WHILE all sensible Victorians were delighted last year to see the hindquarters of John Brumby, there has nevertheless been quite a bit of muttering in certain circles about the man who replaced him, Ted Baillieu. Not doing much and not doing it fast enough, that has been the complaint about Victoria’s new premier, who seems determined never to be mistaken for Jeff Kennett or any other exponent of the bold stroke. The voters want a sedate, make-no-waves government, critics are assured, one disinclined to spinning, stunts or sudden moves. Be patient, the line goes, we’re going to do this with small steps.
Some steps are little larger than others, however – and one of them is a very big leap indeed: the apparent defunding of Environment Victoria, an NGO that has been on the public teat through four decades of advocacy, lobbying and political activism. The Victorian National Parks Association, another mob of perpetually agitated greenards, is also being starved. And if what the Professor hears is true, the only thing stopping the immediate cessation of all funding to each organization is the tangled mass of grants and ongoing project payments, which Spring Street accountants are said to be still trying to sort out. Meanwhile, the bleating has started:
For over 40 years we’ve received funding from successive state governments to train and educate community leaders to engage in government environmental planning and decisions. And we receive funds to help the most disadvantaged Victorians, including newly arrived refugees, save water and energy. Our campaigns are not funded by the state nor are our core expenses such as rent and administration. So if we lose state funds, it’s our environment and the most disadvantaged amongst us who will bear the brunt!
Notice the dishonesty? Environment Victoria would have us believe that money is not fungible, that government funds earmarked for one matter do not free up cash for organising rallies, hiring more propagandists, letter-writing campaigns and such.
They are going to scream green murder as the pipeline shuts down, so Big Ted’s backbone will be tested when the group’s PR unit begins a parade of tree-loving boat people for the newsroom stenographers at the Phage and ABC. For a premier who has eschewed confrontation, it could be an uncomfortable time. If so, he can draw strength from this piece by Michael Connor of Quadrant, who wonders why conservative parties habitually fund their sworn enemies. Connor is writing of the arts crowd, not greenards, but his broader point stands.
Let us hope that Baillieu discovers a formerly unrecognised talent for putting the boot in. There are plenty of other, publicly funded front groups in need of a good stomping.