Appropriation (2015-2016) Bill 2015 and Budget Papers 2015-16
Written on the 29 June 2015
23 June 2015
GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)
I am pleased to be able to rise this evening and contribute to the debate after listening to Mr Herbert, who spent his first 2 minutes talking about fairies at the bottom of the garden and money that is not in the budget. I was pleased to hear some of his contribution because some of it was quite sensible, but the majority of it was completely contrary to Victoria's needs. As the weeks have passed since the Treasurer brought down the state budget, more Victorians have become increasingly concerned about the direction of this government. The Treasurer's budget speech was full of one-liners and platitudes, but as we have learnt in the meanwhile this budget will not be able to deliver what is needed to fulfil the potential of this great state.
Since 5 May we have seen a completely chaotic government rocked by internal crises. Only 10 minutes ago The Killing Season started on the ABC, which is highlighting those internal ructions plaguing the Labor Party. We are seeing that play out in our state government today, which I know will not go down well with Victorians. Speaking of crises, it is extraordinary that one of the our most important sectors, the small business sector, has been left swinging in the breeze by this government. The minister has been stood aside while an investigation takes place. Even the minister's own faction has sidelined him, and the Premier, who is assuming responsibility for this very important portfolio, is too busy dealing with these internal factional issues. Victorians have very real reason to be concerned about the direction of this government.It is not a bright future that is being portrayed in this year's budget. Any government needs a strong fiscal position if it is going to deliver on the services needed to maintain a growing economy, but what is most alarming about this government is the speed with which the state's finances have deteriorated. In November, just seven months ago, Treasury forecast a budget surplus of $2.3 billion for 201516. The Treasurer now says that the surplus is somewhere around $1.2 billion. That is a lot of money that has disappeared over a short period of time. It is being spent on election commitments that have not even started and on payback union wage claims. All Victorians will find that very concerning and believe you me, Victorians are onto it.
I cannot continue this contribution without making reference to the disgraceful conduct of this government when it comes to the eastwest link. Labor supported the project when it was last in government, but it objected to it when it was in opposition, purely for political purposes. We just heard Mr Herbert describe the eastwest link as a dud tunnel. He also said in his contribution that we need roads and public transport, which I agree with. The eastwest link was a vitally important piece of infrastructure that would have not only delivered thousands of jobs but also contributed to the productivity of our state. The government's decision is a reckless one that has reverberated right around the world. Forget Victoria's 'education state' numberplate; now it might as well read 'Victoria: the state of sovereign risk'. Our reputation for doing business has been trashed.Our compensation bill is currently sitting at $640 million, which is an extraordinary amount of money wasted purely on ideological and idiotic decision-making. It is really shameful. How many schools, police officers, child protection workers, nurses, doctors, early childhood educators or other public servants could have been paid for with the money that has just gone up in smoke? That is without mentioning the jobs that have been wasted by ripping up the contract and not following through on this necessary piece of infrastructure.
Meanwhile other projects that were funded by the previous government have stalled. Why has work on the level crossing at North Road in Ormond not started? I was out there last week with Matthew Guy, the Leader of the Opposition, and we saw that not a piece of work has yet been done. It was budgeted for and funded by our government.Mr Dalidakis interjected.
Ms CROZIER Seriously, we are 205 days into this Labor government, and it has done nothing. That project was identified to relieve considerable road congestion. I say to Mr Dalidakis that we did not pork-barrel seats like the Labor Party did. We were implementing an appropriately systematic level crossing funding regime. Members opposite went to their electorates and promised the removal of 50 level crossings in their first term, but now they have changed plans and are promising to do it over eight years. They were deceitful.Mr Finn They were dishonest.
Ms CROZIER They were dishonest and deceitful, I would say, and now we have seen legislation, which will come into the house tomorrow, to lease the port of Melbourne, which is another disastrous decision made by this government. Daniel Andrews's solution is to sell out Victoria.Mr Finn That would be 'Dodgy Dan'.
Ms CROZIER Dodgy Dan, says Mr Finn. That proposal in itself is disastrous for this state and Mr Dalidakis should hang his head in shame because he knows that is true. He also went to his electorate saying that Labor would build a second port.Bay West was the one that Mr Dalidakis thought would be great. I will go back to look at what has been said in relation to the ports issue. When Labor was last in government in 2009 Tim Pallas, the now Treasurer, said:
In planning for future economic growth, and consistent with the Victorian ports strategic framework, the government has confirmed that Hastings is the preferred site for a second container port to supplement the port of Melbourne when it reaches capacity in around 2030.The port of Hastings is well positioned to serve as Melbourne's second container port
Yet just last year on radio Neil Mitchell asked Daniel Andrews, then the Leader of the Opposition, about the development of the port of Hastings. He said:And you're not going to develop Hastings, you're going the other way?
Daniel Andrews said:'We think Bay West is a much better option
In another interview he said that it will bring jobs and it is a better option:better for Geelong, better for the west of Melbourne, makes more sense and indeed would be cheaper, significantly cheaper, than the Hastings option.
Labor's leader says one thing prior to an election, gets elected and does completely the opposite. It is absolutely disgraceful.
Mr Finn That's the Labor way.
Ms CROZIER It is disgraceful. At least the opposition can stand very firm on what it did in government. We were addressing the removal of level crossings in an entirely appropriate and fiscally responsible manner, and at the same time providing a transport network that would cater for a 21st century city including a rail line to Melbourne Airport. Instead we now will have a tunnel that has been described as going from Melbourne University to Melbourne Grammar. It does not even cater, I say to Mr Dalidakis, in the electorate that he and I represent, for the very busy demands of South Yarra station. How ridiculous that he has no plansMr Dalidakis interjected.
Ms CROZIER You have no plans for catering for the growing population of South Yarra and surrounding areas. It beggars belief that South Yarra station was not included in this rail tunnel. If he reckons we had a dud tunnel, I suggest that going from Melbourne University to Melbourne Grammar does not cater to a lot of Victorians. I wonder why the Labor government has not catered for South Yarra station. Is it because it has run out of money? Is that it? In the budget papers the government said Metro rail would cost around $11 billion, with only $1.5 billion allocated in the budget that is, for 80 per cent of the project they have no idea how it will be paid for. How on earth can they make these claims in this budget without having proper costings and analyses for how it will be funded into the future? What they have done in this budget is a sham, and Victorians are waking up to what Labor is about.What the Minister for Training and Skills said in his contribution about public debt was extraordinary. The now Treasurer said in 2013:
Labor does not have a problem with public debt per seI think anyone who reads those comments should be very concerned about the commitment of this government, because it is clear that it has no commitment to reducing debt. In fact it just wants to spend taxpayers money.
The Premier himself promised no new taxes. On 28 November 2014, just two days before the election, he was quoted as saying, 'Absolutely not, we're not going to have any more taxes'. Yet we have, as was highlighted by the shadow Treasurer, two enormous new taxes. We have just been discussing the State Taxation Acts Amendment Bill 2015, and the new taxes brought in with this budget equate to around $1.1 billion. The government says one thing but does another thing. We have clear evidence of that. To go back to Mr Finn's words, it is dishonest, it is disrespectful to the electorate
Mr Finn It's dodgy.
Ms CROZIER It is probably all of that and above, Mr Finn. I have to say that for the then Labor opposition to release its financial statement just two days before the election really did not allow the electorate to have proper scrutiny of its costings. We are now considering what its priorities are through this budget.I will go to the areas for which I have responsibility. Whilst we all support the Royal Commission into Family Violence, and on a number of occasions the coalition has said that the commission has bipartisan support, when we were in government we did much to address this issue. In fact we invested over $140 million per annum. I think there has been a greater awareness right across the community about this very devastating issue. The Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, has done an extraordinary job in highlighting it to not only the Victorian community but to all Australians. I am aware that the culturally and linguistically diverse background communities are raising awareness within their own communities and that the federal government is making family violence a priority of the Council of Australian Governments. However, programs have been cut while the royal commission takes place. I suggest that if the government thinks there is a problem, it should not wait until the conclusion of the royal commission. It should just get on and deal with the issue at hand.
The $81.3 million allocated over four years to family violence includes $36 million for the royal commission. An amount of $4 million has been allocated to help services to meet the demands, and only $2 million has been allocated in the last few weeks. That will run out on 30 June and then another $2 million will roll over. That was announced in February. As you would naturally expect, these services have a greater demand. The overall net investment is somewhat negligible in real terms compared with the investment put in by the former government.In the short time that I have remaining I will refer to the other areas for which I have responsibility. As to youth justice, certainly the government has dropped the ball. The investment from the previous government is potentially at risk because of this government's lack of further investment. We know that Victoria has a real problem with ice, and there are ice initiatives and youth diversion programs that need to be undertaken to assist youth in the justice system get back on track. The Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre was due to be open in May; it still has not opened. I commend the education system and the Parkville centre, and I hope the education and rehabilitation services will also apply at Malmsbury.
In relation to child protection workers, recently the minister was at RMIT saying that the best and the brightest would be recruited. These are very difficult jobs and I commend all child protection workers who work in some of the most demanding situations. I do hope those people who are recruited from whatever sector get the necessary support to conduct the very necessary work. When we were in government that sector was in complete crisis. The Ombudsman report of 2009 talked about the total mess the sector was in and the churning over of staff and the grave concerns for the entire sector.I have much more to say about this budget, but unfortunately time will beat me. However, I want to mention the early childhood sector. I listened to Ms Lovell's contribution in which she clearly highlighted the reduction in investment by this government. Only two weeks ago I raised the issue of ratios, and yesterday the government came up with $83.7 million over four years. We will see with the implementation of ratios in the new year whether the kindergarten sector has the support.
There is much to be concerned about with this budget. It demonstrates the government is bereft of a long-term plan for our state. It also demonstrates yet again that Labor cannot manage money or major projects. The last few weeks have demonstrated to Victorians that this government is self-indulgent and more interested in a political survival strategy rather than what is in the best interest for Victorians. This budget is like the Daniel Andrews government. It will not advance Victoria and will not provide the necessary jobs into the future.