News State Victoria Coalition votes to back Labor’s controversial Apple store at Federation Square

Coalition votes to back Labor’s controversial Apple store at Federation Square

The Coalition voted to allow planning permission for the Apple store.
The Coalition voted to allow planning permission for the Apple store. Photo: Planning Department
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The controversial Apple store slated for Federation Square will go ahead after the Coalition ended speculation and sided with Labor.

Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam on Wednesday lost a disallowance motion to block planning permission for the concept store on public land in Melbourne.

It was defeated 4-34 after the Coalition and crossbenchers voted with Labor, despite voicing fierce criticisms of the “secretive” process.

The Coalition had not made its final position clear and leader Matthew Guy has previously compared the “awful” design to a “pineapple”.

The upper house vote followed what the opposition described as a “bizarre” one-hour “rant” from Victorian Innovation Minister Philip Dalidakis.

“I started my day with apple juice,” Mr Dalidakis said, mocking claims on social media he was “an acolyte bowing down to the altar of Apple”.

“There are apple orchards right throughout this country.”

Mr Dalidakis confirmed the government considered other potential sites for the store before settling on Federation Square.

He said the proposal would reactivate the space, bring in more visitors, create jobs, and take Melbourne into the future with Apple’s first concept store in the southern hemisphere.

“It gives me the tingles,” he said, before comparing the Greens to “grinches”.

apple store federation square
The artist impression is not the final design. Photo: Federation Square

Shadow Planning Minister David Davis said the speech was “a rant by any description” and “bizarre”.

He said the Andrews government had mishandled the proposal.

“It’s a difficult situation the government has made much worse,” Mr Davis said.

“The government has botched this process.”

But Mr Davis said he was impressed by the possibilities the proposal brought, and reiterated the Coalition was pro-development.

The Greens, Coalition, and the Reason Party’s Fiona Patten all criticised the government for its secrecy and lack of public consultation.

Dr Ratnam said it was “unfathomable” to hand over the public space to “one of the biggest corporations in the world”.

“What’s next, will we see Coles at the NGV [National Gallery of Victoria], or Bunnings in the Botanic Gardens?” Dr Ratnam told Parliament.

Writing on Twitter following the vote, the Victorian Greens leader said it was a “sad day for Melbourne”.

Community group Citizens for Melbourne – which launched its Our City, Our Square campaign to protest the proposal – said it was a “historic loss”.

“Citizens for Melbourne will build on the momentum generated by Our City, Our Square to advocate for quality public spaces at Fed Square and across our city,” community group president Tania Davidge said in a statement.

City of Melbourne Greens councillor Rohan Leppert said the Coalition had “caved in and refused to stand up for the public interest”.

Earlier this month, Cr Leppert moved a motion – unanimously passed by a City of Melbourne committee – calling for state Labor to go back to the drawing board.

The store is expected to replace the Yarra Building, but the widely circulated artist impression is not the final design.

It is projected to attract an additional two million people to the square each year, create another 500 square metres of public space, and open the square up to the river.

The store will host photography, music, arts and tech sessions.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2019, before the store’s 2020 opening.

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