for immediate release
Vic Budget - Friends of the Earth welcomes transition funds for forestry workers, and relief as bus reform is still on the table.
Native Forest Logging and Biodiversity
Friends of the Earth Melbourne have applauded the Andrews government, as they announce that the end of Native forest logging is to be brought forward to January 2024, with $200m allocated to assist forestry workers and their communities with the transition.
“This is a huge moment for everyone who has worked tirelessly to end logging and bring forward this transition date,” said Friends of the Earth forest campaigner Alana Mountain. It's what we have needed for decades; to protect remaining carbon sinks, biodiversity, water catchments and First Nations culture. This is a sensible move to wind up the timber industry and transition affected workers. This is justice for climate, forests, and humanity.”
“We just protected one of the world’s largest carbon sinks in this state, a globally significant area for climate mitigation,” said Alana.
“This is an outcome achieved by various environmental groups and the grassroots community with court cases, relentless citizen science efforts, lobbying of decision makers, forest tours and of course a long blockading legacy,” said Alana.
“It’s vital that the government continues to support affected communities and we welcome the announcement of an additional $200 million to support workers and their families as they exit the industry.”
“Right now is a sensitive time for affected workers, but with the clarity this announcement provides, people are no longer in limbo. It’s an opportunity for communities to come together, develop a collective vision for their local economy, and create ongoing jobs that are rooted in regenerative land stewardship, climate resilience, and caring for one another.”
“We thank the new environment minister Ingrid Stitt for showing leadership and finally listening to what communities that have been calling for a long time. Transitioning earlier is in line with the ecological and climate realities we’re facing and it also makes it possible for communities to transition with dignity and embrace the opportunity to create a long-term future beyond logging.”
Friends of the Earth Melbourne commends the Andrews government for maintaining their commitment to improve the bus network, with funding allocated for delivering Victoria’s Bus Plan including the roll out of zero emissions buses.
But while the budget indicates ongoing funding and some specific service improvements, system-wide route reform will be needed if we are going to make buses faster, more frequent and more reliable.
“As big infrastructure projects like the airport rail link are put on hold, buses provide a low cost solution for getting people moving, especially those in our most under-served suburbs. The Western suburbs in particular, which is the fastest growing area in Australia, have some of the worst bus services in Victoria.
The lack of regular, reliable bus services means that communities in the western suburbs of Melbourne are dependent on cars, leaving hardworking families paying more for car ownership and petrol,” said Friends of the Earth Sustainable Cities campaigner Elyse Cunningham.
“We congratulate Labor for their commitment to the Victoria’s Bus Plan, and we hope that this announcement will bring forward much-needed, system-wide bus route reform to make services faster, more frequent and more reliable.
Ms Cunningham also welcomed funding for the roll out of zero emissions buses.
“Transport is the second largest and fastest growing source of emissions in Victoria. Without strong policy support for public transport, active transport and electric buses the sector’s contribution to climate change will grow to match that of the electricity sector this decade.
Getting people out of their cars and onto public transport in the immediate term is imperative if Labor wants to reach their target of net zero emissions by 2045, and support for bus electrification is a step in the right direction” said Ms Cunningham.
Latrobe Valley and the renewable energy transformation
Communities impacted by coal closure were concerned to see that funding for the Latrobe Valley Authority has not been secured in forward estimates from mid 2024 onwards.
“The Latrobe Valley Authority is essential for ensuring that valley communities continue to thrive as the coal industry in Victoria is phased out.” said Yes2Renewables campaigner and Latrobe Valley resident, Wendy Farmer.
“We need to ensure there is support for workers and investment in economic transformation so that no one is left behind. The Latrobe Valley Authority plays an important leadership role in supporting future growth industries and helping businesses and workers adjust during the transition away from coal,” said Ms Farmer.
“We hope that the Victorian Government will work with their federal colleagues to make sure this important work is continued, the draft transition plan is enacted and the community is given the support it needs to navigate change and create new opportunities.”
“Friends of the Earth is glad that additional funding has been allocated to the Gas Substitution Roadmap for the coming years. But this planning needs to be backed up with action, including subsidies for households to get off gas,” said Friends of the Earth Gas Campaigner Freja Leonard.
“Gas is expensive, polluting and harmful to our health. The best way to support Victorians with energy cost pressures is to assist homes to electrify their gas appliances” said Ms Leonard
For more comment please contact:
Chloe Aldenhoven, Campaigns Coordinator 0432328107
Alana Mountain, Forests Campaigner 0430 069 640
Elyse Cunningham, Better Buses Campaigner 0421 559 343
Wendy Farmer, Yes2Renewables Campaigner (Latrobe Valley based) 0408 261 551