Start 2020 with a look at last year’s government initiatives

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A review of 2019 Victorian Government initiatives and developments that could inform marketing strategies for existing and new suppliers to government in 2020.

Welcome to a new year and a new decade!

The start of a new year tends to be a time of taking stock and planning for the year ahead. For those of you who provide products and services to government, it follows that this is the ideal time to review and refresh your government engagement strategies.

An essential element of establishing your government engagement strategy is understanding your client and being aware of any relevant changes to government agendas, policies or the procurement environment. New policies and initiatives may drive changes to the way you approach your engagement or bid – and can also present new opportunities.

In this first post of 2020, we’ll review some of the most significant 2019 Victorian Government initiatives that occurred over the past year, including recent commitments and announcements to support bushfire recovery. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but should provide food for thought for commercial organisations planning their annual strategy, and serve as a helpful overview for government officers as well.

Victorian government initiatives

Ongoing machinery of government changes

Since the November 2018 election, there has been a flurry of activity for the Victorian Government. Departments and portfolios were reorganised in early 2019. (See our post on the MoG changes). New agencies were established to give prominence to key portfolio and/or policy areas (think Family Safety Victoria or Victorian Economic Development Agency).

Since the early 2019 restructure, we have seen further changes that include moving VicRoads into the Department of Transport and the establishment of Fire Rescue Victoria, to become operational by July 2020.

Last year’s State Budget also highlighted government’s significant infrastructure agenda, particularly for transport, schools, hospitals and social housing. (See our summary of the 19/20 budget.)

While the 2022 election still seems far away, we expect that following the changes over the past two years, the Victorian Government will be turning its focus to embedding the changes and delivering on the programs and initiatives announced over the past 24 months.

Bushfire response

Sadly, we started the year in tumultuous times and it’s impossible not to acknowledge the terrible bushfires that swept through Victoria, New South Wales and other parts of Australia. Some Victorian Government initiatives to combat bushfires were introduced prior to this fire season, but its ferocity and scale has led to additional measures.

Bushfire authorities and committees

A Bushfire Response and Recovery Taskforce was announced at the end of December to support communities and help them rebuild from the bushfires. The taskforce is chaired by Andrew Crisp, Emergency Management Commissioner.

The first Fire Rescue Commissioner was also appointed in December ahead of the establishment of Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) which is expected to begin operations in July. Veteran firefighter Ken Block was appointed as the commissioner, and will lead the wider Fire Services Reform (announced in May 2019) to modernise the state’s fire service.

Early this year the government established Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV), a new permanent agency established within the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) to focus on the rehabilitation of bushfire-affected communities.

BRV’s CEO is Lee Miezis, former Deputy Secretary at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), and the Chair is Ken Lay, who was the former Chief Commissioner for Victoria Police. The agency will report directly to the Premier and will be responsible for the coordination efforts and the development of an overarching plan for the restoration and recovery of communities across the state.

The government has also announced an independent investigation into the 2019-20 Victorian fire season, to be led by Inspector-General for Emergency Management, Tony Pearce. Government will provide an additional $2.4m to determine the state’s preparedness for and response to the recent fires and to review relief and recovery efforts.

Bushfire initiatives

The government has committed to joint-funding with the federal government an $86m Victorian Bushfires Community Recovery Package to support 15 local government areas under six key initiatives:

  • Recovery Grants: up to $75,000 per farmer to assist those who have lost most of their farm business assets or where transportation and clean-up costs are high
  • Community and Emergency Services Health: $10m to boost existing mental health services and supporting kids returning to school.
  • Community Recovery Hubs: $15m to establish hubs in partnerships with local council to provide a safe central place for community members and a one-stop-shop for recovery services and programs.
  • Community Recovery Committees: $6m to assist local governments and communities to shape recovery, grants and support programs that reflect community needs.
  • Community Recovery and Resilience Grants: $35m to support locally led programs for community connection, engagement and resilience.
  • Immediate Reconstruction and Rebuilding Program: $20m to provide temporary accommodation for those displaced by bushfire and funding to repair and replace critical water infrastructure.

A further $75m has been committed for the 2020 Clean-Up Program by the state and federal government to demolish, remove and safely dispose of all buildings destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

Many of these Victorian Government initiatives require industry support to implement and operate. If your business specialises in any of these areas then I encourage you to engage with Bushfire Recovery Victoria.

What happened in 2019?

From last year’s budget, it was clear that this government has a strong focus on priority precincts, regional development, and social and economic inclusion. It is clear, from Victorian Government initiatives such as the social procurement framework, that the government will be using its buying power to support initiatives that will help to deliver its social and economic agenda.

The Royal Commission into Mental Health also commenced in February last year, and in April the government announced its commitment to accept every recommendation from the commission, which delivered its interim report in November. The final report is due in October this year.

All things social

A key theme of 2019 was social procurement, as the Victorian social procurement framework began to have widespread influence over government procurement processes. These policies have become an integral part of the evaluation of potential government suppliers. (Read our post Social Procurement Policies: What we have learnt 12 months on.)

Complementing this, the government provided $1.5m towards the establishment of the Victorian Social Enterprise Network (SENVIC) as part of its Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy. It will be delivered in partnership with CERES, Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship and Social Traders. SENVIC will connect the social enterprise community to enable access to learning, knowledge exchange and other opportunities.

As part of the government’s suite of initiatives to support LGBTIQ Victorians, $15m of funding was provided to The Pride Centre. The first of its kind for Australia, the centre will provide a space for groups to share ideas and resources, and support their work in delivering equality, diversity and inclusivity across Victoria. Construction on the site started in June 2019 and the centre is expected to open in St Kilda sometime this year.

Construction, construction, construction

The Suburban Rail Loop is a new authority established under the Department of Transport to oversee the planning and development of the rail loop from Cheltenham to the Airport. The project was announced in September and early works are expected to commence in 2022.

Solar Victoria’s new inaugural CEO, Stan Krapan, was appointed in May 2019. The entity will deliver on the Solar Homes package to help households cut their energy costs and cut the state’s carbon emissions by almost four million tonnes. The government has also invested $3m into the Latrobe Valley Microgrid program to create local jobs and install solar photovoltaics and battery storage. It is expected that 50 Solar Victoria workers will be housed in the GovHub building (see below) when construction is completed later this year.

As part of its regional growth agenda, the Victorian Government is investing $78.8m to construct three GovHubs in Ballarat, Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley. The GovHubs will be home to state government employees (which include positions relocated from Melbourne) and will help revitalise regional areas and generate long-term jobs growth.

Reforms for businesses

New business reforms announced in the previous year began implementation in 2019. These reforms led to the creation of new authorities, which for businesses can represent additional opportunities in the public sector.

Governed by the Labour Hire Authority, the Labour Hire Licensing Scheme came into effect in April 2019 to ensure workers are protected from exploitation of their working rights and conditions by providers. To continue operating legally in Victoria, all deemed labour hire providers must be registered to the scheme after 30 October 2019. You can read about Mia’s registration experience here.

The Portable Long Service Benefits Scheme commenced operations 1 July 2019. The scheme ensures that eligible workers in the community services, contract cleaning and security industries can build up long service benefits based on service to an industry, instead of an individual employer.  The scheme is administered by the Portable Long Services Benefit Authority, which is governed by a board; the Chair, Julius Roe, was appointed in March 2019.

Building review and reform

Cladding Safety Victoria was established to oversee a $600m program of rectification works on buildings across Victoria found to have high-risk cladding. The new CEO, Dan O’Brian, was appointed August last year. The government also made legislation amendments to enable the State to pursue building practitioners, with any financial returns to be reinvested into the rectification program.

In December, a new expert panel was announced to review Victoria’s building system. The six-person panel will be headed by decorated British engineer, Dame Judith Hackitt, who led the high-rise regulation review following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London.

As mentioned, our review of the 2019 Victorian Government initiatives, announcements, changes and strategy is not exhaustive. The first step in defining your government engagement strategy is to identify the areas of government you want to pursue and research the policies, programs and strategies relevant to that market.

Read our blog post on how to create your own government engagement strategy.

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