Appropriation (2016-2017) Bill 2016 and Budget Papers 2016-17
Written on the 9 June 2016
7 June 2016
GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)
I am delighted to rise to make a contribution in relation to this year's budget.
Like others have said, this is an important budget, and there are some very important elements that I want to make reference to. When the Treasurer handed down his budget there was great fanfare. There were some measures in the budget that were very welcome I will acknowledge that but certainly there were many gaps as well.
One of the things that I think is quite concerning and which has probably not been made clear to the Victorian public to the extent that it should have been is the increase in taxes. Public sector wages have also increased by around 15 per cent, or $2.8 billion, and there is an increase in taxes of 20.7 per cent. These are significant increases that will be passed on to consumers. Already Victorian households are finding it very tough in many circumstances and situations, so there are concerns in relation to those various elements.I would also like to make a comment in relation to what Daniel Andrews has said about pay equity. In actual fact he is turning his back on those community sector workers, who are mainly women, with cuts to their pay equity funding base. That is something that has not had enough analysis or attention paid to it and I think is something that needs to be addressed.
One of the areas that I have responsibility for is family violence, and whilst there has been a significant amount of spending $572 million in this year's budget over three years dedicated to family violence following the royal commission that was undertaken and which handed down its findings in March of this year, that was partly in response to 65 of the 227 recommendations, all of which the government has undertaken to implement. An enormous amount of work will be required. There is no real understanding of the true cost of those 227 recommendations. I am very concerned about committing to do something like that without understanding the full cost of doing so.Although the royal commission has undertaken a very important inquiry and handed down its recommendations, that is not to say that this might be the best way to go. Now that the government and the Premier have committed to the recommendations, I have some reservations about how that will be undertaken, whether it will be actually undertaken and how it will be funded and paid for in future years. I will be very interested to understand how this will be undertaken by the Premier and his minister over the coming months and years.
I did get a commitment from the minister, during the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings, I might add, that in a year's time, by next March, there will be some detail as to how some of this will be funded and whether or not a new tax or levy will pay for it. I know that in other jurisdictions there are taxes and levies, but we have a surplus. That was one of the things that the Treasurer spruiked. I do not think he can claim credit for all the work in obtaining the surplus, as clearly there were some windfalls. The government has been the beneficiary of the port sale, it had some windfalls in an increase in GST returns and there was also the pokie tax licence repayments of around $560 million, so significant money has been put into the Treasurer's coffers, which I am sure he is delighted about. Yet we still have this burgeoning expenditure, no more clearly demonstrated than in some of the paybacks that are going to the unions, and I will come to that in a minute. We have seen a clear demonstration of this on the front steps of the Parliament today.One of the areas I have spoken about is family violence. Whilst money has been put aside for that, one of the things that we need to understand is how that needs to be responded to. Other members have mentioned that we have seen a significant reduction in police capability, because there has not been enough funding to deal with the many challenges they face on a daily basis, as well as the number of police stations closing.
I might add that that was highlighted by the member for Burwood just recently, who happened to be out in Burwood with the opposition leader, Matthew Guy, demonstrating this very fact when a woman quite coincidentally arrived to put in a request at the police station. Apparently when she had wanted to find the nearest location she plugged in the GPS and it told her to go to Burwood, but the Burwood police station was closed. That is clearly evidence of what this government is doing. It is real and it is happening.We have to deal with factors like the increase in the number of family violence reports last year there were over 70 000 in the Glen Eira area alone, which shows a significant increase in family violence incidents in the Southern Metropolitan Region, up by 11.2 per cent in the year to 31 December 2015 from the previous year.
In growth corridors there are extensive challenges and pressures for families. Family violence is prevalent in many of these areas, as is the need for understanding the growing population of our state. There are issues around police resourcing and having frontline police deal with the issues at hand. We also have an increase in the number of crimes being committed right across our city. In recent months we have seen the Moomba riots with the Apex gang and an increase in the number of home invasions, carjackings and serious assaults being committed right across the south-eastern suburbs and in other parts of Melbourne. In many instances the police have their hands tied. Government members need to understand this situation and to take it seriously. They talk a lot they do a lot of the talking; they talk very much in actual fact but they need to deliver on what they are articulating. I think that has been demonstrated time and time again by the Premier.I return to one of those points that I made about the public sector wage increases that are blowing out and demonstrations on the front steps today by the United Firefighters Union (UFU). We had Peter Marshall up there spruiking his stuff, accusing the coalition of politicising the very disgraceful issue that is going on in terms of the government
Mr Ramsay A hypocrite.Ms CROZIER A total hypocrite, Mr Ramsay; you are absolutely right. Out there were the Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers who have protected lives, property and communities for decades in this state. How the government has handled this situation is absolutely disgraceful. Government members have turned their back on the volunteers who are out there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether in the heightened bushfire season right across our state or attending road accidents on country and rural roads on a regular basis, as they do. CFA volunteers assist in that very, very important emergency service response, and they are extraordinary. This was absolutely evident when the Prime Minister attended the rally on Sunday and, along with Matthew Guy, spoke about the heroism of these people. They spoke about the many incidents that CFA volunteers turn out to time and time again to do the work on behalf of Victoria and Victorian communities. CFA volunteers are one of the state's greatest assets.
I do not know what this Premier promised Peter Marshall, but I do know that some of those UFU members are seriously disappointed with the lack of response, so I suspect it has got something to do with that. Why do I say that? I say that because I spent a lot of time with the UFU members on the Bentleigh pre-poll in the lead-up to the 2014 election. UFU members were very critical of the Napthine government. As we all know, they had the fake uniforms and the fake trucks zooming around with slogans and messaging 'Napthine slashes. You burn'.It was really despicable, dreadful and unnecessary messaging, but we saw that on a whole lot of public vehicles; we saw that on ambulances with the paramedics union too. The paramedics have had their payback, but the union firefighters have not had theirs. We are not disputing their entire wage claim; what we are discussing is the enormous log of claims that they want, which has really not been costed properly. Goodness knows where it will end up. It is an outrageous log of claims. They want to take over control of the CFA this is what it is about and unionise that volunteer organisation. That should not happen and will not happen. It will be a very sad moment if the Premier caves in and does not listen to his Minister for Emergency Services; the CEO of the CFA, Lucinda Nolan; or the tens of thousands of volunteers who clearly do not want this union takeover.
Where does it stop? Once that happens, what is next? Which emergency service or organisation is going to want this same thing? This is something that future treasurers will have to manage in future budgets. It is completely irresponsible of this government to be behaving in the way it has been. There are many instances of irresponsible management by this government; that is just one. We have seen of course the ripping up of the eastwest link contract, costing Victorian taxpayers over $1.1 billion an extraordinary decision. We have seen other decisions being made without very much consultation with communities or with a complete lack of consultation, such as sky rail. The government is steamrolling ahead. It does not care about those
Ms CROZIER They are diesels, not steamers, Mr Davis quite right but nevertheless the government is steamrolling the community. That is not a good thing. It needs to understand that it should govern for all Victorians and not just noisy little minority groups. It is completely disappointing that that is where we are in the state of Victoria at the moment. I do hope that the Premier listens to the concerns of all those community groups and the very, very marvellous volunteers that we have in the CFA.Debate adjourned on motion of Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture).
Debate adjourned until later this day.