BUDGET PAPERS 2014-15

Written on the 10 June 2014

Debate resumed from 29 May; motion of Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Liquor and Gaming Regulation):

That the Council take note of the budget papers 2014-15.

 

Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- Having looked carefully at these budget papers, I have discovered that the budget is visionless and careless; that its centrepiece project, soaking up $18 billion, is a project from 1969; that climate change is ignored; that economic change is neglected; that social crises are addressed, if at all, as an afterthought; and that given the size of the accumulated surpluses -- with $11 billion in surpluses and a $21 billion cash flow after operations, there are hardly any excuses to be made.

It is like being in a taxi with Premier Denis Napthine as the driver having his foot flat to the floor and his eyes firmly fixed on the rear-view mirror. From getting around the Victorian community, I know that many others feel the same -- --

Mr Ondarchie -- Really?

Mr BARBER -- I was doorknocking in Frankston on the weekend, you might be surprised to find out, Mr Ondarchie. People are waiting for the government and for that matter for the opposition to put forward a vision for the future and to back it up with investment to maintain what is great about Victoria and deal with the challenges that are coming down the line.

Everybody I meet says Victoria is a great place to live and work, but four years of lazy government and bad policy have put these problems front and centre.

Hon. M. J. Guy interjected.

Mr BARBER -- You have been busy implementing the past government's policies, Mr Guy. I am still waiting for you to repeal Melbourne 2030.

Hon. M. J. Guy -- It's gone -- two months ago.

Mr BARBER -- No. The centrepiece of this budget is an $18 billion road tunnel that is going to push more cars into the inner city and yet, we are told, somehow cure congestion. When it comes to the important problem of rising power bills and the challenges our energy grid faces, there is money to keep coal ticking along for a few more years but no action to boost renewables or to prepare our grid for the future, let alone to implement the limited promises this government made in relation to renewable energy back in the glory days of 2010.

There was the 5 per cent solar target the government was going to deliver, and there were the improvements to energy use around the home we have seen no sign of.

In recent days there has of course also been the scrapping of every program government members can find that would have helped businesses, large and small, to reduce their energy use. This at a time when our population is growing by 1900 people a week, our roads are clogged and our trains and trams are overcrowded. The promised investment in public transport just never happened.

In the meantime a bunch of other irrational laws have stopped the development of renewable energy in its tracks, and I see that the Essential Services Commission proposes to cut the amount paid for excess solar energy exported to the grid from 8 cents down to 7 cents and then down to 6 cents, meaning those who have invested in solar panels are going to find they get a paltry rate of return from the power they export to the grid. It is quite simple. The power company sells you electricity for 25 cents a kilowatt hour, it will buy your excess solar power for 8 cents and it will sell it to the bloke next door for 25 cents. By any measure that is a completely unfair position of market dominance that the big power companies hold, and there is nothing in this budget to put forward a different way of doing things, while through the planning scheme and through other laws brought into this place renewables have been held back. There is $50 million though to throw at various companies to do various things with coal, when at present solar and wind are cheaper than new-build coal and gas in terms of generating electricity.

You barely even hear government members talk about some of the important economic changes that are occurring right now, let alone what to do about them. Suffice to say that everybody I have met and spoken to as I have moved around the state over the last few months understands immediately that this is not the time to put the wrecking ball to the TAFE system, which has been high quality and highly supported for many years. That is the mechanism that is in place to help retrain workers with new skills so that nobody is left behind during an economic transition and so we all feel that this is a problem we are facing together as a community.

There are truly massive surpluses in this budget in its out years, and I give credit to the government where it is due for turning in those surpluses, but that money is being thrown into a hole in the ground called the east-west tollway when it could have been used to develop public transport in the city and country. An immediate economic boost would have come with such an investment, with a new industry set up to build rail, tram and bus vehicles here in Victoria. That could have benefited out-of-work car industry metalworkers. Improved public transport in Victoria could break down social isolation, whether we are talking about people in country areas who do not have effective public transport services or those in outer suburban areas who basically do not have public transport come evening. That opportunity has been missed.

We have a major social problem right now in relation to domestic and family violence, and the government has provided very little extra money to meet the calls of groups out in the community who are trying to do something about this problem. With 29 domestic murders over a 12-month period, the government appears to be too focused on its own internal problems to address this situation adequately.Police and community workers have made many effective interventions in relation to both the victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, and these interventions have been effective in preventing continued problems. The interventions have been piloted in relation to certain types of groups and in certain places in Victoria, and it should be absolutely clear that with a bit of extra money, this is a problem that can be reduced.

Now, post budget, the government is starting to make new announcements in relation to domestic and family violence, and I applaud that, but it was quite clear on budget day that this was a problem. This is another crisis the government had neglected for too long. It took its eye off the ball, and it has moved belatedly when a full-blown crisis has been front and centre for everyone to see. I am not saying this is the only government that has ever had this problem -- I had the misfortune of being here in the dying days of another government cycle, during my first term.

Through this strange experiment in government we have had over the last four years, political common sense has been hard to find.

As I said, it is not through a lack of financial resources that this budget was framed the way it was. Victoria has a relatively robust economy with some problems in some sectors, and we have a healthy budget with a healthy credit rating. In relation to Victoria's ability to finance its investments, I point out that as of this morning the Treasury borrowing rate was 4.09 per cent on 10-year borrowings. There has never been a better time for the government to roll over borrowings and invest for the future. The government should be borrowing for future investment in infrastructure. As I said, there is also a very healthy surplus.

Just yesterday I noticed the latest on-time running figures for V/Line. I was out in Ballarat -- another great part of Victoria -- --

Mrs Peulich interjected.

Mr BARBER -- To take up the interjection of Mrs Peulich, I was in Frankston on Sunday and I was in Ballarat on Monday.

Mrs Peulich interjected.

Mr BARBER -- I went down on the train, of course. I visited the Eureka museum for lunch, which I enjoyed. While I was in Ballarat I noticed that under the cover of the long weekend the government released last month's on-time running figures for V/Line. Members representing regional Victoria will be interested to know that last month's figures were below average and that the average itself for the last 12 months is nothing to write home about.

Mr D. R. J. O'Brien interjected.

Mr BARBER -- Mr O'Brien asked if I am factoring in that the government is building the regional rail link. It is up to the Minister for Public Transport, Terry Mulder, who is hiding behind V/Line, to explain each and every one of these delayed trains, bearing in mind that the government's definition of a train running on time is one that is running 5 minutes late. I always thought that on time meant on time. The minister needs to explain each and every one of these failures and attribute causes to them.

There has also been some commentary in Ballarat about what a great thing the east-west road tunnel is going to be for that community.

Mrs Peulich -- Have you doorknocked Ballarat?

Mr BARBER -- I have doorknocked Ballarat on a couple of occasions, Mrs Peulich.

Mrs Peulich -- You are still wearing the same boots though -- you haven't worn them out!

Mr BARBER -- I get myself around. There was some commentary that when the regional rail link is up and running it will solve all of the overcrowding and on-time running problems that Ballarat V/Line trains seem to experience. I have been trying to find out how many extra trains will be running in the morning peak from Ballarat once the regional rail link is up and running; I believe it is one -- one extra train. The strategic operations plan V/Line put to the government early in its term contains a range of modest requests for funds to improve operations to cope with at least some of the growth in patronage, but V/Line has been knocked back again and again by this government. The budget really was a disappointment from that point of view, with no extra V/Line services and no plan the government can articulate to address the liability.

It is disappointing that this government appears to have squandered the opportunities handed to it with the change of government in 2010. It is something of a mystery as to how time has gotten away from it, but clearly the voters have been left cold by the proposal. It is a little bit too late for the government to start, after four years, explaining what it might do in another four years if it is re-elected. I will be interested to hear the story put forward by speakers from the government on this budget, but I think they have missed their chance. I think the voters are no longer listening.


 

Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- It is always a great honour, privilege and opportunity to follow Mr Barber's contributions, because Mr Barber -- --

Mr D. R. J. O'Brien -- I would prefer to respond than follow.

Mrs PEULICH -- Yes, following him does open up opportunities. Mr Barber is a very clever politician; I would call him a consummate cynic. You can afford the luxury of being a consummate cynic when you are never going to be held accountable for making any decisions, let alone implementing them. Mr Barber has found some things he believes are pressure points, and his job is obviously to criticise, but I think he is being totally one-eyed about the achievements of this government considering the mess it inherited.

Our slogan when we were elected was 'Fixing Labor's mess and building the future'. Indeed the south-east -- which many credit as the region which delivered the win to the coalition government -- has not had a better budget in 50 years. It is a visionary budget. It is a budget that I believe addresses some of the chronic problems suffered by residents of the south-east. Mr Barber's contribution diminished the huge investment in public transport, and I will go to that in a moment. Public transport was terribly neglected under Labor.

Mr Barber talked about a wrecking ball being taken to the TAFE system, when he knows full well that the reform of the TAFE system by the Labor government in 2009, which opened the TAFE system up to contestability by the private sector and registered training organisations, was always going to have the impacts and consequences we have had -- that is, some money moving out of the TAFE system into the private sector. The overall amount that our vocational education and training system attracts is bigger and better than ever before.

Mr Barber is disingenuous in the way he spins truth or fact, or rather things that he purports to be fact.

What disappoints me the most is the fact that he is so out of touch with the south-east. We see anti-roads vitriol from him, without him giving any concessions. He has been saying that the east-west link and significant road project announcements have failed to resonate. Let me tell you, they are resonating across the south-east, which has been gridlocked by a failure by Labor to invest for many, many years.

I believe the budget is a balanced budget and is a sensible budget. It future-proofs us. It invests significant money currently and will make a difference in the future for the south-east that we believe augurs well for our region. Any government has a complex role. No. 1 is obviously managing the budget and the economy -- managing the finances of the state.

This involves making sure that revenue continues to be generated, the private sector is robust and that we can actually collect taxes, because at the end of the day the government does not print money; it manages money on behalf of Victorians. It needs to do so in the most frugal and effective way so money is not wasted. One of the significant reasons we were elected was the substantial waste and mismanagement of the former government, which meant that it could invest less in significant infrastructure that we needed or in the improvement of services.

The government must manage the economy and manage the budget in a way that is open, accountable, democratic and fair. It must also invest in the infrastructure that we need and improve the services. It is not all about money, though I am happy to come back to the money. It is also about reforming and making sure the money is well spent to deliver the desired outcomes.

We talk about improving services. It is not just about increasing funding to keep up with population growth or elevating the standards of the service delivery; it is also about making sure that what we do improves the outcomes of the community. That is certainly a common theme that comes from the Auditor-General time and again, and I have seen minister after minister implement reforms which mean we do deliver better services.

The Minister for Planning has worked assiduously to reform the planning system. The former Minister for Local Government and the current minister have continued the good work by introducing key performance indicators for the local government sector, introducing the My Council website to enable ratepayers to compare their council's performance against others and also by introducing a mechanism by which individual rogue councillors can be dealt with rather than having to dismiss an entire council. This sort of stuff is just common sense, but Mr Barber has skimmed over it because, as I said before, he is the consummate cynic.
Let me go into a bit of detail to illustrate why we in the south-east are excited about the budget. Before doing so I want to compliment the Treasurer and the Premier on the overall parameters of the budget for 2014-15, which delivers an operating surplus of $1.3 billion in 2014-15, rising to $3.3 billion in 2017-18, which enables us therefore to invest the surpluses in infrastructure.

That is going to be a huge advantage for our state and our economy. Our economy will grow by 2.5 per cent in 2014-15, and that will rise to 2.75 per cent by the following year.

Employment is scheduled to grow, with the unemployment rate forecast to fall to 5.5 per cent. In fact we now have 70 000 more people in jobs than we did when we took office. Net debt is forecast to be 6.3 per cent of gross state product by June 2015, declining to 4.5 per cent by June 2018. These are important trends that will ensure that we protect our AAA credit rating and future-proof Victoria from the sort of economic vagaries that have forced other states into some difficult positions.

Mr D. R. J. O'Brien interjected.

Mrs PEULICH -- We cannot future-proof ourselves with the Greens, but I think the Greens policies deserve greater exposition. In fact during the last election I took the great opportunity to inform people about what some of the Greens policies were, and I intend to do so again.

In addition we cut payroll tax to 4.85 per cent for around 39 000 Victorian employers and their 1.6 million employees, saving businesses more than $234 million over four years. We have abolished stamp duty on life insurance. We also subsequently announced a $100 reduction on water bills, and there have been a number of other cost of living improvements that I will mention in a moment.

I would like to focus on the south-east of Melbourne in terms of Mr Barber's allegations that there has not been sufficient investment in public transport.

We have made a $2 billion to $2.5 billion investment in the Cranbourne-Pakenham rail improvement project, which includes the removal of the Centre Road and Clayton Road level crossings. The Clayton Road level crossing is a deplorable crossing, and I have been campaigning to have it removed and committed since I was preselected back in 2005. It should have been removed to begin with, given it is only 200 metres from Monash Medical Centre, where I often see ambulances caught behind the boom gates with critically ill patients in the back. It is sixth on the safety audit list. It should have been done when the hospital was built, but it has taken this government to make that commitment, and let me say, even members of the Labor Party are applauding that commitment.

The extension of the zone 1 public transport fare is going to be a huge boon to the south-east, in particular for those who are not in the cafe latte society and cannot ride their bikes to work.

Being able to travel daily from the Casey and Frankston areas into the city will mean a saving of $1200 a year, which is huge. A brand-new railway station is to be built at Clayton; we have committed $211 million for 12 new schools, including Casey Central East Primary School, Cranbourne South West Primary School and Heather Grove Primary School. Understandably these are growth areas, and we need to provide these services. We have allocated $797 000 to upgrade Brandon Park Primary School. We have allocated funding to continue the good work of Good Money Hub in Dandenong for those families that need to manage money carefully and frugally.

The state budget also delivers major investments in infrastructure to families in the south-east by improving the public transport system and school facilities for our students and investing record amounts into our education and health systems.

Of course these initiatives are on top of all those that have already been committed to, including funding of the new Monash Children's hospital, $81 million for the redevelopment of the Frankston Hospital emergency department and $100 million for the Bayside rail upgrade project.

We have provided $159 million to remove the Springvale level crossing, and I went to the launch. All members of Greater Dandenong City Council turned up. Of course many of them are members of the ALP. I cannot remember whether Matthew Kirwan -- the Greens member who got elected on blue colours -- turned up, but they all applauded the announcement. In particular Cr Angela Long, the former mayor and a passionate Labor member, said it was the best thing that had ever happened in her neighbourhood and something she had been waiting for for over 40 years. The impact it has already had on traffic is phenomenal.

In addition to that we have heard recently the announcement that $10.7 million is being committed to advancing the plans for the extension of Frankston Freeway, which has been renamed the Mordialloc bypass; full funding for the Kingston leg of the Dingley bypass; and further funding of roadworks at the end of Westall Road to connect it with the freeway. These are the sorts of road connections we need because in the south-east we have the largest number of businesses in the state of Victoria. Businesses do not want to get caught up in local traffic. They want a more efficient and effective way of moving freight and getting about their business. At the same time residents deserve improved amenity in their residential suburbs.Investment in roads as well as public transport, as has occurred in the south-east, means that the south-east has had its best deal for many decades, and I would like to applaud the state government. I believe it will be rewarded come the next state election.

In addition there is $49 million to duplicate Narre Warren-Cranbourne Road to cut congestion. For those who are interested in reading more thoroughly about it, I put out in the local papers a wraparound which looks at the state budget highlights. Of course there are many. As I said, they are only highlights. What we look at are the initiatives to secure our finances, fireproof our economy, maintain our AAA credit rating and invest in infrastructure that not only improves our competitiveness but also creates jobs.

We also look at cutting payroll tax, building stronger communities through schools and school upgrades, record health funding, boosting elective surgery, the 1700 additional police officers and the protective services officer program. That is widely canned and criticised by the ALP. I believe it is one of the most successful programs that has come out of the 2010 state election commitments.

There is the $447 million to expand prison capacity, and at the other end, the east-west link. It would be remiss of me not to speak about the east-west link, because the building of the east-west would mean a 17 per cent reduction of traffic on the Monash Freeway.

Mr Barber -- A reduction of traffic?

Mrs PEULICH -- A reduction of traffic on the Monash Freeway.

Mr Barber interjected.

Mrs PEULICH -- The traffic will go down on the Monash Freeway. It is very sad that the shadow Minister for Roads, the member for Narre Warren North in the Assembly, Luke Donnellan, who lives in Carlton, is campaigning against the east-west link, which will reduce the traffic on the Monash Freeway, which is used by his voters. That is the irony.

My colleague Lee Tarlamis has been campaigning saying, 'Denis Napthine cancels all Flinders Street services'. What a lot of boloney; talk about misuse of taxpayers money. He talks about people being 'dumped at Southern Cross' and says that the Frankston rail line will no longer run to Flinders Street or Richmond stations. Obviously those lines have been ripped up. Talk about the greatest load of misinformation.

The reason? It is that people out there see the results on the ground, they see the investment in public transport, in the grade separations and in the road projects. They see the investment in schools. I have opened more kindergartens in the last 12 months than I could possibly have imagined. They also see the rolling out and co-location of services at schools, kindergartens and primary schools. These are all absolutely amazing investments for the south-east that will improve the lives of people not only presently but also well into the future. I would like to commend the government and commend the budget, and I look forward to seeing many more of those projects being delivered to improve the lives of people who live in my region -- from Berwick to Frankston, down to Moorabbin, right across to Rowville.

An honourable member -- Including Frankston?

Mrs PEULICH -- Including Frankston.

They are all very ably represented by coalition members, both in the upper house and many in the lower house, although we hope the numbers increase further at the next election. I commend the budget to the house.

 

Mr SCHEFFER (Eastern Victoria) -- The debate over the features and consequences of the Victorian budget are now overwhelmed by the Abbott federal government's budget, and the entirely expected and understandable furore that has been unleashed is fundamentally concerned with how the wealth of the nation is distributed. Labor has noted that budgets both define governments and tell the community about the values and priorities of the government, and I think that budgets must be assessed against the criteria of how seriously they take this distribution question. What do this budget and the three budgets that have been handed down during the current parliamentary term tell us about the values and priorities of this particular coalition government in Victoria?

In the conclusion to the budget speech the Treasurer refers to the government's commitment at the 2010 election to fix the problems and build the future, and he asserts that three and a half years later the government has stayed true and has capably managed the state's finances. But in what follows and right through the speech the Treasurer pushes the old lie that Labor had left the state with escalating debt and that the coalition has, through prudence and austerity, rebalanced the accounts, producing a surplus of $1.3 billion.

Now at last, the Treasurer proclaims, after three and a half years of penance, the state can invest and Victorians have a budget, on the eve of the election, that is crammed full of what in the end will be little more than promises.

Victorians remain on the never-never, with an ever receding future and a brave new world of commitments heaped on still more commitments.

What are the facts on wealth distribution? Recent information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that 20 per cent of Australian households possess 60 per cent of the nation's wealth, whereas 60 per cent of Australian households possess 20 per cent of the nation's wealth. The 20 per cent of Australian households who have the least share possess less than 1 per cent of the nation's wealth, the next 20 per cent around 5 per cent, the next 20 per cent around 12 per cent of the wealth, and the 20 per cent after that around 20 per cent. According to the ABS, middle Australia is losing household wealth by just under a per cent, whereas for the wealthiest households there is an increase of just less than 2 per cent. The ABS also shows that the household net worth of those who live in cities is 22 per cent above the mean for households in other areas.

The correlation between household wealth and income is complex because, for example, younger households have higher incomes and lower net worth and older households have lower incomes but higher net worth. But the ABS has produced standardised data that shows that income distribution is seriously unequal as for 90 per cent of households incomes range between around $24 000 and around $44 000 per annum, whereas 10 per cent of households have incomes of around $105 000 per annum. We know that wages growth has flatlined. In fact, workers' wages are going backwards and wages growth has fallen to its lowest in 17 years. The ABS reported last week or the week before that wages grew by 2.6 per cent last year -- the lowest since records began in 1997 and well behind CPI, which rose 2.9 per cent. So there is certainly no wages explosion, despite the alarms being raised in some quarters.

I have made the point in previous contributions that this country is not immune from global forces that are transforming production, and that the old verities -- that education and employment are the paths to social and economic equality -- are under considerable threat.

The data on wealth distribution and income disparity from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which I have just quoted is reflected to a greater or lesser extent across the globe and will accelerate unless the problem is taken seriously. I agree with the view most recently and powerfully presented by French economist Thomas Piketty, in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, that it is the distributional question that lies at the heart of economic analysis.

The shocking fact is that there is not a single mention in the Treasurer's speech of the delivery of any commitment made to the Victorian people in the 2010 election campaign. Surely out of the grab bag of statements that the previous Premier, Ted Baillieu, the member for Hawthorn in the Assembly, made to the Victorian voters in 2010 there should be something that could be pointed to as a defining achievement after three and a half years in government, but the fact is there is nothing. If there was, it would have been there front and centre of this, the government's final budget, to demonstrate that this is a government of achievement and integrity that should be re-elected for the good of the state and the community.

The Treasurer slipped in here and there references to increases in funding for health care, education services and infrastructure, but these what I call muted references are just the normal expenditure of government in a state where the population is growing and we would expect increased expenditure in the normal course of events. The Treasurer's budget speech says absolutely nothing about the problems the coalition said in 2010 needed to be fixed, and it says nothing about how those problems were fixed. The truth is this is a government that has done very little other than review and continue on with Labor's key projects, cutting ribbons and borrowing the plumage. Where it was captive to a constituency it has mothballed important infrastructure assets, such as the desalination plant -- which I guess in a not too distant time Victorians will come to be thankful for.

The budget speech proclaims a list of major projects as state-shaping infrastructure to build a better Victoria.

The Melbourne rail link -- an inadequately planned, 11th-hour re-election pitch, a botched mishmash that has cut stations and services to reduce costs to help pay for the east-west link -- is touted as a transformational project. The western section of the east-west link, the Cranbourne-Pakenham rail corridor, the CityLink-Tullamarine Freeway widening, the level crossing removals, incidentally instigated under Labor's Project 10 000 commitment, all of these are for the future. Given that no major infrastructure project has been commenced by this government over the last three years, we know this government has form and is not to be believed.
The Liberal Party has never really stood for anything other than, in a nebulous way, the maintenance of the status quo and a grab bag of notions derived from various traditions that disproportionately privilege the interests of those who hold private property against the interests of the wider community.

Norman Abjorensen wrote an instructive piece in the Guardian earlier last month examining the Liberal Party. He notes that the Liberal Party is elusive, contradictory, not given to reflection and that it exists only reluctantly because its principal purpose is to keep Labor out of office. In case we think this is just some abstract ideological point, I draw the attention of members to the first speeches of the most recent members of the coalition to take their seats in this place. These speeches espouse the belief that small government is good, that large government diminishes the individual, that resources should be privately owned, that government should get out of the way of the private sector and that its role should be restricted to stepping in where markets fail.

Abjorensen answers the question why those opposite want to be members of Parliament, or hold government, and the answer is not actually to use power for the collective formation of government to do something but to do as little as possible or to use power to dismantle policies and programs that Labor has set in place for the benefit of the community. This is why Labor has described this budget as one so modest and faint of pulse.

Let us not be beguiled by the sentimental and bucolic nostalgia in the language of these first speeches to which I refer, because modern conservatives -- as we see in the budgets of both the Victorian and federal coalition governments -- are a ruthless lot. The evidence is in the savagery of their funding cuts to public services, their wilful, reckless dismantling of the automotive and manufacturing industries, and the thousands of jobs, families and communities that have been profoundly and irrevocably harmed. That of course is a shining example of government getting out of the way.

The Victorian coalition has presided over a vicious slashing of billions of dollars to almost every service that working people rely on to maintain and better their lives. These include elective surgery waiting lists where patients languish in queues for years, cutting training programs for nurses and health workers, the collapse in acceptable ambulance callout rates, and the failure to deliver the 800 hospital beds promised. I was going to say failure to deliver even 1 bed, but let us say that 43 beds were delivered and we are still waiting for the rest of them. This is certainly a triumph of government getting out of the way.

When Labor was last in office, day by day, week by week, schools were being refurbished, renovated or completely rebuilt. Every school community knew that their turn would come.

Except that when the coalition was elected to government, Martin Dixon, the Minister for Education, after promising when in opposition to continue the program, tore up the commitment and trashed the Victorian schools plan because, as those opposite say, government was getting out of the way.

Among the tragedies visited upon Victorian working people, none is greater than the destruction wrought by this government when it slashed $1.2 billion from the TAFE sector. Advance TAFE in East Gippsland sustained a drop of $6.8 million in coalition government funding and last year lost a massive $9.2 million. This together with GippsTAFE's loss of $5 million means course and campus closures and job losses. In effect it will mean a merger of financially crippled institutions.

The consequence of this for the people of the Latrobe Valley is incalculable in terms of the erosion of the skill base of the community and the harm this will exact on the massive efforts to lift productivity and diversify industry there. This is another powerful example of the benefit of government getting out of the way.

Table 1.1 in budget paper 3 lists the output initiatives that will go to supporting the Morwell community, which suffered from the Hazelwood coalmine fire in February. The table allocates a total of $11.5 million to remedy some of the impacts of the fire. They include a clean-up package managed by the City of Latrobe, environmental and water monitoring to the Environment Protection Authority, funds for affected schools and early child-care centres, including temporary relocation, relief funds for businesses impacted by the mine fire and funds to assist affected residents.

The board of inquiry into the Hazelwood mine fire may well show how the level of the allocation was determined, whether it met community needs and how adequately it was used, but from what I have learnt directly from Morwell residents, the support that was provided was woeful and many felt they had been hung out to dry. The $11.5 million budget allocation is way below the $50 million the Victorian and commonwealth governments provided for the further development of new ways to use brown coal. In general I support research that can improve the way coal resources are used, but such research money must be invested back into the community to create jobs.

The state budget has been overwhelmed by the rapacious budget of the Abbott federal government. Both governments are motivated by the kind of austerity that inflicts great pain on working people.

It is basically about reducing consumption and public expenditure and withdrawing state regulation, which can have disastrous effects on the capacity of citizens to access the services and commodities they need.

 

 

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am pleased to rise this evening to speak on the Victorian budget 2014-15, which was delivered by Treasurer Michael O'Brien on 6 May, which was just a few weeks ago. After listening to Mr Scheffer's contribution I see that the opposition is trying to divert attention away from the very good budget that was delivered in Victoria by the Treasurer. The Treasurer and the Napthine government should be congratulated and commended on the work undertaken in putting this budget together. It is a tremendous result for Victorians. I think Victorians understand that it is a very good budget. Despite Mr Scheffer trying to blur it with the federal budget I will be talking only about the Victorian budget.

There is a real focus on infrastructure in the budget, with $27 billion worth of infrastructure projects that will really put Victoria on the map. The budget has a surplus which is the envy of other jurisdictions across the country. Other governments and administrators are looking to Victoria to understand what has gone on here. They have congratulated Treasurer O'Brien on his work in this area.

I want to highlight some of the key service areas that Mr Scheffer and others have addressed in their budget speeches. We know the infrastructure projects are going to create thousands upon thousands of jobs. It is very reassuring for the Victorian community to see industries transitioning from one sector to another. It will improve amenities, it will improve productivity within the general sector and it will be good for our overall economic management and ability right across the state.

Victorians understand that these infrastructure projects will not only enhance the capacity for job opportunities, they will also enhance the overall economic growth of our state.

I will just turn to the area of health care for a moment. There is $1.4 million over four years to boost health care, which is a record amount of funding in the health services area. This is unlike the former government, which did not fully recognise our growing and ageing population or the requirements of health services -- --

Mr Lenders interjected.

Ms CROZIER -- Mr Lenders, you were the Treasurer in the former government, and your legacy is the desalination plant, which costs $1.8 million a day.

Certainly the Victorian population understands the legacy of Labor; it understands the failed and bungled projects left by Labor that we are fixing.

One of those areas is in health infrastructure. As Mr Lenders well knows, there are many health infrastructure projects that are going ahead. Mr Lenders mentioned the Monash Children's hospital. That was a project his government commenced, and I commend his government for that. But the Monash Children's project that we are undertaking is very much needed in the south-east area of Melbourne, which was neglected by the Labor government. Labor looked at that project in 2002 and denied people from the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and Victoria an amenity that would cater to that growing population.

I am very pleased that the Monash Children's project will be commencing soon. It will be a great asset to not only Melbourne and Victoria but also the growing community there.

One million people in the south-eastern suburbs will benefit from that asset alone.

The government has also been very focused on providing ambulance and transport services, including investment in state-of-the-art helicopters. That is a huge bonus which will especially benefit members of our regional communities.

Mr D. R. J. O'Brien interjected.

Ms CROZIER -- As Mr David O'Brien says, it will be critical in the first hour when a patient requires acute care. In addition there is the issue of maintenance of our hospitals and health services, an area which was overlooked, severely undermanaged and bungled by the previous government. It did very little in infrastructure replacement programs to upgrade and replace vital engineering equipment throughout our hospitals and health services. Victorians understand that something needs to be done, and that is certainly something our government understands.

On the topic of maintenance, there is a huge backlog of maintenance required in our schools, an area that was completely neglected by the former government. We are working through that backlog. I note that the website of the member for Oakleigh in the Assembly says that schools in her electorate have missed out on funding. She is misguided or has misunderstood the budget, because in fact part of the education budget provides $390 000 for Glen Huntly Primary School. I would like to reassure the member for Oakleigh that money has been directed to her electorate, which is also part of the area I represent in the upper house.Turning to the government's very important infrastructure building projects, I want to refer particularly to the Cranbourne-Pakenham rail corridor project, a significant project that will benefit not only people in the area -- --

Mr Melhem interjected.

Ms CROZIER -- I can tell Mr Melhem it is going to cost $2 billion to $2.5 billion when completed. It is also going to improve services with the upgrade and removal of level crossings. This government has taken a considered approach in identifying level crossings for removal. We have allocated funding in a managed and strategic fashion and are in the process of removing, or are planning for the removal of, 40 level crossings -- unlike those opposite, who would have everything ripped up, causing complete chaos across the city.

As I said, the removal of level crossings on the Cranbourne-Pakenham rail line will affect the residents and the community of Oakleigh, as well as those living in other areas. Commuters travelling along that line will certainly benefit greatly.

Members opposite are saying, 'It's a disaster, it's mismanaged', or a train is not going to this station or that station. I remind members who have travelled overseas, and I presume many have, of the London tube experience. When you go to a station like Victoria station, which is one of the biggest stations on the tube -- in fact it is probably one of the most well-known stations in the London tube system -- you find that of the 14 or 15 different lines that cater for the city of London only 3 lines stop at Victoria station. People have to get off various tube lines and get on other lines to get where they need to go to.

A lot of people in Melbourne who understand how complex rail networks in big cities operate will understand that not every line goes directly to every single station.

Mr Lenders's criticism that trains from certain stations will no longer go to this station or that is completely ludicrous and demonstrates how short-sighted Labor is. Labor is unable to understand a complex transport system in a modern 21st century city. That is something this government is planning for. We know our population is increasing. We are looking at improving services and providing services to new areas such as Fishermans Bend and additional services that will be required at various stations to get to the Domain or South Yarra, or even a railway line extension to Tullamarine Airport. That is going to be of huge benefit to the whole city.

Anyone who flies out of Tullamarine Airport knows about the traffic chaos on the Tullamarine Freeway -- and our government is widening that freeway to cater for those very necessary rail links that will be built -- and they understand what this government is doing.

Victorians fully appreciate what has been undertaken by Treasurer Michael O'Brien, along with other members of the government, in managing our budget in a sustainable fashion. It is telling and quite overwhelming that in an analysis of the budget papers the alternate Treasurer, Mr Pallas, the member for Tarneit in the Assembly, made an obvious billion-dollar blunder. The Victorian public should be concerned and alarmed that somebody who could be the state's next Treasurer cannot get his figures right. As the Treasurer said, it demonstrates that 'Labor cannot manage money', and we have seen that from Labor administrations, whether in this state or at the federal level -- --

Mr Lenders interjected.

Ms CROZIER -- I say to Mr Lenders that at a federal level Australian communities are paying a billion dollars in interest a month. Something has to give. Labor is very good at spending money, but what Mr Lenders fails to recognise is that as indicated by Mr Scheffer, that money has to come from somewhere. It has to be generated. Governments administer taxpayers money, and that is exactly what this government is doing. It is administering taxpayers money in a responsible manner -- not borrowing and blowing budgets as Labor continually does.

To take up Mr Scheffer's comments in relation to TAFE and funding for vocational education and training, again the budget provides a clear and manageable process. We are investing more money for the vocational education and training sector, with $1.2 billion allocated every year for the next four years. Participation amongst a number of disadvantaged groups has grown, which is very encouraging for various student groups. The number of unemployed people in training is up by 116 per cent, the number of Indigenous people in training is up by 35 per cent, the number of disabled people in training is up by 49 per cent and, very importantly, the number of people training in regional areas is up by 33 per cent. These are very good figures showing what is happening in TAFE and vocational education and training. We have some very good initiatives on the way.

The Treasurer has done a superb job of managing the budget, putting it onto a sustainable footing for the future, enabling Victorians to have confidence in a growing economy in a growing state, getting and enhancing opportunities from offshore markets, encouraging people to invest in Victoria and putting more services in place to cater for a growing and ageing population.

This government has done that. Victorians are very astute. They understand what was required, and they understand that we are putting more money into the delivery of better services. I commend the budget to the house.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr MELHEM (Western Metropolitan).

Debate adjourned until later this day.


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