Governments around the world have established environment portfolios as a means for providing political leadership over environmental matters. The ministers responsible for these portfolios are at the centre of environmental debate and are responsible for treading a delicate path through difficult political and administrative terrain. However, relatively little is known about environment portfolios and how they have changed over time. This is a significant gap in academic knowledge, given the high profile of environmental issues in contemporary political debate, and the recognition in the academic literature that good environmental governance is conceptually and practically challenging.

This paper provides an analysis of Victoria’s environment portfolio. It finds that, while institution-building has occurred, the frequent redefining of the portfolio and reorganising of the machinery of government, and lack of coherent strategy for dealing with environmental matters, is problematic.

A more systematic approach is required if Victoria is to effectively manage the environmental challenges that it faces. Such an approach could be based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and would position sustainable development at the conceptual and practical heart of governance, so that environmental objectives are fully considered in all decision making.

This research investigates Victoria’s overarching approach to environmental governance. It provides an account of Victoria’s environment portfolio, how it has evolved to meet changing priorities, and what might be done in the future. The approach to research is informed by policy analysis, portfolio studies, and contemporary history.

Dr Brian Coffey, from the Centre for Urban Research, School of Global Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University, is a Victorian Parliamentary Library Fellow.

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Library Fellowship Paper No 1, March 2019
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