Written on the 28 May 2014
Mr LENDERS (Southern Metropolitan) -- I move:
(1) $12.5 billion in cuts to Victoria's health system;(2) abandoning Victorian schools and students by ripping up the Gonski education agreement;
(3) driving up the cost of higher education and skills training;(4) forcing Victorian families to pay more for petrol, to see a doctor and to purchase the medicine they need; and
(5) privatisation of vital government services and cuts to the ABC and SBS;
and notes with concern that these measures will negatively impact Victoria's most vulnerable residents, including kindergarten students, pensioners, the unemployed and the disabled.
I will speak to most of these points, but I am conscious of the fact that a lot of colleagues also wish to speak on this motion. I will keep my remarks on some of the points shorter than others.
The starting point for why I am moving in the Victorian Parliament that we condemn the federal coalition for this is the last paragraph -- that is, because it affects Victorian citizens on so many levels. The words I use at the start, 'for its unprecedented and callous budget', partly go to the lead-up to the budget, how it has been done and what I would say is the deceit with which it was done. We all hear the mantra that the federal government is trying to get its backbench and ministers to chant about Labor's debt and deficit disaster. It is trying to set the scene for why it had to put in place this callous budget.In the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s or even 10 years ago, before you had the midyear update, the pre-election budget updates and various amounts of information, the lines that the federal coalition has been using -- that there was a black hole and they had to fix it and all the rest -- were arguments that people used.
But I take up Mr Ondarchie's point from before: there was nothing in this federal budget and nothing in the federal finances that would have been any surprise or shock to anyone with the most basic ability to read budget papers and documents. That is not taking away from the fact that you need to be focussed on the long-term issues associated with an ageing population and all these things, as previous governments of all persuasions have known, but none of this was a surprise to federal Treasurer Joe Hockey, federal Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann, Arthur Sinodinos -- when he was still on the job as the federal Assistant Treasurer -- or anyone else in the federal economic team. Their eyes were open; they had the forecasts.The man who is now Prime Minister of Australia chose to reaffirm on the Thursday before the election his call for people to trust him: there would be no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no cuts to the states and no increases in taxation.
Mr Abbott reaffirmed all of these promises on the Thursday before the election, and within weeks reversed them one by one. I am now going to quote a person I do not normally quote very much in this house -- none other than the Minister for Housing, Ms Lovell. Her press release of Thursday, 8 November 2012, quotes her as saying:
In tough economic times like these, I think the soul of a government can be seen in the areas it prioritises for funding ...
The words of Wendy Lovell probably sum up better than I can why this federal budget is heartless and callous and what characterises the federal coalition government. In the words of Wendy Lovell, in 'tough economic times' the choices you make and the priorities you have for funding sum up your soul or lack thereof.
I will start by going through some of the items in this federal budget program that affect real citizens, real Victorians. Firstly there are cuts of $12.5 billion from Victoria's health system. Periodically the state Minister for Health in this house dwells on these matters. It is always fascinating to hear the different arguments used by members opposite. In this house Mr Ondarchie has said that budget papers obviously are transparent and has told us what he thinks. If I had a choice between the economic literacy of Tim Pallas and that of Mr Ondarchie, I know who I would be backing, and it would not be Mr Ondarchie.
It is fascinating. Senate estimates committee hearings have been held in the last couple of days in which committee members have gone through the budget clause by clause and line by line. The federal government is on the back foot trying to explain the choices it has made. Again I quote Ms Lovell:
In tough economic times like these, I think the soul of a government can be seen in the areas it prioritises for funding ...Just this morning I was listening to AM while writing and finalising the notes I am using for this debate. I heard the amazing debate in which George Brandis, the federal Attorney-General, admitted that he has taken money away from a royal commission into people who have been exploited and disadvantaged by institutions and moved that money to fund the government's royal commission into the home insulation program. Without overly dwelling on that, I will make a couple of observations about who can manage money.
During the Gillard government, and with bipartisan support, the Labor Party set up the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse and provided sufficient funds for the royal commission to do its job. Firstly, on the issue of who can manage money, the Gillard government made sufficient provision so that the royal commission could do its job. Now, for reasons of their own, members of the current government have said, 'There is more money than you need'.Either it was a choice or it was an acknowledgement that the Gillard government provided more than enough money for a royal commission, but the current federal government has now moved some of that money away. There are a couple of questions on either side of this.
Secondly, there is the amazing contrast between the actions of the Gillard government and those of the Abbott government in relation to royal commissions. The Gillard government provided money for a royal commission and provided more than was needed. The Abbott government set up a royal commission into the home insulation program and did not put in enough money, so it removed funding from one royal commission and gives it to another. That is interesting in terms of who can manage money. Where does this argument come from? It is from the Abbott-Liberals 'We can manage money' argument.The whole foundation for these cuts came from the National Commission of Audit, the establishment of which was the first announcement of the Abbott government, and what happened to the commission? It overran its budget by almost 100 per cent.
Let us reflect a little on some of the comments that have been made about who can manage money. The commission that tells the government how to manage money overran its budget, and yesterday in a Senate estimates committee hearing we heard that of two royal commissions, the one established by the former Labor government was overfunded and the one established by the present Liberal government was underfunded, and that funding has been moved from the former to the latter. I am making a point about managing money. If those opposite listened to themselves occasionally, they might be a bit surprised at some of the choices they have made and the examples they are using.I return to the central premise of what Ms Lovell said about the choices governments make. When this federal government came to office it had the most transparent books. That is not hyperbole; it is the reality of amendments to legislation because of the compact with the Independents and the minor parties. It was the most transparent set of books that any federal government has ever inherited. Members of the new government looked at them. Mr Abbott said on the eve of the election, 'We can honour all our promises. We have looked at the figures. Have no fear: we will honour Gonski for the first four years. We will honour the health agreements with the states. We will honour all these commitments, we will do paid parental leave, we will cut company tax, we will get rid of the mining tax and we will make the books balance'. Surprise, surprise! Once it came in it suddenly found it had overpromised, despite having all the information in front of it, and then it started making choices.
Let us go first to the biggest dollar choice out of all of them.The federal Treasurer blithely announced, 'We are going to be cutting $80 billion out of health and education beyond the forward estimates, out of the agreement. The indexation rates will change. We have cut our cloth, but it has all been thrown to the states'. This is cunning. It is what John Howard did for 11 years, but let us expose it for what it is.
When John Howard was Prime Minister, for 11 years he came out and said, 'We have increased funding for hospitals by more than inflation'. It is like members opposite chanting statistics in this place. People who were once political will now come out with lines like '$4.2 million over four years', as if somehow or other that means anything in the community. They will always say that this is the biggest amount of money ever spent, without recognising rule no. 1 -- that is, inflation is 2.5 per cent and population growth is 1.8 per cent, so unless you are actually increasing expenditure by 4.3 per cent, you are cutting it in real terms.
The John Howard rule of every year being able to put hand on heart and say, 'We are spending more on health than inflation' was correct, except that, having started with the federal government paying for 51 per cent of our hospitals and the states for 49 per cent, at the end of 11 years the federal government was paying for 40 per cent and the states for 60 per cent. You effectively had a 1 per cent per year reduction in federal funding simply by playing with the indexation formulas.
This budget is from the same John Howard copybook.Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann have suddenly cut funding to the states and adjusted their budget by $80 billion. Victoria represents a quarter of the Australian population, so that is $20 billion. Over 10 years that is $2 billion a year. We are talking about 4 per cent of the state budget having just been effectively cut by the federal government making this indexation adjustment. No wonder Mr Hockey and Mr Cormann were sitting there with big cigars thinking they had got away with this trick and they could say, 'We have cut our cloth. We have balanced the books'.
But what have they done? They have caused a monumental problem for eight states and territories. This state, in the simplest of terms, has seen a 4 per cent reduction in its budget in future years. That is how the federal government has fixed what it is calling Labor's debt and deficit problem -- by suddenly making it a state and territory recurrent budget problem without effectively addressing the problem.Mr Hockey and Mr Cormann are guffawing while chewing on cigars or dancing in the office and we have this bizarre debate where they are saying, 'If the states and territories want to do something, they can ask us to put up the goods and services tax'. It is a legitimate debate over how taxation should be done between levels of government; do not get me wrong. But it is a pretence that they have fixed the budget when all they have done is make eight states and territories take it. The $80 billion over eight years, in simplest terms, for Victoria is actually a 4 per cent cut in the Victorian budget across the board. That is Mr Hockey's gift to Victoria.
When we talk about the $12.5 billion cut in Victoria's health system -- I will not dwell on that because my colleague, Mr Jennings, will speak far more eloquently than I would on this area -- I must admit that I find that extraordinary, having numerous times watched Mr Jennings asking Mr Davis, the Minister for Health, questions on the federal budget.I go back to Mr Ondarchie saying, 'You can read the budget papers and know exactly what the feds are doing' and then watching his leader, Mr Davis, day after day saying, 'My officials are still analysing the budget papers'.
When I was the Treasurer in the state government those officials could analyse these papers remarkably quickly. It was amazing. After a federal budget was handed down the Treasury and corporate sectors of each department would work on it and by about 2 o'clock in the morning you would have a full analysis of the budget with a few footnotes and a note that more work needed to be done. Two or three days later detailed tabulations of what it meant for every specific purpose agreement and every national partnership agreement would be available. You would have that information.Either Mr Davis is not reading or Mr Davis does not know how to read or somehow or other the Treasurer, Mr O'Brien, is hiding stuff from Mr Davis, because I am very surprised to hear these strange answers from the Minister for Health day after day that his officials are still looking at it. On the basis that his officials are still looking at it, I imagine the architects who built the Great Wall of China in about 500 BC are still looking at it as well. Eventually Mr Davis will not be able to hide behind that defence.
It got even more ludicrous when the Minister for Health was asked questions on how the health funding is going and we started hearing about Dr Seuss. I think Mr Davis needs to know that Dr Seuss is not a bulk-billing GP somewhere in the outer suburbs of Melbourne or in Ballarat. This is more serious than the minister lets it be known. No matter how the state minister tries to defend it or how often he tries to say he does not like co-payments -- and presumably he and the Premier have given the Prime Minister a really angry look -- --Mr Melhem interjected.
Mr LENDERS -- That is right, Mr Melhem -- wink-wink, nod-nod. In practice nothing is being done to stand up for those Victorians who will be paying the co-payments. However, I am focusing on what a 4 per cent cut in the Victorian budget will be in dollar terms when the $80 billion is translated across the 10 years in the future. The state budget has been effectively cut by 4 per cent by that single action, and where will that be felt the most? Already we have seen the government having to do some rapid dancing to try to retrieve its position on concessions. We are already seeing it in cuts in health as of 1 July. But more significantly when these full cuts start coming through they will have the effect of cutting the Victorian budget by 4 per cent, and we will know where that will go -- in health, education and all the other areas that need addressing. A cut of $12.4 billion to the health system is a significant cut that is going to affect every Victorian.
Abandoning Victorian schools by ripping up the Gonski education agreement is probably the second one. I can remember Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne assuring Australians -- I could be uncharitable and say oozing insincerity or be charitable and say looking sincere -- that the Gonski reforms were safe. I can also remember when the then Liberal Premier of New South Wales, Barry O'Farrell, and Adrian Piccoli, the deputy leader of The Nationals and Minister for Education in New South Wales, signed the agreement with the then federal Labor government for the Gonski funding.
Progressively state after state and territory after territory signed up to streams of funding going forward for education. There was an amazing debate. Whenever the then federal Minister for Education, Bill Shorten, talked to a state or territory, Tony Abbott, Christopher Pyne and Joe Hockey agitated and said, 'You can't lock in a future government, you shouldn't sign'. But state after state, Liberal, Nationals and Country Liberal Party governments were prepared to discuss with the then federal education minister, Bill Shorten, and the then Prime Minister what they thought was a bipartisan approach going forward that would inject money into schools.There is a debate on all these things, and money is the starting point. What you do with money is equally important. But if there is a promise of delivering money and the money is cut, that is a breach of a promise, and that is why I am asking this house to condemn the federal coalition's budget.
What we eventually had, when teachers, parents, students, industry -- everybody who wants improved educational outcomes -- said, 'The Gonski funding reforms are a critical building block to achieve this' -- was a commitment that it would be done. There may not have been consensus on what should be delivered, but Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne said, 'Trust us. We will deliver this in a bipartisan way, but we only promise it for four years and then we will review it'. That was up-front. They said they would do it for four years so people could plan, but at the first opportunity it goes.I turn back to Ms Lovell, and I quote:
In tough economic times like these, I think the soul of a government can be seen in the areas it prioritises for funding.
What the federal government has done, using the test of Ms Lovell, is in tough economic times it has made choices, and the choices are -- --Mr Leane -- Mean choices.
Mr LENDERS -- That is correct, Mr Leane. They are mean choices. We have the $7 co-payment for people who are bulk-billed for their first 10 visits. I have not heard -- --Mr Ramsay interjected.
Mr LENDERS -- I take up Mr Ramsay's interjection. I gather he is now saying it is a co-payment paid by someone else. I gather from that that Mr Ramsay supports the co-payment. I am interested in his strident advocacy for a co-payment, because the Minister for Health says, 'We don't like a co-payment and we're going to give the federal minister a really angry look, and we're going to eyeball him. When I call him on the phone he quakes. We'll have a meeting of federal and state ministers and collectively cross our arms and give him an angry look. And we'll give him another angry look'.Mr Barber -- Write him a nasty letter.
Mr LENDERS -- That is right, Mr Barber. We will write him a nasty letter and give him an angry look. But in the end the co-payment will go through the House of Representatives, and it will be in the hands of the Senate. I am delighted that the Minister for Health has come into the chamber and chosen to give an angry look to show how much he does not like co-payments. Perhaps he should give his angry look to Mr Ramsay, who -- if I heard him correctly -- was saying positive things about co-payments, but perhaps I am unfairly referring to him.
If we look at the choices that have been made, we see that as the co-payment comes in there will be adjustments across the board to benefits that people have received and relied upon. They are cruel and heartless, but most significantly they are changes that Mr Abbott, Mr Hockey and the whole gang said would not be made. They said, 'Trust us, the grown-ups are in charge. There will not be any sudden policy changes'.
Mr LENDERS -- That's right, Mr Jennings -- these grown-ups are mean.What has happened was all unforeseen. Part of my angst about this is that the government has said one thing and done another. Gonski is being ripped up and money is being pulled out of Victorian schools to the detriment of students. If you are a grown-up, you like to plan.
When Mr Davis has not been giving angry looks to the federal minister, he has gone on endlessly about the inequity of any government changing the forward estimates, asking how hospitals can plan when they have been told they will get a certain amount of money, but that amount changes. Families that have been planning on getting benefits have suddenly had those benefits changed. Hospitals, dare I say, have had a change to the money they had been planning to get from the federal government. Schools have had a change to money they have been planning on getting from the federal government.Mr Ramsay interjected.
Mr LENDERS -- I find it truly interesting that the best Mr Ramsay can do is ask, 'How is the carbon tax going?'.Mr Ramsay may well ask that question, and if he wishes to have a debate or view about governments putting policies forward, he may do that, but the motion before the house today is about the promises made by Mr Abbott, Mr Hockey, Mr Cormann, Mr Sinodinos -- when he was on the job -- and every single Liberal and Nationals member in that Parliament to do certain things which they are not doing any more. They have broken their promises, which makes this a disgraceful budget.
Mr Ramsay interjected.Mr LENDERS -- This is interesting. I will take up Mr Ramsay's interjection about black holes. The first executive action of the federal government was to set up a commission of audit to advise on how to rein in budgets, deal with the future -- do all this stuff -- and what happened to the commission of audit? Its budget overran by more than 100 per cent.
The body that is meant to be advising the federal government on making the nation work overran its budget. That is a great start to a lecture on fiscal rectitude from those opposite. The commission of audit could not manage its own budget, so the federal Treasurer topped it up out of the Treasurer's advance, but that is no help to families who have had their support cut and will have to pay a co-payment to go to the doctor. They thought the government was a no-increase-in-taxation mob, but it is suddenly indexing the price of fuel.Without entering into a debate on the pros and cons of cars, members of the state government, who allegedly are the champions of cars -- they will build mythical roads for cars to travel on and they will champion cars -- have voted to increase the tax on cars and to put up motor registration fees and have taken any opportunity they can to gouge money, and now their federal colleagues have suddenly reneged on John Howard's signature trust-me pledge, 'I will stop the indexation on fuel excise because I am different -- I care about motorists', and put the indexation back on. Those opposite seem to be the champions of cars and have tried to brand Labor members as myopic champions of public transport -- thank you, we are champions of public transport and all modes of transport -- but the state government has increased the tax on cars and increased registration fees, and the federal government has put up the excise on fuel. Go figure who is the friend of motorists.
Mr Leane interjected.Mr LENDERS -- That's right, Mr Leane -- push them onto toll roads. The only problem is there needs to be a road to toll, not just an artist's impression -- but that is a separate debate.
Mr Ramsay interjected.Mr LENDERS -- I cannot but take up the interjection, 'Why borrow more money?'. It was the Liberal Party, The Nationals and the Greens that voted to increase federal debt, which the Labor Party voted against.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Tarlamis) -- Order! I point out to Mr Ramsay that Mr Lenders has the call. I notice that Mr Ramsay is on the speaking list, so he will have an opportunity to make a contribution.
Mr LENDERS -- University of Canberra modelling, commissioned by the federal opposition, shows that a couple with a single income of $65 000 and two kids in school will have over $1700 cut from the family budget by this federal budget. Families in Grovedale and Colac -- in Mr Ramsay's electorate -- will have $1700 cut from their family budget by the grown-ups who are in charge federally. That is all as a result of those grown-ups needing to make their own budget work -- and they promised it would not happen. Add in health costs, and the Prime Minister is cutting nearly $40 from a family's budget each and every week. The families in Mr Ramsay's electorate, whether they be in Grovedale, Colac, Ballarat or further west, have had $40 cut from their weekly budget by a government of grown-ups. Mr Abbott said on the Thursday before the election, 'Trust us. We have seen the figures. There is nothing in here that will not let us carry out every election promise'. They have seen this blatant cut.
It gets worse. Tony Abbott's cuts will get deeper and deeper, more than tripling to almost $120 a week, by the time of the next election. If you are a citizen on a $65 000 income with two kids at school, by the end of this term, as a result of changes made in this budget -- assuming those changes get through the Senate -- you will be $120 a week worse off now that the grown-ups are in charge.
Mr LENDERS -- That would be quite a lot of coffees, but I think the people in Grovedale and Colac are probably a bit more concerned about things like the fuel in their car and the cost of public transport tickets, which has gone up endlessly under this government. They are probably more concerned about paying their mortgage, getting food on the table and paying for electricity and things like that than the coffees.Mr Hockey was the one who did his little deal with the Greens to remove the cap on the level of debt that was in place federally. There has been legitimate debate about levels of debt. I am not into that, but I think it is interesting that this man talks about debt but his government has legislated to allow the debt to go up.
In 2016 a family in Grovedale, Ballarat or Colac will suffer cuts of $6000 from the family budget because the grown-ups are in charge. All Victorians are going to pay for Tony Abbott's broken promises. In this state more than half a million people receive the age pension. I do not think many of them are jumping with excitement about the indexation changes that have been announced. It is stealth. That is why this budget is bad. If the federal government wanted to say, 'We want to reduce pensions because we've all got to tighten our belts to pay for paid parental leave or the company tax cuts or to abolish the mining tax' -- whatever their priorities are -- and if everyone has to tighten their belts, it is not just Mr Abbot taking a pay freeze for a year or high-income earners paying a levy for three or four years, it is the pensioners.If we look at average weekly earnings versus the consumer price index, we can see that for a single pensioner this year on a full pension of just over $800 a fortnight with the other allowances that go with it -- and the nature of it is that over the last 10 years average weekly earnings have gone up by 1.1 per cent more than inflation -- this change to indexation will make a difference of nearly $9. Whether it goes up with inflation or average weekly earnings, that is what it means to an average pensioner. There are half a million of them in Victoria. We have this again by stealth. The government is saying, 'We are putting up with inflation'. They are putting up state grants with inflation, but they are changing the rules that are in place.
If they had said before the election, 'We're going to do this', it would have been a legitimate election issue. Former Prime Minister John Howard came to an election to bring in a goods and services tax. He said, 'Previously I didn't support it. I'm not going to bring it in in my first term'.He said he was not going to do it, and then during his first term he said, 'If you re-elect me, I will do this', and people did re-elect him. That was legitimate. Here there is no change. We have this tweaking of indexation levels, and the one for the half a million people receiving the age pension in Victoria changes it from indexation based on average weekly earnings to indexation based on inflation -- and it is $9 a week. Mr Abbott might not care, Mr Hockey might not care, the Liberal Party might not care and much of the community might not care, but I can assure members that most of those half a million pensioners are going to notice the $9 a week that Mr Hockey has taken out of their pockets.
I do not know what a cigar costs; I have never smoked one. Maybe you can buy a cigar for $9. Maybe I am out of touch. It might not matter to some people.Mr Melhem interjected.
Mr LENDERS -- I will take the advice of my colleague that you cannot buy a cigar for $9. However, I am sure that $9 will be noticed by a lot of Victorians who receive the age pension. That is why this is a bad, cruel and unprecedentedly callous budget. A pensioner will be $1500 worse off because of this tweak in indexation.
I mentioned the $12.5 billion cut in funding from the health system. Wherever we look there is a slug. We have the immediate cut to hospitals, and we have a $328.5 million slug for the increased cost of medicines for the sick. However we look at this, we can see it is a bad budget and a cruel budget.
I will leave it to my colleagues to talk about the deregulation of higher education contribution scheme (HECS) fees, university places and a range of other things. The comment I make is that for Liberal members -- whether they are state or federal and whether it be in regard to vocational education and training in schools, the Victorian certificate of applied learning, TAFE or HECS -- clearly it is of academic interest. We have had four state budgets in a row that have seen cuts in real terms in this sector.Mr Hall, the former Minister for Higher Education and Skills, is gone, but the first motion that went on the notice paper from him in this Parliament noted how terrible it was that the number of people enrolled in tertiary education was less in rural and regional areas than it was in Melbourne.
It was a legitimate motion. It was a fact. He moved a motion lamenting that situation at the end of a state Labor government's term and during the term of a federal Labor government, but what do we see four state budgets and one federal budget later? Actions that are going to accelerate that gap.Students in Colac, Grovedale and Ballarat, students in Bairnsdale and students in Maffra, Yarram and all these places are going to find it harder to get an education unless they leave the town and come to Melbourne, where these wonderful market forces are meant to provide them an education. We are closing TAFEs in Bairnsdale. We are closing TAFEs right through western Victoria. We are shutting down educational opportunities for students.
Mr Leane interjected.Mr LENDERS -- Lilydale, indeed Mr Leane.
What we are seeing under this government, where the first motion of the higher education and skills minister in this house was lamenting the drift of tertiary enrolments in regional Victoria, are actions that will accelerate that gap. That is all we have seen from the state Liberal government and the federal Liberal government.Having grown up in Gippsland I can assure the house that if there is a single thing Gippslanders and people anywhere in regional Victoria agree on as being a measure of what is good in legislation or government, it is whether it keeps youths in regional areas. If there is a single issue that people understand, it is that the future is the youth, and if youths abandon the country because there are no job opportunities or education opportunities and they all head to Melbourne, that is bad for regional areas. These cuts ensure exactly that outcome.
If you have to rely on market forces, you will find there are not a lot of market forces that keep Glenormiston College open in Mr Ramsay's electorate, and there are not a lot of market forces that keep the TAFEs open in Gippsland or Wodonga -- you name it -- across the state. The reliance on market forces means that if you want education, you come to Melbourne.Mr Ramsay interjected.
Mr LENDERS -- I would like to see Mr Ramsay chair a consultation committee on Gordon TAFE, which would be like the committee deciding the order of a funeral procession. That would be about as relevant to that consultation committee.What we will see is cuts upon cuts. There is no additional funding for public infrastructure in Victoria. In fact the previous federal Labor government's $3 billion commitment for Melbourne Metro is gone. It is finished.
We can have the debate here on whether the Senate estimates were right and the money has been given to Victoria or whether they were wrong, and on which side of 30 June it will come.Mr Melhem interjected.
Mr LENDERS -- Mr Ondarchie is the expert, of course, Mr Melhem. On which side of 30 June it comes is ultimately irrelevant, because this project has not had a business case. This project is years away. Clearly it is a bit of federal money being shovelled into the state to make the state budget look a bit better. Whether it is this year, next year or the year after that, that money is certainly not going to be spent on the second stage of a road in this financial year or the next financial year. However you look at it -- however excited Mr O'Brien gets about it -- it is funny money by another name.This federal budget has shamelessly abandoned public transport infrastructure spending. I will give the Prime Minister credit for being up-front about it. He has said from day one that he supports roads and that he will not support any urban public transport infrastructure. I will give Mr Abbott credit because he is being up-front about that, unlike most of the other things he has said. Credit where credit is due, Mr Abbott has put his flag to the mast. He does not support in any way, shape or form urban public transport infrastructure.
We then move on to Victorian families. I have touched on this matter. They are paying more for petrol; they are paying more to see a doctor; they are paying more to purchase medicine -- and Mr Abbott said that they would not. Mr Abbott is talking about whether he can privatise vital government services. It is endless.
Mr LENDERS -- I know some organisations, like the Victorian Farmers Federation under the stewardship of its immediate, immediate past president, got so deep in red ink that they nearly drowned. The next president of the federation had to come in and sack staff, tighten the belt and cut the cloth, so it is little bit rich for Mr Ramsay to be lecturing anybody from the Labor Party on how to manage anything -- unless it is -- how to drown in a very deep sea of red ink. It is called the Red Sea for a reason.Honourable members interjecting.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Tarlamis) -- Order! There are far too many interjections. Mr Lenders has the call.Mr LENDERS -- I conclude by saying to the house that this budget ought be condemned, hence the motion. It is a budget that tweaks indexation to cut out 4 per cent of the Victorian budget in the years ahead. There are $80 billion in cuts over eight years. That is $2 billion a year taken out of Victoria. Four per cent of the budget is being cut through a sleight of hand by Joe Hockey. It ought be condemned because of the cute little tweaking of indexation rates.
Honourable members interjecting.Mr LENDERS -- It is interesting.
I hope Mr Ondarchie and Mr Finn will face some of the age pensioners in Victoria, one-eighth of whom live in each of their electorates, and say to them that their pension next year will be $9 a week less because of this tweaking of average weekly earnings to the consumer price index. Clearly Mr Ondarchie is a supporter of the federal budget. Clearly Mr Ondarchie has not taken the lesson from his leader, Mr Davis, to look angry. Whenever he says federal budget, he is meant to look angry.Clearly those opposite will come here and use mealy-mouthed words and say that they cannot support this motion because the federal government had to do these things, but they will give them really angry stares about the co-payment. They probably will not even mention the pension tweaking because it is not public yet. They will talk about the carbon tax or Tanya Plibersek rather than the real, immediate cuts we are facing federally.
The best we will get is a group of thespians talking about how they can put their angry faces on for Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott while they are on their way to attend big fundraisers at the Higgins 200 Club or the 500 Club with those federal ministers, raising money and cheering on the federal budget. I urge the house to support this motion and send the message to Canberra that we have had enough.The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Tarlamis) -- Order! Before I call the next speaker I remind members that it is disorderly to interject, and it is certainly disorderly for members to try to raise their voices above the member who has the call.
Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am pleased to rise to speak this morning in the debate on Mr Lenders's motion.I note that Mr Lenders was rather angry while he was making his contribution to the debate and that he carried on quite a bit when referring to a number of elements, and I want to refute a few of the assertions he has made. In the last part of his contribution he talked about pensioners. Let us remind Mr Lenders that it was this government that gave all-year-round concessions to pensioners. His government did not.
What we are faced with here in Victoria, and what the federal government is faced with, is fixing yet another Labor mess. It is quite predictable. Let us go back to when the Kennett government came to power in Victoria in the 1990s. The years of former premiers John Cain and Joan Kirner left Victoria in a mess. When former Prime Minister John Howard and former federal Treasurer Peter Costello took over in 1996, Australia was in a complete mess, with a $96 billion debt. When we came to power in 2010, spending in Victoria was outstripping revenue -- again, there was a mess.Let us not forget what those opposite presided over, including the desalination plant and myki. It was 11 years of inaction and mismanagement. That is what existed we came into power. Victorians are paying $1.8 million a day for the desalination plant, and Australians are paying $1 billion a month to repay federal Labor's debt. That is what we are dealing with. Those opposite are hopeless managers of money. Australians know that. Those opposite are entirely predictable. There were 7 years of mismanagement by former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and former federal Treasurer Wayne Swan, and there were 11 years of mismanagement here in Victoria.
Mr Lenders launched a fascinating attack on Mr Ondarchie, and he spoke about Mr Ondarchie's ability to manage money as compared to that of Mr Pallas. That in itself is extraordinary, because it refers to the billion-dollar blunder bloke, Mr Pallas. An honourable member -- He cannot even count.
Ms CROZIER -- He cannot count -- that is exactly right. Mr Ondarchie has presided over multimillion-dollar companies and businesses. He understands balance sheets, sustainability and how to manage and run businesses -- unlike Mr Pallas. What did Mr Pallas do before he came into this place? He was a trade union official with the National Union of Workers and a chief of staff for former Premier Steve Bracks.Mr Ramsay -- Well, well, well.
Ms CROZIER -- Mr Ramsay might say, 'Well, well, well'.Mr Ondarchie has real experience working in business, and he understands balance sheets. I hope Mr Lenders is giving Mr Pallas some hints, because at least Mr Lenders understands a balance sheet -- unlike Mr Pallas. I am not sure what tips Mr Lenders gave Mr Pallas, but clearly either they were not clear enough or Mr Pallas did not understand them, because he really did muck it up. I know who I would be backing: Mr Ondarchie, every single time. At least he knows and understands budget papers. As I said, the billion-dollar blunder was extraordinary, and Victorians should be very concerned that Mr Pallas is an alternate Treasurer.
Mr Finn -- They should be terrified.Ms CROZIER -- They should be terrified, as Mr Finn says.
Mr Lenders -- I think they are more concerned about who the Treasurer is at the moment.Ms CROZIER -- Mr Lenders brings me to a very good point. Mr O'Brien is doing a tremendous job -- an exceptional job. Mr O'Brien is the man who has delivered a surplus in this state. We as Victorians are the envy of every other jurisdiction in the country. We are delivering an investment of $27 billion in infrastructure. We are putting a plan in place that will create jobs and economic prosperity for this entire state -- unlike those opposite, who have no idea. All they know is how to spend money.
Mr Lenders -- We just left you with 11 years of surplus and 11 years of AAA.Ms CROZIER -- That was thanks to the Howard and Costello years and the revenue Victoria received from the federal government.
It was not much to do with the management of those opposite. We are now lumbered with a $1.8 million-a-day desalination plant budget blow-out, which Victorians remember. Mr Lenders presided over an investment that is costing Victorians $1.8 million a day, and they recall that.I will discuss Mr Lenders's next point about Senator George Brandis, the federal Attorney-General, and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I am interested in this issue because, as Mr Lenders knows, I headed the Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations along with the other committee members from the Victorian Parliament, who all did a terrific job. Mr Lenders spoke about money being shifted from the royal commission on child abuse to the royal commission on the home insulation scheme. The installation of pink batts was another debacle presided over by the former federal Labor government.
I do not know all the details of the royal commission, but I know some detail. Let us not forget what happened. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard dithered in making a decision about that royal commission. I believe that royal commission would not have come about if former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu had not made the courageous decision on behalf of the Victorian government to be the first jurisdiction anywhere in the country to undertake such an inquiry. Julia Gillard dithered. The current federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, said there would not be an inquiry, and two days later Julia Gillard decided the pressure was getting too much and she announced it. Former Attorney-General Nicola Roxon then provided the terms of reference which covered seven pages. How ridiculous! It took months to sort that out. They finally got that right.Then there was some funding allocated to the royal commission: $20 million to fit out a room. I am sure there were savings in that whole process. As I said, I do not know the detail.
Mr Koch -- Only $20 million.
Ms CROZIER -- Yes, only $20 million. And there was over $400 million allocated to conduct the royal commission. Mr Lenders is right. That is something that the former government announced, and that royal commission is still being undertaken. I will be absolutely fascinated to read the interim report that will be delivered to the federal government on 30 June. However, I say again that I do not know what that has to do with the allocation of funds. All I know is that it is probably an efficiency move, and that is what coalition governments do: look for savings. This is taxpayers money we are dealing with. It does not grow on trees, and it does not just pop up willy-nilly. Those opposite seem to spend, spend, spend and pretend it does not matter. It is an increasing debt. As the federal government has said, it has $1 billion a month in interest payments. That is a legacy that those opposite need to understand.
I will discuss some other points from Mr Lenders's motion. I would like to remind members that it is true that some of the announcements made in the budget on 13 May by the federal government will have significant impacts on the Victorian health system. That is plain to see. The minister has been very determined. You might say it is the angry face, but -- --Mr Tee -- He wrote a letter.
Ms CROZIER -- Mr Tee says, 'He wrote a letter'.Mr Tee -- And he made a phone call.
Ms CROZIER -- Exactly right. He has actually spoken to his federal counterparts -- --The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Tarlamis) -- Order! Members should not be engaging in conversation across the chamber. Ms Crozier has the call.
Ms CROZIER -- Thank you, Acting President. Through you, I remind Mr Tee that the state Minister for Health, Mr Davis, has been speaking to his federal counterpart about Victoria's position. I remind members that in its recent budget this state government announced an additional investment of $1.4 billion in the Victorian health system and that money will be going directly into those health services and making an enormous difference.Mr Leane interjected.
Ms CROZIER -- No, I did not say that. Through you, Acting President, I said a $1.4 billion investment over four years. Since coming to government we have invested over $3.6 billion, and that has had a significant impact on our very good health system in Victoria. We have a growing and ageing population. In 11 years Labor did very little. We have infrastructure on the ground catering for that population increase. The Monash Children's hospital will service Southern Metropolitan Region, which Mr Lenders and I represent, and that is good news for the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and the surrounding areas. There is health infrastructure being built right across the state, including in Geelong and in Bendigo.Mr Lenders should be supporting that, just as he should have supported the state Minister for Health when the former federal health minister, Tanya Plibersek, announced a $107 million cut halfway through a financial year. Mr Lenders knows that the health services could not manage -- --
Mr Lenders interjected.Ms CROZIER -- Not halfway through a financial year. Mr Lenders should have supported Mr Davis when he took that $107 million cut to the former federal government and argued against it. Mr Lenders did not support that argument. He supported the former federal Labor administration and he supported those federal cuts.
To get back to the motion in relation to the current budget, we know the federal budget will have a significant impact on the Victorian health service.The national partnership agreement on improving public hospital services will not be renewed and the national partnership agreement on adult public dental services has been deferred for 12 months. Clearly these are significant impacts that will be felt in the Victorian health system. There will be a need for a transition from the national health reform agreement, which includes the removal of the funding agreement, to a funding model based on the CPI and population growth from 1 July 2017.
As Mr Davis highlighted to the chamber yesterday, the government is working through the implications of the federal budget and is in the process of determining the service implications across Victoria's health system. As I said, these changes have implications for health services and, like any responsible minister should, Mr Davis is working through that.He also said that the Victorian government understands and notes the commonwealth's commitment to funding growth and activity and that he is working to finalise with the commonwealth a number of factors which will impact on the 2014-15 payment to the state. A number of areas are being undertaken by the minister in working through those issues.
I also remind members that in his contribution Mr Lenders talked about TAFE cuts. He keeps talking about this. The current Minister for Higher Education and Skills, Nick Wakeling, has done a terrific job in this area since taking over from the previous minister, Mr Hall, and he is very strong on this position. Members need to be reminded that it is the Napthine government that is investing more money into the vocational education and training sector than Labor ever did. We are investing $1.2 billion every year for the next four years. That is 50 per cent more than Labor spent in its last year in office, which was $808 million. Let us not forget that when we came to office we had to fix that mess too. Members opposite are completely wrong when they claim that $124 million has been cut from the vocational education and training sector.
They are also wrong in relation to those services that affect regional Victoria. Mr Lenders spoke about East Gippsland, and I note that a member for Eastern Victoria Region Mr Danny O'Brien is in the chamber. He represents that area very well and has a good understanding of the implications for his area of Gippsland. The government is supporting and providing for students, including increasing the loading on government subsidies for regional students from 5 to 10 per cent.
As I said, the Napthine government has provided a record level of funding in this area.We have also provided greater support for those people facing disadvantage, and I will quote some figures. I note that the number of unemployed people in training is up 116 per cent -- that is, from 62 500 students to 134 800 students. Indigenous people in training is up 35 per cent from 2010 to 2013. There were 4800 students and now there are 6500 students. The number of people with a disability in training is up 49 per cent from 2010 to 2013, from 27 200 students to 40 500 students now. Culturally and linguistically diverse people in training is up 95 per cent, from 70 600 students to 137 500 students. Regional training is up by 33 per cent, from 126 300 students to 167 800 students. They are the figures, they are the facts and that is what is actually occurring. We have seen a record increase in enrolments as a result of record funding.
You cannot say that we are not supporting the sector and not putting more money in. That is just completely incorrect.Certainly there were some courses that needed to be cut because the enrolments were very low and it was inefficient and ineffective to run such programs or services. People understand that. That is what I do not understand when members opposite argue about it. People are not that stupid; they actually know that efficiencies need to be made. They understand that Treasurer Michael O'Brien has done an exceptional job, as I said, in building on the three and a half years of our government's term and fixing the mess of the previous 11 years.
Labor ignored the growth areas and the fact that the population was growing. There were no maintenance programs for schools for years. We have undertaken an audit and put in record funding to provide for new schools and maintenance programs across the state. The local communities understand that and are well aware of the infrastructure projects that are also being undertaken. They understand that infrastructure is imperative for a growing economy and for Victoria to prosper into the future.It is Mr Leane's mates who will benefit from all the jobs that will be generated by the enormous infrastructure projects.
Mr Leane -- I think you overestimate my popularity.Ms CROZIER -- I possibly do, Mr Leane, but I am sure there are people right across the state who will be looking forward to these infrastructure projects and to the opportunity to have employment when other areas of the country are facing significant challenges. We are in a very good position to have that surplus and maintain our AAA credit rating which has a greater impact on our ability to pay down interest. That means more money going into services across the state. There are a number of elements to this debate, but we should be focusing on what is important for Victorians. That is exactly what this government is doing and what the minister has done in taking his concerns to Canberra, as has the Premier.
The minister has been out there arguing the case for Victorians, unlike the opposition which did not argue the case against the $107 million worth of health cuts, which was very disappointing, to say the least. It should have argued that case because the $107 million cut had a direct impact on the delivery of health services. It had an immediate impact on elective surgery and other services provided by hospitals.It is entirely predictable that when coalition governments come to power they have to continuously fix up Labor's mess. An amount of $1 billion a month in interest to the Australian people is an extraordinary figure, and all Victorians should be very concerned about that, just as Victorians were concerned about the waste and mismanagement of Labor's 11 years of administration in this state. I am very pleased that Treasurer Michael O'Brien and Premier Denis Napthine have a plan for Victoria, and they are putting significant investment into this state which will benefit all Victorians.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- It was just a couple of sitting weeks ago that we were invited by the Liberals in this place to reprise the debate that had already occurred in federal Parliament on the carbon tax, so I suppose it is karma that the Liberals in this place are now going to have to run through all the agony that their federal colleagues have been going through as they desperately try to explain what their federal budget is all about. At the same time I get the opportunity to reprise some of the things that my federal Green colleagues have said about the federal budget. It may be that some of the Liberals in this place are secretly hoping that the Greens are successful in knocking off the $7 doctor co-payment -- or call it what it is, a sick tax -- and that is one of the items in Mr Lenders's motion.
For the Liberal Party, that period a couple of sitting weeks ago when we were debating the carbon tax must seem like the golden era. Liberal members were feeling quite chuffed back then. In fact they wanted to establish a parliamentary committee inquiry into the impact of the carbon tax on the health budget when it was a known fact that it would amount to the equivalent of 0.1 per cent of the costs.
Maybe we should have an inquiry so that there can be some transparency in this Parliament about the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be ripped out of state health and education as a result of decisions made by the federal budget.What does Mr Ramsay think about that? Are we likely to get that inquiry? Is Mr Ramsay going to put the same energy into getting that inquiry up as he did into rolling along with the carbon tax? It was an impact of 0.1 per cent on the health budget. Is he going to get equally excited about these cuts that are being made by his federal colleagues?
Mr Ramsay -- The carbon tax costs more than the health system.Mr BARBER -- It is interesting, just on that subject, because there is one measure in the federal budget that I will applaud -- that is, the return to indexation of taxation on petrol.
It is something that has the Labor Party very excited. It was completely uncontroversial back in the day, but now its reinstatement has the Labor Party very excited. It is interesting because if you calculate the carbon dioxide value of a litre of petrol, a 1 cent per litre increase in the indexation is equivalent to about $4 a tonne, and since the government intends to index with CPI regularly, it will not be long before you have the equivalent of probably about a $15 a tonne extra carbon tax on fuel as a result of this measure.All I can say to the federal Liberal government on that one is: well done. We could not even convince the Labor Party federally to include transport fuels under the carbon tax, but Mr Ramsay's federal colleagues have done it for us.
I am invited to condemn as callous the federal budget on a number of different measures.Mr Lenders has slipped in the fuel price indexation; obviously I do not agree with him on that, but I will give him a pass on that one because I support the rest of the items in this motion. As is obvious to all members, the federal government has been struggling with this budget. First of all it said there was a budget emergency, which most economists and most people who pay attention to these things have said is false. It was not helped by the fact that it said, 'There is a budget emergency. Here is a deficit tax, but -- nudge-nudge, wink-wink -- before the next election comes around, do not be surprised if we give all you high-income earners a tax cut'. That is the first mixed message coming along.
The next thing it said was, 'There is a culture of entitlement, and we want to get rid of it. The age of entitlement is over'.That is supposed to get us all out there bashing up on the welfare recipients and the dole bludgers and feeling perhaps a little bit guilty about any sorts of government payments we are getting as the middle class. It did not work; voters are still waiting.
The reason the federal government's fortunes have collapsed so quickly is that the Australian people are smart. They might just have been willing to accept those aforementioned propositions if there was a vision for the country coming out the other side, but the Abbott government has not got one. What it has got is a relentlessly negative approach to politics, which might have got it a small increase in its House of Representatives vote -- coupled with a loss of votes in the Senate, hence its problems right now -- but there is absolutely no vision at the end of it. Voters would be willing to accept the 'tighten your belts' mantra if they thought it would lead to a better outcome in the medium to long term for the country as a whole.Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey tried to tell us that it would, but he did not tell us what that was. He simply said, 'Trust me -- pain now, gain later', with no definition of what his vision for the success of the nation would be.
I have got statistical evidence of this in the form of opinion polling. The majority now say that they do not believe this budget is going to leave them better off in the short or long term, nor that the budget represents a fair distribution of the costs and benefits of these measures. Since the federal government is so defined by the personality of its federal leader, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, it is not surprising that the features of the budget have become attached to the features of the Prime Minister himself.
In an Essential Report poll just released, people were asked, 'Which of the following describe your opinion of the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott?': 'Out of touch with ordinary people' -- currently 67 per cent agree with that statement, up 11 points since he entered government; 'Arrogant' -- 63 per cent, up 5 per cent; 'Narrow-minded' -- 61 per cent, up 5 per cent; 'Intolerant' -- I have not even got time to go into that; it is 55 per cent, up 8 per cent. Those are not the kinds of features we would seek from a leader, a government or, for that matter, a budget.
In my 25 years in politics I have seen governments and budgets come and go -- governments like that of Tasmanian Liberal Premier Robin Gray, who cooked the books; governments like that of John Howard, who engaged in gross populism. Remember his 'rivers of gold', manna from heaven, as he squandered the benefits of the last mining boom with tax cuts not to mention his previous decision to freeze the fuel excise to win an election. I have seen governments ignore the challenges ahead, refuse to even mention climate change or the environment, just as this Abbott government is doing, and play instead to comfort zones, promising that if they continue to do what they have always done everything will be okay, in spite of Einstein's great observation that you cannot solve problems with the same mentality that created them.
Climate change would be just one of the leaping-off points to discuss this. The federal budget was a shocker, with billions of dollars of broken promises in the Abbott government's first budget in relation to low-emission and renewable energy programs along with plenty of wiggle room in the budget papers themselves to break even more promises in the next few years. The federal government has now budgeted to spend $1.15 billion, or less than half, of its so-called Emissions Reduction Fund over the next four years. Action on climate change will be out at the end of 10 years, but this government will not even be in office in 10 years. It is a case of, 'Give me celibacy and sobriety, but not quite yet'. They need another 10 years of pollution to keep their coal-fired puppeteers happy, so even the somewhat dubious measures proposed by the federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, to reduce emissions will be pushed off into the future.Gone is the federal coalition's promise of 1 million more solar roofs.
That was a specific promise made by Greg Hunt when he launched The Coalition's Direct Action Plan. The plan was to encourage a million extra households to go solar -- photovoltaic or hot water -- with an extra $1000 rebate towards their investment. That can be multiplied out pretty quickly; it was $100 million, and as recently as six months ago Greg Hunt was promising it, but now that has been abandoned and slashed.Then there was the Solar Towns program. It has been cut down to $2.2 million and operates in barely a handful of electorates. Notably the federal seat of Corangamite is going to get some chump change from that program, but the federal government is busy getting ready to destroy the renewable energy target and destroy with it all the solar and wind jobs available to the Corangamite electorate and the broader Geelong area.
I turn to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.Members of the federal coalition government supported the legislation, but now they are going to abolish it and downgrade it to being a subsection of a department, with all the uncommitted funds attached to it being sucked back into consolidated revenue despite the coalition's repeated pre-election promises that it would be kept.
I wonder what some of these regional Victorian members are going to be left with by way of economic development. Up in the state's north-west there are live proposals on foot for an expanded solar array as well as for a biomass generation plant based on agricultural wastes. These are live proposals going through the permit and licence processes. I have seen the Minister for Energy and Resources up in the north-west cutting ribbons on the early stages of a project.Let me explain to the people of that area what the proponents of those proposals are well aware of. The projects are dead without the renewable energy target. A notorious climate change denialist has been put in charge of reviewing the renewable energy target, so we all know where that is headed. There will be deep cuts to, if not total abandonment of, the renewable energy target that was supported by past governments, state and federal, Labor and Liberal -- all parties.
Then there are cuts to the energy efficiency grants program and the National Solar Schools program. Victoria has seen the abolition of the energy efficiency program for major emitters and now, through announcements last year, the abolition of the Victorian energy efficiency target which has helped many homes and businesses around Victoria cut their energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while they were at it. In his first official act the state energy minister, Mr Northe, got rid of it -- he abolished it -- and will soon bring in legislation to scrap it forever. More than 26 000 energy-efficient lights, stand-by power controllers and rebates towards roof insulation, solar hot water and better air conditioning have been handed out through that program in Mr Northe's electorate alone -- 26 000! We have discovered through the review of the program that many of its beneficiaries are people on low incomes. The Gippsland community -- and indeed the entire Victorian community -- is now left without any real practical assistance to help it cut its energy bills, and the Greens are going to have a lot more to say about that in months to come.
To add insult to injury, the announcement came overnight that Geelong is to be one of the first communities to be targeted under the government's expanded and more punitive Work for the Dole program, which is part of this whole age of entitlement thing that we all have to get over, otherwise known as the ability to survive while seeking new employment, in this case in Geelong, a community undergoing massive transition. Young folk will now be forced to start working on projects decided on by the government or have their already starvation wages cut even further. I hope the federal member for that area is personally willing to take on the task of finding jobs for these young people who are watching those above them -- those who have already accumulated a lot more skills and work experience -- lose their jobs as the manufacturing industry in the area starts to close down.I hope the rhetoric of mutual obligation can be made real by the federal member, whom I note sits right behind the dispatch box during question time so that she is given maximum prominence on the TV news every night. I hope she does not hide her face when she is walking around Geelong and sees young unemployed people. I hope she takes on her part of the mutual obligation and finds them a job.
I have been in the Geelong region often this year and what I am aware of, to return to an earlier theme, is that there are projects ready to go in that area that would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars and would be big employers in those metal, electrical and mechanical engineering trades but are currently on hold specifically as a result of Liberal government policies. I am referring to the already approved wind farms in the hinterland of Geelong.At Mount Gellibrand, which I drove past on Monday, there is a site office in place and there are some initial roadworks being done, but a $400 million, 100 construction job-creating permanent source of employment that could potentially produce green power and reduce our energy bills is sitting there with nothing happening because the federal government has targeted the renewable energy industry for destruction in an ideologically driven crusade, backed up by the money men of the coal industry.
Those are the same people who failed to prepare for the fire environment that led to the Hazelwood mine catching fire. It is the very same company, by the way, that through its retail arm wants to slap you with a higher fixed cost on your power bill if you have the audacity to install solar panels. If you are not buying enough of their electrons, they decide they will get the money out of you anyway by hitting you with a fixed charge.It is an absolute scandal, and the governments -- state and federal -- are up to their necks in it. The choices in this budget are not simply unfair to some of our most vulnerable, as Mr Lenders correctly notes in his motion; this is a targeted attack on the environment on which we all depend. It is a last gasp as this government tries to hold back the tide of solar and renewable energy development. Along the way and as part of this grand plan the government wants to keep on working to dumb down the Australian community so it cannot twig to what is going on. There are cuts to the ABC and SBS and cuts to the Bureau of Meteorology, including jobs in regional areas such as Mildura. That was the group of whom Greg Hunt said, 'I don't need a climate change adviser. I can just look up the weather bureau'. Now they are cutting them as well.
It is absolutely breathtaking to watch the Prime Minister and his cigar-smoking Treasurer, together with their hand-picked National Commission of Audit members, try to pull this one; but they have failed. The voters will not have it.It is not self-interest, as many have tried to lecture them on; it is a rejection of the lack of vision of this government. But fortunately in their wisdom they did not give the Abbott government absolute power. In fact they took away votes and representation from the Liberal and Nationals parties in the Senate and gave them to a range of other candidates -- anyone but Abbott, basically -- and you can be sure that the Greens senators, particularly after Janet Rice joins them from 1 July, will be standing up to the Prime Minister every step of the way.
That is why we are blocking the attack on universal health care and voting against the $7 GP co-payment. The Minister for Health was in here yesterday stamping his feet about it a bit. He knows the negative impact it is going to have as people flood out of GPs surgeries into public hospitals and turn up at emergency departments instead of going to their local doctor. But of course that was never the point.
The point of this exercise, the co-payment -- and it has succeeded -- was for the Liberals simply to fire the first shot in their ideological culture war against the idea of universal health care. The federal government was never serious about getting this up and it never thought it would get it up, but it was a useful debating tool to start softening people up on the idea of dismantling the universal health-care system that we have here in Australia, a system that is in fact the envy of the world. It has to be explained to foreign visitors, particularly those from America, that when you need health treatment you walk into a hospital with this thing called a Medicare card rather than having to pull out your credit card.
That is why the Greens will be opposing that measure. We will block the cruel changes, if we can get support in the Senate, to the living and study allowances for young people and students, the people who literally are our future and in whom we should be investing, because there is no budget emergency and therefore the necessity of inflicting this pain is illusory. The world has changed.
Mr D. D. O'Brien interjected.Mr BARBER -- Mr Danny O'Brien and I have just begun to have a debate about what those consequences might be.
Mr D. D. O'Brien interjected.Mr BARBER -- That is exactly the point I have been making, Mr O'Brien.
The federal government has completely failed to convince the public that there is a budget emergency, that there is a culture of entitlement and that these particular cuts are going to deliver us some golden future, which it cannot even articulate.Mr D. D. O'Brien interjected.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Finn) -- Order! It would be helpful if Mr Barber and Mr Danny O'Brien were not to conduct a conversation across the chamber. It would also be very helpful for Mr O'Brien, if he feels it is necessary to interject, to return to his seat.Mr BARBER -- I would be even more pleased if he were to take to his feet and explain to me his vision for the future of the country, because I see this federal budget as being about making life harder for our young people, setting up a dog-eat-dog existence in a rust-bucket economy, and that is supposed to get us through the global economic changes, never mind the problems of climate change. One journalist literally described this budget as an asphalt budget, a massive opportunity cost to our nation, and that is why I am challenging members of this government. If young people are to be ordered to either earn or learn, where is the government going to meet its mutual obligation by creating new jobs with new technologies in new industries rather than simply road building that ends up shifting the traffic jam a few miles down the road, establishing coal ports which are stranded assets and displaying a complete studied ignorance of the global trends likely to hit our nation hard in the coming decades?
I have already put forward many positive suggestions of my own for how regional Victoria could benefit if this government would just open up its eyes and ears, try to look beyond its own feet and continue the good policies that have often been put in place in a bipartisan fashion, many of which I have run through. But it is hard to see that happening, because the government is positively medieval when it comes to attacks on science, research and even the very idea of evidence-based policy. That is why CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology have lost $142 million out of this budget while, at the same time, funding of $250 million has been directed to the school chaplaincy program. Is that based on priorities?Even the new medical research fund is a smoke-and-mirrors exercise.
We absolutely need medical research, but the federal government is attempting to blackmail the Parliament by saying the funding will not be delivered unless it is able to slap on a $7 doctor tax, a $7 sick tax, a $7 vaccination tax and a $7 tax every time you have to send an item off to a medical lab or get an X-ray or fill a prescription. The Greens are not going to be railroaded into these insufferable sets of alternatives. There are better ways.Then there are the massive subsidies on fossil fuel use which are still embedded in the federal budget and are demanded by the big miners. That is interesting, because in the previously mentioned Essential Research polling, ordinary citizens were asked who they thought had the most influence on politicians. I have not seen this sort of question polled before. Top of the list for having too much influence on the Liberal and National parties were property developers at 53 per cent and mining companies at 52 per cent.
The same question was polled in relation to the Labor Party, and members may or may not be surprised to learn that the groups that citizens thought had too much influence on the Labor Party were unions at 47 per cent, the media at 46 per cent and at 40 per cent, celebrities. We can all make our own judgement about that one.
It is clear that those voters have got it right. This is a budget that has been written for property developers, who want endless urban sprawl with more and more freeways having to be continuously built to try to keep up with the amount of extra traffic generated. They never do. And it has been written for the big miners who want to go on polluting forever and avoid paying tax on diesel fuel, just as this same government moves to increase the tax on regular, everyday petrol.
There is no doubt though that the voters are open to an alternative, and I base this on direct experience from doorknocking in some Liberal heartland areas, particularly those sensitive areas around places like Ballarat and Geelong, where there is an extraordinary amount of activity from Liberal MPs at the moment. Voters are open to an alternative that offers a vision for the future together with a collective effort from across the community to share both the hard work and the reward. That is not a vision they are getting from this federal budget; therefore I will support the motion moved by Mr Lenders.
Mr JENNINGS (South Eastern Metropolitan) -- I was expecting a member of the government to step up to make a contribution, because we thought that government members may have wanted to take the opportunity to either support the motion moved by Mr Lenders, which condemns the federal budget for all the atrocities perpetrated on the citizens of Victoria in terms of their health, education, income security and life opportunities into the future, or alternatively explain to the Parliament why Victorian government members will oppose this motion and in effect support the federal government's callous actions and decisions.
In classical parliamentary political debating terms, we recognise that this is a bit of a wedge issue for the government, because it wants to be seen simultaneously as supporting Victorian citizens and the wellbeing of Victorians, yet when push comes to shove it will in effect be supporting its Liberal-Nationals colleagues in the federal Parliament.I am certain that, when push comes to shove and when it is forced to take a position on this motion, the government will back the callous decisions of the coalition government in Canberra and the reductions in funding to Victoria for health, education and other programs that support the wellbeing of Victorian citizens. The Victorian government and its members will back those callous actions.
Then government members will be hoisted on their own petard, because in 2012 they moved a motion in the Victorian Parliament that criticised the then Gillard federal government for making reductions in health payments. They called the Gillard government's actions callous and an outrage to Victoria and the rest of the nation for the impact they had on health care. They called upon members of the opposition to support the motion, which was drafted in a gratuitous and self-serving way.From the day the Victorian opposition did not vote in support of this gratuitous motion until today they have portrayed the actions of the opposition as supportive of reductions in funding for Victoria and any adverse outcome from the federal government's actions. They chose to run advertising campaigns in the media to suggest that Victorian Labor had supported a reduction in resources coming to Victoria.
At no stage did the opposition support a reduction in funding to Victorian hospitals or other services in Victoria. We rejected that construction by the government then, and we reject it now.We understand that our actions as parliamentarians should be to advocate for the wellbeing of Victorian citizens, the quality of care in hospitals, the quality of opportunities in our education system, the income security and confidence that can be associated with job training and the ability of members of the Victorian community to join the workforce and, if they cannot join the workforce, to have secure income arrangements that provide for a decent standard of living and allow them to make ends meet in households across Victoria.
We are supportive of the Parliament of Victoria standing up in a united way to protect our citizens from those adverse outcomes. We call on government members to support this motion today, because it is the right thing to do. In its rhetorical response to the federal budget over the last week the Victorian government has given a number of indications that it shares a range of concerns with us.It should go beyond sharing those concerns; it should clearly put on the public record its support for Victorian hospitals, for the Victorian education system and for the ongoing structure of the Victorian budget, which will be decimated if the intention of the Abbott and Hockey government is meted out on the financial wellbeing of the state of Victoria by imposing the cuts that are embedded in federal Treasurer Joe Hockey's budget, which was delivered on 13 May.
All of us in the Parliament of Victoria have been able to call on the fact that Victoria has had a AAA credit rating for a decade and a half now. Under former premiers Kennett, Bracks, Brumby and Baillieu, along with the current Premier, Dr Napthine, successive administrations in Victoria have posted budget surpluses and have maintained a AAA credit rating for Victoria. That is not a story that government members find convenient and it is not one they repeat, but it is the truth. It is undisputedly a fact that a AAA credit rating has been maintained during those administrations and that a budget surplus position for Victoria has been maintained for the last 15 years, consistently, under governments of both persuasions.
They are prepared to decimate the budget position of state and territory governments across the nation through savage reductions in commonwealth payments and in particular cuts to specific purpose payments for health and education. The order of magnitude is quite extraordinary in terms of the scale of the impact on the structure of the Victorian budget. As the Leader of the Opposition in the Council, Mr Lenders, said this morning, the AAA credit rating for Victoria's finances has already been brought into doubt if Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have their way.Within 24 hours of the federal budget being delivered, the ratings agencies indicated that the Victorian budget may not be sustainable and that Victoria's financial arrangements may not deliver a AAA credit rating if those budget settings are inflicted upon the state of Victoria.
The Victorian government has run away from what changes of this order of magnitude mean, not only for the decimation of the health-care system and education but also the very structure and viability of the entire Victorian budget, which may be put at risk after 2017. Members of the government pay lip-service to that potential problem. Not only do they pretend they can manage the transition to dealing with that financial position, but they desperately pretend there are no immediate and lasting impacts of the federal government's budget announcements.I reminded the health minister in Victoria yesterday that as soon as 1 July 2014 -- now 41 days away -- there will be instant and immediate reductions in the availability of health funding to Victoria from what was published in the Victorian budget in the first week in May.
The structure of the Victorian budget in health and in other services has already been significantly reduced between the first week in May and now, and come 1 July $1.393 billion will cumulatively be coming out of the forward estimates in health alone. Between now and 2017, $1.393 billion will be ripped out of Victorian hospitals and other health care as a direct and immediate consequence of the decisions of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.I know I am inviting an interjection, because Mr Ramsay looked amazed when I put that on the public record. He looked amazed because he is part of a government bench that obviously lives in denial about what the budget papers say. He chooses to blithely ignore the consequences this funding cut is going to have as it flows through to become an immediate loss of services. As recently as yesterday I asked the health minister in Victoria when the 326 subacute beds that are funded by a $155 million allocation within this global $1.393 billion cut imposed by the Abbott government will have effect.
After stumbling in response to two successive questions, by the time I got to the third question the Minister for Health acknowledged that those 326 subacute beds are gone. They are gone and they will not be replaced. Out of the mouth of the health minister in Victoria, those 326 subacute beds are gone.What does that mean for quality of care in Victoria? According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare it means that the health minister, whilst promising 800 new beds, has seen a net increase of 43 beds in three and a half years. Of a promised 800 beds, 43 have been provided, and this week the health minister has acknowledged that because of cuts made by the Abbott-Hockey budget 326 beds will go from the Victorian hospital system. This means there are pressures in emergency departments, which we see missing performance targets in relation to patient transfer both from ambulances into emergency departments and from emergency departments into hospital beds.
A system that is already floundering and not able to cope will certainly be adversely impacted because 326 beds will be taken out due to the commonwealth government's cuts and not replaced by the state government.
In our hospital system we also see waiting lists that have grown significantly during the life of this government. Currently about 10 000 additional people are on the waiting list compared to when this government came to office. That is a completely unsustainable system-wide problem, and it comes at great personal cost -- pain and suffering -- to individual patients in Victoria who bear the consequences of not having their elective surgery performed. Those waiting lists will get longer. The pain and suffering will last longer. The ability of the state of Victoria to clear those waiting lists and to clear emergency departments will diminish and add to the significant problems that the state government meted out to the Victorian hospital system by ripping out $831 million in the structure of its first three budgets.
The government tries to pretend that it has led the investment profile within health in Victoria for the last three years, but any crude, fundamental, base assessment of what is actually in the budget will indicate that the growth rate in hospital budgets has been extremely slow in Victoria. Indeed the problems in the health system have been exacerbated by the Baillieu and Napthine governments ripping $831 million out of health. That disastrous situation has now been compounded. Complete chaos will reign in Victorian hospitals because -- --Mr Elsbury interjected.
Mr JENNINGS -- Because the Abbott government has cut $1.393 billion, Mr Illiterate.Honourable members interjecting.
Mr JENNINGS -- The unavoidable, painful truth for Victorian patients is that the Napthine government has ripped money out of health.The Minister for Health has finally arrived, 1 minute before question time, having totally ignored the debate that has been going on this morning about the disastrous impacts of the callous actions of the Abbott-Hockey budget not only on health care but also on the quality of life of Victorian citizens. Consequences will be seen not only in health but also in education, in opportunities for job creation and for keeping people in income security, which accounts for their circumstances in life.
There will be impacts on the wellbeing of pensioners and the wellbeing of young people who are seeking work and seeking to be retrained. The impacts on people who rely on hospitals to deliver services and the people who rely on access to health care will be compounded because of the callous imposition of a co-payment and the callous decision to rip $50 billion out of health-care funding across this nation after 2017, a $12.5 billion impact in Victoria alone. Between now and 2017, $1.393 billion will be taken out.This is an outrage perpetrated on the people of Victoria. This is an outrage that members opposite cannot ignore and they cannot walk away from. Members cannot do anything but vote in favour of this motion.
Business interrupted pursuant to standing orders.
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