that one size does not fit all when it comes to students and their education, and will seek to renegotiate the funding agreement between Victoria and the Federal Government to:
- fund students not institutions, using a voucher system
- allow schools to opt out of the National Curriculum
- allow parents to have more say in local school management; and
- support independent education models such as co-ops, home schooling and micro-schools.
A Prosperous Victoria
Rising electricity and gas prices are hurting Victorian households and businesses. The major causes of these runaway prices are overregulation, climate alarmist policies, sector prohibitions and low business confidence in investment.
The Liberal Democrats will seek to increase reliability and reduce the costs of energy by:
- scrapping the Victorian Renewable Energy Target and Victorian Energy Certificates Scheme
- removing subsidies for energy projects and installations
- removing restrictions on the safe extraction of gas in Victoria; and
- repealing the ban on nuclear energy in Victoria.
The Liberal Democrats will also respect the property rights of Victorians and defend regional Victorian communities from bearing the costs of the government’s renewable energy agenda.
Fast-track 1 Million New Homes
Everyone needs somewhere safe to live yet there is an acute lack of appropriate and affordable housing in Victoria. Complex and inefficient state and council planning processes cause delays in delivering new housing to the market and adds to housing costs.
Similarly, stamp duty on land transfers is an inefficient transactional tax that imposes significant social and economic burdens on homeowners. It harms social mobility, deterring people from relocating to homes that better suit their personal needs, and is another financial barrier to homeownership.
At current rates of growth, it is estimated that 1 million additional dwellings will be built in Victoria by 2040. The Liberal Democrats will seek to fast-track these million homes, increase the supply of housing and bring down the costs of homeownership by:
- scrapping stamp duty on all land transfers
- simplifying planning approvals to fast-track residential builds; and
- re-zoning vacant land and removing unnecessary restrictions.
Debt and Deficit
The 2022/23 Victorian budget projects State debt growing from around $100 billion to almost $170 billion (a quarter of the state’s economy) in just three years. Victoria will stagnate unless we bring back fiscal responsibility, and this starts with cutting the size and cost of the public service.
There is waste in every department and future taxpayers are subsidising this current waste. The waste can be eliminated if the departments are given the right incentives. The Liberal Democrats will seek to cut government spending through:
- a one-off immediate 10% cut to all State departments, excluding critical frontline workers
- an additional 1% cut per year until the State Government debt is repaid
- scrapping the Suburban Rail Loop, the most expensive and least-scrutinised rail project in Victoria’s history; and
- fair allocation of spending and resources to regional Victoria including a target to transfer 25% of the public sector workforce to regional Victoria by 2026.